Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Political Impact of the Cuba Decision

At Politico, James Hohmann and Kyle Cheney writes that younger Cuban-Americans in Florida may accept the president's decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba.  But....
Critics of the president’s move say they expect older Cuban-Americans with vivid memories of the Castro regime’s oppression to become more politically engaged – and to turn against Democrats in 2016.
Republican operatives who worked for Republican Gov. Rick Scott this year believe that challenger Charlie Crist’s expressed support for easing relations with Cuba cost him votes. The Scott campaign’s internal polling shows that the governor racked up big margins among Cuban-American voters but also made inroads with Venezuelan expatriates who blame the Castro brothers for recent turmoil in their home country.
The core of the Republican argument is that older voters who oppose loosening the embargo care the most about the issue and will vote on it. They believe that few people who want to relax tensions are motivated to vote.

“The people who are most passionate about this issue do not have short memories,” said Republican consultant Adam Goodman, CEO of the Tampa-based Victory Group.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Coda to the Democrats' Drubbing

Sean Sullivan reports at The Washington Post:
Republicans clinched their 247th U.S. House seat on Wednesday when GOP challenger Martha McSally officially unseated Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), bringing to an end the final unresolved congressional election of the midterms and handing the GOP its largest majority in the chamber since the Great Depression.
McSally's narrow win, which came after a recount, means that House Republicans will begin the 114th Congress with a 247-188 advantage over Democrats. It is the largest GOP majority since Republicans claimed 270 seats in the 1928 election.
Gary Langer writes at ABC:
The number of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats has dropped to a record low in nearly 34 years of ABC News/Washington Post polls, marking the party’s challenges after its poor showing in the 2014 midterm elections. The Republican Party, by contrast, has gained sharply in popularity, if not allegiance.
Just 26 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Democrats, down from 32 percent six weeks ago to the fewest since ABC/Post polling began in 1981.
See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.
The GOP has not benefitted in terms of direct allegiance: Twenty-three percent of Americans describe themselves as Republicans, essentially unchanged from recent levels. Instead 41 percent say they’re independents, extending a six-year run as the dominant choice.
But the GOP has gained in other gauges. Forty-seven percent see it favorably overall, up by a remarkable 14 percentage points since mid-October to its best among the general public since March 2006. Forty-four percent rate the Democrats favorably – also up since the heat of the midterm elections has eased, but just by 5 points. The Republican Party’s numerical advantage in this basic measure of popularity is its first since 2002.
The Republicans in Congress, moreover, lead Barack Obama by 47-38 percent in trust to handle the economy, a clear GOP advantage on this central issue for the first time in his presidency.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2016 Presidential Race Begins

ABC reports that Jeb is in, kinda:
Jeb Bush announced this morning that he will "actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States."
Bush said he made the decision over the Thanksgiving holiday in consultation with his family.
"As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States," he said in a message posted on Facebook today.
“In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans,” Bush said in the message, which he also tweeted. "In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.”
At National Review, Eliana Johnson writes of Cruz:
His strategists aren’t planning to make a big play for so-called independent voters in the general election if Cruz wins the Republican nomination. According to several of the senator’s top advisers, Cruz sees a path to victory that relies instead on increasing conservative turnout; attracting votes from groups — including Jews, Hispanics, and Millennials — that have tended to favor Democrats; and, in the words of one Cruz strategist, “not getting killed with independents.”
The strategy has its critics. Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center calls it “fantasy.” The Republican base, he says, simply isn’t large enough to win an election nationally, and the Republican nominee must “energize establishment Republicans and people who don’t call themselves conservatives.”
At National Journal, Rick Santorum talks to Alex Roarty:
Look, the last time around, it turned out to be a pretty good thing to be under the radar the whole time and not be shot at by everybody at the very first go. And you had an opportunity to build out your team. And so, if we do this again, it looks like we'll have a similar opportunity this time around. Usually you don't get two chances at that.
Also at National Journal, Shane Goldmacher writes of Rand Paul's outreach to the US Chamber and the broader business community:
Paul's political team has made a point of reaching out to influencers at the chamber and across Washington to aggressively "correct the record," as they see it, about misconceptions about their boss. Throughout 2014, Paul's media strategist, Rex Elsass, hosted a series of off-the-record dinners at his Capitol Hill home to introduce the Kentucky senator to some of Washington's power brokers. Reed, who managed Bob Dole's 1996 presidential bid, attended one such meal this spring along with Paul, Paul's wife, Kelley, and others that stretched deep into the night.
There is also activity on the Democratic side.  At RealClearPolitics, Scott Conroy notes Elizabeth Warren's use of the present tense:
In a Monday morning interview with NPR, the first-term Massachusetts Democrat was asked four different variations of the same query: Would she consider running for president in 2016?

In each instance, Warren answered the same way she has whenever someone wants to know if she harbors White House ambitions: “I am not running for president.”

That statement may sound like a Shermanesque denial at first blush, but placed in its proper context, it is anything but.

As NPR’s Steve Inskeep and many other observers have noticed, Warren always answers the presidential query in the present tense and assiduously avoids any deviation that might rule out a future bid.

Warren may not be “running for president” at the moment, but neither is anyone else, for that matter. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cruz and Lee Alienate Republicans and Conservatives

Powerline reports:
The Senate has approved the so-called Cromnibus bill. It did so in a rare Saturday session. According to the Washington Post, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee forced the Saturday session:
Prolonged debate on the spending bill, which passed on a 56-to-40 bipartisan vote, came after Cruz and Lee late Friday night derailed a carefully crafted plan between party leaders to allow senators to go home for the weekend and return Monday to approve the spending agreement. The pair had sought to force a vote that essentially would block federal agencies from implementing the immigration policy changes ordered by Obama last month.
Cruz and Lee accomplished nothing in terms of the spending bill or the executive amnesty. But, again according to the Post, their maneuvering enabled Harry Reid to confirm around 20 of President Obama’s nominations. Here’s how:
Reid blocked the Cruz-Reid request for a vote on blocking Obama’s executive amnesty and angrily clashed with them on the Senate floor, ensuring that debate on the spending bill would spill into Saturday. Then, come Saturday, Reid used the session to begin consideration of around 20 of Obama’s nominees, almost half of whom Republicans had been blocking. Consequently, votes on the nominees will take place on Monday morning.
 Ted Cruz’s heart is in the right place, but once again, his judgment must be questioned.
The Washington Examiner editorializes:
Every army has disagreements among its leaders, but they must agree on tactics to effect their strategy. Every football team must agree on the next play if it is to work. In the Senate, caucus leaders are chosen precisely to make such decisions. The weekend's events demonstrate that some Republicans are not playing on the same team. This was not a simple, common occurrence of senatorial independence, but rather open defiance of caucus strategy — a decision by junior officers that their own tactical decisions take precedence over those of generals who were chosen for the job.
When this happens, games and battles are lost. Before Republicans take the majority in the Senate next month, they should make up their minds about who is in charge. Otherwise, they face the prospect of losing again and again.
At The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin writes:
Cruz remains the odd man out in the Senate, justifiably hated by his peers. Among those openly disparaging Cruz and his antics were Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John Cornyn (Tex.).
Cruz likes to say he is “leading”; he seems not to know the difference between leading and preening. A fatuous tweet from a Cruz flack (“GOP [senators] should quit complaining about Cruz and Lee and start working with us to stop amnesty”) was par for the course: dishonest (they all will fight the executive action in the new Senate), self-serving and insulting.

In the new Senate, Cruz can expect less and less indulgence from fellow Republicans. That only 22 senators joined him in his constitutional point of order suggests he is neither feared nor respected. In reminding everyone — in case they forgot the 2013 shutdown — Cruz cannot even get along with members of his own party, he reminds responsible Republicans how ludicrous it would be to put him in the White House. The man who has come to define the dysfunction and nastiness voters loathe about Beltway politicians is going to have quite a tough time convincing voters he is the answer to the strife and incompetence of the Obama years.

Bush, Christie, Romney: The Establishment Primary

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Mitt Romney are the top contenders for the support of the GOP's wealthy establishment. Bush potentially has a rich-guy problem, as Romney has already noted.  Lloyd Green writes that Romney obviously had his own difficulties on this county
And in the case of Romney, it’s unclear if he has really internalized that lesson. After Romney lost in 2012, he still hadn’t figured it out. In a post-election interview with The Washington Post’s Dan Balz, Romney could only acknowledge of his infamous 47 percent remark that “well, clearly that was a very damaging quote and hurt my campaign effort.” He also continued to channel his inner Mitt, telling Balz that Americans remained most concerned about borrowing and spending—when in fact jobs were and are the top priority for an overwhelming majority of Americans.

Memo to all Republican contenders: The GOP is now the home of white working- and middle-class voters. It’s no longer about Thurston Howell III.
As for Christie, much as he tries, he can’t shake free of Bridgegate. The word out of New Jersey is that federal prosecutors may criminally charge Christie’s aides under a provision of the U.S. Code that makes it illegal to intentionally misapply federal funds and property. Here, prosecutors may argue that since the George Washington Bridge is the beneficiary of federal funds, and the bridge was shutdown purely for the sake of political revenge, then Christie’s aides broke the law. To add to his woes, New Jerseyans are telling pollsters that their guy just isn’t ready for prime time. Christie is also the same fellow who spent his 2013 election night with Steven A. Cohen, whose hedge fund shortly thereafter pleaded guilty to insider trading.
So where to go from here? For openers, the Republicans should start taking about how falling oil prices are giving working Americans the tax break the Obama administration begrudges them. Next, the GOP should hammer away at how our roads, bridges, and tunnels are crumbling, and push for an infrastructure initiative. If building America’s highways was good enough for President Eisenhower, and is also expressly endorsed by the Constitution, how can the Republicans go wrong by rebuilding America?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cromnibus, Campaign Finance, and Political Parties

In The New York Times yesterday, Nicholas Confessore reported on a bill that has since passed the Senate:
The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years?
The talks ended with a bipartisan agreement between Senate Democrats, led by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party’s national committees.
The agreement drew intense criticism from both liberal Democrats and Tea Party-aligned Republicans when details of the new limits began circulating last week. It is now headed for likely passage as a rider in a $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with provisions sought by banks, food industry lobbyists and other special interests. It continued to draw fierce attacks as lawmakers prepared to vote on a final spending bill, even as Democratic leaders privately defended the addition as a necessary compromise to forestall more aggressive efforts by Republicans next year to whittle away at other campaign funding restrictions.
It was Mr. Boehner’s team that first approached Mr. Reid’s negotiators with a proposal, according to Republicans and Democrats with knowledge of the discussions.
After successfully pushing legislation in March to abolish public financing for party conventions, some Republicans had become worried about how they would pay for their 2016 convention, scheduled to be held in Cleveland, in Mr. Boehner’s home state, Ohio. Some feared that the party would have to scale back the convention, losing clout and prestige to the big-money outside groups that are playing bigger roles in campaigns.
Democrats also wanted provisions for legal and building costs.  They got them, as Open Secrets explains:
As things stand now, an individual donor may give $32,400 to a national party committee each year, and there are three on each side (besides the DNC and RNC, there are the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committeeand the National Republican Senatorial Committee).
Under the language slipped into the omnibus spending bill Tuesday night as a rider, all three party committees on each side would be allowed to create two more offshoots — one to pay for legal costs and recounts, and another to pay for the nebulously-described “building expenses.” The main national committee of each party would also be able to create a fund to help pay for the presidential nominating convention. There would be a total of seven committees, instead of three, on each side, and each of the four newly created committees would be able to accept donations of up to $97,400. That’s on top of the $97,400 that can already be donated to the three original committees.
The grand total for a donor who wanted to give the maximum to each of the three original committees and all of the four new committees would be $776,000 per year, or $1.5 million per two-year election cycle; for a couple, the total comes to a cool $3 million.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Obama Probably Won't Get More Popular

Harry Enten writes at FiveThirtyEight:
The public appears to have made up its mind about President Obama. His job-approval rating in early 2014 averaged 41.5 percentin Gallup surveys. In late 2014 — despite an improving economy — it averaged the same 41.5 percent. Over the past year, his rating has never gone higher than 44 percent and never lower than 41 percent.
And history suggests Obama’s popularity will continue to flounder even if the economy continues to improve.
The past seven presidents who have served a second term have had difficulty changing public opinion. We can see this by comparing their average approval rating at this point in their terms to their final approval rating before the next presidential election.
The average absolute change in job approval for these presidents was just 3.8 percentage points. More to the point, none of the larger changes were positive. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton saw their approval ratings decline by 11.5 and 8 percentage points, respectively. Bush was hit by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Clinton, whose approval ratings had skyrocketed during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, was regressing to the mean.