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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Romney Out

Mitt Romney announced yesterday that he won't run after all.  At Bloomberg, Mark Halperin offers some intriguing, if vaguely sourced, observations:
People close to the former governor say he believed he would beat Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup if the election were held today. But, like many election watchers, Romney anticipates a vicious Republican nomination fight that will damage and deplete the ultimate winner, while Clinton, virtually unchallenged for her party’s nomination, will be luxuriantly free to squirrel away hundreds of millions of election dollars and step into the general arena, rich and refreshed, against a shattered GOP nominee.
In public, Romney says nice things about Bush...
But those familiar with Romney’s thinking as he's been contemplating a run and over the years say that he has held a jaundiced view of the former Florida governor dating all the way back to his handling of the Terri Schiavo case, and has come to see Bush as a non-entity in the 2016 nomination contest. Romney is said to see Bush as a small-time businessman whose financial transactions would nonetheless be fodder for the Democrats and as terminally weighed down with voters across the board based on his family name. Romney also doesn’t think much of Bush’s political skills (a view mocked by Bush’s camp, who say Romney is nowhere near Bush’s league as a campaigner). Romney also considers Bush the national Republican figure who was the least helpful to him during his last run for the White House, a position that has darkened Ann Romney’s view of Bush as well.
Nate Cohn writes at The New York Times:
In renouncing a new run for president Friday, Mitt Romney becomes the first big casualty of the invisible primary — the behind-the-scenes competition for donors, endorsements and campaign operatives.

It is now clear that Mr. Bush, despite his weaknesses, has attracted much of the support that Mr. Romney wanted. The highest-profile example is David Kochel, a former Romney official who was selected Thursday as Mr. Bush’s national campaign manager. My guess is that many more will follow.

The candidate most obviously hurt by Mr. Romney’s withdrawal is Rand Paul, who was probably counting on a fairly divided field in New Hampshire to win an early primary. It will be much harder to win New Hampshire with less than about 30 percent of the vote — something Mr. Paul could feasibly pull off.
Rebecca Ballhuas, Heather Haddon and Josh Dawsey report at The Wall Street Journal:
“It would be such a tough thing to do to tell either one of them ’no,’ ” said Barry Wynn, a top fundraiser for Mr. Romney in 2012 and for former President George W. Bush. “I don’t know what I would have done. This would have been a very difficult decision to make.”
Mr. Wynn said he now plans to throw his support behind Mr. Bush.
His decision echoes the choice many donors are making in the wake of Friday’s news. Dirk van Dongen, who raised nearly $1.5 million for Mr. Romney’s campaign in 2012, said the Republican fundraisers he had spoken with in recent weeks were conflicted over backing Mr. Romney or Mr. Bush. “Some of them said, ‘Hey, I’d be with Jeb Bush except for the fact that I need to know what Mitt Romney is going to do.’"
Following Friday’s announcement, Mr. van Dongen said, “presumably those people will now sign onto the Bush initiative.”
“It simplifies the calculation,” added Mr. van Dongen, who said he committed to back Mr. Bush even before Mr. Romney said he was considering a bid.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Democratic Weakness, GOP Strength

Why can Hillary Clinton coast? At The Weekly Standard, Jay Cost writes:
[The] Democratic bench is now so thin that the party cannot even give its voters a real choice. At this point, the only three other candidates seriously considering the race are: Martin O’Malley, former Maryland governor who is decidedly lackluster; Jim Webb, the quirky one-term senator who -- oh by the way! -- used to work in the Reagan Administration (Democratic voters will love that); and Bernie Sanders, who does not even call himself a Democrat (he’s a socialist).

Why are the only three challengers such fourth-raters? Peruse the sitting governors who are Democrats. Don’t worry, it won’t take you very long. You’ll see that none of them could be serious contenders. They either hail from small states, were just recently elected, were barely reelected, or arequirky/problematic.
Now take a gander at the party’s Senate caucus. If you squint really hard you might imagine some of them could be presidential material, but not really. The overwhelming majority are too old, too dull, too new, or barely won reelection. Elizabeth Warren is the only exception out of these 45 senators, and she looks like she is not going to run.
The media, in their relentless focus on the micro-political cycle (not to mention their eager cheerleading for the Democrats), are representing the party as being in a strong position. “Obama is up in the polls (a little bit)! Hillary is going to raise lots of money! They’re back!”
But look past those two, and you see precious little in terms of quality would-be candidates. On an aggregate level -- combining House, Senate, state governments -- the Democrats have not been so weak since 1928.
Chris Cillizza writes at The Washington Post
Everyone knows by now that 2010 and 2014 were very good to the Republican Party. What they don't understand (or understand well enough) is just how good. Yes, Republicans now control the Senate and have their largest majority in the House since World War II. But it's downballot (way downballot) where the depth of the Republican victories over the past three elections truly reveal themselves -- and where the impact will be felt over the long term.
In the past three elections, Republicans have gained 913 state legislative seats, according to calculations made by Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia. Here are Sabato's figures in chart form -- and with historical comparisons -- via GOP lobbyist Bruce Mehlman.
Now, there are more 7,000 state legislative seats in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which makes that 913 number slightly less eye-popping. Still, the Democratic losses between 2010 and 2014 amount to 12 percent of all state legislative seats nationwide.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

House Republicans Rule in the Non-Majority-Minority Seats

Ronald Brownstein writes at National Journal:
In the new Congress, Democrats will hold 99 of the 117 seats in which minorities constitute a population majority. But their performance is much less impressive in the band of seats just above, and below, the national average in diversity. In the new Congress, Republicans hold a slight 23-19 edge in the districts where minorities represent above 40 percent and not more than 50 percent of the population, and a broader 48-28 lead in the seats where minorities represent above 30 percent and not more than 40 percent of the residents.
The key to the Democrats' loss of Congress, as we reported here, is their near-total collapse in heavily white seats, particularly those blue-collar places with fewer white college graduates. But in their struggle to regain a majority, these modestly diverse districts represent a critical target for Democrats—as a historical comparison makes clear. In the new Congress, Democrats will hold 146 of the 235 seats where minorities equal at least three-tenths of the total population, or 62 percent. That's down significantly from the 84 percent they controlled of the 109 seats that fit that definition in 1993.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Four GOP Brackets

Charles Cook identifies four brackets in the GOP nomination contest:
First there is the establishment bracket, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and possibly former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney competing for that semifinal slot. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina would likely fit into this group. GOP nominees traditionally come from this bracket.

Then there is the conservative governor/former governor slot—with, potentially, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker competing, all seeking to be non-Washington and non-Congress candidates, but each with more conservative, or at least better conservative, credentials than Bush, Christie, or Romney. In this anti-Washington environment, being able to say that you effectively governed, in contrast with Congress and Washington, certainly has some advantages among the non-purist conservatives.
In the third bracket are the more identifiably tea-party candidates, principally Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, but also former Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, possibly former 2008 vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and even real-estate mogul Donald Trump (though both Palin and Trump are unlikely to make it past the first lap if they end up entering at all). This bracket is for the "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" conservatives.
Finally, there is the social, cultural, and religious conservative bracket, made up primarily of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, tapping into the same feelings as the third group but with a distinctly moral dimension.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Fight for the Middle Class

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green writes:
Substantively, the SOTU was a speech that a major part of the country liked, even if it made House Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans cringe. For the Republicans, that’s a problem, especially if the only thing Republicans have to offer the middle class is entitlement reform, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested in the run-up to the State of the Union.
In a pre-SOTU statement, McConnell beseeched the President to “allow us to save and strengthen Medicare,” and to “cooperate with both parties to save Social Security.” In other words, make sure both parties have their hands on the dagger and no one will get blamed.
McConnell’s prescription is a recipe for alienating the GOP’s electoral base, which is chock full of retirees and voters north of 50. Green eye shades and the worn eraser of an accountant’s pencil don’t win elections, and angry seniors can wreak havoc on presidential aspirations.
Rather than gunning for Medicare, the Republicans should pick up on some of threads in Obama’s speech, while taking a hard line against tax hikes. The GOP should bash the President for looking to undercut saving for college and 529 accounts, and also push for a reduction in payroll taxes. The fact is that most Americans pay more in Medicare and Social Security taxes than in income taxes. And if wonks and purists criticize simultaneously sparing benefits while cutting taxes, just point out that being pro-middle class and pro-worker is about rewarding their efforts and lessening their burdens.
Republicans should seize on the President’s invitation to fund precision medicine to combat cancer and diabetes, and expand that war to fight Alzheimer’s and autism. They should also embrace rebuilding our infrastructure. In addition to new jobs, infrastructure is a cornerstone of commerce. If building a rail system was good enough for Abraham Lincoln, and forging a national highway system was all right with Ike, then the GOP should treat infrastructure as part of its own patrimony.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Walker in Iowa

Cameron Joseph reports at The Hill:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) delivered a fiery speech in Iowa on Saturday, wowing the conservative crowd with a passionate argument for small government and his own lengthy resume.

The Wisconsin governor, in rolled-up shirtsleeves, paced the stage as he blasted big government and touted a long list of conservative reforms he's pushed through in blue Wisconsin.
The governor also showed a rhetorical flourish that's largely been absent from his previous campaigns, drawing the crowd to its feet multiple times.
"There's a reason we take a day off to celebrate the 4th of July and not the 15th of April," he said, almost yelling as his voice grew hoarse. "Because in America we value our independence from the government, not our dependence on it."
Walker's speech had something for every element of the activist crowd. The governor touted his three victories over Democrats and recall win as well as his state-level education reforms. Each new policy he helped pass drew cheers: Voter ID laws, education reforms, tax cuts and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Problems of the Legacy Candidates

At The Washington Examiner, Byron York lays out 12 keys to understanding the GOP presidential contest. Several involve the legacy candidates, who have either run before (Romney, Huckabee, Santorum) or, in Bush's case, have a family history.  It is hard to put the band back together:  times change, people move on.
Romney loyalists are deeply ambivalent about another run. A remarkable number of former Romney staff and supporters admire him tremendously and remain steadfastly loyal. They have told him as much on a number of occasions over the last few years. But now some worry that Romney has perhaps misinterpreted their heartfelt expressions of support as encouragement to run again in 2016. They still believe he would be a good president, but they do not think it will be possible for Romney to rid himself of 2012 baggage in order to get the clean start necessary to run a winning campaign.
The Bush family network isn't as strong as some believe. There has been much talk of the vaunted Bush political machine, which is said to give Jeb Bush a big advantage even before the 2016 race officially begins. Jeb Bush himself has been calling donors and has told some of them that he hopes they will again support "the family." But the fact is, it has been a while since the Bush machine was in operation here in Iowa. It was last up and running in 2004, for the re-election of George W. Bush, and last at work for the caucuses in 2000, for W's first run. For the 2016 race, that means the machine has been out of action for a long time. Many Bush donors from 2000 and 2004 became Romney donors in 2008 and 2012. They have conflicted loyalties, and not all of them will rejoin the family.
Rick Santorum is in very bad shape. One would think the former Pennsylvania senator, as the (narrow) winner of the 2012 caucuses, would have a lot of standing for another race. He doesn't. Many Republicans believe Santorum's earlier success was the result of a set of peculiar circumstances involving a weak and fragmented 2012 field. They admire how hard he worked that year, traveling around Iowa with a thoroughness and intensity that no other candidate could match. But they don't see it happening again with a stronger field in 2016. And they don't see Santorum surviving a loss in the state he won before.
York notes that Rick Perry has a slim chance.  Another point about Perry:  last time, much of his money came from Texas business interests eager to court the favor of the incumbent governor.  Now that he is out of office, a lot of that money will evaporate.

Friday, January 23, 2015

California, the Senate, the House, and a Former Mayor

Emily Cahn reports at Roll Call on the race to succeed Barbara Boxer in the Senate.  Tom Steyer is out:
“Given the imperative of electing a Democratic president — along with my passion for our state — I believe my work right now should not be in our nation’s capital but here at home in California, and in states around the country where we can make a difference,” Steyer said in an entry on the Huffington Post.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her bid for the seat earlier this month. She quickly picked up the endorsement of top Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker.
Many Democrats view Harris as the front-runner in the race, but other candidates are still weighing bids.
They include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and several House Democrats, including Reps. Xavier Becerra, John Garamendi, Raul Ruiz, Loretta Sanchez and Jackie Speier.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who represents a Los Angeles-area district, announced Thursday he is also considering a bid.
It is natural that several House members are pondering the race.  The House is a customary route to the Senate.  In fact, a majority of current senators served in the House.  It is especially understandable for Democrats to take a good look.  Serving as a member of the minority party in the US House of Representatives is extremely frustrating. Because of the majority party's procedural control, members of the minority party cannot pass major legislation.  The upper chamber surely looks more attractive: compared with their House counterparts, Senate Democrats have a much better chance of regaining control in 2016.  Even if they don't, minority-party senators can play a serious role in legislation.

Nevertheless, it is also hard for a House member to win statewide.  California has 53 House members -- the highest number of any state -- so each one represents just a sliver of the statewide electorate. None of the House members considering a run has statewide name identification -- not even Garamendi, who served as insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor. (Californians have a short memory when it comes to downballot offices.)  He turns 70 tomorrow.

And it would take tens of  millions of dollars to win a contested Democratic nomination for the Senate in California.  (It is hard to make an exact estimate, since we have not had an open-seat race since 1992.) Few politicians can raise that kind of money.

Villaraigosa has greater prominence and more fundraising ability than the House members.  He also represents a key ethnic group, Mexican Americans. But he has big liabilities.  First, contrary to recent out-of-state press reports, he was not a particularly popular mayor:  he left with an anemic 47% approval rating.  Second, he is a poor extemporaneous speaker:  Harris would crush him in debate. Third, he suffers from a serious sleaze factor: extramarital affairs and some questionable post-mayoral employment.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cruz Do-Over

At Mediaite, Tina Nguyen reports:
Unlike many of his colleagues, who gave pre-written speeches and taped them on sets, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) decided to record his response to Obama’s State of the Union Address outside the House Chamber, next to a statue of Texas hero Stephen Austin, using the iPhone of some staffer who forgot to edit the video before posting it on YouTube.

The original video was quickly deleted because it showed Cruz, the former Solicitor General of Texas and champion college debater, successfully improvising an eloquent response, seamlessly hitting a series of prepared talking points criticizing the Obama administration…for about forty seconds.

And then he needed a redo.

Ah, the perils of politicians going without a script.

Watch here

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The GOP on SOTU: English and Spanish

Ed O'Keefe and Robert Costa report at The Washington Post:
President Obama gave one State of the Union Address Tuesday night in English that was translated in real-time by Spanish-language broadcasters including Univision, Telemundo and others.
Republicans, however, relied on two lawmakers to deliver their formal response. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered one in English. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) responded in Spanish.
Both lawmakers are new to Washington and were selected by party leaders to showcase fast-rising fresh faces. They delivered similar messages that stressed unique life stories, their commitment to family and how the GOP Congress plans to govern in the next year.
But at a few subtle moments, Ernst and Curbelo deviated from each other. Ernst emphasized national security. Curbelo stressed his experience working on education issues and expressed hope that Republicans can work with Obama on immigration reform. Ernst never muttered the word "immigration."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The State of the GOP Field

Jonathan Martin writes at The New York Times:
Unlike many Republican nominating contests, this campaign is beginning with no dominant front-runner. Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida appeals to some establishment-aligned Republicans, particularly donors, but party hard-liners are resistant. Center-right Republicans are skeptical that another Bush can be elected president, and want to see how rank-and-file primary voters receive him. And with Mr. Romney now considering a third bid, some of the movement toward Mr. Bush will taper off, at least momentarily.
“Romney putting his foot in the door slows down that process,” said Ryan Call, the Colorado Republican chairman. “It creates an opening and opportunity for other candidates to get some oxygen.”
One of those hopefuls is Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who used a speech here to call for Republicans to embrace “a new, fresh approach.” The remarks were explicitly aimed at Mrs. Clinton, but there was little doubt that Mr. Walker also was trying to set himself apart from Mr. Bush and Mr. Romney.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has also begun making the case privately to Republican leaders that nominating Mr. Bush or Mr. Romney would rob the party of a chance to portray Mrs. Clinton as a relic, according to one party official who recently met with Mr. Christie.
In addition to the establishment-oriented Republicans, even more hopefuls are vying for the support of ideologically driven activists. As with the center-right group, there are both familiar and fresher faces. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas all have experience running for president and are lining up again. Then there are such newer prospects as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and the neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
At Five Thirty Eight, Nate Silver pictures the field as a five-ring circus (below) I would quibble on two points.

  • First, I don't think that the "moderate" and "establishment" factions are really different. They're basically the same thing.
  • Second, the graph suggests that the factions are all the same size.  They are not.  As a previous post noted, the moderate-establishment wing is by far the largest.  And it is not clear that there even is a distinct libertarian wing, at least among people who vote in Republican primaries.  (Ron Paul never won one.)


Monday, January 19, 2015

The RNC Book on Hillary Clinton

Bloomberg reports:
When asked about preparing for a Hillary Clinton presidential run, RNC Chair Reince Priebus told Bloomberg Politics' Mark Halperin, "We're writing a Hillary Clinton book now, we have a research team in Little Rock, so we're not going to be shy about it." He added that they have "two or three" people in Arkansas, saying, "We're going to get whatever we have to share with the American people the truth about Hillary and Bill Clinton."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fiorina Says She Paid Off Old Campaign Debt

Debra J. Saunders reports at The San Francisco Chronicle:
This just in: Carly Fiorina paid off the debt from her losing 2010 Senate campaign against Sen. Barbara Boxer. As I wrote last month, the former HP head is mulling over a 2016 presidential run — which made her failure to pay off her handlers and vendors rather puzzling. Losing candidates often owe money, but she’s a rich candidate, who was partially self-funded. Nonetheless, she left behind debt just under $500,000.
Tuesday I heard from Sarah Isgur Flores, who works for Fiorina’s Unlocking Potential Project. She sent me this transcript from a Fiorina interview on the Hugh Hewitt show. (You can listen to the whole interview at

HH: Now what is your timetable, by the way, Carly Fiorina, for deciding whether or not to formally join the race for president?
CF: Well, probably I will make a final decision in the March-April timeframe. I mean, something could change, but that’s currently what I’m thinking about.
HH: And you’re staffing up and all that. What about your Senate campaign debt from 2010?
CF: Well, that campaign debt has been paid off. So…
HH: Okay.
CF: That, yeah, it’s all been paid off, and you know, campaign debt is nothing particularly new. Hillary Clinton had $25 million dollars’ worth of it when she finished her last presidential run, and I don’t know, took four years or something to pay it off. But we have no debt.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

RNC Debate Schedule

In After Hope and Change, we discuss the impact of the debate schedule on the 2012 GOP nomination process.

A release from the Republican National Committee:
Today, at the Republican National Committee (RNC) Winter Meeting in San Diego, California, the RNC announced that it has sanctioned nine debates from August 2015 through March 1, 2016. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus presented a clear vision for the debate process, including the dates, locations and sponsors.

The RNC previously appointed a standing committee for presidential primary debates to sanction debates on behalf of the RNC. The committee chose to limit the number of debates, spread the debates across the country by sanctioning no more than one debate per state, allocate the debates over the course of seven months, include a larger conservative media presence and allow campaigns to know and plan for the debate schedule early.  All of the sanctioned debates listed are contingent on further negotiations with the media partners and any future violation of RNC could result in the debate being unsanctioned. 
Note party rules:
Each debate sanctioned by the Standing Committee on Presidential Primary Debates shall be known as a "Sanctioned Debate." Any presidential candidate who participates in any debate that is not a Sanctioned Debate shall not be eligible to participate in any further Sanctioned Debates.
Back to the release:
 In the coming weeks and months the RNC and the broadcast partners will make additional announcements of conservative media partners and panelists.  

The nine debates sanctioned between schedule is listed below:

1. Fox News
    August 2015
2. CNN
    September 2015
    October 2015
4. Fox Business
    November 2015
5. CNN
    December 2015
6. Fox News
    January 2016
7. ABC News
    February 2016
    New Hampshire
8. CBS News
    February 2016
    South Carolina
9. NBC/Telemundo
    February 2016
    Fox News
    March 2016
    March 2016
    Conservative Media Debate
    Date TBD
    Locations TBD

Friday, January 16, 2015

CA Senate: the Oppo Starts

“How many years of tax returns will you release so the climate community knows you’re not invested in big oil or coal like you used to be?” an interrogator identified as “LetsTaxLicensePlates” asked Steyer in the Reddit chat. The tart question was one of dozens lobbed at Steyer, a former hedge fund manag er who gave $74 million last year to Democrats who pledged to fight global warming.
Steyer’s adversaries in the oil and gas industry, along with the Republican Party, have suggested that his spending on the battle against climate change is hypocritical, given the wealth he built with investments in fossil fuels.
Steyer is not the only would-be candidate to face criticism before announcing a decision on whether to run. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat who is exploring a potential candidacy, was the target of multiple tweets Wednesday night from a former Los Angeles state senator, Gloria Romero.
Her tweets called attention to a letter that Villaraigosa wrote on behalf of Esteban Nuñez, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the 2008 stabbing death of a San Diego college student.

Nuñez is the son of former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, a longtime Villaraigosa ally who used his political connections to try to keep his son out of prison. On his last night in office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the sentence to seven years.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"The Type-O Blood of Politics"

At Buzzfeed, Ben Smith profiles RNC chair Reince Priebus, who will soon become the longest-serving RNC chair in modern history.
Raising money is the core of Priebus’ job — he spends, he said, between 60% and 65% of his time raising money — and he is exceptionally good at it: He outraised the Democrats in 2012, and raised $188.8 million in the 2014 cycle. And the money he raises is, he said, “the golden money. It’s the type-O blood of politics. Anyone can use it, there’s a limited supply, but it’s the universal blood of politics here at the RNC.”
Because of complex laws around coordination, the resources the Republican National Committee buys can be used and reused, passed around among Republican campaigns. Soft-money groups cannot share and coordinate like this. So instead of going to war with deep-pocketed outsiders like the Koch brothers, Priebus has found a role in their ecosystem. When it comes to data, for instance, the committee has — through an arrangement involving a new private company — essentially made itself the partner of a Koch-backed data company, i360, initially seen as a rival.

Priebus asks only that big donors make that golden money their first contribution, then they’re free to head off to the super PACs. And he has absorbed from his third round of calling donors before a big election that “as chair of the party, for our national party, 2016 is the most important election we’ve had.”

GOP Ambivalence About Romney

Jonathan Martin reports at The New York Times:
Mr. Romney’s indication in New York last week that he may run in 2016 has set off excitement among his loyalists in the Republican donor class and assurances from his consultants that he can bring a different dimension to the campaign this time.
But interviews with more than two dozen Republican activists, elected officials and contributors around the country reveal little appetite for another Romney candidacy. Beyond his enthusiasts — a formidable constituency given that many are donors — opinions range from indifference to openly hostility.
Some party leaders are still angry about the former venture capitalist’s struggles to fend off the inevitable attacks on his business background, his awkward demeanor, and his inability to connect with working-class and minority voters. While political circumstances change between campaign cycles, Mr. Romney’s vulnerabilities, they say, are a constant.
“He got defined early, after he got through the nomination process, and they spent a lot of money to define him,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, who praised Mr. Romney’s passion and sense of purpose. “And those issues are still there. That doesn’t change, and that narrative is still out there.”
Nearly without fail, Republicans call Mr. Romney a decent man, and in public they prefer to speak delicately about him. But beyond the ritual accolades there is an unmistakable weariness, and in private, their criticism of him can be fierce.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more"

The Washington Post reports:
Mitt Romney is moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, calling former aides, donors and other supporters over the weekend and on Monday in a concerted push to signal his seriousness about possibly launching a 2016 presidential campaign.
Romney’s message, as he told one senior Republican, was that he “almost certainly will” make what would be his third bid for the White House. His aggressive outreach came as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate and the newly installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — announced Monday that he would not seek the presidency in 2016.
Romney’s activity indicates that his declaration of interest Friday to a group of 30 donors in New York was more than the release of a trial balloon. Instead, it was the start of a deliberate effort by the 2012 nominee to carve out space for himself in an emerging 2016 field also likely to include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Big-Money Individual Donors Favored Democrats

Kenneth P. Vogel reports at Politico:
Democrats spent much of the 2014 campaign castigating Republican big money, but, it turns out, their side actually finished ahead among the biggest donors of 2014 – at least among those whose contributions were disclosed.
The 100 biggest donors of 2014 gave nearly $174 million to Democrats, compared to more than $140 million to Republicans, according to a POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service.
Donors who gave mostly or exclusively to Democrats held down 52 of the top 100 spots, including that of the biggest by far – retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $74 million helping Democratic candidates and groups.
Of course, that edge doesn’t take into account contributions to deep-pocketed non-profit groups that don’t disclose their donors. They heavily favored Republicans, with reports showing conservative secret money non-profits outspending liberal ones $127 million to $33 million. While that’s just a fraction of the overall undisclosed money spent in 2014, it’s indicative of a dramatic imbalance in a type of big money spending that likely would close the gap between Democratic and Republican top donors, if not put Republicans ahead.

Campaigning for High Schoolers

Darren Samuelsohn reports at Politico that parties and campaigns are targeting teenagers who are underage right now but will be 18 by Election Day 2016.
Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans are desperate for any edge at the polls, and they say they’ll be employing 21st-century data mining techniques in search of supporters from this ripe demographic that has little or no track record in politics. That means scouring local high school directories from Iowa to Florida, matching up data from public voter rolls with parents’ voting histories, and picking through whatever scant bits of consumer information are also available to help paint a sharper picture of the electorate.
The Republican National Committee senses an opportunity. The next generation of first-time voters were still in grade school when Obama won his first term and have approached legal voting age during a time of deep economic uncertainty. Recognizing the rich vein of potential support, GOP data teams are creating comprehensive files on teenagers as part of a large scale effort to deduce the political DNA of some 200 million Americans.
But campaigns aren’t just waiting for teenagers to contact them directly. They can buy the public voter rolls in at least 11 states — Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas and West Virginia — that contain data on people younger than 18 who have pre-registered to vote for the next election. The amount of information on each voter varies by state but typically includes a full name, address, date of birth and, when available, party affiliation.
Political campaigns take that public information and start creating dossiers on future voters, folding in census information, their parents’ voting histories, club memberships and whatever additional consumer data is available on 16- and 17-year-olds. While teenagers rarely have their own credit cards or grocery store loyalty cards not tied with their parents, there is still plenty of unregulated information available for a campaign to harvest, from college survey preferences to insights supplied on social media on everything from Facebook and Instagram to Twitter.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Huck's Bucks

At Open Secrets, Russ Choma writes that Huckabee starts with good name identification from his previous race and his Fox TV show, among other things.
And from a money perspective, he’s not in terrible shape starting out. Huck PAC, the leadership PAC he founded in 2008 that he now uses as his main political vehicle, had raised $2.2 million in the 2014 cycle through Nov. 24. It still had $493,000 in cash on hand. The PAC can accept up to $5,000 per year from a donor (either an individual or another PAC.)
That’s well short of $25 million, but it compares not unfavorably to other potential candidates who are considered serious. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) all have leadership PACs they’ve deployed to push their presidential prospects, and have raised, respectively, $3.6 million, $3.8 million and $2 million. And those three have been fundraising at full pace as active politicians, while Huckabee hasn’t been in elected office since 2007.
Like those senators, Huckabee has used his leadership PAC to develop a team of consultants to advise him on politics and fundraising. All told, the PAC has spent more than $431,000 on consultants in the 2014 cycle, with the largest sum ($329,000) going to Legacy Consulting, an Arkansas-based firm led by former Huckabee aide Chad Gallagher. But the majority of the money has been spent ratcheting up a fundraising machine. A full $1.2 million of the total $1.9 million spent by Huck PAC in the most recent cycle has gone for fundraising — $988,000 on mass mailing and calls alone.
The trick for Huckabee now is to unearth some deep-pocketed donors to help him get to $25 million. In the 2014 cycle, Huck PAC showed a knack for connecting with smaller donors. Traditionally that’s a good thing, but given the new rules of the game, with more money coming from fewer contributors who are now able to give the maximum to as many candidates and committees as they want, the wealthy contributor is more prized than ever. Of the money raised by Huck PAC in 2014, $1.67 million came from small donors — those contributing $200 or less — and just $400,000 came from larger donors.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Other Candidates in the Business/Establishment Wing

If Romney might be in, what of the rest of the GOP's business/establishment wing?

Michael Barbaro and Nicholas Confessore report at The New York Times:
Jeb Bush on Tuesday delivered a powerful message about two of the most vital ingredients in a presidential campaign, money and ideas, transforming himself from a figure who once seemed paralyzed by ambivalence over a White House run into the most forceful presence within the emerging Republican field.
With the flip of a Facebook switch, Mr. Bush, the former governor of Florida, disclosed the formation of a full-time political apparatus that can begin raising money with an eye toward 2016 and laid out a campaign rationale that was striking for its emphasis on big, knotty, bipartisan concepts like immigration overhaul and income inequality.
Mr. Bush, 61, a figure indelibly linked to the Republican Party’s past, seems determined to offer himself as an intellectual midwife of its future — a break from the party’s struggle to win over minority voters and the kind of ideological infighting, on display Tuesday when conservatives tried to oust Speaker John A. Boehner, that Mr. Bush could face in primaries.
“We will not cede an inch of territory — no issues, no demographic groups, no voters,” he wrote in a statement on the website of his new organization, called Right to Rise. To emphasize the point, and showcase his social media savvy, Mr. Bush appeared on a cellphone video Tuesday speaking both English and Spanish.
ABC reports:
Gov. Chris Christie, a potential presidential contender, was interrogated recently by federal investigators probing the 2013 lane-closure scandal that has threatened his political future, officials confirmed to ABC News.
Christie met with federal prosecutors and FBI agents last month during a secret session at theNew Jersey governor’s mansion in Princeton. He agreed to sit down with investigators voluntarily after they offered him a chance to provide his side of the story. Interviewing Christie was one of the final steps in the investigation, which appears to be wrapping up, according to those briefed on it. 
Peter Hamby reports at CNN:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will launch a new political organization in the coming weeks and has tapped a national political strategist to serve as his campaign manager should he decide to run for president, multiple GOP sources told CNN.

Walker, who was sworn in to a second term in Madison this week, quietly brought on Rick Wiley, a former Republican National Committee political director and veteran of multiple presidential campaigns, about a month ago to build a political operation in advance of the 2016 race, the sources said.
Katie Zezima reports at The Washington Post:
Carly Fiorina said she's still exploring whether or not she will run for president -- and even Mitt Romney wouldn't stand in her way.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO said she will make a decision on whether or not she wants to run in March or April. Fiorina was co-chair of Mitt Romney's California campaign, but she is vowing no allegiances. Romney told donors in New York Friday that he is considering a 2016 bid.

When asked if Romney would have any bearing on whether or not she decides to run for president, Fiorina responded, "no."

Romney, After All?

With Friday’s news that Romney told a group of donors he was now actively considering a third presidential bid in 2016, it appears the boosters have gotten through. “Everybody in here can go tell your friends that I’m considering a run,” the former candidate told the gathering in midtown Manhattan, according to Politico. But insiders who spoke to BuzzFeed News about Romney’s evolution on the 2016 question said he only began to entertain the possibility recently, and that he still needs to weigh a number of factors — including Jeb Bush’s electability — before he decides to take the plunge.
According to one former adviser, the biggest political question Romney will be considering as he makes his decision is whether Bush will be able to make it to the general election.

“Look, Jeb’s a good guy. I think the governor likes Jeb,” the adviser said. “But Jeb is Common Core, Jeb is immigration, Jeb has been talking about raising taxes recently. Can you imagine Jeb trying to get through a Republican primary? Can you imagine what Ted Cruz is going to do to Jeb Bush? I mean, that’s going to be ugly.”

The adviser added that aside from Bush, Romney doesn’t believe any of the Republicans in the field are ready to take on Hillary Clinton in the general election.

“He’s not going to be intimidated by Bill Clinton sitting in the front row of a debate, looking at him,” the adviser said of Romney. “His dad has run for president. He’s run before.”

Friday, January 9, 2015

Top Two and the California Senate Race

In the 2012 "top two" primary for California's Democratic-leaning 31st congressional district, a split among Democrats enabled two Republicans to advance to the fall election. 

At Powerline, Steve Hayward proposes an unlikely -- but not impossible -- replay of this scenario in the 2016 California Senate race:
Assume a crowded Democratic field with several good, well-funded candidates. Assume Republicans could rally around just two really good candidates. Suppose a large and divided Democratic field left the two Republicans as the top vote getters in the primary. Could Republicans plausibly sneak away with California’s Senate seat by exploiting this ill-thought “good government” jungle primary reform?
It is worth pondering. It is hard to clear a primary field for national offices like the Senate because political ambition is overweening, but it would be fun to watch the liberal panic if it came about. GOP party elders in California, if there are such, should think strategically about this.
P.S. Or, if Republicans really want to be clever, they won’t run a candidate at all, but would instead back Mickey Kaus in the Democratic field. Wouldn’t that be fun.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Boxer's Retirement

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has announced that she will not run for reelection.

In the Democratic race, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris have the advantage of statewide name recognition.  They may end up with a tacit understanding that one will run for Senate in 2016 and the other will run for governor in 2018, but the hard part will be deciding who runs for which office.  Some Democratic House members may be also be looking at the race.  It seems likely that the GOP will hold the majority in the House for a few more years at least, whereas Democrats have a reasonably good chance of regaining the Senate next year.  (Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who was among the most senior House Democrats, gladly ran for the chance to be the least senior member of the Senate Democratic majority.)

It would be really hard for a Republican to win a Senate seat in California.  No Republican has done so since Pete Wilson in 1988.  Republicans can sometimes win blue-state governorships (Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts in 2014, for instance), but a senatorial election is a different kind of vote.  National issues and party identification play a bigger role in Senate elections:  only 15 senators come from statesthat went for the opposite party in the 2012 presidential election. In California, party registration and party identification are deep blue.  And since 2016 will be a presidential election year, we can expect Democratic turnout to be reasonably high in California.

Republicans have a weak bench in California.  They hold no statewide offices.  No Republican House member from California has statewide name recognition.  Even House majority leader Kevin McCarthy is a familiar name only among political junkies.  If Californians have heard the name at all, they’ll think of the actor who starred in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

There are a couple of significant GOP mayors, Kevin Faulconer of San Diego and Ashley Swearengin of Fresno, but they are little-known statewide. (Swearengin ran for controller in 2014, and lost.)

Running in California requires lots of money.  Rep.Darrell Issa is very wealthy, and may wish to move up now that term limits have forced him to give up the chair of the House Oversight Committee.  But he is probably too conservative to win statewide, and ethics issues would dog him in a statewide campaign.  There may be other rich Republicans out there, but memories of Meg Whitman may deter them.  In the 2010 gubernatorial race, she spent lavishly from her eBay fortune, but still lost badly to Jerry Brown.

With some financial backing, a moderate-to-liberal Republican might have an outside chance.  Schwarzenegger designed the top-two primary to encourage the nomination of such candidates, but evidence for its effectiveness is mixed.  Anyway, it is hard to identify who the moderate-to-liberal Republican would be.  Tom Campbell ran against Feinstein in 2000 and lost by nearly 20 points.  Neel Kashkari had to spend a large share of his personal funds to run for governor in 2014, and it is unlikely that he could afford to run statewide so soon. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Carson's Fake Tocqueville Quotation

Several sections of potential Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s 2012 book America the Beautiful were plagiarized from various sources, BuzzFeed News has found.
In many cases Carson cites the works that he plagiarizes in endnotes, though he makes no effort to indicate that not just the source, but the words themselves, had been taken from different authors.
The case is similar to a 2013 report from BuzzFeed News that found Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul plagiarized in his book while citing the works he copied in the footnotes. Paul’s book was eventually updated to include attribution.
In one instance, Carson cites wholesale from an old website that has been online since at least 2002,
In another example, he plagiarizes from two authors whose works he mentions in passing at earlier points in the book: Cleon Skousen, a conservative historian who died in 2006, and Bill Federer, another conservative historian, who Carson thanks in the acknowledgements for helping get his book published.
At one point, Dr. Carson does use a direct quotation, but it's totally fake.  He says that Tocqueville wrote:
I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in the democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
Tocqueville never wrote any such thing.  This bogus quotation has been circulating for years.  

As his source for the quotation, Carson does not cite Tocqueville, but a book by Federer.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Huck Might Be Running

Mike Huckabee has left Fox to explore a presidential race.  At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green writes:
Practically speaking, Huckabee must win in places like Florida, Texas and Virginia, which is no small task given Bush’s footprint in Florida, and Sen. Ted Cruz’s favorite son status in Texas. For the moment, national polls show Bush and New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, at the front of the Republican field, with Huckabee, Paul, and Ben Carson in contention, and Cruz looking like an also-ran.
Huckabee will also need to establish a reliable fundraising base, something that up until now has proved to be elusive. In 2008, Huckabee raised a little over $16 million, with less than $55,000 coming from political action committees. By contrast, John McCain, the eventual GOP nominee, had raised approximately $12.7 million in the first quarter of 2007 alone.
Despite his fundraising challenge he has some advantages.  He is well-liked, enjoys enthusiasm among religious conservative, and appeals to the base on taxes.
More to the point, Huckabee has a natural appeal to a party that has come to represent the bulk of working class white voters. He has taken a tough stance on unilateral presidential amnesty for illegal immigrants, and has backed “fair trade,” in the face of globalization. Huckabee is also not burdened by, or beholden to, foreign investors. In a sense, Huckabee may be America’s UKIP candidate, melding nationalism with traditionalism.
 In July, Gallup found that "he reigns as the single candidate with the best combination of familiarity and net favorability among Americans who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party nationwide."
Potential 2016 Republican presidental candidates favor and familiar ratings
As for problems, back to the Green article:
As for his campaign staff, Huckabee is going with people who were with him in 2008, Chip Saltsman, the Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee, and Alice Stewart, his 2008 press secretary—but that may not necessarily be the best thing. Saltsman is best known for circulating a CD containing the satirical ditty, “Barack the Magic Negro,” as part of Saltsman’s own failed bid to be tapped as chairman of the Republican National Committee. As for Stewart, she is known and generally liked by the press corps, and she’s a veteran of Michele Bachmann’s short-lived 2012 presidential campaign and the equally successful Santorum drive.
Despite his ease in front of the camera, he also has to watch out for damaging gaffes.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Obama Gets a Bump

Gallup's Frank Newport reports:
President Barack Obama's job approval rating is at 48% for Dec. 27-29, the highest three-day average since Aug. 21-23, 2013. Obama's disapproval rating is also 48%, and this marks the first time his approval-disapproval gap has not been negative since September of 2013.
Obama's job approval rating has been trending up in general in recent weeks, averaging 45% for the week ending Dec. 21 and 44% for the week ending Dec. 28. These are all above his overall average for 2014 so far of 42%.
Some of this uptick is due to higher ratings among Hispanics, who reacted favorably to Obama's actions on immigration announced in November. Some of it may reflect his recent announcement concerning the restoration of relations with Cuba. Some may reflect Americans' increasingly positive views of the economy and jobs picture. And some may be a "Christmas" bump, reflecting Americans' more charitable attitudes in and around the Christmas season.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Waxman, Then and Now

Henry Waxman (D-CA) leaves Congress talking about the decline of bipartisan compromise.  But when he actually had the power, his attitude was a bit different.

“I always felt that you have to reach out to Republicans,” Mr. Waxman said. “When I was chairman of the health and environment subcommittee, I welcomed their comments. I wanted to hear what they had to say. Many times they would make criticisms or proposals that improved the legislation, and I welcomed that.”  -- Carl Hulse and Robert Pear, "Departing Lawmakers Bemoan the Decline of Compromise," New York Times, January 3, 2013

"If we have a united Democratic position, Republicans are irrelevant," says Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif. --  Janet Hook, "House GOP: Plight of a Permanent Minority, CQ Weekly, June 21, 1986, pp. 1393-96.

Dem Woes With Working Class Whites

Jonathan Topaz writes at Politico:
After two years of warnings about Republicans’ woeful performance among nonwhite voters in 2012, the midterms showed that Democrats have their own significant demographic vulnerability: working-class white voters. Republicans won white voters without a college degree by 30 points, 64 percent to 34 percent, according to exit polls, equal to their margin in the wave election of 2010. Polling data show that support for President Barack Obama among working-class whites has dropped 8 points since 2010.
“Democrats have chosen to focus on issues that the liberal base of the party really likes, but the working-class person in West Virginia or Arkansas or Louisiana or Alaska doesn’t necessarily identify with,” said political analyst Charlie Cook.
Cook pointed to those four states — where Republicans captured Democratic-held Senate seats this year — to argue that Democrats are a “marginalized party” across much of the country.
“This is more than just a bad year for Democrats,” he said. “The challenge that the Democratic Party has in parts of the country appears to be even more formidable than it was two years ago.”
Added former Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.): “Democrats really gave up on small towns and exurban America.” [emphasis added]
And even though Republicans have yet to make significant inroads among minorities, the GOP could make up for those losses by further enhancing its performance among white voters.
“Given what’s happening with working-class voters and how disenchanted they are with the Democratic Party … Republicans still have a chance to win the presidency without [making] significant changes to policy,” said GOP consultant Ford O’Connell.
Democrats won’t necessarily be able to count on the same level of minority turnout in 2016 without Obama. At the same time, Mitt Romney in 2012 won a larger share of the white vote than any GOP nominee since George H.W. Bush and still lost the presidency.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Scalise and the South

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green considers the Scalise controversy in light of the GOP's political history in the South, including Trent Lott's praise for Strom Thurmond.
“When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him,” said Lott. “We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.” Coincidentally, Lott’s birthday wishes came just months after Scalise’s appearance at EURO.
But even after the Lott debacle, the Confederaten dilemma [follow link to Lloyd's 10/28/13 piece] hasn’t disappeared. In 2013, Sen. Rand Paul lost the services of Jack Hunter, Paul’s media aide and co-author, after it became known that Hunter was the “Southern Avenger,” a radio talk show host who wore a Confederate mask and had written articles praising John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin. For good measure, Hunter boasted that he had toasted Booth’s birthday.
Confronted with Hunter’s past, Paul could only say that Hunter was “unfairly treated by the media and he was put up as target practice for people to say was a racist, and none of that’s true.” Apparently, old embers still glow.
Still, for all of this, South Carolina is now represented in the U.S. Senate by Tim Scott, a Republican and an African-American. The state also elected Republican Nikki Haley, an Indian-American, as governor. In Louisiana, Scalise’s home state, a similar story can be told, as the Pelican State’s governor is Bobby Jindal. Obviously, there’s a line between Southern and Confederate, and the GOP will need to keep reminding people of it. Scalise, however, just made that job more difficult.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Scalise and Race

Dan Balz writes at The Washington Post:
The swiftness with which Scalise and other House Republican leaders moved to defuse the controversy over his appearance before Duke’s group, the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), shows their sensitivity to being tied to anything that smacks of racially insensitive politics. Acting as quickly as they did, the leaders no doubt hope that the Scalise controversy will have mostly died down by the time lawmakers gather next week, with Republicans celebrating the fact that they now control both the House and Senate.
Still, what remains unclear is why Scalise did not immediately recognize at the time the dangers of speaking to a group whose name suggested its origins and racist interests. His friends and allies contend that he has been adept at avoiding racially polarizing actions or connections that plagued other politicians in the past.
Stephanie Grace, who has long covered Scalise in Louisiana, posted an article Tuesday night on the Web site of the New Orleans Advocate in which she said she never saw any evidence that Scalise endorsed the views of Duke’s organization. She said she has seen him work closely with Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who is African American, and others in the black community.
She also wrote that Scalise once had said to her that he was like Duke without the baggage. As a result, she wrote, “I also get how the invitation wouldn’t have set off alarm bells, given that Scalise had long since made his awkward peace with the situation. In fact, by 2002, Scalise may have been so used to the idea of dealing with Duke voters that he really considered EURO just another part of his constituency, even if it was a distasteful one.“
And an irony from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Reports that Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, gave a speech to a white nationalist conference connected with David Duke in 2002 are not accurate, the man who organized the events said Wednesday (Dec. 31).
Kenny Knight, a longtime political adviser to Duke, said Scalise spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association -- not affiliated with the European-American Unity and Rights conference that was held in the same Metairie hotel -- two-and-a-half hours before the white nationalist event started.

Barbara Noble, who was dating Knight and said she attended the meeting, also said Wednesday that Scalise spoke to the civic group, not EURO.