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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rightward Ho! (At Least at the District Level)

At The New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall writes:
Democrats are counting on demographic change to help them win future presidential elections, including next year’s.
But three developments are pushing the country to the right, counteracting the idea that demography is political destiny. First, the rise of negative partisanship – that is, the intense hostility members of one party feel toward members of the other. Next, the nationalization of elections – the increasing tendency of voters to opt for straight ticket voting at all levels of government. Finally, there is growing income inequality within legislative districts, and this has partisan repercussions that are not necessarily what you would expect. All three trends are interacting with each other to the advantage of Republican candidates in contests for the House of Representatives and for state legislatures.

Cruz: Out of Business in the Senate

Ted Cruz called out Mitch McConnell seven times by name on Monday night. Afterward, the Senate majority leader barely uttered a word about his chief Republican adversary.
Asked about Cruz’s diatribe on the Senate floor, during which the Texas Republican suggested McConnell is a puppet for Democratic leaders and a foe of conservatives, McConnell couldn’t conceal his smile on Tuesday.

“I have tried very hard to stay out of the presidential race, and I think that’s probably a good rule for me,” he said with a chuckle.
McConnell may not like to talk about Cruz, but he and his leadership lieutenants have quietly and methodically worked to isolate the conservative senator and minimize his effect on the critical fall spending debate. The end result, in spite of Cruz’s invective toward Republican leaders, is music to McConnell’s ears: no government shutdown.


Ted has chosen to make this really personal and chosen to call people dishonest in leadership and call them names which really goes against the decorum and also against the rules of the Senate,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a rival of Cruz’s for the GOP presidential nomination who has earned a tepid endorsement from McConnell, said on Fox News Radio. “As a consequence, he can’t get anything done legislatively. He is pretty much done for and stifled.”
When you misbehave in Mitch McConnell's bar, he does not throw you out.  He locks the door. 
In the months and years ahead, he will make Cruz's life miserable in ways that Cruz has not yet imagined.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Angry Dems

Which party is angries? Chris Cillizza reports at The Washington Post:
You'd think it'd be the party who has propelled three candidates who have never run for office before -- including one named Donald Trump -- to the top of its 2016 presidential field. And, according to new numbers from NBC and the Wall Street Journal, you'd be wrong.
A majority -- 56 percent -- of likely Democratic primary voters said that they "feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than it working to help everyday people get ahead." By contrast, just 37 percent of Republican primary voters express that same anger.
My guess is that the populist strain runs more powerfully at the moment in the Democratic party than in the GOP. Democratic base voters -- and that's who says they are likely primary voters this far away from an election -- see economic inequality as the issue of our times and are mad as hell that politicians in both parties aren't doing enough about it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Congressional Republicans, Presidential Republicans, 2015

Nate Cohn writes at The New York Times:
Fifty years ago, the House Republicans still reflected the party’s 19th-century strength in the Northeast and Midwest. But the G.O.P.’s center of gravity has gradually drifted toward the South over the last few decades. Today, Republicans from the South, along with the reliably conservative interior West, vastly outnumber Republicans from the Northeast or Pacific Coast.
The infusion of red-state Republicans has transformed the politics of the Republican Party. Their growing clout has made it far harder for the party to compromise or avoid crises, like the so-called fiscal cliff, the 2013 government shutdown or the Planned Parenthood impasse of today 
That’s because red-state Republicans are far more conservative than their blue-state counterparts. They have been far likelier to support aggressive tactics like government shutdowns than their blue-state colleagues. 
But as he has before, Cohn notes an important reason why the somewhat-conservative Republicans still matter: 
The blue-state Republicans may be a distinct minority in the House, but they still possess the delegates, voters and resources to decide the party’s presidential nomination. In 2012, there were more Mitt Romney voters in California than in Texas, and in Chicago’s Cook County than in West Virginia. Over all, the states that voted for President Obama in 2012 hold 50 percent of the delegates to the Republican National Convention, even though they contain just 19 percent of Republican senators.

In the last two cycles, relatively moderate Republican candidates won the party’s nomination by sweeping the blue states. Mr. Romney and John McCain won every Obama state in the last two primary cycles, making it all but impossible for a conservative to win the nomination. Mr. Romney lost all but one red-state primary held before Rick Santorum dropped out.

The blue-state Republicans also have the advantage of superior financial resources. The blue states represented 62 percent of all Republican primary fund-raising in 2012.

Outsiderism and Public Opinion

Karlyn Bowman writes at AEI:
Read the PDF
As the “summer of the political outsider” becomes fall, the October issue of AEI’s Political Report breaks down public opinion on insider versus outsider presidential candidates. ...
Insiders and outsiders
  • Political experience: In 1987, 35 percent said they would rather support a presidential candidate whose political experience was mostly outside of Washington. This spring, 56 percent gave that response (CBS News/The New York Times). In a new Quinnipiac poll, 48 percent of registered voters said experience as a Washington outsider would better help a candidate serve effectively as president, while 46 percent said experience in Washington would be better.
  • Party differences: In the September Quinnipiac poll, 72 percent of registered Republican voters, compared to only 15 percent of registered Democratic voters, said experience as a Washington outsider would better help a candidate serve effectively as president.
Nevertheless, 52 percent say that they would be less likely to support a candidate who has never held elected office.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Early Outside Money

Political organizations working to influence the 2016 elections outside the party or official campaign structure had spent more than $25.1 million as of Sept. 21. That’s an increase of more than 34 percent over their counterparts at this point in the 2014 midterm elections — and a five-fold leap over their outlays by this date in the last presidential cycle, a Center for Responsive Politics review of Federal Election Commission data shows. 
If any type of group is in vogue, it’s the “single-candidate” committee, according to FEC data, and that means a boon for conservative groups in terms of sheer spending power. Of the 40 organizations that have spent the most so far in the 2016 cycle — a list that includes political nonprofits, super PACs and business associations — more than half are dedicated to one candidate and one race. The same is true of the top 20 biggest spenders, which includes 11 single-candidate groups.

The rise of single-candidate operations gives conservative organizations an edge in a presidential race marked by a large crop of Republican presidential candidates. Of the 20 biggest spenders, just one has a liberal viewpoint: the establishment-Democrat-backing Senate Majority PAC
In 2013, back when single-candidate groups spent just under $2.7 million before September, 14 of the top 20 biggest spenders had supported liberal candidates or opposed conservative ones.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Donald and the Bible

Donald Trump recently showed up at a gathering of Iowa conservative Christian voters with a copy of the Bible in hand. 
"See, I'm better than you thought," he said. Then came a black-and-white photograph from his confirmation to further prove his Christian cred. 
"Nobody believes this," he said to laughs. "What went wrong?"
After initially declining the invitation, Trump spoke Friday in front of several hundred social conservative leaders at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington. ... 
Trump brought his Bible along once again, and briefly addressed his faith between attacks on his rivals and Democrats. 
"I believe in God. I believe in the Bible. I'm a Christian," he said. He ended by bemoaning the increased use of the term "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas" as a sign that Christianity is under attack. As president, he said, he'd reverse the trend.
An earlier post on this blog mentioned various passages from Proverbs that might apply to Trump.  Here is another biblical passage:

Malachi 2:16:  “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sack the Quarterback

Since the 1970s, both parties in both chambers of Congress have played “sack the quarterback,” targeting the other party’s leaders.

Sometimes, it’s taken the form of trying to defeat leaders for reelection:
  • Democrats tried to oust House GOP whip Newt Gingrich in 1990 and 1992;
  • Republicans beat House Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA) in 1994;
  • Republicans beat Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) in 2004;
  • Democrats tried to defeat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in 2008 and 2014;
  • Republicans went after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010
Sometimes it’s taken the form of ethics charges:
  • Newt Gingrich trigged an ethics investigation that led to the resignation of Jim Wright in 1989.
  • When Gingrich became speaker, Democrats returned the favor, and he had to pay a hefty assessment. 
  • In 2006, Democrats went after Speaker Dennis Hastert for his failure to stop the House page scandal.  Republicans lost their majority and Hastert stepped down from party leadership.
Sometimes it has taken the form of media attacks:

  • In the 1980 campaign, Republicans ran generic ads against Speaker Tip O'Neill;
  • In 1996, Democrats ran against "Dole-Gingrich;"
  • In 2002, after Senate GOP leader Trent Lott (R-MS) praised Strom Thurmond, Democrats pounced and Lott quit.
Boehner has taken his share of Democratic shots in recent years, but what makes his resignation different is that so many of the attacks openly came from Republicans and conservatives.  If you wanted to hear criticism of Boehner in recent years, you tuned in to Rush:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Party Images

Gallup reports:
Less than half of Americans (43%) view the Democratic Party favorably, but the party's image is still better than that of the Republican Party (38%). Neither party has been able to gain favorable opinions from a majority of the public since June 2013, in the early months of President Barack Obama's second term.
The Democratic Party's image has been more positive than the Republican Party's since September 2011, except in one survey conducted shortly after the November 2014 midterm elections. The current five-percentage-point advantage for Democrats, measured after intensive months of presidential campaigning for both parties, is about the same as the advantage in July of this year.
Yet while Americans are more likely to view the Democratic Party favorably, they are split on which party is better at keeping the country prosperous. Americans are slightly more likely to say the Republican Party is better at handling whatever issue they personally define as the country's "most important problem," and much more likely to favor the GOP on "protecting the country from international terrorism and military threats."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"It's a Bleeping Bitch"

Politico's Alex Isenstadt and Mike Allen speak with Rick Wiley, late of the Walker campaign:
“We built the machine that we needed to get a governor in just phenomenal shape to take a stage in a presidential debate,” Wiley said. “I think sometimes it's lost on people the largeness of the job. I think people just look at it and say, ‘Wow! Yeah, you know, it's like he's a governor and he was in a recall’ and blah, blah, blah — he’s ready.
“It's just not like that. It is really, really difficult. ... I'm just saying, you know, like it's a f---ing bitch, man. It really is.”
But Walker had a Walker problem: He just wasn’t ready for the national stage. It was often overlooked that just five years ago, he was the Milwaukee County executive. As he began the presidential campaign, according to advisers, he knew little about issues like immigration, the Export-Import Bank and foreign policy. Walker’s campaign brought in experts to brief him on those subjects. Aides said he enjoyed the briefings and worked hard to become fluent in policy issues.
But his lack of knowledge showed — like when he said that Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire striking air traffic controllers was the most significant foreign policy decision of his lifetime. Yet expectations were sky-high for the governor, and his early appearances did little to lower them.
Wiley blamed the size of the campaign partly on Walker’s newness to the national spotlight. “It takes a lot to build a campaign to run for president, especially around someone who is introduced to a new set of issues,” Wiley said. “Foreign policy — brand new. And just the dynamics of the federal issues are different, obviously. I mean, my God, this guy is a machine — I mean he really, truly is. But that takes staff, it takes time to do that. And we built the campaign that we needed to get him ready.”
“Everything was rolling, and then we just a hit a wall,” Wiley continued. “So, you know, I'm not sure there's anything we could have done differently. I can go back and say, ‘OK, you know, could I have done without like three of the research kids who are continuing to fill in the Walker record?' Maybe. Sure. But then maybe Walker research suffers.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Walker Walks

Byron York writes at The Washington Examiner:
The hard lesson for Walker is that campaigns expose a candidate's weaknesses and gaps in knowledge. While it is possible for candidates to improve as performers -- they do it all the time -- it is really hard for them to learn much new during the campaign. The action is simply too frantic, too non-stop for a candidate to really delve into anything.
What that means is a good candidate had better bring a pretty strong store of knowledge to a campaign. Walker brought a lot of knowledge about Wisconsin, but not a lot about presidential-level issues.
His deficiencies were brutally exposed once the GOP debates began. At the Fox News debate in August, Walker went in too cautiously -- the idea was to hit a single, avoid any big mistakes, and move on -- and underperformed even those expectations.

Going into the CNN Reagan Library debate last Wednesday, Walker's team had done a lot of coaching, but mostly, it seemed, on style. He talked too fast in the first debate, so they wanted him to write two words on a pad of paper when he arrived at his podium at the Reagan Library: "Slow Down."
It didn't matter. The moderators virtually ignored Walker, and he failed to effectively jump into the stream of debate on his own. Then, after the debate, came a shocking poll, from CNN, that showed Walker's support, already weakening, had cratered.
Four years ago, York made the same point about Rick Perry.

Nicholas Confessore writes at The New York Times:
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin was among the most successful fund-raisers in his party, with a clutch of billionaires in his corner and tens of millions of dollars behind his presidential ambitions. But his swift decline and exit from the presidential race on Monday was a stark reminder that even unlimited money has its limits.
While a super PAC supporting him, Unintimidated, was relatively flush with cash — on track to raise as much as $40 million through the end of the year, according to people involved with the group — Mr. Walker’s campaign committee was running dry, contemplating layoffs and unable to find enough money to mount a last stand in Iowa, a state that once favored him.
Super PACs, Mr. Walker learned, cannot pay rent, phone bills, salaries, airfares or ballot access fees. They are not entitled to the preferential rates on advertising that federal law grants candidates, forcing them to pay far more money than candidates must for the same television and radio time.
Now, in a campaign that has already upended assumptions about the power of dynasties and the limits of celebrity candidates, Mr. Walker’s decline and fall hint at the systemic dangers of the super PAC-driven financial model on which virtually the entire Republican field has staked its chances.
And in the category of "if only they'd listened to me," Eric Bradner reports at CNN:
A former Scott Walker aide offered her take on what went wrong with his campaign, minutes after it was reported that he was dropping out of the 2016 Republican race.
Liz Mair is a digital media strategist who was forced out of Walker's campaign the day after it announced her hiring because of her tweets blasting Iowa's role in the nominating process. On Monday, she offered a long list of Walker's mistakes via Twitter.
Among those listed in her series of tweets: "Misunderstanding the GOP base, its priorities and stances. Pandering. Flip-flopping. Hiring staff who did not know him well and did not understand his record or his reputation across all segments in Wisconsin. Allowing certain staff (ahem) to marginalize and cut off people in Walker's orbit who had got him to the governorship and kept him there."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Autism and the 2016 Campaign

On Saturday, The Hill ran the piece below, which deals with some of the topics I cover iThe Politics ofAutism.

During the recent GOP debateDonald Trump suggested that kids are developing autism because they are getting too many shots too soon. “Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Curiously, Trump used almost the same words three years ago. “It happened to somebody that worked for me recently,” he said on Fox News in 2012. “I mean, they had this beautiful child, not a problem in the world, and all of the sudden they go in and they get this monster shot…then all of the sudden the child is different a month later.”

Wherever this mysterious anecdote came from, Trump was talking nonsense. Multiple scientific studies have shown that there is no connection between autism and the vaccine schedule, or any individual vaccine. The idea of such a linkage has been circulating for years because of a 1998 study that turned out to be fraudulent. The British medical journal that ran the piece later retracted it, and its lead author lost his medical license.

Trump is hardly the first politician to spout misinformation – but in this case, it is downright dangerous. If parents take him seriously and delay vaccinations, their children could catch the diseases that the vaccines prevent. And some of these diseases can be deadly.

Trump also erred on the broader issue of autism. “Autism has become an epidemic,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.” Trump unintentionally fingered a reason why we have to be cautious about declaring an “epidemic.” Thirty-five years ago was when the American Psychiatric Association’s manual first listed autism as a distinct category. And twenty-five years ago was when federal law first required the Education Department to gather national data on the number of students with autism.

When you start counting something, you usually find more of it. In this case, much of the apparent increase in autism involves better identification of people who previously would have gotten a different label. Scientists at Penn State University found no overall increase in the number of students in special education. As the number of students with an autism label has gone up, the number with an intellectual disability label has gone down.

Aside from improvements in reporting, has there also been any true increase in the prevalence of autism? Nobody knows for sure, in part because we lack good data from the past. Indeed, the most important thing for presidential candidates to know about autism is how much we don’t know.

Vaccines are one of the few purported causes that scientists have ruled out. Autism tends to run in families, so genetics probably has something to do with it. Beyond that, the possibilities include such disparate things as paternal age, maternal age, pollution, and immune responses to viruses. And until scientists know what causes autism, when and how it starts in the developing body, and how it expresses itself over time, they will have difficulty in devising medical responses. Studies show that certain behavioral and educational programs can help with symptoms, but there is little research showing how much these interventions can improve quality of life in the long run.

Information on the workings of autism policy is just as sparse. In a recent article, autism experts Paul T. Shattuck and Anne M. Roux asked us to picture a big company that tried to do business without financial statements, that is, without data on sales, spending, customer experience, or assets. Such a firm would fail. “Yet, this state of affairs is commonplace in many autism services. At a population level, we are almost completely unable to clearly describe the resources expended on services or measurable indicators of the population outcomes we hope to influence -- including the employment rate.”

So the major lesson is that we need more research – not just on biology, but on effective ways in which policy can help autistic people in the here and now. Presidential candidates should address this issue. Above all, they need to tell the truth.

Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, is the author of The Politics of Autism: Navigating the Contested Spectrum (Rowman and Littlefield).

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Outsiders: Fiorina, Carson, and Trump

At The New York Times, Ross Douthat writes:
But the growing evangelical embrace of Carson is arguably a greater folly than Trumpmania. That’s because the Donald, for all his proud ignorance about policy detail, is actually running an ideologically distinctive campaign: He’s a populist and nationalist, a critic of open immigration and free trade and a backer of Social Security and progressive taxation, and he’s drawing support from working-class Republicans who tend to share those views.
In fact, Trump's positions are similar to those of Pat Buchanan, who is a fan.  In 1992 and 1996, Buchanan ran for the GOP nomination, and in 1996, he won the Reform Party nomination, which Trump seriously considered seeking.  Donald Trump = Pat Buchanan plus four billion dollars and minus forty IQ points.

Carson also resembles also-rans of the past:
And unfortunately evangelical voters have a weakness for this kind of pitch. From Pat Robertson in 1988 through thin-on-policy figures like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, even Michele Bachmann briefly in 2012, the evangelical tendency has been to look for a kind of godly hero, a Christian leader who could win the White House and undo every culture-war defeat. (The resilience of evangelical support for George W. Bush as his presidency went sour reflected a persistent hope that Bush might be this hero in the flesh.)
Such unrealistic ideas are hardly unique to the religious right. But evangelical culture, as James Davison Hunter notes in “To Change the World,” his magisterial account of recent Christian engagement with American politics, has a particular fondness for the idea of the history-altering individual, the hope that “one person can stand at the crossroads and change things for good.”
CNN reports that the outsiders are currently leading:
Carly Fiorina shot into second place in the Republican presidential field on the heels of another strong debate performance, and Donald Trump has lost some support, a new national CNN/ORC poll shows.
The survey, conducted in the three days after 23 million people tuned in to Wednesday night's GOP debate on CNN, shows that Trump is still the party's front-runner with 24% support. That, though, is an 8 percentage point decrease from earlier in the month when a similar poll had him at 32%.
Fiorina ranks second with 15% support -- up from 3% in early September. She's just ahead of Ben Carson's 14%, though Carson's support has also declined from 19% in the previous poll.
Driving Trump's drop and Fiorina's rise: a debate in which 31% of Republicans who watched said Trump was the loser, and 52% identified Fiorina as the winner.
READ: The complete CNN/ORC poll results
But one established politician has seen his standing rise after flashing foreign policy chops on the debate stage. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida -- identified as Wednesday's winner by 14% of Republicans, putting him second behind Fiorina -- is now in fourth place with 11% support, up from 3% in a previous poll.
Astonishingly, Walker is in danger of being sent down to the minors:
Five other candidates received less than one-half of 1 percentage point support: former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Walker's collapse is especially stark.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Corruption and Outsiderism

Gallup suggests on reason for the current popularity of outsiderism:
Three in four Americans (75%) last year perceived corruption as widespread in the country's government. This figure is up from two in three in 2007 (67%) and 2009 (66%).

While the numbers have fluctuated slightly since 2007, the trend has been largely stable since 2010. However, the percentage of U.S. adults who see corruption as pervasive has never been less than a majority in the past decade, which has had no shortage of controversies from theU.S. Justice Department's firings of U.S. attorneys to the IRS scandal.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dubious Dark Money Group for Trump

At Nonprofit Quarterly, Rick Cohen reports on the dark-money group that hosted Trump's event on the USS Iowa:
Mother Jones reported that Veterans for a Strong America was a registered 501(c)(4), but news reports indicate that the organization had its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRSbecause it failed to submit Form 990s for three years running. However, regardless of the IRS action, the “Veterans for a Strong America Action Group” appears on the Center for Responsive Politics website as a super PAC with several five-figure donations from Veterans for a Strong America. The PAC’s expenditures were in support of Mitt Romney for president ($125,080) and Rick Berg, a Republican running in North Dakota for the Senate ($45,000). Arends appears as the treasurer of the super PAC. At a minimum, it would appear that Arends and the Veterans for a Strong America, if that is anything more than Arends under a different name, are hardly nonpartisan. The PAC’s disclosure of several five-figure donations from VSA makes it appear like VSA is the 501(c)(4) that camouflages the donors who would otherwise be revealed if they were to give to the Super PAC directly.
A number of sources suggested that Veterans for a Strong America, unclear whether the PAC or the 501(c)(4), has 500,000 members. Trump himself said that the organization has “hundreds of thousands of members.” Although reportedly not inclined to make political endorsements in the past, Arends and Veterans for a Strong America endorsed Trump’s candidacy at his USS Iowa speech. The press coverage of the Trump speech largely took it for granted that Veterans For a Strong America was a legitimate organization, though Leo Shane III in the Military Times says that the group “is largely unknown among major veterans service organizations.”
Here is the big question:  how much money did Trump give the group? 

At Forbes, Kelly Phillips Erb writes:
The rule used to be that tax exempt groups which fell under certain income thresholds did not have to file an information return with IRS. However, all of that changed under the Pension Protection Act of 2006 which made it mandatory for most tax exempt organizations to file an annual information return or notice with the IRS regardless of how much (or little) income the organization received. Failure to do so for three consecutive years resulted in an automatic loss of tax-exempt status unless exempted (for example, churches and certain church-related organizations are not required to file annual reports). The first year that would have impacted existing organizations would have been 2010 since returns which were not filed for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 would have resulted in a loss of status.
VSA’s Facebook page indicates that it was founded in 2010. Assuming that tax exempt status was obtained in 2010, information returns would have been required for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. A loss of status as of May 15, 2015 (the due date for most tax exempt information returns) indicates that, at a minimum, returns were not filed for 2012, 2013 and 2014.
While the organization has a South Dakota mailing address, there is no such organization listed in the South Dakota business database. There is a “Vets For America” group, identified as a domestic nonprofit in good standing which was incorporated just recently, on August 31, 2015. The registered agent for the organization is Arends Law, P.C. Arends Law is managed by Joel Arends, who, according to his website, served as a campaign aide to president George W. Bush and former presidential candidates Senator John McCain and congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Arends is also identified on the VSA website as its Chairman. Arends appeared alongside Trump at the event on Tuesday but there is no indication that Trump’s camp knew about the revocation of the group’s status at the time.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I, Carly

Michael Barone writes:
Here's some news about last night's debate that you didn't hear at last night's debate — but which may be just as important as what the candidates said. The audience for CNN's Republican debate, according to Nielsen Fast National ratings, was 23 million viewers. The audience for the earlier debate, between just four candidates, was 6.3 million.
These numbers are comparable to the 24 million who watched the Fox News debate August 6 and the 6.1 million who watched the earlier Fox debate, with seven candidates. Any speculation that Republican voters or those interested in Republican candidates would be less likely to watch the debates on CNN than the debates on Fox News turned out to be ill-founded. Voters who wanted to watch managed to tune in.
Note that this represents a huge increase in the debate audience over previous years. CNN's highest rated debate before this year, a Democratic debate on January 31, 2008, much later in the election cycle, drew 8.3 million viewers. The CNN audience last night was almost three times as large.
Allahpundit reports:
If you’re a Trump fan, take heart. This Michigan survey was conducted before last night’s debate, where Carson didn’t perform especially well. And the overnight poll from Gravis was limited to Republicans who watched the debate. It might simply be reflecting momentary “Wow, Carly!” sentiment, something that’ll dim a bit once we’re back to 24/7 Trump coverage on cable news. And Trump fans who missed the debate entirely have no reason to change their vote this morning, so he probably still leads nationally. The big question is by how much.
Even so, if I’m not mistaken, these are the first two polls anywhere since Trumpmania broke big that don’t show him on top.
That’s a poll of the race itself, not a poll asking who won the debate. On that question Fiorina was the clear winner with 33 percent versus 21 percent for Trump and 16 percent for Marco Rubio. Fiorina also did more to help herself last night than any other candidate: When people were asked if their opinion of her was more or less favorable favorable after watching, the split was a phenomenal 78/13. Only Rubio approached those numbers among the rest of the field, splitting 71/19. In fact, every candidate in the field polled either more favorably after the debate or saw no change in their perceptions except two. One was Rand Paul, whom 58 percent viewed less favorably versus just 15 percent more favorably. The other? Donald Trump, who split 33/36. Hmmmm.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Trump and the Book of Proverbs

Jenna Johnson reports at The Washington Post:
Nearly three weeks after Donald Trump was first asked to name his favorite Bible verse, he finally has an answer: He likes what the Book of Proverbs says about not bending to envy.
"Proverbs, the chapter 'never bend to envy,'" Trump said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network's The Brody File on Tuesday evening in California. "I’ve had that thing all of my life where people are bending to envy." It was not clear whether Trump appreciated the passage because he had struggled with envy personally, or whether he was referring to envy he had experienced from others.
It also wasn't clear which verse the Republican front-runner was talking about: A search of several of the most-used standard versions of the Bible did not turn up any verse or chapter that urges people not to "bend to envy."
Here are some real passages from Proverbs that might apply to the Donald (all NIV):

  • "Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse." (28:6)
  • "The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are." (28:11)
  • "Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf." (11:28)
  • "Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud." (16:19)
  • "The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin." (10:14)
  • "Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom,  when they are not able to understand it?" (17:16)
  • "Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions." (18:2)
  • "Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue." (11:12)
  • "Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife;quarrels and insults are ended." (22:10)
  • "Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright." (14:9)
  • "The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place." (15:25)
And of course, the most Trump-relevant passage of all:
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (16:18)

Best Ad of the Campaign (So Far): "Look at This Face"

Amanda Terkel writes at The Huffington Post:
The super PAC backing Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is out with a new ad responding to Donald Trump's pejorative comments about her appearance.
The ad, paid for by the Carly for America Committee, features a series of faces of women and girls. In the background, Fiorina is heard saying, "Ladies, look at this face, and look at all of your faces -- the face of leadership."
That remark, which Fiorina made on Friday to the Federation of Republican Women in Arizona, plays off recent comments by Trump, one of Fiorina's rivals for the GOP presidential nomination. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Trump remarked on the appearance of the only female candidate in the Republican field.
"Look at that face!" the reality TV host said. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!"

It's an excellent ad for someone who can take the battle to Trump -- but Fiorina is still a badly flawed candidate.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Outsiders in the UK and US

At The Washington Post, Dan Balz compares the Sanders surge to the rise of far-left British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.  He notes that the Clintons were close to the now-reviled Tony Blair, comparing their New Democrat posture with Blair's New Labour.
The direct parallels between what has just happened in Britain and what is happening here in the United States are limited. Labour was driven from power five years ago and suffered an even more humiliating defeat in May. President Obama’s two election victories have kept Democrats in power in the White House.
Although Democrats have suffered humiliating defeats in two midterm elections in that time, they have not been faced with the kind of back-to-basic question about their philosophy and policies that Miliband’s defeat and resignation triggered there. And yet, Clinton has found herself struggling with many of the same forces on the left that just swept aside the Labour Party establishment.
Sanders, like Corbyn, has tapped into the economic unrest that remains in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, manifested in debate about income and wealth inequality and fed by resentment that the bankers whose actions helped trigger the collapse have paid no significant penalty, which average families have.
Clinton has tried to adapt. She is not clinging to New Democrat rhetoric, nor articulating, as Blair did, a defense of center-ground politics. Her rhetoric has tried to echo the times. Her policies have shifted less, certainly less than those Sanders advocates.

The public mood also has put a greater premium on authenticity, rather than skilled and practiced policies. Sanders is old school, rumpled and unpolished, out of the same mold as Corbyn, characteristics that are appealing to many people sick of packaged politicians. Clinton has yet to find this voice.
Though Balz does not raise the point, one might also compare and contrast the Trump surge and UKIP (though the latter fizzled out when it came time to vote). 

Conservatives are angry about what Obama has tried to do. Liberals are angry about what he has failed to do.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Reagan Painted a Pretty Gloomy Picture in 1980

In a New York Times article titled "Gloomy Republican Campaigns Leave Behind Reagan Cheer," Jeremy Peters claims that GOP candidates are painting a gloomy picture of the country, in contrast to the Gipper's optimism.

This article distorts history very badly.  In the 1980 campaign, Reagan did what out-party candidates always do:  talk at length about the country's problems and blame the in-party for them.  Here are just a few examples:
  • "Double-digit inflation has robbed you and your family of the ability to plan.  It has destroyed the confidence to buy and it threatens the very structure of family life itself as more and more wives are forced to work in order to help meet the ever-increasing cost of living.  At the same time, the lack of year growth in the economy has introduced the justifiable fear in the minds of working men and women who are already over extended that soon there will be fewer jobs and no money to pay for even the necessities of life.  And tragically as the cost of living keeps going up, the standard of living which has been our great pride keeps going down." (Announcement of candidacy, November 13, 1979)
  • "Never before in our history have Americans been called upon to face three grave threats to our very existence, any one of which could destroy us. We face a disintegrating economy, a weakened defense and an energy policy based on the sharing of scarcity.: (Acceptance speech, July 17, 1980)
  • "Soviet leaders talk arrogantly of a so-called “correlation of forces” that has moved in their favor, opening up opportunities for them to extend their influence.  The response from the administration in Washington has been one of weakness, inconsistency, vacillation and bluff.  A Soviet combat brigade is discovered in Cuba; the Carter Administration declares its presence 90 miles off our shore as “unacceptable.”  The brigade is still there.  Soviet troops mass on the border of Afghanistan.  The President issues a stern warning against any move by those troops to cross the border.  They cross the border, execute the puppet President they themselves installed in 1978, and carry out a savage attack on the people of Afghanistan.  Our credibility in the world slumps further.  The President proclaims we’ll protect the Middle East by force of arms and 2 weeks later admits we don’t have the force." (VFW speech, August 18, 1980)
  • "Eight million out of work.  Inflation running at 18 percent in the first quarter of 1980.  Black unemployment at about 14 percent, higher than any single year since the government began keeping separate statistics.  Four straight major deficits run up by Carter and his friends in Congress.  The highest interest rates since the Civil War--reaching at times close to 20 percent--lately down to more than 11 percent but now going up again--productivity falling for six straight quarters among the most productive people in history." (Speech at Liberty State Park, NJ, September 1, 1980)
  • "They're leading us into an economic dark ages," (Speech in Houston, October 29, 1980)

California Senate Denounces Trump

The California Senate has passed a nonbinding resolution denouncing Donald Trump. Alex Koseff reports at The Sacramento Bee:
“Support this resolution to send a clear message that bigotry and racism and hatred is [sicnot tolerated in the state of California,” urged Sen. Isadore Hall, D-Compton, the measure’s author. “It’s time quite honestly to dump Trump.”
Senate Resolution 39 was introduced in July, following Trump’s controversial presidential announcement where he said that Mexico was not “sending their best” to the United States.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us,” Trump said. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Companies like NBC, Macy’s, NASCAR and the PGA have already severed ties with the real estate mogul and reality television star. But Senate Republicans didn’t bite on SR 39, which passed by a vote of 25-1 and has no legal authority; all but one abstained and declined to speak on the measure.
The original version of the measure denounced Ted Cruz as well, but final version deleted references to him:

35WHEREAS, Presidential candidates including Donald Trump
begin deleteand Ted Cruzend delete have unfairly demonized and falsely blamed
37undocumented immigrant families for a range of problems and
38challenges facing the United States; and
39WHEREAS, Presidential candidate Donald Trump recently
40stated that, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending
P3    1their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and
2they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs.
3They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,”;
begin delete andend deletebegin insert now, therefore, be
4itend insert
begin delete
5WHEREAS, Presidential candidate Ted Cruz has defended
6Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s racist remarks against
7immigrant families and people of Mexican descent; and
end deletebegin delete
8WHEREAS, Presidential candidate Ted Cruz characterized
9United States immigration as “policies [that] have encouraged
10drug smugglers, child abusers, murderers, and other dangerous
11criminals”; now, therefore, be it
end delete
12Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, That the Senate
13condemns discrimination in any form on the basis of race, ethnicity,
14national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or
15disability; and be it further
16Resolved, That the Senate calls for an end to hate speech and
17racist rhetoric by all presidential candidates; and be it further
begin delete
18Resolved, That the Senate condemns in the strongest terms
19possible the racist rhetoric against immigrant families made by
20Presidential candidate Ted Cruz; and be it further
end delete
21Resolved, That the Senate condemns in the strongest terms
22possible the racist rhetoric against immigrant families made by
23Presidential candidate Donald Trump; and be it further
24Resolved, That the Senate calls upon the State of California to
25divest from Donald Trump, The Trump Organization, and any
26affiliated entities; and be it further
27Resolved, That the Senate calls upon private businesses and
28individuals throughout California to end all business ties with
29Donald Trump, The Trump Organization, and any affiliated
30entities; and be it further
31Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of
32this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.

ead more here:
The California Constitution, like the US Constitution, forbids bills of attainder.  Technically, this measure does not fall into this category because it is a nonbinding resolution that does not directly impose a punishment.  Still,it sets a bad precedent by using official state resources to take a position on a private citizen running president.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sanders: Surge or Premature Peak?

In a come-from-behind rally, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the choice of 41 percent of Iowa likely Democratic Caucus participants, with 40 percent picking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 12 percent backing Vice President Joseph Biden, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to results of a July 2 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University showing Clinton at 52 percent, with 33 percent for Sanders and 7 percent for Biden.

Today, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley gets 3 percent of Iowa likely Democratic Caucus participants, with 3 percent undecided.

There is a wide gender gap among Democrats today as Sanders leads Clinton 49 - 28 percent among men, with 16 percent for Biden, while Clinton leads Sanders 49 - 35 percent among women, with 9 percent for Biden.

Sanders and Biden have a higher net favorability rating than Clinton and higher ratings for honesty and empathy. Clinton has the best scores for leadership and temperament to handle an international crisis.

"Sen. Bernie Sanders has become the Eugene McCarthy of 2016," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "He is the candidate of the Democratic left, against his own party's bosses and their prized presidential candidate, Secretary Hillary Clinton.

"Sanders has seized the momentum by offering a message more in line with disproportionately liberal primary and caucus voters."

"But unlike the late Sen. McCarthy, who came on strong just before the 1968 primaries, Sen. Sanders has seized the momentum, five months before voting begins in Iowa. History will eventually tell us whether he has made such a large move too soon," Brown added.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trump and Sanders: The Differences

Nate Silver says that Trump and Sanders are both outsiders, but quite different types.  Whereas Sanders's voting record is quite similar to that of other Democrats, Trump diverges from party orthodoxy.  The trouble here-- as Silver himself hints below -- is that roll-call votes are only a partial measure of positions.  By definition, they omit proposals that have never come to the floor, such as nationalization of US industries.
Why, then, have so few Democrats officially endorsed Sanders? First, because Clinton is extremely popular with both elite and rank-and-file Democrats. Her relative lack of competition is a sign of strength, not weakness — she won the “invisible primary” stage of the campaign. Second, because Democrats are right to be concerned about the general election prospects for Sanders, a 74-year-old self-described socialist. Third, because Sanders’s agenda is hostile to moneyed interests within the Democratic Party.
But if Sanders eventually overtook Clinton, the establishment might resign itself to the prospect of nominating him. There are some loose precedents for candidates like Sanders winning their nominations, especially George McGovern in 1972 and Barry Goldwater in 1964. If you’re going to sacrifice a presidential election — and Sanders would be unlikely to prevail next November4 — you’d at least like to shift the window of discourse in your party’s preferred direction.
A Trump nomination would be more of an existential threat to the Republican establishment. He bucks the establishment’s consensus on issues as fundamental to the GOP as taxation and health care, and he’swobbly on abortion. Splitting with the party on any one of those issues might ordinarily disqualify a candidate. Trump potentially destabilizes the Republicans’ “three-legged stool”: The coalition of fiscal, social and national security conservatives have dominated the party since 1980 or so. But on the issue on which Trump is most conservative — immigration — establishment Republicans worry that he might be so reactionary as to cause long-term damage to the party brand.
Meanwhile, Trump has picked fights with sacred cows like the Club for Growth and Fox News. Most of the conservative media — from the National Review to RedState to Glenn Beck — is anti-Trump.
In certain respects, Trump is engaged in an attempted “hostile takeover” of the Republican Party. Because the downside of nominating him might be so enormous — lasting beyond a single election — the GOP establishment may fight to the death to prevent him from being chosen, even at the price of a brokered convention and a fractured party base.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The State of Play

At RealClearPolitics, David Brady and Douglas Rivers analyze polls about Trump and the GOP nomination race, reaching these conclusions:
  • First, that most of his support comes from candidates already in the race and not from newly inspired voters. 
  • Second, his campaign drew from both the front-runners and the second-tier candidates and hurt Ted Cruz among the front-runners and Rick Perry among the second-tier candidates the most.
  • Third, his support comes from across the full range of Republican identifiers but is slightly higher among those who are less well educated, earn less than $50,000 annually and are slightly older.
  • Fourth, Tea Party respondents supported Trump at slightly lower levels than the totals for Cruz and Fiorina but higher than for the rest of the field.
  • Fifth, if his candidacy falters or he quits the race, no single candidate benefits in more than the low double digits, and those he hurt the most—Cruz and Perry—probably do not make up their losses, notwithstanding Cruz’s machinations
Charles Cook writes at National Journal:
Clearly, something pro­found is hap­pen­ing in the usu­ally staid and or­derly party. Don­ald Trump is in first place not only in Iowa and New Hamp­shire, but in na­tion­al polling as well, av­er­aging more than a quarter of the vote. Ben Car­son, the re­tired neur­o­lo­gist, is now in second place in Iowa and na­tion­wide, and in a stat­ist­ic­al tie in New Hamp­shire with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a more tra­di­tion­al can­did­ate. That Jeb Bush is av­er­aging single-di­git per­form­ances in both cru­cial states and na­tion­ally is just as per­plex­ing.
Should we see this as a re­bel­lion against ca­reer politi­cians and the GOP es­tab­lish­ment? Or, is roughly 40 per­cent of the GOP elect­or­ate throw­ing a tem­per tan­trum? The an­swer is: both.
Not all Re­pub­lic­ans are rebels, however. Na­tion­ally, al­most 60 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans are still the philo­soph­ic­al and styl­ist­ic des­cend­ants of the party that pro­duced Pres­id­ents Eis­en­hower, Nix­on, Re­agan, and both Bushes—the GOP that once ap­proved of Ger­ald Ford, Bob Dole, John Mc­Cain, and Mitt Rom­ney. Even Re­agan, not to men­tion the Bushes, would have trouble meet­ing the GOP’s new lit­mus tests.
Among the tra­di­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates, the Bush cam­paign is start­ing to air tele­vi­sion ads—and he had bet­ter hope they work. Con­ven­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an voters are still win­dow-shop­ping, but they don’t seem prone to linger be­fore Bush’s win­dow; they just keep mov­ing on. Kasich has shown signs of get­ting trac­tion, par­tic­u­larly in New Hamp­shire; he has already out­per­formed the ex­pect­a­tions that his late start would doom his cam­paign. It was Bush’s poor per­form­ance, the Kasich camp ex­plains, that drew the Ohio gov­ernor in­to the race.