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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Upstairs, Downstairs, Democrats, and Data

Thomas Edsall writes at The New York Times about the changing economic makeup of the Democratic Party and the tension between its upstairs and downstairs.
At the same time that lifestyle and consumption habits of the affluent diverge from those of the middle and working class, wealthy voters are becoming increasingly Democratic, often motivated by their culturally liberal views. A comparison of exit poll data from 1984 and 1988 to data from the 2008 and 2012 elections reveals the changing partisan makeup of the top quintile.
In the 1980s, voters in the top ranks of the income ladder lined up in favor of Republican presidential candidates by 2-1. In 1988, for example, George H.W. Bush crushed Michael Dukakis among voters making $100,000 or more by an impressive 34 points, 67-33.
Move forward to 2008 and 2012. In 2008, voters from families making $100,000 to $200,000 split their votes 51-48 in favor of John McCain, while those making in excess of $200,000 cast a slight 52-46 majority for Barack Obama
In his first term, Obama raised taxes on the rich and criticized excessive C.E.O. pay. As a result, he lost ground among the well-to-do, but still performed far better than earlier Democrats had done, losing among voters making $100,000 or more by nine points, 45-54.
...
The “truly advantaged” wing of the Democratic Party — a phrase coined in this newspaper by Robert Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard — has provided the Democratic Party with crucial margins of victory where its candidates have prevailed. These upscale Democrats have helped fill the gap left by the departure of white working class voters to the Republican Party.

At the same time, the priorities of the truly advantaged wing — voters with annual incomes in the top quintile, who now make up an estimated 26 percent of the Democratic general election vote — are focused on social and environmental issues: the protection and advancement of women’s rights, reproductive rights, gay and transgender rights and climate change, and less on redistributive economic issues.
...
Bernie Sanders has tried to capitalize on this built-in tension within the Democratic primary electorate, but Hillary Clinton has so far been able to skate over intraparty conflicts. In the New York primary, for example, she did better among voters making $100,000 or more than among the less affluent, while simultaneously carrying African-Americans and moderate Democrats of all races by decisive margins.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Remarks at Alumni Weekend

Trumping Politics:  The Elections of 2016

Why are outsiders doing so well this year?

Anger









GOP Nomination Polls and the delegate count

Democratic Nomination Polls and the delegate count

California Primary

Out of Sample


Sanders Spending

Peter Overby writes at NPR:
With Bernie Sanders lopping hundreds of staffers from his campaign this week, it's easy to forget he has outraised and outspent Hillary Clinton every month this year. And not by just a little.
Sanders described his campaign as the "underdog" early on, but it certainly hasn't been the case the past three months. Federal Election Commission reports for January, February and March of 2016 show Sanders outspending Clinton by more than 50 percent, $121.6 million to $80.2 million.
We know where those additional Bernie dollars came from: legions of small donors. The Campaign Finance Institute calculated that in February, the Sanders campaign raised 56 percent of his money from donors contributing $200 or less and 12 percent from donors giving 1,000 or more. Corresponding numbers for Clinton are 21 and 64 percent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

After the Acela Primary

Lloyd Green writes at The American Conservative:
Much as Clinton may rail against the rich for not paying their fair share of taxes, it is the wealthy who have kept her in the game. Democrats who commute daily to Wall Street had the final say in the Nutmeg State. Tellingly, Clinton ran best along Long Island Sound, Cheever Country, the very route that hauls precious human cargo into Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal daily, and the very places where George H.W. Bush grew up.
While Democrats don’t give Clinton the highest grades for empathy or honesty, they have repeatedly rewarded her for her electability and experience. For the moment, polls show that may be enough for Clinton to defeat either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.
As for Sanders, he continued to run well with young Democrats, and white voters without college degrees. But as was the case in New York, being the beer track candidate is not enough if you’re looking for the win.
Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, Sanders sounds determined to trudge onward to July’s Democratic Convention. Unlike Clinton who ended her 2008 quest after winning the California Primary, Sanders refuses to take “no” for an answer, acting as if his candidacy were about something larger than himself.
Speaking to his supporters in West Virginia as the results rolled in, Sanders rehashed the trajectory of his campaign, and stressed that he was outperforming Clinton when pitted against the Republican field. But Sanders also went well beyond talking about process, and devoted his speech to the themes of inequality, and how being wealthy translates into a markedly better and longer life.
In West Virginia, that is a message that will likely resonate for Sanders in the state’s upcoming primary. For the record, West Virginia is the whitest state in the Union, and it is also among the nation’s poorest. Unfortunately for Sanders, few of the remaining primary states match West Virginia’s demographics

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Insiders Always Win

Rich Galen writes at Mullings:
Here's the dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about: None of this will matter.
If Clinton wins the big story will not be out outsiders will now have a seat at the table. The big story will be how long it takes the Obama people to put their stuff into cardboard boxes and clear out for a return to the Clinton people.
Even if Donald Trump were to win and he made good on his promise to put business leaders into Cabinet posts it wouldn't make history. John F. Kennedy, for instance, put Robert McNamara, president of the Ford Motor Company, in as Secretary of Defense.
No less than T.E. Lawrence, known to us as Lawrence of Arabia, learned a hard lesson after World War I. He thought he and his Arab allies had created a new order in the Middle East. But, he wrote in Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
"When we achieved, and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew ...  We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace."
The reality is, it takes people who know how to operate the levers of government to operate the levers of government.

Official Washington may blink a couple of times, but it will quickly recover, thank Republican and Democrat primary voters kindly, and return things to status quo ante.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Cruz-Kasich Deal

Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post:
Ted Cruz and John Kasich just cut a very public deal with one another to stop Donald Trump. The basics of it are pretty simple: Kasich concedes the Indiana primary in hopes that Cruz can beat Trump there, and Cruz does the inverse in Oregon and New Mexico, where Kasich figures to perform well.
The idea is basically that they work together to hold Trump below the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination -- even if that means conceding delegates to one another. The Fix's Philip Bump ran the numbers and deduced that this might not help all that much.
What's also interesting here is that this isn't the first time Kasich has been presented with such a bargain. Way back in March, Marco Rubio's campaign essentially conceded the Ohio primary and took the unusual step of telling its supporters to vote for Kasich instead. This was done in hopes that Kasich would deprive Trump of delegates in Ohio -- a winner-take-all state that would have been a huge win for Trump. It was also apparently done in hopes that Kasich would return the favor in Florida -- another winner-take-all home state that Rubio needed as badly as Kasich needed Ohio.
The Kasich campaign's response: No dice.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hedging 2016

Will Tucker reports at Open Secrets:

Hedge fund managers know something about when to hold and when to fold. Last month, they did more of the former when it came to political giving, holding steady with their pattern of making uber-contributions to presidential super PACs — even after the favored candidate of some of them dropped out of the race.
Wall Street dominates political giving. But it’s these donors, a much smaller subset of the securities sector, who play with the biggest money.
The month of March saw more big contributions to presidential super PACs fromJames Simons, Robert Mercer, Donald Sussman, Paul Singer , George Soros andCliff Asness in particular. The six men — founders of investment companies that manage hedge funds, or high-risk private funds that often require seven-figure buy-ins from their investors — anted up a total of $9.5 million to presidentially focused super PACs for the month, bringing their total gifts to these groups to $33.5 million for the cycle.
Before the latest super PAC filings, which were due at the Federal Election Commission by midnight last night, the larger securities and investment industry — including not just hedge funds but commercial banks, brokerage firms and other industries — had given $221 million to congressional and presidential campaigns and super PACs in the 2016 cycle.
By itself, the hedge fund industry had given almost $75 million.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Threats

Outsiderism often includes a whiff of intimidation. Eli Stokols and Kyle Cheney report at Politico:
Since Donald Trump came up empty in his quest for delegates at the Republican state assembly in Colorado Springs nearly two weeks ago, his angry supporters have responded to Trump’s own claims of a “rigged” nomination process by lashing out at Republican National Committee delegates that they believe won’t support Trump at the party’s convention — including House.
The mild-mannered chairman estimates he’s gotten between 4,000 and 5,000 calls on his cellphone. Many, he says, have ended with productive conversations. He’s referred the more threatening, violent calls to police. His cellphone is still buzzing this week, as he attends the RNC quarterly meetings in Florida, and he’s not the only one.
In hotel hallways and across dinner tables, many party leaders attending this week’s meetings shared similar stories. One party chairman says a Trump supporter recently got in his face and promised “bloodshed” if Trump doesn't win the GOP presidential nomination. An Indiana delegate who criticized Trump received a note warning against “traditional burial” that ended with, “We are watching you.”
...
Trump’s campaign has never explicitly encouraged violence. But it has promoted tactics that have contributed to delegates’ fear. Earlier in April, a top Trump adviser posted online the cellphone number of Tennessee state party chairman Ryan Haynes, along with a message accusing the state party of trying to “STEAL your vote TODAY.”

Very Liberal Democrats

At FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten notes that the "very liberal" faction of the Democratic party has grown since 2008:
Interestingly, the Democratic electorate has shimmied to the left roughly equally in the South and outside the South. The very liberal percentage of the Mississippi vote, for example, was up 12 percentage points, while it was up 15 points in Nevada. Voters outside the South were only slightly more likely to identify as very liberal (nearly 27 percent) than voters overall. So why did Sanders still do so poorly in the South? Black voters accounted for a much larger percentage of the very liberal vote in Southern states.
But there is an important qualification:
The fact that Sanders will likely lose the nomination, however, isn’t simply about race; the Democratic electorate is more liberal, but it’s still not all that liberal in an absolute sense. Moderate and conservative Democrats still form a larger base in most states than very liberal voters.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Kempism

Peter Spiliakos writes at First Things:
Kempism started as an opening to the working-class. Kempism argued—somewhat persuasively under the circumstances of the late-1970s—that the needs of entrepreneurs and wage-earners overlapped. Today, Kempism has degenerated into a rationalization for the interests and priorities of the affluent.
Kempism speaks for a Wall Street Journal editorial page that prioritizes tax cuts for businesses and high-earners above everything else. Kempsim speaks for the employers who want to make it easier to find workers (and to pay those workers less) as the labor market finally heats up after the Great Recession. The social basis of Kempism is now the business lobbies, and politicians like Paul Ryan whose experiences with the world of conservative think tanks are utterly alien to those of most American wage-earners.
On taxes, Kempism was a victim of its own success. Reagan-era tax reforms (in which Kemp played a big role) took many people off the income tax rolls entirely:  as of last year, about 45 percent of households (mostly lower income) paid no federal income tax at all.  As a result, income-tax cuts now disproportionately benefit the affluent.  

The other half of Kempism, which the article doesn't mention, consisted of proposals to help the poor, such as tenant management of public housing.

Good stuff by itself, but Kempism offered little to the people in between -- the blue-collar and pink-collar workers now flocking to Trump.

The Trump Effect and the Hispanic Vote

Rafael Bernal reports at The Hill:
Anti-Trump sentiment is making Latinos more eager to vote in 2016, according to a poll released Thursday.
America's Voice and Latino Decisions found that 48 percent of registered-voter Hispanics are more enthusiastic to cast ballots in 2016 than they were in 2012. Of that group, 41 percent attributed their enthusiasm to Donald Trump's presence in the race.
"There’s a feeling that the Latino community is under attack, and we’re seeing that reflected in voting preferences and unfavorables toward the Republican Party. In fact, the GOP is helping to make Latino political identity more cohesive," said Sylvia Manzano, principal of Latino Decisions.
The desire to stop Trump was by far the strongest motivating factor to vote, followed by support of Hillary Clinton, at 16 percent, and support of Bernie Sanders, at 13 percent. 
In California alone, there are an estimated 2.2 million legal permanent residents who are eligible for citizenship but have not applied.
"What we can do right now is help people become citizens so that we can build political power while we're waiting," said Ramiro Funez, a spokesman for Unite Here, a union that represents hospitality workers, many of whom are immigrants. "It's kind of one of the only options we have right now."
His union has been holding citizenship workshops around the country, including a recent one in Orange County. In Nevada, a key battleground in presidential elections, Funez said the union was close to its goal of helping 2,000 people apply for citizenship in a two-month period that began March 1.
Organizers say another factor has driven the push for citizenship this election year. His name is Donald Trump.
...
Speaking at the Long Beach citizenship fair, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti cast naturalization in strictly electoral terms.
"The hate, the Trumpism, those aren't the values of me and my country," said Garcetti, whose office launched its own citizenship effort last year. "We can make sure we have a president who continues to reflect our values," he said. "We can make sure we have a country that is open to the rest of the world."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Reagan and Trump: Favorability

David Freddoso writes of Trump at The Washington Examiner:
His hard-core supporters fail to comprehend just how deeply unpopular he is with everybody else outside their relatively small group. According to the last eight polls taken on the question, Trump has an unfavorable rating of between 60 and 70 percent among the general population that will vote in the 2016 election. He is not that much more popular than the ebola virus. (Although no virus has ever tried to run for president, so we cannot be sure.)

One can quibble with a poll here or there, but to deny that Trump would be the most unpopular person ever nominated for president requires the belief that all current polling is wrong — and not just a bit wrong (as some polls were in 2012 in 2014) but completely, uniformly and entirely wrong in a way it never has been in any modern presidential election. Yet in reality, the polls from April and even March of 2004, 2008, and 2012 were, on aggregate, reliable indicators of the eventual winner in those years.
Gregory Holyk writes at ABC:
Donald Trump ranks as the most unpopular top-tier presidential contender in more than 30 years of ABC News/Washington Post polls, trailing only former Ku Klux Klan leader David Dukeamong presidential candidates in any election year since 1984. 
Some Trump supporters liken him to Reagan, claiming that the Gipper bounced back from unfavorable poll ratings to win the presidency in 1980. You might call it "blatantly false rationalization #6."  As Frank Newport and Lydia Saad explain at Gallup, the premise is dead wrong:
A multitude of polls by other firms whose surveys are archived in the Roper Center polling database confirms Reagan's generally positive 1980 image.
The Los Angeles Times national polls all show that Reagan's image was more favorable than unfavorable, including polls in the fall of 1979 and in June, September and October of 1980. There is no Los Angeles Times poll which can be located from 1980 that shows Reagan with a more unfavorable than favorable image, as is the case with Trump today.
The New York Times/CBS poll provided the best time series of image assessments of Reagan throughout 1980. These polls showed Reagan's favorable rating exceeding his unfavorable rating in each poll conducted in 1980 -- with the exception of September's poll, in which the two figures were even, at 38%. Reagan's image was the most positive in the early months of the year, including polls conducted in January, February, March and April where his favorable rating was always above 50% and his unfavorable at least 19 points lower, with a consistently high "don't know/unable to give an opinion" response percentage. His image dropped later in the year as the campaigning became more intense, but as noted, never moved into net negative territory in the New York Times/CBS polls. The Roper database shows one poll, conducted by NBC News/Associated Press, showing Reagan with a 52% favorable and 35% unfavorable image.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Clintonism Is Dead. Long Live Clinton.

Lloyd Green writes:
Yesterday marked the end of Clintonism, circa 1992; that is, the impulse to tack to the center while paying homage to law, order, and markets. To win, Clinton had to squirm away from the 1994 crime bill, and hoped the voters would forget about the fact that her husband left the campaign trail in 1992 as Arkansas governor to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a self-lobotomized cop killer.
The world had changed, and time had moved on. Instead of Bill trashing Sister Souljah, Hillary 2.0 paid homage to Rev. Al Sharpton, singing the tax-dodging and race-baiting Reverend’s praises all with little hope of snagging his pre-primary endorsement. But then again, Clinton, unlike Sanders, always knew it was all about the “W.” For Clinton, winning was everything.
The Jewish vote took a hit on Tuesday. According to the exit polls, Jews made up just 12 percent of the electorate. Religious “nones” now outnumbered Jewish voters by more than two to one. To put things in perspective, just eight years earlier the Jews cast 17 percent of Democratic ballots, while in 1980 the figure was 38 percent. The three “Is” of New York politics—Ireland, Israel and Italy—have been supplanted by hot sauce and Hamilton.
Some things don't change.  In All  Too Human, George Stephanopoulos said:
As I wrote and rewrote, I came to see how Clinton's shamelessness is a key to his political success, how his capacity for denial is tied to the optimism that is his greatest political strength.  
Hillary Clinton has tried to apply this lesson, at least as far as denial goes. Trump has mastered it.

After New York

Dan Balz writes at The Washington Post:
Hillary Clinton got what she needed in New York, a solid victory that stopped Bernie Sanders’s weeks-long winning streak. But any cause for celebration among her supporters probably will be tempered by the reality that her unexpectedly difficult nomination battle has taken a significant toll on her candidacy.

...

Meanwhile, her negative ratings have been rising and now outweigh her positives by 24 points, according to the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. That makes her seen no more favorably than Cruz is. Her only salvation is that Trump’s net negative is minus 41. Sanders, meanwhile, has a net positive of nine points — although it’s fair to say that one reason for that is that he has received far less in the way of attacks from Republicans or scrutiny from the media than Clinton has.
Clinton’s image is at or near record lows among major demographic groups. Among men, she is at minus 40. Among women, she is at minus nine. Among whites, she is at minus 39. Among white women, she is at minus 25. Among white men, she is at minus 72. Her favorability among whites at this point in the election cycle is worse than President Obama’s ever has been, according to Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who conducted the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll with Democratic pollster Peter Hart.
Sahil Kapur writes at Bloomberg:
Ted Cruz knew he was going to get crushed in New York.
The Texas senator didn't hold a single campaign event (excluding TV appearances) over the last three days in the Empire State, instead campaigning in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Wyoming. Donald Trump, a native New Yorker who campaigned vigorously and dominated in the state, picked up nearly all of New York's 95 Republican delegates, while Cruz, who finished third, was shut out.

The path for Cruz to 1,237 delegates before the July convention in Cleveland is now officially closed: 674 delegates remain in the states ahead, and Cruz is 678 short of the magic number, according to an Associated Press tally. Worse, his double-digit victory in Wisconsin on April 5 has failed to produce a perceivable polling bounce in key upcoming states.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Conservative Intellectuals and the GOP

At Politico, Tevi Troy notes that conservative intellectuals did not play a major role in GOP politics until the 1960s.  Their influence expanded greatly under Reagan, but in this campaign it appears to be on the wane.
In 2016, the old model does not seem to be working. This cycle has revealed a chasm between the expectations of the GOP electorate and the conservative intellectual world. Much of this parting of the ways of course has to do with Trump, who does not appear to engage in outreach to conservative intellectuals and has few if any prominent conservative intellectuals on his team. In addition to dismissing National Review and not engaging with the think tanks, Trump has also made clear he wants to go it alone when it comes to idea generation, saying, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain.”
To be fair, though, the emerging separation with GOP intellectuals is not solely a Trump-focused phenomenon. Neither Ted Cruz nor John Kasich are exactly darlings of the intelligentsia, either—or they weren’t in the early stages of the campaign. Conservative intellectuals in this cycle were split by the largest crop of conservative candidates ever, but tended to coalesce at various times around Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, all of whom have exited the race. Having think tankers on their side did little to help those candidates connect with voters. Indeed, it could be argued that Jeb Bush’s frequent references to books he was reading may have made it more difficult for him to appeal to voters on the ground.
Mainstream conservative think tank positions on free trade, U.S.-led internationalism, lower personal income tax rates, Social Security reform and immigration regularization simply do not appear to speak to today’s high-anxiety voters. It is possible that the interests of Reagan-era intellectuals were more aligned with the GOP base than they are today. Lower taxes, small government, free-trade, and more immigration appealed to blue-collar voters in Reagan’s day; they don’t so much today. And so far, the elite has been reluctant to adapt.


The Hard Edge of the Left

At The Los Angeles Times, Evan Halper and Matt Pearce report that Sanders backers can get just as abuse as those of another outsider candidate:
There is the activist in Chicago who unleashed a movement to “harass” superdelegates backing Clinton, with an online “hit list” complete with delegate phone numbers and some home addresses. There are the online trolls who have come to be known as "Bernie bros," who attack journalists, politicians and fellow voters they perceive to be pro-Clinton with misogynistic, often vulgar attacks. There are the campaign surrogates -- some of them high-profile -- who use language the campaign finds itself having to walk back.
On Thursday, Sanders apologized for comments made by Paul Song, chairman of the progressive California group Courage Campaign, during Sanders’ huge rally the night before in New York’s Washington Square Park. Song railed against “corporate Democratic whores,” saying the party establishment was beholden to the pharmaceutical industry. The Clinton campaign demanded Sanders disavow Song’s words, which it did. Song himself also apologized, saying the comment was not directed at Clinton.
The hostility from some Sanders backers reflects a very different tone than what supporters projected a year ago at Sanders’ first large rally in Vermont, a lakeside park affair that resembled a peace festival. It comes as Sanders, the underdog candidate who trails in the delegate count despite a string of electoral wins in recent weeks, has stepped up his attacks on a political system he says is rigged for Clinton and a corporate media he says wants him to lose.
His increasingly hostile tone can be a combustible mix with a group of supporters who, in many cases, are new to the mechanics of party politics, delegate lobbying and campaign messaging. As a campaign so heavily focused online, it is especially vulnerable to the Internet’s darker impulses.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dark Horses

A number of posts have discussed the possibility of a contested convention.

The piece I did today at Fox and Hounds makes for a fun followup to The Best Man:

The Republican National Convention is probably going to pick Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or (much less likely) John Kasich. Since 1972, every major-party presidential nominee has come out of the primaries and caucuses, and GOP voters seem to have little appetite for breaking with that practice. Moreover, it is not even certain that the convention will adopt rules allowing for the nomination of another candidate. A dark-horse nominee seems impossible.

And yet, 2016 is the year for believing six impossible things before breakfast. Just 12 months ago, who would have thought that Trump would be the leading candidate – or that many “establishment” Republicans would see Cruz as the best alternative? So imagine that multiple ballots result in deadlock, and that convention procedures allow delegates to pick anybody they want. Who could emerge?

For years, conventional wisdom had it that Republicans liked to turn to the candidate next in line, that is, somebody who had previously sought the nomination but placed second. In 2008, that candidate was Mike Huckabee. In 2012, it was Rick Santorum. The trouble is that both Huckabee and Santorum both ran this year, and both flopped badly

It might be logical to consider the party’s congressional leaders. House Speaker Paul Ryan has a lot going for him: brains, a solid conservative reputation, and national exposure as the 2012 vice presidential nominee. But he has taken himself out of the running with the strong declaration that he would not accept the nomination. As for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: if you look up the term “Washington Insider,” you may see his picture. Finding that he had a 16 percent national approval rating, one pollster dubbed him “the most unpopular major political figure in the country.” Ted Cruz called him a liar, and is standing by that characterization.

Some anti-Trump conservatives are floating the name of retired Marine Corps General James Mattis. Not only did he build an awesome military career, but he also earned a couple of nicknames that will appeal to various wings of the party. “Mad Dog” would be a huge draw for foreign policy hardliners, while moderates would like “the Warrior Monk,” a soubriquet referring to his contemplative and analytical side. He has shown the physical courage that Trump only pretends to have, and his knowledge of key national security issues would put all the current candidates to shame.

Though Mattis is attractive in many ways, the experience of the most recent general-turned-dark-horse is not encouraging. In 2004, General Wesley Clark entered the Democratic race with an outstanding résumé, but his candidacy quickly fizzled when he displayed total ineptitude on the political battlefield. Though warfare has much to teach us about politics – I wrote a whole book on the topic – running for office requires skills that military officers do not automatically acquire. Dwight Eisenhower succeeded brilliantly in both realms; but alas, the Good Lord made only one of him.

Republicans might want someone with political experience, the ability to unify the party, and the potential to broaden its reach. Two South Carolinians fit this description. Governor Nikki Haley is a fiscal and social conservative who won acclaim last year for her response to the Charleston massacre, and her support for removing the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds. As 44-year-old Indian American woman, she would undercut the stereotype of the GOP as the party of elderly white guys.

So would 50-year old Senator Tim Scott, the first black Republican senator from the South since Reconstruction. He has strong ties to Christian conservatives and the tea party faction, but he has also won solid reviews from unexpected quarters. Shortly before he moved from the House to the Senate, Eliza Gray wrote in the liberal magazine The New Republic: “For as long as he’s been in politics, Scott has had a knack for navigating the complex internal politics of the GOP. Armed with an ever-present smile, Scott has been able to be all things to all people. He is an insurgent Tea Partier beloved by the House leadership who keeps his constituents happy with the occasional pork project. In a Republican Party that is constantly at war with itself, Senator Scott will offer much more to the GOP than the color of his skin.”

Obscure figures who suddenly land on a national ticket can quickly get into trouble, as Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin learned. Accordingly, the choice of Mattis, Haley, Scott, or any other outside candidate would be an enormous gamble for the GOP.

But would it really be a bigger gamble than nominating a bombastic billionaire with a 67 percent unfavorable rating?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ballots

At Pew, Drew DeSilver makes a key observation about multi-ballot conventions:
Republicans opposed to Donald Trump as their party’s nominee are pinning most of their hopes on stopping him at this summer’s national convention in Cleveland. Although Trump has more delegates than his two remaining rivals (760 or so by our count), he needs at least 1,237 to win the nomination on the first ballot. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are hoping to win enough delegates in the remaining primaries to keep Trump from reaching that magic number. After the first ballot, the thinking goes,most delegates become “unbound” and can vote for other candidates. They could even draft a completely new candidate (though House Speaker Paul Ryan, a frequently mentioned “dark horse” alternative, ruled himself out earlier this week).
If all that sounds a bit like a Hail Mary pass, bear in mind that these situations have happened before. Not recently, mind you (the last time was at the 1952 Democratic convention), but they have happened. Since the Civil War there have been eight Republican and 10 Democratic conventions that took more than one ballot to pick a nominee. In only seven of those 18 instances did the first-ballot leader win the nomination.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Crossroads, Hillary Clinton, and Richard Nixon

Jonathan Swan reports at The Hill:
A top Republican super-PAC is launching a digital attack ad framing Hillary Clinton as a modern-day Richard Nixon.
The American Crossroads attack ad, which will target Democratic voters in New York leading into Tuesday's primary, splices footage of the former president and Clinton pitching similar-sounding defenses of their conduct.

The ad leaves viewers with the impression that Clinton's private email scandal is the 21st-century equivalent of Nixon's Watergate, which concerned a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and led to his resignation.

 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

American Crossroads, Trump, and Toxicity

Kenneth Vogel and Eli Stokols report at Politico:
Karl Rove has publicly blasted Donald Trump as “a petty man consumed by resentment and bitterness” with little gravitas and almost no chance of beating Hillary Clinton.
But privately, the super PAC conceived by Rove is suggesting to its donors that it can help Trump win the White House and save Republican senators whose reelection bids could be jeopardized by having Trump at the top of the ticket.
The apparent warming of the American Crossroads super PAC and its sister groups to Trump has become evident in its recent communications with donors, including a Tuesday afternoon “investor conference call,” according to multiple sources familiar with the outreach.
At The Washington Post, however, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin report data confirming Trump's toxicity:
Thirty-one percent of Americans have a favorable view of Trump while 67 percent are unfavorable -- nearly identical to an early March Post-ABC poll which found he would be the most disliked major-party nominee since at least 1984. Over half the public (53 percent) continues to see Trump in a “strongly unfavorable” light, ticking down from 56 percent last month.
Cruz fares better with 36 percent favorable and 53 percent unfavorable among the public at-large; his strongly unfavorable mark is 20 percentage-points below Trump’s level (33 percent for Cruz vs. 53 percent for Trump). Kasich receives an even split on this basic measure of popularity -- 39 favorable and 39 percent unfavorable, while over one-fifth report no opinion of him (22 percent).
Also at The Post, James Hohmann writes:
Morning Consult, which is constantly in the field with online polls, compiled all 44,000 responses it has collected since the start of the year. Dartmouth political scientist Kyle Dropp, the firm’s data guru, divided up the respondents by state. He concludes that HillaryClinton has a significant edge in the Electoral College against both Trump and Cruz. In hypothetical matchups, based on the average of state-by-state, head-to-head polling, Kasich is the only Republican who emerged with the most electoral votes against Clinton. Hillary, despite her own vulnerabilities, got 328 electoral votes to 210 for Trump. Clinton actually leads Cruz by a slightly larger margin (332-206). “It is important to note that while this model awards electoral votes to whoever has the plurality of the vote, a number of states are within the margin of error,” the Consult notes. About 20% of voters are undecided. (Read a white paper explain Kyle and his team's methodology here. See the state-by-state projections here.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sanders Populism

Many posts have discussed populismMichael Kazin writes at The New York Times Magazine:
The original Populists would probably warm up to Sanders, even if their constituents in places like rural Kansas and Georgia might be puzzled to hear familiar rhetoric spoken by an elderly Jew with a Brooklyn accent. The Populists’ 1892 platform thundered: “The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few.” Sanders similarly attacks “the billionaire class,” whose supposed grip on the state has led to “an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country.”

Sanders and the Democrats' Leftward Drift

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will likely in fact pay a price for supporting the linkage of American support for Israel to progress on the peace process, for dramatically overstating Palestinian casualties in the 2014 Gaza War, and for branding Israel’s responses to Palestinian violence as disproportionate.
According to the cross-tabs of the latest Quinnipiac Poll furnished to Breitbart, Jewish Democrats are backing the former Secretary of State by nine points, 49-40. By contrast, Clinton’s overall lead among white Democrats is a meager 50-45.
At Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg writes:
Anyone interested in the ramifications of some of Sanders' proposals – and why it would be difficult to try to turn the United States into Denmark – should read Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Steven Pearlstein’s excellent piece, “What Bernie Sanders Would do to America,” in The Washington Post. Pearlstein, who once worked for Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Michael Harrington, dissects many of Sanders’ proposals.
...
Clearly, the Democratic Party has moved left over the past few years. Whether this is out of frustration that President Barack Obama didn’t move far enough or fast enough in a progressive agenda, or because Democrats watched the tea party pull the GOP to the right, many Democrats want a much more “progressive” agenda.
The fact that Sanders, who continues to embrace the socialist label, is doing as well as he is ought to worry party strategists.
Shortly after the Democratic Party’s 2006 midterm election victory, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and then-Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel warned their colleagues that Democrats needed to prove that they could govern, that they could be pragmatic and work to improve things for the middle class.
Emanuel, of course, is now under attack from the minority community and his party’s left, as is Bill Clinton for his White House years. On the other hand, Schumer is headed to become his party’s Senate leader.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Super PAC Involvement in Delegate Selection

Kenneth P. Vogel reports at Politico:
Anti-Trump billionaires are funding ground operations in an increasing number of states to try to ensure the selection of national convention delegates who oppose Trump. The strategy is being executed by the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, which has a stated goal of blocking the bombastic billionaire from clinching the GOP presidential nomination before the party’s convention in July.

...
While engaging in presidential delegate fights is an unprecedented use of super PAC cash, one of Our Principles’ billionaire donors said it’s a smart way to “cover all bases.” And the donor, Minnesota media mogul Stan Hubbard, brushed aside Trump’s increasingly vocal frustration about getting cheated in the battle for delegates.
...
In the run-up to the conventions in North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming, Our Principles reached out to registered attendees via telephone to try to gauge their loyalties. Then, at the state conventions, the PAC targeted attendees with mobile advertising and also has had three or more local operatives on the ground in each state working the crowd, making sure that anti-Trump attendees are aware of which delegates share their sensibilities, according to Miller. (In Colorado this past weekend, for instance, those efforts were led by Tyler Sandberg, who had managed the successful 2014 reelection campaign of Rep. Mike Coffman)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Manafort, Lobbyist for Dictators

From Meet the Press:
CHUCK TODD: What is fair game to win a delegate? Is threatening a fair game? Is threats a fair game?
PAUL MANAFORT: It's not my style, and it's not Donald Trump's style.
CHUCK TODD: What is --
PAUL MANAFORT: But it is Ted Cruz's style. And that's going to wear thin very fast.
CHUCK TODD: Do you think he's threatening delegates?
PAUL MANAFORT: Well, he's threatening, you go to these county conventions, and you see the tactics, Gestapo tactics, the scorched-earth tactics--
CHUCK TODD: Gestapo tactics? That's a strong word.
PAUL MANAFORT: Well, you look at, we're going to be filing several protests because reality is, you know, they are not playing by the rules. But frankly, that's the side game. Because the only game I'm focusing on right now is getting delegates. And the games that have happened, even this past weekend, you know, are not important to the long-term game of how do we get to 1,237.
Having worked for brutal dictators, Manafort is actually familiar with real Gestapo tactics.

On September 25, 1989, Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta reported at The Washington Post:
The opportunist president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, is on a public relations binge in the United States. He thinks that if he can put a veneer on his vices, the United States will keep giving him money.
But for someone who wants to clean up his image, Mobutu has chosen an odd PR team. He has been hobnobbing with a face from the past -- Tongsun Park, the central figure in the "Koreagate" congressional bribery scandal of 1976. And he has hired the premier Washington lobbying firm of the present -- Black Manafort Stone & Kelly, implicated in the Housing and Urban Development Department scandal.
Mobutu may not have gravitated to the allies with the cleanest records, but he sure knows how to pick people who can peddle their influence.
Before Park faded mercifully into obscurity in 1979, he admitted to giving American politicians nearly $1 million in campaign contributions to influence U.S. policy in South Korea. He escaped prosecution on bribery charges by ratting on the congressmen who took his gifts.
Black Manafort counts some of the heaviest hitters in politics among its clientele, including President Bush and HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. The firm is so hot in Washington that even being roped into the HUD scandal has not slowed business. Paul Manafort, a partner in the firm, admitted to "influence peddling" to win HUD contracts for his clients, including a housing project in New Jersey that local officials called "a horrible waste of taxpayers' money." Since Manafort's admission of influence peddling, new clients have been beating down the firm's door.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cruz Outhustles Trump

Melanie Mason and Mark Z. Barabak write at The Los Angeles Times:
Donald Trump has won more votes and carried more states than any Republican. Still, he stands a fair chance of losing the GOP nomination because up to now he largely ignored one of the most rudimentary aspects of a presidential run: securing loyal delegates.
In state after state in recent weeks, the Cruz campaign has trounced Trump in those battles, building on work to identify and organize supporters that Cruz began months ago. Those successes are improving Cruz's odds of emerging as the Republican nominee if Trump falls short of winning a majority of delegates.
“You have to think of this whole process as having two different tracks to it. There's the primary process — that's about winning and allocating delegates,” said Ben Ginsberg, a veteran Republican election lawyer.
But “the story that will really be more important to what happens in Cleveland,” he said, “is the delegate-selection track. They're two connected but separate skill sets.”
At NBC, Benjy Sarlin reports on Colorado:
Cruz took all 13 of the delegates up for grabs on Saturday to complete a clean sweep of the state. Delegates endorsed by his campaign swept all seven Congressional District conventions held over the last week as well, which added another 21 delegates. Another three slots are reserved for state party officials.
"Today was another resounding victory for conservatives, Republicans, and Americans who care about the future of our country," the Cruz campaign said in a statement Saturday night.
...
On Saturday, Trump backers passed out flyers at the convention site with official campaign slate of 13 delegates and 13 alternates accompanied by their three-digit number position on the 600-plus person ballot. Seven of the names, however, directed people to the wrong number and one delegate's name was misspelled. Other candidates did not have errors on their slates.
In one case, an erroneous number corresponded with a Cruz supporter. A second flyer handed out by the Trump campaign contained four mismatched names and numbers.
Among the names listed incorrectly on both flyers: Becky Mizel.

It was the second major error concerning campaign materials this week. On Thursday, a Trump slate of three names in the 7th Congressional District convention contained two that weren't listed on the ballot. The campaign's state director, Patrick Davis, said they failed to pay the necessary fees to qualify.
Newsmax reports on weird comments from Trump's convention manager:
In an appearance Sunday on "Meet the Press," Manafort was asked about his longtime friend Roger Stone's quote last week that if Cruz tries to sway Trump delegates on a second vote at the GOP convention this summer he was prepared to "disclose the hotels and the room numbers of those delegates who are directly involved."

But Manafort told "Meet the Press" it is Cruz's campaign that is using dirty tricks.
"It's not my style. It's not Donald Trump's style," Manfort said. "But it is Ted Cruz's style."
He wasn't specific on the tactics he was alleging, but did repeat moderator Chuck Todd's word "threatening," before adding, "You go to his county conventions and you see the Gastapo tactics."

Democrats, Psychology, and Arithmetic

VOA reports that Sanders won the Wyoming vote count but tied in the delegate count:
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders won Saturday's Democratic caucus in the Western state of Wyoming, but even in victory he failed to gain ground on his rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the race to become U.S. president.
Sanders won 56 percent of the vote. Democratic Party rules left each candidate with seven of Wyoming's 14 delegates.
The win was the eighth in the past nine contests for Sanders, who has pointed to the streak as a sign of momentum for his campaign.
Dan Balz writes at The Washington Post:
The cold realities of the nominating process have been stated many times. Democratic rules make it difficult for anyone to gain a significant lead in pledged delegates because delegates are awarded proportionally. But once someone has a lead, a rival candidate faces an even more daunting task trying to catch up. That’s the situation Sanders has faced for some time, but his big victories in recent caucuses and the Wisconsin vote have kept the focus on his successes more than on his challenges.

Clinton’s team had hoped that the hard realities of delegate math would have set in earlier this spring. Instead, the opposite has occurred. The more Sanders has won, the more the focus has been on what’s wrong with Clinton. She has had to keep virtually her entire focus on the primary campaign. At some point, however, as the likely nominee, she will need to turn her attention — and some of the resources of her campaign — to assembling the building blocks for a likely general election campaign. That clock is now ticking louder.
...
That is why New York is so important to Clinton. It’s not just winning, it’s changing the conversation. A loss to Sanders in the state she represented in the Senate for eight years would be a huge setback, far bigger than what happened in Wisconsin. Victory could start her on a path that could make the Democratic race look far different in a matter of weeks.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Red Wall, Blue Wall

Republicans are openly fretting about how Donald Trump could cost them the White House in 2016. Ditto Ted Cruz. But, the truth is that no matter who Republicans nominate — Paul Ryan! — that person faces a decidedly uphill fight to be the next president.
Why? This simple chart from the good people at the Cook Political Report(subscribe now!) tells the story ...
There are 19 states that have gone for Democrats in each of the last six elections. Those 19 states account for a total of 242 electoral votes. By contrast, there are 13 states that have voted for the Republican nominee for president in every election since 1992. Those 13 account for just 102 electoral votes.

A year ago, Nate Silver disposed of this idea:
If you were browsing campaign coverage at this point in advance of the 1992 election, you’d be reading a lot about the Republicans’ impregnable “red wall.” OK — it wouldn’t have been called the “red wall” (the association of Republicans with red states and Democrats with blue states came about more recently). But you’d have been reading a lot about Republicans’supposed “lock” on the Electoral College.
The argument was something like this. During the past six presidential elections, from 1968 through 1988, 21 states voted Republican every time. These included almost all states in the fast-growing West — most importantly, California and its trove of electoral votes — along with some wealthy, suburban states (Illinois, New Jersey and Virginia) and a couple of traditionally Republican states in New England (including Vermont).1
...
Nowadays, of course, it’s become common to hear talk about the “blue wall” — the set of 18 states that, along with the District of Columbia, have voted for the Democrat in each of the most recent six presidential elections, from 1992 through 2012. Together, they represent 242 electoral votes. Many pundits, ignoring the lessons of history, claim the “blue wall” or some close variation of it puts the Democratic nominee (likely Hillary Clinton) at a substantial advantage for 2016.
The error that these commentators are making is in attributing the Democrats’ recent run of success to the Electoral College. In fact, the Electoral College has been a minor factor, if it’s helped Democrats at all, and one probably best ignored until the late stages of a close presidential race.
But wait. Wasn’t Barack Obama’s margin in the Electoral College in 2012 — 332 electoral votes, to Mitt Romney’s 206 — awfully impressive given that he won the popular vote by only a few percentage points?
Actually, it was pretty much par for the course. The nature of the Electoral College is to accentuate small margins in the popular vote; Obama’s electoral vote tallies have been fine, but historically ordinary.

Friday, April 8, 2016

From Sister Souljah to Emily Litella

Two news reports illustrate the evolution of the Democratic Party and racial politics since 1992.

Amy Chozick reports at The New York Times:
Former President Bill Clinton said Friday he regretted drowning out the chants of black protesters at a rally in Philadelphia the day before, when he issued an aggressive defense of his administration’s impact on black families. His reaction thrust a debate about the 1990s into the center of his wife’s presidential campaign, one that has focused heavily on issues of race and criminal justice.
“I know those young people yesterday were just trying to get good television,” Mr. Clinton said Friday of the Black Lives Matter protesters who interrupted him Thursday in accusing Hillary Clinton of being responsible for black deaths. “But that doesn’t mean that I was most effective in answering it.”
It was a remarkable reversal for Mr. Clinton, who has had to campaign for his wife in an era when the signature policies of his administration have been repudiated both by Mrs. Clinton and her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
None of those issues has been more central to the 2016 campaign than the 1994 crime bill, which created tougher penalties for nonviolent drug offenders, erected dozens of new prisons and deluged American cities with more police officers.

In June 1992, Gwen Ifill reported at The New York Times:
Aggressively rebutting the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Gov. Bill Clinton said today that he would not "back down on what I said" at the conference of the Rainbow Coalition last weekend about remarks attributed to a rap performer.
"I bragged on the Rainbow Coalition and its programs," Mr. Clinton told reporters as he entered a radio station, defending his speech at the conference. "I criticized divisive language by Sister Souljah. If Jesse Jackson wants to align himself with that now and claim that's the way he felt, then that's his business."

Democratic Campaign Gets More Heated

Alan Rappeport and Yamiche Alcindor report at The New York Times:
After weeks of subtle sniping, the frustration first boiled over at a rally in Philadelphia on Wednesday night when Mr. Sanders took issue with recent criticism over his understanding of financial regulation policy and assailed Mrs. Clinton from multiple angles. And he intensified the attacks Thursday, saying of Mrs. Clinton, “People might wonder about your qualifications when you supported virtually every trade agreement, trade agreements which have cost the American worker millions of decent paying jobs.”

The attacks represent a sharpening of Mr. Sanders’s tone as he comes off a string of six straight victories but heads into a more daunting challenge in Mrs. Clinton’s home state, New York, where polls show him lagging behind and he faces tough scrutiny from New York City’s unforgiving tabloids.

At the Philadelphia rally Wednesday night, he first raised the issue of Mrs. Clinton not being qualified to lead the country, citing donations to the “super PAC” supporting her.

“She has been saying lately that she thinks that I am, quote-un-quote, not qualified to be president,” Mr. Sanders said. “Let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds.”

He added: “I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you supported the Panama free trade agreement.”
WND reports:
Former President Bill Clinton unloaded on the Obama administration and Black Lives Matter protesters during a campaign event Thursday for his wife in Pennsylvania.
Clinton took a veiled jab at Obama’s handling of world affairs, saying, “Unlike when I was president, a lot of things are coming apart around the world now. We like to just think about our economic issues, but you have to worry about a collapse in Europe dragging back the American economy. You have to worry about the largest number of refugees since World War II. And all this stuff comes home.”
Ben Kamisar reports at The Hill:
Former President Bill Clinton repeatedly defended himself from criticism about his support of his controversial crime bill from a series of protestors during a rally for his wife’s presidential campaign. 
The protestors interrupted the president’s stump speech, shouting criticism of his support of the 1994 crime bill that raised mandatory minimum sentences, with one holding up a sign that said “Clinton crime bill destroyed our communities.” 
Clinton pivoted away from his typical stump speech and launched into a series of arguments about ways the crime bill did help the black community.
"You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter," a visibly heated Clinton exclaimed. "Tell the truth."
In 1994, he said, “I talked to a bunch of African-American groups -- they think black lives matter. [The groups said] to take this bill because people are being shot in the street by gangs. We had 13-year-old kids planning their own funerals,”  Clinton said. 
Whose lives were saved that mattered?” 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Stopping Trump in California

Scott Shafer reports at KQED that GOP consultant Rob Stutzman is organizing a Stop Trump effort in California.
But it’s a tricky and complicated strategy. The GOP allocates three delegates in each of California’s 53 congressional districts to whichever candidate wins a majority there. If Cruz and Kasich split the votes in any congressional district, it makes it easier for Trump to get the most votes and win those three delegates.
Stutzman’s group is analyzing polling data in each congressional district to see whether Cruz or Kasich have a better chance of coming in first. Then comes the hard part — convincing Cruz supporters to vote for Kasich where the Ohio governor runs strongest (like the San Francisco Bay Area) and educating Kasich supporters to vote for Cruz in the most conservative parts of California, where the Texas senator is strongest.
Success, Stutzman says, requires a sophisticated ground game and education campaign in every single congressional district. “The Republicans in Marin County and East L.A. are just as critical as the ones in Orange County and in Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s district in Bakersfield,” Stuztman said. Noting that conservatives in places like Marin aren’t used to hearing from their party, Stutzman joked, “Some Republican in West Hollywood is about to become very popular.”
At Field, Mark DiCamillo writes:
The latest Field Poll finds businessman Donald Trump leading Texas Senator Ted Cruz by seven points among likely voters in this state's Republican presidential primary. Trump is currently the choice of 39% of this state's likely GOP voters, while 32% support Cruz. Ohio Governor John Kasich trails in third at 18%, while 11% are undecided or intend to vote for someone else. T
The poll finds support for Trump and Cruz varying widely across major regions of the state. This is significant since 159 of California's 172 delegates to the Republican National Convention will be determined by who wins the most votes within each of the state's 53 congressional districts. While the poll cannot estimate who is leading within each congressional district, it does show that Trump is leading in two regions, while Cruz leads in two others. Should these regional differences persist, it would dilute the delegate advantages accrued by the winner of the June 7 California primary.
Another noteworthy feature of the poll is that many of Trump's current supporters in this state are the same voters who also backed another political outsider, Arnold Schwarzenegger, during his successful campaign for governor in California's historic 2003 recall election. Voters who say they voted for Schwarzenegger in 2003 prefer Trump over Cruz nearly three to one.
The contentiousness of this year's Republican presidential campaign has created deep divisions within the state's GOP rank-and-file. According to the poll, nearly four in ten California Republicans (38%) say they would be dissatisfied or upset were Trump to become their party's nominee, and nearly as many (34%) say this about Cruz