Saturday, April 04, 2015

Does anyone actually like Ted Cruz (family and pets don’t count)?

By Richard K. Barry

Whatever else is true in elections, likeability counts for something. It may be possible to find successful presidential candidates who were perceived as somewhat nasty or unkind, Richard Nixon comes to mind, but it’s rare. Voters like to like their leaders, even if it’s a grudging respect that becomes a sort of affection. It’s hard to vote for someone you’d rather not spend time with.

Enter Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz, 44, was a marvel in high school, a kid who memorized the Constitution and wowed audiences with his speaking skills. In college, he was a prodigy and a pest; the same people who avoided having dinner with him went out of their way to watch him debate. As a politician, the senator from Texas is what he’s always been – a lightning rod for controversy, a stickler for process, an evangelist for conservative principle, a constitutional wonk in ostrich-skin cowboy boots.

Those who find his newly announced presidential campaign thrilling and those who find the notion of Cruz in the White House disturbing agree that his devotion to principle reminds them of that of Barry Goldwater, the movement conservative and 1964 Republican presidential nominee who famously said “I’d rather be right than president” and got his wish.

There are a number of reasons Cruz won’t be president, won’t be his party’s nominee, but his smarminess, his holier-than-thou, I’m-smarter-than-everyone-else way of walking the planet won’t be an asset.

In the ’80s we liked to laugh at Ronald Reagan for what appeared to be a lack of basic intelligence, but few doubted his ability to connect with voters in a very personal way.

Ted Cruz seems like someone who would have gotten stuffed in a locker in high school, and that guy never gets to be president.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)


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Friday, April 03, 2015

The matter with Kansas is that it's run by a bunch of Republican gun fetishists

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is truly fucked up:

Kansans soon can carry concealed weapons without permits or training under a bill signed by Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday.

The new law, which kicks in July 1, makes Kansas the sixth state to allow "constitutional carry." It will allow Kansans 21 and older to carry concealed firearms regardless of whether they have obtained a permit.


Asked why he did not think training should be required if it is valuable, Brownback said carrying a gun is a constitutional right.

"We're saying that if you want to do that in this state, then you don't have to get the permission slip from the government," Brownback said. "It is a constitutional right, and we're removing a barrier to that right."

A more or less unrestricted gun "right" is bad enough. The "right" to carry a concealed weapon just makes it worse. And when you don't even need to get a permit...

Once again, the authors of the Constitution, who enshrined the right to bear arms strictly within the context of the need, at the time, for a well-regulated militia, would be appalled, not least given that these crazy gun fetishists claim to acting in their name.

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Isolationism in a foreign policy election

By Richard K. Barry 

Can a candidate closely associated with isolationist views, whether fairly or not, seriously contend for the GOP presidential nomination?

On the eve of his expected presidential announcement, Republican insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire say Rand Paul is a top contender in those early states next year — and they agree that for better and for worse, his father, Ron Paul, looms large over his candidacy.

While former Rep. Ron Paul's network of supporters is proving to be an asset, the elder Paul's isolationist views — which many associate with Rand Paul — are also contributing to what is by far the senator's biggest liability: his positions on foreign policy and national security.

I’ll keep this simple and say no, not in an election in which foreign policy will figure so prominently.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Hillary Clinton: The inevitable is upon us

By Richard K. Barry

Who knows?

Over the past many months we were forced to endure ridiculous speculation about whether Hillary Clinton would run in 2016. It was never a real question. The answer was always obvious, but talk about it people did because that's how the game is played.

You will therefore be unsurprised to learn that Ms. Clinton continues to put the pieces in place:
The lease is signed: Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarters will work out of 1 Pierrepont Plaza in Brooklyn Heights, according to a source familiar with the deal.

The campaign will occupy two full floors of the office building, which is close to 12 subways lines and a dozen bus lines, and will be taking them as is – no buildout. On its website, the building markets it as "Modern Offices. Brooklyn Cool."

The clock on Clinton's announcement is now officially ticking. FEC rules state that you have 15 days between conducting campaign activities and filing a campaign committee.

There you have it. Please try to conceal your shock.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

2016: Too early to say anything, but we'll say it anyway

By Richard K. Barry

Jeb Bush leads the Republican field for the 2016 presidential nomination, but Hillary Clinton has a significant advantage over Bush and all other potential GOP candidates in a hypothetical head-to head contest according to a new Washington Post-ABC poll:

At this early stage in the 2016 competition, the prospective candidates suffer from image weaknesses, but the Republicans have a more acute problem. Most Republicans are not well known, but at this point, not a single one of six Republicans included in the survey has a favourability rating that is net positive.

Bush — by far the best known among those running for the GOP nomination — is viewed favorably by just 33 percent of the public, while 53 percent say they view him unfavorably. Only Clinton among all those included in the poll has a net positive rating, but by the slender margin of three percentage points (49-46 percent). Her favourability rating has dropped nine points in the past year and 18 points since she left the State Department in 2013.

I suppose the conventional wisdom is that Hillary can't lose, but I'm not so sure. If the Republicans weren't so screwed up and could be certain of offering up a relatively undamaged moderate, she'd be toast, and of that I am sure.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Mike Pence in 2016? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

By Richard K. Barry

Here's a thought, courtesy of Adam Wren at Politico:

Since Pence resigned as chairman of the House Republican Conference in November 2010 to run for governor, conventional wisdom held that he would bide his time in Indianapolis, padding his résumé with executive experience before mounting a presidential bid. After all, no one gets elected president from the House—American voters prefer governors, chief executives who have actually governed.

The working theory of a Pence bid, according to his allies, such as Kellyanne Conway, his longtime pollster, was somewhat Rube Goldbergian but plausible: If establishment and movement conservatives deadlocked in a primary, Pence could emerge as the consensus candidate.

But when Pence signed the religious freedom bill into law last Thursday, that theory began to crumble.

Things sure can change quickly.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Rand Paul doesn't believe in gay rights because he's an idiot (and a bigot?)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Rand Paul, supposed libertarian but really not, doesn't much care for the gays. And he certainly doesn't think they have rights:

Sen. Rand Paul said he doesn't buy into the concept of gay rights because they are defined by a gay person's lifestyle.

"I don't think I've ever used the word gay rights, because I don't really believe in rights based on your behavior," the Kentucky Republican told reporters in a videotaped interview that has received little attention since it was recorded in 2013.

But it's unclear how far — and to whom — Paul extends the argument that rights cannot be defined by behavior.

Practicing religion, for example, is a behavior enshrined as a primary American right. Free speech is behavior protected by the Bill of Rights. Likewise, a person's right to be free from discrimination for his or her nation of origin — which entails the behavior of moving from one country to the United States — is embedded in America's civil rights laws and broader code of values.

Exactly, Buzzfeed's Dominic Holden. Exactly.

And of course, contra the anti-gay rhetoric of the right, gay rights does not mean special rights but rather equal rights: the right to be married just like heterosexuals, the right not to be discriminated against (and so to be treated fairly, equally), etc.

And when you've been viciously persecuted throughout history, including in the U.S., and when you still face vicious bigotry, when one of the country's two main parties is basically against you, I think it makes sense to fight for your rights and demand that you be treated fairly and equally.

Even, or especially, if that means doing everything you can to defeat Rand Paul and his vicious ilk.

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We're about to learn a lot more about Marco Rubio's career plans

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

Yesterday, Daily Intelligencer reported that an announcement from the Republicans' Great Cuban Hope is coming soon:

A year after declaring he'd run for the Senate or the presidency in 2016, but not both, Marco Rubio has made up his mind. Following reports that the Florida senator has reserved the Freedom Tower in Miami, on Monday he confirmed on Fox News's The Five that he'll "announce on April 13 what I’m going to do next in terms of running for president or the U.S. Senate," according to Politico. "So you will announce that you’re running for president?" said co-host Dana Perino. "I'll announce something on April 13," Rubio replied. The senator's being coy, but feel free to start getting excited about his Senate reelection campaign!

Well, maybe. Let's consider that possibility:

He won't run for president, because he doesn't want to lose (and he would), but he'll run for Senate, because he wants to win (and he will). It's probably just that simple.

Now, would he really lose were he to run for president? He'd almost certainly lose to Hillary, who is, of course, the certain Democratic nominee, but it's highly likely he wouldn't even come close to the Republican nomination.

I hesitate to make too much of the silly Iowa Republican straw poll, and I won't, but Rubio finished a distant seventh at the end of February with just 4%, well behind even fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, who ended up with a disappointing (for him) 8%. Now, that's a straw poll of the extremists who make up the base, but mainstream polls put him well back as well.

Now, it could be premature to back out. After all, there are loads of ups and downs in any nomination race -- just think back to 2012, when every challenger to Romney as the general frontrunner seemed to have his moment at the top of the pack. And Rubio could very well emerge as the bridge between the extremist base (represented by Ted Cruz, as well as by more defined social conservatives like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee) and the somewhat less extremist establishment (represented by Bush and Chris Christie), with Rand Paul representing the iconoclastic quasi-libertarian elements of the party. Currently, the bridge figure appears to be Scott Walker, but he's untested on the national stage and might not have the staying power to remain a serious contender throughout the long and winding race. So why not Rubio?

Well, maybe because Rubio just doesn't seem to have it. And by "it" I mean that nebulous quality that seems to propel a select group of politicians, even a dud like Romney, into presidential politics. He just seems too raw, too immature, too unprincipled, too shamelessly opportunistic.

And it's that last point that matters now. He knows where the opportunity is, and that's not in a run for the White House that is sure to end in defeat but in a re-election campaign for the Senate.

And hey, if he does end up announcing that on April 13, at least we can say he did the realistic thing, which is not something that can be said about many Republicans these days.


What if that isn't his decision? What if he does decide to run for president? I mean, he's booked the Freedom Tower. Generally, you'd make an exciting announcement at such a venue, not one that is sure to disappoint the enthusiastic supporters who would turn out for such an event.

So it would seem that he's going for it, that he really thinks he can win -- and I suppose he has a shot, though of course politicians in their bubbles of sycophantic cheerleaders always think they can win.

But if that's the case, the above still applies. He could emerge as the bridge candidate, if more of an establishment type than a base type, but the odds are against him, and his biggest weakness may very well be himself.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On the Hustings

Today News: "Elizabeth Warren on 2016: 'I’m not going to run' — and Hillary Clinton deserves 'a chance to decide'" (Eun Kyung Kim)

(The Atlantic): "Hillary Clinton makes it hard to follow the money" (Conor Friedersdorf)

Roll Call: "Bill Clinton endorses Strickland in Ohio" (Alexis Levinson)

The Hill
: "Watchdogs accuse 2016 hopefuls of breaking election law" (David McCabe)

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Menendez expecting charges Wednesday, sources say" (Jonathan Tamari)


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The takeaway from Gov. Pence's bigotry

By Richard K. Barry

There are many implications to be drawn from Indiana's attempt to give discrimination against gays the cover of law but one of the more interesting has to do with what this will mean at the ballot box in 2016.

Jill Lawrence at U.S. News & World Report writes:
If there’s one takeaway from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s “religious freedom restoration” debacle, it’s that Republicans ignore today’s cultural environment at their peril.

Conservatives can continue to live in a bubble if they want to, but they should expect blowback, because outside that bubble is a far different reality.

Pence seems shocked by the widespread perception that his state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act invites businesses and individuals to discriminate against gay people on the grounds that serving them would, or might, infringe on the religious owners’ beliefs. But what other conclusion is there?

Time was when Pence's move would have been seen as smart politics for Republicans. That was then, this is now. Even now Pence is scrambling to revise the legislation in response to the blowback, which is particularly interesting as Steve Benen notes: "If Pence wants to 'fix' his right-to-discriminate law, what does that say about the 2016ers who like the law as-is?"

And what does it say about their ability to read the electorate, particularly in the general election?


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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Happy, happy, happy

A new poll finds that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel can stop worrying.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has opened up a substantial lead on challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia with only a week to go in the runoff campaign, a new Chicago Tribune poll has found.

Emanuel has the backing of 58 percent of voters compared with 30 percent for Garcia — double the margin of a similar survey three weeks ago, when the mayor led his opponent by 14 percentage points. Another 9 percent were undecided in the latest poll, which was conducted March 25 through Sunday and has an error margin of 3.7 percentage points.

Such a pleasant man. Would hate to see him go away. 

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Gov. Sununu thinks Obama is baiting birthers by going to Kenya

“I think his trip back to Kenya is going to create a lot of chatter and commentary amongst some of the hard right, who still don’t see him as having been born in the U.S.," Sununu said, adding "I personally think he’s just inciting some chatter on an issue that should have been a dead issue a long time ago."

President Obama is planning a trip to Kenya this summer to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. 

As we well know, crazy conservative conspircy theorists love to claim Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and therefore is not legally qualified to be President.

So, stupid people believe stupid things, and the President of the United States is supposed to give consideration to how his travel itinerary might stir them up. Yeah, he's going to do that.

Don't worry, Governor Sununu, there is limited opportunity for birthers to appears more foolish.

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Obama Derangement Syndrome by the numbers

By Richard K. Barry

According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll:
A third of Republicans believe President Barack Obama poses an imminent threat to the United States, outranking concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A Reuters/Ipsos online poll this month asked 2,809 Americans to rate how much of a threat a list of countries, organizations and individuals posed to the United States on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being no threat and 5 being an imminent threat.

The poll showed 34 percent of Republicans ranked Obama as an imminent threat, ahead of Putin (25 percent), who has been accused of aggression in the Ukraine, and Assad (23 percent). Western governments have alleged that Assad used chlorine gas and barrel bombs on his own citizens.

If you could see me now, you would see that my head is shaking.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio will soon add his name to the list

By Richard K. Barry

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is getting ready to announce his plans to run for the GOP presidential nomination with the only unknown being where and when. 

Aides to the senator don't deny reports first published late Friday by the Tampa Bay Times that he's reserved space at Miami's iconic Freedom Tower for a possible announcement on the afternoon of April 13. A team of Rubio advisers is traveling to Miami next week to put finishing touches on the anticipated rollout — and their tasks will include picking the spot where the senator and his family can make the announcement.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced last week and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is expected to jump in on April 7th. 
Rubio is polling well in surveys of Republicans in early primary states and among GOP voters nationally. While former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have been actively campaigning in recent weeks ahead of the start of their formal campaigns, Rubio has kept his head down, focusing instead on his formal Senate duties, including holding hearings on the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and introducing legislation relaxing gun restrictions in the District of Columbia.

In what Charlie Cook calls Conservative Bracketology, he identifies a number categories for potential GOP presidential candidates including "Secular/Conventional," "Social, Cultural, Evangelical," "Tea Party Populist," and "Establishment." I'm sure you can figure out who belong where. 

As for the last-mentioned bracket, and Rubio's chances, Cook writes this:
The Establishment bracket consists of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. (Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki will be in this bracket, too—if they manage to put together viable campaigns.) Bush remains the unquestioned leader, but if the conventional wisdom is wrong anywhere (and I admit to being very conventional most of the time), it might be in underestimating Rubio's potential. While there may not be enough room or money in this bracket for two Florida Republicans with moderate records on immigration, the senator is smart, attractive, and potentially more charismatic than any of the others. If Rubio were to move up, it would be more about personal appeal and political skill than ideological positioning.

Perhaps, but Rubio seems far too light-weight to be taken seriously (and about 12 years old), but I suppose he could, as Cook writes, "move up."

Whatever else may be true, I am willing to bet the "Establishment" category yields the eventual nominee. 


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