June 24, 2015

BREAKING: Jindal is In

  11:57 am

Jindal announced he was running by posting a video of him and his wife telling their children that he’s running. The video announcement can be viewed on Facebook here.

Having trouble embedding…



  11:01 am

1.  Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio moves to the top of the rankings, a reflection of his broad popularity and acceptability as both a first and second choice in multiple polls, momentum among the donor and activist classes, and a rising conventional wisdom that he has the best chance to defeat Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.  Both Clinton and the GOP’s own dynastic candidate, Jeb Bush, tailored their first campaign speeches as responses to Rubio’s powerful declaration that “yesterday is over”. The clearest sign of his momentum was offered up by the New York Times, which engaged in a widely ridiculed attempt to smear the senator. Time will tell if the senator can handle the real scrutiny his top tier status will bring, and if he can withstand the upcoming negative onslaught from his fellow Floridian.

2. Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush falls from the top spot, despite an expected record-breaking fundraising haul among his allied political action committees. Bush’s campaign shakeup and weak poll numbers have surprised the establishment, who thought he would’ve taken firm command of the race by now. The collapse of his Florida lead over Sen. Marco Rubio just adds to the growing anxiety around a third Bush candidacy. Despite his name identification and family influence, Bush is in a much weaker position than his father and brother ever were, with an alarming number of GOP voters saying than could never support him. Bush will have the resources for a long race, but he is increasingly being viewed as the wrong messenger at the wrong time, something that was best symbolized by the hashtag #NoMoreBushes, which trended nation wide during and after his announcement.

3.  Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker’s numbers have been less consistent than Rubio’s, rising and falling whereas Rubio’s have steadily risen. However, Walker has become the clear frontrunner in Iowa, making him the biggest target of the second and third tier candidates hoping to catch on. The Wisconsin governor is also facing a GOP rebellion at home over his state budget, something he will have to deal with effectively before his campaign launch.

4.  Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

Cruz continues to impress social conservative and Tea Party activists and is closer to becoming their consensus choice than any one else. He lines up better with the activist base than any other candidate, and while purity doesn’t often win, it does give a big boost in early states. With more resources and higher upside than Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum, look for conservative activists to continue their effort to consolidate behind Cruz.

5. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul’s numbers continue to slide in Iowa and he seems more out of step with his party than ever before. While still polling well in general election match-ups, the Kentucky senator is finding a more hawkish GOP base and reluctant donor class than he anticipated. After all the work he’s done to separate himself from his father, he is quickly starting to occupy the same space in the field.

6.  John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

Kasich continues to frequent the early voting states, and has begun building a campaign infrastructure. The governor will need to improve his standing with the donor class if he is to make it into the top tier, but he certainly has the talent and the record to do just that.

7. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

Christie seems finally poised to jump into the race, and some would say he waited to long. Maybe four years too long. His current New Jersey polling is bad and Bush has absorbed a sizable chunk of his fundraising base. However, his talent on the stump and in debates should not be underestimated.

8. Carly Fiorina  former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

The former business executive is making up for a lack of political experience with excellent performances on the stump and in interviews. Buzz for her long-shot bid, and her contrast with Clinton, continues to grow.

9.  Mike Huckabee  former Governor of Arkansas

It was an awful month for the former Fox News host. Another molestation scandal, a bizarre declaration that gay marriage would criminalize Christianity, and a dismissive position on the racist symbolism of the Confederate flag. There seems to be no niche issue that Huckabee won’t immediately dive into with the most cringe-inducing position possible. Not surprisingly, his numbers have begun to slide, both nationally and in Iowa.

10.  Bobby Jindal  Governor of Louisiana

Gov. Jindal begins his campaign at the back of the pack, but his experience and knowledge of the issues gives him the edge over the also-rans at the bottom of the polls. If he can get himself into the main debates, he could make some noise.

Honorable Mention:  Rick Perry,  Ben Carson

No Chance: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump



June 23, 2015

WaPo Questions Bobby Jindal’s Racial Authenticity

  10:23 pm

It starts with the headline: “From Piyush to Bobby: How does Jindal feel about his family’s past?

And from there:

Jindal’s status as a conservative of color helped propel his meteoric rise in the Republican Party … and donors from Indian American groups fueled his first forays into politics. Yet many see him as a man who has spent a lifetime distancing himself from his Indian roots.

As a child, he announced he wanted to go by the name Bobby, after a character in the “Brady Bunch.” He converted from Hinduism to Christianity as a teen, and was later baptized a Catholic … He and his wife were quick to say in a “60 Minutes” interview in 2009 that they do not observe many Indian traditions — although they had two wedding ceremonies, one Hindu and one Catholic. He said recently he wants to be known simply as an American, not an Indian American.

OMG — it sounds like he believes in that ‘melting pot’ silliness!

And then there’s this classic:

“There’s not much Indian left in Bobby Jindal,” said Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette …


June 12, 2015

CNP: Cruz Wins, Huckabee Loses

  7:00 am

The Council for National Policy had a cattle call recently, attended by several hundred ‘movement conservatives’ who were addressed by six contenders. According to the National Journal Cruz was the big winner, and Huckabee the loser.

Read the article for details, but here are a few words on each of the six.


Fiorina gave a strong speech that earned more applause than anyone besides Cruz. She charmed the audience, attendees say, with a trial-run of a line that has recently become a staple of her stump speech—recalling how she was asked whether hormones would affect her decision-making in the Oval Office and then asking, “Ladies, can you think of any time a man’s hormones have affected his decision-making?”

That’s funny. But:

Fiorina had one moment that troubled some in the crowd of social conservatives. She referenced the upcoming Supreme Court ruling that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide and said if that happened, she is prepared to “move on” from the issue and focus on other fights.

Sounds reasonable to me, but that’s probably why CNP doesn’t invite me to their meetings.


Mike Huckabee was commonly described as the biggest loser of the event, not because he gave the worst speech but because he did not meet the lofty expectations set by his many allies in the room.

… the former Arkansas governor gave what several attendees described as a “flat” stump speech that underwhelmed an audience who had heard it all from him before. At one point, he elicited some groans in the room, attendees said, when he told of how he’d left his lucrative job at Fox News to run in 2016 at the request of many people in the room—and then said, half-jokingly, “So you had better support me.”


Marco Rubio’s speech was well received, attendees say …

More interesting than Rubio’s performance, though, considering recent discussions here (and everywhere political junkies gather), is this:

His introduction by John Stemberger raised eyebrows because of Stemberger’s previous alliance with Jeb Bush.

Perry and Jindal

Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal were forgettable, attendees said.


Strange write-up by NJ. Having declared him the winner, about all they mentioned was that he blew an easy question.



June 4, 2015

National Journal Power Rankings Drop Bush from Top Spot

  4:36 pm

It’s time for a change at the top. Jeb Bush has topped each edition of Hotline’s GOP presidential power rankings until now, but we’ve said all along that there was no true frontrunner this primary season, unlike some in the past. Now, a new name takes over the top billing after Bush ran into his first spot of trouble as a presidential campaign possibility explorer— or whatever we’re supposed to call him and his unofficial campaign activities.

Still, there have been no seismic shifts in a Republican race with three tiers that appear to be solidifying. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush look far more likely, as a group, to capture the nomination than anyone else. But another five candidates lurk in the second tier, waiting for their moments ahead of a third tier of seven true long-shot White House hopefuls.

We rank would-be candidates’ chances of winning the Republican nomination based on their individual strengths and weaknesses, political organizations, poll numbers, and other factors. Here’s where the race to win the GOP primaries stands right now:

More info on their reasoning for each ranking at the link. Previous ranking is in parentheses.

1. Scott Walker (Previous: T-2)
2. Marco Rubio (T-2)
3. Jeb Bush (1)
4. Ted Cruz (4)
5. Mike Huckabee (7)
6. Rand Paul (5)
7. John Kasich (8)
8. Chris Christie (7)
9. Rick Perry (9)
10. Ben Carson (14)
11. Carly Fiorina (12)
12. Rick Santorum (10)
13. Lindsey Graham (13)
14. Bobby Jindal (11)
15. George Pataki (–)


June 3, 2015

Jindal to Join Fray June 24

  9:24 am

Governor Bobby Jindal has always said he’d announce his presidential ambitions sometime after June 11, when the Louisiana legislative session had ended. Now, he has set a specific date for that announcement: June 24. Barring any surprises between now and then, Governor Jindal will be the 12th GOP candidate in the race for 2016.

No doubt Jindal has a tough road forward in this crowded field of candidates. He was a dark horse favorite of armchair politicos back in the 2012 race, with many pining for him to jump in the race (along with Christie, Daniels, and others). However, in the past few years his political star has faded and his favorables in Louisiana have come crashing back down to earth. It will be interesting to see how he presents himself to the voters during his rollout: as a wonky, solutions-oriented governor (his image four years ago), or as a cultural/religious candidate designed to appeal to Iowa evangelical voters (his image thus far in the 2016 race).

At any rate, with Jindal and Donald Trump both setting dates for their announcements, and with the announcements of Santorum, Pataki, and Graham, it must be time for an update of the Race 4 2016 Candidacy Tracker:

March 22 Ted Cruz
April 7 Rand Paul
April 13 Marco Rubio
May 4 Ben Carson
Carly Fiorina
May 5 Mike Huckabee
May 27 Rick Santorum
May 28 George Pataki
June 1 Lindsey Graham
June 4 Rick Perry
June 16 Donald Trump
June 24 Bobby Jindal
June Chris Christie
June or July (after legislative session) Scott Walker
Sometime this summer Bob Ehrlich
Before the August 6 debate John Kasich
Unknown Jeb Bush
Unknown Peter King

Not running: Bolton, Martinez, Pence, Portman, Romney, Ryan, Snyder, Thune

Dark green indicates a candidate who has officially announced.
Light green indicates a candidate who has said they will announce but has not done so officially.
Yellow indicates a candidate who has begun an exploratory committee.


May 19, 2015

Essential Reads (and a Video) / Tuesday Open Thread

  7:00 am

Here’s a Clock That Counts the Minutes Since Hillary Clinton Answered a Press Question
Washington Post
The Fix at WaPo has a little fun with Hillary. I understand the NYT is listing questions they would ask, if they could.

The GOP Is the Strongest It’s Been in Decades
Analytics by Sean Trende & David Byler

Republican Bobby Jindal Forms Committee to Explore Presidential Run
The Guardian

The Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, announced on Monday that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee. This step makes it even more likely that the two-term governor will be yet another candidate in the growing Republican presidential field for 2016.


How Not to Start a Campaign
You’ve probably heard about Loretta Sanchez’s strange behavior over the weekend. I certainly had, but I hadn’t actually seen it until yesterday.



March 25, 2015


  9:47 am

1.  Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

The governor of Wisconsin has become the surprising early frontrunner, using his battle-tested record in the Badger State to bolster his standing in Iowa and New Hampshire. The early polling shows Walker has the most appeal among the GOP’s widening factions. Still, he has stumbled over several easy questions and with early staffing problems, leading some to wonder if he can handle the grind of a national campaign.

2.  Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush continues to consolidate the party establishment and lock up major bundlers and donors, but so far that insider strength is not reflected in the polls. Bush lags in the early states for someone with such a famous name and his numbers among conservatives are dreadful. Still, Bush’s massive financial edge could more than make up the difference.

3.  Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio is methodically building his 2016 effort, focusing on ideas and policies rather than splashy headlines. His efforts are winning plaudits in the early states, and earning him some of the best early poll numbers on favorability and likability. Sen. Rubio has also worked hard to build a relationship with 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. The senator has locked up a number of top Romney staffers, with more likely to join up soon.

4.  Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

The Tea Party favorite was the first candidate officially out of the gate, launching his campaign from Liberty University, a direct play to win over the evangelical base. Despite his doubters in the mainstream press, the Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer is in a strong position to unite the Tea Party and evangelical factions of the GOP.

5.  Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

The libertarian-leaning senator remains a top contender due to his his strong grassroots organization in Iowa and New Hampshire. Paul has successfully capitalized on his father’s prior campaigns to gain a foothold in the early states. However, with the growing crisis in the Middle East and the pending nuclear deal with Iran, Paul will find himself at odds with a more hawkish GOP.

6.  Mike Huckabee  former Governor of Arkansas

The author and former Fox News host retains positive favorable numbers and a deep connection to the party’s evangelical Christian wing while struggling with the donor class. Despite strong name recognition, Huckabee hasn’t been able to build a viable fundraising network outside of the evangelical grassroots. He seems to be far from the candidate he was in 2008, with a number of odd gaffes kicking off his 2016 consideration.

7.  Bobby Jindal  Governor of Louisiana

Gov. Jindal has worked hard to win over the evangelical and activist base of the party without burning bridges to the establishment. His efforts haven’t shown up in the polls as of yet, but they could help him stick around as a top second choice for a number of the GOP’s disparate factions.

8.  Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

Christie’s numbers at home continue to drop, and many are now wondering if the governor will pass on the 2016 race entirely. His team, however, believes Christie is still the best candidate on the stump, and will engineer a comeback to the top tier in the town halls of New Hampshire.

9.  John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

With upcoming visits to early primary states, Kasich has started to generate real buzz that he’s interested in the 2016 race. With a record of success in the nation’s most important swing state, the Ohio governor could be a dark horse establishment prospect if Jeb Bush stumbles.

10.  Ben Carson  retired neurosurgeon from Maryland

The conservative firebrand continues to build towards a campaign, despite a series of gaffes that highlight his controversial stances on social issues and his lack of experience. Dr. Carson will have to improve dramatically to capitalize on the real buzz, and money, his prospects have generated.

Honorable Mention:  Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Mike Pence

No Chance: Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump




February 26, 2015

Walker, Education, and Image

  4:00 am

People don’t vote for candidates, they vote for an image.

That’s a general axiom Democrats seem to understand much better than Republicans at this stage of the game. Politics has always been about trying to market yourself — we can go all the way back to Abraham Lincoln’s campaign team famously choosing “Honest Abe” to market their candidate, for instance — and likewise, marketing your opponent as someone Jack and Jill Voter couldn’t pull the lever for. But in today’s intensely media-saturated, image-and-symbol driven culture, it matters more than ever before.

As I wrote about seven years ago (!) here at Race, President Barack Obama is a modern shining example of this fact. Nobody cared what his positions were on the issues. For most American voters, Obama was simply and powerfully an image of hope and progress. They never factored in his actual stances on issues, they were not voting for an agenda or a political viewpoint or a party… they were voting for an image. A caricature of sorts. A carefully crafted, marketed image.

And it worked.

In 2012, Mitt Romney was the victim of the converse of this rule. President Obama and his team managed to paint Governor Romney (sometimes with the Governor’s unintended assistance) as a wealthy, out-of-touch woman-hater. Even though the facts stood contrary to that image (see Women, Binder Full of), that is how voters saw and believed the image of Governor Romney. The election did not come down to Obama and Romney, it came down to hope and inspiration versus the rich guy who doesn’t care.

This issue of image is immediately what came to mind when the brouhaha over Governor Scott Walker’s education was suddenly thrust into the top headlines this past week. Governor Walker, for those who may be arriving late to the scene of the crash, left college before he finished his senior year. He has no college degree to his name. For some in the media, this calls into question his fitness to serve as President of the United States.

Allow me to pause for a moment and be as clear as possible here: I do not believe a college degree is, or should be, a requirement to serve as President of the United States. The Constitution never places any kind of qualifying educational standard on potential candidates. Governor Walker’s accomplishments stand on their own, with or without a college degree, and to somehow denigrate them now, after the fact, because he didn’t finish his senior year is beyond the pale.

Those are the facts. However… again, we must take into account the issue of identity. By itself, a lack of college degree would be meaningless. At the same time the media began questioning that, however, they also realized something else about Scott Walker: he doesn’t believe in evolution. Now again: on this specific issue, I give a hearty, “Who cares?”. I excoriated the debate moderators way back in 2007 for asking the GOP candidates if they believed in evolution or creationism, and I would excoriate them again today. Factually speaking, it has no bearing on how well someone will govern this country. But now we have two pieces of information on which opponents will begin crafting Scott Walker’s image: he never finished college, and he doesn’t believe in evolution.

Now, add a third item of interest: Wisconsin is currently experiencing some pretty sizeable bumps fiscally speaking (which will undoubtedly and messily complicate Governor Walker’s campaign-to-be). In order to close a large budget deficit, Walker has proposed cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from… Wisconsin state university budgets.

So now we can easily imagine the line of attack on Governor Walker: a college dropout who doesn’t believe in evolution and wants to cut the budgets of higher learning institutions across his home state. Not exactly a pretty picture. Not a winning image. The cherry on top, of course, is that Governor Walker is a Republican, a party many Americans already see as being anti-science and anti-education (see AP History in Oklahoma, for instance). He plays into the stereotypes with little to no effort required from his opponents.

Of course, Governor Walker isn’t the only Republican governor talking about cutting higher education funding, which just exacerbates the problem. Governors Jindal and Christie have proposed cutting university funding in Louisiana and New Jersey as ways to fill their respective state budget shortfalls as well. When you are a potential candidate exploring a presidential primary full of voters who believe the words of Grover Norquist as gospel truth, common sense financial solutions can take a back seat to becoming a perceived enemy to higher education. This is especially true and dangerous for Governor Walker, given the overall image starting to be painted of him. Every stumble and misspoken phrase along the campaign trail, which might be forgiven from other candidates, will be treated as headline news from the Wisconsin governor.

None of this is a reason for Republicans to avoid nominating Walker. He may well end up being the best candidate in the field. But if they do, the GOP must understand the hand they’ve been dealt and respond accordingly — and the past week hasn’t been an encouraging response on that front. Republicans can circle the wagons and rally ‘round the flag as much as they want on this one, screaming about a biased and elitist media until their face turns blue. But that will do little to nothing to actually solving the image problem Walker is about to be branded with. Walker must work overtime to paint an alternative image — a more positive picture of who he is that can shatter some of these early stereotypes and display him as an intelligent, competent leader. There is a massive difference between being viewed as a blue collar, folksy midwesterner (on the balance, a very positive image) and being lumped in with the Sarah Palins and Rick Perrys of the world. It will be interesting to watch if and how Walker and his team steer this ship toward the former.


February 25, 2015

Poll Watch: Quinnipiac Iowa 2016 Republican Caucus Survey

  10:17 am

Quinnipiac Iowa 2016 GOP Caucus Poll

  • Scott Walker 25%
  • Rand Paul 13%
  • Ben Carson 11%
  • Mike Huckabee 11%
  • Jeb Bush 10%
  • Ted Cruz 5%
  • Chris Christie 4%
  • Marco Rubio 4%
  • Rick Santorum 4%
  • Rick Perry 3%
  • Bobby Jindal 2%
  • John Kasich 0%

Survey of 623 likely Iowa Republican caucus participants was conducted February 16-23, 2015.  The margin of error is +/- 3.9 percentage points. Gender: 60% Men; 40% Women. Political philosophy: 45% Very conservative; 28% Somewhat conservative; 25% Moderate/Liberal.


  • Walker’s doing very well in Iowa. He nearly doubles his closest competitor and enjoys a double digit lead.
  • Carson continues to be a strong second tier candidate.
  • The second tier in Iowa currently is Paul, Carson, Huckabee, Bush. They are bunched up within 3 ppts of each other — the MOE.
  • Bush barely cracks double digits.
  • The “noise” candidates are Cruz, Christie, Rubio,  Santorum, Perry, and Jindal. They are in the lower single digits with only Cruz managing to crack 5 ppts.
  • I am continually struck at the poor showing of Rick Santorum. He finished second in 2012. He should, by all rights, be at least in the second tier, but he consistently polls at or near the bottom of every poll.

Data compilation and analysis courtesy of The Argo Journal


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