August 4, 2015

July 29, 2015

Chris Christie Vows to Overturn the Will of the Voters

  11:43 am

Or at least the will of the voters in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, that is.

Per Bloomberg, the Garden State Governor vowed to enforce federal law on the issue of recreational marijuana and in doing so over-turn the will of the people who voted to legalize the drug in their states.

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie, a Republican campaigning for the 2016 presidential nomination, said Tuesday during a town-hall meeting at the Salt Hill Pub in Newport, New Hampshire. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”

The governor said he believes marijuana alters the brain and serves as a so-called gateway to the use of harder drugs. Pointing to his own administration of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program that he opposes, he said elected officials can’t unilaterally choose which statutes to enforce.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of legal marijuana, and polls show a clear majority of voters favor decriminalizing the drug for recreations use, this kind of federal overreach may not sit well with Republican primary voters who support states rights. This is a blatant attempt to usurp the power the states and their voters and bodes poorly for what Christie would do as president – federal overreach is not a popular position to take when trying to win the support of conservatives, especially younger conservatives and those living in the western portion of the country whose conservatism has a libertarian bent.

On the other hand, it could help Christie with older and more socially-conservative Republican voters who share his views that marijuana is a harmful substance and a “gateway” drug. It also could, and likely is, a desperate ploy to grab attention and get his name in the headlines prior the final polling that will determine the 10 Republicans who end up making the cut for the August 6 Fox News debate.

So what say you, Race family? Is this a good move, a bad move or neither for Christie?


  9:16 am

1.  Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush returns as the default frontrunner, in part due to his historic fundraising strength, but more so due to the effects of the “Summer of Trump”. With the left-wing billionaire dominating media coverage of the race, lesser known candidates have been deprived of much needed air time. Bush, with his dynastic name, is somewhat immune to this effect, leaving him relatively unscathed in national polls. However, Trump does pose a bigger threat to Bush than other candidates running, mostly due to the unpredictable, anti-establishment history of the New Hampshire electorate. Unlike Scott Walker, Bush has been unable to maintain his early state lead, falling far behind Trump in the first primary state. The longer Bush stays behind a buffoon like Trump, the weaker he looks and the less likely a third Bush presidency becomes.

2. Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker has finally entered the race and immediately added to his commanding lead in Iowa. Walker’s early state strength is more impressive when you consider other candidates have seen their numbers crumble in the wake of the Trump media frenzy. Walker’s aligned super PACs have over $20 million in the bank, more than enough to build on and sustain his Iowa lead. However, Walker has become the new favorite target of the left-wing billionaire, and he must be careful how far into the weeds he wants to go in responding to the erratic and unelectable Clinton donor.

3. Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio has seen some of his poll numbers fall as the Florida republican has receded from media attention, focusing more on fundraising and organization during the summer. His efforts have paid some off some, as his campaign raised the most money of any candidate, and his super PACs brought in the third most. Rubio has also avoided some of the more embarrassing elements of this summer’s campaign, namely getting dragged too deep in the muck by realty TV show character Donald Trump. Rubio has managed to retain his stunningly high favorability ratings, making him the most liked candidate in the field, something that bolsters his electability argument against the more unfavorable Jeb Bush and the rapidly declining Hillary Clinton.

4.  John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. With a team that knows New Hampshire well, a local boost from the Sununu family, and solid PAC fundraising, Kasich may still become a top challenger to Bush on the establishment side. Now that it looks like he’ll make the debates, his momentum may continue to build. With the bursting of the Trump bubble looming, attention will turn to candidates who are not insane or a blight on party, and Kasich will be a top choice when that occurs.

5.  Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

With the “bomb-throwing loudmouth” slot being filled by Trump, Cruz finds himself largely without his natural niche. He lame attacks on Sen. Mitch McConnell won’t win him back his status as Cruz is the only candidate in the field who hasn’t stood up to Trump’s more outlandish statements, leaving the Texas senator open to criticism for weakness and gutlessness. However, Cruz’s fundraising has put him in a position to capitalize on the collapse of other candidates in the far-right bracket of the primary process, making him the most likely of the fringe candidates to survive a longer campaign.

6. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

Christie’s comeback has been very slow, but a few polls released since his announcement have him doing slightly better than expected. His unfavorables still need major work, and his New Hampshire-or-bust campaign needs strengthening, but he’s done enough to make the debates, where his talents can be most effective.

7. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul’s numbers continue to slide, a fact that was made more alarming but his horrible fundraising quarter, both by his campaign and aligned PACs. Paul’s “libertarian moment” seems to have passed him by. With so many candidates soaking up the media spotlight, Paul was supposed to have the money and an organization to give him an edge in the early states. It just hasn’t materialized.

8. Rick Perry  former Governor of Texas

Gov. Perry has been the strongest voice for conservatism in the face of the media-created Trump bubble, taking the liberal billionaire to task for a number of his leftist positions and idiotic statements. Perry, one of only two veterans running for the nomination, has earned a true second look for his courage in the face of media hysteria.

9.  Donald Trump  Chairman and President of The Trump Organization 

It is with great embarrassment and tremendous shame in my party that I have to include this buffoon in these rankings. Unfortunately, Trump’s numbers cannot be ignored. However, polls alone are not the decisive factor in primary elections, with money and organization at this early stage carrying greater weight. Trump has yet to put serious money into his campaign the way Ross Perot did, and his lack of a real ground game will show over time. The fact that the Koch brothers have cut him off to their database and research puts him in greater need of his own “yuuuge” financial resources.

10.  Mike Huckabee  former Governor of Arkansas

Gov. Huckabee followed his disturbing defense of Josh Duggar last month with an outlandish attack on the President this month, comparing him to the SS officers who committed mass genocide against the Jews during World War II. This pattern of nonsensical rhetoric was coupled with a disastrous fundraising quarter for the TV host-turned-also ran. On top of it all, Huckabee’s numbers in Iowa are tanking, leaving his chances of being the nominee on life support.

Honorable Mention:  Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal,  Ben Carson

No Chance: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore

July 24, 2015

Friday Open Thread (Catholic Edition)

  7:00 am

I’ve been dilatory regarding Open Threads this week, but the gap has been well-covered.

Remember, if you’re tempted to drop an off-topic comment into another thread, bring it to this one instead.

As a conversation-starter:


2016 Is a Very Catholic Year

Historically, Catholics have leaned strongly to the Democratic Party, but that has been changing in recent decades. Nothing shows the change so clearly as this year’s Republican field, which features six (count ’em – 6) Catholics: Bush, Christie, Jindal, Pataki, Rubio, and Santorum.

Only three Roman Catholics have ever run for president on a major party ticket, and all were Democrats. But that may be about to change. So far six Catholics (including some early favorites) are running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

And that’s not all:

This bumper crop of Catholic presidential candidates comes at a time when the leadership of the Republican Party is, by many measures, becoming increasingly Catholic. For instance, the House of Representatives had 69 Catholic Republicans at the beginning of the current, 114th Congress – a group that has nearly doubled in size in the last six years and includes House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

In addition, a Roman Catholic, Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan, was the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2012. Ryan was only the second Catholic ever to run on the Republican ticket, the first being William Edward Miller (a New York representative who was Barry Goldwater’s running mate in 1964).

Martin O’Malley is the only Catholic in the Democrat’s race, though the first-ever Catholic VP, Joe Biden, is clearly thinking about jumping in.

I grew up in an era when the Democratic Party was the default home for Catholics. My Republican Catholic parents were viewed with bemusement by most of our fellow parishioners at St. Francis Xavier church.


July 15, 2015

C-SPAN to Host Candidates Forum Aug. 3

  12:02 pm

Politico has the details.

This is an interesting move by C-SPAN and their co-sponsors which include radio and television stations as well as newspapers from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The “candidates forum” is not a RNC sanctioned debate but will serve as an opportunity for all the candidates, if they all accept that is, to get on stage at the same place. Invitations have been sent out to all of the GOP candidates and as of this writing, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki have confirmed that they will attend. Those six are all “bubble” candidates whose chances of getting on stage three days later at the Fox News debate are in question.

Jack Heath of WGIR (New Hampshire) will moderate the forum. The format, as per the press release, will have each candidate appear on stage and answer questions from Mr. Heath for “approximately five minutes.”

So what does the Race community think? Will this be a worth watching? Will the upper tier candidates appear? Should they? Have at it in the comments.

July 11, 2015

Trump Or No Trump?

  9:58 am

The current news/polling bubble for businessman Donald Trump is just that, a bubble that will burst.

On the other hand, some of what he is saying is serious, notwithstanding the liberal media allegations that he is politically “incorrect.”

Mr. Trump is a smart man, and a successful figure in business. He also, as is plain to see, a man of unquenchable ego with a desire for capacious media attention.

Until the Republican presidential debates begin, his bubble will continue to float in the hot summer air. No GOP rival, except for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, can match Mr. Trump for media-grabbing skills.

Mr. Trump is likely to make the cut-off for the first GOP debate in Cleveland. With fifteen announced or imminently to announce competitors, the conservative field is overlarge and currently confusing to most grass roots voters. Some more serious candidates, such as Governor John Kasich of Ohio, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, or Governor Christie might not make the cut-off (although they will be invited to a “second tier” debate in Cleveland that will precede the main debate).

Being a very rich man, Donald Trump can self-fund his campaign, and is evidently doing so. Most of his rivals are currently spending a great deal of their time fundraising.

Like his left wing Democratic equivalent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mr. Trump has the temporary advantage of being much more interesting to the media than his opponents. Lacking truly serious rivals in the Democratic contest, Hillary Clinton continues to maintain a substantial, albeit shrinking, lead for her party’s nomination. Senator Sanders also is enjoying a bubble, but he will not be the Democratic nominee. It would take the entry of Vice President Joe Biden, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo or Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to actually change the chemistry of the Democratic contest, and so far, only Mr. Biden seems a likely entry.

But Senator Sanders’ current success is a genuine signal to Democratic strategists about how liberal grass roots voters feel, and so is the current bubble of Donald Trump a useful signal about how conservative grass roots voters

In Mr. Trump’s case, I think the energy he provokes comes less from his conservatism (he does not fit a conservative mold and has often supported Democratic candidates with cash), and more from his outspokenness. Some GOP party officials apparently think he is upsetting the proverbial apple cart, and want him to tone down his public comments. He has no intention of doing so.

The liberal media know a foil when they see one, and their attention is also fueled by Mr. Trump’s use to them for attacking the Republican Party.

Through his name I.D. and self-spending, Mr. Trump might even have some early successes when the voting begins and polling actually means something, but he is not going to be president, much less his party’s nominee.

As Governor Christie, now down in the polls but likely to rise dramatically when the campaign begins in earnest, knows, the voters in 2016 , be they left, right or center, thirst for a presidential candidate who speaks out honestly, plainly and lucidly about the vital and troubling issues facing the nation.

The man or woman who can do that, and also persuade voters he or she can perform well as president, will be the one who will succeed next November. No bubble will be enough.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

July 6, 2015

Which Polls Will Fox Use to Determine Debate Participants?

  4:35 pm

Today is exactly one month from the opening day festivities of this primary season: the Fox News debate in Cleveland, Ohio. One month from now, the top ten GOP candidates will share a stage and America will get to see them all, really, for the first time. The question everyone is pondering is this: which six candidates will be left out in the cold during that first rumble?

To really figure that out, though, we’ve got to dig one layer deeper: the methodology Fox is using to determine just who the top ten are. They’ve left their procedure quite vague — a move I assume is intentional, allowing themselves some leeway to massage the final makeup of the stage party — but here’s what we do know. First, candidates must file the official paperwork to be on the ballot in Ohio. Secondly:

“Candidates must place in the top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls, as recognized by Fox News leading up to August 4th at 5 PM/ET. Such polling must be conducted by major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques.”

Essentially, FOX News will select the five most recent national polls which meet their vague criteria, counting backward from August 4, average them together, and assemble the top ten. Although the parameters of what five polls will be eligible seem wordy, they actually don’t say much.

The part about “standard methodological technique” would seem to disqualify YouGov polls, among others, since they are conducted entirely online. What is less evident is whether PPP, who does partially online polls (and up until recently did all robocalls) would qualify as “standard” under Fox’s definition. Given the recent push by the RNC to limit the influence of Democratic media on the GOP nomination process, let’s assume that Fox will be using their discretion to discard PPP’s national poll as well. Finally, the one-off polls done regularly by various universities around the country would seem to violate the “major, nationally recognized” portion of the regulations, so we can likely discard them as well.

So who will make the cut? Well, since this is a FOX News debate, you can be sure that they will time the release of their own national poll to be one of the five. Both Fox and CNN have been consistent this year in releasing national polls at the very beginning of every month; therefore, since CNN will likely match the timing of the Fox poll, we can assume they will be the second poll of the five.

Those two are almost certain. The third and fourth are probable: NBC/WSJ and Quinnipiac. NBC/WSJ has consistently released their national poll towards the last week of each month. Their July poll will likely come out about one to two weeks prior to the debate, and given the slow pace of other national polling, that poll has a pretty good shot at being one of the five. Likewise, Quinnipiac has been timing about 5-7 weeks in between their national poll releases; if they were to release on the shorter end of that spectrum for their next poll, they could get it in prior to the August 4 deadline as well.

The fifth and final poll is a bigger question mark. There will likely be three pollsters vying for that final slot: ABC/WaPo, Monmouth, and McClatchy/Marist. An end-of-June or beginning-of-July poll would be off cycle for each of those three, but the chance to influence the debate stage could be impetus to do a survey off-cycle.

For now, let’s assume four out of the five polls are what we outline above: FOX News, CNN, NBC/WSJ, and Quinnipiac. Heading over to, we can create our own poll average with only those four polls in it — and when we do, this is how it ends up:

  1. Bush – 16.4%
  2. Trump – 12.3%
  3. Carson – 10.1%
  4. Paul – 8.2%
  5. Walker – 7.9%
  6. Rubio – 7.6%
  7. Huckabee – 6.0%
  8. Perry – 3.9%
  9. Cruz – 3.7%
  10. Christie – 2.7%
  11. —————————

  12. Santorum – 2.6%
  13. Fiorina – 2.0%
  14. Kasich – 2.0%
  15. Jindal – 1.8%
  16. Pataki – 0.1%
  17. Graham – 0.0%

Obviously, just using these four polls sheds a slightly different hue on the race than a full polling average, which is why it’s important to consider just which polls Fox will be using. And when we go to add our fifth and final pollster, it makes a big difference for some of these candidates. For instance, adding Monmouth as the fifth launches Santorum into the top ten… and knocks Chris Christie off the stage. Adding ABC/WaPo instead of Monmouth gives the two a tie for tenth place. Putting in McClatchy/Marist gives Christie a comfortable lead over Santorum and lands Fiorina into the realm of “missed it by that much.”

Regardless, there are some things that remain the same and are pretty easy to spot, given the current standings as well as the trendlines. We essentially have seven shoe-ins: Bush, Trump, Carson, Paul, Walker, Rubio, and Huckabee. Perry has low numbers but is trending in the right direction and will likely make the cut as the eighth.

Likewise, unless Jindal gets a miraculous announcement bump, he’ll likely miss the stage. Finally, we have two who aren’t going to make the stage unless hell freezes over: Pataki and Graham.

That gives us 8 on and 3 off, leaving five candidates battling for the final two spots on that stage: Ted Cruz (how far his campaign has fallen!), Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich. Those will be the five candidates to watch as the next round of polls are released. Missing that cutoff could be an early death knell to a campaign this year, while making it onto that stage might just be the needed boost to keep a candidate alive.

July 2, 2015

Christie Web Video: This Is For My Friend Larry Hogan

  2:06 pm

As a Maryland resident, this resonates and is a bit more personal for me. Christie did a lot to help Governor Hogan (R) get elected and, for those outside of Maryland who haven’t heard, he recently was diagnosed with Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s good to see Christie standing with Hogan and publicly praying for him.

I ask our readers to please do the same. Thank you.

July 1, 2015

The Primary Calendar: Strategy, Discipline, and Necessity

  2:55 pm

As we explored here on Race back in November, successful candidates for President generally view the primary calendar as unfolding in three phases:

There’s an old axiom in politics that voters don’t really start paying attention until Labor Day. Understanding that, then, we can roughly divide the primary calendar into three sections: pre-Memorial Day, Memorial Day to Labor Day, and post-Labor Day:

  • Pre-Memorial Day: Use this time to build your campaign team. Put the framework in place, fill it with talent, grease up the machine, and get ready to push the start button. This first phase is when you plant field offices, meet with early backers and surrogates, and most importantly, hire talent. At this early stage, the most important thing to do is build a lasting framework that will carry you through the next year and a half — and which will not require your attention during the crazier, busier seasons to come.
  • Memorial Day to Labor Day: Normal people don’t pay attention to politics during the summer months, so once you have a campaign framework in place take this time to do as many fundraisers as humanly possible. This is your chance to build a warchest with which to dispatch your opponents once the race begins in earnest. Lay low, don’t oversaturate, and fund that campaign.
  • Post-Labor Day: Campaign, campaign, campaign. This is when people start paying attention, so this is when you start introducing yourself to them. Media blitzes, interviews, ad buys, and public campaign stops in early primary and caucus states all start now and do not end until you bow out of or win the race.

These three phases might seem pretty obvious, but they’re not for many candidates. Without a long-term plan like this is place, many candidates will attempt to do all three things (campaign structure, fundraising, and campaigning) all at the same time, ending up doing none of the well. Additionally, many candidates will waste time holding public events and campaigning during the summer months, then enter the post-Labor Day race woefully low on funds (meaning they cannot campaign as much during the most important portion of the race because they will be fundraising) or having peaked too early with no way to continue momentum (see Romney, 2008).

Of course, none of these are hard and fast phases. They bleed together — every candidate will do some fundraisers during each stage, for instance, to keep the coffers from going empty. And media outlets will have dollar signs and ratings charts in their eyes, scheduling primary debates whenever they can throughout the calendar. But as a good general rule of thumb, sketching out a campaign according to that calendar is what leads to a successful nomination attempt.

Since we are in the middle of the second phase right now, it’s a good time to check in and see how our candidates are doing in following this framework. Obviously, with the primary campaign getting started late (by modern standards), phases one and two are blending together for many candidates. But the general principle is the same: do all the behind-the-scenes work before Labor Day, don’t oversaturate during the spring and summer, and then pull back the bow and launch strong in September. Generally speaking, this allows a candidate to peak at the right time and also allows him or her to build a sustainable campaign organization that will withstand the intense fall and winter months.

It also, as we will see front and center in the next week or so, allows them to report strong fundraising numbers when the FEC reports are due (they have to be submitted by July 15, but most candidates will announce their totals before that).

So right now, in other words, candidates should be cramming as many fundraisers into their schedules as possible, meeting with bundlers and donors and financiers, and building their infrastructure behind the scenes. None of that garners headlines or wins news cycles — but that’s the point: it’s not supposed to. Not yet.

It’s also the reason the polls at this stage don’t matter. Oh, sure, everybody says that about the polls early on in campaigns (especially the candidates who are trailing in them), but this year it’s even more true than usual. By this time in 2008 there had already been three debates and millions of dollars of advertising dollars spent. By this time in 2012, we had already seen two debates and a lot of political ads. This year? Zero debates and barely any ads (zero primetime television ads that I’m aware of). There has been no chance on a national stage for these candidates to introduce themselves yet, and no large events to shift the numbers one way or the other outside of individual campaign announcements.

Not all candidates are keeping their heads down and focusing on behind-the-scenes work, though. Many are out campaigning — and some are campaigning way more than others, breaking one of the cardinal rules of the calendar. Of course, some of these candidates with low name recognition (Fiorina, Cruz, Carson, et al) have to campaign in order to get people to start paying attention to them, which is the curse of the lesser known candidate. The calendar is never in their favor. But even some of the more well known candidates are wasting time right now on the campaign trail rather than doing the long, slow work of building the foundation for a successful campaign later on.

As one data point, let’s consider the state of Iowa. Courtesy of the Des Moines Register, here are the number of events each candidate has held in the Hawkeye State since March (with the number of events broken down by month afterward into Mar/Apr/May/Jun/Jul):

  • Huckabee – 39 events (6/4/9/13/7)
  • Santorum – 39 events (8/9/11/10/1)
  • Jindal – 28 events (1/5/3/5/14)
  • Perry – 24 events (5/5/11/2/1)
  • Cruz – 23 events (5/7/-/8/3)
  • Carson – 22 events (-/-/7/14/1)
  • Paul – 22 events (-/5/9/-/8)
  • Graham – 21 events (4/1/1/9/6)
  • Fiorina – 18 events (2/13/2/1/-)
  • Trump – 14 events (-/5/3/5/1)
  • Walker – 13 events (2/5/3/2/1)
  • Bush – 9 events (3/-/3/2/1)
  • Rubio – 6 events (-/2/-/2/2)
  • Christie – 5 events (1/-/-/4/-)
  • Kasich – 5 events (-/-/-/5/-)
  • Pataki – 2 events (1/-/1/-/-)

As you can see, Huckabee and Santorum have basically been living in Iowa, to the exclusion of ensuring their campaigns will remain viable long term. This communicates their obvious strategy: it’s Iowa or bust for these two with no plan beyond that. Given that they pull 5% and 4% support, respectively, in the latest Iowa poll despite pressing flesh for five months now would seem to indicate that they are headed straight for the bust column. Perry and Carson are in similar spots, with Perry saturating the state in May and Carson camping out there in June. Perry still only gets 4% in Iowa polls, where it looks like Carson’s campaigning is at least paying off with a small boost in support.

I’m more interested in the bottom of the list, however — the candidates who have basically ignored the state. Pataki’s numbers are to be expected, since he’s not going to compete in Iowa anyway, and Kasich and Christie are just now getting into the race. (They both held a number of events in Iowa in June.) But what of the other candidates? Specifically, the Big Three: Bush, Rubio, and Walker. All three have essentially ignored the state, especially in May and June. And all three are showing themselves to be more disciplined candidates than the rest of the field, taking time to do the fundraisers, hirings, and foundational work rather than hitting the campaign trail early. This is obviously tremendous news for Governor Walker; even while basically ignoring the state, he has a solid lead in Iowa. This also offers a glimpse into the Rubio campaign strategy – he’s saving the headlines and campaign appearances for later and focusing on other things right now. If he is indeed being informally advised by Romney and his team, this strategy makes complete sense: it’s the same one Romney used en route to victory in 2012. Bush is, of course, the big question mark: will he invest in Iowa at all during the later stages of the campaign? Or will he write off the state with token appearances and instead focus on New Hampshire?

So, I said all of that to say: it’s early. Disciplined, winning campaigns are doing what disciplined, winning campaigns do. Meanwhile, desperate second- and third-tier campaigns are doing what they do. It won’t be long until the wheat is separated from the chaff, so to speak, and the long-term planning pays off over the short-term quest for headlines.

Nobody really pays attention until Labor Day anyway.

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