December 17, 2014

Bush is “Instant Frontrunner”, says Krauthammer

Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer claims that Jeb Bush is an “Instant Frontrunner”.

I think it is a big deal because those who would be on his wing of the spectrum are going to have to rethink whether they are going to go up against Jeb Bush and how good of a chance they’re going to have. I think it will clear out some of his wing. As for the others, there are a lot of people who would otherwise be on the fringe. It would look like a free for all. It would look like the most open seat in the history of the presidency, so why not throw in your hat. And I think it will, because it creates an instant frontrunner, for good or for ill, it will discourage some of the fringe candidates

Well, maybe. Take a look at these two recent polls, one from the Washington Post, the other from Fox.

Washington Post Fox Poll
w/ Romney w/o Romney
Romney 20 Romney 19
Bush 10 Bush 13 Bush 10
Paul 9 Paul 11 Christie 8
Ryan 8 Ryan 10 Paul 8
Cruz 7 Cruz 9 Huckabee 8
Carson 6 Christie 8 Don’t Know 8
Christie 6 Carson 7 Walker 7
Huckabee 6 Huckabee 7 Carson 6
No Opinion 6 No Opinion 7 Ryan 6
Walker 5 Walker 6 Cruz 5
Perry 4 Perry 5 Rubio 4
Rubio 4 Rubio 5 Kasich 2
Jindal 3 Jindal 4 Perry 2
Kasich 2 Santorum 3 Jindal 1
Santorum 2 Kasich 2 Santorum 1
Other 0 None 0 Other 0
None 2 Other 2 None 2

Bush leads nobody by more than two ppts in either poll — with or without Romney. I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty thinking of someone as a “frontrunner” whose lead is less than the Margin of Error of the poll.

One thing that jumps out at me from either of these polls is the really poor showing of Rick Santorum. These early polls tend to be mainly about name recognition; we all know that. Now remember that Santorum finished the last race solidly in second place. Name recognition should not be a problem for him. So people should know him, and yet his position still sucks.

He has been making noises about running again. Maybe he should save himself some aggravation and a whole lot of money and not bother.

December 16, 2014

More On The Latest McClatchy – Marist Poll

The lastest McClatchy-Marist Poll has been posted already, yet there is still some information to be gleaned from it. For example, on the question to Republicans as to which possible 2016 GOP candidate they would favor:

w/ Romney   w/o Romney
Romney 19 Undecided 18
Bush 14 Bush 16
Undecided 13 Huckabee 12
Christie 9 Christie 10
Huckabee 9 Carson 8
Carson 8 Ryan 7
Paul 5 Paul 6
Cruz 4 Cruz 5
Perry 4 Perry 5
Ryan 3 Rubio 3
Santorum 3 Walker 3
Rubio 3 Kasich 3
Walker 3 Santorum 3
Kasich 2 Jindal 1
Jindal 1 Fiorina 1
Fiorina 1

Note that Bush comes in second whether Romney is included or not. With Romney, Romney is in first place. Without Romney, Undecided leads the pack.

Also notice that Christie is always fourth behind Undecided, Bush, and either Romney or Huckabee. I’m not seeing a real big mandate for Christie here. That’s really not much of a vote of confidence in Christie trying to run as the “Establishment” choice.

With Bush essentially throwing his hat into the ring, that pretty much slams the door on Christie, Rubio, and any other candidate wishing for the backing of the “Establishment”. Perry comes to mind. The only other candidate who would stand a chance is Romney, but Bush’s announcement pretty much closes the door on any Romney 2016 run. Why?

  • One, the “Establishment” likes to consolidate behind their candidate as quickly as possible. If Romney were to run, he’d have to announce before the year is out. He’d then appear as the spoiler, and the “Establishment” doesn’t like spoilers. He’d have to provide very good reasons why they shouldn’t back Bush, and I don’t think Mitt could do that.
  • Two, Bush could crash and burn, and the establishment would go looking for a white knight. This highly unlikely scenario only happens in the movies. Bush would really, REALLY have to screw up before that happened.

So Romney is about 99.9% likely NOT to run.

December 11, 2014

Jeb as Mini-Mitt?

Joshua Green over on Bloomberg reports a potential problem with a Jeb Bush Presidential run: (emphasis added)

Over the last several months, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been giving speeches, campaigning for candidates, appearing at public forums, and meeting with wealthy donors, which has led many people to believe that he may soon enter the race to become the next Republican presidential nominee. On Dec.1, Bush told a gathering of business leaders at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington that he would make a decision about his political future “in short order.” But Bush’s recent business ventures reveal that he shares a number of liabilities with the last nominee, Mitt Romney, whose career in private equity proved so politically damaging that it sunk his candidacy.

Documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Nov. 27 list Bush as chairman and manager of a new offshore private equity fund, BH Global Aviation, which raised $61 million in September, largely from foreign ­investors. In November the fund ­incorporated in the United Kingdom and Wales­—a ­structure, several independent finance lawyers say, that operates like a tax haven by allowing overseas investors to avoid U.S. taxes and regulations.

BH Global Aviation is one of at least three such funds Bush has launched in less than two years through his Coral Gables, Fla., company, Britton Hill Holdings. He’s also chairman of a $26 million fund, BH Logistics, established in April with backing from a Chinese conglomerate, and a $40 million fund involved in shale oil exploration, according to documents filed in June and first ­reported on by Bloomberg News. His flurry of ventures doesn’t suggest someone preparing to run for president, according to a dozen fund managers, lawyers, and ­private-placement agents who were ­apprised of his recent activities by Bloomberg Businessweek. Most private equity funds have a life span of 10 years. While it isn’t impossible that Bush could bail on his investors so soon after taking their money, “that would be unusual,” says Steven Kaplan, a private equity expert at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. One fundraiser for private equity adds that normally you’d be winding down such businesses, rather than expanding them, if you were going to run.

“Running as the second coming of Mitt Romney is not a credential that’s going to play anywhere, with Republicans or Democrats,” says John Brabender, a Republican consultant and veteran of presidential campaigns. “Not only would this be problematic on the campaign trail, I think it also signals someone who isn’t seriously looking at the presidency or he wouldn’t have gone down this path.”

I would not go so far as to say Mitt’s “…career in private equity proved so politically damaging that it sunk his candidacy.” It didn’t help it, that is for certain, but to ascribe his 2012 defeat entirely to his private equity career is pushing it, in my opinion.

Be that as it may, I do find it interesting that several people in the equity business suggest that Bush’s recent actions are not those of a man who has been seriously giving thought to running for President.

by @ 1:51 pm. Filed under Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney

December 8, 2014

Bloomberg Poll Places Hillary On Top

The lastest Bloomberg poll is out. Things appear to look real good for Hillary:

Candidate Hillary Republican Diff Other / None Favorable Unfavorable Diff
Clinton 0 0 0 0 52 42 10
Bush 43 37 6 17 32 37 -5
Christie 42 36 6 18 36 35 1
Paul 45 37 8 15 32 29 3
Romney 45 39 6 14 43 44 -1
Cruz 46 33 13 16 26 29 -3

The Bloomberg Politics Poll, conducted December 3 is based on interviews with 1,001 U.S. adults ages 18 or older.

*Head-to-head was, “Among 2016 likely voters; n=753. Margin of error: ± 3.6 percentage points.”

However, please note that it is a poll of adults, not registered voters. Polls of adults are notoriously skewed to favor the liberal Democrat. Now if this was a poll of registered voters, or — even better — likely voters, we would be in deep trouble. But those sorts of polls are much harder to do and thus are more expensive.

Another problem with this poll is that in the head-to-heads, Bloomberg included “Other”. “Other” polled in the mid to high teens in each match-up. Guess what, at this point, there aren’t that many Democrat “others” but a ton of Republican “others”.

So take this poll with a large grain of salt.

Edited to add head-to-head note and the “other / none” column. Thanks GS and SunshineState.

by @ 10:48 am. Filed under Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz

December 7, 2014

What’s Been Happening in Iowa?

Iowa is home to the Iowa Caucuses, the first real contest on the road to becoming the next President. The Des Moines Register recently published a tally of what possible future Presidential primary candidates have been up to in their state:

Fifteen Republican potential presidential candidates are on Iowans’ radar, ranked here by their events in Iowa since the 2012 elections. Also presented: their support in an Oct. 1-7 Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll.

Candidate Trips Events Days Caucus Support % First Choice % Second Choice %
Rick Perry 8 *33* *15* 13 7 6
Rand Paul 6 24 10 18 10 8
Rick Santorum *9* 19 12 8 3 5
Ted Cruz 6 12 8 13 7 6
Bobby Jindal 4 10 7 5 1 4
Chris Christie 4 8 4 11 6 5
Marco Rubio 4 8 5 5 2 3
Mike Huckabee 5 7 6 17 9 8
Rob Portman 1 7 2 0 0 0
Ben Carson 2 6 3 18 11 7
Paul Ryan 3 4 3 18 8 *10*
Mitt Romney 2 4 3 *25* *17* 8
Scott Walker 2 3 2 9 4 5
Mike Pence 1 1 1 1 0 1
Jeb Bush 0 0 0 12 4 8

Thoughts on the above:

  1. Rick Perry appears to be serious about running. He’s been to more Iowan events in the past two years than anybody else — eleven more than his closest rival, Rand Paul.
  2. Rand Paul has as much support as either Ben Carson and Paul Ryan, yet he has made more trips and has more than doubled the events that they have done put together.
  3. Rick Santorum was the last ABR (Anybody But Romney) standing in 2012. He’s made more trips to Iowa than anybody else. He even won the caucuses last time, yet he registers only single digits in support.
  4. Mike Huckabee has only made a handful of trips to the state yet pulls in a respectful 17% support. He’s a man to watch.
  5. Rob Portman has been to seven events in Iowa during a two day marathon, yet he is the only person with 0% support.
  6. Ben Carson and Paul Ryan only have a small number of visits and events yet each pulls a respectful 18% support. They are definitely men to watch.
  7. Mitt Romney has only made a couple of trips to Iowa. He continues to say he’s not planning on running, yet he has considerable more support in Iowa than anybody else. If you recall in 2012, he didn’t even campaign in Iowa except in the last week or two before the caucuses were held, yet he finished second by less than 25 votes.
  8. Scott Walker doesn’t seem to be doing that well in spite of being a fellow Midwesterner. (Shades of Pawlenty and Bachmann perhaps?)
  9. Jeb Bush has not visited Iowa at all in the past two years yet pulls down double digit support.

Edited to add Jeb Bush line to chart and the comment about his level of support in my thoughts.

December 5, 2014

Bush is Pushing Into New England

RCP reports that Bush is sending feelers into New Hampshire:

Two top New Hampshire Republican strategists have been contacted this week by a Jeb Bush confidant to discuss their interest in leading the former Florida governor’s prospective presidential campaign there, RealClearPolitics has learned from GOP sources in the Granite State.

The new outreach from Bush’s camp was directed at a pair of experienced and well-respected New Hampshire GOP operatives, each of whom has previously helmed presidential campaigns in the state.

“I think the decision’s been made, personally,” said one of the strategists who was contacted by Bush’s camp and who spoke to RCP under the condition of anonymity.

So first we have Romney telling donors not to commit to people who are not their first choice, and now we hear news that a Bush confidant is encouraging New Hampshire GOP operatives to “keep your powder dry”. Lots of things are happening beneath the surface.

Are we going to have a great establishment showdown between Mitt and Jeb? If true this should be fun to watch. Bring popcorn.


by @ 8:44 pm. Filed under Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney

Another Day, Another Article Saying Mitt May Be Running

Now Ben White of CNBC (h/t jamesjones ) is saying the chances are good that Mitt is running: (emphasis added)

Mitt Romney made the rounds on Wall Street recently, and people who attended the meetings said they came away convinced the 2012 GOP presidential nominee would launch another campaign for the White House.

“Mitt’s running,” is how one senior Wall Street banker who met with Romney recently put it to me this week, saying the conventional wisdom that the 2012 nominee would make another run only if the party reached out to him in desperation next year was dead wrong. “He’s running, flat out.”

Others came away from meetings—some of which were intended to talk about Romney’s son’s investment firm—less convinced that a third White House run was a sure thing. But these people, too, said Romney’s tone had changed significantly from just a month earlier. Instead of playing down the possibility of a run, these people said, Romney urged them to hold tight rather than commit to a candidate they did not love.

“He tells people not to commit to a candidate that is not their first choice and that they aren’t excited about,” one plugged-in Republican told me of the meetings. “He does not think much of the current field and does not think it is jelling. He still views himself as the leader of the establishment wing of the Republican Party. It’s definitely a change in his message [tilted more toward running].”

The Republican added that Romney’s decision doesn’t depend on Jeb Bush. “He does not feel he owes the Bushes anything and does not think Jeb is the de facto leader of the establishment GOP.

Well of course the field is not jelling. It’s only the first week of December 2014, for crying out loud. Nothing is going to “jell” for at least a couple of months. But that doesn’t mean that the future field isn’t starting to take shape. Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, and your old friend Mike Huckabee are definitely starting to make their moves. Throw in Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and a few others and you’ve got yourself quite the field.

I am guessing that he has been reading all those polls that show him out in front of his GOP competition by either high single digits, or low double digits. There are even respectable national polls that show him defeating Hillary Clinton head to head. That has to be acting upon his mind. He, the consummate planner and details man doesn’t like to waste a second. He has to be chaffing at the valuable time slipping away. If he is getting in, he will be getting in soon. He is NOT going to wait while Jeb Bush does his Hamlet impression while valuable time ticks by.

He is right about one thing, he doesn’t owe the Bushes a blamed thing. In that respect, I agree with him. It should be interesting to see if Mitt forms an exploratory committee before Jeb Bush does. What would Bush’s reaction be, I wonder.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see what would happen with both Bush and Romney in the race? These two are supposed to be the epitome of the “establishment”. Which way would the “establishment” go, do you think?

by @ 5:37 pm. Filed under Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney

More Trouble for Hillary?

Last month’s Quinnipiac poll has been commented upon before in this blog, but there are still a nugget or two that can be dug up out of it. One of them is how well Hillary Clinton does against proposed opponents.

Hillary % Opponent % Diff Fav % Unfav % Haven’t Heard Enough
Hillary Clinton 50 45 3
Mitt Romney 44 45 -1 44 42 11
Chris Christie 43 42 1 38 33 27
Paul Ryan 46 42 4 36 28 35
Rand Paul 46 41 5 35 26 37
Mike Huckabee 46 41 5 36 29 34
Jeb Bush 46 41 5 33 32 33

The fact that she is only within five ppts against the six top GOP contenders in this poll has been commented upon before here at Race4. But take a look at the last column. When the voters were asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of a potential candidate, a certain percentage declared that they hadn’t heard enough about the person to make up their minds. The results are listed in the last column.

Only 3% of the voters hadn’t heard enough to make up their minds on Hillary. 3%. That strongly implies that the voters’ opinions of her are fairly fixed and not likely to move much one way or the other. In other words, after more than three decades in the public’s eye, voters have pretty much made up their minds on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Her potential opponents, on the other hand, enjoy double digit values in that column. Even last election’s GOP candidate, Mitt Romney, has more than 10% of the population saying they haven’t heard enough about him to make up their minds. Christie is at 27%, and the rest have percentages in the thirties.

This implies that each of Hillary’s projected opponents have a fair amount of wiggle room to grow in the minds of the voters. With her numbers nearly fixed and her opponents’ numbers more fluid, it is not going to be a cakewalk for her to become the next President of the United States.

December 4, 2014

An Open Letter To Mitt Romney

I just read the following in the Business Insider:

Mitt Romney held meetings with donors in New York this week that left one attendee convinced he is running for president again in 2016.

A member of Romney’s inner circle who spoke to Business Insider said the former governor of Massachusetts traveled to New York City on Monday where he met with key financial backers of his past campaigns to lay the groundwork for a 2016 White House bid.

In addition to potential donors, the source said Romney met with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) this week.

Christie endorsed Romney during his last race. However, he is expected to mount his own White House bid in 2016.

Romney’s meetings this week are not his first efforts to reconnect with former donors and campaign staff. In October, The Washington Post reported on a “flurry of behind-the-scenes activity” that Romney’s “friends” said was leading him to “more seriously consider” running for president again. This activity included multiple meetings with donors and “supporters in key states” as well as an October dinner in Boston that Romney and his wife hosted for “former campaign advisers and business associates.”

In September, Romney’s wife, Ann, indicated Romney would be discouraged from mounting another White House bid if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) enters the 2016 field. … Bush has said he is thinking about launching a campaign. In an October interview, Ann said Romney was “done” running for president. However, the source who spoke to Business Insider said she would be fully supportive if her husband does decide to run in 2016.


December 3, 2014

We Have A Front Runner. Wait, Romney’s Not Running. Never Mind.

Two surveys came out last week polling Republicans as to the 2016 presidential choice. The results are as follows:

Quinnipiac 11/26 CNN 11/24
Romney: 19 Romney: 20
Bush: 11 Carson: 10
Christie: 8 Bush: 9
Carson: 8 Christie:8
Paul: 6 Huckabee: 7
Ryan: 5 Paul: 6
Walker: 5 Ryan: 6
Huckabee: 5 Cruz: 5
Cruz: 5 Walker: 5
Rubio: 2 Perry: 4
Jindal: 2 Rubio: 3
Kasich: 2 Kasich: 2
Perry: 2 Santorum: 2
Santorum: 1 Jindal: 1
Portman: 0 Pence: 1
Portman: 0
Other: 1
Won’t Vote: 1 Other: 6
Undecided: 16 None: 2
No Opinion: 3

• Quinnipac polled 707 Republicans with a MOE of +/- 3.7%
• CNN polled 510 Republicans with a MOE of +/- 4.7%

Both show pretty convincingly that Mitt Romney is currently the undisputed front runner for the 2016 GOP nomination. One problem though, Romney has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of running. So when the polls recalibrate for that and exclude Mitt, the results were anything but clear cut:

Quinnipiac 11/26 CNN 11/24
Bush: 14 Bush: 14
Christie: 11 Carson: 11
Carson: 9 Huckabee: 10
Paul: 8 Christie: 9
Ryan: 7 Ryan: 9
Huckabee: 7 Paul: 8
Walker: 6 Cruz: 7
Cruz: 5 Perry: 5
Rubio: 3 Walker: 5
Jindal: 3 Kasich: 3
Perry:3 Rubio: 3
Kasich: 2 Santorum: 2
Santorum: 2 Jindal: 1
Portman: 1 Pence: 1
Portman: 0
Won’t Vote: 1 Other: 6
Undecided: 19 None: 2
No Opinion: 4

Yes, without Romney Jeb Bush leads in both polls, but only by 3 ppts. That’s well within the margin of error of both polls. And if you look even closer, the race is even tighter. The Quinnipiac Poll shows three candidates within five ppts of each other, CNN shows five within five.

The conclusion is inescapable. Jeb Bush might be the current titular leader in the race, but the race is wide open. (And him making comments about not needing conservatives to win won’t help him to pull away from the pack.)

December 1, 2014

The Granite State Still Loves Mitt

A rather surprising poll was released last Monday. It shows Mitt Romney is the overwhelming favorite to win the New Hampshire 2016 primary:

If the 2016 New Hampshire Republican presidential primary were held today and the candidates were:  Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson for whom would you vote?

  • Mitt Romney: 30
  • Rand Paul: 11
  • Chris Christie: 9
  • Jeb Bush: 8
  • Ben Carson: 6
  • Mike Huckabee: 5
  • Paul Ryan: 5
  • Ted Cruz: 5
  • Bobby Jindal: 3
  • Rick Perry: 2
  • None of the above: 3
  • Someone Else: 1
  • Not sure: 11

Mitt Romney has repeatedly stated he isn’t interested in running, especially if Jeb Bush runs, and all indications point to Jeb throwing his hat into the ring. Yet Romney continues to show surprising strength whenever his name is included in polling. He leads his nearest competitor by nearly 20 ppts.

This is extraordinary. McCain didn’t have nearly this level of support four years ago in 2010. Everyone was more than glad to let the good Senator from Arizona disappear off the national screen after losing to Obama in 2008. Yet four years later, his successor continues to enjoy fairly wide support among GOP voters. He isn’t too popular with the conservative activists who have never much cared for the man, but the rank-and-file voters still seem to like him.


November 25, 2014

Mitt Romney, the Adlai Stevenson of the Republican Party

Just mention the name Mitt Romney and you’re likely to provoke debates amongst Republicans. I’m not intending to rehash these discussions; they’ve been had multiple times since 2007. What I am trying to do is find the proper place to put Governor Romney within the Republican Party. My love of obscure historical references took me to the 1950’s and I found the historical figure who best parallels Romney at this point; he’s the Republican Party’s Adlai Stevenson.

Governor Stevenson of Illinois was the Democratic nominee in both 1952 and 1956, losing both times in landslides to Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the process though, he gained the affection of much of the Democratic Party. In 1960, despite his two losses, a strong segment of the Democratic Party wanted Stevenson to run again, when it seemed he would have a much better chance of winning. Stevenson did well in national polling throughout the primary season and there was much speculation about his intentions. The Kennedy campaign was just as concerned about Adlai Stevenson as they were with Lyndon Johnson. At the Democratic Convention, Eugene McCarthy electrified the convention with his speech nominating Stevenson, calling him “not the favorite son of any single state, but the favorite son of fifty states” and the prophet of the Democratic Party. The demonstration after Stevenson’s nomination was the most enthusiastic, passionate one of the Convention, lasting close to an hour. Even though he didn’t win the nomination (or come close), it was clear where the heart of the Democratic Party was, if not its head.

The Stevenson comparison is apt for several reasons. First, like Stevenson, Romney is being seen as the man who was right all along about the ineptitude, foolishness and stupidity of the present administration. Romney is seen as the prophet of the Republican Party, especially on foreign policy. Second, there is a faction of the Republican Party that has deep affection for Romney and are stubbornly loyal to him and want him to run for a third time. In the 1950’s the Stevenson people were eggheads, today we have Rombots. Another key similarity is that both Romney and Stevenson were well-known commodities by the time their third presidential election came around and their opponents were all new, relatively untested candidates. We’re comfortable with Romney since he’s been around for a while; we know what to expect with this old commodity. New things are interesting, but also nerve-wracking. As a conservative party, we Republicans don’t do new things with great gusto or without checking if there are other options available.

Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, there is a feeling of “what might have been”. I’m sure many Republicans, including yours truly, believe that Mitt Romney would have made a genuinely good President; certainly better than the incompetent childish whiner who currently occupies the White House. The thought of what a good solid Republican Administration would have brought to the country over the last few years is painful one. Similarly, Adlai Stevenson in his 1956 run came up with a program called the “New America” which helped lay down the foundations for the New Frontier and Great Society. Until 1960, liberal Democrats didn’t know if they would have the chance to implement their policies.

The Stevenson example is one that can give some hope to Romney fans. Stevenson didn’t end up becoming the Democratic nominee, but he remained a senior statesman within the party and would become Jack Kennedy’s UN Ambassador. He became America’s voice internationally during the Berlin Crisis and Cuban Missile Crisis. Stevenson would not become President but he did become a widely admired statesman, and that’s not too bad of a legacy to have.

by @ 7:09 pm. Filed under 2016, Mitt Romney, Presidential History

November 21, 2014

OPINION: Help Us, Chris Christie, You’re Our Only Hope

The 2014 midterm elections were long expected to go well for Republicans. What was surprising was just how good a night the GOP wound up having, and that is in large part due to the extraordinary success of Chris Christie and the RGA.  Long thought to be the Democrats’ silver lining in 2014, the governors races ended up delivering a succession of crippling blows to the President’s party. Holding key states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida, while adding blue states like Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois, was the unexpected highlight of the election and the crowning achievement of Christie’s record-breaking tenure as RGA chairman. This accomplishment has rightly put Christie back in the frontrunner’s position for 2016.

Naturally, his return to the top has angered some on the far right, as well as some Bush loyalists in the establishment. But despite the naysayers, Christie is still better positioned and better suited to be the party’s standard bearer in 2016 than anyone else. This is due not only to Christie’s strengths, but also the profound weakness of his competition. Here are a few reasons why the 2016 field doesn’t stand much of a chance against the New Jersey governor:

1. Bush Baggage – The notion of Jeb Bush as a frontrunner has been a perplexing one for me. True, his family connections and donor base will give him a early jump on some of the new faces looking at the race, but other than that what does a third Bush run offer? The former Florida governor has been out of office for over a decade, a lifetime in politics. He champions a number of policies despised by the conservative base and attempts to sell these positions with a stage presence and style that would make Al Gore seem exciting. Worst of all, after painstakingly moving the party out of the shadow of George W. Bush, brother Jeb would pull us right back in. In a field of candidates unburdened by votes for the Iraq War or a bailout for the financial industry, Jeb Bush will be made to defend both. He is uniquely positioned to be the only Republican still carrying those albatrosses around his neck.  Add that to the fact that the Democrats are relying on a dynastic relic of their own for 2016, and it all seems incredibly stupid for the GOP to do the same. Why would we want to create a contrast between the Clinton economy of the 1990’s and the Bush economic collapse of 2008? Why hinder ourselves with the burden of the Bush family when we can finally run a new generation candidate in a change election? Without question, Jeb Bush is the worst possible option for 2016.

2. Empty Resumes – After two terms of Barack Obama and years of complaining from the GOP faithful about how unqualified and unprepared this half-term senator was for the job, the conservative base seems eager to offer up even less qualified candidates of their own. Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio all have resumes even weaker and devoid of accomplishments than Sen. Obama offered in 2008. While some would argue that Rubio doesn’t belong in this group due to his short time in the Florida legislature, I would argue his flip-flop on immigration reform (a bill he helped write) has damaged his credibility even more so than his unqualified fellow senators. If these three were not unfit enough, conservatives are also pushing Dr. Ben Carson, a man with no political or governing experience whatsoever. None. Zip. Zilch. The shocking lack of qualifications among this group would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

3. Untested Governors – The common refrain among Republicans is that the 2016 field is so deep and talented. This notion seems to stem from the accomplished crop of governors that the party has cultivated. At first glance this seems to be the case, but upon further review, this group of big talents appears to be a collection of paper tigers. Take Rick Perry, the outgoing governor of Texas, who humiliated himself in the last presidential race despite his state’s good economic record. There is Bobby Jindal, often cited as a big thinker, who has also made himself a punch-line on the national stage when he wasn’t busy being the South’s most unpopular Republican. Even Mary Landrieu, the about-to-be-ousted senior senator from Louisiana boasts a high approval rating. Gov. Mike Pence checks a lot of boxes for the GOP, but he has a stunning lack of accomplishment for someone who has been in office as long as he has. Compare his record as governor to his predecessor and you will quickly see that Pence is as big a do-nothing governor as he was a do-nothing congressman. He also has no real experience dealing with the opposition, a gaping hole in the resume shared by Perry and Jindal.

4. Retreads – The rest of the field of pretenders is full of candidates who have run and lost before, and in some cases multiple times. Rick Santorum is planning to run again, despite having spent the last 15 years losing elections and saying embarrassing, bigoted nonsense every time he’s on television. Mike Huckabee, a moderately successful television and radio entertainer, is pondering another run to be President of Iowa, but like his previous campaign proved, he has little appeal outside the tiny, caucus electorate.  Mitt Romney has seen a bit of a comeback in the media, almost entirely due to the failures of the man who soundly defeated him. While he would have a few “I told you so” points to make in another race with Obama, he has no real appeal in a race against anyone else. Paul Ryan could be considered the “next-in-line” candidate due to his role as Romney’s defeated running mate, but he faces the same daunting realities that plagued other defeated VP nominees. Add in the fact that no member of the House has won the presidency in over a century and his path becomes even more unrealistic.

5. Real competitors – For all the problems the field has, there are a few bright spots who could lead to real challenges for Christie. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio can claim to be just as tested and even more accomplished than the New Jersey governor. True, only Christie has a powerful Democratic legislature to deal with, but Kasich and Walker faced fierce opposition from labor unions, and came out winners. While neither can command a stage or a late night show with Christie’s charisma, their mid-western charms may be compelling to voters in search of candidates to relate to. Most importantly, both men have shown they can win in purple states, which is one of Christie’s biggest assets. Both men have a long way to go to be able to stand toe-to-toe with the New Jersey governor, but they have a better shot than anyone else considering a run.

When you really examine this “deep bench” you begin to see that it doesn’t live up to the hype. Gov. Christie became a national star for a reason; he possesses the intangibles and talent that often accompany successful politicians. He can masterfully play both wrecking ball and common man, someone who can both feel your anger and your pain. He has accomplished a lot in a state long bereft of leadership, and with a mountain of problems thirty years in the making. He showed real leadership during a natural disaster that tore through his state. He demonstrated a level of accountability unseen on the presidential level in years during his marathon Bridgegate press conference. He has withstood a full-court assault from the media in an attempt to destroy his 2016 prospects. Through it all he has shown a remarkable resiliency, even more amazing considering just how blue his home state is. Some will nitpick about New Jersey’s economic numbers, or they’ll attempt to hype non-scandals, but these efforts will likely fail, just as they did when they were used to attack Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

Gov. Chris Christie is the best chance the GOP has at defeating Hillary Clinton and taking back the White House, and it will take an extraordinary effort by someone far less talented to change that reality.

November 18, 2014

Mitt Romney Addresses BYU Students

Mitt Romney spoke to students on the campus of BYU in Provo, Utah, in the capacity of their weekly devotional forum. As such, his speech had very little if any politics in it and mainly consisted of counsel to the students on life and spiritual matters.

Here are a few nuggets from his speech:

Romney called his last run for the White House against President Barack Obama the “most remarkable of my life’s journeys,” and said despite his loss, “the experience was extraordinary and revealing.”

He said he came “away more optimistic about the country” after meeting people across the nation.

He said, “While it is fashionable in some circles to deny it, I firmly believe that America is the greatest nation on earth”

Mitt recounted a number of heroes he met during his campaign and how they left him feeling humbled. He told the students of the power of one person to affect the lives of many other people, and encouraged them to be heroes to the people they meet.

Romney said that what he and his wife, Ann, treasured most from the campaign “was not the pomp and popularity” but the friends they made including the Secret Service detail that had been assigned to protect them.

“In fact, as we prepared to go on the stage to concede victory to President Obama, more than one of those agents fought back tears,” Romney said. “We miss them as friends, not as power candy.”

During the question and answer period following the address, one student called from the rafters,  “Running for president?” Romney replied,  “I did that, actually.”

As mentioned, it was not a political speech, but more of an advice-to-the-students-about-their-lives speech. The address lasted 30 minutes  and can be watched in full here.

by @ 11:39 pm. Filed under Mitt Romney

Christie’s Term of Leading GOP Governors Ending

According to the Wall Street Journal:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is set to arrive in Florida on Tuesday to wrap up his yearlong job as Republican Governors Association chairman, a position that brought national visibility to the potential 2016 contender.

Mr. Christie will join 28 other Republican governors from across the country for the annual RGA conference, which runs from Wednesday through Thursday. About a half a dozen governors who are potential 2016 presidential candidates are scheduled to attend the event in Boca Raton, Fla.

The conference comes on the heels of Republicans picking up four gubernatorial seats in a particularly strong showing during the midterm elections. The GOP now controls 31 governor’s seats, a high last reached in 1998.

Governor Christie can point to a very successful election year for the governors as a positive in any potential Presidential race he may run. It might help. Mitt Romney held the same position in 2006 which was not a good year for Republican governors, and he lost in 2008. Coincidence?

(*edited per Chip’s comment)

by @ 8:08 am. Filed under 2016, Chris Christie, Mitt Romney

November 17, 2014

Mitt’s Been Busy

Mitt Romney appeared on the CBS show, Face the Nation, yesterday. He made four points:

  1. Obama made a mistake when he told the world that the US would not use ground troops to combat ISIS. Romney was not advocating sending in troops. Instead it was that we shouldn’t tell ISIS that we wouldn’t. We should never take any option off the table, at least not publicly, when dealing with our adversaries.

    (Editorial aside: You’d think that after six years of on-the-job training, Obama would have learned that basic, fundamental rule of governance by now.)

  2. If Obama carries through with his announced plan to unilaterally grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, he would be “poking the Republicans in the eye”.

    “He’s poking an eye of the Republican leaders in Congress and he’s making it more difficult for there to be a permanent solution to this issue. What he’s proposing to do is a temporary solution, which would ultimately be reversed by a Republican president. It’s the wrong way to go”

  3. The midterms were a message to Obama:

    “The president said that he was not on the ballot in the election that was just held, but that his polices were. And the American people sent a very clear message to the president about his policies, they are not happy about them,”

  4. On the subject of a possible governmental shutdown in response to Obama’s amnesty order, Mitt stated that there were more productive ways for the Republicans in Congress to achieve their goals than a temporary stop-gap.

Is this a sign that Mitt is running? I doubt it. Instead, I suspect it is more a sign that he is a senior GOP statesman expressing his opinion on current events. Mitt is, after all, the last Republican to go toe-to-toe with Obama on an equal footing. Like it or not, former Presidential nominees carry a lot of weight with the press.

by @ 11:26 am. Filed under 2016, Mitt Romney

November 16, 2014

How Bad Are Things In Louisiana For Mary Landrieu?

Things just keep getting worse and worse for Mary Landrieu. Not only have the national Democratic party pulled their financial support for her December runoff election against Bill Cassidy, prominent national Democrats are avoiding her like the plague. Not one potential 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate has stuck their neck out for her.

Hillary Clinton is nowhere to be seen. Who can blame her? She does not want another loss tacked onto her long list of midterm losses. Elizabeth Warren, who expressed support for Mary during the general election, has been strangely silent since then. The only Democrat of national stature who has tossed her any sort of a bone is Harry Reid. He is allowing a bill supporting the Keystone XL pipeline to come up for a vote in the Senate at long last. It is an entirely meaningless gesture though. President Obama has promised to veto it.

Meanwhile her opponent, Bill Cassidy, is enjoying support from several potential 2016 GOP Presidential hopefuls eager to be associated with a winner. Rand Paul has stopped by. Ted Cruz has sent an email endorsing him. Marco Rubio has pledged to help. And of course Bobby Jindal is supporting him, as well.

Sarah Palin is not expected to run yet enjoys a fair amount of clout. She stopped by yesterday to stump for him. Even Mitt Romney can claim a small part in Cassidy’s victory since Mitt flew into Louisiana last month to stump and raise money for Bill.

“One is the loneliest number.”

November 14, 2014

Gruber a Problem for a Possible 2016 Romney Run

Jonathan Gruber’s comments on video have been doing the Obama Administration and his fellow Democrats no favors. He has revealed that Obamacare was all based on lies, a massive wool-over-the-eyes-pull on the American people.

Lost in the shuffle has been his ties to Romneycare. He helped write it, and when Romney attempted to distinguish between it and Obamacare three years ago, Gruber responded:

“The problem is there is no way to say that, because they’re the same f***ing bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying. The only big difference is he didn’t have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes.”

Personally I could never understand how a 70 page plan (Romneycare) could be “exactly the same” as a 2700 page plan (Obamacare) as so many people kept claiming it was, including its so-called “architect”, Jonathan Gruber. I had a hard time believing it three years ago, and I’m not inclined to believe it now, especially when the one making the claim has been proven to be perfectly willing to twist the truth and flat-out lie in order to see Obamacare succeed.

Whether Gruber is lying or telling the truth, it will make life more difficult for Romney if he should happen to decide to run. Who wants to re-fight the same 2012 battles? I sure don’t, and I doubt anyone else will, either.

This could well be the final nail in the coffin of any potential 2016 run by the former Massachusetts Governor.

by @ 2:06 pm. Filed under 2016, Mitt Romney

November 13, 2014

So What is Jeb Going to do?

From The Hill:

The 2016 GOP presidential nominating contest, which began after last week’s midterm elections wrapped up, already includes 17 potential candidates and their families, hundreds of would-be staff and several dozen top Republican donors. Though they aren’t saying it out loud, all of them are waiting for the decision of one person: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

In the weeks to come, Bush is expected to declare himself a candidate for president or to officially bow out. Money men need to know, as do candidates crafting messages against one another and, of course, those who influence Mitt Romney. Aides close to the 2012 GOP presidential nominee have already said Romney is not yet confident about the field and could run if Bush decides not to.

Bush is definitely the two-ton elephant in the room. His decision to run or not to run weighs heavily upon all the would-be 2016 contenders. Every one of them is waiting for that shoe to drop before they firm-up any definite plans.

I do have one quibble with the article. It makes it sound almost like it was an either/or situation with Bush and Romney — we’ll get one or the other but not both. Instead, I think it is more we will get Jeb, or maybe perhaps we will get Mitt if he can be convinced to run, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

by @ 3:19 pm. Filed under 2016, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney

November 12, 2014

A Personal Appraisal of the Early Field

Since some of the other posters from R4’12 seem to be returning (great to see you, Matt and Mark), I thought I might do the same. A good place to start might be with a very preliminary assessment of the field that is shaping up. In order to do that fairly, however, I think I need to first position myself, so that you know from what perspective I’m coming (or, if you prefer, what my biases are).

In the run-up to ’12, I was an ardent Mitch Daniels supporter. After Daniels withdrew, I never really settled on another candidate, though I tried to get hyped up about several, most notably Tim Pawlenty; hell, I even gave Jon Huntsman a look (and then quickly backed away). Eventually, of course, it became obvious that Romney would get the nomination, but I couldn’t work up enthusiasm about him, either, since I was fairly certain he’d lose (admission: there was a point in October where I came around to thinking he might pull it out – wrong again!). However, I was out of the country by then and unable to do anything other than go to the nearest consulate and vote for him).

Which brings us to 2016. I would still support Daniels in a heartbeat, but he seems perfectly happy at Purdue, and getting him to change his mind about subjecting his family to the ugliness that American politics has become is about as likely as the Romney and Palin supporters of R4’12 organizing a ‘Draft Bob Hovic’ movement.

So I’ll have to find someone who can fill the same slot – reformist, executive experience, competence, able to relate to ordinary people, fiscally conservative, socially conservative, and defense-minded.

On those last three points let me add this: our party (and any party that is going to be more than a splinter movement – I’m looking at you, Libertarians) is a coalition. Any candidate that is going to unite a coalition must be acceptable to all major factions. Not that s/he is the favorite of all of them (or any of them). But s/he must not be obnoxious to any of them.

Matt Coulter listed a number of subgroups in his recent (excellent) post, but I’ll be old-fashioned and go with the old ficons, socons, and defcons. The Republican nominee need not be a hard-core deficit hawk, but must not go far in the opposite direction; need not be a culture warrior but must not be pro-choice (or even weakly pro-life); need not be an interventionist, but must not be isolationist. Which means the candidate must be able to thread needles quite nicely.

Oh – and one more qualification: I refuse to support anyone who can’t win.

For an early choice I’m leaning toward Scott Walker. Walker is identified primarily with fiscal and reform issues (especially reining in public employee unions), but his social policy credentials are sufficient that I think my most ardently socon friends would find no problem accepting him (part of why I think this is because he is well to my right on social issues). I know nothing about his defense views (having held only local and state offices, he has not had occasion to take positions on defense). I’ll look forward to seeing what he has to say about defense and foreign policy.

He also comes from a solidly middle-class background (mom a bookkeeper, dad a Baptist minister) and can relate to the suburban and blue-collar people Republicans must get in order to win. He has that Midwestern Nice thing going for him (though it did nothing for Tim Pawlenty). Coupled with his inoffensive (some say ‘bland’ and/or ‘boring’) manner, he (like Daniels) seems able to take strong positions without being offensive to middle-of-the-roaders.

My early second choice is Bobby Jindal, who shares many of Walker’s qualities – a proven record of reform at the state level (including a successful school voucher program), plus strong ficon and socon credibility. In addition, his grasp of policy is legendary, and to be blunt, his skin color is a positive. As with Walker, I know nothing of his defense views, and I’ll be waiting to learn more.

On the negative side, I have a perception of Jindal as being very outspoken on social issues – to the point that it might create problems for him with social moderates (whether or not strongly-held socon positions are a big political negative in a national race is, in my opinion, dependent on words and tone more than the positions themselves). This is just a perception, I admit, and only time will tell. I also think a Midwesterner would be a better choice than a Southerner.

It’s no accident that my two main choices are both governors. I strongly prefer governors for two reasons: 1) If Obama has proven anything, it is that executive experience matters greatly; and 2) I think the anti-Washington mood will continue into 2016, and these two will have little difficulty painting Hillary as an ‘insider’ and contrasting her to themselves.

These are the two I’m most interested in at this point. There’s a long way to go, obviously (at this point last time, Mark Sanford headed my list – but I’d rather not discuss that, thank you), so I retain my option to change at any time.

As for the others, just a few words on why I choose not (for now) to back them.

Mitt Romney – Obviously meets my executive experience criterion, in spades. He totally fails on appealing to blue-collar types and is past his sell-by date. In any case, I’m inclined to think, for now, that he isn’t running.

Mike Huckabee – Another governor who can sell socon positions with a smile, though I think he is so closely identified with social issues that he comes across as a one-issue candidate. His Arkansas record makes ficons like me uneasy, to put it mildly. I can’t support him for that reason, and I think he will have problems with a big enough bloc of Republicans that he’ll be stymied.

Rand Paul – Certainly a better salesman for libertarianism than his father, though that isn’t saying much. (As a libertarian myself, I prayed nightly for Ron Paul to just go away). Unless he starts quickly to moderate his foreign policy views, however, I think he has zero chance of getting the nomination. Also – no executive experience.

Jeb Bush – If only he had a different last name. By all accounts an excellent governor, but … well, let’s put it this way: We have an opportunity to run against a hard-core insider and we are contemplating nominating a Bush? Really?

Marco Rubio – No executive experience. Shot himself in the foot on comprehensive immigration reform, but probably backed away sufficiently that it will be forgiven/forgotten. Probably hasn’t been in Washington long enough to be perceived as being one of them. My problem with him is that I see no reason to support him other than his ethnicity. (We do owe him thanks for ridding the party of Charlie Crist).

Ted Cruz – Another short-term Senator. In addition to having no executive background, the guy is a loose cannon. Heaven only knows what he’d spout on the campaign trail.

Rick Perry — We’ll see if he learned anything from 2012. If he did, he might be worth giving attention to (though I think he’s damaged goods). If he didn’t, we won’t have to wait long for him to be gone.

Chris Christie – “Shut up and sit down!” might go over big in NY/NJ, but it will get real old real fast in the rest of the country. The guy just lacks the temperament for a long national campaign. I’ll never forgive him for embracing Obama right before election day – that finished the guy for me.

Paul Ryan – A ficon’s wet dream and one of my ABR options late in the 2012 primary season. On sober reflection, I don’t think a Representative can do it – though he has the advantage of having run a national campaign (losing, but still …). My objection is no executive experience, but I certainly wouldn’t be upset if he were the nominee.

Rick Santorum – He apparently hasn’t figured out that the only reason he did so well in ’12 is that he was the final ABR. If Huckabee gets in, Santorum will be eliminated in Ames, otherwise he might make it to New Hampshire.

Ben Carson – Okay, I’m scraping bottom now. Time to quit.

Whom do the National Security Professionals Favor as Future Commander-in-chief?

Defense One, a website dedicated to National Security, recently ran a poll of “…427 individuals currently serving within the national security community, including from the State Department, Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security”. They were asked whom they preferred as the new Commander-in-chief in 2016. The results are rather telling.

Defense One has not released the percentage results yet; those will be revealed next week. They did, however, release the order of finish. Here it is:

  1. Mitt Romney
  2. Jeb Bush
  3. Hillary Clinton
  4. Paul Ryan
  5. Chris Christie
  6. Rick Perry
  7. Rand Paul
  8. Joe Biden
  9. Marco Rubio
  10. Ted Cruz

I am surprised to see Mitt Romney’s name atop that list. He has never struck me as the sort of person that a National Security professional (aka: “hard men who put their lives on the line so we can sleep safe at night”) would prefer as CinC.

November 11, 2014

So What is Mitt Up To?

From the Washington Post:

According to several top Republicans, Romney made more than 80 phone calls to GOP candidates last Tuesday and Wednesday — including Senate candidates Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — to congratulate them on their victories.

And then they added this:

In the days after the elections, a group of Romney supporters began circulating a memo that compared the success of his midterm endorsements with those made by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

The documents, which were obtained by The Washington Post, concluded that two out of three Romney candidates won their elections, compared with one in three for Clinton.

According to three Republicans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, Romney’s associates are convinced that, if former Florida governor Jeb Bush does not run, Romney could consider another White House bid. He has told friends that he feels positive about the likely GOP field but also worries that many of the contenders may not have what it takes to beat Clinton.

Yes, I can see a bunch of his supporters still beating the bushes (so to speak) for him, and him not being all that enthusiastic about it. However, those 80+ phone calls he personally made on Election Night… hmmmmm. That doesn’t exactly sound like someone who wishes to slip into a nice comfortable role as senior party statesman to me.  It sounds like someone who wants to keep his options open.

Just where exactly does Mitt stand on running again? I strongly suspect that he would much rather not. He’s pushing 70, and he really doesn’t want to submit to the massive grind that is a Presidential race, especially since he lost last time. And then if he won, he could look forward to the most demanding job in the world for the next four years at least. Mitt Romney is many things, but a masochist he is not. If he continues to feel positive about the 2016 GOP field, he won’t run.

However, he really wants to see a Republican in the White House, and if he is convinced that the field of candidates that begins to take shape is not up to getting there, he may end up throwing his hat into the ring one last time.

by @ 12:43 pm. Filed under 2016, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney

November 10, 2014

And So Begins the Race for 2016: GOP Edition

With the midterm elections in the rearview mirror and the Republican Party celebrating greater-than-expected gains across the board (Senate, House, and Gubernatorial races, as well as state houses), the electoral attention of politicos nationwide has now snapped to 2016 and the greatest prize of all: the presidency.

Specifically, who will run? Because of several factors coming to a head at the same time, we anticipate this being one of the largest Republican fields in history. The more interesting question might be: who will decide not to run?

This is where things get incredibly interesting for the Republicans. We are aware of a schism within the Democratic Party between the DLC’ers and the liberal wing of the party (and we will explore that schism, and what it means for their primaries, in a future piece). But we are now seeing a similar schism becoming more well-defined than ever in the Republican Party as well.


The Reagan Coalition which propelled the Gipper to massive victories in the 1980s (and which provided George W. Bush with two narrower victories in the 2000s) – fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and foreign policy hawks — has fractured and faded, despite the dreams of well-meaning conservatives to the contrary. Replacing the now-tired three-legged-stool analogy is a much more greatly splintered party: neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, Paulite libertarians, soft libertarians, the Tea Party, social/religious conservatives, secular moderates, and on and on.

The galvanizing effect of the Obama presidency along with the local nature of midterm elections allowed those various factions to sweep Republicans to victory last Tuesday; however, with the national race for the presidency the factions will almost certainly turn on one another in an attempt to get “their guy” (or girl) into the White House.

Truthfully, though, the chasms of difference between the groups is largely overstated. The true schism in the Republican Party is a much simpler one, and is familiar to armchair pundits: the “establishment” versus the “conservatives.” Nearly every faction of the Republican Party can be placed (sometimes with a little force) into one of those two camps. True, this divide has always existed at some level, but never in the forefront like it’s about to, and never with the practical ramifications it will have for the 2016 race.

On This Side of the Ring…

On the grassroots/conservatives side you have candidates like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson (who has said the “likelihood is strong” that he will run, and who is airing what could be considered 2016’s first campaign ads this weekend). On the establishment side, to counter their firebrand version of conservatism, is… well, that is the $25,000 question.

Two big names loom large over the establishment, with a third now gaining traction as well, thanks to the midterm results: Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and Scott Walker. The big question for 2016 is this: will Jeb run? He’s given a personal deadline of the end of 2014 to make that decision (not to announce it, but to make it), and that decision will set off a domino effect of sorts which may determine how the 2016 Republican primary plays out.

First, let’s face the facts: none of the candidates on the other side of the equation stand a legitimate chance of winning the nomination. If you support one of these candidates, you are, of course, free to argue and fight against that assertion, but history is not kind to those types of candidates. That does not mean one or two folks out of the Paul/Cruz/Perry/Carson/Santorum group will not win a few primaries, be vocal, and drive some of the agenda during the primary fight. They certainly will do all of the above. But ultimately, they will not be the GOP nominee. How can I say this with such certainty? Two reasons: money and organization (we will explore both of those aspects in a later piece as well).

The establishment, for all its negative stereotypes (milquetoast, squishy, moderate), prevails during GOP primaries election after election after election because they are smarter about how they go about the process. This is the domino effect I spoke of earlier. The establishment is made up of the money men and women of the Republican party as well as the top tier of the campaign staff talent pool. To say the establishment is monolithic would obviously be overstating things; however, they do tend to recognize electoral reality a tad better than the conservative wing of the party.

Here’s what I mean by that: the conservative wing will run as many candidates as they can. All of the candidates mentioned earlier (Paul, Cruz, Perry, Santorum, Carson) will almost certainly run. Other candidates who appeal to the Tea Party, libertarian, or non-interventionist wings of the party will jump in as well. They all believe the splinter of the Republican Party they represent would best represent the American people (or at least best benefit them) in the White House. Meanwhile, the establishment is hanging back, planning and calculating. If Jeb Bush decides to run, they will throw their massive weight behind him. If he doesn’t run, Scott Walker may well be an attractive alternative for their support. Winning three gubernatorial elections in four years in a blue state has a tendency to make everyone sit up and take notice; only Walker’s vanilla personality and extreme stance on abortion might keep the establishment from fully embracing him. If neither of those men choose to run, then the door is flung wide open: Mike Pence, Bobby Jindal, or John Kasich may choose to jump in the race. Or, difficult as it is to believe, Mitt Romney may attempt a third try to win the Oval Office.

Strategy and Collaboration

The establishment of the Republican Party is well aware of this dynamic, and all the money people and staff and campaign talent are talking through 2016 strategy already. This is the benefit the establishment has, for better or worse, over the grassroots/conservative side of the campaign. Where the grassroots splinter among many different choices (think Santorum/Gingrich/Perry/Cain/Bachmann in 2012), the establishment are more determined than ever to win back the presidency in 2016. Their collaboration and strategizing is with the intent to make that happen.

Many in the establishment are urging Romney to run again. Of course, his former advisors and campaign staff are largely behind the push, but the idea garners more support within GOP circles than one might think at first pass. On the record, Romney says no, over and over again — but then notes that circumstances could change. Those circumstances that Romney is watching, according to those inside the proverbial smoke-filled room, all center around who else is running and who else is winning.

If Jeb Bush (and perhaps, to a lesser extent, Scott Walker) decide not to run, or if a candidate on the other side of the equation actually looks like they stand a chance of winning, then, say those with inside information, Romney will likely jump in and run for a third time. Romney has had several meetings with the big-name donors and talent already, and has remarked to them that he is deeply concerned with the possibility of the GOP being represented and defined on a national level by “ideological hardliners” and foreign policy “non-interventionists.” These concerns are shared by the establishment players and will drive them to Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, or Mitt Romney in droves during the primary (or, absent those three, Kasich, Pence, or Jindal).

The Wildcard

The one name that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the final piece of the 2016 puzzle: Chris Christie. He is the 900 pound gorilla in the room (no pun intended), because he does not align himself with either side of the schism. He is the wildcard in the 2016 race because he is primarily only concerned with one thing: Chris Christie. He will almost undoubtedly throw his hat in the ring, and when he does, it will be fascinating to see how things shake out. His moderate-to-liberal policy positions align more with the establishment wing of the party, but his blunt demeanor plays better with the grassroots. On the surface, one would expect him to therefore be the perfect candidate to unite the two sides and win the GOP nomination, but the exact opposite is more likely.

Chris Christie has alienated a large portion of the establishment thanks to his actions in the 2012 and 2014 elections. There is certainly no love lost between Mitt Romney and Chris Christie because of the way Christie acted during the VP vetting process (arrogant, above the rules) and the way he acted days before the 2012 general election (embracing President Obama). The relationship between Romney and Christie is cold at best, which is a problem for Christie because most of the establishment are firmly aligned with Mitt. Further exacerbating the issue is Scott Walker’s similar coldness toward the New Jersey Governor. While Christie is being rightly praised for the wins of GOP gubernatorial candidates across the country last Tuesday, Scott Walker publicly feuded with Christie over RGA support in the days leading up to the midterm election, separating himself from Christie and making sure the Wisconsin voters knew he stood on his own and didn’t need Christie. Finally, the relationship between the Jeb Bush camp and Chris Christie is cold as well, stemming from the attacks on not only Jeb Bush but the entire Bush dynasty by Chris Christie aides and supporters earlier this year. Christie has managed to alienate the backers and supporters of the three biggest establishment players, and in so doing has lost his most natural path to the nomination.

The even bigger problem for Christie with the establishment, though, comes in closed-door comments that have been leaked to the press: nobody in the establishment think Christie is capable of winning the election. Coupled with an already cold relationship, that spells doom for Christie among the establishment.

As far as the other side of the schism goes, Christie faces struggles there as well. The fondness the grassroots feels for Christie because of his demeanor and blunt opposition to unions stands to dissipate quickly once they, those of the ideological purity camp, discover Christie’s liberal stances on issues such as illegal immigration (including in state tuition), gun control, and Obamacare. Poll after poll is already showing the conservative wing of the party overwhelmingly rejecting a Christie candidacy. They view him as establishment, and the establishment doesn’t want him either. He is the homeless wildcard.

The Stage is Set

And so the race for 2016 begins. The board has been unfolded. One side is rushing to fill it with pieces and the other side is patiently observing, nervously hoping they can find a winning piece to place on the board. Meanwhile, across the aisle the Democrats are gearing up for their own race — and while it does not appear to contain any of the drama of the GOP race on the surface, there is plenty going on which stands to make it just as interesting, as we will see in the second installment of this series.

October 14, 2014

It’s Complicated

Three weeks from tonight, if current trends hold, the Republican Party appears poised to achieve a solid, yet not overwhelming, victory in this year’s midterm elections. What we’re about to see is not quite a wave, but might best be described as a correction. The red states are red again, while the blue states remain blue, and the purple states seem willing to give Republicans a chance. The Republicans will almost certainly capture the Senate, and possibly do so quite solidly, and may actually attain their greatest majority in the House in several decades. All of this, however, does not suggest a Republican resurgence, but rather a diminishing Democratic government.

If the national zeitgeist were to be put into words right now, it would probably go something like this. Things just don’t feel quite right in America. We’re not exactly doing poorly. We’re not in the midst of a once-in-a-generation economic depression, or a clash of civilizations against a foreign empire. No, instead, the tableau is more complicated. The economy seems to be growing on paper, but it doesn’t quite feel that way on the ground. America’s economic engine is working, but not roaring. The unemployment rate has gone down, but people are still not getting promotions, not getting raises, and working two jobs to keep afloat. There’s no optimism out there. Instead, there’s acceptance of a new normal, and a creeping feeling that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Internationally, America seems to be faced with a number of difficult challenges. These challenges seem like they could have been prevented, but now that they exist, they don’t seem easily reparable. The spread of ISIS in the Middle East, and the presence of Ebola within American borders, shouldn’t have happened, but did, and solutions to these sorts of challenges seem, like the economic picture, complicated.

And then there’s the Democratic government. Democrats like “complicated.” Democrats are all about “complicated,” because Democrats believe that life is inherently complicated, and are always ready and willing to provide complicated solutions that will somehow make things even more complicated. Democrats will be the first to claim that the current complicated state of things is the best of all possible outcomes given what they had to work with.

But again, I think, the current zeitgeist goes something like this. We don’t quite buy that argument. Both parties made that argument before, in the 1970s, and then the 1980s came, and it turned out not to be true, and that America could make a comeback. So maybe, once again, it’s not so simple as to deem the future of America to be complicated. Maybe it’s just that our current leaders don’t have a better answer.

Enter Hillary Clinton. Once thought to be the inevitable 45th President, Mrs. Clinton has been coming down to earth in the polls as of late. Several polls have found her statistically tied with a number of Republicans in Iowa, an all important swing state won by Republicans in 2004, and Democrats in 2008 and 2012. Should other purple states follow suit, the Democrats may find that they have a fight on their hands, as memories of the Clinton years are eclipsed by the nagging feeling that the Democratic government simply doesn’t know what to do to make the country better.

Meanwhile, the Republicans still seem to lack a unified message, or optimistic tone, and continue to search for a national leader that can give the party meaning and purpose in the modern era, a full decade following its last presidential victory. Such a leader is not simply going to have to speak to the GOP base, but actually bring together the hodgepodge of voting blocs that will give Republicans victories in states like Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire, the purple states last won by George W. Bush.

Asking for a charismatic and optimistic leader who will end up on Mount Rushmore might be a bit much given the prospective field of Republican candidates. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Democrats thought they had found the same in Mr. Obama, and look how that turned out. The nation may not be opposed to electing someone with less panache this time around, someone a bit more sober and perhaps just a tad boring, but at the same time, any such leader is still going to find that a personal connection with the American people remains a prerequisite for the presidency.

That personal connection was something that Mr. Romney, who is rumored to be considering yet another run, was never able to attain. Despite winning all three debates with Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney was unable to garner the support of a majority of Americans. The Republican Party, hungry for leadership, appears to be considering Mr. Romney again, but it is still far from clear whether Mr. Romney has the ability to be relatable, and to truly reach through the television screen and have a human moment with the American people.

Contra Mr. Romney is Mr. Huckabee, his former primary opponent, and continued outspoken former governor and cultural conservative. Mr. Huckabee is not lacking in human moments, but may not quite capture the zeitgeist of the era, which isn’t really about cultural conservatism versus cultural liberalism, and which is more about a Democratic government promising stagnation in perpetuity, and an American people that want an optimistic alternative filled with opportunity. Mr. Huckabee’s recent weigh in on same sex marriage, an issue on which the country seems to be moving away from his point of view, probably does represent the former’s governor’s genuine beliefs, but doesn’t necessarily bode well for a presidential campaign.

And then there’s Mr. Bush. The former Florida governor seems to be setting his sights on becoming the third member of the Bush family to find his way into the Oval Office, and, in ways that were unthinkable just six years ago, is beginning to seem to be a reasonable bet for the nomination were he to run. The zeitgeist, acting as confessor, seems to have given the most recent president named Bush absolution, and the nation’s problems no longer seem to be the result of an inept Republican president, but the inevitable woes of a nation that had once believed that peace and prosperity could last forever, with the focus now being on how to regain America’s lost prowess.

Mr. Bush’s argument for the nomination goes something like this: “Republicans, I am you. I am just as competent and intelligent as Mr. Romney, but I can avoid being branded just another rich guy. I proved that in Florida. I am no less pro-life than Mr. Huckabee, but no one can pigeonhole me as a socially conservative former preacher. I can appeal to Latino voters, and my wife and son prove that, and I can do so with the gravitas that my friend Mr. Rubio can’t yet muster. I can improve the country’s economic policies, without coming off as wonkish like Mr. Ryan, and I can do so without scaring seniors. Heck, I governed a state filled with seniors. I can win a majority, unlike Mr. Paul and Mr. Cruz, but I also have no animosity for the followers of Mr. Paul and Mr. Cruz, nor do they for me. I know how to win Florida. I’ll hold North Carolina. I can take back Virginia, because I know how to appeal to the concerns of the military without sounding brazen or hawkish. And we can take back Ohio, because despite my family name, I don’t come off as an elitist. And if we all work together, we can win back the swing voters of the Midwest and the Southwest who instinctively know that we as a nation can do better than this, but who need to hear it from someone who sounds eminently reasonable.”

And that may be what Americans will be looking for in their next president — someone relatable without being a rock star, and someone more competent than charismatic. If so, at least a couple of dark horse contenders who believe that they meet such criteria, such as Mr. Walker of Wisconsin, and Mr. Kasich of Ohio, may also begin to more seriously look at a country in need of a leader whose primary claim to fame will be uncomplicating that which is hopelessly complicated.

Then there’s Mr. Christie, a man who appears to be eyeing the White House, despite his own path to the Oval Office being quite complicated in and of itself. Mr. Christie most assuredly has the charisma and the ability to personally connect with the American people and to make a formidable candidate in a national election. But where does Mr. Christie find his base? Is Mr. Christie going to bring lots of new voters into Republican primaries, tilting the culturally conservative Iowa caucus or the gritty, provincial, slightly paleoconservative New Hampshire primaries towards his own personal version of conservatism and Republicanism? If so, Mr. Christie has no time to spare in starting to build such a coalition, and in coming up with the ideas on which this coalition is to be built, neither of which has happened yet. Despite a personality that is larger than life, Mr. Christie will need more than personality to establish a foothold in an early primary state, or put together a coalition that will take the nomination, let alone the presidency.

To be sure, Mrs. Clinton is still the frontrunner for 2016. But a bit less of a frontrunner than she was six months ago. And perhaps six months from now, she’ll be even less of a frontrunner, as Americans, tired of economic and global complications, decide to send the Democratic government a Dear John note with the message, “It’s complicated.”

April 28, 2014

Bob Schieffer: Romney May Run if Jeb Bush Does Not


Mitt Romney has said time and time again that he has no interest in running for president a third time.

But, on Sunday morning, CBS’ Bob Schieffer said not to write off the idea of a 2016 campaign by Romney so quickly.

“I have a source that told me that if Jeb Bush decides not to run, that Mitt Romney may actually try it again,” Schieffer said.

During a political panel discussion, the “Face the Nation” host said that he has been told that Romney will consider seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2016 if former Florida governor Jeb Bush chooses to sit the race out.

Full story here.

by @ 5:54 pm. Filed under 2016, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney

April 15, 2014

Yes, Mitt Romney Was Right About Vladimir Putin

Writing at the National Interest, Robert O’Brien joins a chorus of conservative commentators happily reminding the world that Mitt Romney was right to tag Vladimir Putin’s Russia as America’s top geopolitical foe, even going so far as to compare Romney to Winston Churchill. This has elicited eye-rolling from Daniel Larison, who in 2012 dismissed Romney’s criticisms of Putin’s Russia as “bizarre” and “outdated”:

Romney assumed that Russia was an inveterate foe of the U.S. on everything because Russia sometimes opposed U.S. policies. This took an unremarkable observation–Russia strongly disagrees with the U.S. on a few high-profile issues–and turned it into an absurd, discrediting exaggeration. He seemed to think that any kind of diplomatic engagement or accommodation with Russia on any issue was equivalent to appeasement. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t ever explain how the U.S. had “appeased” Russia (or any other government)–he was just reciting from an ideological script that he picked up from other people in his party.

In light of this year’s events, it is perplexing that anyone could any longer reduce the moral and diplomatic chasm between the United States and Russia to “disagreement on a few high-profile issues” — as if the clash between the two nations is nothing more than a petty ideological shouting match.

One may question the wisdom of Romney’s particular policy prescriptions — and it is no great surprise that the leader of a national political party would “recite from an ideological script” — but the question at hand is not about Romney per se, but about President Obama’s blindness toward Vladimir Putin’s imperial ambitions. In the campaign against Romney, Obama mocked him for being stuck in a “Cold War mentality.” But the so-called “Cold War mentality” is little more than a recognition of the stubbornly persistent primacy of power politics in foreign policy.

As Robert Kagan has cogently written, liberal internationalists have long dreamed of a Kantian world of ‘perpetual peace’ in which reason, diplomacy, and economic incentives will finally replace the need for projections of power — but this is a seductive illusion. The self-congratulating American narrative is that, as a threat to the prevailing liberal order, authoritarianism was vanquished at the end of the Cold War. To acknowledge that Russia is once again a geopolitical threat would be to admit that the ‘End of History’ has not arrived after all — and a war-weary public, tired of the burdens of global leadership, is loath to confront yet another imperialist autocrat who provides moral and material support to the world’s bloodiest dictators, seizes foreign territory, criminalizes dissent, and makes a fool of our president on the world stage. But this year’s events have decisively proven that Vladimir Putin intends to reassert Russia as a great power — and that his vision for the world is unquestionably hostile to American interests — and to the moral vision of classical liberalism.

At the bottom of Larison’s ambivalence toward Vladimir Putin is a sort of benign neglect; a lazy moral relativism that, while well-intended, cannot reliably distinguish between good and evil, seeing in Obama and Putin just two sides of the same belligerent coin. But the distance between the United States and Russia is not simply a “disagreement” over “a few issues” — it is a fundamental conflict of visions about the world order. In 2012, Larison approvingly quoted Heather Hurlbert, who argues that the ‘Cold War mentality’ is a sort of psychological need to rely on the “comfortable certainties” of the 1980s. But it is those who would ignore or dismiss Vladimir Putin who are retreating into the mirage of certainty; the implicit assumption that the existing geopolitical order will persist for all time if we would only leave well enough alone. But America’s enemies will never accept the unipolar order — it must be constantly, vigorously defended. If we choose to shirk from our responsibility to uphold the world order, others will step in and remake it in their own image. Vladimir Putin is taking the long view in his pursuit of power. America must do the same.


by @ 7:30 am. Filed under Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, Mitt Romney, Opinion

March 29, 2014

Romney Redux?

There are a number of serious Republicans interested in running for president, at this early point, in two years.

Some of them, such as Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio don’t seem to have a broad enough base that would enable them to win the nomination, but they have motivated and vocal supporters, and if they run, they will be notable factors in the Republican primaries and caucuses.

Others, including Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry might be seen as figures of the past, and might not run (although Governor Perry is making serious noises about another run in 2016).

2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Governors Susana Martinez, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and John Kasich are frequently mentioned, but have yet to indicate their serious interest in 2016.

The two figures who would probably be frontrunners, Governor Chris Christie and former Governor Jeb Bush, have current political problems to overcome (although it is more likely than not that one of these two men will be the GOP nominee).

On the other hand, if the field is large, the primaries and caucuses very bitter, AND the frontrunners falter, the resulting stalemate might propel forward a name which has not really been mentioned seriously, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, back into contention.

Romney was perhaps the wrong candidate for 2012 because his persona played into the negative Democratic media campaign that year, and because he did not, at the end, assemble as competitive campaign as did Barack Obama. But 2016 promises a very different political environment. After two terms of Mr. Obama, the voters may be weary of any Democrat (as they were in 2008 of any Republican). We must await the results of the 2014 midterm elections to draw more precise and verified conclusions, but Obamacare almost alone seems to be moving the electorate to the GOP, and threatening to ruin the Democratic Party brand for years to come.

In spite of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, changing our approach to the Middle East by diminishing our long alliance with Israel in a trade-off for (so-far) feckless relationships with other players in the region, and reducing our military and defenses, Mr. Obama’s numbers are very low in polls about his performance in foreign policy. He has been out-dueled so far in his relationship with Russian President Putin. His first term secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party in 2016, but, although she will surely try to do so, it might be difficult for her to separate herself from Mr. Obama and her own actions (including her “re-set” with Russia) when working for him. (Remember Hubert Humphrey attempting to do this in 1968?)

Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia and Mr. Putin were a major problem for the U.S., an assertion he made in the 2012 campaign, and subsequently ridiculed by Mr. Obama, looks rather prescient these days. So do many of his views on the domestic issues he ran on in 2012.

Only twice in the past 100 years has a defeated Republican presidential nominee been renominated by his party. Thomas Dewey lost in 1944, and lost again in 1948. Richard Nixon lost in 1960, but won in 1968 (and again in 1972).

In spite of his recent public visibility, there are no indications that Mitt Romney is even thinking about running again in 2016, nor under present circumstances, would he be considered a serious candidate. But in spite of the large number of major GOP candidates, the Republican field is not yet in focus for one of them to win the nomination.

Considering Mr. Romney’s stature, it is not without some curious interest to speculate, and it’s only speculation, that, in certain circumstances, he might resolve a GOP convention stalemate, or even earlier, return to the campaign field.

I’m just saying.


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

January 30, 2014

Poll Watch: Purple Strategies New Hampshire 2016 Republican Primary Survey

Purple Strategies New Hampshire 2016 GOP Primary Poll

This is not an “Onion” story. 

  • Mitt Romney 25%
  • Rand Paul 18%
  • Chris Christie 17%
  • Jeb Bush 13%
  • Ted Cruz 7%
  • Bobby Jindal 5%
  • Someone else 4%
  • None of the above 2%
  • Not sure 9%

Survey of 535 likely Republican primary voters was conducted January 21-23, 2014.  The margin of error is +/- 4.2 percentage points.

-Data compilation and analysis courtesy of The Argo Journal

by @ 6:03 pm. Filed under 2016, Mitt Romney, New Hampshire Primary, Poll Watch

March 15, 2013

Romney at CPAC

by @ 2:59 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., 2012 Postmortems, Mitt Romney

November 21, 2012

Romney Advisor Dan Senor on Morning Joe

In the interest of equal time…

by @ 8:00 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Mitt Romney, Republican Party

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