October 4, 2015

The Next “Comeback” Kid?

  12:25 pm

In late January, 1992, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign appeared to be over. His personal life had become public scandal, and the experts in Washington, DC were saying he was kaput. At about that time, I ran into one of the senior titans of the national Democratic Party who knew I had predicted two years earlier that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, and he assured me that Clinton was finished. I told him he could not be more wrong.

Today, 23 years later, there is general consensus among the media and political experts that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has no chance to win. Their absolute certainty was shaken a bit after Mr. Christie’s strong performance in the second GOP debate at the Reagan Library, but the consensus remains.

Look at the polls, they say. Christie is at 1% in Iowa, virtually at the bottom of the competing pack in this first electoral event of 2016. Overall, his numbers improved slightly nationally after the Reagan Library, but he’s still near or at the bottom of the top ten. Look at his high negatives, the experts say. Remember the bridge “scandal”, they add as if to make disputing them pointless.

But what do they say when six of the top Republican figures in  Iowa, including close allies of the longest-serving governor in the nation, Terry Branstad, have just endorsed him?

What do they say when figures such as Rick Perry and Scott Walker (the latter only weeks ago leading the pack in Iowa) withdraw so early from the contest, leaving fewer sitting and former governors in the race?

What do they say about two major candidates, Jeb Bush and John Kasich, failing to gain traction?

This is not to say that Governor Christie will be the Republican nominee. But with large numbers of delegates to be counted from eastern and northeastern states, the goodwill and alliances he made while campaigning for fellow governors (when he was Republican Governors Association  chair) in 2014, his demonstrated fundraising ability, and, most of all, his exceptional communications skills, it seems ludicrous to suggest he cannot re-emerge. In fact, there are signs that the lead in the polls will, as they did in the 2012 cycle, rotate between the major candidates until the primary/caucus season is underway.

In the 1992 New Hampshire primary, Bill Clinton only came in second. He then declared himself the “comeback kid.” He apparently did not believe the negative pronouncements of his party establishment, his party expert consultants, and the media.

We all know what happened next.

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


September 25, 2015

Why I’m Still Undecided

  6:00 am

As I’ve made clear as I have talked about the debates before, I am one of your few vocally undecided front page posters here at Race42016. But, why am I undecided? We have a seemingly nice field of candidates. Many who are polished and refined with some great experience. Yea, we also have Trump, but he’s the anomaly, not the norm. Well, I’ll tell you why I’m undecided – it’s all about specific concerns which I’ll go through.

No Executive Experience – We have a number of United States Senators in the race. That’s fine, the more the merrier – to a certain degree. That said, what experience does Marco Rubio have actually serving as an executive in any capacity? Or Rand Paul? Or Ted Cruz? Or Rick Santorum? Or Lindsey Graham? Their skill set would make them fine Vice Presidential candidates, even cabinet members, but for President? I would prefer a nominee with executive experience. Does that mean I’d vote against them in the general? No, but it makes me wary to jump onto a bandwagon for a candidate who has never served in an executive capacity – either in business or in a governing role.

No Political Experience – Trump, Carson, and Fiorina have one major thing in common – none of them have served in public office before. The last President who went from private citizen to President was Eisenhower. It was different, though, with Eisenhower as Eisenhower had vast military experience which directly correlated to the position of Commander in Chief. He also had experience in the Federal Government as the Chief of Staff of the Army as well as serving as the overseeing Governor of American occupied Germany immediately after World War II. Carson has absolutely no experience relevant to the position of President. Fiorina and Trump at least are businesspersons who have experience serving as executives, but running a business and running the nation are not exactly the same. Also, their lack of political experience means they will make mistakes on the campaign trail most rookies make which could turn tragic against the Clinton machine in the general. Would I vote against them in the general? Apart from Trump, no, but again – it will make it more difficult for them.

Not Fiscally Conservative Enough – Let’s be real about John Kasich, George Pataki, and Mike Huckabee – their governing experiences in their respective states are not fiscally conservative. They are centrists at best, and at times center left when you look at their full records in office. Increased government spending, taxes, fees – that’s what you saw in their respective states. And Kasich’s continued defense of embracing Obamacare in Ohio should be disqualifying enough for any Republican voter, in my opinion. Christie has a…mixed history on the state level including some expansion and some cutting, making him in the mushy middle. And while Jeb was mostly great on the state level, his stances lately on federal issues and some of the decisions he made toward the end of his tenure in Florida are enough to give me pause. This doesn’t even begin to mention Trump’s vast history of proposing increasing the size and scope of government (socialized healthcare, increased taxes) and his personal abuse of eminent domain. Again, in the general it becomes a different beast entirely and I’ll most likely come back to support the nominee; but when I review their views now, I have concerns.

Not Socially Conservative Enough – I will not vote for a pro-choice candidate. Period. That eliminates George Pataki, but the fact that I lived in New York during all 12 years of Pataki’s reign and his center-left fiscal record were enough to disqualify him already. Kasich likes to talk about having a “truce” on social issues and is unwilling to fight the good fight federally on Planned Parenthood, only coming reluctantly on the state level after it became a major campaign issue. Paul rarely talks social issues, to my disappointment. I want someone ready to fight, especially for the right to life. Being able to talk on this issue and being firmly pro-life is a must for me. I will not vote for a pro-choice Republican who I can’t trust to appoint justice to SCOTUS who are ready to fight against Roe vs Wade. This, again, doesn’t begin to mention Trump who has been on all sides of the issue of life, still stands behind the “good” Planned Parenthood can do, and has a history of supporting restrictions on gun rights. A pro-choice nominee is one I won’t vote for unless I can be adequately convinced we’ll get pro-life judges on SCOTUS. I have yet to meet a pro-choice candidate capable of doing that, Giuliani came the closest in 2008.

I Despise the Fair Tax – Between the fact that the government can vote to give people more money through the poorly thought out prebate to the fact that a national sales tax will get abuses to no end, I despise the Fair Tax. This alone, for me, disqualifies Huckabee. I can’t vote for someone who supports the Fair Tax for President.

Foreign Policy Disagreements – I do not trust Rand Paul on foreign policy. There, I said it. I disagree with his seemingly naive view that we can withdraw inward. In the second debate he sounded more pragmatic, but in terms of national security – he concerns me. Bush and Kasich seem to have unrealistic expectations out of what Iran will do. And Fiorina sounds bold and capable, but are her plans she proposed in the debate realistic or too big? Carson – he just isn’t well versed enough in foreign policy to give answers and we don’t need a President who’s still training on the issues; we need them ready and having a plan in place for Day 1.

Now, I get – there are no perfect candidates. If I wanted a perfect candidate who I agree with 100%, I should run myself. I don’t and being I’m 32, I’m not qualified to be President. That said, these are my personal concerns. It’s okay to have concerns. And from them taken together I’m unsure about who I’ll vote for in the primary. Gun to my head? No idea. Still. There are things I love about each of the candidates. I love Fiorina and Rubio’s ability to connect with voters on a personal level. I love the humility of Carson. I love the willingness to stand firm on personal liberty of Paul and Cruz, even at their own personal career’s expense. I love Rubio, Bush, Fiorina, and (oddly enough) Christie’s ability and willingness to boldly defend the unborn on life issues. I love fact that we’re discussing reforming the tax code from a conservative perspective. That said, their pluses so far have not outweighed my current concerns. I will wait as the campaign continues, watching the impressive field and see if any of them have great pluses as I see them campaign and debate which outweigh my concerns. Until that day, I remain on Team Undecided. Feel free to join me here. It’s not the worst place to be…


-Matthew Newman is an engineer and blogger who also writes at Old Line Elephant and Red Maryland. Follow Newman on Twitter @mdmrn.


September 17, 2015


  12:13 pm

1. Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio holds the top spot in the rankings for his continued performance and potential, outshining his main rivals among the establishment. Rubio’s steady campaign has remained under the radar and disciplined while his main rivals, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, have seen their favorability and electability numbers tank. The addition of Lanhee Chen to the senator’s foreign policy team is just the latest indication that the major influence leaders in the party are shifting towards Rubio. His favorability, debate performances, fundraising, and organization combine to make Rubio the best and most complete package the establishment could ask for.

2. Donald Trump  Chairman and President of The Trump Organization 

Trump’s campaign appears to have hit a ceiling this month, struggling to find more low-information voters to add to his carnival show. Trump stumbled badly when confronted on Foreign Policy 101 by radio host Hugh Hewitt, and added to his image as a misogynist with a misguided attack on Carly Fiorina’s looks. Trump’s bad month culminated in a humiliating defeat in the second GOP debate, where his  incoherent policy ideas and childish personal attacks left him the clear loser with nowhere to go but down.

3. Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush slips further in the rankings, held up only by the strength of his financial advantage. Bush got the worse of a number of ill-advised exchanges with Trump, seeing his favorability and electability numbers crash. Rumors of the establishment abandoning Bush for a new candidate continue to grow, with even calls to draft former Gov. Mitt Romney once again rising among the donor class. Bush failed to reassure his supporters with another halting, awkward debate performance, though he handled himself better than in his first debate loss. Still, Bush continues to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, an establishment scion running in the most anti-establishment climate in a generation.

4. Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

Like Rubio, Cruz continues to move methodically, aiming to be the last conservative alternative standing. He’s built strong ties with evangelical and Tea Party leaders and could be the candidate who benefits the most from Donald Trump’s continued humiliation. His anti-Washington crusade has been strong in both the debates and on the stump, and the longer he flies under the radar, the more likely he is to be one of the last candidates standing.

5. Carly Fiorina  former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

After dominating the first “Kid’s Table” debate, Fiorina went on to dominate the second main debate. With a better grasp of the issues than fellow outsiders Ben Carson and Donald Trump, and a more polished style, the former CEO will continue to rise, and will likely end up in the first tier by the time of the next debate.

6. John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

Kasich’s small surge in New Hampshire has cooled off some as other candidates have begun going up on the air. The Ohio governor has added more establishment endorsements, continuing to chip away at Jeb Bush’s only strength. However, Gov. Kasich had a bad night in the second debate, and his answers on Iran will likely come back to hurt him throughout the primaries.

7. Ben Carson  former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital 

Dr. Carson’s personable style has quietly earned him a large following on the right, but his weakness on foreign affairs will continue to weigh him down and leave him unable to capitalize on his surprising poll strength. His apology to Donald Trump after their brief exchange over religion doesn’t help his case as a strong leader.

8. Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker’s slide turned into a nose-dive this month, with his flip-flopping and uneven performances continuing to dog him. He is fast becoming 2016’s Rick Perry; a good-on-paper conservative governor who flopped on the national stage.

9. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

The New Jersey governor is on the brink of falling out of the main stage debates, and he has launched a national advertising push in order to stave off elimination. His strong debate performance will likely give him a lifeline as will the continued implosion of Jeb Bush’s candidacy.

10. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul has fast become an asterisk in the race, and could very well be bumped to the “Kid’s Table” debate next month. His confrontations with Trump have done nothing to move his numbers, and his fundraising has all but dried up. He may follow Perry out of the race rather than being relegated to the lower tier.

Drop Out Watch:  Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore


September 11, 2015

BREAKING: Rick Perry Drops Out of 2016 Race

  5:37 pm

From ABC News:

Rick Perry is calling it quits on his 2016 White House bid.

The former Texas governor told the Eagle Forum in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday afternoon that he is suspending his presidential campaign.

“We have a tremendous field – the best in a generation – so I step aside knowing our party is in good hands, and as long as we listen to the grassroots, the cause of conservatism will be too.”

“That is why today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States,” he said, adding that he has “no regrets” about his run.

He also took what appeared to be a veiled swipe at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. “Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ,” he said.

In recent weeks, Perry has been particularly vocal in his criticism of the real estate mogul.



September 9, 2015

Dropout Watch: Perry Officially Closes SC Campaign Headquarters

  12:21 pm

On August 31, we reported Rick Perry’s Iowa campaign had shrunk to just one paid staffer.

Exactly one week ago, Bob Hovic reported that Rick Perry was shuttering his New Hampshire campaign.

And now this morning comes the news that Rick Perry is essentially ending his South Carolina campaign, closing down his South Carolina headquarters and releasing all staff in the state (who had not been paid for about a month anyways). One staff member says he will still work for Perry on a volunteer basis.

The main problem? Money, of course. Not only could Perry not afford to pay his staff, he couldn’t even afford to pay the $40,000 filing fee to get his name on the South Carolina ballot. If people can’t even vote for you, probably not a lot of reason to keep campaigning.

Once again, there are two points to highlight here: first, Rick Perry just needs to drop out of the race all together. This is getting embarrassing for him at this point. He literally does not have a campaign in NH or SC and only has one staffer in Iowa. Secondly, this once again speaks to the relative powerlessness of Super PACs. Super PACs can’t pay campaign staff and can’t pay filing fees to get names on ballots. So even in this age of unprecedented Super PAC donations, traditional campaign fundraising is still exponentially more important.


September 2, 2015

More Bad News for Perry

  2:44 pm

It feels a little like piling-on, but facts are facts. Via WaPo:

Rick Perry’s presidential campaign has lost its entire staff in New Hampshire, according to a former top adviser there to the former governor.

“There is no staff in New Hampshire,” Mike Dennehy said Wednesday, a day after word spread that one of Perry’s remaining staffers in the Granite State had defected to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign.

Dennehy, who is no longer working for Perry’s campaign in a formal capacity, said he had personally encouraged the New Hampshire staff to look for other work. Dennehy said he does not plan to join another campaign.



August 31, 2015

Dropout Watch: Rick Perry Loses Another Iowa Chair, Shrinks Iowa Staff to One

  4:08 pm

On August 11, it was leaked that Rick Perry was no longer paying his campaign staff. At first, we thought it was just South Carolina staff who weren’t getting paid, but eventually it came out that nobody on Perry’s campaign staff – including at Austin headquarters – was getting paid. That started the dropout watch for Governor Perry.

On August 24, the Perry camp released a small bit of good news: they were able to start paying a handful of select campaign staffers in Iowa again. That small measure of good news was dealt a serious blow the next day, when Sam Clovis, Perry’s Iowa Co-Chair, resigned, citing financial woes among other issues.

Today, we get news that Perry’s other Iowa Co-Chair, Karen Fesler, has also resigned. She has taken a position with Rick Santorum’s campaign, for whom she worked in 2012. But it gets even worse for Perry: the Des Moines Register is reporting Perry is scaling back his entire Iowa operation, keeping just one paid staffer, Jamie Johnson, in the state.

Turns out they couldn’t afford to pay anybody after all.

At this point, it would seem all that’s left is the official announcement from Perry that he’s throwing in the towel. Everybody seems to know it’s over except him.


August 25, 2015

Perry’s Iowa Campaign Chair Quits

  2:00 pm

You wonder how long Rick Perry is going to hobble along before deciding to call it quits himself:

The chair of Rick Perry’s Iowa campaign, Sam Clovis, is calling it quits… The Perry campaign stopped paying staff earlier this month… The campaign’s money woes played a part in Clovis’ decision, he told the AP — though he said it was not the only reason for his departure.

Iowa is critical to Perry’s dwindling chances, and Clovis — a radio personality and failed 2014 Senate candidate — was considered central to his hopes there.

Clovis said he is in negotiations already to be hired by another campaign.


August 19, 2015

RUMOR: Christie to Drop Out at End of August if IA, NH Numbers Don’t Improve

  6:30 pm

The Dropout Watch for the GOP primary race was activated nine days ago when it became public that Rick Perry’s campaign was broke and not paying any of their staff. This week, we can add another campaign to the list of those on life support: Chris Christie.

Rumors are swirling that Christie, facing horrendous numbers in Iowa (11th place @ 2%), New Hampshire (6th place @ 5%), and nationally (11th place @ 3%), is preparing one last push in in the Hawkeye and Granite states. If this round of campaigning and advertising fails to move the needle, Christie is considering dropping out at the end of August.

The necessary caveat: the rumors were picked up by the DC Whispers blog, a source of… questionable authority. And the Christie campaign is denying it (but what else are they supposed to say?). However, Bush/Cheney strategist Matthew Dowd has pegged Chris Christie as being the most likely to drop out as well, and the chatter among DC insiders is that both Perry and Christie’s campaigns are dead in the water.

Once the vultures start circling and the narratives are written, it’s virtually inevitable that candidates will end their bids (the only notable exception being John McCain in 2008). Once a cycle of these rumors begins, it affects fundraising, the ability to hire quality staff, and, when it enters the psyche of voters, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in the polls. We may soon see the largest field in history contract by two.



  12:53 pm

1. Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio at number one? How? Trump is leading! Breitbart News says Trump is the frontrunner! Well, August horse race polls are not the best indicator of how the race shakes out, as President Giuliani should remind you. Favorability and overall acceptability combined with organization and fundraising are better indicators of long term success. With Bush and Walker stumbling, Marco Rubio stands to benefit the most. Rubio was considered by many to be the big winner in the first debate, and he is trending up across the early states, leading Bush in both Iowa and Nevada. With the other establishment candidates faltering, the likable and charismatic Rubio is gaining, with a surge in fundraising added to his leading campaign haul. Soon, the establishment will need to decide to double down on the increasingly unfavorable Jeb Bush or, as the Democrats did in 2008, move their support to the young rising star.

2. Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush slips from the top spot after a month of dreadful news for the dynastic presidential hopeful. Despite early leads in fundraising and organization, Bush’s numbers have continued to slide, partly due to the rise of Donald Trump, but also due to the lingering concern of a third Bush candidacy. The upward trends of Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich leave Bush with little room for error, as he trails Rubio in Iowa and is staring down a Kasich surge in the Bush firewall of New Hampshire. With his unfavorable numbers topping both Trump’s and Clinton’s, Bush’s argument of electability is now largely without merit. His Right to Rise super PAC is now hoping a massive media blitz will help stop the bleeding.

3. 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. Kasich added the support of Tom Rath, who joined former Sen. Sununu in backing the Ohio governor, in a direct blow to Jeb Bush’s New Hampshire effort. Rath and the Sununu family have long standing ties to the Bush family, and this could be an indicator of more defections to come. Kasich also received the endorsement of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a longtime Mike Huckabee supporter who has clearly sensed that the tanking former Arkansas governor is finished.

4. Donald Trump  Chairman and President of The Trump Organization 

Xenophobic billionaire and prominent Democratic donor Donald Trump continues to lead with a small plurality in the fractured GOP field. Despite any conservative credentials, gravitas, or substance, Trump has proven resilient due to his bombast and star power combined with a saturation of press coverage from Democratic allies in the media. Still, the Planned Parenthood supporter has awful favorable/unfavorable numbers and still lacks a professional campaign organization. Also, unlike other wealthy self-funded candidates like Perot, Forbes, or Bloomberg, Trump has not yet committed substantial money to his campaign.

5. Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

Cruz continues to be steady as he goes. With Trump filling the role of blowhard, Cruz seems almost substantive by comparison. He has stayed out of the fray, performed well in the first debate, and has watched as the numbers of his top social conservative opposition (Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, Walker) tank. As it stands, Cruz will benefit the most from the inevitable end of Trump and the fall of others such as Perry and Huckabee.

6. Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker was damaged the most in the first debate, with his numbers in free fall ever since. It seems that the Pawlenty comparisons he tried to shake have proven resilient. To make matters worse, Walker has flip-flopped on a number of issues in a desperate bid to chase headlines with Donald Trump. His trends don’t look good.

7. Ben Carson  former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital 

Dr. Carson benefitted the most from the first debate, seeing a surge into to second place in multiple polls behind only Donald Trump. The former surgeon also has very high favorable numbers across the party spectrum, and has raised enough money to be a credible candidate. However, his organization has thus far been underwhelming, and his grasp of foreign policy is still a glaring weakness going forward.

8. Carly Fiorina  former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

The clear winner of the “kid’s table” debate, Fiorina has used her debating talents and media savvy to launch herself into the top ten and will likely make the main debate next month. Her consistent and substantive attacks on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton have earned her a devoted fan following, but her lack of funding will keep her from the top tier.

9. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul’s numbers have tanked in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally. He, along with Scott Walker, seem to have taken the most damage from the first debate. Things have gotten so bad that Rand has now trotted out Ron Paul on the trail in a desperate final bid for attention.

10. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

The New Jersey governor has slipped out of the top ten nationally and is in danger of missing the next debate. To add insult to injury, his friend John Kasich has stolen the role of “straight talking governor” in New Hampshire. Christie is going for one final media push, but rumors are swirling that his campaign could end soon.

Drop Out Watch:  Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore


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