November 16, 2015

Rumor Mill: Steve King (R-IA) to Give His Endorsement Monday Morning

  1:48 am

Representative Steve King of Iowa, one of the big “gets” as far as endorsements on the “very conservative” end of the spectrum, has announced a press conference for 9:30 am central time on Monday morning. Rumors are swirling that he will be endorsing Ted Cruz – a major boost to Cruz’s campaign. It would come as no surprise: Cruz and King are friends, and King’s son works for one of Cruz’s Super PACs.

Of course, how much Rep. King’s endorsement really matters remains to be seen – he endorsed Fred Thompson in 2008. (In 2012 he remained neutral.)

Other campaign staffers are spreading the rumors that King will actually be endorsing Donald Trump or Rick Santorum. Some are even floating Bobby Jindal as a possibility. One thing’s for sure: it will be one of the candidates focused on running in that “lane” of the GOP primary.

None of the candidates had any plans to be anywhere in the state of Iowa for King’s press conference as of late Sunday evening, so it appears King will be making the endorsement without the endorsee present.

Finally, new rumors began igniting late Sunday night when Ben Carson’s campaign gave notice of a hastily assembled press conference of his own in Nevada, where he is campaigning, for Monday morning… Could King be endorsing Carson? That would be a huge upset for the doctor. Or does Carson have other news he abruptly needs to share with the American people?


November 6, 2015

Walker, Bush, and Rubio to Meet in Milwaukee

  12:01 pm

This morning, a spokesperson for Governor Scott Walker confirmed Walker will be sitting down for a meeting with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio while they are in Milwaukee for next Tuesday’s debate.

This confirmation comes on the heels of the announcement that Jeb Bush will be appearing with Walker during a Hispanics for School Choice event on Monday afternoon. It also comes one day after Marco Rubio began casually mentioning Scott Walker (and the fact that he had spoken with Walker on the phone) at New Hampshire town hall events.

The confirmation of these two events is interesting, to say the least, and has sent the rumor mill swirling. What is the purpose of the meeting? Why would Walker appear with Bush? How will a meeting with Rubio and Bush in the room go down? The major rumors up until now were that Walker was going to endorse Rubio on Monday. Is that off the table now that Walker’s appearing with Bush? Will he endorse Bush, and the meeting is to tell Rubio sorry? Is Bush planning to drop out and endorse Rubio with Walker? Is Walker going to tell them both that he’s not endorsing anyone yet?

Whatever is actually happening, the political rumor mill is abuzz with hypotheses this morning. Join the fun and add your speculation in the comments.


October 26, 2015

Is Jeb Bush Looking For An Exit?

  1:17 pm

So far, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s campaign for president in 2016 has been underwhelming. He has raised substantial campaign funds, and he has for the most part a first-rate campaign staff, but his performance as a candidate has not raised his standing in the polls (which he earlier led), nor his standing with political observers (who had anticipated him as the Republican frontrunner going into the primary/caucus season in early 2016).

With the third GOP presidential debate only a few days away, the pressure grows sharply for Mr. Bush to turn in a much better performance than in the first two. He isn’t helping himself either by complaining about his opponents, especially Donald Trump and Ben Carson, each of who lead him in most polls.

As far as I know, no one has ever successfully won the presidency by complaining about his opponents. On the other hand, Mr, Bush has put forward some excellent economic plans, including a very serious free market plan to eliminate the unpopular and unworkable Obamacare legislation without incurring much hardship to those who need a new federal plan. Mr. Bush’s resume is as good, or better than that any of his rivals, and his experience as chief executive of the large state of Florida was impressive. Nor is temporarily downsizing his campaign staff and expenditures without good sense,

His primary problem so far seems to be a lack of notable skills as a campaigner, including those of a debater. A further frustration for his supporters and those of the other experienced candidates is that three non-politicians with no previous elected experience, Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, are leading the GOP field by a large margin at the present time.

The irony of his situation is that Mr, Bush, by virtue of his fundraising, staff and name recognition, is best-suited to endure through the present environment and possibly re-emerge three months from now when the all-important state primary and caucus voting begins. This is exactly what Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are doing with far less resources.

When challenged by reporters, Mr. Bush is ill-advised to say “blah blah blah.” And when ruminating over the campaign so far, it does him no good to deride those voters who are giving his less-experienced opponents higher poll numbers. He is well-advised to continue to come up with good economic solutions to the nation’s toughest problems, and to work on his communication skills. He might not be able to become a William Jennings Bryan or a Ronald Reagan on the stump, but he can and should improve his campaign manner.

I hope Mr, Bush did not believe, when he entered the 2016 contest, that his nomination was inevitable or fore-ordained (as perhaps some of his supporters believed). Winning a major party nomination for president is always very hard work, and this cycle, it appears to very hard work indeed.

Mr. Christie, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Kasich are also very credible  as future leaders of the free world in this cycle, and it would appear that the one of them, including Mr, Bush, who wants it most, and will work for it the hardest, has the best chance for the prize.

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


August 25, 2015

Rumor Mill: The Three Faction GOP Battle

  11:30 am

No hard sources on this one, just whispers, rumors, and rumblings… hence the Rumor Mill tag. Take it all with a grain of salt, but I found it incredibly fascinating… We’ve covered bits of this before here at Race, but never to this depth.

When Mitt Romney declined to enter the Race 4 2016, he did so because he had what he believed to be a plan that would help the Republican Party regain not only the White House, but the popularity they had lost with the public recently as well. Romney identified at least three key problems when he lost in 2008 and 2012, and he is known in the business world for learning from his problems and not repeating mistakes. He was eager to use those lessons to catapult a Republican into the Oval Office and the GOP back into the American people’s good graces.

In 2008, Romney learned the value of political alliances. Romney was hated on a visceral level by everyone else in the GOP field that year. Stories abound about Fred Thompson, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Huckabee, give or take one or two of them, hanging out in the green room before a debate or in a restroom during a break, laughing and joking with one another; Romney would walk in, and the room would get quiet. Romney was despised because of his tactics: he attempted to rise to the top by bringing others down, and he earned no friends along the way because of it. Eventually, he was forced to fight a two-front war against Huckabee and McCain, who had teamed up against him, with Giuliani as a proxy still working against Romney from the sidelines.

In 2012, then, Romney set out to make friends (and politically beneficial alliances) with his opponents. Bachmann and Cain quickly signed on, and even though there was nothing reciprocated with either Pawlenty or Huntsman, Romney decided early on to never hit back against their attacks (i.e. “Obamneycare”). Of course, there were three candidates who created a different alliance against Romney – Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum – and the three of the them caused Romney massive headaches both in the primary and in the general. But the friendly alliance angle helped tremendously (lesson number one). Romney saw lesson number two shortly thereafter: if the GOP had only coalesced around their sure-to-be nominee more quickly (instead of having Gingrich and Santorum hanging around damaging him when they had little to no chance of winning), he could have entered the general election in a much stronger position.

In the general election campaign, Romney learned lesson number three when his hardline stance on immigration — especially his “self-deportation” line — and his complete lack of meaningful minority outreach came back to haunt him. Romney has stated in numerous interviews since 2012 that his biggest mistake and regret in that election was his approach to minorities in general, and specifically to Hispanics and Latinos. If he had it to do all over again, that is the first and biggest thing Romney would change.

Many people think Romney was on the brink of doing it all over again by running for a third time in 2016. But even when that did cross his mind, he became convinced early on that it would never work. His old words, stances, and weaknesses would weigh him and his party down. The temptation to go on the national stage and point out that he was right about pretty much everything during the 2012 election surely would have been strong, but Romney understood that if the GOP was to regain the White House, it would have to be a fresh face to lead them there.

So Romney began carefully hatching a plan. He would play kingmaker, but not for his sake — for the sake of the nation he truly cares about. Romney had a goal: assemble an alliance of mainstream Republican candidates to wage a positive campaign, ultimately present a fantastic candidate to the U.S. people, and to coalesce quickly around that candidate once he or she was chosen. (As an added side benefit, the plan would also ensure candidates like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul would not get the nomination.) Romney slowly began reaching out to various potential candidates to see if they might be interested in forming this friendly political alliance.

Eventually, a handful of candidates were on board. Christie, Fiorina, Walker, Graham, and Rubio formed an informal alliance. It is important to note that none of them gave up their own desire to be president by agreeing to be allies; it was understood that everyone would campaign as hard as they wanted to and strive to be the nominee themselves, but in so doing they would refrain from attacking one another. They would be off limits to each other and help each other, treating one another essentially like Romney, Bachmann, and Cain treated one another four year ago. And when one of them did drop out, they all agreed to support the strongest candidate from their group in order to help everyone coalesce around them quickly (thus avoiding unnecessary damage to the nominee in a prolonged primary).

The allies understood what they were up against: Jeb Bush and the old GOP establishment. Hundreds of millions of dollars and an unmatched political pedigree would be backing Jeb in this contest. But with Romney’s “new establishment” of donors and politicians, and the six of them teaming up and backing one another, they felt like they had a chance against him. Specifically, they calculated (correctly, so far) that Jeb would play the role of 2008 Romney: isolated, generally distrusted and disliked among the field.

Of course, after it became evident that Jeb was going to run, Romney tried to onboard Bush and asked him to join their group. Many pundits assumed when Jeb and Mitt met in Utah last January that they were two goliaths both wanting to enter the race. The conventional wisdom was that after a political staring contest, Romney blinked and backed out, allowing Jeb to run. In reality, by the time that meeting had taken place, Romney had already decided not to run. The meeting was an attempt to get Jeb to not run, or, short of that, to join the team. Jeb refused, for obvious reasons: it was his turn to be president, and he had the money and the backing to do it. He wasn’t going to give up this opportunity to do this his way.

One week after that Utah meeting with Jeb, Romney announced publicly he wasn’t running. Three days later, Romney ate dinner with Chris Christie and signed him onto the team. It is also no coincidence that the rumors Marco Rubio would enter the race began swirling right around the time of that Jeb/Mitt meeting as well. The pieces were slowly falling into place.

When John Kasich finally decided to enter the race in June, Romney saw another opportunity for an ally and invited him to lunch to get him on board. It is, again, no coincidence that Romney and Kasich had lunch at Romney’s home just two days after the Ohio Governor declared his candidacy. Kasich was receptive to the idea and grew the alliance to six members. Again, no requirement was made to give up his own desire for the nomination, but Kasich agreed not to attack the other five, and to throw his support behind the strongest of the six if he did drop out.

Here, it is important to note that the members of this group never pledged to support a specific candidate if/when they dropped out — just that they would all throw their support to the candidate who looked to be the strongest and had the greatest likelihood of winning the nomination. While that is true, Romney certainly has his favorite from the six – Marco Rubio – a view shared by at least one other on the team (Lindsey Graham). However, Romney has been very careful not to impose his preference on anyone else in the group. For all the work to form alliances and strike deals, this is still a process in which campaigns must be waged, strength must be proven, and – most importantly of all – voters must cast votes. This was not a ruse to get Rubio the nomination, it was a plan to present the strongest nominee possible to the American voters for November 2016. This is why, for instance, Romney invited the entire group to his E2 Summit so they could meet and woo hundreds of his top donors from the 2012 campaign. The donors were not encouraged to support a specific candidate, but they were strongly encouraged to support someone from within that group.

While this team of upstarts was stretching their legs, another alliance was forming that we just learned about last week: that of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. While Romney’s plan took into account an eventual challenge from the Tea Party/grassroots wing of the party, it did not account for the strength of Donald Trump (how could it have?) or the fact that he would team up with a Tea Party candidate to strengthen his position even further. And so at this moment, rather than viewing this race as a campaign between seventeen candidates, we should instead be viewing it as a race between three factions: Jeb Bush (with the support of the old GOP establishment), Romney and the alliance of the six (with the support of the new GOP establishment), and Trump/Cruz (with the support of the Tea Party and grassroots).

This means the other candidates are, for the most part, left out in the cold. The three currently warring factions represent nine of the seventeen candidates; a quick glance at the remaining eight shows not much to fear electorally speaking: Pataki, Perry, Jindal, Huckabee, Santorum, Gilmore, Paul, and Carson. With the possible exception of Carson, who is being wooed by the Trump/Cruz faction right now (and may have been successfully wooed, given his recent comments about running mates and drone strikes to stop illegals), none of them have a legitimate shot at the nomination. (Even though Carson’s easygoing and quiet demeanor doesn’t seem to fit with Trump and Cruz at first blush, he would actually strengthen their identity as a team of outsiders. With Walker stumbling, it’s looking more likely that one of those three will win Iowa.)

As of now, we have Bush vs. Christie/Fiorina/Walker/Graham/Kasich/Rubio vs. Trump/Cruz/(possibly Carson). The old, versus the new, versus the outsiders. Watch as alliances are strengthened, tested, expanded, and leveraged in the weeks and months to come. Once we understand the race from this perspective, it helps explain candidate behavior and actions, and gives insight into the headlines of the campaign. It also helps us ask the correct questions in order to better understand the race – and shows why all the “Romney is thinking about jumping in again!” rumors are nonsense. Romney and his team (Fehrnstrom, Zwick, Weber, Gage, et al) are busy not coordinating a third Romney run, but helping the team of six and developing a strategy to ensure one of the other two factions does not end up on top when this race is over.


June 9, 2015

Bush Shakes Up Campaign Staff

  7:12 am

imgresAfter a 6-month exploratory phase has left Jeb Bush flush with cash but sinking in early state polls, the former Florida governor has reshuffled his political team just one week ahead of his official campaign launch.

Dave Kochel, the top Iowa operative successfully wooed away from Mitt Romney’s camp, moved to Miami to serve as campaign manager.  Instead, Danny Diaz, a hard-charging consultant, will take the job, hoping to refocus the flagging Bush effort to establish himself ahead of his rivals. Kochel was informed of the change just one week ago.

The campaign reshuffling comes amid reports that Bush, who long suggested he’d run a “joyful” campaign, is preparing a bare-knuckle negative campaign to tear down his chief rivals. Sally Bradshaw, Bush’s longtime adviser and former Chief-of-Staff, cited the gains of Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio as particularly worrisome.

For their part, the Bush team has denied any internal strife, claiming Diaz and Kochel are both well suited to their respective roles. The campaign also claimed they’ve raised more than $100 million in the first 6 months, a figure they’ve shied away from but are now embracing amid reports of donor angst and staff struggles.

Still, Bush is facing a tougher race than he ever expected, and this last minute change signals both an awareness of the difficulty he faces and a struggle to find a path forward against a group of younger, more exciting opponents than confronted by establishment frontrunners of the past.


May 1, 2013

RUMOR: Ted Cruz Considering Presidential Run

  9:20 am

Robert Costa has the scoop:

Freshman senator Ted Cruz is considering a presidential run, according to his friends and confidants.

Cruz won’t talk about it publicly, and even privately he’s cagey about revealing too much of his thought process or intentions. But his interest is undeniable.

“If you don’t think this is real, then you’re not paying attention,” says a Republican insider. “Cruz already has grassroots on his side, and in this climate, that’s all he may need.”

“There’s not a lot of hesitation there,” adds a Cruz donor who has known the Texan for decades. “He’s fearless.”

Read the full story here.


December 4, 2012

Fox News and General Petraeus

  10:35 am

There is a rather interesting article in today’s Washington Post by none other than Bob Woodward that details a conversation between General David Petraeus and Fox News contributor Kathleen T. (Troia) McFarland back in 2011.  Woodward’s piece also contains a digital audio record of the conversation in which Ms. McFarlan tells Petraeus that the Fox News head, Roger Ailes and uber-boss Rupert Murdoch, wanted him to run for president in 2012 and that they would bank roll and run the campaign.  The Woodward revelation is offered here without assessment or comment [other than to say that I had some interaction with Ms. (Troia) McFarland during the Reagan Administration].   Race readers can draw their own conclusions concerning its significance, especially the concept of news organizations attempting to recruit presidential candidates.


October 23, 2012

Trump’s October Surprise Revealed?

  6:46 pm

According to New York Magazine, The Donald’s “October Surprise” is divorce papers which were drawn up for the Obama’s but never filed:

For a while today, it seemed like Donald Trump’s “big … very big … very big” bombshell revelation about President Obama, which he has promised to unveil on Twitter tomorrow, might be an anonymous rumor that Obama sold cocaine in college, but Trump’s right-hand man, Michael Cohen, has denied it. Trump’s scoop is “substantially more important to the American people,” Cohen told Daily Caller. Or … is it?

Douglas Kass, a Florida-based investor who appears on CNBC’s talkshow ‘Squawkbox’ where Trump is often a commentator, tweeted to his 48,000 followers: ‘High above the Alps my Gnome has heard that Donald Trump will announce that he has unearthed divorce papers between the Prez and his wife.’

There is no mention as to why the Obama’s would have supposedly considered divorce.

Take this with about a truck load of salt, OK…


September 28, 2012

Counting Chickens

  7:46 pm

A lot of Republicans have become alarmed in recent days, and a lot of Democrats elated, by media and poll reports showing Barack Obama with a growing lead in the presidential race. These reports, and their conclusions are based almost entirely on poll results, most of which are plainly (and transparently) overweighted with Democratic voters (weighting based on 2008 turnout). There is no indication whatsoever, even by the most optimistic partisan analysts that the turnout in 2012 will resemble 2008. If anything, it is much more likely to resemble 2010 when the voter intensity was on the Republican side.

There is a double edge to the consequences of these faulty polls. The intended consequence is to demoralize Republicans and conservatives, and to stampede undecided and independent voters to the liberal side. The unintended consequence, however, might well be to make Democratic voters overconfident and to diminish their energy in the remaining days of the campaign.

As I have pointed out many times. pollsters can “play around” with the numbers, either out of bias or ignorance, rather freely when the election is many months or weeks away. Sheer self-interest and survival instincts reduce this tendency, however, as the election itself approaches. No pollster wants to be humiliated by being on the record with a ridiculous poll just before the election.

I am speaking here of media polls, that is, polls that are conducted primarily to be very public news events. There is another kind of polling going on simultaneously by campaigns themselves, usually referred to as “internals,” which are rarely reported, but which serve as guides for candidates and their campaigns about how they are doing. These are much more expensive polls, and are weighted very realistically. No campaign is going to pay a lot of money for an internal poll that gives them a false picture.

There are many more media polls, particularly state and national ones, in 2012 than in previous cycles. The all-important sample number varies widely. The weighting (which is simply adjusting the raw results) of a poll sample by party varies even more erratically. Many pollsters and their polls are paid for a by a political party. It is clear that reporting poll numbers has become part of the “warfare’ of a political campaign. In my opinion, few polls should be taken very seriously because few polls are successfully trying to avoid the bias that comes from bad weighting, inappropriate technological inquiry procedures (such as using only land-line telephones and not cell phones), or from the statistical consequences of repeated sampling to get a response.

One of the few national polls which seems to be trying most fastidiously to reach an accurate result is Rasmussen. Their methodology seems to be the most energetic to avoid a distorted result. While Gallup and other national polls are showing a 4-6 point margin for Obama currently, Rasmussen is showing it be either an exact tie, or depending on the day, a one-point margin for either Romney or Obama. These are simultaneous polls, so someone has it wrong.

Whether or not Mr Romney has fully “sold” his point of view to voters can be debated, as can the impact of his “47%” video remarks, but there has not yet been any real evidence presented that his campaign is “falling behind.” It might be true, on election day, that he will fall short, and that Mr. Obama would be re-elected. Similarly, there is no real evidence yet that the president’s campaign is certain to fail. The presidential debates are ahead, and I suspect that they will be more significant than usual in this campaign cycle. Voters already know Mr Obama, but many do not know Mr. Romney, especially standing next to and confronting his opponent,

Finally, the current poll distortion, if it is that, offers a greater danger to the Democrats than to the Republicans. With less than six weeks to go, a mood of overconfidence, provoked by currently reported poll numbers, could easily be transformed into utter panic for Democrats, if, as election day approaches, the polls are reversed favoring the Republicans. As any experienced political observer will tell you, momentum is a huge force just before and on election day.

Every pollster, good or bad, will say that a poll is only “a snapshot in time.” But there are snapshots, and there are snapshots! That is why good cameras cost more than cheap ones.

No one should think this campaign is over, nor that it is in a final trend, nor that the information they are receiving via polls is accurate. Much more lies ahead, including most importantly, what we will see when the two presidential candidates are in front of us together.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


August 29, 2012

Report: Clint Eastwood Traveling to Tampa

  10:10 am

Mystery speaker revealed? Via Townhall and Hot Air:

A well-placed Republican source tells Townhall that Oscar-winning director and actor Clint Eastwood will travel to Tampa, Florida to attend Mitt Romney’s nominating convention this week.

As the news media scrambles to identify the so-called “mystery speaker” scheduled to address GOP delegates on Thursday evening, some have speculated that the iconic Hollywood figure could fit the bill. Our source — who spoke on the condition of anonymity — could not confirm if Eastwood is, in fact, the intriguing “to-be-announced” speaker, but stated unequivocally that the Dirty Harry star will arrive in Florida late on Wednesday or early on Thursday, and will return to southern California on Friday.


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