Saturday, September 26, 2015

Race for the White House 2016 Volume 39

This week saw a Pope on the East Coast, a Midwest Governor dropping out of the race, and a West Coast Congressman suddenly become poised to become third in the line for the Presidency, soon, and into the next Administration.

Pope Francis's visit to the White House, Capitol Hill, and other locations in America received much attention in the political media, especially since he is somewhat beloved by many on the left for his views on capitalism and global warming. They are far less likely to cite his traditional beliefs on abortion and homosexuality. Many Presidential candidates are Roman Catholic (including the potential candidate Vice Joe Biden), such as Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and they tended to speak cautiously about the Pope, expressing religious and personal support, but maintaining they had disagreement over non-church matters.

Another Catholic, Speaker John Boehner welcomed the Pontiff to Congress on Thursday for an historic Joint Session address, and Boehner was of course very emotional, as would always be expected for him. He might have also had other matters on his mind, as yesterday, Boehner surprised many by announcing he would be leaving Congress at the end of October, amid the likelihood of challenges to his leadership and dissention amid the House GOP Conference by conservatives. I happen to think that Boehner has been given a raw deal and deserves plaudits for putting the party and the Institution above himself. His top leadership deputy, Kevin McCarthy of California, is likely to become the next Speaker in the weeks ahead, and there will be other leadership elections, but the tensions within the House GOP is likely to continue at least until there is a new President.

Many right-wingers cheered the departure of Boehner, whom they blame I suppose for the fact that Barack Obama is still President until 2017, and several Republican Presidential candidates joined in a bit of unseemly dancing on his political grave in statements issued online and in public. Only Jeb Bush and Boehner's Ohio Governor and former colleague John Kasich went out of their way to praise the soon to be retired Speaker.

The political week began with another somewhat surprising departure. After just 70 days as a formal candidate, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is out of the race. Just about a month ago, I would have pegged Walker as someone who was still a very viable threat to win the nomination, but his campaign has suffered by poor headlines, especially in the wake of the Summer of Trump, and the Governor's fundraising and poll numbers fell sharply. While many other GOP contenders are blessed with low to zero expectations, Walker was someone who actually thought he could become President, and thus pulled the plug. The end of a once promising campaign, for the candidate who was at least expected to be a major contender in Iowa, was swift and severe. In a somewhat terse statement, Walker stood alone at a hotel podium in Madison and left the race, while also calling for other candidates to do so in the name of unity against an unacceptable Republican frontrunner. While the name was not mentioned directly, he was clearly referring to Donald Trump.

To this point, no other candidates have heeded Walker's call to join him in dropping out, but there is evidence to suggest the race may be changing incrementally. Some polls show Trump down a few points, but still leading, with Ben Carson in second in most. Gaining significantly since the second debate, as might be expected, is Carly Fiorina. Everyone else seems to be in single digits in most polls. Florida Senator Marco Rubio is definitely moving up though, and is perhaps in a very good position to benefit from the exit of Walker. Before too long, Rubio is probably going to become the "front-runner" in the race, but there is a long way to go until the voting gets underway, and many ups, downs, campaign spending, and media stories still to go. Many believe that Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz will eventually become the last three with a viable chance of winning the nomination. Cruz would concern me very deeply as someone who wants to see Republicans win, but I would be proud to support either Miamian. In terms of who would make the best President at this point in time, and who I think would ultimately be the strongest in a general election, that's still easily Jeb Bush in my mind. If he is to be nominated though, in some ways, his path may have to resemble the John McCain comeback of 2008.

For his part, Donald Trump clearly now has Rubio on his mind, after the Senator gently criticized him over a lack of foreign policy knowledge not long ago. At a big Values Voter summit in Washington this weekend (in which Ted Cruz won the straw poll), Trump referred to Rubio as a "clown." The conservatives in the audience appeared to not appreciate the reference and began booing Trump, although he will of course insist they were agreeing with him and booing Rubio.

With all the news of the week, including the early week controversy regarding Ben Carson's ill-advised statement that a Muslim should never be President, which he later slightly walked back, the Democrats did not receive as much attention this week. As I have said in many past entries, Hillary Clinton is the front-runner for them, but appears extremely vulnerable to Bernie Sanders in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and polls continue to show Joe Biden moving up nationally, before he makes his formal decision. National general election polls, as well as those in swing states, show serious vulnerability for Hillary Clinton, with Biden especially, but even Sanders, at this point of time, appearing more electable.

There is also the matter of that continuing email scandal, with which each passing week, seems to bring about more details that have contradicted Clinton's past claims, and might eventually lead to some serious political or legal reckoning. For now though, all the other events in the news, including the infighting of Republicans on the Presidential campaign trail  and on Capitol Hill are overshadowing other stories.


At 4:24 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey, the big question is whether Walker runs for reelection to a 3rd term as WI Governor in 2018 ?

I'm going to go out on a limb & say NO he won't seek reelection to the Governor's Mansion due to his approval ratings crashing into the 30s!


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