Saturday, November 07, 2015

Race for the White House 2016 Volume 45

With one year and one day to go before Election Day, I will now proceed with the 45th weekly edition of the look at the race to become the 45th President of the United States.

This is also an opportunity for another matter I have to do at the blog and one which makes me happy. I can do it here because it may very well be tied into the Presidential race and the overall political landscape. Last Friday, I said the Kentucky Gubernatorial race was a Tossup but one that I gave the edge to Democrat Jack Conway. However, on Election Day, the contest went to Republican Matt Bevin, confounding just about every poll on the race. Not only did the very conservative Bevin win the race, he won by a somewhat shocking nine points. This was a huge embarrassment for Kentucky Democrats, along with other big statewide GOP wins there. So, this was a rare incorrect electoral prediction for me, although just like 2014, it relates to underestimating a GOP Governor candidate's prospects. (I will revisit Louisiana if needed this month.)

To be fair, Kentucky is a conservative state that will not be a 2016 Presidential battleground. Nor will Mississippi, where Republicans also had a near sweep. However, as it relates to Kentucky, this was still a surprisingly strong showing for the GOP, and one that might indicate, after some evidence in the 2014 midterms, that a polling bias may be present against Republicans. Obviously, that would have a huge impact on the myriad of polls that will be released next year in the Presidential general election. Even beyond Kentucky and Mississippi, the sample of electoral results was pretty bad for liberals on Tuesday. An "equality" ordinance went down by a massive margin in Houston, despite the Texas city having a high-profile lesbian Mayor. Others were very surprised when a marijuana legalization question went down by a large margin in Ohio. The Kentucky result has to be considered the most noteworthy though as even a flawed GOP candidate, who ran what had been called a less than stellar campaign was able to capitalize on anti-Obama sentiment for a solid victory. As seen in 2014, many members of the Democrat base just did not come out to vote, or their numbers were overestimated to begin with. What will the effect be in 2016 behind the likely Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton?

Before the general election begins though, there is of course the matter of the 2016 primaries, now less than three months away. On the Democrat side, there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is in the drivers seat, despite continued revelations about her email problem which could make her already miserable ratings on honesty and trustworthiness even worse. Little known candidate Lawrence Lessig has now exited the race, and Martin O'Malley continues to not be taken seriously as a top tier candidate. Since the sole Democrat debate, Bernie Sanders has fallen further behind Clinton. It could be that the first instance of prolonged exposure by him to Democrats made them realize that he was not a viable general election candidate. Looking at these numbers, Sanders is now showing signs of reversing course and being tougher on Clinton, after famously being very agreeable to her during the debate. He has now said that he disagrees with his opponent on "virtually everything."

It is the Republican contest though that continues to have the most intrigue. Donald Trump is hosting Saturday Night Live tonight (which should raise other questions about fairness) and there could be disruptions and fireworks in store among the liberal studio audience. Trump continues to fall behind Ben Carson in many polls, leading Trump to lash out against the physician in very personal and inflammatory ways. Clearly, Trump does not like "losing."

As readers of this feature will know, I have no idea why either Trump or Carson are "frontrunners" in the eyes of many Republicans, but the situation is what it is, and I do not hold the personal dislike for Carson that I do for Trump. I admire many things about Carson, but cannot help but finding him a bit odd.

Yesterday, his candidacy had an interesting day after a Politico story was posted claiming that years ago in his memoirs, he fabricated an account of having met famed General William Westmoreland, when Carson was a young man growing up in Detroit and a member of the ROTC. He claimed in his book that he was offered a "full scholarship" to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but turned it down to pursue an education in medicine. The Politico headlines claimed that the Carson campaign admitted the account had been "fabricated" as it is doubtful that Carson met Westmoreland in the time mentioned and that such a scholarship was never offered. Pundits and political junkies alike started to wonder if the Carson campaign had just suffered a fatal blow, but that changed quickly, as the campaign pushed back against the story, leading Politico to alter it's headline, and conservative voters, rallied around Carson and his inspirational life story and against media bias. The whole story is too confusing for me to fully understand, but I think there are examples of shoddy journalism and bad campaign media management at place. Carson may not have deliberately lied years ago in his book or since, but he sure has a way of misunderstanding terms and situations. However, his supporters do not care, and instead of killing his candidacy, this whole episode, by the end of the day, probably did him a lot of good.

Even some other GOP candidates, such as Jeb Bush said they sided with Carson, with only Donald Trump alone in calling Carson a "liar" and "insane" and claiming that he may have a "pathological disease" that has required pills to treat. Rush Limbaugh spent his entire radio show yesterday defending Carson and lashing out against his critics, (which also involves doubts as to whether or not he truly was a violent, volatile young man as he has claimed), but "El Rushbo" also has tended to defend everything Trump has said on the campaign trail. What does he make about what Trump is saying about Carson?

All this Carson stuff has generated a lot of writing here for someone whom I do not think will be nominated. The GOP contest is still pretty wide open, but Marco Rubio continues to build momentum in polls and with Congressional endorsements over the past week (although in this cycle that might actually hurt him among folks looking for an "outsider") and Rubio's rise seems to be coming at the expense of Jeb Bush, who is trying to tread water after a rough stretch. The Democrats and the media are going after hard after Rubio as it relates to somewhat old stories about his personal finances and use of a Republican Party charge card in Florida. Rubio supporters seem to think he has nothing to fear from this increased examination, but Trump is also trying to attack Rubio along those lines, a Ted Cruz SuperPAC is running negative ads against Rubio, and even Chris Christie, went on a right-wing radio show and accused Rubio of being a flip-flopper and in favor of amnesty.

If Marco Rubio ever truly becomes the front-runner, it will be in spite of a lot of people aiming their political fire at him.


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