Saturday, December 26, 2015

Race for the White House 2016 Volume 52

This is the last post of the year looking at the 2016 Presidential race. By this time next week, we will officially be in the Election Year and it will be one of uncertainty. Last year, the midterm election of 2014 was a banner year for the GOP, who would hold solid control of both Houses of Congress, on the federal level. Common sense would dictate that it would just involve some patience and work to elect a Republican President to go along with that Congress before fundamental change could be delivered. The year of 2015 has been one of lost opportunities though, as much of the conservative base has been completely impatient with the new Congress and with the Republican Party itself. Frustration with government seems to be at an all time high and it is possible that the GOP might squander a tremendous opportunity to win the White House, by nominating an unelectable candidate, who simply succeed in appealing to peoples' anger and frustration. I choose to remain optimistic though. There are decent candidates in the large GOP field and one of them can hopefully still be nominated. The Administration of the lame duck Democrat President remains far from popular and the all but certain Democrat nominee has serious political and personal vulnerabilities. The next Holiday Season could be one of relief and exhilaration for a proud conservative Republican like myself, or it could be one to bemoan and fear. It's certainly going to be a wild ride.

I will now briefly look at the year end situation for all the major party Presidential candidates. The field is one person shorter as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham withdrew his candidacy this past week, before he would be stuck on his state's early ballot. He, as well as his chief supporter John McCain, have yet to offer an endorsement of any candidate, but they may do so, which could prove to be influential in both South Carolina and New Hampshire. In the meanwhile, this frees up the opportunity for some South Carolina party figures to now formally support other Republican candidates. To say the least, Graham's campaign never got off ground, which is what most people expected, but he is an honorable person, who ran forthrightly on the issue of fighting ISIS, which is now something that is seen at the end of the year as far more crucial that was seen at the beginning. Lindsey Graham's integrity is to be saluted. He stands far above several GOP candidates left in the race.

Turning to the Democrats, Martin O'Malley is going to need to find some magic to finish any better than third place anywhere in America, even in his home state of Maryland. Likely though, he will drop out after New Hampshire and might hold out hope to be Hillary Clinton's running-mate. He tried to be more forceful in last Saturday's debate, but despite his relative youth and executive experience, he is just not breaking through.

Bernie Sanders was also believed to have had an effective debate, although the headlines were mostly about how he "apologized" to Hillary Clinton for his campaign's data breach. The infighting between Sanders and the DNC continues to some extent, but Sanders continues to represent the hopes of the left-wing purists in the party he does not even claim to be a member of. He is likely ahead in New Hampshire and fairly close in Iowa. What he does beyond those first two states is unknown, but he may get a lot of attention in the early part of 2016. It is also worth remembering that he is only trailing Clinton nationally by roughly the same margin Barack Obama was eight years ago.

Republican dysfunction in the Presidential race and on Capitol Hill has made the last few months for Hillary Clinton's campaign better than the previous few. She ends the year as it began, as the solid front-runner for her party's nomination. Nobody even sees to be talking about Joe Biden anymore. Getting to fight via the airwaves with her old buddy Donald Trump is great news for her,  but once the dust settles, and the history of her becoming the first ever major party female nominee is absorbed, she still has major questions about her character and record. She is trying to walk a fine line between appeasing the left-wing base of her party and positioning herself for a general election and that could prove complicated.

Fabricating a story about a Donald Trump videotape was a major part of her debate performance last week as well as unfortunately phrased comments that the U.S. is where it needs to be in the fight against ISIS. She did indeed lie about a Trump video, and has refused to back down or apologize for it, just as Trump refuses to do so about the videos he lies about. Clinton's tales and denials about a video as the cause of Benghazi may ultimately be a bigger problem for her next year.

I will repeat that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump deserve each other and America deserves better.

Now to the Republicans. The only major party Presidential candidate left, who would be Commander in Chief, and who has ever worn the uniform is Jim Gilmore. Yet the campaign of the former Governor and RNC Chair is basically invisible and he will have a hard time qualifying for many state's primary ballots. It's practically Harold Stassen territory for him at this point.

George Pataki will also find it hard to qualify for many ballots and will certainly be ending his campaign after Iowa or New Hampshire. Perhaps things could have been different for him on the national stage back in 2000, but his old college friend George W. Bush was in the way.

Rick Santorum, just four years ago, was at about 4 percent in the polls in Iowa a month before the Caucus that he would eventually be declared the winner of. This time, he has even less support in Iowa, as his former supporters have largely moved on to Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. There is not much of a chance for Santorum, but his last campaign proves just how fluid things can be in primary politics once the voting starts.

Mike Huckabee is another former Iowa winner, and since he is an actual Evangelical, will probably finish ahead of Santorum in Iowa. However, that is not going to be enough for him. Huckabee stated this week that he will leave the race if he does not finish at least third in Iowa, at the beginning of February.

Rand Paul, who stated this year as someone who political observers thought would be a real force in the race, continues to lag. The base he was counting on, those who were cultish devotees of his father, seem to have gravitated to the Trump Show. Paul could possibly surprise in Iowa or New Hampshire, relatively speaking, but will he even be around that long? He has said he will refuse to take part in the "junior varsity" GOP debate, when they next get underway in January and that could be a sign he might just leave the race. Some believed he was prepared to do so this month, before he was allowed into the prime-time debate. The Kentucky Senator has a reelection campaign he can pivot to.

Carly Fiorina had her moments in 2015, and received a ton of attention after some strong early debate performances, but she is ending the year similar to how she began, as being part of the back of the pack. Nobody is considering her as a possible nominee anymore and her chances of a number two spot on the ticket may have taken some hits as well. It just seems like anyone that Donald Trump has gone after personally and who dared to fight back against him, wound up falling in the polls. It is something I still find hard to understand.

John Kasich is running a New Hampshire or bust campaign. He will not be a factor at all in Iowa, but he is one of a handful of candidates hoping to make a stand in the Granite State. It is definitely possible he can do so and finish as the "establishment" winner there, even if it is a third or fourth place finish. That will take the heavy involvement of moderates and Independents though. Even if that happens, which is what Jon Huntsman hoped for last time, Kasich may not have anywhere else to go in the other states.

Chris Christie finds himself in a similar position. He has put himself in a position of being very much in contention for one of the tickets out of New Hampshire, where he is putting all his eggs (and he probably really likes eggs), but can Christie sustain this momentum for another month? He is probably going to have to go hard after Marco Rubio to try to pass him in New Hampshire. If it happens, Rubio would be politically hurt, but what other early states might Christie have a lot of support in?

Ben Carson needs to win Iowa in order for his campaign to survive. A couple of months ago, he seemed to be in good shape then, but the prevalence of the terrorism issue and having been slimed by Trump have very much hurt his chances. Much of his support has moved on to Ted Cruz. It was a tumultuous behind the scenes week for the Carson campaign. The candidate gave an interview in which he seemed to be prepared to fire his campaign staff in a major shake-up, and then backed away from that action.

Jeb Bush, on some level, probably has to wonder why he even went ahead with this. The year has not turned out the way he expected and Donald Trump is the major reason why. National polls for Bush, the candidate I continue to support, continue to be low, but he, along with Kasich and Christie, are in contention still for a "wildcard" spot coming out of New Hampshire. Out of those candidates, the former Florida Governor would have the strongest organization and most money to try to make something out of it. The fact remains though that so many conservative voters have just ruled Jeb out from the start, whether it is due to his last name or misconceptions about his position on issues such as immigration. He has run a substantive campaign though and for the most part has avoided trying  be something he is not. Being the one candidate willing to stand up to Trump face to face is something to be proud of and something every loyal Republican ought to salute him for, even if the candidate is ultimately not destined to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother.

Marco Rubio might be the last best hope of Republican Party, and thus the last hope of conservatism and America itself. It is a heady responsibility. I still very much believe that Bush has the better experience to be President, but the way things stand now, I may very well be voting for Rubio in my state's March primary. The Senator has continued to garner endorsements and the support of some wealthy patrons. That may or may not be a good thing this cycle, but he has still yet to really climb to a solid position in the polls, and after the last debate, seems to have moved a bit back. There is some grumbling about how his campaign strategy of focusing more on national tv appearances instead of significant retail campaigning in the early states is risky and many feel that his "ground game" is vulnerable. Rubio will have to have a strong showing in one of the February states. It may wind up being Nevada. His main fight, if he is not clipped fatally by a Bush, Christie, or Kasich in New Hampshire will be with Ted Cruz, though Trump is likely to have a few things to say as well.

Ted Cruz ends the year far stronger than he began it and I believe is a genuine threat to win the nomination. Politically, that scares the heck out of me. He was able to capitalize this week after a Washington Post cartoonist ran a drawing, that was later pulled by the publication, which seemed to depict Cruz's young daughters as trained monkeys. It was definitely something that the Post should not have done, although Cruz did have the girls have a speaking part in a campaign ad, in which they read political lines, in a way that most candidates do not do these days. The righteous indignation though on Cruz about "leaving the kids out of it" only helps him though and only detracts from the problems he has had on hypocrisy regarding the immigration issue.

Donald Trump remains Donald Trump. He has dominated the political headlines of 2015 and I can only hope his time as a viable political figure is coming to an end.  If he indeed gets votes at the levels that the polls show him getting, that would be very concerning for Republicans to say the least, especially to someone like me who would never be able to bring myself to even vote for Trump in a general election. Iowa is the first contest though and it remains to be seen just how many of his "fans" will actually bother to participate in the Caucus. Once he "loses" all bets regarding Trump may be off, if that happens.

In the meantime, Trump continues to act in a way that has me convinced he is trying to kill the Republican Party. The sad part is that many of his "conservative" supporters probably want the party killed too. So he talks about Hillary Clinton being "shlonged" and ridiculously unnecessary comments about her having taken a bathroom break in last weekend's Democrat debate. It's not enough for me to feel sympathy for Hillary, as she likely loves every minute of it, and the prospect of running against Trump, but it is enough to have me very sad for the state of our politics and the state of the conservative movement.

The year of 2015 has been pretty crazy politically, and not in a good way, but things can change quickly. The scary thing to ponder though is that Hillary Clinton is almost certain to beat both Trump and Cruz, if my party were to nominate them. At least I could actually vote for Cruz, but that might be all I can realistically do. There has to be a better option and a better way, whether it is Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or a brokered convention where Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a role to play.

For Americans, conservatives, and Republicans, there will be a lot on the line in 2016. We better not blow it.


At 6:04 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey, here's my take on the following:
1.) Gilmore is the last military veteran left in this contest, having served in the United States Army Intelligence Unit.

2.) Jeb should seriously consider running for Rubio's US Senate seat.

3.) Cruz is my home state's junior United States Senator from the Lone Star State & IF he pulls off the whole thing, expect TX Governor Greg Abbott (R) to appoint Land Commissioner George P. Bush (R) to Cruz's US Senate seat in order to remove a potential threat to his governorship in 2018.

4.) Christie does need to win NH in order to gain momentum.

5.) Kasich is FINISHED politically & he knows it.

6.) Paul, Fiorina, Santorum, Huckabee & Carson will drop out either before or after the IA Caucus.

7.) GOP will be hard-pressed to defend the NC Executive Mansion, where incumbent Governor Pat McCrory (R) will be in dogfight with 4-term State AG Roy Cooper (D).


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