Saturday, February 20, 2016

Race for the White House Volume 60

I see that CNN is about to debut a new series called "Race for the White House." Do I have a case to sue them for infringement?

Today is a big day in Presidential politics. Democrats will be caucusing in Nevada, starting in a matter of minutes, while Republicans are casting ballots all day in South Carolina.  Afterwards, the parties will criss-cross to the other state, but the implications of today are probably more important in both parties.

Hillary Clinton has long since been expected to easily take the Nevada Caucuses over Bernie Sanders. After all, the Silver State is one with far more racial minorities than Iowa and New Hampshire. Polls though show a very close race, although in a caucus, they can often be unpredictable. On the heels of a massive loss in New Hampshire, Clinton could really use the narrative of a victory, but that is far from a sure thing at this point. While she remains the heavy favorite in South Carolina, could a Sanders win in Nevada lead to a large shift in Latinos and African-Americans to him? Just yesterday, the first ever national poll came out that showed Clinton trailing Sanders, albeit narrowly.

The candidates took part in a Town Hall on MSNBC on Thursday and both received some boos from the supporters of their opponents during portions of their presentations. Sanders for pointing out that Hillary Clinton is the only one who ever ran against Barack Obama and Clinton for accusing Sanders of not being a real Democrat (which he has never exactly denied.)

One of the overlooked aspects of this campaign may be that Bill Clinton, as a surrogate, is causing more negative headlines for his wife, than positive ones. That is a similar case to what happened in 2008. Clinton has been extremely negative of late in going after Sanders and trying to minimize his appeal. He even went off on a bit of a rant recently which seemed to minimize the role of Obama as the first black President.  He probably wants people to think he had that title. Also, he reportedly falsely claimed that the San Bernandino terrorists had no ties to the Middle East. Indeed, the female came from there directly.  Many have remarked that the former President seems past his prime as a political communicator.

By tonight, we will see who came out on top in Nevada. My guess is that Clinton will win, perhaps closely, but it will be very bad news for her if she loses once again. There could be an interesting dynamic this afternoon in casinos and whatnot of labor union bosses supporting Clinton and their workers wanting to go stand in a corner for Sanders but feeling the pressure not to. It is also being said that if there are ties, delegates are awarded by drawing playing cards. How appropriate for Las Vegas. I bet Hillary will have the right kind of "luck."

Six Republicans face the voters today in the Palmetto State after an intense week of campaigning,  albeit not one overwhelmed with "scorched earth" or dirty tricks. Last Saturday night, right after the tragic news of the passing of Justice Scalia, the candidates met in a debate on CBS and it was a pretty ugly affair. Most of the headlines were generated by South Carolina frontrunner Donald Trump sounding far more like a Code Pink activist than a Republican. He accused former President George W. Bush of lying to get the U.S. into the war in Iraq and claimed he spoke out against it. Late in the week, a Howard Stern interview from 2002 surfaced in which Trump said he supported going into Iraq. His supporters never seem to care about his inconsistency or lies though.

Trump is still likely to win tonight, perhaps by a large margin, but there are some unanswered questions about the extent of which his statements, style, and rhetoric could hurt among traditional conservatives in South Carolina. Some polls are said to show his lead rapidly decreasing in the past few days. Trump also battled with the Pope this week, when the Pontiff made claims suggesting that Trump's support of just building walls meant he is not a real Christian. Trump fired back as he is apt to do, but the statement from Pope Francis was actually a bit more nuanced and both sides backed down to some extent. In a Town Hall on CNN, Trump spent some time praising Howard Stern and Michael Jackson, but when given the opportunity by a voter to walk away from his "Bush lied" mantra, he did not really do so, but sort of acted like he never even said it.

In regards to last Saturday's debate, both Ben Carson and John Kasich were somewhat above the fray, as Jeb Bush fired back against Trump in defense of his family and Ted Cruz tangled with both Trump and Marco Rubio. There have been some polls to suggest that Carson and Kasich might have benefited for that, although I do expect they will finish fifth and sixth tonight. Carson's campaign is not really viable at this point, despite the fact that he might be splitting Evangelical votes with Cruz and Rubio and Kasich is not even going to be in South Carolina today.  The Governor of Ohio has been getting a lot of positive press lately for his "positive tone" and calls for the candidates to not fight. I guess that is an easy position for Kasich to take, considering his standing in the race, but if he does well tonight, and Jeb Bush leaves the race, Kasich could stand to benefit. He received a lot of coverage for an emotional moment at a Town Hall meeting in which a young supporter, who has been going through hard times, told Kasich he had become an inspiration to him and then asked for a hug. It really does seem like Kasich is planning to stay in the race into mid-March, even if he is unlikely to attack Rubio or any other remaining candidate. A brokered convention, or perhaps a Vice Presidential nod might be most on his mind.

Ted Cruz had been expected to be Trump's main competition in South Carolina, and he may indeed finish second tonight. He has managed to at least slightly exceed expectations in both previous states to vote thus far. He has been thrown somewhat off message this week, as both Trump and Rubio continue to call him a liar. Trump has gone as far as to send a cease and desist letter to Cruz and has threatened lawsuits over Cruz's anti-Trump television ads. Cruz in a press conference called Trump's bluff on the matter. In the meantime, political junkies took great interest in an instance of Cruz website photoshop that faked a photograph of Marco Rubio shaking hands and looking up at a much taller Barack Obama. The Cruz campaign went to some uncomfortable lengths to make it seem like it was an accurate representation of a photo (as if merely shaking hands with an incumbent President would be a horrible act.)

So, the big battle tonight might be for second place between Cruz and Rubio. That could go either way, but late in the week, there has been much said about serious Marcomentum. There is no doubt that Rubio had a better debate last Saturday than the previous one and he will hope for an even better Saturday today. While he and Trump mostly avoided each other during the debate (something that will not be able to last forever), Rubio scored points for standing up for George W. Bush, and was said to have been a  better advocate for the last Republican President in the debate, than his brother Jeb was.

While there as a bit of a confusing incident late in the week of Rubio reportedly cancelling an appearance before a somewhat hostile conservative audience, just minutes before he was set to appear, most of the headlines for Rubio have been positive in South Carolina and have fueled a "comeback" narrative. Nothing seems to be bigger than the endorsement of Nikki Haley, the state's popular GOP Governor and a rising political star within the party. Rubio certainly has a lot of establishment support in South Carolina, and in past primaries, that has been a very good thing for eventual winners. However, that was not the case four years ago when Newt Gingrich beat Mitt Romney, who had Haley's endorsement at that time. She is said to be more popular now and some pollsters have stated there has been a definite bump in Rubio's support since the Governor's endorsement.

Then, there is Jeb Bush. He might finish anywhere from second to sixth tonight, according to the myriad of polls. It is said though that he needs to be at least third to even stay in the race and the while beating out Rubio got him a bit of a reprieve after New Hampshire, Rubio's righting the ship seems to be coming at the expense of his former mentor and the post-mortems for the Bush campaign have already begun.

The former Florida Governor brought in his famous brother George W. to campaign with him on Presidents' Day this past Monday and Jeb was clearly fired up before a large and enthusiastic crowd, but it remains to be seen whether affection in South Carolina for the Bush Family is transferable to votes. Jeb was said to be very disappointed when Governor Haley endorsed Rubio after he had sought her endorsement and might have thought that she was leaning towards him. The polls showing Rubio as closest to Trump likely have had much to do with people who might otherwise support Bush already deciding to move to Rubio.

Barring a stronger than expected showing tonight, the calls will intensify for Bush to end his campaign. I think it is worth noting that even before New Hampshire, Jeb has not really done much of anything to be overly critical of Rubio and as a supporter of Bush, it almost feels as if he has been running interference for him. Trump has been targeting Bush and has almost completely left Rubio alone during this stretch. I am sure Jeb Bush want to beat Rubio tonight and go on to become President, but it is almost as if he has already reached the conclusion to try to let Rubio have a legitimate shot at earning the nomination. Only after the campaign is completely over, may we find out about some behind the scenes stuff.

I maintain that out of everyone who ran for President this cycle, Jeb Bush was clearly the most experienced and qualified, and with the best record, to be the next President. While his campaign may not have gone as hoped, nothing has happened to discourage me from that belief in the candidate I chose to support. The bottom line though is that the Bush name alone leads so many on the right to write him off, not because they join the left in having hated Bush policies, but because Americans seem to have an issue with "dynasties", especially as those same people are so angry at the second Clinton to try to become President. In the television age we live in, youth, flash, and bombast are also valued more than detailed policy proposals, proven records, or wonkishness.

I do hope that the South Carolina results today fall in a way that allows Jeb Bush to remain viable in the race and with hope to be the one to consolidate the party and go on to be elected President. It's not all that likely to occur though, and thus there are other things to take into consideration in these very perilous times both for the Grand Old Party and the United States of America.


At 10:08 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey, OH Governor John Kasich (R) is the last Governor standing!

My Bold Prediction: United States Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) will be the GOP nominee & 45th President in November!

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey, you need to update the blog on Jeb's dropping out!


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