Tag Archives: Marco Rubio

Top GOP Presidential Contender’s Political Experience Consists Of Insulting Obama

Current anti-Obama insults might still be viable for some GOP Presidential contenders in many of the red states and gerrymandered districts…


Dr. Ben Carson may be a very talented neurosurgeon. He’s likely saved lives. But he is a conservative hero with no political experience who is being boosted as a 2016 candidate for one reason only: He insulted President Obama at a most inappropriate occasion, during the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.

A group encouraging retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to run for president raised $2.4 million in the first three months of this year, more than the group backing Hillary Clinton or those affiliated with Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and other potential candidates, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Carson, 62, has emerged as a prominent African-American conservative commentator. He appears regularly on Fox News and writes a weekly column for the conservative Washington Times newspaper.

Carson’s spokesman says he is not interested in running for president and he is not affiliated with the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee.

The money is a sign that conservative voters are looking beyond the usual political suspects for a presidential candidate, the head of the Ben Carson committee said.

It’s actually a sign that conservatives are desperate.



Filed under 2016 Hopefuls

Bill Maher Rips Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and the Crazed Republican Moon Howlers



Bill Maher ripped Republicans like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz who are more interested in howling at the moon, and making money than they are in governing.


Maher said:

Truth is there has never been a better time to quit government, and go into the lucrative business of b*tching about government. It worked for Joe Scarborough, Mike Huckabee, and most famously, of course, Sarah Palin. The one night stand of Alaska governors. When Sarah announced she was resigning as governor, she said, “It may be tempting to keep your head down and just plod along, but that’s a quitter’s way out.” Yes, only by quitting was she not quitting. You see, Sarah realized she could have a greater affect on influencing stupidity from outside of government, and pledged to work to elect people just like her, just not her.

The fact is today’s Republicans aren’t built to govern. They don’t want to go to the moon. They want to howl at it. That’s why just the fact of getting elected means you’re already damaged goods. Unless you go to Washington and act like the single biggest prick in the room every time, you’re suspect, which is why there’s really only one man current in government who the base completely trusts. I’m talking, of course, about Ted Cruz.

He’s the guy who best understands that high office is just a higher form of talk radio. Rick Perry told them that they should have a heart. Mitch McConnell holds a gun like a girl, and Marco Rubio is pretty soft on Mexicans for an Italian. John McCain is against torture, and he was tortured. Flip-flopper. Chris Christie actually touched Obama during Hurricane Sandy when he should have lured him to the Pine Barrens and hit him with a shovel, and Michele Bachmann compromised on gays by marrying her husband.

It used to be that the golden parachute for Republicans who left government was going directly into lobbying for some big bank or defense contractor, but now elected Republicans are leaving office in midterm to try to cash their golden ticket on Fox News and/or talk radio.

Congress has become the new Saturday Night Live for stardom seeking Republicans. Some of them are trying to use it as a platform to the White House (Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio). Others are using it to build national fame and fortune (Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann), but they all have one thing in common. They aren’t in Congress to pass legislation, and do the country’s business.

Sarah Palin was a trailblazer for Republicans in this respect. Palin shows them that they can abandon the responsibility to the people who elect them, be famous for nothing, and make a ton of money in the process. If the government doesn’t work, it’s because Republicans have zero interest in governing.

They have their eyes on bigger prizes. There are only so many of those Fox News and talk radio jobs out there. The media environment doesn’t reward hard work and legislation. The real money is in being extreme, outrageous, and crazy.

Republicans don’t take governing seriously, which is why they shouldn’t be taken seriously by the American people.



Filed under Bill Maher

Jon Stewart Is Shocked (But Not Surprised) By GOP Killing Veterans Bill

The Huffington Post

When a bill came up for vote that would have expanded health care and education for veterans, we knew two things would happen next. First, Republicans would block the bill, because that’s kind of their thing. Then, Jon Stewart would deliver a passionate monologue explaining just how disgraceful this is.

Stewart did just that on “The Daily Show” last night, correctly attacking senate Republicans for their shaky argument for voting against the bill — which was somehow made even worse when an unrelated Iran sanctions amendment was attached to it. Of course, at least one senator argued that it was the only way the bill would get noticed.

“How do you justify attaching the Iran sanctions bill to the veterans’ benefits bill?” Stewart responded. “That’s right, you’re the victim here. You’ve been denied something that you need by an impersonal government bureaucracy. How can anyone know the anguish that you must feel?”

Check out the full clip above to watch Stewart wish the same shame on Republicans that has been brought upon John Travolta.


Filed under Jon Stewart, Veterans Health Care Benefits

Senators Admit Congress Really Sucked In 2013

Joint Session of Congress

The Huffington Post


Below are the full reactions of senators, lightly edited for clarity:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“That’s a good question. We were not attacked, uh, to the extent that we were on 9/11.

“We showed a level of dysfunction that has seldom been reached. Maybe the only other time was before the union dissolved. The good things are that it could have been worse. The final story on 2013 for me is it could have been worse.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

“What good happened? A lot of the things Obama wanted to get done didn’t get done, like he wanted to avoid sequestration, which would have put one and two-tenths trillion [dollars] back into spending.

“That’s very positive. We got 17.2 trillion in debt, and you don’t want to add another one trillion and two-tenths to it.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

“Well, the government isn’t completely closed, is it? What good happened this year? I only have three years left, that’s what happened that’s good.”

(Why was it so bad?) “That’s all about leadership. If you have good leadership, you have good progress. If you don’t, you don’t. And that’s not a partisan statement — that’s both sides.”

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.)

“Oh, man. That’s the toughest question I’ve had all year.

“It is surprisingly hard. This is the most frustrating year of any of my years in the Congress — House or Senate — because so few major issues went addressed, starting with the fiscal situation, and then bumping along through all the crises and so forth. What good happened this year? The best thing that happened this year is that we finally got word late last night [Dec. 19] that we’re going to be done. I think we all believe that it can’t get worse than this year, so maybe next year will be better.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

“That’s a really, uh … you know, look, from my perspective, not a great deal. I mean our foreign policy, our credibility around the world is continuing to shatter. Look at Syria. I can’t think of a lot of good, I really cannot. I have to tell you, this year in many ways for me has been one of the most productive. But as I leave here and look at just overall what’s actually happened, it’s not been a good year for the United States, so it’s hard for me to think of much. I’m sorry. I’m usually very upbeat and optimistic. I’m sorry.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), walking with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

Rubio: “What good happened this year? Well, I’ll get back to you.”
Casey: “We got a budget bill!”
Rubio, yelling as elevator doors close: “We’re still America — that’s what’s good!”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

“We finally got a semblance of a budget. We had the student loans — try to get some stability to that, lower interest rates. And we were able to drive both sides further apart. I don’t know if that’s good, but that’s what happened. That’s facts.

“With [Republican Sen.] Susan Collins, we were able to put a bipartisan group together. We got the governors caucus started, which is really bipartisan, so we’ve got to see if we can carry that and hopefully get a little better direction to get things accomplished. It’s gonna happen if you have relationships, so you have to work on that.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

“We elevated the stories of survivors of sexual assault to make it a national debate and make sure victims’ voices are heard. It was one of my highest priorities.

“I have lots of personal successes, but those are all for [sons] Theo and Henry. I think that’s it.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), walking with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Whitehouse: “We cleared the filibuster away from nominees …”
Wicker: “We were not attacked by foreign governments.”
Whitehouse: “The economy continued to improve.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

“There are a lot of good things. You know, we’re all blessed. This country’s blessed. We’re still standing. There’s a lot of things where people said the sky is falling, but it hasn’t fell.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

“What good happened this year? [Chuckle, pause, asks if that means with his family or the Senate.] A good report from the president’s review committee on the NSA.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

“Give Lizzie, my press secretary, a call, and we can set something up.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

“My son did great in soccer and cross country. When you said good, I immediately thought of home, not Washington, D.C.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

“You know I think, uh, I’m having trouble trying to come up with something good. I think it’s good that we have exposed the surveillance of Americans without a warrant, and we’re going to try to do something about it. It seems like there’s some consensus in that direction.”

[It's pointed out that his example is actually rather negative.] “I tried to turn it into a positive. You know, really, we abandoned the sequester caps, and really, I go home disappointed with the year.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“I think that the budget thing was good. I think that will avert another shutdown. I can’t think of a hell of a lot of things besides that, to be honest with you. The observers say it’s the least productive Congress in history, and I don’t disagree with that. We did some good stuff on that defense bill. Did some good stuff on that. I’m digging for the pony here.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Murphy: “The Red Sox won the World Series.”
Booker: “That’s painful. That’s bad!”
Murphy: “Cory Booker got elected to the United States Senate.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)

“What good? [Chuckle] Well, you really threw me for a loop. Oh, God. We did pass some bills — the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill. There’s a whole series of bills that people worked on — the compounding [pharmacies] bill — they worked pretty hard on. These are bills that did not make the front page or even the first five pages, but they’ve made a big impact to the folks that really care about them. In fact, I even have a list of eight or nine of them, but they really haven’t attracted any attention. On those bills — they were bipartisan — we worked hard, mostly on the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee.

“You know, everybody talks, ‘Where’s the farm bill? Why didn’t we get all of the high-profile stuff?’ — and then turning the Senate into the House, which is a bad thing, and our response. Everybody focuses on that. But I think there’s a reservoir of commitment here, on tax reform, on the tax extender package, and other things that really count. Foreign policy is a big one. I just think you have to understand that there are two very different opinions and philosophies here on the part of Republicans and Democrats, but we can occasionally build a bridge. And we’ll keep doing it in spite of 2014, which happens to be an even-numbered year, and you know what happens then.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

“What good happened this year? Well, I think a lot of Senate relationships were strained by what happened late in the year, but I think they’re going to survive. In the Senate, those relationships and friendships matter because you only have 99 colleagues. And, uh, uh, most of the good things that happened for me were with my family and friends, and while people had their challenges generally, this was a good year for my family and for most of the people I know.”

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

“I had a lot of good experiences with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in getting amendments, working together on amendments and bills, and getting them passed by the Senate. I think the Senate took on a lot of tough issues. If you look at what the Senate passed, it was a number of big issues, from budget to immigration, and gun control was up, and I think the list goes on and on.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)

“I think we’re getting close on the farm bill. Obviously passing a budget. I think ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] was a good outcome, immigration reform. I think as we focus on all the negative, there were some pretty amazing things. I don’t think anyone felt we were going to do comprehensive immigration reform. ENDA had been hanging around for a long time. And I think the budget, as I understand, is the first time since 1986 that a divided Congress has produced a budget. I tend to look at the good side of things. There was plenty bad, though.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

“We passed a budget for the first time in four years. … That’s not a bad thing. We got a defense authorization. A lot of appointments done. The economy, I think the economy, we saw the report yesterday — 4.1 percent GDP — better than people expected. Economy’s better, retail sales are up, consumer confidence is up, and deficit is down. That’s good news.”

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

“Number one, getting the first budget in four years. And I don’t know if you were aware, but I just learned this is the first budget out of a divided Congress, with the House [under a] different [party], since 1986. I think that’s significant. It wasn’t the most picturesque process in the world, but it was done though bipartisan negotiation. That’s a big deal. That’s a very big deal. Getting the defense bill done, I feel positive. We had some good bipartisan work on immigration. We had some good bipartisan work on student loans. So there were some bright spots. Not a very productive year — I’m not going to argue that.

“I think this whole business with the rules, we need to have some continued discussions. It’s trying to find the right balance between respecting minority rights and not facilitating obstruction.”

[He's asked whether he's still glad he ran for the Senate last year.] “Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. You’re dealing with public policy at the highest level, and for a person like myself who’s curious, likes public policy and likes to try to fix things, it’s a great place to be. I’ve had some very frustrating moments. The shutdown, the vote on [gun] background checks was a downer, but by and large, I feel pretty good.”

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)

“I think a number of things. We’re right on the verge of getting the farm bill done, we’re piecing that together. We got the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill done. So really a lot of things have gotten done when you take away the budget issues. That’s really where we, you know, where we have a problem agreeing — in the amount of money we’re going to spend in the future and increase taxes, increase revenue to get those dollars. That’s really where the concern is at.

“I’d like to have seen a lot more things voted on. I don’t have any problems at all casting votes. I think the amendment process needs to be fixed, [so] members can offer amendments. That’s how you avoid what happened with the military pay issue that we’ve got, how things like that are allowed to go forward. That doesn’t happen if everybody’s consulted.”

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Filed under United States Congress

Chris Christie Is Quickly Becoming The New Mitt Romney

National Memo

Republicans spent most of 2011 pretending that Mitt Romney wouldn’t be their nominee for president. And when the 2012 primaries began, they did everything they could to damage their nominee before he could get to the general election.

The race for the 2016 GOP nomination is starting to hint at a remarkably similar shape.

Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), fresh off his landslide re-election, is leading the pack of contenders to represent the Republican Party in the next presidential election. With 24 percent of the vote, he’s ahead of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) at 13 percent, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at 11 percent and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) with 10 percent in a new CNN poll. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) round out the frontrunners.

Like Romney and unlike his competitors, Christie has never been “a Tea Party favorite.” And with a little less than half of Republican primary voters not identifying with that movement, the governor is fighting for one half of the base as his several opponents wrestle for the other.

Like Romney and unlike his competitors, Christie has never been “a Tea Party favorite.” And with a little less than half of Republican primary voters not identifying with that movement, the governor is fighting for one half of the base as his several opponents wrestle for the other.

The Tea Party’s big mistake was not uniting behind any one candidate after Rick Perry’s debate performances disqualified him. Instead, they fled from Not-Romney to Not-Romney, disparaging their eventual nominee’s key legislative accomplishment and business record as one candidate after another failed to dethrone him.

With so many heroes of the Tea Party movement in the running, it appears that history could be on repeat. The New Republic‘s Nate Cohn suggests that Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) could be the candidate to unite the party — even if he isn’t even cracking the top six in the CNN poll. Much of Walker’s appeal will depend on how badly the GOP wants a Non-Christie.

The current governor of New Jersey has some decided advantages over the former governor of Massachusetts, even if their first terms were both marked by marginal economic gains.

First of all, Christie was re-elected in a blue state — a feat that Romney didn’t even attempt to complete, after winning election with less than 50 percent of the vote.

The Garden State’s governor is a natural, possibly even a Clinton-esque, campaigner who knows when to triangulate against both sides of the aisle. He — like George W. Bush before him — feels confident in running against an unpopular Congress, even if his party controls the bottom house. And he has never been pro-abortion rights, though his dabbling in gun control may put a similar crack in his conservative credibility.

Christie wasn’t the godfather of Obamacare — but he did split the health reform baby by accepting Medicaid expansion while refusing to build a health care exchange for his state.

As the governor’s frontrunner stance firms, the attacks on him will grow more severe. Already he’s facing questions about his lobbying activities, which include slight connections to Bernie Madoff, and conservatives are blasting him for “bizarre behavior,” such as possibly not supporting the opponent of Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) even as Christie serves as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Republicans only united around Mitt Romney after they failed to destroy him. The question now is whether they’ll make the same mistake twice.  And if Christie succeeds in uniting the party, then the question becomes if he’ll continue to follow Romney’s flip-flopping path of not revealing what he actually feels about immigration reform until he loses the presidency.


Filed under 2016 Hopefuls

Boehner To Cruz: Time To Put Up Or Shut Up On Obamacare


Looks like Rep. Boehner can’t control his own caucus so he’ll try giving orders to others outside of his caucus.  I’m certainly no fan of Ted Cruz’ but it sure looks like Boehner is being a little more aggressive with Sen. Cruz than he is with his own people.


House GOP leadership has been frustrated for weeks with Senate Republicans like Ted Cruz (R-TX) for putting the pressure on the lower chamber to defund Obamacare in exchange for funding the federal government. House leaders are convinced a government shutdown would be a political disaster for the Republican Party. But Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and others kept pressing, riling up the base for a shutdown showdown.

Now, with the House poised to pass the bill that Cruz and company wanted, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had a message Thursday for his Senate comrades: Put up or shut up.
“The fight here has been won. The fight over there is just beginning,” Boehner told reporters. “I expect my Senate colleagues to do everything they can to stop this law. It’s time for them to pick up the mantle and get the job done.”

The House will pass Friday a government spending bill that defunds the 2010 health care reform law, Boehner said. It’s not the bill that Boehner wanted to pass. But his original plan for a two-pronged vote, which would have allowed the Senate to strip the defund Obamacare language and keep the government running without a risk of shutdown, was stymied by a revolt from the rightwing of the GOP, spurred on in part by Cruz.

Now the House is passing a spending bill that greatly increases the possibility of a government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Thursday that it was “dead” upon reaching the Senate floor.

But the frustration for Boehner and other House conservatives is that Cruz has already been signaling defeat in his chamber.

“Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so,” Cruz said in a joint statement Wednesday with Lee and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL). “At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people.”

That apparent concession fueled a harsh response from House Republicans.

“This is outrageous. They demand a fight for two months, supposedly on behalf of the grassroots and constituents and then within hours of getting the fight, they slink away, abandon those same people and do nothing,” a senior House GOP aide told TPM. “They have failed every test of leadership.”

Some House members, like Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), went on the record with their displeasure.

“Today, Senator Ted Cruz & United States Senator Mike Lee called on House Republicans to ‘stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people’ on defunding #Obamacare,” Duffy wrote on Facebook. “House Republicans have stood firm. We have voted to defund, repeal & delay #Obamacare dozens of times. It is time for Sens. Cruz & Lee to show they can hold the line against Senate Democrats.”

“Let’s hope they do not surrender before the fight even begins,” Duffy wrote.

Boehner’s Thursday comments could be seen as both a clear message to Cruz and Lee that they must wage war in the upper chamber after House Republicans have committed to the cause — and as Boehner’s chance to do to Cruz what Cruz has been doing to House leaders for days. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

After Boehner’s remarks, Cruz and Lee continued to place the responsibility for a defunding measure on Reid, even though the Senate majority leader had already pronounced the House bill dead on arrival in the Senate.

“It’s going to be in Harry Reid’s court,” Cruz told reporters Thursday. Lee indicated that Senate Republicans wanted Reid to give them an up-or-down vote on the House bill.

“We demand, we expect, we hope to have an up-or-down vote, so people in that body can have an opportunity to weigh in,” Lee told reporters.

But the sniping from the lower chamber might be making an impression on the senators. Asked about Boehner’s comments and what he was willing to do to stop the law, Cruz left all the options on the table, including a talking filibuster to stall the bill on the Senate floor.

“I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare,” Cruz said. Even a talking filibuster? “Yes, and anything else. Any procedural means necessary.”


Filed under 113th Congress

Rubio Demands Cancellation Of Obamacare Advertising

Is it me, or do most GOP elected officials in Washington, DC imagine themselves to be superior to the President of the United States?


In a letter sent Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) demanded that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cancel a planned $8.7 million television ad buy to promote Obamacare.

The planned ad buy, which Rubio said had “been brought to my attention,” covers 16 metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Houston, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, Tampa, Charlotte, Harlingen (Texas), Brownsville (Texas), Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Nashville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh. The ads are expected to run from Sept. 30 to Dec. 1, according to Rubio’s office. Three buys toward the $8.7 million total, worth $200,000, have already been completed for Brownsville, Tampa and Nashville, Rubio’s office said.

Rubio is one of several congressional conservatives who have argued that the Obama administration can’t and shouldn’t use federal funding to promote participation in the programs created by the health care reform law.

“This blatant misuse of federal dollars to promote a fundamentally flawed law is extremely concerning, especially considering the extensive unknowns surrounding the coming launch and implementation of ObamaCare,” Rubio wrote in the letter, addressed to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “Until critical questions can be answered regarding the availability and type of health insurance to be provided by ObamaCare, it is unconscionable to spend taxpayer dollars to promote and advertise ObamaCare plans that have yet to be finalized.”

The full letter is below.

Rubio Obamacare Ad Letter by tpmdocs


Filed under Affordable Care Act, U.S. Politics


Ready for 2016…

The Huffington Post

Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal Among Those Making Moves Toward 2016 Campaigns

Get your face on TV and write a book: Check. Start meeting the big money people: Check. Visit Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina – Israel, too: Check.

Deny any of this has to do with running for president: Check.

For politicians planning or tempted to run for the presidency in 2016, the to-do list is formidable. What’s striking is how methodically most of them are plowing through it while they pretend nothing of the sort is going on.

Somehow, it has been decreed that politicians who fancy themselves presidential timber must wear a veil concealing the nakedness of their ambition. They must let the contours show through, however – more and more over time – while hoping everyone doesn’t tire of the tease.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, among others, are hewing closely to the scripted chores of soon-to-runs. Hillary Rodham Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are among those coming out with a book, almost a perquisite these days, while otherwise diverting from the usual path of preparation, for reasons that make strategic sense for them (and, you never know, could merely reflect indecision).

There is so much to do: Polish a record, for those in office; network with central constituencies of the party; take a serious stab at social media; start dealing with pesky baggage; and get going with a shadow campaign, which can mean bringing on national advisers, powering up a political action committee, or both. The little-knowns must get better known. The well-knowns must shape how people know them.

Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana say it’s crazy to be preparing for a campaign this soon.

If so, then Christie, Jindal and the whole lot of them are crazy.

Paul is going full steam on prep, making all the necessary moves (visits to New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina among them), while stating his only motive is to help the Republican Party grow. This, despite hard-line tactics in the Senate that do not resemble outreach to GOP factions other than his own.

Still, he’s been more upfront than most in acknowledging the possibility of a presidential campaign. Rubio, for one, claims such a campaign hasn’t crossed his mind even as he’s been running one, in all but name, at least since he darted into Iowa mere days after the 2012 election. Among Democrats, O’Malley now is openly talking about a 2016 race.

Everything Clinton does, short of brushing her teeth, is parsed for presidential campaign meaning. If her brand of toothpaste were known, that would be factored in the punditry, too. “I have absolutely no plans to run,” she says, turning to the most time-worn dodge, which persuades no one, including the supporters and donors who raised more than $1 million in June alone without any discouragement from her.

Happily for hopefuls, much of what they do as public officials is multipurpose, giving them a veneer of deniability even if no one believes it.

Vice President Joe Biden chats up people from key primary states and Democratic interest groups, but, hey, that’s just Joe the king of schmooze, right?

Christie staged a national fundraising tour this summer, swelling coffers for what’s expected to be a cakewalk to a second term as governor but, more important, making the coast-to-coast money connections he’d need for a Republican presidential race. Many could-be candidates travel to raise money for others, similarly introducing themselves to donors for their own potential benefit down the road.

Rare is the presidential prospect who hasn’t been to Israel, the New Hampshire of the Middle East, small in size but big as a touchstone of U.S politics, and it’s easy for a senator to find reasons to go. Paul and Rubio did early this year. Governors pad thin foreign policy resumes with trade missions or other events abroad, as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker did with a summer visit to China. Christie made Israel his first overseas trip as governor last year. O’Malley made a return visit in April.

Many of these people have positions in party organizations or governors associations that make a trip to New Hampshire or a splashy speech in California look like something other than an effort to grease their own wheels for 2016. That’s especially handy for governors, who risk flak at home if seen preening for a national audience. That hasn’t stopped Christie, though, from going for laughs on late-night talk shows or agreeing to a sitcom stint this fall on Michael J. Fox’s new show.

Walker got to preen at home this summer, hosting the National Governors Association annual meeting in Milwaukee. He says he won’t think about running for president until the 2014 governor’s election is over. No one believes him. Notably, he won’t commit to serving all four years if he wins another term.

Both Walker and Jindal are introducing themselves to South Carolina conservatives in a fundraising visit for Gov. Nikki Haley in late August.

Continue reading here…



Filed under 2016 Race

The GOP primary is a lot like the NCAA tournament

Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul: This will be a later-round fight.

Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul: This will be a later-round fight.

The GOP primary season is at least three years away, yet apparently the media wants to perpetuate a fierce battle among potential GOP candidates now

The Week

This much is clear: The Republican nomination fight will look more like the rigid, bracketed NCAA men’s basketball tournament than a free-for-all scrum.

People can talk all they want about the dramatically different foreign policy philosophies of Chris Christie and Rand Paul, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Before that fight will happen in earnest, each man must win his “bracket.” For Christie, that means defeating Marco Rubio. And for Paul, this means dispatching Ted Cruz.

Someone will have to “own” the establishment vote, otherwise, establishment candidates will all split their vote and lose. This is Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush if he runs (which I don’t think he will). Meanwhile, someone will become the “libertarian populist” candidate, otherwise they split their vote and lose. But will it be Rand Paul or Ted Cruz?

These will be the first (and ugliest) tests of the 2016 race — scrapes amongst “friends” competing to dominate the same niche of voters (and donors).

Our assumption is almost always that our real enemy is our opposite. But this is rarely true (see Chuck Klosterman on the difference between a “nemesis” and an “archenemy“). During the 2012 primary battle, populist Rep. Michele Bachmann was much more friendly toward moderate establishment candidate Mitt Romney (her nemesis) than she was to conservative Rick Perry (her archenemy).

This shouldn’t make sense, but it does. Bachmann was marking her territory. As Anthony Trollope wrote, “The apostle of Christianity and the infidel can meet without a chance of a quarrel; but it is never safe to bring together two men who differ about a saint or a surplice.”

Likewise, on the surface, Cruz and Paul are friendly toward one another — which is exactly why (at some point) they will try to destroy each other. In reality, Christie is merely Paul’s nemesis. But Cruz is likely to become Paul’s archenemy.

Here is one predictable example of how things might play out on the ground in places like Iowa: If you’re Team Cruz, you basically put this message out there via a whisper campaign: “Sen. Cruz loves Rand, but let’s be honest. Rand just can’t win with that Southern Avenger thing hanging over his head. And have you read his dad’s newsletters?

View the initial stage of this primary contest as a sort of tournament. The early rounds are often the most heated battles because this is a fight over turf dominance — not some “esoteric” (to use Christie’s line) struggle over ideas and such.

Of course, this is not a new idea. In fact, I stole it. Back in 2010, National Journal’s Ron Brownstein made a similar point, arguing that the nomination fight would be between “populists versus managers.” Today, a similar dynamic is at play. But there are differences. In 2012, the “populists” consisted of candidates like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin (if she had run). In terms of experience and gravitas, I think it’s safe to say that we have upgraded this category with the inclusion of two U.S. senators (Paul and Cruz).

Meanwhile, the “manager” rubric probably isn’t as accurate these days. Mitt Romney was known as a manager, and other potential contenders (like former RNC chair and Gov. Haley Barbour) were thought of as excellent managers. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would certainly qualify here in 2016 (though I haven’t included him in the top tier because of his charisma deficit), but the label isn’t perfect for Christie and Rubio. As such, I’m going with “establishment.” (Note: This is also a debatable label — and is not meant to be a pejorative.)

I would throw in a third tier, too. Aside from the establishment bracket and the populist bracket, we need a wild card bracket. There is usually someone surprising who emerges to make it into a later round. In recent years, this has been a populist-leaning social conservative (think Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.) Were I betting on a longshot to fill this space in 2016, my money would be on Mike Pence, or perhaps Scott Walker.

In any event, the purpose of this column is to help focus in on what the pros will be watching early on. Yes, we may eventually see the huge Christie-Paul fight as an epic battle of ideologies. And yes, there will be trash talk and columns written about this struggle of ideologies. But don’t be fooled. The first real tests — the nastier fights — are almost always the turf battles that precede the epic ideological struggles.

There are essentially three games to watch: 1. Rubio vs. Christie, 2. Paul vs. Cruz, and 3. Wild card (someone who surprises us). If you want to sound smart at a party, you’ll bring this up when all the hoi polloi start taking about Christie’s swipe at Paul.


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Are Republicans trying to lose the 2016 presidential race?

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) addresses the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in March. His star has dimmed quite a bit since.

The Week

The RNC’s much-hyped autopsy report has largely been ignored. And when Republicans like Marco Rubio try to take the RNC’s advice, they get hammered by the base

In the wake of President Obama’s resounding victory in the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee drafted what came to be known as its autopsy report, a sweeping critique of the party’s messaging and platform that warned that, unless the party changed, “it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.”

The report was published in March. In the four months since then — in fact, in the last week alone — the GOP, at both the state and federal level, has narrowed its appeal so drastically that, at this rate, it seems quite likely that any generic, scandal-free Democrat could easily win the 2016 presidential election.

The election, of course, is more than three years away. That’s a lifetime in politics. Democrats have plenty of time to make all kinds of mistakes of their own. And the public’s memory is notoriously fuzzy. But at the moment, it appears the Republican Party has put itself in a box, severely reducing the number of candidates who could both conceivably win a primary campaign and a general election.

Let’s start with immigration reform. The RNC’s autopsy report said the party “must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform” if it wants a larger share of the growing, all-important Latino vote. Legislation to provide illegal immigrants with a pathway to citizenship passed with bipartisan support in the Senate, but it was made clear last week that it has no chance in the GOP-controlled House. This is sure to only estrange Latinos further.

As David Brooks, the conservative columnist at The New York Timesrecently wrote:

Before Asians, Hispanics and all the other groups can be won with economic plans, they need to feel respected and understood by the G.O.P. They need to feel that Republicans respect their ethnic and cultural identity. If Republicans reject immigration reform, that will be a giant sign of disrespect, and nothing else Republicans say will even be heard. [The New York Times]

Furthermore, the Republican Party’s top proponent of immigration reform, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, has seen his star dim significantly as a result of his efforts. Tea Party types have taken to calling him a RINO (Republican in Name Only), which could turn out to be the kiss of death for a Republican presidential hopeful. Erick Erickson at Red State, an influential voice among the conservative base, says Rubio’s immigration stance will “come up in ad campaigns in Iowa, New Hampshire, and elsewhere.” Most worryingly for Rubio’s team, new polls show his favorability rating dropping by double-digits among Republican voters.

As David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush (and former columnist atTheWeek.com), put it, thanks to his backing of immigration reform, “Rubio is a dead man walking.”

Then there is the issue of women’s rights, or what Democrats like to call the War on Women. The RNC said the GOP must develop a “forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women” if it wants to prevent a repeat of an election that saw Obama win women voters overall by 11 points and single women by a staggering 36 points. But just last week, the Texas legislature, with full-throated support from Republican Gov. Rick Perry, passed one of the toughest abortion laws in the country, which anti-abortion groups warn could lead to the shuttering of all but four of the Lone Star State’s abortion clinics.

Texas is just one state, and a ruby-red one at that. This abortion law may be something that many Texans approve of. The issue for Republicans is how it plays nationally. Perry has set the gold standard for anti-abortion legislation at the state level, a position that is sure to be embraced, if not enhanced, by the bulk of Republican primary candidates in 2016. It is no coincidence that Perry himself is said to be considering another run at the presidency. Then there is this: Rubio is proposing federal legislation with similar elements in what many think is a bid to make up for his heresies on immigration.

The Republican Party, in other words, is sending a message to women, as loud and clear as ever, that it opposes abortion rights.

Finally, there is the GOP’s economic policies. The RNC was quite emphatic about this: “The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the party.” And yet just this week we witnessed the House GOP strip the farm bill of food stamps for the poor, which meant that the legislation was composed almost entirely of subsidies for farmers and corporations.

As Ross Douthat, the other conservative columnist at the Times, said:

The compassionate-conservative G.O.P. of George W. Bush combined various forms of corporate welfare with expanded spending on social programs, which was obviously deeply problematic in various ways… but not as absurd and self-dealing as only doing welfare for the rich. [The New York Times]

The next presidential election is in the distant future, politically speaking. A lot can happen. But with the important exception of gay marriage, the Republican Party has taken a hard right turn since the 2012 election. Without a dramatic move back toward the middle, it’s hard to imagine the party recovering three years from now. Rather than change the narrative of the party, Republicans are offering new evidence that they remain hostile to minorities, women, and the economically disadvantaged. The perception of the GOP as a group of “stuffy old white men,” as the RNC put it, has hardened. The attack ads practically write themselves.

Of course, there’s still plenty of time for the party to change by 2016. But as we all know, old habits die hard.

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