Ivy Taylor, Mayor of San Antonio

The San Antonio Express-News reports that a new Mayor of San Antonio has been selected: Ivy Taylor. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the previous Mayor, Julian Castro, was recently confirmed by the US Senate as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. His resignation was contingent upon the selection of his successor, who had to be selected from among the ranks of the City Council.

Thus, the selection of Taylor. She has been on the City Council since 2009, and represents a district on the east end. Taylor made news last autumn when she voted against that City’s non-discrimination ordinance. Taylor, an African-American Democrat, will be the Mayor until May of next year, at which time a new Mayor will be inaugurated following a regularly scheduled Mayoral election. Taylor has already announced that she would not run in that election, which promises to be chock full of fireworks.

Among the candidates are City Councilman Ray Lopez, who challenged Taylor today to become the interim Mayor. Unlike Taylor, Lopez freely admits that he wishes to seek a full term as Mayor. State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County) is also running a two-barreled campaign for Mayor, and is seen by most observers as the obvious frontrunner. The dark horse, also expanded upon by the article linked in the previous sentence, is State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. If Van de Putte loses the general election, which she most likely will, the article speculates that she might find herself transitioning into municipal politics, despite the fact that her Senate seat will still have two more years. Personally, I think she could have more fun as the leader of the loyal opposition within the State Senate if Dan Patrick –the Republican nominee– takes the reigns of office.

Castro, for his part, will take office officially here in the next few days. I have made my points about being skeptical regarding Castro’s new role in Washington DC, and now it is best to just move on. I certainly wish him well in his new endeavor, and hope he can positively affect change within a Federal position of power.

I personally thought that Lopez, who has more experience, would have been the preferable choice for Mayor. I obviously disagree with Taylor on her rationale on LGBT issues, but I think that the greater concern is that she is a divider, and not a uniter. Everyone mentioned in this article is a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party, they do not disagree on most issues. But some try to wedge fights and make enemies. In my limited experience following San Antonio politics, I sincerely do not think that Lopez is one of those people.

Of course, at risking the obvious, San Antonio is not Houston. San Antonio, unlike Houston, has a weak-Mayor system, complete with a powerful unappointed City Manager. Accordingly, much of the Mayor’s power is overstated if a casual follower of this blog, one likely stationed in Houston, were to assume this office is similar to its contemporary down Interstate 10.

Texas Leftist has more.

Civil Affairs: Refugees

CIVIL AFFAIRS

Thousands of children, fleeing violence and deplorable conditions in their home countries, escape their own countries and arrive at the periphery of this one. They freely turn themselves in to the proper authorities, not seeking to evade the law but rather face the direct consequences of their own action. These children are convinced that even perpetual detention is preferable to the egregious state of affairs from which they came, in Central America.

Under normal circumstances, this humanitarian crisis would be treated exactly for what it is. Resources would be spent trying to assuage the suffering of these migrants, and ensuring that they are cared for, with all their needs met. Instead, partisan squabbles have bled over into this issue, with Democrats using the opportunity to score points with pro-Immigration Reform. More seriously, the Republicans have attempted to placate Tea Party concerns by adopting a hardline stance on this topic, threatening deportations for unaccompanied refugee children and eviscerating any semblance of humanity on the matter.

This cruelty came to a head today when Governor Rick Perry announced he was deploying approximately 1000 members of the Texas National Guard to the border region. The Washington Post has the full story on this topic, including the revelation that Perry wants his State Guard to patrol the border personally, a serious dereliction of duty and usurpation of the Federal Border Patrol’s responsibility. This much did not surprise me, what surprised me was the muted reaction from many of the serious rank-and-file in the Texas Democratic establishment.

“If the federal government won’t act, Texas must and will,” Wendy Davis, a State Senator and the Democratic nominee for Governor, said. “However, we should be deploying additional deputy sheriffs to the border like local law enforcement is calling for.”

Notice that Davis did not necessarily criticize the rapid buildup at the border, a stark departure from most of her contemporaries and colleagues on the slate. State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, took a different approach.

“To strictly militarize the border won’t help us meet this unique humanitarian challenge,” Van de Putte said. Similar points of view were also echoed by State Senators Sylvia Garica (D-Harris County) and Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso County), as well as a few prominent State Representatives.

They are children. Say that again….out loud. Jockeying these poor kids around like some sort of partisan political football is not constructive, nor does it assist us in solving the obvious humanitarian crisis. Van de Putte and others get that, but evidently, Davis does not. This issue should specifically transcend whatever our simplistic policy disagreements on immigration reform and the like may be. I, for example, believe in largely open borders for all those willing to wait in line at a designated crossing and provide identification. I assume that most in politics would not take such an audacious stand on the topic, but I should share their opinion on this issue nonetheless.

It does not truly matter if you think these refugee’s adult parents, for example, should be allowed expeditious entry into this country with ease. The refugees are still figuratively knocking at our doors without shelter or the means to obtain it. It is our moral duty to absorb all such migrants.

But even humoring some of Perry or Davis’ points, what should this increased presence along the border do to assuage the humanitarian crisis in the Valley? Stand on one side of the Rio Grande with semiautomatic guns? I fail to see how one can adequately intimidate away these children, who are already freely turning themselves into the authorities.

This issue, perhaps more than any other domestic issue this summer, deserves a brave response from our political leaders, not muted and impotent replies. This is not mundane policy, these are people’s lives.

Brains & Eggs and Dos Centavos have more.

 

In re Israel

It is against my better judgment to wade into a Foreign Policy dispute such as this one, so distant from State or Local politics, but the current ongoing issues in the Middle East have prompted a desire for me to explain my positions. Facebook and other social media platforms are replete with abridged sound bites, all of which do not do this controversy justice. Contrary to what many of my old High School classmates have shared on their profiles, a abominable five-minute explanation by Dennis Prager, the issue necessitates a thorough discussion.

Let me start out by explaining the ongoing crisis, for those apparently oblivious to international news. After incessant rocket fire from the Gaza Strip –one of the Palestinian territories, which (unlike the West Bank) is not occupied by Israel– into southern and central Israel, the State retaliated with bombing campaigns to take out the rocket-launching sites, causing heavy casualties. After numerous attempts to facilitate a ceasefire failed, and Hamas militants in Gaza increased the frequency of the rocket attacks, Israel initiated a ground attack on limited targets today. The New York Times has a rather detailed and fair account of that story. The recent flareup intensified in the last few weeks, not only after terrorists affiliated with Hamas kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, but after three domestic terrorists in Israel murdered a young Palestinian boy. It is worth noting that the murderers of the Israelites are still at large, whereas the murderers of the Palestinian have been indicted on murder charges by the Israelis themselves.

It is also worth noting that I have a couple of biases in this discussion. The first is that I’m a Jew. While not all Jews are Zionists, this one sure as hell is one. Being a Zionist simply means you believe that the Jews have a right to a homeland, free from persecution from others. It does not confer anything about where the land should be, how large it should be or if you are a supporter of the specific government within Israel. With that in mind, I proudly consider myself an individual who is “Pro-Israel,” though as I will later explain, I do not think that this is mutually exclusive with being “Pro-Palestinian.” As a member of a self-described “Pro-Israel” group, I have been involved with a number of groups that advocate from that point of view, including both J-Street and AIPAC, the two major Israel advocacy groups. I typically find J-Street to the left of my personal opinions, and AIPAC to the right, but believe that both groups fulfill an invaluable function. Particularly with AIPAC, whose ideological differences with the leadership thereof are admittedly larger, I find it important for liberal peaceniks such as myself to represent differing points of view at conferences and other events, so as not to cede authority on this issue to the right-wing.

So then, what exactly is the core issue here? First, we must examine the underlying dispute to the land in question, and my take on the matter. The most ruthless and zealous supporters of the Israeli side point to biblical foundations of Jews within the land. Indeed, it is true that Jews administratively controlled the land for many centuries BC, but Muslims –be it Arab caliphates or Turkish emirates– administratively controlled the land for far longer. In my opinion, squabbles over ancient ownership are completely useless.

Starting in 1882, when the Ottoman Empire still controlled what is now known as both Israel and Palestine, Jews immigrated by the tens of thousands –legally– into the region. They bought land and settled in previous uninhabited desert. In the years before World War I, a second wave of immigration occurred, followed by three more waves between the World Wars. The Jews founded cities where none had stood before, namely Tel Aviv. In 1909, a few dozen families literally gathered in the desert to start what would become the centerpiece city of their future State, as is depicted below.

It wasn’t until World War II that illegal immigration to the area by Jews began. However, this was not about fears of the nefarious Jews taking someone else’s land, but because requests for emigration out of Europe shot up through the roof during that era…for obvious reasons.

In 1948, after a partially failed partition plan by the United Nations, a Jewish State was declared in about half of what is now known as Israel. A war soon broke out, and there’s been fighting ever since.

I won’t bore you with any more of the history, that is a rabbit hole that could fill books, but it is important to note that the Jews did not come in and just take land. They legally immigrated and settled, largely in the desert. Only after wars did they accrue territory. The offensive wars undertaken by Israel, be it the Suez Crisis or the Lebanon War, results in no land gains.

With all that in mind, one looks back at the Gaza Strip. Israel conquered the area after the 1967 Six-Day War. They directly controlled it until the implementation of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, which ceded some control to the Palestinian Authority. At that time, all power was vested in the comparably-moderate Fatah Party, at the time controlled by Yasser Arafat and now by Mahmoud Abbas. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, led by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The next year, Hamas terrorists won a Democratic election to lead the region. They then exterminated the remaining vestiges of pragmatic Fatah leadership from the region.

Ever since, they have been launching rockets into Israel, always targeting civilian centers. Israel has responded thrice heavy-handedly: in 2009, in 2012 and in the last couple of weeks. Hamas launches their rockets out of schools, mosques and homes, and deliberately uses human shields in an effort to maximize casualties and garner international sympathy. Israel arguably does more than any other country on earth to minimize the civilian casualties it causes, but it is often no use. They drop leaflets, send text messages to residents and even drop dud bombs on the buildings they will attack.  Freely giving away your battle strategies like this in an effort to spare bloodshed is nearly unheard of in warfare.

Israel, on the other hand, goes to excessive lengths to protect its civilians. Every city must have adequate bomb shelters and air raid sirens. Furthermore the State (with US financial assistance) has invested millions in a so-called “Iron Dome.” which sends counter-missiles to take down rockets before they may harm the population.

Honestly, this conflict is completely one-sided. Surely, Israel is complicit in certain excesses, and definitely should do more to prevent loss of life. But the core tenet of this all is that Hamas terrorists are firing rockets –an undisputed act of war, if I ever saw one– into Israel. Does Israel not have a right to defend itself? Of course, we should debate over the extent of the response, but what should not be up for debate is that Israel, like any other country on the planet, has the right to defend itself from existential threats such as this one.

And let me stipulate, I am not a supporter of the current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. He is openly hostile to a two-state solution and is beholden to Ultra-Orthodox moronic interests, many of whom are just as crazy as Islamic fundamentalists. His political party, the Likud, is directly descended from the Irgun, a Jewish terrorist organization that orchestrated bombings and assassinations. The dominant pre-independence Jewish organization, the Haganah, actively repudiated these reactionary terrorists and outnumbered them. They, on the other hand, directly link to the Labour Party. That tells you all you need about Israeli politics.

But opposition to a government is not grounds to discount any underlying truths about a country. My family and I were fervent opponents of George W. Bush when he was President, but that did not mean I mitigated my support of America against her enemies.

The best solution is a demilitarized Palestinian State, based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its Capital. All the Israeli settlements in the West Bank must be uprooted and removed, much as they were in Gaza. The Old City should be divided, such as the Muslim quarter (with landmarks such as the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqusa Mosque) being controlled by Palestine and the Jewish quarter (with the Western Wall) being controlled by Israel. If this deal sounds familiar it is because it is the exact deal organized by President Bill Clinton and Israeli PM Ehud Barak in 2000. Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, rejected it on shaky grounds.

Of course, Arafat is dead, and a similar concession offer should be made anew to Abbas. One concern, however, is that the West Bank turns into a source of rocket attacks if vacated.

Today, though, the questions posed are not about comprehensive solutions, but sadly an impending ground invasion of Gaza. The invasion will be sure to cause casualties, and they will of course be tragic, but it is important to note how this came about. Israel is defending herself from attacks. Are they attacks overly harsh? Probably. Are the attacks defensive acts? Indubitably.

The dialogue on this issue is dominated by right-wing idiots who claim Obama is somehow an Anti-Semite for being allegedly hostile to Israel by not being a lock-and-step supporter of their controversial government’s policy proposals. On the other side are equally imbecilic left-wingers who accuse individuals such as Obama of being some sort of shill for the nefarious Zionists, and they express solidarity with terrorists such as Hamas. I don’t know which is worse (actually, on second thought, the latter is), but both are highly unhelpful to the situation. Hopefully, I’ve staked out a position somewhere in the middle.

Let’s talk about 2016!

I know, I know, the 2014 candidates are still in full swing, and then the 2015 municipal campaign (including a very exciting open Mayor’s race) will follow. But the 2016 election will soon be all-consuming in the world of politics, and I think a little crash-course in the candidates would be worthwhile, so one could simply jump right in the middle of the it all when the campaign inevitably becomes a tad less ambiguous. We will begin with the Democratic primaries, followed by a (much, much lengthier) series on Republican candidates.

The 2016 Democratic frontrunners begin and end with Hillary Clinton. Honestly, I am not really quite sure how I should describe her title anymore, given that she has had so many important ones. Clinton served as the First Lady of Arkansas from both 1979 to 1981 and 1983 to 1992, while her husband Bill Clinton served as Governor. She then followed him to the White House, and served as First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001. 17 days before the end of her husband’s Presidency, she began serving as a member of the US Senate, a position she held until 2009. At that point, she became the Secretary of State for four years, all of President Obama’s first term. Oh yeah, and she ran for President in 2008, coming astoundingly close to besting Obama in the Democratic primary that year. In fact, Clinton garnered more than 250,000 more votes than Obama.

Clinton has not officially announced anything pertaining to her Presidential ambitions, though she has said that she will likely make a decision by the end of the year. That being said, most insider-sources have agreed that she will run. A well-organized PAC, “Ready for Hillary,” has already been created, laying the groundwork for the expected run. However, the PAC is not merely run by overzealous supporters. Some of the Clinton family’s biggest political supporters, including James Carville and Harold Ickes, have signed on at the ground-level of this organization. George Soros, arguably the most prolific Democratic benefactor, has also donated heavily to the group. Closer to home, Amber and Steve Mostyn, possibly the biggest Democratic donors in Texas, have also underwritten the group. But the enthusiasm is not merely confined to activists and donors. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has preemptively endorsed Clinton for 2016, as has former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA). Tauscher is also noteworthy because she was one of Clinton’s top deputies in the State Department, serving as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, as well as the Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense.

I am confident that Clinton will run inherently because of the establishment support that has already surrounded her. As many will recall from last autumn, as the “Will Wendy Davis run for Governor?” question rung louder and louder, I was sold on her candidacy the instant that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa began openly advocating for it. Politicians such as McCaskill would not preemptively endorse if there was actually a chance Clinton would not run. Politics does not work on wishful thinking like that.

Accordingly, it just makes for fatuous conversation at this point to debate whether or not Clinton will run. She’s in, and the polls show her squarely in the lead. For the Democratic primary in particular, polling shows Clinton simply eviscerating the competition. It’s not even a contest, more like the United States vs. Grenada. But, to be fair, none of the other candidates have gotten off the ground yet, or even really announced for that matter.

Chief among the other opponents (pretenders to the throne?) is Joe Biden, the Vice-President since 2009 and previously a six term Senator. Biden, who ran for President but performed disappointingly in 2008, still wants to be President. For his part, though, Biden has been significantly less successful in attracting donors and institutional support. Biden’s ace-in-the-hole, however, is that he has the ear of President Obama, who for his part praised Biden recently, though stopped far short of a full-blown endorsement.

A third likely candidate is Martin O’Malley, the Governor of Maryland. An outspoken liberal, he recently made headlines by criticizing the President for being too heartless on the unaccompanied minors at the border issue. Many will remember that O’Malley was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Johnson-Richards-Rayburn dinner in Houston, which I attended.

A fourth possible candidate is Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York. Cuomo is a social liberal but its quite centrist/pragmatic on fiscal affairs. This has caused him to draw the ire of the left, though Cuomo has unequivocally stated that he would not run against Clinton. Thus, I consider him an unlikely candidate.

So who would run against Clinton? Besides Biden, mostly ideologues on the left (such as O’Malley) or in the center.

Among the liberals would be Howard Dean, the former Governor of Vermont and Chairman of the DNC. The name may strike some as a shock, but Dean has openly flirted with the idea. “Never say never,” he recently said of the idea.

A far more skillful candidate than Dean that would appeal to the same base, however, is Elizabeth Warren, a Senator from Massachusetts. Warren has plainly said that she won’t run, but plenty of liberal figures have rallied to her side nonetheless. The New Republic called her “Clinton’s worst nightmare.” The New York Post even ran a barnbusting story about Obama secretly backing Warren over Clinton; it’s legitimacy is dubious at best. Still, this didn’t stop slightly-more reputable sources such as Fox News from repeating the allegations.

Far more likely, however, is a challenge from a pseudo-socialist such as Bernie Sanders, a Senator from Vermont. Sanders, who isn’t even technically a Democrat but an “Independent Socialist” who merely caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, would be quite the longshot to win (primary or general) but could have the effect of pulling the party to the left. The New Republic and The Nation, respectively, make that point quite well. Sanders, for his part, told Salon that he was truly interested in running for President but stopped short of any particulars.

The moderates’ best messenger, I’ve always thought, is Brian Schweitzer, the former Governor of Montana. Schweitzer is a strange mix of politician. As Ezra Klein noted (back when he was still at the Post) at the start of this year, he is the Democratic anti-Obama, castigating the President at every turn. However, many of his criticism are not really from the right/center. MSNBC fills in some of the details: while he is broadly pro-gas and pro-gun, he has libertarian viewpoints on programs such as the NSA and the Patriot Act. Furthermore, he is not shy about how much he hates Obamacare, but not for the reasons you think. Much like myself, he believes in a single-payer system. However, Time Magazine notes that Schweitzer may have sunk his chances by making some off-color comments recently. I’d say he sunk his chances when he dared to criticize Obama, President of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the 50 States and Protector of the Realm (this is a Game of Thrones joke).

Among more-usual moderates, Joe Manchin‘s –a Senator from West Virginia– name pops up. The National Journal has the full story on that, noting that a spokesperson simply told a hometown paper that “Senator Manchin is leaving all his options open for 2016, and will continue to look for the best way to bring common sense to Washington.” Manchin opposes both Obamcare and single-payer, and he famously put a bullet through a printed copy of Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal in a campaign video.

Last, but certainly not least, is Jim Webb, a former Senator from Virginia. Politico first reported that one. When asked point-blank on if he wished to run in 2016, he retorted with a laconic “I’m not going to say one way or another.” Webb, more than being a garden variety moderate, is a centre-left liberal who is a super-hawk on the deficit and the national debt.

Personally, I will probably support Clinton, but I truly wish for a vivid and competitive primary fight to ensue. This is not a knock on Clinton, merely a point that I do not think anyone should have a free pass. Furthermore, I think it actually strengthens candidates if they go through a primary fight, because it exposes their weaknesses and allows them to improve on their weaknesses. Take State Senator John Whitmire (D-Harris County) as an example. Many will recall that when his primary opponent, Damian LaCroix, first announced his candidacy, I applauded the contested primary. And yet, I (as well as the entire Texpatriate Editorial Board) strongly supported Whitmire in his re-election. Similarly, I think that Clinton could only become a better candidate by facing opposition from both her left and her right.

Among the other candidates, the only one I am truly enamored with is Schweitzer. Yes, he has a bit of an unpredictable mouth on him, but I admire a politician who says what he thinks, even if I disagree or am offended by something that is said once every blue moon. I consider it far superior to a guarded robot who never says anything of consequence.

While an old adage is that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line, the reality is somewhat more complex. Democrats have surely had their share of idealistic primaries (2008, for one), with three of the last five being utter snooze fests. Either a President ran for re-election (1996 and 2012) or a Vice-President ascended to the nomination gracefully (2000). Republicans, on the other hand, have only had one such contest in the last five Presidential cycles (2004). While the original frontrunner often ends up winning (2008 and 2012), the fights are regularly nasty and brutish. 2016 looks to be another such ugly brawl.

I have split up the prospective Republican candidates into four main categories: Establishment Conservative, Establishment Tea Party, Fringe Tea Party and Outcast. In making these distinctions, I admittedly use the term Establishment freer than most others would. Instead of what many others do, which is to say make a distinction between business interests and grass roots evangelism, I use the term to simply denote one who has climbed up the ladder in national politics.

The main distinction between the outcast and the other categories is the presence of some semblance of political experience. The main distinction between the “fringe” and the “establishment” is how well-renowned the individual is on the national stage. Finally, Tea Party is a bit of an arbitrary descriptor, as there is no monolithic organization to which a member might belong, but I have done my best to weed out the so-called RINOs, to borrow the group’s lexicon. For example, in the 2012 Republican primaries, Herman Cain and Donald Trump would be “outcasts.” Michele Bachmann was “Fringe Tea Party,” Rick Santorum was “Establishment Tea Party” and Mitt Romney was “Establishment Conservative.” Hopefully, that clears it up.

ESTABLISHMENT CONSERVATIVES

1. Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida
The son of President George Bush, the brother President George W. Bush and the father of Texas Land Commissioner Republican nominee George P. Bush, this Bush is comparably open minded on a wide array of issues. He made headlines a few months ago when he noted that many undocumented immigrants crossed the border in what he considered an “act of love.” But that’s not all! Bush has also gone on record advocating for the Federal Government to stay out of the gay marriage debate (in a huge departure from his brother’s administration).

All this makes Bush a formidable foe against any of the Democratic contenders (read: Clinton), if he somehow were going to emerge from a Republican primary. Personally, I have some major doubts.

2. Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
Christie, much like Bush, is an openly pragmatic Republican. He is willing to compromise, and has some centrist positions on issues. He freely acquiesced to a State Court order legalizing gay marriage in his State. He has even become a modest proponent of Medical Marijuana.

However, Christie has largely been seen as damaged goods. Since the beginning of the year, his Presidential prospects –no, his entire political career– have been put in jeopardy because of the scandal called “Bridgegate.” In its simplest explanation, the scandal revolves around some of Christie’s closest aides –who have now all resigned or been fired– scheming to artificially augment traffic in a town whose Mayor did not endorse Christie’s re-election efforts last year. Progressives were overjoyed by this revelation, and relished in the opportunity to call Christie an evil, vindictive, nefarious, Nixonian monster.

For his part, Christie has been inconsistent on whether or not Bridegate affected his willingness to run for President. In May, Christie said that he was “thinking” about running for President. Just the other day, however,  Christie was far more dismissive about the whole thing.

3. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas
Wait, Rick Perry is not among the Tea Party crowd? I was skeptical of such an assessment for many years as well, but I think that Paul Burka’s recent article in Texas Monthly finally convinced me otherwise. Perry is a creature of the times, but he is not a Tea Party rabblerouser. His path into State Government was honorable. Furthermore, in a contrast of Perry to Greg Abbott (the Republican gubernatorial nominee), I have always said that Perry, for all his faults, is a straightforward guy. His political views are not as malleable as the sands in the wind, much like Abbott’s are.

This has been shown remarkably well in the last year, as Perry has seemingly become the voice of reason on many issues. Perry’s big pot reveal is probably the best example.

Perry, for his part, is doing everything he can to not only stake out his own ground in the middle, but preserve his conservative bona fides. Definitely sounds like a Presidential candidate to me.

4. Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana
Pence is best known as a pragmatic Midwestern Governor. The Washington Post reports that many in the party are “wooing” him and that he is “listening.” He has a bipartisan mindset, and his administration chose to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Not good for a primary campaign.

5. Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China
Huntsman has been super open about his interest in another campaign. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Huntsman was warmly interested in the idea. For his part, he has began to make trips around the country, including a keynote appearance at the 2014 Texas Tribune festival later this year.

A former Governor of Utah, Huntsman likely permanently disenfranchised himself from Republicanism when he accepted a job to serve as Obama’s Ambassador to China, a position he held from 2009 to 2011.

ESTABLISHMENT TEA PARTY

1. Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas
Cruz came out of nowhere to defeat Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the 2012 Republican primary for the Senate, marking the beginning of the end for the Lieutenant Governor and the beginning of the beginning for the closest thing the Tea Party has has for a leader since its inception. A former Solicitor General of Texas with a sterling track record at the US Supreme Court, as well as a graduate (magna cum laude) of Harvard Law School, Cruz is undoubtedly brilliant. That being said, I’ve never really noticed his assumed intellectuality being used in politics. Cruz goes for the gut through soppy speeches replete with straw-man arguments and sometimes outright fabrications. But it works for him, and he is reasonably the frontrunner for this contest.

Pick a conservative issue, Cruz has put his money on it. He lacks the strange libertarian excesses of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) while still maintaining nearly cult-like following from many in those same circles. Much ink will be spilled in the next couple years asking if Cruz is the Republican version of President Barack Obama, once also a first-term Senator with higher ambitions. Both have mothers whose families have been in this country for quite long, but both have fathers who were foreigners.

I equate Cruz with Obama because of one key reason, far removed from the parallels I just highlighted. Cruz is the “Tea Party Messiah” in a way that Obama definitely was –and to a limited extent, still is– among younger crowds. I wrote at length on this subject last year up in Boston, and already see the initial effects for Cruz on the other side. If Cruz is serious about running for President, which I believe he is, he will need to move back to the center, progressively taking more and more stands on issues that will be sure to tick off his obstreperous base. But, if the “Obama effect” holds true, he will be infallible. That could be a dangerous mix for the Democrats, which is why I am confident that Cruz stands a good chance of clinching the general election against Hillary Clinton. I still think Clinton is favored, but not by that much.

2. Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky
Paul, the son of longtime Texas Congressman Ron Paul, is every bit the politician that he father was not. He backs away from conspiracy theories, but has most of the courage to take a stand on civil liberties and foreign policy issues. He is unequivocally opposed to NSA Wiretapping, the USA PATRIOT Act, and most everything going on at Guantanamo Bay. He believes in isolationism, though he may fight tooth and nail against it being characterized by that word.

On other issues, Paul is surprisingly reasonable. He was supportive of the Supreme Court’s recent decision Windsor v. United States (striking down the Defense of Marriage Act), though he remains virulently opposed to same-sex marriage on a state-by-state level. Earlier this year, he co-sponsored a bipartisan piece of legislation that would generously liberalize requirements for felons to vote. He has even come out in favor of some limited relaxing of drug laws, much like his father.

Of course, Paul more than makes up on conservative bona fides with the rest of his positions. He believes that abortion in all cases –even the life of the mother– should be illegal and a constitutional amendment to that effect should be implemented. He opposes all gun control, government intrusion in healthcare and is radically opposed to many entitlement programs. His libertarian foreign policy arguments surely will draw the ire of the neoconservative establishment.

3. Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida
Rubio is an interesting figure. His positions on many political issues are notoriously hard to get hammed down, given how fluid they are depending on the day of the week. Specifically, on immigration reform, Rubio has been on both sides of the fence more than once. Originally a vociferous supporter of comprehensive reform, even a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, Rubio infamously changed his mind once he began taking flack on the matter.

More recently, however, he reportedly was back to talk over decisive action on the immigration front. In doing so, he has effectively become hostile against both sides on the issue. Not only the Tea Party, but pro-immigration reform groups now view his word as useless.

On other issues, such as climate change, Rubio has unequivocally stated his grave doubts on the topic, making him a late-night punchline for a number of evenings. While there are plenty of specs that would make Rubio an ideal candidate on paper, he has just had a few too many stumbles in the limelight. I mention the silly little water bottle incident not because I think it marks poorly upon his performance that night, but because it showed that the rest of his speech was utterly unremarkable. If a nominal screw-up like that occurs, it is only harped upon incessantly when there is nothing else good to cover–the 24 hour media has to cover something!

4. Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin
Ryan, obviously, was Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 Presidential election. For whatever reason, failed Vice-Presidential candidates never fare very well when they run for the top-spot the next go-round. Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards immediately come to mind. Sarah Palin never even got around to running.

Now, you may be curious why I placed Ryan in the Tea Party crowd, as opposed to the establishment. After all, he is a self-described policy wonk and is Chairman of the House Budget Committee. I think Paul Krugman at The New York Times recently did a fairly swell job of dispelling that notion. Ever since the days of his Vice-Presidential campaign, he has used plenty of fuzzy math.

Ryan has what I would call “typical” views on most political issues, particularly within foreign policy, but he is far more malleable by the base than many of his colleagues. For someone who has been in Congress since the Clinton administration, I am hesitant to apply the Tea Party label, but think he has really jumped on the ship quite effectively. In that regard, he is eerily reminiscent of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.

Watch out for Ryan; that is, if he decides to run. He could easily run his campaign as a sort of successor to Mitt Romney. And say what you will about Romney, but the man has been vindicated on a number of issues since his failed campaign, particularly in the foreign policy sphere. I still do not think that Russia is the United States’ number one foe, but it is certainly more on our radar now than it was two years ago.

5. Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania
Santorum will have been out of politics for nearly a decade by this point, so I truly cannot tell why he would ever wish to take another longshot stab at the Presidency. Perhaps he is a glutton for punishment. Santorum has been making a plethora of trips to Iowa, and has publicly expressed interest in another run for the White House

I think Santorum is what I would call the “Eric Dick of the GOP primaries,” if he were to run again. The phrase, harkening back to last year’s failed Mayoral candidate, means someone who stands no chance of winning but could significantly affect the outcome nonetheless. Dick received over 10% of the vote in 2013, and I would expect him to garner a comparable percentage –much from the same people, low-information voters familiar with his commercials or amused by his surname– if he were tor run again in 2015. Not nearly enough to win, but certainly enough to have a huge impact if there were 8 candidates.

Similarly, Santorum has just enough support from evangelicals that he could win the Iowa Caucuses, even though he would be one of the last people that voters in 30+ States would ever support. This could throw a wrench into the plans of many candidates.

FRINGE TEA PARTY

1. Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas
Without question, Huckabee will not be the next President of the United States. Sorry to spoil it, but it is the ugly truth. That being said, the State of Iowa has an unmitigated love affair with Huckabee, and the former Governor returns the favor right back to the Hawkeye State. Huckabee, as many will recall, ran for President in 2008 and triumphantly won the Iowa Caucuses that year. He also won contests in Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Even as conservative as Huckabee may have been in 2008, he has moved even further to the right in the eight years since. While he has historically been a big opponent of the teaching of evolution, Huckabee was previously somewhat progressive on environmental and conversation issues. He even backed cap-and-trade in 2007, before President Barack Obama proposed the environmental regulatory overhaul himself two years later. But Obama backed the policy, so it immediately became poison for any Republican to touch with a ten foot pole.

ABC News reports that Huckabee has continued to shuffle in and out of Iowa well into this year. According to the article, one of Huckabee’s closest confidants confided that Huckabee is “seriously considering” running again. The Iowa Republican electorate is dominated by socially conservative evangelicals, who love Huckabee, so he would stand a serious candidate in Iowa. For the rest of the country, much like his 2008 campaign, not so much.

2. Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Bobby Jindal infamously delivered the response to the State of the Union in 2009, Obama’s first major speech since taking office. At the time, the Tea Party had not yet been formulated and Obama boasted an approval rating north of 60%. Predictably, Jindal stumbled and was derided overwhelmingly by the mainstream press and the general public. In all fairness, the speech was reminiscent of a patronizing kindergarten teacher, and he made a flippant comment about “Volcano Monitoring,” suggesting it was a wasteful expense. Not two months after the speech, Mount Rebout erupted in nearby Alaska and that “so-called volcano monitoring” was paramount in evacuating people to safety.

The National Review appears indubitably convinced that Jindal will run, but he just has far too much baggage for me to think he will be taken seriously. As the astute will recall, Jindal made waves back in 2012 for harshly repudiating failed Presidential nominee Mitt Romney following his defeat. The Boston Globe had that full story. A few months later, The Washington Post reported that Jindal called the GOP the “stupid party” for things such as rejecting science. But Jindal, in large part, does reject science. He signed a bill into law in Louisiana that condoned creationism in the schools.

All in all, Jindal appears to be much like some of the other candidates vying for this top spot; that is, without a strong base one way or another. His comments about the “stupid party” surely turn off the puritans, whereas his lack of any pragmatism on actual issues will make the more moderate elements cautious against support.

3. Peter King, Congressman from New York
Last September, King, the grandiloquent Long Island Representative, unequivocally announced “I’m running for President.” In the nearly year since, he has backed away from total decisiveness but still looks like quite a likely candidate.

King is also a strange being with complex political views. The New York Times gave a pretty impressive lowdown on some of his stranger escapades a number of years ago, when he launched McCarthy-style investigations into the lives of otherwise law-abiding Muslim-Americans. King has a real knack for making Islamophobic comments, and it is certainly his worst feature.

Otherwise, King is fairly moderate compared to the remainder of the House Republican Caucus. He openly loathes Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his “smug arrogance.” During last year’s Government Shutdown, King blamed Cruz and his lemmings for the entire issue, unlike most other Republicans.

4. Mike Rogers, Congressman from Michigan
The Huffington Post has the full story on this. A seven-term Congressman, Rogers appears eerily similar to a contender from the 2012 election. His name is Thaddeus McCotter. Himself a decade public servant, McCotter brashly entered the fray for President in an ill-fated three month campaign for President. Don’t expect much from him.

OUTCAST

1. Ben Carson
Let me start off with a precursor: Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Carson is an exceptionable brilliant man. Rising out of poverty, he attended Yale undergrad and then medical school at the University of Michigan. He went to work at John Hopkins, where he became a phenomenally gifted surgeon, and eventually the director of Pediatric Surgery. In 1987, he became the first person to successfully separate conjoined twins who were together at the head.

However, these impressive medical credentials do not give Carson the political credentials necessary to run for President. They just don’t. Longtime readers of my writings will be familiar with my notion that non-political expertise simply does not substitute political histories, when one runs for higher office. Carson would be supremely qualified to run for Congress, for example, but the Presidency is for politicians and generals…full stop.

On the topic of politics, however, it goes without saying that I strongly disagree with Carson’s viewpoints. He is an outspoken social conservative, and for an intellectual he has some surprisingly backwards views (such as a rejection of evolution). For Carson’s part, The Weekly Standard reports that he is warming up to the idea.

2. Ted Nugent
“I might run for President in 2016,” Nugent recently said, in comments picked up by Salon Magazine, among others. The Motor City Madman may have once been famous for B-hits like “Cat scratch fever,” but has more recently become something of a folk hero to the Tea Party. He has nearly made death-threats toward the President and is replete with offensive statements that rile up a base somewhere. Tea Party Troubadour? Sure. Future President? Nope.

3. Donald Trump
My position on a prospective Trump candidacy is probably summed up better by Seth Meyers’ epic roast of him at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. “Donald Trump has been saying that he is running for President as a Republican,” Meyers said at the time, “which is surprising because I had just assumed he was running as a joke.”

In a lengthy interview with Time Magazine, Trump let on that he still had some desire to run for President. At the risk of stating the obvious, Trump would make a terrible candidate for President. Like Carson, he has no legitimate experience. Unlike Carson, he is not that bright or nonsensical. Evidently the joke is still on him.

CLOSING ANALYSIS

There are a number of other possible candidates who have never confirmed their interest in running. Many of these people would probably be among the strongest candidates if they were to run.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin,has been mentioned as an ideal dark-horse by many on the right. He has all the right conservative bona fides, such as vivid opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and Medicaid expansion. He notoriously went after the unions in one of his first acts. But he has also tried recently to moderate his tone ever so slightly, especially in a State such as Wisconsin with Democratic fundamentals.

Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, respectively, are two more great candidates, if they were to choose to run. The Governor of New Mexico and the Governor of Nevada, respectively, both deal with State Legislatures strongly controlled by the Democratic Party, and work with them on bipartisan, pragmatic agendas and pieces of legislation. This would likely sink them in a Republican primary, however.

Among the other serious names thrown out there are Mitch Daniels (former Governor of Indiana), John Kasich (Governor of Ohio), Rob Portman (Senator from Ohio) and Rick Snyder (Governor of Michigan). Among the non-serious are Sarah Palin (former Governor of Alaska), Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State) and Allen West (former Congressman from Florida). Oh yeah, and there is still an active draft movement for Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and the Republican Presidential nominee in 2012.

Notwithstanding some of the good prospecting candidates I first mentioned in the previous three paragraphs, I have some serious doubts as to how successful the Republicans may be against Hillary Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee.

It is useless to speculate how the candidates with no Name ID would do once their recognition had been built up; that being said, just within the subset of candidates who already have sterling identifications, Clinton blows each and every one of them out of the water. I just do not see a way that any of them bounce back in a significant way, with the noticeable exception of Cruz.

Ted Cruz, as I noted back in my third part of this series, has the unique capacity to shift back to the center –even with the primary– without being clobbered by the Republican base. Those laughing him off as a silly and non-serious candidate truly need to readjust their sights. I recall a very similar thing being said about another Texan about 15 years ago…and that Texan wasn’t half as smart.

All in all, the 2016 Election will be quite the exciting spectacle. I, for one, am looking forward to covering it with great zeal and alacrity.

 

Let’s talk about 2016! (Republican primary, Part 4)

Editorial note: This article is the fifth installment in a series about prospective 2016 Presidential candidates by Noah M. Horwitz. On Saturday, he wrote at length about Democratic candidates. On Sunday, he wrote at length about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Conservatives.” On Monday, he wrote about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Tea Party.” On Tuesday, he wrote about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Fringe Tea Party.” This evening, he will write about Republican candidates within the “Outcast” subset.

I opined three days ago that there are four basic categories of prospective Republican candidates for President. The “Establishment Conservatives,” “Establishment Tea Party,” “Fringe Tea Party” and “Outcast.” The main distinction between the outcast and the other categories is the presence of some semblance of political experience. The main distinction between the “fringe” and the “establishment” is how well-renowned the individual is on the national stage. Finally, Tea Party is a bit of an arbitrary descriptor, as there is no monolithic organization to which a member might belong, but I have done my best to weed out the so-called RINOs, to borrow the group’s lexicon. For example, in the 2012 Republican primaries, Herman Cain and Donald Trump would be “outcasts.” Michele ovewas “Fringe Tea Party,” Rick Santorum was “Establishment Tea Party” and Mitt Romney was “Establishment Conservative.” Hopefully, that clears it up.

OUTCAST

1. Ben Carson
Let me start off with a precursor: Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Carson is an exceptionable brilliant man. Rising out of poverty, he attended Yale undergrad and then medical school at the University of Michigan. He went to work at John Hopkins, where he became a phenomenally gifted surgeon, and eventually the director of Pediatric Surgery. In 1987, he became the first person to successfully separate conjoined twins who were together at the head.

However, these impressive medical credentials do not give Carson the political credentials necessary to run for President. They just don’t. Longtime readers of my writings will be familiar with my notion that non-political expertise simply does not substitute political histories, when one runs for higher office. Carson would be supremely qualified to run for Congress, for example, but the Presidency is for politicians and generals…full stop.

On the topic of politics, however, it goes without saying that I strongly disagree with Carson’s viewpoints. He is an outspoken social conservative, and for an intellectual he has some surprisingly backwards views (such as a rejection of evolution). For Carson’s part, The Weekly Standard reports that he is warming up to the idea.

2. Ted Nugent
“I might run for President in 2016,” Nugent recently said, in comments picked up by Salon Magazine, among others. The Motor City Madman may have once been famous for B-hits like “Cat scratch fever,” but has more recently become something of a folk hero to the Tea Party. He has nearly made death-threats toward the President and is replete with offensive statements that rile up a base somewhere. Tea Party Troubadour? Sure. Future President? Nope.

3. Donald Trump
My position on a prospective Trump candidacy is probably summed up better by Seth Meyers’ epic roast of him at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. “Donald Trump has been saying that he is running for President as a Republican,” Meyers said at the time, “which is surprising because I had just assumed he was running as a joke.”

In a lengthy interview with Time Magazine, Trump let on that he still had some desire to run for President. At the risk of stating the obvious, Trump would make a terrible candidate for President. Like Carson, he has no legitimate experience. Unlike Carson, he is not that bright or nonsensical. Evidently the joke is still on him.

CLOSING ANALYSIS

There are a number of other possible candidates who have never confirmed their interest in running. Many of these people would probably be among the strongest candidates if they were to run.

Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin,has been mentioned as an ideal dark-horse by many on the right. He has all the right conservative bona fides, such as vivid opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and Medicaid expansion. He notoriously went after the unions in one of his first acts. But he has also tried recently to moderate his tone ever so slightly, especially in a State such as Wisconsin with Democratic fundamentals.

Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, respectively, are two more great candidates, if they were to choose to run. The Governor of New Mexico and the Governor of Nevada, respectively, both deal with State Legislatures strongly controlled by the Democratic Party, and work with them on bipartisan, pragmatic agendas and pieces of legislation. This would likely sink them in a Republican primary, however.

Among the other serious names thrown out there are Mitch Daniels (former Governor of Indiana), John Kasich (Governor of Ohio), Rob Portman (Senator from Ohio) and Rick Snyder (Governor of Michigan). Among the non-serious are Sarah Palin (former Governor of Alaska), Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State) and Allen West (former Congressman from Florida). Oh yeah, and there is still an active draft movement for Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and the Republican Presidential nominee in 2012.

Notwithstanding some of the good prospecting candidates I first mentioned in the previous three paragraphs, I have some serious doubts as to how successful the Republicans may be against Hillary Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee.

It is useless to speculate how the candidates with no Name ID would do once their recognition had been built up; that being said, just within the subset of candidates who already have sterling identifications, Clinton blows each and every one of them out of the water. I just do not see a way that any of them bounce back in a significant way, with the noticeable exception of Cruz.

Ted Cruz, as I noted back in my third part of this series, has the unique capacity to shift back to the center –even with the primary– without being clobbered by the Republican base. Those laughing him off as a silly and non-serious candidate truly need to readjust their sights. I recall a very similar thing being said about another Texan about 15 years ago…and that Texan wasn’t half as smart.

All in all, the 2016 Election will be quite the exciting spectacle. I, for one, am looking forward to covering it with great zeal and alacrity.

 

Let’s talk about 2016! (Republican primary, Part 3)

Editorial note: This article is the fourth installment in a series about prospective 2016 Presidential candidates by Noah M. Horwitz. On Saturday, he wrote at length about Democratic candidates. On Sunday, he wrote at length about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Conservatives.” On Monday, he wrote about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Tea Party.” This evening, he will write about Republican candidates within the “Fringe Tea Party” subset.

I opined two days ago that there are four basic categories of prospective Republican candidates for President. The “Establishment Conservatives,” “Establishment Tea Party,” “Fringe Tea Party” and “Outcast.” The main distinction between the outcast and the other categories is the presence of some semblance of political experience. The main distinction between the “fringe” and the “establishment” is how well-renowned the individual is on the national stage. Finally, Tea Party is a bit of an arbitrary descriptor, as there is no monolithic organization to which a member might belong, but I have done my best to weed out the so-called RINOs, to borrow the group’s lexicon. For example, in the 2012 Republican primaries, Herman Cain and Donald Trump would be “outcasts.” Michele ovewas “Fringe Tea Party,” Rick Santorum was “Establishment Tea Party” and Mitt Romney was “Establishment Conservative.” Hopefully, that clears it up.

FRINGE TEA PARTY

1. Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas
Without question, Huckabee will not be the next President of the United States. Sorry to spoil it, but it is the ugly truth. That being said, the State of Iowa has an unmitigated love affair with Huckabee, and the former Governor returns the favor right back to the Hawkeye State. Huckabee, as many will recall, ran for President in 2008 and triumphantly won the Iowa Caucuses that year. He also won contests in Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Even as conservative as Huckabee may have been in 2008, he has moved even further to the right in the eight years since. While he has historically been a big opponent of the teaching of evolution, Huckabee was previously somewhat progressive on environmental and conversation issues. He even backed cap-and-trade in 2007, before President Barack Obama proposed the environmental regulatory overhaul himself two years later. But Obama backed the policy, so it immediately became poison for any Republican to touch with a ten foot pole.

ABC News reports that Huckabee has continued to shuffle in and out of Iowa well into this year. According to the article, one of Huckabee’s closest confidants confided that Huckabee is “seriously considering” running again. The Iowa Republican electorate is dominated by socially conservative evangelicals, who love Huckabee, so he would stand a serious candidate in Iowa. For the rest of the country, much like his 2008 campaign, not so much.

2. Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Bobby Jindal infamously delivered the response to the State of the Union in 2009, Obama’s first major speech since taking office. At the time, the Tea Party had not yet been formulated and Obama boasted an approval rating north of 60%. Predictably, Jindal stumbled and was derided overwhelmingly by the mainstream press and the general public. In all fairness, the speech was reminiscent of a patronizing kindergarten teacher, and he made a flippant comment about “Volcano Monitoring,” suggesting it was a wasteful expense. Not two months after the speech, Mount Rebout erupted in nearby Alaska and that “so-called volcano monitoring” was paramount in evacuating people to safety.

The National Review appears indubitably convinced that Jindal will run, but he just has far too much baggage for me to think he will be taken seriously. As the astute will recall, Jindal made waves back in 2012 for harshly repudiating failed Presidential nominee Mitt Romney following his defeat. The Boston Globe had that full story. A few months later, The Washington Post reported that Jindal called the GOP the “stupid party” for things such as rejecting science. But Jindal, in large part, does reject science. He signed a bill into law in Louisiana that condoned creationism in the schools.

All in all, Jindal appears to be much like some of the other candidates vying for this top spot; that is, without a strong base one way or another. His comments about the “stupid party” surely turn off the puritans, whereas his lack of any pragmatism on actual issues will make the more moderate elements cautious against support.

3. Peter King, Congressman from New York
Last September, King, the grandiloquent Long Island Representative, unequivocally announced “I’m running for President.” In the nearly year since, he has backed away from total decisiveness but still looks like quite a likely candidate.

King is also a strange being with complex political views. The New York Times gave a pretty impressive lowdown on some of his stranger escapades a number of years ago, when he launched McCarthy-style investigations into the lives of otherwise law-abiding Muslim-Americans. King has a real knack for making Islamophobic comments, and it is certainly his worst feature.

Otherwise, King is fairly moderate compared to the remainder of the House Republican Caucus. He openly loathes Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his “smug arrogance.” During last year’s Government Shutdown, King blamed Cruz and his lemmings for the entire issue, unlike most other Republicans.

4. Mike Rogers, Congressman from Michigan
The Huffington Post has the full story on this. A seven-term Congressman, Rogers appears eerily similar to a contender from the 2012 election. His name is Thaddeus McCotter. Himself a decade public servant, McCotter brashly entered the fray for President in an ill-fated three month campaign for President. Don’t expect much from him.

FINAL INSTALLMENT TOMORROW!

Let’s talk about 2016! (Republican primary, Part 2)

Editorial note: This article is the third installment in a series about prospective 2016 Presidential candidates by Noah M. Horwitz. On Saturday, he wrote at length about Democratic candidates. On Sunday, he wrote at length about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Conservatives.” This evening, he will write about Republican candidates within the “Tea Party Conservatives” subset.

I opined last evening that there are four basic categories of prospective Republican candidates for President. The “Establishment Conservatives,” “Establishment Tea Party,” “Fringe Tea Party” and “Outcast.” The main distinction between the outcast and the other categories is the presence of some semblance of political experience. The main distinction between the “fringe” and the “establishment” is how well-renowned the individual is on the national stage. Finally, Tea Party is a bit of an arbitrary descriptor, as there is no monolithic organization to which a member might belong, but I have done my best to weed out the so-called RINOs, to borrow the group’s lexicon. For example, in the 2012 Republican primaries, Herman Cain and Donald Trump would be “outcasts.” Michele Bachmann was “Fringe Tea Party,” Rick Santorum was “Establishment Tea Party” and Mitt Romney was “Establishment Conservative.” Hopefully, that clears it up.

ESTABLISHMENT TEA PARTY

1. Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas
Cruz came out of nowhere to defeat Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the 2012 Republican primary for the Senate, marking the beginning of the end for the Lieutenant Governor and the beginning of the beginning for the closest thing the Tea Party has has for a leader since its inception. A former Solicitor General of Texas with a sterling track record at the US Supreme Court, as well as a graduate (magna cum laude) of Harvard Law School, Cruz is undoubtedly brilliant. That being said, I’ve never really noticed his assumed intellectuality being used in politics. Cruz goes for the gut through soppy speeches replete with straw-man arguments and sometimes outright fabrications. But it works for him, and he is reasonably the frontrunner for this contest.

Pick a conservative issue, Cruz has put his money on it. He lacks the strange libertarian excesses of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) while still maintaining nearly cult-like following from many in those same circles. Much ink will be spilled in the next couple years asking if Cruz is the Republican version of President Barack Obama, once also a first-term Senator with higher ambitions. Both have mothers whose families have been in this country for quite long, but both have fathers who were foreigners.

I equate Cruz with Obama because of one key reason, far removed from the parallels I just highlighted. Cruz is the “Tea Party Messiah” in a way that Obama definitely was –and to a limited extent, still is– among younger crowds. I wrote at length on this subject last year up in Boston, and already see the initial effects for Cruz on the other side. If Cruz is serious about running for President, which I believe he is, he will need to move back to the center, progressively taking more and more stands on issues that will be sure to tick off his obstreperous base. But, if the “Obama effect” holds true, he will be infallible. That could be a dangerous mix for the Democrats, which is why I am confident that Cruz stands a good chance of clinching the general election against Hillary Clinton. I still think Clinton is favored, but not by that much.

2. Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky
Paul, the son of longtime Texas Congressman Ron Paul, is every bit the politician that he father was not. He backs away from conspiracy theories, but has most of the courage to take a stand on civil liberties and foreign policy issues. He is unequivocally opposed to NSA Wiretapping, the USA PATRIOT Act, and most everything going on at Guantanamo Bay. He believes in isolationism, though he may fight tooth and nail against it being characterized by that word.

On other issues, Paul is surprisingly reasonable. He was supportive of the Supreme Court’s recent decision Windsor v. United States (striking down the Defense of Marriage Act), though he remains virulently opposed to same-sex marriage on a state-by-state level. Earlier this year, he co-sponsored a bipartisan piece of legislation that would generously liberalize requirements for felons to vote. He has even come out in favor of some limited relaxing of drug laws, much like his father.

Of course, Paul more than makes up on conservative bona fides with the rest of his positions. He believes that abortion in all cases –even the life of the mother– should be illegal and a constitutional amendment to that effect should be implemented. He opposes all gun control, government intrusion in healthcare and is radically opposed to many entitlement programs. His libertarian foreign policy arguments surely will draw the ire of the neoconservative establishment.

3. Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida
Rubio is an interesting figure. His positions on many political issues are notoriously hard to get hammed down, given how fluid they are depending on the day of the week. Specifically, on immigration reform, Rubio has been on both sides of the fence more than once. Originally a vociferous supporter of comprehensive reform, even a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, Rubio infamously changed his mind once he began taking flack on the matter.

More recently, however, he reportedly was back to talk over decisive action on the immigration front. In doing so, he has effectively become hostile against both sides on the issue. Not only the Tea Party, but pro-immigration reform groups now view his word as useless.

On other issues, such as climate change, Rubio has unequivocally stated his grave doubts on the topic, making him a late-night punchline for a number of evenings. While there are plenty of specs that would make Rubio an ideal candidate on paper, he has just had a few too many stumbles in the limelight. I mention the silly little water bottle incident not because I think it marks poorly upon his performance that night, but because it showed that the rest of his speech was utterly unremarkable. If a nominal screw-up like that occurs, it is only harped upon incessantly when there is nothing else good to cover–the 24 hour media has to cover something!

4. Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin
Ryan, obviously, was Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 Presidential election. For whatever reason, failed Vice-Presidential candidates never fare very well when they run for the top-spot the next go-round. Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards immediately come to mind. Sarah Palin never even got around to running.

Now, you may be curious why I placed Ryan in the Tea Party crowd, as opposed to the establishment. After all, he is a self-described policy wonk and is Chairman of the House Budget Committee. I think Paul Krugman at The New York Times recently did a fairly swell job of dispelling that notion. Ever since the days of his Vice-Presidential campaign, he has used plenty of fuzzy math.

Ryan has what I would call “typical” views on most political issues, particularly within foreign policy, but he is far more malleable by the base than many of his colleagues. For someone who has been in Congress since the Clinton administration, I am hesitant to apply the Tea Party label, but think he has really jumped on the ship quite effectively. In that regard, he is eerily reminiscent of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.

Watch out for Ryan; that is, if he decides to run. He could easily run his campaign as a sort of successor to Mitt Romney. And say what you will about Romney, but the man has been vindicated on a number of issues since his failed campaign, particularly in the foreign policy sphere. I still do not think that Russia is the United States’ number one foe, but it is certainly more on our radar now than it was two years ago.

5. Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania
Santorum will have been out of politics for nearly a decade by this point, so I truly cannot tell why he would ever wish to take another longshot stab at the Presidency. Perhaps he is a glutton for punishment. Santorum has been making a plethora of trips to Iowa, and has publicly expressed interest in another run for the White House

I think Santorum is what I would call the “Eric Dick of the GOP primaries,” if he were to run again. The phrase, harkening back to last year’s failed Mayoral candidate, means someone who stands no chance of winning but could significantly affect the outcome nonetheless. Dick received over 10% of the vote in 2013, and I would expect him to garner a comparable percentage –much from the same people, low-information voters familiar with his commercials or amused by his surname– if he were tor run again in 2015. Not nearly enough to win, but certainly enough to have a huge impact if there were 8 candidates.

Similarly, Santorum has just enough support from evangelicals that he could win the Iowa Caucuses, even though he would be one of the last people that voters in 30+ States would ever support. This could throw a wrench into the plans of many candidates.

Hopefully, I get to the remainder of the candidates tomorrow. But for now, I’ve covered the frontrunners, as well as a couple others fortuitously mentioned in the same article despite having not a shred of a chance. As of now, the five frontunners are Bush, Perry, Cruz, Paul and Rubio. Two Floridians and two Texans.