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.

 

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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.

 

Castro confirmed by the US Senate

The San Antonio Express-News reports that Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio, has been confirmed by the US Senate to serve as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Senate vote was overwhelming, 71-26, and Castro will take office upon his resignation from the Mayorship, which he has held since 2009. I wrote extensively on this topic back in May when President Barack Obama first nominated Castro for the post, and suffice it to say I was not really a fan of the move. But more on this later.

First things first, the obvious question is who will be the next Mayor of San Antonio? The City Charter holds that the Mayor Pro Tem, currently Councilmember Cris Medina, would immediately become Acting Mayor in the case of the Mayor’s death, resignation or removal from office. However, in San Antonio, the Council would then choose a new permanent Mayor from amongst its ranks until the next regularly scheduled election, which is in May 2015. A number of Councilmembers have expressed interest in the appointment, and a couple outside actors –namely State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County)– have also announced their tentative candidacies. I am not very well-versed in any of the inside politics of San Antonio, so I cannot offer any truly educated predictions about what will happen. Just expect fireworks.

Click here to read more!

Terrible, terrible poll

The Texas Tribune has released its newest poll, and the results continue to paint a bleak picture for the campaign of State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. The poll has her down 12 points to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. The poll also examined Statewide races up and down the ticket and found that Democrats were doing miserably bad in all of them. Most all of these polls included Libertarian and Green candidates, for what it is worth. Additionally, undecideds boasted pretty good showings in all of these races, and the number only got bigger the further down the ballot one traveled.

As many will remember, the Tribune commissioned an extensive poll in February that was not worth the non-existent paper that is was not printed upon. Among the many terrible predictions it made was that Kesha Rogers and Debra Medina led the plurality in their respective primaries. Rogers barely squeaked into a runoff and Medina came in a distant last place in a race where one candidate (Hegar) won outright. I went after the Tribune with a wrench in the Daily Texan a couple days after the preliminary primary completely discredited their polling, noting that we should not waste our breath analyzing something so unreliable anymore.  As my friend Charles Kuffner noted yesterday, the Tribune polls should be “in time-out,” meaning that we have to very look at what they have to say quite critically.

Click here to read more!

Other GOP runoffs

As I previously noted in my Dan Patrick analysis, there were three other Statewide GOP primary runoffs last night.  Ken Paxton defeated Dan Branch for Attorney General, Sid Miller defeated Tommy Merritt for Agriculture Commissioner and Ryan Sitton defeated Wayne Christian for Railroad Commissioner. In the former two contests, the clearly denoted “Tea Party” candidate defeated the “Moderate establishment” pick, whereas the latter race was significantly more nuanced. While Christian has a history in public office of using loud and obstreperous right-wing noise to the detriment of actual policy, Sitton also campaigned heavily on right-wing issues. For example, his campaign commercials discussed immigration policy, taking a hard stand on undocumented immigration, despite that it has little to do with the office of Railroad Commissioner, which regulates the oil and gas industries.

Specifically in the Attorney General’s race, Paxton won in yet another blowout, winning almost every county in the State, save a few in the Valley and along the Edwards plateau. The issue with Paxton is a novel one, as he has received no shortage of bad publicity this campaign cycle for some shady dealings. Paul Burka at Texas Monthly lamented Paxton in particular as both a “know-nothing” and someone likely to be convicted of a felony and disbarred. What a wonderful candidate for Attorney General.

Click here for the three obligatory charts!

Secretary Castro?

The New York Times reports that Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, one of the Democrats’ biggest rising hopes for the future of the State, is President Barack Obama’s pick as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The incumbent Secretary, Shaun Donovan, looks to be the next Budget director (the incumbent budget director, meanwhile, has been tapped as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services). The reshuffling is important because Castro is not term limited out of office, as Mayor of San Antonio for another three years. Additionally, he reportedly declined an offer to become Secretary of Transportation.

Castro received the obsequious adulation one would expect from liberal lemmings upon hearing this news. I, of course, wish the best for Castro and honestly believe that he would make a very good HUD Secretary, but I lament the long term implications of such a change. However, first things first, San Antonio will have to choose a new Mayor. The Rivard Report notes that the San Antonio City Council must choose themselves who Castro’s successor will be. Likely a member of the City Council her or himself, but plausibly someone else as well. This successor will serve out of the remainder of Castro’s term, about a year.

Click here to read my take on this move by Castro!