Tuesday, June 30, 2015

No path for Christie

By Richard Barry

Chuck Todd and company at NBC describe two ways to win the GOP nomination.

The first is to "sell yourself as the right candidate to win over the base on the issues -- i.e., the ideological warrior." The second is to "sell yourself as the most electable, the candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton -- i.e., the winner."

They go on to say that neither way is available to Gov. Christie who announced his candidacy today.

As for Christie's conservative ideological purity, well, no so much. And as a candidate with the broad-based support to win it all? Again, no.

So what does he think his path to victory is? Since Christie will never be the darling of the ideological right, it has to be in his belief he can sell himself as the most electable. No idea what he's basing that on.

Whatever he's thinking, he's delusional.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Bernie Sanders: Hillary Clinton's ideal opponent

By Richard Barry

Yesterday I wrote about some reasons it was good Bernie Sanders was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. One of them was that it would push Hillary Clinton to talk about  issues important to the left that might not otherwise get a full hearing.

A somewhat more nuanced way of saying the same thing, which S.V. Date at the National Journal suggests, is that Sanders candidacy will "allow Clinton to focus on issues most primary voters in the party can agree upon, while in no way challenging her character or competence for office."

Bernie Sanders, as Date writes, can criticize big banks, Republicans who deny climate change, and the billionaire Koch brothers and Clinton can agree. Certainly she will talk about those things on her own, but Sanders' campaign allows her to amplify her stance, especially if she positions herself as having evolved to some extent because of Sanders' candidacy and the enthusiasm of his followers.

Of significance too is Sanders' statement that "I have never run a negative political ad in my life, and I don't intend to."
"If I'm a Hillary Clinton person, this is what I want. I want someone like Bernie Sanders in the race," says Mo Elleithee, a former top staffer at the Democratic National Committee who now runs Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service. "It gives her the opportunity to address the issues that he and his supporters want to hear about."

There may be a few topics where they genuinely disagree like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but that could work in her favour as she can present herself as hard-headed on the economy while making it clear she is, after all, no socialist. Similarly on security issues and foreign policy, in a country revved up to expect there to be a terrorists around every corner, she can argue, with all due respect to Sen. Sanders, that she can be tough on the world stage. 

There is little reason for Mrs. Clinton to be off-side with Sen. Sanders' domestic agenda and much to recommend a friendly conversation amongst a few candidates who mostly agree on the general themes.

As someone who is very pleased with Sanders' candidacy but who will also be quite happy with a Clinton presidency, it's a cozy set up. Let's have a good chat about some of the things that really matter without doing any real damage to the eventual nominee. 

Too be clear, this means I'm with Sanders until Clinton is the nominee. On the other hand, if some world-gone-crazy scenario overtakes events making Sanders the nominee, we can take comfort in the fact that Hillary Clinton would not have been able to defeat the Republican nominee anyway. I love Bernie Sanders, but if Hillary Clinton can't dispatch a socialist from Vermont, what does that say?

But that's not going to happen. What is going to happen is an important and interesting discussion amongst Democratic hopefuls featuring elements important to the left. Hillary Clinton should be happy about that as should the Democratic Party.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Three reasons to be glad Sanders is in the race

By Richard Barry

The first thing that should be said about the Clinton-Sanders match-up is that it is a good thing that Clinton is being seriously challenged. It generates interest in the campaign and encourages discussions amongst voters that otherwise would not have happened.

The second thing is that having a candidate like Sanders raise so passionately the issue of income inequality in a presidential campaign is a really good thing. Hillary is now being forced to take this era defining issue more seriously than she is probably inclined.

The third thing is that if, against all odd and well beyind my own expectations, Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, that's a great thing because it means America is that much closer to embracing a truly progressive agenda. And I say that understanding Sanders' chances of winning the general election are virtually nil.

I know this frightens people but I think it's best to consider the long game in politics. This means that having people vote for what they believe in is always better than having them vote for what is expedient. 

Expediency rarely changes the world.

Having said that, Hillary Clinton is going to win the nomination.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

What do you do with a problem like Donald?

By Richard Barry

Donald Trump is going to be such a headache for Republicans this campaign cycle.

He has virtually zero chance of winning the presidential nomination. But insiders worry that the loud-mouthed mogul is more than just a minor comedic nuisance on cable news; they fret that he’s a loose cannon whose rants about Mexicans and scorched-earth attacks on his rivals will damage the eventual nominee and hurt a party struggling to connect with women and minorities and desperate to win.

And that's all true. The other point is that Republicans are in the position of needing to reach out to new constituencies while not alienating their core vote. This requires a relatively high degree of subtlety and sophistication. Trump's involvement in the campaign will mean that any candidate wishing to be taken seriously will have to take Trump on directly, which will upset their ability to effectively talk out of both sides of their mouth.

In a sense, Donald Trump is a distillation of many of the worst qualities of conservatism. The problem for the Republican Party is that Trump had no interest in sugar-coating the message.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Republicans secretly cheer survival of Obamacare

By Richard Barry

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court saved President Obama's signature health care law and, as countless news organization said this morning, ensured his legacy.

The ruling holds that the Affordable Care Act authorized federal tax credits for eligible Americans living not only in states with their own exchanges but also in the 34 states with federal marketplaces. It staved off a major political showdown and a mad scramble in states that would have needed to act to prevent millions from losing health care coverage.

Great news for those of us who like the thought that people will be able to get the health care they need. But you know who else it's great news for? Republicans.

As Steve Benen writes, you won't hear them crowing about it publicly, and on the record they will continue to say all sorts of nasty things about the law and now the Supreme Court. But if you have your eye on the next election cycle, Republicans don't mind the survival of Obamacare at all.

Heading into this morning, some basic policy truths were clear. We knew, for example, that congressional Republicans have made no progress in creating an alternative to the Affordable Care Act -- despite more than five years of broken promises -- and in all likelihood, they never would. We also knew that most of those who would suffer from a plaintiff victory in King v. Burwell would be middle-income families in red states who would naturally look to their GOP representatives for help.

Those same representatives would face enormous pressure from right-wing institutions to let the American health care system burn and treat affected families like collateral damage in a political war. And then there were the Republican governors -- some of whom also happen to be presidential candidates -- who would have been under pressure to create exchange marketplaces in their states to prevent constituents from suffering. Of course, those same governors would have simultaneously faced equal pressure from partisans and ideologues to do exactly nothing.

Let's say the words together just so we can better understand how ridiculous politics can be: Republicans have fought the Affordable Care Act like no other initiative of the Obama Administration. They have made it the centrepiece of their attack on big government and the liberal nanny state. Now that it's the law and actually helping some of the same people they hope will support their party, they will continue to criticize it but also count themselves lucky they don't have to be held accountable for its demise.

My head hurts.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Even Fox News is bored by Sarah Palin

By Richard Barry

If you follow politics, the only reason to pay attention to the wackier sorts in and around the Republican side of things is to discern why their brand of self-aggrandizing foolishness has any traction at all. People like Donald Trump, Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin may be, or have been, national political figures of a sort but this doesn't mean most people, aside from those blinded by love, think they will seriously compete for national office.

But each of these individuals, and others on the fringes, have a constituency, and any serious conservative politician has to understand it in order to cobble together a coalition large enough to win a nomination.

Anyway,  that's my mea culpa for writing about people like Sarah Palin and, in this case, as a lead up to news that she has been dumped by Fox News.
Fox News will not renew its contract with Sarah Palin, whose bombastic appearances have been a cable staple since the former Alaska governor’s failed run on John McCain’s ticket in the 2008 presidential election cycle. When asked for comment, a Fox News spokesperson confirmed the network had amicably parted ways with the governor on June 1.

Palin, 51, is expected to make occasional guest appearances on Fox and Fox Business, and will appear on other networks and cables. She has a show on the Sportsman Channel, does a lot of speeches, and will announce a new publishing project soon.

So, this doesn't mean she's going away entirely in the short term. She has 4.5 million Facebook fans and 1.15 million Twitter followers, and in more conservative states is sought out as a valuable endorsement.

Maybe Sarah Palin is so much a creation of the 24-hour news cycle, social media's need for new content, and the way so much of politics has morphed into one big reality TV show that she will never really go away.

But maybe this is the beginning of the end. Let's hope.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Behind the Ad: Bailout Bush?

By Richard Barry

Who: America's Liberty (a super-PAC backing Sen. Rand Paul)

Where: Web ad in early primary states (though it appears to be running elsewhere)

What's going on: Here comes the crazy. In the style of a loud and frenetic infomercial, a screaming pitchman by the name of Max Power (remember the Simpsons episode featuring Homer as Max) offers a Bailout Bu$h action figure and tell us, the viewer/customer, about how Jeb worked for Lehman Brothers right before the crash and supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

"This offer guarantees a presidential candidate cannot win a single primary state, let alone the general election," a voice-over says at the end of the ad as Power bathes in a tub of money.

Does anyone on the right know how to be funny? Apparently not. 

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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