The Romney Effect (aka When Nothing Happens)

When former GOP Nominee / Next Guy Up Mitt Romney came out guns blazing against Donald Trump’s candidacy last week, many saw it as a sign that the Republican establishment was moving to block the future Republican nominee from his chance at the Oval Office.  The speech, delivered as the text format of paint drying, did little to accomplish the GOP’s grand plans.  In fact, a poll conducted by Morning Consult found that nearly half of Republican voters (48%) wouldn’t let Romney’s warnings impact their vote.

Perhaps Mitt put it best in his Netflix Documentary “Mitt” (Side note: this is worth a watch regardless of your general feelings toward Mitt) when he declared “when you lose the election, you are forever a loser.”  Trump’s campaign has been all about how much of a “winner” he is and how all that stand in front of him are “losers, dummies, jokes.”  With that in mind, is it really that shocking that Mitt’s speech didn’t sway Trump’s supporters?

Trump destroying Rubio in Florida last night despite it being Rubio’s home turf and having the backing of both Jeb! and Mitt Romney is nothing short of embarrassing for the GOP establishment.  Kasich was popular enough in Ohio to put him over the top there, but let’s not undersell what is happening:  In 2012, Mitt Romney lost a very winnable election to President Obama.  Top to bottom, voters saw how badly the establishment messed up the campaign. This failure caused an open revolt from the “next guy up” playbook that the Republicans have relied on for so long.

McCain failed.  Romney failed.  Jeb! failed.

Working class Americans are pissed and have taken a “guilty by association” view of the establishment.  The reality is this: Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for a lot of reasons good and bad.

Trump has run a very good campaign while spending very little money – something no one in the Political press would have predicted a year ago.  He has also tugged on the very heart strings that working class Republicans have been upset about for a long time: people who are working aren’t getting ahead and no one in the Federal government seems to care.  You can argue the merits of this point of view, but it is how they feel.

As it also looks more and more likely that the Democrats won’t have to use the power of their super-delegates and other backroom deals to put Hillary up as the blue candidate, we can begin to think about future debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump is a master at counter attacking and seems to hit back harder the more challengers press against him.  If you think these debates will be about policy or detailed plans, you are going to be very wrong.  This is going to be a gutter war and Hillary does not have the clean slate to win a gutter war.  Trump will attack – without hesitation – Hillary’s character and record with a relentlessness that will bother a lot of people.

Hillary should focus on policy and what she is going to do once in the White House, but her campaign staff seems inept so she is likely going to fall into Trump’s mousetrap.  This will be her downfall – she must avoid it at all costs.

For those, like this author, looking for sanity in our elections, one can only hope that it is this showdown that finally puts the status quo to bed.  We need better candidates, real discussions, and common sense in governing.

 

 

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Post-Caucus: How Close It Was!

The Iowa Caucus proved to be more of a thrill ride than anyone expected.  The Clinton-Sanders margin was almost negligible and the GOP had 3 candidates taking the majority of the Republican votes.  In yesterday’s prediction thread we stated that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders would be Monday night’s victors.

Ted Cruz did in fact win with Donald Trump taking second place (also predicted) and Marco Rubio taking third place.  Rubio’s strong showing was not expected in Iowa as the Evangelical population pointed more to a strong Ben Carson showing (who finished forth with around 10% of the vote and was our predicted 3rd place finisher).  Rubio’s win was bolstered further by a key endorsement from Tom Scott.  This result for Rubio will likely lead to a major jump in the national polls.

The most disappointing performances within the GOP had to come from Rand Paul and Jeb Bush.  Rand’s father Ron finished in third place during the 2012 Iowa Caucus and there was some thought that he would capture a bit of that magic.  At fifth place with only 4.5% of the vote, the Paul campaign has to be frustrated by their candidates inability to grab real traction within the party.

For all of the disappointment felt by the Paul campaign, the Jeb Bush camp must be in outright panic.  With millions of dollars spent and coming off his strongest debate performance yet, the early GOP favorite had to expect better than 2.8% of the vote.  We may be seeing the last days of the Jeb! experience.

In all, don’t expect the GOP candidates to throw in the towel before next week’s Primary in NH.  NH tends to be more friendly to establishment / moderate Republicans, many of whom were at the bottom of this poll.  After NH, though, we expect several campaigns to close up shop.

For the Democrats, the story got interesting in Iowa.  Martin O’Malley – debt strapped and with little support – suspended his campaign.  O’Malley is often rumored to be interested in a VP nomination, but that may be in doubt now that the Democrat Party has seen what he would actually bring to the table.  Staying in this race through the Iowa Caucus may have hurt O’Malley’s political career more than it helped.

Clinton narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders in a state that she had a decent lead in before the votes were cast.  While this is a technical win for Hillary, it was also a spiritual win for Sanders, though it was not without controversy.  No other candidate has come from the fringe to the mainstream like he has and with a monster lead in New Hampshire, he is going to force Clinton to play major defense over the coming weeks.

One additional point of note about the Democrat voters shown during the CNN broadcast was the difference in voter profiles between those who chose Clinton and those who chose Sanders.  The voters that valued “experience” overwhelmingly chose Clinton, while those that wanted “someone who shares my values” overwhelmingly chose Sanders.  Look for this information to be used by both campaigns going forward.

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Prediction – Iowa Winners Will Be: Cruz and Sanders

The big day is finally here.

Iowa again marks the beginning of a new beginning (as President Obama cannot run for office again) and with that, Americans will be subjected to an exhaustive gauntlet of campaign ads, calls, and donation requests.  Iowa also marks the point when we, as Americans, start to get some real data about who the next leader of our country will be.

Prior to actually voting for someone, all we have had to go on are the polls conducted by research groups and media organizations.  While these polls give some insight into the general state of mind of American voters, we have also seen that one debate performance can launch a candidate into a leading position for a time being.

This is especially true with the leaderless Republican party.  Through the summer and fall, Republican voters have acted like middle-school children trying to figure out who they wanted to date.  First it was Bush, then Fiorina, then Carson, and now Cruz (all while maintaining a huge crush on Donald Trump).  None of these “picks” lasted longer than a a few months as the spotlight tends to reveal the truth and subsequently forcing those candidates back down the charts.

So who will win in Iowa?

For the Republicans, the winner with be Senator Ted Cruz.  Looking at maps of previous caucuses in the state, it becomes obvious that Iowans love both Evangelical and Libertarian leaning candidates.  Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, being the best examples.  Cruz represents both to some extent and is also currently tied with Donald Trump in the national polls, lending to votes by name recognition.  Second place will go to Donald Trump and third place will go to Ben Carson, who remains very popular with the very religious.

For the Democrats the race is less a race and more a head-to-head competition.  Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders going into today’s caucus (though the difference is close to margin of error).  Sanders, though, has a message that has been building quite dramatically over the past 6 months and strong support from millennial voters.  If (and here we are assuming they will) those millennial voters turn out, Sanders will narrowly win Iowa.

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The Senate Needs to Bring the Hammer Down on Sen. Corker

In a Wall Street Journal report this morning, it was revealed that Sen. Corker (R-TN) filed tax amendments going back to 2007 to report $7m of previously undisclosed income.  Sen. Corker sits on the powerful Senate Banking Committee and its jointly responsible for ethics and oversight of the financial sector.

While a thorough investigation still needs to be completed, it is only reasonable to demand that the Senate strip Sen. Corker of his role and press all available charges against him for these transgressions against the American people.  The integrity of the financial markets is paramount to a strong, fair economy.  What Sen. Corker has demonstrated is a blatant disregard for the principles that guide this country.

The Federal Government has long felt that mandatory minimum sentencing for minor drug crimes was “essential” for a strong America.  How many kids have had their lives ruined for having a little bit of weed on them?  Someone who has benefited from insider knowledge, cheated the American people by lying on his tax return, and done nothing to strengthen the public’s trust in one of the country’s most important industries should be locked up.

Sen. Corker has done far more damage to this country and should be punished accordingly.  It is encouraged that you take the time to contact your Senators and press them for a swift, thorough investigation.  You can do so by clicking here.

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Sen. Cruz Focuses on the Big Issues

The Republicans are well on their way to losing the 2016 Presidential Election.  With the candidates continuing to produce over-the-top slogans about issues that have already been decided, it is safe to assume most Americans will be abstaining from the election or voting blue.

Last week’s debate – the debacle that it was – did not advance the GOP cause.  Getting mad at the media for asking garbage questions (even if correct) did not communicate leadership, it communicated hostility.  Maybe messages like Sen. Cruz’s tweet above are more effective than we give them credit for, but at the end of the day, the people who get excited by this type of stuff already live in echo chambers.

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Boehner Resigns: Another Crack in the GOPs Base

Since Mitt Romney’s loss to President Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election, the GOP has been in a state of duress. Mainstream Republicans lost important seats and positions to more extreme members of the Tea Party.  The base of power shifted left toward Gay Marriage and LGBT rights.  The GOP was, correctly, painted as “old,” “out of touch,” and “evil.”

Speaker John Boehner stood at the front of the Republican old guard.  As the leader of the GOP in the House, Rep. Boehner was uniquely positioned to control the order of events.  While the Office of the President gets more press, it is Congress that truly runs the country by building policy, laws, taxes, and regulations.  Setting the agenda of the country and the positioning of the Republican party is a power that few others will ever know.

This is a truly significant turn of events.

The Republican party must evolve in order to continue existing.  The party itself has remained steadfastly focused on minority pockets of the US population, chief among them, the highly religious south.  A mainstream party that is very Conservative is not what the United States needs.  The Republican party has sought to keep the status quo and to avoid coming to terms with the true issues of the age.  Change is far to rapid to ignore.

Hoping that “someone else” takes care of issues like Climate Change, Poverty, and Energy is a cowards way of handling the Republic’s affairs.  This country deserves better from the Republicans party and if the current crop of GOP leaders cannot deliver the ideas and programs that will move this country forward, they should be voted out of office.

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Gov. Scott Walker Ends His 2016 Bid

Running a national campaign is not cheap and for Gov. Scott Walker, the expenses finally caught up with him.  Choosing to end his bid now does highlight a smart financial decision on the part of the Governor.  Rather than hanging on to a lost cause and racking up mountains of debt, the Governor is taking a path that better positions him to be a Vice President.

Noting as much, Gov. Walker stated in his suspension speech:

I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner

While this is a direct attack towards Donald Trump, it can also be seen as a show of support for Gov. Jeb Bush.  Gov. Walker understands that positioning is everything and the GOP, rightly, understands that Gov. Walker has a very attractive “conservative” record (one that made him an early front-runner).  He also, correctly, recognizes that dollars sent to candidates at the bottom of the polls are being wasted if the candidate is just going to drop out in a few months.

A Bush-Walker ticket would look very good on paper to some members of the Republican party.  Trump, Fiorina, and Carson all lead the pack, but when push comes to shove, these individuals may not represent what the GOP is looking to present to the country.

Of the potential VPs currently in play, Gov. Walker has to be considered the leader of the pack.

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Sen. Cruz Goes all-in with Kim Davis

Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk held in contempt of court for denying orders to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, has gained a new backer, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  The Senator’s campaign team posted a show of support to his Twitter account that was clearly a play at ultra-conservative voters ahead of the CNN Debate (September 16th).

The Senator’s support will do little to free Ms. Davis from jail, but it does serve to galvanize the religious right who feel that Ms. Davis’ First Amendment rights are being violated.  Ms. Davis, a born again Christian, was defiant in her stand against the court’s orders proclaiming that she answers only to the ‘authority of God.’

While there are those who will see eye-to-eye with Ms. Davis, polls show that the country is becoming less religious and generally supports gay marriage.  Sen. Cruz risks damaging his campaign by placing his allegiance with such an unknown (Ms. Davis has a checkered past when it comes to marriage having been married four times).  But with polls showing support for Sen. Cruz shifting toward Ben Carson and Gov. Walker – both of whom are rising with religious conservatives – this may be risk worth taking.

Either way, the Republican Party continues to focus on social issues that could be left alone which seems to be pushing moderate voters out of the party.  This approach could spell doom for the GOP in the 2016 election.

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Gov. Jindal’s NOLA Problem

In a detailed look what has happened in New Orleans in the past decade, the Wall Street Journal reveals that while progress has been made, the city has not rebounded the way it could have.  Gov. Bobby Jindal has overseen Louisiana since 2008 and while he sits, formally, in Baton Rouge, it is the Greater New Orleans area that he should be focusing on.

In politics and, more specifically campaigns, it is all about the story you can tell.  What a candidate can show potential voters that will make them dream of a brighter future.  Gov. Jindal does not have a great story when it comes to NOLA.  In fact, the linked WSJ article shows that any positive momentum that the city has seen over the past 10 years has been due to Federal Disaster funds or individual entrepreneurs.  The Louisiana government had little to do with it.

Perhaps there is a reason why Gov. Jindal chose to focus on larger topics.  He has been linked to national campaigns since 2010 which surely would have required at least some of his attention.  Maybe there are also other issues, not as obvious to outsiders, that would have jumped the priority list.  Maybe, he just thought the local government would be better positioned to handle the restoration.

Whatever the reason, this was an opportunity missed.  New Orleans may not be the capital of Louisiana, but it is the regional capital of the north Gulf and a cultural center.  A victory here would have been an amazing story to tell.  A story of a Governor that neglected life and limb to ensure New Orleans came out of one of the worst disasters in history better and more robust.

Gov. Jindal does not get to tell that story and for that his campaign will suffer.

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Domestic or International? What type of President do we need?

The Republican debate was dominated by the Middle East, be it Iran or ISIS.  The national media has allocated significant time to Iran and the potential for nuclear war.  The Democrats have pointed towards Secretary Kerry’s work in the Middle East as a symbol of their party’s superior diplomacy skills.

Should American voters care?

Fear, war, and extremism sell papers (or produce clicks) so there is a natural tendency to focus on these issues as opposed to the always thrilling topics like: capital controls in banking or tax code.  The argument being that issues over there could result in issues over here, but is that the right argument?  Should the gravitational pull of the middle east have such dominance over the national priorities?

What is more likely is that the strengthening economy has removed some of the domestic fear of joblessness off the agendas for a large number of individual voters.  Without the stress of job issues, these voters are able to focus on a wider range of topics: typically social issues and foreign policy concerns.  The shift in focus from what we saw in 2009-2012 to now may have been premature.

There remains a great number of domestic issues with the economy that have yet to be addressed.  Many of these issues could have a significant impact on the economy over the next 3-10 years.  These include offshore cash holdings by corporations, healthcare, infrastructure, and education.  All four of these topics will play a much larger role on US policy than each is currently given credit for.

If the next President of the United States is penciled in for a stent leading the country for the next 4-8 years.  Should that individual set an agenda that reinforces the foundation of this country or continues to influence foreign policy?

All voters will need to internalize that question.

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