Paul Ryan Is Our Generation’s Bob Dole

Paul Ryan is the next incarnation of Bob Dole's presidential primary career.

Paul Ryan is the next incarnation of Bob Dole’s presidential primary career.

Paul Ryan is running for president in 2016 because he’s running for president in 2024. That is a simple fact. Ryan knows he can’t win the nomination in 2016 — the last time a losing VP candidate was nominated in the succeeding presidential cycle was Walter Mondale in 1984, and Mondale had at least been vice president. Ryan knows that he won’t even be on the ticket in 2016 — he failed to deliver his home state and even his home town, and doesn’t have an apparent constituency within the party. So why is he (poorly) feigning an interest in urban poverty and shaking hands in Iowa and New Hampshire?

Back in November 2013 I predicted that Ryan would refuse to be considered for House Speaker before the midterms, because he knows that the speakership is a politically terminal position, one that necessitates controversy, divisiveness, and — worst of all for a presidential primary — compromise with the other party. If you want to alienate moderates and activists in your own party and become the nation’s second-most reviled political figure, House Speaker is the perfect job. If you want to be president, don’t go near it. Chair a committee. Lead a think tank. Even parlay a VP-slot pick on a failed ticket. Just don’t be Speaker.

It was clear months ago that Ryan would have to shoot down any Speaker murmuring early and often and thus nip a draft movement in the bud.  And so, Ryan did just that.

In January, the Wisconsinite declared he did not want to be Speaker.  But why doesn’t he want to be speaker now, one might ask.  Ryan, of course, needs a plausible excuse to not answer his party’s call, unite an ungovernable GOP caucus, and seize a tangible opportunity to push his own agenda.  Were Rryan a pragmatic true believer, he might challenge John Boehner and shift the GOP in line with his own right-wing doctrine.  But Ryan wants to be president some day, and so the only way to preserve his future presidential potential is to run a losing 2016 campaign as an excuse not to be Speaker.

Sounds a little wacky?  How?  To say there are no calculations behind a politician’s professional rise is naive.  Paul Ryan is not stupid, and there are plenty of “reasons” to ascribe any presidential run that are less cynical than the one I present:

•  Ryan supporters could claim a long-shot 2016 run will raise his name recognition?  (That’s not really true.  The GOP base that votes in primaries knows his name and likes him just fine.)

•  Ryan supporters could claim a 2016 run helps him build a national network of donors?  (Unlikely.  Ryan’s natural moneyed constituency is the GOP mainstream and the Kochs.  The GOP Establishment donors will only rally behind Ryan if he’s the only electable and trustworthy guy in a field of yahoos — i.e. Romney 2012, Dole 1996 — and the Kochs also obey the Buckley Rule, though they probably will support Ryan and Walker’s potential veepship and would offer Jeb Bush big help if he took one of them on.)

The only other real upside to the eight-term congressman of running, besides meeting and greeting Iowa and New Hampshire activists and avoiding the Speakership, is putting the idea of a President Paul Ryan into Americans’ heads.  That’s what Rand Paul did back in 2011 when he said he might run for the 2012 GOP nomination, despite his father’s obvious second candidacy.  That’s what Ted Cruz has done since the day he was sworn into the Senate.  But with rival GOP stars emerging with every passing election, Ryan will have to run every single time there is a non-incumbent GOP president in order to keep reinforcing his presidential-ness. (I know ‘presidential-ness’ is not a word.)

And that Paul Ryan must now always run for president — to stay relevant, to stay presidential — is what makes Paul Ryan our generation’s Bob Dole.  Just look at the similarities.

1.  Elevation to a ticket well a bit too early makes for an imperfect national introduction:

A hotshot staunchly right-wing (for their time) policy wonk young gun from a flyover state is picked by a faltering presidential nominee who needs conservative credibility with a base that nearly took him down during the nomination.  The VP pick proves competent but uninspiring, not offending the GOP base, but hardly rallying it either.  The ticket loses.

2.  The first presidential attempt:

Well-liked in his party but not altogether a galvanizing figure, Dole ran in 1980 and got creamed so bad it became his own running joke in his 1988 campaign.  With Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and John Anderson dominating their respective ideological bases, Dole wound up a non-factor.

Well-liked in his party but not altogether a galvanizing figure, Ryan will run in 2016 and lose so invisibly it will only be a joke in his 2020 campaign if he chooses it to be.  With Jeb Bush (the eventual nominee), Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul dominating their respective Republican bases, Ryan is simply a non-factor.

3.  The second run where he really wants it:

In 1988, Bob Dole had been a good soldier throughout the entire Reagan Administration, eventually ascending to Senate Majority Leader until the 1986 elections.  At that point, the Senate losses didn’t affect his in-party standing: party thanks to Iran-Contra, Dole was leading George H.W. Bush in the polls.  Unfortunately for Dole, Bush eventually routed him, forcing the Kansan to once again play Senate good soldier for a man who had defeated him in the presidential primary.

Ryan’s second run will come in 2020, against an incumbent President Hillary Clinton.  However, should Jeb Bush be elected in 2016, then Ryan’s second run will occur in 2024.  I believe that Jeb Bush’s VP nominee will be Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, but let’s first pretend that Ryan’s second run takes place in an open-field 2020.  In that case, I believe Ryan runs very hard but ultimately loses to Rand Paul, who then loses to the incumbent Democratic president.  In a post-Bush-2016-victory scenario, Ryan runs in 2024 against a host of other GOP contenders, but still loses to either an institutionally-supported Vice President Portman or a movement conservative.

4.  The third presidential run where most of America has forgotten the VP run and sees a much older version of a guy they met two decades before.  America now sees a man who wants to be president just to finally be president:

With House and Senate majorities on the line and no credible alternatives for president, a post-Contract With America GOP that lacked clear leadership coalesced around an uninspiring and uncharismatic Bob Dole before the nomination could be captured by Pat Buchanan.  Dole tried his best but American voters did not want to reverse Clinton’s course, nor did they want to restore the previous generation to the Oval Office.  Few remembered that this was the same guy who had run with Gerald Ford in 1976, and only knew him as a perennial candidate and two-time nomination loser from a bygone era.

Ryan makes one or two more pushes for president, either in 2020 against an incumbent President Hillary Clinton, or in 2024, 2028, or even 2032.  I don’t see him running in three consecutive cycles, but no matter how many cycles he enters or sits out, after two he’ll be seen as a guy with eyes solely on the Oval Office.  Even if he wins the nomination, it will only be thanks to an unelectable field of rivals and a GOP Establishment concerned about down-ticket races.  Ryan will never be president because he is a last-resort nominee — a Dole, a McCain, a Romney (I’m not paraphrasing Ted Cruz here!) — a competent politician who is the most plausible president but who has never had a movement nor inspired one.

5.  Legacy:

Bob Dole is now remembered as a politician who probably would have been a decent president but who simply could not fight the intra-party political realities of his era.  Dole was arguably a better politician than George H.W. Bush, a man whose presidential ambitions would never have been met had the stars not aligned to make him Reagan’s VP pick.  By the time Dole got his shot at topping the ticket, his politics and he himself were too outdated, just too old.  His loss wasn’t shameful but it also wasn’t unexpected, and since 1996 he has sunk into our collective memory as a semi-arcane factoid.

And how are they different?

Paul Ryan, unlike Bob Dole, will not be remembered, even by political buffs, as a man of presidential timber hindered by a couple unfortunate political realities.  Whether one agrees with his politics or not, Dole had the makings of a president: War hero, long record, mastery of process, and a predilection for — not an aversion to — non-presidential leadership.  Dole was legislatively ambitious enough to assume his party’s most visible non-executive role, even though the position was fraught with  political danger.  The Kansas senator knew that if he did a great job as leader, he could engender intra-party support and power, with the potential side-effect of becoming a popular national figure.  In a world of Reagans and Bushes, Dole would need that support to finally win the nomination.  Ryan could have every House Republican behind him, but he refuses to take a chance.

It may be unfair to consider Ryan a political coward for not seeking the Speakership in order to preserve his presidential ambitions.  Perhaps, after a career nurtured by presidential and vice presidential also-ran Jack Kemp, Ryan always held a vague idea that he himself could win the presidency some day.  Then, after 2012 this feeling was more than affirmed thanks to his VP selection and a 2011 draft effort by the right-wing intelligentsia.  Sure, the 2010-2011 Ryan presidential hype was born of a desperate GOP Establishment, and yes, Ryan’s selection by Romney hardly indicated indicate a groundswell of pro-Ryan sentiment, but still: Ryan is right to think that he’s one of about twenty-five Americans who can make an attempt at the presidency and succeed.  It would be weird if after the 2012 election Ryan’s ambitions weren’t totally focused on the presidency.  He’s just severely miscalculated how much he needs the House GOP and how he’s squandering his only source of potential strength.

Whether he’d been the 1976 VP nominee or not, Dole always wanted to be president.  He wanted it for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from ideological to political to personal.  Read Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes, and you’ll meet a man driven by a unique ambition that’s nearly impossible to describe or understand.  You won’t for a second doubt why Dole ran, why he needed to run.  And therein you’ll find the real, true difference between a man like Bob Dole and a man like Paul Ryan: Dole was always right to consider himself presidential material; Ryan has never had what it takes.

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Rick Santorum Should Be Taken Seriously by the Media


The 2012 runner-up has the best shot at being 2016 runner-up.
Image by Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

The mainstream media has almost unanimously counted Rick Santorum out as a factor within the 2016 Republican primary. The former senator is often left out of polls, while Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee remain as resident firebrand bomb-thrower and religious right magnet, respectively. But why is Rick Santorum being treated as a non-candidate when he has all but declared a second go at the presidency? I’ve asked this before: Why is Rick Santorum being ignored?

There’s no denying it: Rick Santorum was the 2012 runner-up in the GOP primaryhad to admit, but some would claim that if you keep in mind the fresh crop of GOP contenders in 2016 and the weak 2012 bench, Santorum is not the usual “next in line.” Rather, he’s just the Pat Buchanan to Mitt Romney’s Bob Dole. That assumption is wrong. Upon closer look, we see that Santorum is probably a fairly compelling 2016 candidate for GOP primary voters:

1. Look at how many states he won: Santorum won as many states (11) as Romney did in 2008, yet posed more of a threat to the eventual winner than any GOP second-placer since McCain 2000 post-New Hampshire and pre-South Carolina. You know which other second-placer got double digit states in a losing bid for the GOP nomination? Ronald Reagan in 1976. The next most was John McCain in 2000 with 7. Santorum is by no means the typical “next in line” claimant, but he can make that claim with a straight face.

2. Look at which states he won: He came close to beating Romney in Michigan, reducing Romney’s 2008 margin of victory so much that even Romney had to admit he “didn’t win by a lot.” Santorum also won Iowa, though his decision to not skip New Hampshire for South Carolina coupled with the election night vote totals giving the slim victory to Romney, lost his momentum and allowed Newt Gingrich to emerge as a competing Not-Romney candidate. (Still, Romney’s close Iowa ‘win’ gave John McCain a chance to mock Romney, and McCain insulting Romney is always a delightful occurrence.) Santorum also won Minnesota and Missouri.

3. Iowa: Rick Santorum is actively fostering the relationships he’s built in Iowa, the retail politics capital of the universe. He won Iowa with a very clever and definitely lightning-strikes-at-the-right-moment strategy: Meet every activist in Iowa several times, visit all 99 counties over and over, make a decent impression and build up goodwill, and wait for everyone else to implode. In 2016, Santorum will have no problem asking the same people to give him another shot and stick it to the GOP Establishment, because …

4. What kind of people already voted for Santorum?: Answer – people who will vote for him again. Yes, many who voted for Santorum later in the primary did so because they couldn’t stomach Romney. Did these GOP primary voters ever think it would be Santorum when it was first Bachmann, then Perry, then Cain, then Gingrich? No, but they didn’t really have to hold their noses for Santorum, the way pro-Romney voters had to for Mitt. They got comfortable with Santorum, and perhaps when faced with a choice between Establishment/”pro-amnesty”/”RINO”/hardly-Tea Party Jeb (because Jeb will be called a RINO), many of these voters will go with what they know. After all, voting for the comforting policies of the past is the absolute core of Santorum’s conservative appeal.

5. Foster Friess: The multi-millionaire investor has already sunk millions into Santorum before and has pledged to do it again. If you put $10 million giving national name recognition to someone within the GOP base, what’s $20 million more? After nearly winning Michigan — losing, arguably, thanks to the near-endless Super PAC money being spent against him by Romney — Santorum said, “A month ago they didn’t know who we are but they do now.”

6. The 2016 crop is actually not that good: Marco Rubio is a dud with no constituency. Ted Cruz, who is counting on a Barry Goldwater-esque once-in-a-generation far right wing nomination, forgets that the party establishment (yes, there is a very powerful party establishment still) really wants to win back the White House, that no one in the party likes him, and that he himself was born in Canada. Scott Walker has the charisma and presence of a lima bean. Paul Ryan is running for 2024, not 2016. Rand Paul will be the nominee in 2020, not 2016. Mike Huckabee is teasing a presidential run as he launches the Huckabee Post, a new online conservative news site. Perhaps he’s keeping his options open, but Huckabee has been called the most successful losing presidential candidate ever — why spoil that? Rick Santorum is actually more compelling as a now candidate than anyone else: Paul, Walker, Cruz, and Rubio will all have another shot, and Huckabee’s time is long gone. Not Santorum. Not Jeb. Their time is now and only now.

7. Rick Santorum has nothing to lose by alienating himself from the existing GOP: Unlike even Ted Cruz, who will have to consider his future in the party, Santorum can keep on going throughout the primary against Jeb Bush until the money runs out. This doesn’t mean that he’ll suddenly start winning later primaries after Super Tuesday once Jeb is the presumptive front-runner — it means Santorum can level real attacks against Jeb, and make the claim very early that …

8. He is the last chance the GOP will ever have at remaining its “true” self: While Ted Cruz lobs the real personal attacks against Jeb, Santorum will offer a more philosophical contrast, probably in the stage whisper voice he puts on when he wants to sound earnest. He’ll make the “two roads” metaphor, offering himself as the last exit to the good old America, a nice hint to older, anti-immigration (and yes, racist) voters who don’t like the “browning of America.” Santorum, after all, has a habit of revealing his true feelings about race when a primary’s under way, and no doubt he’ll fall into coded, if not blatant, language regarding Latinos, immigrants, and other non-white demographics. Jeb’s racially blended family, however, is a fantastic political asset both within and after the primary, offering the GOP its compromise to the undeniable demographic changes. (The contrast between Jeb and Santorum’s families will end up helping Jeb in the long run — Santorum will be taken as the old GOP, with Jeb seen as the new GOP.) If Santorum doesn’t win, the GOP is no longer his GOP — he might as well be who he wants to be, and candidates who are who they really are most appeal to voters.

So what’s my point? Is it that Santorum is a real threat to Jeb or even a real possibility as the 2016 nominee?
No. Of course not. It will be Jeb. In fact, a rise in Santorum as the ultimate anti-Jeb will simply solidify Jeb as the Establishment/sane people/we-can’t-lose-down-ticket-races-and-the-House candidate even sooner. Santorum winning Iowa and South Carolina will only make Jeb’s probable Florida victory more heavily promoted by the GOP-powers-that-be. The GOP is very eager for a short primary — it’s even trying to change the entire process to keep it as short as possible and move the convention forward. Any Santorum surge would be a disaster because it would drive the narrative that the GOP cannot learn from its past and that it is still mired in it.

And that narrative — the “GOP still is a place for Santorum/GOP is trapped in the ’50s” narrative — serves Jeb’s narrative, too. Not only does Santorum scare any Paul Ryan or Scott Walker (or Chris Christie, if he even runs) supporters into falling in line behind Jeb, it also negates labeling Jeb a “candidate of the past.” Santorum is thus the throwback, not the candidate named Bush. The Prodigal Bush/”Jeb’s his own man” storyline that I believe will be the centerpiece of his biography is affirmed, and Jeb is free to win a nomination without anyone ever noticing that he is indeed the ultimate political throwback that deep down all levels of the right-wing are craving after eight years of Barack Obama.

By playing to his own strengths, the sweater-vested ex-senator from Pennsylvania plays to the former governor of Florida’s — and for this reason alone the media should be paying attention to Rick Santorum.
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Huckless Poll Shows Jeb as #2 (Again)

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms the PPP poll from earlier this week: Jeb has risen to #2 without doing anything.  Paul Ryan is at 20% here, with Jeb at 18%.  Christie’s fall all but solidifies Jeb’s ascent as Establishment Man #1.  Interestingly, the Wash. Post/ABC poll does not include Mike Huckabee, who topped Jeb in the PPP poll.  That confirms that Ryan and Huck’s #1 status are only outliers, and that Jeb is actually #2.  And remember — Ryan needs the money that will go to Jeb, so we can say that with Ryan and Jeb hypothetically sitting at #1 and #2, the Establishment is winning.  Their combined total — 38% — is more than Romney, the only Establishment candidate of 2012, ever achieved in any early national poll.  Jeb is, therefore, sitting quite pretty.

Meanwhile, Christie looks like he’s going down to resignation town as David Wildstein, his Port Authority plant, turns on him.  According to the New York Times, Wildstein claims he has evidence that Christie knew of the bridge lane closings:

“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some,” the letter added.

I predict, as I did earlier this week, that said evidence is the text message from a redacted number that said, “Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” will prove Christie’s undoing.

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Doing Nothing Propels Jeb Bush to Second Place in Polls

In a new PPP poll, whose press release is entitled “Huckabee Up, Christie Down“, the former Arkansas governor is up three points, leading the 2016 Republican field at 16%.  Our boy Jeb moves up to #2 with 14%.  Here’s what it says:

Following the controversy over his ‘Uncle Sugar’ speech Mike Huckabee has…taken the lead in the Republican primary race for 2016. He’s at 16% to 14% for Jeb Bush, 13% for Chris Christie, 11% for Rand Paul, 8% each for Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan, 6% for Scott Walker, and 5% for Bobby Jindal.

There’s been more movement than usual over the last month, with Huckabee and Bush each gaining 3-4 points, and Chris Christie and Ted Cruz each falling by 6 points. Cruz had been leading the field among ‘very conservative’ voters for months but in the wake of Huckabee’s press attention last week he’s taken the top spot with that group. He’s at 20% to 15% for Paul, 11% for Cruz, and 10% for Bush. In the wake of Bridgegate Christie’s supremacy with moderate voters is being challenged- a month ago he led Bush by 23 points with them, but now his advantage is down to 3 points at 28/25.

First, let’s talk Christie.  The NJ blimp is pretty much doomed as the Bridgegate controversy heats up and, as I boldly and correctly predicted a couple weeks ago, the scandal only helps Jeb.  Today, the NY Times describes Christie’s intimate involvement in all policy/political decisions, and the unlikelihood of his being in the dark about the bridge lane closing.  Most importantly is this paragraph:

Mr. Christie himself tended to the smallest of details. He personally oversaw appointments to the State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, legislative leaders said, and when he wanted to discuss something with lawmakers, he texted them himself. (He told one top legislator that he had learned from his experience as United States attorney not to email; texts were harder to trace.)

Remember this because there is still the unanswered question of who texted Christie loyalist cum Port Authority plant David Wildstein during the lane closures:

In one exchange of text messages on the second day of the lane closures, Wildstein alludes to messages Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had left complaining that school buses were having trouble getting through the traffic.

“Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” the recipient of the text message responded to Wildstein. The person’s identity is not clear because the documents are partially redacted for unknown reasons.

I predict that this text will be proven to have come from Christie.  No matter, Christie’s goose is cooked, which is ironic because he already ate it.

Okay, so that means the 13% still holding out hope for Christie will have to look for someone else well-liked, gubernatorial, establishment, and not crazy.  Someone whose brand they can trust, who can be called a RINO but is quite electable to a broad populace.  Is that Rand, Cruz, Walker, or Huckabee?  Nope, it’s Jeb.  So we throw an extra 8% to Jeb and he’s the frontrunner with a nice 6 point lead on Huckabee.  Gets Jeb almost 25% of GOP primary voters.  Why does that sound familiar?  Oh yeah, that’s the exact figure that consistently stuck with Romney and ushered him through a series of plurality primary victories.  Jeb might even get more than 25% — all the Walker and Ryan voters will eventually flow to Jeb — neither of those Wisconsin Koch-heads has any real charisma, message, or plan, and Jeb is way too big a name.  And as for the ultra-rightwingers, they’ll come to Jeb even faster than they did in 2012 to Romney, probably after Super Tuesday: After eight years of Obama and a GOP populace and power structure freaking out about losing the White House to Clinton, Jeb will consolidate the party faster and easier than Romney ever could.

So how about those very conservatives.  Well, Cruz and Huck will battle for their votes, with Jeb comfortably grabbing up the Establishment/relatively sane GOP constituency all the while.  They’ll battle for Iowa, South Carolina, then whichever far-right states vote prior to Super Tuesday.  They’ll fight to be the anti-Jeb, much like Santorum and Gingrich fought to be the anti-Romney.  But by that point, it’ll already be over and Jeb will be positioned as the presumptive nominee.

One thing that’s important to note about this poll: it does not include Rick Santorum, which I believe is a huge mistake.  The media and the pollsters need to pay more attention to the former Pennsylvania Senator, who is very much running for the 2016 nomination and is bolstering up his Iowa friendships.  The guy did win Iowa, whether the mainstream press wants to admit it or not, and he apparently knows lots of major Iowa players quite intimately.  Santorum is fostering those relationships and wants to re-win the Hawkeye State then probably skip NH to win SC, and be positioned as the anti-Bush “conservative alternative”.  If Bush then wins NH and Florida, it will quickly become the two-man race I (and probably Huckabee, Santorum, and Cruz) predict, with Jeb and Santorum arguing they’re both the “next in line” heir to the nomination, both fighting over the future (and past) of the GOP.  That would be a fascinating contrast and poses a great question of who the GOP is beholden to: the Establishment or the Crazies?

But back to the real takeaway of the PPP poll: Jeb has done nothing to get to #2.  No major speeches, no appearances, no anything.  The only Bush making any waves is George Prescott Bush, Jeb’s son, running for his statewide office as a candidate for Texas Land Commissioner.  The fact that Jeb is #2 without doing anything other than not being Chris Christie and still being a Bush means that voters are, without any real public image campaign on behalf of Jeb, resigning themselves to the idea that the former Florida governor is a legitimate presidential contender and that Americans will never escape the prospect of more Bushes.  Americans, and GOP voters, seem to just accept that the Bushes are an inevitable force upon our democracy.

Jeb the candidate is exactly what he needs to be: a passive presence, the alternative to every other candidate, a second choice in our mental weighted ballot.  His Bushness is his greatest political sin, and by and large that’s not enough to fire up the bellies of GOP primary voters or even Obama-tired independents against him.  Huckabee will not be the nominee, and few would predict so.  But no one will say for sure that Jeb won’t be the nominee.  This isn’t 2008 anymore; we say with utter conviction, “There can never be another Bush.”  That alone is all the proof you need of Jeb’s impending nomination.

Read More:  Paul Ryan 2016Marco Rubio 2016Hillary Clinton 2016Jeb Bush 2016Chris Christie 2016Ted Cruz 2016Rand Paul 2016Rick Santorum 2016Hillary Clinton Jeb BushJeb Bush Hillary ClintonClinton Bush 2016Bush Clinton 2016Ted Cruz crazy

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Paul Ryan Declares He’s Running for President (in 2016 FOR 2024)

Just as I predicted back in November, Paul Ryan will reject the idea of becoming House Speaker after the 2014 midterms.  According to a report on Politico today, Ryan straight-up said no to the job:

During a wide-ranging luncheon in a hotel ballroom here Thursday, Texas Tribune editor-in-chief Evan Smith asked: “Does Paul Ryan want to be speaker?”

“No, he doesn’t,” Ryan replied.

“I could’ve decided to go on the elected leadership route years ago,” Ryan said during a luncheon sponsored by local chambers of commerce and the non-profit news outlet the Texas Tribune. “I’m more of a policy person. I prefer spending my days on policy and my weekends at home with my family. My weekends consist of going to the YMCA for basketball and then one of their neighborhood parishes for basketball these days. I want to keep doing that…The speaker is expected to fly around the country on weekends as well, helping folks — I’m not going to do that. I’m four days a week in D.C. and three days a week in Janesville — it’s a good mix, I like that mix.”

As I’ve said before, Ryan knows that the Speakership is a politically terminal position.  It’s too political, and there’s simply no way to win a national election (much less a primary) if you’ve been chief antagonist to a Democratic president/chief antagonist to ‘true conservatism’.  It’s too divisive a role, too nitty gritty, and just not a good place to be if you think you have a shot at President.

Now Ryan knows he has little to no shot being a VP on another ticket, so he’s got to win the nomination himself if he ever wants to be in the White House.  He also knows 2016 isn’t his jam — with Jeb, Cruz, and Rand sucking up all the air (and Jeb grabbing the establishment vote), there’s no room for him.  But he has to run, so that he can (A) Position himself as a real contender after two terms of Hillary, and (B) Have an excuse to not be Speaker.

Ryan is the Bob Dole of our time.  He has a failed VP-run on his record and maybe someday, in a very weak year and after a couple failed runs, he’ll get to be his party’s sacrificial lamb.  Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Read More:  Paul Ryan 2016Marco Rubio 2016Hillary Clinton 2016Jeb Bush 2016Chris Christie 2016Ted Cruz 2016Rand Paul 2016Rick Santorum 2016Hillary Clinton Jeb BushJeb Bush Hillary ClintonClinton Bush 2016Bush Clinton 2016Ted Cruz crazy

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Bushes: ‘We Ain’t No Dynasty!’

Barbara Bush sits down with C-SPAN and continues her “I don’t want dynasties but Jeb’s the best” spiel she first trotted last April.

So Jeb is what America needs but we don’t need dynasties, is what she’s saying.

This plays perfectly into Jeb’s ‘Prodigal Bush’ narrative, wherein he proclaims himself Former Florida Governor Bush, who is unfortunately saddled with the accusations of dynasty and the legacy of his brother.  Should Jeb run it is not because he is the GOP Establishment’s darling and consensus candidate (he is); it is not because he has massive national name recognition and a dominant place in the Republican Party (he does); it is not because he was born with a family name that, coupled with a middling gubernatorial tenure that ended 10 years ago, makes him a Presidential contender (he was).  No, it’s because he is, in fact, truly qualified — no, the most qualified — person capable of assuming the duties of the presidency.  He just happens to be a Bush.

But Barbara, one of the shrewdest political forces in modern politics, is doing much more than just subtly promoting her son.  She’s creating a contrast to Hillary early and smartly — pinning the label of legacy on Hillary while also proclaiming the Bush family anti-dynasty, and thus promoting the idea that Jeb, compared to Hillary, is the lesser of two dynastic evils.  She mentions the “2 or 3” families that are creating legacies.  What’s the other one? The Kennedys?  Which one of them is close to the White House?  The Pauls?  Rand is an outsider and, besides, his father never came close.  The Carters?  Jason has to beat Nathan Deal first (a tall order) and Jimmy is pretty much disliked by everyone in Washington.  Maybe the Doles?

Barbara is doing what her husband and her eldest son cannot: Speaking out against legacy so that Jeb can be asked by a reporter in a year or so, “Well, your mother says no legacies allowed but that you’re still the best candidate.”  Barbara is neutralizing the issue, while making Jeb the more acceptable of the two legacies.  Sure Hillary Clinton came from nothing alongside her husband and, with him, built an incredibly successful life.  But that’s being defined as a legacy equal to Jeb being born to a President and the grandson of a Senator and the brother of a President.  What?

It’s a brilliant move.  At a minimum it renders Hillary and Jeb as equally oligarchical.  At best, it says that Jeb is his own man and that Hillary is just another lucky Bildeberg pick.  At all levels it reinforces that awful idea that “all politicians are the same” that leads to Bush/Gore elections, low turnout, and a general lack of public awareness as to how vastly different Democrats and Republicans are.

No matter, the Bushes are getting ready for this run, and they’ll rebrand Jeb however they possibly can to get him into that White House.

Read More:  Marco Rubio 2016Hillary Clinton 2016Jeb Bush 2016Chris Christie 2016Ted Cruz 2016Rand Paul 2016Rick Santorum 2016Hillary Clinton Jeb BushJeb Bush Hillary ClintonClinton Bush 2016Bush Clinton 2016Ted Cruz crazy

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Clinton’s First Foray Into Domestic Policy Is Women = Brilliant

Politico reports that in Hillary Clinton’s new book, the former Secretary of State warns that “that the ‘clock is turning back’ on women across America and offers a passionate argument for prioritizing the advancement of women and girls.”

Why is this a great sign that she’s running and picking the most apolitical/very political topic there is (women’s rights):

1.  She’s not talking about the economy as a whole, healthcare as a whole, even abortion rights as a whole — she’s talking about women.  She’s not taking on Obama‘s domestic issues and fights: i.e. jobs, spending, and the ACA.  Rather, she’s simply talking about the broad idea of American women in the current era.

2.  She’s anointing herself the greatest democratic leader against the War on Women.  Not Barack Obama.  Not Sandra Fluke.  The greatest feminist icon in American politics: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

3.  She’s telling all American women: Guess what?  I’m your candidate and whether you’re a moderate republican or an independent, you’re going to want to vote for me.

Not a single right-winger with a prayer at a shot at the Oval Office is going to attack Hillary Clinton’s ‘being a woman’ and when they do, it will only help her and all democrats down the ticket.  Hillary is smart — she’s reentering political life with a pro-woman policy.  Who could disagree?

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Bridgegate Makes Jeb Bush the Grown-Up In the Room

So it’s come out today that Chris Christie was probably behind a politically-motivated traffic screw-up as revenge against a Democrat who wouldn’t endorse him for governor.  The real winner: Jeb Bush.

Democrats are thrilled for 2016.  Recent polling shows that Christie is the only Republican who poses a threat to Hillary Clinton.  By having his hubris and bullying exposed in such a petty, vindictive way that victimizes citizens themselves, Christie earns himself a tangible and perpetual attack from opponents. And it’s an accusation that’s totally apolitical.

Jeb Bush knows that the #1 thing a leader does is keeping the trains running on time. He knows that you don’t take out arcane political beefs at the expense of the very same people whose votes you may someday need.  And once this story is coupled with videos of Christie reaming out constituents, what is his platform?

Remember, Christie’s entire candidacy will be predicated on the idea that he is a uniting bipartisan figure who is the opposite of petty.  Christie praised President Obama during Hurricane Sandy because he’s “above” politics.  Christie screams at people when they’re stupid, not because they challenge his political stances.  Christie’s entire persona is the “better-than-Washington” steamrolling pragmatic.  That’s why Bridgegate is going to prove so resonant.  Because Chris Christie is supposed to be better than exactly that.

Read More:  Marco Rubio 2016Hillary Clinton 2016Jeb Bush 2016Chris Christie 2016Ted Cruz 2016Rand Paul 2016Rick Santorum 2016Hillary Clinton Jeb BushJeb Bush Hillary ClintonClinton Bush 2016Bush Clinton 2016Ted Cruz crazyTed Cruz insan

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Ted Cruz isn’t insane

Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Ted Cruz isn’t insane.

Far from it — he’s a smart, calculating guy who genuinely wants to be President.  He knows that were he elected in 2016, he’d have arguably more experience than President Obama did upon the latter’s swearing-in: Cruz will have had four years in the Senate, and five years in the statewide office of Texas Solicitor General, not to mention serving as an associate deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, which doesn’t not sound like a pretty damn big deal job.

So Cruz is a smart guy who knows his modern political history.  He knows that the only way to win a nomination is to become a household name, which Barack Obama did starting in 2004 following his DNC speech, and which persisted pretty much from the second the speech was over thanks to relentless (and mostly positive) media coverage, Oprah’s support, his two bestselling books, and his immediate transformation from Illinois State Senator to beloved politician-celebrity.  When Cruz won his senate seat in 2012, the Texan/Canadian/Lyndon-Johnson’s-face-mixed-with-Quentin-Tarantino’s knew that he would not have the same wall-to-wall media coverage accorded Barack Obama at the start of Obama’s national career.  So Cruz created that kind of media for himself, alienating his fellow GOP senators whom Cruz gives less than a rat’s ass about and becoming the face of every Democratic fundraising mailer.

“Perfect,” Cruz thought.  “No publicity is bad publicity.”

You see, two facts drive Ted Cruz’s entire 2016 strategy:

1.  That 20% of the GOP voters are Tea Party everyone-who-holds-office-is-a-RINO nutcase whackjob looney tune synonyms.  Cruz knows these people vote, and that they vote as purists.  Cruz knows there’s a reason Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, and Carl Paladino can all boast statewide GOP nominations.  Cruz knows why people like Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock, guys who did have institutional experience and real government backgrounds, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, which is why we heard little out of Cruz about abortion.  And to be fair to staunchly pro-life Cruz, his record regarding women has been not indifferent to issues of military sexual assault which many would like to see swept under the rug.

This is why Cruz ran a Senate campaign where he railed against the GOP establishment, tattooed the words ‘Tea Party’ on his forehead Manson-style, and attacked Obama with the phony glee of a Republican campaigning for President.

You see, Cruz knows that if he can own this 20% early and hold on to them with progressively angry and outlandish stunts and statements, he can have a nice chunk of voters that can win him plurality victories in the primaries.  The GOP primary vote has gotten progressively splintered from 2000 to 2008 to 2012.  20% of the electorate could be enough for an Iowa win that can build to a 38% win South Carolina.  Christie or Jeb can win New Hampshire, which would immediately make Cruz their contrast.  When Christie or Jeb wins Florida, then Cruz wins the more right-wing pre-Super Tuesday states that went for Santorum in 2012.  If Cruz can soak up all the rabid Tea Partiers and let Christie, Rand, Jeb, Walker, and Ryan split the rest, then so be it.

Cruz understands that this group is his only viable constituency, that he has to court cheap, angry, easy votes, because …

2. Cruz knows that the cheap way of winning is the only way that he can win.  The Princeton and Harvard-educated Senator won’t win on the issues.  (Who does?)  He can’t win courting calm, moderate voters.  Cruz can’t win by having people vote for him.  He wins by being the guy citizens press the button for when voting against someone else or something else (the RINO Establishment).

Cruz is the candidate who wins the votes of the angry, the frightened, the no-more-moderates-and-no-more-democrats crowd.  He’s long understood that he couldn’t run as an inspirational conservative figure (Walker), as a successful Republican technocrat (Ryan), a trusted time-tested name (Bush), as a new paradigmatic shift in the party (Rand Paul), as a ‘lovable bipartisan’ uniter (Christie), or even as a new-era Latino staunch conservative (the ever-flailing Rubio).  Cruz wins only by being the guy who embodies and embraces the worst tendencies of the hardcore base, sort of an inverse Dennis Kucinich, a candidate who every pure-hearted partisan really wants to vote for but knows is a little too out-there for a general election.  But in Cruz’s case, they’ll believe that he can finally deliver the goods.

Cruz understands that the rubber band has been pulled so far and the electorate is so riled up, this could be his time.  He could be the Goldwater, and in his mind, the Reagan.  And you know what?  He could win the presidency.  Anything can happen, and it’s not outside the bounds of possibility that Ted Cruz will be sworn in as President of the United States.  Everyone who wonders what Ted Cruz is thinking — “he must know he could never win” — needs to remember that lodged in Ted Cruz’s mind is this perfectly reasonable equation: the chances of being president are greater when you’re a major party nominee than just a senator.  So why not run for President?  When else will Ted Cruz get to be the Republican nominee?  After two terms in the Senate?  When has that ever worked for anyone?  When the party cools down?  No, this is the only moment for a firebrand to be a Republican nominee until the party turns either towards Libertarianism or Centrism.

Okay, but he’s only been in the Senate for a few minutes.  Yeah, but Barack Obama had next to no time in the Senate before running for President, and he ran as a figure rather than a politician with a record of tangible accomplishment.  Why not the same for Ted Cruz?  Obama won by giving the Democratic masses the vague platitudes they were desperate to hear from a credible candidate.  Why not the same for Ted Cruz and his masses?  Obama won by stirring passions and toppling much more institutional candidates.  Why not the same for Ted Cruz?

Ted Cruz’s first target is going to be Jeb Bush.  That is certain.  Christie will get some flack too, but Cruz is modeling his career after Barack Obama.  The senator from Texas will go after George W. Bush’s deficit spending and compassionate conservative government interference.  He’ll rail against having more of the same, and promote himself as an antidote to Washington elitist Obama-Bush-Clinton yada yada, promising a new era of whatever Cruz substitutes the words “Hope” and “Change” for.  He’ll attack Jeb’s education achievements and go right for the jugular: the name Bush.

And this will be to Jeb’s extreme advantage.

At some point, Jeb will have to confront his Bushiness.  And who better to bring it up than Ted Cruz, a guy who everyone in the Republican Party already despises, and everyone on the debate stage will treat like a foul little punk?  Let it be Ted Cruz, not Chris Christie, or Rand Paul, or Paul Ryan, or Scott Walker.  Let it be the unserious candidate, out of whose mouth everything is, well, unserious.

Each and every candidate better hope that Ted Cruz goes on the offensive against him or her, because no attack by Cruz will come off as credible.  Rick Perry went after Mitt Romney for hiring illegal immigrants and the attack landed with a thud, because the person saying it was Rick fucking Perry.  And when a candidate survives an attack, it can rarely be used again to attack him or her.  Ted Cruz will attack, Jeb will survive, and then the attack will be revealed “ineffectual” or, even better, “old hat.”

When a desperate Christie starts up with, “Do we need another Bush?” after losing Florida, Jeb can say, “Come on, give me something real,” or, “I’d expect that from Ted Cruz, not the great Chris Christie.”

Boom.  Done.

But more than just neutralizing Jeb’s “Bush” problem, Cruz’s only path to the nomination, just like Chris Christie’s and Marco Rubio’s, is part of  Jeb’s 2016 highway.  The better Ted Cruz does, the better it is for Bush.  The party gets frightened if Cruz wins, and if Christie isn’t cutting the mustard fighting off Cruz, the more Jeb is turned to as the fixer, the savior of the Establishment, and the only electable guy who can still win the nomination.  Ted Cruz winning Iowa and South Carolina means that Jeb’s victory in Florida becomes something the party clings to, much as it did to Romney when he won Florida.  It destroys any showing by Christie in New Hampshire, who will have over-inflated expectations there for himself, and positions Bush as the most serious antidote to the threat of Cruz.

Frightened conservatives will choose the closest thing to what they know and feel safe with: a Bush, but this time a serious, no-nonsense, “smart” Bush.  Not a brash blowhard like Christie.  They can trust Bush, they know what they’re getting with Bush, and the more Cruz scares them, the more they’ll trust the guy they know.  Following Super Tuesday, it suddenly becomes a two-and-a-half-man race with Jeb and Cruz (the half a man is Rand Paul, duh), which totally favors Jeb, who will start getting endorsements from Walker, Ryan, and after he loses on Super Tuesday, Christie.  But Cruz will have positioned himself as ‘next in line’ — and maybe he can then lose to Hillary in 2020.

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Clinton and Bush both up in Florida, or Marco Rubio is just gonna scramble even more

Hillary Clinton 2016 is of obviously the Democrats’ only game in town.  Fine, no big deal.

But Jeb Bush 2016 is slowly and subtly emerging without a pronounced push by surrogates, the cable news media, or the man himself.  According to yesterday’s Quinnipiac Poll, the former governor of Florida leads his state’s GOP voters with 22%, ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio at 18%, Gov. Chris Christie at 14%, and Lookatmelookatmelookatme Ted Cruz at 12%.  (He also loses against Hillary there in a general, but that’s to be expected at this pre-campaign stage.)

Jebbie will win Florida after a surprisingly good second- or third-place showing in Iowa and after giving Christie a run for his put-it-all-on-New-Hampshire money, after letting Cruz or whatever whackjob is surging at the time win in South Carolina.

Jeb’s replacement of Rubio as Florida’s favorite favorite son is no surprise — Republican Floridians naturally support a hometown pol but right now Rubio is cowering from his immigration bill screw-up, which is why the senator is now kowtowing to social conservatives who more naturally prefer the likes of Ugly-Ryan-Reynolds-Rick Santorum (or, if they’re feeling post-racial, Ted Cruz) to ‘moderates’ like Jeb and Christie.

Marco Rubio can hardly be described as a substantive candidate with a real vision.  He has proven himself to be an amateur, an ineffective flash-in-the-pan nobody, and he may have his hands more full in 2016 dealing with Allen West than with preserving a front-runner status that disappeared the second he sipped water on national TV.  (Still a step up from Jindal’s 2009 response to the President.)

While Rubio proves his amateurishness, Jeb has hung back, letting Rubio champion an immigration bill then fail spectacularly, a bill that was supposed to cement Rubio as the GOP emissary to the Latino community.  That legislative failure aside, Rubio might then claim he’s the only one who could reach out to that ever-growing voting block.  He’s wrong, of course, because Jeb need only stand beside his wife and put his son, the next Texas Land Commissioner (because George Prescott has always been interested in land commissioning and not running for Governor in 2018 — Wendy Davis may be the Bushes’ best friend if she wins next year’s election), on the stump.  Jeb can easily prove to the definitely-not-a-racist-fans-of-Joe-Arpaio voters that he won’t alienate Latinos but sure as hell is a lot safer to vote for than one.

Yes, Jeb is the ideal candidate for GOP primary voters who know (because O’Reilly and Hannity tell ’em so, with aid from luminaries like Charles Krauthammer and George Will) that indeed Latinos vote in this country and in high numbers.  These voters, in their nuanced/reductive reasoning, can vote for Jeb knowing his family is, in itself, a much more palpable Latino Issues platform than is a tab on a campaign website.  And just as Jeb embodies the establishment candidate position much more effectively (and somehow tacitly) than Christie, so he also nabs credibility on Latino issues.  He speaks Spanish, converted to Catholicism, is in a long marriage with a Mexican woman, and his brother’s presidency had fewer deportations than President Obama’s.  Add to that the fact that W. attempted an immigration bill which was destroyed by the far right, and Jeb is suddenly a pretty palatable candidate on Latino issues for voters who will be a wee bit less xenophobic regarding immigrants once the right-wing media tells them it’s okay to be.

Jeb is the consensus candidate.  So was his brother.  George W. appealed to Christian Evangelicals, old school Establishment types, Southerners, Wall Street, big oil and defense contractors, and every politician working since 1972, and still seemed like a decent dude.  That was 2000.  Now, the GOP has to appeal to all those groups but also has to not only pretextually appeal to Latinos but also to their white-white-white base, the kind of people who want to git rid of dem illeeegals but also win elections with a ‘real conservative.’

With Rubio trapped without an issue, he’s running to the social right in a desperate move resonant of Rick Perry’s pre-Iowa gay bashathon.  He thought he’d be Romney’s running mate.  Then he thought he’d be the lone Latino running for the nomination until Cruz showed up.  Cruz, of course, has eclipsed Rubio on the national stage just by being loud and obnoxious.  So Rubio figured he could be the establishment guy (despite being perhaps the Tea Party’s greatest success).  Then Christie took that role.  So now he’s what, the 2016 Santorum?  Well, Santorum will be the 2016 Santorum, and Cruz is going to out-maniac all of them in any way he can.  So at least Rubio had Florida tied up, and could do the old Rudy Giuliani 2008 model of losing everything and winning Florida.  Not so much.

Nope, Jeb Bush really does suck the air out of everyone’s candidacies.  And quickly, all the candidates will realize it and pile on him the way the Democratic candidates did on Hillary in 2008 and the Republicans did to Mitt Romney in 2012.  The difference between the Democrats in 2008 and the 2016 Republicans?  The alternative was clearly Barack Obama.  Who’s the Jeb Bush alternative?  Probably Christie (or maybe Paul Ryan).  But Christie is not enough of a contrast to Bush that he can really siphon the anti-Bush voters into his camp.  Walker thinks he’s going to somehow explode onto the national stage, but what he what lacks in Obama’s charisma and likability he makes up for in lack of charisma and lack of likability.  With no real alternative, the we-can’t-nominate-a-moderate-or-we’ll-lose-! crowd will splinter themselves among Cruz, Rubio, and Santorum, who themselves will be so desperate for that vote that they’ll do more and more outlandish things to grasp it, and flounder as Newt Gingrich and Santorum did after the 2012 South Carolina primary.  Meanwhile, Rand Paul will keep on chugging with his 25%, which will never go for the anti-Jeb candidate, and help Jeb win pluralities through Super Tuesday.

Jeb’s got it all locked up.  All he has to do is be himself.

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