Quite a few political analysts think that the Republican nomination will come down to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) vs. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the end, after the outsiders vanish (although some of those outsiders show no signs of doing so quite yet). Cruz and Rubio apparently agree with that view and have been lobbing broadsides at each other of late. A group backing Rubio is running an ad accusing Cruz of being weak on terror (which is like accusing Vlad the Impaler of being weak on terror). A pro-Cruz group shot back with an ad saying Rubio supports amnesty for illegal aliens. Rubio's group is also going after Cruz (who prides himself on being for small government) for voting against letting the NSA collect everything about anyone. Of course, if Trump fails to go gentle into that good night, as Cruz and Rubio expect, one or both of them may end up battling him, with a completely different set of ground rules. (V)
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Jeb Bush, the smart Bush, raised $100 million in nothing flat and was supposed to wipe out the opposition with shock and awe. In reality, he hasn't polled in the double digits nationally or in any state for months and is lucky if he comes in fifth in any poll. What happened and will he throw in the towel, like Rick Perry, who was also supposed to zoom to the top and scare off all the competition?
Long-time Bush watchers say Jeb's style hasn't changed but the times have changed and he hasn't adapted. The last time he ran for office, in 2002, social media didn't exist and well-thought-out, conservative policy positions meant a lot. Now they don't count for beans. Also, two positions that didn't used to be litmus tests for conservatives—comprehensive immigration reform and the Common Core educational standards—are huge obstacles for him because the GOP base is now virulently opposed to both and Bush supports them. The fact that he governed Florida as a conservative and used his line-item-veto power 2,549 times to reduce the size of the Florida government got him the nickname "Veto Corleone." He intervened in the Terri Schaivo case, earning him plaudits from pro-life conservatives. None of that seems to matter now.
The mechanics of campaigning have also changed since 2002. It used to be linear. You would go to an event, give a speech, shake hands with voters, eat some ethnic food for the locals, answer a few questions from reporters, get in the bus, go to the next event, and repeat ad infinitum. You didn't have to instantly respond to a million people on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Donald Trump can send forth 140 characters and be the #1 news story of the day, any day he wants to (and he often wants to). Bush doesn't seem to be able to do this. Nevertheless, people who know him say that Bushes don't give up and his super PAC still has tens of millions of dollars in the bank, so he is not likely to exit until actual voters tell him to. (V)
New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, which means that he has very limited flexibility in his joints. On Tuesday, Donald Trump was talking about one of the journalist's articles, said "you ought to see this guy," and launched into an impromptu performance in which he jerked his arms around and held his hands at right angles. The Times' management was outraged, and demanded an apology from the Donald.
On Thursday, Trump answered in his usual fashion. He blasted the Times on Twitter, writing, "So, since the people at the @nytimes have made all bad decisions over the last decade, why do people care what they write. Incompetent!" among several other similar tweets. Trump also asserted, in various interviews, that (1) he was misread, (2) he wants an apology, and (3) he has never even met Kovaleski. The problem is that Trump has indeed met the reporter—at least a dozen times. They have done multiple interviews, in fact, to the point that the pair were on a first-name basis. So Pinocchio does not seem to be learning his lesson—he'll never get to be a real president if he keeps up this way. (Z)
Plummeting in the polls thanks to his shaky foreign policy credentials, Ben Carson will travel to the Azraq refugee camp in northern Jordan. He freely acknowledges that the trip is meant to rebuild his image, explaining that, "I find when you have first-hand knowledge of things as opposed to second-hand, it makes a much stronger impression."
Will it work? The trip might make for some good photo-ops, but it is hard to see how spending a few hours in a refugee camp will erase the memory of all of the foreign policy missteps of the last two weeks. It could even backfire—if Carson maintains his generally harsh rhetoric after witnessing actual human suffering, he could appear heartless. Either way, it is probably not a good investment of Carson's time or money. (Z)
Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is planning to insert a rider into the must-pass omnibus spending package that would eliminate the limit on how much parties can spend in coordination with their candidates. This would continue the trend of allowing wealthy donors to exert more influence over elections. The overall trend has been toward more money in politics, starting with the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, though last year's change raising the limit of how much a single rich donor can give to the national party committees per year (from $97,200 to $777,600) certainly helped wealthy donors as well. Some observers feel that given that a lot of money is going to be spent one way or another, it is better that the parties are in charge since they focus on winning rather than pushing a particular ideology, which leads to more moderate candidates. (V)
In his weekly radio address, delivered on Thursday as opposed to the usual Saturday, President Obama made clear that decisions about refugees are the federal government's prerogative, and that state governors would not be allowed to refuse Syrians admitted into the country. Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity for a Thanksgiving metaphor, he also compared the refugees to the Pilgrims:
In 1620, a small band of pilgrims came to this continent, refugees who had fled persecution and violence in their native land. Nearly 400 years later, we remember their part in the American story—and we honor the men and women who helped them in their time of need...Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims—men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families. What makes America America is that we offer that chance.
The parallel is not entirely outlandish—it is true that the Pilgrims (at least some of them) were fleeing a government they did not care for, and it is also true that the disagreement was (partly) religious in nature. The parallels pretty much end there, however, so Obama really had to sell it. He's still stronger on his U.S. history than Donald Trump is, at least. (Z)
Millennials (born between about 1980 and about 2000) are about 90 million strong and account for about 40% of the voters. About half of them are independents, so candidates are trying hard to get their attention. Political consultants know they don't like being approached in traditional ways, and certainly not with serious television ads explaining what the candidate will do for them. So they are (feebly) trying to "speak the language" of the millennials, often with disastrous results, like these:
When old people try to act cool on the Internet, this is what you get. (V)
Political cartoonists love Thanksgiving. Here is some of their output.