News from the Votemaster
By now, the world knows that Paris was attacked on Friday night. Between suicide bombers and AK-47 wielding mass shooters, over 150 people across six locations are dead (including eight of the perpetrators). It is unclear exactly who is responsible, but the attackers appear to have been home-grown and many of them shouted "Allah akbar" while shooting.
President Obama met with reporters shortly after the news broke, declaring that, "This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share. We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance the people of France need to respond." He refused to speculate as to whom might be beyond the attacks, and shortly after the press conference, the White House took the unusual step of announcing that nothing further would be said on Friday evening (called a "media cap"). There has been speculation that the embargo is prompted by concerns that the United States is going to be targeted as well, but there has been no additional information pointing in that direction.
Each of the 2016 presidential candidates promptly took to Twitter to respond to the attacks. Their remarks, roughly in the order they were posted :
Donald Trump: My prayers are with the victims and hostages in the horrible Paris attacks. May God be with you all.
Bernie Sanders : Horrified by the attacks in Paris tonight. My thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones.
Hillary Clinton: The reports from Paris are harrowing. Praying for the city and families of the victims.
Jeb Bush: Praying for Paris tonight. America will stand with you against terror.
Ben Carson: My thoughts and prayers are with the people in Paris tonight.
John Kasich : Our prayers go out for the people of Paris tonight. We can't wait any longer. ISIS must be wiped out.
Rick Santorum: Tonight we pray for and mourn with our French brothers and sisters. Today's horror is another reminder that we must be vigilant against evil.
Rand Paul : My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Paris tonight. This is truly horrific.
Chris Christie : The terrorist attacks in France tonight are alarming and heartbreaking. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.
Jim Gilmore: The Western order of democracy and liberty is under assault, and must be defended.
Lindsey Graham : This isn't just an attack on the French people, it's an attack on human decency & all things that we hold dear. My heart breaks for the families of those killed, the hostages, & injured. There's a sickness in the world that has to be dealt with & we must come together to confront it. America should lead that unity.
Martin O'Malley: Heartbreaking news from Paris. Praying for the country and its people.
George Pataki: My heart goes out to the families of the French victims. These horrid attacks are a shock but not a surprise. A weak America is never safe. Do dem candidates for pres still think climate change is our greatest security risk? Clearly it's radical Islam and we must stop isis now.
Bobby Jindal : Our thoughts are with the people of France. Please say a prayer for Paris as they deal with this horrible attack.
Ted Cruz : Horrific reports coming out of Paris. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the people of France - our oldest ally.
Marco Rubio : Praying for victims of attacks in Paris and for those reportedly held hostage. These brutal terrorist attacks against innocent civilians are a reminder of the increasing dangers facing free peoples around the world. It is important for all Americans to stand with the people of France in this difficult time. As we learn more about the attacks and who is behind them, the United States should assist the French government in finding those who are accountable and bring them to justice. We cannot let those who seek to disrupt our way of life succeed. We must increase our efforts at home and abroad to improve our defenses, destroy terrorist networks, and deprive them of the space from which to operate.
Mike Huckabee: My prayers are with the people of Paris, France. America will always have your back in the war against terrorism. Always.
Carly Fiorina: I mourn with you. I pray with you. I stand with you. America must lead in the world. We must wage & win this fight against Islamic terrorism.
Ted Cruz and George Pataki also issued statements. Cruz's is a fairly generic call to escalate the fight against radical Islam in general, ISIS in particular, with a helpful opportunity to donate money to his campaign in order to achieve those ends. Pataki's is more specific, placing much of the blame for the attacks on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.
This incident will undoubtedly become a major point of discussion in the next several weeks and months of the 2016 campaign. In fact, CBS News—while confirming that the Democratic debates would go forward on Saturday—also indicated that the attacks in Paris would "require important questions." So, the discussion will begin more quickly than might otherwise be the case.
That said, there is a certain...etiquette, for lack of a better word, in a situation like this. A fairly neutral announcement, usually one offering thoughts and prayers (or just thoughts, if the candidate is a nonbeliever like Bernie Sanders), is both expected and appropriate. There is no doubt that many (most? all?) of the candidates immediately began thinking about how to make political hay out of the situation, but the haymaking should not begin while there are literally dead bodies still laying in the streets of Paris. To try to squeeze political capital out of a tragedy so quickly is crass and tone deaf. Cruz, Rubio, and Graham certainly approached the line between appropriate and tasteless, and Pataki blew right past it. They would do well to dial it back, at least for a few days. In other words, nothing about cheese-eating surrender monkeys with a three-day workweek and six-week vacations until December or January at the earliest. (Z)
The Democrats will meet in Des Moines for their second debate tonight. Since the last meeting, of course, the field has shrunk by 40%, with Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb both throwing in their respective towels. This means that moderators—CBS News' John Dickerson, aided by correspondent Nancy Cordes; local CBS anchor Kevin Cooney, and Des Moines Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich—will have a lot of time to fill. Dickerson has spent multiple hours meeting with each campaign in order to prepare. The original focus was to be the economy; Friday's events will add foreign policy to the agenda. How much time is devoted to foreign policy remains to be seen; the odds are that Dickerson himself does not yet know for certain.
Even casual observers know that nearly everything has been coming up roses for Hillary Clinton in the last month or so. She had a successful cameo on Saturday Night Live, performed very well in the last debate, outdueled the Benghazi committee for 11 hours, and has become even more entrenched as the frontrunner by nearly every available measure. She has piled up almost $100 million in donations, leads in national polls, is a 91% chance to be the nominee in the betting markets, and has more endorsements than all of the other candidates (on both sides of the aisle) combined. In other words, her primary task on Saturday night is treading water. Events in Paris may complicate this—she was, after all, Secretary of State. Further, Democrats tend to have a tougher time explaining and selling their ideas about foreign policy (at least in part because those ideas are more complex than "spend more money on weapons, drop more bombs on the Middle East"). Point is, treading water will be more difficult on Saturday than it would normally be, particularly since much about the assault on Paris remains unknown. Clinton will need to be very careful that she does not say anything that could come back to haunt her in the general election.
But while Hillary Clinton confronts a challenge more difficult than expected, her situation is almost easy compared to what Bernie Sanders faces. If voters are somewhat skeptical about the foreign policy/counterterrorism ideas of Democrats, they are even more so when it comes to Democratic Socialists. Undoubtedly, many voters think that Bernie Sanders is an aging hippie, with ideas drawn from a youth spent protesting the Vietnam War. They are basically right about this, except that Sanders was born in 1941, so he wasn't all that young when he protested the Vietnam War (he was in his thirties when the war ended). Anyhow, dovishness does not play especially well the night after a terrorist attack.
Figuring out how to answer questions about Paris adds to a burden for Sanders that was already substantial. The gains that Hillary Clinton has made in the last several weeks have, of course, come at his expense. He is sinking in the polls, and the questions about whether he has even a longshot chance are returning. He needs to regain some momentum, and he very much needs to impress Iowa voters. As the Washington Post points out, a win in New Hampshire is not going to be especially meaningful (since Sanders hails from neighboring Vermont), and wins in South Carolina, Nevada, and the Super Tuesday states are unlikely. As such, the Senator really needs to win Iowa (followed by New Hampshire) in order to create the impression of momentum. He currently trails in state polls by 10 to 25 points, so a "good" debate performance is not likely to be sufficient. As of Friday afternoon, he was planning to take the offensive. Given Friday evening's news, he will have to be more cautions, for fear of appearing insensitive. The bottom line is that circumstances have left Sanders with a very careful line to walk, on a number of levels.
The third podium will be occupied by Martin O'Malley, who is—by all accounts other than his own—running for Vice President. The moderators will have to give him equal time; whether he uses it to sell himself to the voting public or just to Hillary Clinton remains to be seen. It is worth noting that in the last debate, he spent more time addressing himself to her than he did to the cameras or to the audience.
The debate will begin at 9:00 EST, and will be aired on CBS, streamed over the Internet at www.cbsnews.com/live, and broadcast on all CBS Radio affiliates. The next debate is a long six weeks away, on December 19, so this is effectively the last chance the candidates have to move the needle in 2015. (Z)
Jeb Bush has been saying his brother kept America safe. Donald Trump helpfully pointed out that is only true if you ignore the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the biggest terrorist attacks ever on American soil. Bush seemed surprised when Trump made his claim.
But it is about to get much worse for Bush. Everyone who follows politics knows about the famous Aug. 6, 2001 briefing George Bush was given entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S." Now an explosive scoop in Politico claims that the situation was far worse than previously thought. There wasn't just this one memo. The CIA knew about bin Laden's plans for months before August and warned the White House repeatedly about them, saying there would be multiple attacks, they would be spectacular, and many Americans would be killed in them. Bush ignored all the warnings.
The article goes into great detail about facts and meetings that have been kept quiet so far. Jeb can just claim the Politico story is all garbage, but reporters for other publications are undoubtedly going to start digging into the story. There may be more leaks since 11 former CIA directors are still alive and some of them may want to defend the agency by essentially saying: "The CIA did its job perfectly. We knew all about bin Laden's plans and told the President over and over. He just didn't listen to us." This story is not going to help Jeb much. (V)
The two Cuban-American first-term senators, who are in agreement on so many issues, actually differ on what may well be the defining issue of the 2016 campaign: immigration. Many observers think that in the end, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina will be gone one way or another and the race will come down to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) vs. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and the key difference that will determine who wins is immigration. On Laura Ingraham's show, Cruz called out Rubio's immigration policy as not being tough enough. Cruz said that when the Senate was debating the immigration bill, Rubio voted against every amendment the Republicans proposed, including some of Cruz' amendments. One of the amendments—probably the most important one—said that any undocumented immigrant who was allowed to stay in the country would never be allowed to obtain citizenship.
For many Republicans, citizenship is the key issue. Opposition to it is essential to win the primaries but support for it is essential to win the general election. Rubio understands this and is thinking ahead to the general election. Cruz is focused like a laser on the primaries and has a general election strategy of turning out masses of elderly white voters who are against the demographic changes occurring in America and want to turn back the clock. Most strategists for both parties think this is a risky approach. As a consequence, if it comes down to Rubio vs. Cruz, the establishment will go all out for Rubio. (V)
On March 15, Florida is holding a winner-take-all primary with 99 delegates at stake. This is about 1/12 of the total needed to be nominated. Yet many—maybe even most—of the candidates may skip it. The reason is simple: money. Florida is a big state, 832 miles long with 67 counties and 10 different media markets. A serious statewide campaign there could cost upward of $2 million a week. Few campaigns have that kind of money to burn.
Donald Trump has the money if he wants to spend it, and Ted Cruz could give it a shot, at least in some of the major markets. Probably no other candidate can afford to fight statewide in Florida. This gives Rubio, who as a sitting senator is very well known in the state, a huge edge. If he can do reasonably well on Super Tuesday (March 1), say, winning a handful of states, and then follow it up with a big win on March 15, he will be well on his way to the nomination. It is worth noting, however, that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are currently leading in the polls in Florida, and so a Rubio victory is hardly assured if they are still in the race.
In the two previous cycles, the Republican Party of Florida broke the rules and scheduled its primary before it was allowed to do so. It was penalized half its delegates for it. This time it decided to follow the rules and by making the primary winner-take-all, induce all the candidates to campaign big time in Florida. In fact, the high cost of running a Florida campaign may have the opposite effect: only candidates who have more money than they can count (Trump) or candidates who think they can win the state (Cruz, Rubio, and Bush) are likely to even show up. (V)
A conservative organization, Judicial Watch, has sued the government asking it for immediate release all of Hillary Clinton's emails relating to Benghazi. Yesterday a federal judge ruled that an early release of the emails was not warranted. The State Department intends to release them eventually, but needs more time to vet them for information that might be dangerous to national security. The judge accepted that argument. (V)
New Hampshire law states that to run in a presidential primary in the state you have to be registered to vote in that party. Although that sounds reasonable and keeps Democrats from running in the Republican primary and vice versa, it could cause a problem for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders is not a registered Democrat. In fact, he is not registered in any party because Vermont does not have partisan registration. The validity of Sanders' filing for the primary is being challenged by a (foolish) conservative activist who apparently doesn't realize that making Hillary Clinton's life a bit easier will not help conservatives. A decision about his challenge is expected later this month. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
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