News from the Votemaster
In a huge blow to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), one of the most progressive politicians in America, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. Earlier this week, one of the most progressive senators, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), also endorsed Clinton. When office holders with extremely progressive track records opt for Clinton over Sanders, it gives the impression that this time she really is inevitable and that Sanders has little to no chance. These politicians had withheld their endorsements up until now while waiting to see if Vice President Joe Biden was going to enter the race. Now that Biden is definitely out, the endorsements for Clinton are going to be pouring in.
While endorsements get a bit of publicity, they are far more important than just that. About a quarter of the 4483 voting delegates to the Democratic National Convention are current or former party leaders or elected officials. They are all unpledged and can vote for anyone they want to, irrespective of how the vote in their states go. When people like De Blasio and Brown hop onto the Clinton bandwagon, that means two more actual convention votes for her and they are likely to bring others along with them. Sanders has gotten almost no endorsements from these superdelegates, in part, because Clinton and husband Bill, who no doubt knows every one of them personally, have been making a huge effort to round up all of them in advance. If the Clintons succeed, Hillary will have about half the delegates she needs before the first caucus is held. (V)
The Republican candidates on stage Wednesday were not happy at how they were treated. They were asked difficult questions and when they veered off topic, were occasionally told to please answer the question. A number of campaigns, including those of Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and others are planning to talk this weekend about what can be done about the situation. One person who is not invited is RNC chairman Reince Priebus. The candidates feel that the priority should be on them, not on the RNC, and certainly not on how much money the sponsoring network can make on commercials while the candidates are going to the bathroom. However, the schedule is already set and it would take a full-scale mutiny by all the candidates to change it now.
The candidates' problem is that they are not all on the same page. The weaker candidates want two debates of seven or eight candidates each, chosen at random just before starting time. The stronger candidates want Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, and the rest of the stragglers to just pack up their tents and go home. The weaker candidates want more speaking time and the stronger candidates want longer opening and closing statements. It won't be easy for the rivals to come to some agreement and then force it on Priebus, whose main concern is electing a Republican President in 2016, not playing nice with a bunch of whiny also-rans. (V)
Recognizing that he is at risk of losing control one of the few tools he has to steer the Republican nomination towards an electable candidate, Reince Priebus went on the offensive Friday, sending a letter to NBC News advising that the GOP would be suspending its February debate with NBC News pending "good faith" discussions to address the party's concerns.
Officially, the move is a reasoned response to CNBC's performance on Wednesday. In reality, Priebus is trying to reassert his place in the debate process. Most of this year's GOP candidates are running on anti-establishment or outsider platforms, and rebelling against the RNC serves that goal just as well as blasting the "mainstream media." Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, et al. trying to seize control of the debates is a two-for-one: A shot across the bow of both the media and the RNC. Priebus' letter is an obvious attempt to undermine that narrative that the party establishment is happy to throw the outsiders to the media wolves.
It is also worth noting that whatever the source of the complaints about Wednesday's debate may be—the candidates or Priebus—there is a great deal of obfuscation going on. To start with, CNBC and NBC news have relatively little to do with one another. Though they share some resources, they have different focuses, different staffs, and are overseen by different executives at NBC. The most important distinctions, however, are that NBC is center-left as opposed to CNBC's center-right, and is a considerably more substantive and seasoned operation. In other words, a debate on NBC is far less likely to play to the candidates' strengths (no "Your money, your vote" theme), and the candidates are far more likely to be reined in by NBC's moderator (who has not been announced as yet, but would probably be Meet the Press host Chuck Todd). In short, it is not surprising that the GOP and its candidates would seize upon an excuse to dodge NBC (or force them to lob softballs). On the other hand, debate #4 host Fox Business Channel certainly did not get a letter from Priebus today.
Further, while we joined many others in the commentariat in criticizing CNBC's performance, those critiques were primarily directed at questions that were pedestrian or unsubstantial, or the moderators' inability to manage the debaters. The GOP and its candidates have seized upon the "CNBC stinks!" theme but pivoted, objecting to legitimate questions that they simply don't like. For example, one of the so-called "Gotcha!" questions was the one directed to Ben Carson about his involvement with Mannatech. In fact, the situation raises important questions about Carson's integrity, his ability to evaluate evidence (presidents are consistently confronted with competing information, and must make a choice), and potentially his corruptibility. Similarly, the query about Marco Rubio's personal finances has also been labeled a "Gotcha!" moment. However, any journalist would recognize that his handling of his personal finances potentially speaks to a lack of discipline, and perhaps even a shaky understanding of economics. It also might hint at the risk of corruptibility—how does someone with $0 in the bank and large debts afford an $80,000 boat? Who paid for it? One of the first clues that the notorious 19th century political boss William Marcy Tweed had financial secrets was the fact that his job paid him $3,000, and his favorite piece of jewelry was worth $150,000.
CNBC bowed to demands from the Republican Party and from its candidates because they needed the exposure from the debate. 14 million people watched the contest, which is down from the other three debates (two Republican, one Democratic), but is still the largest audience that the cable channel has ever had. NBC News, by contrast, does not need the exposure, and has a considerably most substantial reputation to protect (Brian Williams fiasco notwithstanding). They would do well to stand their ground, and to tell the GOP "thanks but no thanks" if they insist on extensive conditions, or on vetting the moderator and/or the debate questions. (Z)
Marco Rubio's relationship to the Cuban-American community and to the Latino community is complicated, to say the least. There are many Cuban exiles in Miami, people who fled Fidel Castro's dictatorship. His parents were not among them. They did flee tyranny in Cuba, but it was the right-wing tyranny of Fulgencio Batista, a long-time U.S. ally. Years before Castro took over Havana, Oriales and Mario Rubio had settled in the U.S., not fleeing Communism, but just looking for a better life. They came in May 1956, not in a leaky boat, but on a regularly-scheduled commercial flight.
Conveniently ignoring the fact that Castro did not come to power until 1959, Rubio's official Senate biography states: "In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover," something that is patently untrue. In fact, his parents were granted green cards 2½ years before Castro came to power. To Anglos, the exact date the Rubios came to America may not matter much, but to the Cuban exiles it matters a great deal. Coming to America to find a better job is not the same thing as escaping Communism, especially when you lie about it.
Another piece of his family history about which Rubio is less than forthcoming is the fact that his maternal grandfather, Pedro Victor Garcia, who came to Florida with his daughter and son-in-law, returned to Cuba two weeks after Castro came to power. He quickly got a good job at the Treasury Ministry—and thus became part of Castro's government. Nor does Rubio like to discuss the four trips his mother made back to Cuba after Castro was in power to consider the option of moving back. In other words, the Rubios were not motivated at all by a hatred of Castro and Communism, but by a hatred of the right-wing Batista.
Grandpa Pedro eventually came back to Miami and was ordered deported, but he ignored the deportation order and stayed on as an undocumented immigrant. If the senator starts dumping on undocumented immigrants in some future debate, a sharp opponent could butt in with, "you mean like your grandfather, Pedro Garcia?"
Rubio has a few other bugaboos that might not play well with some Republican constituencies. He is a Roman Catholic now, but for 6 years when he was a boy, he lived in Nevada and attended a Mormon church. Many evangelicals do not regard Mormonism as a Christian religion, and some are reluctant to support adherents (or, possibly, former adherents). On the economic front, his parents worked in a unionized hotel and when one of the unions went out on strike, Marco walked the picket line with his father. The business wing of the party does not care for unions, and—as they decide whom to bless with their money—may wonder how committed Rubio will be in opposing organized labor.
There is much more to say about Rubio's background, and Politico has done a thorough job of unearthing quite a bit of it. No doubt that article is required reading for the Clinton oppo team. (V)
For more than 15 years, Ben Carson served on the boards of Costco and Kellogg, where he supported initiatives barring discrimination based on gender identity, as well as providing insurance for the domestic partners of gay employees. As a consequence of the policies Carson pushed, these companies are now highly rated by LGBT advocates. Costco recently got a rating of "90" from the Human Rights Campaign and Kellogg got a perfect "100."
Conservative Christian groups are less enthusiastic. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, has said: "What he has to make clear is that the board positions should not be reflective of his public policy." Although he was quite gay friendly before he became a candidate, since then Carson has compared homosexuality to bestiality and said that sex acts among prisoners demonstrates that homosexuality is a choice. When confronted with these statements, he has backed down, leaving everyone unclear as to exactly what he thinks.
Little boys (and maybe starting in 2017, little girls) are often told they can grow up to be President. As the biographies of Rubio and Carson demonstrate, it is never too early to begin planning your campaign to avoid doing things that may later embarrass you. (V)
Ever since California adopted a Louisiana-style jungle primary system for statewide offices, the politics have gotten very complicated. It used to be that Democrats and Republicans held separate primaries and the winners faced off in the Fall. Now, all candidates are on the same ballot and #1 and #2 face off, even if they are from the same party. This means that Democrats can court Republican voters and vice versa.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) is in a tough battle to make #2 in the Senate primary race to succeed the retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The favorite is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has the backing of much of the California Democratic establishment. Harris is from San Francisco and also has the support of the Bernie Sanders crowd. Sanchez is from Southern California and hopes to get the backing of Latino voters statewide. However, historically, Latinos don't turn out in large numbers for primaries, so Sanchez may need some Republican votes to make it to the general election. This may not be so easy since she has been attacking Republicans since 1996, when she defeated arch-conservative Orange County congressman Bob Dornan. Now, she needs GOP help to finish ahead of the half dozen Republicans in the race. In essence, her pitch to them has to be something like: "While I am not as conservative as a Republican, if I don't make it into the general election, you are going to be faced with a choice between some unknown Republican loser and a popular and very liberal Kamala Harris, so vote strategically and pray for the lesser of two evils." It may not be an easy sell, and if some Republican comes in second, Harris will cruise to an easy victory in Nov. 2016. (V)
While we are on the subject of jungle primaries, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), barely made it into second place in Louisiana's gubernatorial primary last Saturday. Now a new poll taken by the Democratic firm of Anzalone Liszt Grove shows Vitter 12 points behind his Democratic rival, John Bel Edwards, for the Nov. 21 runoff. Partisan polls generally have to be taken with a barrel of salt, but that is all there is so far and Vitter got only 23% in the first round so he has some catching up to do. What is important about the race is that a private detective hired by Vitter was caught redhanded the day before the election spying on the opposition. This is going to hurt Vitter; the only question is how badly.
If Edwards becomes governor, a badly damaged Vitter will face reelection to the Senate next year. While winning statewide is tough for Democrats in Louisiana in general, they would rather face a wounded Vitter than a fresh Senate appointee, so the gubernatorial race is worth following. While nobody has ever confused Louisiana politics with Minnesota politics, between what is being called "spygate" and all the miles Vitter racked up as a frequent flyer at the "D.C. Madam's" place of business, at some point even Louisiana voters will say enough is enough. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
Oct30 CNBC Was the Biggest Loser Wednesday
Oct30 Truth Was Another Loser at GOP Debate
Oct30 Bush and Rubio Are Now on a Collision Course
Oct30 For All His Strengths, Rubio also Has Serious Weaknesses
Oct30 Reid Calls on Rubio to Resign from the Senate
Oct30 Rubio and Cruz Each Raise A Million Dollars Since Debate
Oct29 Rubio and Cruz Shine at Chaotic Debate
Oct29 Could Bush Come Back Like McCain Did in 2008?
Oct29 Rafael Cruz is Too Busy To Campaign in Iowa So He Sent Rafael Cruz There
Oct29 Could a Cruz Nomination End the Gridlock?
Oct29 Florida Newspaper to Rubio: Resign
Oct28 Tonight's Debate is Number Three for the GOP
Oct28 Carson Passes Trump Nationally
Oct28 Trump Plays the Faith Card
Oct28 On Taxes, Republicans Go for Puppies and Rainbows
Oct28 Mark Kirk Is the Most Endangered Republican in the Country
Oct28 Could Hillary Clinton Really Be Beating Bernie Sanders by 41 Points in Iowa?
Oct28 Could It Be Cuban vs. Cuban in the End?
Oct27 Boehner Negotiates Stealth Budget Deal
Oct27 Carson Has Double-digit Lead in Iowa
Oct27 Republicans Are In Denial about Hillary Clinton's Chances
Oct27 Cruz Working on Texas
Oct27 Jeb Loads the Last Bullet into the Chamber
Oct27 Sharron Angle Might Run for the Senate Again in Nevada
Oct27 Hispanic Voters Don't Like Republicans
Oct27 Marco Rubio Doesn't Like the Senate
Oct26 Republican Voters See Trump as Strongest General Election Candidate
Oct26 Clinton Would Love to Face Trump
Oct26 Rubio Attacks Trump's Immigration Plan
Oct26 Carson Against Abortion Under All Circumstances
Oct26 Ross Douthat Meekly Predicts Rubio Will be the Republican Nominee
Oct26 Sanders Drawing Sharp Contrasts with Clinton
Oct26 No Smooth Sailing for Obamacare Repeal
Oct26 Fundraising Looks to Be No Problem for Ryan
Oct26 Republicans Facing a Tech Gap?
Oct25 Trump Attacks Carson's Religion
Oct25 Bushes Not Made for These Times?
Oct25 GOP Establishment Trying to Figure Out How To Attack Trump
Oct25 The Clinton and Clinton Show Hits Iowa
Oct25 Vitter Survives to Fight Another Day, Barely
Oct25 New Congressional Investigation: Planned Parenthood
Oct24 Jeb Bush Shakes Up His Campaign
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Oct24 What Does the House Freedom Caucus Want?
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Oct24 Lincoln Chafee Quits
Oct24 Time for the Death Penalty to Die?
Oct23 Hillary Clinton Came, She Saw, and ... She Conquered?