News from the Votemaster
• Supreme Court Could Decide the Presidency
• Trump Promises to Tax Wall Street
• Advice for Republican Candidates
• No Primary Endorsement for Obama
• Cruz: "A Spectacular Liar"
• Adelson Stymied by Family Dispute
• Thanks, Obama: North Korea Edition
A new Marist poll conducted for NBC/WSJ shows Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) still leading in Iowa, with Donald Trump close behind. In New Hampshire, Donald Trump has a huge lead. The poll was of likely voters. Here are the results.
Marist seems to have forgotten about Rick Santorum and Jim Gilmore, but so has everyone else, so it probably doesn't matter. Iowa and/or New Hampshire are probably do or die for a number of candidates. In Iowa, candidates who appeal only to evangelical voters—yes, you Rick, and also Mike Huckabee—have to do well. If they don't there is no point in continuing the race. However, their absence won't change anything.
New Hampshire is different. The GOP establishment's dilemma is clearly visible in the Granite State. The four establishment candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and Jeb Bush together get 44% of the vote but it is split four ways. If three of them would just kindly drop out, Trump and Cruz could be dispatched quickly. After the New Hampshire primary, some of them might slink off. Christie and Kasich are the most likely slinkers because none of the primaries for the next few weeks are favorable to them. If that happens and their 21% goes to Bush and Rubio, it could become a competitive four-way race for a while.
Marist also polled Democrats. Among likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa, Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Bernie Sanders 48% to 45%. In New Hampshire, however, Sanders is on top, 50% to 46%. If Sanders can win one or both of those, he will get a huge spurt of publicity and donations. However, the next two events are the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 20 and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 27, and Clinton is expected to win both by large margins. (V)
The Supreme Court could play a big role in deciding who wins the White House. Hopefully not by making a ruling to stop counting the votes, as it did in 2000. More likely, this Spring it will come down with some extremely controversial decisions that are deeply political. Depending on how they go, they will cause either the Democrats or the Republicans or both to condemn the Court and remind the voters that only they will appoint future justices who will uphold the Constitution.
Among the other issues on which the Court will rule this year are:
- May states require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital?
- Can public employees be forced to join a union or pay a fee to support collective bargaining?
- Are people who claim religious objections exempt from federal law?
- Do hospitals operated by religious groups have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees?
- Does the President have the authority to defer deporting undocumented immigrants?
Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton have already brought up the need to appoint wise justices who will interpret the Constitution impartially. Only they completely differ on what the Constitution says and means and what kind of person would fit the bill. The issue of appointments to the Court could easily become a major campaign issue, given the ages of the current justices. Here they are with the President who appointed them and when and how old they will be at the end of the next President's first term.
With four octogenarians on the Court then, the next President might get the opportunity to shape the Court for decades to come. It is a safe bet that if a Democratic President gets to replace a Republican appointee or vice versa, there will be blood on the floor of the Senate during the confirmation process.
It is a fact of life for the more elderly justices that their retirement plans are going to be hugely influenced by who wins the election. If a Democrat wins, Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer will very likely retire early and Antonin Scalia will start going to the gym to improve his health. If a Republican wins, Scalia might start going to the gym anyway because he loves his work and would like to keep doing it for many years. Clarence Thomas, however, might resign because he doesn't like his job at all and is clearly bored during oral arguments. In the past 17 years, he has asked exactly one question (on Feb. 22, 2006, in Holmes v. South Carolina). As usual, it is anyone's guess what Anthony Kennedy might do under any circumstances. But retirements aside, sometimes elderly people die, even when they are ideologically opposed to dying.
As an aside, sometimes in the heat of the all the political fights everyone seems to forget how fundamentally undemocratic it is for five unelected justices to have the power to veto laws. The Court has gotten used to its enormous power and never stops to say: "Whoa! The Constitution doesn't say anything at all about abortion, unions, or contraception, so it is crazy for us to try to interpret it as if it did. When there is no constitutional issue, it is up to Congress and the state legislatures to pass laws. That's not our job." And then there is the whole matter of whether "judicial review" itself is constitutional since the Constitution itself doesn't mention it. The Supreme Court just decided to do it in Marbury v. Madison and nobody yelled "Nope, can't do that." (V)
Donald Trump just promised to tax Wall Street. Although the stock market has had a rough time so far this year, it is not clear why he suddenly brought up taxing Wall Street. Perhaps he is now actively pursuing the Bernie Sanders' supporters. Sanders also wants to tax Wall Street.
Trump is not thinking this out very clearly. While most of the movers and shakers on Wall Street are Republicans, comments like Trump's might well spook them. Probably many bankers think Trump is crazy enough to do anything and he can't be predicted or controlled. If he keeps this up, it may well drive some of them into the arms of Hillary Clinton, who represented New York in the Senate for eight years and who they regard as reasonable and predictable, albeit a bit to the left of their ideal candidate. For many people on the Street, having a President who is predictable is preferable to one who is not and wants to tax the financial markets to boot. (V)
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr., a liberal Democrat, wrote an interesting column advising some of the Republican candidates on what they have to do to win. As an outsider, his advice is at least neutral. Some of his points are as follows.
Marco Rubio: You have three problems: (1) You are trying to appeal to every wing of the party, which mean none of them see you as their own, (2) You don't seem to be the favorite in any state, and (3) You don't act like you have any core principles. So the advice is: (1) Pick a wing and appeal to it, (2) Pick a state and run hard there, and (3) Take an unpopular stand on something (e.g., immigration) to show you don't bend with the wind.
Jeb Bush: Relax. Forget about winning. Be yourself and upbeat. Go after Trump, but emphasize a positive vision of what conservatism is, not a negative one spreading hate around.
John Kasich: You expanded Medicaid in your state. Be proud of it. You're a compassionate conservative and if you act like anything else, it comes off as phony. You said that your main concern is how St. Peter will judge you at the end of the day. Run your campaign for him.
Ted Cruz: You are running a fantastic campaign. You are appealing to all the right-wing groups in the Republican Party, which gives you a cohesive story. Keep up the good work.
Chris Christie: You aren't really running for governor of New Hampshire, but you act like you are. It's a good idea. You have to bet the farm on New Hampshire. There is no other way for you. Keep it up.
Ben Carson: Please go back to neurosurgery or inspirational speaking. This politics stuff isn't for you.
Rand Paul: Try to stay in for a few more debates. You won't win, but you might spread your libertarian ideas a bit more. Then get out and protect your Senate seat.
Donald Trump: No point in giving you advice because you listen to no one.
The other candidates were presumably beyond help. (V)
Generally, it is customary for a sitting president to refrain from endorsing a candidate in primary season. If there is no real competition (i.e. George H. W. Bush in 1988), then an endorsement is not necessary. And if the nomination is contested, it is unseemly for the President to appear to be exerting too much influence over the choosing of his successor.
On Sunday, a spokesman for President Obama announced that he would stick to precedent and would not make an endorsement in primary season (though he does plan to vote in the primaries). Despite this being the general custom, it may well be interpreted as a swipe at Hillary Clinton. As a former member of the Obama administration, she was seen as the overwhelming favorite to receive the President's blessing. Obama says we will campaign on behalf of the eventual nominee; we shall see how enthusiastically he does so if it's Hillary.
On the other hand, Obama also knows that the Democrats need the Sanders' supporters to vote in the general election, even if it is with one hand holding nose and one wielding pencil. So why antagonize them? If Clinton can't win the primaries on her own, she clearly is not as strong as everyone thought. So just let it play out without any interference. (Z & V)
Slate's William Saletan has conducted an exhaustive examination of Ted Cruz's statements and actions on immigration since becoming a U.S. Senator and has reached the conclusion that he "may be the most spectacular liar ever to run for president."
Cruz's "lies" are not baldfaced—he is too clever for that. Instead, he proceeded very, very cautiously while the Senate debated immigration reform in 2013, choosing his words very carefully and essentially never taking a side until the issue was dead. Today, Cruz is advertising himself as a leader of the anti-immigration-reform faction, and giving himself credit for almost single-handedly having killed the discussion. He never said anything in 2013 that would contradict his 2016 narrative, because he never said anything at all, but Cruz did not kill immigration reform any more than Al Gore invented the Internet (something he never claimed to have done—he sponsored the bill that funded the research that led to the Internet). Cruz's sleight-of-hand represent a real opportunity for one of his opponents to exploit during the next Republican debate (Thursday); we shall see if any of them (Marco Rubio?) take it. (Z)
Megadonor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich afloat for several months in 2012, hasn't started donating to any candidate yet. Insiders say that Adelson likes Marco Rubio but his wife, Israeli-born physician Miriam Ochsorn, is very enthusiastic about Ted Cruz so for the time being Adelson is keeping his checkbook closed. Also a factor is that Adelson knows a lot about gambling and hates to back a loser. Very likely he will wait until at least after the New Hampshire primary to get a better sense of who might win.
One source familiar with Adelson's political operation says that his willingness to donate is affected by how well his businesses are doing. When the money is flowing, he is much more willing to spend it than when it is not. Right now, Chinese authorities are targeting high rollers at his Macau casino in an anti-corruption campaign. The investigation made the stock of his Sands company nosedive, making him feel poorer and more cautious. Still, people close to him say that at 82 this could be his last hurrah and he really wants to bet on the winner this time, so he may be taking his time to place his bet. (V)
Last week, North Korea may or may not have detonated a hydrogen bomb. Now, according to The Daily Beast, "experts" are laying the blame for this at the feet of President Obama, pointing the finger in particular at his passive "strategic patience" approach to the Kim Jong-un regime.
It is worth noting that experts pointed the finger at President Truman when Russia got its first bomb in 1949. Experts pointed the finger at LBJ when China tested its first nuclear bomb in 1964. Experts pointed the finger at a series of presidents—from the first Bush to Obama—as Iran moved closer and closer to testing their own nuclear bomb. Perhaps the experts should recognize that it may not be within the power of any individual—even one so powerful as the President of the United States—to singlehandedly keep a cap on the world's nuclear arsenal. Particularly in North Korea, where this kind of show of force is somewhat essential in order for the new regime to send a message to both its own citizens and to its enemies in South Korea.
Whether or not the test actually happened as North Korea says, at least one person was suitably impressed: Donald Trump, who expressed admiration for Kim and the successful steps he took to "wipe out" his rivals. Of course, it's a little easier if your father lays the groundwork for your rise to prominence—not that The Donald would know anything about that. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
Jan10 Three Theories of Trump
Jan10 Another Theory of Trump: Ignorance
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Jan10 Bush: Clinton Would Beat Trump Like a Drum
Jan10 Marco Rubio's Footwear Becomes a Campaign Issue
Jan10 Fiorina Weighs in on Bill Clinton's Infidelities
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Jan09 Trump Is Not Living in Iowa or New Hampshire
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Jan09 Democratic Candidates Get Testy
Jan09 Rubio, Abbott Call for Constitutional Convention
Jan09 Democrats Press Obama on Deportations
Jan08 Planned Parenthood to Endorse Hillary Clinton
Jan08 Chairman of Congressional Black Caucus Endorses Clinton
Jan08 McCain Raises Questions about Cruz's Eligibility
Jan08 Trump Advocates Huge Tariff on Chinese Goods
Jan08 Trump Throws Protesters Out in the Cold
Jan08 Second-Tier Republicans Have a Bad Day
Jan08 Rubio Playing the Trump URL Game
Jan08 Republicans Want Nikki Haley To Be the Veep Candidate
Jan08 Obama Mounting Full Court Press on Gun Control
Jan07 Cruz: I am Tougher Than Trump on Illegal Immigrants
Jan07 The Trump Gap Is Getting Bigger
Jan07 Cruz with Small Lead over Trump in California
Jan07 Cruz Now Running an Ad With Bankers, Lawyers, and Journalists Crossing a River
Jan07 RNC Now Running an Ad With a Firefighter, Student, Haitian Immigrant, and Former Prostitute
Jan07 Other Republicans Join the Ted Cruz Birther Movement
Jan07 Right-Wing Media Fuel Hillary Health Conspiracies
Jan07 Why Doesn't Rubio Resign from the Senate?
Jan07 Rubio Swaps Commercial Flights for Private Charters
Jan06 Republicans Differ on their Approach to Oregon Protest at Bird Refuge
Jan06 What Will Trump's Loss Look Like?
Jan06 Could the Republican Nominee Be ... Paul Ryan?
Jan06 Do TV Ads Still Matter?
Jan06 As It Turns Out, Trump Does Have a Data Operation
Jan06 Trump Finally Gets around to Questioning Cruz's Citizenship
Jan06 Nikki Haley to Give GOP Response to SOTU
Jan06 Jeb: My Brother Is Most Popular President Among Republicans
Jan05 Why the GOP Is Not Going After Trump
Jan05 The Mud Is about to Start Flying in the Republican Race
Jan05 Trump Running an Ad Showing Illegal Immigrants Climbing a Wall
Jan05 The Big Dog Is Back
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Jan05 New Carson Book Out Today
Jan04 January Candidate List