News from the Votemaster
• Sanders Catching Up to Clinton in Iowa
• MoveOn Endorses Sanders
• Another Betting Market Says It's Hillary in 2016
• Young Women Support Sanders over Clinton
• Constitutional Law Professor: Cruz is Not a Natural-Born Citizen
• Repubicans Won't Approve Any New Obama Nominees
President Obama had several goals for his final State of the Union address, which he delivered yesterday evening. He wanted to frame his legacy as president, to rally the Democratic Party in advance of this year's elections, and to lay out an agenda for his last year in office. By all accounts, the evening was an overwhelming success.
The White House promised that the speech would be upbeat and optimistic on the whole, and it was. Indeed, the President began his address, quite unusually, with a joke:
For this final one, I'm going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa. I've been there; I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips.
The humor reappeared several times during the night, but there was also more substantive positivity woven throughout the speech, perhaps nowhere more so than in the forcefully delivered conclusion:
That's the America I know. That's the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That's what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That's why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.
This is not to say that the whole address was kumbaya, however. Obama did not shy away from politically charged issues, including gun control, Iran, the minimum wage, and—very pointedly—climate change:
Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You'll be pretty lonely, because you'll be debating our military, most of America's business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it's a problem and intend to solve it.
On the same point, he also got a good response when comparing global warming to Sputnik in 1957, observing that "we didn't deny Sputnik was up there," but instead redoubled investment in scientific research, leading to the moon landing 12 years later.
There were a few curveballs in the address, as well. Bringing up an issue that nobody foresaw, Obama declared that he was going to make curing cancer a national priority in the next year, and that he was going to make Vice-President Joe Biden, whose son died of the disease last year, "mission control" in overseeing that project. Another surprise came when the President admitted that one of the great regrets of his time in office is that he was not able to improve upon the nastiness that has become characteristic of American politics. It is highly unusual for a president to be self-critical like this, even in fairly limited measure.
On economic issues, Obama often seemed to be channeling Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT):
Food Stamp recipients didn't cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren't the reason wages haven't gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It's sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. 2 Hillary Clinton 44% 46% 45.0%
This got a big response. Sanders was in attendance for the address, and was clearly pleased with what he was hearing, an impression he affirmed in an interview with CNN while exiting the Capitol.
The Vermont senator was not the only presidential candidate conjured up on Tuesday night, however. In a very clear swipe at Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Obama blasted the Islamophobia he's seen in the past few months:
When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.
Trump, of course, promptly took to Twitter, declaring that, "The State Of The Union speech was one of the most boring, rambling and non-substantive I have heard in a long time." Cruz, for his part, was entitled to be in attendance as a sitting U.S Senator, but he could not find time, as he is reportedly too busy campaigning in New Hampshire. This is very poor form; even the notoriously vote-skipping Sen. Marco Rubio made a point of being there.
Speaking of the Republicans, they may have set a record for the fewest positive responses ever given to a SOTU address. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), for his part, was only roused to applause a couple of times, mostly during the passages on military strength. The Republicans in the gallery appeared even more listless than the Speaker. Generally, the opposition shows support for proposals and declarations that cross party lines, but even on those occasions the GOP contingent was generally silent. Ergo, they de facto gave the impression that they are not in favor of bipartisanship, making money on clean energy, veterans' hospitals, combating drug abuse, job creation, or ending gerrymandering. Actually, they are not in favor of a lot of these things (say, ending gerrymandering), but it's generally better to pretend otherwise.
Responsibility for the toughest job in Washington—the official response—fell to Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC). Her much shorter address essentially did three things: (1) echo the President's optimism; (2) reiterate the GOP's basic talking points about taxes, the border, religious freedom, etc.; and, most interestingly, (3) join Obama in slamming Trump and Cruz. In that portion, she declared:
Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation,
Haley was clearly nervous, and is not the dynamic speaker that Obama is (few politicians are), so her address was not an unqualified success. But a rising star was not turned into a shooting star, either. She was certainly worlds better than, say, Bobby Jindal, and her willingness to tote water for the GOP establishment will be noted.
Insta-polls conducted after the SOTU got feedback that was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, with 53% saying they had a "very positive" response, and another 20% of respondents saying they had a "positive" response to the speech. Based on their responses, as well as who would be expected to watch a Democratic president's address, these individuals are undoubtedly overwhelmingly Democrats. Republicans have largely reached their conclusions about Obama; it is Democrats who will still be open to the idea that he is a good or even great president, it is Democrats that Obama wants to rally so that they show up to the polls and vote, and it is the Democrat (he hopes) they elect that will sustain Obamacare, the Paris climate accords, and other signature achievements of the administration. The point is that Obama needed to impress and inspire Democrats tonight, and he clearly did, which is why the address was a success. (Z)
Two new (but somewhat contradictory) polls in Iowa show that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is closing in on Hillary Clinton in the Hawkeye State. A Quinnipiac poll has Sanders out in front. A PPP poll has Clinton ahead but Sanders getting closer. Here are the numbers ranked by the average.
Clearly, both can't be right. Most likely the problem is with the pollsters' respective likely voter screens. If we average the two, it is basically a tie. Previous polls put Clinton ahead by double digits, so Sanders is clearly gaining ground.
A Monmouth University poll of New Hampshire released yesterday had more good news for Sanders. There he is leading Clinton 53% to 39%, with Marin O'Malley at 5%. All in all, it was a very good day for the Senator from Vermont. (V)
The Democratic activist group MoveOn took a vote among its members to see who it should endorse in the Democratic primary. Over 340,000 members voted and Bernie Sanders got 78% of the vote, so he got the group's endorsement. Even more important is that many of the members will no doubt get out into the field and actively work for Sanders. Democracy for America, another progressive group, has already endorsed him. (V)
However, there is also good news for Hillary Clinton. Betting on political outcomes is illegal in the U.S. but not in other countries. There are firms in the U.K. and Ireland, like William Hill and Paddypower, respectively, that take bets on U.S. politics. A newcomer to the business of betting on politics is predictit.org, which is operated as an educational experiment by Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Its model is quite simple. You can buy or sell shares in candidates or parties just like on the stock market, and prices go up and down depending on demand. Each share costs a fraction of $1 and pays off $1 if the event turns out to be true. In the presidential market currently the top person to win the presidency is Hillary Clinton at 42 cents/share. Number two is Bernie Sanders at 26 cents/share. The top Republican is Donald Trump at 25 cents/share. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are tied at 10 cents/share. (V)
Women support Hillary Clinton. Young people support Bernie Sanders. So what's a young woman to do? A new Ipsos poll shows that being young dominates being female, with Sanders leading Clinton 46% to 35% among millennial Democrats. Among millennial Republicans, the leader is Donald Trump. The top issue for the millennials, roughly the people in the 15-35 age bracket, is the economy, as they are struggling to pay for college and find jobs. Climate change is also high on their list of concerns. The problem with millennials is that although they are passionate about various subjects, they don't think voting is important. Then they are angered by the fact that politicians don't pay a lot of attention to what they want. (V)
Mary Brigid McManamon, a professor of Constitutional law at Widener University in Delaware, has written an opinion piece in the Washington Post unambiguously stating that Ted Cruz is not a natural-born citizen. McManamon is no Johanna-come-lately to the subject, she is a legal historian who published a 43-page scholarly article in the Catholic University Law Review in 2015 on the subject and probably knows a tad more about the meaning of "natural-born" than most of the pundits and commenters on news sites.
Her basic argument is that we should interpret "natural-born" to mean what it meant at the time the Constitution was written. The common law in England at the time was unambiguous. The preeminent authority in England at the time, William Blackstone, wrote that natural-born citizens were those "born within the dominions of the crown of England." The U.S. founding fathers clearly accepted the principle of the common law. In the Harvard Law Review, former Solicitors General Neal Katyal and Paul Clement argue the case for "natural-born" based on three 18th century British statutes which overruled the common law definition. McManamon claims that the founders were clearly aware of these statutes, but the U.S. inherited British common law, not British statutory law, and she faults Katyal and Clement for ignoring this distinction.
McManamon states that Cruz is clearly a U.S. citizen, albeit not a natural-born one. Is he an unnatural-born one? (We are clearly getting into Macbeth territory here.) However, she, like so many others, seems to have missed the residency tests that the American parent must meet to transmit citizenship to foreign-born children. In any event, when Donald Trump brought up the subject of Cruz's citizenship, he certainly stirred up a hornet's nest. The last word has not been said here. (V)
As if the judiciary weren't politicized enough, Senate Republicans have agreed to bring four more appointments to the federal judiciary this year and then to stop approving anyone. In the past, partisanship wasn't so strong because both parties know some day the shoe will be on the other foot. While Republicans are happy to block Obama's appointments, they would be most unhappy if a future Democratic Senate blocked a future Republican President's nominees. But once you start going down that road, there is no turning back. Judical appointments could well become a campaign issue. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
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Jan12 Obama's Final State of the Union is Tonight
Jan12 Why Have Recent Polls Been So Wrong?
Jan12 Clinton Calls for Surtax on the Rich
Jan12 Rubio Walking a Narrow Path in Iowa
Jan12 Thanks, Obama: Domestic Edition
Jan12 Rand Paul Goes Full Birther
Jan12 Paul's Presidential Campaign is Fading Fast
Jan12 More Carson Staffers Leave
Jan12 Koch Brothers' Father Built Key Nazi Oil Refinery
Jan11 Cruz is Leading in Iowa, Trump in New Hampshire
Jan11 Supreme Court Could Decide the Presidency
Jan11 Trump Promises to Tax Wall Street
Jan11 Advice for Republican Candidates
Jan11 No Primary Endorsement for Obama
Jan11 Cruz: A Spectacular Liar
Jan11 Adelson Stymied by Family Dispute
Jan11 Thanks, Obama: North Korea Edition
Jan10 Could the Republican Party Split?
Jan10 Three Theories of Trump
Jan10 Another Theory of Trump: Ignorance
Jan10 Why Hate Jeb?
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
Jan10 Lena Dunham Campaigning for Clinton in Iowa
Jan09 Economy Adds Another 292,000 Jobs in December
Jan09 Is Donald Trump the New George Wallace?
Jan09 Poll: 20% of Democrats Would Vote for Trump
Jan09 Trump Is Not Living in Iowa or New Hampshire
Jan09 The Conventional Wisdom Is Often Wrong
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