Archive for Presidential Race


Catching up is hard to do

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One reason Donald Trump gets the attention he does is that he’s Donald Trump. He is already a household name. Becoming one as a presidential candidate takes a lot of money, shoe leather, and time. Bernie Sanders will need all three. The Washington Post explains:

A new Washington Post-ABC News national poll offers a fresh look at Clinton’s and Sanders’s standing among Democrats. The survey finds Clinton is overwhelmingly popular across the Democratic Party, but Sanders is a far-less-familiar pol and is weak among a handful of key voting blocs.

Overall, 82 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of Clinton, while 15 percent are unfavorable (a scant 3 percent have no opinion). Sanders’s favorable rating is 36 percent among Democrats, with even more offering no opinion of him. Nearly a quarter — 23 percent — give Sanders negative marks. That’s notable because, despite being better-known than Clinton, his negatives are eight percentage points higher than Clinton.

I assume the Post meant that to say “less-known than Clinton.”

While strong among liberal Democrats, Sanders is still weak with moderate and conservative Democrats, those without college degrees, and non-whites. A high percentage of those groups have no opinion of Sanders, while Hillary Clinton’s favorables are high, unfavorables are low, and virtually no Democrats have no opinion of her. She’s a household name.

That’s a tough, but not insurmountable hill to climb for a Clinton challenger like Sanders. Some little-known guy named Obama has some experience with that.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responding to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement yesterday that he’s running for president:

Scott Walker is a national disgrace.

As CNN reports, Walker told the crowd in Waukesha, “Americans want to vote for something and for someone.” Walker qualifies.

Several outlets noted that Walker’s support for requiring photo identity cards for voting is a big applause line. This from an NBC news political correspondent:

There was more. The Castle Doctrine, drug testing for public assistance recipients, dismantling organized labor, etc. Many of Walker’s applause lines were retreads from the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. Walker wants to rebuild the economy using the Laffer Curve and Reagan-era tax levels. It was a speech virtually ghostwritten by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) the way the Koch brothers-funded ALEC ghostwrites legislation in states across the country. During each pause, Walker nodded left and right like a bobblehead doll.

Walker campaign staffers were prepared for protesters, but none appeared MSNBC reported, “save for an airplane overhead that carried a sign reading ‘Scott Walker has a Koch problem,’ a reference to his relationship with conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.”

The thing is, Scott Walker has a Scott Walker problem.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaoo.)

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The last competent man in America

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Something noticed in watching Donald Trump’s interview with NBC News correspondent Katy Tur the other night: he rarely closes his lips except to make certain consonant sounds.

Perhaps it’s just to signal everyone that he’s not done talking, as if he ever is. According to Donald Trump, he gets the biggest crowds, he gets the most standing ovations, he gets great reviews, he’s made a lot of money, and he has great relations with other countries. Furthermore, we have leaders that don’t know what they’re doing, we have stupid negotiators, he knows how to negotiate, etc. He’s the last competent man in America.

“Trump makes demagoguery his campaign strategy” reads a later headline at All In with Chris Hayes. He’s an oratorical train wreck from which the public and the press cannot look away.

Two polls this week put Trump at the head of the Republican pack, and with a four-point lead over Jeb Bush in North Carolina.

GOP primary voters will love this guy. He can out-bluster Fox talking heads. When Tur cited Pew research data on illegal immigrants, that they commit less crime than others, Trump trumps with “You’re a very naive person” and “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” The Donald is right. The data is wrong. Full speed ahead.

Which was Dana Milbank’s point the other day. “Trump is the Republican Party,” he wrote:

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Catapulting the propaganda

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Ted Cruz is bringing in some techsperts. POLITICO (we spell our name in all caps, see?) reports that the GOP’s scary clown has hired an analytics firm owned in part by the family of hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who funds several Cruz-supporting, super PACs:

Cambridge Analytica is connected to a British firm called SCL Group, which provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting.

So far, SCL’s political work has been mostly in the developing world — where it has boasted of its ability to help foment coups.

Their secret weapon? “Psychographics.” Makes you wonder why the GOP presidential field hasn’t already gay married Cambridge Analytica.

That last link takes you to a 2005 Slate story about SCL and how, in a pitch sounding “like a rejected plot twist from a mediocre Bond flick,” its “ops center” could spread disinformation through the media to stop a smallpox outbreak. Propaganda, you say? Nah!

“If your definition of propaganda is framing communications to do something that’s going to save lives, that’s fine,” says Mark Broughton, SCL’s public affairs director. “That’s not a word I would use for that.”


If SCL weren’t so earnest, it might actually seem to be mocking itself, or perhaps George Orwell. As the end of the smallpox scenario, dramatic music fades out to a taped message urging people to “embrace” strategic communications, which it describes as “the most powerful weapon in the world.” And the company Web page offers some decidedly creepy asides. “The [ops center] can override all national radio and TV broadcasts in time of crisis,” it says, alluding to work the company has done in an unspecified Asian country.

Of course, Cambridge Analytica is not SCL Worldwide, and that sort of thing sounds so un-American.

Cambridge Analytica has also done campaign work for Republicans Sen. Thom Tillis and Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, as well as for the North Carolina Republican Party. And for Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who would never advocate a coup.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Great balls of jello

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Frank Rich takes aim at the gutlessness of the GOP’s 2016 presidential hopefuls:

Say this about the Old Confederacy: At least its leaders had the courage of their own bad convictions. Today’s neo-Confederate GOP politicians, vying for primary votes in Dixie 150 years after Appomattox, proved themselves to be laughable cowards. Confronted with the simplest of questions – should a state capitol display a flag that stands for slavery, racism, and treason? – they hedged (all of them), spouted gibberish (Ted Cruz), or went into hiding (Rand Paul). If they’d been the Rebel generals in the Civil War, it would have been over in a week.

This was, Rich writes, “the second time in three months we’ve seen GOP presidential contenders unwilling to stand up to the unreconstructed bigots still infesting their party’s base.” In April, they had caved or hedged over “religious freedom” bills passed to sanction discrimination against gay families. They then retreated faster than Lee at Gettysburg after civil rights groups and the NCAA condemned Indiana’s version, and influential CEOs objected to the states dissing their customers.

Seems like only yesterday that Gov. Bobby Jindal and his legislative tigers were lying down like the Siegfried and Roy cats before the once enfant terrible, Grover Norquist. They wrote asking his and Americans for Tax Reform’s permission to sorta kinda raise state taxes after Republican economic dogma had driven Louisiana’s balance sheet (like Kansas’ before it) deep into the red.*

But boy howdy, whichever of these bowls of jello survives being a debate contestant on the RNC’s “Who Wants To Be The Next War President,” you can be sure we will be treated to months of tough-sounding ads telling us that only he (it will be a he) has the balls to protect Uh-murca from the jihadis’ long, curved knives.

* Meanwhile in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton’s Democratic leadership led the state to the top of CNBC’s list of best states for business in 2015.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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A confederacy of lunatics

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I’m sitting in upstate South Carolina processing the Charleston mass shooting. I’m watching clips from politicians — conservative politicians — doing their damnedest not to say anything on camera that would alienate their political base. Or replaying talking points for their base that reinforce the toxic world view that produces people such as the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof.

Sen. John McCain was at least enough of a leader in 2008 to publicly disagree with the woman who said she was afraid if Barack Obama, “an Arab,” got elected. The crowd of supporters booed McCain when he said Obama was a good and decent man:

“Come on, John!” one audience member yelled out as the Republican crowd expressed dismay at their nominee. Others yelled “liar,” and “terrorist,” referring to Obama.

At Crooks and Liars, Susie Madrak yesterday posted footage of former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaking in South Carolina in March failing to do the same, using the word “tyrant” and having the chutzpah to talk about Obama’s “complete lack of leadership.” Madrak writes:

And just watch this video. This woman is a South Carolina teacher, and she’s plain batshit crazy. Listen to her! Straight out of InfoWars. And does Santorum talk to the woman, try to calm her down? Hell, no.

Instead, he validates her concern (while artfully avoiding actually leaving a record of anything that could be used against him later) and even whips it up!

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Bobby Jindal in the land of dinosaurs

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Even as Jeb! Bush and Hillary Clinton prepare for their close-ups, out in bayou country a GOP presidential wannabe is trying to keep from being the next Sam Brownback.

Republicans’ approach to taxes is not unlike Biblical literalists’ approach to confronting evolution. Christian fundamentalists will construct an elaborate house of cards on the shakiest of foundations and spend enormous time and effort trying to keep a puff of breeze from knocking it over before they will question their crappy theology. (Visit the Creation Museum on Bullittsburg Church Rd.
in Petersburg, Kentucky, and don’t forget to stop by the gift shop.)

Republicans — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for example — will concoct an elaborate edifice of nonsense to create the illusion that they are not raising taxes, you know, to pay for services their constituent public actually wants. Like funding universities and hospitals. Facing a potential $1.6 billion budget shortfall (that’s another story), Jindal has gone to Creation Museum lengths to keep from offending Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Fairness.

Here’s how the local paper explained it last week:

State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, and 10 other Louisiana House members sent Norquist a letter (PDF) Sunday night, asking Norquist to rethink his approach to Louisiana’s budget and the “no tax” pledge….

The governor has threatened to veto any budget plan or tax bills that don’t meet Norquist’s “no tax” requirements. Currently, the governor is pushing the Legislature to adopt a controversial higher education tax credit — commonly called SAVE — that Jindal says will make the budget comply with Norquist’s wishes.

These are leaders, mind you, elected by the people of Louisiana, sending a mother-may-I letter to a gadfly in Washington, DC for permission to do their jobs. And their governor wants to be president of the United States and stand up to terr’ists.

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It’s all Hillary Clinton all the time in the news this morning and, you can be sure, on the Sunday bobblehead shows later this morning. I was on the road yesterday, so I’m just catching Clinton’s Roosevelt Island speech on C-Span.

There’s no lack of snark. Politico calls the speech “the expected proto-State of the Union stuff.” But that’s not an unfair description.

Digby mentioned that Clinton’s line yesterday about not being a quitter is what makes her admired by those who respect her and frustrates those on the right who have spent a generation trying to knock her down. Like the those she asked yesterday to champion, she refuses to be knocked out. It was for that (not for any affiliation with Margaret Thatcher’s policies) that I suggested she is the Democrats’ Iron Lady. Weakness is the cardinal sin for the alpha dogs of the right, and something they try hard to pin on every Democratic candidate. With Hillary Clinton? Good luck with that.

John Nichols called the speech “short on populist specifics.” He calls for Clinton to go “all in,” as FDR did much earlier than the Four Freedoms speech Clinton’s Four Fights speech was meant to echo. Roosevelt went all in against “economic royalists.”

“There are two ways of viewing the Government’s duty in matters affecting economic and social life,” Roosevelt explained. “The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776.”

Roosevelt called out the party of “trickle down” before the phrase existed, a phrase that drew strong boos when Clinton did the same yesterday. And indeed, most of the Tories — Royalists by temperament — did not leave the country after the Treaty of Paris, as I have noted here and at Scrutiny Hooligans:

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The Walmart of states

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A Montana man committed suicide last weekend after murdering his family. His wife was “mocking” him, he told a friend. Police described the survivalist as “a Constitutionalist who didn’t believe in government.” They’re like oxymorons who don’t believe in contradiction that way.

Speaking of not believing in government, Rick Perry, the returning presidential contestant and former Texas governor, boasts how the job-creating, Texas economic “miracle” is a model for how to run the country. (It was the same with another former Texas governor-president. What happened with that?)

The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson finds the Texas miracle less than miraculous. By two measures of job quality, “Texas rates dead last.” Texans have the highest percentage
of people without health insurance in the country. What’s more, Meyerson writes:

The second measure of job quality is the share of people qualifying for government poverty programs who are nonetheless employed. In April, the University of California Center for Labor Research and Education released a study quantifying the number of Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, children’s health insurance coverage or the earned-income tax credit who have an employed family member. Low-paid work has become so prevalent, the study showed, that the yearly tab of federal dollars going to working families was $128 billion. The state with the highest share of funds going to such families was Texas.

By this measure, Texas is the Walmart of states — something else Texans who don’t believe in government can be proud of. After all, Walmart is a BIG box store.

The 49 other states are subsidizing Perry’s “so-called Texas miracle,” Meyerson writes. “Texas’s use of federal dollars to keep its workers afloat is only deepened by its favor-the-rich-and-soak-the-poor tax policies.”

Should he succeed in taking his model national, Rick Perry’s Texas-sized plan for America, I guess, is to recruit enough “downline” countries to do for America what America is already doing for Texas.

I wonder, does Perry also sell Amway?

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Republicans pound sand

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It is unlikely that Eugene Robinson wrote the online headline for his column today: “Republicans might as well pound sand.” But that is the gist of it. Their progress in weakening Hillary Clinton so far is “pretty close to zero.”

The  Democrats have the most admired woman in the country 17 out of the last 18 years. The Republicans have contenders bent on taking away health care from over 6 million neighbors and throwing the weak to the wolves. Can’t imagine why they’re having trouble getting traction.

And while Republican presidential hopefuls are still emerging — the party seems to think it is still a couple bozos short of a clown car — Robinson believes Hillary Clinton is hitting all the right notes:

Her fiery speech last week in defense of voting rights was her campaign’s best moment so far. Clinton slammed several of the leading Republican candidates — by name — for their roles in GOP-led efforts to restrict the franchise through voter-ID laws and other means. And she called for automatic voter registration of all citizens upon reaching age 18.

Talk about hitting the right buttons. The big question about Clinton’s candidacy is whether she can inspire the coalition that twice elected President Obama — young people, minorities, women. Voting rights is an issue that reliably sends African Americans to the polls in large numbers. I’ll be surprised if Clinton doesn’t soon have major messages for Latinos on immigration policy and women on issues of reproductive rights.

How cynical, Republicans complain. Translation: How effective.

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