The party of Jefferson traditionally turns its collective nose up at the idea that any candidate is entitled to their party’s nomination. Find them a young, brash first-term senator, an obscure governor or a cultural phenom whose sudden rise from obscurity to rock-stardom moves at the speed of light, and they will take that candidate any day. Democrats like new and fresh. They are attracted to bright, shiny objects, and don’t mind casting relative unknowns into the “role of a lifetime” – to be turned almost overnight into the potential leader of the free world. That’s just the way the party does it - the newer, the better. New faces which aren’t fully defined draw the big Democratic money, attention and eventual delegates.
Enter Hillary Rodham Clinton, with all the history, prestige and closeted skeletons that name carries. She is like the Hostess Twinkies of today’s Democratic Party. One minute old, stale, and nearly bankrupt – the next, on top of the world. Her brand is so packed with preservatives it seems to be able to survive any scandal, even the threat of nuclear war. The name Clinton has been uniquely defined by drama, dysfunction and chaos but has always somehow managed to retain its credibility and brand appeal. And like the snack cake recently pulled from supermarket shelves, the Hillary brand itself was temporarily shut down, only to come back with fresh capital, slightly new packaging and a new generation of ready consumers.
Hillary has been re-packaged, her narrative re-worked and her brand re-polished. The supposedly predetermined heir apparent to the Democratic Party’s 2008 nomination fell from grace at the hands of Barack Obama and was put on an abandoned shelf like those Twinkies, well past their sell-by date. Cast aside, shamed and forgotten after she finally conceded the nomination (HER nomination) to Obama. She became a good soldier, endorsing the nominee and ultimately serving in his administration as Secretary of State.
This is not a new role for Hillary Clinton. Her brand has been banged up again and again. After Monica Lewinsky she became the scorned but good wife, who quietly stood by and supported her husband. She carried on after Jennifer Flowers, Whitewater and Trooper-Gate. She continued to look forward throughout all the trials of her personal and professional life, through the commodities scandal, the Rose Law firm ordeal and even the tragic suicide of her friend and longtime Clinton adviser Vince Foster. Stiff upper lip, eyes always on the prize, Hillary would not be minimized, or made irrelevant by anyone or anything. Hillary has picked herself up after each personal or political blow like few politicians ever could. When they trashed and rejected “Hillary-Care,” she moved on; when her husband appeared to be badly politically damaged after the 1994 mid-term elections, in which the GOP took back the House and Senate, she simply redoubled her efforts. Steely, strong and remembering - the Clintons always remember.
Even the events in Benghazi were just a brief distraction to Hillary’s rebranding effort. ”What difference does it really make?” Hillary asked a joint oversight committee investigating the tragedy. This was Obama’s problem, not Hillary’s.
Now she is back.
With 2016 in her sights, the gateway and beta test site for her eventual campaign will come in the 2014 mid-term contests, especially in the many early primary states where she is again ready for her close-up. A political comeback in the making few could have predicted just a few years ago, a second chance at the prize once denied her by Obama, the first African American in history to become president. Hillary was now prepared to break the tallest of glass ceilings. It surely must now be time for the Democrats to make her the first woman president. The stars are aligned – and who else but Hillary?
Not so fast.
Let’s be clear - Hillary Clinton, mega-brand that she is, is not from the progressive Obama wing of the Democratic Party. Much like her husband, she is perceived within the party structure to be more of an old Dem, a moderate, a little too business friendly, not quite as “progressive” as her former boss. And the energy of the Democratic Party is firmly in the progressive camp.
Joe Biden may have been simply been passed over, perceived as too looney to be taken seriously as a man to succeed Obama.
There is talk of Martin O’Malley the young, popular governor of Maryland (“a lightweight,” an “unknown” say the Hillarybots). Andrew Cuomo, the headline grabbing governor of New York, comes from a famous family and a state where Dems mint big money (“skeletons, Mario?” say the Clintonistas). But these are not really threats, not even distractions, just young opportunists and old hangers-on, political ladder climbers wanting to keep themselves in the limelight.
However there could be one credible threat to Hillary Clinton coming from a new place, from someone who unlike Hillary is relatively new to elected politics. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s another woman! For Hillary there has always been “another woman!”
In this case the woman is Elizabeth Warren, the newly minted US Senator from Massachusetts who unceremoniously defeated Republican Scott Brown in the bluest of blue states to take back Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and return it to the left where she believes it belongs. Warren is a Harvard Professor who ideologically makes Hillary Clinton look like Barry Goldwater in drag. She is farther to the left of even Obama on most issues and her narrative makes a big deal out of her time as a consumer advocate who spent much of her time dueling with evil bankers and venture capitalists.
Warren is not like those old, expired Twinkies. She is shiny and interesting. She is loved by the lefty intellectuals who swoon at her “protect the little guy” mantra. And Warren’s baggage is light as a feather compared to all the drama surrounding Hillary Clinton. Warren is tomorrow, Hillary is yesterday. Warren is on the side of the little guy, Hillary is the ultimate insider, the consummate pol, the tired drama queen whose list of scandals is long and whose enemies list is even longer.
The Clinton machine and its “Ready for Hillary” t-shirts are stocked and ready to ship. Like those Twinkies once again hitting store shelves, Hillary is stepping out, carefully reintroducing herself. But the potential challenge from the other woman, one who runs from the left and whose sell-by date is far fresher than Hillary’s, could cause real problems for the Democratic frontrunner. Keep your eyes on Senator Warren as the one obstacle that very well could stand between Hillary Clinton and her ongoing quest for the nomination. The Democratic Party doesn’t usually like to talk about entitlements, but in the race for 2016 Hillary Clinton may run into a different kind of “entitlement reform” – a party that has always believed no one is ever “entitled” to their nomination.
The expectations are high, way too high and tamping them down is a full time job for Team Hillary. She is the frontrunner in the early primary state polling, but it is way too early to matter, nearly 3 years before the actual primary. Sustaining her front-runner status will be like defying gravity. The question of her candidacy has already taken much of the attention away from President Obama’s second term, with so many eyes in Washington looking past the President’s uphill legislative battles and more toward his likely successor.
Will Democrats fall into line for Hillary, as she waltzes back into the national spotlight like she owns the place? Will the party’s new faces provide enough energy to mount any real challenge? Only time will tell, but for Hillary Clinton the 2016 race to the nomination ain’t over till it’s over, and this one hasn’t even begun.
On Sunday the GOP faithful flocked to the campus of Iowa State University in Ames. The Family Leadership Summit (organized by the same people who not too long ago encouraged candidates to sign a pledge with a line suggesting that black children were better off during slavery) paid homage to the GOP’s conservative base with a series of “speech-a-fying” and testimony from the likes of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, sweater vest pioneer and former Senator/presidential candidate Rick Santorum - even Donald Trump, who reminds me of that famous country song “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away.” If anyone thinks “The Donald” is seriously thinking about running for President again this time, they need only read his quote calling the US a “laughingstock” and sooner or later they will realize he’s just trying to squeeze one more season of “Celebrity Apprentice” out of NBC or possibly pushing for a contract endorsement from The Hair Club for Men.
Cruz railed against the very Washington he is currently a part of. Santorum suggested that he trusted the people of Iowa to do the right thing in 2016, saying they would have the chance to do “do what no other state has the opportunity to do, which is to know the candidates.” My assumption is the Senator was referring to the 2016 Iowa caucuses in which he is planning on taking part. He conveniently must have forgotten about compressed primary and caucus schedules in a number of other states including New Hampshire. I’m sure he’ll remember us once he comes a callin’!
Santorum made the case that the party should be more aware not just of the people who create jobs (see Mitt Romney 2012), but also of the people who hold the jobs. My assumption would be that he was referring to the middle class, if he hadn’t so often asserted that the middle class does not in fact exist.
Cruz railed against immigration as did Trump, who suggested that we can’t have illegals “flowing in like candy”…candy? Am I the only one that finds this an awkward metaphor?
The first look at these early Iowa visitors as well the likes of Rand “Drones Overhead” Paul, Steve “Cantaloupes” King and others who have found their way to the Granite State for some early exploration gives me a bit of a chill.
Everyone knows that Hillary Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee for 2016. And the GOP better find a dog that can hunt in states with a whole lot more delegates than Iowa. Robert Frost once said: “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” In other words those who don’t learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. Looks to me like no one in the GOP is listening-at least so far.
One of the guys who recently returned from that long tough road was the last cycle’s GOP nominee, Mitt Romney. The vanquished party standard-bearer who was defeated by President Obama in 2012 appeared last week at a fundraiser for the New Hampshire GOP at a supporter’s Wolfeboro home, just a nine iron from his own family’s summer retreat on New Hampshire’s Big Lake.
Romney was greeted by a significant crowd of supporters, friends and Republican stalwarts. The event was closed to the media, but Romney’s staff cleverly released the governor’s prepared remarks to members of the press in order that they might convey his thinking beyond the crowd that gathered that summer evening.
Romney suggested that the GOP get its collective act together as we move toward what may just be the coronation of “Hillary the Great” (my words, not his.) The advice was based on the fact that crowded primaries full of lunatics throwing bombs at their own is not good box office and - as witnessed by his own defeat - not good for winning back the White House. Mitt suggested that the party “get behind 1 or 2 candidates” who can win the nomination and stand up to the Democratic nominee in a general election contest. He suggested that inter-party warfare was divisive, expensive and turns off voters. He also suggested in his own way that the GOP needs to figure out what it wants to be when and if it grows up (again, my words not his.)
Romney’s been down the long road that leads to the GOP nomination. Battered and bruised, inventing and re-inventing himself along the way. The Mitt Romney who made it to Election Day must not have recognized his own face in the mirror when he shaved each morning. Over the long course of the campaign Romney had shifted positions and been pushed so far to the right I feared he might turn up on the left. He found himself caught on video tape talking about 47% of Americans who would never vote for him because they depended too much on government and that he couldn’t worry about them. Mitt Romney is by any standard, a loving husband, father, grandfather, and American success story but at the end of the race he looked like a completely different guy.
Barack Obama and his team of political advisors had turned Mitt Romney into a selfish out of touch billionaire who hated women, kids and welfare recipients and cared little about humanity in general. Romney was made to look like the Darth Vader of American Politics, in spite of the fact that he is in reality much more Luke Skywalker.
America bought the tale and Romney came limping back down that long road Frost wrote about, now ready to share the story he somehow lived to tell. Romney’s a smart guy and I certainly believe America would have been served better and slept sounder each and every night if he had become president.
But based on the kabuki dance this past weekend in Iowa, it looks like none of the likely GOP contenders in 2016 are listening to Romney’s advice, or anyone else’s for that matter.
Winning elections is about broadening the GOP’s appeal-not trying to convince the right wing of the party that moderates who disagree with them are “squishes” and should have their party credentials revoked. To suggest that Romney lost because he was too moderate is (as Joe Biden would say) the highest form of “malarkey!”
The GOP needs to hold the base and adopt an economic agenda that will recharge the American economy and put people back to work in the private sector. The GOP of smaller, local government, less interference from Washington, less debt and more opportunity for the next generation sells. What does not sell is applying a different standard to the idea that a political party - especially one that celebrates both freedom of religion and personal responsibility - can universally legislate morality. It’s a loser… it pushes Americans away from the GOP, it allows our party to be defined by the liars on the other side as hateful, exclusive, intolerant and out of touch. On the issues of immigration, abortion, gay rights, education and the rights of women and ethnic minorities, the GOP is shaping up for 2016 like the same crowd that bashed Romney’s brains in in 2012. That is unfortunate and it is sadly a guaranteed formula to make Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States.
The GOP should listen to Mitt Romney, he’s been in the arena and back. And while Romney didn’t run a perfect campaign, the bruising, bitter primary fight between groups of angry white conservative men did little to ingratiate Republicans to the base, never mind to independents and a new generation of younger voters.
So the next time one of your GOP friends go on a rant about Barack Obama, Obama-Care, or the mess America finds itself in the world today due to his liberal agenda…tell them to take a deep breath and ask themselves to repeat the words “President Hillary Clinton” 3 times slowly. Maybe, just maybe they’ll wake up from the stupor of incessant Republican warfare and realize that the party needs to actually connect to the real American electorate in order to win. And it’s a whole lot easier to govern when you win.
Hillary Rodham Clinton - the former first lady of both Arkansas and the United States, accomplished lawyer, Yale-educated liberal activist, former United States Senator, candidate for president and most recently President Obama’s Secretary of State - finds herself in a very odd place these days. She is in the position of being the Democratic franchise candidate for 2016 in a party that regularly thumbs its nose at frontrunners and the idea of an “establishment.”
She’s been here before. In 2008 Hillary was viewed as the frontrunner heading into a primary in which a relatively unknown young Senator named Barack Obama challenged and beat her in a bitter and divisive inter-party scrum.
Clinton and Obama went on famously to bury the proverbial hatchet and Hillary found herself in the powerful and important cabinet position that had her traveling a complex world on behalf of Obama, logging more air miles and time out of the country than any previous Secretary of State.
But Hillary is finally in her proper (if slightly uncomfortable) place. Once again, the undisputed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, with precisely zero competition. Joe Biden’s making some noise, but that’s likely just the result of a medication adjustment or gas. Younger guns like Gov. Martin O’Malley, Deval Patrick, or even Saint Elizabeth of Cambridge might have an interest in a shot at the title, but this clearly seems to be Hillary’s time.
She has made all the right moves. The “Ready for Hillary” PAC formed earlier this year is already gaining steam through fundraising and endorsements. They have been hard at work, hiring the smartest Obama and former Clinton whiz kids ready to amass every bit of data they can to bring grassroots campaigning, driven by the boldest technical and digital tools, to even greater heights than Obama’s impressive 2012 effort. One thing the Obama guys really know how to do is gather data, largely with the help of the IRS and the NSA, so be ready for an all-out assault on Hillary’s behalf.
Being the preordained nominee is an enviable position, but it can also be a bit frightening. Consider that in the Democratic Party, primary frontrunners and presumptive favorites have lost again and again (see Truman, Johnson, Muskie, etc.) and the party has promoted relatively unknown commodities (like Carter, Clinton, and our current President).
This phenomenon is precisely the opposite for the GOP, who rarely buck conventional wisdom, almost always nominating the franchise candidate or presumptive political figure “whose turn it is.” In 2016 there is NO GOP presumptive nominee. Yes, Jeb Bush could be in the mix and the political narrative of another Bush vs. Clinton battle is almost too tantalizing to resist in a general election. But for the most part, no smart money is parked on any one candidate on the GOP side of the aisle for 2016 - at least not yet.
Meanwhile Clinton has had the chance to travel, pen another book and raise money for the party. Expect Hillary and Bill Clinton to use the 2014 congressional elections as a test for her 2016 effort with plenty of time, money, organization and effort to be spent in early primary states and delegate-rich strongholds where her assistance will be welcomed, appreciated and repaid in full by candidates who benefit from the Clinton largesse.
The Clinton’s are one of those political dynasties that just cannot be out of the limelight. They remind us of that old country western tune, “How Can I Miss You When You Just Won’t Go Away’? Bill Clinton, “The Big Dog,” made himself a fixture in Obama’s re-election effort, giving perhaps the best speech of his life at the Democratic National Convention in 2012. The Clintons are like barnacles, affixed to the American political psyche and unwilling or unable to let go of power.
No doubt Bill Clinton will be an enormous asset to Hillary’s 2016 campaign. He believes she was cheated out of the job last time and he wants to right that disappointment once and for all. I’m also guessing Bill’s looking forward to keeping his wife in Washington and distracted with world affairs while he stays back in New York, left to his own devices.
Hillary pretty clearly wants to be President, but there is still a question of whether at age 65 she really wants to start the 3 year process of endless campaigning. Does she still have the fire in the belly? Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was first elected. Hillary would be 68 on inauguration day. Ronald Reagan, the oldest President to assume office, was 69.
Will anyone challenge her within the party? Is Joe Biden even that crazy?
All of this remains to be seen. America may be ready for Hillary…But is Hillary up to the task of campaigning for America? Is she running because she has to? Because that’s what’s expected? Is she real? Can she sustain the adoring poll numbers? Will Obama weigh her down? Is America ready for another dose of Clinton? Might the gravitational pull of fronterunnership be more than she can (or wants to) handle? For that reason alone, maybe Joe Biden should stand by.
"I’m not going to play politics" was the stated reason New Jersey governor Chris Christie gave for his decision to call for a special election to be held this fall to replace the late Democratic senator Frank Lautenberg. Christie managed to anger both Republicans who wanted him to do the partisan thing and appoint one of their own for the balance of the term and Democrats who believe that a "special election" would be a waste of money and confuse the public as it would occur 3 weeks before Christie’s own regularly scheduled reelection contest. Christie wants to run up his presumed victory by keeping Newark Mayor Cory Booker (already a contender for Lautenberg’s seat) off the top of the ticket which could have potentially depressed Christie’s ability to clobber some unknown Passaic Housewife who will be his Democrat opponent.
So Christie, the larger than life GOP personality who will likely win a landslide re-election in deep blue New Jersey, takes the arrows from both sides of the political spectrum for now, but by the time the voters go to the polls he could win 65% or more of the popular vote.
That is a critical part of the Christie narrative for a possible 2016 presidential run. He can win reelection by the largest margin of any governor in the country. Already Christie has positioned himself as the quintessential proper noun for the generically unbeatable chief executive in re-election spots and online videos with the tag: “Christie…The Governor.” This is a national campaign with the goal of running up the score so that Christie becomes the 400 pound gorilla in the 2016 GOP presidential pack. The Secret Service is already taking a Christie run seriously enough to have assigned him the secret service code name: “Triglyceride.” Like the post 9-11 Rudy Giuliani who became “America’s Mayor,” Team Christie is making a political statement that is aimed far beyond Newark, Bergen County and the Jersey Shore.
This is the same strategy George W. Bush employed in his 1998 reelection campaign for Governor of Texas, demurring on the possibility of a presidential run, even while importing contributors and sneaking potential political consultants for a 2000 presidential run into the State House in Austin under assumed names and wearing the requisite nose and glasses disguise. Bush trounced his Democrat challenger by taking nearly 69 percent of the vote. It was during his reelection campaign that then Governor George W. Bush began testing themes like “Compassionate Conservatism” and the ability to “reach across the aisle to lead.” The clear message to all potential inter-party rivals was that challenging the Bush brand, freshly reelected in a Texas landslide, would be a fool’s errand. Clearly John McCain did not get the memo, but he couldn’t stop the inevitability of Bush as the GOP nominee.
Similarly, Christie is already an established brand as the fiery New Jersey Bull Dog, who has become synonymous with telling it like it is in an often amusing and unapologetic way. The “Tough Love Gov” may be the national brand the GOP is desperately seeking. Christie’s ideology both attracts and offends equally. He has challenged unions, cut taxes and reduced government spending and reformed welfare programs so significantly that even Snooki has been forced to get a real job when she’s not binge drinking at the shore.
Christie clearly cuts both ways. There’s enough for most voters to love and hate that his political persona is hard to categorize in easy terms, although many in the GOP will try. But I’m betting that the GOP might begin to realize that a proven fiscal conservative, who has demonstrated an ability to be bi-partisan, might be just the ticket in 2016.
That does not mean that Christie won’t be ravaged from all sides. You can be sure that his famous post Hurricane Sandy embrace and on-going bromance with President Obama will be prominently replayed to remind the party faithful of his “Dalliance with the Devil” at what many perceive was a pivotal time for Mitt Romney in 2012. Democrats will rally labor, the pro-choice crowd and any female voter they can find that Christie is simply a warmed-over version of Mitt Romney in a fat suit.
That’s all fine, but it’s just political process. Primaries are inconvenient things in our democracy, but they have an interesting and largely predictable outcomes-especially in the GOP. Big names, big brands, larger than life personalities and known commodities tend to win. Is Christie conservative enough to win early primaries and caucuses? Yes. Is he moderate enough to move to the middle in a general election? Yes again.
Christie is unconventional. He defies easy labels. He is his own guy. Capisce? That may not go over big with the far right of the GOP but in New Hampshire, where purple and blue have been the state’s preference of late, he could do very well. Remember, independents vote in New Hampshire, and they don’t vote for extremists in either party.
If the general election choice is the brash, bi-partisan governor of New Jersey versus the well worn and equally pilloried Hillary Clinton, would the race be a contest or Romney redux? The answer is that Christie’s star power, his stand-up act and ability to confront, challenge, and engage voters will be a refreshing and bold change from the genial GOP contenders of the past. This brand will “hunt” in a national race.
Christie is setting the stage, teeing up the ball precisely for 2016. That is exactly why he is one of the smartest guys in America. I’m betting that makes him a larger than life early contender for the nomination. As they would say in New Jersey:
"You got a problem with that?"
In the last couple of weeks, the folks in the Obama White House have been howling about the unfair treatment they have received from the media on the IRS, Benghazi and the AP scandals. Yes, the fourth estate has turned on the president. The fawning and Messiah-like coverage he has enjoyed for the last 5 years appears to be over, at least for now. That’s what happens when you turn on one of your own, which is apparently what the Holder Justice Department did to the venerable Associated Press, by collecting phone numbers, and secretly investigating who might have leaked what to whom.
An understandable comparison which has sprung up is to Richard Nixon and his delusional paranoia about leaks, conspiracies and enemies which fueled the disgraced former president into a paralyzing fear of losing power to his enemies. Nixon’s biggest problem was that he was a megalomaniac who believed he needed to destroy his political enemies before they destroyed him. Unfortunately President Obama appears to suffer from the same affliction. Or does he?
In Obama-World every problem, every question or challenge made about the president’s policies, remarks or policy decisions - especially those that might come from Republicans – have been viewed as an affront, a personal assault to the Office of the Presidency. Even when members of the media would question the president’s policies before the recent “scandals,” Obama and his aides greeted such plebeian inquiry as insulting, uninformed and unjustified attacks on a chief executive with a God complex who views himself as infallible.
Obama is about as cold and aloof as any president in history. He makes Lyndon Johnson look warm and fuzzy. He makes Dwight Eisenhower look like Mr. Rogers. He makes George W. Bush appear to have been an unscripted, unguarded guy who shot from the hip saying whatever he wanted, whenever he felt like it. Obama is brooding and cool. Removed and distant. Obama is uninterested and unwilling to reach out even to leaders in his own party to make deals, to introduce any human connection, friendship or collaboration into the process of governing and legislating.
The closest he comes to being Nixonian is his clear discomfort with forging relationships with either party on the Hill or even within his own administration. The Pope likely has a less formal opinion of himself when he’s hanging out at the Vatican water cooler.
And so the long knives of President Obama’s many enemies are now out and they are honed upon Caesar himself. The president has no real friends or allies in Washington. Let’s hope Bo the White House Dog doesn’t turn on him next.
All of this “scandal” may be less than it’s cracked up to be. The comparisons to Nixon’s “high crimes and misdemeanors,” “abuses of power” and possible “impeachable offenses” continue as more layers of the onion are peeled away. However I’m not sure this is quite as malignant as the political skullduggery wrought by Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean, Mitchell and Hunt. As they say, never assume malice when incompetence is far more likely.
The president’s responses to all of this are pretty pathetic: “We never knew about it,” “We were unaware,” “I had no knowledge,” “We first learned about this when we read it in the newspapers.” These are rope-a-dope answers designed to suggest that this president, his staff and indeed the bloated government he has built are too big, too complicated and too disconnected for anyone to manage - even the Messiah himself! The excuse is we can’t know what everyone is doing every minute of every day. You didn’t communicate with your Secretary of State? What about your Attorney General (speaking of arrogant and aloof!)? How about your Secretary of the Treasury who has reporting oversight of the IRS?
These excuses are ridiculous at best. For the chief executive of any company, the governor of any state, or the cabinet secretary of any agency who presides over a scandal like the ones we are seeing today, the correct behavior is to stand up and say: “It happened on my watch and it’s my responsibility to find out what the hell went on, identify the parties responsible and remove them from positions of responsibility so that this kind of foolishness never happens again.” We call it personal responsibility, but the concept is an anathema to this administration for which the buck stops anywhere except with them. The Obama administration’s collective reaction points to one other thing besides a sense of infallibility and misplaced self-importance. It points to pure, undeniable incompetence.
This president wants government to do all, provide for all, know all and fix all, and he is now forced to admit that the very same concept of government, without adult supervision, can tread on constitutional rights, violate personal freedoms and misuse the very power it has amassed. Corruption, scandal, conspiracy and cover-up are much sexier, but the reality that is due to incompetence and an inability to take responsibility is far more troubling to me.
History will ultimately judge this president by his actions and his accomplishments.
But for a guy who wants the government to run everything and now wants to turn healthcare over to the same bureaucracy whose Justice Department decided to snoop into the phone records of a supposedly free press is … troubling, to say the least. Who knows, one day Eric Holder or his successor may want to know a little more about your personal health history. But that could never happen…right?
Edward Markey, the lumbering T-Rex of yesterday’s liberal politics, strode onto the stage of Boston’s Omni Parker House on Tuesday night to collect his prize. As expected, Markey - the nearly 37-year congressman who has been in Washington since Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford roamed the Beltway’s concrete jungles - easily defeated Congressman Stephen Lynch for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate.
Markey accepted his prize the way old time pols always do, promising more free stuff from the government and branding his opponent as anti-choice, pro-assault weapon and wanting to take Massachusetts backwards. He suggested that Republican nominee Gabriel Gomez, the fresh-faced son of Colombian immigrants would be a puppet of the extreme right and of the “Tea Party Republicans.” Blah, blah, blah…..
Markey’s acceptance speech was pretty standard stuff, it’s the same speech every old-time Democrat gives. People need more from Washington: more federal programs, more government spending more of the “one size fits all” approach that the ruling class of old Democrats always spew. Markey, you see, is the quintessential “Old Democrat,” and I’m not simply referring to his age (although he is 66, and has spent well over a quarter century trapped in Washington). No, I’m talking about his politics, his tone, even the language he uses to convey to voters that he and Washington know what’s best. That big government will save us from all things, and that the nanny state will take care of all of us in our time of need, in the midst of worldwide economic and political instability. That healthcare and Social Security, terror policy and the minimum wage are best determined by a behemoth government centered in Washington. That they will decide, they will dole out ,they will keep America going the way they always have - with more social programs and more federal spending funded by hardworking taxpayers. Markey is, in short, more of the same.
Markey is old. Markey is yesterday. Markey is artificial-not natural or organic. Markey believes the seeds of economic opportunity best grow in the concrete canyons and marbled floors of Washington, the ground he has trod for so long. Contrast that with the compelling political narrative of his opponent, Gabriel Gomez. Gomez is the son of Colombian immigrants; a former Navy Seal, Harvard-educated and a self described “New Republican.” Gomez is all about tomorrow, while Markey is quintessential yesterday.
Gomez believes that the federal government has a role, but shouldn’t interfere with America’s ability to do a better job of making decisions closer to home in our own states, cities and towns. Gomez is all about individual and equal opportunities for all. His Harvard education and entrepreneurial success indicates that while Markey has been roaming Washington and growing the size, scope and reach of the federal government, Gomez has been out there living and working toward the quintessential American dream. Gomez has made it clear that he is personally pro-life, but that he believes Roe v Wade was settled long ago and is the law of the land. He has pledged not to try and overturn it or hamper a women’s right to choose. On guns: Gomez supports the constitutional right for citizens to legally own guns, but says he would have supported the President’s bill for common sense background checks. Once again, Gomez sees a role for government, but believes in individual responsibility.
The language of this race is fascinating. The tone, the approaches, the philosophies mirror the candidates themselves. Markey is old, Gomez is new. Markey is big federal government; Gomez is states, towns and individuals. Markey’s approach: Washington knows best. Gomez: Washington needs to step back, provide support when and where we need it, but leave individuals with the space and opportunity to succeed. Markey believes Washington should define our economy and grow jobs with artificial federal spending. Gomez has a more natural and organic approach, believing real jobs and economic opportunities come from private business both large and small. Markey is all top down, Gomez is bottom up.
All of this is most interesting because this special Senate election in Massachusetts is the only one in the country right now. The special interests will flock here, likely spending millions to affect the outcome of the race. All eyes are on deep blue Massachusetts to see if there is any kind of “canary in a coal mine” precursor from the Obama fatigue that has set into the first one hundred days of the President’s second term. What will this race in Massachusetts mean for the nationwide elections in 2014?
The economy is still stumbling, consumer confidence is shaky, and this remains a largely jobless recovery - especially in the private sector where real jobs get created. Can Gomez, who labels himself a “New Republican,” give Markey who is clearly an “Old Democrat” a run for his money? Is Massachusetts ready for a new tone in the political debate?
This race will tell us. And while Gomez is very much his own man, with a group of very capable advisors, one need look no further for this change in the tone and language of this race than to my old pal Alex Castellanos. Alex, a partner in the Alexandria, Va. – based Purple Strategies, has started a new project which explores and contrasts a new branding and positioning for the GOP. It is typical Castellanos in its simple brilliance and practicality. You can learn more about it by logging onto www.newrepublican.org, where the thinking and rationale are spelled out in clear and concise terms. The premise: Republicans don’t need to change our values, we need to communicate our ideas in bold, new ways, that are more inclusive and attract more voters than we have of late. The results of the GOP being perceived as the party of “NO” speak for themselves.
Hence, New Republicans believe that top down from Washington is the old way, bottom up from the individual – and the communities, towns and states where they live – is a new and better way. Old Democrats want a one size fits all solution for every challenge we face, manufactured and operated by the federal bureaucracy in Washington. One size, one color, one model … take it or leave it, but you can be sure you will have to pay for it. New Republicans are pro-business, whether it’s an international corporation or a small, family run enterprise. And they are against the rules, demands, regulations and outdated requirements of a federal government that only tolerates private sector success to the extent it can tax it.
Castellanos and a growing number of Republican candidates and strategists around the country are onto something. Most Americans, no matter what their party, identify themselves as fiscally moderate to conservative in the way they manage their own households and businesses. As long as we are a reasoned and reasonable group who respects the rights of individuals over the government, we are an attractive party. As long as the GOP welcomes those who are different, accepting the power of the individual over the coercive and corrosive control of Washington, we win. If we are viewed as the grumpy old man that sits on the front porch yelling at kids to “get off my lawn”, then we are perceived, and rightfully so as “Old Republicans” – the “party of no.” And we all know how that turns out.
The New GOP needs to be the party of ideas, the party of tomorrow,and the party that is tolerant, accepting applications for successful Americans no matter what their ethnicity or color, no matter what their sexual orientation or view of the “moral choices” of others. That’s the party that can win. This means there will be some soul searching inside the New GOP - but soul searching is far better than living in denial and eventually the exile of irrelevance and continued defeat. In order to govern, the GOP must win; and in order to win, we have to speak to Americans in a new tone. We need a new way to defend and promote our principles of individual success and opportunity.
The language of the New Republican is the language of winning. We all owe my friend Alex a debt of gratitude for his usual fine thinking and his big ideas. As for Gabriel Gomez and Ed Markey, let’s keep an eye on that race. In a place like Massachusetts, it will take a New Republican to beat an Old Democrat. Scott Brown did that once, Gabriel Gomez could do it again.
There is a lot of speculation right now about what one Scott Brown might chose to do when it comes to the prospect of challenging incumbent New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Brown is the most middle of the road of Rock Star Republicans (and Rock Star Republicans are pretty much an endangered species these days.) But legend is still on Brown’s side. Yes, he lost re-election in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts to Saint Elizabeth (Warren) of Cambridge in the tidal wave created by the 2012 Obama juggernaut. But New Hampshire (as I like to remind folks) is NOT Massachusetts. Sure, the Granite State has gotten bluer in recent elections, but New Hampshire is still a place full of Independent voters who tend to have a Libertarian streak. This could certainly help Brown who is fiscally conservative, business friendly, pro-choice and not likely to get bogged down in social issues that have hurt the GOP in recent contests.
Scott Brown’s legend is still based on the fact that he turned the Senate seat once owned by Edward M. Kennedy into “The People’s Seat” in Massachusetts. Had Brown’s re-election not fallen in a presidential year, a year where the Obama campaign effectively turned out every low-information voter from under every conceivable rock…he might have pulled off a successful re-election. Certainly the race would have been much closer. Here’s the good news: most of the Obama Low-Infos will not turn out again, certainly not in an off year election. Second, the thing that helped Brown win the special election in Massachusetts was a midterm malady known as “Obama-fatigue.” Fast forward to 2013. Given the battle over guns, the still sputtering economy, a still- jobless recovery and a world which becomes more uncertain each and every day, Obama midterms could become the gift that keeps on giving for the GOP again in 2014.
Let’s assume the Obamacare rollout continues on its disastrous track, the economy does not improve, and world events continue to make Americans question the President’s foreign policy leadership, people could begin to realize that they were voting more against Mitt Romney than for Barack Obama. If the environment turns sour for the President again as it did in 2010, Scott Brown could find himself in the money again, this time a few miles north in the Granite State.
Brown would face a formidable challenge in incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. The former three-term NH Governor is popular and well respected. She is also more moderate than the wing nut lefties from the state’s two congressional districts; Carol Shea Porter (who if she loses will immediately secure a job haunting houses somewhere) and Tax Scoff Annie McLane Kuster, who is so steeped in liberal partisanship that she regularly drives on the left side of the road. Shaheen is quite different.
Shaheen is smart and about as politically savvy a pol as I’ve ever met in either party. In the last week, Team Shaheen has launched a series of fundraising mailers from which they claim to have netted big dividends, by directly mentioning the possibility of a Brown challenge. In spite of their bragging while dialing for dollars the fact is that if Brown were to jump in, Jeanne Shaheen at the very least would have an “uncomfortable” campaign. It would certainly be more than the walk down the beach she was planning on. Brown is well known, particularly in the southern tier of the state due to the influence of the Boston media market. That is critical, because that is where the voters are, and where he has the potential to rack up big wins in larger towns where voters have followed his career since he first claimed the Kennedy seat. Brown also has name ID and a certain built-in appeal given the many years he and his family have owned a second home on the NH seacoast. Brown’s mother and sister still live in New Hampshire and could be good surrogates on the campaign trail.
While Jeanne Shaheen will no doubt try and throw the “carpetbagger” label at Brown, his friends and neighbors in Rye can readily attest to the high profile presence he and his wife Gail have had in and around that town for more than 20 years. Speaking of Gail, her presence on WCVB proved to be a strong asset for Brown in his Massachusetts campaign, and she could do the same for him in NH next year.
Brown is not the Republican Shaheen was counting on for her upcoming reelection campaign. He is a big name who has already proven he can raise big money in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and nationwide. Brown’s fundraising prowess netted him over $68 million for his Massachusetts effort. That’s the kind of haul Shaheen can only dream about. And $60 million to spend in NH? That would be more than enough gross rating points to get his message across. Ideologically, both candidates are fairly moderate and well known, but with one significant difference. Scott Brown would not be caught in a potential “Obama vortex” in 2014. He could in fact refurbish his image as the giant killer he is known to be.
There is also something bigger at stake in the 2014 midterm. It is the fact that while this will be a non-presidential year, it will clearly be the prelude to the launch of the ground game for the expected coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee in 2016. This is, after all, New Hampshire. Shaheen and Hillary are strong allies and you can expect the Clintons, including even the Big Dog himself, to return the many years of support afforded to them from the Shaheens by all but taking up residence in New Hampshire. Who knows, maybe Bill and Hill will buy a place and we can collect some hefty property taxes from the two of them. Democrats are laughing the Brown challenge of in NH. In fact last week, a DSCC spokesperson was asked about a potential Brown challenge and responded “Is it possible to quote someone laughing?”
These people may be whistling by the proverbial graveyard if the potential environment turns against Shaheen or the Democrats based on public opinion with regard to the President. This is the not the first time Brown has been laughed off by the Democrat chattering class (see “Marsha” Coakley 2010).
Clinton and Co. will be preparing a ground game for the Hillary 2016 effort. One Dem told me that this race will help us to build an unshakable organization, and the ability to ID and turn out voters in preparation for the 2016 NH Presidential Primary as well as the general election (in which NH might find itself once again to be a small but critical swing state).
In short, Shaheen becomes Hillary’s dry run for 2016. Shaheen’s people know it, and in many ways it is comforting to them. So for now at least, Team Shaheen feels reasonably optimistic. Brown’s overtures to the Granite State (including a series of visits) is allowing them to raise money, Hillary’s got their back and besides, Brown will never really do it anyway. Right? He’s not serious…is he?? He couldn’t be.
Maybe he is. For all the Democratic bravado that a potential Brown challenge is “no problem,” you can be sure that the Senator’s staff, and even the Senator herself, are not sleeping as well these days.
Brown is pushing the brand, pushing ratings with his FOX News appearances, and likely helping to drive clients to his newly minted partnership with the Nixon Peabody law firm. Is Scott Brown really going to do it? The Shaheen people might not be worried, but they should be.
For now let’s assume that Scott Brown might just do it. He might decide after reviewing a poll or two that he’s got one more giant to slay. It would make for a fascinating race and give Team Shaheen many more sleepless nights. They might want to rest up while they can.
This week, in an opinion piece penned by that great arbiter of political fairness and objectivity, liberal toady and left wing Washington Post scribbler, Richard Cohen, suggests that one of the GOP’s biggest challenges is the caucus and primary contests which traditionally start in Iowa and New Hampshire. Cohen lecturing the GOP on its challenges is a little like Barack Obama lecturing Cyprus on austerity.
In fairness, Cohen gets it at least partly correct.
Iowa is NOT representative of the rest of America, but more importantly Iowa doesn’t even closely resemble the minority of general election voters who checked Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012. This is something we from New Hampshire are never supposed to do: challenge the sacred bond of Iowa first, New Hampshire second. We have a holy alliance to keep those other pesky would-be interloper states from grabbing the first contests. It’s “omerta,” the Sicilian word used by the mob to describe their code of silence. It’s Skull and Bones, a secret society of coercion dedicated to keeping Iowa and New Hampshire forever first and the rest of you…well, pissed off. Our two states have carefully guarded their long and rich traditions of being “First in the Nation.” And let’s be honest, it’s pretty good for business and the notoriety for both states.
But New Hampshire has a few other things going for it besides First in the Nation status: mountains, a beautiful seacoast, and a real primary election held by real voters who vote secretly in a voting booth as opposed to arguing late into the night in some church basement. There are big differences between Iowa and New Hampshire. Someone needs to inform Mr. Cohen of this fact as his column weakly attempts to suggest that they are one and the same.
Iowa’s raucus caucus brings actual people to Iowa and they stay…at least as long as they have to in order to cover the campaigns. For the Hawkeye State, having journalists from across the globe come to your little hamlet of a state to stay in overpriced hotel rooms in the middle of winter and report live from some hayseed’s farm or a snow bank in Gillett Grove, are good for rooms and meals tax revenue. But anyone who knows anything about both states, knows that it is simply ignorant to lump the two together suggesting that they are both equal right of center bastions for Christian conservatives whose main concerns are tent revivals, abortion and speaking in tongues. Ideologically speaking, Iowa and New Hampshire are like two separate countries. Maybe Mr. Cohen might be able to get one of his editors to approve a trip to both states, so he could see that for himself. I know it’s tough for a reporter to get travel expenses approved from a newspaper that’s bleeding $50 mil a year, but maybe it would make Mr. Cohen’s “observations” a bit more precise, better yet, accurate.
According to 2012 Iowa exit polling, here is the ideological profile of Iowa Republicans. They are overwhelmingly (99%) white. Those claiming to be born-again or self “evangelical” weighed in at 57%. 47% of Iowans identified as very conservative, and over 64% identified as “strong” Tea Party supporters. On the issues Iowa GOP voters thought matter the most, 13% said abortion and 4% said healthcare. Another 34% said the federal budget deficit, and more than 42% said the economy. About 80% of Republican voters said abortion should always be illegal.
It’s safe to say that Mr. Cohen gets it half right. Iowa is a pretty conservative place! It’s also a place where they hold the big Iowa State Fair in Ames every summer, a perennial stop for candidates who wish to become president and the very same place the Iowa GOP holds its quadrennial Ames Presidential Straw Poll. This silly sideshow costs a fortune for campaigns to play in and rarely results in even coming close to choosing the eventual party nominee. That likely explains why Michele Bachmann won in 2011.
The fair itself is certainly an odd event. I’m not certain Mr. Cohen has been, and no doubt if he has, his beltway liberal sensibilities were not impressed with the deep fried Twinkies and the Speaker’s Corner, a place where candidates are expected to hop up on a hay bale and let it rip. Had he been there, he also would have certainly not been impressed with the life-size sculpture of The Last Supper done in….. pure butter. And of course, the crusading demonstrations by the candidates’ supporters, and the spontaneous outbursts of near histrionic support for guys like Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are pure Iowa. Iowa is different, Iowa is conservative and Iowa does in fact set the wrong tone for the GOP. That’s about where Mr. Cohen’s hypothesis ends any semblance of reality.
Compare Iowa to New Hampshire. New Hampshire is also a largely white state, almost 95% of GOP voters claiming not to be persons of color. Compared to Iowa, New Hampshire has far fewer primary participants registered as members of the GOP with about 49% compared to 75% in Iowa. Unlike Iowa, Independent voters play a huge role in New Hampshire and account for about 47% of voters in 2012 compared to 23% in Iowa. In New Hampshire, about 21% identify themselves as “very conservative” and only 22% claimed “strong” Tea Party support. Furthermore, the number of primary participants claiming to be born-again or “evangelical” was only about 22%. The issues that mattered most to New Hampshire voters were the economy with 61% of the vote, followed by the federal budget deficit at 24%. Abortion came in at 6%. The New Hampshire electorate overall supports abortion rights, all or most of the time, with about 71% in support, and only 27% of those surveyed indicate they would support overturning Roe vs. Wade.
It’s one thing for the out of touch Obama squad at the Washington Post to take a whack at the GOP, it’s another to simply misreport the facts. New Hampshire’s demographic and ideological voter profile looks far more like the rest of America than does Iowa’s. I’ll likely never be able to get off a plane again in Des Moines after this piece, but Iowa looked for a short time in 2012 as though it at least would have the good sense to get behind the eventual GOP nominee by giving Mitt Romney a slight edge over Rick Santorum (who has about as much chance of becoming president of the United States as I do). But Iowa once again relegated itself to near irrelevance a couple of days later when after Romney was announced the narrow winner, they then announced that once they actually certified the vote Santorum had won by 34 votes. Hence the saying “As Iowa goes, nobody cares!”
So Mr.Cohen, in some of the most misguided and uninformed opining to come out of the WaPo fish wrapper in a long time, believes Iowa and New Hampshire are equally trivial, and ideologically problematic for the GOP? Interesting. Maybe data and fact are simply not important. There is a clear and distinct difference between Iowa and New Hampshire and the numbers prove it.
It seems to me that last person to come out of Iowa on Wounded Knee was a Democrat. Hillary Clinton was nearly embarrassed out of the race for the nomination by the way she was treated by Dems in Iowa. Surely they too must be as misguided as the Republicans. Yet Hillary came to New Hampshire and upset Obama by nearly 3.5%.
There are probably a lot of things that are problematic with the Iowa caucuses. That’s one good reason for that old saying “Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks Presidents.” I look forward to seeing Mr. Cohen in the Granite State sometime soon. In fact, if the Post won’t pay for his plane ticket here, I will. Then maybe he’ll get to see the difference between Iowa and New Hampshire for himself. The other option? I could buy him a plane ticket to Gillett Grove. I hear mud season is a real big deal there.
Edward J. Markey, the 20 term Congressman who claims to be from Malden, by way of Maryland (go figure) should be the happiest guy on earth. He’s certainly the luckiest (politically speaking) for now. Markey has been the anointed successor to the Massachusetts Senate seat formerly held by now Secretary of State John Kerry. When it appeared Kerry would be nominated by President Obama and that the seat would provide yet another special election in Massachusetts, we talking heads were all a-gaggle over the possibility that like a Phoenix, defeated Senator Scott Brown would rise from the ash heap Saint Elizabeth of Cambridge subjugated him to in the November election, when Our Lady of Harvard beat Brown convincingly. There was so much hope. This was, after all, a “Special Election”, like the one Brown won in 2010 claiming the “Kennedy Seat” as “The People’s Seat,” making Brown a rock star at home and in Washington. But Brown demurred, clearly understanding another special election for the remainder of Kerry’s term would mean he would have to stay in perpetual campaign mode from the time he took office. Brown is smart. So smart, he’s earned himself a handsome FOX News deal and a gig with legal giant Nixon Peabody’s Boston office. Good for Brown and his family….bad for the rest of the Commonwealth!
Without Brown, or Bill Weld, or Charlie Baker who is clearly eyeing a race for Governor, the Mass GOP was left with… nothing. There is a 3 way GOP primary among Gabriel Gomez, Dan Winslow and Mike Sullivan. These three guys don’t have enough name ID to get themselves arrested, never mind elected. They are all good decent guys, but if Scott Brown couldn’t do it, I dare say none of them will, even in another special election. Brown caught lightning in a bottle. He was the perfect candidate at just the right time. Massachusetts is suffering from election fatigue after the special election, the endless TV ads aimed at primary and swing state voters who reside in New Hampshire, but who can only be reached using Boston television, and of course the Brown/Warren donnybrook that went down the bar and out into the alley. Yes, the voters of the Commonwealth are tired of politics.
Enter Ed Markey, the Congressman from the 5th District who has been in DC longer than the monument. That’s really not fair to the monument, because it likely has more intellectual heft and a far better sense of humor than Markey. Markey is gliding to the nomination and ultimately to the US Senate. He will roost there, obedient to the far left of his party, until such time as he is tapped on the shoulder and informed that young Joseph P. Kennedy III has passed puberty and is ready for a promotion. With that, Markey will bid public life good bye. That’s the deal. He’s a toady, a “Coat Holder.” Markey won’t make waves, he’ll vote left of the party line and he won’t get too comfortable. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is in on the racket, as is the Massachusetts Democratic Party. Warren, Kerry, Obama and even the mayor all seem to be giving Markey the nod. Now comes one Stephen Lynch. The Southie Congressman who was told clearly not to mess with the party guys. Lynch did. He jumped into the Senate race with both feet and has been the typical happy warrior he always is on the campaign trail. Facing an uphill battle against the Markey establishment, the former SEIU labor lawyer watched this week as his own union announced they were backing Markey. Lynch is a good and decent guy, but he’s also nobody’s fool. He got into this race for the right reasons and has chosen not to take orders from anyone on his own political future.
So far Lynch is having a hard time getting oxygen. So too are the 3 GOP candidates. It appears to most that the seat is Markey’s to lose. So why is Ed Markey so glum? Well for one thing, that’s the way Markey always is. Uncharismatic, timid, a sheep who goes along to get along (unless of course that means coming home to his house district which, based on his absence, may be a little too long for him) Markey is the single most uninspiring, under-achieving, dim-witted franchise candidate any party could put forward, and he’s winning the thing so far in a walk! Yet Markey is as glum as ever.
In his first TV spot, “Courageous Ed” takes on guns, speaking to camera from what appears to be a spot just outside the gates of Mount Auburn Cemetery. There he is in all his glum mediocrity. Glassily reading teleprompter copy, dark circles below his eyes, the 1970’s Bee-Gee’s haircut and the black undertaker’s coat. You half expect the guy to step into the front seat of a hearse, or maybe to take the arm of a grieving widow and walk out of camera frame at the end of his read. Ed Markey needs to lighten up! He’s unfortunately about to become the next United States Senator from Massachusetts and yet he appears to be the unhappiest man on earth. Maybe Ed’s not so sure. Maybe he’s anticipating those debates with Lynch. Eddie’s never taken a political punch and he knows Lynch can deliver one. Maybe Ed Markey’s in mourning.
Because despite the establishment, the backroom deals, the anointing by the party bosses and union guys, he’s still going to have to step on the stage by himself and explain why he’s the best candidate for the job. That’s no easy task, and that’s likely why Ed Markey is indeed feeling glum.