Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, isn't it great to have actual votes to mull over rather than endless polls which, by the way, got it wrong. And the conventional wisdom was also wrong. The Republicans had record turnout which lots of people who had participated for the first time which was supposed to favor Trump. Instead, maybe those Iowans turning out to vote just didn't like the idea of Trump being the face of the Republican Party.

It was a notably subdued Trump who made his concession speech last night. There were no insults heaved at his opponents. Instead he spoke almost as a politician would. I'm sure that deep inside, he was thinking "How stupid are the people of Iowa?" but at least he didn't say that. Instead he talked about maybe one day coming back to buy a farm in Iowa. Sure, because Trump is such a rural type of guy. I wonder how many other people had a sudden vision, as I did, of Donald and Melania reprising the roles of Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor in a Green Acres remake reality show for the 21st century. That would be a fitting result for them

It was also funny to hear Trump talking about moving on to other states where he has great leads in the polls after he was just defeated in a state where he led in the polls.

One thing that the results from last night tell us is that 2016 politics hasn't been so different than we thought it was going to be. It turns out that turnout and organization actually matters in elections. Cruz had put together a reportedly amazingly effective and comprehensive turnout effort. And that worked for him.

Trump still has pulled off a powerful effort simply by the force of his noxious personality. He was still able to win more voters than Huckabee's 2008 winning total. In fact Ted Cruz won more votes than anyone in a GOP caucus ever has.

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Listening to Rubio's speech last night, you would have thought that he was the victor. But in our peculiar political world, beating expectations is almost better than actually winning. He now goes on to New Hampshire with momentum and a reasonable message that he's the one of the non-Cruz/Trump wing of the party to put together a winning campaign. And he still focuses his speech on beating either Hillary or Bernie rather than ripping his opponents. Perhaps that is what GOP voters are looking for. And now he'll build on that Marcomentum by accepting the endorsement of the South Carolina's popular Senator Tim Scott. I guess that is more of the Establishment rallying to Rubio, but I don't think that word means what its users think it means.

Rubio survived an inundation of attack ads against him. Jeb Bush's Super PAC had aimed most of its ire at attacking Rubio and it earned him just 2.8% of the vote. Now his campaign is pretending that they were never all that interested in winning Iowa. This tweet about sums it up.

It's fun to compare the actual results with the polls at the RCP average before the race. The polls and pundits were wrong. And now based on that performance, we can turn to more polls and pundits to tell us what will happen now. Cruz and Rubio both outperformed their polls with Cruz getting about 4% more and Rubio getting over 6% than his polls. And Trump underperformed more than 4% from his numbers. And the vaunted Des Moines Register poll apparently totally missed the last-minute move toward Rubio. They had said that there was no move toward Rubio and his numbers had declined over their four days of polling. Well, somewhere I saw that, of the people who made up their minds over the weekend, 45% chose Rubio. The entrance polls say that, of the people who decided in the last week, Cruz got 27%, Trump 14%, and Rubio 29%.

Cruz won by winning the "very conservative" voters. He won the evangelical vote with Trump and Rubio splitting it rather evenly which is rather surprising.

On the issues, Rubio won those who think the economy and jobs is the most important issue while Cruz won those who are worried about government spending. Trump won those concerned about immigration handily, but that was only 13% of those turning out to vote.

I guess these results also tell us how diminished the importance of getting the endorsement of Sarah Palin or the dangers of angering Governor Branstad over ethanol are.

Rubio did well despite not having anywhere near the sort of ground game that Cruz had. But his main appeal is among those whose most important concern is winning in November with 44% of those voters in the entrance polls. He can now use that against those in the same "lane" as he is, those former governors who all did rather poorly. If Rubio can consolidate that lane of the electorate while Cruz and Trump still battle it out, he'll have a chance. He is the one candidate who can appeal to both the evangelicals and conservative wing of the party as well as the so-called establishment wing. Gosh, I hate that word. We need a better descriptor of that wing. As Rich Lowry points out, if the election had been one day later, Rubio might well have overtaken Trump. Now Cruz has started to counterattack against Trump instead of just drafting behind Trump, we might see some fireworks. Apparently, the attack on Cruz as a Canadian worked out. Trump will have to figure out a different line of attack. And we know he will. And he'll have to find something else to attack Rubio for besides that he likes to drink water and should have waited his turn behind Jeb Bush.

Chris Christie was interviewed before the caucuses and said he wanted to come in first of all the governors in the race. Well, the only governor Christie beat out was Gilmore who got all of 12 votes. Who are those 12 people who took time to go out to vote for Gilmore?

John Podhoretz reminds us that Iowans chose the sort of candidate they usually pick.
Monday night, Iowa’s Republicans made it clear they would not be held responsible for placing their party in the hands of an insult-comedian character assassin — choosing instead exactly the kind of combative conservative the state’s GOP almost always prefers....

Ted Cruz’s triumph Monday night was important for many reasons — and not least because it affirmed that the laws of American politics have not yet been rewritten wholesale by a billionaire reality-TV huckster. “The next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media,” Cruz said in his victory speech.

He won with the most votes any Republican has ever gotten in an Iowa caucus, through old-fashioned means — and because he appealed to voters for the old-fashioned reasons politicians appeal to voters.

Cruz built a sensationally effective ground organization, at least twice as large as any other candidate’s He had 12,000 volunteers (a fourth of his vote total) ringing doorbells, making phone calls, and gathering people to show up and caucus. He worked for and secured important endorsements.

More importantly, he ran a campaign affirming classic conservative ideas of particular resonance to the voters of Iowa. They did not fall for Donald Trump’s vainglorious and solipsistic blather about making America great again without ever explaining how on earth he would do such a thing. In fact, 75 percent of the Republicans of Iowa rejected Trump’s nonsense.

And even more than that. The record vote turnout in Iowa — 180,000 strong — completely disproved the conventional wisdom that a newer and larger electorate would favor Trump. If anything, the evidence suggests that voters were inspired to turn out for Cruz and for the surprisingly strong third-place finisher, Marco Rubio (who beat the poll averages by nearly seven points) not only to cast a positive vote for the candidate they preferred but specifically to deny Trump a win.

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I know that we can't write off Trump, much as I would like to. However, it does seem that we will see a battle of Ted Cruz vs. Marco Rubio. While I prefer Rubio, Cruz doesn't appall me as Trump does. As Eliana Johnson wrote a couple of weeks ago at National Review, this is a fight that should "electrify conservatives." They are both conservatives who can articulate what they believe and, more importantly, why they believe it. Conservatives don't have to fret that they're being represented by politicians like either Bush or Romney or McCain who can't articulate their understanding of conservatism.

Both are also incredibly ambitious men who seemed to have been plotting out their 2016 campaigns from the moment they won election to the Senate. They took different routes, as Johnson explains. And they both made big mistakes early on. Cruz's mistake was how he miscalculated shutting down the government as a tactic to fight Obamacare.
A Republican aide sympathetic to Cruz’s position on the 2013 confrontation says that Cruz genuinely did not anticipate a shutdown. Rather, the expectation was that the effort, according to the aide, “could create some leverage for negotiators to get some sort of symbolic victory where some of the [Obamacare] mandates would be defunded.”

In the wake of the shutdown, according to one Republican operative, Cruz admitted privately that his strategy had backfired. It was a rare admission, a concession that there was such a thing as overreach in his attempts to invite the scorn of GOP leaders and ignite the passions of the Republican base.

Of course, the shutdown still benefited Cruz politically. The media and his colleagues heaped derision upon him, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way. The shutdown made him the face of the anti-establishment.

But that comes with a price. “The establishment is a real thing,” says the Republican operative, and if Cruz succeeds in winning the nomination, the Republican senators he has gained so much popularity deriding will be “knifing him in the back the whole time.” The broader implication is that, while the tactics that have endeared Cruz to his supporters may help him win the nomination, they may also put him, and his party, at a disadvantage in a general-election match-up against Hillary Clinton.
In the long run, that might not matter. While politicians remember Cruz's grandstanding in the shutdown fight, most GOP voters have moved on and only remember that Cruz stood up against a president and policy they detest.

Ironically, Rubio's efforts to defund a bailout of the insurance companies actually did more to hurt Obamacare than all of Cruz's showboating. But he has his own albatross with the Gang of Eight bill. And that is going to dog him throughout the election.

For all that Rubio is associated with the disastrous Gang of Eight bill, Eliana Johnson reminds us that he's also been focused on reform policies across the board.
Rubio has spent his Senate tenure working with reform-conservative (“reformocon”) wonks to craft an array of conservative policy proposals, most of which haven’t made headlines. They have served as an effective platform on which to run for president. Reformocons, and Rubio, have urged Republicans to move away from the solutions they offered to the problems of the previous generation — high income taxes, urban crime — and toward addressing today’s problems, from stagnant wages to the rising cost of higher education.

Rubio, says Yuval Levin, the editor of the reformocon policy journal National Affairs and a contributing editor of National Review, “had a habit of getting us policy-type people in his office to talk even when he wasn’t working on a bill, which is rare.” Indeed, many of his legislative proposals have been plucked directly from the major reformocon publications — his tax-reform bill from a 2010 piece in National Affairs, proposals on reforming higher education from the reformocon cri de coeur book Room to Grow, and a welfare-reform policy from a piece in this magazine. (Links in original)

Rubio and Cruz represent different wings of the conservative base and different approaches to victory in 2016. Cruz wants to unite the conservatives and thinks that can be enough to win in November. I have a lot of skepticism that that will be enough to win.
The Cruz campaign is built on the premise that he can consolidate the Right and that doing so is sufficient to win a general election. There is no doubt that he has made progress in uniting the base. Social conservatives, led by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, have coalesced around Cruz, whose chief rivals in that camp — former Texas governor Rick Perry, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal — have dropped out of the race already.
He can take that into the southern states along with the money he's raised and the operation he's built up and will probably do well there. But is that enough to defeat the Demorats?
But some question whether his is a winning general-election strategy. “His argument is, not only do you just need Republicans to win the general, but you just need half of Republicans,” says a Republican strategist familiar with Cruz’s thinking. “It’s not terribly controversial to say we need not just Republicans, but some non-Republicans, too.”

Rubio’s theory is that a conservative can unite the Right, but that the nominee can and must attract the party’s moderates, and ultimately some Democrats, to the conservative cause. Meanwhile, it has come as a surprise to many that it is Rubio, rather than Walker, Jindal, or Perry — or Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum — who is evidently emerging as Cruz’s chief impediment to unifying the party’s right flank.

Rubio’s advisers insist they are not ceding an inch to Cruz when it comes to chasing conservative voters, even as Rubio has become a leading establishment candidate, earning the support of top party donors, including hedge-fund billionaires Paul Singer, Cliff Asness, and Ken Griffin. “We are running in the conservative lane,” says a top Rubio adviser.

While establishment candidates in the past have had to drag the conservative base along with them, Rubio’s team looks at it the other way around. “The winner of this race,” says the Rubio adviser, “is going to be somebody in the conservative lane that has the ability to take voters, whether they are establishment or center-right, in some cases holding their noses,” and win their support. “Nobody other than Marco has the ability to do that,” he says....

The two candidates represent starkly different options for Republican voters about the party’s approach to politics, to policy, and to winning elections. Ultimately, a battle between them is a struggle over what sort of conservative, both temperamentally and ideologically, is a better standard-bearer for the Republican party now and in the future.
But at least they're both true conservatives and can explain what they believe. And either one of them is capable of taking on Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in any debate.

Jim Geraghty is exactly right that the media need to change the way they cover Trump.
The coverage of Trump needs to change. The story is no longer the novelty of the Trump phenomenon and shock and surprise that he’s attracting such big crowds and leading the polls. He’s an aspiring commander-in-chief, and he needs to be pressed for details on his health care plan, his infrastructure spending plans, how he plans to balance the budget, and so on. This race is not a reality show. Also, the talk of Trump taking over the GOP has been proven wildly overwrought and premature. About 76 percent of Iowa Republicans preferred somebody else.

As Newsbusters points out, the media have been the biggest reason for Trump's success up to this point.
For months, one of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s major advantages has been the establishment media’s decision to cover his candidacy to the near-exclusion of his Republican competitors. A new analysis by the Media Research Center finds Trump continued to receive the vast majority of TV news coverage throughout the month of January, leading up to tonight’s crucial Iowa caucuses.

An examination of all campaign coverage on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from January 1 through January 31 finds Trump received nearly 157 minutes of airtime, or almost 60 percent of the total coverage of GOP presidential candidates. Texas Senator Ted Cruz received half as much coverage (79 minutes, or 30%), while Florida Senator Marco Rubio received a grand total of ten and a half minutes of coverage (4%).

None of the other Republican candidates received even ten minutes of airtime during the entire month of January.
And it has been that way ever since he declared his candidacy. He is a creature of the media. One more reason to detest them.

Kevin Williamson makes a similar point about the power of celebrity.
Celebrity goes a long way, but it goes only so far. One of the paradoxes of the first days of the campaign was the fact that voters inclined toward Trump, the anti-establishment insurgent, most often named as their second choice Jeb Bush, generally regarded as Mr. Establishment. (The abuse of the word “establishment” is a subject for another time; I’m giving in for the moment, for the sake of brevity.) The obvious explanation for that is that both gentlemen have very famous names: Bush was a very good governor of a large state, and of course is the brother of one president and the son of another; Trump was a popular reality-television grotesque, and a figure of tabloid interest for some years.

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Ben Sasse is challenging Trump's statements that he will be passing executive orders willy nilly.
And given Trump’s impatience, unilateral action probably appeals to him. At a rally in December, he told the crowd, “You know the great thing about executive orders is that I don’t have to go back to Congress.”

But Trump has made so many puzzling and conflicting statements, Sasse contends, that he owes his supporters clarity. He points out that Trump recently said: “When I’m president, I’m a different person. I can do anything. I can be the most politically correct person that you’ve ever seen.”

Sasse rejects the notion that the next president should be unmoored from the campaign he mounted to get to the White House; nor should the next Oval Office executive express a desire to paper Washington with executive orders. “What makes America great is not some guy in Washington who says if I had more power, I could fix it all unilaterally,” Sasse told MSNBC on Friday. “That’s not the American tradition.”
We were just covering the president's informal powers and whether those powers have been extended too far in recent years. The students read two articles arguing each side of this question. When we discussed the articles today, the students were about split whether they agreed that the President had extended powers too far. In each class, after discussing the arguments, some of the students on the side who thought recent presidents had extended executive authority too far asked the students on the other side if they were as comfortable with a President Trump exercising those powers. That scared all of them. Trump is not at all popular with my students.

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Here's the fun story of how a college student got the 27th Amendment passed to prove his professor wrong after he got a C on a paper saying that the amendment, written by James Madison in 1789 but not ratified, could still be ratified.