2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination

The Ben Carson Show (Falter)

Host Chris Wallace, left, and guest Rush Limbaugh talk on 'FOX News Sunday', 22 November 2015.

It is well enough to note how strange it is we might find some object of utility at the intersection of Rush Limbaugh and World Net Daily, but Joe Kovacs reports on what could be a milestone in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination contest:

Front-running GOP candidate Dr. Ben Carson is “probably not” equipped right now to be president, according to talk-radio star Rush Limbaugh, but the top-rated host in America says he’d “absolutely” vote for the former neurosurgeon over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

There will come a point at which Republican voters driving Mr. Carson’s standing in the polls must necessarily confess to themselves what pretty much everyone else knows. And there really isn’t any way of sugarcoating it:

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Limbaugh was asked by host Chris Wallace to comment on some of the major players in this election cycle’s hunt for the White House.

World Net DailyWhen Carson’s name was mentioned, Limbaugh said Carson is “one of the most decent human beings in this country. He’s one of the finest men. I’ve met him. The things he has done, the places he’s come from … and I cringe when I see that they (the media) are trying to destroy him.”

Wallace asked Limbaugh if Carson is “equipped to be president.”

“Probably not at this stage,” said Limbaugh, “but any of these Republicans running would be better than Hillary or better than anything we’ve got now. So, based on that comparison, yes. I would vote for him if it was up to him and Hillary. Absolutely! Without a doubt.”

The idea that Republicans hate Hillary Clinton so much they would see the nation wrecked before supporting her is hardly new. Still, though, at a strange nexus of FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, and World Net Daily, the fact of Dr. Carson’s incompetence unquestionably rises toward prominence.

Only time will tell what such a notion does to Dr. Carson’s standing; perhaps his core support doesn’t care, and it’s simply the conservative remainder who hear or read Limbaugh’s words and nod at the feeling that it sounds about right.

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Image note: Host Chris Wallace, left, and guest Rush Limbaugh talk on FOX News Sunday, 22 November 2015.

Kovacs, Joe. “Limbaugh: Ben Carson not equipped to be president”. World Net Daily. 22 November 2015.

The Clown Car Breakdown

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Four paragraphs from Steve Benen:

Nine candidates would be a big field under any circumstances, but in this case, just the governors alone―Bush, Christie, Gilmore, Huckabee, Kasich, Jindal, Pataki, Perry, and Walker―had enough to field a baseball team. Add Democratic governors to the mix―O’Malley and Chafee―and the number swells to 11.

And at a certain level, this is understandable. For many in both parties, it’s long been assumed that governors have the edge in the party’s nominating contests, in part thanks to history―Reagan, Carter, Clinton, W. Bush, Romney, et al―and also because of the nature of the job. Being the chief executive of a state, the theory goes, offers ideal training for being the chief executive in the White House. Governors learn how to manage and respond to crises. They learn how to oversee a massive, bureaucratic team, while working opposite a legislature. They learn how to lead.

How many sitting GOP senators have ever been elected to the White House? Only one. It was Warren Harding, who was elected nearly a century ago. This is hardly accidental―Americans tend to hate Congress, so they don’t necessarily look to Capitol Hill for national leaders.

And yet, here we are. Two of the most experienced candidates of the cycle―Rick Perry and Scott Walker, both governors―have already quit (as has Lincoln Chafee). George Pataki and Jim Gilmore were excluded from the debates altogether this week, while Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee were relegated to the kids’ table, where they joined Bobby Jindal. Jeb Bush and John Kasich made the prime-time stage, but both are struggling badly. The latter faced booing.

This is actually important in its own right; in an anti-institutional year when career politicians who achieve governorships are actually being viewed as career politicians, the landscape really does seem strange from an unradicalized perspective. Indeed, how strange might we now find the recollection that back in April, even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was pitching for senators against governors in the presidential context. Even in unhinged quarters, gubernatorial experience was actually respected earlier in this cycle.

With a flaccid RNC and impotent Congressional leadership, the anti-institutional movement driving Donald Trump and Ben Carson to the top of the polls would seem to get the nod: Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican Party.

Nor might we begin to speculate at what that means. Still, as Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa of the Washington Post explore the now perpetual chatter of growing discomfort and even “panic” among establishment Republicans, it is hard to fathom the idea that even in the GOP, this is starting to become an American existential question:

The apprehension among some party elites goes beyond electability, according to one Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the worries.

“We’re potentially careening down this road of nominating somebody who frankly isn’t fit to be president in terms of the basic ability and temperament to do the job,” this strategist said. “It’s not just that it could be somebody Hillary could destroy electorally, but what if Hillary hits a banana peel and this person becomes president?”

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Image note: Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015

Benen, Steve. “Governors find a hostile 2016 landscape”. msnbc. 13 November 2015.

Rucker, Phillip and Robert Costa. “Time for GOP panic? Establishment worried Carson or Trump might win.” The Washington Post. 13 November 2015.

A Clown Car Presentation: Insurevirentaderble

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Never read too much into any one poll, but the lede from Associated Press is nonetheless troubling:

Republican voters view Donald Trump as their strongest general election candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights the sharp contrast between the party’s voters and its top professionals regarding the billionaire businessman’s ultimate political strength.

But wait, there’s more:

Seven in 10 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say Trump could win in November 2016 if he is nominated, and that’s the most who say so of any candidate. By comparison, 6 in 10 say the same for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who, like Trump, has tapped into the powerful wave of antiestablishment anger defining the early phases of the 2016 contest.

And then there is the reality check: “Trump and Carson are considered among the least electable general election candidates by the Republican Party’s professionals, those who are in the business of helping candidates run campaigns and win elections”, explain Steve Peoples and Emily Swanson, and in truth one need not be a political professional to figure that out. Still, though, how superstitious do we really wish to be?

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Chairman Trey Gowdy

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, speaks in an interview 16 October 2015.  (Detail of photo by Getty Images)

“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life. Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically―at least it is for me.”

Rep. Trey Gowedy (R-SC04)

The first point, to wonder what it is Mr. Gowdy, the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, thinks he is doing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should meet resistance; set that urge aside. There is a lot going on, here. Rachel Bade of Politico hopes to explain:

Gowdy says the specifics of his rebuttals don’t matter; he feels he “just can’t win.

“I think that’s just [the Democrats’] MO: If you can’t attack the facts, you can attack the investigators … just attack, attack, attack and something will take hold,” he said. “[A]t some point, maybe something will stick, or maybe you get them off track or you get them to do or say something stupid, then you can seize on that.”

He also lays some blame at the media’s feet, arguing they’re too quick to report Democrats’ accusations without checking the merits, or the story of an ex-committee staffer who accused the panel of focusing on Clinton.

“You can work your entire career to have a reputation, and then someone you have no recollection of ever meeting sits down with a reporter and you’re immediately in a position of having to defend and it’s impossible to prove a negative,” he said.

This is a basic political maneuver very much associated with Karl Rove: Assign your greatest weakness to your opponent. With Republicans, it has pretty much become a tell: “I mean, honestly,” Gowdy complained of Huma Abedin’s testimony, “have you ever heard a more absurd critique than leaking the fact that one of the more recognizable people in the world was coming to Capitol Hill?”

This is a problematic complaint. Trey Gowdy is simply not an honest man.

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The Mike Huckabee Show (Republican Virtue)

Mike Huckabee: "I trust @BernieSanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with my labrador! #DemDebate" (13 October 2015, via Twitter)

In truth, given the terrible rhetoric earning Ben Carson rewards, why wouldn’t Mike Huckabee, go out of his way to throw down a racist jab that only invites reminders about the time his son sadistically killed a dog.

This is Mike Huckabee, after all.

And this is your 2016 Republican presidential clown car.

Oh, right. That. You’re going to love the follow-up.

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Image note: Composite ― Detail of photo by Charlie Niebergall/AP; tweet by Mike Huckabee, 13 October 2015.

Huckabee, Mike. “I trust Bernie Sanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with a labrador!” Twitter. 13 October 2015.

Lavender, Paige. “Mike Huckabee Got Pretty Racist While Live-Tweeting The Dem Debate”. The Huffington Post. 13 October 2015.

Accursed Extraneity

Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Conspiracy Theories. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP).

There are, of course, partisan considerations, but still, this stands out:

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, hit back Sunday at a former committee staffer who said he was fired for not cooperating with the panel’s focus on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s actions in response to the 2012 terrorist attack.

“Until his Friday conversations with media, this staffer has never mentioned Secretary Clinton as a cause of his termination, and he did not cite Clinton’s name in a legally mandated mediation,” the South Carolina Republican said in a written statement. “He also has not produced documentary proof that in the time before his termination he was directed to focus on Clinton.”

(Roll Call)

Okay, look, there is obviously a lot going on with the House Benghazi farce, but Gowdy might have overplayed his hand.

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The House Freedom Caucus (Feature the Bug Bass Beat Mix)

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

Here is a strange proposition: The Trump effect, currently plaguing the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, is a feature, not a bug.

While the notion of sucking up all the oxygen is certainly evident as Republican candidates struggle for breath, consider for a moment that there is also a Democratic contest afoot. To the other, all we really hear about it is a string of scandal stories about Hillary Clinton, and how many people turn out for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

And, of course, any time we might lead with a joke like, What do Kim Davis and Donald Trump have in common? we might rest assured that our uneasiness is genuine because things really have gotten that far out of hand.

The question of the hour:

Barring a historic meltdown, Republicans will select Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be their nominee for speaker Thursday. But does that mean McCarthy will get 218 votes in the House floor vote on Oct. 29?

(Fuller)

Meanwhile, House Democrats aren’t exactly sitting back and watching, but nobody should feel badly for thinking otherwise. There is plenty of intrigue to go around, but the drama in the House of Representatives is exclusively Republican.

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Nifty

Detail of graphic from New York Times, 22 September 2015: Who’s Winning the Presidential Campaign?

Okay, so what part of this pretense from NYT’s The Upshot

History suggests that each party’s eventual nominee will emerge from 2015 in one of the top two or three positions, as measured by endorsements, fund-raising and polling.

isn’t seemingly self-evident?

Nonetheless, it is an interesting toy, tracking various data sources according to reasonable pretenses, but pretty much from the outset it seems as if the New York Times is overplaying its hand.

If we might suggest to keep an eye on it, and see how well they do, we might also suspect it is designed to pitch itself as somehow successful, since its job is to follow trends toward a conclusive resolution.

Still, there are plenty of people you know who need color graphics in order to figure out what’s going on. Who knows, maybe this will help.

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“Who’s Winning the Presidential Campaign?” The Upshot. 22 Septemer 2015.

The Donald Trump Show (Coattails and Kid Gloves)

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015.  (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

Why is it always Donald, Donald, Donald?

Over at The Hill, it seems a fine way to spend a weekend:

Oh, yeah …: The Hill staff offer an overview of the Sunday interview shows, including notes about Donald on Trump, Lindsey on Trump, Carly trying to hop on Trump’s coattails, and a strange reminder that former U.S. Senator Jim Webb is running for the Democratic nomination.

Speaking of Sunday shows: Mark Hensch reports on Meet the Press attempting to consider a nexus of ideas: Donald Trump and flip-flop.

Imagine that: And Alexander Bolton explains why the obvious advice for Jeb Bush is to “walk a fine line” in dealing with the Donald, or, as the headline has it, “Treat trump with kid gloves”.

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Image note: Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015. (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

The Jeb Bush Show (Radical Restructure Remix)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits in a hallway after a campaign event Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.”

Jeb Bush

This is an occasion when it is instructive to read past the superficial narrative. True, this is another occasion on which Mr. Bush required a do-overα, and the line really didn’t sound all that good. Still, though, the rebound was good enough to get Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)―the ostenisble House GOP budget wonk and former vice-presidential nominee―onboard. And even Democratic-sympathizing pundits and politicians alike can find a reason to go with the later iteration; to wit, Steve Benen:

For what it’s worth, the Florida Republican, not long after his interview, clarified that his comments were about part-time vs. full-time employment. The Washington Post reported Bush saying, “You can take it out of context all you want, but high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours and that by our success, they have money, disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in line and being dependent on government.”

As a matter of Economics 101, Bush’s broader points have at least some technical merit. When an economy has more full-time workers, it means more economic activity. When employees work more hours, it means more output and greater growth. None of this is controversial.

The problem with Bush’s rhetoric, however, is the real-world implications, and the degree to which he fails to understand the issue.

For example, the Republican candidate, who made $5.8 million in “consulting and speaking” income in 2013, makes it sound as if sluggish economic growth is your fault – you’re just not working enough hours. In reality, however, full-time employment is soaring when compared to part-time employment, and Americans are already working, on average, 47-hour weeks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-VT), running for the Democratic nomination, is also willing to follow that course.

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