dynastic rematch

Leadership (Scott Walker Bone Dry Remix)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (Image via Facebook)

This is something of a challenge: “Michigan has voted Democratic for presidents since Bill Clinton in 1992”, reports Bloomberg’s Chris Christoff. And this week? Well, this is not what we would call the strongest of pitches:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Monday joined the list of politicians who’ve deflected this question from Michigan reporters: Would you have supported the U.S. loans to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to get through their 2009 bankruptcies?

“That’s a hypothetical question in the past. We’re going to talk about the future,” Walker said after speaking to 120 Lansing Republicans in an Oldsmobile car museum where he touted less government, less taxation, and more U.S. aggression toward Islamists in the Middle East. It was the first of two appearances Walker planned in Michigan as part of a national tour to build support and money as he explores a presidential run.

And then there is also the question of what a primary fight demands. Perhaps the best thing we might say about Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) whining half-heartedly about Hillary Clinton, polls, and principles is that it didn’t look or sound very good. We might suggest state Rep. Rick Jones (R-24) take the note, as quotes like, “I believe there’s Bush fatigue in this country”, neither count as ringing endorsements nor actually help anyone or anything.

Then again, when it comes right down to it, look at what is about to happen. This might actually turn out to be the one cycle in which the parties get to burn off all that self-destructive extraneity without it really making much difference. Let them borrow each other’s lines all they want.

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Christoff, Chris. “Scott Walker Tiptoes Past Michigan Reporters’ Most Common Question”. Bloomberg Politics. 4 May 2015.

Terkel, Amanda. “Martin O’Malley Goes After Hillary Clinton For Leading By ‘Polls,’ Not ‘Principles'”. The Huffington Post. 16 April 2015.

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A Bushwhacking

Detail: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Economic Club of Detroit meeting in Detroit Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. The Detroit event is the first in a series of stops that Bush's team is calling his "Right to Rise" tour. That's also the name of the political action committee he formed in December 2014 to allow him to explore a presidential run. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Jeb. All he did was participate in a time-honored tradition among political elites – giving each other awards as a celebration of shared power and influence. It probably didn’t even occur to him that by putting a medal around Hillary Clinton’s neck he was implicating himself in the most significant and far-reaching political scandal of our age.”

Simon Maloy

One might be tempted to wonder what chance Jeb Bush has if the hard right not only isn’t behind him but, actually, stands in specific opposition. And, certes, we have the example of Mitt Romney to consider. But then arises the question of just how far a hardline conservative candidate can make it in the general election; while a Clinton-Bush showdown is often spoken of as a tiresome prospect, who here really thinks enough people in enough states will be able to rationalize, even to themselves, the idea of being an “independent” or “centrist”, and give their vote to a Rubio or Paul? True, most people who call themselves “independent” are actually Republicans afraid to admit their real party identification, but the way in which they push back against that argument is to reject the hardliners.

As Simon Maloy explains:

The explanation ForAmerica offers for why this video disqualifies Jeb is that Hillary will use it to defang any attacks he might direct at her record as secretary of state. “Jeb has absolutely no credibility to criticize her because he has already anointed her as a great public servant.” Eh, perhaps? If you go and watch Hillary’s full remarks, she celebrates Jeb and the whole Bush family for sharing her love of America and the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Treating praise for the enemy as an unforgiveable political sin is problematic since part of being a politician is showing magnanimity by mechanically lauding your opponents’ patriotism and shared love of public service.

But this is Benghazi we’re talking about, and there’s nothing more important in the minds of conservative activists when it comes to Hillary Clinton and 2016. Jeb hasn’t really said a whole lot about Benghazi (at least not compared to some of his 2016 rivals) but when he has remarked on it, he’s said what conservatives want to hear – that it showed weakness, emboldened enemies, etc. If there’s danger for Jeb, it’s that he’ll come off as a squish compared to other would-be candidates like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, who declares every few months or so that Benghazi disqualifies Hillary from ever holding public office again.

The reality television market sector has nothing to compare to the 2012 GOP presidential primary, and the upcoming electoral season―the Ames Straw Poll is all of six months away―would appear to be promisimg an even bigger spectacle. GOP 2016 is going to be a show of shows, and Americans who plan to travel abroad between then and the presidential election should probably spend some time rehearsing their sheepish shrugs and noncommittal answers for when our international neighbors ask them just what the hell is going on in the U.S.

Such as it is, one fun exercise in smacking our heads against desks will come in trying to comprehend how the Republican clown car steers its way back toward the political center; leading prognostications suggest the press will help by moving the center in relation to wherever the GOP troupe crashes.

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