Mitt Romney

A Deep Dark Secret, and Other Notes

A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

Nathan L. Gonzales notes—

The deep, dark secret of political handicapping is that there isn’t a singular equation that can project the winner of each congressional race.

—and I believe the polite response is to cough gently as if I just failed to properly drink coffee, smile sheepishly, and say, as near to apologetically as I can without actually achieving the tone, “Really?”

As in, “Really? That’s it? That is the secret?”

Honestly, it feels disappointing; the obvious is neither deep nor secret. Darkness is as darkness does in the eye of any given beholder.

Perhaps it sounds better than, “We don’t know what we’re doing”, but neither would that statement be fair; still, voters and advocates are well-advised to remember that election prognostication—calculating and projecting human behavior on constrained mass scale according to vaguely-identified and constantly-shifting circumstances evoking broadly diverse responses according to unknown and dynamic criteria—is not a science. The diverse arts of politics, dark or otherwise, are by nature rather quite occult.

To the other, here is an interesting question: “How do you rate a race for a seat that doesn’t exist?”

It is true, science cannot answer this one. Maybe someday, but not now:

The deep, dark secret of political handicapping is that there isn’t a singular equation that can project the winner of each congressional race. It is helpful to know who is running and where they are running. But thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court throwing out the congressional map and GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan’s retirement, we barely know anything about this year’s race in the 7th District ....

.... Normally, this is where I would relate the recent presidential results of his 7th District (Hillary Clinton carried it narrowly in 2016 after Mitt Romney carried it narrowly in 2012, if you have to know), but those numbers aren’t particularly relevant considering the race is likely to take place under a new congressional map.

Nonetheless, the Roll Call handicapper has shifted his assessment of Pennsylvania Seven from Leans Republican to Tilts Democratic. As to dark arts, only time will tell, and something goes here about rabbits and flying monkeys and from where any magician is pulling them.   (more…)

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Waning Tacitry

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Via msnbc:

Ordinarily, a half-way competent president would manage to avoid quite so many international incidents, but Trump has managed to create these problems after just two months—in many cases, for reasons that are only obvious to him.

Remember, as we discussed a month ago, Republicans spent years investing enormous energy into the idea that President Obama hurt the United States’ international standing. The opposite was true, but GOP officials nevertheless argued, with unnerving vigor, that America had forfeited the admiration of the world.

During the Republican presidential primaries, for example, Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends.” Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump had a chat about “how poorly” the United States is now “perceived throughout the world.” Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”

The point is pretty much the same, whoever makes it: For all Republicans complained about American prestige during the Obama presidency, it seems, like so many of their other complaints, precisely strange that they should have backed President Donald Trump. Then again, perhaps we should consider what that really means.

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What Newt Said (Rude Boy Mitty-Mitt Mix)

Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, "An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter...".

This is what it is, which in turn is the lede from Mark Hensch of The Hill:

Newt Gingrich says former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) is a better choice to be President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of State than 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

There is and will be a lot to keep our eyes and ears toward; basic details sometimes get overlooked. This is the condition of the policy discourse in the inchoate and ascending Trump administration.

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Hensch, Mark. “Gingrich: Giuliani ‘better’ than Romney for State”. The Hill. 21 November 2016.

Sean Hannity (Poor Donny)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) with campaign surrogate, FOX News host Sean Hannity.  (FOX News, 2016)

“I have had it. Thirteen freaking days. Wake up. This can be won. But it’s very, very hard. And I’m telling all of you who is important here. And basically every red state’s important. If you think, ‘well, my state doesn’t matter, it’s Texas,’ no, you better vote. ‘My state’s Georgia,’ well we’ve seen polls that are close in Georgia. ‘My state’s Utah.’ Who’s this idiot that’s running third party that’s killing Trump out in Utah. Who put him up? What was it? The Bush people? The Romney people? Seriously? Really? You’re going to elect Hillary because we lose Utah? What a disaster that would be for the country.”

Sean Hannity

This is just a distraction. Media Matters offers a glimpse into Sean Hannity’s not quite struggle to wear both FOX News and Trump surrogate caps. Two hats, one tongue, half a brain? Right. Seriously: What joke goes here? Are not the words, “Sean Hannity”, enough?

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Image note: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) with campaign surrogate, FOX News host Sean Hannity. (Credit: FOX News, 2016)

Media Matters Staff. “Listen To Sean Hannity’s Unhinged Rant Over ‘Idiot’ Evan McMullin Beating Trump In Utah”. Media Matters for America. 26 October 2016.

The Mrs. Donald Trump Show (Family Values)

Melania Trump discusses her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, during an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, 17 October 2016.

Important point:

In recent campaign history, certain myths have taken hold in ways that obscure what actually happened. Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, for example, was already collapsing at the time of his “scream” in Iowa. Mitt Romney’s support was already falling in 2012 when the “47 percent” video reached the public.

And Donald Trump’s support was already fading when Americans heard his 2005 boasts about sexual assault, so his candidacy’s current difficulties cannot solely be blamed on the “grab them by the p***y” audio.

That said, it certainly didn’t help.

(Benen)

Sometimes it seems a fine line; in either case, Dean or Romney, we might respond to Benen by pointing out that what we really mean by something wrecking the campaign is that it was a proverbial final nail, as if until that moment there was some hope of saving the patient, and then the surgeon went and removed the gall bladder with a shotgun.

This is an American marketplace; there are days when people really can’t tell the difference. Never mind.

Another important point:

Complicating matters, Trump and his allies still haven’t thought of a credible way to explain the recording, though the candidate’s wife did her best during a CNN interview yesterday.

Melania Trump defended Donald Trump against allegations that he sexually assaulted women, saying in a rare interview Monday night that her husband was “egged on” to make lewd comments about women that were caught on tape in 2005. […]

[She dismissed the conversation between Trump and Billy Bush] as “boy talk” and speculated that her husband “was led on―like, egged on―from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.”

That’s not much of a defense. Donald Trump didn’t want to brag about sexual misconduct, but he fell sway to the persuasive powers of the host of an entertainment-news show? For all the talk about Trump’s persona as a tough guy, he succumbed to pressure from Billy Bush?

This is just one of those things that people do because so little of what we do is tasked to its ostensible purpose. Really, who thinks things through like that? And, yes, plenty are going to raise their hands, and some are going to be annoyed that anyone asked. But that is also the point. Watching the people around us, we will see and hear similar quirks. Do not focus on what she said, so such, as what it means in the context of what those words actually do.

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A Note re: Kaine vs. Pence

22 FEBRUARY 2015: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on 'FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace'. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 'dark horse' for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State's 'religious freedom' bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March. (Image credit: FOX News)

This is important:

In one important area, Pence has the advantage of being perceived as a mainstream pol. Politico published a piece yesterday that characterized tonight’s vice presidential debate as “Battle of the Normals,” and a “sane moment” in a campaign cycle that’s often seemed insane.

On a certain level, I can appreciate where analysis like this is coming from. As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner. Unlike the man at the top of the GOP ticket, no one would ever expect Pence to start tweeting at 3 a.m. about his disgust for a beauty-pageant contestant and encourage Americans to seek out a “sex tape.”

But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.

Steve Benen is not wrong. This has been a factor worth considering in recent years, and even more so this cycle. What counts as centrist or mainstream is, in American politics, a roving range. The msnbc blogger and producer continues:

About four years ago, Nate Silver published an interesting analysis of Paul Ryan, who’d just been named to Mitt Romney’s ticket. Nate wrote at the time, “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. By this measure, in fact, which rates members of the House and Senate throughout different time periods on a common ideology scale, Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900.”

Nate added a chart, highlighting the fact that Ryan’s record put him slightly to the right of Dick Cheney, who was slightly to the right of Dan Quayle.

There are curious circumstances, now and again, in which the GOP hardliners leave me standing shoulder to shoulder with Republicans I generally wouldn’t get along with. George W. Bush on China, and suddenly I’m commiserating with Pat Buchanan? What was it, Jade Helm? How do Rick Perry and I land on the same side? I can tell you, though, that when Lindsey Graham is bagging points off John Kasich being described as a “moderate”, well, at least we have that much in common.

It happens.

We revisit the question for Mike Pence. Benen notes the Indiana governor also has a record in Congress:

In the 107th Congress (Pence’s first, covering 2001 and 2002), for example, out of 435 members of the U.S. House, Pence ranked #428―meaning that 427 members were to his left, putting the Hoosier on the far-right-wing fringe. The results were roughly the same in the 108th Congress and the 109th.

By the 110th Congress, Pence was at #432, putting him to the right of nearly everyone in the chamber. The results were roughly the same in the 111th Congress and the 112th.

Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.

The problem is the gap between perceptions of Mike Pence and his actual record. To use Politico’s phrasing, the Hoosier is seen as “normal” and “conventional.” But on a substantive level, we’re talking about a politician whose claim to fame is an anti-LGBT law that did real harm to his state. Pence is a climate denier. He rejects the idea that cigarettes are deadly. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary biology, but he does support “conversion therapy.”

There was an embarrassing episode having to do with alleged Iraqi WMDs; something about privatizing Social Security not being conservative enough; something about government shutdowns; oh, right, and some manner of conspiracy theory about Disney film and women in the military.

Unfortunately, that last isn’t a joke.

This is the problem: If Gov. Mike Pence is “normal”, then we might pause to consider how we define normalcy.

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Image note: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, 22 February 2015. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 GOP dark horse and the Hoosier State’s infamous “religious freedom” bill intended to empower discrimination. (Image credit: FOX News)

Benen, Steve. “Mike Pence saw secret propaganda in Disney film”. 18 July 2016.

—————. “Pence becomes the most far-right running mate in modern history”. msnbc. 15 July 2016.

—————. “To see Mike Pence as ‘normal’ is to grade on a generous curve”. msnbc. 4 October 2016.

Kaczynski, Andrew. “Mike Pence Argued In Op-Ed That Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Was Liberal Propaganda”. BuzzFeed. 17 July 2016.

Salter, Lamar. “‘My party has gone bats— crazy’: Lindsey Graham jokes about killing Ted Cruz and bashes the remaining GOP candidates”. Business Insider. 26 February 2016.

Silver, Nate. “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan”. FiveThirtyEight. 11 August 2012.

The Dynamite Martini Show

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 1 July 2016.You know, this was actually a Brexit joke, and at the time, sure, it seemed to have myriad other applications, most notably attitudes toward Donald Trump.

Think back, though. Try to remember what Donald Trump was doing and saying that had everybody horrified, mortified, terrified, apoplectic and wide-eyed. Two months. What trumpaholic trumptacle possessed the headlines two months ago?

Fraud and plagiarism, mostly. As July loomed, the Trump University scandal also tumbled into the Trump Institute branding scandal, something about “heebajeebees”, and questions of competence involving basic arithmetic that also happen to come up at a time when Donald Trump himself could be heard wondering aloud, “Why am I not doing better in the polls?”

As we looked toward July, people still wondered if maybe it would all sort itself out; Mitt Romney even piped up, revealing that one of his sons told him, “You’ve gotta get in, Dad, you’ve gotta get in”.

Naturally, things have only gone downhill from there. Certes, some articles of faith can become dangerous under particular circumstances or according to particular scale, but it really is a comfortable temptation. The superstitious would eye November as the next chance for this all to work itself out.

Never mind. Something about filler goes here. And no, we can’t actually blame Adam.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 1 July 2016.

Benen, Steve. “Trump vows to look into Muslim ‘Heebeejabees'”. msnbc. 1 July 2016.

Martin, Jonathan. “Trump Institute Offered Get-Rich Schemes With Plagiarized Lessons”. 29 June 2016.

Tani, Maxwell. “Mitt Romney: My son emailed me yesterday telling me to run for president”. Business Insider. 29 June 2016.

A Clown Car Catastrophe

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

To the one, the heart of winter can be rough. To the other, as Seasonal Affective Disorder, a term I generally loathe, turns out to not be what we thought it was, anyway, that doesn’t really explain it.

Which implies it really is true: The GOP nomination contest spectacle debacle has become so depressing even I can’t cope with it.

No, really, if there is a time for whipping out posts as fast as one might, it should be now, as the Clown Car ejector seat puts on a show.

So let’s try, oh, I don’t know, let’s try Donald Trump joking about Marco Rubio’s sweat and Mitt Romney’s bowel control, and then the Florida junior’s retort about Donald Trump’s sweat and bladder control.

That was Friday. I’m pretty sure something important happened over the weekend, but … er … yeah, couldn’t tell you.

(sigh)

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

Benen, Steve. “Rubio follows Trump down an undignified road”. msnbce. 26 February 2016.

Garofalo, Michael. “‘He was so scared, like a little frightened puppy’: The 10 most bizarre moments from Trump’s Fort Worth rally”. Salon. 26 February 2016.

Jarrett, Christian. “Why Your Brain Actually Works Better in Winter”. Science of Us. 14 February 2016.

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.

The Jeb Bush Show (Edgy)

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 7 March 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

“We have the benefit now of all of this philosophy of offering free things to people not working. I think the better message is, let’s disrupt Washington. Let’s create a little bit of a recession in Washington, D.C., so that we can have economic prosperity outside of Washington.”

Jeb Bush

Two brief points:

(1) Jeb Bush is doubling down on the “free stuff” argument that did Mitt Romney no good, yet remains popular with Republicans into this cycle.

(2) What was that about a recession?

No, really. What the hell, Jeb?

Olivia Nuzzi tries her hardest to explain the inexplicable for The Daily Beast:

Asked if Bush really meant that he would like to create a recession in Washington, D.C., the country’s fourth-largest metropolitan economy, his spokesman, Tim Miller, responded, “We should shrink D.C. so we can grow the economy of the rest of the country.”

But Bush said recession.

Asked “yes or no,” does Bush believe D.C. should be hit with a recession, as the country as a whole continues to recover from the Great Recession, Miller said, “He certainly wants to shrink the size of D.C. as laid out on his plan to reform Washington.”

And you know, this is the part where we usually shake our heads and mutter that it only goes downhill from there.

And, you know, it does.

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