political calculus

The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger)

No, seriously, people need to start paying attention to Lindsey Graham.

Lindsey Graham has told colleagues he launched his implausible presidential campaign, in part, for two reasons: Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

(Everett)

The senior U.S. Senator from South Carolina has not even a tattered map fragment with a shadow of a line that might have once been there that could possibly be something resembling a pathway to the presidency. Yet to consider a personal context, he is also the kind of Republican who it is much, much easier to respect, even if we don’t like the guy. And if it is true that he is in this for the long haul regardless of the outcome, Lindsey Graham suddenly becomes one to watch:

Graham said in an interview he’s prepared to confront Cruz directly as the chamber braces for a rhetorical assault from the Texas senator, with Graham arguing that a shutdown would be futile and politically damaging. It’s an opportunity, Graham says, “to tell my side of the story here.” And, the senator with the syrupy Southern drawl admits, it won’t be because he thinks it’s going to give him a bounce in the polls.

“I’m running to be the president of the United States. And a certain amount of honesty comes with that,” Graham said in an interview. “Shutting down the government, I think it hurts our overall cause and I don’t mind telling people that. If I’m going to be a good nominee and a good president, I’ve got to tell you what I believe” ....

.... Still, Graham has little to lose at this point in his campaign. He can’t sink any lower in the polls, and fighting a pitched battle against the conservative wing of the party could help boost him in the eyes of moderate Republicans.

In fact, Graham was thinking about squaring off with Cruz and Paul from the very beginning of his campaign.

No, really, this could be interesting. Like Jeb Bush and John Kasich, Mr. Graham will have some difficulty navigating the turbulent waters of the preseason feeding frenzy as voters chomp down on platform and principle; later, when serious questions of how to actually win the White House rise (we hope) to their proper prominence, America’s most eligible bachelor hawk might find himself well positioned to not only shore up the establishment Republican guard, but compete for the nomination. Steve Benen noted, in reflection on Scott Walker’s early withdrawal:

Many observers – inside the Republican Party and out – simply assume as a matter of course that the Inexperienced Three will eventually fizzle, leaving a race featuring only a handful of credible contenders. The list will likely include two establishment governors (Jeb Bush and John Kasich) and two very conservative senators (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio).

In this scenario, is this a contest that could elevate Rubio to the GOP nomination? Of course it is.

The weird thing about the Rubio pathway is that it is not so far-fetched. But how does the political calculus change if another establishment Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is also in there peeling votes from the insurgents?

This could be entertaining, indeed. It should certainly be interesting. As to the question of whether or not it is real, we need only keep our eyes and ears open. Perhaps something is about to happen.

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Image note: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). (Detail of photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Everett, Burgess. “Graham itching to confront Cruz, Paul”. Politico. 24 September 2015.

Benen, Steve. “As GOP field shrinks, Marco Rubio gets the spotlight”. msnbc. 22 September 2015.

The Cowardly Clown

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, speaks during the South Carolina Freedom Summit hosted by Citizens United and Congressman Jeff Duncan in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, May 9, 2015.  The Freedom Summit brings grassroots activists from across South Carolina and the surrounding area to hear from conservative leaders and presidential hopefuls.  Photogapher: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

It was, what, all of two days ago Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) described himself as “the most scrutinized politician in America”, and while that claim might justly find widespread derision, we would also beg leave to accommodate the cowardly Badgerα long enough to remind that he does himself no favors on that count by saying stupid things:

By any fair measure, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has changed course, quite dramatically, on immigration policy. In the not-too-distant past, the Republican governor was quite moderate on the issue. Now, he’s not – Walker not only opposes bipartisan solutions, he’s even begun taking on legal immigration.

This week, Fox News’ Bret Baier pressed Walker for an explanation: “If you’re willing to flip-flop … on such an important issue like this, how can voters be sure that you’re not going to change your position on some other big issues?”

As the Washington Post noted, the Wisconsin Republican responded with his own unique definition of flip-flop.

Walker responded: “Well, actually, there’s not a flip out there.” […]

“A flip would be someone who voted on something and did something different,” Walker said. “These are not votes… I don’t have any impact on immigration as a governor.”

If bonus points were reported based on creativity, Walker would be in much better shape. But he’s effectively arguing that if he didn’t cast a vote, it can’t count.

And that’s not an especially credible argument.

(Benen)

Yeah, that sort of thing will draw some scrutiny.

The political calculus regarding the optics is robustly defined: Given how much any candidate dodges certain questions, we might reasonably expect some professionally functional manner and method of dodging. Practically speaking, we might suggest that especially at a time when policy evolution is not only acceptable but a useful selling point, Gov. Walker should be able to muster the courage to at least attempt to explain his policy shifts.

Benen notes, “flip-flops are not the be-all, end all of a national campaign”, pointing to Mitt Romney’s astounding 2012 performance. “Walker’s reversals”, the msnbc producer and blogger writes, “won’t come close.”

This is a fair point. And, you know, really, after the bad week Jeb Bush just inflicted on the national political discourse, it does not seem so unfair to expect that Mr. Walker should be able to figure out that cowardice just doesn’t cut it.

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Image note: Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, speaks during the South Carolina Freedom Summit hosted by Citizens United and Congressman Jeff Duncan in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S., on Saturday, May 9, 2015. The Freedom Summit brings grassroots activists from across South Carolina and the surrounding area to hear from conservative leaders and presidential hopefuls. Photogapher: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

α Evolution? Hatemongering? Basic human respect? Oh, hey, how about the auto industry bailout? Gov. Walker is afraid to sound off on any of these issues.

Haberman, Maggie. “Scott Walker Calls Himself ‘the Most Scrutinized Politician in America'”. First Draft. 19 May 2015.

Benen, Steve. “A flip-flop by any other name …”. msnbc. 21 May 2015.