Stuart Rothenberg

The Republican Message

"Meet Merrick Garland" ― Detail from screenshot of GOP.com.

Let’s talk about messaging.

Okay, we get that President Obama is the big bad villain and all that, but am I the only person who noticed that the GOP “oppo dump” against Judge Merrick Garland, besides being utterly flaccid, is filed under “Hillary Clinton”?

(sigh)

Here. Consider this note, please, from Greg Sargent, offered a couple days before the president nominated Judge Garland:

Republican operatives will “vet that person and put their real record on display.” Ideally, of course, this is what would happen if the Senate were to hold hearings on that person. But that might afford the nominee a chance to directly respond to his or her Republican cross-examiners in a high profile setting (as opposed to only having Democratic groups mount all the pushback, which of course they will also do, once there is a nominee). Direct exchanges between the nominee and Republican Senators, alas, might reflect well on that person. And so the only “vetting” and examination of the nominee’s “real record” will be undertaken through the RNC and associated GOP-aligned groups.

That’s not meant as sarcasm. It’s the actual Republican party-wide position right now. Remember, Senate Republicans themselves have told reporters that they don’t want to hold hearings explicitly because it would risk drawing the wrong kind of media attention to the nominee, thus making it harder politically for GOP Senators — particularly vulnerable incumbents facing reelection in states carried by Obama — to oppose that person later.

It also seems a good time to reiterate Stuart Rothenberg’s recent reflection on this year’s U.S. Senate races. No, really. Trying to tie it all together is an exercise in futility, because it’s almost like a harm reduction scheme implemented in advance of scheduled self-harm. And, yes, that sentence is supposed to read so ridiculously; that’s kind of the problem.

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Image note: Detail of screenshot from GOP.com, taken 19 March 2016.

Republican National Committee. “Meet Merrick Garland”. GOP.com. 16 March 2016.

Rothenberg, Stuart. “Dem Senate Takeover Probable, If Cruz or Trump Nominee”. Rothenblog. Roll Call. 13 March 2016.

Sargent, Greg. “In Supreme Court fight, Republicans lead with their chins”. The Washington Post. 14 March 2016.

Republican Justice (Maybe Mix)

Contemplation of Justice

Steve Benen, after reviewing the appalling stupidity of the Republican pitch against confirming a Supreme Court nominee, including their reaction to the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, found himself adding a postscript:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who just last week explicitly urged Obama to nominate Garland, said in a statement this morning that Garland’s nomination “doesn’t in any way change current circumstances” – which is to say, Hatch still supports his party’s blockade.

However, Hatch also added this morning, “I’d probably be open to resolving this in the lame duck.” Keep a very close eye on this, because it may prove to be incredibly important. As things stand, Senate Republicans don’t intend to reject Garland, so much as they plan to ignore him. His nomination won’t be defeated; it’ll simply wither on the vine.

But if Republicans fare poorly in November’s elections, don’t be too surprised if GOP senators declare, “Well, now that voters have had their say, we’re prepared to confirm Garland after all.”

The msnbc producer and blogger advises readers to, “File this away for future reference”, and it behooves us to do so. One of the blessings facing pretty much any president seeking a new Supreme Court justice, and especially Democrats as such these days, is that there is a plethora of qualified candidates. In the end, given all else, one wonders if perhaps the “moderate, inoffensive, broadly respected, 63-year-old white guy” is actually the sacrificial lamb.

(more…)

Amiable and Approachable Danger

U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO04) speaks at a rally in Littleton, Colorado, 29 September 2014.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Three paragraphs from Stuart Rothenberg to mark the date by. This could be very important:

Though I took notice of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s endorsement of Sen. Marco Rubio for president, I didn’t immediately think about Gardner as a possible running mate for Rubio — until a CQ Roll Call colleague dropped that pearl of wisdom in my lap.

But there are plenty of reasons why Gardner needs to be on any Rubio shortlist of possible running mates, even this early in the 2016 election cycle.

In a party full of elected officials who look and sound angry and bitter, the Colorado Republican invariably is cheerful and optimistic. That doesn’t mean that Gardner is happy with the direction of the country or defends the status quo, but it does mean he is amiable and approachable. Not surprisingly, that makes him appealing to many voters, particularly those who are less ideological and less partisan.

This is an interesting, and even potentially terrifying notion. Sen. Gardner is a proper culture warrior. Amiable and approachable is one thing, but consider the story of how he got to the Senate.

In 2010, Republicans ran a former Weld County prosecutor named Ken Buck for U.S. Senate. Mr. Buck, it turned out, suffered a vital weakness; as prosecutor he refused to charge a confessed rape, telling the victim she bore guilt in her own rape, and telling the public he did not think the good people of Weld County could convict a confessed rape. Democrat Michael Bennet won by a narrow margin.

In 2014, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall faced re-election, and Republicans feared another Ken Buck run. Instead, the Congressman from Colorado’s Fourth stepped up, and Cory Gardner became a Senate candidate. While he was not a rape abettor like Mr. Buck, Mr. Gardner faced exposure for his sponsorship of an anti-abortion bill attempting to curtail the human rights of women. So he denied his support for the bill, but refused to remove his name as a sponsor. This was good enough for the people of Colorado, and in the Fourth Congressional District they sent the rape abettor, Mr. Buck, to fill Mr. Gardner’s seat in the House of Representatives.

Amiable and approachable is one thing, but that speaks nothing to statecraft, or the quality and efficiency thereof.

As a vice presidential nominee, Mr. Gardner would simply be an amiable and approachable face of danger.

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Image note: U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO04) speaks at a rally in Littleton, Colorado, 29 September 2014. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Rothenberg, Stuart. “Cory Gardner for Veep? Don’t Laugh”. Rothenblog. Roll Call. 3 November 2015.