No Clinton press conference in 257 days

August 22nd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post writes:

Donald Trump said lots (and lots) of things during an hour-long town hall meeting with Fox News’s Sean Hannity. This one – Trump talking about Hillary Clinton – stood out to me:

“She is so protected. They are so protecting her. She hasn’t had a news conference in, like, 250 days.”

It couldn’t be that long since Clinton has talked to the press, I thought. So, I went to the handy-dandy tool that some guy named Philip Bump built to track how long it’s been since Clinton faced the press. And this is what I found: 257.9 days.

Trump and Clinton are such opposites.

He may do half a dozen interviews a day and Clinton hasn’t done a press conference in nine months.

Clinton is guarded to the point of paranoia.

Trump says what he thinks. Sadly what he thinks is generally pretty bad.

Almost 258 days! Trump undersold something!

Unheard of!

Jokes aside, it’s beyond ridiculous that one of the two people who will be elected president in 80 or so days continues to refuse to engage with the press in this way.

But she does sit-down interviews! And she did a “press conference” with a moderator, um, moderating the questions!

Not good enough. Not when you are running to be president of the United States. One of the most important things when someone is offering themselves up to represent all of us is that we get the best sense we can about how that person thinks on his or her feet, how they deal with unwanted or adversarial questions. Those two traits are big parts of doing the job of president in the modern world.

There’s nothing like a press conference to put a candidate for president through their paces. If you don’t believe me, just watch how Clinton handled a presser – not well! – when she tried to put the email server controversy to rest.

In NZ the Prime Minister does one formal press conference a week and often five to seven additional informal press standups.

Put all of that aside, and think of this: The last time Clinton held a press conference was December 5, 2015. That was before:

1. A single state had cast a vote in either a presidential primary or caucus
2. Major terrorist attacks in Nice, Brussels and Orlando
3. FBI Director James Comey issued his scathing report on Clinton’s email practices while at the State Department
4. The Bernie Sanders phenomenon
5. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was run out of the Democratic National Committee in the wake of a massive email hack/leak
6. This whole Ryan Lochte international gas station incident

The temperature in Washington on December 5, 2015, was 6 degrees Celsius. It’s 28 on Thursday. A woman who conceived on December 5, 2015, would be 8 1/2 months pregnant now. On December 5, 2015, the Golden State Warriors were NBA champs. On December 5, 2015, I was still in my 30s.

You get the idea. It’s been a long time. Lots of important things – Lochte and my 40th birthday being at the top of the list – have happened. Clinton is now the unquestioned favourite to be the 45th president of the United States – if you believe polling. The fact that she continues to avoid questions from the press is simply unacceptable given the office she is seeking and the stakes in this election.

She’ll probably now do one, and then that’s it until after the election!

Washington Post slams Clinton

August 18th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post editorial:

IN ANOTHER election year with an opponent who is not so obviously unqualified, last week’s revelations about connections between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton Foundation would have been bigger news. Though it is an exaggeration to claim that Ms. Clinton ran her agency as a pay-to-play operation, the latest unearthed emails from the Clinton State Department nevertheless reveal that the ethical wall she was supposed to have built between herself and her family’s organization was not impermeable enough. …

But it suggests that some donors to the Clinton Foundation may have seen their gifts as means to buy access — and it points to much bigger potential problems. Should Ms. Clinton win in November, she will bring to the Oval Office a web of connections and potential conflicts of interest, developed over decades in private, public and, in the case of her family’s philanthropic work, quasi-public activities. As secretary, she pledged to keep her official world and her family’s foundation separate, and she failed to keep them separate enough. Such sloppiness would not be acceptable in the White House.

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538 now projects Trump to win

July 26th, 2016 at 11:14 am by David Farrar

For the first time ever an electoral college projection has Trump in the lead, and it is Five Thirty Eight’s Nate Silver.

538

This will be major news. And just as the Democratic convention starts. Every time Clinton’s name is mentioned, the is huge booing. It has got so bad Bernie Sanders has had to text all the delegates asking them to stop booing speakers when they mention Clinton’s name.

The projection has Trump 281 and Clinton 257. Trump is now rated 56% likely to win.

They now have Trump ahead in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada and Georgia.

Sanders finally endorses Clinton

July 14th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Democrat Bernie Sanders endorsed former rival Hillary Clinton for president in a show of party unity on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time), saying she was the best candidate to fix the country’s problems and beat Republican Donald Trump in the November 8 election.

With Clinton nodding in agreement beside him, Sanders put their bitter primary campaign behind them and said Clinton would take up the fight to ease economic inequality, make college more affordable and expand healthcare coverage for all Americans.

“This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face, and there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that,” he told a raucous crowd in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that included plenty of vocal Sanders supporters.

To get his support, Clinton has had to sign up to several of his unaffordable ideas.

It came after Clinton last week adopted elements of Sanders’ plans for free in-state college tuition and expanded affordable healthcare coverage. Sanders also successfully pushed to include an array of liberal policy positions in the Democratic platform, which a committee approved on Saturday (Sunday NZT).

Sanders did not win all of his policy fights, most notably failing to win support for blocking a vote in Congress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

But he told the rally in Portsmouth that “our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratically controlled Senate, a Democratically controlled House and a Hillary Clinton presidency – and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.”

Normally a candidate veers towards the centre once they get the nomination, but Clinton is signing up to a very left agenda. This is because the Republican candidate is also spouting leftish policies in some areas such as trade and deficits – and combined with a belief he can’t win.

UPDATE: Not all Sanders supporters on board. The Hill reports:

Bernie Sanders endorsement of Hillary Clinton on Tuesday isn’t stopping his supporters plans to hold a “fart-in” at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) later this month. 

The unusual political strategy will have Sanders delegates consuming a lot of beans before heading to Philadelphia later this month, according to US News and World Report. 

Protest organizer Cheri Honkala, national coordinator for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, has been stocking up on boxes of dry beans and canned beans. 

The plan is for delegates to chow down, then let presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton smell what they think of her. 

“The fart-in is to raise attention about things that really stink in our society,” said Dr. Walter Tsou, of the Philadelphia branch of Physicians for Social Responsibility. 

What wonderful people.

Clinton’s e-mail problem

July 7th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The FBI report is really very damning for Clinton. The Washington Post dissects:

Most importantly, Comey said the FBI found 110 emails on Clinton’s server that were classified at the time they were sent or received. That stands in direct contradiction to Clinton’s repeated insistence she never sent or received any classified emails. And it even stands in contrast to her amended statement that she never knowingly sent or received any classified information.

And eight of those e-mails were top secret. This will go to the heart of the trust issue.

Comey said Clinton had used not one but multiple private email servers during her time at State. He said Clinton used multiple email devices during that time. (She had offered her desire to use a single device for “convenience” as the main reason she set up the private server.) He noted that the lawyers tasked by Clinton with sorting her private emails from her professional ones never actually read all of the emails (as the FBI did in the course of its investigation). Comey said that while the FBI found no evidence that Clinton’s private server was hacked by foreign governments, it was possible that it had been. He argued that the Clinton lawyers had deleted emails they marked as personal that contained professional content, and that while the FBI found some of those emails in its investigation, it was certainly possible more existed that they were unable to track down.

This is also very problematic for her. The e-mails deleted were not purely personal, and so it looks like she was covering up.

It’s hard to read Comey’s statement as anything other than a wholesale rebuke of the story Clinton and her campaign team have been telling ever since the existence of her private email server came to light in spring 2015. She did send and receive classified emails. The setup did leave her — and the classified information on the server — subject to a possible foreign hack. She and her team did delete emails as personal that contained professional information.

Those are facts, facts delivered by the Justice Department of a Democratic administration. And those facts run absolutely counter to the narrative put forth by the Clinton operation: that this whole thing was a Republican witch-hunt pushed by a bored and adversarial media.

Normally this would be fatal for a candidate, but one thing saves her:

The best thing Clinton may have going for her at this point is that Republicans are two weeks away from formally picking Donald Trump as their party’s presidential nominee. Trump has shown a unique ability to hog the national spotlight and make comments that make people wonder whether he is fit to be president. While Clinton’s image numbers are bad, Trump’s are worse.

Almost any of other Republican candidates could have beaten her. But they chose the one who is unelectable.

Clinton not to be charged

July 6th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

FBI Director James Comey said that his agency will not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state, but called Clinton and her staff “extremely careless” in handling sensitive material.

Comey said the FBI investigations into more than 30,000 emails – and others pieced together from data “fragments” – determined that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” The findings now go to the Justice Department.

The announcement – which came only about 72 hours after FBI agents interviewed Clinton – in some ways lifts the cloud that has been hanging over Clinton’s presidential campaign for months.

But it will almost certainly spark criticism that the outcome of the high-profile probe was a foregone conclusion, influenced heavily by political considerations.

Comey said Justice Department prosecutors also must make a final determination, though he was unequivocal in stating his view.

“We are expressing our view to Justice that no charges are appropriate in this case,” he said.

But Comey note clear shortcomings in security protocols for the emails, which include 50 in “classified” categories with eight “top secret.”

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said.

Clinton pinged by State Department Inspector General

May 27th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

One of the two big dominoes in the Hillary Clinton email controversy toppled today:The State Department’s inspector general released its report on the email practices of Clinton and a number of other past secretaries of state. (The other major domino is, of course, the FBI investigation into Clinton’s decision to exclusively use a private email server while serving as the nation’s top diplomat.)

The report, which you can read in its entirety here, badly complicates Clinton’s past explanations about the server and whether she complied fully with the laws in place governing electronic communication. And it virtually ensures that Clinton’s email practices will be front and center in Donald Trump’s fusillade of attacks against her credibility and honesty between now and Nov. 8.

The report is quite damning in what it reveals.

Clinton used an inappropriate method of preserving her documents. Her approach would not have been approved if it had been requested by a more junior member of the State Department staff.  The report also suggests that despite a Clinton aide’s insistence that the method of preserving her emails had been submitted to a legal review back in 2010, there is no evidence that such a review took place. And, here’s the kicker: Clinton refused to sit for a formal interview.

Staff who raised the issue of Clinton’s personal server were lied to and said it had been approved by legal review, and more so were told never to raise the issue again!

The three targets for Clinton to secure the nomination

May 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

How Clinton gets Sanders to concede is becoming quite an issue. There are now three seperate targets being bandied about for what she needs to achieve to win. They are:

A majority of all delegates, including super delegates

This is the normal target. There are 4,763 delegates. You need 2,383 to win. Clinton has 2,293 so she needs just 90 more out of the 939 remaining. She will obviously do this. This will however not occur until June 7 as only 79 delegates come up before then.

A majority of pledged delegates

Some in the Sanders camp say that it isn’t over until someone has a majority of pledged delegates. There are 4,051 pledged delegates. A majority is 2,026. Clinton has 1,768 so she needs 258 more out of 781 remaining. That’s just 33% of remaining delegates which is easy to achieve. This will also happen on June 7 as after that only DC remains on June 14,

A majority of all delegates, but counting pledged delegates also

Again some in Sanders camps says that as super delegates may change their mind, then unless Clinton can get a majority of all delegates, just with pledged delegates, then it is a contested convention. They say until the first vote you don’t know what they’ll do.

This is nonsense as 550 senior Democrats aren’t suddenly going to renege on their written statements and suddenly vote for Sanders. But Sanders can argue it is mathematically possible so hence he won’t concede. This will put pressure on Clinton to adopt more of his policies.

So by this argument Clinton needs 2,383 to clinch it pre-convention and you can only count the 1,768 to date she has pledged. So she needs to win 615 of the remaining 781 pledged delegates. That clearly won’t happen, so if that is Sanders line, he won’t concede.

In reality it will all be over on 7th of June. It effectively is over now.

 

Who wants to be either VP?

May 17th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Politico reports:

Why would anybody want that job under Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? If either of them becomes president, we will probably see the most marginalized vice president in a generation.

VPs used to have almost no power. But Gore, Cheney and Biden have all been very influential in their respective administrations.

Trump’s contempt for rivals, critics and even allies makes LBJ’s bullying look like something out of Mr. Rogers. The video of him curtly ordering endorser Chris Christie to “get on the plane and go home” ought to be fair warning that a vice president under Trump should not expect anything better. Moreover, the idea of loyally supporting a Trump agenda poses a special challenge: That agenda is likely to be amended or abandoned on a moment’s notice. A prospective running mate, asked to declare himself or herself on Trump’s abortion, tax, health care or foreign policy positions, might be tempted to answer: “Which ones?” As for as being “the last voice” offering guidance, Trump has already told us what voice that will be.

“I’m speaking to myself,” he told Mika Brzezinski of “Morning Joe” in March, “because I have a very good brain.” His vice president, Trump suggested last week, would be a messenger boy, serving as his “legislative liaison.”

Messenger boy is about right!

The challenge is different for a prospective Clinton running mate—and one that no past veep has ever faced. Yes, past vice presidents have found themselves in a battle for the ear of POTUS with key White House aides and Cabinet members. But they’ve never had the challenge of competing with a presidential spouse who also happens to be a former two-term president. Indeed, in many ways, Bill Clinton would be a near-perfect choice to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. His political skills are unmatched; he knows the dangers that confront any White House as no one else possibly can; he’s even got a track record of working with an opposition Congress—something that neither of his successors can match.

Yeah being VP to Hillary would not be fun either – Bill will be her principal advisor and you’d be third tier at best.

What are Trump’s chances of winning the Presidency?

May 15th, 2016 at 4:10 pm by kiwi in america

Before I attempt to answer this question, I need to disclose my personal views. I was a Rubio supporter but voted for Cruz in the Arizona primary as Rubio has dropped out of the race by then. I was, and am now, not a fan of Trump…however I will hold my nose and vote for him in the General Election over Hillary Clinton.

The 2016 Presidential election will likely be remembered as one of the most exciting, chaotic, unpredictable and nasty campaigns in history. The presumptive nomination of Donald Trump to be the Republican Party’s standard bearer is the first time a major party has nominated a candidate with no prior elected office experience since businessman Wendell Willkie was the Republican nominee for the 1940 election. Yes, it is true that the GOP nominated Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 but he had served in the US Army for all his professional life with some years in major high profile leadership roles such that most would argue he had served his country in a highly public and successful capacity as Allied Supreme Commander in Europe during World War 2.

Democratic race

Before I look at the pluses and minuses that Trump brings to the campaign, it is instructive to look at the state of the Democrat nomination race. On paper, Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. The only mathematical chance that Bernie Sanders has of overhauling Clinton’s almost 300 pledged delegate lead is to overwhelmingly win the remainder of the Democrat primaries AND to then persuade over 250 of the super delegates pledged to Hillary to switch camps. All of the Democrat delegates from primaries and caucuses are awarded proportionately unlike some key winner-take-all Republican primaries (such as Indiana where Trump easily beat Cruz to knock him out of the race). For instance, whilst it is true that Sanders has won the majority of more recent races, Clinton has managed to amass still more delegates in each lost race and, having won the large states that count, Sanders can only chip away at her delegate lead with low single digit delegate margins between him and her. With that said, Clinton is proving to be a remarkably weak front runner. Normally at this stage in a race with a front running presumptive nominee, momentum builds and the victories over the remaining candidate get wider and more decisive. Clinton did fight a rearguard action against Obama in 2008 but really only had a handful of victories during that resurgence and then fell away. It seems that despite the inevitability of the delegate count, Sanders is remaining defiant and is ramping up his attacks and remains capable of beating Clinton if only in smaller state contests. This is significant because whilst Trump is now unchallenged and can concentrate his fire on Clinton, she must still fight Sanders off to her left flank. He has dragged her to the left by virtue of both his socialist roots and his solidly progressive grassroots, populist campaign and so the usual pivot to the centre that a candidate undertakes in a general election campaign (no longer needing to appeal to the more ideological extremes of the party’s base) has been delayed for Clinton. Clinton has faced withering fire from Sanders over her vote for the Iraq war, her support for her husband’s popular tough anti-crime laws and welfare reforms in the 90’s and seems to be adopting knee jerk harder left positions such as the lifting the Federal minimum wage, anti-fracking/anti-oil sentiments and sounding tougher on Wall Street than Hillary would normally be considering her strong ties there.

The big question mark over Clinton still remains that of her fate arising from the FBI investigation into her non authorized email server and the dissemination of classified emails through this unsecure channel thus breaching strict intelligence secrecy laws. All recent reporting suggests the following:

  • The man hired by Clinton to set up the homebrew server (Bryan Pagliano) has been granted immunity from prosecution and has spoken freely and frankly to the FBI;
  • Clinton’s entire inner circle has now been interviewed by the FBI and Clinton has been advised that she will be next and last. This is the standard pattern of federal agents targeting a key person;
  • FBI Director James Comey has gone on the record effectively dismissing the Clinton spin reaffirming that this is an investigation not a “security review” and that he and his agents will not be deterred by her rank and status;
  • Various former Federal prosecutors have weighed to remind us that Clinton’s intent (innocent or otherwise) will be irrelevant – if top secret material is proven to be transmitted over non secure and non authorised channels, she (and her aides) will have committed the various felonies outlined in various relevant statutes.

Clinton’s fate lies in the hands of the Department of Justice and its top official, Obama appointee Attorney General Loretta Lynch. If the FBI find a prima facie case of breach and recommend indictment, it will be her and her deputy Attorneys General who will make the decision to file formal charges. The likelihood of stalling to after the election by the DOJ and White House or even a non-indictment decision is, in my opinion, high. However, Clinton (and the Democrat party) runs the risk of not only high level leaks from the career professional investigators (Comey has over 150 agents on the case including several top counter espionage and cyber security experts) but also the prospect of Comey’s own resignation over a non-indictment if the evidence is particularly compelling.

If there is no indictment, Clinton will tough it out and rely on a sympathetic pro Democrat media to shield her somewhat from the FBI leaks. If she is indicted, she’s toast as a candidate. Sanders is hanging around hoping for an indictment and will argue at the Convention in Philadelphia that he’s the next highest delegate winner and so the ‘next in line’. Despite polls showing Sanders getting a wider winning margin over Trump than Clinton, look for the Democrats to parachute Vice President Joe Biden in as the nominee as a Hail Mary to save the election.  This analysis is then premised on Clinton facing Trump in the autumn general election campaign.

Trump’s chances

Anyone who thinks they know what is going to happen on November 8 is likely to be wrong. Trump has upended almost every establishment political prognostication on both sides of the political aisle. He has defied conventional wisdom every step of the way. He has made a stream of gaffes that would’ve ended normal politicians’ runs, he has ignored media narratives and robustly combatted media opposition and yet still earned twice the media coverage of all of his GOP AND Democrat rivals COMBINED, he has eschewed a delegate winning ground game and what little money he has spent so far has largely been his own money. No one has ever managed to do this and succeed in the modern political era. He has relied more on his natural instincts concerning issues that are driving voters rather than carefully measured, polled and focus group tested sound bites like Clinton and his GOP opponents. Trump says things no one else has dared say especially about Bill and Hillary Clinton. Predictions of Trump’s fate, even from more centrist establishment Republicans, are that he is staring down the barrel of a landslide defeat. And yet others look at his remarkable string of victories against all prognostications, the record turnout of GOP primary voters and his ability to defy all the rules of normal politics as evidence that he will ride a wave of voter anti-establishment disgust all the way to a massive win over Clinton. The trouble with these predictions, as you will see as I detail the pros and cons of Trump’s candidacy, is that both sides of this argument seem to have compelling reasons to back up their assertions.

Trump’s negatives that militate against him winning

 1. Dis-unified party.

Most primary races leave wounds and scars amongst the defeated candidates and their followers but generally voters, supporters and surrogates for the defeated candidates get over it and unify behind the nominee. This process has not happened as much or as quickly with Trump. There has been a discernable and visible division amongst centre-right commentators, media, blogs and talk show hosts between those that support Trump and those that opposed him. This has been characterised by the so-called Never Trump movement. Whilst there has been somewhat more of a coalescing around Trump in recent days, the high profile reluctance of House Speaker Paul Ryan to endorse Trump is somewhat unprecedented. Likewise, is the hostile reception of party leaders like Mitt Romney who is alleged to have sounded out high profile Trump opponents like Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and even Governor Kasich. This divide is clearly evident with invective and criticism of each other from right wing media with angry outbursts from Trump supporters like Fox News hosts and commentators Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter clashing with anti-Trump commentators like talk show host Mark Levin, Blaze TV front man Glenn Beck and a host of National Review editors and writers. Some like popular talk show hosts Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt have tried to remain largely neutral but the warfare inside the conservative movement over Trump, his candidacy, policies and personality is unprecedented and will make it harder for Trump to unify the party. Trump of course doesn’t help matters with his uncompromising rhetoric and his clashes with right media personalities such as Megyn Kelly.

2. Poor ground game

Unlike Ted Cruz who was known for his excellent on-the-ground GOTV efforts, data driven voter turnout models and canny delegate wooing tactics, Trump has been slow to embrace this crucial part of winning elections partly because he has relied so much on earned media. Trump seems to be far less interested in this aspect of electioneering than is wise. Clinton has managed to snare some of the same team that drove Obama’s highly successful voter targeting and GOTV operation and she has been investing heavily in a good ground game in key battleground states. It is a fact that the Republican National Committee has spent the last 2 election cycles playing electronic and data mining catchup with the Democrats and it is said that the RNC’s current GOTV operation is the best it’s ever been and at least equal with the Democrats. Trump’s slowness in this regard may be compensated for by the party’s own machinery that will swing in behind Trump. Obama proved that it was possible to get out his unique coalition twice in a row and Clinton will be banking on managing a three-peat.

3. Very high negative polling

Any analysis of polling data comparing past campaigns and candidates reveals that we face a quite unique situation with the two main candidates in 2016 in that both feature unusually high unfavourable polling figures. This is the ratio between those who favourably view a candidate and those who are unfavourable. The latest Gallup Favourable/Unfavourable ratio for Trump is a staggering 33/61 and Clinton is better but still poor at 41/54. To have two such unpopular candidates opposing each other is unprecedented and it remains to be seen as to what will happen to these figures as the campaign moves to a general election footing as each candidate showers media with a wall of negative ads designed to define their opponent.

4. Media portrayal of misogyny sticking

The main stream media have been quick to portray Trump as a misogynist women hater and certainly his comments about Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina gives some backbone to these claims. Will Trump’s very high negatives with women improve and if not, will Clinton’s negatives with men be enough to outweigh them? Right now Clinton is on the winning side of that statistical battle.

5. Competing against the first woman President candidacy theme of Clinton

Clinton has, and will continue to aggressively play, the woman card. Just as Obama was campaigning to end centuries of oppression of blacks by being the first black President, so Clinton wants to break a remaining glass ceiling and be the first woman President. To women voters in particular it is a powerful and simple campaign theme. Whether Clinton can overcome her considerable baggage to realise that goal remains to be seen but it is a real headwind that Trump is running against.

6. Poor head to head polling v Clinton

Up until very recently, the head to head polls, both at the national and swing state level, were devastating for Trump and his GOP opponents hammered him relentlessly on that. This more than anything else has fueled much of the negative prediction commentary about Trump from his right wing opponents and this has been seized upon with glee by Democrats, the MSM and left leaning commentators. Polls would be trumpeted showing Clinton barely behind in heavily Republican states like Georgia, winning Arizona (which has voted Democrat only twice since WW2 – 1948 and 1996) and Clinton leading in national polls by double digits. Electability in the fall in the past has been a powerful electioneering tool for primary candidates but in this cycle, once again a seeming cardinal rule has again been broken. Head to head polls showed in this order: Kasich, Rubio, Cruz then Trump from doing the best to the worse against Clinton (or Sanders) and yet the success of each major GOP candidate has been in inverse proportion to their supposed electability. Part of the reason for this is the truism that head to head polls this far out are meaningless and Trump’s surrogates have pointed this out for months and in recent weeks, these polls have tightened considerably with reputable polls putting Trump essentially level pegging in key states like Florida and Ohio and close to the margin error behind Clinton in national polls.

7. Leftist policy provisions and his bombastic personality causing the conservative base to stay at home

The knee jerk reaction of a number of more solidly conservative friends of mine is to refuse to vote for Trump. Some talk up a conservative third party candidate, others say they’ll vote Libertarian whereas most say they cannot bring themselves to vote for Trump seeing him as an unauthentic conservative, a closet Democrat and a crass populist and a few flirt with voting for Hillary. These assessments are not far off the mark but increasingly, many are coming to see Hillary and the extent to which Sanders has dragged her so far to the left, as a far greater existential threat to the Republic that many more are doing what I am doing and holding their noses and voting for Trump. The extent to which the conservative base stays home in protest or disgust at Trump’s excesses and policy quirkiness may have a large bearing on his success or otherwise in November. A third party candidate is highly unlikely. No one remotely electable has stepped up and in any event, the deadline has passed in most states to even get on the ballot – a task that is complex, time consuming and costly.

8. Trump’s caustic management style may see key staff burnt off

Stories abound of Trump’s abrasive and take no prisoners style. Will this extend to his campaign to such an extent that key staff abandon him? It’s hard to say. Trump has outwitted and outlasted armies of the GOP consultant establishment and utterly defied their collective wisdom by turning it on its head and proving them all wrong. That said, some mechanics of a campaign must be adhered to. Could Trump be so arrogant as to ignore even the practical and good election campaign advice rationalising his behaviour because he so dominated the primary race that the consultants have nothing to teach him? The truth is likely somewhere in the middle – some of their advice is relevant but most of their instincts have been to line their own pockets with fees. If Trump is wise he will attract the best players and listen to the good tactics they have to offer and yet stay true to his instincts that have seen him win so convincingly.

Trump’s assets that might see him win

1. Massive earned media

This graph tells the story far better than words. http://clashdaily.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/qmeme_1458400097167_447.jpg This, more than anything else, explains Trump’s success. He sucked the media oxygen from the air of almost all his rivals’ campaigns. Media obsession about all things Trump meant Jeb Bush could spend $150 million and have almost nothing to show for it. Despite the media realising that Trump has been their creation, he remains a ratings dream for networks and cable shows and excellent click bait for on line political news outfits like Politico, the Hill, the Washington Examiner and blogs. This is not going to change in the foreseeable future. Trump will still say outrageous things that will leave media and commentators buzzing and obsessing and now it will be Hillary Clinton who will be overshadowed. Obama got excellent earned media coverage because of his unique persona. Clinton is not unique – she is extremely well known and a rather dour campaigner. Faced with Trump’s endless stream of consciousness, provocative tweets and interviews, clashes with media and opponents and his sheer utter unpredictability, he will remain ratings gold as the campaign progresses ensuring his message reaches all corners of the electorate.

2. Record GOP turnout in the primaries translates into larger than usual general election turnout

The increase in Republican primary turnout in this cycle compared to 2012 has been a staggering 60%. As at the end of the New York primary on April 19th, this amounted to an additional 9 million voters! Note that Obama only beat Romney by 5 million votes in the 2012 election. Whilst it is true that in some primaries allowed independents and registered Democrats to vote in GOP primaries meaning some of the higher turnout could be put down to cross over voting, turnout has been massively up even in states with closed primaries (limited only to registered Republicans). The best analysis of this is found at http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/04/25/exclusive-data-analysis-gop-primary-turnout-8-7-million-votes-60-percent-2016-versus-2012/. This trend bodes well for Trump.

3. Lower Democrat turnout

The flip side of point 2 is the significantly lower turnout for Democrat primaries and caucuses and this is in spite of the resurgent and seemingly popular grassroots campaign of Bernie Sanders. Democrats, aside from Sanders’ supporters, appear to relatively less enthusiastic about their presumptive nominee. This was the reverse in 2008 when Democrat primary turnout was hugely up on the back of Obama’s popular campaign. This difference does not bode well for Clinton.

4. Any negative news event in the immigration or terrorism sphere plays into Trumps hands

Any high profile murder by an illegal immigrant (especially one previously deported) will play into Trump’s anti-illegal immigration message. Even the ongoing wave of refugees into Europe plays subtly into Trumps hands as it shows the negative cultural impact of uncontrolled immigration. Even more potent would be the indirect electoral benefit to Trump of another global terrorist event. Another Paris or Brussels attack by Muslim extremists makes Trump’s policy of pausing on Muslim immigration to the US look reasonable and practical. A terrorist incident like the San Bernardino massacre, especially if close to the election, will guarantee Trump a strong bounce over Clinton as Trump will unsubtly make the Benghazi contrast. Anything more serious than San Bernardino would be game over for Clinton as Trump would ride a wave of almost 911 style voter fear.

5. The party is gradually, albeit slowly, coalescing around Trump

Paul Ryan, after his much publicized ‘summit’ with Trump, has moved from Never Trump to Probably Trump (but not yet). More Senators (even those who opposed him) are coming on board. Cruz and Rubio will likely hold their noses and eventually endorse. The Bush clan will stay silent and Romney will continue to oppose but likely will temper his attacks. It won’t be across the board or full throated but it could be enough to send a sufficient signal to other wavering GOP voters to hold their noses and vote for Trump.

6. Hillary is a lousy campaigner

She is wooden, inauthentic, focus group driven, uninspiring and somewhat prone to gaffes. Her handling of controversies such as the email scandal has been woeful. She is afraid to be interviewed by anyone except a handful of pro-Democrat flunkies who don’t really press her hard. Whilst she has handled Sanders reasonably well in their debates, she has not faced the wall of hostile questioning the GOP candidates faced in most of their debates and nor has she had to face Bernie Sanders more recent harder edged criticism as his attacks have ramped up since their debates. Trump, on the other hand, went through a large number of debates where he was the primary target of attacks and he acquitted himself adequately. He is not the purist debater in the Cruz mold nor the compelling story teller like Rubio but he can and will attack and vigourously defend himself. He will not conform to normal debate structures and approaches and will be unpredictable and feisty against Clinton and will not hesitate to bring up a host of negative issues like her email server, her poor record at State, Benghazi and the murky funding of the Clinton Foundation. Clinton has not faced any hard edged opposition in a public forum on any of these matters. I’m picking that she may refuse to debate Trump such will be the political risks that he will wipe the floor with her.

7. Clinton is burdened by a sluggish economy and Obama’s weak foreign policy – fighting off the Obama’s 3rd term meme.

Whilst Obama’s popularity has staged a minor recovery, the economy (on Main Street versus the more buoyant Wall Street) has seen very anemic growth. The Obama recovery is the weakest of the all the post-Depression recoveries. The extremely low labour participation rate is a major unseen economic drag. It is down to only 63% from a high of 68% in 2000 and explains why the unemployment rate is seemingly so low at 5%. It is because approximately 11 million Americans have dropped out of the workforce altogether and are no longer seeking work and so are not counted in the unemployment stats. If they (and those forced to work part time) are added in, the true unemployment rate is 9.6% http://www.macrotrends.net/1377/u6-unemployment-rate . This is the first administration since the Depression to preside over a slight decline in net real wages AND net wealth of the vital middle class. Many voters feel they are not any better off despite the stock market recovery.  Add to this a string of foreign policy failures or stagnations, Clinton will be seen as an 3rd Obama term and a third term in office for the same party has only happened once since the 22nd Amendment restricted Presidents to two terms (Bush 41 wining in 1988 after the two Reagan terms).

8. Trump benefits from the strong anti-insider establishment sentiment and appeals to Reagan Democrats

This is the greatest unknown and possibly the one thing above all else that could win Trump the Presidency. Frustration at the establishment of both parties is running at record levels. It is palpable and crops up constantly in political discussion across communities. GOP control of the House (2010) and the Senate (2014) has actually made the sentiment worse because the GOP won two large wave elections giving them unprecedented majorities in both houses of Congress to block Obama as voters intended and yet time after time, the Republican leadership caved on key conservative issues to the disgust of the Republican base. This more than anything else explains Trump’s success in the primaries. This disgust, anxiety and frustration is bi-partisan. Many many voters of all persuasions see inaction on the border and blame stagnant wage growth and un/under employment on illegal immigration. Trump unashamedly taps a huge vein of fear and discontent especially amongst blue collar workers who were once a key demographic cohort for the Democrats. Lately this group have stayed home from the polls demoralised by the inaction by the party elites of both parties. Trump’s promises to make America great and to build a wall may bring record numbers of recent nonvoters to the polls to vote for a successful, confident outsider beholden to no one promising to get things done. The same is true for foreign policy and the rise of Islamic extremism. Middle America is tired of political correctness and waning American power and the seeming impotence of Obama’s so-called ‘smart power’ diplomacy. Trump’s promise to make America great again has to the power to plough through all his many negatives and bring dormant general election voters of both parties, long disgusted by business as usual in Washington, to the polls in droves to install the anti-politician who has built a successful business empire.

9. The Teflon factor

Trump has defied political gravity continuously. Normal rules don’t apply. Revelations of sordid earlier affairs, drug fueled parties in the 80’s, eminent domain abuses, fraudulent claims of Trump University, threats to investigate his political enemies if he wins – all negatives that the media will gleefully report from Clinton’s oppo research files, will slide off Trump. Almost all of this is baked into the cake. Voters know Trump is flawed, quixotic, not really a policy expert and often all over the page on some issues. They don’t care – they believe on the big issues (immigration, Islamic extremism, American jobs and US strength and power abroad) that Trump will face down his critics, ignore the media and Washington commentatiat and just hunker down and finally do the things that Americans have been begging to have done for decades. When faced with a choice between more of the same from Clinton (with the added spice of a rerun of Clinton scandals like the 90s) and the fresh but flawed broom that Trump promises to sweep, it may end up being a no brainer for enough voters in places like Florida, Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania to get him to 270 electoral votes.

As I said, both sides’ arguments are compelling, All I know is that US voters are in going to be in for the wildest campaign ride possibly in over a hundred years!

US Presidential primaries – FAQs after Super Tuesday III

March 17th, 2016 at 8:52 am by kiwi in america

The biggest question on the minds of almost everyone following the US Presidential election race is: can Donald Trump be stopped? I will cover that question last as it is the most consequential but there are a number of other questions that Kiwi followers of the race might have. Let’s cover off the Democrats side first as things are more clear cut there.

Can Sanders beat Clinton?
No. Even if he was coming close to Clinton in the recent Democrat primaries (thus garnering only slightly less delegates proportionally as all Democrat primaries/caucuses award delegates proportionally), the presence of the so-called super delegates (who are pretty much all pledged to support Hillary-the current super delegate split is 467 to 26) would ensure he’d lose the nomination. However, last night on Super Tuesday 3, despite Clinton’s shock lost last week in Michigan, Clinton bested Sanders by substantial margins and in a series of delegate rich states such as Florida and Illinois. The delegate count stands at 1,599 vs 844 or almost 2:1.

Will Sanders drop out soon?
Unlikely. He has plenty of money; actually more than any other candidate running for either party and he has captured the activist base of the Democrat party and enjoys an almost iconic status among the young and idealist more left leaning voters. Sanders will continue to pick off the odd state with favourable demographics (such as his narrow win in Missouri last night) but it will be impossible for him to overhaul Clinton’s lead. Sanders will be secretly hoping that Clinton will be forced to drop out of the race if indicted for breaches of intelligence secrecy laws with her use of an external private email server to transmit top secret material during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Will Clinton be indicted?
A $64,000 question. In terms of the sheer volume of secret material that was transmitted via her unsecured home brew email server (over 2,000 emails marked secret and 22 marked with the very highest designation: Top Secret/Special Access Programs), the answer should be yes. The 22 SAP emails had material so sensitive to national security that they could not be released by the State Department (under the court ordered release) even in redacted form. General Petraeus was indicted for passing a smaller amount of less secret material to his girlfriend who was writing his memoirs. If Clinton was an employee at an intelligence agency, she’d be in jail already but Clinton is no ordinary person. The FBI seems to be playing a straight bat with their investigation but the granting of immunity from prosecution to the man tasked by Clinton to set the whole separate email system up is an ominous sign for her. The FBI Director James Comey is known to be independent and unswayed by political machinations but the decisions to prosecute will not be his – that will be made by the Department of Justice and by three layers of Obama political appointees including the Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Will Obama throw Clinton under the bus? Given the detrimental effect of an indictment then leading to a Republican win, not likely. But any decision not to indict runs the risk of mass leaking of the facts by the FBI investigators of Clinton’s reckless disregard for national security that even the Democrat leaning media would find hard to ignore.

If she’s indicted, what might happen?
Democrat insiders are reportedly very nervous about Clinton and not just because of the vulnerability over the email server issue. Plan B however is to not let Sanders prevail at the Convention as he is deemed to be too left wing to be electable even against a flawed candidate like Trump. Most likely they will parachute Vice President Joe Biden into the Convention as a ‘salvation’ candidate whom the delegates will rally around to win in the November General Election. There is no other option as the Democrats’ front bench is so devoid of talent.

Switching now to the Republican side which is where all the drama is!

Can Trump still win a majority of delegates?
Yes, but he would have to win the remaining primary races by a margin of 53% or more which is doable but above the average of the mid 40’s he has been achieving in recent primaries. Trump is still going to face Cruz and Kasich whose combined vote will likely deny Trump the majority he seeks. If all remaining contests were winner-take-all this wouldn’t matter but they aren’t and there are still states where Cruz will likely win (e.g. Utah). Most intelligent analysts of the race are picking the race will go to what is called an open or contested Convention.

What is an open (or contested) Convention?
The US political parties formally nominate their Presidential flag bearer at their quadrennial conventions held in the mid/late summer of the Presidential election year. Most conventions are a carefully staged managed coronation as the party’s preferred nominee has emerged from the primary election season with a majority of delegates. In the case of the Republican Party, it has 2,472 delegates from each of the states with delegates proportionate to each state’s population. The GOP nominee has to win a majority of the delegates or 1,273 [edit 1,237]. Delegates arrive at the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18th nominally bound to their candidate (and some are more bound than others as each states’ electoral laws and thus internal party primary/caucus/nominating procedures differ). If no candidate comes with a majority of the delegates, then no candidate can win the first round of voting. Depending on governing state election laws and internal state GOP procedures, most of the delegates become unbound in the second round leaving them free to support a different candidate than the one they came to represent. The outcome will depend on a myriad of factors but most heavily on the respective strengths of the 2nd and 3rd ranked candidates and the on the horse trading and enticements that can be made. Abraham Lincoln for instance arrived at the 1860 Republican Convention in 4th place and after 4 rounds of voting, emerged as the victor due to the shifting allegiances to his three higher polling rivals as each failed to win an outright majority with each voting round.

Could Ted Cruz ever manage to win a majority of delegates before the Convention?
Cruz currently holds 397 delegates to Trump’s 646 (the remaining delegates are distributed: Rubio 169 Kasich 142  Carson 8 Bush 4 Fiorina, Paul and Huckabee 1 each). For Cruz to win outright, he’d need to win the remaining races by a margin of around 70%. Based on current trends, that’s a near impossibility. Cruz’s only pathway to the nomination is to deny Trump his majority and secure nomination on a second or subsequent ballot at the Convention.

But won’t it be easier for Cruz if Rubio and Kasich both drop out leaving it as a one on one race?
First off whilst Rubio has suspended his campaign yesterday after his heavy loss to Trump in his home state of Florida, Kasich’s clear win in Ohio (his home state where he has had some success as Governor) will buoy him to continue. Some of the establishment donors that initially funded Bush, then switched to Rubio for a time, will donate to Kasich enabling him to keep running. He will fancy his chances in Wisconsin (a winner take all primary where Kasich enjoys the support of Governor Walker who remains popular amongst WI GOP voters). Kasich cannot win (indeed his pathway to a majority is he’d have to win 90% of votes in the remaining primaries) but he will stay in to bolster his bargaining power at the Convention.

Primary voters don’t move in simple binary ways so to assume that everyone not voting for Trump is vehemently anti Trump is a mistake. Let’s assume Kasich did drop out, it is wrong for Cruz’s campaign to assume that all of the Rubio and Kasich voters would come to him. A majority would but not all of them. Cruz is banking on that happening and that Trump is stuck at 45%. The other thing is that not all the remaining primaries are winner take all and so even if Cruz was to consolidate the anti-Trump vote behind him, Trump would still win enough delegates to deny Cruz a majority. California is the biggest prize awarding a whopping 341 delegates (172 from the primary then 169 alternates) but it awards delegates incrementally to the candidate who wins a plurality in each of the 51 Congressional districts making it very costly and complicated for one candidate to prevail. Its primary isn’t until June 2nd making it the first time in living memory that a California primary has any influence on a nomination race. For those who want to stop Trump reaching 1,271 [edit 1,237] then the longer it is a three-man race, the greater the likelihood of a contested Convention. Thus the Cruz v Trump head to head race that Cruz so desires, will not be happening until Kasich runs out of money and starts to poll so low that he can’t cross minimum vote thresholds in proportional states to be awarded delegates.

CAN TRUMP BE STOPPED?
If he wins 1,271 [edit 1,237]delegates before the Convention, no – he will be the nominee. But if he doesn’t, then look to the party establishment to use a variety of tactics to deny him the nomination. The playbook to do this is detailed by Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg. Reader Digest version: the selection of GOP delegates to the Convention is a shadow hidden primary campaign of back room deals, arm twisting, granting of favours and controlled by state and local level Republicans who are much more likely to support a mainstream candidate. Whilst a few states force their delegates to stay bound to their candidate throughout, almost all states allow their delegates to be unbound after the first ballot. The race is on to fill these delegate slots across the country with anti-Trump people who can be counted on to desert Trump after the first ballot. Arcane rules will be used to challenge any questionable primary or caucus results (e.g. the known chaos at the Nevada caucus and the public role of Trump supporters in dominating enrollment procedures at key caucus sites). Some states control the delegate appointment process in the hands of very few. For example, in South Carolina you can only be a delegate if you attended the 2015 State GOP Convention and that was held before Trump even announced his candidacy. The delegate appointments are controlled by Governor Nicki Hayley known to be anti-Trump and will be supported by both SC Senators Graham and Scott who both supported candidates other than Trump. Because Trump won every SC congressional district, he was awarded all of its 50 delegates but he could find come July that none of the 50 will support him in the second round.

Stage 2 of secret campaign to deny Trump the nomination would occur at the Convention. Senior party officials will control the all-important Rules Committee and we know that this has been used to control convention floor activities before. Fearing a Ron Paul revolution in 2012, Romney ensured that the Rules Committee imposed Rule 40 requiring that a candidate can only receive votes at the convention if they had won a majority in 8 states effectively shutting down Paul’s potentially rowdy and disruptive delegates. Control of convention floor procedures down to who is the Sargent at Arms and can legally eject querulous delegates, will be how the establishment will handle the likely uproar from delegates who are loyal to Trump if he cannot win in subsequent voting rounds.

If Trump does not get to 1,271 [edit 1,237] and the Convention is contested, we’re going to see rambunctious political theatre not seen since the infamous Democrat Convention in 1968. Buckle up people – we’re going to be in for a rough ride. There are lots of other questions such as: if Trump is denied the nomination won’t he and his supporters get ugly and won’t he run as a third party candidate? If it is Hillary v Trump, is the conventional wisdom that Hillary will easily beat him true? Could the GOP establishment parachute in someone like Mitt Romney into the Convention (IMO a silly idea despite my support for Romney in 08 and 12) and could Trump continue to defy all political conventions (as he has to date) and still win the nomination and the Presidency? These questions will need to wait – there is still some water to go under the exciting and chaotic bridge that is the 2016 GOP Primary!

[Disclaimer: I supported Rubio from the earliest beginnings of the campaign but will vote for Cruz in the upcoming Arizona primary next week and then for whoever is the Republican nominee in the November election even if it is Trump or some mainstream candidate like Jeb Bush foisted on the party at the convention. Either is preferable to Clinton.]

Trump leads Clinton for the first time

September 6th, 2015 at 8:05 am by David Farrar

The Hill reports:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump leads Democrat Hillary Clinton head-to-head, according to a new poll released Friday.
 
The poll by SurveyUSA finds that matched up directly, Trump garners 45 percent to Clinton’s 40 percent.
 
In other head-to-head matchups, Trump beats out Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by 44 percent to 40 percent; Vice President Joe Biden by 44 percent to 42 percent; and former Vice President Al Gore by 44 percent to 41 percent.
 
Trump’s surge past Clinton marks a dramatic turnaround in the polls.
 
A CNN/ORC sampling of national voters in late June — just days after Trump entered the race — found that 59 percent supported Clinton to 34 percent picking Trump in a head-to-head race.
So Trump is up 11% and Clinton down 15%. A huge swing.
Polls at this early stage aren’t generally that important. It is still highly likely Clinton will be the Democartic nominee and highly unlikely Trump will be the Republican nominee.
However momentum is important, and this Shows Trump has it and Clinton going backwards. A major argument against Trump is he could not win the general election. A few more polls like this, and that conventional wisdom will go the same way as all the other conventional wisdom Trump has smashed.
The demographic breakdowns are interesting:
  • Men – Trump +15%
  • Women – Clinton +5%
  • Under 35s – Clinton +19%
  • 35 to 49 – Trump +12%
  • 50 to 64 – Trump +15%
  • 65+ – Trump +17%
  • Whites – Trump +17%
  • Blacks – Clinton +34%
  • Hispanics – Clinton +19%
  • Asians – Trump +2%
  • Independents – Trump +13%
  • Moderates – Trump +4%
  • North East – Clinton +4%
  • Mod West – Trump +18%
  • South – Trump +6%
  • West – Clinton +2%

Sanders closing on Clinton in Iowa

August 31st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s once-commanding lead in Iowa has shrunk to just seven percentage points, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has surged in the state whose caucuses will kick off the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, according to a poll released Saturday evening.

The Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics poll, considered the gold standard of Iowa surveys, found Clinton with the support of 37 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers, followed by Sanders at 30 percent.

There is little doubt that Clinton’s campaign is in trouble, and that she is inspiring Democrats.

However that does not mean she will not win the nomination. She almost certainly will. It is more about how much damage she takes along the way.

It’s not good when the most left wing Senator in the United States is only 7% behind you. In May she led him by 40%.

What is interesting is the net favourabilities (with Iowa Democrats) for the three possible contenders:

  • Biden +65%
  • Clinton +58%
  • Sanders +67%

Obama by the way is +79%.

If you look just at those who are strongly favourable, and strongly unfavourable the net differences are:

  • Obama +39%
  • Biden +23%
  • Clinton +18%
  • Sanders +35%

Sanders supporters are more excited about him.

Sanders is also leading the polls in New Hampshire by 3%. So he could win both Iowa (1 February) and new Hampshire (9 February).

However after that it is Nevada and South Carolina, where Clinton should romp home. Sanders has little support outside a small geographic area. However the danger to Clinton is that if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire, the media attention he’ll get might move others towards him.

Clinton favourability dropping

August 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post looks at Hillary Clinton favourability poll numbers.

Some decline was inevitable as she went from Secretary of State to candidate, but the degree of change is pretty huge. Here’s het net favourability by year”

  • 2012 +37%
  • 2013 +33%
  • 2014 +19%
  • 2015 – 3%

Her current breakdown is interesting also:

  • All -3%
  • Democrats +70%
  • Republicans -68%
  • Independents -24%
  • Whites -26%
  • Non-whites +33%

Will it be Bush vs Clinton again?

June 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Jeb Bush has announced he is standing for the US Presidency. This is not unexpected, but is news. Donald Trump has also said he is standing. That is now serious news.

Could it be Bush vs Clinton again? Let’s look at the current polling for each primary.

Bush is averaging 9.7% in the heavily contested Republican race, behind Marco Rubio 12.4%, Scott Walker 11.0% and Ben Carson on 10.1%. Behind behind the flaky Carson is not good.

Clinton is averaging 58.5%, miles ahead of socialist Bernie Sanders on 12.0%.

What are their respective favourabilities?

Bush has 32% favourable and 50% unfavourable for a net -18%

Clinton has 46% favourable and 49% unfavourable for a net -3%

In a direct match up the average is Clinton 51%, Bush 42%. A landslide.

Of course 16 months to go, but hard to see Jeb Bush in the White House.

Clinton’s cash problem

April 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The NY Times reports:

The book does not hit shelves until May 5, but already the Republican Rand Paul has called its findings “big news” that will “shock people” and make voters “question” the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department.

Correlation is not causation, but what you may still have here is foreign governments thinking this is a way you could thank the Clintons for favourable US decisions.

The book will be very interesting. I don’t think anything can stop her winning the nomination, but this could hurt her in the general election. Americans seem to accept their politicians being on the take for US companies, but may be less tolerant if they think you are on the take for foreign governments,

The GOP and the last 16 years

April 23rd, 2015 at 11:20 am by Lindsay Addie

Charles Cooke in the National Review discusses the strategy the Republican party should adopt with the 2016 Presidential elections in mind.

It should by now be obvious to conservatives that the last American Golden Age obtained not during George W. Bush’s rather disappointing tenure, but in the mid- to late- 1990s, when the Republican party ran both houses of Congress and Democrat Bill Clinton ran the executive branch. If they are to run a successful campaign — and, crucially, if they are to capitalize upon the electorate’s present dissatisfactions — Republicans will need to acknowledge that they are not only running against the Obama administration, but against a broader national melancholia to which they themselves have contributed.

What Cooke is arguing is that if Jeb Bush is the GOP nominee (considered the frontrunner by many) will that force the GOP into defending the George W Bush Presidency?

Despite his early wins, moreover, both Barack Obama and his agenda have descended into unpopularity and into fatigue. But it would be a considerable mistake to conclude from this that there is any great yearning to return to 2005. If they are offered a choice between “Clinton” — a name that evokes peace and prosperity — and “Bush” – a name that has been rather run through the mud – they will almost certainly choose the former.

I don’t agree that Hillary Clinton is a near certainty to defeat Jeb Bush but in a ‘back to the future’ style contest between the two she wouldn’t be without a realistic chance of winning. The Clinton political machine is looking rather clunky at times, but is the Bush machine any better?

So what does Cooke think the GOP should do?

Instead, the conservative play should be to put up an attractive newcomer and to hope that he can persuade the electorate to turn its back on the established machine. Who should that be? Well, that depends primarily on aesthetics rather than policy. I take no pleasure in writing this: In an ideal world, our elections would be held on paper, our candidates would be expected to eschew the superficial, and the president would be heard from only if there were a war or a tsunami. Policy, and not television commercials, would rule the political roost. In the real world, however, messaging matters a great, great deal. If they are serious about winning in 2016, conservatives should make sure that they pick a candidate who is capable not only of tapping into the contemporary dissatisfaction, but of breaking with his own party’s past, too.

An ‘attractive newcomer’ as Cooke calls them would also I think need to have some sort of executive experience and be able to motivate conservatives AND moderates/independents to go the polling booths and vote for them. Neither Romney nor McCain excited the conservative base in their respective campaigns for President.

Finally to come back to the premise of Cooke’s article, I agree with him that the GOP should run against the last 16 years. They also need to come up with some sound new policy ideas and not just for the next year and a half rail against Obama and Hillary Clinton (assuming she is the nominee).

No surprise – Clinton confirms

April 13th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This is the least surprising announcement in recent times. From the day she stood down as Secretary of State, this was obviously the game plan.

Her chances of getting the Democratic nomination are very high. The average of the polls has her at 60%, Joe Biden at 12%, Elizabeth Warren at 12% and then Bernie Sanders at 5%.

Warren has said she won’t stand. Sanders is more a socialist than a Democrat and unelectable. Biden is seen as too buffoonish.

So long as Clinton doesn’t appear to be taking the nomination for granted, she should win t comfortably to become the first female nominee for President from a major party.

Becoming President will be harder. However she currently polls around 10% ahead of Jeb Bush and Scott Walker in general election match ups. Her challenge will be not to be seen as an extension of the Obama presidency.

Fiorina vs Clinton

March 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The National Journal reports:

“Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” said Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard. “But unlike her, I’ve actually accomplished something. You see, Mrs. Clinton, flying is not an accomplishment; it is an activity.”

Ouch.

Fiorina, the only Republican woman actively considering a run for the White House, is taking on Clinton more forcefully and directly than any other GOP contender. It’s a deliberate strategy meant to make headlines, differentiate her from the pack, and elevate her position on the national stage. And in the process, it’s winning her friends, as Fiorina assumes an attack role that many Republican strategists think male GOP candidates need to avoid.

Smart. A female candidate can attack another female candidate without risking gender based attacks.

But Fiorina’s offensive is in a class of its own, and for one reason: She’s a woman, so she can.

“She tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights,” Fiorina said at CPAC. “She tweets about equal pay for women, but won’t answer basic questions about her own office’s pay standards—and neither will our president. Hillary may like hashtags, but she doesn’t know what leadership means.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if both parties’ nominees were women!

Populism in the Democratic Party

December 27th, 2014 at 12:05 pm by Lindsay Addie

Dan Balz from the Washington Post reports on the debate underway amongst Democrats prior to the 2015-16 presidential primaries.

That there is such a debate over the direction of the Democratic Party is without question, and the differences have become louder in the wake of the drubbing the Democrats suffered in the midterm elections.

What is in question is the degree to which the rising populist movement on the left can materially shape the party’s future. More specifically, absent some sign from Warren that she is going to run, can these Democrats successfully pressure Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party’s dominant prospective presidential candidate, to adopt much of their agenda?

It is well known that Hillary Clinton is seriously considering running for the nomination and would be a potentially strong establishment candidate for the Democrats. But further to the left of Clinton is Elisabeth Warren the Senator from Massachusetts. Warren has been building a higher profile in US politics at the national level. Her supporters have already been stating clearly where they stand.

Those trying to encourage Warren to run in 2016 argue a different case. Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.Org Civic Action, said there are important policy differences that need to be aired before Democrats pick their 2016 nominee.

She cited issues such as how the party should address income inequality, who holds positions of power in the executive branch — a cause taken up by Warren when she opposed Obama’s nomination of investment banker Antonio Weiss as treasury undersecretary — and whether it is even possible for Democrats to have a discussion about expanding, rather than constraining, Social Security benefits. “We are not debating style here,” she said. “We are debating substance.”

This is urging the Democrats to move to the left. Which leads to the obvious question how will Clinton respond? So far there haven’t been a lot of specifics from Clinton and as yet it remains uncertain what her strategy will be.

Balz goes on to cite examples of the debate within the Democrats and observes that not all within the party are as yet convinced of the populist message Warren is pushing.

Populist energy pulsates within the party to the point that Democrats cannot agree on whether it has become its dominant ideological strain. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has championed a populist message as much as Warren, said: “It’s a good, strong message, and it’s a message that she’s carried very well, and it’s a message that a number of us have put out there for a number of years, and it’s catching on. . . . I don’t think it’s there yet.”

But Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, who comes out of the centrist Democratic tradition, said he believes the party has tipped in favor of Warren’s anti-Wall Street, populist message. “I don’t think there’s any question,” he said of a shift that he finds worrisome for the party’s future hopes of winning over independents and swing voters.

Relating to and winning over independents and swing voters is a key issue not just for Democrats but also the GOP. Also the Republicans would probably welcome a presidential nominee such as Warren with her big government style agenda. Whether they would be good enough to defeat her populist message in a presidential campaign is yet to seen. They haven’t won the Presidency since 2004.

Debates such as the current one inside the Democratic Party can be very healthy in any political movement and shouldn’t be automatically categorised as a split.

US politics cartoons of the week – 22 December 2014

December 22nd, 2014 at 3:27 pm by Lindsay Addie

Most of the US cartoons this past week have been about either the normalizing of relations with Cuba or the Sony/North Korea spat. So I chose the possible Hillary Clinton vs Jeb Bush contest in 2016. Both cartoons speak for themselves without any explanation.

The first is by Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

sack_clinton_bush

© Steve Sack: found at PoliticalCartoons.com

The second cartoon is by Dave Granlund

granlund_bush

© Dave Granlund: found at PoliticalCartoons.com

I’m far from convinced either Hillary or Jeb would make a good POTUS. Two peas from the same pod.

Dotcom will help Hillary get elected!

December 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom says he will be “Hillary’s worst nightmare” as he revealed plans for a US version of the Internet Party.

Dotcom, who is fighting extradition to the US where he is wanted on piracy charges took to Twitter today to announce the new political movement.

“The Internet Party is coming to the United States in 2015. Stay tuned for our celebrity founders from the music, film and Internet industry,” Dotcom posted.

Well the major impact of the Internet Party and Dotcom on the NZ election was to get the man he hates, John Key, re-elected Prime Minister with an increased number of MPs. So on that basis, Dotcom campaigning against Hillary Clinton, should secure her the presidency.

Minutes later he clarified that his role in the party would be limited.

“The Internet Party US will be well funded and run by American citizens. I will help with Public Relations ;-)”.

I think he should do a speaking tour in the US, to help them.

Hillary Clinton Back Pedals on Job Creation Comments

October 28th, 2014 at 5:55 pm by Lindsay Addie

Three days after saying that business doesn’t create jobs Hillary Clinton has found it necessary to back pedal CNN reports.

Friday at a campaign rally for Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, the former secretary of state told the crowd, “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” going on to say trickle-down economics “has failed rather spectacularly.”

Republicans seized on the sentence, seemingly made for an anti-Hillary Clinton campaign ad. America Rising, the main anti-Clinton super-PAC, is featuring it on the header of its website.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Clinton’s attempt to walk back her original remarks.

“I shorthanded this point the other day, so let me be absolutely clear about what I’ve been saying for a couple of decades,” said Mrs. Clinton, who is widely expected to run for president in 2016.

“Our economy grows when businesses and entrepreneurs create good-paying jobs here in an America where workers and families are empowered to build from the bottom up and the middle out — not when we hand out tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs or stash their profits overseas.”

It is a certainty that if Hillary does become the Democratic Party nominee more will be heard of this. As CNN also point out it isn’t the first gaffe on things economic this year by Clinton.

In early June, during her book tour, Clinton made a major gaffe when she said, “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” a comment that critics cited as evidence she is out of touch with everyday Americans.

Loose lips can hurt a prospective run to win the White House. Mitt Romney found this out the hard way when his remarks were secretly taped at the private fundraiser in September 2012.

[]UPDATE]: Corrected typo.

Utu via traffic jams

January 10th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Chris Christie, the early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, was facing a crisis yesterday after emails appeared to show senior aides conspired to inflict an extraordinary act of revenge against the town of a political foe.

The emails detailed how advisers to the New Jersey Governor brought traffic gridlock to the town of Fort Lee after its Mayor Mark Sokolich had refused to endorse his re-election campaign last year. The revelations left Christie, a Republican star who claims a rare ability to forge bipartisan co-operation, open to charges of political bullying in his leadership of the “Soprano state”.

Christie, 51, had previously denied he or his close aides were behind the mysterious closure of access roads to the George Washington bridge, which links New Jersey with New York, in September. Yesterday an “outraged and deeply saddened” Christie said he was misled by an aide. He denied any involvement. The emails do not directly implicate him.

For Christie to get through this he needs to sack those responsible very quickly, and also have a full independent inquiry into it. Otherwise this will haunt him.

The winner from this is Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee. Christie is the only Republican who polls ahead of her in a match up. Most poll well over 10% behind her.

Clinton has also come out looking good in a recent book by Robert Gates. Gates was Defence Secretary to Obama and Bush (and had a security role in every administration since Nixon except Bill Clinton). Gates lashes Joe Biden, Congress, the Obama White House and many others. But he praises Clinton often, which is significant as Gates in Republican.

UPDATE: Christie has sacked staff and apologised, and did a two hour press conference which most observers said he handled very well. But there will be more hearings and information retrieval, so I doubt the issue is over – yet.

UPDATE2: Love this Onion article”

Following revelations this week that staffers under New Jersey Governor Chris Christie manipulated traffic in a small New Jersey town to punish its mayor, mortified Americans across the nation reported that they were shocked to learn the potential 2016 presidential candidate could possibly fumble such an easy political cover-up. “Man, this guy wants to be President of the United States and he can’t even conceal an act of corruption this rinky-dink and run-of-the-mill from voters? It’s crazy,” Newark resident Carolyn Baum said in agreement with millions of stunned Americans, adding that she holds potential presidential candidates to much higher standards of subterfuge and graft. “I mean, this is a total softball. If he can’t even bully one little small-town mayor into submission by oppressing his constituents and get away with it, how can we reasonably believe he’s politically skilled enough to cover up national scandals like orchestrating a foreign war, illegally colluding with big business, or violating the civil liberties of millions of Americans? It’s a little scary, to be honest.”

Heh.

Hillary is running

June 14th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Any doubts over whether Hillary Clinton will run for President in 2016 are gone for me. She has joined Twitter, which is a first step for candidates. But her Twitter bio is what is attracting praise and attention:

Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…

A but of humour at her own expense with the pantsuit reference and the TBD a clear hint to watch this space.

Her first tweet also went down well:

Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe – I’ll take it from here… #tweetsfromhillary

They ran the very funny Tweets from Hillary – so again she is trying to show she has a sense of humour.

I can’t see her not winning the nomination, if she stands. The Republicans will need a good candidate with strong appeal to beat her.