It’s time to Break It Down!
We are closing in on the holidays and the change of seasons; both on the calendar and politically. In just over a week many of us will observe Thanksgiving. In December, there is Hanukkah, followed by, for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, transitioning into winter, quickly followed by Christmas, or the “Happy Holiday Season,” if you roll like that. In January, we will commemorate the King Holiday. Then comes February, politics move front and center, and it’s on! The month alone will include The Iowa Caucuses, the New Hampshire Primary, Nevada Democratic and Republican Caucuses (on different dates), and the South Carolina Primary.
In the early (pre-voting) stages of the 2016 Presidential Campaign, the Democratic and Republican Parties have moved on noticeably different trajectories. The Democrats started with five principal candidates:
- Hillary Clinton
- Bernie Sanders
- Martin O’Malley
- Lincoln Chaffee (Withdrawn)
- Jim Webb (Withdrawn)
After the first Democratic Debate, two candidates, Chaffee and Webb withdrew. Neither registered a significant percentage in the polls, nor crafted a message that resonated with Democratic voters. Arguably, they did themselves, their would-be campaign financiers, and the electorate a favor, albeit a tad late. One might surmise, keen observers are wondering how long will it take Mr. O’Malley to get this message.
Over on the GOP side of the ledger, a fundamentally unexpected, but explainable phenomenon is unfolding. First the race started with a large number of candidates who at least considered themselves serious threats to claim the Party’s Nomination. The festivities kicked off with seventeen candidates:
- Donald Trump
- Jeb Bush
- Scott Walker (Withdrawn)
- Ben Carson
- Mike Huckabee
- Ted Cruz
- Marco Rubio
- Rand Paul
- Chris Christie
- John Kasich
- Rick Perry (Withdrawn)
- Rick Santorum
- Bobby Jindal (Withdrawn)
- Carly Fiorina
- Lindsey Graham
- George Pataki
- Jim Gilmore
At first blush, a glance at the list of GOP contenders, and in some instances, I use the word loosely, reveals a wealth of experience in politics. The slate includes Governors, former Governors, Senators, former Senators, and conspicuously, three individuals who have never been elected to any office.
Initially, handicappers applied conventional wisdom to this race, and predicted Dr. Carson, Mrs. Fiorina, and Mr. Trump (that’s just Alpha Order; nothing sinister) would soon lose their sizzle and appeal to voters, and quickly wind down their campaigns, bowing out gracefully. Well, maybe not Mr. Trump (bowing out gracefully, that is).
That was initially. A funny thing happened to the race as polling ensued. First, Mr. Trump, yes, the Donald, he of Reality TV, and Casino fame, rocketed to the top of the charts. After the first Debate, Mrs. Fiorina quickly moved up to the upper tier of GOP Candidates. Then, in what now seems an inexorable evolutionary turn, Dr. Carson gradually made his way to the front of the class…I mean, the top of the polls. Just like that, the three political neophytes found themselves running at or near the head of the pack.
After recalibrating the bases for their projections (which tends to be necessary when you are wrong at every turn), the prognosticators, political writers, talking heads, and handicappers re-spun their collective narrative. Alas, this was the election cycle when Republicans opted to turn the process on its ear because they were disillusioned with politics as usual, and as result, fed up with the usual politicians. But, we were assured, this was just a passing fancy, and effectively the political silly season, as Jeb Bush called the situation. It would soon pass, he predicted, confidently.
That could still happen; but it might not. We are now less than a year from Election Day 2016, and roughly six weeks away from the Iowa Caucuses on February 1st. Already, a fair amount of heretofore conventional wisdom is being cast in the never gonna happen category. That is to say, Jeb Bush who just a few months ago was thought to be nearly a lock for “Nominee-in-waiting,” is now viewed as the guy who displaced “W” as the least capable, and most unready for Prime Time Bush. Who saw that coming?
So, while there is still time for the erstwhile GOP Cognoscenti to act out its cream imitation, and rise to the top, a number of operatives in GOP inner circles are getting a little nervous. They are, apparently, concerned that a guy who gets his military intel from “the TV shows,” a guy who asserts that the pyramids were grain silos built by Joseph, and a woman whom one of those guys claims drove her company into a disastrous tailspin, from which it still has not recovered, are all at, or lurking near the top of GOP polls.
Meanwhile, to counter this, we are hearing some in the GOP brain trust have embraced a brilliant, OK, an idea; Let’s go get Mitt. You remember Mitt, right? Just in case you don’t, here’s a quick 10-point primer to prick your memory.
During the dog days of the GOP 2012 Presidential Campaign, when Willard Mitt Romney was in the thick of it, he said some interesting things. Among them:
- On Fox News, the reason he did not talk about the troops – “You don’t go through a laundry list; you talk about the things you think are important.”
- On NASCAR – mocking a group of fans wearing plastic ponchos – “I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.” Also, trying to everyman it, Romney said, “I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”
- The infamous 47% comments – “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
- On his disdain for social programs; not concerned about the very poor – “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.”
- He earned a round of pants on fire fact checks for falsely accusing Obama of apologizing for America, after being caught on tape promising his wealthy donors that if there were an “opportunity” like a hostage situation he would “take advantage of it”. – Romney wrote in an email within hours of the attacks but embargoed until midnight so as to avoid looking like he was taking advantage of a tragedy, “The Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Later he went on about Obama’s imaginary apology tour, forgetting that it was he who had been forced to apologize in Britain over the summer.
- His Olympics gaffe, in which he suggested Britain was not prepared for the games – “You know, it’s hard to know just how well it were turn out- will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the- private security firm not having enough people- the sup- supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging. Because in the games, there- there are three parts that makes games successful.”
- His rationalization for why his sons were not fighting for the country – “One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected.”
- Syria is Iran’s route to the sea – Romney said (again), “Syria is Iran’s . . . route to the sea.”
- Describing the withdrawal of the troops from Iraq – “It is my view that the withdrawal of all of our troops from Iraq by the end of this year is an enormous mistake, and failing by the Obama administration. The precipitous withdrawal is unfortunate – it’s more than unfortunate, I think it’s tragic.”
- The memorable binders full of women – “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.”
The Mitt 2012 era was so bad, the Republican National Committee (RNC) convened and drafted a plan to make sure the Party never-ever found itself in such a woeful position again. The head of the RNC put it this way:
“I don’t think you can draw any quick conclusions other than the fact that we lost and we know that. But in order to get back in the game, you’ve got to look at and do a full autopsy of what happened.”
Mr. Priebus noted that the Party would dive deep into analysis of the election, and devise a four-year game plan intended to ensure that they avoid the mistakes of 2012. At that time many Republicans called for a “bigger tent” Party, one that will be more representative of our changing demographics. I suppose they deduced that among the reasons President Obama secured victory included winning among these groups:
Women – 55%
Black – 93%
Hispanic – 67%
Asian – 73%
Jewish – 69%
Other – 57%
Age 18-29 – 60%
Age 30-44 – 52%
Unmarried – 67%
Self-Identified Gay – 76%
Income Under $30,000 – 63%
Income $30,000 – $49,000 – 57%
Given the numbers above, The Trump/Carson position on building a wall, and Mrs. Fiorina’s attacks on Planned Parenthood do not appear to bode particularly well for shoring up key areas in which the Party’s Flagship Team missed the boat in 2012. However, the GOP obviously devoted a significant amount of mental capital to contemplating the return on investment (or lack thereof) in the politics of hate, derision, and various and sundry slurs. Now all they need to do is get their full complement of players on board. Who knows; perhaps this time around, Mr. Romney is that guy.
I doubt it!
The new and improved GOP, coming your way…“Rise of the Phoenix: Romney 2016?” I’m done; holla back!
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