Good morning Austin:
At its recent Winter Meeting in San Diego, the Republican National Committee settled on its debate schedule for the 2016 Republican nomination contest – nine confirmed, plus three pending, a third of them on Fox. Any candidate who appears in any unsanctioned debate will be disqualified from appearing in a sanctioned debate.
The first debate will be in August on Fox and take place in Ohio, which always plays an outsized role in presidential politics. In 2016, Ohio will also host the Republican National Convention – in Cleveland.
Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri, who was at the RNC meeting, said the paring of the debate schedule was meant to remedy what was considered to be an unhealthy proliferation of debates last time with sometimes hostile hosts. Munisteri said that as the debates advance some criterion- based on poll standings – will be applied to winnow the field of candidates qualified to participate, but that first debate will include everyone with any standing as a legitimate candidate.
August is only seven months from now.
So here, without further adieu, is a guide to the Republican field as it looks right now.
With each candidate, I include some comments from Steve Munisteri, as fair and savvy an observer of Republican politics as anyone in the country. His comments – denoted with SM – are either direct quotes or a fair paraphrase.
Then, with each candidate, I also include an excerpt from the recently-released American Bridge Scouting Report on each of them. As it describes itself, American Bridge 21st Century is a progressive research and communications organization committed to holding Republicans accountable for their words and actions and helping you ascertain when Republican candidates are pretending to be something they’re not.
In other words, this is opposition research. American Bridge is among the creations – along with Media Matters for America – of David Brock, formerly a right-wing journalist who in his book, The Real Anita Hill, famously described Hill as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” But, no his way to writing a book smiting Hillary Clinton, he found himself smitten, and the rest is history. The American Bridge snippets are ID’d as AB.
Finally, there are additional comments from First Reading’s Education Department, or FRED, (which is me) – labeled, FR.
(Texas is holding its primary on March 1, 2015, the first day allowable for primaries following the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, the South Carolina primary and the Nevada caucuses.)
If you ask me today, I would bet that Ted Cruz would come in first in Texas, Perry second and Bush third. Only one of them (Cruz or Perry) can survive the Texas primary, unless it’s very close.
Will Cruz’s prior Canadian citizenship cause him problems among so-called “birthers” in the Republican base who questioned President Obama’s citizenship?
From the New York Times report on Saturday’s multi-candidate event in Iowa, described as “the informal kickoff to the 2016 campaign.”
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Tea Party hero, challenged attendees to demand that Republican leaders prove their conservative bona fides. “In a Republican primary, every candidate is going to say, ‘I’m the most conservative guy who ever lived,’ “ he said. “You know what? Talk is cheap.”
Rising to his own challenge, Mr. Cruz called for “the locusts” of the Environmental Protection Agency to be stifled and for padlocking the Internal Revenue Service, then redeploying its agents to secure the Southern border.
“If you said you opposed the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty, show me where you stood up and fought,” he said of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. “If you said you oppose Common Core, show me where you stood up and fought.”
He may or may not be “the most conservative guy who ever lived,” but he’s the only candidate with a best-selling coloring book.
Perry gave a real solid performance at the RNC meeting. The feedback from other RNC members is they were impressed – 180-degree different than what they perceived him to be during the 2012 primary run. Good energy. People liked the message. He stayed until everybody had a chance to talk to him. He took a picture with everyone. He really helped himself in terms of his image with the RNC. Convinced a lot of them to keep an open mind about him and give him a second look.
The way Perry gets back in this thing is he’s a very good retail politician. He is no longer governor so he can run full-time. If he jumps out in Iowa – people have low expectations – he could do real well. If he ends up in the top three, people will give him a second look. Then he beats Cruz in Texas.
The Texas “Miracle.” Perry has claimed that Texas has a stronger economy than the rest of the country, touting his “Texas Miracle” of above-average job creation. As the Dallas Observer reported in 2011, however, “Rick Perry’s Texas is a job-making, low-taxing oasis of prosperity. It’s also pure fantasy.” The paper continued, “Perry’s narrative is attractive from afar but crumbling on close inspection…. The Texas economy isn’t stronger than the national economy, and it may be fundamentally weaker. Poverty is increasing much faster in the state than it is across the country. Despite Perry’s chief campaign message – that thanks to him, Texans have damn near too many jobs to go around – unemployment in the state isn’t bucking any trends. In fact, it’s at an all-time high.”
Rick Perry has an Abel Morales problem, Morales being the hero of the new movie, “A Most Violent Year,” which I saw this weekend. Without giving too much away, as described in The New Yorker, Morales, “a heating-oil dealer who cloaks his ambitions beneath a suave manner and a camel-hair topcoat, has thirty days to find a million and a half dollars to complete his purchase of the Bayside property—as his trucks are being hijacked and he’s under criminal investigation.”
Morales appears a most honorable man, though one who may, of necessity, have hewed to some of the corner-cutting that is the requirement to compete in the business he’s in. He is on good terms with his banker, and, as Andrew Walsh, his attorney, played by Albert Brooks, puts it, “God knows, they’ve given money to bigger crooks than us.” But the shadow of that indictment – he is being pursued by an assistant DA played by David Oyelowo, who portrayed MLK in Selma – makes the banker hinky.
Meanwhile, is Sandy’s custard – to which he turned after having his mug shot and then again after surrendering the reins of power as governor – his comfort quart of Häagen-Dazs?
He still has a cadre of real loyal RNC members. The RNC is really divided into two camps – Romney folks and everybody else. He has money and access to money, name recognition and experience having been round the track twice now. Ronald Reagan ran for president three times before getting elected.
Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until the good gets better and the better gets best. But, really?
From a Texas Tribune profile of Terry Giles, the Houston attorney who will be running the Carson campaign, by Abby Livingston:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s not often that a campaign operative points to a movie star setting himself on fire as a genesis for political engagement. But Houston-based attorney Terry Giles — now the top man on retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s nascent presidential bid — can claim just that.
While freebasing cocaine in 1980, comedian Richard Pryor doused himself with liquor, set himself on fire and ran down his suburban Los Angeles street. The superstar comedian — obviously in need of medical attention — was also in legal trouble.
Giles became Pryor’s attorney. And he helped orchestrate the effort to rehabilitate the comedian’s image — including working with the Reagan administration to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday.
Early on, Giles said, he studied organization charts from past campaigns. Eventually, he shucked the entire model.
“Seventy-five percent of the team will come out of private industry. Twenty-five percent will be seasoned political pros,” he said. “We’re not going to waste a lot of money on the typical political consultants.”
Giles declined to name any of his hires, but he said they’ll be able to roll into action the moment Carson announces his run.
He did offer one hint. He said Carson’s “director of campaign culture” — a person tasked with maintaining integrity inside of the operation — would be “a Texan, one of the best motivational speakers in the world.”
A Texan, one of the best motivational speakers in the world.
Tantalizing. Who could that be? If you think you know who it is, send me an email at email@example.com, with “best” in the subject field. If you turn out to be correct you will get a free subscription to First Reading and your birthday will annually be remembered for as long as there is a First Reading, or at any rate for as long as I’m involved in writing it.
Carson’s speech to the RNC was well received, at first, and then at the end he went through a litany of all the unfair media attacks on him. I don’t know if that’s the smartest thing to do. A more traditional consultant might have usefully advised him not to detail all the negative things that have been said about him that most in his audience would never otherwise have heard of. I had never heard of accusations of plagiarism in his book. There were seven of these things he ticked off, and the Perry people were all writing down those seven things.
RACE: Carson has also made a number of controversial statements on race. He claimed that that the Affordable Care Act was “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery” and that “it is slavery in a way, because it is making us all subservient to the government.” Carson specifically reaffirmed that he believed the Affordable Care Act was worse than Jim Crow laws.1 Additionally, Carson called noted racist Cliven Bundy and his militia members “upstanding people” and asserted that he “will be glad when there isn’t a black history month.”
Grassroots support: Perhaps no potential Republican candidate for 2016 has grassroots support to match that of Carson. Carson has mustered significant enthusiasm among the Republican base, and activists are teeming with excitement over his likely candidacy. Carson’s supporters have launched the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee – a PAC formed with the express purpose of raising Carson’s name recognition and persuading him to run. The committee has already raised millions of dollars from more than 100,000 donors.
Call it affirmative reaction, but it seems to me that conservative Republicans have a special affection for black conservatives – Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, Scott Turner, Ben Carson.
Big coup for Paul in hiring Austin’s Vincent Harris, who had done work for Cruz, as his digital strategist. He’s a top-notch, top-tier hire. He’s considered one of the digital gurus. Harris did The Real Wendy Davis website for the Texas GOP. We were very, very pleased with the work. Very professional looking. That was not cheap. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on that. He’s universally recognized as the best Republican digital person in the state of Texas. It’s a real coup for Rand Paul.
Ebola. During the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, Paul attempted to stoke fears at home by contradicting public health officials, saying that the Ebola virus is “incredibly contagious,” and accusing the White House of misleading the public about the threat. Paul fabricated facts to support his case, claiming, “We have physicians and health workers who are catching [Ebola] who are completely gloved down.” When Paul made that claim, however, no physicians and only two nurses in the U.S. had contracted the disease. His inflammatory comments created headlines, including one Daily Beast article entitled, “Ebola Scare-Mongerer Rand Paul Wants You to Think You’re Going to Die.”
And now for something completely different … More mainstream and broadly appealing than his dad, but still a quirky and unpredictable mix. And he is shorter than you think. He is, in fact, Dukakis-sized – 5 ft. 8 inches.
He wasn’t at the RNC meeting. I don’t get the impression Jeb Bush has made a 100 percent decision he wants to run. But top tier if he does.
Problems with the base. Since leaving the Florida governor’s mansion in 2007, Bush’s comments on hot-button issues, his championing of immigration reform, and his support for Common Core have raised the ire of the conservative base. In 2009, Bush committed a major Republican Party faux pas when he spoke ill of its frequent invocation of President Ronald Reagan, saying the party needs to give up its “nostalgia” for the Reagan years.
Bush’s vocal support for comprehensive immigration reform has not endeared him to the Tea Party, whose suspicions about his support for so-called “amnesty” were confirmed in 2014 when he called illegal immigration an “act of love” and “not a felony.”
Opposition to the Common Core State Standards is another Tea Party cause of which Bush runs afoul. Jeb Bush is perhaps the most vocal supporter of the standards, touting their benefits for college and career readiness consistently since their adoption, and urging states to stay the course with Common Core amid growing political controversy about the standards.
One can well understand why Jeb Bush would want to run for president, lest he be remembered as the Tommy Smothers of American politics, especially since, in point of fact, he is Dickie Smothers and W. is Tommy.
But Jeb Bush has to be aware that if he were to be elected president it would pretty much ruin his son, George P’s, chances of ever occupying the Oval Office, unless America is really ready to risk redefinition as some kind of constitutional monarchy in which, with an occasional interregnum, the father is succeeded by his son who is succeeded by his other son, who is succeeded by his grandson.
Six months ago it didn’t appear Romney or Bush would run. Now they both may run. The big loser is Chris Christie. Not only are they competing for the same votes but also the same kind of big donors in the business community … it cuts off his air.
Chris Christie. You can’t write him off. Not my favorite guy
Demeanor. As governor, Christie has gained national attention for arguing with and attacking those who ask him difficult questions. In 2012, he was on the New Jersey boardwalk when a man criticized his education policies. Christie verbally assaulted the man, saying, “You’re a real big shot shooting your mouth off,” and when the man began walking away, Christie continued, “Keep walking away. Really good. Keep walking.”
In 2013, Christie called a New York Daily News reporter “a complete idiot, self-consumed, underpaid reporter.” In another instance at a town hall meeting, Christie yelled at a 17-year-old Newark student who asked him why he had not held a town hall in Newark. Christie responded, “If I decide to have a town hall in Newark, I’ll have one.”When asked by a reporter if he thought he was a bully, Christie denied he was one, stating that, “Some people like [my] style, some people don’t.”
More recently, Christie spoke at the October 29, 2014, event marking the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, where he was confronted by a local resident who asked him to explain why home rebuilding efforts had stalled. Christie immediately began shouting at the man and told him to “sit down and shut up,” earning widespread condemnation by the media.
From this weekend’s New York Times:
EWING, N.J. — They call to complain about their pension payments, to grumble about their children’s teachers, to vent about the fine they just paid for stacking firewood incorrectly. They dial in by the thousands, from Toms River to Park Ridge, jamming the five phone lines here at the studio of WKXW-FM (101.5).
What the people of New Jersey receive in return is the unfiltered id of their governor, Chris Christie: over-sharing, thin-skinned, openhearted and needy. It is the quality, repellent or endearing, that his supporters say is missing from the buttoned-up rivals now crowding the Republican presidential field, whose demeanor they quietly dismiss as too stilted (Mitt Romney) or too cerebral (Jeb Bush).
The man is governor of the state where the Giants and Jets play and yet he is a Cowboys’ fan. Such treachery. In A Fan’s Notes, Frederick Exley’s quasi-fictional memoir of an obsessive worshiper at the altar of the New York Giants in the Frank Gifford years, Exley’s most trusted companion is his mother’s dog, a cocker spaniel by the name of Christie III. Oh the perfidy.
The person that benefited the most from the RNC meeting was Scott Walker. Almost universally folks say they would consider Walker. He’s acceptable to the base, the tea party and and yet still acceptable to the donor class. Admired for having survived the recall and not backed down, but not a fire-breather or bomb-thrower.
He was not real dynamic this time, but not boring. Out of 1 to 10, a 7. Seen him speak in Dallas and he gave a really good speech- nine out of ten.
Collective Bargining. Walker came under fire when he decided to support Wisconsin Act 10, a state bill that gutted working families’ benefits and eliminated collective bargaining rights for workers. Walker pushed the bill through the legislature as soon as he took office, even though he gave no indication this was a priority during the campaign. He later claimed he had campaigned on gutting benefits for working families, which PolitiFact rated “false.” This anti-union legislation sparked protests in the Wisconsin Capitol Building in 2011 and the 2012 recall election.
Recall Election. In November 2011, recall supporters filed over one million signatures to force Walker into a recall election. Walker said he would treat the recall like a normal campaign and embarked on a tour of the state. Walker’s recall election garnered significant national attention and spending by state and national outside groups, with the latter serving as a focus of the state’s second John Doe investigation into Walker. In this race, he once again faced and defeated his 2010 opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Tim Pawlenty anyone? Not gonna happen. Vice presidential material. Republicans haven’t won the White House without a candidate from the Sunbelt since there’s been such a things as the Sunbelt. In fact, since Nixon, they’ve won with candidates from just two states – California and Texas. The Rust Belt is a bummer.
Same goes for veep-bait John Kasich and Mike Pence.
And Rick Santorum’s brotherhood of the traveling sweater vest over-performed last time, but he has not exactly been at the forefront of national consciousness since then.
He did well in some states in 2008. He won Iowa. Now, he’s been on Fox, he’s kind of a Fox celebrity. He’s very good on the stump.
Problems with the Base Huckabee’s conservative credentials have not protected him from a plethora of complaints about his ideology from within his own party. Huckabee has been criticized by the right, including the Cato Institute, for “embrac[ing] big government in the form of big taxes” because of his support for moving away from greenhouse gas energy sources and his support for cap and trade. Huckabee has also expressed support for giving in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, the Common Core education standards, and he raised taxes to increase spending as governor. Conservatives have also dug in against Huckabee because he raised the minimum wage as governor and opposes both school vouchers and providing public funds to private schools.
I’ve long been beguiled by Huckabee’s good-natured crusade against modernity, most recently in his new book, God Guns, Grits and Gravy, in which he posits there are two Americas – Bubba-ville and Bubble-ville.
For many Bubble-ville elites, the only mental images they have of people who live outside their gated communities and high-rise Manhattan apartments are the ugly stereotypes they see on reality-TV shows; drunken, brawling New Jersey guidos: shallow, social-climbing suburban “housewives,” obese, illiterate Southern rednecks; and so on. I much preferred it when city slickers got their ideas of what we Southerners were like from the Andy Griffith Show. Or even The Beverly Hillbillies. At least the Clampetts were a good-hearted, down-to-earth, God-fearing. loving family, with far more common sense and morals than their greedy, conniving banker Mr. Drysdale. If you compared the typical Southern family of today to many of the bankers of today, that old sit-com might seem like prophecy.
Good stuff. I am certainly glad that Mr. Drysdale was not played by Jeremy Piven in the image of Entourage’s Ari Gold. And would Huckabee really oppose Jane Hathaway’s right to marry?
Huckabee will be signing copies of his book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, at BookPeople on Feb. 5.
No sign of him in San Diego. Some talk of him among the Florida folks. He has to give up his Senate seat to run for president, though there’s some talk he might give it up even if he didn’t run for president. He would have a hard time with the base because of his support for the original immigration bill, and the type of people who wouldn’t hold it against him are also the type of people who would vote for Jeb Bush. If Jeb’s out, Marco’s in. If Jeb’s in, Marco’s out.
One of the most nagging controversies from Rubio’s tenure as speaker stemmed from his decision to spend $2.5 million on renovations to his office and expanding his roster of staffers.This sum, more than $2 million higher than his predecessor spent, included staff salaries characterized as unusually high. Rubio’s chief of staff was hired with about three years of legislative experience and was paid more than his counterpart in the state senate who had more than 30 years of experience.
Rubio’s spending also funded the construction of a members-only dining room for state legislators. The construction drew significant criticism because a members-only facility was in contradiction to Florida’s sunshine laws encouraging legislative business to be conducted transparently and in the open. Rubio faced a litany of questions about the spending, and during one round of questioning responded by saying, “[The media are] treating me like O.J. or something.”
Boyish. Appealing, articulate, but boyish. After eight years of Obama, boyish is bad.
At the RNC meeting, didn’t see much evidence of support for him outside Louisiana. I heard he’s making the rounds in Iowa and making a pretty good initial impression, but it’s hard to imagine what his path to victory is.
Here from a report over the weekend in the Washington Post on Jindal’s keynote appearance at The Response, an evangelical event on the campus of LSU.
Jindal’s keynote address at the event came as he has been courting Christian conservatives in advance of a possible run for president, meeting with pastors in the early battleground states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Former Texas governor Rick Perry hosted the same event, known as “The Response,” in 2011, just before announcing he was running for president.
The event drew protests outside the basketball arena where several hundred were gathered because of accusations that the American Family Association promotes discrimination against gays and is hostile to non-Christians. Jindal briefly referred to the protests in his appearance, asking the rally’s attendees to pray for the demonstrators.
Otherwise, he stuck to his personal story, describing his seven-year path to Christianity as he paced the stage in jeans, a blazer, and a TED-speech style microphone headset. He spoke of a high school friend who had told him that he would be missed when the friend and his family went to heaven but Jindal did not. Jindal recalled a girl in high school who said she wanted to grow up to be a Supreme Court justice, so she could “save innocent human lives” from abortion. He spoke of a revelation as he watched a video about Jesus dying on the cross.
“Let’s all go plant those seeds of the gospel,” he said, describing how his conversion would not have occurred without the influence of his friends. “Share the good news with all whom we encounter.”
“We can’t just elect a candidate to fix what ails our country. We can’t just pass a law and fix what ails our country,” he said, “We need a spiritual revival to fix what ails our country.”
Jindal has written in great detail about participating in an exorcism of a female friend while studying at Brown. Jindal and the woman in question had an “intimate” relationship, but Jindal said he was “careful to avoid any form of physical contact.” He would later speculate on the reasons why he assumed his friend to be demonically possessed, including her “intense flirting with guys.” He also conjectured that she may have been affected by her mother having “offered a sacrifice at a pagan altar in the Far East.”
A shoo-in for the next Republican Cabinet.
Well, that’s it.
Quite right, Forrest.
On Jan. 8, Mike Hailey reported at Capitol Inside that, “The hottest speculation at the Texas Capitol this week centers on the possibility that outgoing Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst might be considering a race for president in 2016.”
Go ahead and laugh, but recall that another very tall statesman – Abraham Lincoln – sought a U.S. Senate seat in 1854, the vice presidency in 1856, and the Senate again in 1858, all without success, before being elected president in 1860, defeating the same man – Stephen Douglas – who had defeated him for Senate two years previous.
On departing office, Dewhurst was creating a think tank, writing a book and traveling to Israel. What more can one do to signal an interest in running for president?
He was well-received in Israel. Here from the Jerusalem Post:
One of America’s preeminent conservative politicians told The Jerusalem Post Sunday that the people of the United States support an aggressive, pro-Israel foreign policy even if its administration does not.
“Our system in the United States, even though it’s a delayed golf swing, has to be responsive to where the people are,” said Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a 12-year veteran of the job with an extensive background in intelligence. “And the people in the United States want a more proactive foreign policy.”
“Although this administration is obviously in charge from a foreign policy point of view,” he said in an interview at the Post’s office that Israelis should “not misjudge where the American people are based on this administration.”
Delayed golf swing? Vintage Dew.
At the RNC, he spoke to the Conservative Coalition. He did a solid job, basically made the case for why Texas policies work. He explained what may not be known outside of Texas, that in Texas, the lieutenant governor is not a ceremonial job. People liked him, he was well received.
Before he left for Israel, I asked whether the book, the think tank and the travel signaled a presidential run. He demurred.
“So you’re not running for president?” I asked.
“At the present time, there’s not a large groundswell of people talking about my running for president,” Dewhurst replied.
To receive First Reading as soon as it’s published, sign up for the Politics newsletter here. (http://www.statesman.com/newsletters/subscriptions/)