Perry’s posse: A viewer’s guide to the undercard’s `magnificent seven’

Good morning Austin:

Here we go.

The 2016 presidential campaign well and truly gets underway today with the two Fox Republican debates in Cleveland.

All 17 candidates have announced.

We have some idea how much money each has to work with.

Now, they have to appear on stage together and answer some questions.

Actually, not all at the same time on the same stage

Because there are 17 of them, Fox, with the blessing of the Republican National Committee, divided them into two separate debates.

There is the two-hour prime time affair at 8 p.m. our time, featuring the ten candidates doing the best in the polls, beginning with Donald Trump.

Thus, this is the Trump debate.

The other will take place at 4 in the afternoon our time, that ratings no-man’s land that hasn’t been the same since Mike Douglas went off the air.

If you are watching TV at 4, your life is off track and probably has been off track for quite some time.

Which is why I am devoting today’s First Reading to offering a viewer’s guide to the 4 p.m. debate.

Also because I am, and always have been, a sucker for the underdog, the odd duck and the hopeless cases.

And also because, somehow, Rick Perry found himself center square for the 4 p.m. debate when his polling numbers slipped, making him unlucky number 11 in the standings.

If the main event is the Trump show, we will call the earlier event the Perry show.

Without further ado, here we go.

JIM GILMORE

Yes. Jim Gilmore.

First clue.

He was governor of Virginia.

A while ago.

Here, from a 1999 profile by Garrett Epps in the Washington Post.

With his high sidewall haircut and two-tone glasses, Jim Gilmore was — well, in today’s terms, a band geek. His entry in the 1967 yearbook of J.R. Tucker High School lists him as student band director, drum major of the marching band, president of the concert band, and a member of the All-County, the All-Regional and the All-Student USA bands. “All I did in high school was play music,” he recalls.

But the All-Student USA Band marked a turning point. When the time came to parcel out the solos, Gilmore came up against another clarinetist who literally blew him away. “This guy was so effortless, because he was truly gifted,” Gilmore recalls. And he realized that he would never be that good, or even close. For Jim Gilmore, that was the day the music died.

 What took its place was politics. Gilmore’s Key Club adviser asked him to help get out the vote with door-to-door canvassing. “I wasn’t old enough to vote but I was influencing so many others to vote,” he recalls. “Suddenly I was on.”

“Being a Young Republican then,” Stan Maupin says, “tempered you like steel.”

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And, from a Washington Post story by Norman Leahy and Paul Goldman in December:

He got elected governor in 1997 by promising to eliminate the car tax. In 2000, he helped candidate George W. Bush win Virginia’s crucial 2000 Republican presidential primary. The grateful Bush made Gilmore head of the Republican National Committee. This should have been a stepping stone to national recognition for the ambitious Gilmore.

Instead it exposed the fatal flaw in Mr. Gilmore’s political persona: egomania. Gilmore quickly made himself persona non-grata in the White House. A forced resignation soon followed. Despite the embarrassment, Gilmore declared for president in 2007. His bizarre candidacy quickly collapsed. Undaunted, the pugnacious Gilmore then challenged popular ex-governor Mark Warner in the 2008 Senate race after narrowly — and controversially — winning the GOP nomination. The result: Gilmore lost by 31 points on Election Day.

From a recent NPR report on Gilmore:

The one-term governor faces long odds in a crowded field, especially after being absent from the national political stage for much of the past decade. The former state attorney general was elected governor of the Old Dominion (which is the only state that still restricts its chief executives to one term.) While in office, he served as chairman of the Republican National Committee for one year in 2001 before resigning after a rocky relationship with the Bush White House, coupled with dual losses for Republicans to succeed him that year and in New Jersey.

(note: Gilmore was governor of Virginia on 9/11 when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.)

 

GEORGE PATAKI

Well, he beat Mario Cuomo to be elected governor of New York and feuded with Rudy Giuliani. Like Gilmore, he was governor on 9/11.

He is 6 ft. 5 inches tall, and his middle name is Elmer. He has a tendency to speak out of the right corner of his mouth.

 

George Pataki speaking Spanish out of the side of his mouth at his announcement for president in New Hampshire

George Pataki speaking Spanish out of the side of his mouth at his announcement for president in New Hampshire

Why does he speak out of the side of his mouth?

I don’t know, but here is one theory from the comments under the YouTube of his announcement:

Paul Interics 2 months ago
The reason George talks out of the side of his mouth, is because he’s talking out of the side of his mouth.

Here’s Pataki’s full speech.

Pataki’s real problem – why his campaign is “virtually hopeless” according to Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight – is that he is simply too liberal. As in more liberal than Chris Christie, and even more liberal than Richard “I created the EPA” Nixon.

From Enten:

Ideologically, he’s an old-school Republican (i.e., liberal) running in a modern GOP (i.e., very conservative). He is more moderate than any recent Republican nominee and is the most moderate candidate in the 2016 Republican field, according to our aggregated ideological scores.1 Pataki is, among other things, in favor of abortion rights. He’s somewhat of an environmentalist.

By the way, according Enten’s chart, Ted Cruz is the most conservative candidate in the race, more conservative than Barry Goldwater was, and way more conservative than Ronald Reagan ever was.

CARLY FIORINA

Here is an introduction to Carly Fiorina from Fox.

Fiorina’s credentials include the fact that she was born in Austin, that she was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and that she ran and lost for the U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer in California, though she did win a Republican primary in which she ran what may be the most bizarre ad in U.S. political history – the demon sheep ad.

As for HP, perhaps I should recuse myself from covering Fiorina because I owned HP stock. Suffice to say, Apple proved a better investment.

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I think it is fair to say that, while she would accept the presidency, Fiorina is, for all practical purposes, running for vice president. This is not a novel thought.

Here is Liz Mair at the Daily Beast, who has advised Fiorina in the past, pushing back against this sexist claptrap:

The former CEO is attracting crowds and plenty of attention. So why isn’t the political class taking her seriously?

Political devotees and insiders all seem convinced that Carly Fiorina is only running for vice president. Big-donor types say it. Consultants say it. Members of the media say it. Grassroots activists say it. Republicans of all stripes, and all kinds of people who cover them and opine on them, say it.

And they’re all wrong.

The widespread idea that Carly has set her sights on the VP slot is both irritating and eyebrow raising, especially when it’s voiced by women’s-advancement-oriented female devotees of the word “feminism.”

It is true that I am an unapologetic Carly fan, who has worked with her and consulted for her in the context of prior campaigns. It is true that I do not approach this from an unbiased standpoint.

It is also true that at the end of the day, Carly may very well not be the nominee of the Republican Party in 2016. Only one out of what seems like a gazillion GOP candidates will get that honor, and everyone else will collect their bags and go home.

But what is also true is that, in countless conversations about her and the field at large, I have yet to hear a single person say of any male candidate that they are “only running for vice president.” This is despite the fact that only a couple of prospective or actual candidates appear on paper to have, as of right now, the ability to actually win the nomination, or indeed present themselves as viable vice presidential contenders should they fall short.

All right then. I’ll say it.

BOBBY JINDAL

In my view, Bobby Jindal is “only running for vice president.” Yeah sure, like Fiorina, Jindal will accept the presidency, but for all practical purposes, he has no path to the White House this time around.

But running for president is not a bad way to advertise your availability to be vice president, get to know and ingratiate yourself with the ultimate nominee, get picked, get elected veep and maybe eventually end up president.

Worked, so far, for Joe Biden, who was not a really credible candidate for president when he ran in 2008, but ended up with something to show for it nonetheless.

And, if not vice president, there’s always the Cabinet.

Jindal also stars in this truly bizarre BuzzFeed video, a high-concept masterpiece in which the high concept is that Jindal is going to enter into a pushup contest against his most ardent foes.

Those foes are 1) taxes,

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2) Obamacare,

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3) Hyphenated-Americans,

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And 4)  “The fiercest challenger today, Gov. Jindal’s very own 2009  State of the Union Response speech. These two have a history and it’s not pretty.

 

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Here it is in its entirety.

Watch it and then we can talk.

It seems to me if Bobby Jindal ever becomes president, graduate students across a variety of disciplines – politics, media studies, communication and psychology – will be doing dissertations explaining this single video.

Here is an Indian-American – strike that, an American of Indian ancestry – governor, whose slender physique bears resemblance to the 97-pound weakling before answering Charles Atlas’s ad, entering into a display of physical strength in competition with those things he hates most about the world and about himself

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To repeat, in the video, Jindal proceeds to perform an impressive 30 or 40 pushups, without loosening his necktie, in competition with some fine physical specimens representing taxes, Obamacare, hyphenated-Americans and his own very poorly received State of the Union response, though, in fact, it wasn’t the State of the Union response at all, because Obama had just become president and was simply delivering his first speech to a joint session of Congress, and not a State of the Union address.

But, never mind, here from Shaila Dewan in the New York Times:

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has been a rising star in the Republican Party, but his stock took a hit as he was roundly panned for his televised response to President Obama’s first speech to Congress on Tuesday night.

Conservative commentators were among the harshest critics, calling Mr. Jindal’s delivery animatronic, his prose “cheesy” and his message — that federal spending is not the answer to the nation’s economic problems — uninspired.

Mr. Jindal, 37, the son of Indian immigrants, has been regarded as a potential presidential candidate in 2012 who would bring diversity and youth to a post-Obama Republican Party.

But the speech raised questions.

“This was the moment for him to seize the mantle with new ideas, new direction, and lay the groundwork for himself as a creative new thinker,” said Thomas Schaller, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “He just used old platitudes and party clichés.”

Laura Ingraham, the talk radio host; David Brooks, the New York Times columnist; and Juan Williams of Fox News were among Mr. Jindal’s unimpressed reviewers in television commentary, while Rush Limbaugh defended the governor on his radio show. Several commentators noted that response speeches, in which a designated member of the opposition party delivers a short, canned speech with no live audience, have often been a recipe for failure.

“He went in there with high expectations, probably too high for any politician,” said David Johnson, a Republican political strategist. “Republicans are looking for a voice to lead them out of the wilderness.”

Still, Mr. Johnson said, “it was a flop.”

I remember the speech all too well. I covered it for the New Orleans Times Picayune, even though I was in the Washington bureau and the speech was delivered in Baton Rouge. The reason I covered it was because it was delivered Mardi Gras Day and every other reporter in Louisiana who might have covered it wasn’t about to work that day.

(The speech began: “Good evening, and happy Mardi Gras. I’m Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana.”)

In any case, the speech was sufficiently late and my deadline sufficiently early that I had to file my story, based on an advanced text, within minutes of Jindal beginning his speech.

In other words, it was kind of like filing a story on the Hindenberg flyover just a few minutes too early.

As I recall, once he started speaking, I had only time enough to put a single line up high in the story, based on the opening of Jindal’s speech, that his delivery seemed a bit awkward.

Oh the humanity.

OK.

Maybe you think I am making too much of it. But it’s not me. It is Jindal who, now embarked on a candidacy for president six years later, stars in a video which has him engaged in a pushup contest with very fit looking black man who represents Jindal’s own personal failure at the moment that was supposed to be his big break but ended up his greatest setback.

And here’s the truly inexplicable kicker: While Jindal out-pushups Taxes, Obamacare and Hypehanted-Americans, he takes a knee and is defeated, outlasted, out-pushupped by SOTU Response.

 

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As the commentator on the video says: “Jindal’s knees are on the mat. Jindal’s knees are on the mat. It’s over.”

In other words, Jindal (who as a young man wrote about being involved in something like an actual exorcism), has yet to exorcise the personal demon of that flubbed speech from 2009.

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Oh, the humanity.

As it happens, I started working for the Times-Picayune in August 2008 and my first assignment was to cover the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, which nominated John McCain for president.

Jindal was a very hot property, and, when he couldn’t attend the convention because he had to do battle with Hurricane Gustav, he became an even hotter property – a virtual action hero.

From Peter Whoriskey at the Washington Post:

BATON ROUGE, Sept. 2 — He talks about “helo assets,” military-speak for helicopters. He delivers recovery statistics rapid-fire. And in a nod to local sporting passions, he frequently resorts to football analogies.

“The evacuation was the pregame,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) announced at a press conference Tuesday, appearing calm and unruffled amid the commotion of Hurricane Gustav. “We’re not yet at halftime. We have a lot more work ahead of us.”

Thrust in the spotlight by Gustav, Jindal, 37, a political whiz kid in office for all of eight months, is asserting mastery over his state’s response to the natural disaster — just the sort that can have serious consequences for politicians.

Three years ago, Jindal’s predecessor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D), sometimes seemed overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina, nervous and frowning before the cameras. Her popularity slumped afterward, and she chose not to run for reelection.

Now Jindal, a rising star in the Republican Party whose name was once bandied about as a potential running mate for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), is at the helm as Louisiana weathers Gustav. He had been scheduled to address the Republican National Convention but canceled his plans as the storm loomed.

“Bobby Jindal has been pitch perfect during Gustav,” said Douglas Brinkley, who wrote “The Great Deluge,” which describes the chaos after Katrina. “He promised to be a hands-on administrator, and I think he delivered. He had such an easy factual grasp of the situation. It’s almost the exact opposite of Blanco and [New Orleans Mayor C. Ray] Nagin during Katrina.”

Now, imagine, if you will, if McCain, desperate to make a bold move to compete with Obama in the general election, had chosen to pluck the young and brainy Jindal as his running-mate instead of the even bolder but not quite as brainy Sarah Palin.

Perhaps, had McCain chosen Jindal he would be completing his second term as president and Vice President Jindal would have a clear field to nomination as his party’s candidate for president.

But, alas, it was not to be and Jindal, who was at the high ebb of his popularity back home back then and is now at the low ebb, will be on the 4 p.m. stage.

Meanwhile, here is a hidden camera video his campaign released early on in which he tells his children he is going to be running for president, that they are going to be spending a lot of time in Iowa, but swearing them to secrecy.

 

LINDSEY GRAHAM

Now comes McCain’s running buddy  Lindsey Graham, who, it seems to me, is most clearly emulating the Joe Biden path to the vice presidency.

Been around for a very long time. Very likeable. Kind of goofy.

From the Washington Post’s 5 Things you should know about Lindsey Graham.

Number 5:

He has never sent an email.

Earlier this year, Graham made headlines when he quipped that he had “never sent” an email, despite 12 years as a U.S. senator and eight as a representative before that. The comment, which quickly went viral, came in response to a question by NBC’s Chuck Todd in a discussion about Hillary Clinton’s use of a home-based email server while serving as secretary of state.

Asked if he had a private email account, Graham told Todd: “I don’t email. No, you can have every email I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one.”

Graham does, however, regularly carry a cellphone. But don’t expect him to wade into the iPhone vs. Android debate anytime soon. His device of choice is a flip phone.

Ah yes, Lindsey Graham’s flip phone.

From Nick Gass and Adam B. Lerner at Politico:

If Lindsey Graham has to change cellphone numbers, he has Donald Trump to thank.

On Tuesday, Trump ramped up his attacks on the South Carolina senator — who made headlines Monday for calling the Donald a “jackass” — and even gave out Graham’s private phone number.

Trump began his rambling diatribe by calling Graham a “lightweight” and an “idiot.”

“He doesn’t seem like a very bright guy. He actually probably seems to me not as bright as Rick Perry. I think Rick Perry probably is smarter than Lindsey Graham,” Trump added, riffing on prior insults he had lobbed at the former Texas governor.

Then Trump transitioned to an embarrassing anecdote, which the billionaire real estate developer said was from a few years ago, in which Graham called Trump “begging” him for a good reference with Trump’s pals on the Fox News morning program “Fox & Friends.”

Trump said that he promised Graham he would put out a good word, and the South Carolina Republican then gave him his phone number to follow up.

Trump then read out what he said was Graham’s phone number, telling his supporters to “try it.”

Well, as you no doubt know, a grateful Graham seized the moment and made a video in which he destroyed a number of flip phones in answer to Trump.

 

 

RICK SANTORUM

That brings us to Rick Santorum who, alone among the magnificent seven, offered a sour response to being excluded from the prime time debate.

From the Washington Times:

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum says that limiting the first GOP debate to 10 candidates in a “disservice to the American public.”

Mr. Santorum failed to qualify for the prime-time affair, which Fox News capped at 10 participants based on five national polls.

“If I was the Republican party, I would be boasting about our riches, not trying to cull the field by debate rules,” Mr. Santorum said Thursday on CNN’s “New Day.”

Mr. Santorum is taking part in a 5 p.m. forum along with the other candidates that failed to get a ticket to the main event at 9 p.m.

He said that all 17 GOP presidential candidates should have the chance to participate in the prime-time event, which is expected to be watched by millions of voters.

“That way you would … let the public decide who the best candidate is,” he said.

I feel Santorum’s pain. It’s like he’s stuck in some game of Chutes and Ladders. He has an incredible run of ladders in 2012, and then he hits an unbelievable chute and he’s back to square one, as if 2012 never happened.

From Santorum’s campaign site:

Rick Santorum was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2012 and became known as a voice for conservatives who didn’t feel their voice was being represented. His grassroots approach to campaigning – including visiting every one of Iowa’s 99 counties and his stunning victory in the Iowa caucuses – catapulted him to frontrunner status where he ultimately won 11 states and nearly 4 million votes during the Republican primary process.

Here from Esquire is Charles Pierce’s unkind take on Santorum’s lack of gratitude for being included in the undercard:

Maybe we should take The Other Seven all out to Burger King for lunch. To their credit, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore are embracing the suck with something resembling enthusiasm because, really, what else have they got? Carly Fiorina has made peace with the fact that she can’t lay off every pollster in America. But Rick Santorum’s camp is not taking this lying down.  No, sir. Not for a moment.

Santorum spokesman Matt Beynon called it “incredibly flawed,” based on national polls that are “meaningless” this early in the campaign. “The idea that they have left out the runner-up for the 2012 nomination (Santorum), the former 4-term Governor of Texas (Perry), the Governor of Louisiana (Jindal), the first female Fortune 50 CEO (Fiorina), and the 3-term Senator from South Carolina (Graham) due to polling 7 months before a single vote is cast is preposterous,” Beynon said in a statement.
 
OK, first of all, 2012 Runner-Up is not an official title of any kind, especially when you’re polling in the low single-digits at the moment. Second, when was it determined that Rick Santorum would be the shining knight defending the honor of The Other Seven? Was there a vote among them in which he finished, you know, second? Lord, have I mentioned recently what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is?

If he had the sense of humor god gave a stone, Santorum would realize that the undercard debate actually is a second chance to launch a campaign – an unprecedented kind of political repechage heat. And, with Donald Trump threatening to turn the Main Event into an extended exercise in human sacrifice, it is possible that the earlier debate could turn out to be the more dignified and substantial of the two. (In fact, that’s going to be the easiest way to spin the whole evening, especially if Trump runs wild. I can already hear my man Chuck Todd expressing his surprise at how “substantive” the first debate was. Hell, he thinks this is the most formidable Republican field since 1980.) Fiorina seems to get this. So does Huckleberry J. Butchmeup, who’s the one responsible for cleverly renaming the lid-lifter the “Happy Hour Debate.” That Santorum is raising a fuss over missing the cut shows a desperate lack of both imagination and wit.

The same cannot be said of our boy, Rick Perry.

After all, what’s Santorum whining about?

Perry entered the race last time an almost instant front-runner.

He blew it – oops and all – but handled it with grace and humor.

Now he’s back, running for president while under indictment (one count down, but still one to go). Is he still wrestling with demons of past failures a la Jindal’s pushup contest? No. (Well, he did challenge Donald Trump to a pullup contest, but that’s different.)

Perry knows what America is looking for is a confident, optimistic leader as its next president.

Or vice president.

Or president.

From Erica Greider at Texas Monthly on Why Rick Perry Can Still Win the Republican Nomination.

Perry was among the candidates jostling around the 10th place position, it wasn’t clear until yesterday whether he would make the cut. The news that he wouldn’t was, for many pundits, just one more piece of evidence for what appears to be the conventional wisdom: Perry’s presidential prospects are as grim as a snowball’s chance of surviving Texas in August.

I disagree. Perry’s non-inclusion in the main debate isn’t even proof of his current standing in the polls based on the margin of error; Sarah Rumpf explains the math, over at Breitbart. I would hardly call it a referendum on his candidacy. Of the ten candidates on the main stage, only seven strike me as “serious candidates” in the sense that they are sincerely running for the Republican presidential nomination (see my special bonus section below for an explanation). The cumulative talent is roughly the same on both stages. Looking at the field as it stands, with 17 declared candidates, I think Perry has a pretty good chance of ending up among the top three candidates after all the delegates are counted. And if I were to place a bet on the eventual nominee today, I’d put my money on him.

 

 

 

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