Perry Trumped: On Sam Clovis’s jump from Perry to Trump

Good day Austin:

On Monday, Sam Clovis announced he was no longer chairman of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign in Iowa.

On Tuesday, he introduced Donald Trump at his big rally in Dubuque. He was now national co-chairman of the Trump campaign and senior policy adviser.


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Wow. That was fast.

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One day, Clovis is saying that he would fly “through the gates of hell,” for Perry, and the next he is forsaking him to join the campaign of the man who Perry has called a “cancer on conservatism.”


How terrible. How treacherous.


Not really.

First a little background.

Clovis’ politics make him, ideologically, something like the Ted Cruz of Iowa – the true blue conservative standard – only a big bear of a guy with a big laugh and altogether more cuddly and huggable than our Ted.

Here is an ad that Iowa Democrats put out when he was running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2014. (He lost to Jodi Ernst, who is now in the Senate.)

From the ad:

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Clovis: I would align myself with Sen. Ted Cruz, but maybe after a few months Sen. Cruz would want to be like Sam Clovis.

Some people laugh.

That’s what amounts to an attack ad in Iowa.

So, why Trump, Clovis was asked at the Trump press conference.

I’m excited about the opportunity to change the status quo in America and that’s why I’m here.

And what about the Perry campaign?

I think you have to talk to the Perry folks about what’s going on with their campaign. I think for a lot of us the situation was that more than two weeks ago we were asked to,  if we would continue without pay in those circumstances and I think they were having to go back and restructure the campaign and I felt it was the honorable thing to do for Gov. Perry  – I think the world of him – is to  step aside so they could proceed without the calculus of figuring out how to get me back on board and those kinds of things.

And, as such, I had the opportunity to look at other situations and this is a situation that presented itself, and I’m very happy and proud to be here.

I spent two days following Perry in Iowa the weekend of Aug. 8 and 9. Clovis was with him every step of the way.

That Saturday I talked with Clovis in the bleachers at the Ellsworth Community College Equestrian Center in Iowa Fallas where Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal were addressing the Hardin County Sweetcorn and Gourmet Burger Fundraiser.


I asked Clovis what had drawn him to Perry.

“I always like governors,” he said.

And Clovis said, “We have a lot in common.”

They are about the same age. Both are from lower-middle income backgrounds. Both were Air Force pilots  – “I was a 25-year fighter pilot in the Air Force and he flew C-130s. His father as a B-17 tail gunner. My father was a B-17 crew chief.

“He seemed a natural fit,” Clovis said. “And I’ve not been wrong.”

“I don’t imagine there’s a single thing we would disagree on. I haven’t found it yet.”

Clovis, a tenured professor who teaches business, management and public policy at Morningside College in Sioux City, wrote his doctoral dissertation in 2006 on federalism; Perry wrote a book, Fed Up! on federalism.

“He read the whole thing. The next time we met, we had an incredible discussion about my views on federalism.”

Sam Clovis and Rick Perry in Rockwell City Aug. 8.
Sam Clovis and Rick Perry

Clovis was sanguine on Perry’s prospects.

“I think we can win. I swear to God. I mean it. If I did not think we can win, I’ve got far better things to do with my time than waste it out here to come in fifth or sixth.”

How about second or third?

“That ain’t gonna work either. You don’t know how competitive I am. I’m a fighter pilot and I’m into single combat and I’m pretty damn good at it.”

Clovis, who worked for Rick Santorum’s successful campaign in Iowa four years ago, said that while it doesn’t show up in the polls, the Perry campaign was already succeeding in replicating the Santorum strategy of making their candidate a popular second choice who, with the right breaks and the right moves, could surge at the end.

He was frustrated that despite their hidden success in Iowa it didn’t translate into anything that could get Perry into the top tier of candidates for the Fox debate – “particularly when you have somebody like Donald Trump who, for all practical purposes, has turned it into reality TV. It’s like market interference. You distort the market.”

“How much media attention did anybody get with Donald Trump out there?” Clovis asked rhetorically.  “None.”

Clovis said then that he thought Trump was hitting a “ceiling,” and “his unfavorability in Iowa is higher than anywhere else.”

But he was not dismissive of Trump’s seriousness as a candidate or his approach to developing a ground game in Iowa.

As he crisscrossed the state for Perry, Clovis said, “the people who show up everywhere are Trump and Perry” representatives.

“His main Iowa strategist is one of my best friends, Chuck Laudner. Chuck drove the truck for Rick Santorum. He ran my U.S. Senate campaign.”


Iowa political operative Chuck Laudner is trading in a 2012 pick-up truck for a 2016 private jet.

In the last campaign cycle, Laudner was a key Iowa aide for GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, who famously campaigned in all 99 of the state’s counties in Laudner’s Dodge Ram, which was nicknamed the “Chuck Truck.”  Santorum narrowly won the state’s caucuses that year and is a candidate again this time. But Laudner has switched allegiances, and he is working on retainer for another, very different likely contender: real estate mogul and reality TV host Donald Trump. 

The key to winning in Iowa, said Clovis:

You’ve just got to stay the course. Got to have the plan. Got to come out here and execute the plan. The big thing is, you’ve got to keep up doing what you’re doing. A lot of people get panicky.

That’s why I’m confident and calm about where we are and what we’re doing because I know the people that I am working with and I know what we have to do and I know how to do that. I’m not concerned about any of this other stuff – people in Austin, people in Washington.

The morning after I spoke to Clovis in Iowa Falls, Clovis said he spoke with Perry, laid out the Iowa strategy and got his commitment to proceed.

Sam and Rick in Rockwell City, Iowa, August 8
Sam and Rick in Rockwell City, Iowa, August 8

I think when I spoke to Clovis that weekend, he was absolutely sincere and committed to sticking with Perry and his plan.

But the very next day, Monday, August 10, Perry’s national team in Austin had a conference call with the folks in Iowa saying they were running low on cash and wouldn’t be able to pay them for the immediate future. With that, I think the Perry campaign essentially abrogated its contract with Clovis. They were asking him to pull off a political miracle, but now they wanted him – and the team he had helped assemble – to do it for free.

I think even if Clovis might have privately mused about how, maybe, the way things are turning out, he had chosen the wrong horse, he would have stuck with Perry absent the Perry campaign essentially furloughing staff. (In the wake of news Monday that Clovis had left the campaign, the Perry campaign said it was putting some staff back on the payroll, though it is still primarily relying on the independent  efforts of far better-heeled super PACs,  albeit ones that cannot by law, coordinate with the campaign.)

But, as Clovis said Tuesday, when Perry removed him from the payroll, I had the opportunity to look at other situations and this is a situation that presented itself.

And can Clovis be blamed for seizing the opportunity?

It’s like a choice between going to Disneyland, or extending your stay in Banksy’s Dismaland.


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Consider the choice Clovis was faced with.

He could:

A – Stick with Perry who, much as he loves him, is barely registering in the polls, and sinking; who shows no promise of being able to compete in the main event at upcoming presidential debates, and who, even after 14 years as governor of Texas, couldn’t seem put the arm on enough donors to guarantee that he could keep his small band of top-flight operatives in Iowa on a steady diet of coffee and donuts.


B – Go to work for Donald Trump, whose previous polling ceiling turned out to be his floor (see, How to Build a High-Rise), who is the hottest political property in the world, and who is the only one in the presidential race who no one can take his or her eyes off of.

Add to that that here’s one of Clovis’s best buddies – the guy who ran his own Senate campaign – managing Trump’s Iowa campaign, probably pinching himself every few minutes, and no doubt telling Clovis every chance he gets, Man, you’ve got to get over here. This is unbelievable. This is once in a lifetime.

And remember. Clovis did not go from a job with Perry to an equivalent job with Trump. He went from a job with Perry to a way more important job with Trump. He was chairing Perry’s Iowa campaign. The day of the caucuses, which kick off the primary and caucus season early next year, Clovis would be pretty much done.

But now he has signed on as co-chair and senior policy adviser for Trump’s national campaign.

It might not last. Trump may implode. They may not hit it off. He may not be, a la Perry, Clovis’s soul brother.

But, then again, he could become Trump’s James Baker or Karl Rove or his David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett rolled into one. And, to those on the right who may complain that he is selling out and betraying the movement by embracing a false prophet, he can argue that he will be harnessing the enormous energy that Trump has tapped, into a more disciplined and coherent conservative philosophy and program that could actually change the course of history.

And, if nothing else, it will be the ride of a lifetime and the makings of a great book.

Anyway, Clovis’ first day on the job was memorable.

Trump’s press conference and speech had countless great moments – too many to mention.

Like his line, “You know for the debate, we had 24 million people. Normally they have 2 million people. What do you say? Two million if you’re lucky. They had 24. I won’t take credit for it, but believe me, 100% it’s me. 100%. It’s true.


But by far the highlight of the day was Trump’s confrontation with Jorge Ramos, which captured the headlines.

Yes, I’m a reporter, but I didn’t have much sympathy for Ramos on this one, who came across as a Trump-class prima donna.

A few years ago I read one of Ramos’s books – The Latino Wave: How Hispanics Will Elect the Next American President.

The tone of the book was more triumphal than thoughtful, the gist being,  America’s future belongs to Hispanics so either adapt or get out of the way.

His tone as anchor – whether it’s his questioning of Barack Obama or Donald Trump – is that he speaks for all Latinos. And if you don’t think so, well, you get the look he displays on his book cover.



As Jackie Calmes wrote in the New York Times. “Ramos, the Univision and Fusion television anchor … is often called the Walter Cronkite of Latino America.”

For years, Mr. Ramos largely aimed his ire at President Obama for breaking his 2008 campaign promise — made directly to Mr. Ramos — that he would propose an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system in his first year in office, and for deporting two million people since. Even after Mr. Obama announced late last year that nearly half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants could apply to work without fear of deportation, Mr. Ramos confronted him during a Nashville forum for having “destroyed many families” by not acting sooner.

But Mr. Ramos’s focus has changed, he said in an interview here: “Now is the turn of Republicans.”


“Immigration is the issue that tells us who is with us and who is against us; there’s no question about it. And it’s very simple to understand why — half of all Latinos over 18 years of age were born outside the United States. It really makes no sense to attack them and criticize them if you want their vote.”

The issue is also personal for Mr. Ramos, 56, who has the smooth, silver-haired look of a classic television anchor. Born in Mexico City, he came to the United States as a young journalist, and by 28 he was an anchor for Univision. In 2008, he became an American citizen. Univision is a media goliath, but with the 2013 debut of Fusion in English, Mr. Ramos’s reach expanded significantly, and with it the attention of American politicians.

Ramos and Trump have a history.

From Dylan Byers at Politico in June.

Donald Trump published a photograph of a handwritten letter from Univision’s Jorge Ramos on Friday that included the anchor’s personal cellphone number, a move that is likely to inflame the recent tensions between the two parties.

In the letter, sent Thursday, Ramos asks if Trump will sit with him for an interview. Ramos then provides his cellphone number, in the event that Trump “would like to talk first over the phone.” Trump published the photo to his personal Instagram account on Friday, noting that Univision was “begging” him for interviews even after publicly severing business ties with him.

Earlier that day, Univision had announced it would end its business relationship with the Miss Universe Organization, which is co-owned by Trump and NBCUniversal, based on what it described as Trump’s “insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants” during the launch of his presidential campaign. (Trump had said he would build a wall to stop Mexico from dumping “rapists” and criminals on U.S. soil. He later accused the media of trying to distort his remarks.)

Later on Thursday, Trump announced he would sue Univision for breach of contract and defamation.

So, right after Clovis finishes answering his question Tuesday about why he switched from Perry to Trump,  Trump, returning to the podium, is calling on the next questioner, when Ramos, unbidden, starts to ask a question.

Trump: Sit down. You weren’t called on. (Ramos persists.) Sit down. Sit down. Sit down.

This last sit down is dripping with so much New York bile and disgust I could watch it on an endless loop.

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You can see it here about 12 seconds in.

Ramos: I have the right to ask a question.

Trump: No you don’t. Go back to Univision.

Ramos keeps going, his question being not so much a question as multiple assertions: “You cannot deport 11 million people. You can’t build a 1,900-mile wall. You cannot deny citizenship to children born in this country.”

At this point, Trump goes from presidential candidate to casino boss getting rid of a gambler who’s making a scene, or maybe winning too much. Trump looks to his left, puckers his lips and makes the faintest chirping sound.

It’s Robert DeNiro signaling Don Rickles to “get rid of this bum” in Casino.

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So, out of the wings steps a tall bald guy, who walks over to Ramos, and while Ramos protests – “I’m a reporter, don’t touch me, I have a right to ask a question” – backs him out of the room.

Trump is asked a couple of questions by other reporters, along the lines  How can you do that to one of America’s most important journalists? And, President Obama took tough questions from Ramos, why can’t you?

Trump gives some disingenuous answers about not knowing who Ramos is, and not knowing who that security guy is who kicked him out.

But then says he would be happy to have Ramos return and to answer his questions – “I would take his questions in two seconds” – and, in short order, Ramos is back, looking none the worse for wear, and Trump, in an appropriately contentious tone, is answering Ramos’ questions, which really aren’t questions but assertions that Trump can’t do this and Trump can’t do that.

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It’s all win-win.

Ramos gets to “go back to Univision,” with his reputation as heroic tribune for his people burnished, and Trump thrills the base, many of whom undoubtedly bristle at the whole notion of Univision – because how does a Spanish-language television network help Hispanic immigrants learn English and become American, and what are they doing here in the first place.

At one point in Dubuque, Trump goes on about how he has to meet a much higher bar than the other candidates. They can repeat their canned speeches day-after-day before their little-bitty audiences, but he has to have something fresh, original and outrageous every day because everything he says is being watched by everyone all the time, and they’ve come to expect top-flight performances from him – all off-the-cuff without notes or Teleprompter.

He’s got a point. And so far, the Trump show is great.

But Trump knows better than anyone, if this is reality TV, every episode has got to be engaging and earn a unique and intriguing capsule description.

Yesterday’s was easy. Yesterday was a good episode.

Trump steals campaign chairman Sam Clovis from Rick Perry, kicks Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of Iowa presser, and tweets Jeb to stop with the Mexican and speak English.


And a terrific guy .... Sam Clovis
“And a terrific guy …. Sam Clovis.”







Follow Live: Texas Racing Commission to decide on historical racing

The members of the Texas Racing Commission are scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to repeal historical racing, a form of electronic gambling in which bettors electronically wager on already-run races that have been stripped of all identifying markers. The political fight over the issue has pitted conservative lawmakers against the Texas Racing Commission, and threatens to shut down a multibillion-dollar industry.

Follow our live coverage of today’s meeting, starting at 10:30 a.m.:

Sam Clovis on leaving the Perry campaign: “They didn’t need to worry about me.”

Good morning:

The last time I saw Rick Perry was the evening of Sunday, August 9 at the Black Hawk County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at the Electric Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa. He was at the top of his game, delivering what would work, with very little adjustment, as his acceptance speech at next summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Here’s some video I shot of it from the back of the room. It’s not great video, but you will get the idea. Perry is explaining why his experience as governor of Texas has prepared him like no other for serving as president.

Afterward, an ebullient Sam Clovis, statewide chairman of Perry’s Iowa campaign, was ebullient.


“It’s the best I’ve ever seen him,” Clovis said.

I returned to Texas the next day impressed by the campaign team Perry had put together in Iowa. Much of it, including Clovis, had been the core of Rick Santorum’s bare-bones but ultimately winning Iowa campaign four years ago.

Here is how the Perry campaign described Clovis in announcing his role in early July:

Sam Clovis will serve as Iowa Statewide Chairman. Sam Clovis is a professor of economics at Morningside College and the director of the Col. Bud Day Center for Civic engagement. He holds a doctorate in public administration and an MBA in management and a BS in political science from the United States Air Force Academy. He served 25 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot. He is also an expert on Russia and the Middle East. Sam was also a successful executive with numerous private sector companies before entering academia. He is one of the most popular Republican activists in Iowa.

And here’s Clovis explaining why he chose Perry.

But, no sooner had I returned to Texas than word leaked that the Perry campaign, strapped for cash, had stopped paying staff, though Jeff Miller said all but one member of the Perry team in Austin and critical early states were staying on, pay or no pay, while the pro-Perry Opportunity and Freedom super PACs, still flush with cash, indicated they would pick up the slack, even hiring a ground team in Iowa.

But then, Monday afternoon, the AP reported Monday that Clovis had told them he was leaving the Perry campaign.

That sounded to me like very bad news for Perry.


I called Clovis. He was driving along Highway 20, and had been inundated with calls ever since the AP report appeared.

“I have not been off the phone for 200 miles,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how much interest this has stirred. I live in Iowa and I don’t understand the impact or the reach of this. I don’t think of myself as that important a person.”

Clovis explained his decision.

“I had not heard from the campaign in quite some time and I assessed that they were making adjustments based on their situation and I was not part of that conversation. I had said I would hang in there with him early on but I never heard from them. It made it difficult. I wasn’t party to the communications, I didn’t know what the schedule was.”

Clovis, who ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014, said he knows what it’s like to be low on dough.

When it happened to him, “I couldn’t figure out what to do, and I wasn’t the most communicative person in the world at that time and I understand the circumstance, so I thought it would be an easier thing for me and a more honorable thing for me to just step aside so that I wouldn’t have to be part of the equation for them to figure out what to do.  I figured out they had plenty on their plate and they didn’t need to worry about me. So I sent he governor a note.”

“I think the world of Gov. Perry. I think he’s a great guy, a great man and I really admire him and I was honored to be part of the campaign, but I just felt like  that perhaps they had priorities they needed to deal with and they didn’t need to worry about me.”


“I thought the (conference) call (with the Austin office) on the tenth (of August) was a call that was going to congratulate us and lay out the Iowa strategy because I had talked to Gov. Perry that Sunday morning, on the ninth. I had said, `This what we have to do,’ and he made the commitment to do it, and I thought the call Monday night was to say, `Here’s the rest of the strategy,” and instead they said, `We can’t pay you, everybody go look for work.’ That wasn’t the call we were expecting.”

Clovis said it had been ten days since he had talked to anyone else in the Perry campaign – in Austin or Iowa.

“We really had a good group. We’re all friends. We’ll all be together at some other point too. Jamie’s a great guy – one of the most extraordinarily interesting people I’ve known in my entire life,” Clovis said.



Jamie is Jamie Johnson, who, while based in Iowa, as senior director of the campaign is involved in the early state campaigns in New Hampshire and South Carolina as well.

I called him after talking to Clovis and he said he remained committed to Perry

“I’m on board. I can’t speak to what everybody else is doing but I’m standing with the governor,” Johnson said.

As to the lack of contact with the campaign headquarters in Austin, “I’m not sure what Sam is talking about.”

He said he had been in close touch with them, including a conference call Monday afternoon.

“We’re going forward with the limited resources that we have but we’re full of hope that the governor can turn things around in fundraising. We expect the governor to have a great performance in the CNN debate at the Ronald Reagan Library.”

And Johnson said that after a two-week hiatus, “my salary was reactivated” Monday.

Indeed, not long after the Clovis news hit, Breitbart was reporting that the Perry campaign was back to paying some staff.

From Breitbart:

Exclusive: Back in Business? Rick Perry Paying Staff Again

Good news for former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX): – the campaign has resumed paying some of its staff after financial issues forced them to freeze pay.

As Breitbart News reported, news broke at the beginning of this month that the Perry campaign would be freezing campaign salaries to make sure sufficient funds remained to allow Perry to maintain his busy travel schedule to conservative events and early primary states. All but one staffer, who had to leave for financial reasons, agreed to work on a volunteer basis, and many Team Perry members took to social media to express their confidence that their candidate, supported by the millions of dollars raised by his Super PACs, would be able to turn this situation around.

Perry’s campaign launched a fundraising push that pulled in several hundred thousand dollars, but it was not clear when or if the campaign staff might be paid again. Then, Monday evening, Breitbart News spoke to Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller, who said that they “had started putting people back on the payroll in Iowa and South Carolina.”

This is not the entire staff — Perry’s campaign headquarters are in Austin, Texas and they also have some staffers in New Hampshire — but it is a positive sign that they were able to start resuming pay less than a month later.

Well, perhaps the news out of Austin was an attempt to avert a Clovis sell-off. Maybe it was already in the works. I don’t know.

But Perry’s problem remains how to escape the purgatory of the second tier of the Republican debates. Being there is not fatal in and of itself. Carly Fiorina used it as trampoline to vault into the mix, though it is not clear whether the CNN criteria will deny her a place in the top ten. But even if she’s not, it is unlikely that Perry will make the cut for the big show.

From Erick Erickson at

But there is one candidate I believe really should be on the debate stage and I think has earned the right to be there, but who may not be there because of polling. That would be Governor Rick Perry of Texas.

We are spending a great deal of time discussing the border. Rick Perry has had to deal with it for 14 years.

We are spending a great deal of time discussing Planned Parenthood. Rick Perry stood up to them.

We are spending a great deal of time talking about the economy. Rick Perry created 1.5 million jobs while the rest of the nation combined lost 400,000 jobs.

We are spending a great deal of time talking about abuses of justice by the Democrats. Rick Perry is under a current indictment even Democrats like David Axelrod have acknowledges was brought on by partisan politics and not the rule of law.

I think Rick Perry deserves a second chance. I think he deserves another look after 2012. The Texas indictment is, at this point, weighing down donors despite even Democrats admitting it was partisan and not legitimate. Perry may still have to get through a trial to get it tossed.

His 2012 debate performance lingers on too.

Shakespeare wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” Rick Perry’s good should not be interred with his 2012 performance. He deserves another shot.

I am so happy for a number of the Presidential prospects this time. But I am disappointed the public might not get to see Rick Perry on stage at the CNN debate to let him put his 2012 back surgery and performance behind him so that he can stand on the merits of his arguments and a performance not hindered by the pain of back surgery.

Austin Barbour, who is guiding the Opportunity and Freedom super PACs, told the Washington Post and Texas Tribune:

He’s going to get one breakout performance at a debate and he’ll really jump up in the polls. Voters need to see him perform very well at a debate…This is a very fluid field, things will change a lot, and we will continue to be very patient.

But, based on his past performance, it is hard to imagine that, even in the unlikely event that Perry got into the main-stage debate next time, that he could use it to great advantage. Even without any kind of blunder, even if he performs adequately, debating is simply not Perry’s forte. The words pour forth. You now what he’s saying. But he simply lacks the precision and clarity of a Carly Fiorina or a Ted Cruz, the music of a Marco Rubio, or the compelling pithy bluster of Donald Trump.

From Ed Kilgore, writing at Talking Points Memo shortly after the Fox debates, under the headline, What We Can Learn From Rick Perry’s Brief Rise And Tragic Fall:

But you have to give Perry credit: He seemed to go about preparations for Rick 2.0 quite methodically. He first offered a medical explanation for his 2012 disaster: a bad back plus painkillers plus sleep deprivation. He then worked hard to erase the image of a brainless cowboy he had managed to convey (captured by Texan Paul Begala’s comment that Perry was “the perfect candidate for those who thought George W. Bush was too cerebral”).

There were the famous glasses, of course. But more importantly, he attracted some high-life intellectual (Avik Roy, a key Reformicon health care thinker) and political (Sam Clovis, darling of Iowa conservatives and a key Santorum supporter in 2012) assets to his early campaign. He burnished a reputation as a leader in the state-based conservative movement for criminal justice reform. And just last month, Perry even gave a National Press Club speech on the legacy of racism that managed to impress liberals.

But the warning signs were there: Despite a good Super-PAC haul (an estimated total of $17 million), Perry raised a paltry million bucks for his official campaign by early July. That’s just not Texas-sized money. And even as other late-announcing candidates like John Kasich managed to come up with last-second poll-boosting ad campaigns, Perry wound up as the odd man out—11th out of 17—in the fraught competition for the ten spots on the Fox News first candidate debate stage. Most ominously, he addressed a 2012 weakness by spending a disproportionate amount of time and money in Iowa, but is running 12th—that’s right, 12th—in the last two polls from Iowa.

Perry theoretically had a chance to elevate himself last week at the preliminary Fox News “Happy Hour” forum, but sounded rushed and forced; what little buzz came from this event was mostly corralled by the smooth stylings of Carly Fiorina. And so now what’s left of Perry ‘16 will depend on skirting the very edge of the law by off-loading routine campaign expenses on Super-PACs (a bit of a risk for a guy still under indictment for alleged abuse of power), and somehow getting enough positive attention to raise some money for his official campaign. That probably would require a stellar performance in still another presidential debate, CNN’s on September 16. Debates remain his nemesis.

There’s no particular reason Rick Perry should throw in the towel before that debate. Like every other candidate with money troubles, he and his people will cite John McCain’s return from financial disaster in 2007-08 as a precedent, though Perry’s not exactly John McCain and the vast 2016 field is hardly the weak and self-canceling field of 2008. But Rick Perry hardly strikes fear in the hearts of liberals anymore, and his triumphalist strutting is as long gone as the high oil prices that fed his Texas “economic miracle.”

This is not, as Kilgore notes, the “self-canceling field” of four years ago – the realm of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain and even Newt Gingrich.

Perry’s hopes for 2016 depend on a veritable Jonestown of self-destruction among the rest of the field and that just seems very unlikely.

In the meantime, the kind of campaign talent that Perry had, and apparently continues to have, in Iowa, is in incredibly high demand.

“I heard from multiple campaigns today – `When you make up your mind make sure you keep us in mind; we’d like to have you, you’d be a great fit for our campaign,'” Clovis said. “As somebody said, `Are you shopping around?’ I said, `No, they’re shopping me, I’m not out looking for anything. I don’t have to.”




Sid Miller, the Slim Pickens of Texas politics

Good morning Austin:

It is a shame that Slim Pickens is no longer with us because I can’t think of any actor more perfectly suited to star in the Sid Miller biopic – the story of how a rancher, farmer and championship rodeo cowboy from Stephenville, Texas, went from being elected Texas agriculture commissioner in 2014 to serving as secretary of state in the first Trump administration.

Pickens, a former rodeo cowboy, is best known for his role as Major T.J. “King” Kong, the ebullient B-52 pilot who, on an errant mission to nuke the Soviet Union, gives his last, whooping and hollering astride the hydrogen bomb heading towards its intended target.

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Slim Pickens as B-52 pilot ,Major T.J. “King” Kong, riding the hydrogen bomb to its intended target in 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove”

Miller first came to Trump’s attention in the dog days of August 2015 when he shared a provocative meme  on his Facebook page, suggesting that the 70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was time to nuke “the Muslim world.”

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The posting on his campaign Facebook page drew some heat, and what was said to really impress Trump – who only a day earlier had said on Meet the Press that he got his military advice from watching the Sunday shows – was how Miller didn’t go the “loser” route of backing down, but instead doubled down, sending a terse text message from remotest China, where he was on a critical trade mission, that there would be no apologizing.

OK. So I’m projecting a bit here.

I don’t know that Trump yet knows about Sid Miller, or will ultimately tap him to guide American foreign policy if and when he is elected president.

But the rest of it is pretty much what happened, with Miller’s campaign sharing the post, taken from a Facebook page called “The Patriot’s IV Drip 2” on Sunday.

Originally, as reported by Lauren McGaughy at the Houston Chronicle, Miller’s people backed off, and removed the post late Monday morning.

Reached for comment mid-Monday, Miller’s special assistant Luke Bullock said the post was made without the commissioner’s knowledge by a staffer who does not work for the state agency.

“It was an error by a staffer. The posting did not reflect the views of Commissioner Miller and as a result it’s been removed,” Bullock said, calling the post “inappropriate.” He added Miller “will ensure that future postings do not reflect views that do not align with his view.”

But, in short order, Todd Smith, Miller’s longtime campaign consultant and political spokesman, said that, while the meme had been posted to the site without comment and without the knowledge of the commissioner, who was in the midst of an eleven-day trade mission to China, once Miller was alerted to the controversy via a very balky cell phone connection in Lanzhou, he had managed to send back his simple, certain sentiment.

The Texas Democratic Party wanted an apology and he didn’t intend to give it to them, Smith texted Miller.

“OK,” Miller texted in reply.

Linda Ryan, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department, said that Bullock, who is Miller’s scheduler in the office, was wearing his “other hat” with the Miller campaign, when he talked about the post – which had nothing to do with Miller’s official duties.

Smith told me, “the post was taken down because a TDA staffer had told a news outlet that the post had been taken down and I was trying to make sure that commitment had been honored.”

But, when some of the Miller faithful took offense at the post’s removal, Smith wanted it known that neither he nor Miller felt there was anything wrong with the post.

“The post that was placed on Commissioner Miller’s campaign Facebook page was thought-provoking. It came at a time when we are remembering the 70th anniversary of VJ Day and hopefully will cause Texans and others  to think about the current state of crisis we face in the world. Even though Commissioner Miller did not make the post and was unaware that it had been made because he was traveling in China on a trade mission at the time, we have not and we will not apologize for those who wish to discuss these important issues and use our page as a forum.”

A young Sid Miller, rodeo rider.
A young Sid Miller, rodeo rider.

Strangely, or maybe I should say strangelovely, I mentioned Dr. Strangelove in my last First Reading, recalling its subtitle,  How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, to describe how this past weekend I came to terms with the fact that Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy seemed to be turning into the real deal.

Here’s a basic plot description of Dr. Strangelove from IMDB:

Paranoid Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper of BurpelsonAir Force Base, believing that fluoridation of the American water supply is a Soviet plot to poison the U.S. populace, is able to deploy through a back door mechanism a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union without the knowledge of his superiors, including the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Buck Turgidson and President Merkin Muffley. Only Ripper knows the code to recall the B-52 bombers and he has shut down communication in and out of Burpelson as a measure to protect this attack.

(For more on the perils of fluoride, Austin, circa this week, see Andra Lim: Anti-fluoride activists, who have been frequent faces at council meetings in the past several years, say that drinking fluoridated water lowers IQ, damages bones and causes hypothyroidism, among other dangers. Plus, it’s wasting taxpayer money, they say.)

From TV Tropes:

Gens. Ripper and Turgidson could both be seen as caricaturing different aspects of real-life USAF General Curtis LeMay.

Ripper also draws on Army General Edwin Walker, who was reprimanded by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy for distributing John Birch Society literature to his troops (illegal under the Hatch Act) and making seditious comments about American officials. After resigning Walker ran for Governor of Texas and became a well-known spokesman for right-wing causes. Today however, Walker is probably better-known for Lee Harvey Oswald trying to assassinate him.

And from the New York Times obit of LeMay:

General LeMay, who directed the air assault over Japan in the final days of World War II and relayed the Presidential order to drop nuclear bombs, years later wrote that a solution to the Vietnam War might be to bomb North Vietnam ”back into the Stone Ages.’

I hadn’t heard that turn of phrase for a long while.

But then, last August, I was covering the Koch bothers’ Americans for Prosperity summit in Dallas, when Sen. Ted Cruz invoked it, saying of ISIS:

They want to go back and reject modernity. Well, I think we should help them. We ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age.

Cruz was subsequently asked in an interview, “You said that the U.S. should bomb ISIS back to the Stone Age. Should that take congressional approval or does the president have the authority to do this on his own?”

“It should absolutely take congressional approval.” Cruz said.

Well, that’s good.

Miller has made headlines more closely associated with his role as agricultural commissioner – most notably by declaring an amnesty – not for undocumented farmworkers, but for cupcakes. He also approved the return of fried foods and sugary sodas to school lunches (see Julie Chang). Defending the Texas diet from the likes of Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg, it can be said that Sid Miller put the lard back in schoolyard.

Wednesday night is Miller’s big dinner with Pecan Roasters and Importers in Shanghai, where I suppose he will reveal the recipe for Pecan Duck that will expand the already booming Chinese market for Texas’ state nut.

If there is no documentary film team accompanying Miller on his trip, that is truly a terrible shame.

After all, Nixon in China became an acclaimed opera.

Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, on Monday branded Miller’s post “hate speech,” and wondered why Miller was opining on world affairs at all.

But Todd Smith said, “Our social media presence and social media engagement is one of the driving forces why Sid Miller is agriculture commissioner today,” comparing the page to Grit Magazine, which Smith used to sell as a kid.

As someone who works in a business increasingly built on clicks, there is much to admire in Miller’s page.

For example:

There is always a joke of the day, usually funny and often with a bit of a political edge to it.

Like this one, posted August 16.

The leader of the vegetarian society just couldn’t control himself anymore. He just needed to try some pork, just to see what it tasted like. So one summer day he told his members he was going on a vacation. He packed out of town, and headed to the nearest restaurant. After sitting down, he ordered a roasted pig, and impatiently waited for his delicacy.

After just a few minutes, he heard someone call his name, and to his great chagrin he saw one of his fellow members walking towards him. Just at that same moment, the waiter walked over, with a huge platter, holding a full roasted pig with an apple in it’s mouth.

“Isn’t that something,” says the leader after only a moments pause, “all I do is order an apple, and look what it comes with!”

There are tributes and shout-outs on important occasions.

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Very nice.

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Very thoughtful.

There’s some agricultural stuff.

Sid Miller
August 15 at 12:01pm ·
Here is a wonderful article from Forbes magazine that shows how a few lessons from the Texas hay fields can teach any entrepreneur the importance of scaling their business properly. Texas farmers, ranchers, and agriculture producers are leading the nation in innovation, creativity, and old fashioned hard work.

There’s some just fun stuff.

August 13 at 7:48pm ·
Learn how to make a watermelon smoothie with a watermelon, coat hanger and a power drill. This is a neat idea that I am sure your children and grandchildren will enjoy. ‪#‎gotexan‬

As the narrator explains, “Organic. Refreshing. A little bit creepy.”

And, of course, there’s Miller, fearless leader in a politically correct world.

Keeping America one nation “under God.”

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Defending Voter ID.

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Boycotting Target for going gender-neutral in some of its signage.

Sid Miller
August 13 at 2:38pm ·
Well, it looks like there will be one less store where I will be shopping. This political correctness has run amok and needs to stop now. Maybe retailers will start listening if they don’t see us in their stores. Enough is enough!

And of  course, the threat of radical Islam

Sid Miller
23 hrs ·
The brutality of ISIS is horrific. To perform these heinous acts in the name of God is abhorrent. These radical Islamic barbarians must be stopped and to do that means they must be destroyed.

Here he links to the truly horrific recent report in the New York Times – ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape by Rukmini Callimachi

My guess is that if you were to show the nuclear meme that was posted on a Miller’s page to a majority of Americans, they would wince with disapproval, but if you showed it to them immediately after reading that New York Times story, the wince might be slower in coming.

Here are some of the posts from Miller’s page talking about the meme.

Islam Ayad-Albuttma In your position, you have a responsibility to the people. Either you stick to your guns and uphold your islamophobic views or you apologize for being wrong. You shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. There are many Muslim American families who’ve sacraficed their blood and Family for the sake of the USA. not only are you disgracing them, you disgrace all of America and what we stand for

Yosefa Leah You are a terribly racist and xenophobic human. I’m sorry the political parties of Texas are so backward that they would endorse such incredible hatred. You should be ashamed of your behavior. Standing proud with islamophobia doesn’t make you a decent politician—it makes you a public bigot. But that’s no surprise to a state that caters to a white fundamentalist patriarchal imperialist agenda.

John Slate Sick, Un-American and Un-Christian bigot. you are a stain on the great state of Texas. Stick to your cupcakes and fried foods.

Danna Duenas Yosefa Leah perhaps you would be happier in a Muslim country where women are beaten raped and murdered at the whim of a man .Where you have no voice no right to education or what you choose to wear..And can be given to other men where you are not even as valuable as their camel.

Karon Hartzo Thanks Sid you are not the only one who thinks we should drop “the big one” on those murdering pedophiles that call themselves ISIS, but before we did they should be sprayed with bacon grease. Don’t run from the truth just because some liberal idiot got butt-hurt.

 Renee Updike Sid Miller I was looking for your post from Sunday where I read in the news you posted something “controversial” regarding Muslim’s. It appears you took it down. I haven’t been on for a couple of days or I would have “liked” it and had your “back”. Before you take something down check with us, the people who voted you in office! We got your back here in TX.

Sid Miller
August 16 at 9:14pm ·
We did it my friends!!! 105,000 Facebook LIKES before Midnight. In fact, we did it with three hours to spare. Thank you for stepping up and helping us reach our goal. I am blessed to have the most dedicated and hard working campaign supporters in Texas. Thank you for standing with me, for Texas, and for the values that make us strong! God bless you and may God continue to bless Texas.


I’ll close with Miller’s joke of the day from August 12:

A farmer was driving along the road with a load of fertilizer. A little boy, playing in front of his house, saw him and called, “What’ve you got in your truck?”

“Fertilizer,” the farmer replied.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the little boy.

“Put it on strawberries,” answered the farmer.

“You ought to live here,” the little boy advised him. “We put sugar and cream on ours.”

Texas Agriculture Commissioner candidate Sid Miller on October 15, 2014. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Agriculture Commissioner candidate Sid Miller on October 15, 2014. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Presidential campaign platform update: Rick Perry’s stance on Metallica

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. (Photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman)
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. (Photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman)

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign website devotes entire pages to issues like economic growth, lowering taxes, retiring the federal debt, national security and shrinking government. Not likely to join those planks: the Republican presidential candidate’s thoughts on James Hetfield’s oeuvre.

According to music news site Stereogum, musician and Internet personality Cinco Sanders intercepted Perry at a South Carolina town hall event and asked the former governor a question not likely to be covered at any debate: What is his favorite Metallica album?

Quoth the guv in video footage of the encounter: “I don’t think I got any Metallica albums.”

Before that, Sanders prompts Perry with a mention of the heavy metal band’s smash 1991 single “Enter Sandman.” When Perry seems to signal recognition of that song, Sanders tries to interpret that as a vote for the band’s self-titled LP, also known as “The Black Album,” on which “Enter Sandman” appears.

Kirk Hammett of heavy metal band Metallica performs on day three of X Games Austin on the Super Stage at Circuit of the Americas. (Suzanne Cordeiro / For American-Statesman)
Kirk Hammett of heavy metal band Metallica performs on day three of X Games Austin on the Super Stage at Circuit of the Americas. (Suzanne Cordeiro / For American-Statesman)


Watch the encounter below.

Also listen to “Enter Sandman,” which may be Perry’s favorite Metallica song, below.

Speaking of Perry’s presidential ambitions, news leaked last week that the former governor’s campaign was no longer paying its staffers. Texas State Prosecuting Attorney Lisa McMinn also said last week that she will appeal an earlier court ruling that overturned a Texas law, coercion of a public official, as part of the criminal case against Perry, the Statesman’s Chuck Lindell reported.

Speaking of Metallica, they shredded at this year’s X Games Austin.

[h/t Houston Chronicle]

Down with Jeff Davis and Woodrow Wilson. Up with Warren Harding and Donald Trump

Good day Austin:

The statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson won at least a temporary reprieve this weekend from the ignominy of being moved from their place of honor on the University of Texas campus.

From Ralph K.M. Haurwitz:

The University of Texas on Friday abruptly canceled plans to move the statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson this weekend after the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed suit.

UT agreed to hold off until a hearing can be held next week on the group’s request for a temporary restraining order, university spokesman Gary Susswein said.

The university had planned to begin removing the bronze likenesses of Davis, the president of the Confederate States, and Wilson, the 28th U.S. president, on Saturday. They have occupied prominent spots on the campus since 1933.


University officials haven’t decided where to place the Wilson statue, which Fenves had said would be relocated to maintain symmetry. The two statues stand on opposite sides of the entry to the Main Mall.

We are talking landscape symmetry, but also I suppose ideological symmetry.

Wilson’s election was a victory for the Old Confederacy. Wilson, Virginia-born, was the first native Southerner to be elected president since the Civil War, and, devoted progressive though he may have been, Wilson’s views on race were hardly more advanced than those of Jefferson Davis.

From Boston University historian William Keylor in 2013 on the 100th anniversary of Wilson’s inauguration:

Born in Virginia and raised in Georgia and South Carolina, Wilson was a loyal son of the old South who regretted the outcome of the Civil War.  He used his high office to reverse some of its consequences.  When he entered the White House a hundred years ago today, Washington was a rigidly segregated town — except for federal government agencies.  They had been integrated during the post-war Reconstruction period, enabling African-Americans to obtain federal jobs and work side by side with whites in government agencies.  Wilson promptly authorized members of his cabinet to reverse this long-standing policy of racial integration in the federal civil service.

Cabinet heads — such as his son-in-law, Secretary of the Treasury William McAdoo of Tennessee – re-segregated facilities such as restrooms and cafeterias in their buildings.  In some federal offices, screens were set up to separate white and black workers.  African-Americans found it difficult to secure high-level civil service positions, which some had held under previous Republican administrations.

A delegation of black professionals led by Monroe Trotter, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard and Boston newspaper editor, appeared at the White House to protest the new policies.  But Wilson treated them rudely and declared that “segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.”

The novel “The Clansman” by Thomas Dixon – a longtime political supporter, friend and former classmate of Wilson’s at Johns Hopkins University – was published in 1905.  A decade later, with Wilson in the White House, cinematographer D.W. Griffith produced a motion picture version of the book, titled “Birth of a Nation.”

With quotations from Wilson’s scholarly writings in its subtitles, the silent film denounced the Reconstruction period in the South when blacks briefly held elective office in several states.  It hailed the rise of the Ku Klux Klan as a sign of southern white society’s recovery from the humiliation and suffering to which the federal government and the northern “carpetbaggers” had subjected it after its defeat in the Civil War.  The film depicted African-Americans (most played by white actors in blackface) as uncouth, uncivilized rabble.

Of course, removing  signs of respect with race as your prism is a very slippery slope. American history is flush with false idols.

George Washington was a slaveholder who was the father of a nation that enshrined slavery in its Constitution. So much for the Declaration of Independence’s all men are created equal.

Maybe instead of Washington, D.C., it should be D.C. – the District of Columbia.

But no. That won’t do.

Columbia refers to Columbus, the father of American conquest and genocide, whose treatment of the indigenous people he encountered in the New World were a grotesque horror.

And America?

What kind of name is that?

When I was up in Iowa the week before last, I was surprised to read in the paper that Democrats were stripping the names Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from their fundraising dinners.

And not just in Iowa.

From Jonathan Martin in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — For nearly a century, Democrats have honored two men as the founders of their party: Thomas Jefferson, for his visionary expression of the concept of equality, and Andrew Jackson, for his populist spirit and elevation of the common man.

Political candidates and activists across the country have flocked to annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners, where speeches are given, money is raised, and the party celebrates its past and its future.

But these time-honored rituals are colliding with a modern Democratic Party more energized by a desire for racial and gender inclusion than reverence for history. And state by state, Democratic activists are removing the names of Jefferson and Jackson from party gatherings, saying the two men no longer represent what it means to be a Democrat.

The Iowa Democratic Party became the latest to do so last weekend, joining Georgia, Connecticut and Missouri. At least five other states are considering the same change since the massacre in June at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C.


The Democratic Party is toppling Andrew Jackson, Indian fighter and author of the Trail of Tears, and Thomas Jefferson, slaveholder and, incidentally, author of the Declaration of Independence with its all men are created equal, from their pedestals, like a couple of dispensable Saddam Husseins.

Alphabet City in New York’s East Village probably has it right

Avenue A. Avenue B. Avenue C. Avenue D.

Can’t go wrong with that.

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

But, as we sort through American history using a racial lens, there must be some figures due for a revisionist upgrade to replace the fallen.


Well, in fact, yes.

How about Warren G. Harding?

I kid you not.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 11.55.28 AM

As you may have read, Harding, generally ranked as among the very worst presidents of the United States, was back in the news last week

From Peter Baker at the New York Times:

Long before Lucy Mercer, Kay Summersby or Monica Lewinsky, there was Nan Britton, who scandalized a nation with stories of carnal adventures in a White House coat closet and endured a ferocious backlash for publicly claiming that she bore the love child of President Warren G. Harding.

Now nearly a century later, according to genealogists, new genetic tests confirm for the first time that Ms. Britton’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, was indeed Harding’s biological child. The tests have solved one of the enduring mysteries of presidential history and offer new insights into the secret life of America’s 29th president.

OK. This latest news may not, on the surface, serve to exalt Harding.

But, listening to a report on the breaking news about Harding’s extra-marital life, I was startled to hear the author of a Harding book explain why this was a splendid opportunity to upgrade Harding’s rating as president?


Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 12.39.11 AM

 It was James D. Robenalt, the author of “The Harding Affair, Love and Espionage During the Great War,” who wrote in the Washington Post:

The aura of scandal that has plagued Warren G. Harding, our 29th president, has almost obliterated the substance of the man as a senator and as president. Breaking news that DNA testing may now prove that Harding fathered a child with one of his paramours, Nan Britton, will no doubt play to the stereotype of Harding as a womanizer and reinforce his already miserable reputation as president — a reputation that regularly lands him at the bottom of historians’ lists of our worst leaders.

That’s a shame because, unlike the DNA samples from the Harding and Britton families, the reputation of Warren Harding the man and the record of Warren Harding the Republican politician do not match. At the time of his death, Harding enjoyed tremendous popularity. It was only later, when details of his infidelity scandalized the nation, that his legacy took a nosedive. Our obsession, past and present, with Harding’s sex life has obscured the truth: This man was a good president.

Among his more important accomplishments was stabilizing the country and the world after the catastrophic war in Europe, a true Armageddon that left most “civilized” nations in economic, political and social chaos. The United States alone was capable of steadying the world. Harding started by lifting our country out of a sharp postwar depression and then placed the federal government on a budget for the first time — establishing the Office of the Budget (the forerunner of the modern OMB).

He addressed severe racial tensions that the war stirred up, in part because of the great migration of African Americans to the North to work in war industries. Harding traveled to Birmingham, Ala., in his first year in office to deliver a courageous civil rights speech. “Democracy is a lie,” he said, without political equality for black citizens. He also supported a federal anti-lynching law.

Harding oversaw the first world arms limitation treaty, the Washington Conference, aimed at reducing the number of battleships in the world. He formally ended the war with Germany and its allies.

And he cooled anarchist and labor violence, the height of which included bombs exploding across the country at the homes of top political officials. Symbolically, during his first Christmas in the White House, Harding commuted the sentence of Eugene Debs, the tremendously popular socialist labor leader who had been imprisoned for 10 years merely for speaking out against the war in a workers’ rally in Canton, Ohio. (President Wilson had routinely denied a pardon for Debs, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, the paragon of justice, wrote the Supreme Court opinion affirming the Debs’s conviction.)

Over time Harding freed hundreds of political prisoners, repairing the severe wounds wrought by the Espionage and Sedition acts of 1917 and 1918. Free speech was the victor

But, let’s back up.

Now, to be sure, Warren Harding never uttered the words Black Lives Matter in Birmingham, and he was still quite clearly a racist by any standard, who even as he was advocating for political rights for blacks was denying them their fundamental claim to social equality.

But here is the headline deck from the Page One story in the October 27, 1921 New York Times.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 2.57.56 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.58.51 PM

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 12.46.44 AM
President Harding speaks in Birmingham, Alabama.

This is truly remarkable.

In 1921, the president of the United States travels to Birmingham, Alabama, to deliver a speech before a huge throng telling white Southerners something they did not want to hear, whether you like it or not.

That’s our WGH.

From the Times story:

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.21.42 PM

And then this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 12.49.40 AM

Here was President Harding saying that, not only should blacks exercise the franchise in the South, but that they should not simply pull the lever out of habit or loyalty to his party, the Republican Party.

From W.E.B. DuBois, a founder of the NAACP, in late 1921:

And now comes President Harding’s Birmingham speech when unwittingly or deliberately the President brings the crisis. We may no longer dodge nor hesitate. We must all, black or white, Northerner or Southerner, stand in the light and speak plain words.

The President must not for a moment be blamed because, when invited to the semi-centennial of a great southern city of industry, he talked of the Negro instead of the results of profitable mining. There s but one subject in the South. The Southerners themselves can speak no other, think no other, act no other. The eternal and inevitable southern topic is and has been an will be the Black Man.

Moreover, the President laid down three theses with which no American can disagree without a degree of self-stultification almost inconceivable, namely:

1. The Negro must vote on the same terms that white folk vote.

2. The Negro must be educated.

3. The Negro must have economic Justice.

The sensitive may note that the President qualified these demands somewhat, even dangerously, and yet they stand out so clearly in his speech that he must be credited with meaning to give them their real significance. And in this the President made a braver, clearer utterance than Theodore Roosevelt ever dared to make or than William Taft or William McKinley ever dreamed of. For this let us give him every ounce of credit he deserves.

To be sure, DuBois wrote, Harding’s views on social equality were hopelessly benighted, but still …

On the basis of this one speech, it seems to me Harding vaults from the bottom tier of presidents, and has earned his place a amid the statuary at UT.

Down with Woodrow Wilson. Up with Warren Harding.


Statue of Warren G. Harding and his dog, Laddie, in Rapid City, S.D.
Statue of Warren G. Harding and his beloved dog, Laddie, in Rapid City, S.D.

And, in the interests of symmetry, and in the spirit of historical revisionism, let’s complement the new Harding statue with a forward-looking, ahead-of-the-curve statue of Donald Trump in what would amount to a new Arch of Triumph (you can’t spell triumph without Trump) at the entry to UT’s Main Mall.

Because, just as Harding’s reputation stands to be revised upwards nearly a century since his death, I think this past weekend will be recalled as the weekend that Trump’s standing with the mainstream media, myself included, was revised upwards.

It’s not that I don’t continue to think that Trump is a blowhard and narcissist whose campaign is by any conventional standard ridiculous. But, the central conceit of Trump’s campaign is that behavior that exhibited by any other human being would be considered fatal character flaws, are, with him, a source of public delight.

And  this weekend, in his dominating and thoroughly entertaining appearance at the Iowa State Fair, in his relatively more thoughtful, self-aware and unpredictable interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, and in his continued dominance in the post-debate Fox poll, Trump appeared to be a candidate who was simply not going to go away, whose candidacy. even as it continues to seem utterly outlandish, for the first time appeared to have the potential – maybe, possibly – to go all the way.

He – and his candidacy – were evolving and maturing before our eyes.

(From the Fox poll, via Politico, “Among likely Republican primary voters, Trump polled at 25 percent, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 12 percent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 10 percent.”)

For the first time, Cruz’s tender courting of Trump seemed less a play for the backing of the Trump faithful when he inevitably quits the race, and more an early bid to be Trump’s running-mate. (Though, to the ear, Trump-Cruz sounds like an ill-fated Carnival excursion.)

From Jeff Greenfield, on the new Trump, on Meet the Press:

He’s moved to a slightly more subtle level than in the opening rounds … There was the first vague hint of nuance.

From former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Morning Joe:

He’s trying to be a little more presidential … He’s trying to tone it down a little bit.

And Joe Scarborough:

You could tell in the tone this weekend – Donald Trump  turning the page … The rest of the Republican field has to be pulling their hair out.

From this weekend’s Trump, there was an eclectic assortment of unexpected answers.

While the other GOP contenders compete to say how early on their first day in office they would rip up an Iran deal, Trump said on Meet the Press,  “I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘We’re going to rip up the deal.’ It’s very tough to do when you say, ‘Rip up a deal.’

“You know, I’ve taken over some bad contracts. I buy contracts where people screwed up and they have bad contracts,” he said. “But I’m really good at looking at a contract and finding things within a contract that, even if they’re bad, I would police that contract so tough that they don’t have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract.”

On affirmative action: “I’m fine with affirmative action.”

On D.C. voting rights and representation in Congress: He loves the people and the leadership of D.C., and wants whatever is good for them. (Which would be two more Democrats in the U.S. Senate.)

On “who do you talk to for military advice right now”

“Well, I watch the shows. I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows and the generals and you have certain people …”

On whether he’s made any mistakes. “I don’t think I’ve made mistake.”

In fact, he said, every step he has taken has redounded to his benefit.

“So far, hasn’t worked out badly, huh?”

And then on immigration, the issue that launched Trumpmania, he actually posted a position paper on his web site that effectively outflanked the rest of the Republican field, to their right – making Mexico pay for the wall, ending birthright citizenship, defunding sanctuary cities, and mass deportations.

But, asked Chuck Todd, would he really be willing to rip families apart?

No, said Trump. He’ll deport the whole family.

“We’ve got keep the families together, but they’ve got to go. We’ll work with, them but they’ve got to go.”

“Either we have a country or we don’t,” Trump said.

That’s the kind of line that will endear Trump to his base, even if they don’t agree with him on affirmative action or care about D.C. voting rights.

As Ezra Klein wrote at Vox, elaborating on a New York Times piece by Josh Barro arguing that Trump is best understood as a moderate Republican:

I think Barro’s onto something, but it’s not that Trump is a moderate Republican. It’s that he’s a moderate, full stop. And he’s the kind of moderate that really exists, not the kind of moderate Washington likes to pretend exists — which is to say, his policy ideas, such as they exist, are often extreme, but they can’t easily be classified as left or right.

And there’s a market for that.

From David Weigel, reporting from Flint, Mich., in the Washington Post:

Trump’s rise and persistence as a presidential candidate has been credited to name recognition, to voter anger and to a specific contempt for the Republican Party establishment. But he is also the candidate talking most directly about the loss of manufacturing jobs to foreign countries.

In the Democratic race, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has adopted a similar theme, but Trump’s appeal here captured something that went beyond policy: a brew of impossible nostalgia coupled with a pledge to destroy other countries, most notably China, in negotiations. On Twitter, “Make America Great Again” is a goofy, meme-ready slogan, best displayed on ironic hats. There are places, such as Michigan, where it makes real sense.

As Trump told Todd about his hard-line immigration policy: “It will work out. You will be so happy.”

Like the children who got rides on Trump’s helicopter on the outskirts of the Iowa State Fair Saturday. Trump didn’t do like most of the other candidates and appear at the Fair’s Des Moines Register Soapbox, because he doesn’t consider it “relevant.”

The Register nearly a month ago invited Trump’s wrath when it editorialized that Trump should drop out of the campaign:  “He has become ‘the distraction with traction’ — a feckless blowhard who can generate headlines, name recognition and polling numbers not by provoking thought, but by provoking outrage.”

But watching Trump in Iowa yesterday, it was very hard not to be entertained.

(As I write this, the image flickering across my TV screen is Trump fist-bumping and signing  autographs on his way into jury duty. He even makes jury duty fun. “I hope they’re innocent,” he said yesterday.)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks to the media after arriving by helicopter at a nearby ballpark before Trump attended the Iowa State Fair Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks to the media after arriving by helicopter at a nearby ballpark before Trump attended the Iowa State Fair Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

He is Huey Long, Citizen Kane and Willy Wonka all rolled into one.

All that was missing was H.L. Mencken to observe it all.

But wait, here is Mencken, writing in The Baltimore Sun March 7, 1921, about our long-lost hero, Warren G. Harding.

Setting aside a college professor or two and half a dozen dipsomaniacal newspaper reporters,
he takes the first place in my Valhalla of literati. That is to say, he writes the worst English I have
even encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing
on the line; it reminds me of stale bean-soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through
endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark
abysm (I was about to write abscess!) of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of
posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.

But I grow lyrical. More scientifically, what is the matter with it? Why does it seem so flabby, so
banal, so confused and childish, so stupidly at war with sense? If you first read the inaugural
address and then heard it intoned, as I did (at least in part), then you will perhaps arrive at an
answer. That answer is very simple. When Dr. Harding prepares a speech he does not think of
it in terms of an educated reader locked up in jail, but in terms of a great horde of stoneheads
gathered around a stand.

That is to say, the thing is always a stump speech; it is conceived as a stump speech and written as a stump speech. More, it is a stump speech addressed to the sort of audience that the speaker has been used to all of his life, to wit, an audience of small town yokels, of low political serfs, or morons scarcely able to understand a word of more than two syllables, and wholly able to pursue a logical idea for more than two centimeters. Such imbeciles do not want ideas—that is, new ideas, ideas that are unfamiliar, ideas that challenge their attention. What they want is simply a gaudy series of platitudes, of sonorous nonsense driven home with gestures.

As I say, they can’t understand many words of more than two syllables, but that is not saying that they do not esteem such words. On the contrary, they like them and demand them. The roll of incomprehensible polysyllables enchants them. They like phrases which thunder like salvos of artillery. Let that thunder sound, and they take all the rest on trust. If a sentence begins furiously and then peters out into fatuity, they are still satisfied. If a phrase has a punch in it, they do not ask that it also have a meaning. If a word slips off the tongue like a ship going down the ways, they are
content and applaud it and wait for the next


But is such bosh out of place in stump speech? Obviously not. It is precisely and thoroughly in
place of stump speech. A tight fabric of ideas would weary and exasperate the audience; what
it wants is a simple loud burble of words, a procession of phrases that roar, a series of whoops.
This is what it got in the inaugural address of the Hon. Warren Gamaliel Harding

Let me be clear.

I do not share Mencken’s contempt for what he called the booboisie.

And this was the weekend. to borrow from the subtitle of Dr. Strangelove, that I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, thrilling to the possibility of the most spectacular presidential election in American history: Independent Socialist Bernie Sanders (and running-mate Elizabeth Warren) for the Democrats, billionaire populist Donald Trump (and Ted Cruz) for the Republicans, and, inevitably, billionaire progressive Independent Michael Bloomberg (with either Condoleezza Rice or Jeff Bezos) riding to the rescue as standard bearer of the Party of Wall Street.

It’s going to be great.






Report: 7 people have filed to run for president in the Austin area

Ted Cruz and Rick Perry aren’t the only ones from Texas in the upcoming presidential election.

Photo by Deborah Cannon
Photo by Deborah Cannon

No, we’re not talking about Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina or Jeb Bush, Texans whose political careers have led them outside the Lone Star State.

We’re talking about the 55 people who have used Texas addresses to file to run for president.

More than 500 people have registered with the Federal Election Commission to run, and according to a Dallas Morning News post this morning, over 10 percent of them used Texas addresses on their filing paperwork.

Map credit: Dallas Morning News

Here is what we found out about the seven names who used Austin-area addresses to register:

• More than two years before Election Day, a Buda woman named Ruby Mei filed a statement to run in the 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate on July 14, 2014. A Google search returned no other results beyond her FEC filing, however.

• A self-described Austin entrepreneur named Esteban Oliverez filed on July 9, 2015 to run as a Republican. Unlike Mei, he does have an official online campaign presence, and in the month since his campaign video was posted to YouTube, it’s racked up more than 1.4 million views. You can watch it below:

• Renny Arcaya filed a statement using a Round Rock address Aug. 4 under the La Raza Unida Party, a third party originally founded in the late 1960s by Chicano activists.

• Uryan Nelson filed as an independent candidate on July 8 using a Leander address.

• Robert Donald Hanson filed as a Republican using a Georgetown address on Aug. 6.

(We were unable to find much beyond the FEC paperwork for Arcaya, Nelson and Hanson.)

Perry, the longest-serving governor of Texas, filed using an Austin address June 19.

• Michael McGregor Holt, the Austin gunman in the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown shooting that killed one man and resulted in his death, also filed as an independent candidate on June 9.

It should be noted that filing an FEC Form 2 Statement of Candidacy is the bare minimum and does not necessarily mean that a candidate will be on the ballot or that they are even campaigning.

Related reads: 

• A brief history of Texans who have run for president of the United States

• The 2016 presidential race: Meet the candidates

Dear Rick: Free advice for running a lean campaign

Good day Austin:

OK. So it appears that Rick Perry’s presidential campaign is on the ropes.

Strapped for cash, it looks like his campaign team now will be doing what they do for the foreseeable future not for money but for love (or maybe it’s love and the promise of money down the road.).

The long odds against his nomination appear longer than ever.

It’s a terrible bind for Perry, right?

Seeking redemption in a second run for president, he is in danger of flopping yet again.

Yes. Sure.

But if it’s a moment of great peril, it’s also a moment of tremendous opportunity.

Perry must make a virtue of necessity.

Rick Perry in Rockwell City Iowa on Saturday.
Rick Perry in Rockwell City Iowa on Saturday.

Here then, my advice for Rick Perry.

(Note: Last year, I did the same for Wendy Davis, albeit not until after the election.)

Donald Trump wants to turn the sacred act of electing a president into reality TV?

Well, give him a dose of his own reality TV.

If he’s Celebrity Apprentice, you can be Survivor.

If he wants to run for president as a dumbed-down Ross Perot, you can run for president as a more macho Jimmy Carter.

And which one actually ended up president?

From Jeffrey Frank in The New Yorker in May:

Forty years ago, when Jimmy Carter, a former one-term Georgia governor, was running for President, a headline in the Atlanta Constitution said, “Jimmy Who Is Running for What!?” Carter got little respect from the Democratic Party establishment, from the inhabitants of Georgetown, or from the influential Times columnist James Reston, who referred to the five-feet-nine candidate as “Wee Jimmy.” But Carter and his so-called Peanut Brigade had a plan: to spend a lot of time in Iowa, a state with a curious tradition—voting in highly personal caucuses—where George McGovern had, four years earlier, almost defeated the front-runner, Edmund Muskie. Although he finished ten points behind “uncommitted,” Carter won the state. Assessing Carter’s talent and endurance, a few political journalists guessed the future, and may have “invented” the Iowa caucuses by focussing on Carter and treating his victory as one of primary importance.

What has since become clear is that participants and observers at the time, in an unacknowledged, unplanned collaboration, were conducting a political experiment: to discover whether it was possible for a “Jimmy Who?” to run for President with little money (Carter and his volunteers often slept in the homes of supporters), no major backers, and a mostly skeptical press, and to do so while facing big-league talent, which then included the senators Henry (Scoop) Jackson, of Washington, and Birch Bayh, of Indiana; the former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey; and the thirty-eight-year-old governor of California, Jerry Brown.


From now on, no more hotels. You’re staying at the homes of supporters.

Your super PAC, Opportunity and Freedom PAC (OAFPAC), can create a new app – Rickbnb – to place you each night.

In Iowa, there are 99 counties. That’s 99 Nights with Rick Perry.

You’re the king of retail politics.

Double down on that.

Make like Trump and instead of waiting to be invited onto the Sunday and morning shows, simply dial in.

I suggest a quick call-in to Morning Joe each morning you are in a new home where you spent the night.

Just say:

“Hi, good morning Joe, Mika, I’m here in Defiance, Iowa, population 283. Just had a great night’s sleep at the beautiful home of Willis and Francine Jorgenson, and I thought my mom made great pancakes until I tried Francine’s blueberry flapjacks, man oh man.

“Oh. Wait. Goodbye Bobby. That’s their boy Bobby heading off to school. Great kid. Closing in on being an Eagle Scout, just like me.”

Hand the phone to Francine, who tells Joe and Mika a little bit about what a wonderful place Defiance is and what a pleasant guest you’ve been. No airs at all. Get the phone back.

“Got to run Joe, Mika. Got some chores to do. Tomorrow I’ll be staying in Marathon, Iowa, population 242. Talk then.”

And yes, do some chores.

Chop some wood. Clear some brush. Harvest some corn. Feed some chickens. Milk some cows. Help birth a foal. You are, as you always tell people, the child of tenant farmers. You have a degree in animal husbandry. You were Texas agriculture commissioner.

Whenever possible, climb on a John Deere, mount a horse.

You’re a pilot. Do some crop dusting.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 8.02.24 AM

That would be national news.

And, I know that you don’t need to be told this, but always make your bed.

From the New York Times,

Jerry Brown in his 1992 presidential bid earned a reputation as a messy house guest, leaving damp towels on the floor and his bed unmade.



This one’s easy. OAFPAC just develops another new app – Perry Uber Alles.

I guarantee people would drive great distances at any time of the day or night for the chance to take Rick Perry from Point A to B.




A candidate for president can basically eat for free.

But, just to reinforce your image of living off the land, at least once month, go literal and forage for breakfast, hunt for dinner.

Let Trump compete with coverage of your freshly killed venison dinner at the Titonka (pop. 466) Community Center.

Meanwhile, remind folks that you are the governor – and as far as I know the only governor in the history of the United States – to shoot a coyote while jogging, and to protect your puppy.

And I know this opportunity may not present itself, but if there is the slightest opportunity to shoot another coyote while jogging, seize it.

Better yet, if the opportunity presents itself, shoot a mad dog making its menacing way down Main Street, removing your glasses just like Gregory Peck did as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, to take aim.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 8.27.37 AM


Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.05.04 PM


Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.12.17 PM


Let’s face it. You are the best looking, most macho guy in the race.

Work it.

Compared to you, Marco Rubio is a kid, Rand Paul is a punk, Chris Christie is Sydney Greenstreet to your Humphrey Bogart, and Mike Huckabee – well you’re the cowboy hero who walks into the saloon, and orders a whiskey – and leave the bottle – and he’s the portly, aproned barkeep who dutifully fetches it for you and then ducks behind the bar when the shooting starts.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 8.51.40 AM

And your glasses are so much more studly than Jeb Bush’s. What are those? LensCrafters?

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 11.42.25 AM

And Ted Cruz?

Well sure he’s not a pointy-headed left-wing intellectual.

He’s a pointy-headed right-wing intellectual.

Machine Gun Bacon?


Has he ever shot a coyote while jogging?

Has he ever shot a mad dog making its menacing way down Main Street?


You are the longest-serving governor of Texas, the second largest state.

Very good

You are one of only three GOP candidates to have served in the military (and the other two – South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore – don’t really count).

Very good.

But what really and truly makes you unique is that you are the only serious presidential candidate now – and perhaps ever – who is under indictment.


Conventional wisdom would tell you that you shouldn’t call attention to the fact that you still are facing trial back in Texas.

But your high water mark in the polls was after your indictment.


Because people (at least Republican people) saw you as a tough guy, defiant, standing up for what’s right and bravely paying a price for it.

Remember Willie Horton?

Of course. Helped make George H.W. Bush president.

Make Rosemary Lehmberg a household name.


Poster by SABO
Poster by SABO

Cruz gets all this credit for a 21-hour mock filibuster on the Senate floor – reading Green Eggs and Ham – and for risking cross looks from his Senate colleagues for calling Mitch McConnell a liar.

Oh my. How brave.

But you’re risking 99 years in prison.

That’s putting something on the line.

That’s grit.

And the great virtue of bringing the indictment front and center is then, if the remaining count is thrown out, you an proclaim a great victory and people will know what you are talking about, and if you have to go to trial in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, you can turn it into the ultimate reality Court TV drama.

Compete with that, Donald Trump. Eat your heart out Carly Fiorina.


Mug shot art by SABO
Mug shot art by SABO

If you’re acquitted, the eyes of the nation upon you, you’ll be a hero

And if you’re convicted? Well, that’s not so good.

But that was going to be the case no matter what.

In the meantime, roll the dice.


You’re the 1950s American hero.

Small town America upbringing.


Strong silent type.

Here you are talking at a meet-and-greet in Rockwell City, Iowa, on Saturday.

You know I believe in being a humble person. I believe in being an individual of humility. To me that’s what a public servant is about, to be an humble {for some reason, this time and this time only you  pronounce “humble,” with a silent “h,” Cockney style] with humility public servant, but to be stronger than blue steel when it comes to standing up for what you believe in.

Well, we could probably tighten up the “humble with humility” bit and get a consistent take on pronouncing the “h,” but I like “stronger than blue steel.”

Rick Perry: Stronger than Blue Steel.

That’s good.

But blue steel.

Blue steel.

Where do I know that from?

Oh yeah, right.


Well, it’s still good.

But even better there is this passage a short time later in Rockwell City.

You said:

George Will did a column over the course of the last couple of weeks and he wrote about a Texas Supreme Court justice by the name of Don Willett, and he juxtapositioned him to John Roberts and talked about what a  strict constructionist and a strict constitutionalist Don Willett is and what a principled justice he was and what a brilliant scholar he was and he said, the next president of the United States, if they want to put a Supreme Court justice on the court that they can be proud of, that is not going to be squishy down the road, make that first appointment be Don Willett.

I appointed Don Willett to the Texas Supreme Court, I do not do squishy on judges.

That is excellent. Attention OAFPAC; Billboards dotting the Iowa landscape:

“I do not do squishy.” Rick Perry for President.

Wait. What? Is this for real?

Trump. You like Willett? You can thank Rick “Blue Steel” Perry.



Jimmy Carter’s Peanut Brigade of Georgians were very effective campaigning on his behalf.

You could have his Paint Creek Brigade.

OAFPAC could have weekend round-trip charters from DFW to Des Moines.

Better yet, pickup caravans from Texas to Iowa.

You named virtually every appointed official in the state of Texas. Call them all, remind them of where they’d be without you, and ask which weekend is most convenient for them to come to Iowa.

You were surrounded by Navy SEALS and other American heroes when you announced for president.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 9.41.18 AM

Many of them joined you for a subsequent motorcycle Ride with Rick in Iowa.

You should bring them back for a ride across the length and breadth of Iowa – including American Sniper widow Tara Kyle – and all of you staying in local homes along the way.



Lone Survivor Marcus Luttrell is like a son to you and Anita. He should be campaigning with you like a son.

And Anita. Where’s Anita?

If she wants the new place in Round Top to be the summer White House and not all-year digs, she needs to be in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina right away. There’s no time to waste.


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Good luck.



The GOP debate, according to Google Trends

Google Trends is providing a new way to look at the 2016 election: through what issues and candidates garner the most Internet interest.

This combination of photos, from top left, shows Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and from bottom left, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Scott Walker. The candidates are scheduled to participate in a Fox News Channel Republican presidential debate Thursday.
This combination of photos, from top left, shows Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and from bottom left, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Scott Walker. The candidates are scheduled to participate in a Fox News Channel Republican presidential debate Thursday.

For months, the popular search engine has tracked what candidates are the most searched and what about them people are researching.

Checking back in with their data after the first Republican primary debate gives some clue as to how audiences reacted to the Republican candidates in their first major political meeting.

The following is what has and hasn’t changed in the 2016 election following the first Republican debate, according to Google:

Donald Trump remains the most searched Republican candidate. Between 4:48 p.m. EST and 11:48 p.m. EST, Google Trends noted only two instances in which Trump was overtaken in searches, first by Lindsey Graham and then by Ben Carson. FiveThirtyEight notes that Lindsey Graham’s temporary surge seemed to follow his story about losing his two parents and relying on Social Security.

Though Trump dominated overall in Internet popularity, Carly Fiorina’s search numbers in the early debate point to how well she performed. The former Hewlett-Packard executive remained the most searched candidate participating in the early debate in all but a few instances, even beating out Trump in the hour leading up to the prime-time debate.

Related: In first debate, Rick Perry is top dog but Carly Fiorina shines

Carly Fiorina

The Google Trends data tracked hour-by-hour what issues were the most searched:

GOP issues

Education, taxes, abortion, immigration, health care and same-sex marriage were the most searched issues, suggesting only a slight change of interest in issues between the time before the debate and after. In the days leading up to the debate, abortion wasn’t even on the top 10 list of most searched issues.

The post-debate data page also reveals what issues people are searching for by candidate.

For example, people searched “Donald Trump on abortion” more than they searched his stance on any other issue during the Thursday night debate. People also searched for Trump’s stance on immigration, gun control, same-sex marriage and Planned Parenthood at a high rater rate than any other issues.

Google Trends also released data on what moment during the GOP debate people are searching for the most on YouTube after the debate ended.


Google Trends’ GOP debate data page also provides information about what questions people had about specific issues (What does it mean to eliminate sanctuary cities?), what questions people had about the moderators (Is Bret Baier a Democrat?) and the most popular questions for each candidate overall (What religion is Ben Carson?).

What ornithological name would Rick Perry give you?

Former Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland during the earlier of Thursday’s two Republican presidential primary debates. Photo by Doug Mills.
Former Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland during the earlier of Thursday’s two Republican presidential primary debates. Photo by Doug Mills.

Before Donald Trump took center stage in the prime-time Republican primary debate, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry faced off with six other candidates Thursday afternoon in what many called the “happy hour debate,” for all those who didn’t make the top 10.

Many said that Rick Perry dominated along with former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina — spare one “oops” moment.

Related: In first debate, Rick Perry is top dog but Carly Fiorina shines

While responding to a question about securing the border and immigration, Perry said:

“All the way back to when Ronald Raven signed a piece of legislation that basically allowed for amnesty for over 4 million people…”

The Reagan-Raven mix-up wasn’t the kind of campaign-ending flub that marred his 2012 bid for president, but it did provide fodder for countless internet memes.

Slate Magazine made #RonaldRaven a little bit more zoologically educational with the “The Ronald Raven Name Generator.”

The generator hinges on the assumption that if Rick Perry was to flub your name, he would distort your last name into some type of bird, as he did with “Ronald Raven.”

For example, if you put Willie Nelson into the Ronald Raven Name Generator, you get “Willie Nightjar” (The Nightjar is a small bird known for its “churring” mating sounds and atypical serrated middle claw, according to BBC Nature.)

willie nightjar

The next Republican debate isn’t until September, so may as well kill some time and use the Ronald Raven Name Generator to see what name Rick Perry would give you.

Spoiler alert: According to the Ronald Raven Name Generator, if Rick Perry were to flub their names, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be called “Hillary Cowbird”; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would be called “Jeb Brant”; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas would be called “Ted Crake”; Donald Trump would be called “Donald Tern”; and Carly Fiorina would be called “Carly Flycatcher.”