Friday, February 22, 2013

Political update for February, 2013

Nate Silver had a good 2012 election. He's actually had two consecutive good ones.  Unfortunately for his critics he seems to have an uncanny ability to predict outcomes.  It is too early of course for him to make predictions for 2016. What he really does is track polling data from others giving each poll the weight he thinks it deserves. Therein lies his talent. 

Silver recently went through potential GOP candidates and rated them on their conservatism using three different systems and combining them into his own.  His chart for this is set below.  Chris Christie was the least conservative by far, although I do not think it is really accurate for him.  I doubt for example that Mitt Romney is 4xs more conservative than he is or Rand Paul 7xs more conservative. Nor would I say that Romney was less conservative than Reagan, who might be considered a RINO today, stripped of his legend. Consider the following: Reagan had his ambassador vote to condemn Israel in the U.N.  He instituted actual amnesty for immigrants.  He raised taxes (though he lowered them more, that would not fly in today's climate), increased spending, loved Hollywood and Rock n' Roll, did not retaliate when the Soviets blem up KAL 700, engaged in extra-congressional acts of war (Libya, Grenada - though both would be covered by war powers act) and hung out with lefty Tip O'Neill. Not only is he less conservative than Romney (or at least the Romney character created as a presidential candidate) he might in fact be almost shunned today.  Silver's chart also shows how much more conservative the party is today than in Reagan's era.

So it is no surprise that Silver is vague and his main conclusions are very non-predictive, given how early they come - "Thus, my contention that Mr. Rubio is a good representative of the Republican Party as it stands today" and "There are some viable candidates to Mr. Rubio’s right" are not exactly like saying Paul Ryan will be the next presidential candidate.

I really just want to borrow his list as a tool to discuss who will be running.  It is too early for anyone sane to make 2016 predictions, but I do not need to worry about my reputation because I don't have one.  That is liberating and I can freely do what I want without fear that being wrong might affect my non-existent career (not that any pundits seem to suffer from being almost incessantly wrong).  I can't begin to predict who might do an exploratory committee some day as that is the political equivalent of going on on a date as opposed to proposing marriage to someone, but I will try, years and years into the future, to predict who might actually go as far as seeing how they fair in the Iowa caucuses. If I'm wrong, I can rely on the ol' stand-by - well, no one can predict that far ahead. If I am right - then I am a political Nostradamus.  My record for this is pretty good if you go back as far as 2006, when I made predictions for 2008, though that was considerably closer to the coming election than now is to 2016. I also did well on the last election, when other than Newt Gingrich, I think I nailed everyone.  Admittedly, some people I was pretty vague about.  We don't even know for sure if all these people will be alive in 2016.
First, who will not be running.  Let's look at the governors first: Mitt Romney has shot his bolt.  At this point in America, you get one shot.  I suppose someone will change that someday, but not Romney. Scott Walker is often talked about but he is a conservative darling who is not much known outside of Wisconsin by the general public and has negative appeal thanks to his public union busting.  Chris Christie is harder to determine, but though you won't see it discussed in polite television discussions, I think it really depends on his weight. I do not believe an extra-large Christie will be a candidate. Just imagine the Saturday Night Live skits with him wolfing down McDonalds and eating off his opponents' plates.   He also would have a lot of difficulty in Republican primaries for having given Obama an emotional hug just before the election (for no reason - Obama had to help NJ in today's political climate after Hurricane Sandy), though a more slender Christie would do well in a general election. It does not appear to me he is controlling his weight, but a lot can change in a year, particularly with surgery available. Sarah Palin will tease again, but the desire for her even among conservatives has wained and she will not be serious for more than a news cycle or so. Rick Perry is  still governor in Texas, but he really took a beating last time despite huge expectations and I doubt will try again. He really performed badly, and if his excesses were not an act, then he should not be president anyway.  On the other hand,  Tim Pawlenty may throw his name out there again, just to see if anything has changed, but I think he and Republicans understand that he is just not the guy. He will not get the funding he needs and not even go as far as he did this time.  I also think Herman Cain has seen his best days.  Sex scandals can be come back from, but you need to admit it first.

Some from the last run will more likely try again. Like Perry, Jon Huntsman came in with a great deal of exaggerated momentum (he never had a chance for a second).  I believe that for most of his run, it was really about getting name recognition for 2016, and he might give it a go.  Depending on what happens with the Republican fiscal/cultural schism, he could do better, but only if he can last through the initial filtering in Iowa and I just don't think so. That is true of many people.  Like Christie, thanks to his low conservative ratings, Huntsman would actually do better in a general election than a more conservative nominee.
Rick Santorum has to be reckoned with. I think if he does try, he will be making a mistake. It is natural when someone does well at something, to think it is them and not the circumstances. But, in his case, it really was the circumstances.  After Gingrich self-destructed for the second time, there was no one else for the "anybody but Romney" crowd to go for.  In order to attract any attention he needed Perry and Gingrich and Bachmann and Cain to all come and go. Before that his polling numbers were abysmal.  If he runs this time, he will again be shunted to the side. Bachmann is hardest for me to predict.  Few really want her to run, but she and her family might decide she is needed somehow. Mistake. She will fare no better and probably worse this time. Run for Senator first if you ever want to get anywhere. Ron Paul is, of course, retired, and I suspect despite a draft effort by libertarians, he will stay that way. If he tried again, it would be getting in his own son's way.

There are the three young "stars" for lack of a better word, too.   Rubio, Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal may all take a look at it and quite possibly will go through Iowa. They are all "ethnics"  that will help the GOP show it is not the party of mostly white men (snicker - come on - isn't it mostly?) although I have never understood why many Hispanics are not considered "white" or caucasian. Are they not in Europe?  Mixing a language group among ethnic groups just points out the idiocy of our demographic system.

Rubio seems almost certain to run. His appeal is obvious, if mundane - he's a Republican Hispanic, good looking and successful, having been a governor and senator. Silver points out something though that I do not think well recognized - he is very conservatism. I've already pointed out that the chart strikes me as erroneous in some aspects, but I think he is right that Rubio is more conservative than any Republican candidate since the gold standard for conservatism, Barry Goldwater, in 1964. You can listen to his speeches yourself but you will easily discern it in them. It is obvious why this would be beneficial in the primaries, but how it will sell in an increasingly liberal and minority empowered America is harder to say.  I do not know that this will benefit him. The hope would be, among the less conservative on the right, that his other qualities will count for more than his politics. There is certainly recent precedent. America is not as liberal as Barack Obama, but his story and his ethnicity and his other personal qualities, not to mention a very effective campaign organization and Republican campaign incompetence, have made up the difference in spades. I'm certainly not prepared to make predictions yet as to who the nominee will be, but if I was forced to,  it is hard to believe he would not be the early front runner.

Haley and Jindal are harder to read. I want to suggest that Jindal, despite his popularity among Republicans, is a bit of a Tim Pawlenty.  I have heard Haley speak too and seen her interviewed. She has a telegenic charisma that Jindal , Pawlenty and even Rubio, do not have. In fact, if it looks like Hillary Clinton will be the front-runner for the Democrats, Haley may seem like a good idea to many Republicans.  By the way, originally Sikh, she is now a Christian. Now why would someone do that? Hmmm.  Oh and Bobby Jindal - originally Hindu, now Catholic. Maybe I'm just cynical, the way I was when John McCain became a Baptist, but, lots of people change religions all the time, don't they? Sure, and so many politicians just happen to schedule vacations and talks in Iowa and New Hampshire too.
Speaking of Haley, I do not see former Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour running though he might actually make a good candidate.  He has been a very successful lobbyist (one of the biggest), RNC chairmen and generally popular governor, tarred by pardons at the end of his term and also the inevitable racial questions a white southern Republican governor would be expected to face.  He will not run.  Two other governors bear consideration though. Bob McDonnell of Virginia has done an outstanding job by almost all accounts as Virginia governor.  Like many Republicans, he will be tarred by his attitude towards gays, which he has never changed since winning the governorship in spite of criticism about it.  Possibly his first act as governor was to re-issue the state's executive order regarding discrimination. He made one change. He removed gays from protected status.  If you ask yours truly, the Republican position on gay marriage hurt them this last time around. It will more so in 2016. I don't know if it will disqualify McDonnell. Maybe not in the Republican Primary, but as we've seen, it is not the same as a general election.  He has made other statements that will not serve him well, though they will give him support among his base.  Another consideration is Rob Portman, also strongly considered for Romney's VP, who appears to me to have something solid about him that people respect. I think he is a possibility. On the other hand, I think he would have to be pushed to it and he has made no moves that would indicate that he is thinking about it.

It is also hard to completely discount Paul Ryan.  He is young and energetic and did well enough in the debates and on television to merit consideration.  I don't feel it with him though. There is a nerdish air about him that he may not even be aware of, even if he can run for miles and do a lot of push ups. I expect he will test the waters, but those who might have been attracted to him will more likely go for the other rising stars.
Rand Paul, Ron's son, is also trying to craft a public identity different from his father. He has gone to Israel as if on a pilgrimage, but it was obvious what he was trying to do.  If you are considered weak on Israel, you aren't going far in Republican circles. It was damage repair. The truth is, he is still a young man who is trying to figure out a way to remain true to libertarian principles while also figuring out how to appeal to conservatives that don't always see eye to eye with their uncomfortable partners. If you read conservative columnists, they are often extremely critical of libertarians, sometimes saying that they have no values.  He has a couple of years to craft. I do not rule him out.

Gingrich fooled me last time. I thought he was too smart to run, but he wasn't. He came in with a surge due to his glibness and willingness to be an attack dog, but make a mockery of himself. When Herman Cain snuffed out in his sex scandal, Gingrich seemed like the only possibility at the time (few were then taking Santorum seriously) and he had a second shot. Of course, he is Gingrich, and again tripped over himself.   There are many positive things to say about him, but one characteristic seems overwhelming. He cannot stifle his arrogance and need to promote himself.  Other politicians may be as arrogant.  But they hide it better.  He also talks faster than he thinks and frequently contradicts himself. He is opportunistic and will jump on any bandwagon he thinks may ride him to the front of the line. That includes going after Romney in a way that was very destructive to Republican opportunities in general.  He is immune, as we've seen, to common sense. He might run again despite all the signs he should not. But, once burned, I will simply wait and see this time. Unpredictable.
There is someone else who is not on Silver's list who I not only think might still be a possibility, but hope will run, as, right now, he would be the one I would most likely give my support too (as if that would do any candidate any good). That is former governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana. There are others out there who see something in him. He is a fiscal conservative who tries to stay away from the cultural issues. I suspect, like any Republican candidate I like even a little that has a possibility of success (so, no, not Gary Johnson) if he was going to seriously try, he'd have to make certain concessions to the right wing concerning religious or quasi-religious issues. But, he has already said that we need a hiatus (I forget the word he used) about cultural issues while we figure out economic problems.  That is what I want to hear.

Last time, he did not enter the lists because of family considerations. From what I understand, his wife left him for another man, but is now back again. There may be more to the story, but apparently his wife and daughters did not want him to run because of it. I can't say I blame them too much. Presidential politics is disgusting and there are people who would happily destroy your family to gain an advantage. But, I hope they change their minds and he gives it a whirl.
As I've written about before, on the right there is a growing schism between the fiscal and cultural conservatism. I don't know if they can find someone who will satisfy both ends of the party. Some obviously think Rubio is that guy.  I don't know. But if it can be said there is a front runner right now -- as silly as that sounds -- it is probably him.

As for the Democrats, Obama and Clinton have sucked the air out of the room for almost all other candidates. There is a strong impulse among many of them for "Hillary." Certainly it can no longer be said that she is just a former first lady, having been a senator and now a secretary of state.  If she stays in relative good health, is not further entwined in any more Benghazi drama, and if her husband can manage to avoid further scandal, she certainly would be the front runner.  Right now, I can only think of Joe Biden and John Kerry having the presumption to think they could beat her. Biden is a very unusual man, at once very likeable and capable and on the other hand appearing snide, arrogant and almost uncontrollable in his impulses - he is also one of those politicians who makes screws up by telling the truth. Kerry arrogance probably exceeds Gingrich's and that is really saying something.  He has managed to lose an election before, so I have trouble seeing him raising any money if he is interested.  But Biden has a lot of friends and pull.  Of course, there may be newcomers like Obama again.  Because they are in power, it is more difficult to think who among the Democrats might run. I will need a year or so more before I make even early predictions about them.

It's politics. I could change my mind tomorrow about the above predictions like I do each week as to what flavor cupcake I crave (I'm thinking some kind of apply thingee I've had before; have you experienced the explosion in cupcake cuisine the last two years?  It makes me so happy. Eating "healthy" be damned.)


  1. It is definitely early but i do like (so far) Rand Paul on the republican side. Jindal seems to get a lot of press but I just can't warm up to him for some reason. And I find his manner of speaking (tone,cadence) to be a little grating. I don't really see Biden as viable. I think he is seen as acceptable as number 2 but I think he is een as too much of a loose canon to be Prez. Hilary is the (very) early favorite on the D side but age and health could be factors.

  2. I think there may be a dearth of charisma on the Republican side. It shouldn't be important, but is of course very. Paul, in my opinion, also has a manner of speaking - perhaps it is accent - which is not very easy to listen to. Of the young'uns I think Nikki Haley may be have the easiest or best way with people. She does have some sex scandals out there - two men claiming to have had affairs with her - and if I recall, they were both Republicans. It didn't stop her in South Carolina and it may not nationwide, but you never know if there are more out there. She absolutely denies it, and, frankly, I rarely could care less if a candidate goes outside their marriage in terms of whether I would vote for them (the Schwarzenegger scenario - literally hiding a child, would be different), but that doesn't mean others will feel the same way.

  3. It's all about the youngbloods on the Republican side, the old guard is done for the Presidency. Jindal, Rubio, and Christie... and right now Christie is the frontrunner if, Big if, he runs. Why? Because as much as some factions of the party hate him, he CAN win. He's tough, he's fiscally conservative, and the cultural prigs will have to shut the hell up based on the beatings they have been taking nationally. He's fat, that's true, but you'd be surprised how quickly people get tired of fat jokes... it's a one trick pony, and trust me, I KNOW. On the Democratic side it is Hillary and Biden and she will mop the floor with him. She has no long term health issues, she needs two years to rally support and raise money, something she could not do as Sec of State. Her campaign in 2016 will be a locomotive that will be extremely difficult to derail. And those are the facts, Jack.

  4. Not unreasonable. I agree that fat jokes could backfire, but that only means his adversary can't do it - not the media. But when it comes to the presidency, people care about health issues. It was certainly raised with John McCain and he had recently hiked the Grand Canyon. As for your prediction about fiscal v. cultural conservatives - I am hoping that it plays out that way. Doesn't mean it will.


Your comments are welcome.

About Me

My photo
I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .