Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Invisible Primary: “Double Down” Edition

The best part of a political campaign is the after-action review that comes when some enterprising journos grab DC insiders by the lapels and convince them to talk about all the crap that went down on the trail. Convincing politicos to talk is not as difficult as it seems, since most people in DC will yak endlessly about themselves prompted only by the word: “Hi.”

For years this campaign accounting was accomplished nicely by Jack Germond and Jules Witcover, who managed to uncover such nuggets as the one about Dan Quayle being so dumb that if you told him to turn off the light he’d forget what he was doing before he reached the switch. Good stuff. Today we have Mark Halperin and John Heilemann who knocked the socks off of the chattering class a few years ago with “Game Change.” Since Sarah Palin isn’t here to kick around anymore, the newest tome about the race for the White House is “Double Down” and it goes for the Romney jugular while managing to hit collateral damage against Obama's campaign in the process. 

I know what you’re thinking: Of course I haven’t read it. No one will – they’ll do the “Washington Read” where you look in the index, find your name, read about yourself and put the book on the table so people will think you studied it. But I can skim the breathless accounts and book reviews like the next girl, and it seems to me that the whole megillah is less about the past and more about the future: Specifically, what is going to happen in 2016. So buckle in, kids. Here are the gossipy “Double Down” tidbits about our favorite IP candidates. Thanks to Politico for this helpful account:

#1: Chris Christie: Today marks the official Christie gubernatorial re-election walk, but the book is bound to cast some long shadows over Christie’s victory. The book makes several accusations about lateness, errors, and temper tantrums that would make a three year old stand back and applaud. Basically, the one line summary is that the New Jersey Republican’s file was “littered with potential landmines” which was why he was not considered for a VP position in 2012. Whoops.

#2: Joe Biden: And speaking of Vice Presidents, perhaps the biggest jaw dropper to come out of the book is that the Obama campaign considered dumping my boyfriend Veep Bee for Hillary Clinton. The White House, of course, vehemently denies this, but the account made a larger point that Obama did exclude Biden from a number of campaign appearances which makes him look marginalized at best, like a yutz at worst. The yutz factor has always been Biden’s Achilles heel, so this is not good news if he’s planning a bid against Hillary. 

#3: Bill Clinton: Though not running for anything, the book is apparently littered with tales of Bill’s annoying solipsistic behaviors which may have an effect on the Mrs. as she launches her own 2016 campaign. I doubt anyone is going to be surprised that Bill Clinton, who was once described quite funnily to me as a man with “owl sized appetites” has narcissistic tendencies, but who needs that when Chuck Schumer wants you to be the first woman president?

All of this is good, clean fun unless you are the subject of the fish-themed nicknames that were apparently used in the super-secret vetting process for VP: “Pufferfish” for Christie, “Filet o Fish” for Portman, Rubio was “Pescado” and Ryan was (giggles) “Fishconsin.” Well at least that one was funny.

Does any of this hearsay mean anything as our tireless IP candidates run for the roses? Probably not explicitly. I mean, who cares if Obama said that he liked Bill Clinton “in doses?” What matters is the fuel this book gives to the existing narratives about the candidates. If the public already has a wary eye on Christie's temper or Biden’s ability to be taken seriously, this doesn’t help. But that is why time is a friend to candidates who need to restore their street cred. Remember Rubio’s water lunge from the post-SoTU speech last year? Neither does anyone else. Five bucks says that in a year from now “Double Down” will simply be that awful KFC sandwich that can kill a healthy man with one bite.

Unless the book gets made into an HBO movie with Zach Woods as Paul Ryan.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

There's More to It than Being on TV

I thought I'd rip off a quick post here not so much as to offer some new and profound thoughts on the pre-primary, but to give us all a quick reminder what the invisible primary isn't either in theory or in practice.  As this is my first chance to watch a live game on Sunday this season I'll make this brief.

A lot of ink has spilled and pixels darkened about Sen. Ted Cruz and his apparent 2016 ambitions.  As many would have us believe, grabbing the limelight is the first order of business for presidential hopefuls at this point in the election cycle.  While this may help a candidate's invisible primary strategy, let's not forget a couple things.  

First, the invisible primary isn't all about candidates going to the people; it's a conversation that takes place within a party (broadly defined) as they seek candidates.  This isn't to say that candidates actions are unimportant in invisible primary success, they're just less important than many folks assume.  Several, if not most, of the invisible primary winners (think George W. Bush) weren't out playing a public game at this point.  Quite importantly, Bush wasn't out there pissing off anyone in the party at this time in 1997, he was making nice with nearly every GOP governor and other well placed Republicans whilst they were vetting him. 

Second, Sen. Cruz's faux filibuster has only appealed to a narrow band of the Republican electorate.  While the talk of a Republican civil war is in no doubt overblown, he is irritating a rather important wing of his party.  As the invisible primary is in largest part a party-centric enterprise, simply gaining public standing in one faction of the party, while simultaneously alienating another isn't the best course of action.  The Tea Party may be a plurality, or even a majority of the party at the moment, but those simple numbers don't guarantee success.  We know that when the party does land on a strong general election nominee,  faction leaders tend to lose out in the invisible primary in favor of another candidate that isn't any faction's first choice, but is nevertheless unobjectionable to the mix of constituencies within both parties.  

So if Sen. Cruz is seriously pondering a presidential run, he'd best start playing nice with his colleagues and worry about broad party goals as well as his own personal electoral ones.  If he blows off the better part of his caucus, he'll in no doubt be in a good spot for reelection, but he'll be shooting himself in the foot for higher office.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The invisible primary in hiding.

It is tempting to want to unload over the current budget and impending debt limit crisis.  There is so much to say, so much grist for the mill.  But most of it has probably been said and, besides, this blog is about the invisible primary so, is there anything to say about it given the current distraction?

How about Paul Ryan’s almost no-existent roll in all this?  He is, as I remember it, the Radical Right’s wonder-boy when it comes to the budget.  But he has almost nothing to say.  In realty, his former obsession with Medicare might actually be a better fit as a bargaining chip for the GOP.  Medicare actually has a big impact on the current and future federal budget, certainly more than the ACA by most assessments.  I mean, if you are going to hold a hostage, you might as well get what you want for its return straight.  It is like someone stealing my cat and demanding a ransom from my proctologist (not that I need a proctologist….).  More accurately, it is like kidnapping your own child, and demanding ransom from their sibling for her to be returned.  You both want her returned, you will make sure she is going to get returned, you were just too stupid not to hold the Dora the Explore DVD in return for the ransom.

Interestingly enough the one glimmer you see of him is fundraising over the issue for his leadership committee, Prosperity PAC.  And his dealings over this issue are not the only place he stays hidden.  In August, as these issues began to percolate, he attended a highly secure and secret meeting with the Koch brothers in New Mexico.  Does his public silence on this tip his hat to a view that this battle may not be good for a presidential run?  Given the leadership vacuum in the House, this would be a good time for him to try and give clarity and logic to the Tea Party message.  His potential challengers, Cruz not withstanding, have been equally quite or even somewhat critical of the approach adopted by the radical minority of the GOP.  Marco Rubio weighed in on the faux-filibuster with Cruz, but just enough for the people who care to notice.  In fact, except for Cruz, the Senate Republicans really want little to do with all of this.  Chris  Christie criticized the approach, but his position has to be taken in context of an impending reelection as governor.  Jeb Bush, critical; Rand Paul, mostly silent; Scott Walker, silent; Condoleezza Rice; silent (yes, I am the first on this blog to suggest she could be a conten-da).  Rick Santorum, he is talking about it, but I addressed him last week in my entry.

I think one reason why Ryan, and some of the other invisible primary contenders, are staying silent is because they are interested in governing and this is clearly not governing.  So they have that going for them, which is nice.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Beware of Turkish Prime Ministers Bearing Gifts

In the middle of our routine, faux-panic over government shutdowns, debt ceiling limits, heightened polarization, and various other events that make Americans think their system is falling apart, allow me a diversion to a nation that faces similar problems for reals, with huge stakes...  What does this have to do with the invisible primary?  Nothing really, but I'm the macdaddy of this blog.  So if I want to write about parties and elections elsewhere in the world I will.

As many of you know,  I've more than a passing interest in Turkey.  I lived and worked there for four years in capacities varying from university professor, political consultant, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  My obvious familial connection to the nation (well, obvious to those who know me), runs far deeper; and my family's future there is highly dependent upon decisions made in Ankara.  The connection is deep enough that I honestly see my self keeling over Michael Corleone style (at the end of Godfather 3) as I'm gazing over the lush beauty of Kocahıdır in western Thrace.  Simply put, I care deeply about what goes on there, particularly on political issues that pertain to the Kurdish "problem" and the general liberalization of the political system.

My son Liam doing the çapulcu thing in Ankara, June 2013.
Parallel to the events of this summer's nation-wide protests that stemmed from PM Erdogan's plans to put yet another big assed mall in Istanbul's Taksim square (hallowed political ground for the Turkish left and some of the last open space in the Beyoğlu district), has been the decades long struggle for Kurdish cultural and political rights (by the way, these protests have not gone away, though domestic and international attention to them certainly has).

The AKP government has been trickling out reforms in a fractured, erratic, piecemeal fashion for some time now; always with an eye on capturing a piece of the Kurdish vote (which worked to a degree) yet not giving more than they need or get away with politically.  A couple of days ago they released yet another round of such reform proposals.  The center piece of this package is a proposal to re-work the most undemocratic aspect of the militarily imposed constitution of 1982 - the 10% electoral threshold.  10% is no accident.  Back in 1935 Ismet Inonu, acting as Kemal Ataturk's PM, wrote a report in which he recommended that no ethnic group be allowed to comprise more than 10% of a local population.  This was then used as a benchmark in the continuing "population exchanges" to Turkify the Kurds (as well as other "others") throughout the southeast and relocate many to the western parts of the nation.  Fast forward to 1982, when the military wished to impose barriers to virtually ensure that no Kurdish party could be consistently elected, a national threshold of 10% was chosen.  Was 10% a coincidence?  Possibly in the strict sense, but the long term goal of Turkish socialization has been realized to the degree that Kurdish identity has been weakened enough to be a primary political identity for about 7% of the population.

The present system is pretty straight forward, and apart from the threshold, quite fair.  At present there are 85 districts based mostly on municipal boundaries, with Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir divided into multiple districts.  District magnitudes vary from 1 to 30.  Seats are apportioned using the D'Hondt method of proportional representation.  For reasons made abundantly clear in the 2002 election, when over 50% of the population voted for a party that didn't enter the parliament, the two main parties dig this threshold.  The AKP turned a 34% take into a 66% share of seats in the TBMM.  The farcical opposition party, the CHP, magically transformed a 19% vote into 32% of the seats.  Since then, they have dogmatically supported the high threshold as they've both picked up far more seats than their electoral support has warranted in each succeeding election.  So it came as something of a surprise to me yesterday when a student asked me about the suggestion of lowering the threshold to 5%.  Let's be clear on this, Erdogan is no genius.  But what he lacks for in brains and sophistication, he makes up for in raw political instinct.  Surely he hadn't walked into such a blunder?

He hasn't.  True to his pattern of political reform for the benefit of himself, the devil here is in the details.  For starters, he didn't personally endorse the lower threshold, but merely stated it should be a point of parliamentary discussion.  Given the extreme personalization of the parties there, I can imagine how that discussion will conclude.  He immediately proposed two other possibilities: 1) Increasing the number of districts  to 110 districts of 5 each, and if I read this correctly (and how do I hope I am not) the party that takes the majority in the district takes all five seats.  2) Moving to 550 single member plurality districts.  To say this is a sharp break from what they have now is the understatement of the year.  Either option would represent a clear regression of the democratic process in Turkey.  Being an illiberal democracy, the only thing Turkey really has going for it is its electoral system, which is both fair and freely administered by a politically independent commission.  Take those democratic qualities away, and we'll see another precious layer of democracy stripped from the nation.

True to Erdogan's caginess, either of these monstrosities would serve both the aims of limited "reform" and his own political security.  The AKP will clearly dominate the political map in either scenario, and I don't even want to speculate on how strongly they'd gerrymander the districts to achieve this.  Either scheme would most likely result in a marginal increase in the number of MPs from the Kurdish BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) who has until now, "sneaked" under the threshold by running independent candidates (that have suffered from severe limitations of electoral efficiency as it requires tremendous coordination of write-in voting).  However it would come at a cost, they may well increase overall numbers by getting more candidates out east, but they'd undoubtedly lose their MPs from the urban centers in the west.  In the main, the BDP has been very cool to the proposal; just as they have in every round of reform coming from the man.

As for the other parties it is a mixed bag.  The CHP as the consistent number two party would probably be marginally effected.  But in the best of scenarios, the pathetic state of the party's leadership, rank-and-file, back benchers, local officials, members, and voters in the electorate dooms them to parliamentary ineptitude despite any marginal gains (or losses) they may see.  The neo-fascist MHP is screaming bloody murder at this proposal, which on a normal day I'd say is a good sign.  Not only are they troubled with any relaxation of state or citizenship identity drifting away from an ethnic or racial basis in some of the packages other points, they will be the big losers here electorally as they have very little chance of taking a majority in most constituencies however they may be drawn geographically.

The bottom line is this: beware of Turkish Prime Ministers bearing gifts, even if on face the reforms seems genuine.  The initially lofty and loudly trumpeted democratic ambitions of the AKP's first and second governments have been all but lost in the personal ambitions of their leader after he learned to consolidate power without their help.  What once looked like the foundation of a genuinely mass based political party (something that's never been seen in Turkey before) that included many liberal voices has collapsed into something quite narrower - just another neo-patrimonial party intent on doling out state largess to its patrons.  Seeing this, Tayyipbey needs to proceed with caution if he has any intention of staying in the political game much longer.  There are limits to how much this kind of institutional monkeying can benefit one's party, particularly when you live in an electoral democracy as volatile as we have in Turkey.  In the past couple elections, the Turkish electorate has very consciously made a tradeoff between the political stability and economic benefits that have come with AKP single party government, and the deviation from long standing norms of the Turkish Republic (see Ali Carkoglu's work on economic retrospective voting in Turkey).  Voters knowingly departed from their own policy preferences in favor of good economic conditions and calm political times, while tolerating much of what the AKP has stood for socially.  Their tolerance will only go so far and they may well renege on that bargain should the hubris of Erdogan take him much farther down the road of blatantly stacking the institutional deck in his favor.  His barbarous response to the mass demonstrations this summer has undoubtedly hurt him.  True enough, he has the luxury of a ridiculous main opposition party in the CHP that makes things easier, but there's always the possibility that the political power demonstrated this summer could be channeled through either an existing party or something new that could upset the political calculus that Erdogan has been banking on.  I'd like to think that his winter is coming, but only time will tell.

You can try to delay it with institutional trickery, but it's still coming...

all photos courtesy of Evren Çelik Wiltse

Friday, September 27, 2013

I have nothing to say.

I should not admit this as an active blogger, but I have nothing new to add to the discussion about the impending budget battle taking place in Congress.  Nor do I have much to add about its twin sister, the debt limit showdown.  Together they look like Gerard Depardieu and Nick Nolte on a date at a Chuck E. Cheese.

Although there is one aspect that never made much sense to me and when I ran this issue by my class they just asked if it would be on the exam.  In regards to the debt limit fight, the Radical Right always say they want something in return for lifting the debt ceiling.  As if they didn’t want it lifted, as if solvency was not a priority for them, as if maintaining a credit rating that allows us to borrow money for almost free, is not good enough.  They make it sound like agreeing to borrow money so that we can pay the bills on obligations they voted for is something they don’t want.  It never makes sense.  It is like being at your birthday party and saying to your guests, yes, I will take your gifts, but only if you are willing to agree to mow my lawn, do the dishes, press my shirts, and get the gummy worms out from under the seat of my car that my kids left there.  I can imagine the strategy meeting with the House Republican Study Committee went something like this. (thanks to my student Noah)

Like I said, I have nothing to add to those battles.  Which means we have to go back to our most reliable source of material – Rick Santorum.  In fact Rick Santorum is to invisible primary bloggers what …..well…..Rick Santorum is to late night talk show hosts.

He is ginning up his game these days ever since Sen. Ted Cruz (from the great 51st state of Canada) has been stealing the spot reserved for radical, nonsensical, candidates.  Rick has been to Alabama to open up a new GOP headquarters (because they need one of those like they need another Chick-fil-A).  But not to be further upstaged by Senator Cruz’s eloquently reading of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish on the Senate Floor; Santorum just had his first public screening of a new movie that his media conglomerate produced.  It will be coming to a theater or sanctuary near you soon.  Called “The Christmas Candle,” it is an attempt to grow the strong base of support he gets from the Jewish community, at least that is what I read in the comment sections of a reputable “news” source (shout out to @LawnMowerBeerBelly).  The Christmas Candle (here is the brief trailer – no, really, check out the trailer) is also an attempt to appeal to a broader, more Obama-centered, group by appealing to the theme of “hope”.  As Santorum stated in his press release, “Our goal is to release quality entertainment with positive, uplifting messages of hope,” Santorum continued. “That’s what people across America and the world are looking for, including my own family.”   This big-tent-loving, bipartisan move is a clear sign that he would have voted to defund Ted Cruz, like many of the other GOP Senators did, in his recent Senate performance.

This all bodes well for the Santorum for America campaign a la 2016 but I fear he may be slipping a little in his game.  For instance, I was surprised he missed the chance to be part of this ground breaking meeting with conservative and liberal groups in the key swing-state of Wyoming.  (Yes I chose to make two KKK references and leave Hitler out of this posting).  I also expect to see a big shake-up in his campaign staff due to their inability to secure Mr. Santorum a role that did NOT include an Uncle Sam mask in this Koch Brother’s commercial.  Although he seemed to be pretty nimble with that speculum.

Stay tuned for bigger things! Soon Sen. Cruz will not have a forum to dominate and distract people from the nation’s business and Mr. Santorum will, once again, be able to regain his leading spot for 2016.  That pretty much guarantees that I will post at least one more time before 2016.  Thanks for the collective sigh of relief.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fall = Best Season Ever

And we're back! Late September formally brings us academic classes in full swing and autumnal glory where all college campuses look like they do in the brochures. Crunchy leaves, sweater-wearing students, cheerful football games and underage drinking. Ah, September. On a personal note, my students this semester are fabulous! They totally make up for the feces-fest unraveling now on Capitol Hill, because watching that is enough to discourage even a stalwart, system-adoring political scientist. Here's to a new generation!

But first, let's look at the current state of affairs.

This September brings us another perennial nugget of joy: the threat of a government shutdown. Unless you have been completely distracted by the WORLD'S BEST COMMERCIAL (as, I confess, I have been at times where distraction is necessary), you know about the looming crisis and the resulting rift in the Republican Party. If not, please let this terrific article explain for you the coming week (courtesy of my friend and fellow blogger, Lonce). And sorry for stealing this, Lonce. You an also check out this good one from Politico (like they do anything badly?).

Since this entire kerfuffle is political theater, you just know there has to be Invisible Primary drama behind the scenes and so we begin with the thespianism on the floor of the US Senate right this minute! Quick! To C-SPAN 2 (the Deuce)! Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) launched an old-fashioned filibuster (ala Mr. Smith) against Obamacare and vouched to speak "until I am no longer able to stand." Good on you, sir, and this comes after a bruising little amount of press that called you a bunch of names and also questioned your popularity. It's good to stand for something, especially when you actually have to stand in order to stand for it.

But the possible shutdown tactic is splitting the GOP which is never good, unless you are a Democrat. Specifically, the 2016 IP contenders have to weigh in on this and thus far the results are mixed. Republican Governors Chris Christie (NJ) and Scott Walker (WI) both begrudgingly said that they would not want to shut the government down, as did former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. On the other side are the aforementioned Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, and sorta kinda Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who seems to want it both ways by saying that "The American people support defunding Obamacare and oppose shutting down the government." OK! Not sure how that works out, but here is PolitiFact's take on Rubio's press statement.

So how is it going to end? Good Lord, who knows? I do know that Veep Biden schlepped out to flood-devastated Colorado and promised that regardless of any shutdown, FEMA would provide assistance to those in need which was both reassuring and tactically savvy, all at the same time. Last week, Biden was in Iowa at the Tom Harkin steak fry, which fueled speculation that he was, in fact, running. At the fry, he swapped hats with an Iowan for a photo-op, which only fueled my motherly instinct to yell "DON'T DO THAT!" as a preventative measure against head lice. Joe, don't say I didn't warn you. And don't share your comb or barrettes either.

Wrapping up this week in the Invisible Primary, last night former President Bill Clinton was on David Letterman, who was fishing for Hillary 2016 scoop. Letterman said: “If she is running to your knowledge, blink twice.” Bill denied all knowledge of his wife's intentions, which did not seem to surprise me in the least. Fair turnabout, don't you think?

That's all from the cheap seats. if the government shuts down, I tell my students, the price of pizza is going to sky rocket and beer will be banned in all 50 states. They don't believe me. See? What a smart, terrific group I've got! Hooray for September. And Happy Fall everyone!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

There’s Running and there’s “Running”

The baddest of the running bad-asses in Chambersburg is my friend Johna, both whip-smart and jamming-fast, but I can only talk to her when she’s stationary - otherwise she is a sprinting blond dot way ahead of me. Recently I had her cornered and our conversation turned to politics. Johna posed the question of the Democratic nomination in 2016: Hillary or Biden? It is a great question, and the fact that Johna asked it made me think about the differences between running and “running.” Stay with me here: Johna runs a 7 minute mile and runs about 20 miles a day. That is RUNNING. That is running in a way that most of us cannot fathom. That is running for reals, as the kids say, and compared to Johna I am a koala (it’s the sleepiest animal in the world. I looked it up). I run 6, maybe 8 miles at a sluggish pace and while I am “running” I am not really running. Johna runs for a personal record (PR), I run to listen to music and avoid people. Johna will win medals, I will be able to eat two goldfish crackers and not gain weight. Johna is running. I am “running.” And even though both forms of running involve the essentially same movements, they are entirely different activities.

The same thing can be said for the race to the White House. There are good reasons to “run” for president in our fabulous Invisible Primary, beyond the base craving to look in the mirror and say “Hello Mr. (or Mrs.) President.” I recently did a fun interview with the Financial Times where I spoke about this, so please allow me here to briefly address those reasons to “run” for president, as opposed to actually RUNNING for president.

·         Name recognition = Book and TV deals. You may think me cynical, but give Mike Huckabee a shout at Fox and ask him how it all worked out for him? Cha-Ching!
·         Power positioning: You may not make the show, but you may get a job at State. And if you are, say, the Governor of Montana, State looks pretty good right about now. Not that there’s anything wrong with Montana.
·         Ideological positioning: A tip of the tin foil hat goes to Uncle Larry here, for his steadfast devotion to Ron Paul. The good doctor just kept it going, long past the expiration date, just to make a point. And then he handed down the baton to Rand, to keep that running going in what I will for now on call the “Paul Relay.”

These reasons add up to a field full of contenders and wannabees, and sometimes it’s tough to tell who is who. The news stories in the slow August recess weeks are chock full of 2016 prognostications, and if you glance through the top-10 lists on both sides, you will see that everyone appears to be VERY serious about running for president.

My former boss at C-SPAN, Brian Lamb, always says: “Follow the money” and it’s good advice. When these cats start hunting for real campaign contributions we will be better suited to see who is running and who is “running.” It’s good to remember that both running and “running” are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and the reasons to do both blend in nicely with one another. But it is fun at this stage of the game to try and guess who is running for a PR and who is running to distract themselves from syllabi that are due... in 4 days. Just saying.

You go, Johna!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Middle of Orientation Post

Not much of a post today, but I've got a little time to kill as I'm in the middle of a talk on time management as part of my orientation for my new gig at South Dakota State.

Whilst effectively multi-tasking between the rah rah lectures and blog reading, I came across this post on skipping Iowa by Jonathan Bernstein.

To reiterate one point: no, it's not too early to talk about this. Laying down the groundwork for Iowa an the other early contests is the essence of the invisible primary. We're fast approaching the time that  events like Tom Harkin's steak fry start to attract possible Democratic hopefuls, say Joe Biden who dropped in this year, and candidates of all stripes will begin trolling the state fair for more important reasons than checking out the butter cow.

One other bit I'd add one the long list of candidates that skipped Iowa, only to flame out in spectacular fashion later is Rudy Giuliani. By skipping these early contests, Giuliani and these other candidates he mentioned showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the process necessary to win the nomination. While that might have been excusible in the 70s when parties and candidates were figuring out the new system, today it's just plain stupid. As we know the triangulation on a candidate by party activists is key to winning the nomination. Pulling out of these early races either shows a candidate doesn't understand this, or that he or she is so desperate at that point because of their systematic failures in the pre-primary phase.

So to rope this back to Christie, if he's serious and smart, he'll no doubt be popping up here in the near future.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hola from Mexico! Anthony Weiner Esta Un Grande Polla!

-Hello from our neighbors to the South - Mexico! Yes. I am compelled to blog from our family vacation where I am brushing up on my 4th Grade Spanish while drinking a tanker of tequila. Donde esta la Bibliotecha? And do they serve margaritas there?

Dave totally stole my initial thought about the anti-Hillary Super PAC, but since he's the padre of this blog I will give him a pass. My muy fabuloso hermano-in-law Brian and I have been devouring the Anthony Weiner story (much to my husband's chagrin: He thinks Weiner should be kicked to the curb and we start talking about important things. Like hockey.), and so I will intellectually contort myself to make this blog, alledgedly about the Invisible Primary, to include the words "sexting," "sociopath" and "dickhead."

Let's look down the road a few ways, the first to 7 weeks from now: This is when the primaries of NY and NJ hit and we get to watch Chris Christie and Anthony Weiner run for the roses. I'm going to go out here on a limb and predict Christie in a slow walk, and Weiner getting his ass handed to him by a group of gleeful NYers who are drooling over the chance to humiliate him at the polls. Yes. This is a risky bet, but it's why they pay me the big bucks to blog. Let's start with Christie and get to the good stuff: Carlos Danger.

Yes, 2013 is gonna be a big year, mostly because one of the front-runners for the GOP is going to win easily. The hilarious thing is that, even though the off-years are state-wides, the pundit class will use such 5-buck words as "harbinger" and "predictive" and "portent" to say Chris Christie is un dealio grande. As they say in Mexico. Which is pronounced "Meh-Hee-Co." I am off topic. But 2013 will set the stage for the 2014 which is where we go next.

Hola and que tal to the "Madam President" list of winners who should be watched. Also, 2014 is muy importante for the GOP who is withering in the House and hanging on in the Senate, and desperately trying to figure out who will show for the Show of 2016: the hard-line Tea Party-backed conservatives who think Richard Murdock and Todd Akin were simply misunderstood, or the establishment Republicans who think Reagan has been hijacked by... everybody. See (and this is where the intellectual contortion comes in handy), the races that lead up to the 2016 presidential will be analyzed in greater detail than any invasion plan Donald Rumsfeld ever had a hand in.

Hand in? Let's get to Weiner! BOOM! So, as Ross Perot would say, here's the deal. Anthony, I was with you. You did the 5 steps of scandal/redemption nicely enough to lead in the polls.  I warned you that not enough time had passed, but you jumped into the NYC Mayoral race and I thought I might be wrong. But then you went un grande loco on me and changed the narrative: You sexted with random women AFTER you resigned in disgrace? AFTER? AFTER?!?!? Son, you lost me. And here is why.

As my muy bonita college roommate Martha once observed: Marriage is hard. It is. And I am NEVER one to think that I can peek inside someone else's relationship and give them advice. Hell, I am smart enough to know that I don't want anyone peeling my own marital onion, mostly because it ain't anyone's bid-ess but my own and life is complicated. BUT. When we make decisions in private, we don't get to call them private when we run for a public office where the sole criteria is... decision making. See, Anthony - had you either kept your fingers in yer gloves or not run for public office, then I'd still be with you. But you didn't. No, a YEAR AFTER you resigned in disgrace you were still sexting random sycophantic women who took the reigns of power from you and promptly sold it to the highest bidder. Allow me to quote from the marvelous "House of Cards:" Everything is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power. And when you are dumb enough to give up the power to some random age-inappropriate random, then you do not get to be mayor of anywhere. Ever. Really.

So to Anthony Weiner, I say this: Go away, por favor. What you have done to poor Huma is reason enough to make certain that you hide your face for a long while. Dragging her up to a press conference in order to make you look pretty is mean and sociopathic. You are a narcissistic ball of yuck and the Democratic Party can do better.

As for Carlos Danger, I want to say: The interwebs auto-correct my last name to Danger. I always thought this was awesome. Now, I am having thoughtos sugundo. If you get an e-mail from me signed "Alison Danger," there is no relation. Por favor.

Monday, July 22, 2013

An Invisible Primary First?

As some of you may have read in the past week, an explicitly anti-Hillary Clinton super PAC called Stop Hillary has been created.  The founders are a classic mix of intense policy demanders comprised of state politicians (mostly from Colorado), former congressional and presidential campaign staffers, and a lobbyist or two.  Included in this cadre is Matt Rhodes who recently helped found the Republican opposition research super PAC America Rising.  How much money Stop Hillary can raise and what resources they can deploy are anyone's guess, but we shouldn't be surprised that something like this has come along.

So here's an honest question (and if you know the answer please let us know): Is this the first time a PAC has formed explicitly to oppose a non-declared candidate in the invisible primary?

We've obviously seen PACs and super PACs affiliated with candidates beat up on each other, as they did in the 2012 invisible primary.  America Rising itself was a delayed response to the Democratic opposition research super PAC American Bridge, but these are groups with broader goals.   Even Citizens United was established decades before it aired its hugely consequential film on Sen. Clinton in the 2008 primary, though most people never heard of it until 2009.  But Stop Hillary seems unique in its singular purpose.  The names speaks volumes, and probably says it all.

While American Bridge was content to confine its work out of the public eye - digging up dirt and embarrassing bits about various Republicans then feeding it to the press - Stop Hillary seems to be fully intent on grabbing as much publicity as they can.  Their first major play will be a video which is set to be released later this week.  I guess their first test is see if anyone notices...