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...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Coffee House Guy, the Money Primary, and the Invisible Primary

Over the past two weeks I was lucky enough to take a bit a of road trip to Oregon and Washington to visit a dear friend and family before the nuttiness of preparing my house for sale and moving up to South Dakota State (Go Jacks!) begins in ernest.  Generally when I'm on the road I don't make a particular point of socializing with random folks, and my first general order is to never blurt out that I'm a political scientist to strangers.  As my colleagues in the profession can attest to, that can elicit a wide variety of responses, the vast majority of which we'd rather not hear.  However, at a moment of weakness in a coffee joint in Park City, I was pinned down with an incriminating pile of manuscripts awaiting editorial action by coffee house guy.

After his finding pretense to engage me, exchanging pleasantries (which I suck at by the way), explaining what I was up to, and my areas of interest, we had a decent little exchange on presidential elections that got me thinking.  Here's the critical bit:

CHG: So who's the odds on favorite for the Republicans?  After all, we know Hillary will be the nominee for the Dems, since she's got all the money.

Me: Obviously it's too early to make an accurate prediction, but I'd look for someone who's got a good reputation amongst Republican governors and perhaps Senators, and can get along with the Tea Party types, evangelicals, and the country club set... maybe someone like Rob Portman, hell even Jeb Bush if he can restore the brand name.

CHG: What about Rand Paul?  He's got a bunch of hardcore supporters and can probably tap into his dad's great fundraising network, and money's the name of the game in the primaries.

Me: Money is one of those things you can't do a thing without, but it's not everything.  And, it can't be flowing in just one direction towards the candidate.  Early on, it's more important that the candidate be raising money for other folks and the parties at various levels.  Both Ron Paul and Howard Dean were raking the money into their campaigns in the early primary seasons and both had their asses handed to them when the voters began to weigh in.  Their opponents had developed networks of office holders and party activists that could open up the taps when the time came.

CHG: Makes sense.

Me: Yeah, I wish I was the one who wrote the book on that...

CHG: So Hillary's not got it in the bag either.

Me: No, but she's got a lot more going for her than money.  Unless something big happens between now and then, as it did in 2007, she'll be well positioned with Democratic office holders and activists for a strong run.  She'll raise money for them and they for her; to say nothing about the pro staff and volunteers she'll pick up in the process.

CHG: What about those 501 groups?

Me: Yeah you're spot on, just another way for the money to be raised and spent between the players.

CHG: Well good talking to you, take it easy bro.

Me: Uh, yeah.  You too, um dude.


The money primary and invisible primary are often conflated, but I think we need to carefully separate the concepts, and be very clear about the nuances of money in the process.  All things considered, I'm all for retiring the use of the term "money primary" all together as it obfuscates more than it clarifies.

For starters, the invisible primary clearly involves money, but it's not determinative.  The term "money primary" evokes a candidate centered process, reminiscent of David Broder's famous observation that politicians are essentiallyself-nominated and financed political entrepreneurs.  This feeds into the widely, yet wrongly held belief that money is everything in politics.  Central to the concept of the invisible primary is that the party - broadly conceived - is attempting to triangulate on an acceptable candidate.  It's as much - if not more - about the various constituencies and officials within the party looking for a good nominee as it is self-starters looking to tap into the organizational and financial resources of the party's principle players.

By conceiving of the pre-primary period as simply the money primary, we lose a great deal of what's taking place within the party.  A commonly held belief about Gov Tim Pawlenty's hasty exit after the Iowa straw poll was him losing the money chase.  While his fundraising clearly was falling behind Romney's, we now know that his real trouble was finding bannermen amongst well placed Republicans.  While there's clearly some simultaneity with money and party support going on, history shows us that party support is the critical factor.  And as I suggested to the coffee house guy in Park City, the entrepreneur like Dean in '04, who pads his own pockets nicely, but fails to pad the pockets of others in the invisible primary, will probably take an inglorious early exit.