Sunday, January 4, 2015

Mike Huckabee’s Improbable Balancing Act for GOP Nod

The Daily Beast ^ | January 4, 2015 | Lloyd Green 

There’s no doubt the Huck will need bucks if he’s going to make a successful run for the GOP nomination, but that’s not the only challenge he faces.
Last night, Mike Huckabee bid adieu to his show on Fox, and made his interest in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination a matter of public record. Unlike former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Huckabee is not immediately forming an exploratory committee. Still, the prospect of a Huckabee candidacy should be taken seriously.
He finished second in 2008 behind John McCain, and maintains a reservoir of good will among Republican social conservatives. Even among Republicans who don’t list him as their first choice, Huckabee is personally liked.
If Huckabee runs, the hurdles he faced the last time out, namely geography and money, would still be there. Huckabee will need to demonstrate that he can build upon his eight 2008 primary and caucus victories, and win outside of the evangelical strongholds of Iowa and the rural South. Having regional appeal is one thing; simply being a regional candidate is another.
Practically speaking, Huckabee must win in places like Florida, Texas and Virginia, which is no small task given Bush’s footprint in Florida, and Sen. Ted Cruz’s favorite son status in Texas. For the moment, national polls show Bush and New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, at the front of the Republican field, with Huckabee, Paul, and Ben Carson in contention, and Cruz looking like an also-ran.
Huckabee will also need to establish a reliable fundraising base, something that up until now has proved to be elusive. In 2008, Huckabee raised a little over $16 million, with less than $55,000 coming from political action committees. By contrast, John McCain, the eventual GOP nominee, had raised approximately $12.7 million in the first quarter of 2007 alone.
Not much has changed on that score. According to Politico, Huckabee’s leadership PAC, Huck PAC, raised just $2.2 million in the 2014 cycle. Sarah Huckabee, Huckabee’s daughter, also oversees a super PAC, American Principles Fund, which raised $1.4 million in 2014.
Yet, money has never been more important. In 2012, Mitt Romney was plagued by the ability of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to persevere in their quixotic quests for the nomination because they had the outsized backing of donors like Sheldon Adelson, in the case of Gingrich, and Foster Friese, who formed a Super PAC to aid Santorum. Huckabee, a staunch supporter of Israel, is on good terms with Adelson, but he may be too socially conservative for Adelson’s presidential tastes.
As a cautionary tale, Adelson was reported to have expressed his appreciation for Cruz’s support for Israel, but in the next breath let it be known that the junior senator from Texas was too much out there on social issues. Whether Adelson has the same take on Huckabee remains to be seen.
To his credit, Huckabee is conscious of the fact that he will need a cluster of deep-pocketed patrons and bundlers. On Saturday night, Huckabee posted to his Facebook page that he was leaving Fox so that he could “openly talk with potential donors and supporters and gauge support,” adding: “I feel compelled to ascertain if the support exists strongly enough for another Presidential run.” For the moment, that says it all.
Huckabee is on firmer terrain when it comes to issues, and is definitely in sync with the GOP’s base. In the aftermath of the shootings of the two New York City police officers, Huckabee quickly called for a memorial minute to honor the fallen cops. In contrast to Paul, Huckabee has never palled around with Al Sharpton.
Likewise on taxes, Huckabee is where the party faithful are, calling for repeal of the federal income tax, and its replacement with essentially a national consumption tax. By contrast, Bush has not ruled out a tax hike in exchange for spending cuts, and will also be forced to defend his father’s abandonment of his 1988 “no new taxes” pledge.
More to the point, Huckabee has a natural appeal to a party that has come to represent the bulk of working class white voters. He has taken a tough stance on unilateral presidential amnesty for illegal immigrants, and has backed “fair trade,” in the face of globalization. Huckabee is also not burdened by, or beholden to, foreign investors. In a sense, Huckabee may be America’s UKIP candidate, melding nationalism with traditionalism.
As for his campaign staff, Huckabee is going with people who were with him in 2008, Chip Saltsman, the Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee, and Alice Stewart, his 2008 press secretary—but that may not necessarily be the best thing. Saltsman is best known for circulating a CD containing the satirical ditty, “Barack the Magic Negro,” as part of Saltsman’s own failed bid to be tapped as chairman of the Republican National Committee. As for Stewart, she is known and generally liked by the press corps, and she’s a veteran of Michele Bachmann’s short-lived 2012 presidential campaign and the equally successful Santorum drive.
If Huckabee is to move forward, he will also face the challenge of converting name recognition into enthusiasm and wooing those Republicans who are not primarily motivated by religion or social issues, all the while holding on to his core supporters. While Republican values voters frequently set the agenda, values candidates are less successful when it comes to actually snagging the brass ring.
In 2008 and 2012, Huckabee and Santorum, respectively won the Iowa Caucus, but did not make it to the finish line. Pat Robertson finished second in the 1988 Iowa caucus, and it was all downhill from there. If history is a guide, Huckabee will need to resonate with more than just the faithful if he is to win. He accomplished that goal in Arkansas. Whether he can do it on the national stage is the unanswered question.

The Long Knives for Cruz

by BobL

So they're saying that Cruz so identified as extreme right wing that he can't win a general election (for president). Well guess what - so was Reagan. I specifically remember that...Reagan was considered so "reactionary" that there was also "no way" he could win the general election...that was the main objection to him, not really what he stood for.
And then I'm in college and a college-aged girl (who otherwise never talked politics) says to me: "I like Reagan because he won't let this country get pushed around". I knew right then that the rest would be history.
It is up to Cruz (and no one else) to present himself properly. If he can, he wins, if not he loses. At this point nothing in the media matters because the election is not today. Reagan was likely 50 to 1 long-shot at this time in 1979 because the media had, effectively, painted him as a total EXTREMIST.
But what people don't understand, or are unwilling to understand (or won't acknowledge) - once you are painted as an "extremist" the only way to go from there is up. Reagan was able to say that his first appointee to the Supreme Court would be a woman...and yet he still kept his base locked-down - he knew they would come out for him, and they did.
As we saw in 2008, a "moderate" cannot do this, because a "moderate" is always fighting to win the base over in the first place. In 2008 McCain, despite being the "perfect moderate", obviously had polling that showed he would get trounced by Obama, simply because the base had no interest in turning out - so he was forced to run with Palin (someone he disagreed with on just about everything, and likely hated too). Once that happened, the media could paint him as extreme and make sure that he didn't win - while much of the base stayed home anyway, because of the top of the ticket.
So look at the difference: Reagan can move from Right to Center (significantly), bring in a new batch of voters, and yet STILL hold his base. McCain is forced to move from Center to Right, allowing the media to paint him as an extremist (thereby pushing much of the squishy center to Obama) and for that he only picks up a small amount of support from the base.
That is how politics works here and also for the Democrats. Obama never campaigned as a left-wing radical because HE DIDN'T HAVE TO. He had his base locked-down, and thus could effectively campaign more in the all the talk about "racial harmony" and "fixing this country", etc. got him a LOT of votes from the squishy center.
So let's not get fooled. Yes, Cruz can blow it, by sounding like a right-wing zealot AFTER getting the Republican nomination, but he's also very smart, and more importantly, he DOES NOT NEED TO MOVE RIGHT, as he's already got his base locked down.

Is Life Better in America’s Red States

New York Times ^ | 01/04/2015 | By RICHARD FLORIDA 

The new Congress that starts work this week is the latest reminder of America’s stark political divisions: The parties in Washington are more polarized than they have been in decades, the partisanship gap between rural Republicans and urban Democrats has grown, and the battle for suburban voters keeps intensifying. Much less is said, however, about the equally significant economic division between conservative “red states” and liberal “blue states.”
Blue states, like California, New York and Illinois, whose economies turn on finance, trade and knowledge, are generally richer than red states. But red states, like Texas, Georgia and Utah, have done a better job over all of offering a higher standard of living relative to housing costs. That basic economic fact not only helps explain why the nation’s electoral map got so much redder in the November midterm elections, but also why America’s prosperity is in jeopardy.
Red state economies based on energy extraction, agriculture and suburban sprawl may have lower wages, higher poverty rates and lower levels of education on average than those of blue states — but their residents also benefit from much lower costs of living. For a middle-class person , the American dream of a big house with a backyard and a couple of cars is much more achievable in low-tax Arizona than in deep-blue Massachusetts. As Jed Kolko, chief economist of Trulia, recently noted, housing costs almost twice as much in deep-blue markets ($227 per square foot) than in red markets ($119).
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Pew Poll: 71% of Americans Are 'Dissatisfied' With Direction of the Country

Christian Post ^ | 01/04/2015 | Michael Gryboski 

A whopping 71 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction the country is going in, and less than half of those polled, 49 percent, believe this year will be better than 2014, while 42 percent actually believe it will be worse.
"The public remains deeply dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. Just 26 percent are satisfied with national conditions, while 71 percent are dissatisfied," according to a poll released by the Pew Research Center this week. "The current ratings are more pessimistic than in recent years, as the public generally takes an optimistic view of the year to come."
News isn't any better for both political parties, as Pew found that the percentage of Democrats who believe the new year will be better than the year before has taken a nose dive.
Democrat respondents who believe the new year will be better than the year before was at 60 percent, a 21 point decline from last year when the poll was taken.
The Pew findings noted that in December 2013, 81 percent of Democrats believed that 2014 would be a better year.
Alec Tyson of Pew credits the November midterm elections as the likely lead factor in the 21-point drop in optimism for the coming year among Democrats.
"With the Republican Party having gained full control of Congress, 60 percent of Democrats expect 2015 to be better than 2014 — a drop of 21 points from a year ago when 81 percent thought 2014 would be better than 2013."
Over 80 percent of those polled said the country is more politically divided now than in past years, and 78 percent believe Americans will remain so over the next five years or become even more divisive.
In November, Republicans gained several electoral victories that secured their control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2006.
By election night, Senate seats in Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia switched from Democrat to Republican.
Later on, Alaska's election results were counted and it joined the list as Republican challenger Dan Sullivan defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Begich.
In December, Republicans gained yet another seat when Republican challenger Bill Cassidy defeated Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu in a runoff election.
On the evening of his successful reelection bid, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, soon-to-be majority leader in the Senate, expressed hope for the future.
"So, friends, tonight turns a corner. And the future I see is a bright one. Americans have seen that what the current crowd in Washington is offering," said McConnell.
Despite McConnell's words, according to Tyson of Pew, the sentiments of Republicans surveyed in the research found them to be more pessimistic than Democrats with little change in their views from the year before.
"Nonetheless, views among Democrats are brighter than those of Republicans: just 34 percent of Republicans expect the coming year to be better than the last, little changed from prospective views of 2014 (33 percent better)," he wrote.
"In December 2012, following President Barack Obama's reelection, just 22 percent of Republicans thought 2013 would be a better year than 2012."
The findings of the research were based off of responses from telephone interviews conducted Dec. 3-7, 2014, among approximately 1,500 adults aged 18 and older.

Ted Cruz presidential bid pitched by prominent Republican strategist

The Kalamazoo Gazette ^ | January 3, 2015 | Jonathan Oosting 

LANSING, MI - While Michigan Republicans are still debating when to hold their 2016 presidential primary, some of the party’s top political strategists are making the case for potential candidates.
Welcome to Michigan Political Points, my weekly roundup of news, views and YouTubes from the state Capitol and beyond.
CRUZ NEWS: Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, now working as a political consultant, penned a column this week making the case for a Ted Cruz presidential nomination in 2016.
“He’s the candidate many in the mainstream media and Washington chattering class love to hate,” Anuzis wrote. “He is demonized by many while revered by so many more throughout the heartland of America. He speaks his mind, stands his ground and is willing to fight the fight.”
The early Anuzis backing creates an interesting dynamic in Michigan, where fellow consultant John Yob is already working for likely candidate Rand Paul. That’s to say nothing of the national speculation about our very own Gov. Rick Snyder or his pal Jeb Bush.
BREAKFAST DUTY: Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018, may have stolen some of Snyder’s thunder on Thursday when he hosted an indoor breakfast before an outdoor inauguration ceremony headlined by the governor.
The overflow crowd that gathered to eat and hear Schuette speak was arguably larger than the one at the actual inauguration. And some Schuette supporters who made it over to the ceremony were less than enthusiastic about the governor....
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

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