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Jeb…That was your 47% moment.

Sorry Jeb. I’m not sure if your advisers didn’t prepare you correctly or you flubbed this one yourself, but you stepped it in it.  Big time.  We are not the overreact to the 24 hour news cycle types here either.  But we seriously believe you may have lost your shot at this thing, or at the very least did substantial damage to it.

Jeb Bush’s number one liability is his brother.  Everyone knows this.  George Bush himself has said it.  Thus, any question about anything that happened during the George Bush years has to be prepped, rehearsed, and nailed down.  Especially on Iraq.

It is nearly universal Iraq is perceived as a mistake. (By 75% of the public in a June 2014 CBS News/New York Times poll).  Any defending of the decision to go into Iraq or even how the war was conducted will lean right into Jeb’s number one liability, the thought that he would follow the same path again.

A gaffe isn’t catastrophic if it doesn’t hit square in the eye of your largest liability.  This did.  It may be terminal without some quick fixing.

Jeb is trying to walk back the comment with the classic “misheard” maneuver and “clarify” his position.   Probably the best he can do at the moment, but he better get right on a substantive fix.  We would suggest a few more things.

  • First, lay out a foreign policy that is clear, succinct, and differs from George Bush.  It doesn’t need to completely repudiate his brother, but it needs to come darn near close.  People want concrete assurance we aren’t going to get the act first think later method of the Iraq war again.  Take some shots at the NeoCons drumming up war against Iran.  It’s a bit hard to say you’ll create another Iraq when you hit hard against the NeoCons looking for a war with Iran.
  • Second, dump the NeoCon advisers. More Baker, less Wolfowitz.  Putting aside the fact anyone who got us into the war in Iraq should never be qualified to lead a presidential foreign policy again, it’s a huge liability.  Imagine Hillary Clinton saying:

I’ve learned from my mistakes, has Jeb Bush?  Just a few months ago he said he still would have gone into Iraq knowing what we know now….and then he misheard the question.  Why hasn’t he fired all the same advisers who lead his brother into the war in Iraq who now make up his team?  Sorry Jeb,  we heard you loud and clear, you are not different than your brother, if you want four more years of a Bush president, vote for George Bush 2.0.

That’s sticking a shiv straight into the heart of his campaign.  We just wonder if it’s going to already be off life support by then.  He better get moving to fix this mess.

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Rubio nails it with his tax plan….pretty much.

Presidential candidate tax plans are much like a presidential budget, a pie in the sky wish-list that rarely reflects reality.  But it is a statement of purpose and ideals.  Budgets and tax plans are always trade-offs between competing things.  Money is a zero sum game.  Thus, voters rightfully will judge where a candidate stands with these trade-offs.

Rubio unveils a tax plan that just a bit of a sister souljah moment to the supply siders.  Middle class focus.

Rubio plans to campaign hard on the complex plan he introduced this year with Utah Sen. Mike Lee that would use the tax code to reward families with children while slashing levies on business and investment income but keeping a top rate personal income rate of 35 percent, far higher than many Republicans would like.

I’ve been banging on the GOP to have an actual tax plan that isn’t oriented under the “We’ll give more money to your boss to make you richer” it has been stuck on from the 1980’s. Putting aside the fact it does not work, it’s date philosophy that ignores middle class tax issues directly.  The attempt to help the middle class indirectly by helping the wealthy isn’t a winning play. Rubio seems to recognize this and is smartly making a play for the middle.  Don’t get me wrong, his plan still is a supply sider’s dream with giant cuts for the rich with just a small focus on direct benefits for the middle class.  But even this small focus has the GOP tax orthodoxy in a tizzy:
The Wall Street Journal editorial page declares Rubio “strong on foreign policy, less so on taxes” and disparagingly calls him the leading GOP proponent of the idea “that the Reagan tax-cutting agenda is a political dead end, and that the party now must redistribute revenue directly to middle-class families.”
This ideological nonsense from the WSJ is an excellent example of outdated GOP tax policy that has them stuck in the past.  The WSJ is literally arguing that tax cuts/credits to the middle class are “redistribution” of money that is to be attacked.  Only large tax cuts to the wealthy are to be championed.  Is it any wonder why GOP candidates who follow party orthodoxy on taxes get destroyed in the general election? Imagine that’s the WSJ’s reaction when other critics tear his plan apart for being more of the same big cuts for the wealthy.
For most middle-class Americans, capital gains don’t even register as a share of income. (That may be why Romney never got much traction with his plan to eliminate those taxes for people who earn up to $200,000 a year.) For Americans earning more than $500,000 a year, capital gains are a significant source of income. For those making more than $5 million, they’re almost a majority of income.
I agree with the WaPo.  Go bolder Rubio.  Start with a tax credit that is aimed at start-up businesses, aim for the millennial with that message.  Address student loan debit in your tax reform (the limits on the deduction are absurd).  Talk about lowering payroll taxes where people see more money in their actual check.  Let the rest of the field continue with their delusional flat tax and insane rate cuts for the top. Rubio has a lot of work to do, but this was a very good step today.  Keep it up.

Hillary as Romney? Fat chance

Politico is reporting that the grand plan of the grand ole party is to paint Hillary as the out of touch rich gal who cannot related to the common man. Basically, the attack on Romney that worked to a reasonable degree (with much help from Romney himself).

Politico reports:

“The most potent message against Clinton is that she doesn’t live an average life, she’s out of touch and doesn’t play by the same set of rules,” said the RNC’s research director, Raj Shah. “[T]hat resonates more deeply than some of the policy hits, the ethical hits.”

Bad play. Romney has vast wealth that was obtained, in part, through corporate takeovers, has overseas accounts, a car elevator, and basically looked like a character out of the Monopoly game. He stepped into it multiple times with the 49% comment, etc. In other words, the table was already set, Romney just had to fall into the trap, which he did.

While Hillary has considerable wealth and has made numerous missteps in characterizing it, Americans are never going to see the Clintons as the Romneys. It’s a losing play, that looks like sour grapes over the 2012 election by the GOP.  Clinton is politically savvy enough not to play into it.

The GOP should get over the 2012 election and play on Clinton’s true weakness, it is a Clinton again. There is heavy resistance to be overcome simply because Americans want new blood, not the same political dynasties. The problem is with Jeb Bush out there, the GOP neutralizes this argument, and creating a scenario where moderates pick a Clinton over a Bush, in a generic family name sense.

Run a Rubio against Clinton however, and she would be having flashbacks about another young upstart senator who torpedoed her chance as the presidency. There is reason to believe that line of attack could work again.

Hint for the GOP field – Think before you respond.

In the 24 hour news cycle, everyone wants an immediate comment on everything.  This doesn’t mean you need to provide the immediate comment, especially when you have not even declared as a candidate.  I know it is asking too much for a politician to stick to their principles, but at minimum, wait to see what the political reaction from the middle is going to be.

It was an easy prediction that the Indiana law was going to be a bad play for the middle.  The culture warrior play against gay and lesbians only plays to the hard right.  In 2012, it was probably seen as something that did not do to much damage to a GOP candidate but in 2015, I wouldn’t be so sure. See: 

Its fair to say the middle will push back pretty hard against this stuff.

At a minimum, a GOP contender should attempt to balance this request for equal rights with religious rights.  A statement that says something to the effect of “I support laws that protect religious freedoms of all Americans, and such freedoms should be protected along with equal treatment and rights of all Americans.”  Simple.  Yet, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal (or their advisers) think the old generic play to the hard right is the way to go.  Ask Romney how that worked out.

Jeb goes all in with appealing to the hard right:

“There are many cases where people acting on their conscience have been cascaded by the government,” Bush said. “This law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish there has been some kind of discrimination. We’re going to need this. This is really an important value in our country, where you can respect and be tolerant of people’s lifestyles but allow for people of faith to exercise theirs.”

Bad play.  Be ready for Hillary to jump on this stuff like Obama did to push these guys so far to the right they cannot come back again.  The first test of the 2016 field was failed.

The Immigration Trolling of the GOP

The art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off…using dialogue…The most essential part of trolling is convincing your victim that either a) truly believe in what you are saying, no matter how outrageous, or b) give your victim malicious instructions, under the guise of help.

A lot of ink is being spilled about Obama’s forthcoming immigration plan and who it will include, will it go far enough, etc.  This, in my opinion, is academic in a political — obviously not in a real life — sense.   The greater issue is what this is setting up for 2016 and how it brilliantly is making sure 2016 is more like 2012 than 2014.  Let me explain.

The greatest threat to Hillary is a moderate GOP candidate who can appeal to both the base and the middle.  Democrats know this.  The GOP knows this.  It was unlikely such a unifying candidate would emerge from the GOP, but the Democrats are not taking any chances.  Especially after the drubbing in the midterms.

The question becomes, how do you marry the GOP candidates to the extreme base?   The Democrats have calculated this in three steps.

  • Outrage the GOP Base to Extreme Levels
  • Force all the GOP Candidates to Adopt Base Positions on the Subject
  • Make Sure the Subject Damages the GOP in the General Election

Obama’s Immigration order nails all three.  It is not just red meat for the GOP base, it’s the entire cow.  Executive action and immigration.  The GOP base will be whipped up into a frenzy.  Next, all the candidates will have to take a position, and appease the base.

This is where the third factor comes into play.  How does the GOP condemn the action without alienating the middle and Latinos?  If the action is what I expect it to be, cleverly not deporting family members of citizens, the criticism will be difficult and have to be nuanced.   The base won’t take nuanced answers.  They want hard condemnation.  The incentives to give in, issue broad condemnations, an fund raise on the issue with be overwhelming for the GOP.  Silly comments will slip out and be tagged to the entire GOP.

It has been only a day and you see Rick Santorim getting this danger, trying the frame the issue differently:

Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 and is likely to run again in 2016, said the GOP should focus on the economic implications for blue-collar workers, emphasizing that Obama is trying to legalize 5 million new workers as the economy and wages are stagnant.

Yet, Michelle is biting hard on the trolling:

“The social cost will be profound on the U.S. taxpayer — millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language,” Bachmann told reporters at the Capitol. “Even though the president says they won’t be able to vote, we all know that many, in all likelihood, will vote.”

Can the GOP keep the crazies under control for this one?  I doubt it.  While I personally disagree with what Obama is doing here, it’s brillant politically.  Expect the Hillary commercials highlighting all the top GOP candidates saying how they will reverse the order and deport immigrant children mom and dads to run on a continuous loop.

2016 is really starting to look like 2012.


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The Return of the Blue Dogs?

Is the all but extinct brand of Democrat, the blue dog (which still exist as a small coalition), due for a comeback?   Lots of stories coming out about business leaders not being happy about the Tea Party antics being bad for the bottom line:

The shutdown, and the default scare that ensued, widened the fissure between Tea Party Republicans and the business establishment. Now business groups are considering fielding their own candidates in the 2014 Republican primaries and redirecting their ample resources to deposing Tea Party stalwarts like Amash. “We are going to get engaged,” says Scott Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent more than $35 million on elections in 2012, the vast majority of it on behalf of Republicans. “The need is now more than ever to elect people who understand the free market and not silliness.

One would think this is an opening for the Democrats to try to swoop in to claim some of the mantle of responsible governance, they apparently are trying:

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the DCCC sees an opportunity to exploit divisions within the Republican coalition. With Wall Street and corporate leaders apparently annoyed by their lack of influence in Republican circles, coupled with the rise of Tea Party dominance among GOP lawmakers, Democratic leaders are reminding the business community that it was Dems who were doing what’s right for the economy, while it’s Republicans who shut down the government and threatened a sovereign debt crisis


Sorry Democrats, just “reminding ” the business community you are more responsible is not going to cut it.  You need candidates who are going to be a farther to the right Democrat than you have now, you need the blue dogs back.  One would think a national party chairman would be wise to capitalize on this rift by running such candidates.  Instead, they are merely talking. 


The Debt Ceiling No Vote – The 2016 Debates

Imagine how the question plays to independents at the 2016 debates.

Moderator:  Did you think the vote to raise the debt ceiling on the eve of default was the right thing to do?

Senator Cruz:  No I don’t.  Millions of people were about to lose their health insurance or their jobs due to this abomination called Obamacare.  We needed to take a stand for the American people and tell President Obama he needed to delay implication of the law like he did for his union and corporate buddies.  This law was hurting the American people and Congress would not take a stand, so I did.  President Obama refused to listen to the American people and and refused to negotiate.  We almost defaulted because of his intransigence and in 2016 I will repeal Obamacare and restore the millions of jobs lost by this president. 

Hillary Clinton:  The one thing the nation demands from its president is that they always put their country first over any political fight.  Always.  Senator Cruz didn’t do that in 2013 and he won’t do that in 2016.  Senator Cruz actually cast a vote in the United States Senate to have our country default on our debts for the first time in our nation’s history because he did not like a law he did not have the votes to overturn. Think about that for a minute.  <pausing> The senator voted to put our nation’s economy in direct harm’s way because he didn’t get his way politically.  He voted for a default to occur that most economists said would have plunged our nation into a depression.   That is not “presidential” leadership.  That is not leadership at all, and by that vote alone the senator disqualified himself from having the judgment to be president of the United States. 

I think it’s pretty clear the no vote on the debt ceiling to pander to the tea party leaves any candidate who voted that way wide open to get a body blow in a debate. 


The House GOP – “Purity of vote for less of substance.”

The House looks to get jammed with a Senate Bill again.   This is why the failure to put out a House bill was such a defeat.  The notion that the tea-party caucus cannot agree to significant compromise of most any kind (even with establishment Republicans) results in less of their goals being achieved. 

 Bad tactics pointed out Allapundit at hot air:

Two thoughts in closing. One: Why did Heritage Action oppose Boehner’s final bill yesterday? The bill was, no doubt, a feeble compromise compared to the lofty ambitions of the “defund” movement, but the only alternative at that point was an even lamer Democratic-written bill in the Senate. By opposing Boehner, Heritage all but guaranteed that he wouldn’t have the votes to pass it, which ensured that Reid would dictate the final terms of the settlement. Where’s the logic in that?

This is similar to the last debt ceiling/budget standoff tactic from the house where they rejected a compromise position of tax increases at around 600-700k only to be forced to vote yes on 450k.  This is what happens to strategy when “compromise” becomes a bad word, you can easily get less.   Purity of vote for less of substance.  Not sure how many more times this lesson needs to be learned.

The Default is Obama’s Moment?

If the debt ceiling is not raised before default….is that Obama’s moment to issue an executive order raising it himself?  Some think so:

More to the point, such an action would be self-enforcing once issued.  President Obama would look like a strong leader, guiding the nation out of an impending disaster.  And once the debt ceiling was raised, Congress would be put in the position of needing to assemble a majority in both the House and the Senate willing to vote on record to undo the President’s actions, and thus ensuring default.  In other words, Congress would need to take positive action to ensure an economic crisis.  Such an act would be political suicide.

I’d have to agree. Obama would get a boost in the short term looking like the adult in this process and box the GOP in again by forcing them to actively push the nation into default to stop him.  Of course, this would play into the Obama is a dictator meme from many on the right and we’d likely still take a credit rating hit.  But I’d rather have that than a full default.  I think Obama has this as a Plan B he smartly disavowed as to not encourage a default onto his doorstep.  Stay tuned.


“Strategery” – How we are at the edge of default

le·ver·age: influence or power used to achieve a desired result

Much ink has been spilled over the strategy, or lack of, the GOP has employed with the shutdown.  A more fundamental error occurred before the the shut down was put into effect.  Misapplying the concept of leverage.  The conservative factions in the House believed they had “leverage” in causing a shut down and not raising the debt ceiling.  But in determining if one has leverage, the first two questions become: (1) what does the other party want? and (2) what happens if they don’t get it?

Answering these questions reveals the errors in thinking.  Obama and the Democrats want a budget/debt ceiling raise.  But these are defined as congressional jobs.  They are something Congress is expected to do, not something Congress has discretion to do.  Put simply, the GOP House is saying their point of leverage is offering Obama to do what they are expected to do.

To the second question, what happens if you use your point of leverage, when your bluff is called.  Economic catastrophe at worst, at best a serious downgrade of the US credit rating.   The GOP walk away position doesn’t harm Democrats, it harms the country. 

So the GOP leverage was offering Obama to do its job with a walkaway position of economic ruin.  And there is wonder why they may get nothing in return for this position.

Put simply, the leadership in the house should have never conceded the debt ceiling/budget were a point of “leverage” with Obama.  Once that concession was made, it would inevitably lead to what did we get in return questions during any negotiations.  Which is where we are today, a GOP house expecting returns for “leverage” and Obama and the Democrats offering nothing in return since it was an illusion in the first place.

Policy disagreements aside, this is just bad strategy and rightfully deserves to fail.

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