Thursday, October 22, 2015

Biden and Webb and the next GOP debate

-- Joe Biden shocked his own team with his announcement.

Many of the rumors about a potential Biden campaign suggested a decision would be tied to Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the House Benghazi committee on Thursday. Because of Clinton’s impending hearing and the fact the first Democratic presidential debate took place on October 13, the chatter in the vice president’s office was reaching a fever pitch. Biden’s staff had been engaged in constant speculation and was aware that the various deadlines that had been thrown out in media reports about his potential campaign had come and gone.

From the link embedded above, what I wrote on the morning of October 14: "(I)f Clinton can hold her own against the rapidly crumbling Benghazi witch-hunters later this month, Joe Biden will not enter the race."

(Yesterday) morning, many members of Biden’s staff figured he would make his move on the weekend. They wondered whether his remarks would be pegged to the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday. Others thought he might make a statement in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Suddenly, Biden’s secretary made an announcement. He would be speaking in the Rose Garden shortly after noon. Biden’s staff had approximately a fifteen minute warning. Based on the location, they assumed that, if his statement was related to 2016, he would be exiting the race. They ran over to hear him speak. After exhausting their minds and bodies, Biden’s team officially learned the vice president would not enter the fray along with the rest of the country.

-- Jim Webb dropped out on Tuesday -- sure seems like old news already, doesn't it? -- but still might run as an indy. 

Long-shot candidate Jim Webb said Tuesday he is dropping his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and will explore the possibility of an independent bid.

"Our country is more important than a label," the former Virginia senator said during a news conference held a week after the first Democratic debate of the 2016 election cycle.

Webb, a former Republican who won election to the Senate as a Democrat in 2006, said both parties are too influenced by big money that tends to favor "extremes" and promote gridlock. He said he has agreements and disputes with policies in each party and would be a strong independent voice.

"Our political process is jammed up," Webb said. "It needs an an honest broker."

While saying "this country needs a new dynamic," Webb did not formally declare an independent candidacy, saying that "I'm thinking about all my options." Webb did not give a time frame for a decision, saying he wants to talk to a variety of people first and see how much support he could garner.

I just don't see the smallest opening in either party for a moderate Republican to run for president.  Do you?

-- It's still a week off, but the rumblings of the next GOP debate are already being heard.  You might recall that the co-leaders last week briefly held it hostage before CNBC ceded to their demands.

(Donald) Trump and another Republican candidate, Ben Carson, submitted a letter to CNBC stating their opposition to the debate criteria. “Neither Mr. Trump or Dr. Carson will participate in your debate if it is longer than 120 minutes including commercials and does not include opening and closing statements,” said the letter, which was written by Michael Glassner of Trump’s campaign and Ed Brookover of Carson’s.

Okay, you win.  It looks like Christie and Kasich and Paul are still registering a beep or two on life support, so they get to be on the varsity stage.  Not Bobby Jindal again, though.  The biggest news seems to be the rapid deflation of Carly Failurina.

In the CNN/ORC survey published Tuesday, Fiorina garnered just 4% support, behind six other Republican candidates and tied with two others.

"Fiorina's decline comes across the demographic and political spectrum, with her support now topping out at 8% among those with college degrees. Last month, she stood at 22% among the same group," wrote CNN's polling director, Jennifer Agiesta.

"Fiorina has dropped 11 points among women and 12 points among men, fallen 18 points among independents, 17 points among those age 50 or older, and 15 points among conservatives."

Fiorina surged to become a top-tier contender after breakout performances in the first two Republican debates. She was at 15%, in second place behind Republican front-runner Donald Trump, in a mid-September CNN/ORC poll.

Let's hope her lies about Planned Parenthood clandestine videotapes have done her in. 

-- The most remarkable development in my humble O is Trump devastating the candidacy of Jeb! Bush, with their Twitter war over 9/11.

I don't know if Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination. But even if he doesn't, it's increasingly clear he's going to destroy Jeb Bush before he loses.

Over the past week, Trump and Bush have been in an argument that basically boils down to the question of was George W. Bush president on 9/11/2001?

Trump insists that Bush was president both prior to and during the 9/11 attacks, and he was therefore at least partly responsible for the security failures that permitted the tragedy. And to Trump's credit, there is considerable evidence that George W. Bush was president on 9/11/2001.

Jeb Bush's position is harder to parse: He argues that his brother was only responsible for what happened after 9/11, suggesting, perhaps, that someone else bore the responsibilities of the presidency on 9/11/2001. Or, to be a bit kinder to his position, he argues that the measure of responsibility as president isn't whether something like 9/11 happens, but whether it happens again.

This, as we know, has been the Democratic argument for as long as there has been a 9/11 to have a discussion about.  Presidential daily briefings in mid-August of 2001, at the Crawford 'ranch', entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack US", anyone?

The result is this absolutely brutal interview CNN's Jake Tapper conducted with Bush. "If your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all," Tapper asks, "how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?"

Bush's response is almost physically painful to watch.

Go watch it.  Nutgraf:

Trump has a bully's instinct for finding someone else's true weaknesses. His continued crack that Bush is a "low-energy" candidate is devastating precisely because it identifies a weakness not just in Bush's campaign style, but in the nature of his campaign.

Just nails it.

Now Trump has pulled Bush into an even more dangerous quagmire: his brother's presidency. Trump is reminding every Republican voter that nominating Jeb Bush will mean running a general election campaign with two disadvantages. First, Republicans will have to answer for George W. Bush's failures in a way they wouldn't if they nominated Marco Rubio or Carly Fiorina or Donald Trump; and second, they'll need to somehow explain why they're holding Hillary Clinton responsible for Obama's presidency even as they don't hold George W. Bush responsible for George W. Bush's presidency.

And Trump, having realized how weak Bush is on this issue, isn't stopping. He's moved from 9/11 to the Iraq War:

Update: More from Steve Benen.

More than 14 years after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush/Cheney administration’s handling of the crisis is generally untouchable for much of the domestic political world. This is especially true in Republican politics, where George W. Bush’s documented 9/11 missteps are not only ignored, his response to the terrorist attack is actually seen as a triumph.
The “Bush kept us safe” line, despite its conflict with the real world, is actually quite common in Republican circles.
And yet, Trump has no use for GOP orthodoxy and has no qualms about broaching a line that most Republicans go out of their way to avoid. For his part, Jeb Bush was not only caught off-guard trying to explain why Obama should be blamed for Benghazi but his brother shouldn’t be blamed for 9/11, the Florida Republican also finds himself once again replacing his usual campaign message with a public defense of his brother’s failed tenure.

Don't kid yourself, ladies and gentlemen: Jeb Bush is NOT going to be the nominee of the Republicans.  On that you can make bank.

Marco Rubio -- who was in town just yesterday and played to an adoring throng that rained cash on him -- or Ted Cruz.  The two currently running just behind Carson and Trump, like I said on October 9.  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones caught up with me a week later.

If you're reading this blog (or if you're reading everything I'm reading), then you look smarter than all your friends.


Unknown said...

Marco Rubio has always worried me the most. The younger, less experienced (er, "fresher") candidate almost always wins, and Rubio could change voting patterns for the fastest growing demographic around.

On the other hand, as Joe Scarborough says, every time Rubio says something that is even marginally competent, everyone breaks into a golf clap and says, "He is very well spoken, isn't he?" More of a student government president than US President.

Gadfly said...

Good Atlantic piece, given its author, on how Jeb! is triangulating off the wrong Bush: