Archive for 2016

Chris Bashes Marco, and 5 Other Debate Takeaways

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

christie j'accuseMarco Rubio, flavor of the week amid Beltway bubbleheads paid obscenely to forecast wrongly the presidential race, got hammered, staggered and rolled by Chris Christie moments into Saturday night’s GOP New Hampshire debate.

God, we love the smell of napalm in the morning.

The Florida Senator came into the debate with momentum after finishing third in Iowa (and celebrating like he’d won the Super Bowl) but the New Jersey Governor is a big-time NFL fan, and the hit Mr. Beef put on pint-sized Marco resembled one of those loud and prodigious licks a free safety sometimes puts on an inattentive wide receiver in the first minute of the game to “send a message,” i.e. attempt to concuss, maim and break every bone in the guy’s body.

rubioabcdebateRoboMarco Christie did so by a) tying Rubio to Obama, portraying both as first-term Senate back-benchers who don’t know how to run anything but their mouths; b) closing his argument with the finger point of death and taunting Marco – “You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable — you just simply haven’t”; c) most damaging of all, accurately and repeatedly noting that his rival constantly delivers nothing but “his 25-second memorized speech,” which Rubio, with unintended comedy, promptly confirmed by repeating his 25-second memorized speech four times, to a chorus of boos.

The moment, and the debate, was significant in large part because independents are the biggest single voter group in New Hampshire’s open primary, and many of them decide in the final 72 hours before the Tuesday election. Christie, along with Jeb Bush and John Kasich, has spent months catering to them, along with moderate Republicans, and is determined to stop Rubio from sweeping in to cash in all that labor. Not so fast, Cassius.

For those who, unbelievably, may have found something else to do on Saturday night besides watch the traditional pre-primary St. Anselm College debate, you can find a transcript here.

Five other takeaways:

bushandtrumpnhTrump holds serve. Donald Trump did nothing to damage his front-runner status in the Granite State, beyond his usual collection of inanities, absurdities, circular reasoning, narcissism and lies. He hammered immigration and mostly avoided his bullyboy act, except one exchange when Jeb Bush bitch slapped him – finally! – and he tried to come back by telling Jeb! to shut up; he made one major blunder, which will be yuuuge if he, let us pray, wins the nomination, when he managed to write off whatever remnants of minority votes he might have with an extremist defense of police without even nodding to injustice against blacks and Latinos, in answer to a question about excessive force cases.

Govs all shine. Christie, who finally lost his stupid Jersey Shore spit curl haircut, had a very good night, although it’s possible his beat-down of Rubio just did the dirty work and opened the door for Ohio Governor Kasich and ex-Florida gov Bush, who both had very strong nights. Kasich was upbeat, optimistic and inclusive all night long, which may prove attractive to the aforementioned independents, if not the GOP base, and Bush finally gave a performance in which you could actually imagine him as Commander in Chief; with Rubio in the mix, the electoral calculus gets very complicated and the final four finishes behind Trump could be messy.

cruzabcdebateGood night for torture. At least three of the candidates spoke up on behalf of water-boarding. Trump said he would not only bring back the now-banned form of torture,  “but a helluva lot worse,” while Rubio, wink-wink, said they shouldn’t really discuss interrogation methods in public and Cruz said he wouldn’t use “torture” but that water boarding didn’t really fit the definition.

Cruz can’t wait to head South. Now that we think about it, Cruz did seem to possess a lot of details about torture, and we wouldn’t be surprised if eventually he meets his end by asphyxiating himself while wearing rubber underwear in some hotel room. Also: we’ve covered a few of these New Hampshire deals and it just doesn’t seem like his grating televangelist voice or his oily fake sincerity will play.

Ben Carson’s still running, sources say. Gentle Ben had a moment when he gently chided Cruz for ripping off his votes on caucus night, but beyond that he again was a non-entity, surprise, surprise. At one point, after complaining about not getting to answer a question posed to others about North Korea’s latest nuke missile test, he directed everyone to his website to find his deep thoughts on that. Get off the electric computer machine, Maude – I need to get to bencarson.com, and pronto!

Our real-time tweets (in reverse order):

Cruz, in his close, makes the mistake of citing Iowa to voters in NH. Trump says Ted did well because he got Carson’s votes. Snark.

ABC failed to ask questions that delineate the candidates from one another, like Chuck and Rachel did with the Democrats. Too bad.

Rubio acknowledges that he would ban abortion in cases of rape or incest but he’d except to save the life of the mother

Christie’s attacks on Rubio and Marco’s shaky performance along with Cruz’s weak effort should help Trump hold his lead in NH

Trump’s extreme defense of police without even a nod to injustice against blacks and Latinos is a sure-fire way to lose any minority votes.

Marco found his water wings on foreign policy but he’s still under water

Trump not worried about running against potential first woman president, says he’d win handily. Carson calls Hillary deceitful.

Cruz tells story of his half-sister who died an addict but his only answer on drug addition is AA, churches and closing the Mexican border.

Trump would bring back water boarding. Sheesh. Cruz wants to carpet bomb Trump’s properties and maybe Marco’s house. And he’d torture a bit.

Trump on ISIS: Bomb the oil and take the oil. How does that work?

Rubio sounds stupid repeating his line that “Obama wants to change this country.” That was Obama’s slogan: Change You Can Believe In

Debate so far: Christie steamrolls Rubio; Bush bitch-slaps Trump

Jeb’s best exchange with Trump, who came off looking like a nasty brute

Trump gets booing in his exchange with Jeb over eminent domain — Jeb says Trump tried to take a little old lady’s property to park limos

Cruz goes after “socialized medicine” — a shot at Bernie and Trump at the same time — repeats he’d repeal every word of ACA

Christie is revealing that Marco is actually a weasel

Jeb suggests he would pre-emptively strike a N Korea nuke. Must be something in the Bush blood about pre-emptive warfare.

Trump disagrees with Marco Obama knows what he’s doing. Says he’s incompetent. Says China should be made to handle North Korea. Huh??

Christie has appointed himself THE guy to take down Rubio, whose constant repetition of talking points is now getting boos!

Christie says Marco hasn’t made a consequential decision for which he’s been accountable — his record is truancy, not leadership

(edited for typos)

In NH, Bernie and Hillary Speak To Different Worlds

Friday, February 5th, 2016

clinton-sanders debateIn their New Hampshire debate Thursday night, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton played to entirely different audiences: He spoke directly and forcefully to left-liberal voters of the Live Free or Die State, where he holds a 20-point lead in polling; she spoke to the nationwide electorate at play in November.

Clinton has no expectation of beating the senator from next door Vermont among lefty New Hampshire Democrats; instead, she had to appeal to Granite State Democrats while doing nothing to undercut her viability in places like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois against whatever right-wing candidate the Republicans nominate.

The perfect example: the death penalty. Asked her position, Clinton made it clear she doesn’t like how it’s implemented with racial bias in various states, but said she supports it in limited cases like the terrorism in Oklahoma City and Boston. And Sanders, alas, to his great liberal credit, is opposed to it.

Dead Duck. That’s enough right there to kill him in a general election.*

And that’s even before he’d be red-baited as a commie, pinko, tax-raising, death-panel-promoting, capitulationist socialist. In ads featuring his own speeches.

Clinton wouldn’t say Sanders is unelectable (which he is) because that would be impolitic. But she warned that while she’s already been vetted, he would face a “withering onslaught.” Which is why his numbers are as good as they are: the Republicans aren’t going to attack him now. They want him to win the nomination so they can destroy him in November.

hillaryanimatedRachel Maddow and Chuck Todd moderated the substantive, two-hour debate on MSNBC with great skill — mostly because they stayed out of the way and let the candidates debate, unlike the poseurs on Fox  and CNBC, who felt compelled to preen. For Calbuzz, the high point was the moment when Clinton unloaded on Sanders for implying — without ever quite saying it — that she’s on the take from Wall Street because she took huge speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.

“If you’ve got something to say, say it, directly,” Clinton said, looking straight at Sanders. “I think it’s time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out in recent weeks.”

And when Sanders accused Clinton of being part of the Establishment, Clinton retorted:

“Honestly, Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the Establishment.”

(One crucial point she didn’t make that she should: The women among whom Sanders runs best are all under the age of 45, according to polling. That’s because they don’t remember what it was like before Roe v Wade in 1973 (43 years ago), when abortion was not legal. All of their lives, they’ve never been threatened with losing their freedom of choice. But a Supreme Court appointed by any of the Republicans running would reverse that right — and that’s not something women can risk. Which is another reason to embrace Clinton’s campaign.)

In the end, Clinton helped herself somewhat in New Hampshire and Sanders, just by being in a one-on-one debate with her, was elevated in stature. But he played a short game and she played the long game.

Which was smart.

Here is how we saw the debate in real time, according to our live tweets, in reverse order:

#demdebate Bernie has a lock on the left-wing idealists, but Hillary has a platform for a nationwide campaign that could win the White House

#demdebate Health care, paid med leave, free college — too late for establishment policy and economics, says Bernie

#demdebate Bring your heart and your head when you vote on Tuesday, Hillary says.

#demdate Bernie’s opposition to the death penalty is a fatal stance in a presidential campaign. Makes him a dead duck.

#demdebate Hillary supports death penalty in limited cases. Bernie is opposed. “I don’t believe government should be part of the killing.”

#demdebate Hillary smartly declines to comment on whether Sanders campaign is prone to dirty tricks.

#demdebate stealing HRC data, posing as union workers, implying Nashua paper endorsed him. You losing control of yr campgn? No sez Bernie

#demdebate re email, Bernie says he won’t attack Hillary on the email issue

#demdebate Chuck asks if email issue will explode. HRC says no way…no concerns whatsoever.

#demdebate I’ve been vetted, Hillary says, Bernie will face a “withering onslaught” — as close as she’ll come to saying he’ll get creamed

#demdebate “I will, if nominated, the strongest candidate” Bernie says, because of enthusiasm…He drinks his own Kool-Aid

#demdebate No doubt Putin is really worried about President Sanders

#demdebate On Iran, no normal relations as Bernie wants to move toward — she’s thinking about November

#demdebate Bernie says HRC has more experience in forn policy but he has better judgment — Iraq war vote is evidence.

#demdebate Chuck asks Bernie if forn policy is much of a concern for him — the US cannot do it alone, that’s his policy. Huh?

#demdebate Bernie won’t say what he’ll do as president with 10,000 Americans in Afghanistan.

#demdebate Hillary is speaking to a broader audience than New Hampshire. She’s advancing a general election message, which is smart.

#demdebate Sanders says the business model for Wall Street is fraud…Of course I can work with them, he tells Rachel

#demdebate Hillary says she’ll look into releasing all her private speeches — slight dodge. But Chuck created the issue.

#demdebate Bernie is strong, but when Hillary turned to him and challenged him to put up or shut up, he couldn’t even look at her.

#demdebate Bernie attacks campaign contributions by special interests but doesn’t make charge against Hillary. She is on FIRE in response.

#demdebate Hillary challenges Bernie to end artful smear about speaking fees — if you’ve got a charge, make it, she demands

#demdebate Bernie says HRC is Establishment — HRC says Sanders the only person who’d say woman running 2b 1st woman pres is establishment

#demdebate Bernie admits he hasn’t been a Democrat — but has caucused with Dems — and would change Dem Party, too. HRC cites Howard Dean.

#demdebate Bernie says Obama is a progressive. That’s a switch. HRC repeats she’s a progressive who likes to get things done

#demdebate HRC makes strong defense on “progressive” — not progressive to vote against Brady Bill or Kennedy’s immigration bill she says

#demdebate Bernie says he wouldn’t undo ACA while trying to get single-payer passed

#demdebate Bernie makes strong pitch for universal health care but Hillary says he wants to start all over again w no chance of succeeding

#demdebate Hillary gets in her line on let’s go from 90% to 100% and not start at zero on health — progressive is someone who make progress

#demdebate Racism, sexism, discrimination against LGBT — Hillary adds those issues to Bernie’s economic agenda

* Americans have favored the death penalty by 60% or more for more than 40 years, according to the Gallup Poll.

Why Polls Missed the Mark on Cruz and Sanders

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

decoderTwo days before the Iowa caucuses, the esteemed Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll predicted that Hillary Clinton would beat Bernie Sanders by 3 percentage points and Donald Trump would best Ted Cruz by 5 points. So said one of the best pollsters in America, Ann Selzer.

That didn’t happen. Clinton won by about .03% over Sanders and Cruz beat Trump by 4%.

What went “wrong”?

Democratic age gap. Clinton beat Sanders 58-35% among voters aged 45-64 and 69-26% among those 65 and older. But Sanders beat Clinton 58-37% among those aged 30-44 and he destroyed her 84-14% among voters younger than 30.

This is a huge age gap. By juicing the vote in college towns – more than pollsters expected — Sanders came within an eyelash of winning. The bad news for Bernie going forward is this: those younger voters are the least likely to turn out in big numbers in upcoming primaries.

Moveover, one of the reasons caucuses are so hard to predict is that when one candidate is declared not “viable” – that is, lacking 15% in a particular caucus – his or her supporters are free and encouraged to shift their support to one of the “viable” candidates.

Given that Martin O’Malley was one of two “not Hillary” candidates in the race, it was logical that once he was declared “not viable,” more of his supporters would gravitate to Sanders than to Clinton as their second choice., boosting Bernie’s numbers.

cruzprayingTo Ted be the Glory. As for the Republicans, Cruz had in his possession, shh, the secret evangelical decoder ring that both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum had in previous Iowa contests.

Selzer had expected that six in 10 GOP caucus attendees might be conservative evangelical Christians and it turned out to be about 64% — enough Bible-thumping voters to propel Cruz past the thrice-divorced, formerly pro-choice Trump, with his “New York values.”

As we said when Cruz first blew this Christian dog whistle, “New York values” was code for everything religious, conservative Iowans can’t stand about New York, with its secular, metro-sexual, multiracial, pro-choice, liberal, sophisticated, complicated, sexy, cosmopolitan, raucous, ethnic, smart-ass and, of course, Jewish population.

This just in. Finally, about a third of the Iowa Republicans made up their mind in the last week of the campaign, many within the last 48 hours – after polling was completed — and Marco Rubio was pushing hard to score against Trump, which he did.

Does this mean polling is suspect everywhere? No. Selzer’s polling was within the margin of error in an extraordinarily difficult place to run a survey – the Iowa caucuses. Polling in New Hampshire and other states with primaries should come closer to the mark although late shifts suggest that those polls will be most accurate that are closest to election day.

A Curated Guide to Why the Iowa Caucuses Reek

Monday, February 1st, 2016

iowaIn 1988, a few days before the Iowa presidential caucuses, a couple dozen farmers wearing ball caps with logos like “PAG Seeds” and Kranbeck Grain Bank,” sat in the stands of a bleak stock sales barn.

“Boys, here’s the right kind of Holstein steers to make feed cattle,” an auctioneer said, as four men paraded several terrified calves around a dirt floor ring.

Right then, in strode a squad of stern and solid guys with low body fat percentages and wires in their ears, trailed by a couple of pallid 23-year-olds with red ties and scrawny necks. The big fellas ordered the farmers out; they wanted to sweep the room — and the poor cows — in advance of the arrival of presidential wannabe, and Vice President of the United States George H.W. Bush, avec entourage, for the purpose of shaking hands with farmers, for benefit of many cameras.

“I hope you guys are proud of yourselves,” one pissed off farmer growled at one of the sallow Bush advance boys. “I’m trying to sell stock and I can’t move a goddamn thing.”

Calbuzz recalled the incident this week, steeling ourselves for the 21st century media pack, of a size as unimaginable back then as is the 24/7 digital technology they’re now armed with, to tweet, post, podcast, blabber and gasbag around the clock about What Iowa Means, in the wake of tonight’s caucus voting.

The truth of the matter: not much at all.

whitepeopleToo few people, too many of them white. Having spent way too many years reporting in Iowa (and New Hampshire, another pint-sized state that gets ceaselessly over-analyzed by the geniuses of the Acela corridor but…a story for another day) Calbuzz can report exclusively that the politically privileged and pampered white voters of the Hawkeye State represent an absurd measure of who should be leader of the Free World.

Iowa is one of the whitest states in the nation at 92 percent compared to the national white non-Hispanic population of 77 percent. Overall, the U.S. Latino population accounts for 17 percent, but in Iowa they make up less than a third, at 5 percent. African Americans and Asian Americans who nationally make up 13 percent and 5 percent of the population are only 3 percent and 2 percent of the state’s residents.

Add to these demographic distortions the overrepresentation of rural areas. Slightly over 80 percent of the U.S. population resides in urban areas; in Iowa, over one-third of the population is rural. This matters because the concrete policy concerns of urban and rural populations are different.

Our blood boils at the pathetic fact that presidential campaigns should have to pass muster among this tiny, unrepresentative sample of voters.

Here are the facts: The entire godforsaken wasteland contains 2 million registered voters, according to Iowa Secretary of State Paul D. Pates, about 40 percent of the number in L.A. County alone. They’re about evenly divided between R’s and D’s

Turnout, while in notoriously hard to predict, tonight will fall within some basic parameters.

The record number of Republicans to turn out for a caucus was 122,255 voters, in 2012. So say Donald Trump wins a smashing victory equivalent to the 28 percent he scored in the latest Des Moines Register poll — he’ll capture about 35,000 votes. For a comparison, that’s about one third the number San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee received when re-elected in 2015.

As for the Democrats, Barack Obama blew out the doors in 2008, boosting turnout of his party’s caucus participants to 227,000, but tonight’s turnout is not expected to come near that, meaning either Hillary or Bernie may win with less than 100,000 votes, once again trailing President Ed Lee.

Did we mention that 92.1 percent of the population is white?

The problem is not that the people of Iowa are stupid. They are not, by most measurements. It’s that Iowa looks nothing like the rest of America. As a result, the winners, more often than not, are nationally unelectable extremists…

You’re supposed to be vetting, Iowa. You’re supposed to be culling out the crazies. You’re supposed to recognize the fraud of Ted Cruz and how Donald Trump is playing you. For all your touted small-town verities, you’re not doing your job. Your bull manure detector is broken.

iowapicAssholes on my right, assholes on my left. The MSM’s favored romantic image of Iowa — the smell of new-mown hay in summer, the crunch of footsteps on crystal crusts of pristine snow in winter and earnest citizens perched in all seasons on hay bales and clad in wool plaid or work shirts as they solemnly struggle to make thoughtful choices among the wannabes — is a crock.

As Brown University egghead Josh Pacewicz, who made a study of the caucuses in 2008 and 2012 shows, in a must-read piece over at Salon, the caucus extravaganza is not shaped by ordinary citizens, but merely a collection of Potemkin stage sets, arranged for the benefit of the MSM by party hacks whose views are not representative of the state’s population.

By the time I arrived in Iowa, grass-roots parties were largely in the hands of political junkies who otherwise played little role in community affairs. Activists were particularly impressed by peers like a GOP “firecracker”: a homemaker who hosted monthly lunches with other activists, watched Fox News religiously, and called the White House whenever something struck her as objectionable.

With such activists at the helm, grass-roots parties functioned as echo chambers for hyper-partisan media stories, driving Republicans especially into frequent conflicts with other community groups. Non-activists gritted their teeth while passing Republican pickets at Planned Parenthood or a downtown sex shop and ridiculed activists for making their cities appear populated by a bunch of hicks in the sticks.

In this context, one sees why GOP activists self-present as underdogs and support bitter populist campaigns like Trump’s. During this election cycle, we are likely to hear that the Iowa caucuses counteract our nation’s polarized politics by forcing politicians to connect with regular people, but candidates’ deepest connections are with activists who echo polarized campaign rhetoric.

The authenticity of the caucuses already had begun to curdle and stink by the time of our last visit, a quarter century ago. Quite unlike the phony narrative packed with profound displays of citizenship by diligent Just Folks, the caucuses today more often resemble nothing as much as a tribal gathering of the  Beltway’s cool kids, the repulsive denizens of This Town who parachute in to “cover” the spectacle and spend most of their time talking to each other.

bachmanncorndogOur colleague Jeff Greenfield nailed it in a splendid takedown:

The armies of the media are gathering in the American heartland. With each new poll come shrieks of joy, or panic. When Monday night finally arrives, this first test of the candidates will be treated as an immeasurably consequential event, honored by column-miles of type and pixels, and uncountable hours of analysis—almost all of which will conceal the cold, hard reality: The Iowa caucuses have become a blight on American politics.

Indeed, if you look beyond the color and the pageantry, beyond the county fairs and butter cows, and appreciate the real workings and impact of the caucuses, you realize that Iowa is neither a useful bellwether or an important test for candidates. Moreover, there are baleful consequences of the inflated status of Iowa: It distorts the political process and leads to bad public policy.

The bottom line: Iowa has ever truly mattered in exactly two election cycles: 1976, when Jimmy Carter won Iowa and overnight legitimacy — almost entirely because R.W. Apple informed the world, via Page One of the NY Times that his victory really, really mattered — on his way to the nomination. And in 2008, when Obama first displayed the fierce power of his campaign organization while proving proved a black guy could win in a puny Midwestern state populated by descendants of European immigrants – lots of English, Germans, Irish, Poles, Norwegians, Scots and Swedes (you also could argue that John Kerry’s come-from-behind in 2004 carried some significance, for all the good it did him. But we digress).

Otherwise, check in on Presidents Muskie, Gebhardt, Harkin, Dole, Huckabee and Santorum

As for tonight, our unsolicited advice is to skip the several billion words to be emitted like noxious gas into the atmosphere by such noted blowhards as Chris Matthews, Chris Cillizza and Charles Krauthammer and get some sleep.

As for the Calbuzz, 30-second, 68-word, take-it-for-what-it’s-worth fishwrap forecast:

If Trump wins, he’s most likely headed to the nomination; ditto Hillary. If The Donald loses, who knows whether he’ll hang around another day or another season, if his whim tells him to go nose-to-nose with whichever “establishment” mouthpiece can stay up with him, most likely Marco Rubio. If Hillary loses, it doesn’t matter – she’ll still be the Democratic nominee (hubby Bill didn’t win there in ’92).

And with the “crucial Iowa caucuses” out of the way, it’s on to “the crucial New Hampshire primary.” Puh-leeze.