Thursday Reads: The State of the 2016 Race According to the PunditsPosted: October 29, 2015
The media consensus so far is that Marco Rubio won last night’s Republican clown show. From MSNBC to the Weekly Standard, the pundits are saying Rubio has natural talent and charisma and that is supposed to be very bad news for Hillary Clinton.
I don’t get it. Rubio is at about 8% in the polls. He talks so fast that I can barely understand him. It’s as if he has memorized his talking points and has to get them out quickly so he doesn’t forget what he’s supposed to say. He comes across to me as childish, not charismatic. If that’s charisma, the meaning of the word has changed dramatically since it was applied to John F. Kennedy in 1960. Obviously, I’m not in sync with today’s political talking heads.
Even Charles Pierce says Rubio “won” the “debate” and vanquished his rival Jeb Bush at the same time. Still, Pierce thinks Rubio is a “hack” and the entire exercise was a joke.
If I had to guess, I’d say Rubio probably will be said to have had the best night. He really slapped around Jeb! Bush when the latter called him on Rubio’s confessed dislike of the job of United States Senator. He looked directly into the camera with his young man’s sincerity, and he parried questions about his personal profligacy in just the way guaranteed to appeal to the audience in the hall. He blamed the media for bringing it up.
Of course, when it comes to the actual things he would do as president, Rubio once again is a shoeless, blindfolded kid in a wilderness of rakes. John Harwood–for whom I am going to buy a beer the next time I see the guy–pinned Rubio on the fact that the Tax Foundation scored Rubio’s tax plan and found that it would send the deficit careering off into the Van Alen Belt, as well as shoving even more of the country’s wealth upward. In response, Rubio told Harwood he was wrong. (He wasn’t.) Then, Rubio started talking very fast, mentioned something about his dry cleaner and small business, and probably got more points for being tough with Harwood than he did for his tax plan, which is exactly as bad as the Tax Foundation said it was.
But, mainly, Rubio will be thought a winner because it’s plain now, if it wasn’t plain before Wednesday night, that Jeb! has had whatever little heart he had for this whole enterprise when it began cut out of him as the his campaign has stumbled along.
My lord, what a bunch of children.
Mike Huckabee made a point of the fact that he has been on the other side of Arkansas politics from the Clintons. “And,” Huckabee said, “I lived to tell about it.”
And got a big hand….
This whole debate, which was supposed to be about the economy, and which touched on the actual economy only briefly, when it touched on it at all, took place in the strange wonderland of conservative politics that coalesced when Bill Clinton interrupted what was supposed to be 16 consecutive years of Republican presidents in 1992. That shock to the conservative system was so profound that the Republican party’s immune system, which already was being compromised by the prion disease it picked up when it first ate all the monkey brains at the end of the 1970s, broke down entirely, and disease caused it to construct within the party’s mind an entire geography of illusion and dark, nameless terrors. Huckabee’s cheapest of cheap shots found its mark because the audience in Boulder was made up quite clearly of the people who live in that unreal political consciousness that has been created within the conservative fearscape – which, to them, is a very real place haunted by very real villains.
That says it all for me; I don’t feel the need to quote any other assessments. To be honest, I may just skip the next GOP debate. Watching that horror show last night was a complete waste of time. Not one of the people on that stage is qualified to be President of the US. Thank goodness Hillary Clinton is capable of beating all of them put together.
Many other pundits are writing the Bush campaign’s epitaph today. Here’s Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: Yeah, Jeb Bush Is Probably Toast. The post-debate spin could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Yes, we pride ourselves on being skeptical of the conventional wisdom here at FiveThirtyEight. You don’t have to look very far back for examples of it being wrong, such as how it badly overestimated the degree of danger that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was in until a week or two ago. But being skeptical is not the same thing as being a contrarian. There are plenty of times when the conventional wisdom is right. This is probably one of those times.
Bush received poor reviews for his debate performance from political commentators of all stripes (Republican, Democratic, partisan, nonpartisan, reporters, “data journalists”), many of whom also suggested that his campaign might soon be over. The straw poll1 we conducted among FiveThirtyEight writers and editors agreed; Bush’s average grade was a C-, putting him at the bottom of the 10-candidate group….
I agree with the group (I gave Bush a C-). Bush lost a probably ill-advised confrontation with Marco Rubio over Rubio’s absences from the Senate. Bush’s closing statement seemed stilted. He was the setup for a Chris Christie applause line about fantasy football. And for much of the debate, he was an afterthought, receiving the second-lowest amount of talk time among the candidates.
None of these things, taken alone or even together, would ordinarily be all that damaging. Bush didn’t make a catastrophic mistake — an “oops” moment. But the media consensus seemed to be that the debate was a potential make-or-break moment for Bush. Even if you were to charitably round up Bush’s performance to a C+ or B-, it probably wasn’t good enough.
Read more of Silver’s analysis at the link.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is turning mean now that he’s losing ground in the polls. John Heilemann has the scoop at Bloomberg Politics.
Sanders’ attack on Hillary Clinton’s record is all about how she has shifted on policy issues, while he has remained completely consistent for decades. But is that really going to be good enough to catch and beat a candidate who has gathered hundreds of endorsements and leads Sanders in the polls by 20+ points? Will he be able to compete with Hillary’s foreign policy creds and her debating skills? I don’t think so.
Here are the high points of the Sanders strategy, according to Heilemann.
…three members of the Sanders high command—campaign manager Jeff Weaver, communications director Michael Briggs, and field director Phil Fiermonte—were reflecting on what Clinton’s record might say about her character. All agreed that Sanders and his staff believed that Clinton had moved to the left on numerous issues, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Keystone pipeline, for purely political reasons: to foreclose daylight between her and Sanders. I asked Weaver if he thought that made her, as some longtime Clinton critics argue, a craven hypocrite and opportunist?
“A craven hypocrite?” Weaver replied, grinning slyly. “That’s a little bit harsh, don’t you think?” Then he added, with a chuckle, “Look, she’d make a great vice president. We’re willing to give her more credit than Obama did. We’re willing to consider her for vice president. We’ll give her serious consideration. We’ll even interview her.”
Hahahahaha! So clever. Heilemann:
Sanders’s lieutenants provided me with a wide-ranging and at times detailed account of their strategy for the three-month sprint to the first two must-win contests. That strategy is premised on the notion that their campaign has shifted into a new gear, moving from what Weaver calls “the introductory phase” into “the persuasion phase.” This new phase will be more aggressive, hard-edged, and focused on driving home contrasts between Sanders and Clinton. In other words, it will be more negative. Just how nasty things will get remains one of two central questions that will define the battle ahead. The other is whether Sanders, with his deep aversion to negative campaigning, is willing and able to do what is required to take down Clinton without tarnishing his brand as a different kind of politician.
Sorry guys, Sanders has already “tarnished” his so-called “brand.” Deep down, he’s a sexist who dismisses women. If he weren’t, he would have simply apologized for his “stop shouting” comment at the first Democratic debate and moved on. Instead, he and his supporter claim that he’s as much of a feminist than Hillary is.
Amanda Marcotte at Salon:
Last week, Hillary Clinton started trotting out a line implying that Bernie Sanders has got a bit of sexism lurking in his subconscious. During the first Democratic debate, Sanders responded to Clinton’s impassioned anti-gun argument by telling her that “all the shouting in the world” won’t fix the issue. Now Clinton, to huge amounts of applause from the women in her audiences, has taken to saying, “Sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting.”
It’s a funny line, more of a nose-tweak than some kind of heavy accusation of misogyny. Sanders does, after all, shout all the time. Women like the joke because we’ve all dealt with men who, however well-meaning they are, still end up pushing double standards where they’re allowed to raise their voices or be rude, but blanch if women do it. Most of us know that they don’t mean it, but it’s still offensive.
But even though it’s really not a big deal, a lot of folks are acting like Clinton is accusing Sanders of wife-beating.
William Saletan of Slate in a piece that JJ linked to yesterday really went over the top. He claimed that because Sanders has used this “shouting” line for years with many other people, there was really nothing wrong with using it to condescend to Hillary during the debate. Marcotte:
Okay, so Sanders doesn’t have a sexist double standard, just a Bernie-specific double standard, where he gets to shout but the rest of you should lower your damn voices.
Still, I would ask the people who are getting all bent out of shape over this to put yourself in the shoes of the many women who found the exchange between Sanders and Clinton to be annoying. When a man is condescending to you, it’s often hard to tell if that’s just how he is to everyone or if it’s just women he talks down to. It gets even more complicated when you realize that a lot of men who are condescending toeveryone still turn the volume up even more when they’re talking to women.
And that is exactly how the “shouting” exchange felt during the debate. Yes, Sanders used the same general talking point in response to both Clinton and O’Malley. But he was more aggressive about it with Clinton, saying, “All the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want,” whereas he merely told O’Malley, “Here is the point, governor. We can raise our voices.” His tone and the amount of force he put behind this openly condescending talking point was very different. Telling women they’re just imagining things reads, in and of itself, like it’s sexist condescension.
I apologize for the long digression, but I just had to get that off my chest. Returning to John Heilemann’s reporting on Bernie’s plan to take down Hillary:
Devine and Weaver are well aware that they may—indeed, given the Clintonian precedents, are likely to—have no choice but go full frontal. “On policy, we’re driving the agenda, and we’re happy to be in that position,” Weaver says. “But I think they will to a large extent drive the tone. She’s the quote-unquote front-runner, and really started going after Bernie of late. They obviously are not as confident about this race as apparently the punditry is.”
Devine agrees. “How hard we fight back and how far we push it is very much dependent on them,” he says.
“So if they go hard negative,” I ask, “you guys will…?”
“Let them get run over by a Mack truck,” he says.
Um . . . what? The next Democratic debate on November 14 could get interesting. I don’t think that “Mack truck” remark is going to play very well between now and then. Bernie is going to have to grow a thicker skin or he’s the one who’ll get run over.
What are you reading and hearing today? Let us know in the comment thread below.