Saturday, December 6, 2014

McLaughlin on Presidential Election 2016

The last week of November, 2014, John McLaughlin and Group plunged into discussions on GOP prospects for 2016, in a clip entitled "Restless Republicans."

John McLaughlin
The 114th Congress commences in early January. Republican leaders say they'll pursue a bold governing agenda, while at the same time compromise with the president, ruling out new government shutdown sagas. They know that to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016, the GOP nominee will need the independent vote, which, according to Gallup, now constitutes 42 percent of the electorate.

Yet not all Republicans are so ready to compromise. Looking to 2016 themselves, Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are looking to burnish their credentials with conservative activists rather than independents.

Here, the power of personal ambition as governing restraint stands out in bold colors. Because Cruz and Paul want to brandish their brand, they will continue to stir up the Tea Party anti-Establishment mentality prevailing in the country. While incumbent legislators tend to go Washington, those conservative partisans will stay true to their convictions. As for Marco Rubio, he has repudiated his 2013 immigration monstrosity, voted against the 2012 fiscal cliff deal, and moved to block abortions after twenty weeks of gestation.

Presidential election primaries bring out the best in conservative candidates.

While McLaughlin was superficially interested in Congressional Republican leaders to control this wild and growing caucus of Presidential contenders (or pretenders), Buchanan commented:

You listed three wannabes. All three of them are in the United States Senate. John, the race for the Republican nomination, nobody's got more than 15 percent. And if you want to get the nomination, you don't worry about independents in a general election. You excite the base - the tea party, the conservatives, the activists, the libertarians.

Pat Buchanan
The staunch nationalist listed the senatorial contenders. What about the governors?

And this is exactly what Cruz is doing. And I think it's a correct strategy as a nomination strategy. It's risky in a general election. But this race is so wide open, John, that the guy that's going to do well, the individual, I think he's got to show some real passion and fire and energy and ability to communicate. And there's no doubt I would put Cruz in the top level there. And the second one I would put behind him for (rolling ?) that route is Rand Paul. One of those two, I think, is going to get to the finals.

I would add that the Democratic Party is taking concerted risks propping up Hillary for 2016. Old, weakened with scandal, and fatigue to the Mainstream Media narrative of relentless change, they have to find a fresh, progressive candidate to excite their own base. Buchanan's populist focus is inevitable, since he ran on the same platform in 1992 and 2000, emphasizing not just the culture war, but economic nationalism.

McLaughlin's next departure focused on the Freshman GOP Senators as potential presidential prospects:

OK, the others. Storming into the Senate, freshman Republican senators like Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa are dark-horse candidates for 2016. Included with them are those outside Congress in what's sure to be a crowded field.

Eleanor Clift brought a rare insight of clarity to this discussion:

Well, you started off with Tom Cotton. I'd look at him for 2020. He's got a lot of good credentials - you know, Harvard, Iraq veteran. But he's just won an election, and it's his first term in the U.S. Senate. And Joni Ernst - let's see how she develops. They're not going to run in 2016.

These candidates just entered the upper chamber, and McLaughlin wants to vet them as national candidates for the White House? An academic discussion, perhaps, but not a focused analysis on serious contenders for the GOP nom.

National Review's Tom Rogan contributed his thoughts:

But that field is saturated with a huge amount; you know, different candidates. I think it's going to be interesting to see how Rand Paul tries to put himself more in the establishment to win over more foreign policy realists, which he's doing - (inaudible); Ted Cruz obviously trying to galvanize the conservative base. He's certainly not going to be able to be controlled by the Senate and House leadership.

And then you know, I think, when you look at Marco Rubio, he's more quiet since his immigration reform efforts failed, under the surface, trying to build relationships. And then there's, you know, a vast other field as well. So, I mean, it's going to be an interesting race, but it's something we're going to have to probably talk about again

Rogan touched on the same vein as Clift, that candidates will not just excite the best but work well in Washington. Cruz is partisan to brinkmanship and bitterness among his colleagues, Democrat and Republican. Paul has worked with members of both parties, including liberal Democrats like Cory Booker of New Jersey. Rogan's comments about Rubio are telling.

The McLaughlin Group was engaging, informed, taking into account political realities as well as policy niceties.

Yet their discussion was lacking, in large part because of their focus on the senatorial candidates. Washington Post columnist George Will submitted that voters have tired of Executives who had served as Senators. "Governors have run an entire state. Senators have only ran an office." Election 2008 differed from prior campaigns because both general election contenders had legislative as opposed to executive careers.

And speaking of governors. . .

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker combines the values to excite the base, plus a record of accomplishment as an executive with working legislative relationships, yet he finished very low on McLaughlin's own list:

Other potential 2016 presidential candidates include John Bolton, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, John Thune, Scott Walker.

Right at the bottom of the list, Walker lingers. Is this a sound take on the Dairy State Governor's chances? Based on a seamless legacy of collective bargaining reforms, building up his base, supporting his part, expanding their influence, balancing local and state budgets, and championing life, family, the Second Amendment, as well as strong national policies, Walker combines the Reagan trifecta of social, fiscal, and national conservative credentials.

Can Walker emerge in the midst of a fiery pack of federal legislators and nationally-renowned governors? No one should dismiss his chances because all the media attention, and conservative commentary, is attached to the US Senators.

Rogan had to remind his colleagues of another effective Republican Governor who has received scant attention:

 No clear frontrunner; and Susana Martinez as well. It's interesting. I think - New Mexico - she may be in the running.

Susana Martinez

Indeed. Perhaps a Walker-Martinez ticket for 2016?

Other comments among the group included former governor and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Clift's second moment of clarity, she shot down Huckabee as a viable candidate, unless the party has completely lost its mind. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush featured prominently, as well. While Bush has put his thoughts into the national conversation, whether he stands a chance in the primary is another story, with two other Establishment candidates (Mitt Romney, Chris Christie) vying for that status.

Judging from voter disillusionment in 2012, plus the long-term stability of the Tea Party movement, the Establishment candidates will have no viable influence in the primary. For the sake of media influence and relevance, pundits and readers must content themselves with infrequent references to the Bush dynasty.

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