New Hampshire Realities, V. 2
At the risk of making too much of one largely-white state that bears little resemblance to the rest of America, tonight's results do matter somewhat.
Memo to Hillary: As one of your steadiest supporters all these years, the message Madam Secretary isn't working. Nothing you, Bubba, your surrogates, or your campaign did in the week since Iowa did anything to narrow the gap in New Hampshire against Bernie. You lost all demographic groups to Sanders, and the independents also. Your whole key was to carry the white working class vote and the independents, coupled with women and the African American vote, and make Sanders earn it solely on an economic argument. Yet you weren't able to get past 40% in a two-person race, again in a state admittedly that bears little resemblance to Ohio, Pennsylvania, or even California. Sure, MSNBC slobbered all over Bernie and dissed your speech, which was better than what you gave all last week, but you have to expect the media to be against you. You'll have to shorten and sharpen the message for South Carolina and Nevada, and be able to explain why fairness and equality at home and stability and security abroad beats a "revolution". But if you can't sort it out by Nevada in time for the bigger states, then the party isn't into you and it's time to let them have their fever with Bernie, no matter what comes in November.
And the simple truth may be that it isn't the campaign or the message, but the messengers. As David Axelrod has noted, if the same problems from 2008 are happening again this year, it comes down to the one constant: the people choosing the campaign team and signing off on the message: the Clinton's themselves. Hillary may very well go down as someone who would have made a great president who didn't campaign well. A women's-based message has its limits with today's female electorate, as does tying yourself to Obama. These can be overcome with a stated reason for your campaign, and a focus on connecting to voters' hearts rather than their minds.
Bernie, congrats to you and your team. You beat Hillary with all groups, and now can take it on the road to real tests. But I saw nothing in your speech tonight that shows me how you'll beat back the "taxes and terrorism" attacks against you in the fall. If you and the Democratic Party want to stake all the gains of these last eight years, and the Supreme Court on getting millions of younger and newer voters to come out to offset those smears, then so be it. We're about to see if a "revolution" will work with the silent majority.
As for the GOP, the only certain and good thing from tonight is Christie's imminent departure. Having said that, it's hard to make too much of a result that shows Trump with a third, Cruz banking on an evangelical base, and the remaining bloc split among multiple candidates slated to kill each other in the coming weeks. What we really know from tonight is that there will be a wide open GOP convention, where the Democrats will not know who Sanders' likely opponent will be until it is too late.
Update (Wednesday): Christie and Fiorina are now out.
New Hampshire Realities
Let's level-set the state of the race going into, and beyond New Hampshire this week. On the GOP side, and contrary to the expectations of the punditocracy, there may not be an exodus of several GOP governors or ex-governors from the race if they don't finish in the top 3 in New Hampshire. After watching the GOP debate last night, the conventional wisdom would only hold up if Marco Rubio came through as a strong Number 2 in the primary. After watching Chris Christie expose Rubio for the fraud he is, and after seeing Kasich take the optimist approach, it seems that perhaps all four of the insider candidates may go south. For his part, Bush's South Carolina hopes, money, and organization ensure he isn't exiting the race, and Cruz is aiming for victories elsewhere. So the GOP race may not change much for another several weeks.
On the Democratic side, the debate last week clearly revealed the differences between Sanders and Clinton. In a normal year, Hillary's speaking fee liability and "results over revolution" approach would carry the day. But we aren't in a conventional year, and the latest national poll shows that the party has Clinton fatigue. Her job clearly this week is to narrow the gap in New Hampshire to 10 points or less, claim victory, and move onto friendly terrain. Sanders for his part still needs to explain how he can get things done in a revolution if the party doesn't take back the Senate and House with him at the top of the ticket. He hasn't had to explain that yet, because Hillary hasn't forced him to tell voters how a Bernie-led party can carry down-ballot races in areas where there aren't thousands of younger voters for Bernie or liberals to storm the electorate.
Trump Accuses Cruz of Stealing Iowa
by Deacon Blues
Trump is now accusing Ted Cruz of stealing the Iowa caucus through deception, specifically through an allegation that Cruz supporters at the caucuses misled Ben Carson supporters into thinking that Dr. Carson was dropping out, and should therefore switch their support to Cruz. Cruz's team isn't denying this, and instead is belittling Trump for trying to stay in the headlines.
As the Atlantic notes, the intended impact of this skirmish is to fire up deflated Trump supporters and cast more doubt on Cruz's credibility. But it does show that the GOP race will keep getting better and better, even with the field narrowing.
Several observations from tonight's developments in Iowa:
For Clinton's team to stupidly (and prematurely) claim victory only reminded people why they hate the Clintons. Hillary needs to remember that she starts this race already behind in the court of public opinion, and can't afford to make things worse with egotistical gaffes like this. Hungry beats arrogant all the time. And while you're at it, your campaign team should stop going after Sanders and instead retool your message to go after younger voters, which was his mother load in Iowa.
Hats off to Bernie Sanders and his team for taking the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll showing a 3-point Clinton lead as the locker room motivator to turn out the troops and force a tie.
Donald Trump may have had his fifteen minutes. Talk is cheap once they start counting the votes.
Even though Marco Rubio is full of sh*t, he and his team deserve congratulations on how they did in Iowa. Now let's see how they do in a three-way knife fight.
One only has to listen to Ted Cruz a short while to know how much of a disaster he would be for the GOP in a national election. He won Iowa because two-thirds of the GOP caucus-goers were evangelicals, but that won't be the case in a national election.
Letting Her Hair Down
"I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you what I actually can get done."
--Hillary Clinton in Iowa yesterday
Long-time readers of this blog know that I have been a supporter of Hillary Clinton, especially during the 2008 Democratic nomination fight against Barack Obama. I'm not running away from that, just as I am comfortable supporting her now over a good man Bernie Sanders. The choice for me in 2008 was quite clear: a choice between experience and moderation versus hope and change, or at least how hope and change was being sold during that campaign. Well, without going into my list of gripes over the last eight years, Barack Obama won and has done a fair job, even if there is a disappointing gap between what was promised and what was ever competently attempted.
Now in 2016, after seven years of initial naiveté and eventual wisdom in the White House matched against ongoing obstruction and outright hatred amongst the political opposition, Hillary is running again, this time against Sanders, whose presence and standing in the current race is a direct result of Obama's failings. Against all of the current candidates running this cycle, Hillary for me is a clear choice to deal with our challenges here at home and abroad. Yet Hillary's advantages in experience and political moderation are offset by her poor judgment on the self-inflicted wounds stemming from the email fiasco. She is also beset by an inability this late in her life to simply let her hair down and talk straight with the voters. In a political environment where it appears the electorate is thirsty for straight talk and accountability, it would be opportune for Mrs. Clinton to simply come out and say "yeah, I was stupid and wrong for setting up the private email server. If anyone in this race should have known it was bad judgment to do this, it would have been me, but I'm so fixated on protecting myself from political opponents that it led me to a bad decision. As I have said, I take responsibility and will of course continue cooperating in all legitimate inquiries."
In this environment, Hillary should speak openly about why she has such opposition, but not by trumpeting a one-sided self-congratulatory resume like the New York Times did in their embarrassing endorsement today. She should plainly say "Look, I know there are millions of Americans who don't like me and don't trust me, and who would never vote for me. I know that there is nothing I can say to change many of those minds, and I acknowledge that. I also know that many of these people are Democrats who question my motives and commitment to a more progressive society. They see a kindred spirit and passionate fighter like Bernie Sanders and it is an easy choice for them. I get it. But please understand this: you already know more about me and my life than you will ever know about Donald Trump and his life, and yet I'm still here. I'm not a quitter. I know how to get things done at home and abroad, even with Republicans. And unlike Bernie and most of the Republicans, I won't go into the job unprepared for what awaits. For thirty years now, we've been sold simple slogans that allowed the few to enrich themselves at your expense. From Day One of my presidency, those days are over, and if you don't like what you see, then throw me out of office after one term. But never assume I don't care or won't work every day to get all of us to a better place."
It's evident that in the closing days of the Iowa campaign Hillary is running as a practical realist, and not someone who wants to blow things up and start over. Her argument, rightly so, is that the fault doesn't rest in the system but rather in the people who've rigged the current system and who continue to manipulate it against the interests of the many. Arguing that we need to build and improve upon what Obama has done at home and abroad, and go farther is an argument that may not stir passions in the millions of disaffected, who legitimately are fed up. But it is a message that resonates with millions of realists who also want change and a better future, but a change that is actually achievable with accountability for those who oppose it, and without the need for a "revolution" with unintended consequences.
If there ever was a time for Hillary to let her hair down and speak her mind, it would be in the alleged Age of Authenticity.
Tossing Fox News Aside
Donald Trump's decoupling of Fox News from the GOP's presidential nomination process will be the lasting development from this election cycle. Trump wanted control of his own narrative, and wanted a way to separate himself from the pack. Trump used Megyn Kelly as the excuse, and issued a demand that he knew Roger Ailes could not agree to: dump Kelly. If Ailes had agreed to that, he'd be seen losing power to Trump, which was never going to happen either. But Ailes went a step too far with his sophomoric press release attack against Trump, giving Trump what he was after all along, a visible elevation above the rest of the pack at the expense of Fox News and their anticipated ratings.
The net result of Trump's successful effort to beat Ailes here is that he now has the steering wheel: neither Fox News, the RNC, nor the party's elites can stop him without an all-out GOP civil war that will destroy the party. They now all need him more than he needs them, especially Fox, which Trump in a way has now made expendable. It will now be even more interesting to see what Ailes, Fox News, and the rest of the party now do in dealing with the reality that their likely nominee is a loose cannon who doesn't need them. Ailes' network needs to curry favor with Trump or declare war on him; both alternatives are fraught with peril for Fox. The RNC is only needed for their control of the election machinery and the convention, and any move by them to deny Trump the nomination through a brokered convention will lead to that civil war.
Ailes and the GOP are now reaping what they have sown in the Obama years. Through their hatred, they've energized a fringe element in the right wing base through lies, victimhood fantasies, and outright racism to the point that the monster has turned on its creator.
Update: There, of course, is an alternate explanation for what happened last night. From watching the pre-packaged video clips Fox used against both Cruz and Rubio in their questioning last night, it's fair to assume that Fox would have hit Trump with the same, if he had shown up. Is it possible that Trump knew ahead of time that the network was going to hit all three of the leading candidates with video hit pieces during the debate, and Trump simply decided to not give Kelly and Ailes the pleasure?