Friday, August 31, 2012

But If Charlie Brown Was Their Bench Manager...

Whatever the Republican National Convention did for Mitt Romney, it seems to have one solid accomplishment: it boosted the careers of several Republican politicians, leading to an emerging media consensus that the Republican bench is strong should they have an open nomination fight in 2016. As a reporter said to John Sides:
It seems that plenty of Republicans are mentioned as potential candidates in 4 years: Christie, Daniels, Rubio, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush… even Nikki Haley and Rand Paul. It seems far fewer Democrats are on the bench… there’s always Hillary, and some talk about Martin O’Malley and Andrew Cuomo, but I don’t hear too many more.
I think there’s a real misconception here about candidates and the process.
Republicans in 2012 did have an unusually small group of conventionally qualified candidates to choose from because of the 2006 and 2008 landslides – some experienced potential candidates lost, and few if any new ones were elected in time to serve at least four years (well, almost four years – what Obama had served by Election Day in 2008).

But still, there were lots of Republicans who had political talent and conventional credentials. However, the primary process – which severely penalized candidates for any deviation from conservative norms, which themselves appear to be ever-changing – probably did a lot of pre-winnowing that we don’t even know about. Vote for TARP? Oops. Support Romney-style health care reform? Well, obviously it didn’t prevent nomination, but it was an issue. Immigration? Thanks for trying, Governor Perry.

Not to mention that some of the bright lights of the convention and the party – Condi Rice and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, for example – are ineligible because of the absolute veto anti-abortion activists have on the nomination.

But we can see abortion now; what we can’t know is what tough votes any of the rising stars will have to cast over the next few years, and how they’ll turn out. Which governor, for example, will be pressed by a Democratic legislature to sign a tax increase? Which one will wind up on the wrong side of the marriage issue? Nor can we tell which of this group (or, to be sure, the seemingly promising Democrats we’ll be hearing from next week) will have a macaca moment, or get involved in a personal scandal, or otherwise be disgraced. Many of them will have to go through re-election campaigns in 2014, and all sorts of things could go wrong.

Some of that would, I'd think, apply equally to both sides: for every John Ensign, there's an Eliot Spitzer. However, the combination of ideological and policy issue vetoes, on the one hand, and rapidly and constantly changing must-have positions, on the other, certainly appears to me to be far more of a problem on the Republican side at this point.

So it’s good for the Republican Party that they have a good-sized group of talented politicians. If the past is any indication, they’ll need it just to manage to have one or two solid candidates the next time they have an open presidential nomination contest.


  1. Hillary is the Left's 2016 nominee, almost by default. I think that's what this guy is really saying here. The R's would have a dogfight in 2016, but that doesn't imply any special status or talent level available, that's just a function of events. They're not going to pull a "Mondale" with Willard. It's one and done for him, if he loses. Hence, the dogfight.

    If Obama loses come November, HIllary's it, and deservedly so. Obama would have tried it his way, lost (to a weak candidate in Willard), and so it'd be Hillary's turn.

    If Obama wins, he's still going to have a very rough ride, and a disastrous midterm lame duck election in 2014. You can bet that there'll be at least mild talk of impeachment, during the second half of that lame duck term.

    Hillary will triangulate her ass off and promote herself as the change we need. She'll attack Obama opportunistically, and attack the Congress, which will be embroiled in the usual chickenfighting, no matter the lopsided numbers after 2014. That triangulation and the Clinton machine should get her the nomination.

    That's why Bill's been heading faithfully to the ramparts these past few months, supporting Obama. He doesn't want to blow that 2016 opportunity now, with apostasy. I think the Clintons want Obama to lose, but they dare not speak it. ;-)

    1. Hillary? The left? Huh? She's a center-right Clintonite. Nothing left about her. She's the nightmare, not the dream.

    2. This site is even more hard Left than I thought. ;-)

    3. Obama and HRC are both solidly center-left.

      By no means will she be the preference of the left, defined as the more liberal half of the Democratic Party.

      Calling her center-right is off, and calling her the choice of the Left is also off.

      The Left and the Democratic Party are not identities. The Democratic Party is a center-left party that gets the votes of the Left. As it should be in a two-party democracy.

      The aberration is the Republican Party, which is the Party of the Right.This will not last because it gives too many opportunities to the Democrats. The Republicans will be forced to move to the center.

    4. No, Anon, you just don't understand the dynamics of the Democratic party, but here you are proving it with what you write. What James writes is analysis, not necessarily his opinion. I'd be saying the same as him, and I'm nowhere near hard left. But I have noticed what they like, and it isn't the Clintons.

    5. Nobody sensible would call Hillary Clinton "center-right", other than a hard leftist, the type that predominates on this site, as I flip through these pages.

      If you're calling Hillary "center-right", then you're not just a leftist, you're a HARD leftist... well out on the fringe.

      Now, the mainstream Left... it'll be going for Hillary in 2016, as per my post. Nothing earth shattering here, kids. Nobody sensible will disagree with any of that, although on this site I'm sure it'll get the reception you both give it.

      This is a hard Left site, is all.

    6. Bill Clinton was strong armed by the Republican house when he was running the show, unemployment was around 5%, everything was reformed & the budget was balanced which=an economy that was booming. He was forced to move to the middle but it only benefitted him in the long run. Since Obama has stepped into office, hes only moved further & further to the left. Ryan's the only guy that has a plan to salvage plans like SS & Medicare. Ah well, another term will bring us 20 Trillion into the hole & the true American Dream will die with it.

  2. Hey Jonathan, can we talk about what we'd like to see in the Democratic convention? Greg has a piece out about how the Democrats are going to contrast the Republican rhetoric about tough choices with their lack of specifics. Man, I hope they don't do that!

    What I'd really love to see, from a partisan standpoint, would be a major, major focus on manufacturing jobs, the middle class, and forcing banks to support small business loans at reasonable terms. Construction and research investments. Higher education. The languishing JOBS bill. At this point, it's been largely forgotten - they could bring it right back and hammer it for days.

    I think that as liberals, we get caught up in shock at mendacity - call it the Steve Benin effect. It'd be so nice to hear a bunch of speeches about how, specifically, Obama and the Democrats want to bring the economy around. I mean, if the Republicans won't talk about their ideas, let's talk about ours.

    1. That's the problem though. If the Obamabots promulgate a MASSIVE list of fresh new spending, to join the MASSIVE spending levels they've already brought on, thus ensuring we have to borrow MASSIVELY more than the 43 cents of every dollar that we currently spend... they'll have to face choirboy Ryan with charts and graphs, explaining patiently how they're bankrupting and destroying the country.

      And as we all know, Ryan is a big fat liar and racist, so it's certain he can play the heavy in any vicious attacks on the Obamabots. ;-)

    2. Anonymous, it is unbecoming to see you argue with yourself in public.

    3. I know, I know, people stare at me on the street....

      Making the banks loosen up capital would fall under the new bank regulations they made. We could fund a whole lot of new spending if we taxed financial transactions and eliminated the loopholes that let Romney pay 13% instead of 30% income tax. A lot of things are possible if those who gain the most also contribute equally.

      MASSIVE fresh new spending is just what we need.

    4. ...good luck selling that one. ;-)

    5. Good luck selling that one, as the right-wing hate machine, over the past 4 decades, has successfully demonized government to the point where the US is now ungovernable. We have poor people who depend on government demanding more tax cuts for already-undertaxed billionaires.

    6. Yeah, that's the perfect lefty campaign. Call out those lying racist hate mongers. And call out all the stupid voters, too.

      Let them all know how evil and racist and hateful they all are. Get those StuporPacs working overtime on it. You can call out the evil racist hate mongers and the evil stupid voters all at the same time. It's perfect.

      That's a for sure winning campaign. We'll have massive spending increases before you know it. ;-)

    7. I'm not looking for anything hateful. I'm not looking for name-calling. I want to see a positive focus on American manufacturing and American small business.

      The problem with the hate-mongers, like Anon 7:02 above, is that they don't have any answers for the servant economy we're devolving into. Anon above might snarl and demean, but it's because he isn't allowed to talk about how to bring back the middle class. If the Democrats want to win this thing, we need to rise above our shock at the attitude presented by the other side, and talk solidly about getting back manufacturing jobs with decent benefits.

    8. That's the spirit. Your opposition is all a bunch of lying, hateful racists, so make sure you call them out. ;-)

      Shout that out over and over and over. It's the perfect campaign.

      Oh, and tell everybody you want to increase federal spending massively, you know, so you can "bring back the middle class".

      The above is all like Charlie Sheen. Winning. ;-)

  3. I was under the impression that Haley is deeply unpopular in SC, and Christie faces a fight with Booker in NJ.

  4. It's also pretty dumb to write that comparison story *between* the conventions, before the DEM possibilities have their chance to shine.

    The Dem bench is not all that thin. But it is older, whiter, and more male:

    Hillary Clinton
    Joe Biden (although I don't put much stock in his going through with it)

    Andrew Cuomo
    Martin O'Malley
    Brian Schweitzer
    Deval Patrick
    Ted Strickland
    Russ Feingold
    Evan Bayh
    John Hickenlooper
    Mark Warner
    Mark Dayton


    1. The interesting observation that the Democratic bench is older, whiter, and more male is new to me.

      I am not enough of a political junkie to assess your list, but assuming you are right isn't older, whiter, and male good?

      Aren't those the Democratic weak spots?

    2. ha, maybe you're right. but I'd be much happier if we had many more women and persons of color in high-profile leadership roles, mainly so the Democratic party and the country would have a much healthier representative Democracy.

      I left Cory Booker off because I don't consider him ready at all, but I do think he'd be ready, and perhaps able, to become Governor of New Jersey.

      I left Villaraigosa off because he seems intent on avoiding it to focus on becoming Governor of California. Same would go for Newsom and Kamala Harris.

      And I left other high-profile women off because I don't think they are particularly presidential material, like Napolitano and Sebelius.

    3. My impression is that Cory Booker is looking more at replacing Lautenberg than going against Christie.

  5. I don't think we have to worry too much about the quality of the Dem bench before 2016. If she wants it, it's Hillary's. If not, Cuomo and O'Malley are both solid alternatives, one maybe a little more centrist, the other a little more of a fighting progressive. Sure, they're all white, but speaking as a minority their policies matter to me too.

    I think the real point about the younger, more diverse bench in the GOP is that Democrats can't take it for granted that the demographic shift will automatically favor our party. Sure, in the aggregate minorities will gravitate to the Dems. But if you have enough young minority candidates for the GOP, you make the party "safe" for those more moderate voters who may have worried that the GOP caters to the old and white. In Texas, where I'm from, we've seen some smart outreach to the Hispanic community especially.

    That said, it's hard for me to see a minority being the GOP nominee in 2016. Maybe Rubio. But IMHO the nomination is Ryan's to lose if Romney loses this election. Could be he screws up between now and then, but so far at least, he's shown himself to be a pretty canny political player.

    As to the white/male bench for the Dems: I think by 2020 or 2024, the Dems could prob have Cory Booker, Julian (or Joaquin) Castro, and/or Kamala Harris in position to make a credible run for the presidency. Not to mention the unknowns who could rise up between now and then. I mean, in 2000 any ppl thinking about 2008 were probably focusing on Hillary or Bill Richardson or hot-shot NY AG Eliot Spitzer. Which shows the futility in trying to game things out too far ahead of time.

  6. Speaking of unexpected twists, don't forget those recent up-and-coming stars: Democrat Artur Davis and Republican Charlie Crist.

  7. The other thing that winnowed the field dramatically for the Republicans in 2012 is the disastrous Bush administration. Their entire strategy is to have collective amnesia that 2001-2009 ever happened, that Obama inherited the nation directly from the founding fathers, so as to blame everything that is wrong now solely on Obama. And that can't be done if you have someone who was on the stage with Bush. People are having some fun right now with Biden's potential run in 2016, but is it even possible to imagine Cheney 2012?

  8. Barring some career-defining gaffe in this campaign, the next Republican nominee is Paul Ryan. The Kochs and other SuperPAC all-stars pushed for him to get on the ticket just so he gets 'next'. Think back to the primaries, it's not about anything if you have the money to carpet-bomb any challenger with ads.

    The only name I think might have a shot against him is Jeb Bush, thanks to the connections the family has in the party. But 'establishment' Republicans haven't exactly been on a roll the last few years, have they?

    Marco Rubio? Republican primary voters?? Tee-hee.

    1. In light of JB's Slate column of 9/1, perhaps he feels the convention speech itself was a deal-breaker for Ryan going forward. I'm not sure it's that bad for the purposes of gaining a Republican nomination (though the money men would consider electability, moreso if their hundreds of millions can't get Romney over the hump).

      Ryan has a certain gee-whiz kind of charisma, and much better political skills than the last GOP VP nominee, and no doubt Ryan has the drive that Palin lacked after the last campaign. But if it's not Ryan, my bet would be that the Kochs and their ilk have Scott Walker in the bullpen.

      - - - - - - - - - - - -

      While I'm here - I debated putting this in a Baseball post, but when Mitt Romney promised to create 12 million jobs by 2016, a figure that economists say is what the economy figures to create on its own anyway...

      Did Mitt Romney just admit to America that he would be a "Replacement Level" President?

    2. I don't think that Ryan's reputation in the neutral press (much less his reputation among liberals and in the Democratic-aligned press) will have any significant effect on his future presidential chances.

      It may have effects on how Ryan (and Romney) behave during this campaign going forward. If he's VP, there's plenty of time for him to rehabilitate his reputation. If he's back in the House, though, he may find that he has a rougher go with the press next year.

  9. A word about "left" and "right."

    1. Generally, I don't think that using terms from the French Revolution to describe politics in the US is very helpful. I won't say I never use them, but I try to avoid it (I'll mostly use it comparatively, using e.g. "to the right" as a synonym for "more conservative."

    2. For etiquette reasons, I think people and groups should be called what they want to be called unless it harms someone or there's some good reason. We have groups who call themselves conservatives, liberals (or progressives), and leftists, so I'm inclined to begin with by calling them by those names.

    3. Fortunately, those names also correspond fairly well with some underlying reality. Folks such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden are in fact significantly different from the small and politically insignificant group who call themselves "left" in the US.

    4. Therefore, I think it makes lots of sense to use the liberal/left distinction and stick with what people call themselves.

    5. I really don't think it makes sense (as some liberals do) to attempt to place the US on a world ideology scale and to call US liberals "center-right." It violates #3; it's more confusing than illuminating; and it's not altogether clear it's actually true, in many cases.

    6. The exceptions here would be those who act like one group while calling themselves something else. If you vote with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid most of the time and rarely vote with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, then it's totally fair for people to call you a liberal or progressive even if you call yourself a conservative or centrist (yes, some people are in fact centrists; they don't vote with their parties all the time).

  10. Dang, if that's just "a word", then War and Peace is just a sentence. ;-)

    But since we're picking nits as far as political labels, we should probably choose accuracy rather than semantics and subterfuge.

    There is nothing "liberal" about the contemporary Left, particularly as expressed by the hard Left on sites like this. They are in fact fiercely reactionary, and conservative in the classical sense, in that they cling tightly to failures of the past.

    So calling them liberal is wildly inaccurate, and in fact, I'd call much of the bayonet-in-the-teeth leftist crowd quite illiberal, if anything.

    So we liberals have a ways to go before we reclaim our label, long ago hijacked. ;-)


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