On May 14, I joined a tiny, highly exclusive group of Republicans, namely those who have decided not to seek our party’s presidential nomination. By contrast, the coach section of the party contains perhaps two dozen people who have announced (or soon will) their availability. Good luck to them all (well, maybe not all). Here’s the hard reality. If two dozen candidates actually declare, 23 of them will lose. I, on the other hand, will still be able to say I have never been defeated in a nomination contest.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed “considering” running and learned a lot about our country. Here’s a bit of what I picked up, some of which professional political operatives and their chattering class hangers-on get, and some they do not.
First, the Republican nomination is wide open, and the polls will fluctuate wildly for some time. Voters expressing a preference frequently do so only very weakly. Citizens inclined to support candidate X are still completely willing to consider switching to someone else. Although campaign staffs and volunteers are beginning to develop into visible organizations in key states, even those are fluid and evanescent. Accordingly, there is today no compelling reason to heed what commentators say about the “horse race,” since they have no better idea than anyone else what is going on.
Second, I was truly impressed by how seriously voters in states like New Hampshire and Iowa take their responsibilities. They expect candidates to answer tough, often penetrating questions about issues they think are important. Those who complain that the early states are not “representative” of America as a whole miss the point. The early states vary widely among themselves, but more important, they are the only venues where significant retail politics at the presidential level is still possible. Iowa and New Hampshire voters may react enthusiastically to red-meat speech lines and love seeing celebrities as much as anyone, but on the decisive day, I believe they will vote for what they think is in the country’s best interests. (And, no, I am not opening offices in Manchester and Des Moines looking forward to 2020 or 2024.)
Third, the focus on recapturing the White House is exceptionally strong. This election is critical to reversing the Obama presidency’s mistakes, one reason the candidate field is so large and support so fractured. Congressional Republicans should take heed, because this energy also needs to be mobilized to defend the 24 of 34 Senate seats up for election held by Republicans and the close House races where Democrats will exert every effort. No one doubts the presidency’s political centrality, but our task must be to fuse the intense desire to win it with the need to keep House and Senate majorities to support a new Republican president. Otherwise, we will simply repeat the current stasis.
Fourth, a generalized desire to win does not determine the ultimate winner. The issues that will differentiate the candidates have not yet emerged, and there is currently no dominant theme. True, as time passes, some contenders with no realistic chance will fall by the wayside because of their own weaknesses. Nonetheless, losing candidates from prior cycles cannot be ruled out. The desire for a “fresh face” will not inevitably prevail over the attractiveness of real experience, given the debacle of electing the resolutely unqualified Barack Obama.
I believe protecting the country is a president’s first responsibility, and that national security should therefore be the most important issue, especially in a Republican nomination contest. Candidates must show they are prepared to make decisions of potentially mortal consequence for the country’s safety, not just spar verbally with Hillary Clinton during debates. This involves far more than advocating going from A to B; it requires the skills necessary to actually get from A to B.
Once the media tire of mooting what George W. Bush did in Iraq in 2003, threatening developments abroad could play a major campaign role. A terrorist attack on the homeland, more chaos in the Middle East, or Russian agitation in the Baltics could prove graphically how insecure we have become under Obama. One dominant impression from my “considering” days is just how unimaginative Washington-based political commentators and operatives can be. The conventional wisdom today is that national security will be central in 2016, whereas a year ago, the conventional wisdom was precisely the opposite. Eugene McCarthy said during his 1968 campaign against Lyndon Johnson that reporters were like a row of birds perched on a telephone line: When one flew off, all the rest flew off. Nothing has changed.
Martin O'Malley's team is teasing supporters in the lead up to an announcement about whether he will run for president of the Untied States. The opening line of an afternoon email to supporters reads, "Is he in or is he out? Will he run or won’t he?"
"At a time when so many Americans are struggling to get by, Governor O'Malley is considering some bold plans for the future. But, while some tough decisions still need to be made, we can tell you one thing," the message reads.
A year after news broke of the waiting list scandal at the Veterans Affairs medical facility in Phoenix, Arizona, President Obama finally visited the facility in March. And while they didn't quite roll out the red carpet for the president, they did clean the floors -- and spent $5,000 to do it.
Miami Five days before he would take the biggest step of his young political career, Marco Rubio called Bernie Navarro, a Miami real estate investor, to ask for a favor. Rubio wanted to have a small, low-key gathering to thank friends and family before his official announcement the next day, and he needed someone to host it. Navarro, like Rubio the son of Cuban exiles, asked permission from his wife. Although she had denied his repeated requests to host a Super Bowl party, there was no hesitation in approving this one.
Look, this is happening. It's a thing. Remember the jokes that started in 1992 with "two Clintons for the price of one"? Remember the incredulity of people in 1999 when it was quietly suggested that the first lady of the United States might decamp to New York and place a Senate seat into her carpet bag? Remember when it was only the crazies who said, "Don't you get it? She's trying to run for president!"
Out on the Twitters, people have been generally down on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign logo. The New York Times’sNate Cohn said it looked like a hospital sign. Others suggested it looked like the Cuban flag. Or the Fed-Ex brand. Box CEO Aaron Levie said it looked like it was drawn with MS Paint. (Oooooo! Burn!) The self-righteous whiners at Wikileaks accused her of stealing their logo. The logo got its own Twitter account. (Which is 98 percent less funny than Obama’s Teleprompter.)
In winning Nigeria’s presidency on his fourth try, Muhammadu Buhari, former military dictator and proponent of sharia, may have answered the Nigerian question: Is the big West African country more than a geographical entity—does it have a sense of nationhood transcending sectional and religious differences?
Vice President Dick Cheney had harsh criticism for President Barack Obama in an interview last night with radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Hewitt asked the former vice president, "Is he naïve, Mr. Vice President? Or does he have a far-reaching vision that only he entertains of a realigned Middle East that somehow it all works out in the end?"
One of many startling statements in President's Obama interview with Tom Friedman is his assertion that he's seeking “to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.”
Today in Massachusetts, at a ceremony for the the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, Senator Elizabeth Warren borrowed President Obama's lectern for a bit. Behind the lectern, Warren looked almost presidential:
Many have called for Warren to enter the presidential race. This image, of her speaking behind the presidential lectern, may increase calls for her to challenge Hillary Clinton.
President Obama insisted in an interview with the Huffington Post that "by hook or by crook" he'll be a successful president. He made the comments in answering a question about whether he'd become a "more progressive president over time."
"No," Obama said to the question, he had not become more progressive. "I think that what we are constantly doing is looking for opportunities to advance the agenda that I talked about back in 2007 and 2008. I mean, remember, in the first two years of my administration we advanced more progressive legislation than anybody in 50 years.
Al Gore is "gaining steam" in the presidential race, stated a report last night from Fox News. Watch Peter Doocy's report on Bret Baier's Special Report:
"With Hillary Clinton's recent troubles comes renewed speculation about who might challenge her for the Democratic presidential nomination," reported Baier. "Tonight, one possibility you probably have not considered."