Sunday, February 7, 2016

My Kingdom for a water bottle

Everyone is talking about the Christie's takedown of Rubio, but from what I've gleaned of the two recent debates there really isn't much to talk about.  All the candidates pretty much followed the script with a few heated exchanges here and there but no fireworks.

My impression is that Christie is serving as Trump's hatchet man, as he has little to gain himself from his attacks on Rubio.  Christie's polling numbers have fallen precipitously in New Hampshire, not that they were ever very high to begin with.

It is clear that what irks Chris very much is that the GOP establishment is rallying around Rubio, who enjoyed a big surge in the New Hampshire and national polls this past week, coming off his strong third place finish in Iowa.  Even Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas kingmaker seems to be betting on Rubio, as his Nevada paper endorsed the young senator.  At one point, Christie was actively courting Adelson for support.

It still remains to be seen if the debate really hurt Rubio, as it appears by the television ratings not very many persons are interested in these set pieces any more.  They never really amounted to much to begin with, other than the anticipation for the first debate to see Donald Trump in action.  Since then, interest has waned considerably, and having Trump back after his petulant refusal to participate in last week's Fox debate did not give ABC news ratings any significant boost.

The guy who may benefit the most from this debate is John Kasich, who came across as the most presidential of the lot, and is the candidate most New Hampshire leading Republicans are endorsing.  However, he is so far behind Trump in the polling that the best one can imagine is a relatively strong second place finish, if Rubio takes a hit from his weak debate performance.

On the Democratic side, Hillary seemed to be mostly in defense mode, as she doesn't stand much of a chance of winning New Hampshire.  Bernie has more than a 20 per cent lead in the polls and it is doubtful Hillary will come anywhere close to him in the votes.  After all, this is Bernie's neck of the woods and his is very popular here.  Hillary is banking on South Carolina later this month, a bigger electoral state than New Hampshire.

Hilllary is playing the long game.  She figures Bernie will take some early states like Paul Tsongas did in 1992, but in the end Team Clinton will have too much money and endorsements behind it for Sanders to challenge.  It wasn't until Super Tuesday in 1992 that Bill Clinton put the pesky Massachusetts senator to rest, only to get a late challenge from Jerry Brown.  There is no third party this time around, so Hillary figures she will pretty much steamroll through the Southern primaries on Super Tuesday, building an insurmountable lead in delegates that will force Sanders out of the race.

The big difference between the two Democratic candidates is that Bernie's campaign is about ideas, and Hillary's campaign is about herself.  Bernie has become particularly appealing among Millennials because he offers a broad vision of a more socialized America with free education and health care, relatively speaking anyway.  Hillary wants people to vote for her because of her place in history as the most recognizable woman in American politics.  Sure, she has taken money from Wall Street and her "progressivism" seems rather artificial, but she is banking on America wanting to break yet another barrier in politics by electing its first woman President.

If she takes the young Julian Castro as her running mate, as many pundits are now actively considering, she could break two major barriers.  This is strongly appealing.  It wouldn't matter that her Presidency would be largely the same as the previous two Democratic presidencies, she would keep things moving in its slow progressive way toward greater inclusion.  This is going to be pretty hard to beat.

The Republicans continue to insist that the last seven years have been an unmitigated failure, promising to repeal and replace Obamacare, offer more tax cuts, invest more heavily in the military and create jobs by approving projects like Keystone XL.  The social agenda is even more regressive, with Marco Rubio wanting to implement a national ban on abortion that would offer no exceptions for rape or incest.  Gay marriages would be revoked as well, with an attempt to introduce an amendment to the Constitution that would explicitly define marriage as a heterosexual bond.

This may play well to the GOP rank and file, but it is going to be a very hard sell in a general election.  Kasich appears to be the only one who understands this and is offering a different path that focuses primarily on the economy -- "common sense regulation, lower taxes and a fiscal plan to balance the budget."  All well and good, but hardly enough to satisfy the fire-eaters in the GOP.

The other problem is that the economy is doing well.  Unemployment fell to its lowest rate in 8 years -- 4.9 per cent, with over 150,000 new jobs added this past month.  Barring an unforeseen collapse of the stock market, which is hovering around 16,000 right now, it is going to be very hard for the Republicans to make the case that we are living in an economic End Times, which they have projected on the GOP campaign trail.  They can blather all they want about all the persons no longer taken into account in the U-3 unemployment rate but the U-6, or "real unemployment rate" is also lower than what it was in June 2008 before the stock market collapse that year.  In every way the economic situation is better now than it was eight years ago.

It seems to me that the Democrats are letting the Republicans dig their hole because whoever comes out of this "Battle Royale" is going to be mud-soaked by everything that has been said on the campaign trail, much like Mitt Romney in 2012.  Even a relative moderate like John Kasich would have a hard time disowning the radical views that have been expressed by Republican presidential candidates and their surrogates.

What the GOP debates have revealed is that not a single one of these candidates is ready for prime time, as they all fail to accept the current economic and social conditions of this country.  They have projected an alternative world, which Obama presides over like a dark lord, and only each one of them in turn can deliver the Republican faithful to its promised land.  Each candidate has perpetuated the same shameful lies and innuendo that are the mainstay of conservative television and radio.

Rubio may be the least noxious, but he presents the same dark vision, taking a nasty swipe at Obama every chance he gets.  For once he was called on to say what he would actually do as President and his throat dried up as he desperately appeared to be looking around for his water bottle, but it wasn't there.

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