Thursday, September 03, 2015

Obenshain may be unexpected collateral damage of Herring decision

Ralph Northam (right) seen at an anti-Cuccinelli rally with a Sierra Club member wearing an ERA Yes button in 2013.
Yesterday, Virginia's current Attorney General Mark Herring (D) announced that instead of pursuing the Democratic nomination for Governor of Virginia in 2017, he would instead stand for re-election to Attorney General. Herring's decision to forgo a gubernatorial run in 2017 runs counter to a trend of Attorneys General leap frogging over their party's Lieutenant General to seek the Commonwealth's highest executive office.

Herring's decision carries many knock-on effects with it--some obvious and some not quite so obvious. The most obvious consequence is that the path is cleared for Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam (D) to claim the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2017 by acclamation, as it is unlikely any credible candidate will challenge him for the nomination.

The more surprising collateral damage from Herring's decision is located on the right side of Virginia's political spectrum. Senator Mark Obenshain (R) was seen by many (including myself) as the obvious favorite choice for the Republican Party of Virginia's nominee for governor in 2017. Obenshain narrowly missed defeating Herring for Attorney General in 2013 and was the only Republican statewide candidate who ran a campaign that was largely free of errors. Obenshain's running mates Ken Cuccinelli for governor and E.W. Jackson for Lieutenant Governor almost certainly dragged Obenshain down and cost him the election.

Which makes it that much more puzzling that Ken Cuccinelli is apparently considering elbowing Obenshain aside in order to make another run for Virginia's Governor's mansion. Cuccinelli's reasoning apparently runs something like this: Cuccinelli, who received 1,013,354 votes in the 2013 governor's race believes that he would be a stronger candidate to take on Ralph Northam, who received 1,213,155 in the 2013 lieutenant governor's race, than Mark Obenshain, who received 1,103,612 votes in the 2013 attorney general's race.

It's an interesting window into the mind of Ken Cuccinelli if he thinks that he's a stronger candidate than two men who both received more votes than he did in 2013. It must be especially frustrating to Obenshain supporters who must realize that, if not for Cuccinelli's incompetence as a campaigner and involvement in the McDonnell scandal, Obenshain would have probably edged out Mark Herring for attorney general.

In the topsey-turvey world of the Republican Party of Virginia a candidate's performance in the general elections is much less important than his ability to control the party apparatus and engineer a nominating convention. If Cuccinelli's supporters can force a convention instead of a primary in 2017, they could almost certainly re-nominate Cuccinelli for governor, putting him up against Ralph Northam, a man who received almost 200,000 more votes than Cuccinelli in 2013.

And Cuccinelli isn't the only Virginia Republican considering challenging Obenshain presumed candidacy. There are a few who believe the following:
1) Ralph Northam is a vulnerable Democratic opponent (why they believe this isn't clear).
2) Anything can happen in an RPV convention (after all, an RPV convention nominated E.W. Jackson).
Weighing these factors, there are probably a few Virginia Republicans willing to buy a lottery ticket in hopes of winning the RPV nomination for governor in a convention in 2017 and beating Northam in the November general election.

Herring's decision to run for re-election may have the ironic result of both settling the 2017 likely Democratic statewide ticket while completely unsettling the 2017 Republican statewide ticket, leading to another daggers-out RPV nomination convention in May or June of 2017.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Harsh Reality that is Donald Trump

The Summer of 2015 is winding down. Beach trips are ending. College students are already back at college, and school children will soon return to school. Labor Day is just around the corner.

It has been two and a half months since Donald Trump declared himself a candidate for President of the United States, and today he has a commanding lead over the field of sixteen other GOP candidates. The chart at the top of this post is the Huffington Post Pollster poll of polls. It includes polls going back as far as 2012. I don't like it--I don't think it is an accurate picture of what is going now in the Republican Party. I would argue that Donald Trump's official entry into the presidential race dramatically changed the character of the GOP race.

Luckily, Pollster has a feature that allows you to customize their poll of polls. Accordingly, to produce the chart below I have made the following changes:

1) I have altered the time frame to June 16, 2015 to the present.
2) I reduced smoothing.
3) I eliminated the individual poll points to produce a cleaner image.

This chart shows the dramatic rise of Donald Trump to a dominant lead in the GOP presidential race. It also shows that Trump's rise hasn't been completely smooth. He has taken hits for his many gaffes, but he has also clearly overcome them and continues to rise in the polls. Trump has survived the early attempts by the GOP and Fox News to stop him and is now in a position to consolidate his lead.

For all this, the majority of the Republican establishment remains deeply in denial. Anyone who visits conservative websites will encounter hopeful posts and comments about what will happen when Trump finally implodes. The problem for the GOP is that Donald Trump is highly unlikely to implode.

The Republican establishment and main stream media have made the mistake of judging Donald Trump by the standards of ordinary professional politicians. Trump has already survived (and thrived) after three gaffes that arguably would have ended any other politician's candidacy. Trump has labeled most Hispanic immigrants as rapists, belittled John McCain's record as a genuine American war hero, and dismissed Megyn Kelly's critique of his documented sexism as a product of her menstrual cycle. Any of these episodes would have been fatal to any other GOP candidate, but Trump has shrugged them all off.

In almost every action-adventure movie there is a scene early in act two where some force or plan is deployed to stop the antagonist or bad guy. Some authority figure confidently asserts that there's nothing to worry about as they deploy a strike force or secret weapon to stop the dinosaurs/bad guys/antagonist. And then the secret weapon or strike force is wiped out and the real hero emerges to defeat the bad guys. The first GOP presidential debate was supposed to be where Trump imploded and Megyn Kelly was the GOP establishment's secret weapon. It didn't work out as planned.

The problem the GOP has is that it is fresh out of heroes. No one is going to step up to defeat Donald Trump, far from it. Instead, the moment is drawing near when the GOP capitulates and tries to find a way to live with Donald Trump as their leader. At this point I think a Trump-Cruz ticket is highly likely as Republicans jostle each other in line to board the band wagon.

Donald Trump is for real and he is here to stay.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

20 Days Ago . . .

20 days ago I made a prediction about how a certain New York businessman would impact the Republican Party.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Donald Trump won last night's debate

The spin on this story has been amazing, but in fact Megyn Kelly did not stop Donald Trump's candidacy last night. If anything, Trump emerged with his supporters even more committed to him. Look at the chart. In a couple of days we'll have new polling numbers and I'll post a new chart and we'll see if last night did anything to slow Trump's ascent. I doubt it did, and the idea being floated around that Rubio and Fiorina "won" last night is just silly.