Wednesday, January 06, 2016


You might assume that California is a state where the Republicans are fairly moderate -- think Arnold Schwarzenegger -- and therefore it's a state where presidential candidates in the so-called center lane -- Rubio, Bush, Christie, Kasich -- would be challenging Donald Trump or even beating him.

Apparently not:
Ted Cruz has surged to a statistical tie with Donald Trump among Republicans in California....

The Field Poll, released Tuesday, reflects Cruz’s momentum nationally in the crowded Republican presidential field....

Combined, Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich -- the great allegedly moderate hopes of New Hampshire -- have 21% of the vote, less than either Trump or Cruz.

Now, California is hardly a key state in the contest -- it votes on June 7, which should be long after the front-runner has locked up the nomination. But the narrative of the race being put forth by in-denial pundits is that whoever wins the "center lane" in New Hampshire will have an excellent shot at the nomination, because other Establishment candidates will drop out and the winner of New Hampshire's mainstream "lane" will be the favorite in high-population moderate and liberal states that vote later.

Much of this speculation focuses on Chris Christie, who is doing pretty well in New Hampshire (the Real Clear Politics average has him at 11.3% there, in fourth place but only 2 points behind second-place Marco Rubio, although he's well behind Trump). The fact that Christie is tanking in every other state doesn't seem to matter to these pundits -- they're writing stories with titles like "Chris Christie's Path to Victory." That piece, by National Journal's Josh Kraushaar, outlines the Theory of Christie:
Christie would ... need to do well in his must-win state of New Hamp­shire.... Christie would then fo­cus on perform­ing re­spect­ably in South Car­o­lina, and more im­port­antly, on mak­ing a ma­jor play for two Su­per Tues­day states that aren’t get­ting much at­ten­tion now but would be an es­sen­tial part of the Christie map: Vir­gin­ia and Mas­sachu­setts.

... Four days after Su­per Tues­day, Maine is hold­ing week­end caucuses, where Christie is favored to win thanks to his endorsement from Gov. Paul LePage.

After Su­per Tues­day, the map is much more fa­vor­able for the es­tab­lish­ment can­did­ate -- as­sum­ing the party is uni­fied be­hind one at that point. Michigan holds its primary March 8, and the state’s demo­graph­ic pro­file suits Christie. Flor­ida, Illinois, and Ohio are win­ner-take-all states where a cen­ter-right can­did­ate like Christie should do well (again, as­sum­ing Christie has enough mo­mentum to chase out like-minded rivals).
But I think The Washington Post's Robert Costa is closer to the mark when he writes this, although I think I'm twisting his words somewhat:
Recent past Republican presidential primaries were shaped by whether candidates passed a series of ideological benchmarks, but the 2016 race has been dominated instead by personality.
What I'm seeing, everywhere but New Hampshire, is not a series of ideological "lanes," but rather a series of personality "lanes." Trump is winning the undiluted-rage lane -- and the guy who's increasingly dominating the I-won't-burn-everything-to-the-ground lane is, frighteningly, Cruz. Or maybe there are three lanes -- destroy-it-all, destroy-some-of-it, and play-nice. Rubio is winning the play-nice lane, but the race is really between Trump in the destroy-all lane and Cruz in the destroy-most lane.

Ellen Brodsky from NewsHounds directs our attention to the message Ted Cruz delivered on Fox's New Year's Eve broadcast. It is, as she says, creepy:

Cruz, in a voice filled with hammy hope and optimism, talked only of all the things he looks forward to obliterating:
CRUZ: Happy New Year. 2016 is going to be an incredible year. 2016 is going to be the last year of the Obama presidency. 2016 is going to be the last year before Hillary retires permanently to Chappaqua. 2016 is going to be the last year that we have ObamaCare.

... 2016 is going to be the last year until we abolish the IRS. And 2016 is going to be the last year until we utterly destroy ISIS and defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

Like 1980, 2016 is going to be a very, very good year.
... Then came the acrimonious joke which, Cruz said in a folksy voice, was “just a simple story, a story that I’ve heard on the trail.”

The gist of the “simple story” that went on for more than a full minute is that in January, 2017 “a little old man” goes to the White House day after day asking for Barack Obama and is repeatedly told Obama is no longer president. The predictable punch line was, “The little old man smiles and with a twinkle in his eye, says, ‘I know that. I just love hearing you say it!’ And the Marine promptly salutes (as did Cruz, melodramatically) and says, ‘See you tomorrow, Sir!’”

“2016 is going to be a very, very good year,” Cruz concluded.
Acrimonious? Yes. But if you can stand to watch it, check out the tone. It's soft-spoken. It's cornball. It's Reagan.

Reagan was a destroyer, although he wasn't a burn-it-to-the-ground guy like Trump. He got away with it because his affect was folksy and reassuring. If you watch the clip, try to put your own political revulsion aside -- try to imagine you're the average heartland American, maybe not particularly political, maybe mildly conservative. I'm convinced that, to people like that, Ted Cruz is not at all scary. And, thanks to Fox and the mainstream GOP (never mind the Tea Party), the things Cruz is talking about -- repealing Obamacare, abolishing the IRS, wallowing in Obama-hate -- don't come off as extreme at all.

We've all been looking for the anti-Trump. I'm afraid we may have found him -- and he's Ted Cruz.


Victor said...

So, if not the Devil, then we'll be fighting off drowning in the deep Red Sea.


If it had to be a choice between those two, I'd pick Trump.

Trump has a better chance of putting in some decently qualified people in positions, since he wouldn't want to look like fool. Of course, he'd be firing them for the slightest offence, but...

Ted, on the hand, would do a W.
He'd put "Christian" conservative ideologues, like himself and his Pappy, in high positions, and leave it to the Lord to guide his and their hands.


Ten Bears said...

I think the Republicans are starting to have the same "hold your nose and vote the lesser evil" conversation progressives have been having for number of years now.

Leo Artunian said...

"If you watch the clip, try to put your own political revulsion aside . . . "

I'm sorry -- I can't. I just can't. Cruz is the epitome of smarmy creepiness.

Unknown said...

Steve M., I think you are grossly misunderweighing the massive appeal of the Italitan Thighalian, Encrusti Criscii, with the hosts and booking producers on the MSNBC flagraft, Mourning Goe. I don't watch that piece of livish WTF every pre-dawn (Who could?). but whenever I do, there it is, right up in my granola and plain yogur: that phat phuk of a Git Yal'self a Gun Jersey hood, oozing DNA and fatty acids thru my screen.

Isn't being the 'most popular Republican in California' these days like being the most popular Shi'ia mystic in Dothan Alabama?

Yastreblyansky said...

Unknown has a point there on California. Republicans don't have any responsibility there, since they can no longer win an election outside a few selected congressional districts, and I think that's allowed a lot of crazy to rise to the top. In Schwarzenegger's time (as in Reagan's) they focused on unity over tax issues because that's what they were paid to do by contributors who expected some practical quid for their quo, and there was a lot of room for differing views on other issues; nowadays I think the money comes more from fanatical anti-environment patrons and religious lunatics, not expecting to win but just trying to amplify their voices.

In a way that's the future of the Republican party (and we'll get taken over in the meantime by hedge fund liberals, I fear).

Steve M. said...

No, California probably won't go Republican anytime soon. But blue states, and even blue congressional districts, willsend quite a few delegates to the GOP convention -- see this discussion of the Republican delegate selection process from FiveThirtyEight. Some pundits argue that voters in these states and districts are moderates and therefore will go for the likes of Bush/Christie/Kasich, so if we think Trump and Cruz are winning, we're not doing a deep enough dive into the delegate selection rules. My counterargument is that Republicans in blue states and districts have been embracing Trump and, to judge from this poll, might now be ready to embrace Cruz.

\'Grain said...

Steve - thanks for the comment at my place (I'm honored!), and I have a reply there.

The thing with California is that it really is two states, but it is an east-west divide not north-south as most people think. The Central Valley is as Republican as Kansas, and the higher up you go on I5, you start hitting the Republic of Jefferson types who want to separate off from the Republican squishes to their south.

Frankly, I'd be surprized if they would go for Cruz. There's a streak of racism that I think would stop them cold from supporting him.



Unknown said...

I second Tengrain's review of the California split.

Last nite for some reason I was going thru the biggest presidential landslides since 1900, which IMO are:
1904 Teddy
1932 FDR
1936 FDR even bigger
1964 LBJ
1972 Crook Nixon
1984 Reagan

Now, two things: thing 1 is that 4 or those, arguably 5 given the JFK assassination, were incumbency victorsy; and thing 2 is that in at least 3 and maybe up to 5 of them the loser was a really weak candidate (Hoover wasn't weak per se; he'd been been weakened by 3 years of flailing away against the Great Depression with 'conseravative' established pro-bankster pro-oligarch policies.).

So, I'm thinking we could be in for a real wing-dinger of a landslide in 2016, what with the Rs being saddled as a matter inevitability, with their most out-of-the-times candidate since Alf Landon, and the Ds at the same time presenting the electorate with their first ever chance to elect X (X being either a woman or a socialist, also a jew).

I'm calling it now: landslide. President Hillary or President Bernie, a Dem-run senate (led, unfortunately, by the Best Friend to Banks, Chuckles Schumer), and - I'm calling it folks - a FUNCTIONING PLURALITY for the Pelosi-led Dems in the House.