Real voters head to the polls less than a month from now. Where do things stand? A few things we know:
4 candidates lead in the early states – Cruz and Clinton lead in Iowa, Trump and Sanders in New Hampshire, Clinton and Trump lead in the less polled Nevada and South Carolina. Only these four candidates can claim leads in the early states and top tier status as 2016 begins. All four have plenty of money and will be able to compete as the map gets big when over half the country will vote in just the first 15 days of March. These four all clearly have a shot at this point. The path for every other candidate in both parties is far harder to see.
So much weakness on the GOP side – Consider these Real Clear Politics national averages now:
Christie 4.8, O’Malley 4.6, Bush 4.3, Paul 2.8, Fiorina 2.5, Huckabee 2.0, Kasich 1.8
After months of significant exposure to the public and tens of millions of dollars of television ads, the four GOP candidates who have gotten a huge amount of press and free media coverage – Christie, Bush, Fiorina and Kasich – stand at 13% combined, less than Ted Cruz, far less than Bernie Sanders, and any one of them now is only running even with or trailing Martin O’Malley, who has been totally ignored by the national media. Republican voters have had a good long look at these candidates and just don’t seem to be buying. Hard to see how any one of them breaks out in the weeks ahead and challenges the top tier, Trump and Cruz, and Rubio who is still hanging in their but continues to struggle to find his place.
Will the debates change anything? The GOP field is far more likely to be affected by the debates, as they hold three before New Hampshire – Jan 14, 28 and Feb 6 - while the Dems only hold one, on Sunday night Jan 17. Expect the ratings for all these debates to be very high as voters all across the country will be paying much more attention now (see here for our collection of materials on the debate strategy of the two parties so far).
So, what is going to happen? Who knows….but as 2016 begins, four candidates – Trump, Cruz, Clinton and Sanders – have a real shot. For the rest, including Rubio, the path to the nomination is hard to see. But of course we know things will change, and could change quickly. Stay tuned!
Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You find previous columns here.
Just a quick note of thanks for your support and partnership this past year. As I survey the landscape, there is much progress to celebrate, and opportunities to be thankful for. Consider just these:
• The US economy continued its long, slow recovery, with the unemployment now close to “full employment,” wages picking up, deficits a third of what they were a few years ago, even a modest interest rate rise.
• America’s health care system continued to improve, with close to 20m people gaining insurance and costs flat-lining.
• This Administration’s approach to energy and climate change has helped bring dramatic change to all this important economic, sustainability and geopolitical challenge – America is far more energy independent than in years past, production advances and innovation in the renewable space has been impressive, cost of gas and oil are way down, and the President has helped usher in a new era of global cooperation on climate.
• The Administration’s ambitious trade agenda took a huge step forward the passage of TPA, the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and progress on a host of other important items on the trade agenda. The success of TPP is ushering a new era for America’s interests in Asia.
• The Administration’s far sighted approach towards Latin America paid significant dividends, as new and more modern governments have been elected in Argentina and Venezuela, the remarkable normalization process with Cuba continued and the Vice President’s smart new plan for Central America received substantial bi-partisan backing in the recent budget deal.
• In the Middle East, while there is much to be concerned about of course, there are also signs now that the regional powers understand they must begin to negotiate their way out of the current crisis and not continue to rely on dangerous proxy wars and the funding of radical sectarian elements. Iran agreed to an historic nuclear agreement, substantial peace talks continue in Yemen and Syria, and in Lebanon Iran and Saudi Arabia actually worked out a deal for a new government to bring stability to a county so critical to reclaiming the region.
Not everything went as hoped in 2015. The Islamic State began exporting its chaos outside of Syria and Iraq, we didn’t get a deal on Puerto Rico, the debate over immigration and our more diverse nation took an awful detour, the Internet still remains far too fragile for our own good, and the Syrian refugee crisis further weakened an already wobbly European Union. These are all things that will front of mind for us when we return next year.
But as I sit here today, looking back and imagining forward, I am struck by how much progress we have made, together, in recent years. And as we all power down to spend time with our families, let us take a moment to savor this progress and commit to seeking even more in the year ahead.
Happy Holidays from the spirited and wonderful team at NDN!
At the risk of spoiling your holidays, it’s time for a serious talk about what’s driving the race for the GOP nomination. It’s not just personality, although Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are certainly more effective messengers than, say, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, their ideological doppelgangers. More important, the broad appeal to the party’s base of the extreme attacks by most GOP candidates on immigrants, Muslims, the mainstream rights of women, climate science, and government under both parties raises questions about where the Republican Party is headed.
As is often the case, one reason these messages resonate so powerfully among GOP voters lies in the economy, especially what’s happened to their incomes. New research shows that across groups which account for nearly two-thirds of American households — those headed by people without college degrees — median household incomes fell pretty steadily from 2002 to 2013. (Over the same years, progress by households headed by college graduates slowed but didn’t turn negative.) These data tracked people’s incomes as they aged, capturing their actual economic experience. So, for example, the median income of households headed by people without college degrees who were 35 to 39 years old in 2001 fell about 1 percent per-year from 2002 to 2013, when those same people reached ages 47 to 51.
As documented in my report for the Brookings Institution, these persistent income losses as people aged are unprecedented in modern America. Households headed by people ages 35 to 39 in 1981 and without college degrees saw income gains averaging 2.3 percent per year under Ronald Reagan; and the median incomes of comparable households in the 1990s increased 2.8 percent per-year under Bill Clinton. (An infographic version of the report can be found here.)
White males without college degrees make up a major share of the GOP’s base, and it’s unsurprising that many of them blame their hard times on competition from immigrants and women, abetted by the alleged indifference of the government under both parties. Nor is it unreasonable that people who already feel vulnerable economically also are sensitive to the specter of a new physical threat, including terrorism — so much so that they’re open to ostracizing anyone who shares the faith of the small group of terrorists in Paris and the isolated couple in San Bernardino. Judging by the last GOP debate, most of the candidates (all but Trump and Rand Paul) also expect their base voters to welcome America addressing terrorism by going to war again in the Middle East.
Divisive fights inside the GOP between mainstream conservatives and right-wing populists are not new. In fact, they were features of the 2008 and 2012 nomination races. In the past, the Republican establishment papered over the split by acknowledging the noisy complaints of the right-wing populists. John McCain did so by naming Sarah Palin to his ticket, and Mitt Romney called for anti-immigrant policies so onerous that 11 million undocumented Hispanics would “self-deport.”
This time, the right wing is poised to claim the top of the ticket, intensifying the candidates’ competition for hyper-conservative voters. The race has not only pushed Trump, Cruz and their anti-establishment confederates further to the right; it’s also forced more traditional candidates such as Marco Rubio and even Jeb! Bush to fall in line on most matters. So, come next July in Cleveland, the GOP almost certainly will present itself as a vessel for an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-women, anti-science, and anti-government agenda.
These developments present a serious dilemma for the majority of GOP office holders in Congress and the states, who still identify with mainstream conservatism. Across the Midwest, parts of the South, and most mountain and southwestern states, Republican candidates will have to choose between angering their party’s radicalized base and turning off millions of moderately conservative suburban women and millennials, on top of nearly all Hispanics and Asians. Whatever choice these GOP candidates make, many may not survive 2016 — and the day after the elections, the Republican Party will still face its Hobson’s choice.
The hard political truth is that no one can reconcile alienated, right-wing populists and mainstream establishment conservatives. Unless the economic casus belli for these developments disappears — and strong, broad income progress returns — one side or the other may well be forced to look beyond the GOP.
All of this sounds like good news for the Democrats. In fact, 2014 was the first good year for most households’ incomes since 2000. If Hillary and the next Congress can enact policies and programs that sustain broad income progress, the Democrats could become the nation’s default governing party. If not, the Democratic Party may find itself by 2020 in a bind similar to the Republicans — riven by an ideological battle between angry left-wing populists and the party’s establishment.
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.
Some thoughts on the Sanders/DNC data flare up, an early skirmish in building our 21st century politics:
While what the Sanders campaign did was clearly wrong, the DNC's decision to shut off a candidate's access to party data was an epic, reckless mistake. The DNC must now not only take aggressive steps to ensure a safe, secure data ecosystem, it must establish a clear process for resolution of future data-based disputes/breaches. Their suspension of Sanders's access was not just hasty, it appears to have violated their contractual mechanism for resolving disputes like this, opening up the DNC to legal action and potentially millions of dollars of damages. There simply was no justification for the acts taken by the DNC against the Sanders campaign this week.
In coming days the DNC must do two things to re-establish trust in the data ecosystem the current team at the DNC inherited: 1) spell out a clear policy of how data disputes will be resolved so as to eliminate the specter of arbitrary, punitive actions by future Chairs/staff - what campaign will use the database if they can get tossed off and have their campaign shut down if they piss off the wrong people? 2) conduct the discussed independent security audit now so that the candidates and party committees using the database this cycle have greater assurance that it is working as promised.
The Chair would also be wise work hard to reaffirm the perception of independence of the DNC. Lingering doubts about favoritism and special treatment undermines the integrity of our primary process, and will make party unity in the general more challenging. Free and fair elections are essential to bestowing legitimacy to winners of a vote, which is why America has fought for so hard for open, transparent elections domestically and abroad for generations.
To be clear - the Sanders campaign did bad stuff, and there is a process in place to understand what happened and to take appropriate steps to address. But what the DNC did was an unprecedented and irresponsible intervention in the primary process. They too need to own it and help ensure it never happens again. And I write all this as an enthusiastic support of Hillary Clinton.
Update: In a new piece about the data skirmish, DNC CEO Amy Dacey writes:
"On Thursday, further NGP VAN analysis revealed that it was very likely that a user had taken data out of the system during the breach. Upon learning that, the DNC had to suspend the Sanders campaign’s access to the voter file to ensure the integrity of the system. This action was not taken to punish the Sanders campaign — it was necessary to ensure that the Sanders campaign took appropriate steps to resolve the issue and wasn’t unfairly using another campaign’s data. This temporary suspension was well within the DNC’s authority. Moreover, the DNC was left with little choice in the matter when the Sanders campaign declined to respond in a timely manner to the requests for assistance with an investigation." (bolding ours).
This is the rub of the matter isn't it? Was the DNC within their right to supsend this campaign - or any campaign or state party - if the suspension doesn't follow the protocol layed out in the contract between Sanders/other campaign and the DNC? If the authority didn't come from the contract, where did it come from exactly? The DNC has to help all Democrats better understand this in the days ahead.
Trump and Cruz rising, Hillary losing a bit of steam? - Lots of new polls out these last few days, all showing the same thing - Trump and Cruz have momentum. 6 weeks now till the Iowa Caucuses and at this point Trump and Cruz seem to be creating a new upper tier in the race, with Rubio perhaps being in the second tier all by himself and everyone else in tiers below. The GOP race, with perhaps five candidates still holding out hope (add Bush and Christie to the top three), enters a very intense period now with three debates in the next six weeks, 2 more in February and of course the first four states voting also in February. The Republicans debate tonight on CNN – be sure to watch! (and you can catch me discussing Trump from O’Reilly’s show last Friday night and this extended clip from Howard Kurtz’s Sunday show on Fox).
On the Democratic side there is some evidence of Hillary coming back down to earth after her strong debate performances, and day long Benghazi testimony. In the NBC/WSJ poll Rubio gains 6 points against her and now bests her in a direct head to head 48/45, and Cruz moves from 41/49 to 45/48. The best Iowa poll now has it Clinton 48/39, a bit too close for comfort for Clinton who has lead in some Iowa polls by 20 or more. Even the new WaPo/ABC poll out this morning has her only beating Trump by 6 points among registered voters, 50/44. Since her Benghazi testimony she has been out of the public eye – we are seeing some evidence now that this could be making a difference. All of this data points to the simple reality that nothing is being handed to Hillary Clinton, and she is going to have to fight hard to win the nomination and the general election next year.
Millennials in play? - I am quoted in a Greg Sargent Washington Post piece yesterday looking at what has to be considered a potentially ominous development for the Democrats – Rubio matching Hillary Clinton with millennial voters (and thus beating her 48/45) in the new NBC/WSJ poll. Greg’s piece is well worth reading in its entirety.
The debates matter - Pew has a new poll out showing just how important the debates have been this year to the public discourse. And from NDN’s point of view, just how risky the DNC’s duck and cover strategy has been. As a reminder so far this year 73m people have watched the GOP debates, 25m the Democratic ones.
SNL - Be sure to watch Will Ferrell's return as W Bush in a brand new off the charts awesome SNL skit.
"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You find previous versions here.
Last week Simon sat down with conservative author Matt Lewis for a long discussion about the modernization efforts of the center-left over the past generation, and how conservatives may learn from it. It is well worth a listen.
Matt's new book, "Too Dumb to Fail," has received substantial praise from across the political spectrum. You can get a copy of your very own here.
Reminders of the opportunities and perils in the world today - On this anniversary of Pearl Harbor, what stands out about the 2016 race this morning is how much we’ve been reminded of both the opportunities and perils the modern world offers America today. We wake this morning to the good news of the Chavista government in Venezuela having been routed last night. On the heels of a new and more modern government in Argentina, and the beginning of the normalization of ties with Cuba, Latin America is going through an important period of shedding some of its more destructive and anti-modern impulses. This is of course is good news for the United States, as it is likely to make our own neighborhood more peaceful and prosperous in the years ahead.
But we also wake to the news of another far right victory in European elections, this one in France. In the US and Europe, globalization and all that it brings (rapid migration, economic/social dislocation) is fueling a rise in reactionary parties and politicians. There isn’t a great difference between France’s Le Pen and the US’s Trump. The rise in this reactionary sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic is worrisome of course, and terrorist attacks and Syrian refugees are adding fresh grist to this nationalist mill. The weakening of establishment politics here and in Europe has to become a central reason for greater urgency in both eliminating the Islamic State and resolving the various sectarian conflicts in the Middle East, starting with Syria.
We had some other good news last week as it appears that the Saudis and Iranians worked together to fashion a new government in Lebanon. Perhaps the combination of lower oil prices, the barbarity and prowess of ISIL, the instability mass Middle Eastern refugees are bringing to other regions of the world is all creating a moment where sustained Saudi/Iranian cooperation could become possible. Certainly our leaders should be doing everything we can to encourage this path, as it is the only way peace will ever come to the region in the years ahead.
Be sure to also read my take on the panicky, disappointing GOP response to Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks here. All of these developments are a reminder why we need an experienced, forceful leader in the White House in 2017. Ain't going to be an easy time to be US President in the coming years.
2016 Landscape – Only real significant change this past week is growing evidence that Ted Cruz is making a major move in the polls nationally and in the early states. Ben Carson’s collapse has benefitted Cruz, and he has now become the most significant challenger to the front runner Donald Trump. While Rubio has gained a bit of ground in recent weeks, he is still in the second tier. One thing I wonder is whether his first ad in the early states which so firmly identifies him as coming from a striving immigrant family will end up limiting whatever momentum he may have had from his good performances in recent debates. The GOP’s next debate is in eight days, Tuesday, December 15th. And then six more GOP debates come in the first 10 weeks of 2016. Lots of fireworks ahead!
"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You find previous versions here.
1292 – American injured in 379 mass shootings this year (mass shooting = 4 or more people killed/injured)
431 – Americans killed in mass shootings this year
390 – American civilians killed by terrorists from 2002 to 2013
130 – The number who died in the Paris attacks two weeks ago
4 – The number of Americans who died in the 2012 Benghazi attack (none of whom were civilian, 2 were CIA)
0 – the number of mass shooters stopped this year by a civilian with a gun
Given how much time and effort we’ve put into discussing Benghazi, and terrorism of course, can we continue to have those conversations without also creating a spirited, sustained conversation about how we can keep Americans safe from mass shooters – something that has now become a daily occurrence in the US? At current rates, 10 times as many Americans will die this year due to a mass shooter than a terrorist and yet we do nothing, not even the easy things like universal background checks, allowing the background check system access to the terrorism database, limiting the number of bullets in a clip and more reasonable regulation of gun shops themselves. As a parent of three, I am, for the first time in my life, growing truly worried about the safety of my kids. And I am sure I am not alone.
Those on the center-left should not let NRA backed politicians off the hook any longer. We can honor the 2nd Amendment, while keeping our families safe at home. We also should work to make sure the coming and necessary debate about combating the Islamic State includes steps we need to take here at home to protect us from a threat that has killed many more Americans in recent years – mass shooters.
But our disappointment with the right about their unwillingness to do what is necessary to keep us safe should be not limited to their coddling of the gun industry here in the US. It was on full display in the days after the Paris attacks. As I wrote last week, in the days after Paris rather than finding common ground with the President and his party, the GOP panicked, choosing to deeply politicize the debate over Syrian refugees, something that is a side show to the core issue of how we end the Islamic State and bring better days to the Middle East. The fecklessness that we’ve seen in the GOP Presidential field (and with Speaker Ryan) these last few weeks “After Paris” should be worrisome to all.
Polling/2016 landscape – Nothing really new here. Trump, Cruz and Rubio continue to have the momentum on the GOP side. Not sure the Christie chatter is real. Next GOP debate on CNN on December 15th will be important. Obama’s favs have taken hit a post Paris, but they have been coming back up in recent days. Worth watching. Hillary remains firmly in charge in the Democratic primary, and with improving numbers in the general.
Simon on Howard Kurtz – SImon appeared on Howard Kurtz's Sunday morning show, MediaBuzz. The first segment discussed Donald Trump and his struggles with telling the truth. You can watch the segment here.
12/2 Update - As expected, the House GOP blocked a common sense measure that would make it much harder for terrorists to buy guns in the US.
Earlier this summer, NDN was proud to have helped fund and produce a paper by the chair of NDN's Globalization Initiative, Dr. Rob Shapiro, and his frequent collaborator, Dr. Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute. Called, "Regulation and Investment: A Note on Policy Evaluation With an Application to FCC Title II Regulation of the Internet," the paper takes a detailed look at how FCC regulation in telecommunications can affect capital investment in the industry, with particular attention to the Internet and investments in infrastructure,
You can find a full PDF of the paper below. An excerpt:
"In this paper, we discussed the special challenges faced by policy analysts attempting to evaluate the likely impact of regulation on investment. We suggested a systematic approach toward policy evaluation wherein a researcher first relies upon our theoretical taxonomy to sort a particular regulation into the correct box. This allows one to have clarity regarding the likely sign of the effect of the regulation. To investigate the scale, we argue that micro analogies can be informative but should be checked for plausibility against the predictions of the macro literature we cite. Finally, one should classify the type of investment likely to be affected by the policy, and establish both whether the policy would increase that uncertainty, which is harmful, and would introduce a threshold effect, which could have devastatingly negative effects on investment until the threshold issue is resolved.
The final section provided an empirical example of our approach to analyzing the impact of Title II regulation on Internet investment. First, we showed that Title II regulation should be expected to increase costs, and therefore is the type of policy that should be expected to reduce investment. Second, we reviewed field-specific evidence that suggested that the scale of the negative effect could be quite large, from about 5.5 percent to as much as 20.8 percent. Next, we documented that the ratio of investment to the capital stock would be expected to decline to roughly that extent if Title II regulation in the United States would be comparable to the regulatory framework of the OECD continental European countries in the first decade of the 21st century. Next, we cited an analysis by a legal scholar that suggests that this analogy is reasonable. Finally, we found that the negative effects on investment may well be significantly understated by these factors because the new regulation’s threshold effect will maximize the negative effects of uncertainty."
Shapiro Discusses the Paper with Congress - On October 27th, Dr. Shapiro discussed the findings of the paper at a hearing of the Communcations and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. You can find Dr. Shapiro's testimony and other related materials here.
In a time of challenge, the GOP panics - The one upsmanship for who could be harder on Muslims we saw among Republican President candidates this past week was a powerful reminder that the GOP has long ceased being a “conservative” party and has descended into a far more pernicious “reactionary” period. This is a subject I have discussed at length over the years, including in this long form magazine piece and in this recent piece about how fear will drive the Republicans this election cycle. The fear of modernity that is driving the reactionary right these days is perhaps the most significant force in American politics today, one that is crying out for an equally muscular and modern liberalism to challenge it head on.
Another example of this kneejerky fear of others and foreign threats was the House GOP’s terribly disappointing reaction to the Paris attacks. Of all the things the House GOP could have done last week, the Ryan-led House rushed out a bill – with no hearings and overriding their own internal rules about time needed to consider legislation – making it far tougher for the US to admit Syrian refugees. Regardless of the merits of the bill, the haste in which it was rushed out made it appear to be designed more to undermine and embarrass the President in the middle of an important foreign trip than to develop a more effective, bi-partisan response to the growing threat of the Islamic State. Paul Ryan’s choice was craven, nasty politics in its purest form in a time of challenge, the very opposite of patriotism.
Contrast this not ready for prime time behavior with that of the Democrats: the President continued his important trip to Asia, selling among other things his newly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; and Hillary Clinton gave a thoughtful and mature speech about defeating the Islamic State. Senate Democrats also made a valuable contribution to this nascent debate, countering Ryan’s refugee with a proposal to close the NRA supported loophole that allows those on the terror watch list to legally buy guns in the US (something we think has happened several thousand times, and yes this is a real debate).
There can be no doubt that the nation needs to both develop a better response to the Islamic State and have a respectful, public debate about it. Given how the two parties responded last week to Paris, I am proud of how the Democrats have responded, and worried about where the GOP is headed at a time when we need to come together, work with our allies and be smart (see here for my thoughts on the US should move forward now “After Paris.”)
The US remains a welcoming, generous nation - And while I disagree with Ryan’s refugee bill, I also want to challenge the assertions by some that we are an ungenerous nation when it comes to allowing immigrants into the US. Since 1950 the US has allowed close to 50 million immigrants into the US legally. Another 4 million refugees have resettled here, and another 11 million or so have come here without authorization. In the past 65 years, the US has absorbed 65 million new immigrants – an extraordinary number, equal to 1/5th of our total population today. We are currently taking in 1 million new legal immigrants every year in the US; so over the next 100 years at current rates we will take in 100 million more new immigrants. This graph does a good job capturing both the scale of the recent migration into the US, and its diversity. So while we may head into the Thanksgiving break disappointed with the GOP, we should not for a moment buy into the argument that America is anything but a generous and welcoming nation to immigrants from throughout the world.
See the graph below for US immigration trends ("200 Years of Immigration to the U.S.", Natalia Bronshtein).
I remain convinced that the Democrats should make it far more explicit on their strategy for improving the immigration system. I offered this three part plan as a starting point, one that would include reintroducing the House Democrats immigration bill from 2014, fully funding the Vice President’s Central American plan and supporting the aggressive efforts by this Administration – and repeatedly blocked by the GOP – to make the deportation of dangerous criminals the highest priority of our immigration enforcement system. Pro-reform advocates should stop playing defense now and go out and make it clear how we want to modernize and improve America's terribly broken immigration system.
Polling/National Landscape – The GOP field saw changes last week: Trump’s lead increased across the nation and in the early primary states; Carson, as we predicted, has begun to fade; Cruz and Rubio are making meaningful gains. If current trends continue the GOP race could soon be a three way among Trump, Rubio and Cruz with a large group in the back of the field hanging on by their fingernails and not much else.
The Democratic side saw Hillary having another good week, appearing Presidential and competent in the days after Paris. Bernie Sanders, however, choose to go ahead and give a major address on “democratic socialism,” an act that seemed to reinforce both the liabilities and limitations of his spirited candidacy. What should be worrisome to the Democrats, however, is the initial hit in the polls Obama took this week. After what was the very best run he had had in almost three years in Gallup, the President lost 5 or so points in the last few days. It is a reminder to Democrats that while there is now great optimism about the revitalized Clinton campaign, the performance of the President over the next year will matter as much to 2016 as what she does. It will be important for the President to return from his foreign trip and take control of the substance and politics of this debate about how to best rid the world of the Islamic State and bring a better day to Syria and the broader Middle East.
"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You find previous versions here.