Monday, March 16, 2015

A Whiff Of Desperation Signals An Ugly GOP Nomination Battle-- New Hampshire


If you think of average Iowa voters as common-sense pragmatists who swing back and forth between the two parties-- Iowa went for Clinton in 1996, Gore in 2000, George W. Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008 and 2012-- you're not thinking of the activists who turn out every 4 years for the Republican caucuses. These are not, for the most part, common-sense pragmatists or even mainstream conservatives. Ideologues, religious lunatics and extremists dominate the Republican caucuses. Remember, last time Santorum beat Romney and 4 years before that Huckabee drew 34% against 25% for Romney and 13% for eventual nominee John McCain. That circus will take place in mid-January 2016, about a month before South Carolina Republicans hold their primary. South Carolina Republican primary voters are pretty extreme as well. But in between, probably a week after the Iowa caucuses, is the New Hampshire primary, supposedly the one early-in-the-process hope a mainstream conservative candidate like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie has for gaining some traction.

With all those candidates trying to appeal to the far right, perhaps New Hampshire could be the salvation for Bush? Well, New Hampshire Republicans, like Iowa Republicans, are pretty out there and not to be mixed up with normal New Hampshire voters. But, as Jonathan Martin explained in yesterday's NY Times, "If there is no truly contested Democratic primary here, the unaffiliated voters who are allowed to participate in either party’s balloting could flood into the Republican race and bolster one of the more moderate candidates. 'The more independents you get in a potential Republican electorate, the more unpredictable the electorate becomes,' said Thomas D. Rath, a former state attorney general and longtime Republican strategist."

Over the weekend Bush and Scott Walker (not to mention extremist Ted Cruz) did their first campaign trips to New Hampshire. They're already starting to attack each other, albeit just gently for now.
Visiting a Hudson business Friday, Mr. Bush defended his support for the Common Core education standards, saying candidates needed to have a “backbone” in the face of political pressure. And after the house party, he said Mr. Walker had “changed his views on immigration.”

After his speech on Saturday, Mr. Walker acknowledged, as he had previously, that he had shifted toward opposing any pathway to legal status for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

“This is one where we listened to people all across the country, particularly border governors who saw how this president messed that up,” he said of President Obama before taking a barely veiled swipe at Mr. Bush, who remains supportive of offering undocumented immigrants legal status. “And that’s an issue where I think people want leaders who are willing to listen to people.”

Mr. Walker, who has also moved to oppose the Common Core standards, dismissed the effort by Mr. Bush’s backers to portray him as shifting his views to appeal to the party’s conservative voters, calling the charge a false “narrative from the other campaigns.”

But Mr. Walker has not been shy about trying to create his own narrative in contrast to Mr. Bush’s.

He called Mr. Bush “a friend” in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times but said, “I just think voters are going to look at this and say, ‘If we’re running against Hillary Clinton, we’ll need a name from the future, not a name from the past, to win.’”

And Mr. Walker suggested that Mr. Bush’s early fund-raising strength was mostly a product of his father’s and brother’s winning favors for the family through appointments and ambassadorships.

“What we’re hoping going forward are not donors of obligation but donors of passion, people who are passionate about the reforms we bring to the table,” he said.

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