Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Who's Revolting?-- The Koch Deal With Rubio


The Koch brothers (and their dark money network) is part of the "anybody but Herr Trumpf" wing of the GOP-- with the money to fund an effort to destroy Trumpf's candidacy. But they'd rather not spend that money, not if they can watch him fall apart on his own, the way he did in Iowa Monday night. Last weekend, one donor who attended the Koch network’s winter retreat in Coachella told The Hill that the Koch brothers themselves are always very hesitant to get involved in a primary, but "if they were going to do it, this would be the time because they just hate the guy."
Both officials and donors within Charles and David Koch's powerful group hope the real estate tycoon's White House bid dies a natural death so the group can avoid spending a penny of its $889 million 2016 cycle budget against him. But the Koch network's conversations over the weekend concerning what to do about Trump were more detailed than previously revealed.

On the eve of the Iowa causes, Koch network officials referred in a private meeting with donors  to focus group research that included a range of questions including some that identify Trump’s vulnerabilities.

And some influential figures in the group-- which held its largest gathering ever, with 500 donors attending the weekend gathering-- believe that action against Trump would be needed if he emerges dominant out of the Feb. 9 primary in New Hampshire, where he holds a commanding lead in polls.

During a private planning session on Sunday morning, a senior Koch official ran through every presidential candidate, analyzing each one's strengths and weaknesses, said a source who attended the session.

When the official got to Trump, the tone shifted. Trump, the official said, has been on the opposite side of nearly every issue the Koch group cares about, such as taxes, trade and corporate welfare.

Little Lord Rubio
“There's also a constitutional piece,” the same donor added. “The president's job isn't to go up there and be a Caesar-like figure.”

The Koch official shared for the first time focus group research showing that Trump’s popularity falls when voters are shown how working people have suffered as a result of his bankruptcies and business dealings in Atlantic City, N.J. Stories of Trump's efforts to enrich himself by hurting ordinary people proved most effective at generating negative views of Trump, donors were told.

...“You have to judge Trump on his past statements, and while it's clear he's been on two sides of nearly every issue, the one side he's never been on is our side,” said the donor who attended the session but asked not to be named. The conversations were held in a setting that was closed to the small number of press allowed into the resort, which the Koch network rented out in its entirety and stocked with heavy security to prevent infiltration.

Six news outlets, including The Hill, agreed to ground rules in order to cover the event, including not naming donors unless without their permission.

Trump's support for ethanol subsidies is a particular sore point. A Koch official said that Trump filled out a network policy form saying he opposed ethanol subsidies but has since told audiences in Iowa that he thinks the Environmental Protection Agency should work to increase the amount of ethanol blended into the nation’s gasoline supply. In Iowa, the federal policy boosting ethanol production is politically sacred.

Trump's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

And given the Koch group's libertarian philosophy, many donors are appalled by what they see as Trump's vision of himself as a king-like figure who believes that he alone can rescue America.

Summing up the general mood was Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who was applauded when he said in a dinner speech, “The way to make America great again is not by abandoning the Constitutional limits and saying to some guy, ‘Would you be our king?’”

“We can’t give Trump a pass when we don’t know what he stands for.”

Yet the dangers of attacking Trump are keenly understood-- he is famously retaliatory-- and a number of sources within the Koch network stressed that if an attack against Trump can be avoided, it will be.

This is not the first time the Kochs and Trump have been at odds.

The Kochs declined to invite Trump as one of the presidential candidates to attend a donor gathering last summer. The attendees were Rubio, Bush, Cruz, and Fiorina.

In response, Trump unloaded on Twitter. "I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?" the billionaire wrote.

Donors and officials worry that a large-scale assault against Trump could encourage him to run as a third-party candidate, which could result in Hillary Clinton winning the White House in a way similar to how her husband did in 1992. That year, another populist billionaire, Ross Perot, ran as an independent and peeled a large number of voters away from the Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush.

There is also a concern that spending a large amount of money against Trump could help him sell his narrative of being a populist lined up against the establishment and special interests.

Conversations over the weekend suggested that there are a small number Koch figures who remain hopeful that even if Trump does become the nominee, he can be persuaded to adopt more free market policies.

Luke Hilgemann, the CEO of Americans For Prosperity, the main activist group of the Koch network, told The Hill, “If Donald Trump becomes the nominee he’s going to need a lot of help with establishing what his platform is and I think we have that platform."

“You’re going to see the nominee and the party come on board with the fact that our network is the one that’s setting the agenda for the American people, because we have actually talked to them and asked them what their priorities are.”

Koch donor Doug Deason told The Hill that while he doesn't support Trump he thinks the billionaire could ultimately stand up for "free enterprise."

“I like him OK," said Deason, a Texas businessman who supported his state's former Gov. Rick Perry’s failed presidential bid but says he is now on the verge of donating to Cruz.

"He’s a successful man."

The Kochs have encouraged Rubio to take on Trumpf and I'm hearing that they're making support for his campaign contingent on him doing that. They want Jeb, Christie and Kasich to drop out and let Rubio be the "not Trump/not Cruz" candidate of the Republican establishment, but they want him to prove he's not the woos he's so far shown himself to be. Rubio is supposedly ready to after Trumpf on a very personal level, which could be a big problem for Rubio since Trumpf won't hesitate to talk about Rubio's own personal foibles with women lobbyist sex exploits both in Tallahassee and in DC and with his Tallahassee and Miami cocaine adventures and his Tallahassee bribery problems, not to mention his relationship with his disgraced closest political confidant, David Rivera. A big problem, of course, is Jeb-- and his huge warchest-- since he detests Rubio almost as much as he hates Herr Trumpf and possibly more than he hates Cruz.

So that brings us to the PBS Newshour show in the video up top, based on David Frum's The Great Republican Revolt in The Atlantic, about the Republicano mini-civil war and how Frum has come around to thinking that the Republican Party must now preach respect for the work and institutions of government instead of painting it as the enemy. "The government has to be made to work. The government is, I think all Republicans agree, too expensive. But that doesn’t mean that we’d be better off without one, or that you want to destroy the traditional agreements and understandings that make the American government work." Easier said than done, of course:

DAVID FRUM: The Republican Party had planned a dynastic succession for 2016. One Bush would follow smoothly after another Bush. Everything was positioned for this Jeb Bush succession. And, instead, the Republican Party got a class war.

BILL KRISTOL: When you look back at 2012, it’s pretty amazing that the Republican Party nominated a very wealthy Republican who had, in Massachusetts, done a version of Obamacare, as their nominee, in a party that hated Obamacare, that was unhappy about Republican elites, as well as Democratic elites.

DAVID FRUM: They believed Mitt Romney was going to win. And he didn’t. That was a big shock and surprise. The Republican elite, the donors, the members of Congress, had collectively done an analysis of what they believed had gone wrong in 2012.

The only thing the party had done wrong was, it had not been open enough on immigration. Fix that, and everything would fall into place.

EZRA KLEIN: That was the theory. That was a plan. And that’s why you begin by having, right after the 2012 election, a very serious effort, including many top Republicans, like Marco Rubio, John McCain, to push immigration reform.

Of course, that dies in the House, because rank-and-file Republicans and conservatives on talk radio actually didn’t want immigration reform.

...DAVID FRUM: Donald Trump is one of America’s great marketing geniuses. And Trump has, as great marketers do, an intuitive understanding of what the customer wants.

So, he saw this opportunity. In the spring of 2015, if you asked Republicans, you gave them a straight binary choice, what do you want to do with illegal immigrants, do you want to somehow legalize them, or do you want to deport them, you made the choice that stark, what you saw was a majority, more Republicans said deport than legalize.

So, the great marketer came along and said, I see a niche. I see a niche. And it’s the bigger niche. And I can have it all to myself.

...EZRA KLEIN: Trump, unlike a lot of Republicans, says he’s going to protect Medicare, protect Social Security, that he believes in the government. He’s not here to cut your government programs. What he’s here to do is make sure the government is helping you, the downscale, economically struggling white voter.

And this money’s not going to be going to immigrants who are flooding across a border to take advantage of our generosity. And that, for a particular part of the party, is very appealing. And for other parts of the party, it’s really noxious.

DAVID FRUM: Even now, about two-thirds of Republicans find Trump unacceptable. He is unpopular with the more affluent, the more educated and the more religious within the Republican Party. And those are the people who usually do tend to prevail in Republican contests.

BILL KRISTOL: A lot of the conventional view is-- just lumps Cruz and Trump together. But I think Cruz and Trump are very different. And it’s not an accident that they’re now fighting a big war.

Cruz, people can like him, dislike him. At the end of the day, Cruz clerked for the chief justice of the United States. Cruz has argued many cases in the Supreme Court. Cruz wants a very conservative form of limited government, constitutionalism and so forth. And that’s really what his-- the agenda he’s believed in for 20 years is all about.

It’s very different from Trump.

...ERIC CANTOR: When you hear people say, hey, you aren’t trying hard enough, you didn’t shut the government down, you didn’t allow the government to go into default, I mean, these are all things that, to me, so counterintuitive. I mean, nobody understands what that would really mean if you went into default, and all the people that could potentially get hurt.

People will say, yes, things are that bad, go ahead, and just blow it all up, so we can reconstitute it.

EZRA KLEIN: This is part of the problem for the Republican Party, and particularly for the Republican base. They will run elections based on these promises of deep confrontation and tremendous results.

And then, once in office, they can’t deliver on that much, because the American system of government requires a lot of compromise and a lot of consensus for anything to get done. That leads to a cycle of disillusionment within the Republican base, because they feel they voted for these politicians. These politicians made clear promises. They didn’t deliver on the promises.

But one thing that has become, I think, really toxic is the way the base tends to interpret that disappointment, is that the real issue is that the politicians went and got bought by Washington.

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