Stephen Colbert On Ben Carson & Marco Rubio At The GOP Debate

The top moments of the last Republican debate were Ben Carson’s entrance and Marco Rubio’s robotic repetition of a single line, even after Chris Christie had already started mocking him for this. Stephen Colbert mocked all three Republicans in the video above.

It remains to be seen whether this will hurt Rubio in today’s New Hampshire primary but with the results in as I am posting this it looks like he will do at best third, and possibly worse. However, at the moment, he is leading Christie.

Update: Now that the New Hampshire results are in, we know that this could have been the moment which destroyed Rubio’s chances at winning the nomination.It also might have been a case of murder/suicide for Chis Christie, who has dropped out of the race.

Quote of the Day: Conan O’Brien on Lying Republicans

Conan  Monologue

“Sarah Palin accused Ted Cruz of lying about Ben Carson and stealing the Iowa caucus. This is my favorite thing in politics, when people lie and cheat to get the evangelical Christian vote.” –Conan O’Brien

Down To One Liberal And One Defender Of Civil Liberties In The Presidential Race

Colbert Hungry for Power Games

The number of presidential candidates should drop quickly now that voting has begun. It is not surprising that many of the candidates are waiting to see if they do better than the polls have predicted, which is reasonable considering how poorly polls often are at predicting primary results. Some of the more mainstream candidates are putting their hopes on New Hampshire. For other candidates, a loss in Iowa was enough to tell them that they had no chance.

On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley announced that he is suspending his campaign while the Iowa caucus was in progress. It has been clear for months that O’Malley had no real chance with the conservative/establishment voters going for Clinton and the liberal/pro-insurgent voters going for Sanders. There was no middle lane for O’Malley, who certainly would be a far better choice than Clinton. He campaigned hard in Iowa, and there was no point in continuing once this failed to result in support at the caucuses. This leaves Bernie Sanders as the only liberal or progressive left in the race from either party.

For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus is the best shot for a candidate from the religious right to win, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have done in the past. Republicans this year are bucking their usual trend of backing the next in line, with Ted Cruz winning this year. Huckabee at least deserves credit for realizing there is no hope and not dragging it on any longer. I wonder how much longer Rick Santorum and Ben Carson will stay in the race.

Rand Paul dropped out today, realizing it made more sense to work at holding on to his Senate seat, especially when he is increasingly being excluded from the Republican debates. While I disagree with Paul on many things, I did like having Paul criticizing the other candidates for their conservative positions on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. For that matter, while he has done so at times, I also wish Bernie Sanders would do the same regarding Clinton’s views.

With Paul out, this leaves Sanders as the only candidate opposing unnecessary foreign intervention, the only candidate opposing the surveillance state and other restrictions on civil liberties, and the only candidate who opposes the drug war. By concentrating on economic issues, where he also differs substantially from all the remaining candidates, other issues are receiving too little attention this year.

Stephen Colbert did not do his usual segment on Hungry For Power Games last night, concentrating on the caucus instead. Now he has three candidates to mock tonight.

Update: Rick Santorum is also dropping out.

Iowa Caucus Comes Down To Turnout & Peculiarities Of A Caucus Versus A Primary

Iowa Caucus

(This is based upon Saturday’s post with major updates, also posted at The Moderate Voice  earlier today)

The Democratic caucus in Iowa is too close to call and will come down to turnout, along with other factors seen in a caucus as opposed to a primary. The final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll before the Iowa Caucus showed Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders with 45 percent compared to 42 percent. The three point lead is within the poll’s margin of error at four percent. Martin O’Malley trails at three percent.

The final Quinnipiac University Poll, coming out this morning, has Sanders leading Clinton by three points, also within the margin of error.

While I have often pointed out the limitations of polls before primaries, the final Des Moines Register poll is probably the most likely to be predictive. Among its virtues, it does not exclude voters based upon past lack of participation in the caucuses as many other polls do. While it has a better track record than other polls, it still suffers from the same problem of all pollsters in not knowing who will actually turn out. Traditional Democratic voters favor Clinton while more independent voters strongly favor Sanders, but we don’t know how many of them will participate in the caucuses. Higher turn out than usual would increase the chances of a victory for Sanders.

Being a caucus rather than a pure primary vote creates additional questions. A candidate has to meet a fifteen percent threshold for their vote to count towards selecting delegates in the Democratic caucus. If they do not meet this threshold, then the second choice becomes crucial. Greater support for Sanders than Clinton among O’Malley supporters nearly erases Clinton’s lead if the votes go to Sanders. However, Buzzfeed reports on how the Clinton campaign is trying to game the system by having some of their supporters back O’Malley so that he will meet the fifteen percent viability requirement to keep his supporters from going to Sanders. Of course plotting such a strategy and getting Iowa voters to go along are two different things. I recall how Clinton protested over similar actions by the Obama campaign eight yeas ago.

Bloomberg has more background on Clinton’s strategy in Iowa–basically doing the opposite of what she did in 2008.

Another question is the consequence of the difference in date for the caucus this year compared to 2008, when Obama came in first and Clinton came in third. The 2008 caucus occurred on January 3, when many college students were still on vacation, and possibly out of the state. Will having the caucus occur after students have returned to school provide an additional benefit to Sanders? On the other hand, will college students be more likely to caucus near their campus as opposed to at homes throughout Iowa. There is the danger that this will lead to Sanders having huge leads in some areas, such as Iowa City and Ames, while not doing as well as Obama did in other parts of the state. This could result in Clinton picking up more delegates statewide even if Sanders narrowly wins the popular vote. The Sanders campaign is urging students to “Go Home for Bernie” to vote throughout the state but such travel plans might be complicated by a major storm expected to hit Iowa later tonight.

With turnout so important, Sanders supporters hope that the large turnout at his events indicate a greater likelihood of turning out to caucus.

Donald Trump leads among the Republicans at 28 percent with Ted Cruz in second place at 23 percent in the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Poll. However, Trump has a weak ground game making it possible for an upset. I also wouldn’t be surprised if candidates such as Rubio, or even Ben Carson, do better than expected. The usually confident Trump is admitting to being a “little bit nervous” going into tonight’s vote.

Interpreting The Final Des Moines Register Poll Showing A Statistical Tie Between Clinton And Sanders

Des Moines Register Poll Final

The final Des Moines Register/Blomberg Poll before the Iowa Caucus shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders with 45 percent compared to 42 percent. The three point lead is within the poll’s margin of error at four percent. Martin O’Malley trails at three percent.

While I have often pointed out the limitations of polls before primaries, the final Des Moines Register poll is probably the most likely to be predictive. Among its virtues, it does not exclude voters based upon past lack of participation in the caucuses as many other polls do. While it has a better track record than other polls, it still suffers from the same problem of all pollsters in not knowing who will actually turn out. Traditional Democratic voters favor Clinton while more independent voters strongly favor Sanders, but we don’t know how many of them will participate in the caucuses. Higher turn out than usual would increase the chances of a victory for Sanders.

Being a caucus rather than a pure primary vote creates additional questions. A candidate has to meet a fifteen percent threshold for their vote to count towards selecting delegates in the Democratic caucus. If they do not meet this threshold, then the second choice becomes crucial. Greater support for Sanders than Clinton among O’Malley supporters nearly erases Clinton’s lead.

Another question is the consequence of the difference in date for the caucus this year compared to 2008, when Obama came in first and Clinton came in third. The 2008 caucus occurred on January 3, when many college students were still on vacation, and possibly out of the state. Will having the caucus occur after students have returned to school provide an additional benefit to Sanders? On the other hand, will college students be more likely to caucus near their campus as opposed to at homes throughout Iowa. There is the danger that this will lead to Sanders having huge leads in some areas, such as Iowa City and Ames, while not doing as well as Obama did in other parts of the state. This could result in Clinton picking up more delegates statewide even if Sanders narrowly wins the popular vote.

Donald Trump leads among the Republicans at 28 percent with Ted Cruz in second place at 23 percent.

Update:  Buzzfeed reports on how the Clinton campaign is trying to game the system by having some of their supporters back O’Malley so that he will meet the fifteen percent viability requirement to keep his supporters from going to Sanders. Of course plotting such a strategy and getting Iowa voters to go along are two different things. I recall how Clinton protested over similar actions by the Obama campaign eight yeas ago. Plus Bloomberg has more background on Clinton’s strategy in Iowa–basically doing the opposite of what she did in 2008.

An updated post with further news, including Sanders leading in latest pre-Iowa poll, is here.

The Vast Ideological Gap Between Hillary Clinton and Supporters of Bernie Sanders

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

Politico looks at Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent problem:

Mitt Romney had a 47 percent problem. Hillary Clinton’s problem is 43 percent.

That’s the share of Democratic caucus goers in Iowa who identify themselves as “socialists,” according to a recent Des Moines Register poll. It’s a percentage that has turned a once-easy line of attack – painting Bernie Sanders as too far left to be electable — into a trickier endeavor for Clinton in the last days before the Iowa caucuses.

This gives one explanation of why the polls in Iowa are now so close, but it over-simplifies the situation. It is not really about socialists versus capitalists. Sanders’ views are far closer to those of European Social Democrats. He is not a socialist, and I certainly am not.  The ideological divide, and the reasons I support Sanders over Clinton, are more complex.

Using the flawed left/right ideological spectrum also creates more serious misunderstandings and feeds the Clinton camp’s false claims that she is more electable than Sanders. The left/right spectrum misses the fact that independents and voters in battle ground states are often hostile towards Clinton and that Sanders has a much better chance with such voters. Part of this is because of voters looking at character as opposed to ideology. Another factor is that Sanders is closer to the ideological center where voters who would consider voting Democratic fall.

Political Compass is one of many sites which measure political views along two or more axes. While no system is perfect, they do a good job of capturing the approximate relative positions of the primary candidates. This shows, as I have often argued during this primary battle, that Hillary Clinton is far closer to the Republican candidates than she is to Bernie Sanders (or to my position). Their graphing of the primary candidates is above and the following is from their description of the candidates:

Style more than substance separates Trump from Hillary Clinton. After all, Trump was a generous donor to Clinton’s senate campaigns, and also to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary is nevertheless disingenuously promoting herself as the centrist between an extreme right-winger (Trump) and an ‘extreme left-winger’ (Sanders). Abortion and gay marriage place her on a more liberal position on the social scale than all of the Republicans but, when it comes to economics, Clinton’s unswerving attachment to neoliberalism and big money is a mutual love affair.

Quite why Sanders is describing himself to the American electorate — of all electorates — as a ‘socialist’ or ‘democratic socialist’ isn’t clear. His economics are Keynesian or Galbraithian, in common with mainstream parties of the left in the rest of the west — the Labour or Social Democrat parties. Surely ‘Social Democrat’ would be a more accurate and appealing label for the Sanders campaign to adopt.

I don’t totally agree with the placement of the candidates. I think they rank Clinton a little more liberal on social issues than she falls, ignoring her past position on gay marriage until politically expedient to change, and her association with members of the religious right in The Fellowship while in the Senate. I would also put a greater distance between them on foreign policy than described in the full post linked above.

Despite these disagreements, the overall pattern is right. Clinton is a bit more moderate than the Republican candidates, but ideologically in the same authoritarian right area. Sanders falls closer to the libertarian than the authoritarian end where the other candidates fall, but not all that much left of center economically.

Personally I fall much further in the left-libertarian section, falling much more towards the libertarian end than Sanders (although I also question if he shouldn’t fall somewhat further along the libertarian axis than shown here). It is no surprise that left-libertarians have been heavily in support of Sanders this year.

This is the divide the Democrats now face. It isn’t that many Democratic voters are socialists, but we do differ considerably from Hillary Clinton in ideology, and do not see much of a difference between her and the Republicans.  Obviously this will not apply to all Sanders supporters, and some could even manage to vote for Hillary Clinton in a general election without having to hold their noses, but it does apply to many of us.

Many young voters share socially libertarian and secular views which put them closer to the left-libertarian portion of the political spectrum. Many of us older voters got more active in politics in response to the abuses of the Bush years. As I wrote earlier in the week, we are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has also been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

Hillary Clinton is just a slightly more moderate version of George Bush. Yes, the Republicans have moved even further towards the authoritarian right corner of the spectrum, but that still does not leave Clinton as a desirable choice.

Dana Milbank Is Wrong–Nominating Sanders Is The Rational Choice For Democrats

Bernie Sanders Large Crowd

Dana Milbank repeated the establishment line in a column fallaciously entitled, Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders.

I adore Bernie Sanders.

I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.

And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.

And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.

Milbank dismissed the evidence that Sander would do better against the Republicans than Clinton:

Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.

Milbank ignores how Clinton and her surrogates have already been launching right-wing sounding attacks against Sanders. Despite this, Sanders does better than Clinton against Republicans in national polls. More significantly in terms of winning the general election, Clinton does poorly with independents and in the battle ground states.

Right wing attacks on Sanders won’t be any different from right wing attacks on Obama, who they already claim is a Marxist Socialist, and a foreign-born Muslim, who will be sending the black helicopters out any minute now to take away their guns and put them in FEMA concentration camps.

Milbank also ignores the importance of turn out. Republican attacks on Sanders will primarily appeal to Republican voters–not people who would ever vote for Sanders. However both Sanders own campaigning and Republican attacks will motivate Democratic leaning voters to turn out. It is Sanders, not Clinton, who has been exciting voters for the past several months, and inspiring many new voters to get involved.

There are traditionally two ways to win an election–motivate your base to turn out in high numbers or win over independents. Sanders can do better than Clinton at both. Plus he can get votes from people who have not voted for the major political parties in the past.

Plus as a general rule of thumb, it is best not to nominate the candidate whose practices are the subject of an active FBI investigation. A Clinton candidacy, assuming she is not indicted, will be dominated by talk of scandal, most likely suppressing the Democratic vote and energizing the Republicans.

Milbanks admits that voters must be willing to hold their nose to vote for Clinton, but what makes him so sure that they will do so as opposed to staying home? Running on the argument that “my candidate is bad, but yours is even worse” is not how to win an election. Voters want to vote for something, not just vote for the lesser of two evils.

With all their faults, at least Republicans are willing to stand for something, even if the wrong things. Republicans don’t worry if their candidates are too extreme, and they reject those who they consider to be Republicans In Name Only.

Many Sanders supporters back him primarily because of the economic issues which have dominated the campaign. Many of us became active in the blogosphere in response to the abuses of the Bush administration. We are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

This is hardly a record to get people who vote based upon principle, as opposed to party affiliation, to get out to vote for Hillary Clinton. No wonder Milbank realizes we would have to hold our noses.

Democrats, and some of their supporters in the media, think Democrats need to hide from principles and run candidates who are Republican-lite. They never get the lesson, no matter how often that results in the Democrats losing.

Fortunately not everyone agrees. The Nation gave one of their rare endorsements to Sanders and The Washington Post also ran a recent op-ed by arguing that Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect.

Many of the pundits agree — this is a choice between head and heart. If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.

But this conventional wisdom clashes with the reality that this country has suffered serial devastations from choices supported by the establishment’s “responsible” candidates. On fundamental issue after issue, it is the candidate “of the heart” who is in fact grounded in common sense. It wasn’t Sanders’s emotional appeal, but his clearsightedness that led the Nation magazine, which I edit, to make only its third presidential endorsement in a primary in its 150-year history.

For example, foreign policy is considered Clinton’s strength. When terrorism hits the headlines, she gains in the polls. Yet the worst calamity in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam surely was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Clinton voted for that war; Sanders got it right and voted against. Clinton has since admitted her vote was a “mistake” but seems to have learned little from that grievous misjudgment. As secretary of state, she championed regime change in Libya that left behind another failed state rapidly becoming a backup base for the Islamic State. She pushed for toppling Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and lobbied for arming the Syrian opposition, a program that ended up supplying more weapons to the Islamic State than to anyone else. Now she touts a “no fly zone” in Syria, an idea that has been dismissed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as requiring some 70,000 troops to enforce, and by President Obama as well. People thinking with their heads rather than their hearts might well prefer Sanders’s skepticism about regime change to Clinton’s hawkishness.

The worst economic calamity since the Great Depression came when the excesses of Wall Street created the housing bubble and financial crisis that blew up the economy. Clinton touts her husband economic record, but he championed the deregulation that helped unleash the Wall Street wilding. The banks, bailed out by taxpayers, are bigger and more concentrated than they were before the crash. Someone using their head — not their heart — would want to make certain that the next president is independent of Wall Street and committed to breaking up the big banks and shutting down the casino. But Clinton opposes key elements of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) rational reform agenda for the banks, and her money ties to Wall Street lead any rational observer to conclude she’s an uncertain trumpet for reform.

Americans continue to suffer from a broken heath-care system that costs nearly twice per capita as those in the rest of the industrialized world — with worse results. Obama’s health reforms have helped millions get health care — particularly through the expansion of Medicaid and by forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions. But millions continue to go without care, millions more are underinsured and unable to afford decent coverage, and even more are gouged by drug companies and insurance companies that game the system’s complexities. Eventually the United States will join every other industrial nation with some form of simplified universal care. Sanders champions moving to “Medicare for all.” Clinton has mischaracterized his proposal, erroneously claiming it would “basically end all kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the Chip Program. It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” She says she would build on Obamacare but has yet to detail significant reforms that would take us closer to a rational health-care system. Sanders supported Obamacare but understands we can’t get to a rational health-care plan without leaders willing to take on the entrenched interests that stand in the way. It isn’t romantic to think that it is long past time for the United States to join every other industrial country and guarantee affordable health care for all…

In the face of the Sanders surge, Clinton supporters have resorted to the “electability argument”: that Sanders can’t be elected because he’s too far left. Put aside the irony of Clinton dismissing the electoral viability of someone she might lose to. Clinton has inevitable baggage of her own that raises doubts about her electoral prospects. And Clinton’s decision to present herself as the candidate of continuity in a time of change is problematic.

Clinton’s closing ad before Iowa makes her central argument clear: Trust her. She’s experienced and committed. She’ll keep Republicans from taking away the progress we’ve made. Sanders’s ad makes his argument clear: Trust yourself. Come together, take back the country and make this nation better. The first appeals to the head; the latter to the heart. But even the most hard-headed pragmatist might think the latter has as good a chance at getting elected and a better chance of forcing change than the former.

Update: Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Head Of Organization Spreading False Claims About Planned Parenthood Indicted By Texas Grand Jury

planned_parenthood_ap_328_0

There was an unexpected turn of events in a grand jury investigation in Texas regarding the bogus charges against Planned Parenthood. The grand jury not only declared there was no wrong doing on the part of Planned Parenthood, but indicted the director of the group which spread the debunked claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.  The Washington Post reports:

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said David Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, faces a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to buying human tissue.

Sandra Merritt, one of Daleiden’s employees, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.

The grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of any wrongdoing.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson said in a statement. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

Republican candidates were not happy. Think Progress quotes some of them.

Tina Fey On Sarah Palin’s Endorsement Of Donald Trump

Tina Fey returned to Saturday Night Live following Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump (video above).

Previous appearances of Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin can be seen here, here, here, here, here, and links to her older appearances are here.

Also, from recent posts, Stephen Colbert’s impersonation of Palin endorsing Trump (and others) can be seen here. A comment from Jimmy Fallon in the endorsement is posted here.

Quote of the Day: Jimmy Fallon on Sarah Palin

Jimmy Fallon

At a Donald Trump rally in Oklahoma, Sarah Palin called President Obama a “weak-kneed capitulator in chief.” When asked if she knows what a capitulator is, she said, “Of course I do — it’s one of those worms that turns into a butterfly!” –Jimmy Fallon