Bernie Sanders Doing Better Than Clinton Against Republicans In New Hampshire And Iowa

Sanders Clinton

Hillary Clinton has been doing poorly in the battle ground states and among independents, while Bernie Sanders has been doing unexpectedly well. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls of Iowa and New Hampshire show Sanders doing better than Clinton in head to head match-ups against Republican candidates:

In Iowa, Republican Jeb Bush leads Clinton by 10 points in a hypothetical general-election match up among registered voters, 50 percent to 40 percent, and Donald Trump is ahead of her by seven points, 48 percent to 41 percent – essentially unchanged from the poll’s results a month ago.

And Carly Fiorina leads Clinton in the Hawkeye State by 14 points, 52 percent to 38 percent.

But when Sanders is matched up against these same Republicans, his numbers are stronger: Sanders leads Trump by five points in Iowa (48 percent to 43 percent). And he narrowly trails Bush (46 percent to 44 percent) and Fiorina (45 percent to 42 percent).

The same dynamic plays out in New Hampshire.

Clinton leads Trump in the Granite State (48 percent to 45 percent), but she’s behind Bush (49 percent to 42 percent) and Fiorina (50 percent to 42 percent).

Yet Sanders has the advantage against both Trump (52 percent to 42 percent) and Fiorina (47 percent to 45 percent), and he’s tied against Bush in New Hampshire (46 percent to 46 percent).

Clinton leads Sanders for the Democratic nomination in Iowa in this poll (with various polls varying) but her lead has steadily been declining. She led Sanders by fourteen points in July and currently only leads by five. Sanders has been ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire since September.

For months many Clinton supporters have been arguing that Democrats should unite around Clinton as the best hope of preventing a Republican victory in 2016. With Sanders and not Clinton increasingly looking like the more electable candidate, will Clinton supporters now unite behind Sanders?

Another Deadline For Joe Biden & New Criteria For Next GOP Debate

Ridin With Biden

The Los Angeles Times reports on another deadline for Joe Biden to consider when deciding whether to announce a candidacy for the Democratic nomination. He has until November 20 to register for the New Hampshire primary.

As I recently noted, he can wait until October 13, the date of the CNN Democratic debate, to declare his candidacy and still qualify for the debate.

There is speculation that Biden might hold off on officially entering the race and wait to see if Clinton is forced from the race due to the scandals or if her campaign no longer looks viable should she lose to Bernie Sanders in Iowa and/or New Hampshire. The November 20 deadline might also not be of concern to him if he plans on going this route as he is expected to concentrate on South Carolina, as opposed to Iowa and New Hampshire, should he enter the race, which in normal years would be a risky strategy.

Turning to the Republican campaign, CNBC has changed the rules for qualifying for their October 28 debate. Instead of setting an arbitrary number (and then expanding it by one) as in the first two debates, CNBC has announced they will decide by a fixed standing in the polls. As they will round up, a candidate averaging 2.5 percent can make it into the evening debate:

National polls will be used to determine a candidate’s eligibility and placement on the stage. To be eligible to appear in either segment, a candidate must have at least 1% in any one of the methodologically sound and recognized national polls conducted by: NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN and Bloomberg, released between September 17, 2015 and October 21, 2015.

To appear in the 8pm debate a candidate must have an average of 3% among these polls. The polls will be averaged and will be rounded up to 3% for any candidate with a standing of 2.5% or higher. Candidates who average below that will be invited to the 6pm debate.

The Wall Street Journal has speculated on who will make the cut:

A Real Clear Politics average of national polling suggests that the candidates who would make the cut for primetime are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie. Candidates who rank at 2.5% or above in the polls have their numbers rounded up to 3%. Rand Paul’s average in the polls RCP tracks is 2.3%.

Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham—all of whom took part in the undercard debate earlier this month—all rank at 0.5% or less, alternately winning 1% or 0% in the polls.

This formula might help speed up the elimination of the weaker candidates from the race. I do hope that Rand Paul manages to remain in. While I disagree with him on many other issues, I did like seeing him challenge the other candidates on military intervention and the drug war in the second Republican debate.

Update: CNN is now reporting as of October 1 that Biden is not expected to participate in the first debate and plans to delay his decision until later in the month. He might be able to delay but I suspect that the longer he does wait the harder it will be to launch a full scale campaign.

The Second Republican Debate: Faux Controversies, Lies, And One Candidate Was Even Right Twice

CNN Republican Debate

The second Republican debate (transcript here), this time hosted by CNN, didn’t raise as much controversy as the first. Donald Trump was still a dominant force, but whenever the talk got to policy, Trump didn’t know what to say and was quieter. CNN did try to liven things up with having the candidates respond to comments about them from other candidates. This included both comments during the debates and often insults made to the media before the debates. While at times it was a good idea to have the candidates interact, often it was over matters far to trivial to really belong in the debate.

This did allow Carly Fiorina to have one of the better moments of the debate, and she was obviously ready to comment on this insult from Donald Trump:

TRAPPER: In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you. Quote, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.

FIORINA: You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

While candidates often exceeded their time, Fiorina responded perfectly with this brief comment.

It was overall a good night for Fiorina, who might have done more than anyone else to improve her position in the GOP race with her debate performance. Unfortunately doing well in a Republican race does not require telling the truth. She repeated previously debunked claims about her record at HP. While she sounded more forceful than Donald Trump in saying how she would deal with Russia and Syria, Ezra Klein pointed out how she got the facts wrong. Klein, along with Sarah Kliff also pointed out how she was wrong about the Planned Parenthood tapes. There was no scene such as the one she described:

FIORINA: I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

Of course most, if not all, of the candidates were also lying about Planned Parenthood during the debate. Even if they didn’t make a claim as blatantly false as Fiorina did, they repeated the debunked claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.

The biggest whopper came from Jeb Bush when he responded to criticism of his brother from Donald Trump:

TRUMP: Your brother — and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster, those last three months, that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.

BUSH: You know what? As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe.

Both Trump and Jeb Bush were wrong about Obama and George Bush in the above exchange, but it is Jeb’s comments which were the most absurd. The most destructive terrorist attack on the United States occurred on George Bush’s watch, with Bush ignoring intelligence reports which might have enabled the United States to prevent the attack. Bush then followed up the attack by foolishly getting us into the quagmire in Iraq.

Rand Paul is one of the candidates who was nearly forgotten. Donald Trump, who insulted so many of the other candidates that I thought he was preparing to fire one, even said:

TRUMP: Well, first of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s number 11, he’s got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here, there’s far too many people anyway.

While Paul is certainly wrong on many, many things, I noted he was right on two points during the debate.  For this group, just being right twice makes him stand out.

First he pointed out that military intervention is not always the best idea:

PAUL: I think this gets to the point of wisdom on when to intervene and when we shouldn’t. Had we bombed Assad at the time, like President Obama wanted, and like Hillary Clinton wanted and many Republicans wanted, I think ISIS would be in Damascus today. I think ISIS would be in charge of Syria had we bombed Assad.

Sometimes both sides of the civil war are evil, and sometimes intervention sometimes makes us less safe. This is real the debate we have to have in the Middle East.

Every time we have toppled a secular dictator, we have gotten chaos, the rise of radical Islam, and we’re more at risk. So, I think we need to think before we act, and know most interventions, if not a lot of them in the Middle East, have actually backfired on us.

Paul missed the point Obama successfully stepped back from the brink, but his overall point is correct about thinking before engaging in senseless military intervention.

Paul also also criticized the drug war during the debate:

TAPPER: Many people on social media wanted us to ask about marijuana legalization. Senator Paul, Governor Christie recently said, quote, “if you’re getting high in Colorado today,” where marijuana has been legalized, “enjoy it until January 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana.” Will you?

PAUL: I think one of the great problems, and what American people don’t like about politics, is hypocrisy. People have one standard for others and not for them — for themselves.

There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to — to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.

I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration. I’m a fan of the drug courts which try to direct you back towards work and less time in jail.

But the bottom line is the states. We say we like the 10th Amendment, until we start talking about this. And I think the federal government has gone too far, I think that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome, and really has been something that has really damaged our inner cities.

Not only do the drugs damage them, we damage them again by incarcerating them and then preventing them from getting employment over time.

So I don’t think that the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment and I really will say that the states are left to themselves.

Paul was generally right on two points, but neither are going to help him in a Republican primary battle. It is also rather sad that the Democratic front-runner has been wrong on both issues, with Clinton supporting both greater military intervention and being a hard-liner on drug laws.

Paul was more mixed on vaccines. He didn’t go along with Donald Trump’s claims about a connection between vaccines and autism, but also wasn’t consistent with the science:

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, as president, you would be in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, both of which say you are wrong. How would you handle this as president?

TRUMP: Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.

I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in — and I’ve seen it — and I’ve seen it, and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time.

Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me.

Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

Paul later responded:

One of the greatest — one of the greatest medical discoveries of all times was — were the vaccines, particularly for smallpox. And if you want to read a story, it’s called The Speckled Monster, it’s an amazing story, it was all done voluntary.

But people came in by the droves. George Washington wouldn’t let his wife visit until she got vaccinated. So I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom.

I’m also a little concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all of their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least.

The debate will probably not change the race very much but it is a good thing that the candidates were provided this opportunity to present their views to a national audience on a repeated basis. If only the Democratic National Committee would do the same this year and allow more than six debates total.

Update: The New York Times reviewed  Crazy Talk at the Republican Debate with Paul Krugman adding additional Fantasies and Fictions at G.O.P. Debate

Bernie Sanders Fights Back Against Conservative Attacks From Wall Street Journal & Clinton Camp

Sanders Responds WSJ

I imagine it is a good thing that both conservatives and the Clinton campaign now see Bernie Sanders as a threat, with both attacking him from the right.

The Wall Street Journal ran a scare story earlier this week entitled, Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion:

He proposes $1 trillion to repair roads, bridges and airports. His college-affordability program would cost $750 billion over a decade. Smaller programs would provide youth jobs and prevent cuts to private pension plans. He would raise an additional $1.2 trillion in Social Security taxes in order to increase benefits and pay those already promised for 50 years. That would bolster the program but fall short of the 75 years of solvency that is typically what policy makers aim to achieve.

Mr. Sanders says he also would propose an expansion of federal support for child care and preschool, though he hasn’t said how much those programs would cost, and they aren’t included in this total.

His most expensive proposal, by far, is his plan to extend Medicare, the federal health program for seniors, to all Americans.

Sanders has responded, pointing out how a single payer plan would be more cost effective:

“That is not the reality. We will be responding to The Wall Street Journal on that,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell of the overall estimate.

“I think most of the expense that they put in there, the expenditures have to do with the single-payer healthcare system,” he continued. “They significantly exaggerated the cost of that, and they forgot to tell the American people in that article that that means eliminating the costs that you incur with private health insurance.”

Paul Waldman has also defended Sanders in a post entitled, No, Bernie Sanders is not going to bankrupt America to the tune of $18 trillion:

…while Sanders does want to spend significant amounts of money, almost all of it is on things we’re already paying for; he just wants to change how we pay for them. In some ways it’s by spreading out a cost currently borne by a limited number of people to all taxpayers. His plan for free public college would do this: right now, it’s paid for by students and their families, while under Sanders’ plan we’d all pay for it in the same way we all pay for parks or the military or food safety.

But the bulk of what Sanders wants to do is in the first category: to have us pay through taxes for things we’re already paying for in other ways. Depending on your perspective on government, you may think that’s a bad idea. But we shouldn’t treat his proposals as though they’re going to cost us $18 trillion on top of what we’re already paying.

He next discussed single payer systems, leading to this key point:

There’s something else to keep in mind: every single-payer system in the world, and there are many of them of varying flavors, is cheaper than the American health care system. Every single one. So whatever you might say about Sanders’ advocacy for a single-payer system, you can’t say it represents some kind of profligate, free-spending idea that would cost us all terrible amounts of money.

He next discussed spending on infrastructure, and then how much less we would have to spend under Republican tax plans which primarily provide tax cuts to the wealthy:

The conservatives who are acting appalled at the number the Journal came up with are also the same people who never seem to care what a tax cut costs, because they think cutting taxes is a moral and practical good, in the same way that liberals think providing people with health coverage is a moral and practical good. For instance, Jeb Bush recently proposed a tax cut plan whose 10-year cost could be as high as $3.4 trillion. That’s a lot of money that the government wouldn’t be able to spend on the things it’s doing right now, although the campaign argues that we’d get much of that money back in increased revenues because of the spectacular growth the tax cuts would create. If you remember the claims that George W. Bush’s tax cuts would create stunning growth and prosperity for all, you might be just a bit skeptical of the Jeb campaign’s similar assertions. But in any case, we can’t evaluate the value of Jeb’s plan just by saying that $3.4 trillion is a big number. If you knew that the average family in the middle of the income distribution would get less than $1,000 from Jeb’s plan, while the average family in the top one percent would get a tax cut of over $80,000, then you’d have a better sense of whether it’s a good or bad idea.

Sanders not only defended himself against this attack from the right on economics. He has also defended himself against attacks from a Clinton Super PAC in a recent fund raising email.

Attacks from the right from the Clinton camp might become increasingly common. Many liberals have been certain that Clinton’s move to the left was insincere, and that she would move to the right for the general election and if elected. We never guessed she would move towards the right so soon. As I noted last week, Clinton’s support has been falling among liberals, with Clinton now returning to calling herself a centrist to contrast herself with Sanders. Jonathan Allen picked up on this shift more recently writing, While everyone else was talking about her authenticity, Hillary Clinton changed her position.

The revelation that Hillary Clinton is planning to be more spontaneous and authentic brought a booming collective laugh from Republicans, some Democrats, and opinion writers last week. The group guffaw drowned out a related shift in her positioning that is far more important: Now she wants to be known as a moderate.

“You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center,” Clinton said in Ohio September 10, according to CNN. “I plead guilty.”

That’s a tire-squealing turn from the first five months of her campaign, when Clinton emphasized her progressive credentials. She built a policy platform significantly to the left of where many Democrats expected her to stand — in favor of new regulations of the financial services industry, “ending the era of mass incarceration,” and reforming campaign finance laws, to name a few items on her agenda. The focus on populism was described as a newfound affinity for the left, a return to liberal roots, an effort to crowd out the competition, a general election strategy based on energizing Democrats, or some combination thereof. The truth is that Clinton’s record is pretty liberal, except when it comes to national defense and trade.

Now she’s pivoting back toward the centrist label that defined her husband’s campaigns and presidency. The obvious reason for Clinton to switch tacks now is that her initial strategy didn’t work: On the strength of backing from liberals, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has surged to leads in New Hampshire and Iowa. That’s a good reason for her to shake things up a bit, but it’s only part of a story that is more about drawing a contrast with Sanders, sending a signal to her supporters that she’s ready to really fight for the nomination, and making sure that she’s comfortable in the political skin she’s wearing for the rest of the campaign.

Allen caught the general direction of the shift, but missed how conservative her record actually is. Beyond national defense and trade which he mentioned, she has also been rather conservative on civil liberties, the environment, and social/cultural issues. While her views on economics might technically be labeled as liberal, she is far to the right of where Democrats influenced by the views of people such as Elizabeth Warren are now at.

After looking at more wonkish policy matters, Allen hit the key matter with the subtitle: The shift is partly about portraying Sanders as too extreme

By portraying herself as a moderate, Clinton is subtly saying that Sanders is too extreme — that he’s one of the people standing on the sidelines shouting rather than trying to “get something done.” The inference voters are supposed to draw is that would make it harder for Sanders to win the presidency and even harder for him to govern.

Running as a moderate (or to be honest, a conservative) might be more “authentic” for Clinton, but in joining the right wing in calling Sanders too extreme, Clinton is missing the direction much of the country is moving in. As I have pointed out many times before, Bernie Sanders Is The Future Of The Democratic Party. As I’ve also pointed out previously, Sanders’ Views Are Becoming More Mainstream Than Clinton’s Conservative Views.

Clinton Sees Decrease in Lead Over Sanders & Now Trails Ben Carson

Clinton Biden Sanders

Hillary Clinton continues to show a downward trajectory in the polls, no longer having a significant lead for the Democratic nomination. The CNN/ORC poll shows:

Hillary Clinton’s lead in the race for the Democratic nomination has fallen to just 10 points, and at the same time, her advantage in hypothetical general election matchups against the top Republican contenders has vanished, a new CNN/ORC poll has found.

The new poll finds Clinton with 37% support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, down 10 points since August, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 27% and Vice President Joe Biden at 20%.

Considering the historic volatility in polls prior to primary election , this remaining lead in the national polls could be erased quite quickly. If Sanders should win in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he currently leads, there is an excellent chance that he could increase his support nationally by well over ten percent.

Many Democrats were already nervous about Clinton’s candidacy, and might become more alarmed by how her support continues to fall compared to Republican opponents. After one recent poll showed her trailing Donald Trump nationally, the CNN poll shows her trailing Ben Carson and losing her lead over other candidates:

In the general election matchups, Clinton trails former neurosurgeon Ben Carson by a significant margin (51% Carson to 46% Clinton among registered voters) while running about evenly with both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (49% Bush to 47% Clinton) and businessman Donald Trump (48% back each).

Joe Biden is doing better against Republicans than Clinton, which might influence his decision as to whether he will run. While he currently sounds quite undecided about running, there is activity in progress which looks like the organization of a presidential campaign.

Clinton is showing a decrease in support among groups including women and liberals:

The shift away from the former secretary of state stems from shrinking support among women. Clinton’s advantage among women has disappeared in matchups against Bush and Carson. Facing Trump, Clinton still carries women by a large, though tighter, margin. In August, 60% of women favored Clinton to 37% for Trump, but that’s narrowed slightly to 55% Clinton, 41% Trump now. Clinton’s advantage among women against Trump is fueled by independent women, despite that group shifting away from Clinton in the head-to-head against Bush…

Clinton’s fade in the Democratic race comes as an ideological divide within the party grows into a chasm. In August, Clinton held support from 43% of moderates and 46% of liberals. In the new poll, her support among moderates holds at 47%, while among liberals, it has plummeted to just 23%. Sanders has increased his share of the liberal vote (from 42% to 49%), while falling 9 points among moderates (from 24% to 15%). Meanwhile, Biden has gained ground in both groups.

And enthusiasm for Clinton among liberals has fallen nearly 40 points. Just 29% of liberal Democrats say they would be enthusiastic if she were the party’s nominee, down from 68% in an April poll.

Clinton’s decrease in support among liberals comes as she is finally admitting to being a centrist, as opposed to putting on an unconvincing act of being a progressive earlier in her campaign. This might be to appear more electable than Bernie Sanders, but ignores the problem of Democratic-leaning voters being less motivated to get out to vote when Democrats run as Republican-lite.

Clinton Support Eroding As Sanders And O’Malley Fight Back

OMalley Sanders Clinton

The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Donald Trump dominating the Republicans and Clinton’s support eroding among Democrats. Clinton still has the lead, but it is down from 55 percent on June 30 to 45 percent at present. More disturbing for Democrats, this poll shows what other polls have shown–Americans know better than to trust Hillary Clinton. Mediaite summarized:

“What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Hillary Clinton?” Quinnipiac asked. All three of the most popular answers were along the same lines: “liar,” “dishonest,” and “untrustworthy.” After those responses, Clinton nets a few positive responses, such as “experience” and “strong.” But then the negative qualifiers begin again, with responses like “crook,” “untruthful,” “criminal,” and “deceitful.”

The same question was asked of Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. The top three responses for Trump were “arrogant,” “blowhard,” and “idiot,” while the top responses for Bush were “Bush,” “family,” and “honest.”

The same poll found Clinton with low favorables. A majority of voters, 51%, say that they have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton while only 39% says they have a favorable opinion.

Like other recent polls, this poll also shows Joe Biden doing better against Republicans than Clinton does.

It is no wonder that we are seeing headlines such as Hillary Clinton’s Handling of Email Issue Frustrates Democratic Leaders at The New York Times and Inside Democratic Party, growing concerns about Clinton  from McClatchy. While Clinton does well among Democratic voters, she does poorly nationally with independents and those in battle ground states.

While Clinton does hold a strong (but diminishing ) lead in the Democratic race, Sanders is posing a serious threat. Recent polls show him leading in New Hampshire. He is even within four points of Clinton in West Virginia, where she leads 36 percent to 32 percent. Apparently without the race issue, Clinton is not able to win there as easily as eight years ago.

After amazing most observers with how much support he is generating among Democrats, Sanders is preparing for phase 2 of his campaign.

Sanders huddled with advisers at his home here Wednesday to chart what he describes as the second phase of a campaign that has exceeded all expectations but still lacks the infrastructure and support from the party elites that could help him compete with Clinton on a national level.

He said he will issue a slew of detailed policy proposals, including for a tax system under which corporations and the wealthy would pay significantly more for initiatives that would benefit the poor and middle class, and will pour resources into voter outreach in early nominating states.

The senator also will appear with other White House hopefuls this week at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee and will urge party leaders to embrace him as a candidate who can attract new voters and energy, just as President Obama did eight years ago.

“Smart members of the establishment will perceive where the excitement is, where the energy is, where the enthusiasm is, where the potential voter turnout is,” Sanders said in an interview…

Roughly one-fifth of the delegates who will pick the nominee at the Democratic convention are superdelegates — elected officials and other party leaders who are not bound by voting in their states. So far, those superdelegates have sided overwhelmingly with Clinton.

Longtime Democratic strategist Tad Devine, who was among the participants in Wednesday’s meeting here, said Sanders has the potential to assemble “not necessarily the same coalition, but the same kind of coalition” as Obama did in 2008. Sanders’s huge campaign rallies have been heavily attended by younger voters, and during his long political career in Vermont, he has demonstrated an appeal to lower-income voters from both parties…

Campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the senator will continue to hold rallies but “phase two will be a more focused effort to reach out to undecided voters” in early nominating states. The campaign is spending heavily in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — all of which have contests in February — and starting to evaluate strategies for a dozen states that have primaries or caucuses on March 1.

To date, Sanders has deployed 41 staffers to Iowa, 23 to New Hampshire and nine to South Carolina, aides said.

Another focus of “phase two,” according to Sanders and his aides, will be a series of detailed position papers and policy speeches that go well beyond his hour-long stump speech.

Sanders said he plans a major address on Wall Street reforms and to add more specifics to many of his ideas, including revamping the tax system. He has pledged to reverse the growing income inequality in the country and has laid out a set of costly priorities — including free tuition at public colleges and universities, a massive infrastructure program and a large youth jobs program — much of which would be paid for by taxing businesses and the wealthy.

“It’s easy to say we’re going to make the corporations and wealthy pay their fair share,” Sanders said. “What does that mean, exactly?”

He plans, too, to speak out more about foreign policy, a subject that gets relatively little attention in his stump speech.

Aides acknowledge that Sanders could open himself up to criticism by detailing plans that are considered outside the political mainstream. But the candidate said he owes it to voters to lay out what he would do as president: “These are terribly serious times, and the American people deserve to be treated as intelligent people.”

As I have said before, Sanders is the future of the Democratic Party.

Martin O’Malley is also going on the offensive, criticizing the DNC for its preferential treatment of Hillary Clinton, despite her scandals, and limiting the campaign to only six debates:

Martin O’Malley took one of the hardest swings of any Democrat yet at Hillary Clinton on Thursday, saying the party shouldn’t be “circling the wagons” around the former secretary of state and questioning her viability against Republicans.

The former Maryland governor — struggling to climb out of low single digits in national Democratic primary polls — said Clinton will continue to be dogged by her use of a personal email address on a private server during her tenure as America’s top diplomat.

“Until we start having debates, our party’s going to be defined and branded by questions like: What did Secretary Clinton know, when did she know it, and when will the FBI conclude its investigation?” O’Malley told reporters in New Hampshire. “That’s not a formula for success in the fall.”

O’Malley went further than other Democratic presidential candidates have. Clinton’s top-polling challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has avoided direct intra-party attacks and instead trained his fire on Wall Street and Republicans.

He also criticized the Democratic National Committee for scheduling only six debates, saying those nationally-televised events are opportunities for the party to focus on big ideas, rather than Clinton’s email drama.

“I think it’s a big mistake for us as a party to circle the wagons around the inevitable frontrunner,” O’Malley said Thursday…

O’Malley had also criticized Clinton in an interview with the New Hampshire radio station WGIR earlier Thursday.

He called the email probe “very serious” and said that there are “legitimate questions” about whether she handled classified material on a non-government server.

“These are serious and legitimate questions and Hillary Clinton and her lawyers will have to answer them,” he said.

Occupy Calls Clinton and Most Candidates Unfit To Lead; Sanders Receives Favorable Coverage

Sanders Clinton

The rise of Bernie Sanders has sometimes called a progression from the Occupy Wall Street movement which drew attention to the dangers of income inequality. Occupy.com recently looked at presidential candidates they consider Unfit To Lead. Their arguments against Hillary Clinton:

As the junior U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton voted for not only the USA PATRIOT Act that codified some of the U.S. government’s most intrusive and unconstitutional surveillance programs, but for the Iraq War resolution that led our nation into the bloodiest boondoggle of the 21st century. As a result of Clinton’s vote and the resulting destabilization of Iraq, thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died – and Iraq is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world, overrun by Daesh (ISIS) terrorists who have destroyed cultural icons, forced children to become soldiers, raped thousands of women, and committed genocide upon the Yazidi population. Even after the Iraq vote, Clinton still hadn’t backed down from her hawkishness. In 2008, Clinton was quoted saying, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m president, we will attack Iran… we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

As President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton created a culture of corruption within the agency, allowing corporations who donated to her family foundation to benefit from State Department contracts and projects. Clinton propagated fracking in a number of Eastern European countries, allowing Clinton Foundation donors ExxonMobil and Chevron to have a foothold into new markets. Meanwhile, a recent report by David Sirota exposed how Clinton’s State Department approved $165 billion in arms sales to 20 countries whose governments donated millions of dollars to her foundation. Many of those countries, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have reputations of trampling on human rights.

Hillary Clinton has remained ambiguous about how she would handle a future financial crisis as president. While Bernie Sanders has made his positions clear on breaking up the big banks, jailing the bankers responsible for reckless behavior that crashed the economy, and implementing a financial transactions tax to fund jobs creation, Clinton has only chastised Wall Street for “risky behavior” in public. In private, Clinton gave two closed-door speeches to Goldman Sachs, each paying $200,000. So far, the Clinton campaign has raked in at least $46 million from Wall Street, and there’s still a year and a half to go.

Ed Schultz also has pointed out how Clinton has avoided answering questions in contrast to Sanders:

When you ask Bernie Sanders about [the Keystone pipeline], you get an answer. When you ask Bernie Sanders a question about the Trans Pacific Partnership… you get an answer. When you ask Bernie Sanders what he would do to the big banks on Wall Street, you get an answer. When you ask Bernie Sanders about, ‘Do you think that the oil companies should pay their fair share – and continue to get billions in dollars of subsidies from the United States Treasury?’ you get a direct answer.

While economic policy has dominated the campaign, as would be expected with the state of the economy, I am glad Occupy did also discuss some of the non-economic reasons to oppose Clinton, including her support for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and the environment.

The same post is critical of Martin O’Malley for his “zero-tolerance” policies. Bernie Sanders has frequently received favorable coverage from them. Six of the Republican candidates are also discussed, and it seems a safe bet that similar objections apply to the rest. I wonder if the article left out Donald Trump due to not taking his campaign seriously, but that could be a mistake considering how his views resonate with the base, as opposed to Jeb Bush, who the Republicans show no excitement for.

An updated version of this has been posted at The Moderate Voice

Fox Republican Debate Dominated By The Donald

Fox Debate August 2015

Fox brought in a record 24 million viewers for the first Republican debate on Thursday night , and nobody doubts it was because of Donald Trump. CNN explained what this number means:

For perspective, the first GOP primary debate four years ago, also on Fox, attracted 3.2 million viewers.

The most-watched primary debate that year, broadcast by ABC, reached 7.6 million.

Thursday’s debate audience more than tripled that one.

The audience easily exceeded pretty much everything that’s been on American television this year, from the finale of “The Walking Dead” to the final episode of David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

The debate was bigger than all of this year’s NBA Finals and MLB World Series games, and most of the year’s NFL match-ups.

It also trumped Jon Stewart’s Thursday night’s sign-off from “The Daily Show,” which averaged 3.5 million viewers.

Trump is a known ratings magnet. His reality show “The Celebrity Apprentice” used to reach 20 million viewers a week. But it has slipped over the years, averaging 6 to 8 million viewers for recent seasons.

The debate, as well as most of the talk afterwards, was about Donald Trump. They might as well have named it Presidential Apprentice. By the end, many viewers might have been expecting to go to the boardroom to see who Trump would fire. Hint–it might not have been one of the candidates considering what he has been saying about Megyn Kelley and the other Fox correspondents. Among the most crude:

Trump was the center of attention from the start when the very first question was a show of hands  as to “who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person.” Only Donald Trump raised his hand. (Full transcript of the debate can be found here).

Donald Trump did make a great case for campaign finance reform:

I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give.

And do you know what?

When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.

QUESTION: So what did you get?

TRUMP: And that’s a broken system.

QUESTION: What did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding.

You know why?

She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.

Trump also restated his opposition to the Iraq war but flip-flopped on his previous support for a single payer system. Trump could have been the best candidate in the room if he hadn’t turned into a Tea Party clown.

There were some other moments when Republican candidates deserved credit. This includes Rand Paul criticizing both his fellow Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton for their policies which on sending more arms to middle east:

I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes.

This was followed by John Kasich defending taking funds for the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare:

First of all, Megyn, you should know that — that President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times.

Secondly, I had an opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio to do what?

To treat the mentally ill. Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons. It costs $22,500 a year to keep them in prison. I’d rather get them their medication so they could lead a decent life.

Rand Paul made a another good point when he argued with Chris Christie over NSA surveillance:

The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.

Beyond this, we primarily learned from the debates that Republicans hate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, and Planned Parenthood.

I am looking forward to seeing Bernie Sanders debate Hillary Clinton on foreign military intervention and suppression of civil liberties. Clinton’s record on these topics does fit well in the GOP mainstream.

I am hesitant to write about winners because we have learned that the winner of a debate is not based upon the debate itself, but the perception of the candidates after people have listened to the talking heads in the days following the debate. This is further complicated with the Republican Party as most of their voters receive their thoughts from Fox. Criticism from the Fox commentators could make Donald Trump look like a loser, but so far he has managed to survive better than the pundits have predicted, and it is not looking like Fox will be successful against him.

From my perspective, which could be quite different from that of Fox, the winners were John Kasich and Marco Rubio. Kasich barely squeaked into the prime time debate, and the two debates did show that Kasich really did deserve to be there more than Rick Perry, who was excluded, possibly by fudging the results of the polls. Kasich and Jeb Bush looked the most stable in the group. Bush already has his position as top contender after Trump, but now Kasich might replace Scott Walker as the leading challenger to Bush and move into the top tier.

I also downgraded Bush for his discussion of his brother’s policies. It wasn’t faulty intelligence which got us in Iraq as he claimed, but his brother twisting the intelligence to justify the war he wanted to start. Jeb! also seemed oblivious to the fact that ISIS and the other problems now occurring in Iraq are due to his brother destabilizing the region. They all seemed oblivious, when talking about the deficit, to the fact that the deficit is a consequence of George W. Bush both fighting the war on credit and cutting taxes on the wealthy.

The other Republican who looked good, if you ignore his actual views, was Marco Rubio. He could make a good candidate in a television-based campaign. The entry of Trump into the race made it hard for candidates like Rubio to get attention, but he did get a shot at being noticed Thursday.

On the other hand, it seemed a battle throughout the evening between Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz to be the most bat-shit candidate on stage, which was impressive considering that Donald Trump was on the same stage. I was edging towards awarding this to Huckabee, with lines such as, “The purpose of the military is kill people and break things,” until Cruz gave his closing statement, and clinched the title:

If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS to start (sic) persecuting religious liberty, and then intend to cancel the Iran deal, and finally move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

I will keep my word. My father fled Cuba, and I will fight to defend liberty because my family knows what it’s like to lose it.

In contrast, Huckabee went for the laugh as opposed to Cruz’s tirade:

It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a person who’s very high in the polls, that doesn’t have a clue about how to govern.

A person who has been filled with scandals, and who could not lead, and, of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

So, in conclusion, Trump wins for continuing to totally dominate the discussion, Kasich and Rubio had smaller victories which might improve their position if the race should return to be about the more conventional candidates, and Cruz edged Huckabee for the scariest Republican in the room. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders must really have felt happy seeing this debate and the caliber of candidate they might come up against in the general election.

Donald Trump Continues To Threaten To Run As Third Party Candidate

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Last week I pointed out that Donald Trump was refusing to rule out running as a third party candidate. Several days later The Hill  received the same response in another interview:

Donald Trump says the chances that he will launch a third-party White House run will “absolutely” increase if the Republican National Committee is unfair to him during the 2016 primary season.

“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” the business mogul told The Hill in a 40-minute interview from his Manhattan office at Trump Tower on Wednesday. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”

Pressed on whether he would run as a third-party candidate if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination, Trump said that “so many people want me to, if I don’t win.”

“I’ll have to see how I’m being treated by the Republicans,” Trump said. “Absolutely, if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”

Typically primary candidates remain in the race until they drop out of money. Donald Trump differs as he will not run out of money, not being dependent upon contributions from others. He has the ability to remain in the race as long as he desires–including after the conventions are over if he should feel that the RNC has been unfair to him.

While polls continue to show Trump with a lead (which might not last much longer after his comments on John McCain) for the Republican nomination, he is also among the weakest Republican candidates in head to head match ups against Hillary Clinton. A Washington Post/ABC News poll gives a clue as to what it would mean if Trump were to run as a third party candidate:

The survey shows that in a hypothetical three-way race, Clinton is at 46 percent, Bush is at 30 percent and Trump is at 20 percent among registered voters.

Trump takes more support away from Bush than Clinton in such a contest. In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton tops Bush by 50 percent to 44 percent among registered voters.

The current polls suggest that the Republicans will lose if they nominate Trump, or if someone else wins and Trump decides to run as a third party candidate. These numbers can change quite a bit by next November, but in this poll the vast majority of the votes taken by Trump come at the expense of the Republican candidate, and I would expect that pattern to continue. Possibly the magnitude of Trump’s vote will decrease by then, but this suggests there is an excellent chance that he could take at least five to ten points from the GOP candidate, which would probably tip the balance towards the Democrats should the race become closer (as other polls suggest it might be).

The same pattern is likely to also hold should Sanders or someone else manage to beat Clinton for the Democratic nomination, or someone other than Bush be the Republican candidate. It is certainly premature to assume Bush will be the Republican nominee. If he is, the Democratic candidate might not need any help from Trump in winning if Bush keeps taking about phasing out Medicare.

Battleground State Poll Shows Clinton Falling Behind Republicans & Not More Electable Than Sanders or Biden

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Hillary Clinton has been doing poorly in the swing state polls, and the latest Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll shows Clinton trailing Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. Previously she tended to have narrow leads or trail in the various swing state polls. She was not tested against current GOP front runner Donald Trump, but with Trump’s negatives I would assume she would beat him. This drop is support for Clinton in three key swing states is consistent with the declining support for Clinton seen in other recent polls.

“Hillary Clinton’s numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50 percent in each of the three states.”

“Against three Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Secretary Clinton trails in six matchups and is on the down side of too-close-to call in three,” Brown added.

“That’s compared to the April 9 Quinnipiac University poll in which she was clearly ahead in five of the matchups and too-close-to-call in the other four. One other key takeaway is that Vice President Joseph Biden, who is considering a 2016 run, does better than Clinton on honesty and on caring about voter needs, always a key Democratic strong point.”

“Hillary Clinton’s numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50 percent in each of the three states.”

Another remarkable result is that both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden had comparable results to Clinton against Republican opponents. Clinton typically did the same or was a couple of percentage points better, but she is on a downward trajectory. There is considerable risk that her support will fall further as more people understand the severity of her ethical misconduct as Secretary of State, and better understand her views. On the other hand, Sanders remains relatively unknown and Biden has not even entered the race. Both stand to improve with campaigning and in debating Clinton.

Polls at this stage have limited predictive value and this is not to say that Clinton cannot win these battleground states if she wins the nomination. What this does do is contradict the argument from many Clinton supporter that Democrats should back her, despite her ethical faults and conservative positions on many issues, because of feeling she has the best chance of beating the Republicans. Democrats would be much better off nominating a candidate whose campaign is not at great risk of being derailed by ethical charges, and there is no need to compromise on a candidate who is not all that much more liberal than Jeb Bush on many issues. As Common Dreams posted earlier this week, Hillary Clinton Is No Progressive.