Thursday, April 25, 2013

Readers write about 2016

Picking just one conservative in 2016 is like having to pick just one Paris attraction to visit. And that's going to hurt conservatives and help Christie.

I often get really good emails from readers. I usually try to write back, but this time, I've decided to share and answer them publicly.

More than a few were prompted by my recent post, suggesting that Chris Christie was the new GOP frontrunner.

Here's some of the smart blowback, and my similarly elegant replies.

Q: While it may be true that Christie is the true frontrunner of the moderates in '16, much like Romney in 2012, there is a difference between 2016 and 2012...there are electable, credible, conservative candidates.

While I was a heavy support of Romney in 2008 through 2012, I was not oblivious slew of the "Anti-Romney" candidates (i.e. Pawlenty, Bachmann, *Trump*, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and, last but not least, Santorum) and Romney's "25% ceiling." Under your assumption that Rubio, Paul, Jindal, and, possibly Cruz will run (Santorum, again, not incredible...even more so), any one of those names would have passed the litmus test that all the "Anti-Romney" candidates failed to do in 2012: electable, credible, and conservative...not to mention that they are all new-age, diverse Republicans.

Additionally, in my opinion, while it may not reflect in New Jersey, there is still a heavy distate for Christie's actions as Nov. 6th came, but that is another story that you know plenty well about.

All in all, I would think very heavily about claiming Christie as front-runner status. Conservatives have not gotten to know all of the conservative candidates quite yet, but, in my opinion, they will coalesce around the "Anti-Moderate" candidate early enough this time, just as the faction of "Anti-Hillary" Dems were able to come around Obama in 2008 to put him over the top.

-- Ryan.


A: Thanks, Ryan.

Weirdly enough, even though the conservative candidates will, indeed, be much stronger in 2016, I don't think that solves conservatives' problem or fundamentally changes the '16 dynamic.

Conservative candidates will probably still be splitting the conservative vote, and it's hard to see how having multiple, strong conservative candidates changes that.

Yes, there'll be an impressive conservative to rally around, but the problem is that there'll be too many impressive potentials to rally around and, once again, it could be devilishly hard to get cons to agree on one to be the Anti-Christie.

So let's say Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and Marco Rubio are all vying for the conservative vote. How do conservatives decide on just one?

In fact, you can make the argument that it will be even harder to coalesce around strong candidates in '16 than it was weak candidates in '12.

Here's an example.

Let's say you're in Paris for a day and can only visit one thing.

Do you go to the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles Palace, or Moulin Rouge? Picking just one of those is ridiculously hard, and you're probably going to be in paralysis for a few hours trying to decide on just one.

That's the 2016 field for conservatives.

Walker, Cruz, Rubio, Santorum, Jindal are the Paris attractions (I don't know which ones are which, but we can be pretty sure Santorum ain't the Moulin Rouge). There are too many postcards to pick just one!

On the other hand, 2012 was like being plopped in Mobile, Alabama for a day, and having to pick one attraction.

Do you visit Magnolia Grove Golf Course (ranked #7 on list of most compelling attractions in Mobile -- woohoo!), Bienville Books (ranked #10), or Herndon Park, which has a few, nice slides and monkey bars.

Sure, it might be tough to choose one, but since you just have a bunch of bad choices, you're not going to stress it much.

So the 2016 field will be like picking a Paris attraction, while the 2012 field was picking a Mobile, Alabama attraction.

I just don't see how it's going to be any easier for conservatives to make a decision on the Anti-Christie.

In fact, all they can really do is pray there's a moderate to take votes from Christie -- someone like Jeb or Susana Martinez.

Now here's the mind-blowing thought -- what if Marco Rubio turns into the moderate alternative to Christie?

You could potentially see that happen if immigration reform gets him thrown out of the conservative wing of the party.

If that happens, he could drift firmly into moderate Republican circles and spit the vote with Christie, while the conservative wing carps at each other.

Don't think Rubio is beyond morphing into a moderate. He's an enormously adaptable political creature as his immigration trajectory and political career has shown.

Will Rubio evolve into a moderate like a white peppered moth?

In the Florida state house, he was a conservative but establishment figure (After all, he became Speaker of the House. You don't do that by Ted Cruz-ing the joint up).

Then, when he ran against Crist, he suddenly turned into an outsider, a rogue tea partier, who was endorsed by Jim DeMint. Now he's parting ways with DeMint on immigration.

Rubio is evolutionary, and that's why he's so good. It's also why he could turn into a moderate and fight Christie for the more moderate-to-liberal wing of the GOP vote.


Q: Good point on the Christie/frontrunner article, but no word on Sandy? 

Yes, there is the argument that if anyone can overcome that it is Christie, but I'm not too sure. Imagine his primary opponents with lots of $ hitting him on that. Recall Charlie crist's 'hug' and how Rubio worked it like magic. And remember too that Crist was a popular sitting gov, with a high likability rating. Christie's hugs were like steroids compared to that. 

-- Anonymous

A: Thanks name-withheld,

Christie's bear hug with Obama is often compared to Charlie Crist's cuddle with Barack Obama in 2009, but there's one really important difference.

Christie was cuddling with Obama because of a natural disaster. Crist was cuddling with Obama over policy -- the stimulus.

Christie and Obama hugged it out over a natural disaster; not a stimulus plan (photo: AP)

In that moment, Crist was embracing the first major piece of Barack Obama's agenda. It betrayed conservatives across the country because it implied that Obama's stimulus was A-OK. At the time, Crist was considered one of the most promising Republicans in the country, and a model centrist.

So Crist's betrayal was ideological. Christie's wasn't. Sure, it was electorally damaging, but they're, contextually, quite different.

Then there's the fact that Christie can talk conservatism better than Charlie Crist ever could, and at one point, was a conservative sensation via his townhalls. Charlie was never a conservative sensation and for good reason -- he was never conservative.

Can you imagine Crist doing this at any point in his career?



Watch that clip of Christie again -- it's something no other Republican could pull off without a clarification or press release.

You're going to hear a ton of comparisons re: Christie and Crist's hugs, but ultimately, I don't think the hug will hurt him too much.

What might? His new gun control push, or as ABC News calls it, his "gun gamble." Neither Republicans nor Democrats are particularly pleased with it, and it's hard to see why Christie is doing this now when he eschewed calls for change immediately after Newton.

But Christie's silver lining is that he's already sucking with conservatives, and yet remains in the top tier. That means he has huge upside.

Moderate-liberal Republicans won't care too much about his gun control stuff, and he's already stinking up the place among conservatives.

That means Christie has probably reached his floor, which just so happens to be near the top. That's a nice play to be in.


Q: You're one of the few online commentators I know who isn't viciously opposed to Rubio. It has to do with the base's reception of Rubio especially now that he's become so associated with immigration reform. I like to read HotAir and RedState from time to time, and it's crazy how vitriolic the comments become whenever Rubio is mentioned now. They mostly crucify him for his move on immigration reform, branding him with the usual terms - "Shamnesty," "RINO," "establishment sellout." In fact, at least on HotAir, everyone roots either for Rand Paul or Ted Cruz, but mostly Paul. There are very few people who speak up in defense of Rubio, and when they do, they're usually accused of being a shill. It's like they won't even listen to any arguments in favor of him.

My question to you is twofold: first, why do you think they are so angry with him if it's really just his immigration move? I'm not super crazy about it myself, but immigration laws are more complex than people think; and plus, I think it's stupid to ignore the fact that Rubio himself is the SON of immigrants! I think something like that would definitely give you a different opinion on immigration than most people.

And second, do you think this animosity is limited to HotAir and RedState, which do tend to be farther right than most other Republicans, or do you think it could spread and become a more mainstream feeling? It's just that right now, I really think that Rubio, Jindal, or Martinez are the best shots for 2016, and it's frustrating to see what seems to be like the majority of people tossing perfectly good candidates overboard because of one single issue and turning to Rand Paul (or even SARAH PALIN, of all people) just because he happens to be outspoken. Not that I dislike Paul or anything, because he's great, but I do not believe that a white male - particularly a white male related to a controversial politician - can ever win a national election again from either party for the next couple of cycles.

--Melissa.

A: Thanks, Melissa.

This question fits perfectly into my contention that Chris Christie is the new front-runner.

Conservatives are absolutely tearing Rubio to shreds right now. He's like a hipster in the trenches in World War I. That's hugely important because conservatives are Rubio's base.

In the most recent PPP survey of the national GOP race, Rubio picked up 26% of those describing themselves as "very conservative" and 22% of those calling themselves "somewhat conservative." Both of those were first place finishes. But when you get to "moderate" and "somewhat liberal" Republicans, Rubio's support falls off dramatically.

That pattern has held true in nearly every poll, post-November.

That means Rubio needs to keep those people to keep the lead.

The interesting thing is that Melissa wrote this email over a month ago -- back when conservative talk show hosts were still mostly giving Rubio the benefit of the doubt, and yet even then, he was taking a beating like a hipster at Verdun.

Since then, the Rubio bashing has gotten much worse (see Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin savaging him this week).

He's also taking a beating on grassroots' boards.

Over at Red State, a user, rsemmes, gives a fairly common take.

Marco Rubio is a big boy and knows what he is doing. He is trying to win the ''media primary'' for 2016 by playing up to the liberal media elite on a cause they are deeply committed to, amnesty for illegal aliens.

By pandering to the liberal media elite on one of its major political causes, Rubio hopes to be annointed by them as ''the frontrunner'', ''electable'', and ''inevitable'' just like the big media annointed Romney and before him McCain. This is all an opportunistic gambit by a Senator who puts ambition ahead of principle, his country, or his party. Before he got involved in this snow job, Marco Rubio was my choice for nominee in 2016. I contributed to his Senate campaign. Now, I would not vote for him, no matter who the opposititon is. Rubio is completely and totally unaccaptable.

As far as I am concerned, Rubio is the Senator from La Raza.

"Senator from La Raza".

28 Red State readers voted that comment up; only 1 voted it down.

Rubio is in deep water here, and it doesn't matter that Paul Ryan and Rand Paul have been helpful in providing him some amount of cover.

If immigration reform passes, Rubio is going to be the face of it. He's the guy that stood there at the press conference with Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez, and John McCain.

Most people say Rubio is in a high-risk, high-reward situation. But the risk is entirely front-loaded (the primary), and the reward entirely backloaded (general election); thus Rubio might not even get a chance to reap rewards from his immigration push.

But again, remember -- if conservatives throw him overboard, he can swim quite well on the moderate end of the ocean.


Q:  I read your Meet Deval Patrick article, but since there is no search function I couldn't find the other Meet the Candidate articles or even know if there are any available.

Could you perhaps link all the contenders on your sidebar to their respective Meet the Candidate articles?

--Bob.

A: Thanks, Bob. A huge omission on my part. Not a sin of commission, but definitely omission, and I'm sorry.

Here are links to each of the Meet the Candidates profiles that I've written.