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I have to hand it to Hillary Clinton: her crew is just as adept at getting the media to write whatever they want it to as President Obama’s team is not these days. Let’s take a look at today’s nonsense (via Political Wire):

Clinton World believes Paul has run the best “pre-campaign” of the group. And the fact that the Republican senator from Kentucky has worked to attract Republicans and Democrats to his cause has made him someone to watch.

Much of the article talks about a Jeb Bush run, and though he gives off the distinct whiff of a has-been, there’s little doubt he has money connections and such. But there’s quite a bit of this Rand Paul stuff that I find difficult to actually buy. I find it extremely odd that any Democrats are really worried about a Rand Paul candidacy, but apparently some are actually going on the record:

Mitch Stewart, a senior adviser to the Ready for Hillary PAC who served in key roles in both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns, acknowledged that two contenders in particular jump out to him: Walker and Paul.

“Rand Paul in a primary could be someone that excites a group of people who would not normally participate,” Stewart said.

At a Ready for Hillary fundraising event in New York two weeks ago that drew hundreds of staunch Clintonites and donors, Paul was discussed as someone Democrats needed to watch.

Paul has “demonstrated a charisma and a presence” in the lead-up to a potential run, said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist who worked in the Clinton White House and attended the meeting in New York.

They sound like the scouts from the beginning of Moneyball. I have no idea why intangibles are considered so critical here. I am not Hillary Clinton, just for the record. But if I were, I think I’d see I’d see a Rand Paul nomination as one of the best possible things that could happen to me. I mean, come on, a Paul candidacy would easily unite virtually every part of the Obama coalition while dividing much of the conservative coalition. Worried about minority participation rates and Democratic victory ratios dropping without Barack Obama on the ballot? Well, don’t, since the opponent has vocally opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and vociferously condemns any kind of immigration reform. Sure, he’s offered some half-hearted criticism of voter ID laws, too little to offset those major issues I think. Problems with with the upscale suburban types? Rand Paul is an extreme social reactionary of a sort that should make those people easy pickings for Hillary. Want to improve with older folks and downscale whites? Paul seems to oppose pretty much every federal program they rely on, and has a record of voting accordingly, voting for budget offerings vastly more extreme than even Paul Ryan’s. Plus, he’ll be the most internally divisive GOP nominee since Goldwater, unpalatable to the hawks in a way that will be difficult to paper over. And pretty much the only thing he brings to the table–some millennial-friendly stances on privacy and security issues–are a big question mark in terms of being able to move votes (which is mostly unfortunate, IMO, though perhaps not in this hypothetical). Nominating Paul would be a huge risk for the Republican Party, especially if that fabled “recovery summer” actually happens, and/or if Hillary is able to juice a couple more points out of the woman vote due to the historic candidacy. Obviously fundamentals are most important in this conversation, and nothing is impossible, but being preoccupied over Paul makes little sense. By my reckoning he’s one of the people to be least worried about.

Jon Bernstein argues that Mitch McConnell’s political genius is overrated, and that what happened would have happened whether or not he’d cooperated with Democrats. He brings facts, and is quite convincing. I think it’s a bit too early to judge this, however, and it might even be the case that his decisions might end up costing the Republican Party much more than it has in policy terms. McConnell helped build a party apparatus oriented solely around rejecting Barack Obama’s agenda, with the occasional corrupt tangent into backing fossil fuels, opposing campaign finance reform, helping out Wall Street, etc. This has wound up being just as successful as when Democrats did much the same after the 2004 election, which as you might recall, occasioned all sorts of triumphalist rhetoric about a permanent Republican majority that lasted two whole years. But Democrats going into 2008 were genuinely unified on the major issues of the day: healthcare, Iraq, stimulus. Republicans going into 2016 will not likely have that kind of unity, in fact, on many areas of policy it’s hard to pin down where Republicans stand at all, on others no stance is given due to divisions in the party, and given the utter lack of fresh ideas it’s easy to imagine the primaries being an endless ideological lucha libre, with folks like Jeb Bush and John Kasich on one hand promoting the sorts of classically Republican ideas that Barack Obama co-opted as a way of regaining some of their old voters, and people like Ted Cruz and Scott Walker on the other rejecting them as Obama ideas, full stop. Sure, ideologies have a way of turning around and it’s common to see ideologues fervently supporting what they once just as fervently opposed (see: Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), but of course Mitch McConnell doesn’t have the kind of authority to reverse that, and outside of Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh, who would presumably not be inclined, it’s hard to see who does. It’s quite possible that a hypothetical GOP presidential candidate (or president) would be able to do it, but as I see it, the most likely circumstance is going to be similar to what occurred in 2012, in which a mainstream/establishment Republican gets the nomination by making so many ideological commitments to the wingers that there will simply not be any space for them to appeal to moderates.

Let’s put it this way: if the GOP candidate is so ideologically penned in that he is simply unable to make the appeals to swing voters he has to make as a direct result of the post-policy obstructionism that Mitch McConnell pioneered, and we get a third Democratic term in the White House, then Mitch is going to look like quite the fool.

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I don’t have much to add to what I said yesterday. Obviously, there were difficult fundamentals to overcome, and in the case of Iowa and Colorado it would seem that individual errors cost us big there. But in a macro sense, Democrats’ one move in midterms is to have a theme that is not in any way objectionable, polarizing or cutting (I guess this year it was the minimum wage, a floor vote on a campaign finance amendment, and talking a bit about women’s issues), and aside from that, just let local pols do their thing. This has proven disastrous again and again, and it’s well past time to stop doing it. I’m a high-information voter and fuck if I know why voters were supposed to vote for Democrats this year. Because they were less crazy? Not good enough. The stakes were not clearly defined. Admittedly, judges and executive branch officials aren’t the biggest issues to Democrats, but you can’t tell me that professional political operatives who are competent can’t package that in some way.

Then again, stuff like this keeps me hopeful. Keep in mind that Republicans’ “permanent” post-2004 House majority lasted about two years. Once a party starts to say stuff about being in power forever, and then start to believe it and act like it, then you know that disaster lurks not far away.

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Many people know that the Panama Canal was a contentious political issue about forty years ago. I was under the impression that conservatives were overwhelmingly opposed to the treaties that ceded the canal to Panama, but having recently read Garry Wills’s book about Reagan, I was surprised to learn that this was an issue that split conservatives to some extent: Ronald Reagan of course based his failed 1976 campaign around opposing them, while much of the conservative intelligentsia like William Buckley Jr. supported them and others, such as John Wayne during the slightly more liberal later years of his life, spoke out publicly in favor of the treaties (Wayne flat-out called Reagan a liar and insulted him personally on the subject, by the way, in that inimitable Wayne fashion). Even among the group of people who were enraged about the idea of cession forty years ago I can’t imagine that there’s still any real feeling about them in 2014, nearly four decades after the treaties were ratified, and nearly two decades after the canal was transferred–there have been only a few issues since then that have produced controversy, and at this point the canal’s importance is diminished due to the much larger size of shipping and naval vessels compared to decades earlier. So we can safely conclude that this is just another one of the brilliant gambits that has brought David Purdue to the brink of losing Georgia in a midterm during the Obama era. Just utterly bizarre and inexplicable.
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Ed Kilgore’s post on a particularly hackish National Journal profile of Joni Ernst brings to mind the question of why specific Republicans wind up becoming media darlings, while others do not. Sometimes it makes sense: John McCain is a very limited political talent, but as someone who has lifelong training in dealing with elites in the military and political worlds, it’s not surprising he has a very good understanding of how to cultivate them. But I have no idea why Joni Ernst has managed to enjoy such laughably favorable coverage or, conversely, what Bruce Braley has done to merit such poor coverage. I guess the media would rather tell the story of a plainspoken farmer and soldier–a veritable Cincinatus!–rising to power than a former trial lawyer who goes for the capillary and commits gaffes. And just off the top of my head, I can see why the media was more interested in pumping up truck-ridin’, nude photo-posing bad boy Scott Brown over a dull underachiever like Martha Coakley. Or, the ultimate example, plainspoken “outsider” George W. Bush over boring, sweaty Al Gore. But placing drama and narrative over substance is, while understandable, utterly unacceptable, and it happens often enough that Democrats should do everything they can to flag it when it occurs.

I, like most Democrats, am generally mildly annoyed by the continued Benghazi! buzz on the right that never seems to go away. Well, it won’t until January 20 2017, anyway. Nevertheless, I find it very difficult to believe that the recent revelations are in any way legitimate. A bunch of guys who didn’t say anything under oath where they could be questioned by both friend and foe, but much later “remembered” massively damaging things about the story (especially when pecuniary interest is involved, as it is for the guys releasing a book) when confrontation with questioning people could easily be avoided, in the face of massive right-wing interest and therefore great ability to acquire money and attention? It doesn’t really pass the smell test, though I suppose the theory is that they were too intimidated to speak out (until they got a book contract, anyway). I suppose it’s not impossible it’s real, but the feel of it is much more “unscrupulous guys trying to cash in” than brave patriots doing their civic duty.
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All I can say about this kind of stuff is that, whenever one party starts to adopt softer, more moderate stances that are closer to the other party’s, it means the party is losing on that issue. It’s really not complicated.
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