Archive for the ‘Ben Carson’ Category

The Fight For Liberty Will Always Transcend Presidential Politics

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Originally published at Every Joe

I’ll admit it. I kind of lost it when Donald Trump won New Hampshire this week. I know, the polls showed it was a long time coming. But after Ted Cruz took him out in Iowa, I thought there was at least a chance that someone could repeat the performance and bruise the alleged tough guy’s ego enough to induce Trumper Tantrum part two. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Trump won New Hampshire with 35% of the vote; more than double second-place finisher John Kasich.

This presidential cycle, I’ve written extensively about how anti-establishment instincts are not inherently pro-liberty. If anything proves that from a data standpoint, it’s the fact that Trump won the New Hampshire towns where Ron Paul performed the best in 2012. Sanders also did well in those areas on the Democratic side. Of course, we don’t know how well Rand Paul would have done if he’d stayed in for New Hampshire. But polls showed him hovering around just 4% in the weeks leading up to the race. Dropping out to focus on his Senate race made sense at that point.

Simply put, it’s just not a good year for liberty on the presidential side. But what I needed to remember while I was busy seeing red on Tuesday is how much progress we have made. When Rand Paul dropped out after Iowa, the first thing I did was pen an optimistic piece about how much the liberty movement has accomplished in the past decade, and why there’s so much more to work toward. And as I raged on Facebook post-primary about how I feared my work had helped, even if slightly, to pave the way for the Trump juggernaut, I got a nice reminder that reinforced my typically optimistic outlook.

“Corie, I have about 40 colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus who agree with my principles and positions to a degree I never would have imagined just a few years ago,” wrote Congressman Justin Amash on my status. (How cool is social media, by the way?) “I’ve run openly as a libertarian Republican (without using Ron Paul’s more paleoconservative rhetoric that appeals to Trump voters), have been challenged aggressively, and consistently win by large margins,” he added. (True story; a Chamber of Commerce backed, self-funded challenger tried to take Rep. Amash out in a primary two years ago and failed miserably.) “Things are moving in our direction in the background, even as things get worse in the foreground,” he concluded.

The truth is, Rep. Amash is absolutely right. Congress is in a much better position to fight for reform than it has been in quite some time. And I’ve long expressed my belief that the fight for liberty is largely a generational one. I continue to believe that despite temporary setbacks amid the normal ebb and flow of politics. The vast majority of young Republicans tend to lean libertarian, and there are pro-freedom instincts present among Millennials – it just takes the right messengers to tap into. Some look at the support Bernie Sanders commands from young people and conclude that there’s no hope. He’s a socialist, after all! But it’s a lot more complicated than a cursory look reveals.

As Bonnie Kristian wrote at Rare this week analyzing a Nate Silver piece on Bernie Sanders’ youth support, “Silver argues, Sanders’ success—and Ron Paul’s success among the same Millennial generation—is about how ‘younger Americans view political labels like ‘socialist’ and ‘libertarian’ differently than older ones.’” As Kristian noted however, the data Silver presents shows that Millennials don’t actually like socialist economic policies. As she explained, “In other words, young people continue to be a little bit more left-wing than average, but they drift right with age. What else is new?” And as Kristian noted per Silver’s data, Americans under 30 actually have a more positive view of libertarianism than socialism.

Ultimately, I agree with Kristian’s take here: “Millennials like me have grown into adulthood with an awful economy and constant war. Each new newsday seems to bring yet another report of some secret, dastardly way the government is violating our liberties and trampling the rule of law,” she writes. “Of course, Paul and Sanders aren’t saying all the same stuff, but they are both saying that revolutionary change is long overdue. That’s incredibly appealing to the most politically independent generation ever.”

As Kristian adds, “[T]he good news is that libertarianism could well win out: Even with favorable feelings toward ‘socialism,’ Millennials are comparatively conservative with our money, ready for a more responsible foreign policy, and disinterested in running other people’s lives. That said, there’s certainly work to be done to provide Millennials the economic education they need to match their excellent pro-liberty instinctswith specific pro-liberty policies. But economic education is hardly an insurmountable hurdle—and honestly, simply growing older and taking on more financial responsibilities can accomplish a lot in that regard. In short, Millennials’ political independence is no cause for dismay for anyone except the moribund political establishment we’re no longer willing to support.”

This is all a good reminder that there is a lot to be optimistic about. It’s true that nothing is foolproof and that there are authoritarian strains in our politics to be worried about. But there’s strong evidence that people are fed up with the status quo, and want something different. It’s up to libertarians to explain why our ideas are the best suited to fill the gap caused by a lack of trust in political elites. And we no doubt have a long and arduous road ahead. But as Matt Kibbe, the former president of FreedomWorks and head of a Rand Paul Super PAC recently wrote, “Rand Paul is out – but libertarianism is finally mainstream.”

Said Kibbe: “Rand has seeded another generation of liberty-minded young people, much like his father did in 2008 and 2012. When I was a kid, there was no broad social movement for liberty like we see today. Rand juiced the build-out of this community simply by being on the presidential stage, by offering a compelling alternative to the establishment’s failed foreign policies, and by speaking about civil liberties and the failures of mass incarceration to new audiences that few Republicans have been willing to engage with.”

There’s much to continue working for. As Kibbe said, “Politics is a lagging indicator of social change, and the measure of a social movement is better taken upstream from voter turnout.” As libertarians, I believe we should continue to tap into the dissatisfaction people very clearly and justifiably feel. Now is the time to continue making the case that our ideas are viable. We’ve made incredible progress in a relatively short period of time. Instead of giving up, we should double down and push harder. Libertarian Republicans may have lost the presidential battle this year, but the war no doubt rages on. And the truth is, the liberty movement has more ground troops now than at any point in modern history. As Rep. Amash suggested, I’ll keep fighting.

Could New Hampshire become revenge of the Republican governors?

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Last week’s Iowa caucus was dominated by the outsiders, as top finishers Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Marco Rubio are, at least by most measures, insurgents with less political experience than their competitors. (I’ve argued that Rubio is actually “stealth establishment,” but he nonetheless pushes an outsider image – and pretty persuasively.)

Even Ben Carson and Rand Paul placed top five in the Iowa caucus while Governors Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie garnered 2.8 percent, 1.9 percent, and 1.8 percent respectively. Paul has since dropped out of the race, Carson is barely registering in New Hampshire polls, and both Kasich and Bush are, to the shock of many observers, now giving frontrunner Trump a run for his money.

As Kevin Boyd wrote at Rare about Kasich, “The second term Ohio governor and former Congressman has staked everything on New Hampshire and it appears it will pay off with a strong finish…. His crowds have gotten larger in the past few days and have become more energetic.”

Bush is also doing better than expected, with new polls showing him in either second or third place. And while a post-Iowa caucus poll commissioned by CNN released Friday showed Rubio gaining on Trump for second place, this bump hasn’t lasted.

Per CNN, Trump maintained his New Hampshire lead with 29 percent, and Rubio gained, with a second place 18 percent. That appears to be changing however, after a nearly universally negative reception to Rubio’s debate performance on Saturday.

While Rubio’s defenders say his performance was simply a matter of “staying on message,” he came across as almost sickly robotic – and Chris Christie called him out during a moment that undoubtedly hurt Rubio’s image and campaign chances.

“Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing,” said Rubio, over, and over, and over again in an attempt to hit the president. In response, Christie pounced, “There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

Instead of changing course, Rubio repeated the line. Again. And again. Leading to charges that he’s inexperienced, can’t take the heat, doesn’t have much real policy knowledge, and isn’t ready to take on Hillary Clinton, let alone be president himself.

Said Charles Krauthammer, who has long praised Rubio as a new hope:

“I think, (Rubio’s exchange with Christie) really hurt. And of course, the moment that people are going to be remembering is Rubio…. I think that this is a moment when he could have really put away the field, and he has had a great momentum, and this is likely to put something of a brake on his momentum.”

Kasich and Bush are both banking on a strong performance in New Hampshire to justify continuing their campaigns. Kasich has stated that if he doesn’t do well in the Granite State, he knows there’s no future for him. And Bush insiders are preparing for the possibility of Jeb ending his campaign if he doesn’t counter his poor Iowa showing with strength in New Hampshire.

Luckily for the governors, Republican voters in New Hampshire have a history of independent thinking, and don’t always follow the trends set in Iowa. And although Trump is still the frontrunner in New Hampshire, he underperformed his polling in Iowa, and has done very little retail politicking or ground work in New Hampshire.

Kasich, Bush, and Christie on the other hand, have had their noses to the grindstone, meeting voters and shaking hands, even as New Hampshire faces impending blizzard conditions.

After Iowa, instead of heading to the Granite State, Trump elected to go back to New York City. He made an appearance at a New Hampshire diner over the weekend, but Trump is more suited to his arena rallies and towering rhetoric than one-on-one questions from actual voters.

At the primary approaches, New Hampshire remains a shockingly open race. Kasich, Bush, and even Christie could surprise. Or perhaps Rubio and Cruz, who are nearly tied per recent polls will over-perform. It’s still anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that the governors have a chance to shine in New Hampshire that simply wasn’t provided to them in Iowa.

Jeb Bush’s attack on Rand Paul and Ted Cruz shows why he has so little support

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Originally posted at Rare

In the wake of a lackluster debate performance and with his poll numbers cratering, Jeb Bush joined Meet the Press last Sunday for an interview in which he criticized Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz. Of Rubio, who he’d called out for missing votes during the CNBC debate, Bush said, “The basic point with Marco isn’t that he’s not a good person or that he’s not a gifted politician – everybody can see that.”

Bush continued: “If you look at the three people on the stage from the United States Senate, all three of them have a combined two bills that became law that they’ve sponsored.” Bush made this statement in order to contrast their records with his own, saying, “I have proven leadership skills. I got to be governor of a state and accomplish big things.” Bush then said that he’s running specifically to “break up gridlock” and “change the culture in Washington.”

While Bush seems to view himself as statesmanlike for toeing the moderate line on the alleged horrors of gridlock, comments like these reveal how out-of-touch he is with the contemporary conservative base. In fact, it almost seems as if he’s forgotten that Obama is our president. Does Bush really expect Republicans who were elected explicitly to stop Obama’s agenda to suddenly author bills that the president eagerly signs into law?

Bush doesn’t seem to recognize that to conservatives, his condescending attitude toward harnessing congressional power as a means to challenge the executive branch—as the Constitution explicitly allows for—makes him seem like the kind of bygone relic that got us into this mess in the first place. Going along to get along isn’t particularly popular among conservatives right now, and our $18 trillion national debt—best represented by a creative Halloween costume donned by Senator Paul last week—might be a hint as to why.

If you look back to the tea party sweep of Congress in 2010, it’s abundantly clear that motivated Republican primary voters weren’t seeking politicians who would go to Washington and break up “gridlock,” as Bush promises to do. If that’s what conservatives were looking for, we’d have Senators Charlie Crist, Trey Grayson, and David Dewhurst—the men Rubio, Paul, and Cruz unexpectedly defeated in their primaries.

This problem with Bush is reinforced by his donor and volunteer base troubles. While he isn’t hurting for cash, only 4 percent of his money has come in from individuals making contributions of less than $200. Bush is the candidate of Wall Street and Washington special interests, not grassroots voters. And as Raw Story recently reported, Bush’s paid staffers in Iowa were only able to recruit four volunteers to help with the 70,000 calls they made for him – in which they learned only 2 percent of respondents held a favorable opinion of their candidate.

If Bush wants to run on his record as Governor of Florida, by all means, let him. But by acting as if success in Washington should be measured by how many bills a senator gets past a leadership regime often hostile to conservative priorities and signed into law by liberal President Obama, Bush is proving to the Republican base why their lack of interest in him is sensible.

The latest Republican debate marked the end of the Bush dynasty

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Originally published at Every Joe

Put a fork in him: Jeb Bush is done. And the death blow was dealt by the man once considered his protégé, the junior Senator from his home state, Marco Rubio. As I wrote last week, Rubio is blessed with raw political talent. He’s authentic, tough when he has to be, yet ultimately positive and forward-thinking. During the latest Republican debate, his savvy was no doubt on full display.

In an exchange that felt forced, Bush attempted to call Rubio out for his Senate absenteeism. “Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work,” scolded Jeb. “The Senate, what is it? Like a French workweek? You get three days when you have to show up,” said Bush, attempting to land a blow but coming across as both vindictive and nervous. You could cut the tension of the moment with a knife.

“I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record,” replied a cool-headed Rubio, referencing the fact that McCain, who was fully supported by Bush, missed more votes than he has during his presidential candidacy.

“The only reason you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that it’s going to help you,” said Rubio, laying bare what was already obvious: That Bush’s consultants told him to go for Rubio’s throat, he followed through, but it felt grossly inauthentic – and everybody, Bush included, knew it.

“My campaign is going to be about the future of America; it’s not going to be about attacking anyone else on the stage,” concluded Rubio, adding that he continues to have tremendous respect for Bush – ending the exchange on the type of positive note that captures Rubio’s style.

For Bush, there was no coming back from that moment. He behaved like the wounded man he was, incapable of exhibiting the commanding leadership voters seek in a president. Rubio spoke with the authority Bush’s bundlers always hoped the Serious Man with his Serious Record would exude; yet Jeb! has consistently missed the mark.

As Politico reported in the wake of the debate, many of his biggest supporters are frustrated.

Explained one of Bush’s donors: “Going after Rubio that way was just a mistake. No one cares about missed f–king votes in the Senate. Washington cares about that. The media cares about that. And losing candidates care about that. Jeb sounded like he was losing. And Marco made him pay.” Another irked Bush supporter said, “Marco is a [expletive] Jedi master. Hopefully these idiots learn not to [expletive] with him anymore. Not necessary.”

While Rubio had what was arguably the night’s best overall performance, Ted Cruz had a major breakout moment himself. A moment that, particularly to many people familiar with his Senate campaign, was an introduction to a more authentic Ted; a contrast to the canned and calculated version that voters who only know him through his presidential run have been subjected to.

In a statement that prolific pollster Frank Luntz said scored the highest out of any he’s ever seen in the countless focus groups he’s run, Cruz called out CNBC’s moderators for obvious bias in a brilliant fashion that resonated with the GOP base. One by one, he recited each loaded question the moderators had asked the candidates, in order, and pointed out how the bias was obvious.

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” said Cruz. He then went on to contrast CNBC’s loaded questions with what he described as “fawning” inquiries made to the Democratic candidates in their recent debate hosted by CNN. He then said, to laughs from the audience, that the Democratic debate looked as though it was an exchange “between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.”

While Rubio and Cruz performed the best, other candidates had moments in the sun as well. Carly Fiorina, who has been roundly praised for her past debate performances, had some good one-liners, but didn’t stand out as much as she needs to in order to be a sustainable frontrunner. She remains a sharp messenger, who deployed what I considered to be a perfect explanation of how big government and big corporations work together at the expense of small businesses and the middle class.

“Crony capitalism is what happens when government gets so big and so powerful that only the big and the powerful can handle it,” explained Fiorina. “When government gets big and powerful, the big feel like they need to get even bigger to deal with all that power, and meanwhile, the small and the powerless — in this case, 1,590 community banks — go out of business,” she added, aptly demonstrating how government creates problems then attempts to “solve them,” leading to the type of socialism that tanks economies.

Ultimately, despite her talents, it’s difficult to make the case for Carly as Commander in Chief. It increasingly seems as though she’s running for Vice President, which might just be the ideal slot for her. With a gifted female communicator like Carly on the ticket, Republicans will be able to better weather some of the inevitable “War on Women” attacks Hillary will ultimately use against the eventual nominee.

Rand Paul, the resident libertarian Republican, had a good moment when he explained how the Federal Reserve exacerbates the income inequality Democrats claim to oppose so strongly. But he was given the least amount of time, didn’t jump in during moments he could have landed a blow, and simply continues to struggle in debate settings. Rand, whom I admire greatly, is cerebral. He performs better on the Senate floor, filibustering budget deals and surveillance schemes, than he does in settings conducive to soundbites.

Christie and Kasich both played the role of Governors with tangible records to run on who aren’t Jeb Bush, and Christie’s personality shined. But neither seem to be gaining traction with voters. People looking for Washington outsiders still appear to be more fascinated with Trump and Carson than the governors, while Cruz, Rubio, and Paul all make good choices too, given their tea party election pedigrees.

As for Trump, he seems to have calmed down somewhat underneath the waning glow of his fading star. Carson is now beating him in Iowa and even in some national polls, and the case for Trump is increasingly difficult to make as undecided voters start looking for more substance. This is why I ultimately think Carson, who offers little in the way of policy knowledge, will fade too, with voters turning to the two men I believe will come to lead the field: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

It’s too early to know for certain, but both Rubio and Cruz seem to be peaking at the right time. Cruz arguably has a stronger ground game than Rubio, but Rubio is better suited to become the establishment’s compromise choice. After all, recent reports show that President Bush, whom Ted worked for nearly two decades ago, isn’t a particularly big fan of him.

Ultimately, Cruz will lead with hardcore grassroots voters, and he’s counting on earning the support of those who have flirted with Trump and Carson. But the establishment tends to prevail to at least some extent, and Rubio, as I noted recently, is the perfect stealth-establishment, consensus candidate.

Expect the ultimate battle to be between Rubio and Cruz – which will be fascinating seeing as they’re both first term Senators. That certainly takes the wind out of the Republican refrain of old about Obama’s inexperience. But today’s political climate simply isn’t favorable to the Old Guard; a large part of why this debate marked the end of the Bush dynasty.

Is Marco Rubio ready for his moment?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Originally published at Every Joe 

Marco Rubio is impressive. He exudes charisma, has a strong grasp of policy, performs well on the debate stage, and is the type of fresh-face the GOP needs from a public relations standpoint. This isn’t to say that I particularly like Rubio. As a libertarian Republican, I’m unimpressed with his ultra-hawkish foreign policy stances, can’t stand his utter disregard of civil liberties, could do without his somewhat crony approach to a few key economic issues, and find his lack of interest in criminal justice reform troubling.

That being said, I believe Rubio is a strong contender for Republican nominee, and predicted earlier this week that he’ll emerge as the victor. I’m personally still on Team Rand, and wrote a recent piece touting his rise in the polls. I think that Rubio, however, could very well stand out as the consensus candidate establishment forces ultimately coalesce around while also being acceptable enough to grassroots conservatives to pull off a win.

Rubio is currently in a unique position; and it’s one that could allow him to peak at just the right moment. He is, according to the same CNN poll that shows Rand Paul back in the top five contenders, tied at 8% with Jeb Bush for third place. This is an impressive feat for Rubio considering the fact that Bush raised $13 million compared to his mere $5.7 million in the last fundraising quarter. It also speaks to why many pundits have speculated that Bush might not have what it takes to make it past the finish line.

The Demise of Jeb Bush,” written by Dave Catanese at U.S. News and World Report, is one of many articles that has cropped up as of late questioning whether Bush, despite being the overwhelming choice of the Republican establishment, is the right candidate for these tumultuous times. As Catanese explained:

Less than four months before primary voting begins, Bush has sunk into second-tier status in the GOP nominating bout. He’s stuck in a single-digit polling slump, idling between fourth and fifth place in the 15-candidate field, even after his allies have blitzed the television airwaves with more than $5 million in advertising. His much heralded fundraising prowess has also been neutralized, as he’s raised essentially as much money as Sen. Ted Cruz this last quarter and saved less than the rogue upstart Ben Carson.

Naturally, this has establishment Republicans concerned. Neither Donald Trump nor Ben Carson would be acceptable nominees as far as the powers-that-be are concerned. And the conservative base is justifiably in the mood for outsiders – though I’d argue that the authoritarian tendencies of both Trump and Carson, “anti-establishment” as they may be, represent a strong step in the wrong direction.

Nevertheless, the field remains dominated by these two, something has to be done, as far as Republican leaders are concerned, to neutralize them, and Bush – the wonkish and unconvincing face of a toxic political dynasty, increasingly looks like he’s enabling the “outsider” dominance rather than quelling it. What’s a party establishment to do? As Catanese wrote:

Even if the outsiders ultimately fade or self-immolate, there stands Rubio, who is far superior to Bush stylistically and boasts a youthful shine and novelty that accentuates his rationale for a new generation of ideas. Bush’s recent strike on Rubio’s spotty attendance record as a senator seems more likely to resonate with the Beltway press pack than a New Hampshire voter. But since the two are so similar on policy, the menu of attack options at his disposal is limited.”

I agree with Catanese’s take here, but I’d go a step further. It’s not just that Rubio has the potential to move in on what should have been Bush’s territory if Trump and Carson fade. I believe that major donors, many of whom Rubio has recently met with to allegedly positive receptions, will see the writing on the wall for Bush. They will recognize that Rubio is their best bet for obtaining a “serious” candidate, just acceptable enough to establishment forces and grassroots conservatives alike.

The young, articulate son of Cuban immigrants who comes across as vaguely anti-establishment due to his unexpected toppling of Charlie Crist, yet is essentially identical to Bush on policy, is the Republican Party’s best shot at keeping their hands firmly on the reins of power. This is of course, bad news for Bush, but potentially great news for the future viability of the Republican brand. It should be good news for Rubio, too. And it is, in theory. But it isn’t entirely clear that he’s ready, logistically speaking, for what could very well shape up to be his moment in the sun.

While Rubio looks like he’s in the process of scoring some big points with major Republican donors such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, hedge fund manager Paul Singer, and famous investor Charles Schwab, reports about his campaign’s lack of organization on the ground paint a potentially troubling picture. If Rubio is able to court big money and also pick up wayward supporters of candidates who have dropped out or are fading, he can potentially increase his fundraising enough to get on the ball. But as Kyle Cheney reported at Politico:

Rubio may be slowly rising in the polls, but his third quarter filing revealed a campaign that’s also out-manned by many of its rivals in the early-voting states. His staff is largely concentrated in Washington, with just a small umbrella of on-the-ground, early-state operatives – and he’s already at a disadvantage because he hasn’t invested the time in early-state visits that some of his opponents have.”

This means that Rubio would have to play catch-up, and with the right amount of resources, there’s still time for that. Rubio, nipping at Bush’s heels both in the polls and within establishment networks, could be the savior the GOP is forced to depend on. While Rubio’s entry into the presidential race has caused a great deal of consternation within Florida politics, Republican leaders both from the men’s home state and nationally might ultimately be happy that Rubio threw his hat in the ring if Bush can’t muster the momentum they’d hoped for.

“If a first-term senator is the answer, what is the question?,” said Jim Dyke, a Bush advisor based in South Carolina. It’s a line, particularly one that negatively invokes Obama, that Bush supporters like to deploy against upstart Senators Paul, Cruz, and Rubio alike. But the difference between Rubio and the other two is that, despite surface appearances, he is vastly friendlier to the whims of the party’s establishment.

This is why I ultimately believe, as Bush continues down the path of being rejected by Republican primary voters, that Rubio is the only candidate positioned to be a true consensus choice. He polls competitively against Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup, is her junior by nearly a quarter century, and is a first generation American with a compelling personal story.

On a general election debate stage, Rubio would articulate a positive “opportunity conservative” vision that contrasts well with Clinton’s sneering essence of dynastic “inevitability” that feels void of meaning. The bases of both the Democratic and Republican parties are thirsting for outsiders – and despite the unforeseen popularity of Bernie Sanders, liberals aren’t likely to get what they’re looking for with Clinton still in the lead.

If Republican strategists actually want to win, they’ll drop their personal ties to the man who represents a dynasty much less popular than the Clintons’ and opt for a fresh face who, despite seeming like an insurgent, is ultimately stealth-establishment. It’s the perfect compromise. Marco Rubio, if everything comes together for him this primary season, can beat Clinton. The question simply comes down to whether he’s ready.