It’s Never Too Early: Two Contenders in 2016

I remember being frustrated at this time four years ago until Rick Santelli had his classic meltdown on CNBC and gave rise to the Tea Party movement.  Establishment Republicans, i.e. every elected official, were silent!  Mitt Romney was the conservative choice in 2008, and if he had even modestly joined Santelli in his frustration with the expansive view of Obama’s government then the result in 2012 may have been different.  But he was nowhere to be found.  The lesson is that the road to the 2016 nomination is being paved today.  And so far I see only two people who are walking down MY road: Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal

Chris Cristi has ripped up his road and might think he’s paving something else.  For everything that is good about Chris Cristi (and there are many things to admire, especially his ability to speak off-the-cuff), there is something bad about him.  I seem to remember hearing that there was a quid pro quo with Sandy relief and education funds.  If that’s true, then I’m much more upset at that than I am at his willingness to give Obama the appearance of “doing his job.”

Paul Ryan is also a curiosity.  He has a good, strong, and comforting voice when it comes to the extent of Washington over-reach.  I was thrilled when he was the selection by Mitt Romney for the Vice-President spot and nearly wet myself when he differentiated the strengths and weaknesses of Ayn Rand’s utilitarianism.  But where was he as Boehner was squirming and caving during the lame duck session?  He may have thought that it was not the right opportunity for leadership, but I think he was wrong.  Ryan proved that he could take the argument to Obama, but he apparently is not able to take it to Boehner.

Marco Rubio?  Maybe.  I’m not sure what it is, but he doesn’t make this initial short list.  Maybe because these other two have done so much more to actively and directly challenge the establishment.  And the establishment needs a DIRECT challenge, not some abstract attack on the Washington culture in general.  Hannity’s “BoomTown” the other night was eye-popping, and we need somebody who can put up that fight.  I’m not sure Rubio speaks that language, but I hope I’m wrong.

No other name that has been tossed out there actually comes to mind at the moment, which means they mistakenly think that they can get a pass for the next two years.  Like Romney (and Santorum and Gingrich to some extent), the question in 2016 is going to be where were you in 2013.  I’m sure there are other people who are perfectly content to be off the radar at this time only to come forward in 2015 as a surprise, underdog, one of the seven dwarf candidates.  John Kasich and Mike Pence have been on the national radar for over a decade.  Bob McDonnell and Rick Scott are both governors of swing states.  Maybe a former Senator like John Kyl will return for the top spot.  Any of these would be fine alternatives if they were to jump in the race.

But for now, my top two at the moment are Rand Paul and Bobby Jindal.  Paul most recently took both Hillary Clinton to task on her incompetence and by association the incompetence of the Obama administration, and also John Kerry to task on the flip-flopitty positions on the War Powers Act.  He also was one of the best questioners because he knows (and other Senators need to learn this) that he is not the most important person in the room.  His job is to ask a question and get out of the way.  Paul is also talking about a favorite topic of mine which is expanding the base.  I think Paul can get out the traditional base more than Romney or McCain could, and he is talking about challenging the Democrats on the east and west coasts.  Democrats have a plan to make Texas more competitive – that is called “doing it right!”  New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon… these could all be competitive if the GOP can get the right message and the right messenger.

Bobby Jindal was initially called an opportunist by coming out so quickly against Mitt Romney after election night.  He was a good cheerleader and passionate advocate for Romney during the election, and so was I!  After Romney lost so badly and against the anti-conventional wisdom we were being peddled on FoxNews, I was depressed and Jindal was right on the money in expressing my frustration.  Most recently he said that the GOP needs to go for 100% of the vote and stop acting like we don’t like Democrat voters.  Jindal has the wonkishness of Paul Ryan, but with guts and fire.  I’m not sure how you screen out candidates who might “say stupid things” when put in a corner.  I don’t think Akin was anybody’s first choice, but Richard Mourdock had a lot of good conservative press before his abortion statement.  Jindal had better worked out all of his responses to biased and leading questions, because he and Rand Paul are going to be tested starting…. NOW!

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Stunning Ohio House Election Numbers

As a follow-up to the Scarborough post, I decided to try to calculate the election results for the Ohio Congress versus the Presidential race.  As it turns out, House Republicans got 52% of the total vote.  Mitt Romney got 2.58 million votes and House Republicans got 2.54 million.  It’s a bit hard to make too many generalizations from this, after all there were two uncontested house races and Senate candidate Josh Mandel only got 2.36 million votes.  Steve Chabot in Hamilton County and Mike Turner in Montgomery County had the best showings for the House candidate versus Mitt Romney.  John Boehner had no Democrat challenger, so who knows what effect that had on these totals.  Parts of Cuyahoga and Summit counties had no Republican House candidate facing Marcia Fudge so Romney made up some difference here.  But overall, it was a consistent GOP showing from President to House.

Barack Obama got 2.69 million votes, Senator Sherrod Brown got 2.64 million, and the House counterparts only received 2.30 million, a stunning difference of almost 400k votes.  Half of the difference came in the four big counties of Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, and John Boehner’s Bulter County.  Obama did much poorer in Trumbull and Mahoning Counties than Democrat Congressman Tim Ryan.

It’s hard to know how well the gerrymandering did.  One of the best methods would be to look at the wards and precincts on each side of the border of the long Marcy Kaptur district as Republicans won everything to her south yet she for over 70% of the vote.  But it looks like Obama voters simply left and did not vote down-ticket.  I wonder if there’s a term for that?  Is low-information-voter too harsh?

Scarborough: Don’t Kick A Man When He’s Right

I almost called him a RINO, but I’m trying for a different tone.  Joe Scarborough has said a number of big government things over his years at MSNBC, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give credit when he’s speaking the truth.  Conservative intolerance is something everybody has to pay attention to… EVERYBODY!

And that means you, Joe Scarborough, Steve LaTourette, and anybody else who continues to misconstrue the Tea Party while speaking as a Republican.  I don’t expect Democrats to understand the Tea Party, although any mature person should want to try to understand the other side.  It is, after all, the fifth of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”  But when Republicans are blatantly intolerant of the Tea Party by complaining of the Tea Party’s intolerance, then they’re no better than a Daily Show sketch.

On Meet The Press, Joe Scarborough made a point that I have made throughout my blog posts about Ohio’s redistricting.  He said that Republicans actually got a minority of the raw vote for House members despite having more members 233-200.  I’m not sure that’s true in Ohio, but the four Ohio Democrats won big in their districts:  Joyce Beatty in the new Columbus district got 68%, Marcy Kaptur got 73%, Tim Ryan got 72%, and Marcia Fudge got 100%.  John Boehner was unopposed, and then the only other Republicans above 60% were Mike Turner, Pat Tiberi, and Steve Stivers.

Now this is all well and good for the GOP.  After all to the winner goes the spoils, and Republicans controlled the redistricting map this time around.  But by segregating the inner cities into Democrat districts, the GOP has stopped making the argument to potentially win these voters.  The best argument for conservative change in the inner cities is being made by the Tea Party.  The RINOs would only give them government in a different way; the Tea Party speaks of individual liberty and rewarding success.

Scarborough’s point was that the Republicans really don’t have the mandate they think they have.  I believe that is true.  If it weren’t for favorable redistricting, who knows what the balance of the House might be.  But I hope the Republican House takes the next two years deciding to use the power that they have to make the argument against big government.

Ohio in the 113th Congress

The new year brought much crisis and intrigue in Congress.  Of course, we have a President who operates by crisis and has victories in doing so.  There’s no reason for him to change, so we can look forward to last-minute deals at the edge of each cliff that is created over the next four years.  How are the 12 Ohio Republicans going to fare?  Lets start with the end – 2014.

Safe Republicans should include Steve Chabot, freshman Brad Wenstrup, Jim Jordan, Bob Latta, Mike Turner, and Steve Stivers.  The Tea Party sophomores Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson are probably safe but you never know.  Democrats are likely to mount strong challenges to Jim Renacci and to David Joyce who won the seat left by Steve LaTourette.  These are both northeast Ohio districts and are the most likely to flip blue at some point.

For potential Republican primary challenges, Pat Tiberi is in a much more conservative district than he was in 2008 when Barack Obama carried the district.  His votes are much closer to LaTourette than they are to a solid conservative like Chabot and this might not be palatable in his newly carved region.  And lastly, the Speaker John Boehner is in a solidly red district and I trust everybody will be watching his performance very closely.

The “fiscal cliff” vote was one of the last of the 112th Congress.  Yes votes included Speaker Boehner, Tea Party favorite Bill Johnson, the three-term conservative Bob Latta, the Columbus pair of Steve Stivers and Pat Tiberi, and Mr. Chucklehead himself, Steve LaTourette.  Stivers, Tiberi, and LaTourette are the most liberal of the Republican delegation, so their votes aren’t a surprise.  Bob Latta is in a solid district and he may have voted to keep some of his bridges from burning.  Bill Johnson’s vote is interesting as his district is one that is traditionally Democrat but has shifted over the last few elections.  And then there’s Boehner.

Boehner had a somewhat vocal challenge to his leadership which crashed when the votes were actually cast.  I didn’t hear any Ohioan being part of this coup, although Jim Jordan, former Republican Caucus Chair, received a Speaker vote from Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.  Jordan himself voted for Boehner.

On the Democrat side, Ohio has two female members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty.  The dean of the Ohio delegation is Marcy Kaptur who is enjoying her 15th term and is the second Democrat in line on the Appropriations Committee.  The fourth Democrat is Tim Ryan whose name has been floated for a run for Governor in 2014.

Activists have long memories, and decisions made on the fiscal cliff deal and the upcoming debt ceiling fight will lead to decisions whether or not to mount primary challenges.  I just hope that these decisions indeed move this country forward, if only to stop ourselves from moving backwards.