The Headache Factor

 

Carson delivers remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, MarylandThe New York Times celebrated St Patrick’s Day not with a wearin’ of the green, but instead with a wary look at the long shots in the Republican presidential field. Chief among “The Grey Lady’s” concerns: what it dubs “the Ben Carson movement” — the support surrounding the pediatric neurosurgeon seeking the presidency in what the Times deems a political insurrection.

The question: is 2016 going to be a repeat of 2012, when a series of movement GOP candidates had their 15 minutes of fame, yet the contest still ultimately went to the establishment candidate? Or, will outsiders like Carson change the script? And, if they can’t change the outcome, are they are a benefit or a liability to whoever gets the nod?

If you look at the recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that asked GOP voters to rate the candidates, Carson was in the middle of the pack: 41% said they could support him, placing him seventh out of 14 (behind Rubio, Walker, Huckabee, Bush, Paul, and Perry; ahead of Cruz, Santorum, Jindal, Christie, Trump, Graham, and Fiorina).

But is Ben Carson and the non-establishment portion of the field the GOP’s biggest headache at this moment, as the Times fears?

Here are some other potential concerns:

1) Jeb Bush’s numbers don’t improve (49% of Republicans in the aforementioned poll would support him — fourth behind Rubio, Walker and Huckabee); 42% won’t (a number topped only by Christie, Graham and Trump). Back in December, 63% of Republicans said they could back Bush. Suppose Bush gets the nomination but the base is even less enthused than it is now. That spells trouble.

2) Scott Walker’s gaffes become a running story. The Wisconsin governor’s stumbled on evolution and ISIS; he didn’t exactly shine at the Club for Growth’s annual meeting. For all the attributes (anti-establishment, working class), the impression of not ready for prime time could derail the express. Suppose Walker gets the nomination, despite the occasional blunders. Will independent voters give him the benefit of the doubt?

3) The Field vs. Congress. Beating up on the Obama Administration is a given; so too, Hillary Clinton. But what about the Republican Congress? Will candidates embrace or distance themselves from the GOP budget blueprint? Will the GOP senators in the 2016 field ever find a budget to their liking? The same dynamic returns this fall, when the GOP Congress has to settle on a policy and political approach to raising the debt ceiling. One other wild card: if and when President Obama gets a chance to make a Supreme Court pick.

Anything else I’m missing?

There are 8 comments.

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  1. x Inactive
    x
    @CatoRand

    Could we, please, stop including Donald Trump on any list like this?  Please?

    • #1
  2. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Let’s just hope that Bush’s numbers don’t improve, because he is the closest thing to an establishment candidate, and the GOP hasn’t done too well with those lately.

    I dispute the idea that Walker is gaffe-prone (as compared to, say, Carson, who just expressed the idea that the Baltic states – members of NATO already – should join NATO).  Walker has proven himself in the crucible of Wisconsin politics, and he is the “Calvin Coolidge” candidate.

    • #2
  3. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    The NYT is worried about the “Ben Carson Movement”.  They are worried about a more conservative candidate actually winning the nomination instead of a “middle-of-the-roader.”.  Are they equally worried about a more liberal candidate winning the Democrat nomination?  Are they concerned about the “Bernie Sanders Movement”?  I don’t think so.  The NYT can quit worrying about the Republican party.

    This election may be the swan song of the Republican party.  If an establishment candidate is nominated, a goodly number of Conservatives will not vote for him.  If an establishment Republican candidate actually wins the Presidency and does nothing to cut spending, reduce regulations and shrink government, I think a majority of Republicans and most Conservatives will walk to a third party.

    • #3
  4. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Bill Whalen: Scott Walker’s gaffes become a running story.

    Come on.  The front-runner always has to deal with the gotcha game.  Every slip-up is a gaffe, but it’s pretty silly, as lots of Presidents have made it past horrible gaffes.

    The latest is: Walker fires his social media person who made several ill-considered (verging on idiotic) comments on social media.  This is viewed as caving to those offended by the comments.

    If your social media person is becoming news and is causing you headaches, she’s not doing her job…

    Recognizing that isn’t capitulating, it’s good management.

    “The statement said, “The tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse.””

    • #4
  5. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Tuck:

    Bill Whalen: Scott Walker’s gaffes become a running story.

    Come on. The front-runner always has to deal with the gotcha game. Every slip-up is a gaffe, but it’s pretty silly, as lots of Presidents have made it past horrible gaffes.

    The latest is: Walker fires his social media person who made several ill-considered (verging on idiotic) comments on social media. This is viewed as caving to those offended by the comments.

    If your social media person is becoming news and is causing you headaches, she’s not doing her job…

    Recognizing that isn’t capitulating, it’s good management.

    “The statement said, “The tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse.””

    Which is actually a true statement.  I scrolled through her Twitter feed and while I’m sure she’s a talented professional she’d used a tone towards voters I definitely wouldn’t be comfortable with.

    The problem for Walker is that she said all that before he hired her, and they really should’ve read her Twitter feed first.  So it was a self-inflicted wound.  It was a bigger one because it turns out she has lots of friends/acquaintances in conservative media, and they aren’t taking it well.  He got hit so badly for “caving to Iowa” because it followed the ethanol thing.  I think it’s an unfair hit, but one he set himself up for.

    As for “not ready for prime time,” I think Walker wasn’t prepared to be the frontrunner this early and it’s not clear how quickly he can get his act together.  (And he needs to remember 2012 and not let it go to his head.)

    I’m quite willing to predict this, though: He will never say he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”  Or dismiss the “47%” who will never vote for him.

    • #5
  6. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Leigh:

    The problem for Walker is that she said all that before he hired her, and they really should’ve read her Twitter feed first. So it was a self-inflicted wound. It was a bigger one because it turns out she has lots of friends/acquaintances in conservative media, and they aren’t taking it well.

    Fair point, and true.  The WSJ even is defending her!

    But stuff like this just isn’t professional, in my view:

    <blockquoteclass=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”>

    More balls in my timeline than if I only followed gay porn accounts, y’all…

    — Liz Mair(@LizMair) January 21, 2015

    <blockquoteclass=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”>

    BTW, Romney pre-empting and trying to one-up Joni Ernst, giving the official GOP #SOTU response? Totally dick move. #ego

    — Liz Mair(@LizMair) January 21, 2015

    And she’s got a bunch of other Tweets that aren’t CoC-compliant, so I’ll let you go find them yourself.

    • #6
  7. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Tuck:

    Leigh:

    The problem for Walker is that she said all that before he hired her, and they really should’ve read her Twitter feed first. So it was a self-inflicted wound. It was a bigger one because it turns out she has lots of friends/acquaintances in conservative media, and they aren’t taking it well.

    Fair point, and true. The WSJ even is defending her!

    But stuff like this just isn’t professional, in my view:

    I agree.  Some of those commentators (like Jim Geraghty) are people I take seriously, and I was prepared to accept the consensus at first.  Scrolling down her feed a little ways changed my mind.  This wasn’t a spineless cave proving Walker will sell his soul to win Iowa.  It was a vetting failure.

    But I think we’re on a rabbit trail from the post.  To the main point, it seems to me the people who get to decide whether the long shots prove a “headache” are the Republican voters.  The discomfort with Jeb Bush makes me queasy, not least because I share it.  I do not think he will be the nominee.  I think he could lose even a three-way race.  But the field provides much potential for chaos (like Huckabee winning Iowa) and chaos may ultimately benefit Bush.  I don’t think anyone can completely predict what this country would do given Bush vs. Clinton.

    Congress is probably a good argument for Republican Governor 2016.

    • #7
  8. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    National Security is the sine qua non issue. If we don’t get that right, nothing else is really going to matter.

    Any one of the prospective Republican candidates, Donald Trump included, would be better on national security than Hillary Clinton or any prospective Democrat.

    In 2016, the least worst choice will be whichever Republican manages to stagger across the finish line first.

    • #8
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