Thursday, August 6, 2015

An Early Look at the 2016 Republican Candidates (or The Republican Clown Car Pulls Up to the Podium)

In the summer of 2011, more than a year before the Presidential election, I posted some very preliminary thoughts about the Republican candidates. The exercise was fun, if a little depressing. With the Republican primary debates beginning soon tonight*, I thought I’d repeat that exercise with the current crop of clowns candidates. Please note that I have, for the most part, done little or no independent research for this post; these are my thoughts based almost entirely on articles that I’ve read or stories that I’ve heard (via NPR, mostly), though I did, in a few cases, take the time to find links or quotations that helped illustrate my thoughts. I am very familiar with some of these candidates (especially those who participated in the 2011-12 debates); others are often little more than names. The candidates are listed in alphabetic order. Anyway, here we go. Candidates who will be in the first debate on August 6, 2015, are highlighted in red; candidates who didn’t make the first debate will have a very steep hill to climb.

*I started writing this post in late June 2015, but time has not been my friend. I’d really like to delay posting to give me a bit more time to complete some of my thoughts (especially with regard to a few candidates), but I also really want this post to be published before the first of the debates. So, perhaps as I did in 2011, I’ll write an update to this post sometime in the coming weeks (or months).

Jeb-BushJeb Bush

It feels like Bush should be the frontrunner going into the debates. He has high name recognition and he has served as governor of a populous and important (i.e, swing state). Yet each of those “positives” are also among his biggest negatives. High name recognition comes with the unavoidable association with both his father and his brother. Bush will have to walk a fine line to distance himself from the economic policies of both prior Bush administrations and with the disastrous war in Iraq commenced by his brother. Moreover, hailing from Florida, it will be difficult for him to avoid running, at least in part, on the policies that he oversaw while Governor, some of which I understand were and remain deeply unpopular. In a state as populous and divided as Florida, there will be no shortage of voices speaking out against Bush’s policies. Similarly, as he tacks right for the primaries and abandons some of the more centrist positions that he’s held in the past, it will be difficult for him to sweep under the rug those former positions that may be unpalatable to the right. Add to that the fact that Bush would likely need to be not just a flip-flopper but a flip-flap-flopper to win the Presidency, needing to tack right to win the primary (abandoning centrist positions) and then flip back to those centrist positions for the general election. Doing so will likely make him look like a unprincipled mercenary who doesn’t really have any position other than a desire to win.

Ben-CarsonDr. Ben Carson

I’m going to begin my analysis of Carson by quoting my 2011 analysis of Herman Cain because, sadly, I think that much of that analysis remains precisely true today, even though the candidate is different (I’ve changed “Cain” to “Carson” for readability):

The following statement is going to sound a bit racist, so let me complete the thought before you draw any conclusions. I think that [Carson]’s support is largely based upon the fact that he’s black …. What do I mean by that? I think that a lot of Republicans are, knowingly or otherwise, trying hard to show that both they and other Republicans are not racists and that opposition to President Obama is not based on racism. How best to show that you’re not a racist? Simple: Support a black candidate! Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe Republicans really like [Carson], even though most had never heard of him before very recently and many more are highly unlikely to have heard much of what he has to say. Yet even with his relative obscurity, he continues to poll quite well. Hmm.

Finally, I think that there is a large portion of the Republican electorate that will reject [Carson] because he’s black.

I presume that Dr. Carson is fine neurosurgeon. But as a politician, I think that he will turn out to be a total failure. His ideas seem to consist of not much more than far right mumbo jumbo with a dash of populism and theism thrown in. I think that there are too many other candidates trying to occupy the same portion of the political spectrum for Carson to really get much of a foothold, though if he does well in the early debates he might be able to carve out a spot for himself. However, should he make it through the primaries to become the candidate, I think that he’ll have an extremely hard time convincing voters (other than those on the far right) to vote for him, in light of statements like these:

  • “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
  • “I mean, [our society is] very much like Nazi Germany. And I know you're not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany,’ but I don't care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”
  • “You know, we live in a Gestapo age, people don't realize it.”
  • “I think most people, when they finish [AP history], they'd be ready to go sign up for ISIS.”
  • “You know, Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way—it is slavery in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government.”
  • “They've [ISIS] got the wrong philosophy, but they’re willing to die for what they believe, while we’re busily giving away every value and every belief for the sake of political correctness.”
  • Carson said he couldn't be sure “there will even be an election in 2016” if Republicans didn't go on to win [in 2014]. (His wife also said they were keeping their son’s Australian passport handy if the election didn’t go their way.)

Chris-ChristieChris Christie

Christie seems like one of the more moderate candidates in the field. Thus, the first question becomes the degree to which he feels a need to veer to the right for the primaries. I think that he may have an even more difficult time doing so and then moving back to the center-right than would Jeb Bush.

I also wonder whether one of Christie’s seeming strengths — his big, brash personality — is as much of a weakness as it is a strength. His bold, “in your face” approach may work well in New Jersey, but how well will that play in Iowa, New Hampshire, or southern states? There are numerous videos of Christie getting into arguments with voters in New Jersey. Will he be able to control himself if pushed on a campaign stop in Iowa or or New Hampshire? And will that brashness make him seem un-Presidential? In this regard, Christie can be compared to Trump, but unlike Trump, whose brashness comes off as somewhat polished, Christie comes off as nothing more than a schoolyard bully.

Oh, and don’t forget the Republicans who still don’t forgive Christie for acting responsibly in the wake of Hurricane Sandy by cooperating with President Obama.

Then of course are the scandals. One on top of another. And even if Christie can persuasively argue that Bridgegate was the fault of his aides, won’t that feed into a narrative that suggests that he doesn’t take responsibility for things done by those working for him or that he is a poor manager who doesn’t know what is being done by his aides? Moreover, the investigations into the scandals remain ongoing. Who knows if (or when) an indictment or further bad news will come out.

I hate to say it, but I also think that Christie’s weight will present him with several problems. First, the national campaign trail is absolutely brutal. I don’t know if Christie has health problems or if he’s just a big guy. But if he does have any health problems, campaigning could exacerbate those problems. Furthermore, one of the potential attacks for Republicans to levy against Hillary Clinton in the general age will focus on her age. If Christie is the nominee, the strength of those attacks against Clinton will likely be blunted by concerns about Christie’s health

Ted-CruzTed Cruz

Cruz strikes me as a very stupid smart person. By that I mean he may be smart enough to have gone to good schools (but then so did George W. Bush), but he doesn’t seem able to actually apply any of that intelligence. He seems to make bad decision after bad decision without ever being able to either take responsibility for those decisions or to recognize negative ramifications associated with those decisions. For example, he still seems to think both that the government shutdown was a good idea and President Obama’s fault.

I also keep reading that Cruz is despised by his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Not disliked, mind you, but despised. That may not matter (at least not too much) to primary voters, but it will matter in terms of building campaign infrastructure, endorsements and, potentially, campaign contributions. Questions will be raised and it may be difficult for Cruz to explain away his differences with colleagues.

Furthermore, Cruz has a major albatross around his neck in the form of his father, a really far-right pastor who has said some colorful things in the past. Things that a candidate’s father or pastor say shouldn’t define the candidate, but then look how well that worked for President Obama with his pastor. Moreover, Cruz doesn’t seem to have made any effort to distance himself from some of his father’s more offbeat or offensive views. Should Cruz advance far into the primaries (or into the general election), I think that the Dominion Theology movement from which he comes will become the subject to a spotlight

Cruz also has a whole catalog of prior statements and positions that he is likely to be pushed on, probably much harder than he’s been pushed previously. He’s made outrageous statements and claims (Harvard Law School is full of communists!) that he’s never had to back up or explain. In the course of a primary campaign, it seems highly likely that he’ll be asked about those statements, whether by a small town newspaper (you know, where they still do real journalism) or by another candidate seeking to weaken Cruz or carve out a place of his/her own.

Finally, have you ever actually stopped and listened to Cruz speak? It’s excruciating. He has a voice that … well … you wouldn’t want to listen to him give regular speeches, let alone inaugural addresses or State of the Union speeches. I don’t think that people pay conscious attention to things like that when choosing a candidate, but I do think that traits like that play into the general favorable or unfavorable opinion that people draw about the candidates.

I’ve only written one prior post specifically about Cruz: Abolish the IRS? Seriously? Do These People Even Think Before Speaking? (Jun. 4, 2014).

Carly-FiorinaCarly Fiorina

Like Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina comes from the world of business, not politics. That may be her biggest strength, but it is also her glaring weakness. For one thing, what, if anything, does she know about foreign policy or any of the host of other issues that will be important both in the upcoming debates and for the next President? Will she be able to articulate policies and be able to demonstrate a reasonable knowledge of the issues? More problematic for Fiorina is that as she touts her business experience (running Hewlett Packard), but when she does so, she must also explain laying off more than 30,000 American employees, engineering an unsuccessful merger with Compaq, and leading HP to lose more than half of its value. She was forced to resign by HP’s board of directors. Read those two sentences again. And now she wants to put that business experience to work for America! No thanks.

Jim-GilmoreJim Gilmore

Who? Exactly. Gilmore is the former governor of … oh, who cares. He doesn’t stand a chance. (But it was Virginia from 1998-2002.) I’ve listed him here because he has the credentials (i.e., former governor) but a complete lack of name recognition or recent notable accomplishments most likely renders his candidacy dead in the water. Perhaps in a year with fewer candidates he might be able to gain traction by showing that he is a substantive candidate, but when there are thousands dozens so many candidates, I just don’t see how he can carve out any space to gain traction.

Lindsey-GrahamLindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham is an interesting candidate. He is clearly one of the more knowledgeable candidates with very strong credentials and an exceptional policy background. But Graham is hard to pin down on the ideological scale; for every moderate position he takes, he seems to have another position fairly far to the right. For every reasonable statement attributable to him, there seems to be another that is more off-the-wall. So it will be interesting to listen to him in the debates. If he makes it into the debates.

While Graham may be a foreign policy expert, he is clearly a hawk. With regard to certain foreign policy matters, that hawkishness may play well (how to deal with ISIS, for example). But in a country that has been at war, in one form or another, since 2001, an overly hawkish worldview might alienate a lot of voters, especially in states with large military populations that, by this point, are exhausted and probably not interested in more boots on the ground fighting yet more conflicts.

The biggest problem that Graham may face if he gets beyond the initial days of the campaign is the whisper and rumor campaign that will likely follow him: Is he gay? Graham is a confirmed bachelor. He has joked that, if elected President, he would have a “rotating first lady”. While Graham has denied being gay, the rumors and allegations have followed him in his political career. Now, any reader of this blog likely knows that whether he is gay or not has no bearing on my view of Graham’s character or fitness for office (and I can understand why a South Carolina politician might want to remain closeted [and I’m not suggesting that he is] given the views in that state). But in 2000, the whisper campaign against John McCain (allegedly spearheaded by George W. Bush’s campaign and Karl Rove in particular) about McCain’s adopted Vietnamese daughter (suggesting that she was actually McCain’s illegitimate black daughter) effectively ended his candidacy. I hate to say it, but I suspect a similar sort of whisper campaign regarding Graham’s sexuality, especially in the conservative states that are prevalent in the early primary season, could be devastating to his campaign. Wrong and unfair, but this is politics.

Mike-HuckabeeMike Huckabee

Where to start? I mean, really, where to start? Perhaps this quote from Mike Huckabee while campaigning for President back in 2008 (emphasis in original):

I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.

Let’s just take that as a starting point. If you search around online or even spend a little time listening to Huckabee you’ll quickly discover both that the foregoing quotation was neither taken out of context nor particularly unusual. Moreover, a review of the sorts of statements that Huckabee is prone to make should lead one to realize, quickly, that Huckabee doesn’t really want to be President of the United States of America; rather he wants to be the Head Pastor of a theocracy (one which is based upon his understanding of “truth”, of course).

I could write pages and pages analyzing quotations from Huckabee (such as comparing the US debt “crisis” to the Holocaust, offensive comments about transgendered individuals, claiming that women who wanted access to birth control “can’t control their libidos”, his release of a sexual predator from prison because the prisoner had supposedly had a religious awakening [and who subsequently committed murder], his defense of the Duggar clan in the wake of the child molestation covered up by the family, or his implicit comparison of President Obama to Hitler regarding the proposed nuclear deal with Iran), but I don’t think it’s worth my effort.

Perhaps more than any other candidate, I get the sense that Huckabee wants to be President for only a segment of the population; if you don’t share his narrow and religious-based worldview, he doesn’t want to be your President; rather, he wants to use the office of the Presidency to convert change your views — and rights — to match the theocracy he wants to lead.

Huckabee’s shtick — and his “folksiness” — may play well in rural Iowa and across the South, but I don’t see him able to gain much traction in urban areas or states with more diverse populations (whether religious or racial). And if he does gain any traction, I think that he will be hit hard, whether by the media or by another candidate, on some of his prior statements or his seeming theocratic leanings. I suspect that for every voter who finds his message appealing, several more will be turned off.

And while I get that he is very pro-Israel (and opposed to Obama on virtually everything), I’m not sure that comparing the proposed nuclear deal with Iran to ushering the Jews to gas chambers is really a way to garner support, even among the most conservative elements of the Jewish community.

I’m actually surprised how infrequently I’ve written about Huckabee given some of the unbelievable things that he’s said over the years. This is the only previous post that I’ve published that focused on Huckabee: Mike Huckabee Is Full of … Doggie Pooh! And He’s Playing Dangerous Politics (Mar. 7, 2011).

Bobby-JindalBobby Jindal

There is part of me that almost thinks that Bobby Jindal is some kind of a joke, as if Democrats invented and propped up the perfect opponent for a Democratic candidate to destroy. So let’s look at Bobby Jindal a bit more carefully. First, it’s probably worth noting that his name isn’t Bobby; it’s Piyush. Now I wonder why he goes by the name “Bobby”? Hmm. Interesting comparison: Barack Hussein Obama ran for office under his given name, rather than using the nickname “Barry”. His foes, especially the conspiracy-minded among them, tend to call him Barry or Barry Soetero or to remind us that his middle name is Hussein. But Jindal apparently gets a pass for using his American nickname rather than his given name. Debate and discuss. I’ll wait.

I also think that voters will get tired of being talked to as if Jindal was Mr. Rogers and the voters are a bunch of children in his neighborhood. But maybe that’s just me.

[I really wanted to spend a bit more time talking about some of Jindal’s policy views, but given that he didn’t make the cut for the first debate, and given that I want to publish this before that debate, additional thoughts on Jindal will have to wait.]

I’ve only really written about Jindal once (as a segment of a long post entitled More Stupid & Hate from the Right [Sep. 24, 2013]; scroll down about half way).

John-KasichJohn Kasich

Kasich, the Governor of Ohio, is one of the more interesting candidates in this group. From what I can glean of him, he is actually quite credible on the issues, much more of a “substantive guy” than some of the other candidates. And, on occasion, he has adopted positions that weren’t necessarily in line with the standard party platform. However, he doesn’t seem to have the oversize personality that so many of the other candidates possess and so it may be very difficult for him to get out of their shade and find any space in which to engage with voters on a substantive discussion of real issues. Furthermore, he is one of the last candidates to enter the race, so he hasn’t had the chance to build up his name recognition. On the other hand, given the way that some of the candidates have made themselves look like idiots or assholes, that might be a good thing.

Kasich, if he can find a way to separate himself from some of the other candidates, especially if he can find a way to turn the discussion substantive, may be a strong choice for voters interested in policy and substance over flash and rhetoric; unfortunately, flash and rhetoric are a lot easier to compress into a 30 second advertisement or a debate with ten people on the stage.

George-PatakiGeorge Pataki

George Pataki was Governor of New York from 1995-2006. He was Governor during 9/11. While he may have more name recognition and accomplishments that Jim Gilmore, Pataki must be considered a real long shot. I just don’t know what he’s got going for him that is going to make anyone jump to get on the Pataki bandwagon. He may be able to fundraise on Wall Street, but I don’t see him gaining traction outside the Northeast (and I’m not sure he has much support there, either). I’m sure he is a competent and substantive guy, but there doesn’t appear to be room for him in this crowded field.

Rand-PaulRand Paul

Paul is an interesting case. He is much more aligned with the Libertarian movement than with the Republican party and those libertarian leanings have endeared him to some on the left of the political spectrum, especially on issues like surveillance. But some of that libertarian spirit will alienate many core Republican voters.

Paul also has some massive problems that he’ll need to overcome if his candidacy continues for any substantial period of time. Most obvious of these is his father, long-time Congressman Ron Paul. Whether it be the elder Paul’s hostility toward Israel, long-standing dog-whistle racism, or penchant for conspiracy theories, the younger Paul may find himself forced to distance himself from or even argue against his father’s positions (they are already adverse on the proposed nuclear deal with Iran). Paul is also still trying to find a way to walk back his claims to Rachel Maddow that the Civil Rights Act was bad law. That position may help him secure the Confederate flag flying demographic but it won’t play well with minority communities. And trust me, if he gets deep into the debates and primaries, that video will will become fodder for many commercials and interview questions. Similarly, support for Israel is strong among the Republican base and his previous statement (which he has also tried to walk back) that he would eliminate aid to Israel may immediately disqualify him for some voters. And while many Republicans may still oppose Obamacare, Paul’s claim that a right to healthcare is comparable to … wait for it … slavery! … may be a proverbial bridge too far.

Paul also has some … weird … problems to deal with. For example, there was the whole “Aqua Buddha” thing that forced Paul to have to say: “No, I never was involved with kidnapping. No, I never was involved with forcibly drugging people.” Not exactly something you want your presidential candidate to have to address. More importantly, Paul claims (or at least used to claim) that he is/was a board-certified ophthalmologist. But guess what? The “board” that certified him … was a board that he founded in opposition to the main ophthalmologic licensing board. Doctor heal license thyself? And when questioned about the bizarre conspiracy theory that the military exercise known as Jade Helm was actually a plan by the Obama administration to … um … take away guns or enslave Texas with tunnels under Walmart, Paul, rather than acting responsibly and saying, “that’s just a stupid conspiracy theory and you’re an idiot of giving it any credence” instead said that he was going to “look into” the issue.

Look, let me be serious for a minute. Paul terrifies me. Perhaps more than any candidate other than Mike Huckabee, Paul would seek fundamental changes to our country and, perhaps, the world. And I do worry that were he to get the Republican nomination, he would be able to do very well, especially as he would mobilize Libertarians who might otherwise sit out the election and con(vince) some on the left to vote for him. That can’t be allowed to happen.

Rick-PerryRick Perry

Oops. That is the most important hurdle that Perry must overcome. His 2011 debate debacle memorialized with his infamous “Oops”. The upside to Perry’s candidacy is that he has tremendous charisma and tends to be (when not on painkillers) an engaging speaker with a good story to tell (as long as you don’t force him to get into details). But, as they say, the devil is in the details. Yes, Texas created a lot of jobs. A lot of low-paying jobs. Yes, the finances of Texas are good, so long as you don’t mind having the highest percentage of uninsured people in the country and as long as oil profit margins remain high. And so on and so forth.

Perry also has some close relationships with some of the more extreme elements of the Evangelical Christian community. I previously wrote about those relationships: Rick Perry’s Relationship With the Most Extreme Elements of Evangelical Christianity (Aug. 9, 2011). I also think that Perry would be bad for the Jews: Not Really Fair, But… (Aug. 15, 2011). I also wrote about Perry’s “pro-life” views which oppose abortion but which don’t mind executing convicted felons even if that convicted felon just might be innocent: Yeah, Rah, Death Penalty! (September 8, 2011).

I’ll also repeat some of what I wrote about Perry back in my 2011 candidate review:

Perry does, however, have some serious baggage of his own. First, and this is just my own two cents, will voters be uncomfortable with yet another Texas cowboy in the White House? I think that even a lot of Republican voters don’t look back on the Bush presidency with great fondness. Thus, one has to wonder whether Perry’s ties to Bush (if I’m not mistaken, he was Bush’s Lieutenant Governor) and other eerie similarities (he even seems to like to talk like Bush, droppin’ his Gs and bein’ all folksy) will be too much. And the macho cowboy image he likes to portray (he jogs with a gun and kills wild animals while jogging?) maybe a bit much for a lot of Americans.

There are also persistent rumors that Perry is … drum roll please … gay. Enough so, that his “even though I’m not running” team is apparently working to counter those rumors. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire? And even if there isn’t a fire, how will Republican voters react? Recall the drubbing that McCain took in South Carolina in 2000 when Bush supporters painted McCain as the father of a “black” child (his adopted Asian daughter). If Perry has to spend face time telling people that he’s not gay, it will just be less time that he has to talk to them about why they should support him.

Finally, there is the giant elephant in the room that I suspect every other Republican candidate will remind voters of time and time again and that is Perry’s flirtation with the early Tea Party movement and suggestions that Texas should secede if it doesn’t get what it wants from Washington. It will be hard to argue that he should be elected President of a country that he suggested, however obliquely, that Texas secede from. After all, it’s hard to play the role of the patriot when your opponents have red meat that they can display to suggest that you are anything but patriotic. My question is why the national media, in story after story on Perry and whether he may run, never remembers to mention that particular episode.

OK. So Perry didn’t really suggest secession. But he did seem to flirt with the idea. And even though he didn’t really suggest secession, I think that is an issue that he will continue to be challenged on in the primaries and in the general election. Since writing my original analysis on Perry, he’s hosted his prayer rally (see my post Rick Perry’s Relationship With the Most Extreme Elements of Evangelical Christianity), has called Ben Bernanke (head of the Federal Reserve) “treasonous”, made clear that he doesn’t believe in evolution, and suggested that climate scientists are engaging in fraud to line their own pockets. And yet Perry is also currently polling as the top candidate. So either Republicans still don’t really know Perry and are just desperate for someone other than Romney (or Bachmann or any of the other candidates) or they actually like a candidate with views as extreme as Perry.

Oh, and about those views. I had no idea that Perry wrote a book, just 10 months ago (!), in which he claims that virtually every federal program and many federal laws (including, but not limited to, Social Security, Medicare, child labor laws, environmental protection…) are unconstitutional. How will his claim that Social Security is an unconstitutional Ponzi scheme play in Florida?

It will be interesting to hear Perry explain some of these views in the debates (presuming that the moderators chosen by the Republican Party and/or Fox see fit to, you know, ask real questions).

Marco-RubioMarco Rubio

I’m really not sure what to make of Rubio. When he first appeared on the scene, he seemed both polished and substantive and somewhat willing to stake out his own ground and positions. But then when criticized (especially on immigration), he appeared to cave and revert to standard GOP positions mostly indistinguishable from any of the other candidates. He backstory (Cuban-American) is compelling … except for the fact that he apparently felt the need to lie about his parents’ history and then had to walk back and try to explain those lies. And then there was that infamous dry mouth and bottle of water in his response to the State of the Union speech a few years ago. Not terribly Presidential (but it will make for many a fun campaign ad…).

I really thought, at least for a while, that Rubio was going to be a strong candidate that would be able to stake out a position on the ideological spectrum. But as time has gone on, he seems to be fading into the woodwork with nothing unique to recommend him.

Rick-SantorumRick Santorum

Let me start by reposting most of what I wrote about Rick Santorum’s candidacy back in 2011 (with slight updates for 2015):

Santorum scares me, though thankfully, I don’t think that he has a chance of getting the nomination. He is a man that his so tone deaf to the world around him that I would be truly frightened of what an America under the leadership of Santorum might look like. He’s also one of those holier-than-thou sort of people. I just read an article last week about how the extremely anti-abortion candidate, a candidate who doesn’t believe in any exceptions, permitted doctors to induce an abortion in his wife to save her life. In other words, abortion is evil and nobody should ever have the right to an abortion … except for Santorum’s family. The saving grace, so to speak, is that I think Santorum’s social values stances are so far to the right, that he will be very unappealing to all but the furthest right portion of the Republican party. While the primaries tend to drive candidates toward the extremes, I think that candidates like [Cruz] and [Walker] (or maybe Rick Perry) can position themselves to the far right without going as far right as Santorum.

I forgot to mention one other weakness that Santorum has. In response to repeated highly offensive homophobic statements, several gay rights activists decided to go on the offensive against Santorum. They decided to coin a word invoking his last name. Go ahead: Google the name Santorum (though please don’t do so if your kids are reading this). Should more and more Americans decide to try learn a bit more about Santorum (the candidate, not the frothy mix), they will probably be learning things that they didn’t want to know. And once you have that name association in your head, good luck getting rid of it. Can you imagine if Santorum was the actual candidate? Would schools and libraries put a filter on searches of his name?

Well, as time has passed, Google searches on the word “santorum” are now more likely to return at least some hits related to the candidate, but that frothy mix still rates pretty highly in search results.

More importantly, in the four years since I wrote that prior piece, Santorum hasn’t changed much (though I will credit him for his unexpected response to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition).

Over the years, I’ve written several other posts about Rick Santorum:

Donald-TrumpDonald Trump

Do I talk about Trump’s racism and nativism? Do I talk about his being a “birther”? Do I talk about his serial bankruptcies? Do I talk about his favoring a single-payer health insurance system? Do I talk about his need for self-aggrandizement? I could. But we’d be here all day (not that I’m unwilling to take however long is necessary to help remove this dumb, evil fuck from our national conscience).

I suspect that over the coming months, I’ll have much more to write about Trump. So in the meantime (and in the interest of finishing this post so it can be published before the debate), let me just say that I think that Trump is just about the worst possible person to be a candidate for President. I think that he is a racist blowhard who isn’t half as a smart (or rich) as he thinks or claims he is. I think, if elected, he would do real damage to the United States, both domestically and internationally. And I think that he is a fundamentally unserious candidate who has no real interest in being President of the United States; rather he wants one more trophy in his gold-plated case.

My quick analysis: I think Trump will continue to do well … until he is forced to begin detailed substantive discussions on difficult issues. Just claiming that he’ll make Mexico pay to build a wall or that he beats the Chinese all the time are not answers or policies. They’re politicized bullshit. (If and) When he has to stop saying “I can do ___ better, because I built a tall building!” and has to start discussing the wonky policy details of how he would handle real problems, I think the shine will fade. And as soon as it stops being fun for Trump (or as soon as it stops being all about Trump), then I suspect he’ll get bored (or get bored of spending too much of his own money) and move on to his next self-aggrandizing project.

Scott-WalkerScott Walker

Gov. Walker (from Wisconsin) is one of the three “serious” candidates (with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz) that I would go so far as to put into a separate category that I’ll label “Bad Guys”. Most politicians are, I think, generally decent people (well, as decent as you can be when you have to spend so much time making promises and trying to convince people to give you money) who simply have different views of what they think our country and society should look like. I can disagree with you but that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad guy. Scott Walker is one of the candidates that I think really has neither concern nor care for anyone other than his group of supporters (or the moneyed interests that support him). I really think that he would be pleased to destroy much of the social safety net and workforce protections if it meant more money to line the pockets of those he favors.

Walker may do well in the primaries. He is a tested candidate who does seem to understand the issues. However, as time goes on, I think that his brand of conservatism will remain popular to only a small segment of the electorate. It seems that Walker’s best path to the nomination is to simply remain viable and in the upper tier of 5 or so candidates, hoping that the others flame out. And that strategy just might work.

No possible way

There are numerous other candidates who are officially seeking the Republican nomination. None of them have any hope whatsoever of making any sort of impact, let alone in getting on stage for a debate. The following candidates are all listed on the Politics and Elections Portal’s list of 2016 Republican Candidates (where you can find additional information about them:

  • Skip Andrews
  • George Bailey
  • Michael Bickelmeyer
  • Kerry Bowers
  • Eric Cavanaugh
  • Dale Christensen
  • Brooks Cullison
  • John Dummett, Jr.
  • Mark Everson
  • Jack Fellure
  • Jim Hayden
  • Chris Hill
  • Bartholomew James Lower
  • Andy Martin (yes, the same Andy Martin who sued Hawaii to get President Obama’s birth certificate and who said, “I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did”)
  • James C. Mitchell, Jr.
  • K. Ross Newland
  • Esteban Oliverez
  • Michael Petyo
  • Brian Russell
  • Jefferson Sherman
  • Shawna Sterling.

I’m not sure why they bother.

All candidate photos from

Update: I forgot to include the following infographic that shows how much time Fox News (the sponsor and host of the debate) has given to each of the candidates.


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At Friday, August 28, 2015 7:16:00 PM , Blogger Cheryl said...

A world where that many people think narcistic, bigoted, rude, insulting Donald Trump would make a great president is scary


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