Whereas the Iowa Caucus can get discounted, the New Hampshire vote is a more serious affair: the mechanics of a primary is more streamlined compared to a caucus and so the results are more clear, and New Hampshire's voting bloc - more libertarian than religious conservative - counters the results Iowa gives towards social wingnuts.
That said, the two parties hosted one more debate round this past week. With the Democrats now whittled down to two - Hillary and Bernie - it made their debate last Thursday easier to follow, and despite the attacks between the two over policy differences there was at least a sense of comity.
About the Republicans' debate this Saturday night?
Never mind the confusion that happened during the introductory walk-out, the debate itself was a disaster.
On the bright side, the debate opened with Marco Rubio - the anointed Savior of the Establishment who "won" Third Place in Iowa - getting his prepped spiel shoved back down his throat by an alert Chris Christie. Rubio's habit of reading off and repeating the same line "Let's dispel this notion..." over and over - a nice trick for campaign rallies but foolish for a live debate - got called on by Christie who noted such platitudes don't resolve specific issues, and that leadership involves showing up and making decisions (an open attack on Rubio's poor attendance at the Senate). When Rubio's reply was the exact same line he keeps giving, Christie interrupted with glee: "There it is! There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody."
Twitter is an unforgiving and cold reality. #RubioGlitch and #RoboRubio hashtags spread like wildfire.
You have to give props to Christie, who needed to punch his way upward this debate to find any traction to build his flailing campaign back from the brink. He's still stuck somewhere in fifth or sixth place, but if he can impress the state GOP voters that he's got the leadership skills - the advantage a governor-candidate has running for President - he could move up to OH BOY the coveted THIRD PLACE every pundit likes.
Either him or fellow governor-candidates Jeb Bush or John Kasich. Jeb! apparently convinced the pundit class that he was still sober, and Kasich didn't say anything offensive which convinced the same pundit class that he was still sane.
But the entirety of the debate revealed serious psychological and intellectual flaws for the entire Republican Party. As Will Saletan notes at Slate:
The disaster, the blame game, and the establishment’s surprise at what’s happening are related. Since President Obama’s election, the GOP has abandoned its role as a national governing party. It has seized Congress not by pursuing an alternative agenda but by campaigning and staging votes against anything Obama says or does. The party’s so-called leaders have become followers, chasing the pet issues of right-wing radio audiences. Now the mob to whom these elders have surrendered—angry white voters who are determined to “take back their country” from immigrants and liberals—is ready to install its own presidential nominee. The Trump-Cruz takeover is the culmination of the Grand Old Party’s moral collapse...
...Republicans no longer have a policy agenda. They have a scapegoating, base-stoking agenda. Their economic plan is to blame legal immigrants for the demise of upward mobility. Their social policy is to defund the nation’s leading birth-control provider and promote disobedience of court orders. Their foreign policy is to carpet-bomb Syria, insult the faith of our anti-ISIS partners, and void Iran’s pledge to abstain from nuclear weapons production...
I've mentioned it before on this blog: for all the talk about how the Republicans were "fielding strong candidates" this election cycle we're getting a lot of wounded ducks instead. Every potential candidate has serious flaws that would - not could - cripple the GOP's chances in the general election.
There are several reasons Trump is polling in the lead - STILL even after finishing Second in Iowa - and one of them is the fact the entire Republican field is terrible.
- The Designated Front-Runner in Jeb! turned out to be terrible at campaigning, period (and wasting PAC money to boot).
- Pundit favorite (from 2012) Christie turned into a bully with unresolved and REAL scandals trailing him.
- The latest Pundit favorite Rubio has no legislative record he can run on (even mentioning his own failed efforts at immigration reform hurts him).
- The crowd favorite Carson has no elective or political experience at all, and his lack of knowledge involving the issues can underwhelm.
- The candidate performing best this early phase of the primary cycle is Cruz, who panders best to the evangelical base but has alienated his own party's leadership to the point open rebellion could happen if Cruz wins. Cruz's scheming and abrasiveness has made him DC's Guy That Nobody Likes.
- Token female candidate Carly Fiorina came in with huge baggage as a failed CEO of HP and made it worse by lying so much about Planned Parenthood even fellow anti-abortionists ignore her.
- The Only Sane Candidate Kasich has a track record that looks great on paper for a general election, but has made enough moderating moves such as backing Obamacare that the Far Right base of the GOP won't vote for him in the Primary.
- Gilmore? Gilmore hasn't dropped out yet?
- All topped off by TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP, a massive blowhard with no elective experience whose policy positions are scatterbrained except for the one he's keyed on: a hard-right anti-immigration agenda that would drive 99 percent of the Hispanic vote out of the GOP with no guarantee of picking up any other voting bloc to compensate.
And remember, these are the ones who haven't dropped out yet. That's a field including the likes of Perry, Walker, Jindal, Huckabee, Pataki, Graham, and Paul. Some of them with impressive resumes but bigger flaws that drove them out early.
And all of these candidates are touting a Republican platform of massive tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, defunding a popular health program in Planned Parenthood, pushing an unrealistic foreign policy of "bomb everybody", and a deregulatory agenda across the board that would privatize our schools, public utilities, and social aid programs that we've seen will collapse into chaos without said regulations. There's honestly very little distinction between each candidate's positions on those issues: all that's left to decide on are the personalities, and that's no way to choose effective leadership.
It's a choice between flawed people. From a political party promising another Big Reagan, all they are offering the electorate this 2016 are a bunch of Little Nixons.
There are no grand leaders of bold vision - no Roosevelt, no Rockefeller, no Goldwater, no Kemp, not even Bob Dole - among the Republicans anymore. The party is made up of hollow men (and women) who follow right-wing media talking points rather than carve out and create solutions. Because creating solutions would take initiative and daring (and bipartisan effort), and nobody wants to risk alienating their voting bloc.
Even the real Richard Nixon was able to lead on issues, taking surprising action on various matters (Nixon To China) and working with his political opponents in Congress. His political descendants, his lesser children - the ones who follow his footsteps in the wake of his personal implosion over Watergate - can't even comprehend how to do that.
This is a serious question:
- Can you picture what it would be like in 2017 if our President was Jeb? We'd have a rehash of his brother's administration, the same players who caused our woes of 2001-2008.
- Can you picture a Trump presidency? An internal war of mass roundups and deportations among a ton of civil rights violations as he pushes the anti-immigration policy he campaigned for.
- Can you picture a Cruz presidency? Having campaigned on an evangelical agenda, Cruz will likely shred the First Amendment and the Constitution's No Religious Test rules, and go about carving a Fundamentialist Christianist "utopia" that will put blind faith as policy over all.
- Can you picture a Rubio presidency? How can you: he hasn't done anything of merit to go by. He's been so robotic and empty-suit a candidate that if he does get into the White House he'll likely disconnect from setting policy or any activity, leaving it all to others while he enjoys the perks of the office and none of the accountability.
- Can you picture a Christie presidency? Just take the worst elements of the Nixon administration - the backroom bullying - and turn it public.
- The only candidate who even looks like he could form an administration with bipartisan and forward-thinking policies - based on his track record - would be Kasich... and even he will get hamstrung by a party platform that will dictate no deviation from massive tax cuts.
Not to mention what our foreign policy will look like regardless which Republican goes into the White House. Our stance of "bomb bomb bomb" in the Middle East will alienate even our staunchest allies - UK, France, Germany, India, Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia - and the entire world could conceivably come up with plans to sanction and isolate the United States. They've openly debated in the British Parliament about banning Trump from traveling to their nation due to his racist Mexican-bashing.
The scary thing is that the way our electoral system is geared, two major political parties will have to offer up a candidate for the White House this 2016.
And one party - the Republicans - are doomed to offer up a Tyrant-In-The-Making, someone obsessed with a harsh Far Right domestic agenda at odds with an increasingly Left-leaning and progressive nation.
This is getting serious, people.
I dread how this is all going to play out in my home state of Florida. We're due to get the ad push any day now, with our Primary just one month away...