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National Republicans

03
Bush’s steady and Hilary’s experienced and it all looks familiar but deep within the earth hidden rivers are flowing that may turn the Presidential race upside down.
 
No one had seen a caliph or caliphate for a millennium. Then, suddenly, in Yemen, Nigeria, North Africa, Syria and Iraq we have caliphates – and women sold as slaves, towns razed and hostages beheaded (or burned).
 
We have terrorist attacks from Australia to Paris and, in Saudi Arabia, an ‘enlightened’ country, the government has ordered a man publicly flogged, given 1000 lashes in front of a mosque for blasphemy.
                                                                                   
A year more of this and we may not be looking for a President whose steady or reliable – we may be looking for a warrior to whip the Huns. And someone who looks hard-edged, abrasive and unbending today, like Ted Cruz, may fit the bill.


 

 

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02
One score and four years after Bubba beat Poppy, another presidential election could be a showdown between the Republican First Family and Democratic First Family.
 
We shouldn’t be surprised. It’s the money, stupid.
 
Since the 1970s (or earlier), George H.W. Bush has built a vast network of fundraisers and donors. He did it the old-fashioned way, with good manners: handwritten notes, personal calls, Christmas cards and invitations to Kennebunkport and the White House. That network cleared the way for W. in 2000, and it’s doing the job for Jeb today. The only problem is that there are two other power centers today: Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News/Wall Street Journal network and the Koch Brothers’ money.
 
Similarly, since the 1970s (or earlier), Bill and Hillary have built a vast network of fundraisers and donors. They did it with idealism, ideology and access. There is nothing else like it in the Democratic Party. But the Clinton network is top-heavy with whip-smart people who are long-time campaign activists, all of whom have their own ideas about how to run a campaign and are willing to eviscerate any and all internal rivals. (See: Clinton Campaign, 2008.)
 
This time, Jeb and Hillary will carry the best and the worst of their legacies. Jeb’s slogan: “Just like my Dad – and a lot smarter than W!” Hillary’s: “Just like Bill – and without the bimbos or interns!”
 
Both will play off the President who interrupted the combined dynasties’ potential 32-year run in the White House. Explicitly or implicitly, both will say, “A lot better prepared than Obama – and I’ll LIKE the job.”
 
Now that Mitt Romney has seen what was obvious to everybody else, Jeb is the Republican frontrunner. He has all but sewn up the Moneyed Establishment wing of the party. But he’ll have to fend off challengers who emerge from the various Republican tribes, like the Tea Party, the Libertarians and the Religious Right.
 
Hillary is even more of a frontrunner than Jeb. Probably only two people can stop her nomination: Bill and Hillary. She also will have to handle the populist, anti-big bank, anti-Wall Street, anti-big business impulse that sets Democratic hearts aflutter.
 
Much will happen in the one score and one months ahead. But, one way or another, America could well have a Restoration in two years.

 

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27
It was a rare feat: Frank Luntz somehow found the twenty maddest-at-Obama people in the country and put them in a ‘focus group’ on Fox News after the President’s State of the Union speech – and they didn’t have one kind word to say.
 
But you have to give the devil his due: Barack Obama can be a powerful speaker. Who has a unique political voice. And Tuesday night there was no ‘voice’ on the Republican side of the aisle with the power to match him. 
 
And that’s what Republicans need to find sooner rather than later: A ‘voice’ who can step to a podium, look Obama in the eye, and answer him.

 

 

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23

 

Most of us older white conservatives just naturally see a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts who taught at Harvard and figure – barring a miracle – she’s got to be a liberal so it came as a shock the other night when a young conservative posted a link to one of Elizabeth Warren’s speeches with one word beside it: Wow!
 
Wall Street, Warren said, is nailing American workers to a ‘Cross of Gold’ to make already rich corporations richer.
 
Then she got right down to brass tacks and said we need to break up the big banks. 

Whatever else Elizabeth Warren may be she’s not just a liberal or just another Massachusetts Senator – she’s a voice we haven’t heard in a long time: The living and fire-breathing reincarnation of William Jennings Bryan populism.

 

 

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21
Awhile back Ted Cruz got some unusual praise from two odd places.
 
“I think he’s the most talented and fearless Republican politician I’ve seen in the last 30 years,” James Carville said in an interview on ABC. Then, on his TV program, Dick Morris compared Cruz to Ronald Reagan.
 
When Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney walked onto the stage the tides shifted away from Cruz and the lights dimmed but, in time, tides tend to flow back into their courses so, for Cruz, this eclipse may be a trial and not a defeat.
 
Roughly half the people who vote in Republican Primaries do not call themselves “just conservative” or “somewhat conservative” – they call themselves “very conservative.” And they like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney just fine but, when you get right down to brass tacks, Ted Cruz is their cup of tea. He’s one of them. And it’s only a matter of time before they figure it out.
 
Maybe just until the first Presidential debate.  


 

 

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21
President Obama's speech last night showed he has a knack for coming back after a setback - and a knack for the comeback quip.
 
Three things about the night: (1) How Obama framed the debate (2) the partisan debate over bipartisanship and (3) the split-screen social media experience of watching political events like what Twitter dubbed #SOTU.
 
Framing the Debate
 
How good was the speech? Well, Democrats wish he had given it before the 2014 elections. And they liked the way he set up the battles to come in Washington this year and in the 2016 elections.
 
It helped, of course, that he had good economic news to talk about. As he chided the dour Republicans, “That’s good news, people.”
 
He framed the fight as good versus evil, fairness versus unfairness, Democrats fighting for the middle class while Republicans cater to the 1 percent. He said “we’ve turned the page” on the recession (read: “Bush”) and are creating more jobs since 1999 (read: “the last time we had a Democratic President, named Clinton”). Bill and Hill had to love that.
 
As one tweet noted during the speech, there probably wasn’t one idea in it that doesn’t get 70 percent support in the polls. The President put himself and the party on high ground for the battles ahead.
 
Partisanship About Bipartisanship
 
After sharply drawing the battle lines, Obama tried a difficult pivot by going back to his 2004 message: “There’s not a Democratic America or Republican America, there’s the United States of America.”
 
You wouldn’t know it by the reaction from Republicans in the hall and afterward. Things still look pretty divided.
 
One big divide is over what constitutes bipartisanship. To Obama, it’s passing the program he outlined. To congressional Republicans, it’s passing theirs. And never the twain shall meet.
 
Yes, we citizens yearn for the two parties to “put aside politics” and “work together” and “do their job.” But there is a fundamental divide in Washington and across the country about what that means. And the divide is over the role of government.
 
Democrats say government can do things to help people and, especially, protect them from the depredations of the free market. Republicans say government can’t do anything, period.
 
That’s a deep gap to bridge.
 
(A new book traces this fundamental debate over government back to the 1966 election: “Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America,” by Jonathan Darman. Check it out.)
 
Even as he called on Republicans to rise about the fray, Obama couldn’t resist a shot. When he said he’d run his last campaign, somebody on the Republican side clapped. He shot back, “I know, because I won both of them.” It sounded too much like the Obama of “you’re likeable enough, Hillary.” Better he had just smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”
 
Split-Screen
 
How did we ever watch political events without Twitter? As you listen to the speech, you can follow the commentary of your choice on Twitter. It’s like being at a basketball game, except people scream on screen rather than at the refs.
 
Judging from Twitter, Obama clearly roused his base. He had Democrats pumped up from the get-go. And Republicans, too. From their get-go, their response was: “Socialism, big government, higher taxes, blah, blah, blah.”
 
Speaking of being onscreen, you almost felt sorry for John Boehner. He had to sit there mute while the President pounded him like a piñata. He had to sit beside Joker Joe Biden popping up to applaud every minute or so. And he knew that millions of people were watching every gesture and facial expression he made.
 
You couldn’t help but stare at him: his skin tone almost exactly matched his red leather chair. He looked like some kind of lizard taking on the coloration of his natural surroundings.
 
All in all, it was a night that put the fun back into politics – for a night.

 

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07
John Boehner, Jeb Bush and Pat McCrory took their first steps this week along a Republican Party fault line that offers peril for each of them – and peril for Democrats if they succeed.
 
Boehner had to fend off a conservative challenge to his reelection as Speaker. Two dozen right-wing Republicans abandoned him. Lucky for him, 10 Democrats were absent for Mario Cuomo’s funeral.
 
The same day, Bush moved all-ahead full with a presidential campaign that includes reasonable talk about immigration reform, gay marriage and income inequality, even saying “the income gap is real.” Also striking was what his message didn’t have: the usual red-meat attacks on President Obama.
 
Governor McCrory sang from the same hymnal, pushing two issues that normally are anathema to the North Carolina GOP: job incentives and Medicaid expansion.
 
McCrory even asked Obama for help. Basically, he wants cover so he can say he has a “North Carolina plan” instead of a “Washington (read: Obama) plan.”
 
Democrats will get some jollies watching these less-than-red-hot Republicans walk this precarious precipice. But if the three get by, and look reasonable and effective, Democrats may not be so happy in 2016.

 

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07
In a realm filled with rumors in the blink of an eye fictions take root in fertile soil and blossom adopting the image of spoken truth like this one you’ve heard a hundred times: ‘Romney lost because he shifted too far to the right during the primaries.’
 
In fact, the polls told a completely different story
 
Here’s another: ‘Jeb Bush isn’t conservative enough to win the Presidential Primary’ – this new homily creates a damning circle of logic for Republicans and a heart-warming vision for Democrats: A conservative can’t win the General Election but only a conservative can win a Republican Primary.
 
Cruz can’t win, Paul can’t win, Bush can’t win, which only leaves one question unanswered: How on earth did the Democrats lose the last election?


 

 

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06
You’ve got to love Harry Reid, especially since Republicans hate him so bad.
 
The Harry-haters were hee-hawing and high-fiving last week after Reid hurt himself exercising. One wrote, “It Couldn’t Happen to a Nastier Guy.” Another speculated that Reid is into kinky sex.
 
Here’s hoping that Harry will get well and keep giving ‘em hell. He missed the Senate’s first day back, but his history suggests he won’t stop fighting.
 
Reid, who is 75, keeps in shape by doing pushups, situps and yoga. He was once an amateur boxer. As chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, he took on crooked gamblers. One planted a bomb on his family car, but Reid’s wife found the device.
 
He’s an old-style FDR Democrat. He pushed through Obamacare, which helps more people buy health insurance. And he fiercely protects Social Security, which he calls “the most successful antipoverty program since the fishes and the loaves.”
 
What will he say about the move by newly elected Republican Senators, including Thom Tillis, to eliminate the food-stamp program and replace it with “more affordable free market solutions”?
 
Reid is no golden-tongued orator. And he’s conservative on issues like guns and abortion. But he’s a tough battler who torments Republicans. Now, more than ever, with the handmaidens of the rich and powerful in the majority, the Senate needs him.
 
Get well, Harry.

 

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31
A reporter at The Hill newspaper up in Washington let Jeb Bush have it right between the eyes, reporting there’s ‘no love lost’ between Bush and the Republican base and that in Iowa the Tea Party activists are torching Bush’s conservative credentials.
 
Jeb Bush,” he quoted a radio talk show host as saying, “is on the wrong side of every issue that matters most to conservatives.”
 
It’s a simple picture painted in blacks and whites – with no bothersome grays. It also sounds a lot like the beginning of a classic political rant.
 
Now, granted, Jeb Bush isn’t Ted Cruz on immigration but, on the other hand, he was a tax cutting, austere, pro-school choice, pro-gun rights Governor. And it’s not every day a politician comes down the pike with the backbone to take a stand he knows is unpopular.
 
Jeb Bush’s record isn’t black and white but, who knows, a touch of nuance (with grays and subtle shadows) may lead to a more enlightened political debate than ‘he’s wrong on every issue.’


 

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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