What’s a GOP presidential hopeful to do? In the past year, the party has cycled through one favorite aspirant after another before running into a problem: There’s no longer a single consensus about what makes a good candidate. Inevitable deviations from conservative orthodoxy are seen as disqualifying sins. Republicans have a habit of killing their darlings.
Ted Cruz seemed to have the right idea. To become the tea party’s favorite candidate, he outflanked the entire Senate GOP. But that victory came at the cost of a public twice as likely to view him unfavorably as favorably and serious anger from within his own party — so much that it’s difficult to envision him winning the nomination in 2016, let alone the presidency. Before him, the immensely popular Marco Rubio was the party’s favorite candidate, until he committed the unpardonable sin of working to pass immigration reform. Before that, it was Chris Christie, whom the GOP adored until he got a little too cozy with the president in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It’s enough to make Rand Paul seem like their best option — until you consider that he’s angered the tea party by supporting immigration reform, the establishment by espousing isolationist foreign policy views, and his own libertarian base by supporting Mitt Romney in 2012. Veer right, you’re damned; veer left, you’re jammed; play it up the center, you’re toast.
The cycle of anointment and repudiation echoes the 2012 GOP primaries, when Republicans elevated one candidate after another: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum. When voters finally settled on Romney, the candidate had lower favorability and higher unfavorability ratings than any presidential nominee in modern history.
GOP strategist Rick Wilson calls this “the Highlander theory,” after the ‘90s TV show about the Scottish warrior who needs to behead other immortals because there can be only one. Ted Cruz became The One by eclipsing Rubio, who had ascended only a few months earlier. “Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio made similar mistakes in opposite directions,” says Ben Domenech, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute and the publisher of The Federalist. “Rubio obviously tacked toward the center with a push for coming together on immigration policy, and that did damage to his standing with the conservative base. Cruz on the other hand tacked to the right in a way that helped his standing with base but hurt [his] standing with centrists who had been previously open to the idea of him.”
This division in the party — with the Right driving for purity and the establishment bristling — was most recently evident in the government shutdown. But its imprint is visible in the burgeoning field of Senate and House competitions, too. Almost a dozen Republican House members, such as longtime Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, are facing primaries from the right, with more challenges expected before the cycle begins next year. “This is a key moment for the tea party to decide how best to use its resources and whether to really go in behind candidates who need support [against Democrats], as opposed to wasting resources against candidates who have marginal difference from people who might challenge them” from the right, Domenech says.
But the Highlander theory could have the greatest impact on the Senate. Already, six Republican incumbents — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Lindsey Graham, Thad Cochran, Michael Enzi, Pat Roberts, and Lamar Alexander — face primary challenges from the right. Most of those seats aren’t at risk of a Democratic takeover, but the internecine battles there could distract attention from the task of winning a Senate majority. The real question, Wilson says, is “how much money are you willing to spend to knock off these guys, and how many dollars does [the internal fight] take from [the fight against] Landrieu, Pryor, and Begich? Those guys are getting a free ride because we’re more willing to chase purity and keep 40 votes then we’re willing to go out and get Democrats that are weak.” And there have been rumblings about challenges for other senators, such as Texas conservative John Cornyn, No. 2 in GOP leadership.
“They have to find a way to unify the two sides and leave some neutral ground,” Wilson says. “Purity is a lovely thing in soul, but a terrible thing in the real, ugly world of politics that can’t be wished away with magical thinking or unicorn dust.” There, the only thing that gets wished away is the latest favorite.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”