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February 27, 2015 5:57 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

We’ll have a wrap-up/greatest hits post about CPAC on Monday. Wouldn’t want to deny readers my reaction to Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, would I?

Here are some remains of the day:

* Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov shot to death in Moscow. That’s all we know at present.

* WaPo reports that ME, OH, PA, SC, SD, UT all considering state exchanges to avoid possible consequences of King v. Burwell.

* After delays due to Senate votes, Rand Paul gets his usual rapturous response at CPAC.

* Brownstein says nobody since Bush 2000 has enjoyed so broad-based a lead as Scott Walker does among 16ers today.

* At Ten Miles Square, in a web exclusive, Donald Kettl discusses a new GAO report on the VA placing the agency on its list of “high risks” for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.

And in non-political news:

* Earl Lloyd, first black player in NBA, dies at 86.

That’s it for Friday. Nancy LeTourneau will be in for Weekend Blogging tomorrow. As it’s another Friday in Lent, we’ll close with the hymn my own church’s choir will perform on Sunday, a chorale from Bach’s cantata, “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir (Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee).”

Selah.

February 27, 2015 5:02 PM Closing Barn Door After the Horse Has Gone

While we’re into parsing different Republican positions on immigration policy, we might as well deal with the one Marco Rubio’s taking these days, which he trotted out again at CPAC, as The Hill’s Cameron Joseph reports:

Rubio, a onetime Tea Party favorite whose support for a comprehensive immigration reform package hurt him with the GOP base, told the conservative crowd that he now understands U.S. borders must be secured before anything else can be done. “It wasn’t very popular, I don’t know if you know that from some of the folks here,” Rubio said with a smile, earning laughs from the crowd, when asked about his earlier support for the bill by Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“You have 10 or 12 million people in this country, many of whom have lived here for longer than a decade, have not otherwise violated our law other than immigration laws, I get all that,” Rubio said. “But what I’ve learned is you can’t even have a conversation about that until people believe and know, not just believe but it’s proven to them that future illegal immigration will be controlled.”

Now for one thing that’s a classic way to defer until doomsday any further resumption of the “conversation” since the border will never be as secure as these birds wish it could be. But beyond that, Rubio seems to be assuming that the only reason people don’t want to allow undocumented folk to obtain a path to citizenship is that it will serve as a “magnet” to additional illegal entry across our supposedly porous borders. For a lot of conservatives these days, however, “securing the borders,” however desirable, is a matter of closing the barn door after the horse is long gone. They are offended by the 11 million not because they will attract more millions, but because they broke in line and will probably wind up on welfare and voting Democrat and cheering for Mexico at soccer games and in general making older white folks uncomfortable in our own damn country.

February 27, 2015 4:27 PM Jeb’s Hollow Triumph

So Jebbie’s long-awaited Q&A session at CPAC has come and gone, and a lot of people who aren’t conservative movement types (e.g., the entire WaPo contingent at the event seemed to be very impressed.) You can expect Jeb’s many Beltway fans to make this a Game Changing moment in the 2016 cycle.

While I agree the specter of Jeb getting hooted out of the hall as he emulated his family’s signature verbal problems did not appear, I’d say the takeaway depends very much on whether or not you consider surviving the event in good form an actual accomplishment. Consider Chris Cillizza’s very positive take:

Did people walk out when Jeb Bush started speaking at CPAC today in Maryand? Sure. Did he get heckled and booed at times during his q and a with conservative commentator Sean Hannity? Sure. Did Bush more than hold his own with an audience that was ready to embarrass him in front of every national reporter in the country? Yes.
Jeb was also helped by a friendlier-than-I-expected interrogator in Hannity who, while he did ask him about immigration and Common Core, threw the former Florida governor any number of lifelines by touting his conservative record on affirmative action, taxes and school vouchers. (Hannity even added in a Terri Schiavo reference.) And, Bush’s campaign team smartly made sure that the CPAC ballroom had its fair share of their own people in it — ensuring a built-in cheering section to overcome the boos.
Good luck, smart organization and a solid performance in the face of adversity is what successful presidential campaigns are built on.

This is all another way of saying Jeb played the expectations game very well, and benefitted from an extremely friendly questioner and an audience his critics stupidly let him stack by attempting a half-assed walk-out. He did not, however, do a lot to address the substantive issues conservatives have with him. The prime example involves immigration policy, where he defended his “path to legality” position by asserting nobody “has a plan” to deport 11 million undocumented people. If he keeps saying that, conservatives are going to begin to ask him: “So why don’t you give us one, smart guy?” As Seth Michaels notes on Twitter, the “yes to legality, no to citizenship” straddle Jeb’s embraced—probably by a three-to-two vote among his consultants—doesn’t really satisfy anybody:

And as Seth concludes, that makes it the perfect Jeb Bush kind of position.

Similarly, in response to questions about Common Core, Jeb did a good job of yelling Voucher! Voucher! Voucher! But he’s still for objective and national education standards, and with conservatives increasingly moving towards the position that only a kid’s parents have any right to participate in any decisions about his or her education, it’s just not enough.

So yeah, Jeb did a good job at CPAC playing the hand he’s dealt himself. But he’s still got a “base problem” that cannot be conjured away, much as his fans wish he could.

Had he seized the occasion to take back and apologize for—or at least redefine—his famous remarks about only being able to win the presidency if he’s willing to lose the primary—now that would have been a bigger deal than getting contrived applause from leather-lunged partisans after most of the people who hate him had left. It’s a deadly insult to conservatives to tell them Republicans have to be ashamed of them, and one that dredges up decades of conservative resentment of “the Establishment” Jebbie embodies.

BTW, Jeb did commit one howler I’m not sure anyone”s quite caught: Hannity asked him about the big divisive GOP issue of the day, the “clean DHS funding” bill the Senate was in the process of enacting. Jeb dodged it in part by talking over him, but then said: “I’m not an expert on the ways of Washington.”

Seriously? The grandson of a senator and the son of one president and the brother of another is going to pretend to be some Beltway-hating outsider populist? Better forget about that line, Jeb!

February 27, 2015 3:19 PM Municipal Broadband: An Idea Whose Time Has Finally Come

Per Kevin Drum, the Federal Communications Commission has done more than simply establishing net neutrality rules this week, as reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Thomas Gryta:

The Federal Communications Commission will allow some cities and towns to set up and expand municipal Internet services, overruling state laws that had been put in place to block such efforts.
The commission granted petitions by Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., to overturn laws that restricted the ability of communities in those states to offer broadband service. In all about 20 states have passed such laws. The panel’s 3-2 vote was along party lines.
The decisions don’t affect the other states, but they do set a precedent for consideration of similar petitions in the future.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and President Barack Obama have said towns need to be free to build their own networks if they decide it makes sense. Towns that explore the option generally do so because they believe private sector development of broadband hasn’t kept pace with their needs.

As Kevin notes, this is a major inducement to the big internet providers to play pretty.

And it’s an argument that should be familiar to long-time WaMo readers, who may remember a 2006 piece by John Podesta and Robert McChesney on the promise of municipal broadband.

Community Internet has the potential to revolutionize and democratize communications in this country. And that may be the reason why big cable and telephone companies and their political allies have launched a sophisticated misinformation campaign. These companies and their coin-operated think tanks generally make three paradoxical arguments against municipal broadband. First, they contend that municipalities have no place in the “free market.” Of course, the cable and telephone giants don’t mention that their own monopolies—which control 98 percent of the broadband market—have been cemented with extensive public subsidies, tax breaks and incentives (as well as free rein to tear up city streets). Verizon, for instance, didn’t complain last fall when Pennsylvania handed them subsidies for broadband deployment worth nearly 10 times what Wireless Philadelphia will cost. Neither did Comcast object when Philadelphia approved a $30 million grant to build a skyscraper that will house its headquarters. To the incumbent providers, “unfair competition” means any competition at all.
Opponents also warn that municipalities will “crowd out” more efficient private players. In reality, most municipal networks are a last resort by desperate local governments. Often their choice isn’t between a municipal system and a private one, but between municipal and nothing. (Of course, that doesn’t stop the phone and cable companies from trying to outlaw Community Internet even in areas where they don’t currently offer service.) A recent study by the Florida Municipal Electric Association found “no evidence” to support the argument that municipal systems limit private investment. On the contrary, these systems appear to spur investment by bringing entrepreneurs and new competition into the market. Even threatening to build a system has a funny way of encouraging the incumbents to improve service and lower their prices.
The same critics of Community Internet claim that cities are too “lazy” or inefficient to manage complex systems and will be unable to adapt to changing technologies. But municipalities have a long track record of successfully and efficiently operating power plants, sewage systems and subways. It’s hard to imagine that the broadband networks—most of which will actually be operated by private contractors—are any more complex. Perhaps the more obvious question is: If these systems are destined to fail, why are the telephone and cable companies expending so much energy trying to stop them?

Well, that’s all history now. Municipal broadband is an idea whose time has finally come.

February 27, 2015 1:43 PM Lunch Buffet

Finally received my 10 free copies of my book! No word on the movie rights, though.

Here are some end-of-the-month-sale midday news/views treats:

* Senate invokes cloture on “clean” DHS bill by 68-31 margin; all Dems plus 20 Republicans voted “yea.”

* Obama approval rating has drifted down from mid-February, with Gallup ratio down from 48/48 to 43/51.

* Franklin Graham tells Fox viewers Washington has been “infiltrated by Muslims.” Jesus wept, and not at the Muslims.

* At CPAC, St. Joan of the Tundra says America can, too, kill all its enemies, because we killed all the Nazis. Seriously.

* At the Prospect, Paul Waldman points out that George W. Bush showed all the toughness Republicans are now calling for, and look where it got us.

And in non-political news:

* Aaargh. Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock, for non-Trekkies) dies at 83.

As we break for lunch, we just have to post the video (actually a segment from the variety show Malibu U, which explains the cavorting Beach Hobbits) for the most famous track from Nimoy’s second album, Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy: “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”

February 27, 2015 1:12 PM Bipartisan Patina

This morning in expressing puzzlement over the three-week-delay tactic of House Republicans on DHS funding, I didn’t give much credence to one possible explanation:

Yes, maybe Republicans can contrive some meaningless vote in the Senate to condemn the latest presidential executive action on immigration that a few Democrats might be convinced to vote for or at least not filibuster. But so what if it passes? Obama will veto it.

But now the very informed Greg Sargent suggests that may be exactly what the Republicans are up to, and quotes a prominent immigration advocate, Frank Sharry, as fearing this outcome:

“Centrist democrats could peel off in large enough numbers to force a presidential veto. That would put a bipartisan patina on the opposition to the president’s executive actions and would send a dispiriting signal to Latino and immigrant voters that the Democratic Party is not united in defense of them. Democrats’ strength in this battle has been their unity. Joining Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz, and Republican opposition would undermine this unity, and undermine the contrast in the eyes of immigrant voters who see Republicans as the enemy and Democrats as their friend, a big advantage for Democrats heading into 2016.”

Huh.

Without question, the configuration of forces in Congress is compelling Republicans generally to pursue a strategy of provoking presidential vetoes of bills that last year would have probably succumbed to defeat in the Senate. I’ve figured, though, that sort of Kabuki theater was for the benefit of “the base,” not part of an effort to convince swing voters or Democratic voters they were championing “bipartisan” legislation. Sharry may just be trying to keep the pressure up on wayward Democrats. But I can see how the “bipartisanship” gambit might fit into a GOP Grand Strategy of trying to convince the MSM and swing voters that they’re in some fictional “center” while the radical tyrants Obama and HRC keep pulling Dems to the left.

In this particular case, Democrats have a pretty good counter-argument in the example of NV Senator Dean Heller, who’s been resolutely voting with them on every motion connected with the effort to kill DACA. I’d say that gives them the “patina” of bipartisanship as well. And who’s to say one “patina” is more significant than the other?

February 27, 2015 12:17 PM Jeb’s Big Mistake (So Far)

While awaiting Jeb Bush’s appearance before a potentially hostile CPAC audience this afternoon, I took the risk of reading the latest Peggy Noonan column, and to my great surprise, it was quite coherent. Maybe Peggy, a good Catholic girl, has given up incoherence for Lent.

Republicans this year are not looking for Reagan. They’re looking for Churchill. They’re looking for the guy who knows the war is already here, not the guy who knows the war can be averted if we defeat the guys who would wage it. What is “the war”? Everything from scarily sluggish economic growth to long-term liabilities and deficits; from the melting away of the post-World-War-II order to the Mideast to domestic terrorism. Every four years there is frustration and argument; this year there is urgency.
What the Republican Party needs in a presidential candidate is not a centrist who can make the sale to conservatives in the primaries; it is a conservative who can win over centrists in the general election. That means the Republican nominee should be a man or woman who can redefine conservative thinking for current circumstances and produce policies that centrists and independents will find worthy of consideration.

This was in a column decidedly arguing it’s not Jebbie’s year, which won’t please Peggy’s old boss Poppy. The only problem with her analysis of what Republicans want “this year” is that it’s what they always want, at least for the last several decades. Sometimes they grudgingly nominate an “electable” candidate who isn’t self-evidently a True Conservative, and sometimes it just works out that way via the demolition derby of a competitive primary season (e.g., 2008). But Peggy’s right that Jeb’s going about this all wrong so far:

I am not sure Mr. Bush likes the base. If he doesn’t, it would explain some of his discomfort. I am wondering if he sees the base as a challenge, not a home, something he has to manage, not something he is of. He was perhaps referring to this in December when he said you have “to lose the primary to win the general.” Actually you have to win it, but to really succeed you have to show you share the base’s heart, that you understand its beginning points and align with it on essentials. When you disagree with it you address those issues among friends, and with confidence. You can’t cover up differences in a passive-aggressive way—at their feet when you really want to be at their throat.

The takeaway here is that Jeb erred grievously when he publicly made an electability argument for himself that depended on his ability to honk off “the base.” That sort of explicit triangulation is strange. I mean, even Bill Clinton didn’t announce the day after his Sister Souljah Speech that he was intentionally dissing an African-American celebrity to get a second look from old white men.

In 2012, there’s not much question Mitt Romney’s main credential (other than cash) was his implicit electability argument. But he never rubbed “the base’s” nose in it, did he? Even when he was basically in a one-on-one competition with Rick Santorum, he didn’t come right out and say “You really want to nominate a guy who lost by eighteen points to Bob Casey?” He let other people say it, but he claimed all along to be a candidate who shared base preoccupations, and sometimes he really delivered, as on the immigration issue.

It will be interesting to see at CPAC, where he’s decided to devote his whole twenty minutes to a Q&A from the reliable softball pitcher Sean Hannity, whether Jeb continues to make the mistake of treating electability as a straightforward credential he can rationally talk about to people who want to be driven to it reluctantly.

The irony is that the trait Peggy says Republicans are looking for was best exemplified by Jeb’s older brother in the 2000 cycle, in which he positioned himself all along as a movement conservative who just happened to have come up with a pitch or two that he figured would appeal to swing voters that particular year. But even that way of approaching the base would get a serious test from Scott Walker’s, which involves the claim that swing voters secretly want to be swept off their feet by an unapologetic conservative who contemptuously pushes aside opponents and ravages old liberal traditions like a rampaging Visigoth.

February 27, 2015 11:14 AM A Supplement to Piketty

We were fortunate to get Harvard Professor Daniel Carpenter to write an important piece on wealth inequality in the new issue of the Washington Monthly. Despite the headline, What Piketty Missed: The Banks, the article should be seen more as a complement to the French economist’s work than a refutation.

Carpenter’s central insight is that financial regulation, if it is done correctly, can be a very important and effective component in reducing the difference between the rate of return on capital (r) and the rate of economic growth (g). Piketty argued that as long as r is greater than g, wealth disparities will grow over time, and the degree of difference determines how fast inequality will expand.

In the piece, Carpenter focuses on three main regulatory efforts that he believes would be useful in bringing r and g closer together: Glass-Steagall, regulation of stock buybacks, and core capital requirements.

All of these policies target organizations and institutions of capital—banks, investment firms, and, in many cases, regulatory agencies themselves. This approach differs from Piketty’s methodological individualism because the targets of policy are less individuals—or not exclusively individuals—and more organizations and institutions. And following Daniel Seligman’s classic Public Interest article in 1970 on the transformation of Wall Street to a world of more organizational investors, it is organizations and not just individual investors that need to be regulated in the world of finance.

Piketty’s call for a tax on global assets is more focused on clawing back wealth from individuals, but Carpenter is looking for structural reforms that can encourage organizations to behave differently and to use their capital in a way that is more beneficial to society.

Seven years ago, Mitt Romney was arguing that wealth inequality was a divisive issue that should only be discussed in “quiet rooms,” but lately we’ve seen Republicans show more interest in discussing the subject in the public square. If you want to be part of that conversation, you should definitely check out Professor Carpenter’s piece.

February 27, 2015 10:48 AM King v. Burwell and State’s Rights

At Politico Magazine, Yale law professor Abbe Gluck does an admirable job of summing up the case against the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell from the perspective of the states, for whom conservatives, and particularly judicial conservatives, so often express such tender solicitude. Here’s her argument in a sentence:

In the end, King is about whether an invented narrative that only emerged for purposes of this case should be permitted to work the greatest bait and switch on state governments in history.

This argument may or may not have an influence on, or find reflection in, SCOTUS’ decision. But don’t expect the conservatives praying for the plaintiffs to win to read it and say, “Oh, I get it! Never mind.”

Truth is most conservatives value “state’s rights” or “federalism” only when it does not conflict with their more important ideological values, such as capitalism or their idea of Divine Law. This is why they mostly support federal constitutional amendments to override state prerogatives on cultural issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, and when in a position to do so, support federal preemption of state laws and regulations that annoy or inconvenience corporations. Indeed, one example is almost invariably included in those Obamacare “replacement” proposals Republicans say they’d pursue if King goes their way: “interstate health insurance sales,” which is a nice way of saying a preemption of state health insurance regulations so that insurers can race to the bottom-feeding state that lets them do whatever the hell they want.

Republicans are not alone in disregarding their alleged principles when they like or dislike the results flowing from a judicial decision. But then again, Democrats don’t pretend to have some monopoly on fidelity to the Constitution.

February 27, 2015 10:13 AM Three More Weeks for What?

So it looks like if John Boehner can get a continuing resolution through the House providing “clean” funding for the Department of Homeland Security for three more weeks, the immediate crisis in Congress will abate. But you have to wonder what he thinks that will accomplish other than kicking a flaming ball of dung down a dirty trail full of tinder.

For one thing, both the rule and the CR itself are highly vulnerable to a left-right pincers attack, with virtually all Democrats joining Republican bitter-enders in voting “nay.” If Boehner went ahead and pushed a full til-September bill, as most observers think he will ultimately have to do anyway, he’d have the entire Democratic caucus in his corner.

And for another, all the vague talk we’re hearing this morning about the three-week reprieve giving Republicans more time to get their act together makes no particular sense. There’s nothing that complicated about the united front congressional Democrats and the White House have prevented against any conditions on DHS funding. Yes, maybe Republicans can contrive some meaningless vote in the Senate to condemn the latest presidential executive action on immigration that a few Democrats might be convinced to vote for or at least not filibuster. But so what if it passes? Obama will veto it.

The only thing that strikes me as an adequate rationale for this delaying game would be the belief that the Fifth Circuit will refuse to overturn Judge Andrew Hanen’s preliminary injunction against enforcement of the president’s executive actions. This could be hailed as a temporary victory for The Cause and grounds for letting the DHS hostage go as substantive appeals went forward, taking months. If that’s what is going on, Boehner might as well just say so.

February 27, 2015 9:16 AM The Only Audience Scott Walker Cares About Right Now

According to some observers, Scott Walker committed a terrible gaffe at CPAC yesterday when, during the Q&A session following his speech, he cited his experience dealing with labor protesters in Madison as preparing him to deal with IS as president. Indeed, eyebrows were especially raised when National Review’s Jim Geraghty published a short piece calling Walker’s analogy “awful:”

That is a terrible response. First, taking on a bunch of protesters is not comparably difficult to taking on a Caliphate with sympathizers and terrorists around the globe, and saying so suggests Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.
Secondly, it is insulting to the protesters, a group I take no pleasure in defending. The protesters in Wisconsin, so furiously angry over Walker’s reforms and disruptive to the procedures of passing laws, earned plenty of legitimate criticism. But they’re not ISIS. They’re not beheading innocent people. They’re Americans, and as much as we may find their ideas, worldview, and perspective spectacularly wrongheaded, they don’t deserve to be compared to murderous terrorists.

Sounds bad for Walker, doesn’t it? But this morning if you look at NR’s front page, you don’t see Geraghty’s piece. You see, at the very top, one by Andrew Johnson with the header “Walker Thrills a Packed House at CPAC.” The protesters-are-terrorists innuendo is mentioned but only as a crowd pleaser.

This isn’t just the judgment of professional conservatives. National Journal’s Lauren Fox gave Walker’s speech an unqualified thumbs-up:

Scott Walker found his stride in a rowdy Conservative Polical Action Conference crowd Thursday during a speech aggressively touting his record as Wisconsin governor to offer evidence for why he’s ready to take on the White House in 2016….
Walker has enjoyed a strong entry into the invisible 2016 presidential primary, leading in a poll in Iowa this week and occupying the rare space between the tea party and the establishment.
At CPAC, Walker proved he can comfortably walk that tightrope. During his question and answer session, the audience erupted into cheers of “run Scott run.”

And even Mark Halperin, who has probably wagered the profits from his next Ultra-Insider book on a Jeb Bush nomination, gave Walker’s speech an letter-grade score of “A,” his highest for the seven major CPAC speakers on Thursday.

In the follow-on to the event, Walker seemed to relish bringing up criticism of his speech as more evidence of his victimization by the liberal media (take that, Geraghty!).

It’s important to remember at this point that the sole function of CPAC during a presidential cycle is to give potential candidates an opportunity to pander, pander, pander to “the base.” It is expected by this audience to the point that it takes some wildly exaggerated gestures to get over the elevated bar. Maybe Walker took some risks to do so, but there is no question a goodly number of people in the room at CPAC do actually believe public-sector union members are as big a threat to the Republic as the terrorists they seem to perceive as creeping across our undefended borders (sic!) every day.

At some point Walker’s accumulated pandering will probably begin to effect his general election numbers, but I’m guessing his people are confident that his electoral record in Wisconsin will continue to quell any misgivings about his electability, particularly among conservative activists who want to believe you can be a nasty piece of work and still attract swing voters. Right now, though, the only audience Scott Walker cares about is the one that’s cheering his “gaffes,” and calling them gaffes just gives him another grievance to add to his Stations of the Cross.

February 27, 2015 8:00 AM Daylight Video

Robert Balderrama, guitarist for ? and the Mysterians, is 65 today. The Michigan-based band was reputedly the first of Mexican descent to have a mainstream hit in the U.S. Here it is, 1966’s immortal “96 Tears,” as performed on Detroit’s Swingin’ Time:


February 26, 2015 5:30 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

So if you can manage to be awake at 3AM EST tonight, you can start binging on Season Three of House of Cards. That’s at a manageable midnight here on the West Coast, if you don’t start work at 5:00 like I do.

Here are some remains of the day:

* As we speak, House GOPers are meeting to figure out how the hell to get out of the jam they are in. They’ll probably loft some temporary funding measure.

* MO State Auditor and presumed 2016 Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Schweich dies of apparently self-inflicted gun wound.

* More than a million 2014 Obamacare enrollees picked different health plan for 2015.

* At Ten Miles Square, Chad Stanton argues that opponents of public education willing to use private school movement originally created to avoid integration.

* At College Guide, Robert Kelchen warns that New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs initiative could divert resources from part-time students most needing help.

And in non-political news:

* Woman who accused Jameis Winston of rape gets to tell her side of story in The Hunting Ground, a new film on campus sexual assaults premiering in NY and LA tomorrow.

That’s it for Thursday. Let’s close with something you probably would not expect from Sandie Shaw: a cover of “Sympathy For the Devil.”

Selah.

February 26, 2015 4:57 PM Christie at CPAC: The Ol’ Murder-Suicide Scenario?

I admit that I don’t think enough of Chris Christie as a presidential prospect to have spent a lot of time thinking about what he might say at CPAC. But what the hell: he’s won two more gubernatorial elections than Gail Collins or I have won, so we probably should not write him off entirely.

Still, I don’t find the tack he took at CPAC all that promising (as reported by Bloomberg Politics’ Margaret Talev):

Pointedly criticizing his chief rival, Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie portrayed himself as a Washington outsider who won’t buckle to criticism from the media, and as a man who is unafraid to say what he thinks is right.
Bush is “definitely the frontrunner” if “the elites in Washington” who make “backroom deals” decide the nomination, Christie told the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday in National Harbor, Md. “If the people of the United States decide to pick the next president of the United States and they want someone who looks at them in the eye, connects with them and is one of them, I’ll do OK,” Christie added.

None of this is terribly surprising, since (a) Jeb Bush stands directly in the path of Christie’s nomination, with most of Christie’s potential donors in his pocket, and (b) playing off conservative hostility to Bush may be the easiest way for Christie to curry favor with them. But on the other hand, this ploy, if he continues it, carries a high risk of turning into a political murder-suicide. Christie’s approval ratios among Republicans and in the general electorate are already far underwater. Bush’s aren’t enormously better. The most likely beneficiary of any major assault on Bush by Christie is probably going to be somebody else, perhaps Marco Rubio, the one figure beloved of many Establishment folk who’s actually improved his popularity of late.

February 26, 2015 3:59 PM Yes, It’s Time to Think About 2018

Yeah, I know, the only thing that annoys some people more than talking about early 2016 polls (repeat after me: All Data Has Some Value) is talking about elections after 2016. But what the hell, we’ve already broken the seal on the 2020 races that will determine the power to influence the next round of redistricting, so what’s the harm of talking about the election before that?

More to the point, Greg Sargent’s thinking about 2018 as a test of whether Democrats can begin to reverse a big GOP advantage in the states, and he’s published an interview with incoming Democratic Governors Association chair Daniel Malloy of Connecticut, a guy who survived both 2010 and 2014.

Malloy isn’t spinning when he notes the 2018 landscape looks pretty good, mentioning term limits and deeply exposed blue-state Republicans as positive factors. I did my own checking, and get this: there are three Democratic and fourteen Republican governors who will be term-limited in 2018. Six of those fourteen are serving in states carried twice by Obama. If Democrats cannot pick of most of these six open blue-state seats, they’re not trying hard enough.

But the big question is posed directly by Greg to Malloy:

PLUM LINE: Isn’t the problem that Democrats still don’t know how to deal with the midterm dropoff among their voters? What will stop that from happening in 2018, when all these big governors’ races are at stake?
MALLOY: I don’t think Democrats in most cases have come up with a strategy for that drop-off. We did in Connecticut. That’s why I’m still standing. We had a 56 percent participation rate. We contacted voters over an 18-month period of time. Republicans have done an exceptionally good job of making their voters feel like they’re part of a team. We need to replicate that. We need to make our voters feel like they are part of a team, that this is a continuing process, that every year there’s an election of importance. We need to retrain our voters.

So is that the answer? Better voter contact over a longer period of time? I dunno. It would be helpful, though, if Democrats also spent some time figuring out how to up their game with voters who do show up in midterms, like old folks, among whom the Silent Generation is being rapidly replaced by us Baby Boomers, who are a bit more open to voting Democratic.

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