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Friday, July 17, 2015

Candidate Profile: #8. Ben Carson

For background to this series, click here. For previous posts in the series:

Tier 4--They Know They Can't Win

Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win

Tier 2--So You're Saying There's a Chance!

We're halfway done. It's worth noting that all candidates who have previously run for president have already shown up on this list. The second half will be comprised of new presidential candidates.

Our first member of the Elite Eight is . . .

Ben Carson, 63, Neurosurgeon

Campaign Website and Slogan--www.bencarson.com--"Heal. Inspire. Revive."

PPFA Slogan--"Talented. Doctor. President?"

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +4.5 (Individual rights: +9; domestic issues: +5; economy: +5; foreign policy: -1). Whoa, a negative number! A small one, but a negative one nonetheless. That anomalous figure really throws off the average of what is by all accounts a very politically conservative individual. His total lack of experience in government probably means his foreign policy figure was always going to be close to zero. He admits to being a novice in the area, and a quote like the following edges him left: "We cannot afford insinuating ourselves into every conflict around the globe. One only need look to the history of the Roman Empire to learn significant lessons about what happens when military forces are stretched too thin."

Conservative Rank based on above:
 11 of 16. That really feels too low for him, even in a conservative field. I'm guessing with campaign advisers eventually clarifying his foreign policy message and hawking it up, he could easily find his conservatism in the top half of this field.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--America is sick, she needs a doctor, and Ben Carson has the cure. Dr. Carson offers the story of the American Dream, and growing up as an urban black youth, his take on that story is unique in this field. He was born to a single mother in inner Detroit. She topped out at a third grade education, but that didn't stop young Ben; he worked hard in high school, attended Yale, went to Michigan University's School of Medicine, and then became a neurosurgeon at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. His prestigious career included unprecedented surgeries and numerous awards and honors. He went on to become a bestselling author who did not shy away from sharing his political views. In 2013, he became a breakout star in conservative circles. Starting with his speech at the February National Prayer Breakfast--with President Obama mere feet away--he spoke conservatively about issues like taxation, health care, education, and political correctness. The very next day, the Wall Street Journal ran a column called "Ben Carson for President." Conservative talking heads--Limbaugh, Hannity, Cavato, and others--couldn't stop talking about him. A "Run Ben Run" draft movement gained steam. Throughout the year, people put the pieces together--he was for traditional marriage, opposed to evolution, and interpreted homosexuality as a choice. He wasn't just conservative; he was extremely conservative. By year's end, he had the most famous quote of his life: "Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." Conservatives have fawned over him ever since, as seen with his consistently strong polling (more on that below). And on top of all these conservative traits, Ben Carson hits the aesthetics out of the park. He's an articulate African American with a poor background who could bridge the gap from the GOP to blacks across the nation. It's hard for an old white man to tell the inner city citizens why conservative policies could help them. But Ben Carson, who emerged from their situation, could pull it off. He's a total Washington and even government outsider, ready to bring real change to the broken political machine. Paging Dr. Carson . . . paging Dr. Carson . . . you're needed in the Oval Office, stat!

Spin from opponents--Not one candidate in this field--not one--is less prepared to be president. He hasn't governed so much as a town, nor has he dealt with matters of American policy in Congress. He's never served in the military. He hasn't ever run for office to learn the political skills crucial in a president. He hasn't run big businesses, managing thousands of people while balancing short and long term goals and using the skills of negotiation and compromise. His skills on a medical table are undeniable, but are they transferable? This isn't just any political office on which he could cut his teeth before making a jump. It's a leap directly from the O.R. to the Oval Office. Most frightening, he'd be thrown into the position of Commander-in-Chief and leader of the free world. His recent stumbles regarding foreign policy have shown the natural naivety and rawness that comes from being a man who hasn't spent a day in elected office or foreign affairs. Can we really turn the keys to the Situation Room over to such a man?

How do the polls look?--His RCP national average is 7.6, good enough for fifth place. In fact, he's been in the top five dating back to last year and has seen double figures in over a dozen polls. In fact, his RCP average was over 10 until the Trump surge of the last few polls took points from all the leaders. (Marco Rubio is especially reeling.) In Iowa, his numbers are almost identical--7.5 and fifth place.  Again, he's been entrenched in the top five for quite some time there. In New Hampshire he's averaging 5.5 for sixth place, and in South Carolina he's at 7.7 for fifth place, including a 12-point showing in its latest poll, trailing only native son #15 Lindsey Graham. In May of this year, he won the meaningful Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll. He's polling like a top five candidate across the board. Only a couple other candidates in the field can say that.

PPFA a
nalysis--And yet, he's only ranked eighth at industry-leading, internet-breaking Presidential Politics for America. What gives? This analysis will be short: the love affair that Republicans have with Ben Carson will end at the voting booth. Will a requisite amount of Republicans really pull the lever next to his name and help a doctor with no political or military experience become the Commander-in-Chief of the world's most powerful and active military? I just don't see it. For many reasons it's pleasurable to call one's self a Ben Carson supporter, but that support will end when the curtain closes behind them.

PPFA nomination rank--8 of 16 (Odds: 20:1). It's worth nothing that Carson and the next three candidates are razor close and often change in my mind week to week, but I don't see myself moving him up again. All seven people above him on the list have held major, state-wide elected office. Still, his poll numbers have just been too good and consistent to keep him out of the top half of this field. It's not out of possibility's realm that he brings in a team of big-named neoconservative advisers that point him in the right direction (pun), soothing the fears of the Republican electorate who might then reason that even though he could have his finger on the button, someone experienced will be telling him if he should press it.

PPFA general election rank
--8 of 16.  If he does get the nomination, it will be interesting to see to what extent African Americans desert the Democratic Party to help put another African American in the White House. They voted for Barack Obama at an abnormally high 95 percent clip in 2008 and 93 percent four years later.  I think there's a decent shot that Carson can sell the conservative message to them better than any Republican candidate has since Rutherford B. Hayes, and if he can erode that support by double digits, the Republican Electoral Map can be significantly expanded. That qualifies him for the top half of the field, but the concerns raised above don't get him past the more moderate Republicans ranked above him here.

Seven to go! See you in two days.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Candidate Profile: #9. Rick Perry

For background to this series, click here. For previous posts in the series:

Tier 4--They Know They Can't Win
16. George Pataki
(15.5. James Gilmore)
15. Lindsey Graham
14. Carly Fiorina

Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win
13. Rick Santorum
12. Mike Huckabee
11. Donald Trump
10. Bobby Jindal

Time for Tier 2, which I'm calling, "If Everything Breaks Right." In this tier, I wouldn't give any candidate more than a five percent chance to win, but if everything breaks right for them, they can make a run.

Our first candidate in Tier 2 can win the election due to three reasons: 1) He was a long-term, conservative executive of a large and diverse state; 2) He has a network of powerful donors; and 3) Ummmmm, three is. . . . Uh, sorry, I can't remember it. Oops.

Rick Perry, 65, former governor of Texas, 2000-2015

Campaign Website and Slogan--www.rickperry.org--"I Studied This Time." (Okay, I admit it, that was from The Onion.)

PPFA Slogan--Give Me Another Chance! (Have You Seen My New Glasses?)

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +7 (Individual rights: +7; domestic issues: +8; economy: +8; foreign policy: +5).  He's one of only four candidates who's a +5 or higher in all categories.  (Others: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and #13 Rick Santorum.)  Importantly, he's the only governor to pull that off.

Conservative Rank based on above: 4 of 16. Being in the top quartile of conservatism in this group is quite the accomplishment.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--"It will be a show me not tell me election." There are three types of candidates in this election. (No, I'm not setting up another "oops.") The politicians who talk a big game, the business people who bluster even more, and Rick Perry, the governor who gets results. For 15 years, Perry ran the 14th largest economy in the world. Thanks to his conservative policies, the Texan economy helped buoy America's. Since Perry became governor in 2000, one-third of all new private sector jobs in the country were created in Texas. President Obama loves to brag about private sector job growth since the recession, but without the 1.5 million jobs created in Texas, the country would actually be down 400,000 jobs. As Texas governor, Perry was also on the front lines of the immigration battle and knows best how to handle it. On top of all this important experience, he embraces all conservative social issues as well. He's pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-Second Amendment, pro-God in public sphere, and pro-expansion of the military; you name it, he's conservative. At the same time, however, he wants to grow the party by speaking about controversial issues, as he did earlier this month at the National Press Club when he took on the issue of race and black poverty. This is not your 2012 Rick Perry.

Spin from opponents--Oh yes it is. Our newly bespectacled candidate is still that same guy, just four years older. His campaign website's "Issues" page reads like "CliffsNotes: Running for President." Apparently he's for economic growth so that every American can find work; he's for lower taxes to lower everyday expenses; he thinks the debt is bad; and he wants to make America safer. How he'll do those things is unclear, of course. His website champions pass successes much more frequently than laying out paths for new ones. The economic record he boasts has been fact-checked and partly debunked. While it's unclear if he's that much smarter than he appeared in the 2012 debates, it's also unlikely. Is this really the candidate Republicans want to send to the debate stage against Hillary Clinton? She is many things, but stupid is not one of them.

How do the polls look?--His RCP national average is 2.8, which is tied for ninth place with Christie. (This is a far cry from his exciting 2012 entry, when he skyrocketed to the front of the polls. More on that below.) Then, as now, his best hope is to connect with Iowa voters to get the Iowa bump. Then, he finished in fifth place with ten percent of the vote. Now, he's in 11th at 3.7 percent in the RCP average. I'm pretty sure that's worse. He's also 11th in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. At least he's consistent! If only he wasn't consistently out of the top ten.

PPFA analysis--I'll tell you, as I was writing the last two sections I almost talked myself out of putting him in Tier 2, even if he does only occupy the bottom spot in it. However, I think he has both a higher floor (with the exception of #12 Mike Huckabee who has a pretty devout following) and a higher ceiling than all candidates below him.

In 2012, I really think he jumped into that race too quickly. There was enormous interest in his candidacy and his ability to be the instant front-runner over Mitt Romney. Within a month of his mid-August declaration, he tapped an excited donor base from his enormous state and across the country to take the lead in fundraising. The polls were unanimous in regards to his national lead; from late August to late September, Real Clear Politics recorded seventeen straight national polls that Perry led, eight of them by double digits. Things could not have been going better.

And then he debated and had a generally awful campaign, culminating in Oopsocalypse 2012. It was as if his campaign's official song was the Benny Hill theme. In his haste to seize on the Draft Perry movement, he did not prepare for what was to come. Romney had been running for president for six years to that point. He was experienced, his strategy refined. Even Perry's political allies thought he hadn't put in much prep work. Perry has since vowed to be ready this time around. He admitted to having been startled by the "intensity" of a presidential race and has been preparing for another one as early as last summer.

A more prepared Rick Perry can be a dangerous candidate. Republicans love executives, and no candidate has governed a state this large since George W. Bush (also Texas) and Ronald Reagan (California) before him. Those are two of your last three Republican presidents, and the third, George H.W. Bush, rode in on Reagan's coattails. As noted above in the "Ideology" section, Perry is also the most conservative governor in the race, even more than Scott Walker and much more than Jeb Bush. If Republicans again decide they want a mix of executive leadership and consistent conservatism, Rick Perry can be their candidate.

It's unlikely to happen, considering how bad his poll numbers are to say nothing of the potentially indelible stain of the 2012 race, but a Perry nomination is on the fringe of possibility.

PPFA nomination rank--9 of 16 (Odds: 25:1).

PPFA general election rank--10 of 16. He and #10 Bobby Jindal swap their nomination and general election rank. As southern conservative governors, they have basic similarities. Perry has the edge in likelihood for the nomination because he might be able to recapture Republicans' 2012 excitement toward him, whereas Jindal has yet to show that ability. However, Petty is also too far solidified as an over-matched intellect in the minds of the general electorate. Jindal might impress some people with his brain.

Who's the next candidate in Tier 2?  I'll let you know on Friday.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scott Walker Makes it Official

In comes Walker. At least this has been expected for months, unlike SOME people (I'm angrily looking at you, James Gilmore.) Therefore, Walker was already factored into my July countdown of Republican candidates, so I'll share my opinions when he comes up, but I did broach the subject back in April.

Tomorrow the ninth most likely Republican nominee will be revealed. Who could it be?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Candidate Profile: #10. Bobby Jindal

For background to this series, click here. For previous posts in the series:

Tier 4--They know they can't win
16. George Pataki
(15.5. James Gilmore)
15. Lindsey Graham
14. Carly Fiorina

Tier 3--We know they can't win
13. Rick Santorum
12. Mike Huckabee
11. Donald Trump

As you can see, we've arrived at the top ten! This candidate is also our last one in Tier 3.

Let's get to the Best. Campaign Slogan. Ever.

Bobby Jindal, 44, Governor of Louisiana, 2008-present

Campaign Website and Slogan--www.bobbyjindal.com--"Tanned. Rested. Ready."

PPFA Slogan--I can't top that. I just can't. I might even get the t-shirt.

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +6.25 (Individual rights: +9; domestic issues: +7; economy: +4; foreign policy: +5)

Conservative Rank based on above: 6 of 16.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--Have you seen this dude's tan?  And can you tell how rested he is? The man is ready! A 44-year-old Indian-American (not to be confused with American Indian, which happens far too often; thanks a lot, Columbus), he's a sorely needed fresh face for the Republican Party. Such a campaign could mirror what 47-year-old Barack Obama did for the Democrats in 2008, when a young guy who looked nothing like other candidates came in and injected a youthful vigor that got the party excited. The résumé for this conservative wunderkind is sparkling:
  • He graduated from Brown's pre-med program.
  • He earned his Masters at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.
  • At 24 years old, he was appointed to head Louisiana's financially struggling state Department of Health and Hospitals and ultimately saved it.
  • At 29, he was tabbed by President Bush to a sub-cabinet position.
  • At 33, he became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana's 1st district.
  • At 37, he became governor of Louisiana, where he has proven to be a tried and true conservative. He has cut taxes six times, including a $1.1 billion cut that was the largest in state history. His conservative tax and spend policies have earned him strong marks from the CATO institute. He's also proposed eliminating the state income tax. His taxpayer-friendly policies have led to tax burden results that rank favorably against the other governors running for president:
  • TaxRecordFinal071015
  • As governor, he helped the state weather two major natural disasters: Hurricane Gustav in 2008, earning bipartisan praise for the much more successful response than the one Louisiana had for Katrina under his predecessor; and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill three years later.
  • Also at 37(!), he was rumored to be on John McCain's VP shortlist.
  • That same year he was offered a prime time speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, but canceled due to Hurricane Gustav.
  • In 2009 he was chosen to give the rebuttal to President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress. 
  • Socially, he's rated 100 percent pro-life; he's a staunch opponent of gay marriage; he's adored by the NRA and Gun Owners of America; he wants alternative forms of biological history taught alongside evolution; and he's been among the most vocal critics on Obamacare, effectively using his background in health care policy.
In sum, he's a young, bright, minority, accomplished, conservative executive. Just what the Republican Party needs.

Spin from opponents--Take a closer look at his record as governor. Thanks to his irresponsible economic approach, he's had severe budget shortfalls, which he tried to balance largely on the backs of public universities, enacting the deepest cut per student of any state in the nation. Nevertheless, the $1 billion surplus he inherited has turned into a $1.6 billion shortfall. (If you click on that link, you'll see the rather unflattering title, "How Bobby Jindal Wrecked Louisiana.") His terrible gubernatorial record has caused his approval rating to collapse to a record low, 31 percent, while more than twice that disapprove. His approval rating among Louisiana Republicans alone is barely over 50 percent. Who knows a presidential candidate better than his own state? If Louisianians don't like him, why would the nation?

How do the polls look?--Not good. We haven't seen polls this bad since the first three entries in this series. His RCP national average is 1.3, which is tied for last with Lindsey Graham among the 15 candidates registering. In the 20 national polls taken since March, he's never polled higher than 2 points. In Iowa, meanwhile, things aren't looking much better. He averages 2.0, putting him in 13th place. Still, that looks good next to New Hampshire and South Carolina polling, where he isn't even registering. Yikes.

PPFA analysis--Why then, given these putrid numbers, did he crack my top ten? Mostly because of the caliber of candidate below him. Remember, Jindal is in fact our last candidate in Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win, so it's not like I like his chances that much better than those who came before him. What Jindal has over those candidates is upside. I think he has a puncher's chance at making a Huckabee 2008/Santorum 2012 run.

First of all, politicians who are unpopular in their home state can go on to do well nationally. Just ask Mitt Romney. Both candidates had started as popular governors, but later in their tenures they wore out their welcome. Romney went on to win the Republican nomination handily in 2012. Jindal could repeat the feat.

Second, the levity of the campaign could catch on. That slogan--"Tanned. Rested. Ready."--is totally out of left field. And then he has jokes scattered throughout his "facts about Bobby page" on his website, like "Bobby starts each morning with a hard workout, and recovers with a recovery meal of chocolate, carbs and sugar. Bobby is a scientific anomaly; and scientists should probably study him." It seems like a surprising approach to a national campaign, but in a massive field of Republican candidates saying similar things, he's trying to get people to pay attention to him. We see this campaign acknowledges that it's not a serious front-runner, which can be refreshing to a certain type of voter. This is where he reminds me of Mike Huckabee 2008. Remember Huckabee and Chuck Norris? It certainly got new people talking about the candidate who to that point was a relatively unknown in a crowded field even though his view actually connected to a lot of the Republican base. Jindal is in an identical situation, and it looks like he's using that same strategy. Plus, in a political comparison to Huckabee, Jindal is more fiscally conservative, so if Jindal can catch that magic, there will be less skepticism from the party like it had toward Huckabee.

Furthermore, in Jindal we have the first candidate on this list who has the ability to repeat what Huckabee and then Santorum did in back to back election cycles: come out of nowhere to rally support in Iowa, succeed in its caucus, and then use that as a platform to mount a national campaign against the establishment candidate. Would I bet on it? Absolutely not. But his ceiling is higher than anyone else on this list so far. He's taking the religious conservative route in Iowa, which is exactly what Huckabee and Santorum and did (and are doing again). By putting his Christianity front and center, all his chips will end up in the Iowa basket. Huckabee and Santorum weren't registering in other places either until their big runs in Iowa. Jindal can repeat that.

Ultimately, this time around, whereas both Huckabee and Santorum are known quantities and ultimately losers, Jindal isn't marred by those factors. Thus, he has a higher ceiling, even if his floor is subterranean if he doesn't catch on, and is ranked above the two candidates on whom he will model his candidacy.

PPFA nomination rank--10 of 16 (Odds: 32:1).

PPFA general election rank--9 of 16.

The countdown continues on every odd day of the month. On Wednesday, we'll get to Tier 2.  See you then.
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