Swing State Pres

Thursday, April 2, 2015

March 2015 Election Update: Deleted Emails and Ted Cruz: What a Start to 2016

This is the first of what will be a monthly (at least initially, more frequent later) update of the elections, taking us to the Iowa caucuses in February, 2016 and on through to Election Day (see the clock on the right to see how far we have to go).  We are at the start of “announcement season,” and thus far only Ted Cruz has formally thrown his hat into the ring.  The coming month should bring further announcements, most likely from, at least, Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton. 

It is not a given that everyone prowling around now for donors, support and an election staff will ultimately run.  I’m very curious about Mike Huckabee, who just announced that he would decide within a few weeks.  Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have already declared they are out, and others have to take stock of how they have fared in the so-called “silent primary.”  There is no scorecard out there, no delegate count, only promises and polls.  Decisions have to be made on the basis of those, and a true gut-check on whether a candidate really wants to spend the next 10 months chewing on Iowa county fair corndogs and kissing babies on little sleep.

Where do we stand?  Let’s take a look.

DEMOCRATS

When it comes to early 2016 thunder, the Democrats have actually made more noise this month than the GOP.  That won’t last, but Email-Gate has brought a flurry of chatter about Hillary’s prospects.  The Democrats’ collective (if not universal) desire to coronate Hillary without a fight is borne of a number of factors.  She has earned it, no doubt, as an experienced world leader and candidate.  In the GOP vernacular, she is “next in line,” having secured the second most delegates in the last go-round.  (The GOP has anointed the person with that particular statistic in every non-incumbent election since 1976, with two exceptions, George W. Bush in 2000, and Mitt Romney in 2012, who was just behind Mike Huckabee for the #2 slot in 2008; Huckabee did not run in 2012).  And, of course, the historical angle, Hillary as the First Woman President is a monumental prospect.

But what the email flap made perfectly clear is the sad truth about the Democratic Party:  they have no one else.  Joe Biden is quite old (72) by presidential standards, a classic Washington pol, a bit of an unpredictable persona, and a failed candidate to boot.  Elizabeth Warren is far too left-wing for the mainstream candidacy it would take to win.  And then come the unknowns, the Webbs, O’Malleys, Cuomos, Gillebrands and Sanders and the like who occupy the nether regions of the polls.  And, in the wake of the email angst, names like John Kerry and Al Gore suddenly were being tossed about, which only underlined the depth of the problem.  Whatever else may emerge from this campaign, Hillary Clinton needs to elevate some heretofore unknown rising star and name them her running mate, someone who, win or lose, could be a high profile Democratic candidate the next time the Democrats need one, be it 2016 or 2020.

Thus Democrats raced to defend Hillary even before much was known about the email problem.  They have little choice but to paper it over (if one can use such an analogy for an electronic mess).  My own belief is that absent the discovery of a trove of deleted and incriminating Benghazi emails on some server, this will blow over.  Nothing is more boring than a scandal about, essentially, bureaucratic policies, especially one in which it is not clear at all if anything was done wrong.  And now that we know that Hillary’s personal server was indeed wiped clean, presumably there is nowhere to look for anything juicy anymore.

How have Hillary’s numbers held up in all this?  Well, given the weakness of the Democratic field, it is no surprise that nothing has changed.  She continues to dominate what passes for competition, with unchanged margins and little movement whatsoever.


Jan 12
Feb 10
Mar 11
Apr 1
  Clinton
63
59
60
59
  Biden
11
11
13
12
  Warren
11
13
12
9
  Sanders
4
3
5
6
  Webb
2
2
2
2
  O'Malley
1
1
1
2
  Schweitzer

1

1
  Webb
2
2
2
1
  Cuomo
2
4


  All other
4
4
5
8


As for her own standing, Hillary’s “favorability rating” has remained steady as well, dipping only 1 point in the aftermath.

2015
2015
Before 3/5
After '3/5
Favorable
47.5
46.4
Unfavorable
43.5
43.1
Undecided
6.2
8.7

And in head-to-head polling against Jeb Bush, the GOP frontrunner, Hillary seems to be doing just fine.  There were seven polls in 2015 prior to the flap, and on average she was ahead of Bush by 7 points.  There has been only one poll since, a CNN poll in mid-March, and she was up by 15 in that one.

Hillary’s main issue with the emails may have been in her response, which appeared to be the “same old same old” Clinton “M.O.” of privacy claims, defiance, legal parsing, media showdowns and the like.  Hillary needs a campaign structure rather badly to help her manage these moments, and the signal that she will announce her candidacy officially sooner than expected doubtless reflects that wisdom.  She had been trying to push off an announcement as long as possible so that she could continue to raise unlimited funds, but the cost/benefit of that seems to have reached a tipping point.

REPUBLICANS

The GOP free-for-all shows no sign of abating, though as I said, some winnowing may occur in the announcement season.  Thus far Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have been the main event, and although both are seeking to bridge the divide that runs straight down the middle of the GOP’s establishment and Tea Party wings, in fact Bush stands with the former and Walker the latter.  Bush appears to be daring to run on a platform of moderation, compromise and moving forward, while Walker is very clearly in the camp of confrontation.  His whole brand name, such as it is, was created in his showdown with unions in Wisconsin (which he clumsily stated was relevant experience for battling ISIS), and he cannot afford to soften that quite yet, not before Iowa.

Ted Cruz’s announcement has given the Texas Senator a bump, and he is certainly pushing Walker from the right.  Not everyone can claim (or wants to) that they are responsible for shutting down the U.S. government, but Cruz is unapologetic about it.  In fact, the single adjective used most to describe Cruz (at least in polite company) is “unapologetic.”  That is, he certainly SHOULD be apologizing for his various actions but rather he revels in them.  If Walker stands for “confrontation,” he will have a tough time out-Cruzing Cruz, who is despised by the leaders of his own party.

In the past month, Cruz has risen a bit in the polls – and the 9% level in the chart below may be understated, in that he achieved 16% in the only poll in that average that occurred after his  relatively high-profile announcement.  Jeb Bush is holding steady and Scott Walker took a mild hit among the “top tier” group.  Ben Carson and Rand Paul are in the next tier with Cruz, and the rest of the field lags.


Jan 12
Feb 10
Mar 11
Apr 1
  Bush
14
13
16
16
  Walker
5
8
18
15
  Carson
7
10
10
9
  Paul
7
8
7
9
  Cruz
5
7
5
9
  Huckabee
7
9
11
7
  Christie
9
5
7
6
  Rubio
4
4
5
6
  Perry
4
3
3
4
  Jindal
2
2
2
2
  Santorum
2
1
2
2
  Fiorina
1
0
1
2
  Graham
0
0
2
2
  Kasich
2
1
1
2
  All other
31
29
10
9


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