The Truth Behind the Biden and Gore Bubbles – By JACK SHAFER August 17, 2015

AP Photo.

Over the last week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Joe Biden and Al Gore were two of the leading candidates in the 2016 presidential race—charismatic, principled leaders that voters wanted, nah, demanded, lead our nation for the next eight years.

After all, political reporters swooned last week at the news that Al Gore might make another run for the presidency. Reuters chased the BuzzFeed scoop, as did ABC News, the Christian Science Monitor, and other outlets. But severalaccounts quickly downplayed such a possibility, with a Gore spokeswoman saying there was “no truth” to it. The disappointment of reporters was palpable, not because the press likes Gore—they actually despise him with a passion—but because he is a known quantity on the campaign trail who, when milked, produces excellent copy.

The Gore episode (and the Biden one, which we’ll get to in a minute) inadvertently illustrated the press corps’ deepest prejudice. It’s not for liberals or conservatives—or even for declared candidates. What reporters lust for are contenders capable of generating usable story material, and these contenders are almost always the candidates who enjoy high voter recognition, often for a previous run for the presidency. Mitt Romney likewise moved the press corps from exhilaration to despondency in January when he flirted with a third run for the White House. The press wasn’t hankering for a Romney campaign any more than it was hankering for a Gore campaign. But their political longevity has produced giant flumes of coverage over the years, and that coverage can be captured and reused by reporters to write new stories. Veterans of previous Gore and Romney campaign are the greatest beneficiaries whenever rumor or scuttlebutt has it that either intends another run: a spin of the Rolodex, a few phone calls, and voilà, the reporter’s old notes are refreshed and a new news story is created.

The press corps’ preference for thoroughbreds—have not Mitt Romney’s presidential musings gotten more coverage this year than those of announced candidate George Pataki?—helps explain the disdain reporters have long-shot candidates. By necessity, presidential campaign coverage this far out from the general election must be of the horserace variety. The leaders must be handicapped only if to cull the field to a manageable size. No newspaper, magazine, TV network or Web site has the resources to cover in depth every declared candidate. A reporter could, I suppose, write a series of compelling story about James Webb or George Pataki if he put his mind to it. But who would read it? Few journalists are willing to write about the presidential candidates who can’t possibly win unless it’s to point out that the candidates can’t possibly win and that their every gesticulation is futile. Still fewer outlets are willing to run such coverage.

The ideal candidate in the press corps’ view is a veteran candidate who has kept his (or her) place high in the news since his last campaign. For Campaign 2016, the ideal candidate is Hillary Clinton, a previous loser in the presidential derbies who is always giving reporters new material to write about. Better to write in depth about one controversial Clinton email, the political reporter knows, than the entire policy platform of a Lincoln Chafee.

This ideal-candidate formula isn’t perfect. Long-shots sometimes have a way of becoming ideal candidates, even if they haven’t run before and sun-bathed in the news. During this campaign cycle, Bernie Sanders has turned the formula inside out. He’s neither run before nor been much of a newsmaker outside of his progressive mini-circles. The press has begrudgingly elevated his status from long-shot to contender because of his success in the polls and his skill at drawing crowds. Another outlier, Donald Trump, whom the press keeps predicting will pop and crash, has earned his way to contender status by virtue of his polling numbers. Given its druthers, the press would like to snub him and his gauche ways because there seems no way the current system could elect him president. But the press has proved powerless to suppress him. As with Sanders, the press must cover Trump because he has achieved notoriety that can’t be ignored.

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The Real State of the Economy – Andrew Serge july 31 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at Aug 2, 2015 1.55

As Mitt Romney and Barack Obama vied for the Oval Office back in 2012, the U.S. teetered on the edge of another recession. And no one knew about it until now.

The Labor Department on Thursday released the country’s gross domestic product results for the second quarter. The economy expanded a modest 2.3 percent in April, May and June of 2015 after a meager 0.6 percent uptick in the first quarter. While the headline numbers fell short of analysts’ expectations, it was the revisions to previous years’ data that were arguably the most intriguing.

[READ: GDP Gains in Second Quarter, Revised Upward in First]

“The revisions show a recovery from the Great Recession that has been lackluster,” Gus Faucher, senior macroeconomist at PNC Financial Services Group, wrote in a research note Thursday. “This included a small downward revision to growth in 2012 (2.3 percent to 2.2 percent), a big downward revision to growth in 2013 (2.2 percent to 1.5 percent), and no revision to growth in 2014 (2.4 percent).”

The Bureau of Economic Analysis spent the last few months updating its seasonal adjustment methodology, allowing it to tweak GDP releases as far back as 2011. A series of weaker-than-expected first quarter GDP reports over the last several years led the bureau in May to start looking into potential flaws in its calculations.

Those revisions were published Thursday and likely weren’t what Americans wanted to see. For five consecutive quarters (or 15 months) in 2012 and 2013, the U.S. economy’s growth rate fell short of the country’s benchmark 2 percent. Over that five-quarter window beginning in April 2012, the economy averaged only 1.1 percent growth per quarter.

But in the third and fourth quarters of 2012, when America was in the throes of a political battle for the White House, the U.S. economy almost plunged off the deep end. The economy expanded only 0.5 percent in the third quarter and 0.1 percent in the fourth. Though the fourth quarter’s 0.1 percent growth was unrevised from previous reports, the third quarter’s GDP was originally thought to have clocked in at a much stronger 2.8 percent.

Republicans Painting Hillary Clinton As a Tool of the Superrich Forget One Little Thing – By Jonathan Chait| Mon Apr. 27, 2015 9:00 AM EDT

duncan1890/iStockphoto; Maya Alleruzzo/AP; Natykach Nataliia/shutterstock

Barack Obama was raised by a financially struggling single mother, and Mitt Romney was the son of an auto executive turned governor who grew up to be a gazillionaire in the financial industry. This made biographical populism an unfruitful subject for the right in 2012. But circumstances have changed a bit. Hillary Clinton and her husband have grown extremely rich in their post–White House years, and the Republican Party is cultivating at least a couple of potential candidates, like Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, who boast of their modest backgrounds. Republicans are licking their lips for a year and a half of Hillary-as–Leona Helmsley, flying around in private jets, luxuriating in wealth, and disingenuously pretending to care about the struggles of average Americans. There is, however, one wee problem in the Republican populist plot. That is the policy agenda.

Conservative writer Jay Cost is already looking ahead to this problem, which he presents as a kind of dodge. After flaying Clinton for her wealth, he fumes, “Really, the only claim Clinton can make to understanding the travails of everyday Americans is her party’s platform,” writes Cost, “Endorsement of that document is a kind of sacrament that bestows the power of empathy upon every Democratic pol. This is perhaps the most absurd premise of the Clinton candidacy.”

This is a strange and revealing passage. He argues that Clinton is a tool of the rich, and the only possible fact undermining this otherwise obvious reality is her party’s platform, i.e., the stuff she would do as president. This is an “absurd” premise upon which to cast her as a populist if you think of elections as a soap opera drama between two individuals. It makes a lot of sense if you think about the presidency as a vehicle to change public policy.

And the cardinal fact of the modern political age is that the two parties are primarily fighting over redistribution. Democrats want the government to tax the rich at higher levels and spend more to support the poor, and Republicans want the opposite. The major political fights of the last three decades, from the Reagan tax cuts to the Clinton tax hikes to Clintoncare to the Bush tax cuts to Obamacare to the Ryan budget, have all been centered on the redistributionary principle.

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The Wisconsin governor’s new position against legal immigration could have huge implications for the GOP race. – By Jamelle Bouie .APRIL 22 2015 5:09 PM

The Wisconsin governor’s new position against legal immigration could have huge implications for the GOP race.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 26, 2015, in National Harbor, Maryland.  -- Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 26, 2015, in National Harbor, Maryland.
— Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Monday, in an interview with Glenn Beck, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker staked a new position in the Republican Party argument over immigration. “In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying—the next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages,” he said, “It is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today—is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.”

In the past, Republicans were merely opposed to illegal immigration. Mitt Romney touted “self-deportation” as a solution to unauthorized immigrants, while figures like Iowa Rep. Steve King channeled grassroots intensity to torpedo comprehensive reform and force a new course for Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and even Walker, who was for immigration reform before his move to the national stage. Legal immigration, by contrast, was uncontroversial. The same Romney who took a hard line on illegal immigration also promised foreign-born students that he would “staple a green card” to their college diplomas, and the same Sen. Ted Cruz who denounces “amnesty” at every opportunity has also argued for increasing the cap on H–1B visas—for skilled workers—by 500 percent.

In other words, Walker’s newfound skepticism of legal immigration is a real departure for the Republican mainstream. If he were a more factional candidate—like Ben Carson or even Sen. Rand Paul—it wouldn’t matter. Yes, the margins give you the freedom to say anything, but they also give your opponents the freedom to ignore you. Walker is far from marginal. He’s a conservative superstar with major backing and activist enthusiasm. And when he questions our regime of legal immigration, other candidates listen. To that point, think back to the 2012 primary, when Romney foreclosed a challenge from Texas Gov. Rick Perry by challenging him on immigration. After Perry declared that Republicans “don’t have a heart” if they oppose education subsidies for undocumented children during a September 2011 debate, Romney responded with incredulity over supporting any “illegals”:

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Mitt Romney’s Email Hypocrisy —By David Corn | Fri Mar. 20, 2015 11:06 AM EDT

He blasts Hillary Clinton’s email “mess”—but Romney used personal email as governor, and his staff destroyed hard drives when he left office.

Evan Vucci/AP

The Hillary Clinton email kerfuffle has revealed that high-tech record-fiddling is a bipartisan phenomenon. It has also showed that for many pols hypocrisy is no reason to forego a political attack. Jeb Bush eagerly slammed HRC for her email shenanigans, despite the fact that he, too, relied upon a private server when he was governor and after leaving office vetted his gubernatorial emails before making them public. Now comes Mitt Romney. In an interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo, the failed Republican presidential candidate blasted Clinton for her (indeed problematic and rules-defying) management of the emails she sent and received as secretary of state. Romney called this “mess” an example of “Clintons behaving badly.”

And he poured it on thick: “I mean, it’s always something with the Clintons. Which is that they have rules which they describe before they get into something, and then they decide they don’t have to follow their own rules. That I think is gonna be a real problem for her.” He added: “she chose to say, ‘No. I’m not gonna follow those rules and regulations. Not only am I gonna have private email, I’m gonna put the server in my house so that there’s no way anyone can find out what was really said.’ That is something which is going way beyond the pale.”

Just Like Mitt – By Lara Brown March 13, 2015 | 11:45 a.m. EDT

Hillary Clinton’s email imbroglio, like Romney’s 2012 tax return flap, raises questions about trustworthiness.

Hillary Rodham Clinton answers questions at a news conference at the United Nations, Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

A case of poor judgment

Despite what some high-ranking Democratic officeholders are saying, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s nongovernmental email address and private server imbroglio will negatively affect her presidential campaign. Clinton has made an unforced error in nearly the same way that former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did when he refused to release several years of his income tax returns.

And what’s so absurd about both of these scandals is that they aren’t even about the purported issues at hand.

Were all of Clinton’s emails (not the 55,000 pages of these that she cherry-picked) and multiple years of Romney’s taxes (not the two years he chose) made public, few Americans would care about their itemized contents. Each candidate would likely endure some bad press, related to the new information in them, but soon, they’d be old news; thus, not news.

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By so rigidly trying to frame their personal histories and public records (i.e., “control the message”) and by not being more open about their past decisions, they raise valid and disconcerting questions about their trustworthiness.

[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Republican Party]

More damagingly, Clinton’s answers on Tuesday, like Romney’s in the summer of 2012, convey that she doesn’t trust the public to sort fact from fiction. Their similarly evasive tones about their less-than-transparent records belie a cynical view of the rough and tumble that is part of the democratic process. Their actions suggest they think that good people will be pilloried for innocent deeds if all is revealed. This makes the public uncomfortable with trusting them. For Americans know that politicians who don’t trust the public, spend their time trying to fool them. And Americans don’t like to be thought of as fools, nor do they want to be fooled by some know-it-all politician.

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Of course, Romney and Clinton are correct in understanding that their political opponents will scour each document, searching for juicy details to be deployed in their campaigns. But that is to be expected with every candidate’s past history, and it’s not something to be feared by them or their campaign. There is a reason why candidates do opposition research on themselves.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

Further, if the records were to be feared, then both of these candidates had ample time to clean up their acts prior to their presidential runs. Since at least 2006, Romney had been considering a presidential run (he ran unsuccessfully in 2008, and exited in such a way that most thought he’d likely run again). If he were worried about what his income taxes would reveal, then he could have met with a tax attorney and changed the way he did his business (or his charitable donations). He would have then been able to turn over five years of returns in spring 2012 (2006 to 2011) without batting an eye.

When Clinton agreed to serve as President Barack Obama’s secretary of statein 2008, it’s hard to imagine that she hadn’t already had thoughts of succeeding him in the White House. If she were concerned about how her tenure as a Cabinet secretary would reflect on a future campaign, why wouldn’t she have thought to make her record of service transparent and impeccable? Why wouldn’t she have ensured that her personal and political emails were on a private account (in accordance with the Hatch Act) and her government business was on her public agency’s account? Why would she have settled for “convenience”?

Republican presidential hopeful former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a presidential candidates forum sponsored by Iowans for Tax Relief and Iowa Christian Alliance, Saturday, June 30, 2007, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Taken together, this is why these scandals are not about what Romney or Clinton did or didn’t do, or what may or may not be revealed or twisted by the campaigns. In the end, they’re about these politicians’ limited foresight, poor judgment and lack of faith in the American people.

And this is why these scandals matter – they not only reinforce the narratives already in play with these politicians, but they also speak to the public’s expectations of political leadership.

Unfortunately for the Clinton team, that’s a lot more to get over and get past than a massive trove of emails.

Jeb Bush Takes 2016 Show Into Unfriendly Territory At CPAC – S.V. DÁTE FEBRUARY 27, 2015 4:03 AM ET

For close to a decade, Jeb Bush’s audiences have almost exclusively been people who have paid good money to hear him speak.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addresses the audience at his last Conservative Political Action Conference appearance in March 2013. Bush is to appear again Friday, as he considers a potential 2016 presidential campaign.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addresses the audience at his last Conservative Political Action Conference appearance in March 2013. Bush is to appear again Friday, as he considers a potential 2016 presidential campaign. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

That changes today, when he appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference — where potential 2016 presidential rivals are already taking shots at him and some activists are organizing a walk-out.

NYU college student Ivan Teo said he doesn’t consider Bush “one of us,” but does give him credit for at least showing up on hostile turf. “I think him coming here, it’s brave. And I think that it’s great that we have a chance to ask him questions.”

Bush, the former Florida governor and the brother and son of the last two Republican presidents, is the presumed Republican establishment favorite in a venue that historically has not been kind to the party establishment.

In 2011, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul won the CPAC presidential straw poll, while Mitt Romney won the 2012 nomination. In 2007, Romney won the straw poll, while Arizona Sen. John McCain won the GOP nomination the following year.

And while many Republicans with presidential ambitions make CPAC an annual pilgrimage, Bush during his years as governor avoided the gathering as part of his overall strategy of staying away from events that would feed presidential speculation. Bush ended that self-imposed exile in 2013, and got a decidedly indifferent reception. His was the Friday night keynote speech — the “Ronald Reagan Dinner” — and Bush had just recently published his book Immigration Wars, that advocated an overhaul similar to what the Senate wound up passing a few months later.

Bush used the occasion to scold his party for seeming “anti-everything,” but also prescribed the same optimistic message about a “right to rise” that is the theme of his pre-campaign. Just months after the 2012 presidential election, Bush’s speech did not particularly offend his audience as much as fail to interest them at all. Bush spoke for just under 20 minutes, during which time many in the ballroom carried on conversations over dessert and coffee, ducked outside to answer phone calls, or just left entirely.

Before and after that, he was primarily speaking to corporate audiences that had paid him tens of thousands of dollars to hear him. Even in recent appearances in Detroit and Chicago, where he gave speeches as part of his “Right to Rise” political committees, Bush spoke to sympathetic audiences, and then took gentle questions from moderators.

Bush did do a warm-up of sorts Wednesday evening, appearing on conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt’s program, but even there the questioning was mild — primarily about foreign policy and the military.

Neither immigration nor the Common Core education standards, which are reviled by many of the GOP’s most conservative voters, came up in that interview. Both are certain to be asked about Friday, when Bush is questioned for 20 minutes by Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Bush, 62, compiled what was considered a deeply conservative record in his two terms as Florida governor, including tax cuts totaling $14 billion, support of gun rights, the creation of private school voucher programs and the use of public money to persuade women to avoid abortions. But his support for more stringent education standards in Common Core and an immigration overhaul that would not deport all those in this country illegally has angered many conservatives.

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Bernie Sanders wants to take on ‘billionaire class’ – By Burgess Everett 1/29/15 6:40 PM EST Updated 1/29/15 7:00 PM EST

The Vermont senator insists he wouldn’t run just to push Clinton to the left.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is pictured. | AP Photo

AP Photo

If Bernie Sanders plans to takes shots at Hillary Clinton, he’s saving his ammo.

The Vermont independent and self-proclaimed socialist said Thursday that he’ll continue to explore running in the Democratic primary with a trip to New Hampshire this weekend and a visit to Iowa shortly thereafter. But asked to critique the presumed Democratic nominee, Sanders wouldn’t go there, at least explicitly.

“All I know is if I run, I’m not running against Hillary Clinton,” Sanders said in an interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” that will air on Sunday. “What Hillary Clinton, or Mitt Romney, or anybody else has to say — that’s their business. And once we’re in a campaign, I can debate those issues.”

Absent a change of heart by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sanders is seen as perhaps the Democratic Party’s best vessel to channel populist outrage and push Clinton to the left in the Democratic primary. But he insisted that if he were to run, it wouldn’t be for that reason.

Sanders said his biggest causes on the campaign trail would be the “collapse of the middle class,” the rise of what he called the Koch brothers’ political “oligarchy” and the GOP’s position on climate change, which the senator called an “international embarrassment.”

“These and other issues are looming in front of us. And we’re going to need bold leadership, we’re going to need people prepared to take on, frankly, the billionaire class,” he said.

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Republicans Are Finally Talking About Inequality – By Jamelle Bouie JAN. 22 2015 7:53 PM


Christy Sibley and her daughter Rosheka stand in their trailer on May 5, 2009 in Fluker, Louisiana. The highly impoverished rural town has very few jobs and no mayor. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The economy is growing, a presidential election is on the horizon, and Republicans are finally tackling income inequality as a national problem.

Earlier this month former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush launched his new PAC with a message geared toward economic insecurity: “While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners, they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America.” Last Friday former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talked up inequality, telling a Republican audience in San Diego, “Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse, and there are more people in poverty than ever before.”

For as odd as it is to hear Romney (of “47 percent” fame) disdain the plutocratic economy, it’s also a welcome change. After 15 years of bad economic news—from sluggish growth and wage stagnation to a world-historical recession—we are finally at a point of real progress. Now is the time to talk frankly about what we need to further our gains and ensure broad prosperity. And, sincere or not, it’s good that Republicans want to be part of that conversation. At its best, conservative thinking on inequality puts a laser focus on the particular problems of families. “Perhaps the most basic challenge facing middle-class families,” said Utah Sen. Mike Lee in an expansive speech to the Heritage Foundation in October 2013, “is how expensive it has become for couples to simply start and grow their families.”

And while liberals will not agree with Republican prescriptions, there’s real value in their critiques and counterproposals. For example, one of the smarter conservative criticisms of President Obama’s plan for larger child and child care tax credits is that they penalize stay-at-home parents. Specifically, Obama’s plan would give new tax credits to dual-income families as well as provide larger credits to parents who need child care to do paid work. But if a family chooses to forgo market income by having a parent stay home, it loses these credits.

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The Warren Commission – By John Dickerson JAN. 9 2015 5:32 PM

In a new focus group, voters agreed about one thing: Elizabeth Warren is one of the most intriguing contenders for 2016.

Six of 12 people in a recent focus group picked Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the potential 2016 contender they’d more like to have over to their house to talk. – Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

When 12 voters gathered in Aurora, Colorado, for a political focus group on Thursday night, it wasn’t surprising to hear them compete to see who could bash politicians more. “If we got rid of every member of Congress and elected new people tomorrow who had no experience, I don’t think we could do any worse,” said Charlie Loan, who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. When the group was asked to come up with phrases members of Congress should wear on wrist bracelets, they suggested “Don’t trust me, I lie,” “Looking out for me,” and “Two Faced.”

But one politician escaped the voters’ ire: Elizabeth Warren. Six of the 12 said they would like to have Warren over to their house to talk, more than any other possible 2016 presidential contender they were asked about. They said she was “down to earth” and “knowledgeable.” When asked a separate question about which politician they would like to have live next door, they picked Warren over every other contender as well. Jenny Howard, an accountant with student-loan debt who voted for Romney in 2012 and Sen. John McCain in 2008, also liked Warren: “If she ran, she could be the next president because she is personable and knowledgeable and has a good handle on what’s going on in the country.” 

Peter Hart organized this Colorado focus group. Hart, a Democratic pollster for more than 40 years, helps conduct the Wall Street Journal/ NBC poll and has been holding these kinds of sessions for the past four presidential elections.  The focus group was the first of a series of such two-hour interviews of swing voters that Hart will do leading up to the 2016 presidential election, for the Annenberg Public Policy Center to track how voter sentiment changes.

These people do not represent metaphysical certitude about the country’s political opinion—it’s only 12 people after all—and we are still far from the next election so much can change, but they offer glimpses of the current stirring in the public. Their desire for change, concerns about the economy (despite news that things are better), and interest in a candidate who cares about the middle class have appeared consistently in polls and other voter forums.

The affection for Warren among the group of five self-described independents, three Republicans, and four Democrats may not tell us anything about the Massachusetts senator herself. It’s possible that she is a vehicle through which they are signaling their desire for change, for something authentic and maybe new. Charlie Loan, an IT manager, says he voted the straight conservative line most recent election but he’d listen to what Warren had to say. “The little I have seen and heard from her, she seems genuine—people from [Oklahoma] usually are. Since she was formerly devoted to the Republican Party, maybe she fits in the middle somewhere, which is where I would like to see most of them be. She is clearly well-educated and seems level-headed.”