November 25, 2015

GHWB '88 OR GORE '00?:

Republicans Hold the Edge in the 2016 Presidential Race : If the party doesn't split in two, the eventual GOP nominee should be favored to defeat Hillary Clinton. (Josh Kraushaar, 11/24/15, National Journal)

Nearly every fun­da­ment­al meas­ure--with the not­able ex­cep­tion of the coun­try's demo­graph­ic shifts--fa­vors the Re­pub­lic­ans in 2016. The pub­lic over­whelm­ingly be­lieves the coun­try is headed in the wrong dir­ec­tion (23/69, a his­tor­ic low in Bloomberg's na­tion­al poll). Pres­id­ent Obama's job-ap­prov­al rat­ing has been con­sist­ently un­der­wa­ter, with the op­pos­i­tion in­tensely re­ject­ing his policies. Any eco­nom­ic growth has been un­even, with more Amer­ic­ans pess­im­ist­ic than op­tim­ist­ic about the fu­ture. The pub­lic's nat­ur­al de­sire for change after eight years of Demo­crats in the White House be­ne­fits the op­pos­i­tion. Mean­while, the party's likely stand­ard-bear­er has been saddled with weak fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ings of her own, with her email scan­dal drag­ging down her trust­wor­thi­ness in the minds of voters. This is not the en­vir­on­ment in which the party in power typ­ic­ally pre­vails.

That was all true even be­fore the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Par­is rat­cheted up na­tion­al se­cur­ity as a dom­in­ant is­sue head­ing in­to the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. Obama, who dis­missed IS­IS ter­ror­ists this week as "a bunch of killers with good so­cial me­dia," is badly out of step with Amer­ic­an pub­lic opin­ion on the cru­cial is­sue. This week's ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post sur­vey showed 59 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans be­lieve the U.S. is "at war with rad­ic­al Is­lam"--a phrase most Demo­crats res­ist us­ing. A siz­able 60 per­cent ma­jor­ity sup­ports send­ing ground troops in­to Syr­ia and Ir­aq to fight IS­IS. Even on the is­sue of hous­ing Syr­i­an refugees, on which lead­ing Demo­crats have ral­lied be­hind the pres­id­ent, polls show a clear ma­jor­ity of voters--along with about one-third of the House Demo­crat­ic caucus--now op­pose such meas­ures.

For Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents, na­tion­al se­cur­ity has been a first-tier is­sue since the IS­IS be­head­ings of Amer­ic­an journ­al­ists in Syr­ia last sum­mer. But for Demo­crats, the is­sue lagged as a sec­ond­ary one, even be­hind cli­mate change--a point Bernie Sanders con­tin­ued to make after the Par­is at­tacks. Hil­lary Clin­ton's ex­per­i­ence in for­eign policy is an as­set, and she show­cased her smarts--and dif­fer­ences with the pres­id­ent's view of IS­IS and ur­gency of the ter­ror­ist threat--at a Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions speech last week. But she'll be saddled by the re­cord of the ad­min­is­tra­tion she served, un­der which IS­IS meta­stas­ized as a threat. If ex­per­i­ence was the most im­port­ant factor in today's polit­ics, Clin­ton might have a life­line. Re­pub­lic­ans, however, will have loads of ma­ter­i­al with which to ques­tion her for­eign policy judg­ment.

The Demo­crats' hopes of hold­ing the White House rest on: a) re­mo­bil­iz­ing the Obama co­ali­tion of mil­len­ni­als, single wo­men, and non­white voters; and b) hop­ing that Re­pub­lic­ans nom­in­ate someone out­side the main­stream, like Don­ald Trump. 

Posted by at November 25, 2015 6:14 PM