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Hillary telling friends: If I thought there was an opening in the primary, I’d consider jumping in

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A tantalizing detail from this NYT piece about establishment Dems wringing their hands over the primary. If you’re a Wall Street liberal, you’re in a bad place nowadays. After all, the Republican nominee is very much anti-liberal and two of the top three candidates on the Democratic side are very much anti-Wall Street. And even if those two can be pacified, it’s very much in doubt whether they can beat Trump head to head. Your only hope is smilin’ Joe Biden, who has yet to impress anyone on the trail or at the debates in six months of trying and who may not have the money to win a hard-fought race. He has less than half the cash on hand that some of his rivals do, notes the Times. And since he’s dependent on rich donors, he’s already maxed out much of his potential source of revenue.

That is to say (and as others have already noted this morning), this story about rich Dems asking each other “Is there anybody else?’” is really a story about them asking each other “Is there anybody else besides Biden who can get in, hold off Warren and Sanders, and beat Trump — and not end up confiscating half our wealth to fund their new programs when they do?” Klobuchar and Buttigieg have been plugging away, offering themselves as a potential cure for Biden anxiety to moderate Democratic voters, but it just isn’t happening for. (Except maybe in Iowa?) Who can save Wall Street liberals from their terrible predicament?

There may be … one person.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bloomberg have both told people privately in recent weeks that if they thought they could win, they would consider entering the primary — but that they were skeptical there would be an opening, according to Democrats who have spoken with them…

The chances that another major contender decides to run are remote: While Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bloomberg have both been encouraged to enter the race, Democrats close to them believe the only scenario under which they’d consider running is if Mr. Biden drops out or is badly weakened

Democrats who have recently spoken with Mrs. Clinton say she shares the same concerns other party elites have about the field — worried about Mr. Biden’s durability, Ms. Warren’s liberal politics and unsure of who else can emerge to take on Mr. Trump. But these people, who spoke anonymously to discuss private conversations, say she enjoys the freedom that comes with not being on the ballot.

She’s not the only Democrat who’s reportedly watching Biden wobble and worrying that something must be done. There’s Bloomberg, who’s several months older than Biden; there’s another former presidential loser, John Kerry; there’s even Eric Holder, who seems convinced that there’s some sort of constituency out there for him for reasons that completely escape me. Not coincidentally, these are all people linked to the neoliberal wing of the party. Progressives seem perfectly happy with their choices thanks to the one-two punch of Warren and Sanders:

It’s the bad luck of centrists that Biden has stayed aloft in the polls to date but without gaining the sort of altitude that would inspire confidence in his ability to put Warren away. Either a very good or a very bad showing by Grandpa Joe would have been tolerable to the party’s Hillary wing. If he had gotten in and quickly began to sink, that’s fine. Plenty of time for a Bloomberg-type to jump in and fill the vacuum. If instead he had gotten in and begun to soar in the polls, putting, say, 20 points between him and the progressives, that would be fine too. Obviously a candidate in that position is a strong favorite to win. But to get in, limp along through multiple debates, and enter the fall basically tied with Warren and only 10 points or so ahead of Sanders leaves moderate Dems paralyzed. If they try to push a big-name neoliberal into the race now, won’t that help Warren by splitting the moderate vote? But if they don’t push someone into the race, Biden might falter and Warren or Bernie might win the race in a walkover next spring.

Let me ask this, though: If Hillary Clinton is the answer, what’s the question? Nate Silver wonders that too.

There’s no reason to think Clinton would do any better head to head against Trump than one of the progressive candidates would. In fact, I’d guess that her favorable rating nationally and even within the party is much worse than Warren’s or Bernie’s is. I don’t think she’d neatly fill the vacuum left by Biden either. Hillary has more diehard fans than Biden does so there’d be *some* insta-support for her, but she’s literally the one person in America who’s a proven failure at performing the core duty of this year’s nominee, which is, purely and simply, defeating Donald Trump. She’s Biden except with less of an electability argument. Progressives hate her already and would hate her even more for jumping in to try their thwart their Warren/Sanders bid for presidential power once again. Neoliberals may sympathize with her over 2016 but would also naturally look for an alternative, someone like Klobuchar with one one-thousandth as much baggage.

Her terrible political instincts haven’t gotten better over time either. If it’s true that Hillary is mulling a candidacy, even as just an emergency thing in case something happens to Biden, why would she do something as reckless as accuse Tulsi Gabbard of being a Russian asset? Nominating Hillary again would make Democratic party unity in 2020 nearly impossible even under the best circumstances but smearing a progressive candidate as some sort of Russian operative makes it that much harder. That’s piss-poor politics for someone who’s entertaining even the smallest chance of running herself and poor politics even if she isn’t considering running. After all, as I said last night, attacking Gabbard will only serve to raise Tulsi’s profile in the primary and give lefties new reason to disdain the neoliberal wing of the party.

All of which is to say that there’s no room for Hillary in the primary even if Biden quits tomorrow. Moderate Dems are right to worry about a Warren or Sanders nomination; read this shrewd Sean Trende piece about how far-left candidates risk alienating the Democrats’ secret weapon in last year’s primaries, the well-heeled suburbanites who are pretty happy with their health insurance right now. But if Biden quit, they’d have a perfectly solid option in Klobuchar to rally around — or, if they’re willing to overlook the fact that she’s an awful retail politician, they could always give Kamala Harris a second look. The age of Hillary is done. Not even the coked-up writers of the “President Trump” reality show we now inhabit could invent a plot arc that restores her to political viability. I think.

The post Hillary telling friends: If I thought there was an opening in the primary, I’d consider jumping in appeared first on Hot Air.

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Winners And Losers In The Democratic Debate (Part One)

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In a contest between Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tim Ryan, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Marianne Williamson, Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, and John Hickenlooper, there was a lot of talking, a lot of responding, and a lot of… actual debating. These ten candidates met on the stage for the first of two nights of debating, and with CNN as host, it was quite the show.

The expected match-up of the night was Bernie Sanders versus Elizabeth Warren, but it turned into a free-for-all as Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon did their best to put candidates on the record not just on their own statements, but in response to the statements of other candidates. CNN’s panel did a good job of getting the candidates to confront their differences with each other, making it good television and a good policy debate.

But, with all the debating and the arguing and the questioning, there were some candidates who set themselves apart. Both in good ways and in bad.

As a reminder, this is not a “Winners And Losers” analysis based on

The Winners: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson

This was billed as Comrade Sanders against Chief Grand Cherokee, but Sanders and Warren instead spent their time tag-teaming against the lesser creatures sharing the stage with them. Warren, for her part, struggled to begin with. She tried to shoehorn in an anecdote in two separate questions, resulting in the audience laughing and her snapping at them in response, saying “It’s not funny!” However, she regained our footing but didn’t really explore any new ground here. She played it pretty safe with her usual talking points without being incredibly controversial.

Sanders, however, didn’t care about taking swings and offending people. He defended Medicare For All to the death against Tim Ryan and John Delaney (the latter getting murdered in the process), and hit back against several other candidates with ferocity. Also unlike Warren, Sanders wasn’t a one-note guy. Warren went back to the trough again and again on the “The Rich Run The Country” mantra. Sanders, for what it’s worth, did talk actual policy at times and had actual ideas (whether we agree with them or not).

However, there is no doubt in my mind that Marianne Williamson is the clear winner of the night. Her job as a lower-tier candidate was to get herself recognized. She had to fight the odds and the lack of screen time that the other two winners had, and she had to stand out. She got legitimate applause, she had the most memorable lines, and she was in every way the charismatic candidate Donald Trump was in the Republican primary. Saying that what happened in Flint wouldn’t happen in Grosse Pointe and that the country is suffering from a “dark psychic force” resonated more than any other line during the debate. As of right now, I fully expect her to see a surge from this debate and make it to the next one.

The Losers: John Delaney, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg

John Delaney was murdered on stage tonight. Bernie Sanders beat the living hell out of him, and Elizabeth Warren went in for the kill. If the Democratic Party would listen to John Delaney and Tim Ryan, they would have a better shot against Trump in 2020, but he spoke far too much sense and the progressive wing of the candidates will have none of it.

Pete Buttigieg had the most potential going into the debate, but he just hasn’t lived up to it. He ducked and dodged conflict and did not really seem to stand up for anything when challenged. It was a major letdown if you were a Buttigieg fan, because he was eclipsed by others – especially Marianne Williamson.

Beto O’Rourke? Honestly, I wasn’t sure he was still running, and after this debate I still don’t know if he’s still running. He talked an awful lot about his time spent traveling Texas to be a U.S. Senate, completely ignoring the fact that he lost that race to someone who, frankly, is nowhere near as popular as he used to be. O’Rourke still seems to think that all the press he got in that race will translate over to this race. It hasn’t, and it won’t.

The Also-Rans: Steve Bullock, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Ryan, John Hickenlooper

Of the four who were also on the stage, the only one who had a great performance was Tim Ryan. However, like Delaney, Ryan is far too moderate and far too critical of the progressive left to ever get a shot at the nomination. He was smart on the right issues and, if I were a Democrat, I’d take a closer look at him. He is probably the most effective moderate the primary has, which makes him all the more likely to get nowhere close to the nomination.

Of the remaining three, none of them did anything special. Worse than losing was not being recognizable, which is exactly what they were. Steve Bullock fought his way to this debate, only to ensure it would be his only one. Hickenlooper is somewhere between Ryan and Sanders, but is so awkward about it that I half-expected him to look off-stage during an answer and shout “LINE!” because he’d forgotten what to say. Klobuchar was worse than bad – she was forgettable. She had stale answers, a boring demeanor, and tried to force a depressing anecdote into her closing statement. It did nothing to boost her already low profile. At one point, she had to pay herself a compliment because no one else (especially her staff?) would be giving her one.

One thing I do want to say is that, despite how we normally discuss CNN here, I have got to hand it to them for the way they handled the rules of the debate. The time limits were well-moderated and the politicians were asked repeatedly to clarify answers they dodged. It was a better production than the NBC-run debates, and there was a lot more substance to be had.

The post Winners And Losers In The Democratic Debate (Part One) appeared first on RedState.

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Did Trump already nominate Shanahan for SecDef?

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What exactly is Patrick Shanahan’s status within the Trump administration? After announcing in early May that Donald Trump wanted to take the “acting” off of his “acting Secretary of Defense” title, his future looks murkier than ever. Earlier this week Trump suggested that he’d made the formal nomination, but a “We’ll see” today has Politico scratching its collective head:

Trump on Tuesday indicated Shanahan’s nomination was a done deal, even though it’s been more than a month since the White House announced on May 9 that Trump intended to nominate Shanahan for the job, and he has yet to make it official.

“Well, I have, defense secretary. I have. It’s done. I put it out,” Trump said on Tuesday when asked why he hasn’t made the nomination official. “Yeah, it’s done from the standpoint of the nomination. Wait, wait, wait, Pat Shanahan was nominated two weeks ago. Yeah, no, I put it out, I put it out officially. Now he has to go through the process. He’s now going through.”

But on Friday, he didn’t sound so definitive during an interview with “Fox & Friends.”

“He’s been recommended, now he has to be approved by Congress. We are going to see,” Trump said, adding again, “We are going to see, Pat Shanahan has been recommended for the job.”

Actually, it sounds as though Trump believes he’s already made the formal nomination. “Now he has to be approved by Congress” would follow from Tuesday’s “It’s done, I put it out.” His “we are going to see” comment appears to refer to Senate approval, not a pending decision of his own.

Politico’s confusion is still understandable, as was the question itself from Fox & Friends. If Trump has formally nominated Shanahan, there’s no evidence of it. A search of the official White House website for “Shanahan nomination” only turns up his June 2017 nomination for Deputy Secretary of Defense, his previous position. Likewise, a search of nominations at the Senate Armed Services Committee website shows only the June 2017 appointment, followed by his confirmation in July 2017 on a 92-7 vote.

The question came up because NBC News reported earlier this week that Trump might be having second thoughts about the appointment. There hasn’t been a solid explanation for rethinking the appointment, but the assumption in the media is that Trump might not have liked Shanahan’s reaction to the controversy over the White House Military Office’s bizarre request to hide the USS John McCain during Trump’s Memorial Day review of the fleet in Japan. Shanahan made his displeasure known at the time, with someone at the Pentagon leaking his rebuke to the WHMO to refrain from politicizing the military.

At the time, I predicted that might have repercussions for Shanahan’s expected formal nomination:

It’s possible, though, that Shanahan’s attempt to throw the White House under the bus might not go over so well with the administration. At the same time Shanahan was making his displeasure clear, Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was telling Chuck Todd that it was no big deal …

It’s “not an unreasonable thing” to request a naval vessel move out of the president’s view because he doesn’t like the namesake’s son? Seriously? Of all the positions the White House could take, that’s, uh … one of them, I guess. It seems surpassingly strange that Mulvaney just doesn’t follow normal embarrassment-recovery mode by removing the Military Office staffer that created the problem. It’s hardly “silly” to deal with this by dispensing with the dispensable … unless that request came from higher up the food chain after all, from someone a lot less “dispensable.” If that’s the case, it would explain Mulvaney’s seemingly blasé attitude — and that might not bode well for Shanahan’s very public get-tough position.

All of this was prior to the provocation in the Gulf of Oman, however. With the potential for significant hostilities with Iran rising by the day, Trump can’t really afford to shuffle his Pentagon lineup now. As it is, Shanahan will be peppered with questions about preparations for war and policy issues about security for oil shipments. Bringing someone else up to speed on those priorities would take weeks if not months, a delay that Trump can’t afford if Iran raises the stakes even further.

At this point, the White House needs to remove the ambiguity. If Shanahan hasn’t yet been formally nominated, they need to close that loop — or get on with another one ASAP.

The post Did Trump already nominate Shanahan for SecDef? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Trump: Herman Cain is withdrawing from Fed consideration

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Just two weeks ago, notes reporter Bryan Lowry, Cain sounded completely committed to the Fed confirmation process. “You think I’m going to get intimidated by a bunch of yahoos trying to embarrass me?” he said of the members of the Senate Banking Committee (which of course is controlled by Republicans). “They’re the ones that are going to be embarrassed.”

As of today he’s no long a candidate for the position.

Here’s another reason why Romney doesn’t need to feud with Trump on Twitter. He can always get back at him by borking his nominees instead.

I’m surprised. As of Thursday Cain seemed gung ho to proceed with the nomination, appearing on Fox Business to try to drum up support among Trump loyalists and publishing an op-ed in the WSJ insisting that the Fed needed fewer academics and more businessmen. Four days later he’s out. Presumably the White House spent the weekend feeling out the four Republican senators opposed to Cain, one of whom is Romney, to see if anything might change their minds. When the answers came back no, they decided not to press ahead. Especially with stories like this beginning to dribble out:

A woman who has accused Herman Cain of having a long-term consensual affair threatened on Thursday to describe “certain parts” of his body to the Senate Banking Committee “to corroborate her testimony” if he doesn’t withdraw his name from consideration for the Federal Reserve Board…

Allred said on Thursday that both [Ginger] White and [Sharon] Bialek are willing to testify under oath about their allegations.

“Ginger, if asked at the United States Senate Banking Committee hearing, will also be willing to identify certain parts of Mr. Cain’s body to corroborate her testimony,” she continued.

Several women have accused Cain of workplace harassment but White merely claims an affair. I would have liked to see Bill Clinton’s party try to rationalize calling her as a witness and leading her through embarrassing public testimony about consensual sex. Either way, Cain surely knew as of four days ago that Democrats would go dumpster-diving into his personal life to try to block him and embarrass Trump. If anyone here suddenly got cold feet about advancing the nomination, it’s more likely to be the White House than him.

Is this good news or bad news for Trump’s other unconventional Fed pick, former Club for Growth chief Stephen Moore? Some thought the controversy around Cain would be a boon to Moore’s nomination by giving Senate Republicans an outlet for their skepticism of Trump’s picks. Maybe they’d bork one but confirm the other as a compromise with Trump, the argument went. Now that Cain’s out, that leaves Moore looking better — in theory. In practice, he’s taken as many shots as Cain has.

In a CNN appearance, Moore claimed he had never been in favor of the gold standard, where every dollar is backed by some gold. But the network proceeded to play clips from three different speech where Moore clearly supported the policy, which Cain also endorses.

Moore also called for interest rates to rise in the midst of the financial crisis, a policy that many believe would have caused the country more harm. Moore started calling for a cut in interest rates once Trump took office. Recently, Moore has said there is deflation in the United States, even though government statistics and the White House Council of Economic Advisers all say inflation is rising at about 2 percent a year…

Moore has faced similar criticisms about a lack of qualifications and past personal issues, including his failure to pay his ex-wife child support and alimony in 2013.

There’s also a $75,000 tax lien pending against him, which he’s contesting, but the bulk of his confirmation hearing is destined to be consumed with questions about cronyism and his more unorthodox pronouncements on monetary policy, starting with raising rates during the recession. (Less than three years ago he conceded that he’s not an expert on monetary policy.) In the meantime his critics’ strategy seems to be to kill him with a thousand cuts, like this new CNN piece describing columns Moore wrote years ago complaining about “the feminization of basketball” and calling for women to be banned from refereeing men’s hoops games. What does that have to do with Fed policy? Nothing at all, but it raises the political cost incrementally to the White House of proceeding with Moore’s nomination to a full confirmation hearing. The steeper the cost gets, the more likely Trump is to say “forget it” and drop him.

The key point about Cain’s nomination is how predictable this outcome was. Here’s a paragraph from a post I wrote in January, when the rumors about Trump nominating him first began circulating:

Just tell me how he gets confirmed by the Senate. Remember what it was that finally drove him out of the 2012 GOP primaries? Democrats would tear Cain apart over sexual harassment during the confirmation hearings. He’d attract one Democratic vote, Joe Manchin’s, if he’s lucky. Realistically he’d get none, leaving McConnell to start with just 53 yays and faced with instant panic among the moderates in his caucus, most of whom already took a very tough #MeToo-related vote on Kavanaugh four months ago. Murkowski opposed Kavanaugh and would likely oppose Cain. Cory Gardner is fighting for his political life in Colorado and would try to protect himself by voting no as well. Susan Collins has already been marked for defeat by the left for her crucial yes vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination and would try to balance it by opposing Cain this time. If no Democrats vote yes, that’s 50 votes maximum to confirm. Any single remaining member of the GOP caucus could sink him.

I went two for three. Murkowski and Gardner are among the four Republicans who’ve vowed to oppose Cain (Romney and Kevin Cramer are the others), and although Collins has maintained strategic ambivalence, I’d bet good money that she’d have voted no on confirmation as well if forced. That is, Cain’s baggage was full public knowledge when this process began and the fact that it would end up leaving him unconfirmable was obvious even to rank amateurs like me. Yet he and Trump went forward. Why? If they were determined to call the Senate’s bluff, they should have made a pact about that from the start: We’re going to force McConnell’s caucus to vote on this no matter how much dirt comes out and how ugly it gets. You’ve got my back and I’ve got yours. Instead one of them broke that pact at the first signs of trouble. What was the point of floating Cain’s name, then? If all Trump wanted to do was show how mean and RINO-y Senate Republicans are, he should have at least demanded that they bork his nominee in a proper floor vote so that he could make hay of their opposition to his base. I don’t get it.

There’s probably no explanation beyond “Trump wanted Cain, decided to risk a backlash by nominating him, then changed his mind.” He changes his mind a lot. Why not here?

The post Trump: Herman Cain is withdrawing from Fed consideration appeared first on Hot Air.

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Reality setting in: Senate Dems to end holdout, begin meeting with Kavanaugh

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The writing’s on the wall. Realistically, three Republican votes were in play after Kavanaugh was nominated. There were the perennials, Collins and Murkowski, but both have been bullish on him since the beginning. And why wouldn’t they be? He’s a veteran of the Bush White House and has been a judge for more than a decade, with a long paper trail of opinions. He’s the ultimate conservative/establishment known quantity. Of course center-right Republicans would feel comfortable with him.

Then there was Rand Paul. If Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz had become president instead of Trump and ended up nominating Kavanaugh, I think Rand would be a real threat to vote no. His timidity in defying the White House on big nominations isn’t *institutional* timidity, I think. It’s timidity towards Trump specifically. Paul could have flouted an “establishment” Republican president and rested easy knowing that right-wing populists would back him up, just to stick it to The Swamp. With Trump as president, no way. Rand’s off the table.

So, barring anything truly scandalous emerging from Kavanaugh’s professional history, he’s got 50 votes. And precisely because he’s been on the Republican radar for SCOTUS for basically his entire professional life, he’s probably the least likely person from Trump’s short list to have anything scandalous in his record. If your whole career is geared towards a hypercoveted job for which you know you’ll receive electron-microscope scrutiny from your political enemies, you’ll be mindful of it in everything you do. They’re not going to find anything, or at least nothing so alarming that Collins, Murkowski, or Paul will shake loose over it.

The game is over, then, before it’s begun. Time for red-state Democrats to start positioning for the inevitable outcome.

A fourth vulnerable red-state Democratic senator set a date on Friday to meet with Brett Kavanaugh — and more liberal colleagues are poised to follow in the coming days.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) plans to sit down with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on Aug. 21, her office said. Kavanaugh already has met with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and is set to visit with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) on Aug. 15.

But Democratic caucus leaders and liberals who had been holding off on meeting with Kavanaugh amid an ongoing dispute over releasing records on his background are also now gearing up to end the freeze…

Another red-state Democratic senator facing a tough reelection in November, Montana’s Jon Tester, is also expected to meet with Kavanaugh later in August, his office said.

They’re putting their bravest face on this, claiming that they want the meetings so that they can press Kavanaugh about releasing his Bush-era papers in the National Archives face-to-face. Give us the documents, they cry — hoping the hint of antagonism will placate Democratic voters back home. In reality, the red-staters are all lining up to meet him in order to placate the Republican majorities they’ll face in November. Do the smiley photo op with Kavanaugh, show your constituents you’re not one of those “Resistance” Democrats, then cross your fingers that lefties don’t dig up any dirt on him so that you can really dazzle the GOPers back home by voting to confirm him next month. That’s the calculation.

There’s never been a realistic scenario in which Kavanaugh is confirmed with exactly 50 votes. Either he gets borked because something happens to scare off Collins and/or Murkowski, in which case all the red-state Dems will vote no, or Republicans hang tough and vote to confirm unanimously, in which case all the red-state Dems line up behind them to protect their right flank. The over/under on Kavanaugh’s confirmation should be set at 55 or so, not 50. I might take the over.

The post Reality setting in: Senate Dems to end holdout, begin meeting with Kavanaugh appeared first on Hot Air.

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