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Election 2016: Weekly Rundown

February 24, 2015

Audrey Bowler ‘16EI Campus Communications Team

As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this week:

5.) Jeb Bush’s Foreign Policy Debut

This Wednesday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush spoke to a large audience in Chicago during the first significant foreign policy speech of his prospective presidential campaign. The speech offered Bush the chance to establish a potential foreign policy agenda that would separate himself from his father and brother. Bush addressed his family legacy, saying “I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man.”

The former governor’s message was hawkish in nature, and criticized President Obama’s foreign policy decisions in Iran, Russia, and Cuba. “This administration talks, but the words fade,” Bush said. “They draw red lines, and then erase them. With grandiosity they announce resets and then disengage. Hashtag campaigns replace actual diplomacy and engagement.” Bush also stated that the Obama administration’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Iraq created a power “void” that has created opportunity for extremists.

While Jeb Bush will have to continue to declare his independence from both his father and brother’s time in office in order to establish a strong candidacy, Democratic operatives quickly responded to his foreign policy debut with criticism. “Today, Jeb Bush made his first foray into explaining and attempting to recast his foreign policy,” said DNC spokeswoman Holly Shulman. “But despite Jeb Bush’s claim that he will be his ‘own man’, there is little evidence that Jeb Bush’s foreign policy agenda is much different compared to his brother’s.”

4.) Swing States Want Change

A recent Quinnipiac poll reveals new data about three key swing states that went blue during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Voters in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia say that they want President Obama’s successor to pursue a different policy direction.

In both Colorado and Iowa, 58 percent of voters surveyed want the next president to have different policies, with 34 percent saying they approve of the status quo. The number of dissatisfied voters is higher in Virginia, where 61 percent say the next president should forge a new path.

When asked about the economy, 42 percent of voters in Colorado and Iowa say that Obama’s economic policies have hurt the country, rather than helped; in Virginia, 45 percent responded that the economy has been hurt, compared with 39 percent who say it has made a recovery during Obama’s presidency.

Obama’s overall job approval ratings in those states are slightly higher. In Iowa and Colorado, 43 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove of the President’s performance; in Virginia, 44 percent approve and 53 percent disapprove. Presidential candidates will have to take such polls into account when running for office in 2016 – especially when pursuing swing state votes.

3.) Walker’s Collegiate Controversy

As Wisconsin governor Scott Walker gears up for a potential run for the 2016 Republican nomination, his college years have come back to haunt him. The governor, who dropped out of Marquette University during his senior year, would be the first president (if he runs and wins) in more than 60 years to hold office without a college degree. This fact has become a point of controversy as Walker begins to form a campaign team. Critics have questioned the motives behind his withdrawal from Marquette, while Walker himself has dismissed the concerns, saying, “That’s the kind of elitist, government-knows-best, top-down approach we’ve had for years. I’d rather have a fighter who’s proven he can take on the big government interests and win.”

While facing questions about his education, Walker continues to prepare a team of Capitol Hill veterans for his likely 2016 campaign. The governor recently hired Mike Gallagher, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer to coordinate his international portfolio. Kristin Jackson, an energy and immigration expert, has joined Walker’s team as a domestic policy advisor.

2.) Jeb Backs Hillary?

A conservative political advocacy group has released a video calling Jeb Bush “unelectable.” The nonprofit, ForAmerica, claims that Bush is not a suitable Republican candidate for president, especially if he faces Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

The video argues that the former Florida governor has praised Clinton’s public service too highly in the past, specifically referencing the 2013 Liberty Medal Ceremony, during which Bush spoke in support of the then-Secretary of State’s political career before she was presented with the award. The ceremony took place less than a year after the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, for which Clinton faced censure and criticism.

ForAmerica argues that Bush’s previous comments on Clinton’s public service will make it impossible for him to evaluate her political experience in a critical matter. According to ForAmerica chairman Brent Bozell, “Jeb has absolutely no credibility to criticize her because he has already anointed her as a great public servant; and he inexplicably did so almost a year to the day of the Benghazi massacre. He will lose, and the public will have to suffer at least another four years of Obama’s policies – and anything worse she has in store for America.”

1.) Biden’s Strategic Tour

This week, Vice President Joe Biden will travel to New Hampshire to advocate for the Obama administration’s economic policies and participate in a discussion on education and community colleges. Although the Vice President says he has not made up his mind as to whether or not he will run for president in 2016, Biden will have visited the first three presidential nominating states in under a month by the end of this week.

Earlier in February, Biden gave a speech on the state of the economy and toured a local community college in Des Moines, Iowa, the state that is home to the earliest-held presidential caucus. Last week, he passed through South Carolina to discuss infrastructure investment – the third state in presidential nomination order.

Biden’s busy travel schedule has encouraged speculation that he will enter the 2016 race, and his visit to New Hampshire is sure to further such rumors. While the Vice President has stated that he has not yet made a final decision on seeking a presidential bid, he mentioned in January that “there’s a chance” that he would challenge Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary when she officially begins her campaign. During his time in Iowa in early February, Biden said that he will announce his decision “sometime in the end of the summer.”

Election 2016: Weekly Rundown

February 20, 2015

Audrey Bowler ‘16 – EI Campus Communications Team

As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this week:

4.) Clinton’s Feuding Factions

Drama erupted between two super PACs – Priorities USA and American Bridge – over the resignation of a top executive, creating tension within Hillary Clinton’s campaign team. David Brock, a longtime Clinton supporter and founder of American Bridge, left the board of Priorities USA after sending a scathing email accusing his colleagues of “specious and malicious” attacks on his integrity. Both organizations had publicly pledged their support to the Clinton campaign, and Brock’s sudden resignation stirred speculation that party infighting had begun before Clinton has even announced her candidacy.

Republican operatives viewed the clash as a positive sign for the GOP. Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short expressed his outlook, saying “If they can’t keep it together 20 months out and before Hillary has even officially announced, one has to seriously wonder how they’re going to hold up in the heat of a national campaign.”

3.) Walker Open for Business in Iowa

Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor and potential Republican presidential candidate, is the first potential contender to claim office space in Iowa, a key battleground state during electoral cycles. Our American Revival, Walker’s political organization, has leased office space that previously belonged to Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney during their campaign efforts in Iowa.

According to surveys conducted by Bloomberg Politics last week, Gov. Walker has surged to the front of the Republican pack in Iowa, leading a pack of candidates with 16 percent of the estimated Republican vote. Walker is closely followed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul with 15 percent and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 13 percent of the vote.

Securing office space in Iowa is the latest sign that Walker is taking steps to run for the presidency. The governor has won three statewide races in Wisconsin during the last four years, and could want to continue his winning streak in 2016.

2.) Democrats Choose Keystone State

The Democratic National Committee has announced that Philadelphia will be the site of its 2016 nominating convention. The convention will be held during the week of July 25, 2016, one week after the Republican National Committee meets in Cleveland.

“In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep-rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement released Thursday.

Party nominating conventions are held to choose presidential candidates after a long and grueling state primary process. While the candidates are formally announced at these conventions, the race has usually narrowed to a single person long before the they take place.

“We’re all delighted to make history again, here in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement released by the DNC.

1.) GOP Fundraisers Fight for Immigration Reform

On Tuesday, February 17th, leading figures in Republican fundraising will participate in a teleconference calling for a reform of U.S. immigration policy – a tactic that could put significant pressure on the growing crop of GOP presidential hopefuls as they compete for donors.

The event, moderated by Grover Norquist, prominent political advocate and supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, will include Mitt Romney’s former finance director Spencer Zwick; fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder; and billionaire health care executive Mike Fernandez.

The call demonstrates the growing tension between high-powered GOP donors, who often support more lenient immigration policies, and conservative activists, who favor stricter measures. The teleconference will be hosted by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan coalition of business leaders and mayors.

Good for the Country or Good for the Party?

February 20, 2015

Nicole Cvjetnicanin ’18 – Inside Politics Program

Since November 2014, President Obama has announced a series of executive orders focusing on the divisive issue of immigration reform. The significant order was presented on November 20, 2014. Obama’s proposal would offer temporary legal status to over five million undocumented immigrants. The passage of this particular executive order catalyzed an intense debate across party lines, ultimately causing a variety of past-sidelined issues to come to the forefront of attention.

Early this year, the House passed a budget bill that would renew funding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will shut down if a bill is not passed by February 27. The budget bill includes several amendments related to immigration. The proposed amendments to the DHS bill would essentially “bar the funds to carry out” President Obama’s executive order, as well as reverse a 2012 order by the president, which protected undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. [2]

Once the DHS budget bill reached the Senate chamber, Senate Democrats impeded debate on the bill with a 52-47 vote, with 60 votes required to advance the bill. [1] According to CNN, Senate Democrats voted to halt the advancement of the bill out of opposition to the immigration amendments, which were added when the bill cleared the Republican-controlled House. [1] In response to the vote, Senate Republicans are now accusing their Democratic counterparts of attempting to deny funding for the Department of Homeland Security, while Democrats are accusing Republicans of steering the national agenda by bringing unrelated issues, such as immigration, into a bill that will help protect the country from terrorist threats. [2]

Sen. John Cornyn (R – TX) has stated that Republicans will need to revise the DHS bill if Senate Democrats refuse to vote to advance it, and suggests that dropping the amendment regarding the President’s 2012 order may be necessary. [2] Other members of the Republican leadership say that the amendment regarding Obama’s November 2014 order should be eliminated. Either way, Republicans are going to have to make concessions if the Department of Homeland Security is to stay up and running after February 27. They need to decide which is more important to the party: issues regarding immigration or domestic security.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) has stated that he does not believe that the Senate will make any progress with the bill and will need to send it back to the House. [3] On the contrary, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R – OH) says that it is up to the Senate Democrats because “there is no point for the House to move if Democrats will continue to filibuster”. [3] The Republican-controlled House will likely resist changing the very amendments that they fought to include in the bill, resulting in a perpetual cycle of rejection.

Congress has become known for its unwillingness to work across party lines, lack of compromise, and growing polarization. If the government shutdown of 2013 is any indication of a continuing pattern, both parties are more concerned with maintaining their ideological identities and fighting for their separate platform than what is actually good for the country. If Republicans in the Senate can make even small concessions on this DHS bill, such as taking out one of the amendments, it will be a step in the right direction, especially if Senate Democrats vote to advance the bill with the included changes.




Inside EI: Yanet Gonzalez

February 20, 2015

Eric Lee ’15

Yanet Gonzalez ’17 is a double major in Political Science and Public Policy and a minor in Italian. Hear Yanet talk about her Eisenhower Institute experience and why she decided to get involved in programs like Inside Politics, Women in Leadership, and the Campus Communications Team.

Putin’s Dying Embers: The Oil Economy and Politics in Russia

February 9, 2015

Robert Shaw Bridges

After stopping to fill up my car on the way to visit family in Ohio this holiday season, I marveled at the extremely low gas prices, wondering if I’d traveled back to the 1990’s. While the drop in oil prices this year by about 51% by most estimates has certainly fueled American consumer spending over the holidays, in Moscow, Putin is starting to feel a slight chill. Historically, the slick that has greased the wheels of the Russian economy has been oil, the price of which grew seven-fold over the decade prior to 2007. Beginning with the global financial crisis of 2007 and the subsequent collapse in the price level, ultimately led to an 8 percent reduction in GDP growth at the bottom of the recession in 2009.[1] While Russian economic gains seemed at first to have been propped up by a boom in oil exports in the early 2000’s, the collapse in consumer credit issuance after 2012 ensured that a rise in oil prices would not stimulate consumer spending. Unlike in the late 1990’s, when Russia could resort to industrial capital left over from the fallen Soviet Union needed to stoke the flames, in 2011, consumption was being fueled by credit on the back of an almost maximized productive capacity. Now with a boom in the domestic supply of oil and gas in the U.S. (thanks in part to the growing shale oil drilling and fracking sector), and the continuation of economic sanctions against Russian oil industries, Putin can no longer rely on its traditional export to keep the engine going.

After riding his high approval ratings due to the invasion of the Crimean peninsula in February, President Putin is now trying to contain domestic backlash from the 50% drop in the ruble’s value against the dollar. The Kremlin has likewise grown increasingly paranoid, sensing a foreign plot by Saudi Arabia and the United States to subvert the regime through economic sanctions. In December, as Bloomberg author Joshua Yaffa recently commented, the running joke in Russia was, the ruble, a barrel of oil, and Putin would all be just over 60 after the New Year. Despite the skepticism, the concentration of capital in the hands of the energy exporters will likely rise in the near future and once firm leaders cozy up to Putin’s government, they will be clutching the last coals necessary to reignite the dying embers of their industry. As for the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, they unfortunately will have to wait outside the walls of the Kremlin in the bitter Russian cold, unable to receive benefits from the borrower of last resort.

Unfortunately for Putin, however, the greater Russian public is not alone in its doubts regarding Russia’s economic future, and there are those in the international community who feel this is one issue he will not be able to overcome. International capital markets are refusing to lend to Russian companies under these present circumstances, making refinancing the approximately $700 billion in debt, weighing down their balance sheet, difficult to say the least. The only solution for these companies is to buy more dollars to finance their debts, putting further downward pressure on the ruble, which could lead to a deflationary spiral. For both analysts outside and officials inside the Kremlin, this vicious cycle will be difficult to overcome and will cost Russia greatly in reserves to prevent widespread default and panic. What will Putin do in the face of thousands upon thousands of angry ‘middle class’ Russians unable to fulfill their twenty-first century consumer wants and (especially so come wintertime) needs?

With state worker wages iced over, and most of the government revenue essentially cut in half, Putin has to find other sources for investment in Russia’s productive capacity and fast. Political tensions are certainly high and Putin seems to feel personally victimized by the countries that he claims, “would have come up with some other excuse to try to contain Russia’s growing capabilities.”[2] What is clear now, is that the person failing to keep out the cold is the one clutching the red-hot poker.



Election 2016: Weekly Rundown

February 7, 2015

Audrey Bowler ‘16 – EI Campus Communications Team

As the modern world of politics and government evolves, campaigning has become a permanent fixture in social and political culture. As potential candidates prepare for the 2016 presidential election, here’s what made headlines this week:

5.) Romney Drops Out

Three weeks after announcing that he was considering seeking another bid for elected office, the former presidential candidate pulled the plug on his campaign on January 30th. Romney stated that it was “best to give other leaders in the Party a chance to become our nominee” and that he expected the 2016 Republican nominee to be “one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today.”

Romney’s surprise announcement came via a conference call with journalists and supporters on Friday. The former Massachusetts governor is no longer planning to organize a campaign team or take donations.

As news of Romney’s decision spread early Friday morning, many of his donors began making calls to pledge their support to other potential presidential candidates, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Reactions to Romney’s third attempt at a presidential bid had been lukewarm, both from the public and from his former campaign staff. Many of his former aides have accepted offers with other Republican candidates – including David Kochel, one of Romney’s most valued staffers, who has joined Jeb Bush’s exploratory team.

Romney says that it is “unlikely” that he will change his mind.

4.) Jeb Gears Up

While Romney’s 2016 presidential campaign may never quite have taken flight, Jeb Bush’s may be growing wings. On Wednesday, the former Florida governor addressed the Detroit Economic Club in his first major policy speech since taking steps toward putting together a campaign team. Bush focused his remarks on the effects of large-scale inequality in America, saying: “We have a record number of Americans on food stamps and living in poverty. The opportunity gap is the defining issue of our time. More Americans are stuck at their income levels than ever before. It’s very hard for people to go from the bottom rungs of the economy to the top. Or even to the middle. This should alarm you.”

Bush also fielded questions regarding difficulties that he may face as the son and brother of former presidents. Saying that he would have to be his “own person” to win a presidential election, Bush said that running in 2016 would be an “interesting challenge” due to his family history. If the former governor decides to move forward with a bid for the presidency, he will have to decide how closely to align himself with the Bush family dynasty.

3.) Sunbelt in the Spotlight

A recent study conducted by the States of Change Project focuses on the important roles that Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida – three states located along the “Sunbelt” – will play in the 2016 election. Projections indicate that if Republicans are unable to hold onto at least two out of these three states, the path to gaining an Electoral College majority will be much more difficult than previously anticipated.

Republicans may face their largest challenge in Virginia, where both Senate seats and the governorship are held by Democrats. In contrast, the same three seats are all held by Republicans in North Carolina. Florida remains a tossup however, with newly reelected Republican Governor Rick Scott in office and one senator from each party currently holding a seat.

All three states are in the midst of two distinct demographic shifts: dynamic population growth and increasing racial diversity. From 2000 to 2013, the population of both Florida and North Carolina have grown by 22.3%, while Virginia’s electorate increased by 16.7%. Studies indicate that racial diversity in the voting pool will continue to expand across the Sunbelt, especially in Florida – which gives the Republican Party extra incentive to improve their standing among Florida Hispanics.

2.) Where’s Hillary?

While rumors about Hillary Clinton’s potential candidacy continue to swirl, many of her advisors are urging her to delay a formal announcement until the summer. Other members of the Clinton team reportedly want to stick to the original plan to kick off an official campaign in April. Those favoring a later start argue that the delay will give the Republican Party a chance to expand their field of candidates, who will be too consumed with targeting each other to focus on Clinton once she enters the race.

Although Clinton has not yet issued an official decision regarding the 2016 race, new polls conducted by Quinnipiac show her leading potential Republican opponents by double-digit margins in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. No candidate has won a presidential election during the last fifty years without securing at last two of these three swing states.

1.) Vaccine Controversy

The medical community reacted with concern and alarm on Monday after two of the top contenders for the GOP presidential nomination made statements that seemed to doubt the legitimacy of requiring vaccinations during childhood.

New Jersey Gov.Chris Christie stated that parents were entitled to “some measure of choice” in vaccinating their children. He later backtracked, saying that “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

Later that day, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul argued that the use of vaccines should not be a government mandate. “The state doesn’t own your children,” he said, “Parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom and public health.” Further controversy erupted when it was revealed that Paul, an optometrist, has long been a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an organization that strongly opposes mandatory vaccinations.

Christie and Paul’s comments created instant pushback as fellow 2016 hopefuls rushed to distance themselves from the “anti-vaxxer” community. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, another member of the Republican presidential field, released a statement clarifying his position on vaccines, saying: “There is a lot of fear mongering out there on this. I think it is irresponsible for leaders to undermine the public’s confidence in vaccinations that have been tested and proven to protect public health.” Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker joined Jindal in saying that parents should vaccinate their children.

Hillary Clinton also weighed in on the controversy on Tuesday night, using a less-traditional channel – Twitter:

EI twitter pic

While both Gov. Christie and Senator Paul have attempted to further clarify their comments, allegations of being “anti-vaccine” could come back to haunt them as the 2016 presidential candidate pool begins to take shape.

Mitt Romney: The Third Time’s Not the Charm

February 5, 2015

Taylor Beck, Inside Politics Program

Last week Mitt Romney announced that he would not be seeking a third run for President. Politico broke the news of how Romney ultimately reached his decision to leave national politics. Following the report of Romney’s final decision, The New York Times reported that those who remain in the GOP race have begun to actively fight for the former candidate’s financial backers. With the removal of numerous campaign finance laws, whichever candidate can raise the most money will be given a considerable advantage in their campaign.

James Hohmann wrote on Politico Friday that Mitt Romney had officially confirmed he would not be pursuing a run for the 2016 GOP nomination. Hohmann, who actively covered the 2012 presidential campaign, wrote of the toll that national politics had taken on Romney within the past decade. According to those close to Romney, his decision demonstrates “a strong level of self-awareness.” [1] Prior to his announcement, Romney had closely explored his options in regards to financial supporters. To the surprise of many, Romney retained a large group of his 2012 pool including all 99 of Iowa’s county chairs. While a portion of his 2012 core had disappeared, a 2016 run would still be feasible. Hohmann also mentions that Romney’s team began to reach out to those who could improve the weaknesses of the 2012 campaign. Representative Peter King expressed how Romney “had a hard time appealing to working-class people.” Another step that was taken to bolster a possible run was to take polling results into account. According to pollsters, Romney had a chance to defeat Hilary Clinton in Virginia, Florida and Ohio. [1] Having the ability to win key battleground states should have made running a no-brainer. Instead, Romney began to realize that his time as the face of the Republican Party had come and passed. His decision not to run was for the benefit of the party, which perhaps hinted at a new direction for Republicans.

In correlation with Mitt Romney’s exit from national politics, Nicholas Confessore wrote that many other GOP campaigns have begun to vie for Romney’s donors. [2] Confessore, who is a New York Times reporter focused on campaign finance, notes that Governor Jeb Bush and Governor Chris Christie are currently battling over Romney’s billion-dollar donor network. Prior to Romney’s formal announcement, those close to both Bush and Christie had been making phone calls in an attempt to get an early lead in financing. For the most part, the nomination is up for grabs. Anthony Saramucci went so far as to say “this party is ready for an upset.” The new age of Republican leadership will continue to emerge over the course of the year with many reporters believing Bush and Christie will be at the forefront. To further assert their frontrunner status, both Bush and Christie have also begun to court “Spencer J. Zwick led Mr. Romney’s finance team in 2012 and helped the former Massachusetts governor raise more money than any other Republican presidential candidate in history.” [2] Whichever campaign Zwick chooses will certainly put itself at a financial advantage come 2016. Until then, it is difficult to tell which direction the American public will choose.