Tag Archives: Chris Cillizza

Numbers For The “Sage Of Wasilla”

Chris Cillizza and Jon Cohen at WaPo:

Sarah Palin’s ratings within the Republican Party are slumping, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a potentially troubling sign for the former Alaska governor as she weighs whether to enter the 2012 presidential race.

For the first time in Post-ABC News polling, fewer than six in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents see Palin in a favorable light, down from a stratospheric 88 percent in the days after the 2008 Republican National Convention and 70 percent as recently as October.

In one sense, the poll still finds Palin near the top of a list of eight potential contenders for the GOP nomination. The former vice presidential candidate scores a 58 percent favorable rating, close to the 61 percent for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and 60 percent for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and better than the 55 percent that onetime House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) received.

But Palin’s unfavorable numbers are significantly higher than they are for any of these possible competitors. Fully 37 percent of all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents now hold a negative view of her, a new high.

In another first, fewer than 50 percent of Republican-leaning independents — 47 percent — hold favorable views of Palin.

Andrew Sullivan:

But look behind the headlines and you find something more interesting:

“Strong” favorability matters in primaries, where motivation to turn out is an important factor. Among strong Tea Party supporters, strongly favorable views of Huckabee and Palin are highest, at 45 and 42 percent, respectively; strongly favorable views of Gingrich and Romney drop off in this group to 35 and 31 percent, respectively.

There’s a similar pattern in a related group, leaned Republicans who say they are “very” conservative. Palin and Huckabee (at 45 and 44 percent) again attract much higher strongly favorable ratings among strong conservatives than do Gingrich and Romney (30 and 28 percent).

In primaries, enthusiasm matters. And if Huckabee doesn’t run …

Jonathan Bernstein:

In response to the latest polling on the Sage of Wasilla, which show her continuing to lose support even among Republicans, I went looking through my old posts on her to see if I could claim a little told-you-so — if I had clearly said that if she continued to snub party leaders they would eventually turn against her, and if that happened (as it has) then the rank-and-file, or at least many of them, would follow, regardless of how popular she was with them back then. Yup! Hey, I’m wrong sometimes (and I’ll try to ‘fess up when I am), but I think I nailed this one.

I bring that up because I still don’t think it’s too late for Sarah Palin to turn it around, at least in large part, if she suddenly decided to play by the rules that normal candidates follow. Policy expertise can be bought and faked; party leaders, whether they’re national columnists, interest group leaders, or locals in Iowa and New Hampshire, can be schmoozed. It increasingly appears that either she is constitutionally incapable of doing those things or just has no interest in it, and even if she does them there’s no guarantee she would be nominated…but it is clear now, as it has been from the start, that the normal rules of politics apply to her regardless of what she or anyone else thinks.

One other thing that I did come across from last summer which still seems relevant now is the question of whether Republicans will campaign with Sarah Palin. I said then that given how few people, especially swing voters, are Palin fans — but also how many Republicans remain strong supporters — that it would make sense for Democrats to press their GOP opponents over whether they would campaign with her or not. Of course, skilled politicians know how to duck questions for which there are no good answers, but it can’t hurt to ask those questions.

Jamelle Bouie at Tapped:

The obvious question is why? Chris Cillizza suggests Palin’s tendency to polarize, but I’m skeptical. For starters, she continues to score a high favorability rating among Republicans: 58 percent, compared to 60 percent for Mitt Romney and 55 percent for Newt Gingrich. Moreover, her views are within the mainstream of the GOP; on every issue, Sarah Palin is an orthodox Republican.

As far as I can tell, Palin’s fall from grace has less to do with ideology or popularity and more to do with her obvious disdain for Republican elites. Since 2008, she has been on a one-pol crusade against the activists and donors who represent important interests and elites within the GOP coalition. This was tolerable last year, when she was something of an electoral asset, but with the upcoming presidential election — and her stark unpopularity among everyone else — it’s less than acceptable. Conservative elites are gradually distancing themselves from Palin, and in all likelihood, this has trickled down to the grassroots.

This isn’t to say that Palin has lost her influence among conservatives — she continues to enjoy a devoted following — but it does put a damper on her presidential ambitions, if she ever had them (I’m doubtful).

Steve Benen:

It may be counterintuitive, but I actually think this is good news for Palin. She’s done nothing but bring shame and embarrassment to herself on a nearly daily basis for years, and she’s likely dropped about as far as she can with the GOP. And at this point, she still enjoys favorable ratings from a clear majority of Republican voters.

James Joyner:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: By presidential candidate standards, Sarah Palin is an ignoramus. That is, she’s “utterly lacking in knowledge or training about matters of public policy, law, or international affairs” one expects of someone contending for the presidency. That was my assessment more than two years ago and it has only been buttressed with the passage of time.

But the fact that she’s not particularly studious or intellectually curious doesn’t mean she’s unintelligent. I’m guessing she’s within swinging distance in terms of raw IQ to George W. Bush or, certainly, Mike Huckabee. And she’s enormously charming and good in front of a friendly crowd.

Bush the Younger was thought by many to be a lightweight at this point in the 2000 presidential cycle. Granted, he’d finished his term as Texas governor and was into his second by this time in 1999. And he had his MBA from Harvard, so people presumed he had at least passing knowledge with business and economic affairs. But, aside from perhaps Mexico, there was little evidence that Bush had any particular interest in foreign policy.

But Bush surrounded himself with smart people and studied. Recall the great “Saturday Night Live” sketch about the second debate with Al Gore, in which he gratuitously cited the names of various obscure world leaders in an attempt to shake off a weak performance in the first debate. It worked.

When this debate last mattered, during the 2008 general election campaign, Republicans who disagreed with me on Palin rightly pointed out that her resume favorably compared with then-candidate Barack Obama’s. Even Democrats who ultimately supported Obama, like our own Dave Schuler, were concerned about his lack of experience. But, by the time the debates rolled around, Obama had mastered the playbooks and could intelligently debate matters of domestic and foreign policymaking. Yes, there were some early stumbles. But few thought he was stupid or ill informed by the time it mattered.

Palin has the inherent talent to apply herself and win over skeptical Republicans and centrists. Many people really want to like her. But Bernstein is right: There’s no evidence thus far that she’s willing to do what it takes.

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One Is The Loneliest Number

Josh Gerstein at Politico:

Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-6 vote Tuesday, with only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) crossing party lines to vote in favor of the nominee.

Before the vote, however, Republicans and a few Democrats criticized Kagan for a lack of candor during her confirmation hearings earlier this month — despite a 1995 article she wrote calling the process vacuous. But Graham said his support for Kagan is a byproduct of his view that “the last election had consequences” and that senators ought to defer to President Barack Obama’s prerogative to pick judges in most circumstances.

“There’s plenty of reasons for conservatives to vote no, plenty of good reasons, but I also think there’s a good reason for conservatives to vote yes, and that’s provided in the Constitution,” Graham said of Kagan’s nomination. “I understood we lost; President Obama won. And I’ve got a lot of opportunity to disagree with him. But the Constitution, in my view, puts a responsibility on me, a senator, not to replace my judgment for his.”

Obama, in a written statement, applauded the committee’s “bipartisan affirmation” of Kagan, his solicitor general. He called her “one of this country’s leading legal minds” who would be “a fair and impartial Supreme Court justice” who understands that the law affects everyone.

Chris Cillizza at WaPo:

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham‘s (R) announcement that he will vote in favor of Elena Kagan‘s nomination to the Supreme Court is likely to further incite conservatives already unhappy with him and, according to close observers of the state’s politics, ensures he will face a serious primary challenge in 2014.

“I think there’s a good reason for a conservative to vote yes,” Graham said this morning.

Graham’s apostasy on Kagan comes after other high profile breaks with conservatives in his state (and nationally) over climate change and immigration reform and will likely make him a central target of those tea party Republicans who helped oust Utah Sen. Bob Bennett in his bid for renomination earlier this year.

“It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘who’ and ‘how many’,” said one South Carolina Republican operative about a Graham primary challenge. The source added that Graham’s approach on high profile issues of late is “putting Lindsey’s friends and supporters in a really tough place.”

Steve Benen:

There wasn’t any doubt that the Senate Judiciary Committee would approve Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court today. There was interest, however, in how the vote would go.

The committee endorsed Kagan on a 13-to-6 vote, with every Democrat supporting the nominee. The surprise came when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), joined with the majority.

The South Carolina conservative delivered a fairly lengthy speech on the nomination, and conceded he could think of “100 reasons” to oppose Kagan. But he would back her anyway, because of her qualifications and character. “At the end of the day, after the hearing, it was not a hard decision for me to make,” Graham explained.

As for what’s next for Kagan, her nomination now heads to the Senate floor, where final confirmation is expected before members break for their summer recess.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Obama got to the heart of the matter when he added that Kagan’s work as a Justice would reflect that she “understands how decisions made by the Court affect the lives of everyday Americans.” This is Obama’s way of saying that Kagan’s decisions will be just as expansively leftist as Obama’s vision of what’s good for “everyday Americans.”

I’m pretty sure Obama is right. And, given Kagan’s sense of humor, that seems to be just fine with Lindsey Graham, who once again earned his title, “the Arlen Specter of the South.”

Graham is up for re-election in 2014. By then Elena Kagan (and for that matter Sonia Sotomayor) will have a substantial record through which South Carolina Republicans can assess the judgment of their senior Senator, assuming he runs for re-election. In the meantime, let’s hope that Kagan includes some good one-liners in her left-wing opinions.

But perhaps Graham is right in predicting that this whole Tea Party thing will blow over. Perhaps in 2014 South Carolina will return Graham to Washington because he too is funny and the Washington Post likes him.

Allah Pundit:

WaPo’s already gaming out how many primary challengers Graham will face in 2014; among the possibilities is … Mark Sanford. A quote from one of Graham’s consultants: “He’s a thinking person’s conservative. I expect him to do well among voters with IQ’s in triple digits.” Thinking strategically, his vote here is potentially useful to Republicans down the line if/when another vacancy opens on the Court and The One decides to go for broke by appointing a lefty bomb-thrower. Because Graham’s now positioned himself as the principled moderate, willing to vote for both Kagan and Sotomayor in the name of deference to the president, a no vote on some future nominee would be a devastating judgment that he/she really is way out of the mainstream. Kagan’s not going to be filibustered — but the next one might be, especially if Grahamnesty signals to other moderates that it’s okay to do so by opposing him/her, so maybe he’s just keeping his powder dry. And, er, maybe Dick Durbin’s really had a change of heart. Exit question via Pat Leahy: Why does the GOP hate women?

Michael O’Brien at The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he planned a vote on Elena Kagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court before the August recess.

Reid said he planned to bring Kagan’s nomination up for a vote “before we leave for August recess.”

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

It was originally said by pundits that Kagan would sail through in what they predicted would be yawningly boring hearings with little opposition even from GOPers. Although hearings were relatively low-key, they weren’t boring.

And political skirmishes in the 21st century aren’t political skirmishes without the entry of over the top talk show political culture rhetoric.

In Kagan’s case, it recently came in the assertion of commentor Eric Ericson’s assertion that “Senators would be committing a high act of confirmation treason if they allow this nominee to go on the court without attempting to filibuster her nomination.”

As melodramatic and demonizing as some Supreme Court nominations have been in recent decades, no credible partisan has suggested that not filbustering a nominee named by another party would be an act of treason, no matter how it is argued or described. So now votes come down to treason (not just being RINOs or DINOs) for those who might dare not listen to talk show hosts and commentors?

But, then again, this is 2010 where the gut and the desire for readership or audience often trump the apparently atrophying logical part of the brain.

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Djoumania On A Warm Sunday In May

B.J. Reyes at The Star Bulletin:

Republican Charles Djou emerged victorious tonight in the special election to fill Hawaii’s vacancy in Congress, giving Hawaii its first GOP member of Congress in 20 years.

Djou won the special mail-in election with 39.7 percent of the vote in the final printout, released at 9 p.m.

The final printout represented 171,417 ballots returned by voters in the district, which stretches from Waikiki and downtown to Mililani.

Democrat Colleen Hanabusa was second at 31 percent, with Democrat Ed Case third at 27.8 percent.

“This is a momentous day,” Djou told a jubilant crowd at state party headquarters. “We have sent a message to the United States Congress. We have sent a message to the ex-governors. We have sent a message to the national Democrats! We have sent a message to the machine.

“We have told them that we will not stand idly by as our great nation is overburdened by too much taxes, too much debt and too much wasteful spending.”

Djou is Hawaii’s first GOP member of Congress since Pat Saiki, who represented the party from 1987 to 1991.

Chris Cillizza at WaPo:

“I congratulate Charles Djou for his victory and a successful campaign based on the widely-shared values of cutting spending, shrinking government and creating real, permanent American jobs,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas).

Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s place:

Since almost every one of the Democrats Obama previously endorsed — Corzine, Deeds, Coakley, etc. (though based on Scott Brown’s performance so far I don’t consider Coakley’s loss to be a Republican win) — went down in flames, this time Obama didn’t endorse either of the two main Democrat contenders, so this loss can’t be directly pinned on the “Obama Curse.”

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit

Robert Stacy McCain

Doug Mataconis:

A quick look at the results should show fairly clearly why the celebration should perhaps be a little muted. But for the fact that there were two Democrats in the race, Djou clearly would’ve lost. This is a district that went for President Obama 70%-28% in the 2008 Election, and for it’s then-incumbent Democratic Congressman 77%-19%. With numbers like these, it’s hard to believe that Djou will be quite as fortunate come November.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

Obama carried the district 70% to 28% in 2008. Conventional wisdom holds that Djou will lose this seat in the fall when there won’t be two Democratic candidates splitting the Democratic vote. But I wouldn’t be so sure that Djou can’t boost his share of the vote from 39.5% in a three-way race to 50.1% in a head-to-head match up. It’s not clear that Hawaii Dems will easily unify behind one candidate (the primary is September 18). And Djou will have six months as an incumbent to get to know voters better. He’s certainly an appealing candidate

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The Fill In The Blank Foreign Policy


Chris Cillizza at The Fix:


That’s the percentage of Americans who believe the war in Afghanistan has turned into a situation like the one the United States faced in Vietnam, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey.

That a majority of the CNN sample believe there is a direct correlation between Afghanistan and Vietnam should be of significant concern to the Obama administration given the lingering influence of the three-decades old conflict on the American psyche and the president’s upcoming decision regarding troop levels in the country.

The difficulties of “winning” the war in Vietnam — a hard-to-pin-down enemy, uncertain goals that changed frequently — turned that conflict into a political nightmare, playing a major role in President Lyndon Johnson‘s decision not to run for reelection in 1968 and vexing President Richard Nixon for years as well. These challenges are also frequently cited in describing the current situation in Afghanistan.

The specter of Vietnam shadowed the political process for decades after the war ended — with Democrats spending years trying to convince the American public that they could be tough on foreign countries when the situation demanded it.

Greg Sargent:

Obama’s predecessor, famously, prided himself on not caring about public opinion while making decisions about Iraq. By contrast, we don’t really have a clear sense of how Obama views the importance of public opinion in making such decisions.

The other day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that public opinion doesn’t weigh on Obama’s mind, saying that the President would make a decision on what’s best for Americans whether it’s “popular or unpopular.”

Obama, however, is a student of history, and he surely knows that public opinion is an actual factor in whether a war can be prosecuted successfully. My bet is that his view of the matter is far more complex than Gibbs implied — and that he does view public opinion as an important factor to weigh in determining the way forward.

Either way, one thing to watch for will be how the president himself addresses the importance of public opinion in explaining his eventual decision on how to proceed — and how he explains himself should he decide to defy the public’s wishes. It will give us an important glimpse into what this young and largely untested leader is made of and how he views his presidency.


Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

According to political science literature, war and public opinion intermix in several, fairly circumscribed ways. When a conflict begins, particularly as troops are leaving the homeland for the first time, people tend to support the Commander in Chief — a rally round the flag effect, as John Meuller of the University of Ohio calls it.

For a war of more than a brief duration, several theories have been put forth. One is that the public looks to elites for cues about how to react. The elite, right now, clearly believe that the war in Afghanistan is going poorly; ergo, the public’s growing opposition is just a reflection. Another theory holds that the public is capable of assessing risks and benefits and does so fairly independently of the elite. Mueller has written that, as the human costs of war inevitably accumulate, the public will inevitably come to oppose a war whose duration exceeds expectations. There is some evidence that support for a war is linked to — and the direction here isn’t clear — presidential approval more than it is to casualty levels or an appraisal of whether the war is going well or not. Peter Feaver, a Duke professor who served in the Bush administration, believes that “support for war is a function of two attitudes: the retrospective attitude of whether the war was the right thing in the first place, and the prospective attitude of whether the war will be won.”

In his mind, the Obama administration isn’t sending the right cues. If Obama doesn’t say that he thinks the war will be won — only that it must be fought — he is betraying a doubt that public opinion will come to reflect — and has come to reflect. In other words — is something in America’s interest if Americans don’t think it’s in their interest?

Bruce Drake at Politics Daily

Spencer Ackerman:

Opposition to a second troop deployment order this year is high. Within that cohort, support for full withdrawal is a plurality. The contradictions heighten. Steve Biddle: the poll vindicates you!

Peter Spiegel and Jonathan Weisman at WSJ:

The struggle to set the future course of the Afghan war is becoming a battle of two books — both suddenly popular among White House and Pentagon brain trusts.

The two draw decidedly different lessons from the Vietnam War. The first book describes a White House in 1965 being marched into an escalating war by a military viewing the conflict too narrowly to see the perils ahead. President Barack Obama recently finished the book, according to administration officials, and Vice President Joe Biden is reading it now.

The second describes a different administration, in 1972, when a U.S. military that has finally figured out how to counter the insurgency is rejected by political leaders who bow to popular opinion and end the fight.

It has been recommended in multiple lists put out by military officers, including a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who passed it out to his subordinates.


Matthew Yglesias:

I find the idea that senior military and civilian policymakers are debating what to do in Afghanistan primarily by reading different books about Vietnam depressingly plausible. But there’s really something quite perverse about the American tendency to want to turn every conversation about every military engagement into a rehash of debates about Vietnam.

I’ll note in particular that hawks’ obsession with Lewis Sorley’s A Better War is pretty pathological. Whether or not you buy what Sorley is saying about military operations in Vietnam, you can understand the war on a strategic level without ever worrying about Creighton Abrams. Vietnam wasn’t, after all, an abstract exercise in U.S. military prowess. It was part of the Cold War. The hawks’ claim was that Communist victory in Vietnam would imperil the credibility of US commitment to key allies in Europe and Japan and set off a “domino effect” that threatened US national security. The doves said that was dumb, and Communist victory in Vietnam would have no dire geopolitical consequences.

We left Vietnam, and the doves were proven utterly and completely right about the main strategic issue.

Meanwhile, it’s really not clear that thinking about Vietnam can tell us anything at all about Afghanistan. And not just because the countries are different but because the situations are so different. I’ve been reading about the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which is at least the same country, but the presence or absence of superpower competition makes an enormous difference.


I generally agree with Matthew Yglesias that comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam aren’t particularly useful. But I do think it’s quite useful to note that the hawkish arguments for Afghanistan and Vietnam are the same. (Likewise Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon, etc.)

The argument goes: If we fail in [fill in the blank), the world will stop taking us seriously and the bad guys will be empowered. If (fill in the blank) goes down, then the whole region will soon follow. We have to send a message that we are drawing the line at (fill in the blank.)

Since none of these predictions have ever come to pass, regardless of whether or not we stayed or left, I feel fairly confident that those particular reasons can be filtered out. Unfortunately, they are still the reasons being touted today for an escalation in Afghanistan. Therefore, I am very, very, very skeptical. Those who don’t learn from experience are … dumb. Vietnam was huge object lesson in the power of the superpower. Likewise Afghanistan for the USSR. There are lessons to be learned.

On the other hand, if what we want is to create a central Asian outpost for the American Empire, then I suppose it makes some sense. But let’s not kid ourselves about the reasons anymore. At my age, I’ve heard them so often that it actually embarrasses me to have to listen to them again.

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