Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Romney Drumbeat Begins

Word has it, in certain circles, that, despite protestations to the contrary, Mitt Romney is definitely interested in a third run at the White House. Indeed, his surrogates are already floating the idea. Two weeks ago, Romney insider Emil Henry wrote a piece for Politico outlining how Romney could win. (Full disclosure: Emil is an old friend.)

The piece only addressed Romney's chances in the general election, however, not the primaries. But here, there may also be a strong case. You see, unlike 2012, there is a huge crop of principled conservatives that could potentially run. Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Jindal...these people terrify Wall Streeters and the country club crowd, not to mention most of the Washington Republican establishment. The moderates are desperate for an alternative, and that seems to have boiled down to three choices: Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and Romney.

The problem is that Bush and Christie each has a lot of hair. Christie has Bridgegate and, perhaps more seriously, a festering scandal about the allocation of bond proceeds. And he's wicked fat.

Bush has family issues. His wife has been busted for smuggling luxury goods through customs and reportedly has substance abuse problems. His daughter has been to jail for crack use. And, let's face it, "Bush" isn't a strong brand right now.

This leaves Romney, ever the eagle scout.

The scenario is simple: the establishment rallies behind Romney while conservatives divide themselves between their guys. It could end up being an easy win, and, as I've outlined before, it would be a mistake. The GOP loses with moderates, and it wins with conservatives. Winning the presidency for the Republicans is a matter of turning out the base, not winning independents.

Is there is a compromise candidate out there, one who appeals enough to both sides? Scott Walker comes to mind, although he needs to get re-elected in Wisconsin first. He is also a tad bland. I admire the hell out of the guy, but he doesn't light up the room.  

Why not Kasich?

Another is John Kasich, governor of Ohio. I wonder why there hasn't been more talk about Kasich. There are twenty Republicans you can bet on for 2016 with the London bookmakers, including the likes of Susana Martinez and Dr. Ben Carson, but not the Governor of Ohio. In many ways, though, he is a dream candidate. 

Tall and presidential looking, exceedingly articulate, Kasich is the former Chair of the House Budget Committee - back when we actually ran a surplus. In Ohio, he turned an $8 billion dollar deficit into a $1.5 billion dollar surplus, all while lowering taxes. And did I mention he's from Ohio?

Kasich, like Walker, needs to get re-elected in the fall. But keep an eye out after.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Well, That Didn't Take Long - Here Comes Elizabeth Warren

As I said in my last post, the Democrat nomination process will be more interesting than everyone thinks. It is now being reported that Obama has reneged on his promise to the Clintons to support Hillary (in exchange for Bill's full-throated support in 2012), and that he is promising Elizabeth Warren the full support of the Obama machine. If Warren is enticed to say yes (the country needs you, I need you), 2016 will basically be a replay of 2008 with the two Democrat machines squaring off.

One can only imagine the depths of anger in Camp Clinton. They must be furiously hitting the phones, making sure their people stay in line, promising whatever. And what an unnerving time for party loyalists, the kind who are looking for ambassadorships. Where to place their chips? It was all so easy until now.

In my last post I speculated that the Clintons would reach out to Warren and offer the Secretary of the Treasury post. C'mon, Elizabeth, you can spare our party a battle it doesn't need and get to be one of the most powerful people in the world at the same time...One can hear Bill laying on the sales job with his unctuous charm.

It wouldn't surprise me if that call was being made today.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Election 2016: Early Democrat Handicapping

Hilary's a shoe-in, right? 


I have been saying for a while that Hillary is vulnerable, but now that seems to be a more widely held notion. To be blunt, she is not her husband. She possesses none of his personal charm or on-the-fly political instincts, nor is she as facile a liar. She makes things up to establish empathy with her audience that stand zero chance of holding up to scrutiny (Bill does this too, but his fabrications are always harder to disprove). 

Remember when Hillary claimed she had to duck beneath sniper fire in Bosnia? Or how about when she claimed, at the time she was running for the Senate from New York, that she was a life-long Yankee fan? Suuuure, a feminist who grew up in Chicago and went to college in Massachusetts and then lived in Arkansas was secretly following the Bombers every move. 

So, here's quiz question: When you're running for office and someone hands you a hat from the hometown team, what do you do? You freakin' put it on! Anyone knows that. When someone handed Hillary a Yankee hat at a press conference, she held it out to the side like it was toxic. Probably didn't want to mess with her helmet hair.

She is stilted, and more than that, thin-skinned. We saw that in a recent interview with more-than-friendly reporters. On top of all this, there are legitimate questions about her health. 

In sum, she is a highly flawed candidate, but making things worse, for her, is that Democrats love finding the hot new thing. In fact, it is being reported that the Obama machine is quietly trying to lay the groundwork for another Obama, likely Elizabeth Warren. It's no secret, particularly after the publication of Ed Klein's Blood Feud, that Obama doesn't care for the Clintons (and vice verse).

No, Hillary will not be coronated, not unless the Clinton machine finds a way to buy off all potential challengers. (Since there aren't many - the Dems have a weak bench - this is a possibility. They might dangle Secretary of the Treasury in front of Warren).

What do the betting markets say?

                                Odds of Winning Nomination

Hillary Clinton                              61%
Elizabeth Warren                          7%
Joe Biden                                      7%
Andrew Cuomo                             4%
Deval Patrick                                2%
Rahm Emanuel                             2%
Deval Patrick                                2%
Martin O'Malley                            2%

(Note: this doesn't add up to 100% as there are many others at 1% or less.)

The following are buy, sell, and hold recommendations relative to each person's current odds.

First, holy cow, Hillary's only at 61%? Wouldn't you have guessed about 85? Seems like the markets are as skeptical as I am. I was all ready to rate Hill as a strong sell, but at 61, I'll call her a hold. Let's remember she will have more money than Croesus to play with, and many favors owed to her and Bill.

Elizabeth Warren at 7% is the new darling of the far left. She doesn't just say she hates Wall Street, she really does. Compare this to Hillary who has collected over $3 million from Goldman Sachs in the form of contribution, speaking fees, etc. Warren, like Hillary, also gives the Dems a shot at another "first," as in the first woman president. Strong buy.

Joe Biden...seriously? Strong sell.

Andrew Cuomo has tacked hard to the left in New York lately, striking a deal with Bill De Blasio and the SEIU (a hard left labor union). This either means he is worried about being re-elected this fall or he's tidying up his bone fides with the left, nationally, signalling a presidential run. Personally, I don't see any incipient "draft Cuomo" movement out there, and I don't think he would play well at all on a national stage. Strong sell.

Deval Patrick didn't particularly shine as Governor of Massachusetts, but there are close ties to Obama and he gives a good speech. At 2% Patrick is a buy.

Rahm Emanuel: see Joe Biden. Strong sell.

Martin O'Malley, the Governor of Maryland, is popular on the left and has been quietly working hard beyond Maryland's borders. Could be a sleeper. Buy.

I'll throw one more in the mix. My college classmate, Amy Klobuchar, the Senior senator from Minnesota, is another interesting sleeper, and currently trading at less that 1%. She checks all the boxes for liberals but has appeal to the middle as well. She comes across as genuine and nice, and enjoys high ratings in her home state. Only issue is that she might be too nice to take on the Clinton machine. Still, at less than 1%, she's a strong buy.