Returning to my Elections Desk at Pressure Life offices after the brief holiday hiatus, I feel the impending crush of catch-up bearing down like the boulder chasing after Indiana Jones. Therein lays the saving grace of covering politics during an election cycle. There is a constant fluidity among the candidates and yet, the more things change… So fear not, this week’s Politic will trudge through the mire and muck and makes sense of the current state affairs since we last left off in 2015.
Jeb Bush is still Jeb. At this point, the exclamation at the end of his titular slogan should be a question mark. He has recently mulled the idea of bringing his big brother on the campaign circuit to talk him up. This is a good barometer of just how tone-deaf his campaign is. Not that anyone needs a reminder, but George W. Bush has been objectively considered as one of the most unpopular presidents since the Nixon administration (and at least Nixon made a cameo appearance on Laugh In). When asked his reasoning behind the move, Jeb answered, “Because, he’s a popular guy.” One has to assume he must have mistaken his brother for Will Ferrell.
Stagnating at around 5% nationally, Jeb holds a freeze on a lot of Establishment donors and supporters that are hedging their bets between him, Rubio and Christie. Until he bows out, (which he may not do at all if ego plays a part) Rubio and Christie will never have access to the support they need to rout their less-traditional frontrunners, Trump and Cruz. The fact that non-factor, Chris Christie, is being mentioned as the Establishment’s next best hope only highlights the Rubio campaign’s inability to articulate the actual person they are advertising.
Rubio has spent his career attempting at least a thin veneer of neutrality amid the spreading factions within the GOP. Unlike Trump, Carson, Cruz and even Paul, Rubio has no base to fall back on, no core constituency that will carry him through the thin times. This may find him empty handed by the time the convention rolls into Cleveland. Perhaps that was the reason behind his desperate bungling of social media recently where he picked the Dolphins to win the Super Bowl. Mind you, the Dolphins aren’t in the playoffs.
Of all the candidates, Senator Ted Cruz may have had the best holiday break. Still trailing behind Trump by more than a dozen points, Cruz is carving out a significant second place toe hold. This is interesting in that the two have yet to attack each other as have the other candidates. Don’t be surprised if you see either runner up splitting the General Election ticket or at least promising a cabinet seat in either candidate’s administration.
Cruz has made up this ground through a rather savvy exploitation of social media. Cruz’s campaign has hired Cambridge Analytica, an English data company to collect and assess the psychological make-up of over tens of millions of people who have logged onto Facebook, largely, as a recent Guardian article points out, without their permission. This is from the same candidate who spouts rhetoric about an ever-encroaching government and laments the loss of personal freedom.
Next time you grimace at his palsy attempts to imitate the voices from the Simpsons, when he quotes the Princess Bride, when he sends a tweet of the Fonz jumping over a shark on skis, (all of which he has done) it is not born out of spontaneity or affection for the source material. A number on a sheet tells him what the latest shiny key chain he should employ to distract voters from the real man, the politician who has said on numerous occasions in the past, “There is no place for gays or atheists in my America. None. Our Constitution makes that clear.”
Even his “authentic” Midwestern flannels he dons while vying for Iowa primary votes is an act. A Prntly article revealed that his flannels were part of the Ralph Lauren line of “sport shirts” that run for about $595 a pop. Hell, that’s more than 2004 democratic Vice-Presidential candidate, John Edwards, paid for his Pat Sajack haircuts by about a hundred bucks.
Elsewhere, Dr. Ben Carson is still running. The rest of his campaign may not know this however. His two main campaign advisors, including veteran fixer, Barry Bennett, have left. Carson had to read about it on Twitter while another eighteen advisors also jumped ship soon after. There have been rumors that this is due to increasing friction between his camp and Carson’s close friend and financial advisor, Armstrong Williams, who is taking more and more control of the campaign. While his polling numbers grow thinner by the day, his book sales are still solid, and that’s what this was all about in the first place.
It was Williams who convinced Carson to place his Presidential campaign on the backburner while he focused on what really mattered, completing the signing tour for his latest book which used his candidacy to skyrocket in the charts. Williams appears to be the only man with permanent residence in his ear and is the man who stands to profit from any and all marketing they can drum up from the good doctor’s persona. Eventually, Carson will lose the nomination and will be forgotten like all the other potential GOP also rans like Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, etc. A long term confidant, Williams will remain at his side, until the udders dry up and offer nothing but dust.
More on the Democratic side of the coin in next week’s, Weekly Politic