How far would John Edwards have gone?

I think one of the most significant counter-factuals or alternative universes we can fathom is one where John Edwards doesn’t have an affair in 2006-2008.  Let’s lay out the scenario from there:

Edwards goes on to finish 3rd in 2008.  He mostly disappears for a while as his wifes’ health fails, meaning he probably doesn’t go into the Obama administration.  This leads us to 2016.  Hillary Clinton runs, but what if John Edwards runs as well? He’s 63 at this point, obviously wants to be President, and isn’t his Two Americas message the perfect distillation of Bernie Sanders-like grievances in a form that’s palatable for mainstream Dems?  Does Bernie even run in a race between Hillary and John Edwards?  And seeing Hillary’s weakness in that race, doesn’t it seem reasonable John Edwards wins the Nomination, holds the Midwest/Iron Belt, and is President right now?

Let’s go another direction: Let’s say Edwards either runs and loses the 2016 nomination to Hillary, or passes entirely on 2016.  Isn’t he the perfect candidate to run in 2020.  He’s like a much more mainstream, likable Bernie Sanders.  Hillary supporters probably aren’t as antagonistic to him as they are to Bernie.  He is probably a very strong candidate, and the perfect mix of electability and liberal economic ideas.

I tend to think John Edwards is probably President or our next President if he doesn’t commit infidelity.  It’s amazing to think about what could have been, and how big a mistake one can commit.

Donald Trump and the Future of the Pro-Life Movement

These past two weeks have made it clear the Democrats have decided to become Abortion radicals.  New York proceeded to legalize abortions up to full-term, and Virginia is considering legislation to do the same.  Virginia Governor Ralph Northam somehow went further than full-term, arguing that already born children could be aborted, but fortunately for them, in a “comfortable” setting.  Gone are the days of Bob Casey and ‘Safe, Legal, and Rare.”  Either due to fear of Planned Parenthood, or because they have been bought and paid for by Big Abortion, the Democratic Party (with a few brave exceptions such as Congressman Dan Lipinski, Governor John Bel Edwards, and Democrats for Life) has determined to jettison any pro-lifers and anyone who has any hesitancy whatsoever concerning Abortion on demand. The extent of the extremism the Democratic Party is pushing towards cannot be overstated.

This should present Republicans a major opportunity to reach pro-life voters and push for the cause of unborn life.  The GOP has taken pro-life votes for granted for so long, though, that they seem to have no interest in moving the ball on this issue.  In a 2-year span with a Republican White House, Senate, and Congress, Planned Parenthood is still funded by our tax dollars and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion act is still unpassed.  Even looking at judicial nominations, the President passed on a very strong choice in Amy Coney Barrett to appoint Brett Kavanaugh.  Kavanaugh has little track record on the issue, is a DC elite who doesn’t inspire hope he would fully overturn Roe (certainly as compared to Barrett), and whom David French says appears very timid on the issue.  Overall, it seems likely a President Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, or Jeb Bush would have accomplished more or as much on this issue had they been elected.

Even if Pro-Lifers had every pick of judges they wanted, though, that would still not be enough to justify a full alliance with this President.  As Matthew Lee Anderson wrote with foresight in Mere Orthodoxy back in July 2016:

“Suggesting that the thin hope of conservative justices on the courts justifies accepting such cultural consequences also seems to rest on either naivety or hubris. It is hard to know which. Pro-lifers will not be able to distance themselves from Trump’s shenanigans, though they will try: if he is their candidate, they will be made to own everything he does if he is elected President. Political action has a symbolic character: it sets a narrative, and that narrative matters as much for the long-term future of a particular movement as do the judicial opinions that result from it. In this case, it is a ludicrously easy story to tell: Pro-lifers are willing to accept misogyny, divorce, racism, and so on for their political ends.

Pro-lifers will protest that voting for Donald Trump does not mean endorsing everything Trump does. And they would be right. Yet I say it’s either ‘naivity’ or ‘hubris,’ because the pro-life movement hasn’t exactly been stellar at framing its own identity. The cultural and media headwinds they face go a long ways toward explaining the struggle. But in this case, they add to those the fact that their critics will have a serious and legitimate point. Voting for Trump means treating everything else he does as acceptable *on the condition* that he also promises — merely promises, mind you — conservative justices. The pro-life movement can justify supporting Trump only by viewing his character, his known sexual vices, his unrepentant history of supporting abortion, etc. as acceptable side-effects that, in this case, are the cost of their hope for conservative justices.”

Among the items this President has tied to the Pro-Life movement by association includes a Refugee Ban, Racist Sentiments and Actions, Intentionally Separating kids from their families, and a history of mysogny and credible sexual assault accusations.  While the movement has gotten Conservative judges, it has come at a political cost that may not be collected for a while, but almost surely will on this trajectory.

Pro-Lifers have still chosen to go all in on the Trump movement.  On the one hand, this is somewhat understandable due to the radical shift in the Democratic Party on the issue.  That said, the Pro-Life movement did not need to buy in to Trump nearly to the extent it has.  For as little progress as has been made, was it really necessary to make Mike Pence a center-point of every March for Life since Trump was elected? Did having President Trump keynote the Susan B. Anthony List dinner reward or lead to any meaningful pro-life results?  Has all the support for Trump from very vocal pastors led to anything meaningful? The recent March for Life served as a catalyst for some to start thinking about these questions, and despite the Democrats’ radicalism, a shotgun marriage with Trumpism isn’t the prudent response either.

So, if the Democrats are purging virtually anyone who does not express complete devotion to the Abortion lobby, and Trumpism provides no meaningful reforms while associating completely unacceptable baggage with the Pro-Life movement, where does that leave us?  99% of the Democratic Party is anathema to our views on this issue, and there are only a handful of candidates on that side the movement could ever seek to promote.  On the other hand, a continuing bond with Trump positions the Pro-Life movement poorly for the future.  From an electoral standpoint, most groups of Americans who will determine the direction of the Country are moving from away from Trump.  Minority groups and Millennials are actually not particularly hostile to the pro-life position, but becoming too tied to Trumpism could change their feelings and hurt the movement’s long-term prospects.  The Pro-Life movement gains when we our helping women in crisis, promoting adoption, and caring for life at all stages.  Trumpism in perception is the social Darwinist opposite, and it’s easy to see where in reality the perception comes from.  Even beyond electoral politics, it’s simply inconsistent to reconcile a pro-life ethic with intentional family separation, bragging of sexual assault, and other vices Trump inevitably encompasses.

The correct direction combines the political and non-political sides of the Pro-Life movement.  Outside politics, we should continue to provide assistance to expectant mothers, help our local Crisis Pregnancy Centers, support adoption and families that adopt, and speak out for justice at all stages of life.  That is how we most tangibly show our communities that we care about the unborn, and that they should as well.  Politically, except for those who are called to support the few pro-life Democrats there are and to push the party away from radicalism, the best option is to support pro-active, pro-life Republicans who do not antagonize the pro-life ethic on other issues outside Abortion.

We need Republicans, of whom there are far too few right now, who will fight and expend political capital for a 20-week abortion ban, defunding Planned Parenthood, passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion act, and nominating the Amy Coney Barrett’s of the world to the high court.  These same Republicans should be people of character who believe in united families, racial justice, and a respect for the equality of women.  If the Pro-Life movement can pull away from Trumpism and support candidates who espouse these virtues at all levels of government, we can save our long-term political prospects of success and not compromise the soul of the movement in the process.

Analyzing a 2020 Republican Primary, Part 4

This is the last part of my series on the 2020 Republican Primary.  In Part 1, I looked at where things stand right now as far as prospects for a contested primary are concerned.  In Part 2, I looked at what an ideal candidate would look like to have the best chance of success.  In Part 3, I examined which individuals would have the incentives to make a run against Trump.  Here, I am going to look at 15 individuals, in alphabetical order, who may due to some combination of the points I made prior may warrant a look.

Let me go ahead and make one broad statement about this list: With very few exceptions (and noted where made), these candidates all fit three of the criteria I mentioned in my last post about incentives to run.  Basically all of them have expressed displeasure with the President at some point on some issue. Almost all of them have no pending reelections, no higher offices they are likely to seek, and would not be better served by waiting for another election cycle if they decide they are interested in the Presidency.  Because of that, some of these names are not stars, but they are the candidates who it would actually make sense for right now to consider running.  If Trump’s numbers fall further for one reason or another, the incentives may shift for higher-caliber candidates to consider a run.

Congressman Justin Amash (MI)

Why – Justin Amash is about as “Anti-Swamp” as anyone in the United States Congress.  He consistently rails against both parties, and is often on the fringe minority of votes.  He is probably the Republican member of Congress most willing to criticize Trump as well, and has made it clear he is not a fan.  Finally, while he’s not the person to want to climb the political ladder for the sake of it, he doesn’t have many other options at this point to advance.  He has slim chances of winning statewide office in Michigan, and his willingness to rail and vote against his party gives him no chance of advancing in House Leadership or Committee Status.  If he wants to make as big a mark as possible on the national dialogue, this might be his best chance.

Why Not – While Name ID isn’t everything, Amash’s may be too low to even attract earned media and give him a chance to grow recognition.  Additionally, his more Libertarian views may place him outside the party mainstream that, if anything, is shifting towards a larger role of government.  While he may attract small-dollar donors from the same people who Ron Paul enthused in his Presidential runs, his ability to fundraise enough to seriously compete is in question.

Former US Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH)

Why – Ayotte was your fairly typical Republican US Senator during her six years in office, and she has good relationships with mainstream Republicans as well as the infrastructure on the Right.  She is from New Hampshire, and would have an excellent chance of beating Trump there and possible generating early momentum.  She opposed Trump following the Access Hollywood tapes, and has spoken out against him before and after the Election.  She probably would have won reelection with Rubio or another candidate on the top of the ballot, so this would be the ultimate revenge.  Finally, while she could run for US Senate again or possible Governor in the future, this could very well be her best chance of going further.

Why Not – Much like Amash, her Name ID is very low nationally, and it would take a lot of earned media and dollars to fix that.  Additionally, it’s unknown if she has any desire to be President or to slog through a Presidential campaign with unknown odds of success.

Former Governor Jeb Bush (FL)

Why – He has ran before, so he’s obviously interested in being President.  He very clearly dislikes Trump, brings instant Name ID, and can raise serious dough.  Finally, as long a shot as it would be, it’s doubtful he would do any better in a crowded Republican field in 2024 or 2028 than he would 1:1 with Trump.

Why Not – While his stock is probably higher than it was in 2016, the Republican base is still very anti-Establishment.  Perception is reality, and the perception is he is moderate and too insider.  While boring competency might get him some more votes, it’s probably not enough to be competitive.

Former Governor Chris Christie (NJ)

Why – He wants to be President, he’s mad at Trump, and he won’t do any better another year.

Why Not – He’s probably more moderate than anyone on this list not named Kasich.  Additionally, it would be difficult for him to lay out a vision for running beyond “I want to be President”, and that doesn’t sale.

Former US Senator Bob Corker (TN)

Why – He has expressed openness to running and has serious Foreign Policy credentials.  He has shown willingness to clash with Trump, and he’s probably never going to get a better opportunity.

Why Not – He’s viewed as too DC/Establishment from his 12 years in the Senate, and it’s hard to say if he would be able to separate himself from that perception.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina (VA)

Why – Carly Fiorina, in my opinion, is currently the most complete candidate on this list to challenge Trump.  She is a strong Conservative who isn’t going to be able to be labeled a RINO.  She is an anti-politician like Trump and can run on a drain the swamp message.  She has ran for President before and has Name ID from it.  Finally, she has high favorables among Rubio/Cruz/Carson voters, but would probably still struggle to stand out in a crowded field in the future.

Why Not – The main reason she should not run would be if she just no longer desires to be President or to go through another campaign. Other than that, she should run.

Former UN Ambassador Nicki Haley (SC)

Why – I mostly put Haley here because people keep bringing her name up.  She is a Conservative who is not the Establishment.  She does seem to have national ambitions, and is probably connected enough to be a serious fundraiser.  She also starts with substantive Name ID and might attract almost Trump-like Earned Media.  Finally, she has credibility with Trump’s base and could possibly peel off support there.

Why Not – I just don’t see how her individual incentives line up to make a 2020 run prudent.  She’s shown minor concerns with Trump decisions, but she doesn’t appear to be nearly as concerned with another Trump term as the other people on this list.  Perhaps most importantly, she’s one of a very select group of people who you could easily see being a serious contender in a future Election if she holds her fire.  Running in 2020 puts all of that at risk.

Former Governor Bill Haslam (TN)

Why – He’s from outside DC and could define himself as a problem-solver who got things done as Governor and left office with very strong favorables.  He’s not going to stand out in a future election cycle.  He probably has the most money to play with of anyone in this list, possibly including Mitt Romney.  He chaired RGA two different election cycles as well, and could probably fundraise off that too.

Why Not – His Name ID is very low nationally, and it’s doubtful he has a desire for the job or campaign that comes with it.  Most importantly, with Lamar Alexander’s retirement, he has a US Senate seat he could very well clear the field for if he wants it.  It would be tough to justify a low-probability Presidential bid with that option on the table.

Governor Gary Herbert (UT)

Why – His profile is similar to Haslam’s.  He has a track record of getting things done outside DC, and has one of the highest approval ratings in the County.  He has contrasted with Trump on some issues, and if he has any interest in the idea of being President, this is his best chance.

Why Not – Also like Haslam, his Name ID is very low, and he’s not known to be interested in the job.  While he doesn’t have an immediate Senate race on the table, he could be a potential US Senate candidate or Republican cabinet pick in the future if he sits out.

Governor Larry Hogan (MD)

Why – Hogan has shown the most interest of anyone recently in the idea of challenging Trump.  He could run as a DC outsider, and he has already started contrasting his record with the partisanship in Washington.  He’s term-limited out of office in 2022, and he’s never going to get a better chance to run than now.

Why Not – His Name ID is very low.  Most importantly, though, he has an extremely Moderate record on Abortion, Gun Rights, and other issues important to the Republican base.  He might be to the left of John Kasich, which is saying something.  He might be one of the most willing candidates to run, but I think he has one of the worst chances of success of anyone on this list.

Former Governor John Kasich (OH)

Why – He wants to be President and doesn’t like Trump.

Why Not – He has antagonized the Republican base at every opportunity, and there is no appetite among voters for what he is offering.  He is disliked by almost every segment of the party for one reason or another.

Former Congresswoman Mia Love (UT)

Why – Conservatives like her for her willingness to speak out as one of the few African-American elected officials who are GOP.  She’s spoken out against Trump as well, though.  Additionally, Trump probably cost her election (that seat is probably a lot less competitive under President Rubio).  Like Ayotte, there’s something of a revenge factor.

Why Not – Even though she lost, she may still have a future in elected office.  Would she really want to put that on the line with a long-shot Presidential run?

Former Governor Susana Martinez (NM)

Why – She’s one of the original, 2010 Tea Party class and has credibility with the Right.  She’s now out of office and probably wouldn’t get a better chance if this is something she’s interested in.  Additionally, New Mexico is about as far from DC as you can get, so it’s hard to peg her as “The Swamp.”

Why Not – Low Name ID and no known desire to run.

US Senator Mitt Romney (UT)

Why – He has as much Name ID as anyone on this list, and clearly (at least at one point) has a desire to be President.  He can probably fundraise more money than anyone on this list, as well as self-fund.  He doesn’t care for Trump, and at his age, there’s probably no better time to run than now.

Why Not – Conservatives are still suspicious of him and whether he is too moderate.  Additionally, two presidential campaigns takes a toll, and he may very well have no interest in a third.

US Senator Ben Sasse (NE)

Why – Last on this last, Sasse is well-liked by a lot of the higher-up Conservative institutions.  His Name ID is decent due to his frequent Trump criticism.  While he contrasts with Trump, it’s hard to see him standing out among a crowded field of “normal” Republicans in the near future, but …

Why Not – That being said, he’s young and I’m not as confident he wouldn’t get another chance several cycles down the road.  His desire to run is suspect, and he’s perceived by some as Establishment (even though nothing could be further from the truth).  Finally, his Senate seat is up in 2020, and if he wants to keep it (which is uncertain at this point), a Presidential run would very much imperial that.

Who Did Ed Gillespie’s Oppo?

What a week for Ralph Northam.  It all came to a head this afternoon with revelations per the Virginian-Pilot that he appeared in his Med School yearbook in either blackface or a KKK hood.  Both, needless to say, are bad and recommend resignation.

Lots of people are asking why didn’t Ed Gillespie find this in the 2017 campaign? This led me to VPAP, which chronicles money flows in all Virginia state elections.  We can make two possible guesses off what we see there:

  1. A $10,200 payment to Old Dominion Research Group for “Research Services”.  According to their website, oppo research is their main service.  On the other hand, the payment occurs in January 2017.  They could have been doing research on Northam and Tom Perriello at that point, but it could also have very well been on Corey Stewart.
  2. There’s also a $9,075 payment to the RGA in June 2017 for “Research Services.” The RGA does a lot more than oppo research, but it’s very possible that Gillespie is primarily outsourcing oppo after the primary to the RGA.  That is what would make the most sense to me.  Considering that the RGA is also responsible for services for all GOP Gubernatorial candidates nationally, it would be good to know how much of the blame rests on them.

Analyzing a 2020 Republican Primary, Part 3

Last time, we looked at what a 2020 Republican challenger to Donald Trump should look like in order to experience the best chance of success.  Today, I’m going to take a quick rundown of what a challenger would look like who would have the incentives to run in this race.  There may be some potential candidates who meet all the criteria I went over in Part 1 who may nonetheless pass because the Individual Incentives of running don’t make sense for the candidate.  Running for President is a grueling, often thankless task.  For voters who would prefer an alternative to President Trump to get a chance to vote for such a candidate, it’s important to consider who has the incentives to take on this task.  This is a topic I’m sure I will revisit frequently over the next year, so feel free to chime in if you think of any I missed.

Briefly though, I’m going to revisit the “success” definition I touched on last time.  On the broader level of analysis, there are really two ways one can “succeed” in a challenge to Trump: Outright winning the nomination, or performing competitively enough to preserve a value system apart from Trump for the party post-Trump (much like Reagan did running against Ford in 1976).  On the individual level, though, there are a number of other definitions of success that may not have anything to do with electoral success.  For example, a candidate may run in order to try and push a particular issue or issue-set into the conversation (Example: Ron Paul 2008 and 2012).  More perversely, a candidate may run in order to generate attention that can monetized as a book deal, a TV contract, or through some other means.  Finally, there are some candidacies that are just completely inexplicable (Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, etc).  All of these are individual definitions of success that often directly contradict with the broader voter group’s definition of success.  Here are some of the incentives, though, that a potential Trump challenger who would want to take on this significant task might have that doesn’t impede the Trump-skeptical’s electorate desire for a candidate who can win/compete with Trump:

  1. The potential challenger wants to be President.

This may sound obvious, but it’s worth considering.  In our current environment, if you become President, a significant number of people will dedicate themselves to tearing you and your family, friends, and colleagues down every possible opportunity.  Your lifestyle will change entirely, and privacy will basically be non-existent.  You will be tasked with making some of the most consequential decisions of any person on Earth.  Many good people have passed on running for office, including the Presidency, for some combination of these and more reasons.  Even if a candidate would be good for the job, he or she has to decide there is a significant desire to take on the job.

  1. The potential challenger with incentive to run would not benefit from waiting until a different election cycle.

There are a number of good Republicans who have interest in being President someday.  For many of them, running in 2020 against a sitting Republican president carries significant risk that, if they lost, may very well impede those chances.  For all his faults, there are a number of Republicans who would not support anyone who primaried Trump if they lost and ran again in, say, 2024.  If you’re, for example, Nicki Haley, would you rather run in 2020 and alienate a large number of Trump’s core supporters, or would you rather wait until 2024 or 2028 and run as a candidate who still has the potential of appealing to all factions of the Republican Party?  That exact same calculation applies to Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Mike Pence, Tom Cotton, and a number of other Republicans with national ambitions.  That said, there will be some candidate who will have a better chance of success by running against Trump one-on-one in 2020 than they will in a crowded field of Republicans in 2024 or 2028.  They might be a hair to the middle of the GOP base, or they may just not stand out in a crowded race like happened to many candidates in 2016. Those candidates are the ones to keep an eye on.

  1. The potential challenger has at least somewhat serious concerns about Trump.

Because of the two reasons above and more, an individual who doesn’t have a significant problem with the President isn’t going to run.  I’ll use Ben Carson as an example here: He checks some of the boxes you would want to see in a Trump challenger, he’s ran for President before, and he would probably have a hard time standing out in another GOP primary that looked like 2016.  That said, he seems to have no serious issues with the President.  Not every potential challenger may have been as vocal about their issues with the President to this point as John Kasich, Jeff Flake, or someone else, but they at least need to have a “fire in their belly” to give their candidacy a sense of purpose.  If a candidate felt particularly strongly about this point, and viewed their candidacy as a “calling” or public service, it might be enough to override any concerns the candidate had about ruining any future election prospects.

  1. The potential challenger doesn’t have a reelection to worry about.

Any candidate who ran against Trump who would stand for reelection if they lost would instantly have a target on their back in a primary.  Look no further than what happened to Jeff Flake in Arizona (though to be fair, he wasn’t particularly popular before Trump).  Let’s say you’re Tim Scott, and you actually have some issues with the President, national ambitions, and a sterling profile among many different parts of the Party.  If you run against President Trump and lose, and then immediately stand for reelection in South Carolina in 2022, you all of a sudden have created a difficult race for yourself.  On the other hand, if you’re Larry Hogan, you’re term-limited as Governor, have limited prospects in Maryland, and may not have another step up on the political ladder (aside from Vice President or Cabinet Member).  That is a large reason why Hogan has expressed so much interest recently in the idea of a potential Primary.

Analyzing a 2020 Republican Primary, Part 2

Last time, I looked at the lay of the land concerning the possibility of a 2020 Republican primary.  The idea has started to pick up a lot of traction in the media.  It’s not without merit, as polling is starting to show that even before an actual campaign, a strong number of Republicans are open to the idea of a challenger.

One of the most important questions to start with in assessing this topic is “What qualities/traits is the ideal challenger going to have in order to have the best chance of success?”  While the ultimate success would be defeating Trump, that may or may not be possible depending on the environment, so you can also reasonably say that winning some primaries and taking a significant proportion of the votes in order to lay a marker for what the National GOP should be post-2020 would be a success (See: Reagan ’76).  There are a number of different ideas I could mention here, and a candidate may not need to meet all these characteristics to succeed by either definition.  Nonetheless, here are 4 key ideas to consider in what a Republican challenger to Trump should look like to have the best chance of success:

  1. The successful challenger should come from (or at least run from) the Right, not the Center

Like it or not, Republican Primary voters are not looking for John Kasich.  They want someone who will govern as a Conservative.  Tim Miller, who worked for Jeb Bush in 2016, makes this point on a recent Bulwark podcast, saying that, for example, a “Where is the Wall” type approach is probably going to be what has the best chance of gaining traction.  You could supplement this with a wide variety of issue points, from “Why is Planned Parenthood still funded” to “Why do we still have Obamacare” to “Why is the deficit ballooning” to “Why do we have an administration full of war hawks arguing we need to go into Venezuela after Trump said he wouldn’t get us into conflicts”.  Depending on how the candidate and his or her team wants to run, there is lots of material to attack Trump from the Right with that doesn’t even require going full Ted Cruz/Tea Party to do it, much less Stephen Miller/Ann Coulter.  You can’t abandon all Conservative orthodoxy either though, like John Kasich.  This ties very closely to point 2, which is ….

  1. The successful challenger appeals to your 2016 Rubio/Cruz/Carson voters

A lot of people forget Donald Trump won the 2016 nomination with a plurality of the votes ( ~ 45%).  If a candidate can unite the coalition of non-Trump voters from 2016, and then maybe activate some number of new voters who oppose Trump, the math works.  We can talk about what the ideal combination looks like (Rubio’s Charisma and Optimism, Cruz’s animosity to DC and appeal to Evangelicals, Carson’s background and outsider status, etc.), but a successful campaign needs to start with the question “How do I hold together Trump-skeptical Republicans?” and go from there.

  1. The successful challenger should be from outside DC (Businessman, Governor, etc) or should have a record in DC of standing up for Conservative values and against “the Swamp”.

The overall distaste for “The Establishment” or “The Swamp” by your typical Republican Primary voter has not changed since 2016.  That said, there is still a base of people who aren’t happy with DC but who aren’t happy with Trump either because of his character and haphazard approach to governing, or because they feel he has sold out his base and become “The Establishment.”  The successful Candidate is going to be able to appeal to these voters by railing against corruption in DC.  The very savvy campaign will be able to show why Trump is “The Swamp” due to all his self-dealing with the Trump Organization, Trump Hotel, etc.  The average voter may not care about Roger Stone and Russia, but they may be made to care about Trump telling them he was going to drain the swamp, and then getting rich off it himself.

  1. The successful challenger will be able to fundraise very successfully.

Going up against a prepared Trump-RNC apparatus is not going to be a task for the faint of heart.  Running a serious challenge to any serious incumbent is a difficult manner.  A very savvy campaign may be able to run an effective challenge in a cost-effective manner.  In a 24/7 news environment, doing more Earned Media as opposed to massive TV ad buys should be doable, as long as the dollars saved are going to building field staff, top-notch digital, competent data operations, etc.  That said, it’s a Presidential campaign, and a top-notch operation will require serious dollars.  There’s multiple ways you can do this.  Maybe the candidate is charismatic and a good debater, so that there may be room for a strong small-dollar donor apparatus.  If the candidate is well-connected, or perhaps comes from a business background, you could possibly run a more Super PAC driven campaign.  Regardless, though, it’s going to take someone who is serious about fundraising one way or another to build the groundwork to launch a serious challenge against an incumbent.


Call this 4b or 5, but I’m going to throw out one more quality that may not be essential, but could be helpful.  Name ID would help a candidate get a fast start out of the gate and have instant credibility.  I put it as non-essential because most Republicans with some type of notable experience will immediately receive significant earned media and exposure.

More Thoughts on the Ralph Northam Debacle

  • If the Democratic Party was smart, they would realize many pro-lifers are disillusioned with Trump and would love an alternative. That they are running the opposite direction means they either are scared of the Abortion lobby (see David French) or are bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, EMILYs List, etc.  In fact, many of the Democrats running for President support legislation similar to the Virginia bill, per NRO.


  • Northam is supposedly one of the more Moderate Dems. There are even rumors up in Virginia that he nearly flipped to the Republicans in the State Senate at one point when it looked like it might be advantageous.  That a “Moderate” would go out on this limb as telling.


  • The fact that the interviewer never even thought to ask a follow-up question is a symptom of what the media at large thinks of the issue. I disagree with the Trump administration’s antagonism to media and believe in a strong, free press, but this is where being in a bubble comes into play.  They just don’t understand why Americans care about this or why anyone would see it as unborn life at stake.



  • That Northam sees doubling down on Twitter after his botched statement as an appropriate response tells a lot about where his party is. Even 5 years ago, any Democrat would apologize for saying that.  Now, it’s just more base posturing.


  • I’m a Christian. You don’t need to be a Christian to be Pro-life.  Pro-life is Pro-Science, and anyone from any or no religion can and should be pro-life.  That said, think about how much faith it takes to look at an unborn child (or in Northam’s case, a born child) and say it is not actually a real human life.  Some strains of Secularism have their own dogmas that require just as much or more faith than any religion.  I have a strong sense of faith in my beliefs, but it’s wrong to portray one side of this issue as being based solely on faith and the other as solely on reason.

The Governor of Virginia Endorses Infanticide

Watch the video.  It is beyond disturbing.  People ask why #NeverTrump Republicans don’t just vote Democrat.  The primary reason is that the Democrats are bought and paid for by Big Abortion and, at least at the National level, have no room for compromise and are in fact radicalizing.  While such issues should never be viewed through strictly partisan lenses, this is how Democrats blow elections.

Analyzing a 2020 Republican Primary, Part 1

Today, I’m kicking off a 4-part series offering a broad analysis of the 2020 Republican Presidential Primary.  I am a Republican who is a strong supporter of the idea, but I will try to analyze it from a somewhat detached perspective for this series.  I’m sure this is a topic I will return to over the coming year, but I’m going to go ahead and kick off a quick series looking at this in broad strokes.

In this first part, I’m just going to go over the lay of the land as far as a primary challenge to Trump goes.  I think that there is a hard but low floor of around 10-15% virtually any challenger could pull against Trump.  I also think there are some candidates for whom the ceiling is not much more than that.  The good news, though, is that the number of Republicans interested in a primary is going up.  I suspect this is a result of massive Democratic gains in November, the government shutdown and negative reactions associated with it, and the Democratic primary gaining steam and igniting reflection on Trump’s electability and a Republican primary.  That said, Trump is still broadly popular among Republicans, and would win in a landslide over virtually candidate were the election today.

That said, recent polls have started to show interest in the idea of a Primary challenge.  Nationally, the most recent ABC News poll says 32% of Republicans nationally want a nominee other than Trump.  To my knowledge, that is the best National number to date.  In Iowa, per a CNN/Des Moines Register poll in December, 29% of Republicans would either definitely vote for or consider a Trump alternative, while 63% say they would welcome a contested primary.  Additionally, in New Hampshire, an NHJournal poll has Romney already pulling 24% against Trump if they went head-to-head.  It’s not a majority by any stretch, but if a generic candidate without a campaign is already polling in the 20s and 30s, then it is very possible to compete with Trump in a primary.

Finally, the media is beginning to take the idea of a primary more seriously at this point.  While some Trump-skeptical outlets have been pushing the idea before these last couple of months (I specifically remember Charlie Sykes in the Weekly Standard), it has spread since then.  The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, National Review, the Bulwark, and other outlets have either reported concerns in the Trump camp over a primary, ran opinion/analysis pieces on the prospects of a primary, or covered Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s recent moves that led some to believe he may run.  Media isn’t everything, but it is a sign of weakness that we didn’t see for most of the past two years.

So what are the prospects for someone running against Trump?  As an optimist, I think things are improving and shaping up so that someone will step into the ring.  What the end result is, I don’t know.  That said, the fact that it may even be worthwhile from an electoral perspective to have a primary challenge, based on poll results and momentum, is an encouraging development, and I expect that at least someone will decide at some point this year that it’s time to take the plunge.

The One in Which Everyone loses their Minds concerning Venezuela

First, let’s start with the obvious: Maduro is not a good guy.  Venezuela has a lot of problems with corruption and a sinking economy.  It’s not a good situation.

Lets move on to what should be equally obvious 243 years into the American experiment: American intervention abroad rarely improves the situation, and generally makes things worse in the long-run while costing lives.  Anyone who lived through Iraq should know this.

The last thing the United States needs right now is to get into a quagmire in Central America.  The exact same voices who got us into a mess in Iraq are now charging headfirst to get us into a conflict that benefits primarily defense contractors.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say if we actually get involved militarily, but I can’t help but be somewhat maddened by the audacity of these same goons (John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, etc) to believe anyone should take them seriously on foreign policy and to actually try to make the same mistake again …. and again … and