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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Jindal on 2016: ‘I’m Not Going to Be Coy, I’m Thinking About Running’



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“I’m not going to be coy, I’m thinking about running for president and praying about it,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said at a lunch with conservative bloggers today. He added he considers it a mistake for any Republican to spend a lot of time focusing on the 2016 presidential election while there are still midterm elections to be won. Jindal mentioned he had been campaigning for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton, and North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

“We’re big fans of SEC football back home, and everyone likes to ask the coach, ‘are you going to win the championship this year?’ The answer is always, ‘first, we’ve got to win the game right in front of us right now.’”

He said he doubted he would make any decision until “after the holidays” at the end of the year.

Jindal said that Americans are “hungry for big change, looking for a hostile takeover of D.C..”

“I think we will win [the Senate in 2014,” Jindal said. “But if we don’t do anything with it, there will be a backlash. We can’t just be the party of ‘no.’”

Jindal unveiled a series of proposals for a national energy policy today. This morning our Eliana Johnson looked at Jindals ideas-focused positioning for 2016. 

Tags: Bobby Jindal

Dan Sullivan Hits ‘Both Ways Begich’



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The Dan Sullivan for Senate campaign in Alaska is unveiling a new “micro-site” — BothWaysBegich.com — and running a new ad, pointing out that while Alaska Senator Mark Begich claims he’s a “thorn in Obama’s side,” he votes with the president’s position 97 percent of the time:

Tags: Dan Sullivan , Mark Begich

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The Left Begins to Realize Their Guys Haven’t Delivered



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From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Left Begins to Realize Their Guys Haven’t Delivered

Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Andrew Cuomo in the New York State Democratic primary, contends that the Democratic Party “needs a kick from the left.”

The dissatisfaction of liberals ought to be useful antidote to glum conservatives convinced that America has sold its collective soul to collectivist statism. But it’s worth noting what Teachout finds most objectionable about Cuomo:

Our challenge came at an important moment for the Democratic Party. While we believe our party is on the right side when it comes to the issues the nation is facing, it is not wholly immune to the cronyism and corruption that has contaminated the Republican Party. Some of the problems we identified with the Cuomo administration—prioritization of donor needs and support for Republican candidates and Republican causes, for instance—can be found around the country. We are at the beginning of a serious debate about what the Democratic Party really stands for, and we would like to think we have helped to start that discussion.

Notice the casual conflation of “cronyism and corruption” with “support for Republican candidates and Republican causes.”

Is “too much support for Republican candidates” the problem that should the Left? Or merely the aspect of modern Democratic governance that bothers them the most? New York is beginning universal pre-K, even though a lot of schools still stink. The unemployment rate has slid down as Americans leave the workforce, but few would claim this is a booming era of hiring and opportunity. Obamacare has reduced the number of insured nationally to a mere… 41 million. Premiums are set to go up about 8 percent next year. Dodd-Frank completely failed to end the era of “Too Big to Fail.” There was massive fraud in the stimulus program, costing taxpayers “billions”, but the Left would much rather talk about the Koch brothers. Our foreign policy is a dumpster fire right now.

The bigger problem for the Left is that their preferred president and their preferred governors and legislators, enacting their preferred policies, have not generated their preferred results.

Teachout took about a third of the vote in a New York Democratic primary that had low turnout.  

Above: Governor Cuomo reacted to his primary victory by cackling, “BWAHAHAHA! NO ONE CAN STOP ME NOW!”

Tags: Andrew Cuomo , Zephyr Teachout

Hillary Clinton, World-Champion Pretend Griller



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How perfectly Clintonian: “While a crowd of several thousand Democrats waited on a sloping, grassy field below, Mrs Clinton, her husband and Senator Harkin staged a mini-grilling of steaks for the press at a single barbecue grill in a fenced-off enclosure, framed by a handsome tree and a picnic table filled with some patient Iowans. Mrs Clinton gamely posed, pretending to grill a steak that had been pre-cooked for her.”

Why, they’re just regular folks, just like us! (AP photo.)

Remember all those relentless media references to George W. Bush’s alleged “fake” “plastic” turkey while visiting the troops in Iraq?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Something Lighter

CNN Poll in New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen 48%, Scott Brown 48%



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We’ve seen three public polls of New Hampshire’s Senate race since July. WMUR put incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen up by 2; YouGov put her up by 6.

And now: 

Think about it, New Hampshire. You have the power in your hands… to make a Princeton professor eat a bug:

Tags: Jeanne Shaheen , Scott Brown , New Hampshire

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A Longshot GOP Candidate Makes Gains Among Independents



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Allen Weh, the Republican candidate for Senate in New Mexico, is one of this cycle’s long-shots. And the latest poll out in the Land of Enchantment does not indicate he’s on the verge of an upset.

But when a long-shot candidate starts getting some traction, a bit of credit is deserved: “[Democrat incumbent Sen.] Tom Udall led Weh with independent voters 62 percent to 26 percent in August. The latest survey showed Udall’s advantage among the group down to 41 percent to 38 percent.”

Sadly for Weh, that shift is not  a game-changer; independents just don’t make up enough of the state’s likely electorate: ”Just over half of the likely New Mexico voters surveyed – 51 percent – said they supported Udall for re-election in the September poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday last week. Thirty-eight percent said they preferred Weh. Another 11 percent were undecided.”

In 2012, Heather Wilson lost the New Mexico Senate race, 51 percent to 45 percent, to Democrat Martin Heinrich. Back in 2008, as Obama was winning the state in the presidential election, Udall beat GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, 61 percent to 38 percent. 

Tags: Allen Weh

Why Is Our President Thinking About What He Would Tell ISIS if He Were Advising Them?



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Why Is Our President Thinking About What He Would Tell ISIS if He Were Advising Them?

A strange presidential comment, revealed to the world Sunday by the New York Times:

But the president said he had already been headed toward a military response before the men’s deaths. He added that ISIS had made a major strategic error by killing them because the anger it generated resulted in the American public’s quickly backing military action.

If he had been “an adviser to ISIS,” Mr. Obama added, he would not have killed the hostages but released them and pinned notes on their chests saying, “Stay out of here; this is none of your business.” Such a move, he speculated, might have undercut support for military intervention.

Why is our president thinking about what he would tell ISIS if he were advising them?

Does the president spend a lot of time thinking about this? Or did it just strike him as a fascinating little nugget of insight to share with a guest while discussing ISIS?

I can see the value in trying to understand the thinking of your enemy.  I can see the value in thinking through an ultimatum to the group, contemplating what you’ll demand and what consequences to threaten. You can “offer advice” to a foe in the sense of, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

But Obama’s “if I was an adviser to ISIS” comment doesn’t sound like any of these — at least from the context that we’re given by the Times’ sources, individuals who have met with the president in the past week. It’s just, hey, if I were advising the enemy, this is what I would have told them.

Okay… what’s the point? Why spend any time thinking about that scenario? Did ISIS call and ask for advice? They didn’t attach notes; they detached heads. That’s the choice they made. Now the question is what we’re going to do about it.

Notice Obama’s assessment presumes ISIS wants to avoid a U.S. military intervention. Is this a manifestation of the mirroring effect, where Obama projects its own values and priorities onto its foes? (Think about how often he insists publicly that seizing Crimea and moving into Ukraine isn’t in Russia’s interest, or that bellicose or provocative actions on the part of Iran aren’t in that country’s interest.) ISIS appears to want to send the message, far and wide, that they don’t fear a clash with the U.S. military. Perhaps they want to demonstrate that they can commit horrific crimes against American civilians with no serious repercussion. Maybe they think God wants them to do this. Maybe they’re nuts! In the end, the “why” matters less than the “what.”

Viewed from another angle, President Obama’s comment sounds like a complaint. If ISIS hadn’t beheaded Americans, there wouldn’t be such widespread demand for action against ISIS in the American public.

“If I were advising ISIS…”

Well, you’re not, Mr. President. What, are you looking for another job? Some sort of freelance consulting gig on the job, when you clock out as Commander-in-Chief?

Walter Russell Mead:

It is probably true that a lower profile by ISIS would have made it more difficult to win support for airstrikes in the United States and around the world, but that’s hardly the point. ISIS is a master of the pornography of politics and the pornography of perverted religion: slave girls, heads on spikes, executions uploaded to the Internet, naked defiance in the face of its enemies. ISIS isn’t trying to win a conventional geopolitical chess match, it wants to electrify millions of potential supporters and change the nature of the game. The execution of American hostages succeeded brilliantly, from an ISIS point of view. It has made President Obama look weak, forced him to change his entire Middle East policy and brought the jihadi movement back into the world spotlight. The politics of spectacle has eclipsed Al-Qaeda, weakened Assad’s position, drawn the awe and admiration of jihadi wanna-bes and funders, and elevated 30,000 thugs and nutjobs to a major force in global events. Yes, that elevation carries with it the risk of serious pushback and even conventional military defeat, but jihadi ideology has benefited enormously from what ISIS has accomplished so far. ISIS still isn’t going to conquer the world, but radical Islam is closer than ever to launching the clash of civilizations of which bin Laden dreamed.

ISIS has much less money that President Obama does, many fewer fighters, much less equipment and in every other conventional measure of power it is a pipsqueak compared to the Leader of the Free World. But who is acting, and who is reacting? Who is dancing to whose tune?

Are we about to learn what happens when the United States goes to war with a commander-in-chief who doesn’t really want to go to war? A president who’s ordering a particular military action because he feels he has to in order to placate public opinion, but that he has deep doubts about? How can that possibly turn out well?

Josh Jordan: “Shorter Obama: If I were advising ISIS, I’d tell them not to execute Americans on video so I can keep pretending they aren’t a threat to us.”

Ladd Ehlinger Jr.: “Ah yes, I remember when FDR thought-experimented an advisorship position with Imperial Japan.”

Doug Powers: “Obama also probably would have advised ISIS to pin OFA donation envelopes and voter registration forms to the shirts of released hostages.”

Iowahawk to the president: “If you were advising ISIS, they would be bankrupt.”

Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Syria , Iraq

Iowa Republicans: We’re Happy With the Senate Polls



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The Republican party of Iowa e-mails:

CNN: GOP Remains Happy About Iowa

CNN’S JOHN KING: “There’s a big senate race, Tom Harkin, the senator hosting the steak fry, he’s retiring. In the race to succeed him, another brand new poll that we are releasing now. Look at this dead heat. Bruce Braley is the Democrat, he’s a congressman. You see him on the right of your screen there, 49 percent. Joni Ernst, 48 percent the Republican candidate. If you are the Republicans, you are happy here, because Iowa is a blue state. President Obama carried it comfortably twice and you have a dead heat in Iowa. Republicans slightly ahead in some of the red states that has to be a cause of concern.”

THE WASHINGTON POST’S JACKIE KUCINICH: “Well, Joni Ernst came out very strong from a five-way primary and I think it’s helped her and Bruce Braley has suffered from some unforced errors, with his comments about Grassley not being a lawyer. Right now if you look at the number this is a fight over the middle. Democrats are voting for Bruce Braley and Republicans are voting for Joni Ernst. It’s that middle they’ll be fighting for and it’s a very soft middle, because they don’t know where they’re going to go yet.”

CNN’S JOHN KING: “Do these numbers shock you? This was the state that launched President Obama, we’ve been making little jokes about it, but this is where he beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. It was his launching ground into the national politics. Look at the president’s approval rating right now in Iowa: 37 percent approve and 56 percent disapprove. Again in a normal midterm year that would tell me if that number holds and that race is still that close on Election Day, that tells me the Republican is going to win because of voter intensity and the anti-president sentiment.” (CNN, Inside Politics, 09/12/14)

“If you’re a Republican, you’re happy here.” Ernst is keeping it close, sure. But if she loses a close one — a distinct possibility — then no, Republicans won’t be so happy on Election Night. Note that the race is tied, or a slight Braley lead, with the president’s approval rating so abysmal in Iowa. Braley is running 12 percentage points ahead of Obama’s approval rating.

Tags: Iowa , Republicans , Joni Ernst , Bruce Braley

Time for GOP Concern About Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina



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It is not quite time for Republicans to panic about the Senate races in Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina, but it’s worth ratcheting up the concern another notch.

In Iowa, it’s been a while since Joni Ernst enjoyed a lead:

The last poll that had her ahead — by 1 — was conducted from July 5 to 24.

In Colorado, the good news is that incumbent Democrat Mark Udall remains below 50. But Cory Gardner can’t seem to get over the hill and take the lead:

In North Carolina, the concerns about Thom Tillis are triggered mostly by one poll showing a surprising six-point lead for incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. But he, too, has had difficulty getting the lead against an incumbent with indisputable problems, and this is in a state Romney won.

Republicans can still win control of the Senate without these races. They need to hold GOP-held seats Kansas, Kentucky, and Georgia; win the expected near-locks of Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, and then win in Arkansas, Alaska, and Louisiana. But it must be disconcerting that as the national polling environment looks better and better for the GOP, these three races — and for that matter, Michigan — are not seeing a comparable boost for the Republican candidates.

Tags: Cory Gardner , Joni Ernst , Thom Tillis

The Sneaking Suspicion That Obama Doubts His Own Decision



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The Sneaking Suspicion That Obama Doubts His Own Decision

Here’s what I fear is going through the president’s mind right now:

I don’t want to do this. I’m supposed to be the peacemaker president. I didn’t become president to start wars.

I’ve been telling people for years that there is no military solution to the problems in Iraq. Now somehow I’ve ended up telling people that I have a military solution for that and Syria.

We don’t have any reliable allies on the ground. There are at least fourteen different rebel groups, and they keep splitting into smaller groups, each one with a new name, and all of them sound the same. In March, a bunch of them formed the “Sham Legion.” Just perfect. I’m supposed to go out and tell Americans, ‘Hey, let’s give a bunch of weapons to the Sham Legion.’

This assumes that the Sham Legion or the Fake Brigades or whoever don’t just drop their guns and run away, leaving ISIS even more American weapons to use. Why can’t the Iraqis get their act together? We spent years and billions training the Iraqi army and they collapsed in their first real fight. I just went out and promised to do more training. Another couple hundred American soldiers over there, hoping to teach them how to fight. Is ISIS just going to sit and wait while we finish the training? Here’s the first lesson, guys. Stop throwing down your guns and running away.

Where the hell are our allies? I’m the exact opposite of Bush. I’ve talked about the importance of the multilateral approach until I’m blue in the face. You would think that in exchange for being consulted early and often, our allies would be more eager to help. Instead, every time I ask Susan Rice if the Germans are on board, all I hear is mother-blankers this and mother-blankers that. She did it while Rahm Emanuel dropped by and he asked her to tone down her language. It’s almost as if most of our allies don’t really mean it when they complain about not being consulted, like they just want to sit back and wait for somebody else to solve the problem.

Egypt, Jordan and Turkey have been screaming the loudest about ISIS, but now that we’re coming to do something, they’re tepid and not willing to make commitments. Heck of a job, Kerry. You know who’s most warmly welcoming the U.S. arrival? The Assad regime in Damascus. Those bastards.

I can’t shake the feeling ISIS loves the idea of us coming after them. They’re probably going to use some version of the Hamas playbook — provoke a fight with a more powerful, more technologically advanced foe, hide among civilians, play up any civilian casualties, and then declare yourself the winner once the bombardment ends.

Nobody wants to help. We’re trying to bomb an army, in the kind of “whack-a-mole” policies I used to criticize. The Democrats in Congress don’t want to touch this with a ten-foot pole. The Republicans will pounce on anything that goes wrong. The whole thing’s a distraction from what I really want to do with my remaining two years . . . 

In short, I think Obama has talked himself into a policy that he doesn’t really want to see through to the end. Which means that once it starts to go wrong — check Byron York for five ways this could go very wrong — President Obama will start having doubts. The moment flag-draped coffins start coming back to the United States, the public’s doubts will start to grow. Opportunistic politicians will read from Obama’s 2004 anti-war playbook.

Read the following and then ask yourself how long until you start hearing the word “quagmire”:

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years.

Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

Then Obama will want to undo this policy as quickly as he can. What happens when the United States tries to withdraw from a war “counterterrorism operation” in Iraq the second time?

Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Iraq , Syria

A Great Big Poll Roundup for the 2014 Governor’s Races



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CBS News and the New York Times have unveiled a slew of new gubernatorial polls. Among the results that jump out:

Republican Doug Ducey is one point ahead of Democrat Fred DuVal in Arizona. Better than the alternative, but you’d like to see the GOP candidate build a lead in a red state like that. Ducey just emerged from a tough primary.

Incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez are tied in Colorado. That’s in line with most recent polls. Hickenlooper’s consistently in the mid-40s, right on the edge of serious trouble for an incumbent.

This poll puts incumbent Democrat Dan Malloy ahead of Republican Tom Foley by a point in Connecticut. A bit surprising, since a poll a few days ago had Foley ahead by 6.

Rick Snyder trails a bit in Michigan, after leading a long time. That’s a little bit ominous.

Rick Scott leads Charlie Crist, 46 percent to 43 percent. Scott has now led eight of the past ten polls in Florida.

In Hawaii, Republican Duke Aiona is only down by two points in a three-way race.

In Illinois, Bruce Raunder is only up by 4 over incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn, a bit less than some other polling.

In Maine, Republican incumbent Paul LePage is hanging on, leading with 38 percent in a three-way race.

In Oregon, incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber has a healthy six-point lead, despite overseeing the most disastrous Obamacare exchange in the country.Very little sign that there’s any real fallout from one of the most expensive messes of any state government ever. Ditto for Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in Maryland, the Democrats’ nominee in that very blue state.

In South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who did not win by a huge margin four years ago, is now ahead by more than 20 points.

In Texas, Greg Abbott has 56 percent and Wendy Davis is on her way to becoming a trivia-question answer.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker is ahead by 4, his best poll showing in a little while.

Tags: Republican Governors Association , Polling

‘These Are Serious Times.’



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The reelection campaign of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, declaring “these are serious times.”

Meanwhile:

After a series of polls showing Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race trending for incumbent Mitch McConnell, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes has released a new poll showing her ahead by one percentage point. The internal poll was conducted by Mark Mellman, a Washington-based pollster hired by the Grimes campaign.

The last eight polls showed McConnell ahead; the latest from NBC News had him up by 8 points.

That’s what’s known as a “Please don’t abandon me!” move.

Tags: Mitch McConnell , Alison Lundergan Grimes , Kentucky , Polling

Another Part of Our Recent History to Remember Today



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We remember how the 9/11 era began today, and the emotions are still fresh and strong, 13 years later.

But that was only one part of the story.

Take a good look, ISIS. You never know when the U.S. Navy SEALs are at your door.

Tags: ISIS , al-Qaeda , 9/11

Why Doesn’t Mark Udall Want a Denver TV Debate?



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In Colorado, embattled Democratic senator Mark Udall won’t debate Cory Gardner on any of the Denver television stations. Too busy, he says.

At least he didn’t claim either of the executed American journalists would agree with him.

Tags: Mark Udall , Cory Gardner

A TIME OF CR-ISIS



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From the Morning Jolt:

A TIME OF CR-ISIS

This president is still walking around with an oversized sense of his own popularity, political capital, and public trust. He still thinks that if he says “we will do X,” people will believe him.

He’s capable of giving a good speech — well, reading from a teleprompter with the right tone, facial expressions, and mannerisms — but very few people, at home or abroad still expect dramatic action to follow dramatic words. The Obama pattern is clear: Big promise, lousy results. Too many lines instantly pop into the minds of viewers. Red line. “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” We’re going to arm the moderate Syrian rebels. “New tone.” “Assad must go.”

Just because Obama says it, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.” Well, that will be nice if it happens. As @CuffyMeh put it, “We will chase ISIS to the end of the earth as long as it doesn’t involve actually touching the earth.”

And as we’ve noted, Obama periodically offers comments that suggest he’s out to lunch. The world is safer than it was 20 years ago. We know more about trouble overseas because of social media.

Obama’s numbers are terrible — and that’s because of three things: Beheadings on Americans’ televisions, the idiotic “we don’t have a strategy” declaration, coupled with the subsequent statement that ISIS was a problem to be “managed.” You can throw in the “JV team” as another key element of the deep unease with this administration’s terror-fighting abilities. (The Osama bin Laden raid sure feels like a long time ago, huh?)

The president and his administration insist upon calling the group “ISIL”, preferring the term “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” As Chuck Todd said, they don’t like to refer to Syria in this context. This is a silly word game in hopes for political spin.

Last night I enjoyed the chance to briefly speak to Brit Hume in the Fox News offices. “He’ll speak about ISIS as if they appeared out of nowhere like Godzilla,” Hume predicted.

David Frum makes the very solid point that by attacking ISIS, we are helping the Iranian regime, the Assad regime in Syria, and Hezbollah. He points out that the Obama administration is ignoring this embarrassing situation, and hoping the American public doesn’t notice it. Indeed, it is a pretty remarkable and revealing aspect of the Obama administration that apparently no one on that foreign policy all-star team even thought about using the carrot of anti-ISIS action as leverage against the Iranians.

Frum’s whole argument opposing military action is almost persuasive . . . except for the detail that ISIS has killed Americans and has made clear its intent to kill more Americans.

The John Wayne-Ted Nugent-Toby Keith-Andrew-Jackson-Early-Frank-Miller-Batman-Papa-Bear-Author-of-a-book-titled-Voting-to-Kill side of me says that whenever anybody anywhere in the world kills an American for being an American, we’re obligated to rain hellfire down upon them, oftentimes in the form of a literal Hellfire missile.

But the 2014 version of me recognizes something the 2004 version didn’t: If you openly broadcast that philosophy, a lot of people are going to kill Americans just because they want to fight the lone remaining superpower. Everybody wants to be the man that shot Liberty Valance. Every aspiring terrorist wants to be the one who punched the Great Satan and lived to tell the tale.

And let’s face it, there are a lot of groups in this world that killed Americans and escaped much consequence. The barracks bombers of Lebanon. We hit Qaddafi, but only before Lockerbie, not after. The Iranians had a hand in Khobar Towers; we only exposed the names of their agents. We’ve caught one Benghazi attacker. Syria basically ran a superhighway for insurgents in Iraq, and the Iranians helped the insurgents, too. We still don’t know who we can trust in Pakistan. (Perhaps America has taken vengeance in some covert manner, to be revealed to a future generation.)

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask of the ol’ Lone Ranger, and . . . well, you know.

Deterrence requires consequences. The world doesn’t lack people who enjoy killing Americans, and while we can debate “root causes” and “why do they hate us” as long as we like, we’re not likely to talk them out of it any time soon. (Does it seem like the Chinese don’t have this problem as much? The Russians? Is it that nobody’s really afraid of crossing us?)

So we have to respond. We have to punish aggression, wickedness and brutality when it targets our fellow Americans. But, as presidents are fond of saying, we must deal out that punishment “at a time and place of our choosing.”

Tags: ISIS , Barack Obama

Why the GOP Should Be Concerned, but Not Panicked, About Third-Party Candidates



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As the outlook for Democrats in the midterm elections darkens, you’ll hear more talk about Libertarian and third-party candidates winning enough of the vote to deny Republican candidates victories:

But in a handful of extremely tight races, including North Carolina, Alaska, Georgia and Kentucky, third-party candidates could help decide who wins and which party controls the Senate in the final two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Yes, this could happen, but recent history argues against it. As Aaron Blake reminds us, Tom Horner in Minnesota, Tim Cahill in Massachusetts, and Chris Daggett in New Jersey all faded in the closing weeks and days and finished with a smaller share of the vote than the final polls indicated. 

Can, under the right circumstances, a third-party candidate make the difference? Sure, and Democrats know it:

In at least a few cases, third-party candidates have played significant roles. In Montana’s 2012 Senate race, Sen. Jon Tester faced a tough challenge from Republican Denny Rehberg. National Democrats mailed flyers supporting Libertarian candidate Dan Cox in a bid to steer conservatives away from Rehberg. Cox won 7 percent of the vote, to Rehberg’s 45 percent and Tester’s 49 percent.

But for what it’s worth, the Republican candidates in the Senate races in North Carolina, Alaska, Georgia, and Kentucky are already leading in the most recent polls. Democrats will need to persuade backers of Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), David Purdue (Georgia), and Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) that their interests will be better served by voting for the Libertarian candidate who has no chance of winning.

In NBC News’s latest poll in Kentucky, the Libertarian candidate is at 8 percent, and McConnell still leads by eight points.

Tags: Third Party Candidates

Carbon-Based Life Form Votes to Tax Carbon



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Freedom Partners Action Fund unveils a new ad, hitting Representative Nick Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia, for voting for a carbon tax — an unwise move in a state where coal mining is so important to the local economies.

An anti-carbon stance in West Virginia is like . . . well, an anti-carbon stance anywhere else in the world, I suppose.

Tags: Nick Rahall

Today’s Important Message: You Should Not Live in Fear.



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Today’s Important Message: You Should Not Live in Fear.

Are Americans safer from Islamist terror? We sure as heck don’t feel that way.

The nation is on edge in the wake of brutal beheadings of journalists by Islamic extremists — with more Americans saying the United States is less safe now than at any point since 9/11, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll shows.

The exclusive poll reveals that 47% of Americans believe the country is less safe now than before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That’s a significant increase from even a year after the twin towers fell when in September 2002 just 20% of the country said the nation was less safe.

In my piece on NRO today:

Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, seems less concerned. On Monday, he declared on CNN’s New Day that the United States doesn’t have intelligence indicating there are any active plans for a terrorist attack ahead of the 9/11 anniversary. “No, we don’t have any information about credible planning for an attack,” Royce said.

“Any time you get around a major anniversary in the minds of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, that can be a time of increased concern and intelligence monitoring,” said Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “We know they’re so fixated and obsessed on those particular dates. Given that it’s coming up on 9/11, we know there are operational activities, both al-Qaeda and this new threat matrix of all these al-Qaeda affiliates. Some have aspirations to do Western attacks, some have capabilities to do Western attacks, all of that just makes the challenge all the more difficult for the agencies we charge with stopping terror attacks.”

If you’re feeling anxiety . . . don’t.

Not because the threat isn’t real, but because you are not meant to live in fear. There have been 4,747 days since 9/11. In that time, the bad guys have managed a few hits but only a handful on the home front. Fort Hood. The Boston Marathon bombing. The LAX counter shooting. The Arkansas recruiting office shooting.

They’ve also had some near-misses: The underwear bomber flying into Detroit. The 2010 Times Square bombing attempt.

If you’re living outside the homeland, you’re at a higher risk, but again, for most of those 4,747 days, the good guys have kept the bad guys bottled up or stymied.

The odds are in your favor today, and every day. A lot of dedicated men and women are working around the clock to keep you safe. There’s not much left for us to do, other than point out an unattended bag or if we see someone behaving suspiciously, tell a cop.

That NBC News/WSJ poll also found:

According to the poll, 61 percent of American voters believe that the United States taking military action against ISIS is in United States’ interest, versus 13 percent who don’t. (Another 24 percent said they don’t know enough to have an opinion.)

That’s a significant change when a similar question was asked last year about the U.S. taking possible action against Syria’s government after its reported use of chemical weapons.

Back then, only 21 percent said action was in the nation’s interest, while 33 percent said it wasn’t.

Tags: Terrorism , ISIS , Ed Royce , Mike Rogers

The Tipping Point for Intolerable Behavior from NFL Players



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Janay Rice, who was knocked out by her then-fiancé​, Ray Rice, issues a statement blasting the media for “unwanted options” and for causing her pain; she assures the world that she and Ray “will continue to show the world what real love is.”

Perhaps that helps illuminate why prosecutors did not throw the book at Rice, and why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell initially felt Rice deserved merely a two-game suspension.

As noted in today’s Jolt:

The Video That Might Cost an NFL Commissioner His Job

Behold, Ray Rice, managing to put a sour mood across the NFL’s opening weekend.

Mark Hemingway asks, “Why was the Ray Rice video straw that broke the camel’s back? We knew he knocked his fiancé out . . . how did people think that happened?”

At Red State, Leon Wolf answers that question, with a good point for any of us who communicate for a living:

We humans are weird creatures. It is one thing to know, intellectually, that Ray Rice knocked a woman unconscious in a hotel elevator. It is another thing to actually see it happen. Back when we all knew that Ray Rice had knocked Janay Palmer unconscious, Ray Rice faced a two game suspension from the NFL and still had his job with the Baltimore Ravens. Sure, the NFL and the Ravens both took criticism for that, but both entities felt that they could weather this criticism, with good reason. Now that all of America practically has actually seen the incident in question, the NFL and Ravens both know that standing behind Rice will simply not be tenable any longer, and so he finds himself out of a job and perhaps unemployable. The NFL deserves all the ridicule it is getting today for its laughable claim that it has never seen the video before today, but it is very clear that what forced the NFL’s hand is that we, the public have now all seen it.

Humans place inordinate value at an emotional level upon what they can see, as opposed to what is visible with all their other senses. A good amount of scientific study shows in fact that in many situations we place too much emphasis on visual cues taken from pictures and tend to divorce those pictures from what we know about the rest of the context about a fact, or ignore what information we don’t have about context, which makes our understanding imperfect. As noted in this excellent piece from the New Yorker, divining the truth from a picture can sometimes be a challenge even for people who are highly trained almost exclusively to divine truth from pictures, like radiologists.

None of this changes the fact, however, that as humans we react powerfully to what we can see and usually ignore what we don’t, at least on an emotional level.

If we hear that Ray Rice punched out his fiancée, and only see the aftermath, we’re mad. If we see Ray Rice punching out his fiancée, we’re furious.

It may not be particularly fair to Ray Rice that he gets a third round of punishment from his employers, separate from the legal system, because more video of the incident reaches the public’s eyes. But I’m just not that bothered about unfairness of the circumstances for a guy who knocked out his fiancée and, considering how hard her head hit that metal railing in the elevator, came chillingly close to inflicting traumatic brain injury.

Monday night, word broke that “TMZ says they are dropping big news that the NFL turned a blind eye to the Ray Rice video.” By the time you read this, this story may have taken another awful chapter. We’ll see what they mean by “turned a blind eye.”

One wonders if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell might have to fall on his sword as his decision to initially suspend Rice for a mere two games grows ever more inexplicable. Can he reassure the fan bases, the media, and the owners that he’s got the good judgment to handle these sorts of disciplinary issues?

The long-simmering issue of NFL player behavior may be reaching a tipping point. By some measurements, the arrest rate for NFL players is significantly lower than that of the public at large.To paraphrase what I heard on the car radio from ESPN’s Colin Cowherd a few days ago, you’re dealing with a population of young healthy men with extraordinary amounts of money and fame, residing in the nation’s biggest and most glamorous cities and with very little to do for half the year besides stay in shape. Some of these guys come from rough neighborhoods and have no-good friends, and that doesn’t count all of the opportunists who pop up once a young man, quite often with limited college education, suddenly has money to burn. He says he’s surprised the arrest rate is as low as it is. A large portion of NFL player arrests are DUIs, reckless driving, drunk and disorderly, drug possession — not harmless, but not exactly surprising considering the circumstances.

But we, the public, paying for those monster salaries and buying the jerseys and doing all the things we do to financially support the players, have a right to expect better behavior. Or perhaps we have a right to expect our legal system to stop letting professional athletes out with a comparable slap on the wrist. Aaron Hernandez is on trial for murder; the Cowboys’ Josh Brent got 180 days in jail for a DUI car crash that killed his teammate, and Donté Stallworth served 30 days in jail for a DUI manslaughter charge after killing a pedestrian. (He’s now signed with the Huffington Post Huffies as a national-security correspondent.)

We’ve never seen anything like this befo–


Okay, we’ve rarely seen anything like this before now.

Tags: Ray Rice , NFL

New Nikki Haley Ad in South Carolina: ‘Crickets’



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A new ad from the reelection campaign of Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina:

No one has publicly polled this race since July, but the last three surveys had Haley ahead by a significant margin.

Tags: Nikki Haley , Vincent Sheheen

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