Monday, June 29, 2015

Christie for President

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the latest Republican to announce he is running for president.  He joins an already overcrowded field of candidates seeking their party's nomination.  But Christie stands out because an overwhelming majority of his own state's registered voters disapproves of his performance in office. 

His announcement speech, which will take place Tuesday at his former high school, will be given without the aid of a teleprompter.  It will reflect his campaign theme, "Telling it like it is," and be targeted to Republican voters in New Hampshire, where he will go next to begin campaigning.  He will highlight his middle-class upbringing, his family values, and his willingness to make tough decisions on entitlements and government spending.

But many Republicans have not forgotten Christie's post Hurricane Sandy walking tour in 2012 with then candidate President Barack Obama, which came in his closely contested state at the expense of GOP candidate Mitt Romney.  Teachers in the state have not forgotten his harsh attacks on educators and college administrators in his effort to reform the education system.  Public sector unions have not forgotten that the governor has run roughshod over their pensions.  And commuters have not forgotten that it was Christie's appointees who shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge, aka Bridgegate, as political retribution against those who did not support the governor's reelection.

In his announcement Christie is expected to point to his governance of a blue state as an example of how he can work with both sides of the political aisle.  But state Democrats would argue differently.  Christie will say he can make the tough decisions, but many of his opponents will criticize his tough tactics.

Christie's brash and in-your-face style will win him supporters among Republican voters seeking a candidate who seemingly has strong leadership skills.  He will stand out among the field of announced Republican candidates, and will likely do well in the upcoming party debates.  

But this self-described pragmatic conservative Republican is thought by many in the party to be too moderate to win the nomination.  While he has raised a lot of money as the Chairman of the Republican Governor's Association, more than $100 million, some of his political positions are not in sync with the Republican base, including immigration and gun control.  

Governor Christie was reelected to a second term in 2013 with 60.3 percent of the vote, which was driven largely by his leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.  Because he is term limited he will not be able to run for governor again in 2017.  But even if he were eligible then it is unlikely that New Jersey voters, who have soured on his act, would reelect him.  So for him a run for the presidency is his next best option to be elected to public office.  

The fact is Christie has nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing the White House.   He has said, "I think what the American people want more than anything else right now is someone who's just going to look them in the eye and tell them the truth, even some truths that they don't like."  But the reality is do enough Republicans trust Christie enough to nominate him as their standard bearer in 2016?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hillary Clinton Speaks

“I’m not running for some Americans,” Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday in her first major campaign rally, “I’m running for all Americans.”   Her speech was populist in tone as she promised that if elected president she would close the income gap between rich and poor.

Several thousand enthusiastic supporters gathered on a picture perfect day to hear the Democratic frontrunner speak on New York City's Roosevelt Island, located between Manhattan and Queens in the East River.  But this speech would have better timed had it been scheduled two months ago when she officially announced she was a candidate for president.  

Instead, she went on a closely guarded listening tour of voters and dodged press questions about controversies swirling around her campaign.  In that time she was subject to Republican attacks related to her private email server, her role in the Clinton Foundation and potential conflicts of interest while serving as secretary of state.   As a consequence, polling around her likability and trustworthiness has gone negative.

While Republicans have been attacking Clinton, populist Democratic candidates have been critical of her campaign as well.  Senator Bernie Sanders, a distant second to Clinton in the polls, has been particularly aggressive.  "I don't have a super PAC. I'm not going to be getting huge sums of money from millionaires and billionaires," Sanders told MSNBC last week when asked to explain how he is different than Clinton.  "So, working families all over this country are saying, Bernie, we want to stand with you, take on this billionaire class who are dominating our economics and our politics," he concluded. 

In her speech Sunday, Clinton reached out to the party base by quoting Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt.  "He said there's no mystery about what it takes to build a strong and prosperous America: 'Equality of opportunity... Jobs for those who can work... Security for those who need it... The ending of special privilege for the few...The preservation of civil liberties for all...a wider and constantly rising standard of living.'"  She then added, with a smile, "That sounds good to me." 

Clinton did offer policies she would pursue as president, including universal prekindergarten, paid family leave, equal pay for women, college affordability and incentives for companies that provide profit-sharing to employees.   She also said she would change the tax code "so it rewards hard work at home" rather than corporations "stashing profits overseas."  To achieve her goals she said, "Our next President must work with Congress and every other willing partner across our entire country. And I will do just that to turn the tide so these currents start working for us more than against us."

In a response to charges that she is out of touch with Middle America, she cited her humble upbringing and promised, "I've spent my life fighting for children, families, and our country. And I'm not stopping now."  For those who have expressed concern about her age, she said, “I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States.”

Clinton has been a polarizing figure throughout her career, and she will continue to be the target of political attacks from all sides throughout the campaign.   In her speech, she portrayed herself as a fighter, “I’ve been called many things by many people, quitter is not one of them.’’   But, ultimately, Clinton will have to be more publicly accountable for some of the legitimate questions that have been raised around her candidacy because they are not going away.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015