Wednesday, January 28, 2015

You Saw it Here First. Then Came Cook’s Nomination Quarterfinals

Charlie Cook, in the National Journal, trailed me by 3 days in publishing his division of the GOP presidential nomination contest into four quarterfinals. Cook used the word “brackets,” where I said “battles,” when he wrote:

there are at least four brackets of candidates and Republican voters, with a competition between GOP contenders to win a spot in the nomination semifinals.  

Comment: We both attempt to lay out four preliminary contests that for both of us lead to “semifinals.”

Cook’s descriptions of his four brackets/battles follow, in italics:  

First there is the establishment bracket, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and possibly former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. . .

Comment: This is my “establishment money haul” battle.  

Then there is the conservative governor/former governor slot—with, potentially, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. . .

Comment: To me, it’s the battle for the “insurgent governor crown.” Cook adds Pence and Snyder while leaving out Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.  

In the third bracket are the more identifiably tea-party candidates, principally Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. . .

Comment: I see Cruz and Paul fighting for the “conservative senator crown.” In his first three categories, Cook and I are almost perfectly matched.  

Finally, there is the social, cultural, and religious conservative bracket, made up primarily of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. . .

Comment: Cook is one of the nation’s most astute political observers. But he’s a liberal Democrat, even as he tries to cloak himself in an “objective observer” disguise. Here, Cook exposes his bias by creating a whole category to the right of my “insurgent governor” and “conservative senator” categories, a bracket occupied by only losers Huckabee and Santorum, two tired retreads Democrats had loved to have had in the GOP field in 2008 (Huckabee) and 2012 (Santorum) because they had fitted Democrats’ image of how irrelevant the GOP is to our national social issue consensus. Cook’s phony extra category foreshadows how active media will be in keeping the hard social right in the GOP nomination picture, to Republicans’ discomfort.

And as Cook seeks to focus on Republican has-beens, he neglects to create any bracket equivalent to my first battle, that between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio to be the “Latino/Florida-base candidate”. In fact, Cook ignores Rubio completely while discussing loser (by 1 million votes) Carly Fiorina of California and the highly irrelevant Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who couldn’t even manage re-election to the U.S. House.

I’m sure Cook will apologize for omitting Rubio at some point. Don’t accept the apology. The omission was deliberate. Cook tips Republicans off to Democrats’ great fear of any Rubio candidacy that catches fire, a fear similar to that which they harbor for Chris Christie. Both Rubio and Christie are headed for a rough media ride, along the lines of the punishment dished out to Sarah Palin in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.  In modern politics you first ignore, then attack personally and without mercy.

NB: the “Race 4 2016” blog, which turned Cook’s divisions into an NCAA-type “Road to Final Four” brackets chart, did notice Cook’s unexplained omission of Rubio.

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