The Crib-note Guide to U.S. politics

So. You’re at a dinner party. Hob-nobbing with Australia’s elite. Mixing with the best of the best. And, as you are the sort of person who mixes with the worldly and politically connected, someone asks you the question: so, what do you think of what’s happening in U.S. politics? And you freeze-up. Because, let’s face it, with all that’s been going on in Australian politics, you haven’t checked your RSS feed entitled “U.S. politics” for two months. On the shame! The embarrassment! Your social standing will never be the same again!

But never fear, Tim is here! Your knight in shining armour! Just for you, I’ve decided to write this crib-note version of what’s going on in U.S. politics, so you can have ready made lines to fire off to seem like you know, and, more importantly, have opinions on everything so you can signal just how smart and educated you are.  Why? ‘Coz that’s the kind of guy I am: thinking for you so you don’t have to, that’s my motto!

So. Let’s get started.

Tea Parties

As soon as you get asked anything about the “tea-party movement” or “tea-party candidates” – irrespective of what the question is – look exasperated, put on a very pained expression, and explain that what your conversation partner doesn’t understand is that there is no centralised  tea-party movement, that it is a decentralised, localised, grassroots movement. As such, there is no national “tea party movement” that you can draw conclusions about, and anyone who suggests it is clearly ignorant about basic facts (in doing so, see how you establish intellectual superiority over your conversation partner?). Then go on to talk about how it’s a movement primarily about spending (watch this clip of Grover Norquist on Lateline if you want a few extra lines to use), and not about social issues, and the Australian media who report otherwise are clearly fools. Having done so, huff in a superior manner, and leave all bystanders in no  doubt that you clearly won that exchange.

President – who will be the Republican Nominee?

This was the first question I got from everyone when I visited Australia. So let me tell you how to respond. The first thing to do when asked this is roll your eyes, and ask, “really?”. Having done so, go on (again with an exasperated/pained expression – it really is vital to establishing dominance) to explain how two years out, it is impossible to tell. Bring up Gov. Allen as your first example, and how, two year out (prior to Maccaca-gate), he was guaranteed to be the GOP candidate. Then mention how Giuliani was guaranteed to get the nod, and Clinton was assured victory on the Democratic side. Having done so successfully, you would, hopefully, have made your conversational partner feel like a fool, and impressed all other guests. So it’s time for the coup de gras: say “of course, the real question is whether or not Russ Feingold will primary Obama”. Anyone who you will be speaking to will be stunned by this – how could Obama be primaried! Unthinkable! – so smile gently, look upon them as you would a little child, and explain in a patient tone that Obama has had very strained relations with his base recently, and they are becoming quite disgruntled. Add to that the fact that Russ Feingold has been portraying himself as “people’s champion”, and standard bearer for all things progressive, and, if Obama’s dismal poll numbers don’t improve, he may face a serious challenge. Of course, no challenge to Obama could possible succeed, but you don’t need to say that J

However, if you have not succeeded in crushing your intellectual adversary and grinding him into the dirt in such a way that you are lauded throughout the party, and hordes of members of the opposite sex haven’t begun throwing themselves at you saying “you genius, take me, I’m yours”, you may be required to make a few comments on the GOP candidates themselves. So. Let’s go through them in turn:

Sarah Palin – stun people flat out by saying she won’t run. Be as emphatic as possible. When asked why, explain that Sarah Palin currently has great power and prestige as a kingmaker, and she won’t want to lose that. She has no chance of winning a Presidential race (the Beltway conservatives think she’s an idiot, and independents hate her), but she is in a great position as is. The only chance of her running is if all the candidates she endorsed (Rand Paul, Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Carly Fiorina, Nicki Hayley etc) win, and she is pressured into it. But she won’t want to. She has it far too good, and if she runs and loses, it’s all over…

Mitt Romney – Mr. Romney is clearly the frontrunner.  Economic experience, a good record, and very strong name ID. There is no doubt he is running, and his actions recently (for instance endorsing Christine O’Donnell) demonstrate his desire to get conservative support. He has one problem however. One so big I think it will destroy his campaign. It is this Youtube clip: Mitt Romney and murderer (yeah, throw that one in, see what kind of response you get) Ted Kennedy  signing socialised health care in Massachusetts, something that has gone on to be a massive flop, and served as the blueprint for Obamacare. Romney backers hope that if the GOP wins big in the House and defunds Obamacare this will neutralise it as an issue, but I doubt it.

Mike Huckabee – Huckabee will defiantly run. And for the good of the GOP he must be opposed. Mike Huckabee is the human embodiment of everything wrong with the Republican Party. A tax-hiking, big-spending, big-government, nanny-state paternalist social authoritarian, a primary win for him will spell doom for the GOP. Granted, he is funny, charismatic, and charming, and, due to his TV show he has the highest popularity of any GOP contender at present, but, with more information about his atrocious past, combined with his record of letting felons out of prison early so they can murder again, I think it’s a safe bet his star shall rise, and he might do well in the early states,  but he will then crash and burn.

Tim Pawlenty – T-paw, governor of Minnesota, isn’t that well known outside of the U.S.,  but could be a good bet for President. A popular governor, who’s considered a “well-liked, regular dude”, with a strong conservative record, he’s been doing all the right things to win the nomination, and running the traditional republican strategy of visiting key states, only endorsing winners, and not saying anything inflammatory. One certainly to watch.

Newt Gingrich – House Speaker in the mid nineties, and one of the architects of the Contract of America that led to the 1994 Republican rout of Congress, he has explicitly not ruled out running. You should dismiss this out of hand, however. Firstly, because he has too much toxic baggage from his  time as Speaker (he tried to bluff Clinton with a shutdown. He lost. And lost all). Secondly, because hesupported cap & tax, and thirdly, because he’s spent the  last few months appealing to social authoritarians (mosque, immigration etc), despite all evidence pointing to the fact that this time around it is not a vote moving issue.

Gary Johnson – Former Governor of New Mexico, Gov. Johnson was term limited out of running for re-election and left office with record high approval rating. A true fiscal conservative, he slashed taxes and government spending, and would be the ideal candidate… except, he supports drug legalisation. And is vocal about it. Expect him to get the Ron Paul vote, and that’s about it. But love him for it.

Mitch Daniels – Do not underestimate this man. Governor of Indiana, popular, effective, he recently gained national popularity amongst free-market types when mentioning the  most influential 5 books he has read (Hayek, Friedman, Murray &c.). Social conservatives harbour some animosity to him, however, due to him calling for a “truce” on social issues, saying the real battle is economic.

Mike Pence – up and coming congressman, Rep. Pence is almost certain to attempt to translate the GOP trakeover of the House to a Presidential run. Well liked by all three branches of the conservative movement, there seems to be little doubt that he will throw his hat into the ring. However, considering the last man to move from House to president was over 100 years ago (remember to throw that tidbit in to seem smart!), it seems unlikely. Maybe Veep?

Hayley Barbour – Governor of  Missisippi, Gov. Barbour has been working hard behind the scenes – talking to donors, strategists, lobbyists and so on. In many ways, as an overweight southern conservative former lobbyist establishment member, he’s the ‘anti-Obama’. Don’t count him out though, he ran the Republican National Committee to their greatest victory every in 1994, and as head of the Republican Governors Association, he already has NJ and VA victories under his belt, with quite a few more to come this November.  With that been said, it is somewhat unlikely that Republican Primary voters are yearning for a backroom operative…

Rick Santorum – travelling extensively to early states, gauging if he can get the ‘conservative’ vote. Has greater record than Huckabee and Palin. Probably won’t run though. A bit of a has-been.

Chris Christie – has exceeded all expectations as Governor of New Jersey. Despite getting the coveted Dale Peterson endorsement, has said he won’t run in 2012. Is biding his time for 2012.

Bobby Jindal – hoping Obama wins re-election to run in 2016. Screwed up his chances at an 2012 run with disastrous 2009 State of the Union reply.

Michele Bachmann –  Photogenic tea party darling, she won’t run for President. But as Veep? You bet she wants it… No.

Senator John Thune – another dark horse. Since defeating Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004, Sen. Thune has been viewed as a young ‘rising star’ of the GOP. To be honest though, I can’t think of anything he has achieved since then, other than just been generally charismatic and a rather solid performer (although his running of the Senate Republican Policy Committee does give him at least some heft). I count him unlikely to run for President, however, he would, in my mind, be a top-tier contender for the Veep spot.

George Allen – former Governor of Virginia, was considered the frontrunner in the 2008 Presidential race, before spectacularly imploding on Youtube. Recently said he won’t rule out a run, and well liked by conservative die-hards. Doesn’t stand a chance.

Donald Trump – Has indicated he is considering a run. Laugh uproariously at the suggestion, then move along.

Congress

When asked about the upcoming November mid-term Congressional elections, you need to begin by noting that according to Gallop, there is a 20 point enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, and a Congressional satisfaction rating of only 18%. So Republicans will romp it in. The only question is by how much…

House:

The Republicans need 39 seats to take over the House, something that seems almost guaranteed, with most polls showing them picking up a number in the high forties to mid fifties (the betting website Intrade shows a 71% implied probability of at least 45 seats), and a former Clinton pollster has predicted a blowout of “epic proportions”. Really, the only question is how big their majority will be. Dismiss all further questions upon this as a distraction that is uninteresting, but note that when even someone like Barnie Frank, powerful Chairman of the House Finance Committee looks like he may lose (he won’t, but don’t say that), then the D’s are in pretty bad shape…

Senate:

Begin your intro by noting that since the early 1900’s every time the House has flipped, the Senate has also. But, considering this time the House is almost certain to flip, will history repeat itself?

Republicans need a net gain of 10 seats to win the chamber. This seems highly unlikely to be honest, but let us go through the seats that are in play.

Firstly, dismiss out of hand the notion that Republicans will lose any seats. Not even Florida, where turncoat Crist is running as an independent (and obv. not states like Missouri and Kentucky). If anyone suggests they might, laugh at them in a smug and overly condescending fashion, and briskly move on to Democratic states. (Similarly, although there is a small chance the Republican candidate will lose to current Republican Senator, who he defeated in the primary, as she has indicated she will still caucus with the Republicans, it will not change the makeup much)

Looking at the Democrat-held seats, the GOP is guaranteed to pick up Arkansas, Indiana and North Dakota, and are most probably going to pick up Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This brings them to 47 seats.

Looking at the next tier of states, in West Virginia, the Republican candidate is leading by an average of 2.5%, and it was the state where John McCain had the strongest result against Barack Obama. In Illinois, the Republican candidate is showing a slight lead of ~1% in the opinion polls at this stage, and the corruption endemic in the state Democratic Party ought be enough to push him over the line..

In Connecticut, the Democrat leads by about 5%, against former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon. Although this gap may narrow, as Linda McMahon is a good candidate, has a lot of resources  and her democratic opponent has an unfortunate habit of constantly lying about his Vietnam War record (he did not, in fact, serve in Vietnam), there are few undecided left in this race, and I think the Democrats shall probably hold on. Similarly in Washington State, the Democrat candidate leads by about 3.5%, something I think the Republicans will not be able to overcome, although they do have a strong candidate who only just lost the governor race). In California, despite a strong Republican push, the Democrats have too much of a lead I think.

In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in real trouble, however, a combination of his financial resources, and the … eccentricities … of the Republican candidate, means would could have been a GOP win, will probably remain a Democratic hold. Also, in NV, there is the option for ‘none of the above’ – will help Harry Reid

Finally, in Delaware, the surprise election of Christine O’Donnell, and the media onslaught against her for some … odd … comments made in the 1990’s will mean that this seat will probably remain in Democrat hands. With that being said, however, the media attacks on O’Donnell may well galvanise the Republican base to such an extent that an upset remain possible, and besides, I don’t think she’s quite as insane as she’s made out to be.

All up, you can confidently predict the Republicans will come close to taking over the Senate, but will fall just short.

And there you have it. U.S. politics in a nutshell. And next time this gets you laid, you owe me 🙂

(Cross-posted at Menzies House. Also, my thanks to David Barnes and Amir Iljazi with their assistance in creating this post)

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3 Responses to “The Crib-note Guide to U.S. politics”

  1. Tweets that mention The Crib-note Guide to U.S. politics « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC -- Topsy.com Says:

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  2. Michelle Malkin: Russ Feingold Puts on Hat With Tea Bags Coming Out | Katy Pundit Says:

    […] The Crib-note Guide to U.S. politics « The musings o&#10… […]

  3. David M. Russell Says:

    Just as well you’re in Washington, Tim (Hockey stick). Whew! I admire your courage (not entirely sure I agree fully) but good on you for airing your thoughts. I absolutely and utrterlty agree with your sentiments on discipline (or lack of it). Appalling.

    PS: do you have an adequate supply of vodka and Red Bull? And have you adjusted to daylight yet? LOL!

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