Donald Trump won’t be the Republican presidential nominee next year. He’s not a credible national leader. His strategy for restoring American economic vigor boils down to threatening China with a trade war. It’s not even clear that he’s a conservative; he once backed Barack Obama (proving even a blowhole like Trump can get it right occasionally), and he appears to have flipped on his right to life stance.
Trump is a complete and laughable phoney and the Republicans deserve him. And yet, Trump is running a strong second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in most recent beauty-contest polls of likely GOP voters. Trump boasts that he’s “leading all the polls,” but that’s just another Trumpism.
What are those Republican voters trying to say?
“It means this Republican nomination is still wide open — as wide open as any we’ve ever seen,” said Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole‘s unsuccessful 1996 campaign.
Less politely, it means that none of the potential candidates now testing the waters — Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, to name the most prominent — has caught fire yet. The GOP voters who told pollsters they would favor Trump listened to that list of names and replied, in effect, “none of the above.”
Moreover, a look at the poll numbers shows that Trump‘s support comes at the expense of potential candidates whose standing has eroded in recent months: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (Palin is running dead last in every poll), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich.
So the GOP race is becoming more open, not less.
But that’s not all the Trump mini-surge portends. As last November’s congressional election showed, there’s a deep wellspring of anger and impatience in the electorate. Much of it found expression in the “tea party” movement of fiscal conservatives, but the phenomenon is broader than that and its not
Just as in 2008, when then-candidate Obama promised to change the way Washington works, many voters want a candidate who can credibly promise fundamental reform — and they haven’t found a champion yet.
“People are looking for a new dimension that goes beyond conventional politics,” said Eddie Mahe Jr., a former vice chairman of the Republican National Committee. “They’re looking for a leader who’s going to change things, who can overcome the special interests and pull people together around a common agenda. Trump offers some of that quality.”
Where does that leave the Republican race?
It leaves Romney as a putative front-runner whose support appears frozen at about 1 in 5 GOP voters; his share in the polls has neither grown nor shrunk in recent months.
It also leaves Romney in an uncomfortable position as the most moderate conservative in the Republican field, open to charges from his rivals that he’s not conservative enough. Some Romney supporters are privately rooting for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to join the race, if only to add a name to Romney‘s left.
On the right, Pawlenty (Is Tim Mr. Excitement?, or what) is trying to cast himself as a candidate for tea party supporters; he has demanded that Congress refuse to raise the federal debt ceiling under any circumstances, even though House Republican leaders have said they are willing to seek a compromise on the issue.
But Pawlenty‘s strategy may not succeed if a real tea party candidate, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), enters the race. Bachmann hasn’t been right since an alien craft abducted and probed her. She is the kind of crazy the tea party loves.
The gap between Romney and the tea party types is a space that might be tailor-made for Barbour, a Southern conservative who can point to a successful record as Mississippi’s governor, including his
management of the state’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
But Barbour faces a paradox: As a former Washington lobbyist and Republican fundraiser, will his solid qualifications as a professional politician disqualify him in a year when conventional politics is so out of fashion? Haley never saw racism or discrimination as he was growing up but is attempting to read a book about it and is on the list to rent “Roots” from Mississippi Bills Video Arcade and Garden Care Center in downtown Yazoo City.
So far, none of those names, except perhaps Bachmann, has produced much passion in Republican ranks — and Bachmann produces passion both for and against.
But that’s not unusual at this stage of a presidential campaign. Candidates who look weak at the outset quickly can gain stature if they begin to win primary elections. The first real contest, in Iowa, is still eight months away.
“One of these Republicans is going to rise out of the water,” Reed promised. “Somebody will look presidential.”
Indeed, most Republican strategists think any of the current or former governors in the mix — Romney, Pawlenty or Barbour — could pose a credible threat to Obama.
When a president runs for a second term, they noted, the election is primarily a referendum on how he did the job. The identity of the challenger isn’t as important as the unemployment rate, the price of
gasoline or the president’s job approval rating.
This is all good news for the GOP, so far. The president’s job approval rating, for example, stands at about 48%, which means if the election were held today, it would end roughly in a tie.
So Republicans can stop wringing their hands in public and private over who will be their flag-bearer.
A nominee will emerge, and it won’t be Donald Trump. Besides, the other side expects a close race. Obama already opened his campaign, and he is running hard.
Don’t waste your time guessing who the GOP candidate will be because the answer will always be the same. A conservative that is too conservative for the country. One who is only intereted in fulfilling the goals of the far right of the party base at the expense of the country needs. A candidate that prioritize winning election first and the country dead last. A individual who either has a mind the size of a grain of salt (They all qualify) or a heart made of stone. A Bush Cheney team with diffrent face and no pretense of working for this country.
Most recent polls suggest that there’s no clear frontrunner in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. A new poll suggests that may have something to do with the fact that most people can’t even name any of the candidates.
About half of all Americans — 53 percent — could not name anyone when asked which Republican candidate they’ve been hearing the most about, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.
The lack of knowledge about the several potential Republican candidates could account for Donald Trump’s recent rise in the polls. The business magnate and television personality already benefited from widespread name recognition, and in recent weeks he has dominated news headlines with his presidential flirtation.
Twenty-six percent of Americans surveyed by Pew named Trump as the candidate they’ve heard the most about lately — a larger portion than those who named Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty combined.
The poll suggests the public knows little about the potential GOP candidates because they lack interest and because of relatively little news coverage on the subject.
Just 20 percent of Americans said they followed news about possible GOP candidates very closely in the last week, and coverage of the presidential race only made up 2 percent of news coverage in the past week, according to Pew.
The debate in Washington over deficit reduction, by contrast, accounted for 31 percent of last week’s news coverage, and 36 percent said they followed that story very closely.
While Americans may not be paying too much attention to the upcoming elections at this point, other polls suggest they have strong ideas when it comes to proposed deficit reduction plans.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 78 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicare to reduce the debt, and 69 percent oppose cutting spending on Medicaid. Additionally, 56 percent oppose cuts in military spending to reduce the debt.
While Americans oppose cutting spending in those three particular areas, as many as 72 percent approved of the idea of raising taxes on the rich to reduce the national debt.
The Post-ABC poll also specifically asked people if “Medicare should be changed so that people over 65 would receive a check or voucher from the government each year for a fixed amount they can use to shop for their own private health insurance policy.” The question referred to the 2012 budget plan put forward by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan. Sixty-four percent of Americans oppose the idea, while 34 percent approve.
The Post poll results mirror other recent polls. A CBS News poll released last month found that 76 percent of Americans are not willing to reduce spending on Medicare to address the budget deficit. And last week, Gallup released a poll showing that even a plurality of Republicans — 33 percent — believe the government should not do anything to try to control the costs of Medicare.
The GOP’s most promising 2012 presidential contenders-Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, and Mike Huckabee-have a lot in common. They are all white. They are all middle-aged. They were all governors at one point. And despite a shared tendency to denounce Democrats as inveterate, immoral tax hikers, they all have the exact same skeleton in their closet: a rather inconvenient history of raising taxes themselves.
Surprised? It’s no wonder. Until now, Romney and Co. have done a good job of hiding their tax-raising records from the rest of the Republican Party-with good reason. In a perfect world, according to GOP orthodoxy, taxes would always be lower than they are right now, no matter how low they currently happen to be. In 2009, for example, U.S. taxes shrank to their smallest share of personal income since 1950. Conservatives still complained. And in the unlikely instance that taxes cannot possibly be reduced any further-like, say, when revenue plummets to a record-low 14.9 percent of GDP, which is where they are today-right-thinking Republicans are required to do the next best thing: Refuse, at all costs, to raise them.
The 2012 budget blueprint that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled this month is only the latest example of the GOP’s taxophobia. Ryan claims the purpose of the proposal is to eradicate the national debt. But his “Path to Prosperity” puts America an extra trillion in the hole before it even attempts to accomplish this worthy goal. How? By slashing taxes for the wealthiest Americans-forever. As a result, the rest of Ryan’s cuts-to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, the FBI, highways, environmental protection, the Coast Guard, and so on-are trillions of dollars larger than they’d otherwise have to be. The message is clear, if contradictory: For Republicans, the only thing more important than reducing the deficit is increasing it-via massive tax cuts.
Which is why it’s so curious that all the party’s would-be standard-bearers did precisely the opposite when they were actually tasked with balancing a budget. Some, like Daniels, raised taxes in a relatively straightforward manner. When the former Office of Management and Budget director took control of Indiana in 2005, the state was 0 million in the hole. Digging out was his first priority-and one of his first proposals was a sizable tax hike on all individuals and entities earning over 0,000. The legislature blocked the plan, but Daniels eventually passed a handful of new taxes: one on liquor, one on rental cars, and one that increased the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. Indiana soon had a .3 billion surplus.
For Republicans, the only thing more important than reducing the deficit is increasing it-via massive tax cuts.
When it comes to fiscal discipline, Daniels doesn’t think tax hikes should be the first option, or even the second or third. But he does believe that they should always be an option. When I asked the governor last summer how he’d tackle the national debt as president, for example, he admitted that “at some stage there could well be a tax increase.” A few months later, he confessed that he would consider both a European-style value added tax (VAT) and a tariff on imported oil as potential sources of government revenue. ”They say we can’t have grownup conversations anymore,” he told me. “I think we can.”
Daniels’ openness is admirable. But he’s pretty much the only Republican contender who’s willing to own up to the fact that he raised taxes. During Mike Huckabee’s time as governor of Arkansas, for instance, he transformed a 0 million budget shortfall into an 4 million surplus. One of the ways he accomplished that nifty feat was with targeted tax hikes: a 3 percent income-tax surcharge on individuals and corporations; three separate hikes on the state sales tax; several new tax increases on cigarettes, tobacco, and related permits; a 3 percent tax on beer; a 4 percent tax on mixed drinks; a 3- to 4-cent tax per gallon of gas; and a increase to the driver’s-license fee.
But when Huckabee ran for president in 2008, he insisted that he had cut taxes more than he raised them; he suggested that the legislature or the state Supreme Court had forced his hand; and he swore that he hadn’t actually signed some of the tax increases he was accused of signing. In truth, Huckabee’s tax increases outweighed his tax cuts by nearly 0 million. He once begged the legislature for every imaginable kind of tax hike-without any coercion. And he did, in fact, affix his Hancock to the tax increases in question. Huck had good reason to squirm, in other words-at least during primary season.
Romney was just as slippery. On the surface, the former Massachusetts governor’s fiscal record looks a lot like Huckabee’s: He inherited a 0 million shortfall (with a billion projected deficit), then turned it into a 0 to 0 million surplus by the time he left office. To do so, Romney also made a concerted effort to increase tax revenue, in part by raising fees by a grand total of 2 million on marriage licenses, driver’s license renewals, gun permits, community-college tuitions, deed registrations, Children’s Medical Security Program co-pays and premiums, probation services, deliveries of petroleum products, bottle deposits, mortgage-broker licenses, and civil-service exams, and in part by closing 9 million in corporate tax loopholes. (He also raised the sales tax on used cars.)
The big difference between Romney and Huckabee is that Huckabee tried to rewrite his tax history. Romney didn’t. He simply claimed, in vintage Mitt Romney fashion, that none of his revenue-increasing proposals actually counted as tax hikes. “We faced a huge budget gap, but I recognize that raising taxes could lead to a slowdown in our economy,” he said in 2007. “So we didn’t do it.” Unfortunately, Massachusetts’s largest business lobbying group “respectfully disagreed” with Romney’s assessment. “These certainly were tax increases and a new source of revenue for the commonwealth,” said Brian Gilmore, executive vice president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “His indicating that he balanced a budget without raising taxes is misleading at best.”
Although neither has yet had to defend his résumé on the national stage, Pawlenty and Barbour are likely to follow a similar path in 2012. Appearing at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Pawlenty told his fellow Republicans that “the naysayers say ‘we can’t cut spending; we can’t prioritize; we have to raise taxes.’ I drew a line in the sand and said, ‘Absolutely not. We’re going to live within our means just like families, just like businesses, just like everybody else.’” He delivered a similar message at a pair of Tea Party Tax Day rallies last week. The problem, sadly, is that state and local taxes increased for 90 percent of Minnesotans on Pawlenty’s watch, according to local observers. Some of those increases, like a 0 million tax hike on cigarette consumers in 2005, a 9 million corporate tax hike in 2008, and various fee hikes on parking tickets, marriage licenses, building permits, court cases, and college tuition, were backed or allowed by Pawlenty. Others, like a .7 billion (or 53.8 percent) increase in property taxes from 2003 to 2008, stemmed from the governor’s policies. “In constant 2010 dollars, state aid to local governments has fallen by .6 billion since 2002,” writes Minnesota policy analyst Jeff Van Wychen. ”In response, local governments have increased property taxes.” (Daniels and Romney also shifted the tax burden from state to local government by slashing aid.)
Barbour, meanwhile, is starting to sound a lot like Huckabee, his former neighbor to the northwest. In a speech last month to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Mississippi governor accused Obama of “call(ing) for record tax increases” and claimed that his own record-filling a 0 million budget deficit in two years without raising taxes-represented a counterpoint to Obama’s failures. But although Barbour’s accomplishments are admirable-they came at a time when post-Katrina federal aid had dwindled and recession-era unemployment was hovering near 20 percent in some parts of Mississippi-it’s simply wrong to suggest that they didn’t involve tax hikes. As the libertarian Cato Institute noted in 2010 when it awarded Barbour a “C” f or his tax policies, the governor reinstated a hospital-bed tax in 2008 to help fund Medicaid and approved a 50-cent cigarette tax the following year.
The math is simple. Five potential Republican presidential nominees. Dozens of tax hikes. The point here, however, is not to play “gotcha,” although it will be worthwhile to keep these numbers in mind when Romney & Co. inevitably begin to attack Obama on taxes. (For the record, Obama’s tax record is mixed as well: According to Politifact, the president “raised taxes on cigarettes and indoor tanning, and the health-care law includes a tax penalty on the uninsured… [and] new taxes on the wealthy,” but he also lightened the tax burden for more than 80 percent of Americans by changing withholding rates and reducing payroll taxes by 2 percent.
The point isn’t even that Romney, Barbour, Daniels, Pawlenty, and Huckabee have done something wrong. In fact, quite the opposite. In the months ahead, as the great deficit debate takes shape and the 2012 campaign begins in earnest, voters should remember the reality of Republicans and taxes: that even the politicians now vying to lead the most taxophobic party in U.S. history decided to implement tax hikes when they actually had to balance a budget. It’s some of the strongest evidence yet that we can’t afford to take any budget-balancing options off the table-even if the people who provided it would like to pretend otherwise.
Bottom Line You Can’t Trust Republicans, They Will Lie
About Their Records just like Trump.