The Briefing, Vol. II, Issue XXX

The Briefing, Vol. II, Issue XXX

THE BRIEFING: VOLUME II, ISSUE XXX
To: Our readers
From: David Freddoso

This week:

  • Obama’s strategy on ISIS
  • Crist, true to form, is slipping in #FLGOV
  • Final primary week offers last big GOP battle in New Hampshire

Outlook

It would be unreasonable — ridiculous even — to demand that presidents present their strategy for dealing with major world problems for public consumption. This is something Republicans once maintained doggedly when they argued against setting a public timeline for withdrawal from Iraq.

Likewise, a certain amount of secrecy even about general matters is required in dealing with an entity like ISIS. Inappropriate revelations about small things — such as the recent one that the U.S. conducted a failed July 4 raid to rescue photojournalist James Foley — can make victory much more difficult. If Obama erred in revealing this, as some critics contend he did, then to give away the strategy would be even worse than that. It can only make life easier for the enemy.

But there is something worse than giving away one’s strategy — and that is to give away that one doesn’t have a strategy. This is precisely what President Obama did last week in his presser. The precise question was whether he would seek permission from Congress to hit ISIS targets within Syria. His answer was that he didn’t know yet, since he wasn’t sure what action he would be taking:

We don’t have a strategy yet.  I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are.  And I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military as well.  We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them.  At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard.  But there’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.

Americans can hope that this is just a way of avoiding the question and the related clash between the branches of government, which Obama lost last fall when rallying support for making war on Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

But the statement itself and the context suggest that he’s just now figuring out what they need to do, eight months after Obama referred to ISIS as a “jayvee team.” It’s a sign of how heartfelt the “jayvee” comment really was. He apparently thought that he could pull out of Iraq and just stop thinking about it after that — “Mission Accomplished,” as they say. This summer provided a rude awakening.

The presser was not a shining moment in public relations. But if there really is no strategy and this isn’t just a way of obscuring the point or hiding his intentions (from the enemy, the Congress, or both), then it’s a sign of something even worse — that the entire administration is being run by people who don’t really know what they’re doing.

Governor 2014

Arizona: If there’s anything to Democrats’ demographic triumphalism, Arizona will be the first state (even before Texas) where Republicans simply stop winning statewide and never recover. That makes this year’s governor’s race an important one to watch.

Last week’s primary set the stage for the first open-seat race for governor in more than a decade, between businessmen Doug Ducey, R, and Fred DuVal, D. An early poll suggests a very close race, which is not necessarily a surprise after Republican Jan Brewer’s long governorship. It would not be a shock if Democrats won — Janet Napolitano did, after all, win twice — but Republicans might find it’s time to panic if Ducey, a former ice cream executive, can’t win or at least make it a close race.

Florida: Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched to the Democratic to run in this race, is living up to his reputation for entering races with large early leads and then blowing it. A year ago, he led Gov. Rick Scott by double-digits in five consecutive polls. Scott, who may still be the nation’s least popular governor, is nonetheless starting to build a consistent if small lead over Crist and has now led in four consecutive polls. The last month and Scott’s moneybags have made all the difference. Survey USA, which had Crist up six points a month ago, now shows him trailing by three.

Democrats just officially gave Crist their nomination, and they may live to regret it. As the “he can win” candidate, Crist blew a mind-numbingly large lead in his 2010 Republican Senate primary against Marco Rubio. In that race, as well as in previous races for governor and attorney general, Crist had gone to some lengths to demonstrate that he was a sincere and severe conservative — all of which statements have come back to haunt already in this race.

If Democrats lose with this horse, it won’t be because they weren’t warned. A Scott victory would be an embarrassing repeat demonstration of the state Democratic Party’s utter haplessness. Florida should be a very competitive state — that it never is so at the state level continues to amaze. If Scott pulls it out, then by 2018 Republicans will likely have dominated both the legislature and the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee for twenty years uninterrupted. In most true swing states (say, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa), such a scenario is simply unimaginable.

House 2014

Arizona-1: State House Speaker Andy Tobin, the only candidate in this primary who managed to refrain from saying anything weapons-grade stupid throughout the campaign, finished less than 400 votes ahead of Gary Kiehne and will likely face vulnerable Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., in November.

In a debate, Kiehne had blamed Democrats for committing 99 percent of mass shootings. Adam Kwasman, the third candidate, led a group of immigration protesters to intimidate a bus load full of YMCA campers, mistakenly believing them to be underage migrants in transit to a federal holding facility.

The result is not official yet — over the weekend there about 3,000 uncounted ballots outstanding, but depending on Kwasman’s performance, Kiehne would probably have to beat Tobin by 20 percent among those remaining in order to prevail. (The required victory margin can be obtained as a percentage by dividing the number of non-Kwasman votes by 360.) In other words, unless the ballots remaining are highly unrepresentative of the district as a whole, Tobin has likely pulled it off by the skin of his teeth.

Tobin was backed by Mitt Romney and the Chamber of Commerce. Conservatives may feel chagrined at this result, but this race is actually a perfect illustration of the fact that they’re going to have to find more serious candidates who have discipline if they ever want to win and govern.

Florida-18: Former state Rep. Carl Domino, R, at age 70, is the fresh young face to run against Rep. Patrick Murphy, D, who should by all rights be vulnerable this year. Domino outraised the thin primary field in his primary, but he faces a tough race against Murphy, who starts off with six times as much cash in the bank.

This is the Republican-leaning seat to which former Rep. Allen West, R, moved after redistricting and then managed to lose in 2012.

New Hampshire-2: This contest on Sept. 9 is the last big conservative-versus-establishment fight on offering for 2014. It pits a young conservative Latina (she is actually Spanish and Italian by extraction) against a more establishment Anglo candidate. This makes for an interesting race. Conservative primary voters in many states and districts — including nearly all-white states like New Hampshire and Idaho (home of Raul Labrador) — have shown a propensity to back Hispanic conservatives without even a second thought.

Support form outside conservative groups such as the Club for Growth have helped state Rep. Marilinda Garcia boost her fundraising and keep up an on-air presence, with a late half-million in independent expenditures helping her and slamming her top primary opponent, moderate former state Sen. Gary Lambert, over his support for a regional cap-and-trade scheme. Polling suggests that she has already eclipsed Lambert in terms of name recognition — the question is whether the late surge in outside cash helps to drive up Lambert’s negatives.

The Democratic incumbent in this seat, Ann Mclane Kuster, D, is definitely vulnerable (polling in the 30s, which is bad for an incumbent). The district is pernennially competitive, having passed back and forth between the parties three times in the last decade. Kuster has more than seven times as much money in the bank as Lambert and more than twelve times as much as Garcia. But she’ll need the money — the last University of New Hampshire poll shows her struggling against both Garcia and Lambert, holding leads of only 3 and 6 points respectively.

NO COMMENTS

Leave a Reply