Dems in Iowa don’t seem concerned

The Briefing, Vol. III, Issue 12-

  • Clinton corruption seeps into the polls.
  • KYGOV GOP primary features a lively three-way race.
  • Classic Tea Party fight may be coming in FLSEN.

To: Our readers
From: David Freddoso

President 2016

Peter Schweizer’s new book, Clinton Cash, was released last week. Although many of the book’s juicy nuggets had been released already in the form of stories in the Washington Post and The New York Times, the book contains a treasure-trove of apparent Clinton conflicts of interest and a distinct appearance of corruption.

The common storyline: Someone who has business before the State Department massively overpays Bill Clinton to give a few speeches, and/or donates a large sum to the Clintons’ foundations, in hopes of getting better treatment. Sometimes, they got it. In some cases, they didn’t or at least haven’t yet. But in each case, people tried to use their money to curry favor with the Clintons, and their checks were cashed.

For example, there’s the one about the Swedish Company that paid Bill Clinton $750,000 to give a single speech — at just that time, the company was worried that Hillary Clinton’s State Department might crack down on their telecom deal with an Iranian regime under sanctions. (It didn’t.)

There’s the one about TD Bank, a major investor in the Keystone XL pipeline, which paid Bill Clinton $1.8 million for a series of speeches while that pipeline was under State Department consideration. (They didn’t get what wanted — at least not yet.)

There’s the one about nuclear trade with India, mining interests in Bangladesh and Africa, the Russian government and U.S. uranium mining, and much more.

Amid these revelations, the Clintons have announced that due to “mistakes,” several foreign government contributions to their foundations were improperly concealed in their tax returns. And a number of Canadian donations were not disclosed at all — part of a scheme by the former Clinton aides who set up a Canadian charity in order to shield them from disclosure.

These are all troubling revelations that the Clintons have yet to address in any serious manner. So far, they have used the go-to tactic of the 1990s — just send a lot of loud voices out into the media (David Brock comes to mind) to disparage critics on television, allege a vast right-wing conspiracy, and if nothing else distract from the issue with their own eccentricity. But we now live in the Internet era, and it’s a very different time in journalism than it was in the 1990s. The Clintons simply cannot count on having the same advantages now that they had when they actually controlled the White House. Their old playbook may not work.

And there are already signs that the stench of scandal is starting to matter, at least at the edges.

No, Democrats don’t seem too worried yet — at least not in Iowa, where Quinnipiac has them as strongly behind her as ever. But there are already signs that maybe they should be a bit worried.

The Granite State poll of last week, for example, has Clinton losing New Hampshire to Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, and tied with Scott Walker. She doesn’t break 45 percent against any of the four. As recently as February, she was polling over 50 percent in the same poll against both Bush and Paul. (Two other New Hampshire polls were released last week — one showed Clinton losing against Bush and Walker, one showed her with a narrow lead.)

A recent poll of Virginia showed her losing to Bush and very narrowly defeating others. Even before the Clinton Cash revelations, Mason-Dixon had her losing to both Rubio and Bush in Florida. Bear in mind that as a candidate with nearly universal name recognition, Clinton is not likely to gain too much general election support if she doesn’t have it already.

Clinton’s approvals are also sinking across the country, as last week’s Wall Street Journal poll demonstrates. The poll, taken in late April before most of the Clinton Cash revelations and delayed in its release until May 9, does not show a huge drop in Clinton’s head-to-head ballot performance, but it does show that her approval ratings have hit their lowest point since 2008. Also, it shows that a majority of voters are skeptical about her honesty.

Now, these polls are early. They say nothing about what the eventual result will be. But they suggest that Clinton is not going to have an easy time of it. And as the revelations continue, her task will in fact get harder and harder. A few more polls like these in a few more key states, a little more movement south in her approvals and ballot tests, and suddenly Democrats might start wondering whether there’s a way out of the coming coronation.

Up to now, the Clinton plan has involved a path to victory similar to but distinct from Obama’s. Where Obama turned out the young and the non-white at unprecedented levels, she would turn white women and win the election by stealing them from the GOP.

But now, as her honesty is called into question, another path is starting to emerge. Clinton not only has the potential to win like Obama did, but she also has a clear path to a defeat of Dukakis-like proportions.

Governor 2015

Kentucky: The Bluegrass State’s gubernatorial primary is next Tuesday. On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jack Conway (of Aqua Buddha fame, who lost to Rand Paul in 2010) will win the nod in a walk.

On the other side, recent events have turned the GOP primary into a bruising three-way contest. The race is close enough at this point that any of three candidates might well come away the winner — and all three are conservatives.

Matt Bevin is the at times hapless but admirably determined David who faced Mitch McConnell’s Goliath in a scorched-earth primary last year, and lost. Bevin is by no means the favorite in this race, but the only recent poll (a commissioned poll from PPP) puts all three men within the margin of error.

James Comer — the state Commissioner of Agriculture. Comer rose to his current position after his predecessor, Richie Farmer, was convicted on corruption charges and sent to prison.

Comer’s bid was quite suddenly thrown into crisis recently when an old college girlfriend accused him of abusing her, both mentally and physically, in the early 1990s. Most damaging, perhaps, she accused him of taking her to have an abortion. An old roommate corroborated at least some of the account, but the accuser is vague on the details.

The allegation is so old that it is nearly impossible to fully rebut, even if it is a complete fabrication. And this is the problem with late-breaking accusations during election-time — the standard of innocent until proven guilty only applies in court, not with the electorate. Even if they disbelieve all of the accusations, Republican voters might hesitate to nominate someone who will enter the general election with such a cloud over his head.

Comer denied everything in a press conference last week and threatened a lawsuit against the Louisiville Courier Journal and the people spreading the allegations.

Hal Heiner — a self-funding businessman who once served on the Louisville City Council and ran for mayor unsuccessfully — has the most credible claim to being the frontrunner. He has hit the airwaves hard with ads to boost his own name ID.

He is also accused — both by Comer and by Bevin — of being behind the attacks on Comer. (He denies this, but his running mate was in contact with the blogger who originally pushed the story.)

As with most primary elections — especially those with more than two viable candidates — the field in Kentucky is very fluid. Polls cannot necessarily be trusted to pick up late breaks in support toward one candidate or another.

Heiner’s possible involvement with the people shopping around the Comer scandal has the potential to backfire. Or the accusations could take Comer out. The third possibility — the most intriguing — is that both could happen at the same time. If voters go with Bevin to steer clear of the entire mess, that would create an awkward situation in Kentucky politics. Bevin has, of course, shrewdly voiced support for Comer in this matter whilst accusing Heiner of peddling the story.

Bevin’s 2014 run showed he is a flawed candidate, but not necessarily fatally flawed. Moreover, although Conway is considered a relatively strong Democratic nominee (in spite of his 2010 defeat), the Bluegrass poll suggests that he faces a competitive race against any of the three Republicans. Bevin performs worst of the three, starting off behind by six points, but Conway is nowhere near 50 percent against anyone.

Bear in mind that Kentucky’s realignment to becoming a truly Republican state was suddenly interrupted by the disastrous governorship of Ernie Fletcher, R, last decade. It it possible that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unexpected blowout victory last year presages a true, lasting realignment has finally arrived as in other Southern states. This would mean that Kentucky will start voting Republican down-ballot the way it has in presidential races.

One more note about a Bevin win — no matter how unlikely it seems. It would put Sens. Rand Paul and McConnell in a difficult position. They could either help a party pariah in the general, or else (in theory anyway) allow Democrats to have Paul’s Senate seat, were he somehow to win the presidency, because the governor would appoint his replacement.

Senate 2016

Florida: If you’re hankering for a classic 2010-style fight between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the GOP, keep an eye on the race to succeed Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

The shape of the Republican contest could change if others get in. But conservative groups have quickly fallen in behind Rep. Ron DeSantis, who represents a safe Republican district in the Jacksonville area. A graduate of Yale and Harvard Law and a former Navy JAG, he is described as a potentially decent candidate who lacks any obvious disqualifying problems. He is only 36 years old.

Republican Party regulars would like to nominate Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Rick Scott’s second lieutenant governor. He seems set to jump into the race. Of Cuban and Jewish descent, he has great popularity in South Florida.  He is a political ally of Rubio. And Republicans want nothing more than to cut into Democrats’ recent inroads with South Florida Hispanics.

Even as Republicans’ face a potential ideological battle in Florida, Democrats are likely to face the same fate. The party favorite for the nomination, the more moderate Rep. Patrick Murphy, D, may well have to square off against the flamboyant and outspoken liberal Rep. Alan Grayson. Grayson is probably less electable than anyone currently discussed in the Republican field.