Election 2016 launches, another surprise for Hillary

“Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders locked in dead heat in Iowa.”

That headline very late on the night of the Iowa Caucuses, before a few final counts came in, declared a big and early setback for Hillary’s aspirations for the presidency yet again. In 2008, she and her campaign were shocked by a third place finish in that first of many primaries.

“I think Hillary Clinton is going to eke this out in the end,” said a longtime Democratic campaign manager, strategist and news commentator.

‘A 74 year old Socialist candidate is giving Hillary Clinton the run of her life’ said the correspondent assigned to the Sanders campaign.

So, once again, this won’t be a ‘waltz to coronation’ in the Democratic Party for Mrs. Clinton, as many political writers have dubbed it for so long now. No, it’s starting off on a bumpy road, that’s headed next to Sanders’ territory in New England.

It’s been evident for some time that Clinton supporters have been having a hard time supporting her, especially as more revelations have emerged. The congressional hearings on what really happened in Benghazi further damaged her credibility as a member of government.

By the evening hours of September 11, 2012, the Obama administration knew that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was a planned terrorist attack, yet for several days afterward top administration officials attributed the attack to a spontaneous protest of an anti-Muslim video. Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, participated in that cover-up.

Getting away with having a private email server, while serving as Secretary of State, has finally run out of facilitators, and she’s not getting away with what investigators have been able to recover from that server, even after her attempts to destroy evidence.

A new report that Hillary Clinton’s personal server contained information about “special access programs” makes her handling of sensitive material “worse than what Snowden did,” Charles Krauthammer said tonight.  “What people have to understand is that there is nothing higher, more secret than an SAP,” Krauthammer said on Tuesday’s Special Report. “From some people I have talked to, this is worse than what Snowden did because he didn’t have access to SAP.” “The reason it’s [so sensitive] is if it’s compromised, people die,” he said. “It also means that operations that have been embedded for years and years get destroyed and cannot be reconstituted. This is very serious.”

The New York Times reported it with the gravity it deserves.

That the Times turned around and endorsed Clinton for president was not surprising, but not that convincing.

The Clinton campaign’s relationship with the Times has been troubled at times over the past year following the revelations that she maintained a private email server while leading the State Department.

Which, the Times noted most recently, had emails not only heavily redacted before they were turned over to federal authorities for investigation, but 22 of them “withheld entirely” because they contained top secret information.

Hillary Clinton has been losing support from her own base for a long while, and these problems only exacerbated that core weakness of her candidacy as the Democratic Party nominee for the presidency in 2016. The first cracks in that foundation came in 2008. The New York Times explains best, in this revealing piece, out just ahead of the Iowa Caucuses, about the women who should be Clinton’s most staunchly ardent supporters.

Some snips:

“Polls don’t quantify doubts, but anecdotally, enthusiasm for her is anemic. Ambivalence is seeping in about her authenticity and the power of her symbolism as a woman. Once again, she has been caught coasting on inevitability by a grass-roots idealist with a universal health care plan. And there’s a sense that those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, from 2008, were historic enough.”…

“I’m feeling Clinton fatigue. Even exhaustion.”…

“A lot of women vote from a compassionate, nurturing place, and those are not qualities you feel from her.”

On her authenticity and her symbolic power as a woman, there is much to say. Especially as it relates to “women who vote from a compassionate, nurturing place”. More on that next time.

So Rick Santorum wins Iowa

The truth is, virtually no one saw that coming. Media have largely overlooked or discounted the conservative Republican candidate whose values were easier to marginalize than engage. “You ask me what motivates me,” he said late in his remarks onstage at the end of the night. “It’s the dignity of each and every human life.”

Those paying attention knew that. Like the National Review Online editors who ran Santorum’s commentary explaining his worldview. Late in the piece he summarizes:

I have become a radical believer in every person’s human dignity. It is the driver of my worldview, and therefore in conclusion I believe:

Every person, whether the baby in utero, my little girl Bella with her challenges, or the AIDS orphan in the inner city, has inherent dignity, and we must do all we can to preserve and respect that dignity.

Government has to be strong enough to protect human life, but limited enough to never exploit it.

As our founders recognized religion as an “indispensable support” to the health of society and necessary for the understanding of human life, government should never inhibit or discourage its role in the public square.

My greatest concern is that we are at a crossroads of deep consequence regarding the role of government in the lives of the American people. Without correcting course, the road we are on will lead to the further devaluation of the inherent dignity of our citizens and their ability to live in freedom and safety. I am committed to doing everything possible to respect and protect that dignity, and opposing and reversing any policies and programs that undermine it.

NRO editor Kathryn Jean Lopez knows Santorum well, interviewed him before and posted this just before the Iowa caucuses, saying voters there “see in him something of what they’d like to see (again) in Washington.”

He’s on the road to New Hampshire now, and we’ll be hearing plenty more about him in the immediate days ahead. Which means attention, one way or another, on the guiding principle of human dignity. This should be good.

What matters in Iowa

Nearly all the media focus is on where the GOP presidential candidates stand in the polls and who will have a stronger standing after Iowa, and New Hampshire and North Carolina. I’m interested in what they’re standing on.

How will the Republicans choose their presidential candidate? Or as WaPo put it…

…one question could shape the destiny of the eventual winner: Will the nominee define the party, or will the party define the nominee?

Successful presidential nominees often have helped redefine their parties. Ronald Reagan’s conservatism changed the Republican Party when he became the GOP nominee in 1980. Bill Clinton portrayed himself as a New Democrat, which proved a key to his victory in 1992. In his 2000 campaign, George W. Bush used the term “compassionate conservative” to put distance between himself and the congressional wing of his party that had been defined by Newt Gingrich.

In this campaign, the opposite seems to be the case. “This year, it seems to me, the party is the sun and the candidates are the planets. .?.?. They are trying to prove to primary voters that they are reliable and trustworthy when it comes to the basic platform of the GOP,” said Pete Wehner, a Republican strategist and former Bush administration adviser.

Republicans have a real opportunity to unseat an incumbent president in November, given the state of the economy and public dissatisfaction with some of the president’s policies. President Obama’s standing is as fragile as that of any incumbent seeking reelection in two decades.

But Republicans could see their opening slip away if the nominee is bound too tightly to an unpopular congressional wing of the party that has become the face of the GOP over the past 12 months.

(What WaPo doesn’t note here is how unpopular all of Congress is right now.)

One reason the candidates have been reluctant to chart new philosophical ground is that Republicans are as ideologically united as they’ve been in many years. They are also more conservative than they were even in Reagan’s day, thanks to an infusion of energy and ideas from the tea party movement.

That has put a strong gravitational pull on the presidential candidates.

This is interesting, and more revealing than most press the race is getting. What’s the center of gravity that holds such force? The article says it’s party orthodoxy. Specifically, tea party fervor.

Democrats see the Republican candidates as compliant to the tea party wing of the GOP. “This is a party that is very much defined by the tea party element, and the candidates have submitted to that,” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. “That’s their destiny, and they’re going to have to live with it.”

A Republican strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly about the election, agreed. “What Obama needs to do now is force the Republican nominee into supporting the tea party wing of the party over the next nine months,” he said. “Can you tie the nominee to the congressional Republicans? If he can do that, now you’re talking about a real problem.”

What you’re talking about as a problem or a strategy depends on who you’re talking to, because the GOP hasn’t ever been this fractured at the beginning of their primaries. And the only thing the best pundits seem to agree on is that predictions are only educated guesses at best. Anything is possible, and the uncommitted voters are still trying to make up their minds.

I attended a reception over New Year’s weekend and my particular roundtable of ten guests was well-informed and animated in discussing this presidential race. They were all concerned over the confusion and lack of clear vision forward, and general lack of leadership in the country. They seemed to represent everyone at this point. Questions tossed back and forth covered social issues, the economy, foreign policy, jobs, religious liberty, fundamental morals.

Who best represents mainstream America? Why does Ron Paul consistently run such a strong race? That question has to be taken seriously by the eventual Republican candidate. Why did Rick Santorum surge just ahead of the Iowa caucuses? And who is really determining that party’s identity?

Everytime I hear about the ‘values voters’ I wonder if analysts are missing the obvious. Everyone is a ‘values’ voter. It just depends on whose values you believe in, and which ones will prevail. That’s what matters in Iowa, and every state that follows in the primaries.

The campaigns began last year. Now, the race begins.