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After Paris: An Early Take On What Comes Next

On the day after the Paris attacks, some initial thoughts:

Can we develop and execute a comprehensive plan to deal with ISIS? - We are now facing a true test of the civilized world. Can we muster the will over the next decade to end the Syrian conflict, manage the refugee crisis, come to a rough regional peace between Sunni and Shi'a, Arab and Persian, Palestinian and Israeli? Can we saddle up once again for a significant military engagement in MENA, doing what is required to "destroy and degrade" ISIS, knowing full well that we will lose more young Americans and the outcome is not certain? Can we continue to invest in distributed, cleaner energy to ensure the despotic governments of the region have far less capacity to export chaos and oppress their own people? Can we create a global dialogue about the lack of opportunity for tens of millions of young people in MENA, whose repressive, oligarchical societies continue to be relentless breeding grounds for radicalism?

What happens now is as much about us as it is about them.....we know what needs to happen - can we get it done? Do we have the resolve, the vision, the patience and the capacity? Perhaps no more important work in the world today........let's let this debate begin now in earnest.

Rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe - There can be little doubt that the attack in Paris will cause the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe to soar. It will make managing the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis far more challenging, and will likely strengthen anti-immigrant, anti-globalization parties throughout the continent. This sentiment could also effect other important US priorities like TTIP and the ongoing discussions over data flows and other 21st century tech issues already contentious between the US and EU.

For the US these developments should be as worrisome as any other, and add to the pressure of taking decisive now. The political negotiations in Vienna on Syria's future showed promise today. Let us work hard there now to accelerate the political track too long neglected.

Additionally, my hope is that here at home Paris will make the logic for TPP more compelling, and help us pass this important legislation in the spring. Paris is a powerful reminder of the need for the civilized world to invest in those institutions and arrangements that work to ensure that the international order and modernity prevail over their opponents in the years ahead.  TPP is a critical part of that strategy, and should be sold that way to the American people. 

Huge Thank You to US security services - Given the chaos we are seeing in the world today, it is truly remarkable so little of it has come to the US in recent years.  The entire nation should be grateful for the truly incredible job those protecting us have done to keep us safe in an uncertain age.  

Impact on US immigration debate? - What impact it has on the US immigration debate remains to be seen, but I assume it will strengthen the restrictionists here.

The campaign against ISIS in the region appears to be gaining steam - The campaign against ISIS in the region itself seems to have had some significant victories in the past few days. Is this a turning point? A sign that we now understand the terrain and are becoming more effective at targeting the enemy? Will be interesting to hear from our military leaders with their take in the days to come. 

That France has called the struggle with ISIS a "war" is significant.  Will chapter 5 of the NATO treaty be invoked? Far more effective way to mobilize reluctant populations in the West for what could be a long and diffcult - but necessary - struggle.  Watch the words of our leaders in the days ahead, particularly at the G20 in Turkey.  

This version has some minor corrections from the initial draft. 

Mondays Musings on 2016: Clinton/Obama strong, Carson unraveling and a warning about Dems/2016

Obama, Clinton strong – polling last week found Hillary Clinton in firm command of the Democratic primary race, and in a far better position nationally. The respected NBC/WSJ poll found her ahead of most Republican contenders by 3-4 points. A month ago she was even or behind most Republicans in the national polls. So it is fair to say now that HRC has not only strengthened her position in recent weeks inside the Democratic primary, but also in the overall electorate.

We are also seeing a sustained improvement in the President’s numbers. In the Gallup daily track Obama’s job approval has been regularly up in the high 40s, the strongest run he has had since 2013. The NBC/WSJ poll also had Democratic Party ID ahead of the GOP’s by 6 points, 43/37, and Dem fav/unfav outpacing the GOP by 41/29 & 29/44.   All in all, one can now say a year out the Dems hold a slight but meaningful advantage in the race for the Presidency.  

A warning about 2016 however comes from a new poll by Stan Greenberg. His findings indicate that important elements of the Democratic coalition are far less enthusiastic about voting in 2016 than Republicans right now. This is an issue we’ve been warning about in our work to get the Dems to adopt a better debate schedule – the DNC is simply not using every tool in its toolbox to gets its coalition fired up about 2016, and the cost could be significant (as we saw in last week’s disappointing election showing by Democrats).

Carson unraveling? - The story on the GOP side here remains Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio, with Jeb staying alive, barely. The GOP gathers for its fourth primetime debate tomorrow night, one that will likely have as much impact on the race as its three recent debates. The Democrats gather this Saturday night in Iowa for their second debate. Barring some significant moment, it is likely not to have as much impact as other recent debates as far fewer people will be tuning in.

Ben Carson is in serious trouble. His campaign has been an unusual one from the beginning, but I think the recent revelations and his campaign’s amateurish response to them may just be the beginning of the end of this quixotic candidacy. Have no real opinion about what this means for the rest of the field, though it may be best for the non-Trumpians in the race, all of whom need more air time to advance their campaigns.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post had an interesting piece last week on the irony of the two major GOP Hispanic candidates fighting to be the most "anti-amnesty" candidate in the GOP primary.  

"Monday Musings on 2016" is a new column looking at the broad political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here

Monday Musings: New GOP generation rising, still waiting for Rubio surge

So we are a year out from the 2016 elections. Where are we exactly? Not sure, but some observations:

A new GOP generation advances – The generational wheel took a significant turn this week with strong debate performances from Rubio and Cruz, and Paul Ryan’s ascension to the Speakership. The rise – and strength – of the 40something Gen X Republicans is becoming a significant event in American politics. While the Democrats may be winning the hearts and minds of an emerging America of the 21st century, the GOP may have short term advantages i having a new and better prepared “next” generation rising now, one aided by the incredible exposure the aggressive GOP debate schedule is offering them. Be sure to read more from me on this new GOP generation, one I’ve called the “children of Reagan.”

Clinton leads the Dems, still waiting for the Rubio surge– Not clear that the dynamics of the race have changed in the past week. Hillary continues to put impressive numbers across the board, and is seeing more of the Party leadership rally to her side. Bernie Sanders has gone up on the air in Iowa and New Hampshire, and is signaling that he has the resources and commitment to give Clinton a real challenge.

Nothing much appears to have changed on the GOP side, and for all the hype around Rubio, he is still way back in the back nationally and in the early states, has never polled regularly in double digits, and is not well funded. Roughly a third of the GOP electorate falls into the restrictionist anti-immigrant camp, and I remain skeptical these voters will fall in line behind a Rubio candidacy if he wins the nomination.  As of today four GOPers seem to have momentum - Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz - an odd lot for sure.  

Obama's job approval remains in a healthy place for Democrats in 2016, something we will be discussing more in future editions of MM. 

The debate over debates continues – The ongoing disquiet from almost all the candidates in both parties over the debates this fall highlight just how important these events have become in choosing our leaders. At its core GOP candidate concerns about the toughness of the debate questions coming from a TV network long associated with conservative politics – particularly when it is now clear that Rubio, Carson and Trump offered huge whoppers as responses – reinforces how new to the game many of these candidates are. But in each party’s debate over their debates important principles are being discussed now, and I remain concerned about the how little exposure the Democratic debate schedule is providing its candidates and future leaders this cycle.

Tally so far: 3 GOP debates, 60-62m viewers. 1 Dem debate, 16m viewers. Rs have debates scheduled on Tue Nov 10th and Tue Dec 15th. Next Dem debates are Sat Nov 14th and Sat Dec 19th. By year’s end Rs will have had 5 weekday primetime debates. Dems will have had 3 debates in total, w/only 1 during the week in primetime and 2 on Saturday nights, one of the least watched times in television. And as a reminder, there is NO evidence so far suggesting the more aggressive debate schedule is hurting GOP candidates.

Monday Musings on 2016: Clinton, Carson Rising

Hillary rising – the big story of the week is the clear rejuvenation of the Clinton campaign. Epic GOP missteps on Benghazi, strong debate and hearing performances, far more aggressive free media (SNL, Maddow etc), Biden deciding not to run has made this a remarkable few weeks for Hillary Clinton. Her public performances are far stronger, the bunker mentality has been shed, and her poll numbers are rising and Sanders falling. She is in a very commanding position now in the Democratic primary.

Things to watch now: how will her new strength translate into Iowa and New Hampshire, and whether her standing improves in the general election matchups against the GOP field. 

Carson appears to be making a move – Two new polls out this week have Ben Carson moving ahead of Trump in Iowa. Trump and Carson still dominate the field, with Cruz, Rubio and Bush placing in 3/4/5 in different orders in different polls. What is remarkable however is that in almost every GOP poll, Trump, Carson, Cruz – outsiders/extremists/radicals/whatever we call them – are getting 60% between with no sign of any of them losing ground. While the national media continues to spend a lot of time on Bush and Rubio, there just isn’t a lot of evidence that either of them have a real shot today. Things may change but the more mainstream GOPers continue to struggle to get out of single digits.

The big question of 2016 remains whether any of these candidates can unite a highly fractured and contentious GOP next year. Sure is hard to see at this point.

And I think Donald Trump is right - the views of Carson's fringey church deserve far more attention than they've gotten to date.

The debate debate – NDN continues to make our case that the DNC must do more to close the gap with the far superior RNC debate schedule. I appeared in a Time magazine piece on the debate debate, and published a new analysis that finds evidence the entire GOP field is benefitting from all the early attention their more aggressive debate schedule has provided. The 2nd Democratic debate is scheduled for Sat November 14th in Iowa. 

The Republicans gather for their third debate this Wednesday on CNBC, and be sure to read our new report on how recent Democratic Presidents have outperformed their GOP counterparts as background.   And note that this will be the 3rd GOP debate during the week in primetime.  The DNC only has 2 weekday primetime debates scheduled this entire Presidential cycle.  

Report: The economy has performed far better under recent Democratic Presidents

Next Wednesday the Republicans will gather for their third debate. This one, hosted by CNBC, will focus on the economy.

To help prepare for this welcome event, NDN has updated our April report comparing the economic record of the last two Democratic and Republican Presidents. The report shows that the contrast between the performances of the two parties when occupying the White House is stark: Republican Presidencies have led to recessions and larger deficits; Democratic Presidencies have led to growth, job gains and lower annual deficits. In short, the Democratic approach to the economy over the past generation has worked. The Republican approach hasn’t. And this dramatic difference becomes even more pronounced when one considers the how shockingly wrong the GOP’s bet the house predictions of the failure of both the 1993 Clinton budget and the “job-killing” ACA have been.

The full report can be found in pdf form below. Some highlights: 

Job Growth: Over the Clinton and Obama Presidencies, over 30m new net jobs were created. Over the two Bush Presidencies, 3.5m. On a yearly basis, perhaps a more fair comparison, the two Democrats have produced jobs at 7 times the rate of the two Bushes: 2.1m vs. 300,000 per year.

Unemployment Rate: Both Democratic Presidents saw more than a 3% point job in the unemployment rate during their terms. The Bushes saw increases in the unemployment rate by more than 2% and 3% points respectively.

Deficits: Both Democratic Presidents saw dramatic improvements in the annual deficit during their tenures, with Clinton during large structural deficits to annual surpluses and Obama cutting the annual deficit he inherited by two-thirds. Both Bushes saw increases in the annual deficit on their watches, with the second President Bush seeing a more than ten-fold increase in the annual deficit during his Presidency, one of the greatest explosions of debt in US history. Illustrative graphs follow.

In this update, we’ve added a new section on the health care and energy sectors vital to the well being of the American people and our economy. While not offering a direct comparison with recent Republicans, our analysis finds dramatic improvements in both these critical areas:

Healthcare: The uninsured rate has plummeted, while the growth of health care costs, a significant driver of the US budget deficit, has slowed. Slower cost growth and healthier Americans are good for the American economy, businesses and the nation as a whole.

Energy: The President’s “all of the above” approach has a rousing success for the nation, increasing domestic production, lowering energy costs for American businesses, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy while giving the US a leg up on the new energy technologies of the future.

Taken together, what this data makes clear is that the last two Democratic Presidents have done a very good job as stewards of our economy in a more competitive, global era. The same cannot be said of the Republicans.
Update - Be sure to see this new analysis from Rob Shapiro.  There is a growing body of evidence that after many years of flat or declining incomes for far too many Americans, incomes ticked up in 2014. 


Monday Musings on 2016: Dems debate, Sanders and Clinton gain, dysfunctional GOPers

The Dems debate - The big news for Democrats was their first – and very successful – debate last week. I offered up my take in this post from last week. It’s far too early to tell if the debate changed the Democratic race. Focus groups the night of were very good for Sanders, and he gained more ground than Clinton in a new CNN poll. But like many I felt the strong performance by both of them made everyone else’s path much harder, including the Vice President.

But as I argue in a new analysis piece, there is a great deal of evidence now that the superior RNC debate schedule has lifted the entire GOP field vs the Democrats. My hope is that this piece showing the GOP Presidentials outperforming their party, competitive if not ahead in the general election next year and creating a more excited base of supporters will bolster the hand of those trying to improve the lackluster DNC debate schedule.

The dysfunctional GOP – I think we are all struggling to put in words what we are seeing from the GOP these days – Trump gaining significant ground in new polls, no new Speaker or a path to get there, the shame and embarrassment of the Benghazi committee, a former GOP Speaker pleading guilty to a case involving his sexual abuse of an underage boy and persistent rumors of an extra-marital affairs by Kevin McCarthy. The next true test for the GOP comes in just a few weeks as we crash into the debt limit on November 3rd (will be exciting to watch how this is addressed in the CNBC Presidential debate on 10/28). Fasten your seat belts friends – sure to be a bumpy ride.

And of course, have to end with - Lets’ Go Mets!

NDN Analysis: Early Exposure Appears to Helping GOP Presidential Field

One of the arguments you hear from the defenders of the current DNC debate schedule is that all this extra exposure that Republican candidates are getting from the superior RNC schedule will end up hurting the GOP. It is an interesting argument. But a cursory look at the current state of the race doesn’t back it up.

Let’s first look at Presidential general election match ups. In the Real Clear Politics general election averages, the strongest announced Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is essentially tied with all the major GOP candidates. She has a slight lead over Trump and Rubio, but trails Carson, Fiorina and Bush. Worrisome for the Democrats is that in these five match ups Clinton is between 42% and 45%, which is lower than one would expect at this point.  While early, Democrats cannot be satisfied with their well known nominee in such a tight race with unknown and fringey Republicans.

But compare this data set with the Huff Po’s assessment of where the overall Democratic and Republican brands are. In Party ID, Dems leadthe  Rs by 9, 33 to 24. In favorability, Dems also have a very strong lead, 40/49 to 33/55. The President’s approval rating has been bouncing around in the mid to high 40s these last few months, so it isn’t a drag. Democrat Jack Conway is leading in the Kentucky’s governor’s race, and early polling in 2016 Senate races are showing the Democrats in good shape. So there is no evidence of a drag on the Democratic ticket, or a collapse of the Democratic brand in any other early publically available data.  Given this landscape, it is surprising that what is considered a weak GOP field is slightly ahead of the strongest Democratic 2016 candidate at this point. 

What the data suggests then is either the GOP Presidentials are over performing or the Democrats are under performing their respective brands.  The obvious explanation for why this would be the case would be the extraordinary level of attention the GOP candidates have gotten this far, including their two high performing weekday prime time debates. Yes, it is early, and this data doesn’t take into account this week’s successful Democratic debate. But remember, the far superior GOP schedule is likely to generate three times the impressions for GOP candidates over the course of the primaries. So rather than closing the gap with the GOP in the next few months the early advantage the GOP Presidentials have could grow, not dissipate.

It is still early and things will change. But a look at the data suggests that the extra attention the GOP candidates are getting is doing exactly what one would expect – improve their standing against a Democratic field getting far less exposure to the public. While this trend may not over hold over time, it should bolster the argument of those wanting a better Democratic debate schedule. It also suggests that the central rationale the DNC is using to stubbornly stick to a clearly inferior schedule cannot be backed up by data, or frankly, common sense.

Monday, 10/19 Update - A new CNN poll finds more evidence of impact (or lack of evidence of negative impact) of the early debates.  At this point Rs are more enthusiastic about voting next year, with 86% showing enthusiasm, 68% higher levels of enthusiasm and 12% not.  Dems are 80, 58, 21.  While the differences are not great, it reinforces the need to more aggressively engage Democrats, improve the standing of its candidates.   

Thoughts on the first Democratic debate

Who Did Well - I think Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley accomplished their missions last night. With a commanding performance, Clinton re-asserted herself in a campaign where she has been far too often been on the defensive. As many have noted, she did a great deal to calm nerves about her recent decline, and reminder all of us why she has been so admired for so long. Sanders had a strong performance, crossing a threshold of credibility for more skeptical insiders and the press. Post debate focus groups and social media tracking indicated he may have gained more ground than Clinton, but certainly reinforced that he a good night in his first national debate.

O’Malley did all he could do in a single debate – held his own with Clinton and Sanders. Will be interested to see if he can pick up a few points in the next few weeks. Assume he will need to do keep his campaign funded and alive. Not sure how Webb and Chafee stay in the race much longer, and will be interesting to see how the next round of debates set their criteria for participation. Far less qualified and accomplished GOPers like Christie and Huckabee have hung around for months long after it was clear they had no shot so who knows….

All in all Hillary had a big night with insiders, the media, her own supporters and staff. Given the breadth of her support even if she just shored up what she already had, and got her supporters and team fired up it will be a big accomplishment. Sanders seemed to do better with voters themselves but let’s see what the polls show in the coming weeks.

One additional thing both Sanders and Clinton did through their strong performances was make it harder for the Vice President to enter the race. I’ve been pretty vocal that I both hoped he would enter the race, and that if he did he needed to do so by this debate. We will see what happens in the next few weeks but it is possible the Vice President’s window has closed, as he will now have to beat both Clinton and a far stronger than imagined Sanders.

I also agree with the many who have opined that the serious discussion by serious people about serious things we all saw last year provided a powerful contrast with the nuttier GOP field, something that was good for all Democrats.  

What’s Next? Iowa - If Clinton can win Iowa, she has a significant chance to bring this race to an early end. Sanders is leading in New Hampshire and is competitive in Iowa. If he wins both early states he will become a formidable candidate in the next round no matter what happens in Nevada and South Carolina. And while he may not win he could end up extending this race till the late spring and anything can happen the longer we go. But if Clinton goes in and wins in Iowa, given her revitalized campaign and strength in the next set of states, she could functionally end this thing there. So look for a great deal of intensity now to shift to Iowa, a state where a candidate like Sanders could do very well. Lots of Iowa activity in the coming weeks – the all important Jefferson Jackson day dinner and the second Democratic debate. All going to be consequential.

The Debate Debate – While the audience for the debate last night was good – 15m – it was far less than either of the first two GOP debates each of which attracted over 23m people. Assuming these viewership numbers hold, the 11 GOP debates will be seen by about 260m people. The 6 Democratic debates will be seen by 92m. And given how many Democratic debates are on the weekends and that one is in Spanish, the number could be much lower. This gap is almost 200m debate views – simply an extraordinary and dangerous number for the Democrats. In a new piece I lay out some ideas on how the DNC can close the gap, both by improving the debate schedule and taking other steps.

But one thing Democrats have to stop saying, and believing, is this additional exposure a superior RNC debate schedule will provide their candidates is somehow good for Democrats. As of today, there isn’t a single recent poll showing Clinton or Sanders definitely ahead of a fringey GOP field after these last few months of dominant GOP media coverage. In fact one could argue there is more data showing these debates are helping the GOP field as intended - recent polls show the GOP field outperforming the overall GOP brand which remains far less popular than the Democrats. Which one would expect from the unbalanced coverage of the last few months. Press, attention, free media matters. Sort of a campaign 101.

And friends, if impressions didn’t matter, why would advertisers the world over pay millions of dollars to buy advertising to get these kind of impressions being offered to the Democrats for free? It is long past time for the DNC to take decisive action to close this dangerous free media gap.  And given how serious and thoughtful the debate was, creating more opportunities for the contrast with far more feckless GOP would seem be a strategic imperative now.  Particularly as this was the only Democratic debate of the entire primary season in prime time, during the week, in English with a modern media partner. 

The State of the GOP – The most interesting question about 2016 now may be can any of the top GOPers unite a fractured party next year? The struggle to replace Boehner mirrors the GOP Presidential dilemma– a deeply fractured party, without leaders strong enough to bring the factions together. It is hard for me to see how any of the top tier GOP Presidentials now will be strong enough to bring this party together next year. When I discuss this with others, people often site Rubio as the one most likely to be able to pull it off if he wins. But I just have a hard time believing after all the anti-immigrant and Hispanic rhetoric of the last few months this GOP will turn over the keys to a guy who may look and sound like “one of them.”

The deeply divided and weakly led GOP is becoming one of the most important early 2016 dynamics to watch. 

Monday Musings on the 2016 Political Landscape

Monday, October 12th - here we go:

The Rise of the Reactionaries - What a week. The GOP repudiation of its establishment – something evident in the Presidential – has gone to a whole new level now. This dynamic may be the most important early dynamic in the 2016 cycle so far. And with all sorts of important work to do in Congress – a budget, debt ceiling, TPP, Ex-Im, transportation/infrastructure, the Middle East, immigration reform – there isn’t going to be a honeymoon for the new Speaker and House GOP leadership team. Be sure to read my long form magazine piece on what is driving the rise of reactionary politics inside the GOP.

Polling – No significant shifts this week. Trump and Carson still stand atop the GOP field, with Bush showing continued weakness and everyone else fighting to get in the game. On the Dem side, the story remains Bernie Sanders’ very strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire and his ability to match Clinton on money. Clinton still holds a strong national lead among Democrats and has established what some consider a firewall in South Carolina and Nevada. While I am not a big believer in political firewalls, her strength and Sander’s weakness in these late February states is meaningful.

The Democrats Debate – The 1st Democratic debate is tomorrow, Tuesday October 13th on CNN at 9pm. Be sure to watch and encourage everyone you know to do so too. Clearly will be a big moment in the campaign.  I offered some thoughts on how the Democrats can improve their debate schedule and close the gap with the GOP in a new op-ed here. Also recommend this new piece from Greg Sargent on why it is time for the Vice President to make his decision.

HRC and TPP – At this point, I don’t think Hillary Clinton’s opposition to TPP will make a big difference in what is likely to be a spring vote. The Dems who supported TPA are likely to hold, though her opposition may make it harder for the President to pick up support in his own party. The real question now is how the new anti-establishment dynamic affects the GOP and their ability to work with the President in a Presidential election year.

Going to be a remarkable political year ahead! 

Getting to Yes on TPP

The five year long effort to update and modernize the global trading system through the innovative Trans-Pacific Partnership took a giant step forward on Monday with the announcement of a final deal. This was a huge accomplishment for the Obama Administration and USTR Mike Froman. Now comes debate over the terms of the deal in the 12 countries, including our own. Our assumption is that the vote in the US will come in the spring of 2016, giving the American people and its leaders six full months to debate the deal. We will be gearing up for what will no doubt be a contentious but meaningful debate - saddle up NDNers! For more from us, see this new TPP "Backgrounder" we've put together, and for a deeper dive you can see me on what was a terrific panel discussion on Wednesday at the Washington International Trade Association. Of note in that package is the two polling presentations - well worth a review.

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