Monday, June 8, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Potpourri - June 2015


The recent tradition of the Iowa Straw Poll (a notable factor
since 1976), usually held in Ames in August, has been
scheduled for this cycle on August 6 in Boone, a few miles
west of the Iowa State University campus. A number of major
candidates have decided to take a pass on this event which
has had declining prestige and influence over the past few
cycles, culminating with then-Congresswoman Michele
Bachmann’s win in 2011, and the surprise disappointing finish
for former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Bachmann
subsequently failed to capitalize on her victory, while Pawlenty,
a potentially major contender, prematurely withdrew from the
presidential race. Long-time Iowa Governor Terry Branstad
wanted to cancel the Straw Poll altogether for 2015, but the
state Republican Party, which uses the event as a lucrative
fundraiser, scheduled it anyway.  Whether this year’s Poll will
be even remotely interesting depends on the decision of
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to attend or not to attend.
Walker is currently the favorite to win the Iowa Caucus in
February, 2016 --- traditionally the opening electoral event of
the GOP presidential nominating process --- but the large
number of Republican candidates this cycle has created much
suspense about the outcome of the race for the GOP nomination.


Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton continues
to lead all announced rivals for her party’s presidential nomination,
but her numbers in virtually all polls, at the same time, continue
to decline. Former Connecticut Governor Governor Lincoln
Chaffee is the latest formal entry into the race against her, joining
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor
Martin O’Malley. Vice President Joe Biden has not announced, but
his poll numbers remain in the double digits.  Former New York
City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also not announced, but would
likely be considered a formidable opponent for Mrs. Clinton if he
did enter the race. Other potential major candidates in 2016 include
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy
Klobuchar and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The problem
for the former First Lady is that should one of these  major as yet
unannounced rivals declare himself or herself into the race, the
contest would likely become a much more wide open competition.
Mrs. Clinton needs to significantly rebuild her image over the
summer and early autumn; if she does not, it is likely that some
big name in the liberal party will run for president against her.


Only a short time ago, it appeared that  politicians on the left were
winning in Europe, but that brief trend has been clearly reversed
in recent months. Most recently, conservatives have won
parliamentary elections in Turkey (denying radical Turkish
President Erdogan a majority), and are looking strong in Poland.
Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron recently won
a surprise landslide election, and conservatives look positive for
the upcoming election in France where Socialist President Hollande
remains unpopular. Conservative parties are also strong in Spain,
Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain and in Scandinavia. Only in
Greece have leftists recently triumphed, but that nation is on the
brink of economic disaster. In fact, the Greek economic crisis is
posing a major problem for the nations of the European Union and
a showdown for troubled European body. Although not in Europe,
Israel recently gave its conservative party and prime minister an
upset victory. The most recent U.S. election, the 2014 midterms,
gave the Republican Party a landslide victory in which it regained
control of the U.S. senate.


As the U.S. Supreme Court approaches its summer recess,
expectations are rising that it will soon hand down a number of
major and historic decisions on Obamacare, marriage, labor
unions and other important issues. The current court is often
narrowly divided in recent years, with many notable decisions
being decided with a 5-4 vote.


In reverse of 2012 and 2014, Republican incumbent U.S. senators
heavily outnumber incumbent Democrats in the races up in 2016.
In fact, there are 24 GOP seats up for re-election compared to only
10 Democratic seats. A majority of these races, however, are not
yet rated as competitive. About 8-10 conservative party seats are
considered “in play,” while only two liberal party senate seats are
considered vulnerable. Democrats only need 4 or 5 “pick-ups”
to regain control (the number depends on which party wins the
presidential race; the new vice president will serve as president of
the senate, and casts any tie-breaking vote). Republicans gained 9
seats in 2014, but were able to recruit several strong new figures to
run. So far, the Democrats have only been able to do so in no more
than a few competitive contests.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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