Wednesday, September 30, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Presidential Candidates Missing The Minnesota Boat

Republican presidential candidates are coming to Minnesota
this year, but they don’t seem to looking for votes. Perhaps it
is because of the Gopher State’s reputation as one of the bluest
(most liberal) states, and because the state has not given its
electoral votes to a Republican since 1972. On the other hand,
Minnesota has no statewide races next year, and there is
significant cash available from big donors, so many of the
2016 GOP hopefuls are quietly slipping into the state for
fundraisers only.

They are probably making a big strategic mistake. Here’s why:

The next cycle, which culminates in November, 2016, is turning
out to be atypical, especially in presidential campaign politics.
Attention is beginning to shift from the first four primary and
caucus states (Iowa New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada,
in that order), and to the March 1 Super Tuesday when a large
number of delegates will be chosen in 13 state contests. With
the large Republican field this year, and presuming many of
them will still be running in early 2016, the surviving candidates
will each need some victories to keep their campaigns going.

One of the Super Tuesday states will be Minnesota, and several
delegates will be available. Only one candidate will win Iowa,
only one will win New Hampshire, and only one will win South
Carolina, but there will likely be more than three finalists in the
race on March 1, so a win in Minnesota could provide some
momentum either for someone who has not won in the first four
contests, or solidify the lead for someone who has. Furthermore,
there are many contests on the March 1 Super Tuesday, and it’s
unlikely that a candidate who does not win at least one of them
could survive for the primaries and contests that remain.

There are other advantages, too. Minnesota is located adjacent
to and between Iowa and Wisconsin, two likely battleground
states in 2016. (In fact, the three states form the superstate
Minnewisowa” --- a term I coined in the 2004 presidential
election --- that provides 26 electoral votes). The Twin Cities
and Duluth media markets reach much of western Wisconsin,
and the Rochester, MN media market reaches northern Iowa.
It’s easy logistically to schedule campaign appearances in
Minnesota when a candidate also has appearances scheduled
in Iowa or Wisconsin.

Minnesota holds a caucus on March 1, so GOP candidates
can concentrate on the limited number of caucus attendees.
If only one or a few presidential candidates compete in this
state, a surprise victory is quite possible.

And, of course, there is the cash. Minnesota is a particularly
affluent state with numerous successful businesses and
corporations. Many of its executives and owners are liberal,
and give generously to Democratic (DFL) candidates, but there
are also numerous conservative major donors in the state,
including several billionaires or near-billionaires.

(In 2013-14, ten of the GOP candidates for the most closely
contested U.S. senate races held fundraisers in the state. Each
raised in excess of six figures, and all ten candidates won in
November.) With no statewide races in 2016, Minnesota major
donors, if past history is a guide, will want to be fiscal players
in the presidential race.

Finally, although Iowa and Wisconsin are already battleground
states, and could cast their electoral votes for the GOP nominee,
Minnesota could break with its recent liberal pattern in 2016 and
be up for grabs. Democrats (DFLers) now only comprise about a
third of the state’s registered voters; Republican a few percent
less, but a third of Minnesota voters are now independents
(remember, Jesse Ventura won the governorship in 1998 as a
third party candidate) or unaffiliated, and these voters will make
the difference, more than ever before, next year. Hillary Clinton
is still popular with DFL women in Minnesota, but Mrs. Clinton
does not have the kind of support that Barack Obama had
here in 2008 and in 2012. A strong center-right Republican
nominee could surprise in Minnesota in 2016.

It will be interesting to observe which GOP presidential
candidates, if any, figure all of this out.

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

Monday, September 28, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Post-Weekend Update 4

Local elections in Spanish autonomous region of Catalunya
just gave two pro-secessionist parties enough votes to have a
majority in the Catalonian parliament, but the record turnout
failed to give these parties a majority of the popular vote. The
leader of the largest pro-secessionist party had declared the
vote an unofficial plebiscite on the northeastern part of Spain
to become an independent nation. The Catalans speak their own
language and have a long history of hostility to the national
government in Madrid. The regional capital of Barcelona contain
much of the nation’s industrial and commercial resources, and a
long-standing Catalan complaint is that the area does not receive a
fair share of federal financial resources. Spanish President Rajoy
has declared the vote invalid for secession, and a true separation
of the Barcelona region from the rest of Spain remains
problematic and distant at best.


Businessman Stewart Mills, 43, who as the Republican nominee
for Congress in Minnesota’s Iron Range 8th district came close to
defeating incumbent Democrat (DFLer) Rick Nolan in 2014, has
indicated he will challenge Mr. Nolan again. One of the freshest
faces in state politics, and an energetic campaigner, Mr. Mills
received national attention for his 2014 effort. He contends that,
with no statewide races in 2016, he will have a better chance this
cycle, and cites private polls showing him in a strong position.
Mr. Nolan, 71, has announced for re-election, but some national
Democratic strategists have recently indicated he might be
vulnerable next year. This should be one of the most hotly
contested races in the nation.


Until now, few observers gave Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders a
credible chance to become the Democratic nominee for president
in 2016, despite his early success in his challenge to the party’s
frontrunner Hillary Clinton. In recent days, however, Mr. Sanders
has taken double digit leads in polls in early primary and caucus
states, and his support continues to grow while Mrs. Clinton’s
continues to decline. The big question in this contest now is
whether or not Vice President Joe Biden gets into the race. If he
does, there is an expectation that the race would become wide
open, and a serious possibility that the vice president could win.
If he does not enter, however, and Mrs. Clinton’s legal problems
and controversies continue to mount, Mr. Sanders’ delegate total
could rise quickly and his nomination inevitable. This would be
likely because the deadlines for entering primaries and caucuses
are rapidly approaching, and a major Democratic candidate’s
entry late into the race thus becomes technically impossible.

After Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his retirement
at the end of October, some activists in his party have turned
their attention to the GOP leader in the U.S. senate, Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell, with some calls that he be replaced. Mr. Boehner,
who had considered retiring in 2014, had constantly been the target
of mavericks in his house caucus, and after a quarter century in
Congress decided the controversy surrounding him was hurting his
party. Mr. McConnell, on the other hand, had just acceded to leading
a new GOP senate majority, and shows no signs of plans to leave.
The problem for both Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell has been that
a small group in their caucuses have demanded symbolic votes
against President Obama’s policies in spite of the fact that
Republicans lack the votes to override the president’s vetoes.
Calls to shut down the government as a tactic to force Mr. Obama’s
hand have not been successful previously, and with a month
remaining in office, Mr. Boehner is not expected to allow it to
happen. The structure of the U.S. senate is also quite different from
that of the U.S. house, and Mr. McConnell’s job seems safe for now
at least.

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

Friday, September 25, 2015


There will now be a myriad of post-mortems about the tenure
of John Boehner as speaker of the U.S. house. Each of them
will likely focus on his problematic relationship with his own
house caucus and his lack of support among many very
conservative Republican grass roots voters.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about Speaker Boehner that
was widely republished, and received both praise and criticism.
It was not uncritical of the Ohio congressman, but it was a
tribute to what he had accomplished in his four years leading
his party in the Congress. It asserted that Mr. Boehner was the
most underestimated man in Washington, DC, while at the
same time pointing out his major political defect, his lack of
skill at public communication. In the wake of his sudden
departure, I stand behind what I wrote.

Normally, such communication is not the first priority of a
house speaker, since his or her party’s incumbent president or
presidential candidate fulfills that task. Instead, the primary
job of a speaker is to manage his caucus and its legislation.
In short, the work of the speaker of the house is institutional
not public relations. Circumstances, however, alter this,
especially when one party controls the White House and the
other party controls one or both houses of Congress.

The period 1995 to 1998 had Republican Newt Gingrich as
speaker and Democrat Bill Clinton as president. In that era,
there was still a will to compromise and cooperate to
do the nation’s business. Speaker Boehner came from that
world, but President Obama did not. Gingrich is a gifted
communicator, one of the best in recent U.S. history, but he
could not manage his own caucus, and finally he had to resign
in 1998. (He ran a notable campaign for president in 2011-12,
and remains as a wise elder statesman for his party.)

In 1995-96, Mr. Gingrich and his majority house caucus shut
down the government. It was a political disaster. In 2013, Mr.
Boehner and his majority caucus shut down the government.
It, too, was a political disaster. An attempt to do the same in
2014 was blocked by Mr. Boehner, and he understandably and
correctly was resisting doing it again this year, only months
before the 2016 national elections.

But the GOP success in the national mid-term elections in
2014 had created a mood in the conservative grass roots to
accomplish something dramatic against the hated policies of
President Obama. Lacking the votes in both the house and
senate to override the president’s inevitable vetoes, both
Mr. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
have avoided showdown votes which are only symbolic.
Yet the conservative ferment would not go away.

Neither Mr Boehner nor Mr. McConnell, however, are good
enough communicators to assuage that ferment in their own
grass roots. In Mr. Boehner’s case, his intraparty opponents
did not have the votes to oust him. All threats to do so were
empty ones. But the tensions from them and the dissension
took their toll. Mr. Boehner, as I have written, grew in office,
became a better communicator, tirelessly recruited new
candidates, and remained a steady conservative. 

On the other hand,  even if the GOP wins the presidency in
2016 and keeps control of the senate, Republicans almost
certainly will lose some house seats in 2016 (but not control),
Having managed an unruly and dissident caucus, and having
realized most of his personal goals (the latest being the inviter
and host of Pope Francis, but also including his bold invitation
to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the
Congress over Mr. Obama’s objections), John Boehner, after a
quarter century in Congress, decided to call it quits.

Kevin McCarthy will probably be his successor. Younger and
clearly talented, Mr. McCarthy has hard work before him. As
Newt Gingrich once observed, few if anyone is truly prepared
to be speaker of the house.

The mavericks in the house might have realized their goal of
being rid of Mr. Boehner, but they are far from a majority. Mr.
McCarthy, or anyone else who might become speaker, will end
up doing most of what Mr. Boehner would have done. Anything
else would be electoral folly, and would endanger the likelihood
of Republicans electing a president in 2016.

Today, the post-mortems will likely agree that Mr. Boehner had
become unpopular and too controversial. Tomorrow, when he is
gone, his party will see how valuable, even with his shortcomings,
he was in their successes.

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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "It Gets Late Early Out There"

The now-late Yogi Berra said something worth noting for almost
any occasion, and although he won’t be here for the 2016 election,
he once said something apropos to this unusual campaign cycle,
to wit, “It gets late early out there.”

As a baseball fan and a writer, I don’t know which Yogi I will miss
more, the Yankee Hall of Fame catcher or the linguistic philosopher.
But his earthy pronouncements, I am convinced, might last longer
than those by certain once-celebrated academic existentialists,
phenomenologists and postmodernists.

In any event, Yogi’s observation about how late early can be fits
2016 quite well so far. Presidential campaigns seemed to begin
earlier and earlier a few cycles ago, but this cycle has certainly
aged prematurely as both major party tickets go through many
unpredicatable developments long before the first primaries and

The opposite of Yogi’s aphorism might also become applicable to
2016, that is, ‘It gets early late out out there.” This Prairie Editor
variation does not claim the profundity of Yogi’s dictum, but it
does suggest what I have been hinting at for some time, that is,
the outcome of the next presidential race might develop its final
form late in the campaign season, perhaps (amazingly) at the
national conventions next July.

We will not likely see a Yogi Berra again soon, if ever. Long after
his playing days, he entertained and instructed us as no other
major league baseball player ever did. May his memory be a
legacy to the sport he loved so well, and to the language he so
disarmingly reinvented.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Campaign Musical Chairs

With Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s abrupt withdrawal
from the presidential race, following the withdrawal of
former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the 2016 campaign goes
to a new, and perhaps unprecedented, level.

It has an unprecedented aspect because of the sheer number of
serious candidates who announced for the 2016 Republican
nomination. There were 17 “major” contestants in all, of
which perhaps a dozen were potentially formidable.

It was, of course, only a matter of time before this large field
would narrow, and the first two televised debates have only
hastened the process.

Both Governors Perry and Walker were significant figures in
the early part of the campaign. Mr. Perry had an outstanding
and long record as governor of a major state, and Mr. Walker
had emerged early this year as a temporary frontrunner after
a breakout speech in Iowa.

But a serious presidential campaign is an arduous experience
requiring skill, endurance and no small amount of luck. Mr. Perry
apparently could not overcome his “Oops!” moment from the
2012 campaign, and Mr. Walker’s national inexperience and
lack of campaign skill apparently overwhelmed him.

There are a number of candidates remaining in the field who
will, or should, make an early exit, including former Virginia
Governor Jim Gilmore, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal,
former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former New
York Governor George Pataki.  Kentucky Senator Rand Paul,
South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, and former Arkansas
Governor Mike Huckabee might soon follow.

The remaining candidates will probably persist to the first
caucuses and primaries because they have either sufficient
campaign funds or popular bases (or both).

As candidates withdraw, their donors, staff and supporters
will migrate elsewhere in the field. This is where the remaining
months of 2015 become a game of political “musical chairs”
among the surviving campaigns. An example of this was Mr.
Rubio’s recruitment of Mr. Walker’s New Hampshire co-chair
to be his co-chair. There will follow a spectacle of “musical
chairs” as donors and staff find their way to remaining active

Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and Super
Tuesday on March 1 will narrow surviving candidates to a
handful. These will probably include Chris Christie, Jeb
Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Donald Trump and possibly,
Carly Fiorina. But this stage of the campaign is still months

Turbulence in the Democratic presidential contest could
imminently turn into a political hurricane, and surprising
entries and withdrawals in it could produce its own game
of political musical chairs.

With unpredictable events ahead in international politics and
the economy, we might now have only a vague picture of the
destination of this most curious election.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 3

Vice President Joe Biden is clearly moving to making a decision
about running for president in 2016. Initial indications, most of
them directly from Mr. Biden himself, were that the recent death
of his son, and Biden’s own age (he will be 74 in 2016), had
inclined him not to run. But an outpouring of support from many
Democratic Party officials, donors and voters seems to have
reignited Mr. Biden’s lifelong desire to be the nation’s chief
executive. This new direction has been accompanied by a continued
decline in Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.
Several party figures are now openly predicting a Biden entry into
the race by mid-to-late October, or early November.

As tens of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and north
Africa try to emigrate to Europe, the European Union (EU) crisis
is rapidly getting out of hand. Many of the older, larger and more
prosperous EU members, including Germany and France, officially
are welcoming the immigrants, but smaller and new members,
including Hungary, are balking at the sudden influx. Even in
Germany, the largest and most stable EU member, a backlash is
forming. The EU goal of no national borders is now being put to
its most critical test to date.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Debbie
Wasserman-Schultz has come into severe criticism and pressure
to expand the Democratic presidential debate calendar. Two DNC
deputy chairs, including former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak,
have openly defied Wasserman-Schultz by calling for more
debates. A first Democratic debate is now scheduled for October 13.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have now held two nationally televised
debates which have drawn historically large TV audiences, and
much voter interest in the GOP field. This has provided Republicans
with tens of millions of dollars of free publicity for their party ticket,
while most of the political news about the Democratic field has been
about its alleged lackluster character. It is believed that the DNC
chair is resisting the call for more debates to protect the Mrs.
Clinton’s current lead in the polls, but should Mr. Biden enter the
race, the pressure could become overwhelming to add more debates
among the liberal candidates.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces increasing
calls for his senate majority to take more votes on controversial issues
that President Obama has threatened to veto. Both he and House
Speaker John Boehner have cited the uselessness of taking these votes
because they lack the votes to override the president. Two of the most
volatile issues are the ratification of the Obama administration’s
unpopular Iran “deal” and funding for Planned Parenthood. Mr,
Boehner finally agreed to take a vote on Planned Parenthood, a vote
which the conservatives won, but it is doubtful there will be a vote in
the U.S. senate, and Mr. Obama would certainly veto any such
legislation which came to his desk. Mr. McConnell’s problem is
complicated by the “filibuster” rule in the senate where only 41
senators can block a vote on major issues. Under his predecessor,
Democrat Harry Reid, the filibuster rule was abolished, and a simple
majority could conduct senate business. Mr. McConnell is now being
urged by several colleagues to do the same.

A trend is developing in 2016 U.S. house races that is favoring
Democratic Party candidate pick-ups. The retirement of powerful
house committee chairman John Kline (Minnesota) is only the latest
development in this trend. It is believed that the large Republican
majority in the U.S. house is close to its upper limit. Retirements,
controversies and the high-turnout of a presidential year are each
contributing to the Democratic trend. The size of the GOP majority,
however, makes their loss of control in 2016 very unlikely.

The second Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library in
California produced not only rhetorical fireworks and dramatic
confrontations, but also seems to have begun a shift in the summer
polls which were dominated by Donald Trump and Ben Carson,
both political outsiders. Judged by almost all as the winner of that
second debate. Carly Fiorina is expected to have a notable rise in
her poll numbers --- although she, too, is a political outsider. Two
other winners in California, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie, should also make some gains, as
might Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb
Bush, both of whom seem to improve over their performances in
the first debate in Cleveland. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry
has already withdrawn from the race, and several of the “minor"
candidates are expected to follow before the first of the year.
Both Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson are, in the short term, expected
to continue to have high numbers, but as the first voting in early
February approaches, the GOP contest is likely to become much
closer and the field much smaller.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Thoughts On Debate 2

The second Republican presidential debate took the contest
to a higher and more detailed level. The man who dominated
the first debate, Donald Trump, appeared defensive, overly
mannered and lacking in knowledge of details of the issues

The only newcomer to the debate, Carly Fiorina, quickly and
consistently demonstrated why she had to be included in the
“prime time” event. She had many of the best lines of the
evening, including a dispositive squelch of Mr. Trump’s earlier
attack on her. It seems that her performance was so strong at
the Reagan Library that virtually all observers have declared
her the biggest winner.

But there were other winners, too. Marco Rubio, the most
youthful contestant, had done well in the first debate, but had
not seemed to connect with the audience. This time he did,
making his arguments more personal and passionate.

Chris Christie, whose poll numbers have declined over the past
year, made a significant comeback employing his considerable
natural communication skills, self-effacement and his command
of the issues. Like Mrs. Fiorina, he effectively criticized Mrs.
Clinton, and avoided petty questions and tactics.

John Kasich reinforced his strong showing in the first debate
with reminders of his political experience, which is probably
greater than anyone else on the stage, and his accomplishments
while serving in the Congress and as governor of Ohio. He’s not
as smooth a Christie, Rubio or Ted Cruz, but his sincerity shined
through the debate.

Jeb Bush, the earlier frontrunner, had not done well in the first
debate, allowing himself to be overshadowed by Mr. Trump, as
well as seemingly hesitant in putting forward his arguments.
This time, his self-confidence had grown, and standing next to
Mr. Trump, he did not back off their inevitable confrontation. Mr.
Bush is not an easy communicator, and while he projected sincerity
and intelligence, his presentation still needs work.

Ted Cruz spoke well, as he always does, but he more than anyone
(except perhaps for Mike Huckabee) spoke to a self-limiting
audience, expressing controversial views likely to be well-received
only by a notable conservative faction within his party. He shares
much of that faction with Mr. Trump who leads Mr. Cruz at this time
by a wide margin.

Ben Carson is one of the most likable figures on the debate stage,
something which is reinforced by his calm and reasoned manner.
His astute comments on military and foreign policy were the high
point of his presentation at the second debate, and he is doing very
well in the polls, but he has yet perhaps to persuade that he is made
of presidential timber.

Scott Walker, who effectively made himself a place in the first tier
of candidates earlier in the year in Iowa, continues to fall short of
standing out in this field. He has an impressive record as governor
of Wisconsin, and has shown considerable political grit in winning
three statewide elections there in five years against considerable
odds, but he has not yet in the two debates made a true case for
himself to be the GOP nominee.

Mike Huckabee, the only holdover from the 2012 GOP race, played
the role of team cheerleader at the second debate, praising the
overall level of the Republican field of candidates. Always an
effective speaker, he nevertheless continues to pinpoint his appeal
to a specific GOP faction.

Rand Paul is perhaps the maverick in this contest, advocating
foreign policy views not shared by his rivals. He, however,
continues to fail to make his case effectively and to grow his

Finally, the hitherto frontrunner Donald Trump. What seemed fresh
and appealing prior to the first debate, and in Cleveland, now seems
to be becoming stale schtick. His propensity to attack his rivals
personally is also not wearing well. He could have been the biggest
loser at debate two, but he will not go away anytime soon. With
Mrs. Fiorina rising notably; Mr. Rubio, Mr. Christie, and Mr. Kasich
also rising (probably less dramatically); and Mr. Cruz gaining in the
polls at Mr. Trump’s expense, the previous domination in the polls
Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson has probably peaked for now.

On the other hand, the dissatisfaction of so many in the conservative
and Republican grass roots remains. Debate number two marks a
turning point in the contest, I think, because for the first time,
the experienced political figures (most notably, Christie, Rubio and
Kasich) in the field began to reach out to those voters, and not
defaulting them to Trump and Carson.

While Mrs. Fiorina might not have the resources to actually win the
GOP nomination. she has clearly laid a legitimate claim to her
party’s vice presidential place on the ticket. She will likely be the
biggest draw in the next GOP debate.

The Democrats will finally have their first debate on October 13.
It is not clear if Joe Biden will be there. If he is not, the generally
lackluster Democratic field is not likely to be in any way as
impressive as its opponent’s field. As Mike Huckabee implied
at the Reagan Library, it is the conservative party, by virtue of its
political diversity and talent, which is winning the early
under-the-radar stages of the 2016 presidential cycle. The huge
national audiences for the first two GOP televised debates are solid
evidence of this.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Pre-Debate Subscriber Advisory

The second debate of the Republican presidential candidates will take
place at the Reagan Library in California, and TV viewer interest is
expected to be very high, perhaps it will turn to be even greater than
historically high ratings for the first debate in Cleveland, Ohio.

Much of the focus in the first debate was on mogul Donald Trump
who was then, and is now, leading in the polls. For the second debate,
physician Ben Carson has special interest as he has almost tied Mr.
Trump in the polls. A third focus will be on businesswoman Carly
Fiorina who did not appear in the first prime time debate, but whose
poll numbers now qualify her. It is interesting that none of these
three candidates have ever held elective office before.

Of the career politicians, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted
Cruz and Chris Christie probably need to do well in the second
debate, and will look for "break-out" moments in the course of the
event. Altogether, there will be eleven candidates on the Reagan
Library stage.

[THE PRAIRIE EDITOR will post an 
after-debate analysis following the debate on 
this site. Subscribers will receive an alert.]

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

Monday, September 14, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: (Post) Weekend Summary 2

California businesswoman Carly Fiorina didn’t make the
first prime time debate in Cleveland, but she did so well in
the “minor” debate, her poll numbers rose, and she has
been included in the prime time debate at the Reagan
Library in California this coming week. Her combative
style could provide the major fireworks of this second
debate, overshadowing perhaps even Donald Trump who
dominated the first debate and now leads in most polls.
A lot of attention will also likely go to physician Ben Carson
whose poll numbers gave risen dramatically, and to Ohio
Governor John Kasich who also did well in the first debate.
The California debate could also enable New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Governor Scott
Walker, both of whom have seen their poll numbers decline,
begin to re-ignite their campaigns.

The British Labour Party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as its
new leader. Mr. Corbyn is considered the figure most to the
left in the party, and his election has unnerved the party’s
center-left wing which had hopes of defeating Conservative
Prime Minister David Cameron in the next British elections.
If the current split in the Labour Party persists, that goal
seems very unlikely.

Although he has sunk considerably in the polls, former
GOP Florida Governor Jeb Bush, like current Democratic
frontrunner Hillary Clinton, remains a formidable figure
in the presidential nomination contest. With rapidly
sinking poll numbers, Mr. Bush is no longer the GOP
frontrunner, but with his massive fundraising, name
recognition, and organization, he has the wherewithal to
remain in the contest long after many of his rivals.
(Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has already withdrawn,
and several others, lacking support and campaign funds, are
likely to do so in the next few months.) The Bush strategy
now appears to wait for the inevitable shrinking of the GOP
field, and then to demonstrate that he is the candidate can
do better than his rivals in the November election.

Many observers have noted that Democratic members of
Congress, including those in the house and senate who are
supporting President Obama’s Iran “deal,” are taking an
open-ended high risk strategy that could be very costly in
elections in 2016, 2018 and 2020. Those Democrats who voted
for Obamacare learned this political lesson in 2010 and 2014
when voters who opposed this legislation either defeated
them or made their safe seats vulnerable. The Iran regime,
which continues to be defiantly anti-U.S., some observers say,
now are holding Democrats hostage even after Mr. Obama
leaves office in January, 2017. The “deal” remains highly
unpopular in virtually all polls of U.S. voters.

Latest polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first states to
vote in the Democratic nomination contest in 2016, show
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders surging ahead of frontrunner
Hillary Clinton, and the former secretary of state continuing
to fade. Democratic Party operatives and voters seem to be
holding their breath to see if Vice President Joe Biden will enter
the contest. Mr. Biden trails Sanders and Clinton in polls, but
has been surging since the real possibility he might run has
risen. Mrs. Clinton still has important advantages in fundraising,
name-recognition and party establishment endorsements, but at
some point relatively soon must reverse her steady downward
favorability poll trends. The election in the U.K. of a far left
new Labour Party leader (Labour is roughly equivalent of the
U.S. Democrats) has unnerved some American observers about
the possibility that Mr. Sanders, hitherto considered
un-nominatable, might actually win. It’s still Mrs. Clinton’s
to lose, but the first caucus and primary are only about three
months away.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2015


The most challenging matter for interested observers of the
presidential campaign now underway is also the most
frustrating. That “matter” is the necessity for patience.

An elaborate media spectacle, not unlike like plot twists of
a TV soap opera, is taking place. The parade of candidates
in both parties are auditioning, if you will, for parts in the final
show of the soap opera.

Then comes the real drama --- the actual voting in the
caucuses and primaries. Even before that, candidates will
withdraw from the race --- former Governor Perry has already
done so. Others in both parties will follow soon enough.

It might be asked “What about Donald Trump and Bernie
Sanders?” That’s a reasonable question. The answer might
be found in the fact that in October, 2011 (also about a year
from the general election) the leader in the public opinion polls
at 30% was Herman Cain, a millionaire businessman who had
not ever been elected to any office. Where is “former” President
Cain now, I ask.

The 2016 cycle is now appearing to be a very distinctive one.
Historians and political commentators are straining to find
parallels with previous cycles, and there are no doubt some, but
some cycles defy comparisons.

Rarely, if ever, has one party’s field had so many seemingly
qualified announced candidates. Rarely, if ever, has the other
party had an “inevitable” frontrunner who is fading so fast and
so unpopular. This is a cycle which almost demands sudden
turns and surprises. In such an environment, neat analysis and
prescient prediction is neither likely nor very useful.

It is early enough for a new candidate, or candidates, to enter the
Democratic field. It is also early enough for the TV debates to
produce new frontrunners for the Republican nomination. It is
early enough for almost any major surprise.

The result of the “new” media, and their instant-time quality, has
produced a premature psychological thirst for early resolution of
this presidential cycle. Such early resolution is simply not going to

Instead, we are going to have quite a spectacle to observe and
enjoy. Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders, et al, are only the beginning.

Wait. it’s going to be quite a show.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Christie In The Wings

I am going to receive a lot of negative comments from some
of my readers, as I have before, when I remind everyone that
when the current media thrall with Donald Trump and, to a
lesser extent, with Ben Carson is exhausted, one of the most
prominent Republican presidential contenders left standing
will likely be Governor Chris Christie.

Governor Christie was in Minneapolis today for a fundraiser,
and considering his current lowly status in the polls, I was
impressed by a large turnout of prominent Republicans who
felt he was still their choice for the GOP nomination.

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Mr. Christie is
finished. Just look at the polls with Donald Trump and Ben
Carson in notable double digits, and everyone else (including
Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio) in single digits.
Chris Christie is currently 10th or 11th in most GOP polls.

Some commentators are proclaiming a grass roots revolt in the
conservative party that might propel an “outsider” such as
Trump, Carson or Carly Fiorina into the nomination. I have
joined in with the observation of a “furious majority” in the
electorate this cycle, voters who are fed up with politics and
political rhetoric as usual.

But there is a huge difference between a genuine anger with
politicians, and with whom the voters will choose as their
president in 2016.

I agree that voters seem determined to reject the two major
party establishment candidates next year, but after the voter
choice in 2008 and 2012 of an obviously “amateur” outsider
with little political experience, and his subsequent failure as
president (in the view of some liberals and most conservatives),
voters are likely to be very discerning in their choices in 2016.

Mr. Christie was speaking off-the-record in Minneapolis, so
I can’t illustrate my view of his candidacy with specifics, but
I can say that he demonstrated a clear and informed mastery
of tough foreign policy and domestic policy issues. Most
importantly, he continues to communicate with compelling
effectiveness, all the more powerful because he is a sitting
governor putting his views into daily practice.

For those readers who disagree with my suggestion that Chris
Christie’s political moment lies ahead, I suggest they look
closely at his performance in the next two debates, his
campaigning in early primary and caucus states, and observe
where he stands in the presidential field at the outset of next
year when the current number of contestants will likely be
dramatically reduced.

Campaigns do matter, and what we have seen and heard so far
is a political pantomime conducted mainly in the media and in
name-recognition polls. What counts, however, is actual votes in
primaries and caucuses.

Governor Christie might not be nominated next summer, but
it won’t be because he is not the most talented political figure
in the nation. I need only point out that he survived one of the
most concentrated and brutal media attacks in memory
(sometimes known as “Bridgegate”) from those who apparently
feared his eventual electoral appeal.

On the other hand, all that natural political talent does not
guarantee political victory. When the voters begin to look
seriously and critically to their choices in 2015, Chris Christie
must do more than charm and amaze. He will have to persuade
voters of the most difficult challenge of all --- that he can be
president of the United States.

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Joe Biden is one of those rare politicians who usually says
aloud what’s on his mind. This has got him in trouble on
numerous occasions, but also endeared him to many
Democrats. As a long-time Biden-watcher (since 1985 when
I first predicted in print that he might become president),
I have learned to pay attention to what he says out loud.
Until a few days ago, the vice president sounded rather
negative about running, citing the emotional cost of the
recent tragic death of his son. As a result, I have been
suggesting in recent articles that he was unlikely to run.

This might have changed significantly. First (and very
importantly) Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has
continued to fall out of favor (as measured in polls) with
dangerously high negatives. Senator Bernie Sanders has
continued to rise in most polls, although few can imagine the
Vermont senator as the Democratic nominee.

Second, Mr. Biden’s poll numbers have consistently risen,
and more notably, he has in recent days received enthusiastic,
even tumultuous, receptions from Democratic and labor
voters when has made personal appearances. He had a
strategic meeting with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth
Warren who is enormously popular with the party’s most
liberal wing (and whose supporters are said to comprise
much of Mr. Sanders’ strength in the polls). Nothing public
came of the Biden-Warren meeting, but there is speculation that
a Biden-Warren ticket might have formidable appeal, especially
among liberal voters.

Perhaps it is only temporary, but the reception Vice President
Biden has received most recently seems to have energized him.
If this infusion of personal energy persists, it would not be difficult
to imagine Joe Biden (who has wanted to be president most of his
adult life) announcing his candidacy some time in the autumn, If
he does, the race for the Democratic nomination would be
dramatically changed, as perhaps would be the November race.

Joe Biden might not hold onto his hat, and instead yet throw it into the
presidential ring, this cycle. Those who want to predict the outcome of
the 2016 presidential race should probably hold onto theirs.

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

Thursday, September 3, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 1

The announcement by Minnesota 2nd District Republican
Congressman John Kline that he would not seek re-election in
2016 was a surprise to most political observers. The powerful
chairman of the U.S. house committee on education is a close
friend and ally of Speaker John Boehner and a congressional
leadership insider. The 2016 race in MN-2 now goes from safe
GOP to toss-up with slight lean to the Republicans. There will
now almost certainly be a number of candidates from both
parties in the race, but Mr. Kline had no obvious political heir,
and the DFL (Democrats) no obvious frontrunner. This could
become one of the closest and most hard-fought races in the
nation in 2016. Watch for political fireworks ahead.

Now likely to be the 11th participant in the next Republican
presidential debate at the Reagan Library in California on
September 16, west coast businesswoman Carly Fiorina will
probably the most anticipated debater in the GOP crowd,
especially after she easily won the “also-ran” first debate in
Cleveland and has been so effective as a critic of Democratic
frontrunner Hillary Clinton. She will have to share the stage,
of course, with some other big personalities, including Donald
Trump and Chris Christie, as well as early popular voter favorites
Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush.
Ted Cruz also is an aggressive debater and it should be quite a

Presumably to protect Hillary Clinton’s lead, Democratic National
Committee (DNC) leaders have so far appeared to avoid debates
among their announced candidates for president. Former Maryland
Governor Martin O’Malley brought the issue up at the DNC summer
meeting in Minneapolis, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took
up the issue soon afterwards. Mrs. Clinton is not known for either
her public speaking or debating skills, and her supporters
understandably want to shield her from too much TV exposure.
Should Vice President Biden enter the race, the DNC would find it
difficult to continue the ban. Mr Biden is a good speaker and debater,
and would probably insist on more debates than now scheduled.
The lack of Democratic debates also allows the GOP to dominate
the free TV airwaves and the headlines, something that might
enhance GOP voter turnout in the primaries and the general election.

With the announcement by retiring Democratic Senator Barbara
Mikulski that she would support the Obama administration’s “deal”
with Iran, it now appears almost certain that the deal will go through.
While U.S. house and senate Republicans, joined by a very few
Democrats have a maioriy in both houses against the deal, opponents
lack the two-thirds majority to override a certain presidential veto.
Some observers, however, have called it a Pyrrhic victory for the
Democrats since from now on any failure by Iran to keep its word
on the deal could make those Democrats who vote for it very
vulnerable to voter backlash. This is exactly what happened to many
Democratic incumbents who voted for the unpopular Obamacare
legislation in the mid-term elections in 2010 and 2014.

The two founders of today’s Democratic Party, President Thomas
Jefferson and President Andrew Jackson, are being erased from the
annual dinners of many state Democratic Parties. This is presumably
happening because both were slave owners. So was George Washington,
the “father of the nation,” and Benjamin Franklin, “the brains of the
American revolution (although Franklin later freed his slaves). If this
trend continues, our history books will have the nation’s beginning
mostly created by anonymous persons.

Many establishment Republicans are worrying out loud that the
candidacy of Donald Trump will hurt the party’s ticket in 2016.
Trump has just now signed a pledge that he will not run on a third
party ticket, but the GOP establishment remains in an anxious
state since early frontrunner Jeb Bush continues to fade. Some
political observers, however, are suggesting that Mr. Trump will,
on balance, help Republicans in 2016. Either way, actual voting
remains almost five months away.

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


The Republican National Committee (RNC) and most of the
17 announced GOP candidates for president face an imminent
choice for the next presidential debate at the Reagan Library
in California in mid-September.

This debate will be broadcast by CNN, and the network has
indicated it might determine who will be in the debate by some
questionable standards. Instead of a larger number of polls that
was the standard for the first debate broadcast by Fox News in
Cleveland, CNN will “cherry pick” fewer polls --- with the
result that businesswoman Carly Fiorina might be excluded
again. In Cleveland, Mrs. Fiorina was the clear winner and
standout of the “also-ran” debate (her poll numbers then
were too low to qualify for the main debate). Since that time,
her numbers have risen significantly. Her performance on
the campaign trail, and not just the fact that she is the only
woman in the GOP campaign, makes it obvious and
mandatory that she should be included in the next prime
time debate.

CNN, in previous years of presidential debates showed an
obvious bias to the liberal (Democratic) candidates, and if the
network succeeds in excluding Mrs. Fiorina from prime time
this year, it will have succeeded so again. Should the network
insist on keeping her from participating with nine other (male)
candidates, the RNC and the candidates have a remedy that is
not only just, but could work to he distinct advantage of the
GOP. (It also would be in the spirit of the late President Reagan.)

That remedy would be for the individual candidates, all rivals
of Mrs. Fiorina, to refuse to show up for the CNN debate. It
would be not only a grand gesture, but one that would be
well-received by voters of all parties. (The RNC could then
reschedule the debate with another network.)

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ben
Carson and Chris Christie, I think, would be especially
well-served by coming to the defense of Mrs. Fiorina, as
would the RNC.

Let’s see if any or all of them have come to the same conclusion.



Shortly after my post of yesterday, CNN informed the Republican
candidates for president that it had changed its rules for inclusion
in the primary debate at the Reagan Library. The new rules state that
any candidate who is in the top ten of the major polls either before
the first debate in Cleveland or in the period after that debate, will be
invited to participate in the CNN primary debate. In effect, this
probably insures that Carly Fiorina will be in the debate, as will
Chris Christie who, in recent polls, no longer is in the top ten, but
was a debater in Cleveland.

This means that there will probably now be 11 candidates in the
California debate. The CNN decision, which came after widespread
pressure from numerous sources, has been well-received, and will
bring a new and aggressive voice in the GOP debate. Mrs. Fiorina,
whose poll numbers have recently risen sharply, will probably now
rival Donald Trump in pre-debate interest, as will Ben Carson who
has pulled even with Mr Trump in recent Iowa polls.

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