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.

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