Category Archives: 2016 Presidential Election

Nothing to See Here

On the election front, the Free State promises to be virtually news free between now and November.

Maryland elects all state and county officials during the midterm election. True, Baltimore City is holding its mayoral and city council elections but I can’t say that the suspense is exactly killing me in this all Democratic town. All quiet on the local front.

At the federal level, we have an open U.S. Senate seat where all the drama was in the primary. It is the only open seat rated as “solid Democratic” by the Cook Political Report. No one is waiting with baited breath to see if state Sen. Kathy Szeliga, a Trump supporter, beats out Rep. Chris Van Hollen in a state that FiveThirtyEight says in the second most likely in the nation to vote for Hillary Clinton (polls-only forecast).

Maryland will also elect its eight federal representatives. Again, the excitement was in the primary for two open seats. The Fourth Congressional District saw former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown make his political comeback. In the Eighth, state Sen. Jamie Raskin beat out a record-setting self-funded candidate.

But the general election should be a yawner.  Charlie Cook rates six districts as “Solid Democratic” and one as “Solid Republican.” Rep. Delaney’s Sixth District gains marginal attention as “Likely Democratic.” It seems unlikely that Delaney will be caught napping twice or that he’ll lose in 2016 — the Sixth lists Democratic in presidential elections —  when he didn’t in the Republican banner year of 2014.

If contested Virginia did not share the DC media market,. Maryland could be almost free of TV ads in the presidential campaign. Garrett is in the Pittsburgh media market, so it can also expect to share in Pennsylvania’s inundation.

Even the General Assembly is out of session and Gov. Larry Hogan is doing his expedient best to do his disappearing act during the presidential campaign.

Move along, nothing to see here.

UPDATE: The Cecil Times informs me that Cecil County has a race for county executive this year. Two commissioner seats are also up but unopposed since the Democrats didn’t put up candidates.


The Content of the Governor’s Character


Gov. Larry Hogan has already failed two character tests in this year’s presidential race. Will he fail a third?

Chris Christie

The George Washington Bridge scandal was rightly a major turning point in Chris Christie’s reputation. This unbelievably petty revenge on the Mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing his reelection bid revealed Christie as a bully and possibly also incompetent.

Christie may well have ordered the closure of the access lanes that led to the completely unnecessary gridlock, as suggested indirectly by his effort to stop New York Gov. Cuomo from investigating and attempts to downplay the events.

Alternatively, we can believe that Christie’s claims that he didn’t know. Of course, this requires belief that the same guy who took credit for being all over the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort had no idea what was going on in his office let alone the State. Moreover, he did such a poor job setting the tone among top aides that they thought this was acceptable behavior.

Neither option says much about Christie’s leadership skills but Hogan endorsed him anyway. No doubt Hogan sees himself as Christie’s ideological soulmate and wanted to repay Christie’s support during Hogan’s successful campaign.

The depth of Hogan’s poor judgement in supporting Christie became clear to all when beta male Christie rushed to endorse Donald Trump effusively after the Donald had beaten the bully and showed him who was the pack leader.

The Maryland Primary

By the time Maryland’s primary rolled around, the race was down to Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Not an enviable set of choices but a pretty easy one. I may not care for Kasich’s policies but he seems like a decent person. He probably wouldn’t be a great president (most aren’t) but I think most Americans wouldn’t sleep badly with him in the White House.

In contrast, Trump and Cruz are genuine dangers to the country. Trump is out of the same mold as extreme-right European politicians like France’s Marine Le Pen. Like her, he doesn’t care much for immigrants, is xenophobic to the point of suspicion of even our allies, has authoritarian tendencies, and lacks confidence that America can compete in a global economy. And these are his good qualities.

Cruz is a more home grown version of the extreme right. An social and economic extremist – one hesitates to label him “conservative” – this attorney believes that the president can nullify Supreme Court decisions that he deems unconstitutional, such as on gay rights. More popularly, he wants to eliminate the IRS, which will make collecting taxes for his expanded and busily bombing armed forces difficult.

While anyone who runs for president surely has a healthy ego, the level of narcissism in both and Trump and Cruz is extreme. During the unforgettable debate that discussed the size of Trump’s anatomy, Kasich was the only person on the stage who passed the “normal human” test.

Yet Gov. Hogan took a pass on exerting his considerable influence on Republican voters during the primary. Kasich may have had zero chance of winning the nomination even at that point but Hogan failed to stand up for his party or the country, as Trump went on to win 54% of the vote here.

Third Strike?

And so it has come to this.

The Republican Party, a party with an illustrious history, is now reduced to nominating someone completely unfit for the office. He and his policies are not just disagreeable in the ordinary way that one often doesn’t care for the policies of the other party of their nominee. Trump’s ideas, such as they are, are abhorrent and ruinous. While terms like bigoted and sexist are sometimes thrown around too easily, they apply here.

Larry Hogan now faces a set of unenviable choices. He can endorse Trump, which seems unlikely if only because Hogan has a healthy instinct for political survival. Hogan could continue his silence in an effort to stay out of the fray and avoid alienating the majority of Republican voters who chose Trump and overlap with much of his own constituency.

Alternatively, Hogan can step up and speak plainly as to why Donald Trump doesn’t represent him, and should not lead the country that he loves. Hogan can explain that he’ll enthusiastically support other Republicans down the ballot but that he will leave the presidential ballot blank or write-in the name of some decent individual who shares his political convictions.

In short, he can do the right thing.

The real test of leadership is not when the path is easy but when you have to make politically difficult choices. The good news with this one is that the “man in the mirror” test should make it easy to make and to live with come what may.

I hope the Governor makes the right one. Frankly, the Republican Party and the country are going to need people who do.






Profile in Silence: Larry Hogan


Now that Larry Hogan’s man crush Chris Christie has exited the race after his presidential campaign experienced failure to launch, what is the Governor to do?

Hogan explained to Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post that he does not believe in the transitive property of endorsements, so Hogan is not following Christie’s jump on to the Donald Trump bandwagon. At least not yet. Hogan says that he “hasn’t decided” who to support. Hogan also hasn’t found time to return repeated calls from former BFF Christie who wants to talk Trump.

The Gov has no good options. While the media focuses on to Trump or not to Trump, Rubio and Cruz would be the most right-wing nominees ever and destined to lose Maryland by an even larger margin than McCain or Romney did against Obama.

All three are very anti-immigrant in a state that voted heavily for the Maryland DREAM Act. Both Rubio and Cruz oppose abortion even in cases or rape and incest – an extreme position on an issue that Hogan worked hard to avoid. They also want to continue the now lost marriage equality wars, which would raise the salience of yet another issue that Hogan is on the wrong side of Maryland voters and assiduously avoided in his campaign.

As almost all of the others have been voted off the Island of Misfit Candidates, it looks as if Trump, Rubio, or Cruz will be the nominee. If the nominee is Rubio or Cruz, I imagine Hogan will support them but be really quiet about it in the hope of not having to answer whether he agrees with them on a whole range of issues.

Trump is apparently still in the mix for Hogan, even if he cannot seem to touch base with Christie. But if Trump does as well as expected tonight, he’s not going to be able to stay silent much longer. Not an easy political place to be as supporting Trump could be a career killer but many of Hogan’s supporters will vote for him enthusiastically in Maryland’s primary on April 26th.


Republican Debate Wrap Up

So I am currently in an undisclosed location with no television, which still did not leave me safe from political debates. Nevertheless, thanks to the inability of the FOX news stream to work, I had to listen to it on the radio feed while watching a picture about 10 seconds off from the talk on the home page.

Right Wing and Angry

I was struck once again how right wing the Republican Party has become. Jeb Bush, probably the most conservative governor of his (now past?) day, was one of the “moderates.” Projecting strength was the order of the day with Paul’s efforts to hearken back to a day when conservatives believed doing less was more falling flat.

Angry too. President Barack Obama isn’t just wrong. He’s a traitor who has perpetrated countless unconstitutional acts, weakened our military, and ruined America. Not many rays of sunny optimism save for the Horatio Alger competition at the end of the debate that would not have been out of place in a Democratic debate.

Good Questions, Some Bias

The three questioners from the right-wing media establishment asked good, tough questions. Their major negative moment was Chris Wallace’s decision to turn “illegals” into a noun, which I guess was shorter than “those brown people.”

The Republicans may be having a bromance with Trump but FOX wants to break them up. The three moderators were gunning for the Donald who repeatedly received questions that one would call “gotcha questions” except they were totally legit.

On the other hand, Marco Rubio received the easy softball about what he’d do to improve small business. Gave him the opportunity to hit the usual Republican erogenous zones. FOX man crush?

El Trumpo

Contempt. This guy has it for everyone. One even had the sense that he had it for the people who let him on the stage. A one man walking self-admiration society. With Trump, the answers may devolve into word salad but it’s all about the attitude.

Bush Part III

Felt like he was serving reheated pablum from the previous Bush administrations only that he’s too bright to believe it, which tended to weaken the delivery. You never quite feel you know where he stands–a problem in an election where “authenticity” (even if from a fake reality TV star!) seems the order of the day. He tried to dog whistle the right at the end with a Terri Schiavo allusion but it didn’t seem like a night for subtlety.

Though he nonetheless came across as one of the adults in the room, Bush’s unavoidable ability to remind us of his brother and complete hogwash of an answer on how he would create 4% economic growth through magical thinking made him look less like a general election winner than before the debate.

Marco Rubio

Has somehow managed to make Republicans forget that he was one of the major sponsors of the much reviled immigration reform bill. Rubio had the most telegenic delivery in the debate. His youth combined with not being Bush made him seem a more likely candidate if the goal is to get the Republicans to nominate someone credible who can get voters to turn the page.

If he does become the nominee, expect Democrats to play the clip unceasingly on his opposition to banning abortion in cases of rape and incest in response to a question from Megyn Kelly. Many Americans are uncomfortable with abortion but this provides a clear distinction that any Democrat would be glad to draw.

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul

Fascinating to see how the Republicans are no longer just that into the two guys who enchanted so much after the 2014 elections. Paul was an object lesson on what not to say to appeal to Republican voters.

Cruz continues to try to win the game of who is the most conservative of them all. But somehow pressing that button isn’t working for him anymore–at least not yet. Completely uncompromising and a good example of how our dysfunctional government could become more so.

And the Rest. . .

Huckabee is extremely comfortable on television. Sorta like an infomercial that leaves me deeply uneasy. Republican commentators thought he did well and he certainly wasn’t gunning for my vote.

Ben Carson’s soft-spoken delivery left me utterly confused as to why he is a Republican phenom. Unless his job is to explain why it’s OK never to talk about race–his big applause line.

Chris Christie’s ongoing problem is that he is the Lucy Ricardo of the Republican candidates–he always has some ‘splainin to do and never sounds altogether convincing doing it. Couldn’t answer why his state’s bond rating has plummeted even though he’s done such a bang up job balancing the books. Loves the blame game–it’s always someone else’s fault. Doesn’t look like Gov. Hogan’s endorsement will pay off for Maryland in future.

John Kasich sounded like a reasonable guy with experience. This leads me to believe he is unelectable in a Republican primary, despite the clear affection from the hometown crowd. But it’s hard to imagine how any nominee would not give serious thought to putting this popular swing-state governor on the ticket.

Scott Walker made no memorable impression on me. No gaffes and nothing off from the Republican script.

Final Note

As @PeterBeinart tweeted, “how on earth does Saturday Night Live parody this?”