Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Sorry Larry, Not Nearly Good Enough on Trump

Gov. Larry Hogan has received plaudits for his willingness to utter any criticisms of Donald Trump’s grotesque behavior, in contrast to the lapdog approach that prevails among Republicans. Nevertheless, Hogan has been quite reluctant to criticize Trump and extremely strategic in both when and how he does it.

Larry Hogan relies regularly on one excuse to explain his usual unwillingness to comment on Trump:

But during the Obama administration, during the Trump administration, I always said: “I didn’t run for Congress. I didn’t run for the Senate. I’m not in Washington. My focus — what they hired me to do — was run the state of Maryland.”

Funnily enough, Hogan’s self-proclaimed laser-like focus on Maryland and reticence to attack the president or engage in national policy debates fell away when he opposed allowing Syrian refugees to be settled in Maryland when Barack Obama was president. Who knew that states set refugee policy?

In contrast, Hogan had nothing to say on Trump’s Muslim ban because “it didn’t rise to the point where it was something I thought I should weigh in on” notwithstanding massive protests at BWI. Earlier this year, Hogan opposed the separation of kids from parents at the border when Trump’s reactionary immigration policy threatened to imperil his own political future.

It’s not unusual that Hogan’s pique at having to comment on issues outside of Maryland melts away quickly when it suits his purposes. Taking time to campaign for Chris Christie in New Jersey and Ed Gillespie in Virginia sure wasn’t part of running Maryland. Hogan went out and stumped for Gillespie even as the campaign emulated Corey Stewart and went full Trump in its demagoguery.

In contrast, Hogan had nothing to say about the Republican tax bill in Washington that ended the state and local tax deduction – a major hit on many of his Maryland constituents. Sure seems news of the weird when a Republican won’t attack Washington for raising taxes on his constituents.

Even a cursory analysis reveals that Hogan’s gentle criticisms of Trump’s policies are often made without mentioning the president. Sstatements on Trump himself are usually calibrated carefully to appeal to Trump supporters even as he maintains his political viability in this heavily Democratic state.

Hogan’s statements on the Mueller investigation are typical. Right after Hogan said that ending the Mueller investigation “would be a step too far,” the Governor reflexively echoed the president’s talking point that “the investigation is going too far afield of its original intent.”

It’s classic Hogan, sound centrist but then immediately pivot to shore up the Trump base. Incredibly, Hogan also stated that “I can’t sit in judgment. Whether I like what’s going on, the people overwhelmingly elected him as president.” Overwhelmingly.

Yes, Hogan has clearly spoken out more than most Republican politicians. But it has been only occasionally and grudgingly. He benefits enormously from grade inflation stemming from the supine posture of virtually all Republicans towards Donald Trump.

When you think about the endless Republican efforts to somehow turn the tragedy in Benghazi into a crime by Hillary Clinton, their total lack of interest in any of Trump’s public violation of our laws and democratic norms is even more amazing.

Gov. Larry Hogan has greater responsibility to speak up precisely because he is a Republican. It ought to be more reprehensible to him when a member of his own party acts abominably than a Democrat because it reflects on his party.

Moreover, as a member of the same party, statements by Hogan against Trump’s routine breakage of presidential and democratic norms would carry more weight in our overly polarized era. Hogan has handled Trump very deftly from a political perspective. But political acumen is not the same as moral leadership.

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What Can We Learn About 2018 from Google Trends?

By Adam Pagnucco.

A fascinating, but rather depressing, article in Vox makes the following allegation: political scientists can learn as much, or more, about political sentiment from Google Trends as they can from polls.  The reason?  People are more honest with Google in their search behavior than they are with pollsters.  Subjects that they might never admit would be of interest are in fact searched when no one is watching!  Search data may not tell us which candidate will get the most votes.  But it can tell us what voters are thinking about when they head to the ballot box.  And that is definitely politically relevant.

Let’s do an exercise using Google search trends by people in Maryland over the last twelve months.  First, let’s look at searches on five issues that Democrats often run on: public schools, transportation, health care, climate change and diversity.  The chart below shows relative search frequency on each of these terms.  The horizontal axis shows weeks over time.  The vertical axis shows search frequency as an index relative to the peak of the most popular search term in the data set (which is set at 100).  In this issue set, public schools wins out, with an average search index of 22 out of 100.  Health care gets 20, followed by climate change (18), transportation (11) and diversity (8).

Next, let’s look at five issues that Republicans often run on: guns, taxes, illegal immigration, crime and terrorism.  Taxes is number one here, with an average search index of 37 out of 100.  Crime gets 25, followed by guns (19), terrorism (3) and illegal immigration (1).

Now let’s compare the top two Democratic issues (public schools and health care) to the top two Republican issues (taxes and crime).  Public schools wins this set with an average search index of 24, followed by taxes (15), crime (10) and health care (8).  The fact that public schools gets a higher search index than taxes would seem to be good news for Democrats.

There is another search term that rivals these four: Donald Trump.  When Trump is inserted into the mix, he gets an average search index of 17 for the past twelve months, followed by public schools (13), taxes (8), crime (6) and health care (5).  Much of this is due to spikes in Trump interest around the general election and the inauguration, although he has held his own against the other search terms for most of this year.

So should Trump-chanting Democrats celebrate?  Not so fast.  There is a politically relevant search term that trumps Trump: jobs.  A straight-up comparison between jobs and Trump shows the former search term blowing away the Tweeter in Chief 54-17.  That three-to-one edge held up roughly the same in the Baltimore and Washington metro areas and on the Eastern Shore.  In fact, the only time in which Trump had more searches in Maryland than jobs was around the general election.

What does all this mean?  Maybe not much.  Google Trends is a very new source of data subject to much interpretation.  It has almost none of the mathematical science built around it that polling has.  That said, here’s a suggestion.  Donald Trump is indeed on the minds of Marylanders.  But they are thinking much more about jobs.  To the extent that Trump fixation detracts from the Democrats’ ability to promulgate a positive economic message, Governor Larry Hogan will benefit.

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The Content of the Governor’s Character

maryland_governor-trump

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.

 

 

 

 

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The Trump and Other Meaningless Polling Moments

Poll: Trump surges to lead in big lead in GOP presidential race” is currently the lead headline trumpeted on the Washington Post website. While I am as big a poll junkie as the next person who follows politics like baseball, this seems a good opportunity to remember how meaningless presidential primary polls are at this point.

Money is Being Raised, Not Spent
While candidates are busy dialing for dollars, they aren’t spending their hoards of cash on media yet. When they do, it will play a major role in defining candidates and today’s leader easily becomes the next one on the garbage heap.

Mitt Romney became the Republican nominee in 2012 by going negative on each new anti-Romney in turn. As the following chart shows, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum each had their 15 minutes during the last go round.

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Election expenditures by Super PACs and others will also shape public opinion. Nearly $3.4 million dollars was spent by “outside groups,” including Super PACs supporting a candidate, attacking Gingrich in Iowa after he took a polling lead. After Gingrich resurfaced in South Carolina–groups favoring him spent $3.0 million there attacking Romney–other groups spent another $9.9 million pulverizing Gingrich into oblivion in Florida.

Media Moment
Most candidates are completely unknown to the American people, including the much smaller primary selectorate. Nothing gets media attention like making outrageous statements. Long before Donald Trump, we had Pat Buchanan closing speeches by calling people to “lock and load” for the conservanut revolution.

Inevitably, going up in the polls is followed by media scrutiny, which leads to either media gaffe or discovery of past embarrassment sure to be featured on all the news and comedy programs. Remember that Herman Cain’s ephemerally popular 9-9-9 plan was followed by “U-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.” Rick Perry couldn’t recall the Cabinet departments he planned to cut but now has new Google glasses designed to help him out this year.

In short, after the media has raised one up by giving red-meat remarks attention and the ripped them to shreds, the public and the cameras move on to the next one.

Ask a Stupid Question, Get a Stupid Answer
Asking people who they plan to support for president this far out from the event makes no sense. They haven’t focused on the election. Excepting Hillary Clinton, they don’t know much about any of the candidates.

When prompted by a question, people usually try to give answer. Doesn’t mean that their response on who they support is a fixed or remotely firm opinion. So just regard polls like the one in today’s Post as something designed to entertain us during the summer, sorta like Donald Trump’s hair, but not to be taken seriously in fall.

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