Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Republican candidates: Who's in, who's out, and who should be out

Scott Walker is out!

Perry is out too.

Here's one report (of many), this one from DailyKos.com on Walker's withdrawal from the Republican primary.

Scott Walker became the second 2016 hopeful Monday to drop out of the Republican primary, following fellow GOP governor Rick Perry of Texas through the exit door. Walker, speaking from Madison, said he was inspired as a child by Ronald Reagan's "eternal optimism" and that the GOP race had devolved into a scrum of "personal attacks." For that reason, he said he felt he was being "called" to lead in an "unusual" way:

"The Bible is full of stories about people who are called to be leaders in unusual ways. Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive conservative message will rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately."

When Walker officially entered the race just two months ago, he was still running first in Iowa. But the entrance of Donald Trump significantly ate into his support and the latest CNN/ORC International poll showed Walker polling pathetically low: less than one-half of one percent.

I think "maudlin" is the word for Walker. Now we wait for others to be "called."

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are still in, but ...

Mathew Yglesias at Vox.com makes the interesting case for Jeb dropping out PDQ. Bush continues to tank in spite of his war chest. Rubio shares his values and outlook on issues. So Bush could do Rubio great good by dropping out and endorsing Rubio. Here's more.

Bush is also literally the only person on the planet earth who will be utterly incapable of tapping into a sense that Hillary Clinton's campaign is a bit of a tired retread.

Marco Rubio, by contrast, is a dynamic public speaker and gutsy political risk-taker (recall that he got to the Senate by beating a sitting governor in a primary) who impresses staffers on both sides of the aisle who've worked with him. Rubio performs better than Bush in head-to-head polling against Clinton.

And, crucially, Rubio has the exact same policy positions as Bush — very conservative views on abortion and foreign policy, a shared passion for deficit-increasing tax cuts, and a moderate stance on immigration. Bush was something of a political mentor to Rubio back in Florida, and had Jeb announced a year ago that he simply lacked the fire in the belly for a presidential campaign and endorsed Rubio as a political ally and ideological fellow-traveler nobody would have been shocked.

The people cashing Jeb's checks will, of course, argue that this is all incredibly premature. Bush can keep running for months and always drop out and endorse Rubio later if that's needed as some kind of stop-Trump or stop-Cruz gesture. And just because Rubio is better at politics than Bush (can you imagine someone with Bush's talents making it as far as Rubio has if he'd had Rubio's same modest origins) doesn't mean that Bush can't ultimately bury him under an avalanche of money. After all, several not-very-talented members of Bush's immediate family have gotten to the White House ahead of other, more compelling options.

That said, for months now the Bush campaign has gone nowhere but down. The more people see of Bush, the more they feel "meh" about him. If he quits now for the good of the party, people well he was a good man driven by a strong sense of duty and noblesse oblige. If he waits for months as his public support continues to bleed away, he'll be humiliated.

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