Good morning readers! As always, a lot happened in the political world this week. Enjoy our Sunday Grab Bag of shorter takes on a number of Iowa and national political topics:
Jeb Bush and Rand Paul Struggle With Expanding Their Base at CPAC
The media fawned over Jeb Bush’s performance at CPAC on Friday, the mega-gathering in D.C. for conservative activists. He gave a strong, at times confrontational, defense of his policies and accomplishments as Florida’s governor. Despite occasional heckling from the crowd, he didn’t back down on or equivocate his stances. That may win him plaudits from the media and the GOP donor crowd, but I wonder if it accomplished anything for him among the conservative base of the party. Bush is obviously never going to be a darling of the party’s right-wing voters. But I believe he at least needs some of their support, even if just a small fraction. Bush’s path to victory lies with consolidating the party’s moderates’ support, but it’s quite the tightrope act if that’s all he has. Bringing in just 5% or 10% of the conservative vote would make things much easier. I don’t think he made any progress on that Friday.
Rand Paul has a similar problem. He commands his loyal band of libertarian supporters that provides a solid floor of support for his candidacy. But he too needs to build on that to have a real shot at the nomination. He delivered a typical Rand Paul-speech to the cheers and chants of a large libertarian crowd that came in to back him. I don’t know if he connected with anyone beyond that. In fact, I wonder if the vocal groups of supporters that came in for Paul and Bush didn’t seem off-putting to undecided activists in the crowd. It may have created a them-versus-us vibe.
I did a live-blog of sorts during the major Friday speeches if you want some more quick-takes on the Republican contenders.
Gas Tax Fallout
Iowa’s gas tax raised 10 cents today, thanks to Governor Branstad signing the increase into law on Wednesday. When’s the last time a piece of legislation – especially a tax increase – got enacted so fast? Many Republicans and conservative activists are still apoplectic that so many of their own voted for the tax hike. Supporters likely hope that the swift passage is akin to quickly ripping off a band-aid, and that the furor will soon pass. If not, Republicans like Chip Baltimore, Mike Breitbach, Dan Zumbach and Mark Segebart may have a tough time raising money and recruiting volunteers for their reelections next year.
Aaron Schock and the Fickle Nature of Fate
The investigation into Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock’s office spending isn’t an Iowa or presidential politics story, but I can’t help but point out something that amazes me about it. Schock is currently under siege by multiple media inquiries looking into unreported foreign gifts and in-kind fundraiser donations, decorating expenses for his congressional office, and the sale of his house to a major donor. Any one of these investigations could dig up revelations damaging or even fatal to Schock’s career. But do you remember how this all started? With this article from the Washington Post that quickly went viral.
A style reporter from the Post happened by Schock’s office and noticed the bold Downton Abbey-inspired decorating. The decorator just so happened to be in the office at the time and offered to show the reporter around. Schock’s press secretary, Benjamin Cole, freaked out and caused the story to get even bigger and more bizarre. Following the Post article’s popularity, other reporters started looking closer at Cole’s social media accounts. There they found racist posts comparing African Americans to zoo animals, along with plenty of other choice descriptions. Cole quickly resigned. From there, even more journalists honed in on Schock’s office, discovering more potential scandals.
It’s entirely possible Schock may not be able to weather this storm. And all because his office decorator poked her head out of a back room when a Washington Post style reporter dropped in, setting off an unbelievable chain of events. If Schock travels to Las Vegas anytime soon, he probably shouldn’t gamble at all. He has the absolute worst luck.
President Obama Loses a Childhood Icon with Nimoy’s Passing
The universe lost its beloved Spock on Friday when Leonard Nimoy passed away at the age of 83. Nimoy’s portrayal of the logic-centered Vulcan scientist inspired generations of young people’s interest in science, space exploration and science fiction in general. He also had a big supporter in the White House with Barack Obama, a long-time Star Trek fan. Obama released a touching statement upon Nimoy’s passing, stating “I loved Spock.”
(The connection also lets me bring up what remains the most bizarre coincidence in the Star Trek-loving President’s career: a scandal involving the actress who played Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager played a major role in Obama’s first election to U.S. Senate in 2004 – no really, look it up.)
Live long and prosper, and see you tomorrow.
by Pat Rynard