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Jason Linkins   |   February 9, 2016    5:31 PM ET

For a few months now, Jeb Bush's campaign has been insisting that the Jeb! Comeback is on, and that the media should get in on the ground floor of this amazing narrative. Will he do it in tonight's New Hampshire primary or nah? Here's how the comeback is going. 

Tonight, as results from the New Hampshire primary roll in, Americans will be at the edge of their seats, waiting to see if things will finally start happening for Jeb Bush. Will he rise, like a phoenix, from the Granite State, renewed and bound for the nomination?

Franklin Foer says yes indeedy!

With his few remaining breaths as a candidate, however, Bush may have a path out from his debacle, an actual shot at the nomination. For months, he tried and failed to crush Sen. Marco Rubio. But he wielded the hatchet like a man who would rather be sailing. What he needed was a wingman. Last night, Gov. Chris Christie, with his bully’s instinct for weakness, baited the golden boy into choking—thereby, relieving Bush of all the throbbing pressure to stage a miraculous New Hampshire comeback.


As Republicans scrounge for their center-right tribune, they will find themselves coming full circle. Christie has no cash and no organization beyond New Hampshire. Kasich is out-of-synch with his party; his moderation won’t play outside a few suburban pockets. Which only leaves one.

Jeb: the tribune!

And the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe agrees ... somewhat:

Something has clicked for Bush in New Hampshire in the past few days. What has transpired by no means guarantees him a top-tier finish in Tuesday’s Republican primary here, but the crowds turning out to see him are bigger, his delivery on the stump is crisper and some of his key rivals have stumbled. At the least, the developments have mostly silenced talk of a hasty exit and skittish donors.

Jeb: now 50 percent more adequate!

But has that talk actually been silenced? Here's the scoop, according to ABC News' Candace Smith:

Many, including some of Bush’s own advisers, believe New Hampshire is his final stand, his last opportunity to prove to the Republican establishment and his powerful donor base that he is a viable candidate who has a shot in future primaries.

Some of his backers fear tonight could be the end of the line. But it’s just as plausible that New Hampshire could be the beginning of Bush's second wind.

Jeb: umm ... really, really plausible!

Finally, let's check in with former Florida House Speaker and Bush-backer Will Weatherford:

"He's the Jeb we all know and love," former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said here Monday evening. "He's very loose. And when he's loose, he's on fire."


"This is a real movement," Weatherford argued. "It's taken a while to catch on. And you know what — cream always rises, and sometimes it rises late. He's getting better every day."

Jeb: a loose, flammable cream!

Anyway, you watch, this will all probably turn out to be good news for John Kasich.

This has been the Jeb! Comeback Watch for Feb. 9. Jeb Bush finished in sixth place in Iowa (2.8 percent). He is currently in fifth place in New Hampshire (10.2 percent), fourth place in South Carolina (8.7 percent), and fifth place nationally (4.7 percent).


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   February 9, 2016    4:04 PM ET

You've heard of soccer moms, cybervoters and boomer grannies -- obscure segments of the population that definitely decided previous elections and put the country on a firm path to cyber-soccer for grandmothers. What segment of the electorate will rise to determine the winner of the 2016 election?

As the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported Tuesday, Americans For Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist is bullish on the vaping community -- people who smoke e-cigarettes instead of "acoustic cigarettes" -- as a voting bloc that could potentially throw the election from some vape-regulating square to an of-the-now candidate who backs the cool, new way to fill the yawning hole in your life with a chemical:


"I think that the next election, at the presidential level, and a lot of other levels, is going to be determined by the vaping community," said Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform.

OK, man. Sure, let's set this off.

Norquist sees pending regulation of the vape industry as a threat to the way of life so eloquently elucidated by actor Stephen Dorff in the beat poem, "I, Actor Stephen Dorff, Am Constantly Vaping Everywhere I Go":

But can 10 million vapers be transformed into a mighty, single-issue election-determining force, or is Norquist just doing a little cagey coalition-building to draw more supporters into his mission to rid the planet of taxes, regulations and Democrats who love taxes and regulations? I'll let the man speak for himself:

"Vaping is not a product. It is a movement. It is a community, it is a political movement in support of a community and it's changing the country in very good ways," he said at a reception during a two-day lobbying effort on Capitol Hill by the [Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association] last week.

To be honest, "vapers will pick the president" is just as good a theory as any other I've heard about the 2016 election.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   February 9, 2016    1:56 PM ET

What does it mean if Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton in polls of New Hampshire voters by margins that range from nine points to thirty points? Ordinarily, this question wouldn't be answered by saying, "Depends on who you ask?" But MSNBC's Hardball apparently decided to make this difficult, by tweeting this:

To be fair, the segment in question discusses the latest national Quinnipiac poll in which Sanders and Clinton are virtually tied. But the screen grab accompanying the tweet is about New Hampshire.

Get it together, you guys, you're blowing it.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   February 9, 2016    1:41 PM ET

From the standpoint of anyone nurturing a media narrative, anything other than wins for Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders and GOP front-runner Donald Trump in the New Hampshire primary would be either mildly surprising or downright shocking.

But history teaches us that the state is a ripe place for a rewrite -- and as we've previously noted, New Hampshire voters like to make up their minds toward the end. The penultimate CNN/WMUR poll noted that plenty of undecided voters are still lurking in the Granite State. 

As it turns out, polls of likely Democratic and Republican primary voters conducted between Feb. 4 and Feb. 8 reveal some symmetry. On both sides, close to two-thirds of respondents expect Sanders and Trump to prevail. But Democrats and Republicans differ in how close they are to making a decision.

On the Democratic side, there's more firmness, with 64 percent of respondents saying that they've settled on a choice. Of the remainder, 21 percent are leaning toward a candidate, and the level of genuine undecideds has fallen to 15 percent, down from 24 percent previously. Head to head, the last CNN/WMUR poll predicts a blowout win for Sanders by a margin of 61 percent to 35 percent.

Sanders' margin of victory tonight matters -- and not just because it may shift the "expectations game" if Clinton is able to keep it reasonably close. As Daily Intelligencer's Eric Levitz explains, "if Sanders wins by a margin of 55 to 45 percent, Hillary Clinton will walk away with an even share of New Hampshire’s delegates." Per Levitz:

Since our nation was founded on the principle of "no taxation without an insanely convoluted process of electing representation," as long as Clinton gets above 43.8 percent of the vote, she’s entitled to half the state’s delegates. More specifically, New Hampshire’s 24 delegates are broken down into an eight-eight-eight split between the state's two congressional delegates and its statewide allocation. If Sanders wins 56.3 percent of the vote in one district, he’ll take home five of that district’s eight delegates — if he does this in both districts, and thus achieves that margin in the statewide vote, he’ll best Clinton 15 to 9 in total delegates. (If he wins that margin in only one district and doesn’t achieve it in the statewide count, he’d end up with 13 to Clinton’s 11.)

But if the Democratic contest is now down to marginal gains in the delegate race, the GOP side of the poll is still looking like an unbaked cake. As the WMUR poll notes, "Currently, only 46% of likely Republican Primary voters say they have definitely decided who they will support, 24% are leaning toward a candidate, and 31% are still trying to decide." So, Republican voters have firmed up a little (the numbers in the prior poll were 39 percent, 24 percent and 37percent, respectively), but they're leaving it late.

Trump is generally not well-liked in New Hampshire: 32 percent of likely GOP voters would not elect him under any circumstances, the highest level of disapproval for anyone in the field. Yet if he has one advantage, it's that an electorate that generally dislikes him still has far too many alternative options. Another Trump advantage? If New Hampshire voters don't unconsciously swarm behind one or two of the also-rans, it's unlikely that the anti-Trump field will winnow in any significant way -- setting up this same choice in future contests.

But as The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman reported, veteran New Hampshire pollster Andy Smith doesn't believe Trump will prevail:

More than a third of voters have said they definitely would NOT vote for Trump, a very high number at the same time that there is a huge undecided vote, Smith told The Huffington Post in an interview. “There is a ceiling on his support, not a floor.”

Though Smith's latest poll puts Trump at 28 percent and his nearest competitor -- Rubio -- at 15, Smith thinks that there is time for Trump to fall further, and perhaps for Rubio, Kasich or Cruz to catch up to him.

“Right now it is a slow leak in the tire, but the tire could also explode,” said Smith. “Don’t forget that in 2004, Howard Dean fell 14 points in one day after his meltdown in Iowa.”

Of course, Smith made those comments a day before Marco Rubio -- who'd gathered momentum as the safe-harbor candidate for the anti-Trump vote -- suffered his mechanical failure.

Don't stake money on this primary if you're going to need that cash later. 


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.

Also on HuffPost:

Jason Linkins   |   February 5, 2016    1:53 PM ET

Donald Trump makes big promises. But how he describes the means by which he'll fulfill them? Well, that's even more outlandish. Basically, it boils down to:

Step One: Trump hates something.
Step Two: ???????
Step Three: "Winning."

That's essentially the model for Trump's campaign as well: He wants to be president, and he's a winner, so it stands to reason that he's just going to win.

Listen to HuffPost's analysis of Trump's current campaigning situation in this week's episode of the podcast "So That Happened." The section on his Iowa and New Hampshire escapades begins at the 52:30 mark. 

As the early voting states are demonstrating, however, there's more to winning than merely wanting it. There's hard work to be done, and it's becoming clear that Donald Trump is lazy.

Elections aren't won with just a popular message, catchy ads and strong interviews. They also require actually hiring and managing people who will knock on doors, talk to voters and help those voters get to the polls. Trump is good at all of the stuff that gets him on TV. The other stuff? So far, not so much.

On the ground in Iowa, this didn't go unnoticed. Mike Kelly, who drives a shuttle bus for a Des Moines hotel, told The Huffington Post that he's never seen a campaign operation as intense as Ted Cruz's team. He said he knew all along that Cruz would win the state caucus -- and not Trump, even though he'd led in virtually every poll.

"Trump's people, they're just like Trump. They're just talking big," said Kelly. "They're like, 'I'm not going out here and knocking on people's doors. It's 22 degrees outside.'"

Via Talking Points Memo, here's Donald Trump summing up his approach to the work in his own words:

"I think we could've used a better ground game, a term I wasn't even familiar with. You know, when you hear 'ground game,' you say, 'What the hell is that?' Now I'm familiar with it," Trump said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" when asked if his campaign needed better organization to win in Iowa.

"I think in retrospect we should've had a better ground game, I would've funded a better ground game," he continued. "But people told me my ground game was fine. And I think by most standards it was."

Basically, Trump is an indolent libertine, surrounded by yes men. In fairness, you can get pretty far in life like that. Whether you can get far in a presidential primary is unproven.

As Politico's Ben Schreckinger reports, there's little change afoot in New Hampshire to correct the campaign inadequacies that Iowa revealed. If Trump fails to maintain the big leads he racked up in early polling -- or if he fails to finish first again -- questions about his fitness as a presidential campaigner will persist.

It's genuinely interesting that Trump's competitors have not made more of this. If there's one constant in Trump's vision of how he'd govern, it's that the big problems he identifies will be fixed with such relative ease that it's a wonder being president is a full-time job. Just this week, Trump vowed that he could obtain a comprehensive corporate tax inversion deal "in an hour." This isn't plausible, and it's frightening to think that Trump believes it is. As president, his phone will be ringing off the hook every time there's a problem anywhere in the world. That's the job, and it's a job that most of his competitors clearly take more seriously.

If he governs the way he's been campaigning, Trump is going to want out of the office after a month.

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting.

Jason Linkins   |   February 5, 2016   12:15 PM ET

The intrinsic value of Super Bowl 50, conceptually, will never matter more than it does right now. Your imagination can accommodate the idea that an ideal Super Bowl is possible. You can take some comfort in the notion that the unobserved Super Bowl that only exists in your semi-conscious mind, and on your terms alone, will be an experience that fulfills you. Here and now, Super Bowl 50 could not be more precious.

The moment it becomes possible to begin observing Super Bowl 50 (or Super Bowl L, if you prefer) -- 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Feb. 7 -- the value of the ideal Super Bowl 50 (or "L") will begin to depreciate. You will spend the next few hours, bearing witness to mankind's inherent flaws. Possibilities will begin to restrict themselves. Expectations will go unmet. The infinite spectacle that you once imagined was possible will prove itself to be quotidian and earth-bound, like so many other experiences you once imagined for yourself.

"What a good game!" you might say, afterwards. But deep down, you'll understand that at best, you will be describing one more moment of your life that was, at best, adequate.

Just as the moment we are born, we start dying, so too will the Super Bowl slowly erode, before your eyes, as another ideal that the grotty and base mechanics of this curse we call "life" grinds down into dust. It will be one more experience that serves merely as a mile-marker, noting the passage of time, on this planet, hurtling through empty space in a rapidly expanding universe that is utterly indifferent to works of mankind, be they televised or not.

Some solace: you can make some hot wings. With fun sauces. These too, of course, will fade from existence, leaving only a greasy ache in the pit of your stomach reminding you that you are alive. So you'll make some more.

This is your life now.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   February 5, 2016   11:11 AM ET

One of the hotter debates happening in the Democratic nominating contest is really a dispute about governing style. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has argued that she's best-suited to be president at a time when the legislature is under control of the GOP because she's an operator, a "progressive that gets things done." Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) counters by saying that Clinton's style too often leads to a watering down of liberal policy, or the easy acceptance of more moderate policies. 

And yet, at Thursday night's debate, Sanders described an accomplishment of his that essentially validated Clinton's theory of how she'd govern as president.

How has Sanders presented his own theory of his presidency? He's repeatedly said that he'd overwhelm GOP legislative opposition by unleashing a grassroots movement behind his aims. He refers to this, often, as a mistake that President Barack Obama has made during his presidency -- the failure to use his coalition as a source of public pressure.

This is a fair critique of Obama, and Sanders is hardly the first person to make it. And one can certainly point to the tea party as a group that demonstrated the tidal effect of a grassroots revolution. Public pressure from the right definitely accomplished two things: It created an opportunity for a range of conservative ideas and policies to grow in acceptance, and it got enough people elected to change the complexion of Congress. Of course, it also created a situation in which GOP machers like former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could no longer govern effectively. 

It's still fair to say that the governing vision Sanders describes for his presidency is an abstract one. But what happens when Sanders describes how he's governed as a legislator? Suddenly, things get a lot more concrete. Here's how Sanders responded to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow during a discussion on privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs (emphasis mine):

MADDOW: Sen. Sanders, you, as a congressional leader on veterans issues and the Veterans Committee, you've worked in a very bipartisan way with Sen. John McCain and others on veterans issues. Is the right contour of the fight, the way she's talking about this issue?

SANDERS: Let me agree. You know, as the secretary knows, I chaired -- I had the privilege and the honor of chairing the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. And it is interesting to me, you know, Republicans give a lot of speeches about how much they love veterans. I work with the American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, the Vietnam Vets and virtually every veterans organization to put together the most comprehensive piece of veterans legislation in the modern history of America. That's what I did.

And I brought it to the floor of the Senate. Every Democrat voted for it; I got two Republicans. We ended up with 56 votes and I couldn't get the 60 votes that I needed. That is pathetic.

This was legislation supported by all of the veterans organizations, addressing many of the serious problems that veterans face in health care and in how we deliver benefits to them.

So Republicans talk a good game about veterans, but when it came to put money on the line to protect our veterans, frankly, they were not there.

What I did next, Rachel, is I had to retreat a little bit, I had to compromise. I did work with John McCain. I did work with Jeff Miller over in the House. And we put together not the bill that I wanted, but probably the most comprehensive VA health care bill in the modern history of this country.

As Jonathan Chait pointed out Thursday night, as a presidential candidate, Sanders "rejects ... the political model that treats pluralism as the normal model of political action" and "believes the interest of the public is not divided, it is united, and only the corrupt influence of big business has thwarted it." But by his own account of the process by which this legislation was passed, the public pressure failed, and he had to go back and cut a deal, the end result of which was nevertheless, to his mind, "the most comprehensive VA health care bill in the modern history of this country."

Now, perhaps Sanders is motivated to inspire a political revolution because he's seen bills fall short of the mark through this type of governance. And there is, of course, no guarantee that Clinton, were she in a similar position, wouldn't have settled for much less in the way of a piece of VA legislation.

But he sure sounds like he's proud of what he accomplished in this instance, and for a minute there, it sounded like he was similarly enthusiastic about the way in which it was accomplished. And it was accomplished despite the corrupting influence of corporate outsiders and the ideological opposition of the Republican caucus.

Sanders is right on the merits when he talks about the corrupting influence of money in politics, and history has proved that revolutionary populism can sometimes overcome those influences. But in this instance, what he describes validates the premise of Clinton's candidacy.

Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast "So, That Happened." Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   February 5, 2016   12:02 AM ET

At Thursday night's debate in New Hampshire, MSNBC moderator Chuck Todd tossed one of this week's bigger questions to Hillary Clinton, asking if she'd provide the public with a record of what she said in the numerous paid speeches she's delivered since leaving the State Department. These would include three speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs, for which she received $675,000 in renumeration. 

In her response, Clinton showed a tiny preview of one topic she may have addressed in those speeches, and sounded a familiar refrain:

TODD: Thank you both. Let me move on to our next question here, and in fact it comes to us through New England Cable News. Secretary Clinton, it's addressed to you, and it's about this issue of the speeches, particularly to Goldman Sachs. This is what the questioner wrote verbatim. 

"I am concerned with the abuses of Wall Street has taken with the American taxpayers' money," and then she asks whether you would release the transcripts of your Goldman Sachs speeches, and then added, "Don't you think the voting public has a right to know what was said?"

But, let's make that bigger. Are you willing to release the transcripts of all your paid speeches? We do know through reporting that there were transcription services for all of those paid speeches. In full disclosure, would you release all of them?

CLINTON: I will look into it. I don't know the status, but I will certainly look into it. But, I can only repeat what is the fact that I spoke to a lot of different groups with a lot of different constituents, a lot of different kinds of members about issues that had to do with world affairs. I probably described more times than I can remember how stressful it was advising the president about going after Bin Laden. 

My view on this is look at my record.


Well, Clinton does have something of a record -- or maybe it's a tendency -- of always referring back to the 9/11 terror attacks when the issue of her closeness to Wall Street comes up. As HuffPost's Ariel Edwards-Levy has reported, it came up in a big way at the Nov. 14 debate, at which Clinton gave this answer in response to her perceived closeness to Wall Street interests: "We were attacked in downtown Manhattan, where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country." 

One suspects there must be a better reason to pay Hillary Clinton $675,000 then to hear the story of how Osama bin Laden died, unless Wall Streeters really need the continual rebuking of those terrorists that badly.

Regardless, one can probably now expect Clinton's communications staff to be hounded until those transcripts are produced.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.


Read the latest updates on the debate below: 

Jason Linkins   |   February 4, 2016    5:02 PM ET

So, that happened. Hillary Clinton's candidacy has a very compelling mission: She'll hold fast against the GOP's attempts to roll back the accomplishments of the Obama administration. Bernie Sanders presents himself equally compellingly: Holding what's been gained isn't good enough; real progress requires a revolution. For a time, this was a heady debate about the future of a party. But as we entered this week, it's taken a personal turn and is now, essentially, a pissing contest over who's more progressive.

 At this week's debate, Clinton and Sanders were drawn into this argument from the outset.

"Senator Sanders and I share some very big progressive goals," Clinton said. "I've been fighting for universal health care for many years. We're now on the path to achieving it. I don't want us to start over again."

She went on to stake out goals on a range of issues, all of which fell short of the mark Sanders is personally seeking. The difference, Clinton said, is that Sanders' "numbers just don't add up."

Sanders struck a civil chord, but objected to the idea that he would "start over again." "I'm on the health, education, labor committee [which] wrote the Affordable Care Act. The idea I would dismantle health care in America while we're waiting to pass a Medicare for all is just not accurate."

The argument continued, however. Clinton made note of the fact that many Democrats would not be deemed sufficiently progressive under Sanders' definition, from President Barack Obama to the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone. 

Sanders insisted that this whole conflict began when Clinton, earlier in the campaign, self-proclaimed herself as a moderate.

"I said I'm a progressive that likes to get things done," Clinton responded, "Cherry-picking quotes doesn't get things done."

There is, of course, one thing that's revealed a fundamental difference between the two candidates and that drives both the thoughtful and the petty aspects of their rivalry. That thing? Wall Street, and its specter of influence that Sanders has, not so subtly, suggested governs Clinton's decision-making. Clinton has, in past debates, done herself no favors with her bizarre ripostes to Sanders' accusations -- the most famous of which is the claim that her relationship with powerful financial institutions is a mere byproduct of their geographic proximity to the Sept. 11 attacks.

On the debate stage, that divide once again featured prominently, with Sanders framing Hillary as part of an implicitly corrupt "establishment." "What being part of the establishment is," Sanders averred, "is in the last quarter having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street."

Clinton responded that this was an "insinuation" -- "If you've got something to say, say it directly. You will not find that i ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received... I think it's time to end the artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out in recent weeks and let's talk about the issues that divide us."

And that was just the first half-hour of this debate.

There's no doubt that Sanders presents a unique problem for Clinton. She sees the near future as one in which she -- a proven warrior against Republican slings and arrows -- serves as a lonely bulwark against the dismantling of progressive accomplishment. But Sanders is selling glittering visions of a progressive revolution. It's up to Clinton to sell her mission as the more realistic, and to point out that Sanders is going to get his teeth kicked in by an angry and entrenched GOP and that he's had it pretty easy being an independent winning elections in safe Vermont.

For a while, it looked like we'd have a debate over these competing visions. That it's skidded into this contretemps over who has the purest progressive bona fides is bad news for both candidates. For Clinton, it's simply a war she can't win and should avoid fighting in the first place, lest she become more reactive than strategic. And for Sanders, the pettiness cuts against the respectful tone of competitiveness he laid out from the outset, and it's starting to make him look less like a principled revolutionary and more like a conventional politician. It's a street fight tailor-made to sow resentment and depress turnout, and you have to imagine that the GOP candidates do not mind it one bit.

Also on this week's podcast, Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, who made a surprisingly strong showing in her upset bid to unseat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has set her sights on New York's 19th Congressional District. She's aiming to apply her work in fighting corruption to one of Washington's most broken institutions, and she joins us today to tell us how she'll get there.

This week, reform-minded Wisconsin Republican Rep. Reid Ribble announced that he'll be retiring from the House at the end of the year. We'll chat him up about the 2016 scene, his plans for his last year in office and what he hopes life after government is like.

And Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D) joins us in-studio to talk about reforming the U.S. relationship with the brutal and warlike regime in Saudi Arabia.

Finally, the presidential race has finished its sojourn in Iowa, and the movable feast moves on to New Hampshire. We'll discuss everything we learned about voters and the numbers, and how it could affect what happens next.

"So, That Happened" is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week are New York congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, Wisconsin Rep. Reid Ribble and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy. Also on the show are Huffington Post reporters Jessica Schulberg, Janie Velencia and Lauren Weber.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you're there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

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Jason Linkins   |   February 3, 2016    4:15 PM ET

When political observers characterize New Hampshire, host state of the first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 9, one aspect that they typically focus on is the state's famed independent-mindedness. That's a quality that helps make sense of the fact that the two insurgent candidates, Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump, boast big leads in the polls. But there's another unique thing about Granite State voters that's worth noting: They always break late. And therein lies the hopes of every candidate with a different surname.

Now these two features of the state's citizens are on a collision course with one another. And if history is any guide, we might wake up next Wednesday with another twist in the tale of this campaign season. Back in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama came into New Hampshire with a head of steam from an Iowa caucus victory and a deemed-to-be-insurmountable lead in the polls. And then, whoops: He lost to Hillary Clinton.

While the media was frantically piecing together the remnants of their broken narrative, I went back to school -- St. Anselm's College, to be exact -- to find out what actually happened:

As the last polls came in the Sunday before the primary, one important number failed to register: 47 percent. That's the percentage of the Democratic electorate in New Hampshire that hadn't made up its mind on who to vote for. Jennifer Donahue of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm's College, told The Huffington Post, "I always look for that number first because historically, New Hampshire voters make up their minds at the last minute." On Sunday night, that was the number that stood out in the CNN/WMUR poll. That large number of Democratic undecideds so close to the vote was unprecedented. And it was no outlier: the pollster at CNN/WMUR said that number was consistent throughout all the polls being taken.

"That, right there, is cautionary," Donahue says, adding that the news should have been, "Half the Democratic electorate still undecided...and that would be the headline until that number hits 30 percent."

There will probably be a fresh CNN/WMUR poll out this weekend, but here's where those numbers stood as of Jan. 31, first on the Republican side:

And here's the Democratic side of the ledger:


As you can see, there's still a great deal of fluidity, especially on the Republican side, where as of last week over 60 percent of voters were not yet firm in their choices. Back in 2008, Donahue suggested that media coverage should confront high undecided numbers like this by leading their coverage of the polls to note the high number of undecideds in "bold, red letters." This will have to suffice:

It's worth noting that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have substantially larger leads in New Hampshire right now than Obama held over Clinton in 2008 -- perhaps large enough to not worry about what late-deciding voters decide to do. For what it's worth, though, in Iowa, late-breaking Democratic voters were evenly split between Sanders and Clinton. But on the Republican side, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio outplayed Trump

I'd still say that if New Hampshire surprises, you shouldn't be surprised.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   February 3, 2016   11:41 AM ET

For a few months now, Jeb Bush's campaign has been insisting that the Jeb! Comeback is on, and that the media should get in on the ground floor of this amazing narrative. Today, that narrative is channeling Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here's how the comeback is going. 

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words (from The New York Times) appear:

Speaking to a crowd at the Hanover Inn near the Vermont border during his final stop of the day, Mr. Bush finished a fiery riff about protecting the country as commander in chief — “I won’t be out here blowharding, talking a big game without backing it up,” he said — and was met with total silence.

“Please clap,” he said, sounding defeated.

The crowd laughed — and then, finally, clapped.

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."


This has been the Jeb! Comeback Watch for Feb. 3. Jeb Bush finished in sixth place in Iowa (2.8 percent). He is currently in fifth place in New Hampshire (8.9 percent), fourth place in South Carolina (8.7 percent), and fifth place nationally (5.4 percent).


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below. 

Jason Linkins   |   February 2, 2016    4:53 PM ET

For a few months now, Jeb Bush's campaign has been insisting that the Jeb! Comeback is on, and that the media should get in on the ground floor of this amazing narrative. Well, the Iowa results are in. Here's how the comeback is going.

Monday night, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush became the third member of his family to participate in the Iowa caucus. His father, George H.W. Bush, faced Iowa voters in 1988 -- when he finished third with 19 percent of the vote -- and in 1992, when he won unopposed. Brother George W. Bush did even better, finishing first in 2000 with 41 percent of the vote, and winning unopposed four years later. How did Jeb stack up? Uhhhhhh ... well, here are the numbers.

Poll average going into the Iowa caucus: 3.9 percent

Percentage of vote in the Iowa caucus: 2.8 percent

Standing in the polls before caucus: Fifth

Place he finished after votes were in: Sixth

Amount of money spent by Right to Rise, in Iowa: $14.1 million

Amount of money taken in by Right to Rise in the last fundraising quarter: $15.1 million

Amount of that donation provided by former AIG numbskull Hank Greenberg: $10 million

Money spent on ads per vote: $2,800 (based on voter turnout estimate of 180,000)

Money spent on ads per vote by Marco Rubio: $280 (based on voter turnout estimate of 180,000)

Number of tweets sent by Right To Rise troll Twitter account, "@IsMarcoWorking": Two.

Number of tweets, post caucus, in which a Jeb donor compares the experience of funding the campaign with the Bataan Death March: One.

Share price for Bush win on PredictIt: 5 cents

Likelihood that Jeb is still "happy to not be the front-runner": Nil.

Number of delegates won in Iowa: One.

Which means he trails the leader, Ted Cruz, by how many delegates? Actually ... just seven! See you in New Hampshire!

This has been the Jeb! Comeback Watch for Feb. 2. Jeb Bush finished in sixth place in Iowa (2.8 percent). He is currently in fifth place in New Hampshire (8.9 percent), fourth place in South Carolina (8.7 percent)  and fifth place nationally (5.6 percent).


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.

Jason Linkins   |   February 2, 2016    4:01 PM ET

It was right around the time that news broke that certain Iowa precincts were determining which candidates were going to win delegates by virtue of a coin toss that I'd finally had enough, and decided it was time to throw the system by which Iowans determine presidential nominees into a dumpster, set it aflame, and push it out into East Okoboji Lake to disappear from our lives forever. The Iowa caucus: Let's do it, let's erase it from existence.

Lord knows this is only going to get a subset of Hawkeye State residents all up in my face, but enough's enough, you guys. The assignment of county convention delegates should not go down to uncertainty because of everyone's failure to plan for the possibility that there might be an even number of humans in a room.

And look, I know that the media really rode the coin toss story hard. As Pat Rynard of Iowa Starting Line opined the morning after, "It was particularly disheartening to see the national media run wild with the coin flip story." Well, you know, in our defense, we're not the ones who came up with this whole coin toss nonsense. We're not the ones who came up with any of this nonsense.

But between all the horse-trading, the different rules on both sides, the coin tosses, and the fact that a "handful" of precincts kept everyone waiting around Monday night because whoever was in charge forgot the official caucus abacus or something, it's time to take a good look at scrapping the caucuses, which bear a greater resemblance to a game of Calvinball than to an organized electoral process.

There are ancient criticisms of the Iowa caucus, of course, most of which have to do with the ways the state's voters are not representative of the rest of the country. Caucus-goers are too white, for example. They're too evangelical, on the GOP side. Everywhere, the state is too obsessed with ethanol.

Progress, at least, is being made on that last front. Ted Cruz's victory in the GOP caucus marks the "first time a candidate opposed strongly by the state’s ethanol industry came in first." In the homestretch of Hawkeye State politicking, Cruz looked like he might end up stumbling at the finish line after Gov. Terry Branstad called in the ethanol industry equivalent of a code red on the Texas senator. Donald Trump, sensing an opportunity, whacked Cruz hard on the issue. In the end, perhaps Cruz won because of the state's heavy evangelical tilt. Or maybe he won because Trump surrogate and word-salad tosser Sarah Palin made limp cracks about "huffing ethanol" before an unamused crowd of voters.

But who cares? The point is, the Iowa caucus is the only place in America where an election potentially hinges on the quadrennial obsession with a corn byproduct.

Really, who can say who won what and why? Sometime before the night's end, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, coasting to a high-performing third-place finish, came on stage and essentially delivered a victory speech. Normally, the only Americans who caterwaul on and on about their third-place finish are the upset winners of obscure Alpine events at the Winter Olympics, but there Rubio was, proclaiming, "This is the moment they said would never happen," about a thing that everyone was pretty sure was going to happen.

Now, all sorts of people are grousing about how Marco Rubio's gotten more love from the media for his third-place finish than either Cruz or Trump have gotten for beating him. Look, I am more sympathetic than most about the way goofy media narratives take hold in spite of actual facts, but let's face it: Part of the blame here goes to the fact that it's so easy to discount Iowa's results. "Oh, Cruz won Iowa? Well let's see if that holds up after we get the results from New Hampshire, the next wholly cloistered and unrepresentative voting cohort on the docket."

Over on the Democratic side, things ended in a genuine pileup, with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders locked in what's essentially a tie. Here, if the media narrative skids into the goof zone, that's entirely on them. But this process is still pretty nonsensical. Besides the fact that a handful of contests went down to a round of "What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss, friend-o," the Democrats keep things pointlessly obscure. Unlike Republicans -- who at least count the number of votes cast for each candidate -- Democrats don't provide a count of the raw vote totals, only the number of delegates each candidate wins.

So, right now, I literally could not tell you how many human beings in Iowa opted for Clinton or how many went for Sanders. Which is dumb. Don't just take my word for it. When I asked HuffPost Pollster's Natalie Jackson why the Democrats do it this way, she said, "Because they're dumb."

And without raw vote totals, the delegates become all-important, and that's when you trip into the fact that there are county convention delegates (the coin-flip guys) and "State Delegate Equivalents," or SDEs, the total apportionment of which solely determine who was "won." (In this case, Clinton has 701 SDEs to Sanders' 697.)

Steve Kornacki on MSNBC Monday night got so tripped up over these distinctions that he had to come on the air after a commercial and apologize for boofing it. Steve Kornacki! A man so detail-oriented and knowledgeable that when I forget what my wife wanted for her birthday, I just direct message him on Twitter and he tells me. Any election whose vagaries trip Kornacki up is one that needs reforms.

Basically, if a horde of jumpy 10-year-olds made up the rules that governed their clubhouse, and also their budding pre-pubescence, it would probably end up making a lot more sense than the system Iowa is using to kick off what is always "the most important election in American history." It's just no way to run a country, even for one day in February every four years.

I understand that this caucus process occupies a special place in people's hearts. Ardent fans of this process will look at the way normal Americans come out of their homes, gather together, and work their way to a result as a community of citizens, and they'll remember that this really is the essence of democracy. And it actually is nice to be nostalgic for some old aspect of America that didn't involve the denial of somebody's civil rights.

Although, now that I think about it, the Iowa caucus basically excludes people who work nights (which cuts out a lot of working-class Iowans) and who have to take care of young children (which cuts out a lot of parents ... probably mostly women at that). So, sorry, Iowa caucus, you're boned in this respect as well.

Right about now is when someone pipes up about how I've talked about a problem without proposing any solutions. I don't know, man. We could trade around the "first in the nation" status every cycle to give other states a shot. We could just hold a nationwide single-day primary. Or, for Pete's sake, Iowa can just do that thing where citizens of voting age take a whole day to cast their votes in voting booths, we total the results, and call it a night with defined winners and losers, like most of the rest of us here in the 21st century do it.

Sorry if none of these suit your fancy, caucus fans, but when mom and dad tell you that there's no such thing as Santa Claus, it's not on them to make up some new magical Christmas man for you. It's on you to grow up and get on with the business of living an adult life.

Get it together, Iowa. You're blowing it.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So, That Happened." Subscribe here. Listen to the latest episode below.


Jason Linkins   |   February 2, 2016   11:14 AM ET

The Iowa caucuses, mercifully, are over. The votes are in, the winners have declared victory and the people who finished third are also sort of declaring victory for some reason. The delegates have been apportioned -- or, more precisely, a teensy number of the thousands of delegates the eventual winner will need to collect have been apportioned. But how do we make sense of what happened?

As always, we look to the media for "takeaways." There are a lot for you to sample this Tuesday, but which are the hottest and most yummy? Herewith, Eat The Press offers the definitive ranking of the major Iowa takeaways, chosen by a scientific process of being correct about stuff.

1. The Democratic contest was close everywhere. There was a bunch of conventional wisdom, going in, about where the Sanders vote was strong and where Clinton had a beachhead. That all went out the window as the race proved tight all over the map.

2. "For the first time in the 2016 race, the conventional rules of politics applied to Donald Trump." What we refer to as "norms" made a brief comeback Monday night. 

3. Cruz's opponents threw everything they had at him -- and he survived. This really was a solid win for a candidate who spent his last fortnight in Iowa getting shellacked. (See also: "Ted Cruz proved he can take a punch.")

4. Iowans really need to up their caucus game. Come on, Polk County, it's just counting.

5. Donors will press Bush, Christie and Kasich to drop out. Good news for Marco.

6. The Democrats' bases don't look like they did in 2008. Clinton ceded white working-class voters to Sanders, but she kept the Obama coalition.

7. O'Malley voters held strong -- maybe a little too strong. Per Pat Rynard at the blog Iowa Starting Line, in many instances O'Malley's supporters didn't swing their support to another candidate in precincts where he wasn't viable, "so they weren't counted in the end at all."

8. Hillary Clinton "isn't a very good presidential candidate." It is weird that she keeps picking campaign teams that don't ever seem to actually want to campaign. (See also: "Hillary Clinton is a horrible candidate.")

9. Biden and Warren "must be kicking themselves." Probably Joe a little harder than Liz.

10. The Clinton campaign may shift resources out of New Hampshire. I guess that figures.

11. Trump's supporters "now have a more accurate picture of their size." Tell that to everyone using the #microsoftrubiofraud hashtag. (See also: "Trump underperformed badly.")

12. Bernie Sanders got out his vote. He's proven that organization is not king in Iowa.

13. Ted Cruz's victory shows that organization is still king in Iowa. Uh, this one could go either way, I guess.

14. Iowa is once again a "challenge for Clinton." It seems to have been a challenge for everyone, actually.

15. Ted Cruz is "your new front-runner." You know, for the next week or so.

16. South Carolina could be Clinton's New Hampshire. Maybe Florida will be her Nevada, who knows? Maybe Wyoming will be her Colorado. They kind of look the same.

17. Ethanol: big loser. Sure, but this just sets up the "ethanol comeback" narrative for 2020.

18. Rubio "might turn out to be the real long-term winner." The only problem is, no one can name what state he's going to win.

19. "Had [Trump] won tonight, he would have been extremely difficult to defeat." Been over this before, but the moment is a significant one. (See also: "Trump's relationship to polls finally hurt him."

20. Trump and Rubio are "on a collision course." Sure, who could have seen that coming when they both got into the same primary?

21. It's "now, officially, a 1-on-1 race" on the Democratic side. "Wait, it wasn't before?" -- everyone whose last name isn't Chafee, O'Malley, Lessig or Webb.

22. It was a big night for Rubio. If you (and he) say so! (See also: "Marco-mentum is real.")

23. "Third place is not a win" for Rubio. If you (and his opponents) say so!

24. "Why are the media obsessed with the GOP's populist candidate, when 75 percent of GOP voters in Iowa voted against him?" Probably because it wasn't until Monday night that GOP voters in Iowa voted.

25. "Marco Rubio won the establishment primary." Do you get delegates for this, or just a nice ribbon? (See also: "Marco Rubio is on the rise."

26. The other establishment candidates lost the establishment primary. Oof, you probably get even fewer delegates for this.

27. Sanders is "a serious threat to Clinton." You know, assuming the vagaries of the primary calendar haven't front-loaded his two best chances to win.

28. South Carolina will be "a battle royale." Yeah, man, they're having a primary there and everything.

29. "The Democratic race is still too close to call." Good thing we have The Wall Street Journal to point this out to us.

30. Massive turnout is good. Sure, sure.

31. Why did so many people vote for Ben Carson? (They like Ben Carson.)

32. "Zero percent of Democrats voted for a minority candidate." I'm more interested to know whom minority voters supported on Monday, but I understand my options are limited in Iowa.

33. Trump only turned out enough voters to finish second. Good counting, CNN!

34. "Cruz and Sanders both rail against the Establishment." And USA Today is on it!

35. "I have no idea what the second-place finish means for Mr. Trump -- and neither does anyone else." Cool, cool, definitely put that in a newspaper.

36. Candidates gave speeches. First time watching one of these things?

37. "It was particularly disheartening to see the national media run wild with the coin flip story." Yeah, it's definitely the media's fault that the Iowa caucuses are weird enough to allow coin flips to play a critical role in delegate allocation.

38. "Clinton survives and advances." Did you... did you think she was going to drop out?

39. Sanders fans are an angry lot sometimes. Yep, I'm on Twitter, too!

40. "Martin O'Malley had no chance." This is more like a takeaway from May of last year.


Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast "So, That Happened." Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.