Every election cycle can be considered, first and foremost, a monument to hype. With every passing week, the political world is a blizzard of brash predictions, bold pronouncements, and bad advice. This year, your Speculatroners shall attempt to decode and defang this world with a regular dispatch that we're calling "This Week In Coulda Shoulda Maybe." We hope this helps, but as always, we make no guarantees!
Mitt's Out And Everyone's A Winner!
Last week, the former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential aspirant decided to quit the race he'd only just begun. Hmmm, does that mean he was actually a three-time presidential aspirant? Was he in long enough to qualify? We'll wait for someone else to make a ruling on that. The important thing, at least as far as the media was concerned, was clearly identifying who stood to gain the most from Mitt's departure, otherwise known as "the big winner." On this matter, the elite consensus was, as always, a model of consistency.
The Big Winner Is Jeb Bush: According to Fox News, Romney's departure meant that Jeb Bush would be "positioned" as "the establishment favorite," which would help the former Florida governor to "assemble a campaign team in key early-voting states." What's more, "veteran operatives who were torn between Bush and Romney will be free to put their energies into the Bush camp," and "former Romney donors were moving toward Bush."
Yep, Totally Jeb Bush: CNN concurs: "Mitt Romney's decision to pass on 2016 anoints Jeb Bush as the clear establishment favorite." South Carolina's GOP state party chair Matt Moore shows up in the piece, remarking, "I think it is hard to argue that today's news did not help Gov. Bush."
Unless, Of Course, Jeb Bush Ends Up Being The Big Loser: The Federalist's Ben Domenech: "So who benefits from this, and who is harmed? Somewhat ironically, it may be Jeb himself who takes a small hit over this. Bear with me here: with Romney in the race, Jeb would’ve had an opportunity to contrast himself as a fresh face, a break with the past of the GOP in a healthy way ... Romney would not have been able to win the nomination this time around, and he actually could’ve proven to be a useful foil for Jeb."
Well, In That Case, It's Gotta Be Scott Walker: "This news is especially helpful to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was already the thinking man's choice for a dark horse," writes Vox's Andrew Prokop, in a piece titled, "Mitt Romney's exit is great news for Scott Walker, not Jeb Bush."
Definitely Walker!: Headline at Hugh Hewitt's site: "Chuck Todd: Scott Walker the Other Big Winner Of Romney's Decision To Bow Out."
Not So Fast! Don't Forget About Chris Christie!: Meanwhile, Business Insider is pretty sure that Bush and Christie are the big Mitt-stakes winners: "Romney, the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee, suddenly announced Friday morning that he would not launch another White House bid in 2016. His exit opens up more space for establishment-oriented contenders with similar constituencies to Romney's -- particularly Christie and Bush."
It Could Also Be Rubio! (And Walker.): The Hill's Jonathan Easley: "Walker and Rubio could also see a political windfall, building on what has been a big month for both potential candidates." The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin: "Aside from Christie, Romney’s exit helps Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) the most. Both can appeal to the donor community and win over a chunk of Romney backers. They will need to build out their organization swiftly and show they have the gravitas to run and win a national campaign."
Anyone Got Kasich? Yes. "Ohio governor John Kasich may also benefit somewhat from Romney’s exit."
The National Journal's Charlie Cook Makes A Bold Prediction: "Several 2016 candidates could benefit from the 2012 GOP nominee's decision not to run." Okay, thanks!
What Do "Not Very Well-Informed" Millennials Think? According to Fusion's polling of "not very well-informed" millennials, "With Romney out of the mix, former Florida Jeb Bush benefitted the most: He could be the frontrunner with Romney out of the way. In a Romney-less field, Bush leads the pack at 16 percent, jumping 4 percentage points from a field that included Romney."
Okay, Surely There's A "Big Loser," Right? What About Rand Paul? I Don't See Him On This List: Per KSNV My News 3, "Rand Paul could pick up Mitt Romney's fan base in Nevada."
The Real Winner, Of Course: Is anyone who got to monetize this media trope this week!
So what is the 2016 election about this week?
Effective governing! The Editors of the Dispatch-Argus, of Moline, Illinois: "What it is and should be about is effective governing. And while we don’t expect, or even want, Congress to morph into a giant drum circle with members joining hands and singing Kumbaya, we do want them to work together, to be more than a fundraising machine for the next election."
Equality and responsibility! Andrew Beatty, Agence-France Presse: "While Obama's budget has no chance of being written into the statute books, it will frame arguments about equality and responsibility that are likely to dominate the 2016 race to succeed him as president."
The wealth gap! David Shribman, The Detroit News: "Indeed, there are two principal unspokens in the run-up to the next presidential campaign. The first is the quiet Republican hope that maverick Sen. Elizabeth Warren will challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the left in the Democratic primaries. The second is the anguish Republican candidates are having in trying to figure out how to address economic issues. ... At the heart of both of these unspokens is the increasingly apparent wealth gap."
What Time Is Hillary: An Update
Last week, we parsed the news, looking for signs that pointed to when, exactly, Hillary Clinton might formally announce that she is running for president, as opposed to just persisting under the assumption that a Clinton candidacy was a fait accompli. Our findings? Hillary is definitely running, unless she isn't, and we will definitely know for sure in July and there is absolutely no rush because she is, in the words of an adviser, "better off as a non-candidate." Also we learned that "July" could mean "April," because words have no meaning and time is relative.
So is the matter settled? Of course it isn't. It seems that "Clinton's advisers are split on when Hillary Clinton should launch her campaign." You know, almost as if one adviser thinks "she's better off as a non-candidate" and a bunch of other advisers contend, "Dude, why on earth did you say that to Politico?" As CNN's Brianna Keilar reports:
There could be 10 or more Republican candidates by this summer. That might be when Hillary Clinton gets around to officially moving toward a campaign, if she heeds some confidantes, who are privately arguing for an announcement in July to coincide with the start of the third fundraising quarter. Delaying until the summer is an idea that is said to be gaining momentum against those who want to stick to the plan for an April start date.
The possibility of the delay is very real but still unsettled.
"I would say it's 40 percent," in the direction of those arguing for a delay, said one Democrat who supports a spring debut for Clinton's presidential campaign. Another Democrat who saw merits in both time lines put the odds of a delay at 50 percent.
The best part of this report is the part where Keilar writes: "Democrats on both sides of the debate spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity so they could make their case without upsetting Clinton or those close to her for talking openly about internal deliberations." I mean, if you're worried about the consequences of "talking openly about internal deliberations," it seems to me that the best thing, for all involved, is to definitely return Brianna Keilar's phone calls. That's just common sense.
The Week In Predictions
Rand Paul: The National Journal's Josh Kraushaar says that Paul's has a "getting elected" problem, in that he "can't" get elected, because his "heterodox views on foreign policy" are at odds with his party, and more specifically, Iowa voters: "Even in Iowa, a dovish state where Paul holds strong favorability ratings, the appetite for increased military interventionism against ISIS is high. In a new Bloomberg survey, nearly half of Republicans ranked 'more aggressively pursuing terrorists' as a leading issue out of 10 tested, ranking a close second behind repealing Obamacare." Also hampering Paul's chances is one of his campaign organizers, A.J. Spiker, is apparently despised by Iowans. According to one Iowa GOP activist, Andy Cable, Spiker is "toxic" and Paul "will get little or no exposure in the rural counties around Iowa, and most of that will be directly related to having A.J. Spiker as his front man."
Jeb Bush: More Iowa problems! Jeb Bush won't win Iowa. But it gets worse! According to Gary Gross, "It's one thing for Gov. Bush to lose Iowa. There isn't a pundit that's giving him much of a chance of winning Iowa. It's another thing to finish a distant fifth." It won't be great for the person who finishes fourth, either. (Who will presumably be Rand Paul?)
Elizabeth Warren: The Hill contributor John LeBoutillier just lets it all hang out, predicting that Warren "will run against Clinton in 2016." He gives 20 reasons for his prediction, some of which are not actual reasons. (Example: "14. So here is the big question: Will Elizabeth Warren run -- after repeatedly saying she is not running?")
Martin O'Malley: "Martin O’Malley to rock New Hampshire this St. Patrick’s Day." We are told that O'Malley's closest advisers are already downplaying the extent to which O'Malley will "rock" New Hampshire, in an effort to win "the expectations game."
Hillary Clinton: Interesting and substantive prediction from Iowa-based Democratic organizer John Deeth: "If Hillary Clinton is elected president, this will be the last Iowa Caucus." Bold and weird prediction from MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "I think she should go for a 55 percent victory, 54 percent victory because then she could bring the House in, she could bring the Senate in, and she could really rule this country. This country needs somebody to get control of it." Bold and weirdly specific prediction from these people who have started some sort of online petition: "Hillary Clinton will Announce in New York City on Saturday, July 4, 2015 in Central Park."
Prediction of Doom! Wrongest pundit alive Dick Morris says that "Scott Walker could win," in a devastating blow to Walker's chances of winning.
All The Advice That's Fit To Aggregate
Jeb Bush should "rethink his approach to marijuana policy." He should also "leave the race with dignity." Scott Walker should not let Democrats define him. Marco Rubio should either run for president, or run for the Senate again, or run for governor. Chris Christie needs to watch out for the things that will hurt him, unless they help him -- specifically his vaccine comments (which "may hurt as much as help in the Iowa 2016 race"), and his "brash style" (which may "be a boon or a bust in 2016").
We'll Leave You With This, Whatever This Is