I tend to doubt that former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will, in the end, launch an official challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. But O’Malley has just laid down a marker that deserves some attention, because it foreshadows an argument that will be key to the 2016 race, one in which Clinton will need a good answer.
In an interview with NPR, O’Malley bluntly said that one of the primary GOP economic arguments is “bull—t.” O’Malley was talking about the Republican argument that government is a key factor in stymieing people’s economic mobility.
Asked about Marco Rubio’s recent suggestion that “active government keeps people frozen at their economic status,” as NPR’s Steve Inskeep puts it, O’Malley replied, in part:
“It is not true that regulation holds poor people down or regulation keeps middle class from advancing. That’s kind of patently bull—t.”
This may be a bit too colorful for Clinton’s taste, but she will probably have to come up with an effective way of saying the same thing. The debate over the true causes of economic stagnation will be the ideological turf upon which some of the most important 2016 battles will unfold.
The 2016 GOP hopefuls all know they have to acknowledge that the economy is rigged against lower-income and working Americans, in favor of those at the top. But all signs right now are that they will diagnose the reason for this very differently from how Dems will: The real structural obstacle to economic mobility is government; cut taxes from the top on down and sweep away regulations, and behold the unshackled private sector’s power to shower everyone with widely distributed gains from turbo-charged growth.
By contrast, Clinton has embraced the core policy mechanisms of Obamacare (Exhibit A in the GOP argument that government is the enemy of economic mobility). She will likely offer a broad-based governmental policy response on the economy: Various proposals designed to boost wages; policies designed to increase workplace flexibility, removing barriers to work for women; investments in education and infrastructure to crank up demand and arm workers to face the challenges of globalization and technological change. It remains to be seen what Clinton will support in terms of high end tax hikes, but she’ll probably call for, at a minimum, higher taxes on capital gains and inherited wealth.
Republicans have already telegraphed that they will attack such policies as a third term of Obummer Big Gummint. Clinton will surely deride the GOP economic agenda for its continued addiction to “trickle down” economic dogma. But it’s one thing to attack Republicans for their continued instinct to protect the wealth of the rich, and quite another to directly take on the GOP argument that government is the problem. The question is how, or whether, Clinton will find an effective way to, well, call “bull—t.”
* REPUBLICANS: BENGHAZI…CHIPOTLE…OBUMMER THIRD TERM: In New Hampshire over the weekend, the Republican presidential candidates unloaded their full repertoire of attacks on Hillary Clinton. Rand Paul declared her handling of Benghazi “should forever preclude her” from the presidency. Jeb Bush warned she’d raise $2.5 billion, which would amount to “a lot of Chipotle.”
And Scott Walker said she’d represent a “third term of Obama,” and noted she hadn’t ever shopped at Kohls. That last one is in keeping with the new GOP attack line that Clinton comports herself as entitled, as royalty. But how many voters outside the GOP base will buy that one?
* OBAMA TO PUSH CLIMATE AGENDA: This week, on Earth Day, the president will visit the Everglades to draw attention to a region threatened by global warming. But as the Post write-up notes, the larger political context is inescapable:
Obama has larger initiatives underway, as well, including a major climate pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that the United States struck with China last fall. The administration recently announced its plans to cut emissions up to 28 percent by 2025…The issue is likely to be debated during the presidential race in 2016, with some GOP candidates taking a skeptical view.
The more Obama talks about climate, the more the 2016 GOP hopefuls will be required to oppose his actions, including perhaps participation in a global climate agreement negotiated later this year, which will form a key contrast for 2016.
* JEB-MENTUM RAGES AS BUSH LEADS IN GOP PRIMARY: A new CNN poll finds that Jeb Bush leads all his rivals among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents nationally, with 17 percent, compared to 12 percent for Scott Walker and 11 percent for Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Rubio has now crept into double digits, and is effectively tied with Walker, perhaps due to the attention from his recent launch.
* HILLARY LEADS ALL REPUBLICANS BY LARGE MARGINS: Also from the new CNN poll:
Rubio fares best against the former first lady, trailing Clinton by 14 points, 55% to 41%. Bush trails Clinton by 17 points, 56% to 39%. Christie and Paul fall 19 points behind Clinton, each putting up 39% to Clinton’s 58%. Huckabee, Walker, Carson and Cruz each trail Clinton by more than 20 points.
Horse race polls this early mean very little, obviously. But your humble blogger will be posting them from time to time, because you should at least know they exist, expecting that the reader will exercise appropriate caution.
* CHRISTIE-MENTUM IN NEW JERSEY!!! A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Governor Chris Christie is suffering from the worst approval numbers of his tenure: New Jersey residents disapprove of his performance by 56-38. While a large majority still says he is a strong leader, they say by 41-52 that he is honest and trustworthy. This, even though they also say by 57-32 that he did not order the traffic jam. And they say by 65-39 that he would not make a good president.
* GOP SHOULD LEARN LESSONS OF CALIFORNIA: E.J. Dionne has a nice column arguing that national Republicans should learn the demographic lessons of California, i.e., that the passage of the notorious Proposition 187 set in motion a cycle of Latino alienation from the party:
The same thing is now happening nationally. The growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the GOP has cut the Republicans’ Latino share of the vote from around 40 percent for George W. Bush to 27 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012. The party’s strenuous opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration will only make this problem more acute. But even more remarkably, Republicans have also suffered severe declines among Asian Americans.
The decline among Asian Americans is rarely discussed, but it may well emerge as a real story sooner or later.
* AND NOT ALL REPUBLICANS OPPOSE GAY MARRIAGE: An interesting nugget from a new USA Today poll:
Republican voters haven’t been immune to the sweeping changes in public opinion toward same-sex unions and how the high court should rule. While a majority in the GOP still oppose gay marriage, they are more closely divided on the issue than Democrats, who overwhelmingly support [it].
Anyone think maybe young Republicans are the ones who support marriage equality?