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The Daily 202: This is not the year of the governor

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker watches the Republican debate at the Milwaukee Theatre on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)


John Kasich made a remarkable observation at the start of Tuesday’s Republican debate. Of the eight candidates on stage for the main event, he pointed out that he was the only sitting governor.

The Ohioan proceeded to have the worst night of anyone, and conservatives widely panned his performance.

Kasich’s struggle is emblematic of something bigger: 2015 has been a terrible time to be a current or former governor running for president.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who led in some polls this spring, and ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who briefly led in the polls during his first run four years ago, were the first two candidates to drop out of the 2016 contest.

On the Democratic side, ex-Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee quit after the first debate and Martin O’Malley remains an afterthought. Two years ago, if you’d done a survey of insiders, few would have predicted that the democratic socialist from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, would be faring so much better than the two-term Maryland governor against Hillary Rodham Clinton. O’Malley’s campaign never got off the ground after his lieutenant governor was defeated in last year’s election to succeed him, and then the Baltimore riots cast his record as mayor of that city in a dark light.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who were both relegated to the kid’s table on Tuesday because of their drop in the polls, found themselves defending their records in Trenton and Little Rock against attacks from Bobby Jindal. The outgoing Louisiana governor, at the kid’s table in all four debates, has struggled to raise cash and his unpopularity back home has become a drag on David Vitter, the Republican nominee in next week’s runoff to determine who will succeed him in Baton Rouge.

In many ways, governors are better equipped to become president than legislators. They’ve balanced budgets. They’ve led in moments of crisis, from hurricanes to terrorist attacks. They’ve forged coalitions. They’ve faced far more press scrutiny. They’ve commanded a national guard.

Jeb Bush, who left Tallahassee nine years ago after two terms as Florida’s chief executive, started the year as a presumptive frontrunner. But he’s found many voters uninterested in the long list of accomplishments he rattles off during his stump speech. He played the governor card in Iowa yesterday when he was asked about Marco Rubio, who is 18 years younger than him and has no executive experience.

“I’m a better bet,” he said. “I’ve got a proven record … I’ve been vetted. I’ve been tested.”

But, so far, that argument doesn’t resonate with the restive and angry Republican base. The two leaders in the polls, Ben Carson and Donald Trump, have never even run for office. At least Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have cast votes in the Senate, though none of the trio has even served a full six-year term.

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and New York Gov. George Pataki didn’t even make the cut for the undercard debate, despite leading two of the country’s biggest states. They’re not even trying to run serious campaigns. Neither filed to appear on the primary ballots in Arkansas and Alabama before deadlines this week.

This is historically unusual: Barack Obama was the first sitting senator elected president since 1960. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter all came to the White House from governor’s mansions. Each ran against Washington and the status quo.

Mitt Romney foreshadowed this trend four years ago when he downplayed his record as governor of Massachusetts in favor of emphasizing his experience as a businessman who could create jobs. He did that to contrast himself with Obama but also because his signature achievement in office was Romneycare, which included an individual mandate and helped inspire Obamacare.

— Why is this happening? So far, this campaign has not really been about policy. It’s been all about personalities.

The bigger issue is that governors are also no longer seen as outsiders. They’ve made compromises, and it is very difficult to stay ideologically pure when you’re leading a state. For example: From a conservative perspective, Walker had a very impressive record of achievements, aided by GOP majorities in both chambers of his state legislature. But many big donors, including the Koch brothers, zeroed in on his support for offering taxpayer help to build a new sports stadium, which Walker did to keep the Milwaukee Bucks from leaving town. That’s part of a governor’s job. But, in this climate, it is apostasy.

Of course, it is still possible that a governor will emerge to claim the nomination. Dan Balz, explaining that no one is dropping out of the Republican contest because it remains so unsettled, argues in a column today that Kasich and Christie are “on a collision course.” They are “two alpha personalities whose hopes are kept alive by their conviction that those above them are no more capable than they are of leading the party,” he writes.


Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, have launched an offensive to retake control of a town in Iraq that ISIS seized in summer 2014. The Post’s Loveday Morris reports that ISIS captured thousands of women in last year’s raid and has been using them as sex slaves for the past 13 months. About 7,500 Kurdish forces on Thursday swooped in from three different fronts in the campaign delayed by several weeks because of poor weather and tactical disagreement among Kurdish fighters. Read Loveday’s dispatch from the front lines here.

— Ben Carson profits from ties with convicted felon. Breaking from the Associated Press: “Carson has maintained a business relationship with a close friend convicted of defrauding insurance companies and testified on his behalf, even as the candidate has called for such crimes to be punished harshly. Pittsburgh dentist Alfonso A. Costa pleaded guilty to a felony count of health care fraud after an FBI probe into his oral surgery practice found he had charged for procedures he never performed, according to court records. Though the crime carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison, Costa was able to avoid prison time after Carson helped petition a federal judge for leniency. That’s different from the position Carson took in 2013 as he prepared to launch his presidential campaign, saying those convicted of health care fraud should go to prison for at least a decade and be forced to forfeit ‘all of one’s personal possessions.’”

— Smoking would be banned in all public housing, including common areas and administrative offices, under a new federal proposal to be unveiled today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It would impact nearly 1 million homes across the country, per the New York Times. If the rule were to be implemented, housing complexes would have a year-and-a-half to implement it.

— Nancy Pelosi made a surprise and unannounced trip to Tibet. The House Minority Leader led a delegation of congressional Democrats on a rare trip to the remote Himalayan region ahead of meetings in Beijing. Now she’s meeting with top Chinese officials. Traveling with her are Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz of Minnesota, Joyce Beatty of Ohio and Alan Lowenthal and Ted Lieu of California.


  1. The NTSB found no signs of distress calls by the pilots of the business jet that crashed into an apartment complex in Akron, Ohio, killing all nine people on board. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  2. A Mississippi state flag, which includes the Confederate emblem, was removed from a hallway in the U.S. Capitol. (NYT)
  3. The U.S. military didn’t have its own intelligence on the Afghan Doctors Without Borders hospital it bombed last month, and instead relied almost exclusively on Afghan officials’ assertion that the Taliban was inside the hospital. (AP)
  4. A new planet with similar size and composition to Earth has been spotted 39 million light years away, though scientists doubt there is life on it. (Los Angeles Times)
  5. Two nephews of the Venezuelan first lady were arrested in Haiti for trying to smuggle 800 kilos of cocaine into the United States. (AP)
  6. Germany’s BND spy agency reportedly eavesdropped on the FBI and U.S. gun manufacturers from 2008 to 2011. Remember Germans’ outrage over the Snowden revelations? (AP)
  7. Slovenia started building a razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia to keep out immigrants. (AP)
  8. The percentage of Americans who are obese increased from 35 to 38 percent. (NYT)
  9. A nationwide shortage of the FluMist nasal spray means people who want protection will need to receive a flu shot. (Ariana Eunjung Cha)
  10. The USDA in investigating an undercover video filmed at one of the nation’s largest pork processing plants that shows pigs being beaten and dragged across the ground, and — apparently in violation of federal law — still conscious before being killed. (Roberto Ferdman)
  11. A new Justice Department proposal recommends that companies not face charges if they voluntarily disclose instances of foreign bribery. (Ellen Nakashima)
  12. Wal-Mart will scale back its Black Friday shopping promotions this year, still opening its doors at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving but no longer having its door-buster deals spread out over a five-day period. (Wall Street Journal)
  13. A man was arrested for using social media to threaten to shoot African-Americans at the University of Missouri, which has seen its president and chancellor resign amid allegations that administrators failed to address racially-charged incidents on campus. Meanwhile, the Mizzou professor who was caught on camera berating a student journalist for trying to cover campus protests apologized and resigned her appointment with the journalism school, though she will remain a professor in the communication department.
  14. An Arkansas woman, 28, was charged with child endangerment after giving her 10-month-old son bourbon to relieve his teething pains. (KTHV-TV)


  1. The American Postal Workers Union endorsed Bernie Sanders, citing the senator’s voting record and his opposition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  2. Hillary Clinton revived her story of trying to join the Marines when she was 26. Critics have questioned the tale’s veracity, and her campaign declined to substantiate her claims. The Post’s Glenn Kessler gives Clinton two Pinocchios, noting that friends have recalled her musing about testing the boundaries of what was available to women in the 1970s.
  3. Bob Dole endorsed Jeb. (NBC)
  4. Ed Gillespie started a PAC for his Virginia gubernatorial candidacy in 2017. (Laura Vozzella)
  5. Vladimir Putin launched an investigation into the accusations of doping by Russia’s top athletes. (AP)


The Fox Business debate had the lowest ratings of the cycle: 13 million tuned in, slightly lower than watched on CNBC. But that’s only about half as many as the 24 million who watched the first debate in Cleveland and the 23 million who watched the second debate at the Reagan Library.

Charles Krauthammer predicted on Fox News last night that the “the final four” candidates for the nomination will be Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio.

Donald Trump indicated yesterday that he would use a “deportation force” to execute his plan of removing more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The Boston Globe looked into “Operation Wetback,” that Dwight Eisenhower program that Trump invoked during the debate to argue that his deportation promise is feasible. Matt Viser points out that 88 people died, and Mexicans’ heads were shaved so that they’d be recognized at the border. Far fewer people were also deported. 

The Post runs two stories on the front page following up on the debate—

— “As Rubio rises, GOP candidates are reluctant to take him on directly,” by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa: “Many Republican elites are once again celebrating him as the party’s golden boy, if not its strongest general-election candidate, and fear seeing him bruised too badly during the primaries. The other candidates have not figured out how to deal with what some are calling ‘the Marco moment,’ hinting at critiques and possible anti-Rubio ads to come but hesitating to make Rubio their main target.”

Yesterday, Jeb said his Right to Rise super PAC should not attack Rubio over his opposition to abortion in all instances, including in the cases of rape and incest. Bush, who supports exceptions, said: “I don’t think anybody should attack someone who’s pro-life.” His super PAC has reportedly considered attacking on the issue to make the case that the Florida senator is unelectable in the general. 

— “On foreign policy, the GOP candidates are ‘all over the map,’” by Sean Sullivan and Karen DeYoung: “Republican presidential contenders have long viewed foreign policy as a key area of strength in a potential general election matchup against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. But first, the party must resolve its own identity crisis on the subject, which erupted into view in the fourth Republican debate Tuesday night and flowed quickly onto the campaign trail the next day. Many in the GOP had been relishing the opportunity to vigorously prosecute the former secretary of state’s role in what they have disparagingly dubbed the ‘Obama-Clinton foreign policy legacy.’ The large GOP field’s muddled positions have shown that it won’t be easy. Unlike abortion and same-sex marriage, on which the Republican candidates mostly agree, there are deep divisions on foreign policy and national security, highlighting how President Obama’s agenda abroad, and by extension Clinton’s, have become difficult to assail from a consistent posture.”


— “Gene therapies offer dramatic promise but shocking costs,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson and Brady Dennis: “First tested in patients a quarter-century ago, gene therapy — a risky approach aimed at fixing the malfunctioning genes at the root of some diseases — is finally emerging from its own darkness after weathering high-profile tragedies, including the death of a teenage patient. As it evolves from experimental to applied medicine, gene therapy might soon find itself steeped in a new controversy: soaring drug prices. No therapy is approved yet in the United States, so discussions about price — as well as crucial questions about how much patients will pay directly — are hypothetical. But industry leaders are already talking about ways to get ahead of potentially massive one-time price tags that could make insurers and patients balk. A gene therapy approved in Europe in 2012 costs close to $1 million, and prices are expected to follow suit in the United States.”

— “Not all gay Catholics are pleased with how Vatican priest came out of the closet,” by Anthony Faiola: “Krzysztof Charamsa was still employed at one of the Holy See’s most powerful offices, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But after decades of hiding, the 43-year-old gay Polish priest wanted to come out with a flourish. He was no longer afraid to confront a church he saw as intrinsically ‘homophobic’ and proposed a symbolic news conference outside the headquarters of the Congregation — the very institution charged with defending and disseminating Catholic teachings around the globe. But Emilio Sturla, a public relations consultant who worked closely with gay Catholic groups and was helping Charamsa, strongly suggested he reconsider, both men recalled. The public and the church, Sturla insisted, would see such a move as too incendiary. ‘But that’s what he wanted,’ Sturla said. ‘To be provocative.’ And that’s what he did.”

In related news, a juvenile court judge in Utah ordered a child to be taken from his lesbian foster parents and placed with a heterosexual couple for the child’s “well-being.” And a group of Mormons will quit the church this Saturday out of frustration with the new ban on baptizing the children of same-sex couples, per Michelle Boorstein.


Curated by Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck)

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Trump back on top with media mentions, if only for a day. The Donald doubling down on immigration generated a surge of mentions across social and traditional media. It was as if the old order had returned, if for only a day, with Trump receiving more than twice as many mentions (more than 162,000) than Carson, his nearest GOP rival. As for what they were saying about Trump, the word cloud from our analytics partners at Zignal Labs makes it pretty clear: “Deportation Force.”

–Pictures of the day:

Ben Carson, delivering the convocation at Liberty University, asked students to pray for him to have “courage” and “stamina.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) visited the Air Force Memorial:

Marco Rubio did a round of early TV hits:

–Tweets of the day:

Bernie Sanders continues his efforts to get on the right side of the #BlackLivesMatter movement:

Donald Trump defended his debate comments about China and trade:

And complimented host Gerard Baker on his performance (“elegant”!):

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who earned his history Ph.D from Yale, made a philosophy joke:

And Rand Paul answered what he does for fun:

–Instagrams of the day:

With John in cycle, the McCain family rode in the Veterans Day parade in Phoenix (Cindy is second from the left):

Martin O’Malley posted the final photo taken of him and his dad, from Veterans Day 10 years ago:

The RNC’s Sean Spicer found ping pong at the Milwaukee airport:


— USA Today, “Justice officials fear nation’s biggest wiretap operation may not be legal,” by Brad Heath and Bret Kelman: “Federal drug agents have built a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs, secretly intercepting tens of thousands of Americans’ phone calls and text messages to monitor drug traffickers across the United States despite objections from Justice Department lawyers who fear the practice may not be legal. Nearly all of that surveillance was authorized by a single state court judge in Riverside County, who last year signed off on almost five times as many wiretaps as any other judge in the United States. The judge’s orders allowed investigators — usually from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — to intercept more than 2 million conversations involving 44,000 people, federal court records show.”


‘Daily Show’ launches petition to free Jeb Bush from ‘cruel’ campaign. From TPM: “‘The Daily Show’ started a petition on Tuesday night to free the former Florida governor from his ‘cruel presidential campaign.’ ‘Jeb’s been bred and trained for life,’ host Trevor Noah explained, not unlike the orcas at Sea World. ‘Every night, no matter how bad he feels, he has to go out there and perform …. Jeb Bush wants to be, no, he deserves to be set free. We know this because unlike an orca trapped in Sea World, Jeb Bush can voice his misery in a language we can understand.'”


Charles Koch has no plans to back a candidate in Republican primary. From USA Today: “I have no plans to support anybody in the primary now,” the billionaire industrialist said yesterday. Asked what he wants to hear from Republican contenders vying for his support, Koch said, “It’s not only what they say. If they start saying things we think are beneficial overall and will change the trajectory of the country, then that would be good, but we have to believe also they’ll follow through on it, and by and large, candidates don’t do that.”


–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Donald Trump rallies supporters in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Jeb Bush attends a town hall in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a house party in Center Tuftonboro, N.H. Also in N.H., Ted Cruz campaigns in Concord and John Kasich greets voters in Exeter. Lindsey Graham stops in Concord, Bedford, Litchfield and Nashua. In Iowa, Rand Paul holds events in Ames and Altoona, Chris Christie is in Cedar Rapids, Anamosa and Robins, and Carly Fiorina stops in Onawa and Harlan. Marco Rubio speaks at the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Summit in Hilton Head.

–On the Hill: The Senate and House are in recess.

–At the White House: President Obama awards retired Army Capt. Florent A. Groberg the Medal of Honor. Vice President Biden speaks at an “It’s On Us” event at Syracuse University.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Trump called for a 25 percent or greater tax on profits from the Keystone XL pipeline: “I want a piece of the profits,” he said in New Hampshire. “Let’s make a good deal.” (WSJ)


—  Breezy showers streak across the area this morning and are mostly gone by early afternoon. “Winds build to a crescendo of leaf-stripping, hair-disrupting intensity tomorrow,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “The weekend is clear sailing, literally, and turns much calmer. While Saturday is downright nippy, temps recover nicely to start the new week.”

— Virginia is the first state to meet the Housing and Urban Development Department’s definition of ending homelessness among military veterans. (Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella)

— A fatal beating of a homeless man in Northeast Washington was captured on video. (Joe Heim)

— Environmentalists want an ethics investigation into D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser over her reversal on Exelon’s takeover of Pepco. She was against the deal and then came out for it. (Aaron C. Davis)

— Washington is the snobbiest city on the East Coast, according to a new ranking from a site called San Francisco is #1. (Dana Hedgpeth)

— D.C. also has the nation’s fourth-highest concentration of students in charter schools. (Emma Brown)


Bravo posted a 2-minute trailer for its new reality TV show: “The Real Housewives of Potomac,” as in Maryland. The show will follow socialite and single mom Gizelle Bryant, model Katie Rost, grand dame Karen Huger, social butterfly Charrisse Jackson-Jordan, publicist Robyn Dixon and restaurateur Ashley Darby. Watch the trailer here.

Saturday Night Live posted an unaired, five-minute sketch that envisioned the Pentagon treating Trump’s hair as a national treasure if he was president (“Scalp Team 6”):

Jeb Bush chest bumped a new supporter:

President Obama laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of Veterans Day. His message focused on the troops being able to find good careers when they arrive home from overseas: