Anyone looking at the polls or the dynamics of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary going into tonight's Republican candidate debate knew the candidate with the bulls-eye on his back was Marco Rubio, and that the rivals hunting for him would be the three facing imminent extinction: Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie. Rubio had finished a surprisingly strong third in Iowa while the other three had finished a very poor sixth, seventh and eighth. Long the "smart money" favorite for the nomination, he was now being hailed by Republican Establishment figures as the one guy who might save them from both Trump and Cruz. He had a reputation as an excellent, if somwhat robotic, debater. And he was already climbing into second place in most of the post-Iowa polls in New Hampshire.
Senator Marco Rubio's attempt to claim the GOP establishment mantle and surge past Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to the Republican presidential nomination encountered a massive glitch in the early part of Saturday night’s debate. At first, Rubio’s strategy appeared to be to rehash his stump speech insinuating that President Obama is deliberately damaging America. Chris Christie, whose strategy for the debate was clearly to take out Rubio, repeatedly called attention to the senator’s canned speech and accused him of using memorized sound bits to cover up for his complete lack of executive experience. That strategy worked. The exchange became an instant classic in the history of political smackdowns, especially because, incredibly, a clearly rattled Rubio continued to use his canned speech, repeating his attack on Obama a total of four times over the first half of the debate:
When I heard Jeb Bush do a shout-out to his father and brother ("the most popular Republican alive today!") at his get-out-of-town-before-the-votes-come-in event in Des Moines on caucus day, I wasn't surprised; he decided some time ago to stop fighting his Bushiness and get what he could out of the dynasty (mostly lots and lots of super-pac donations).
During Thursday night's Democratic candidates' debate in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders made an interesting admission when asked how he would prioritize his agenda if elected president:
[Y]ou’re not going to accomplish what has to be done for working families and the middle class unless there is campaign-finance reform.
So long as big-money interests control the United States Congress, it is gonna be very hard to do what has to be done for working families. So let me be very clear. No nominee of mine, if I’m elected president, to the United States Supreme Court will get that nomination unless he or she is loud and clear and says they will vote to overturn Citizens United.
Marco Rubio has not, as some observers thought possible, blown the doors off his rivals in New Hampshire after his strong third-place finish in Iowa. But he has crept past both Ted Cruz and his most immediate opposition — fellow Establishmentarians Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie — to take second place in the last four published polls from the Granite State. With just four days to go until primary day, the major event with the potential to shake things up is Saturday night's New Hampshire Republican debate on ABC.
It's been an exciting week of firsts that don't feel like firsts in the 2016 race. After years of hearing pundits talk about the race, Iowans finally voted on Monday, and following 11 events billed as debates, last night we saw the first discussion that actually involved two candidates delving into their competing visions for the country. Here are the highs and lows from MSNBC's New Hampshire debate.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been debating an idea for weeks before Sanders finally put into words what separates them. “You can be a moderate. You can be a progressive. But you cannot be a moderate and a progressive,” he wrote. The first half hour of their New Hampshire debate put a fine point on this divide. Sanders wants to define progressivism as a party-wide Democratic ideology, and Clinton is fiercely resisting.
It's understandable that Ben Carson and his staff and supporters were upset on the night of the Iowa caucuses when they learned that a tweet from congressman Steve King and an email from Ted Cruz's deputy state director suggested Carson might be leaving (or at least taking a break from, as he has been prone to do) the Republican race before long. But it was probably an upsetting night for Carson generally, since he finished a poor fourth (though not as upsetting as it was for the eight candidates who finished behind him!). And it's hardly surprising that Donald Trump and Iowa governor Terry Branstad have piled on; both of them lost face with Cruz's victory and can be expected to question its legitimacy. Most people assuredly laughed at Trump's demand for a redo of the caucuses because of Cruz's "voter fraud"; here as in virtually every other case when you hear a Republican allege this crime, it's theater.
One of the fruits of ESPN's acquisition of Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight is the capacity to produce films, and so the wonky "data journalism" site has produced for our post-Iowa enjoyment a brief video look back at the "Dean Scream" — the iconic moment on the night of the Iowa caucuses when the soon-to-be-former Democratic presidential front-runner appeared to be losing it.
On Iowa caucus night, in the frenzied effort by the Clinton and Sanders campaigns to claim (or at least suggest) victory, anecdotes began drifting into the airwaves about irregularities in caucus procedures and other features of the system that allegedly obscured the will of the people. In particular, we heard about coin tosses that resolved ties over delegate selections — supposedly in Clinton's favor — and then demands by Sanders's campaign that the state Democratic Party do something it had never done before: release the raw vote totals that underlay the state-delegate-equivalent numbers reported to the media. There were also reports from both parties' caucuses of precincts being overwhelmed by high turnout and running out of voter-registration forms (Iowa allows participants to register to vote or change their party affiliation on site at the caucuses).
Deep behind a tangle of denial and rebranding initiatives, a GOP resuscitation plan emerges.By Frank Rich
When Mark Sanford decided to run for office again, he asked his ex-wife, Jenny, for her blessing. Whether he has her vote is another matter.By Jason Zengerle
Jon Favreau’s most enduring riffs.
Wonkblog Jan. 21, 2013
For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt.By Ezra Klein
Mother Jones Jan. 15, 2013
Our debt dysfunction began with the Constitution, funded Manifest Destiny, and makes the trillion dollar coin look tame.By Tim Murphy
Salon Jan. 15, 2012
Harry Reid and other pro-gun Democrats leave Obama in need of unlikely allies.By Steve Kornacki
New York Magazine / Nov. 5, 2010
After November's glitch, Boehner, McConnell and Congress strike familiar poses.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Jan. 25, 2009
Obama drew progressive ire from day one.By John Heilemann
New York Magazine / Nov. 30, 2008
How one undocumented family lives in our sanctuary city.By Jeff Coplon