On debate’s eve…

Alright, so we have the second GOP debate coming up tomorrow, let’s begin with some topics surrounding tomorrow’s debate:

Trump at 40% in NH: It was surprising enough when Trump hit 30 percent, but 40 percent? In New Hampsire? I mean, wow. Just. wow. This is going to give Trump a whole lot of confidence going into tomorrow’s debate (as if he needed more things to feed his ego), and it’s bound to be frustrating for candidates like Paul, Christie and Kasich who were hoping to make a surprise victory in New Hampshire.

RIP Criminal Justice reform?: It’s a bit of a speculation piece, but one of my favorites, Michael Grunwald at POLITICO, begins to connect the dots between a Donald Trump presidential campaign and what effect that will have going forward on contemporary public policy. As I’ve written before, criminal justice reform is a bipartisan hot topic that has support from people like Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). But with Trump putting the topic of crime back in the spotlight (even if it’s mostly talk of undocumented immigrants’ crimes, which are fewer than actual U.S. citizens), will that derail the impending criminal justice reform legislation? Not to mention, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is one of Trump’s biggest supporters. Sessions is also someone who coincidentally is the biggest objector to criminal justice reform (as well as immigration reform). I have to say, it is very scary that we have now gone from talking about what a Trump presidential run would look like to what a Trump presidential administration would look like. But if Trump’s lead holds through December (now a glaring possibility), we may be discussing this topic a lot more.

The next shutdown?: It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the GOP Freedom Caucus, a Caucus within the GOP House Republicans who refuses to support anything but the most conservative legislation imaginable, is telling GOP leadership (Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell) that they will not support any bill that contains funding for Planned Parenthood. McConnell and Boehner desperately wants to avoid a shutdown, but if Congress doesn’t pass anything by September 30th, the federal government will shut down (again). At the same time, McConnell isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of yet another stop-gap budget measure that will simply keep current spending levels where they are for another year.The reason being is that he is the one who is going to have to sell the idea to the House conservatives, and they will be a major pain in the ass for him. Not to mention McConnell will be the one who will be excoriated by several presidential contenders including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and possibly others (Trump? Walker? Carson?). It should be said that shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood is an extremely dumb idea. It was sort-of understandable why Ted Cruz wanted to shut down the government over Obamacare in October of 2013. First of all, Cruz was looking for a way to make a name for himself (and that he succeeded in doing). But more importantly, at least the polls showed that Obamacare was unpopular, even though the polls also showed that the voters did not want to repeal Obamacare, but instead wanted Congress to fix it. This time though, the polls aren’t on their side. The overwhelming majority of the public wants to continue federal funding for Planned Parenthood. No doubt this will be a topic that comes up tomorrow, so be prepared for that.

Sanders and the “front-runner” status: As always, this is the topic on the Democratic side of things. We all know by now that Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been skyrocketing, and that no doubt the horrible summer Hillary Clinton had may carry into the fall after all. But is Bernie Sanders now the Democratic front-runner. I’m still skeptical, but less so than I was a few weeks back. That being said, I do think it’s safe to call Bernie Sanders the front-runner in New Hampshire. Poll after poll shows him topping Clinton by larger and larger margins. Furthermore, Sanders may even be the front-runner in Iowa, as more and more polls are showing that Sanders’ sagacious ground-campaign is beginning to really pay off. However, Sanders is still down in South Carolina. Moreover, his support from minorities is still tepid at best. Of course, those two things may change by the time we get to the first Democratic debate next month. The difference now is that with the first Democratic debate coming up in less than a month, the candidates are actually starting to go after one another. A pro-Hillary super-PAC just released a widespread e-mail that according to Ryan Grim and Samantha Lachman at HuffPo connects Sanders to “…controversial remarks made by Jeremy Corbyn, the United Kingdom’s new Labour Party leader, including his praise for the late Hugo Chavez”. After stating that Clinton is comfortable with being labelled as a “moderate” or “centrist”, it should be no surprise that pro-Clinton super-PACS are going with that angle to paint Sanders as too liberal of a candidate to compete in the general election. For his part, Sanders has responded with attacks of his own. According to Jonathan Swan at The Hill, Sanders sent an e-mail to supporters “[linking] Clinton to three things her campaign has been trying to disassociate itself from: Wealthy donors, dirty tactics, and yes, even the biggest bogeymen in left-wing American politics – the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.” Where will the next few weeks take us in terms of the escalation between Sanders and Clinton? Will Sanders continue to rise in polls in later Democratic primaries such as South Carolina and Nevada? Will Clinton regain some of her strength back after the next debate and after the Benghazi testimonies in a few weeks? Time will tell.

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