Saturday, May 28, 2016

All Things Political: Presidential and in Minnesota

Two topics this week: Clinton’s presidential campaign the awful end of the Minnesota legislative session and why politics favors not calling a special session

Clinton's Problems

Hillary Clinton has a problem and it is not Bernie Sanders. There are lots of reasons to think that her presidential campaign is confronting major problems that could linger beyond he DNC should she secure the party nomination.  This are problems mostly rooted in her candidacy, and less in what others are doing or not.

Consider the polls first.  In the last ten days national polls suggest Donald Trump has pulled even with her.  There are indications that Trump is consolidating support among Republicans and that they are uniting behind him mostly in terms of an Anti-Hillary campaign.    With Trump having clinched the nomination he is free to begin going after Clinton while Clinton has to worry about  still nailing down the Democratic nomination while campaigning against Sanders.  Yes, national polls mean little, especially now as a rule, but given how well known Trump and Clinton are perhaps the polls do tell us something. But second, even if the national polls are not relevant because the race for the presidency is a 50 state contest (due to the Electoral College) that is really only about ten states, Clinton and Trump seem to be tied in critical swing states such as Ohio and Florida.

But this week the polls tightened in California revealing essentially a tied race in that state between Sanders and Clinton.  Clinton supporters dismiss the poll as a fluke or say that California does not matter because with the New Jersey primary coming soon she will secure enough delegates to win the nomination even if she loses California.  Perhaps yes this is true, but she will only have enough delegates to win the nomination if one counts the superdelgates and she has a big lead here over them.  It is not a lead with the superdelegates in a way these delegates are supposed to operate, though.  The idea of the superdelegates is that these individuals are supposed to make to the decision on whom to support after all the primaries and caucuses are done, using their judgment to decide  who is the most electable.  If that were how they were actually rewarded the superdelegates should not have committed to Clinton before the primary season even began.  No, they are not operating in the way they should.

This is important because if the superdelegates work the way they should Sanders would have a good case to get them to support him for the Democratic nomination were he to win California.  If he wins the largest state that matters, and there are reasons he could.  California allows independents to vote in primaries, and it is in these states were Sanders does well.  There are also indications that there has been a significant number of new registrations in California, again potentially favoring Sanders.  Finally, with the GOP nomination wrapped up, independents who might have voted for Trump might vote for Sanders.  The simple point is do not discount a Sanders victory, especially in light of how Clinton’s poll numbers and actually votes are often different, with Michigan, Oregon, and Indiana  as good examples.

Since Super Tuesday Sanders has won more delegates that Clinton.  He has won more states.  He is doing better in the polls against Trump than Clinton.  (Yes, Clinton people argue that Sanders has not been fully vetted by the media and that is why he is doing well but as FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting pointed out, CNN, the NY Times, and the Washington Post among other major media have been largely negative against Sanders and attacked him as a socialist, thereby questioning the idea that he has not been vetted).  All of these are good reasons he should be able to convince superdelegates to support him, if the superdelegates worked the way they are supposed to.  Remember back in 2008 Clinton tried this strategy against Obama, contending she was a stronger candidate.  She eventually gave up but the point is that it is perfectly legitimate for Sanders to fight on and to make a case that he is a better candidate.

But Clinton also faces other problems that could feed into a Sanders’ argument for his nomination.  There are issues regarding whether Clinton can win over young voters and independents, both critical  to her campaign.  But this week the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of State issued its report–Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements–regarding Clinton’s handling of her e-mails. The report centrally and critically disputes Clinton’s claims.  Specifically the report notes that while previous SOS had used private emails, by the time Clinton tool office the Federal Records Act, the Foreign Affairs Handbook, the Foreign Affairs Manual, and other federal laws and regulations made it clear that she was not supposed to do so and that she had no permission to setup a private server at her NY home.  The report documents attempts to hack her server, missing e-mails, and a host of other problems.  Two quotes from report are worth noting:

As previously discussed, however, sending emails from a personal account to other employees at their Department accounts is not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a Federal record. Therefore, Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary.98 At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.  (23)

Secretary Clinton used mobile devices to conduct official business using the personal email account on her private server extensively, as illustrated by the 55,000 pages of material making up the approximately 30,000 emails she provided to the Department in December 2014. Throughout Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the FAM stated that normal day-to-day operations  should be conducted on an authorized AIS,147 yet OIG found no evidence that the Secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval (36-37)

The Report goes a long way in describing how Clinton broke the law although it does not use those words.  But the real problem here is how the Report means her e-mail controversy will not go away, and it leads to continuing veracity and credibility issues for Clinton.

Overall, Clinton faces many problems as her candidacy continues to evolve and it will be interesting  to see what happens in the next few weeks.

You Could See it Coming

No surprise that the Minnesota State Legislature adjourned without getting its work done. Back in January I argued that the 2016 session would be trapped by the politics of the 2016 elections and that it would not be a surprise if it deadlocked.  Well it did.

Three reasons for the gridlock.  The first is the partisan divide between the two parties over a range of issues that really makes it hard for Democrats and Republicans to work together.  The politics of Washington have come to St Paul.  Second, there is a leadership crisis–not just with Dayton but with  Baak in the Senate and Daudt in the House.  The three seem unable to lead their parties and the three also just do not seem like they get along.

Third, there are continuing structural problems for the deadlock.  The problems stem from the way  the budgets are made, from the timing of sessions and the fiscal forecast, and simply from issues of political incentives discouraging cooperation and working in a timely fashion to do things that need to be done.

So will there be a special session?  I am not sure there will be.  There may be good reasons, especially for Dayton, not to call a special session and use the gridlock as a political issues this November.  Right now the political incentives favor not reaching agreement on issues and therefore  not having a special session.  For now, the DFL, or at least Dayton, is in a better position not to call  a special session, but we shall see.

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