News from the Pond: An American News Round-Up.

In the news today…


Hello, and welcome to a special US news round-up. Some interesting things have occurred in the US of A over the past few weeks, so I thought it would be only right to dedicate a blog post to cover some of the headlines I have enjoyed reading recently. There is a distinctive Presidential 2016 flavour with the articles of choice.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

  1. The emergency meeting that led Walker to quit (via POLITICO)
    ~ We will start today with the breaking news from yesterday that the GOP candidate field has decreased again by one. Rick Perry previously withdrew, and now Scott Walker has joined him.This article discusses how Walker’s wife and his campaign chairman summoned longtime Walker aides to discuss the future of his struggling Presidential campaign. For Walker was struggling, from debate performances and position in the competitive and crowded GOP field, to staff lay-offs, and donors drying up. I think the below article quote very neatly sums up Walker’s situation:

Walker had just limped out of a disappointing second presidential debate. The governor had spent weeks preparing for the showdown, knowing his political life depended on it. He’d practiced giving punchier answers and making sure to use up all his allotted time.

But the reviews had been brutal. Donors were grousing, and money was drying up. It was a painful turn for Walker, who had quickly vaulted to the top of the Iowa polls, powered by a fiery January speech in Des Moines, only to drop precipitously in the summer amid Donald Trump’s rise. He had gone from frontrunner to also-ran in a matter of months.

The second GOP debate was, frankly, a disaster for Walker. His main moment of the night followed from Carly Fiorina’s discussion on Planned Parenthood. Walker raised his finger, and yet was not called upon. He would then speak only once in the next 30 minutes. After such a showing, which came after rumors of layoffs, pay cuts and office closures, it was only natural that his supporters would begin to murmur, and his donors cry out for improvement.

There would be no improvement. Only the Sunday before his withdrawal from the race, a new CNN national survey was released. The results showed Walker sitting on less than 0.5%. To put that into perspective: he had been in third place for the first debate on Fox, standing next to Donald Trump. Now, after several rocky weeks, his polling companions were the likes of George Pataki, Jim Gilmore and Bobby Jindal.

Walker’s departure emphasis the importance of a structured and planned campaign. It also reiterates that a cash-rich super PAC is no substitute for a well-funded official campaign – his super PAC’s treasury still contains millions.

2. Scott Walker’s own limitations did him in (via Washington Examiner)
~ This article argues that Walker’s own limitations as a candidate, from policy ideas to differing takes on national issues are the reasons for his withdrawal from the 2016 race.

Walker had started off strong. He delivered a strong, stirring speech in late January of this year at an Iowa Republican gathering which impressed Republicans in the crowd. His standing in polls improved markedly, and donors and endorsements followed. But so too did trouble, in the form of his lack of knowledge in national issues and key policies.

About a month after his Iowa breakthrough, Walker travelled to Palm Beach, Florida to address a donor-heavy crowd at a gathering sponsored by the conservative Club for Growth. He was asked his thoughts about the Export-Import Bank, and about the ongoing standoff in Congress over funding the Department of Homeland Security. His answers were long, drifting and lacking in detail and coherence. Walker was well-versed in Wisconsin issues, but lacked knowledge on a national level. This was ruthlessly exposed in the first GOP debate, and by the time the second came around, he barely made any screen time. His support, already weakening, passed the point of no return.

As the article concludes:

But for all this strengths at the state level, Walker just wasn’t ready for a national run. And in the end, the presidential campaign did what presidential campaigns do: it ruthlessly exposed the weakness of the man at the top.

On the subject of limitations, POLITICO has an article entitled ‘7 gaffes that helped doom Scott Walker’, which includes his refusal to discuss foreign policy.

3. Labour tap-dances on Walker’s political grave (via POLITICO)
~ One last article on the topic of Walker’s withdrawal from the 2016 race. Walker was respected by the GOP for the way he took on Labour unions in Wisconsin. He stood up to everything the Democratic/Big Labour/Liberal Establishment had to throw at him, and came out the winner. Whilst that gained him Republican respect, it also earned him the animosity of the unions, who are now celebrating his dropping out of the 2016 race.

As this POLITICO article states: ‘No one is happier than organized labour to see Scott Walker drop out of the 2016 contest.’

This is due to the double war Walker waged against unions in Wisconsin. A labour-backed plot to oust to Walker failed in 2012, after Walker pushed through a bill which drastically reduced public employees’ bargaining rights. Then in 2014, Walker won re-election after AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka declared securing Walker’s defeat had become the main priority of organised labour. Walker added perceived insult to perceived injury when earlier this year he had made Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state in America. This consequently freed public and private workers from any legal requirement to pay dues or their equivalent to a union that bargains collectively on their behalf.

Unions have been quick to point to Walker’s war on unions as being the reason his 2016 Presidential bid failed. Unions have been gaining greater public approval in recent years – even among Republicans. According to Gallup, since 2009 union approval has risen from 48 percent to 58 percent for all voters, and from 29 percent to 42 percent for Republican voters.

4. Backlash grows against Ben Carson’s comments on Muslims (via POLITICO)
~ Over the weekend, Dr. Ben Carson, a GOP 2016 candidate, stated in an interview his belief that a Muslim should not be President of the United States. He essentially said that as Muslims believe in Sharia law as the basis of a legal system, they could not fulfil the obligations of the US Constitution. He also stated that:

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that”

However, he is now facing backlash for his remarks. Yesterday, candidates and religious groups from across the political and ideological spectrum came out to condemn his remarks. However, his fellow GOP candidates were among the quickest to seize upon his comments.

Sen. Ted Cruz noted in an Iowa television interview on Sunday that the US Constitution, specifically Article VI, “specifies there shall be no religious test for public office and I am a constitutionalist.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham called on Carson to apologise, telling Reuters that the remarks were particularly offensive to Muslim members of the military.

Democrats were also swift to condemn Carson’s comments. Hillary Clinton also criticised Carson via citing Art VI of the US Constitution. And Sen. Bernie Sanders told reporters in New Hampshire he was ‘disappointed’ by Carson’s statement that a Muslim could not be President of the United States.

Religious organisations have also condemned the statements, with The Council on American-Islamic Relations calling on Carson to withdraw from the 2016 race for his ‘unconstitutional and un-American statements.’

I doubt Carson with withdraw. He has refused to apologise for his comments, and does not appear to have any plans to do so in the near future.

5. Poll: Almost half say feds are a ‘immediate threat’ (via Washington Examiner)
~ 49 percent of people asked in a new Gallup survey have said that the federal government poses ‘an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens’, and another 19 percent say the federal government is too big in general and legislates too widely and broadly.

Whilst this negative view of the federal government has generally been held by the same percentage of Americans for the past five years, fewer than a third of those asked (30 percent) held this view when they were initially surveyed in 2003.

And the statistics just keep coming.

Another 15 percent of those asked worry the federal government violates too many freedoms and civil liberties in its policies and legislative agenda, whilst 13 percent view the government as a threat to the Second Amendment.

Six percent also worry about losing freedom of speech, and the same percentage of people asked fear the federal government will take away freedom of religion – perhaps given the recent US Supreme Court ruling in favour of same-sex marriage.

6. How economic gloom is shaping White House race (via Washington Examiner)
~ This article discusses that the growing rise in popularity of 2016 campaigns such as that of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is hardly surprising. The US electorate are connecting to ‘Feel the Bern’ and ‘Make America Great Again’ slogans because of the positivity such slogans inspire, and because of the pessimism the electorate feel regarding the direction of the US.

The article mentions how the American electorate haven’t felt optimistic about the direction of their country for at least seven years, which is an unprecedented consecutive streak. Hence the popularity of Sanders and Trump – when such pessimism is combined to fears for the future and children and the growing belief that the federal government is not listening, the electorate will turn to campaigns which promise drastic change.

David Winston, a Republican pollster who is not affiliated with any of the 2016 contenders, undertook a survey of 1,000 registered voters nationally in both this past August, and in February of 2013. They were asked the following: “In thinking about the role of people like you in the political and public policy discourse about issues, do you think your voice is heard effectively?”

In August, only 28 percent answered in the affirmative, whilst 71 percent said no. The results were virtually identical to those in Winston’s 2013 poll.

Furthermore, according to recent Gallup research, 75 percent of American adults perceived government corruption as widespread, up from 66 percent in 2009. It is not just the politicians people are unhappy with – it is the political institutions which they serve, too.

All of this negativity has helped Sanders and Trump connect to those in electorate who think negatively because they, more so than the other candidates in their respective primaries, have acknowledged it and given voice to it.

7. Hillary Clinton is now viewed unfavourably — in New York (via The Washington Post)
~ This is the news that Hillary Clinton would win the state of New York if the Democratic primary were to be held tomorrow. She leads Vice President Biden, a potential challenger, in the state by 21 points, and Sanders by about the same margin. However, what makes for interesting reading is that of her polling figures in that state.

Despite her having represented the state in the Senate for nearly a decade, her favourability in the state has mirrored her favourability nationally, i.e. rather shaky and in decline.  In April of this year, Clinton’s net favourability  in New York state was plus-20. In the new poll, it stands at around negative-five. That’s quite the decline.

Whilst Democrats view her favourably, albeit with a slight decline, the drop can be attributed to a decline in positive views from Republicans and independents. Whilst you would expect the drop from the former, the latter’s sheer decline must be disconcerting for Clinton’s campaign staff. In the April poll, independents were split on Clinton, viewing her neither positively nor negatively. In the new poll, she is now some 33 points down in their eyes.

Intriguingly, New York’s other front-running candidate for the Presidency is one Donald Trump. His own trajectory has been the reverse of Clinton’s in the state, which reflects his national trend. What must cause a twinge of concern for Clinton is that Trump, for all his controversial comments, is actually viewed more favourably by Democrats in New York state than Clinton is by Republicans. He is also viewed more favourably than Clinton by independents.

This polling comes as there is a suggestion that Clinton may not find the female vote as easy to take as her campaign staff may otherwise expect.

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