What Does Cuba Mean For 2016?

by Dish Staff

Cuba Parties

Rand Paul came out in support of President Obama’s historic opening with Cuba yesterday, putting him at odds with his putative primary competitors:

“The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked,” Paul said. “If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working, and probably, it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship. “In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea,” he said.

The senator’s approach separates him from several potential Republican presidential hopefuls, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Paul’s Senate colleagues Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. His more libertarian outlook could win him support in agricultural states like Iowa, which holds the nation’s first presidential caucuses. Paul’s comments also parallel those of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, who wrote in her book “Hard Choices” that the embargo was a failure that gave the Castro regime “a foil to blame for Cuba’s economic woes.”

Kilgore expects Paul to pay a political price for that position:

Perhaps Paul is calculating that no one will care about Cuba policy by the time the 2016 nominating contest gets serious, and that could be true. But if, say, Marco Rubio is in the field, I don’t think Paul will be able to avoid the issue.

And I’ll betcha the other candidates will gang up on him just as they did on Ron about Iran, even as they largely refused to challenge his crazy monetary policy ideas or his long association with extremists. Conservative mistrust of the Paul family on national security issues hasn’t gone away by any means, and it’s surprising he’s giving it new life, even if he’s absolutely right on policy grounds. I’m quite sure Jennifer Rubin is writing a blog post on this fresh evidence of his “isolationism” as we speak.

Indeed, Rubio was quick to swat back that Paul “has no idea what he’s talking about”, to which Paul replied in a series of tweets, including this zinger:

Larison doubts that Rubio’s black-and-white approach to Cuba will win over very many voters:

It’s hard to see how Rubio benefits by becoming the leading opponent of a policy change that most Americans, most Floridians, and most Cuban-American Floridians support. He will win more applause from other hard-liners in his party, but that’s not something that a candidate running for re-election in a “swing” state normally wants. If it has an effect, it probably does more to hurt him in Florida, especially because of the positive effects that restored relations will likely have on Florida.

I fail to see how becoming the leading defender of an outdated and failed policy that most of his constituents reject improves Rubio’s chances of re-election. Yes, it raises Rubio’s national profile and it will get him a lot more attention in the coming year, but it’s not clear that Rubio benefits from being identified primarily with his hard-line foreign policy views. It is conceivable that Rubio could end up losing his Senate re-election bid because he becomes so closely identified with trying to block a change in policy that most people in his state say they want.

Waldman agrees:

On this issue, [Marco Rubio] is kind of like the teenager who wears a bow tie to school and agrees fervently with the senior citizens who are so fond of him that kids today have no respect, and ought to shut off that awful hip-hop and listen to some real music, like Tommy Dorsey or Glenn Miller. … But I don’t think he’s going to run anyway. He’s up for re-election to his Senate seat in 2016, so he’d have to give it up to run for president—and if he didn’t get the nomination, he’d be left with nothing. He’s only 43 years old, so he could run in 2020, 2024, or pretty much any time in the next quarter-century. He’s a pretty good politician, but he’s not so spectacularly skilled that he can reasonably look over the field and say, “I can take all of these bums.” So it’d probably be best for him to sit it out. And when he does run, Cuba probably won’t be an issue anymore.

But Greg Sargent isn’t so sure:

I would like all of this to be true. But here’s an alternate possibility: There may be no downside for Rubio here, particularly given what he needs to accomplish in the short term if he is running for president. After all, if Obama’s move does produce some successes in “accelerating change and democracy” in Cuba or in any other ways, it seems unlikely that they will be even acknowledged at all  inside the Conservative Entertainment Complex or among the GOP primary voters Rubio is apparently trying to reach. So where’s the gamble in getting this wrong?

Then, of course, there’s the money. As Kenneth Vogel and Tarini Parti discover, wealthy opponents of normalization are already lining up to line the pockets of the “right” candidates:

Since Obama’s announcement, top Cuban-American donors have been reaching out and offering support to the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, a leading opponent of normalization, according to the group’s director Mauricio Claver-Carone. “You’re definitely going to see a boon,” predicted Claver-Carone. “It will carry through the next cycle and will translate over to Jeb and Marco,” said Claver-Carone, whose group has hosted both Bush and Rubio at recent events, including a gala headlined by Bush last month in Miami that raised $200,000. …

And there’s an even deeper-pocketed group on the same side of the issue backed by the Koch brothers’ political operation. The LIBRE Initiative, which courts Latino voters with a conservative economic message, is registered under a section of the tax code – 501(c)4 – that allows it to shield its donors’ identities and requires only bare-bones financial disclosure and only well after Election Day. From July 2012 through June 2013, the group raised $5 million, according to its tax filings, and sources say it spent millions in this year’s midterms attacking Democrats in Texas, Arizona and Florida. The sources expect it to increase its spending in 2016, including potentially on ads opposing normalization.

(Chart showing majority Republican support for normalizing relations with Cuba from a February Atlantic Council report (pdf).)

Why Not Webb?

Senate Holds Cloture Vote On Immigration Bill

Albert Hunt imagines that Jim Webb could pose a real challenge to Clinton. Some of the reasons why:

Clinton recently said she disagreed with Obama’s decision not to intervene in the Syrian civil war. Webb warns that the Syrian opposition includes not only elements friendly to the U.S., but also the radical Islamic State forces that have wreaked mayhem there and in Iraq, murdering thousands and beheading two American journalists. Syria, he has warned, is “Lebanon on steroids.”

Clinton has close ties to Wall Street, a source of campaign funds for her and the Clinton Foundation. Since leaving office, she has received large speaking fees from hedge funds, private-equity companies and big banks such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Webb, 68, has long taken a populist, anti-Wall Street stance.

Millman suspects that Webb “would make a terrible primary challenger to Clinton” but hopes he runs anyway:

Webb is a pretty rare bird.

He’s an intellectual but not an ideologue. He’s a culturally right-wing personality who recognizes that on the most important issues facing the nation, we need to move to the left – and not just on economics and foreign policy; he’s been critical of Executive power, even with his own party’s man in office, and has taken a serious hard look at reforming our appalling prison-industrial complex. He’s a strong critic of the “Washington consensus” in foreign policy who cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called either naive or a neo-isolationist. (In a deep sense, he’ll always have the outlook of a Secretary of the Navy.) Most important, he’s a genuinely independent person, the exact opposite of the careerist climber. We desperately need more people like him in our politics.

And, I think it would be very helpful on foreign policy in particular for Democratic primary voters to recognize that Clinton is all the way on the bleeding right edge of her party.

Larison’s take:

Like Millman, I think Webb is an interesting and impressive figure, and I was very pleased when he knocked George Allen out of the Senate in 2006. During his one term in office, he did some important work on veterans’ issues, and he took a principled and correct stand against Obama’s illegal war in Libya. His response to Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address was the only one I can recall from the last decade that wasn’t immediately irrelevant. His decision to run for office as a Democrat in large part because of his disgust with the Iraq war and Bush administration incompetence was one of the more meaningful rebukes to the GOP back then, and if Republican leaders were smarter they would have learned something from it. It would be good for the country and the Democratic primary process if he ran against Clinton and put some obstacles in the way of her coronation, but I’m not sure that I see any incentives for Webb to do this.

(Photo by Jamie Rose/Getty Images)

Will The GOP Get The Nominee It Craves?

Kilgore suspects that 2014 electoral victories will make the GOP overconfident in 2016:

In both 2008 and 2012 the GOP managed to nominate presidential candidates with relatively moderate images and demonstrated swing-voter appeal. In both cases, the nominations were in no small part fortuitous following a demolition derby of more ideologically rigid rivals. The odds of the “most electable” candidates winning a third straight GOP nomination have been diminished by the relatively low popularity of Chris Christie (damaged significantly by “Bridgegate” and already controversial for supporting a Medicaid expansion in his state), Jeb Bush (headed for a direct collision with conservative activists for his championship of Common Core education standards) and Marco Rubio (more distant from conservative sentiment than ever as the prime Senate sponsor of “amnesty” legislation).

Linker welcomes this turn of events. He argues that “the best chance for genuine Republican reform will be for the party to nominate a fire-brand who gets roundly and unambiguously repudiated by voters”:

That defeat, coming after two previous ones, just might provoke genuine soul-searching, and a dawning awareness that the GOP has gone down a dead end and can only find its way out by a dramatic change of direction. Think of liberals nominating New Democrat Bill Clinton after losing with Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Michael “Card-Carrying Member of the ACLU” Dukakis. Or Tony “Third Way” Blair leading the U.K.’s Labour Party to victory after 15 years in the wilderness under the Conservative Party of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Sometimes a political party needs to get knocked upside the head before it can come back to its collective senses.

That’s what I’ll be waiting for — and what the reformicons have no choice but to hope for.

The Left’s Elizabeth Warren Fantasy

Warren’s speech last week at Netroots Nation gave it new life. Her fans even created this cringe-inducing hathetic theme song:

But there are few signs that Warren is preparing for a run:

[S]he is not doing behind-the-scenes spadework expected for a White House run. When she headlined the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s Humphrey-Mondale Dinner in March, Warren did not take down names and numbers of the people she met. She traveled with only one aide, hitching a ride from the airport from a local party official, said Corey Day, the party’s executive director.

“There was no advance guy making sure the room was exactly right and her water was cold,” Day said. “You didn’t sense an urgency for her to build a political operation. It was just her and her message, all very low-key.”

Weigel understands the game activists are playing:

The Dean campaign lost every major primary. The lesson activists took away: Try something. The media, at least, is going to cover a primary threat more than it covers a sui generis student loan bill. Thus the Warren “presidential campaign,” a masterful branding and messaging exercise.

In September 2013, the New York Times wrote an attention-getting profile of Warren’s appeal to progressives, proven by the growing crowds for organizers wise enough to book her. “Bumper stickers and T-shirts surfacing in liberal enclaves proclaim, ‘I’m from the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party.’ ” Jonathan Martin reported that those stickers were mass-produced by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which was founded in 2009 by Adam Green (a veteran of MoveOn and Democratic campaigns) and Stephanie Taylor (a veteran of the SEIU, AFL-CIO, and yes, MoveOn).

Enten shows that Warren, if she ran, would be the most liberal candidate in decades:

If Warren were to win the Democratic nomination, she’d rank as the second-most liberal nominee who served in the Senate or House. Her voting record has been to the left of Walter Mondale’s; only the famously liberal George McGovern had a more leftward-leaning legislative record. By contrast, the past three Democrats to represent the party on the presidential ticket were all near the center of the Democratic Senate caucus, while Warren has the fifth-most liberal voting record in the Senate today.

And, as Andrew Prokop explains, merely running to Hillary’s left isn’t likely to succeed:

The assumption among people who talk to a lot of very progressive activists is that the Democratic base is yearning for a much more liberal nominee. But according to a poll from CNN and ORC International, that’s not the case at all. Only 11 percent of Democrats would prefer a nominee who’s more liberal than Clinton — compared to 20 percent who’d like a more conservative nominee. Once again, it’s difficult to see the opening for a progressive challenger here.