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The Republicans broke form to affect civility

the economistVie, 11/03/2016 - 08:02

FISTICUFFS? Mooning? A hand-measuring contest? Had Thursday’s Republican debate at the University of Miami followed the tonal trajectory of the previous 11, who knows what depths of taste and egomania it might have fathomed. But, from the candidates’ opening statements, in which Donald Trump went after Hillary Clinton, eschewing his attacks on Lyin’ Ted [Cruz] and Little Marco [Rubio]—epithets that remained unspoken throughout the evening—the atmosphere was different. Next came reasonably serious discussions of trade and visa policy. Perhaps concerned for her channel’s ratings, CNN’s moderator asked Mr Cruz:  “Did you just compare Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton?” “I’ll let Donald speak for himself,” Mr Cruz tamely replied.  “I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Mr Trump observed.

Neither could anyone else. It felt as if, between the candidates, there must have been some sort of deal, to use Mr Trump’s favourite expression. (A word cloud of the evening might reveal that his top usages were “deal” and “many”, the latter with reference to his Israeli friends, his Cuban friends, and...Continue reading

A last-ditch attack

the economistJue, 10/03/2016 - 20:02

ANTI-TRUMP groups are spending millions on negative advertising ahead of key primaries on Tuesday

Bernie Sanders and Univision force Hillary Clinton to the left

the economistJue, 10/03/2016 - 08:51

IF ANY moderate Republicans appalled by Donald Trump tuned in to the Democratic presidential debate held in Miami on March 9th, what they heard cannot have made it easier for them to consider lending their vote—for one election at least—to Hillary Clinton. From the start Mrs Clinton was under pressure to tack to the left and woo her party’s core supporters in this, her last scheduled TV debate with her populist rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On some big questions, and especially on immigration, she gave in to that pressure and staked out radical positions which she can expect to see played in Republican attack ads again and again, once the general election is under way.

Some of the pressure on Mrs Clinton was exerted by recent events. Just 24 hours earlier she had suffered a surprise defeat in Michigan’s presidential primary election, with Mr Sanders notably buoyed by support from voters who told exit polls that they think free trade costs America jobs. Though the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is still on course to be her party’s nominee, her underwhelming performance in a big, Midwestern rustbelt...Continue reading

Hulk Hogan goes to the mat

the economistMié, 09/03/2016 - 19:46

HULK Hogan made a career out of pummelling his rivals while wearing flamboyant outfits. On March 8th, the 62-year-old man less well known as Terry Bollea, clad in sombre black on a Florida witness stand, said he was “completely humiliated” by a video published in 2012 by Gawker, a media company that trades in celebrity gossip. The opening day of Mr Bollea’s trial came a day after Erin Andrews, a sportscaster for Fox, won a $55m verdict from a jury in Nashville for a secret video recording showing her in the nude in 2008; the hotel and the voyeur were both found responsible.

The edited, 90-second excerpt of a longer video that was accessible on Gawker for months depicted Mr Bollea, now 62, having sex with Heather Cole Clem, the now ex-wife of Bubba the Love Sponge, his former friend. It was accompanied by 1,400 words of prose vividly describing the encounter. The former WWE heavyweight champion of the universe says Gawker invaded his privacy and caused him emotional harm by posting the misbegotten footage of his tryst and owes him $100m. Gawker replies that...Continue reading

Trump strides through Michigan, where Clinton falters

the economistMié, 09/03/2016 - 10:35

HEADING into the primary votes in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii on March 8th, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton appeared to be headed in opposite directions—and so it turned out. Mr Trump pulled off his second super Tuesday in a fortnight; he won the two biggest states, Mississippi and Michigan by big margins, thereby completing a near sweep of the South and opening a new front for his populist campaign in the Midwest. Mrs Clinton had a more mixed experience; she won easily in Mississippi but lost narrowly to Bernie Sanders in Michigan, where polls had put her more than 20 percentage points ahead.

Yet this was the opposite of the divergence expected of the Republican and Democratic front-runners. Going into the primaries, Mr Trump had had maybe his worst week of the campaign. He had talked up the size of his penis in a television debate and whipped up a crowd in Orlando to pledge allegiance to him while making a gesture that looked far too close for decency like a Nazi salute. He had been castigated by Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee in 2012, as “a phony, a fraud,” who was “playing members of the American public for...Continue reading

What does the justices’ latest action on abortion mean?

the economistLun, 07/03/2016 - 21:47

TWO days after hearing arguments in one of the most important reproductive rights cases in a generation, the Supreme Court delivered a temporary win to the pro-choice movement that may (or may not) be a sign of a more enduring victory to come.

When the justices met to hear Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt (see pic) on March 2nd, the four liberal justices were in rare form, attacking a Texas law that purportedly protects maternal health but, on inspection, seems only to make it much harder for women to exercise their constitutional right to abortion. The onslaught from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer steadily dampened the swagger of Scott Keller, the young lawyer defending the regulations on abortion providers and facilities—and left little doubt about how they will vote. With Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas thought likely to uphold the law, the main question mark after the oral argument was, as usual, Anthony...Continue reading

Bernie Sanders goes on the attack

the economistLun, 07/03/2016 - 08:24

BERNIE SANDERS came to the seventh Democratic debate, held in Flint, Michigan, on March 6th needing a game-changing success. Despite winning the Maine caucuses the same day and in Kansas and Nebraska the day before, the senator is badly lagging Hillary Clinton in the delegate count and, moreover, looks ill-equipped to close the gap. He has a strong following with youngsters and white liberals—who dominated the Democratic electorate in those three states; but little support from the non-whites who matter much more in most others—including Michigan, which will hold its primary on March 8th.

The result was an aggressive performance by Mr Sanders and some of the sharpest exchanges yet between the two surviving Democratic contenders. It could not have been confused with the theatrics on show in the Republican primary contest. Mr Sanders did not claim to be well-hung, as Donald Trump recently did. Mrs Clinton did not respond to his opening statement by calling the senator from Vermont a liar; she said, “Let me start by saying Amen to that”. She also swore that, even against a Republican nominee, she would maintain the decorous tone that...Continue reading

Marco Rubio’s campaign for the White House is running on fumes

the economistDom, 06/03/2016 - 12:06

SENATOR Marco Rubio of Florida, a young Cuban-American with a stirring, up-by-the-bootstraps life-story, was once called the future of the Republican Party. His poor showing in a series of presidential nominating contests held on March 5th—including a fourth place in the New England state of Maine—leaves his campaign for the White House running on fumes. After Republican presidential primary elections or caucuses in 19 states, Mr Rubio has a win in just one, Minnesota, to his name. His last hopes rest on his home state of Florida, whose large haul of delegates is up for grabs on March 15th, though he is lagging in opinion polls there.

Mr Rubio ticks many boxes on the lists that conservative donors, Republican strategists and pundits draw up when looking for winners. He is Hispanic and has spoken movingly of his sympathy for immigrants, but is conservative enough that he was elected to the Senate as a Tea Party hero. He can be sunny, upbeat and funny on a good day, but is also a disciplined candidate (to the point of extreme caution). He entered the 2016 race with a plan: to be the candidate who appealed to Establishment types and voters...Continue reading

When Republicans went to war

the economistVie, 04/03/2016 - 17:46

THE ATTACK by Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, on Donald Trump, who looks likely to be the party's nominee in 2016, is not unprecedented. It has a parallel in the presidential election of 1912, when a split in the Republican party led the sitting president, William Howard Taft, to finish third in the polls. Taft ran foul of his predecessor, the energetic and volcanic Teddy Roosevelt, who ran on the Bull Moose ticket. The effect was to hand the presidency to Woodrow Wilson, the first Democrat to win office since 1892.

Roosevelt had regretted his rash vow not to run for a full third term in 1908 (he took office in 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley; this was before the passage of the 22nd amendment, which limited presidents to two full terms). While Taft was Roosevelt's hand-picked successor, and a long-term friend, the latter gradually became disillusioned with the Taft administration. Broadly speaking, Roosevelt was a populist, favouring higher tariffs and "trust-busting" attacks on big business; he was also a conservationist, setting up the national park system. Taft was more of a conventional,...Continue reading

Donald Trump under fire from all sides

the economistVie, 04/03/2016 - 09:46

AN UNPRECEDENTED war of words between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s nominee for the presidency in 2012, set the tone for the Republican primary debate held on March 3rd at the beloved Fox theatre in Detroit. “His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader,” said Mr Romney in a speech he gave at the University of Utah on the same day. He called Mr Trump “a phony” who is “playing the American public for suckers”, a man whose “imagination must not be married to real power”. The Republicans’ nominee in 2008 joined in, declaring his “many concerns about Mr Trump’s uninformed and indeed dangerous statements on national-security issues”. John McCain was echoing the worries of dozens of conservative defence and foreign policy officials who had written an open letter asserting that Mr Trump’s “vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle”.

After winning seven of the 11 states at play in Super Tuesday on March 1st, Mr Trump is the undisputed front-runner in a race that has dwindled to just four contenders. Ben Carson, a...Continue reading

Senator Grassley defends plans to block a Supreme Court nominee

the economistJue, 03/03/2016 - 21:38

THE NEW forum for debating intractable interbranch conflicts among federal officials seems to be SCOTUSblog, the indispensable resource for everything related to the Supreme Court. Last week, Barack Obama sharpened his pen and wrote a pithy post outlining the qualifications he seeks in a Supreme Court nominee to replace Antonin Scalia. The duty of appointing judges is one “I take seriously”, he wrote, and “in the weeks ahead” Americans will learn the name of the person he settles on.

In a rejoinder to the POTUS post, Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, notes that the Senate enjoys “the authority to consent or withhold consent” to a nominee. Mr Grassley is right about that: the constitution says as much, in the second paragraph of Section 2 of Article II. In dispensing its “advice and consent”, the...Continue reading

What Have You Learned?

Tom PetersJue, 03/03/2016 - 00:00

Tom spends a few months in New Zealand at the start of each year. While he's there, he often pops over to the University of Auckland Business School for a visit. It's refreshing to look at business issues from the perspective of the other side of the world. UABS's connectivity expert, Darl Kolb, has had […]

The post What Have You Learned? appeared first on Tom Peters.

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign is over

the economistMié, 02/03/2016 - 22:46

EARLY one morning in September 2015 this columnist found himself in a hotel lobby in Greensboro, North Carolina, waiting to board the campaign bus of Ben Carson. The retired brain surgeon was at that point soaring in polls of Republican presidential candidates, coming within a percentage point of Donald Trump, the front-runner. It has been a long, painful slide from that peak to Mr Carson’s announcement on March 2nd that he saw "no political path forward” for his presidential campaign, a day after winning a derisory three delegates in the dozen contests of Super Tuesday.

Back in September the mood was bullish. So much so that one of the candidate’s aides confided that his boss could not believe how little politics stretched him, compared to the life-and-death decision-making, late nights and long hours he had endured as one of the country’s most celebrated doctors. In fact, the aide said with startling candour, Mr Carson had told him that running for president was the easiest job he had ever had.

In part, the line was political spin. The whole pitch of the Carson campaign was that their man was an outsider guided by his...Continue reading

What Super Tuesday means for the Republican party

the economistMié, 02/03/2016 - 12:30

SPEAKING to reporters just before polls closed on March 1st, Marco Rubio predicted “you’re gonna see very clearly after tonight that Donald Trump has no chance of ever getting the delegates he needs to be the nominee.” How Mr Rubio ever came to such a conclusion is not clear. On March 1st voters from a dozen states went to the polls—of the 11 states allocating delegates, Mr Trump won seven, Ted Cruz won three and Mr Rubio won just one. Although he may have slightly underperformed expectations, Mr Trump is well on his way to winning the nomination.

There are three possible outcomes moving forward in the election. The first and most probable scenario is that that Mr Trump wins the nomination outright. Mr Trump has a sizeable lead in the delegate count and has shown that he can win in an eclectic mix of states, among an eclectic mix of voters. At the current rate, he is on pace to win...Continue reading

Marco Rubio’s first and only state

the economistMié, 02/03/2016 - 08:39

Reaching to call it a victory

FOR the first time in many years Minnesota mattered in the presidential primary elections, after the state government decided to move the date of its caucuses forward to Super Tuesday in order to make the Midwestern state more relevant in national politics. It seems to have done the trick. Hillary Clinton visited Minnesota on Super Tuesday itself, as did Marco Rubio, who held a rally in Andover, a suburb of Minneapolis. Bernie Sanders was in Minneapolis the day before the vote, making his third Minnesota stop in a few weeks. Other candidates made similar efforts. The only contender for the presidency who completely ignored Minnesota, never travelled there and didn’t have any staff on the ground was Donald Trump. He presumably thought that he had bigger fish to fry than a cold state of 5.5m people, bordering Canada, where the Republicans had 38 delegates up for grabs.

Mr Rubio’s attention to “the land of 10,000 lakes” paid off. Minnesota was the only one of 12 states going to the polls on March 1st that the senator from Florida won, with 37% for Mr Rubio compared with 29%...Continue reading

The Supreme Court steps back into the abortion minefield

the economistMar, 01/03/2016 - 18:32

ON WEDNESDAY, the Supreme Court will take up the biggest reproductive-rights case it has considered in over 20 years. Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability, is not in question. Neither is Casey v Planned Parenthood, a 1992 decision extending Roe but permitting states to discourage abortion through certain regulations. The issue in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt is how to apply the standard articulated in Casey which says that states may not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. With Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat now empty, there is no chance of a decision sharply curtailing abortion access nationwide. But the Court’s remaining eight justices may still deal a blow to abortion rights by permitting onerous regulations to take effect in a number of states.       

Whole Woman’s Health involves House Bill 2, a Texas law adopted three years ago that requires abortion clinics to meet the rigorous...Continue reading

Betting on the Republican presidential nominee

the economistLun, 29/02/2016 - 19:05

AFTER starting with 17 candidates, the Republican field has narrowed to just three real contenders: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. At first glance, it may seem that all three have a decent shot at the nomination: according to RealClearPolitics, the three are averaging 35.6%, 19.8% and 17.4% in the national polls.

Punters, however, have a rather different view of the horse race. The latest odds on PredictIt show Donald Trump has about an 80% chance of  winning the nomination, with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz trailing behind at 17% and 5%, respectively. (The probabilities don’t quite add up to 100% for technical reasons.) Given his recent string of victories, Mr Trump’s strength is obvious, but why is the market relatively downbeat about Mr Cruz’s prospects? After all, unlike Mr Rubio he has actually won a state.

The main...Continue reading

Hillary Clinton wins big in South Carolina

the economistDom, 28/02/2016 - 08:14

HILLARY CLINTON’S Southern fire-wall is intact and imposing. That was the meaning of South Carolina’s Democratic primary on February 27th, which, with 90% of the vote counted, the former secretary of state had won by a massive 48-point margin. She beat Bernie Sanders by 74% to 26%. This has given her campaign huge momentum ahead of “Super Tuesday” on March 1st, when a dozen states will hold primaries and caucuses.

Mrs Clinton’s victory was founded on near blanket support from the black voters who constitute over half of South Carolina’s Democratic electorate. She won a staggering 87% of their votes—a bigger share than Barack Obama won in 2008 when campaigning to be America’s first black president. There is a pleasing symmetry to this. A decision by many black South Carolinians to drop Mrs Clinton in favour of Mr Obama in 2008 made a hugely significant contribution to his winning the Democratic nomination. By now proving immune to Mr Sanders’s left-wing blandishments, they appear to have done Mrs Clinton much the same service. She can expect to do similarly well in the several Southern states, including Alabama,...Continue reading

Chris Christie endorses Donald Trump

the economistVie, 26/02/2016 - 20:43

DURING a revolution, the quandary for stalwarts of the old order is: when to jump? Switch allegiance to the insurgents too early, and you risk being stranded in the wrong camp if they are routed. Leave it too late, and you forfeit any prospect of reward under the new regime (and, in less civilised places, may wind up standing against a wall in a blindfold). Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has evidently decided that the time to defect from mainstream Republicanism—of which, just a couple of weeks ago, he was considered a standard-bearer—has arrived.

At a press conference in Fort Worth, Texas on February 26th, Mr Christie endorsed Donald Trump. He described Mr Trump as the candidate who “would provide the strongest leadership for America.” For his part Mr Trump said that Mr Christie had “been my friend for many years, he’s been a spectacular governor.” On the day after his previous use of immigrant labourers, alleged involvement with a phony university, and other embarrassments, dominated a televised debate, Mr Trump will doubtless be grateful for Mr Christie’s timing, as well as for his support.

This...Continue reading

Rubio and Cruz come out swinging at Trump

the economistVie, 26/02/2016 - 09:40

IT WAS arguably the most important of the ten Republican primary debates. On February 25th the rapidly dwindling group of contenders for the nomination gathered in Houston, Texas, for a final rhetorical match before “Super Tuesday”: on March 1st, 12 states cast their votes and 595 delegates, the equivalent of half of the delegates needed to win the nomination, go up for grabs. With its population of 27m Texas is the most important of the Super Tuesday states.

Moderated by four seemingly overwhelmed journalists—from CNN, a cable-television channel; Telemundo, a Spanish TV network; and Radio Salem; a Texan radio station—in this unruly debate all eyes were trained on the two Hispanic candidates. How they would interact with Donald Trump, the front-runner? Would Ted Cruz, who enjoyed a home advantage as senator from Texas, and Marco Rubio, the Florida senator whom many see as the most likely candidate of the Republican establishment after Jeb Bush abandoned his campaign, join forces in attacking Mr Trump? Would they go after each other instead, in pursuit of becoming the real-estate tycoon’s top rival? Would Mr Cruz continue...Continue reading

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