Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tim Scott: Marco Rubio for president

There was some surprise last night when Scott’s endorsement was announced, although Hot Air readers knew it was more or less in the bag a month ago. (Scott appeared at a Rubio rally in South Carolina in mid-December.) The news leaked as the votes were being counted in Iowa, which started some speculation that Team Rubio thought they were going to underperform and needed positive buzz to distract from the results. So much for that theory. I think the real message of announcing Scott’s endorsement during the Iowa vote was that Rubio’s in this for the long haul. He’s already looking past New Hampshire to Scott’s home state of South Carolina. And of course it’s an implicit rebuke to Cruz, who hasn’t landed the endorsement of a single Senate colleague (yet). Scott is respected on the right as a “true conservative,” a tea-party favorite who, in theory, should be with Cruz. Nope. Team Rubio. For Cruz’s Senate endorsements, it may be Jeff Sessions or bust.
In many ways Scott is the perfect Rubio endorsement. He’s got the sort of conservative cred that Rubio once had among his detractors on the right and is trying to rebuild after the Gang of Eight debacle. He’s an influential officeholder from an early primary state. Like Rubio, he comes from a humble background and has risen to hold high federal office, the American dream in action. And of course he’s living proof that the GOP isn’t exclusively a party of old white guys. Emily Zanotti notes the symbolism:
Senator Tim Scott is the first black Senator [since Reconstruction] elected from the “deep south.” He was appointed, initially, by a female governor, herself a woman of color, a child of immigrants and a Catholic. He is throwing his support behind the Hispanic son of immigrants who escaped Communist Cuba, the night after more than 60% of Republican Iowa caucus-goers voted for a minority – Hispanic, black, or female – to win the Presidential nomination. Even if you’re not a fan of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina, you have to appreciate what that means for the “party of old white people.” Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both lily-white septugenarians – literally old white people – are arguing over .4% of a vote that drew only half as many caucus-goers as in 2008, flipping coins for delegates and lobbing accusations of voter fraud.
Rubio’s running as the future of the party, on a message of opportunity. Who better to echo that than Tim Scott? The money line: “It’s not about where you start, it’s about where you’re going.” His other core point here is electability, which you’ll hear again and again from Team Marco as they veer towards a long war with Cruz. Ace objects that Rubio’s electability is overstated given his tepid reception among Republican voters so far. Fair enough, but there is data suggesting that he’d appeal more to key groups in the general election than Cruz or Trump would. I don’t take “electability” claims as an insult to my intelligence, just a tactful reminder that not all constituencies are as willing or unwilling to support a candidate as grassroots conservatives might be. Which is not to say that those claims should be taken at face value: The best way to prove you’re electable is to, um, win some elections. Big test for Rubio coming up in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
So, as the candidates arm up for war in South Carolina, that makes Scott for Rubio, Lindsey Graham for Jeb Bush (giggle), and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster for Trump. There’s still a major wild card out there who I once thought for sure would line up for Rubio but lately have begun to doubt. Which way is Nikki Haley going? She’s not going to wimp out and refuse to endorse in the primary, is she?

Trump lands the Scott Brown endorsement

Man. Lotta 2010-vintage tea-party heroes are climbing aboard the Trump train these days, huh? First Palin, now this. Presumably Trump’s holding the Joe the Plumber endorsement in reserve for just the right moment.
This is a decent get for Trump.
Brown’s move could give Trump a significant boost, one day after the mogul lost the Iowa caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Although Brown was defeated in his senatorial bid here, he has been popular GOP figure in New England ever since his stunning, come-from-behind victory in Massachusetts’s special election to fill the Senate seat in 2010.
Brown is also a favorite of many establishment Republicans due to his centrist positions, including support for abortion rights and for a ban on assault weapons. His profile and personality, however, are blue collar and populist. He drove a pickup truck during his Senate bids and is a habitué of Cheap Trick concerts.
On the endorsement front, Brown is the first U.S. senator, current or former, to formally back Trump.
WaPo says Brown’s decision to back Trump has been “closely guarded” for days. Yeah? In that case, what was Brown doing two weeks ago at a Trump rally in New Hampshire introducing him as the next president of the United States? That’s not a compliment you’d lay on someone if you’re considering endorsing anyone else.

Touche, but congressional endorsements are hard for Trump to come by, especially now that he’s lost Iowa and isn’t the apparent juggernaut he looked to be 24 hours ago. Brown is likable, well known in the northeast, and media-friendly; he’s a good surrogate to have, especially to help Trump take some of the harder edges off his image. If I’m right that Trump’s main concern in New Hampshire right now is making sure no “Stop Trump” coalesces behind Rubio or Cruz, Brown is a valuable ally insofar as he embodies the centrist “reasonable Republican” stereotype. How much of a dangerous loose cannon could Trump really be if a nice, sober guy like Scott Brown digs him?
Trump said something a few weeks ago about how Brown is straight out of central casting as a potential VP. Yeah, I guess — except for geography. A Manhattanite and a New Englander would not make for a ticket that accurately represents the GOP base. That’s why I half-joked last week that Huckabee is better veep material for Trump. He’s from the Republican south, he has years of executive experience, and he can boast not only the same blue-collar cred as Brown but the social-conservative cred that Trump needs (especially after Iowa). Trump makes sense for Brown to endorse, though, because (especially as of two weeks ago) he looks like Brown’s fastest ticket back to relevance. He’s still the odds-on favorite to win New Hampshire, and he’s essentially a centrist independent masquerading as a Republican, just as Brown was. His support isn’t worth much to the establishment candidates in NH, all of whom have bigger names in their corner than Brown, but it’s worth something to Trump since it lends him some congressional legitimacy by association. If you’re looking for a path back into politics and you’re unwilling to accept a “demotion” from the Senate to a House seat (which is rough sledding in New England for any Republican, even with Brown’s fame), a longshot bet on Trump isn’t crazy.
One other interesting thing about Scott Brown: He’s a Romney guy, or at least he was. Romney helped him win the special election in Massachusetts in 2010. Brown repaid the kindness by endorsing Romney for the 2012 nomination. Romney hit the trail again for Brown in 2014, when he ran for Senate in New Hampshire. Now here’s Brown endorsing the one guy in the race (with the possible exception of Ted Cruz) whom Romney would least like to see succeed him as GOP nominee. Huh. I wonder if there’s been a falling out, or if Brown’s simply concluded that there’s no path back to office via traditional establishment means and so he needs to gamble with Trump. Either way, the spectacle of a Romney guy endorsing in New Hampshire raises the question again of when the man himself will speak up about the race. There’s little doubt now that Rubio will be the center-right champion against Trump and Cruz; if Romney doesn’t throw him his support this week, it’s probably only because he doesn’t want to kneecap Christie and Bush before New Hampshire voters render a verdict. Romney’s endorsement is worth something in New Hampshire, though, and Trump is still way ahead. If he wants to help Rubio make a dent in the polls there, now’s the time.
Here’s Brown not denying that he’ll make news at Trump’s rally in New Hampshire tonight.

Chipotle says criminal investigation widens

NEW YORK (AP) -- Chipotle says the scope of a previously disclosed federal criminal investigation has widened beyond a single restaurant in California.
The company says it has been served with another subpoena requiring more documents related to its company-wide food safety. Previously, it said it was served a subpoena in relation to a California restaurant, where there was a norovirus outbreak over the summer.
Chipotle also confirms its sales sank 14.6 percent for the fourth quarter after food scares sickened dozens of people around the country.
It's the first sales drop since the company went public a decade ago.
Total revenue fell 7 percent to $997.5 million, while profit fell 44 percent to $67.9 million.

Sexually-transmitted Zika case confirmed in Texas

DALLAS (AP) -- Health officials say a patient in Texas has acquired the Zika virus through sexual transmission.
Dallas County Health and Human Services said Tuesday it received confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient was infected after having sexual contact with an ill person who returned from a country where Zika was present.
The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites. Investigators have been exploring the possibility the virus also can be spread through sex. It was found in one man's semen in Tahiti, and there was report of a Colorado researcher who caught the virus overseas and apparently spread it to his wife back home in 2008.
Health officials note there are no reports of Zika being transmitted by mosquitoes in Dallas County.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Microsoft Calls Iowa For Hillary Clinton Before Any Votes Are Counted

Microsoft’s Bing technology has called Iowa for Hillary Clinton, a result that has not gone unnoticed amongst Bernie Sanders supporters given that an app created by Microsoft will help tally the vote during tonight’s caucus.
Using, “data from polls, prediction markets, and anonymized and aggregated search-engine queries to predict its results,” Microsoft forecasts that Hillary will win three out of the first four Democratic primaries, taking Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada, with Sanders taking New Hampshire.
Although the technology isn’t perfect, Microsoft correctly predicted the outcome of the 2015 Academy Awards, the ‘No’ vote for Scottish independence, and the outcome of more than 95 percent of the 2014 U.S. midterm elections.