James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

A 2012 GOP presidential nomination ranking

Dec 18, 2009 18:07 UTC

Campaign consultant Mark McKinnon give his two cents, followed by mine in italics:

1. Mitt Romney “… if he runs his race like he did the last month of the last campaign, true to who he really is, he should be the nominee.”  Lots opposition by tea party types, but those folks also disliked McCain in 2008 and he won.

2. Sarah Palin
“… alleged cop-killer Maurice Clemmons, granted clemency in 2000 by Mike Huckabee, might have just given her [an open door] to walk through for 2012 … Republicans primary voters are notoriously law- and order-obsessed, so Palin has virtually an open field in Iowa, South Carolina, and other primary states dominated by Christian conservatives.” Huckabee really gave a boost to Sarah America who has improved her favorability. But the competence issue remains, though less so with conservatives.

3. Tim Pawlenty
“He could end up everyone’s second choice (assuming Romney and Palin both run) and that’s a heck of a place to be in a crowed and wild primary.” A few early missteps but could be the David Cameron of the GOP.

4. John Thune “If he would run, John Thune could be the Bob McDonnell of the 2012 GOP field.  … The senator from South Dakota’s got central-casting good looks and comes across as humble and quiet; he has a Gary Cooper sensibility about him.” Brief lobbying career could be a negative, but he does fit the suit. If it was certain he was running, he and Pawlenty would switch spots.

5. Mike Huckabee “Maybe he can create a serious conversation about the notions of redemption and forgiveness in our criminal justice system. Or not. In which case, he’ll probably always have a home at Fox News.”  The trend is not in the right direction

6. Joe Scarborough “The host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough, would be a terrific candidate. He’s young, articulate, and telegenic.”  A little high on the list, I think. But it might be a good year for an unconventional candidate.

7. Haley Barbour “Sure he’s a caricature of the classic Southern politician: old, large, white, honey-lipped, and a former lobbyist to boot. But if voters are really tired of Obama, they’ll be looking for the mirror opposite of the man occupying the Oval Office. And that would clearly be Haley.”  I think the caricature speaks for itself.

8. Newt Gingrich “But our bet is that while he may contribute in many ways and continue to tease, in the end he probably won’t go for the Full Monty.” I think that’s right.

9. Mitch Daniels “Daniels has been an extraordinarily successful and effective governor in Indiana, a state that has been recently more blue than red. A no-nonsense, tell-it-like-is conservative, Daniels cruised to re-election by 18 points last year when Obama was winning the state.”  Probably should be much higher on list. Both Daniels and Thune are really the anti-Obama’s on the list. Former WH folks love the guy.

10. Rick Perry “He’s already the longest-serving governor in Texas history and may be headed for his third term next fall.”
in 2012.” McKinnon wonders why he doesn’t usually land on these sorts of lists. Maybe there is a reason for that.


Ron Paul supporters turn to Gary Johnson. Congressman Paul will not run and endorse Gary Johnson. Guarantee it.

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An interview with Rep. Paul Ryan

Dec 15, 2009 18:51 UTC

I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and the ranking GOPer on the House Budget Committee. Ryan’s a rising Republican star (he’ll be just 40 next month), a guy some folks were pushing to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008.  If there’s a young Jack Kemp in today’s Congress, he’s it. And if you’re wondering what the 21st century Republican Party will stand for, many of the ideas will probably come from Ryan. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

Boosting the economy

I would do whatever I could to keep tax rates low and permanent. I subscribe to the [Milton] Friedman permanent income effect. And I believe in the Kennedy-Mundell-Reagan policy mix of low tax rates and sound money. And that also means getting our debt under control.

Economic outlook

Look what’s going to hit us in 2011. We are going to have a massive tax increase on labor and capital, and the Fed for sure is going to be tight by then. We are doing kind of a cash for clunkers on the whole economy. We are pulling growth from 2011 into 2010. Economic decision makers are looking at the policy climate, and it is horrendous. Then they read the newspapers and see payroll taxes, pay or play, cap-and-trade and this uncertain regulatory environment. It’s the uncertainty tax. There is this enormous uncertainty being injected into the economy, and everybody is sitting on their hands.


Our government is led by ideologues, and they are bound and determined to implement a social welfare state, a cradle-to-grave entitlement society, a high-tax, high-government-dependency society. And the countries that have gone down that path have higher unemployment, a lower standard of living and more economic stagnation.

If you listened to the healthcare debate [in the House], the leaders of the Democratic party, they all basically said the same thing: This is the third wave of progressivism, we are finally completing the progressive agenda with passage of this bill. They really believe they can finally transform America into something it’s not.

Value-added Tax

The VAT is coming. They just know they can’t do it before the election. My fear is that the credit markets blow up on us again, we’ll get some shot across the bow by the bond market one of these days. And if the Democrats are still in power, that will bring us the VAT. They will say they have no choice but to do it to save the creditworthiness of the government. It will kind of be like another TARP weekend where the Treasury Secretary and the Fed chairman come to Capitol Hill hyperventilating and out of that comes a VAT. Our government is premeditating a moment like that. But there is another way with real entitlement reform, real tax reform, fulfilling health and retirement security but also paying off our debts and making our economy really competitive.

A deficit commission

I think we should just do our jobs. The way this commission is going to be stacked, I fear, will be for a slow moderation in spending but a big increase in taxes. To really fix this problem, what you’ve got to do is have a defined benefits safety net with a defined contribution system on top. You could design this in different flavors, but that is the gist of what you have to do to wipe these unfunded liabilities off the books.

Financial reform

What I think we are doing here is enshrining “too big to fail” in our system and making a permanent crony capitalist system.


always touching to see an ideologue accuse everyone but himself of being an ideologue

that guy pontificates on fiscal responsibility at every turn without suggesting a single measure to reduce spending whilst advocating cutting taxes

does he have any actual proposals?

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The aftermath of NY-23

Nov 4, 2009 21:43 UTC

Jon Henke applies his own analysis to the NY-23 race:

The story of NY-23 is not “conservatives beat moderates” or “conservative loses to Democrat”.

The story of NY-23 is “the Right starts dismantling the Republican establishment.” This is about how the Republican Party is defined and who defines it.

Right now, the movement wants the Republican Party to be defined by opposition to big government. Gradually, as new leaders arise, we will demand that the Republican Party be defined by its own solutions, as well, but rebuilding is an incremental process. We can hammer out the policy agenda and the boundaries of the coalition later.

For now, our job is to disrupt the establishment GOP.  If we beat Democrats while we’re at it, great. But the first priority is to fix the Drunk Party – the Living Dead establishment Republicans. They’re history. They just don’t know it yet.

NY-23 was the first shot in that war.  It was a direct hit.  Next year, we start storming the castle.

Me: Next up, Rubio vs. Crist and DeVore vs. Fiorina.


Republicans had to choose between a liberal Republican and a very conservative candidate – most moderate Republicans were unhappy with both choices. Perhaps that’s why the Democrat won this three-way race.

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GOP healthcare alternative? It’s pretty flawed, too

Jul 24, 2009 17:54 UTC

Ugh. So House GOPers have put out their alternative to ObamaCare. It’s really more of a statement of principles with a few numbers. Yes, it is  a good idea to level the playing field between those who get their insurance through their employers and those who buy it on their own. But this is the part that put me back on me heels:

Strengthens employer-provided health coverage by helping the 10 million uninsured Americans who are eligible, but not enrolled in, an employer-sponsored plan get health care coverage. The plan does this by encouraging employers to move to opt-out, rather than opt-in rules.

Employer-based covering should be scrapped, not strenghthened. (In fact, doing so really is key to reform.)  The great Arnold Kling gives five good reasons why:

  • The cost of health insurance is disguised from consumers, because firms do not report what they pay in premiums. Workers are under the illusion that their health coverage is inexpensive, and if they subsequently find themselves having to obtain their own health insurance, they are offended by the cost and instead choose to go uninsured.
  • Workers who are concerned about the availability of health insurance may suffer from “job lock.” They might wish to leave their job for self-employment, pursuit of formal education, an opportunity with a smaller firm, or early retirement, but the potential loss of health insurance is a deterrent.
  • Workers may not enjoy the range of insurance choices that they would have if health insurance were not negotiated for them by employers. For example, if they could choose their own insurance, some workers might elect coverage with higher co-pays and deductibles but lower premiums, in order to have more cash income.
  • Because employer-provided health insurance is subsidized through the tax system, the benefits accrue relatively more to high-income workers.
  • Workers who are fired or laid off can find themselves without health insurance at a point where they can least afford to be uninsured.

    A tax incentive to have some sort of medicial saving plan
    could make the diffrence…Save more early for old age. 401k for medicial? I see it as a way to phase out social security and reduce our dependance on goverment and vica versa. Insurance could come down like car insurance. Parents would cover their kids at birth so no prexisting conditions, even better before conception. Still didn’t see anything about tort reform..NO plan can work without that!

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