Posts Tagged ‘Beto O’Rourke’

Big Names Bake a Climate Pie in the Sky

January 21, 2019

They mean well, but eminent economists are pushing an unreal ‘carbon dividend’ plan.


Image result for coal-fired plant , Point of the Rocks, Wyo, pictures

Steam rises from a coal-fired plant outside Point of the Rocks, Wyo. PHOTO: JIM URQUHART/REUTERS

An impressive list of names endorse a carbon dividend proposal published in The Wall Street Journal this week. They include 27 Nobel Prize winners plus former Treasury secretaries, Federal Reserve chairmen and White House economists.

They propose not only a steadily rising fossil-energy tax, but a new bureaucracy to distribute the proceeds to every American in annual “dividend” payments. They would repeal the existing panoply of green subsidies and mandates. Their program also requires a new import tax to stop U.S. industry from shifting its carbon-intensive activities offshore.

Their plan contains quite a few moving parts. As Texas Democrat and new liberal heartthrob Beto O’Rourke seems to say about everything these days, let’s start a discussion!

And that’s the problem. I can’t help thinking of the original grand bargain worked up by the tobacco industry, plaintiffs’ lawyers, the states, and antismoking groups in 1997. Here’s our program, now enact it, they said to Congress. Never were Republicans and Democrats so united in telling a collection of special interests to get lost.

By its very breadth and radical nature, the carbon-dividend plan announces a climate emergency. This concession Democrats will gladly embrace, along with any chance to enact a new tax. But distributing the proceeds equally to the rich? That sounds insufficiently progressive. Besides, since we face a “climate emergency,” wouldn’t the money be better spent on speeding up deployment of wind and solar? As for existing mandates and subsidies, sure, we might expend additional political energy to repeal these. And pigs might fly.

Congress, let’s remind ourselves, exists to pursue national priorities in a way that greases as many special interests as possible. To the voting public, meanwhile, the cost of effective climate action dwarfs the perceived benefits by a country mile. This is why our existing climate efforts, while expensively pleasing to certain lobbying interests, are so trifling as to be inconsequential to the climate.

The dividend approach is supposed to end-run the problem of public support by putting the money back into voters’ pockets directly. Good luck with that. And it still doesn’t solve the deeper conundrum.

Climate change, if it’s a problem, is a global problem. The U.S. could stop emitting tomorrow and the world would continue to discover the slowly accumulating effects of CO2 already in the atmosphere for decades to come. And total CO2 would continue to rise thanks to countries like India and China.

The carbon-dividend crowd, unlike the Green New Deal crowd, at least addresses the global dimension—but with a colossal and unlikely act of coercion. Other nations, they tell us, will be forced to enact their own carbon taxes to get relief from our import tax. In their hubris, they dictate not only to the U.S. Congress, but to all the world’s legislatures.

Let’s grow up. The world faces lots of problems, none more so than its vastly accumulating debt.

Climate scientists are not nearly as simple-minded as climate reporters. Scientists’ worst-case emissions scenario, RCP 8.5, is one in which the global economy lapses into economic and technological stagnation (contradicting an assumption on the left that stopping economic growth is the solution to climate change).

A tax reform that included a carbon tax to replace taxes that depress work, saving and investment would be an incentive to do everything in a less carbon-intensive way, bringing forth new technologies.

More to the point, it would be a model other countries could adopt out of self-interest—they need growth too, and tax reform is a way to stimulate it. Political grand bargains are unneeded. Legislators in the future will be endlessly hungry for revenue collected in ways that minimally impact growth.

A carbon tax is not a miracle solution. There aren’t any. We will be living with some amount of climate change due to the highly uncertain effects of rising CO2 levels for the foreseeable future. The difference between a happy and unhappy outcome for humanity will come down to our ability to maintain economic growth and technological progress in the face of our extraordinarily daunting debt challenges.

Finally, pardon a valedictory cynicism, but the most important truth about any political proposal is the part unsaid. Corporations rush to fund the carbon-dividend campaign not because believe the plan is actionable, but because CEOs and PR departments need something gaudy to point to in order to suggest their concern about climate.

Not that I doubt the sincerity of many who sign on to this DOA proposal, but their credibility could have been better spent. Imagine if it had been employed to alert the media to the dubious, longstanding, likely fraudulent science of radiation risk that has so inhibited the development of nuclear power. Overnight the chances of the world dealing efficiently with its climate puzzle would be increased appreciably.

Appeared in the January 19, 2019, print edition.


Anti-Trump Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says launching 2020 bid

January 16, 2019

New York Senator has been a relentless critic of the president and champion of women’s issues including the #MeToo movement; ‘We have to rise up and reclaim our values’

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand arrives at the Ed Sullivan Theater‎ to tape an appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand arrives at the Ed Sullivan Theater‎ to tape an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Democratic US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, an outspoken Donald Trump critic and champion of women’s issues including the #MeToo movement, announced Tuesday she was jumping into the 2020 presidential race.

Nearly 22 months before the election, the battle for the White House is already firming up, as Americans begin to assess who might be the opposition party nominee to challenge Trump.

Four Democrats — three of them women — have made clear steps towards a formal campaign in recent weeks, and many more including several of Gillibrand’s Senate colleagues, an anti-Trump billionaire businessman and former vice president Joe Biden are waiting in the wings.

“I’m going to run for president of the United States, because as a young mom I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own — which is why I believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege,” the senator told Stephen Colbert on his CBS television talk show.

Her goals will include putting gender at the fore of her campaign, combating “institutional racism,” taking on special interests and entrenched systems of power in Washington, and fighting against political “corruption and greed.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks at a rally against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

“I know that I have the compassion, the courage, and the fearless determination to get that done,” she added in the interview set to be aired in full later Tuesday.

The 52-year-old from upstate New York said she was forming an exploratory committee, a crucial legal step for a candidate to run for president, just days before she reportedly travels to the early voting state of Iowa.

Reclaim our values

She took to social media Tuesday to amplify her message.

“We have to rise up and reclaim our values,” she tweeted.

“We need to protect our basic rights and fight for better health care, education and jobs. And I believe I’m the woman for the job,” she said, adding that she is “not afraid to take on Trump.”

Kirsten Gillibrand


Tonight I announced that I’m preparing to run for president, because I believe we’re all called to make a difference. I believe in right vs. wrong – that wrong wins when we do nothing. Now is our time to raise our voices and get off the sidelines. Join me: 

Kirsten’s Getting Ready to Run

We are compassionate. Courageous. Determined. Now is our time. Join us.

6,042 people are talking about this

Gillibrand was easily re-elected in November to her second full term. In 2009 she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s US Senate seat, when the latter became secretary of state.

In the years since she has abandoned several of her centrist political positions, tilting to the left to eventually become one of the more liberal senators.

The next presidential election is still more than 650 days away, but Gillibrand is entering what will be a chockablock field vying for the right to challenge Trump.

Elizabeth Warren, a fellow female US senator and frequent target of the provocative billionaire president, has also launched an exploratory committee, as has congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who served military tours in Iraq and Kuwait.

Former San Antonio mayor and Obama-era cabinet member Julian Castro and recently retired congressman John Delaney have formally launched their presidential bids.

Some politicians with stronger name recognition are expected to enter the race soon, including former Biden, ex-congressman Beto O’Rourke and current senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders, who ran against Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

But Gillibrand has distinguished herself in key ways. She is one of the top Trump naysayers in the Senate, voting against the president’s nominees for major posts more than almost any other senator.

She also raised her national profile by sponsoring — and mounting a three-year campaign for — a bill that would revamp the prosecution system for military sexual assaults and remove such cases from the military chain of command.

The bill fell short in the Senate, but Gillibrand has been relentless about highlighting sexual assault in the military, on college campuses and in the workplace.

See also:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is entering the 2020 race for president


Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro Expected To Launch Presidential Campaign

January 12, 2019

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is set to formally launch his bid for president on Saturday, after weeks of hinting he was ready to join the growing 2020 Democratic primary field.

The 44-year-old will be the first Hispanic candidate to enter the race for the White House, joining Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who recently said they are running. Several more well known candidates are expected to announce their plans soon.

Democrat Julián Castro talks about exploring the possibility of running for president in 2020, at his home in San Antonio in December 2018.  Eric Gay/AP

Castro launched an exploratory committee last month, Julián for the Future, and has already traveled to early primary states, with more visits to Iowa and New Hampshire slated for next week following his announcement Saturday in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

“Americans are ready to climb out of this darkness. We’re ready to keep our promises, and we’re not going to wait. We’re going to work,” Castro said in a video last month announcing he was testing the waters.

Castro has pointed to his experience on both the local and federal level. He was the youngest-ever city councilman in San Antonio’s history when he was elected in 2001 at age 26. Eight years later, he was elected mayor. In 2012, he gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention — which had catapulted Barack Obama to national fame eight years earlier — telling the crowd about his experience as part of an immigrant family.

“In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay,” Castro said. “Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.”

Two years later, President Obama chose him to run HUD. In 2016, Hillary Clinton also considered him as a possible vice presidential running mate.

His identical twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, has represented their native San Antonio in Congress since 2013. The two were born into a politically active family. Their mother was an organizer with La Raza Unida in the 1970s, campaigning for the rights of and improved working conditions for Mexican-Americans.

Castro may not be the only Texan in the race, however. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who narrowly lost a Senate bid last year, is also weighing a run and has been on the rise in very early polls.

The former HUD secretary, who campaigned for O’Rourke in 2018, told the Associated Press last month he wasn’t worried if he himself is not testing very high right now in surveys.

“If I decide to run, it would be because I believe I have a compelling message and I’m going to work hard and get to the voters and I believe I can be successful,” Castro told the AP.



Tulsi Gabbard says she will run for president in 2020

January 12, 2019

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said Friday she will run for president in 2020.

“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” the Hawaii Democrat told CNN’s Van Jones during an interview slated to air at 7 p.m. Saturday on CNN’s “The Van Jones Show.”
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Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is the first American Samoan and the first Hindu member of Congress.
“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve,” she said, listing health care access, criminal justice reform and climate change as key platform issues.
“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” Gabbard added. “I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”
Rania Batrice, who was a deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and is now a top aide to Gabbard, will be the campaign manager, Batrice says.
In 2015, Gabbard, then a vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was sharply critical of its then-chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for scheduling just six presidential debates during the 2016 primary election cycle. She later resigned her post as DNC vice chair to become one of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ highest-profile supporters, aligning herself with his populist economic message.
Gabbard has staked out anti-interventionist foreign policy positions in Congress. Her 2017 meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad drew widespread criticism. “Initially, I hadn’t planned on meeting him,”
Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper in January of 2017. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.”
Gabbard joins a quickly growing field of Democrats eager to take on President Donald Trump for the presidency.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on New Year’s Eve that she was forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro also formed an exploratory committee and is expected to announce his 2020 plans Saturday.
A number of other potential Democratic candidates, including heavyweights like former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are currently weighing whether to run for president and are expected to announce their decision soon.


Bloomberg says he would use his own money to fund 2020 run — Democratic field filling up

January 12, 2019

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing back against liberal critics who say he shouldn’t be allowed to use his multibillion-dollar fortune to self-fund a possible White House campaign and “buy the presidency.”

“I ran three times. I used only my own money so I didn’t have to ask anybody what they wanted in return for a contribution,” Bloomberg said in Austin, Texas, on Friday. “And, if I ran again, I would do the same thing.”

His defense echoed arguments he made while self-funding three successful City Hall bids when critics claimed he was buying the office.

“I think not having to adjust what you say and what you work on based on who financed your campaign is one of the things that the public really likes,” Bloomberg added.

New York’s former mayor spent more than $260 million combined in his runs for City Hall in 2001, 2005 and 2009.

He has been publicly toying with the idea of running for president for months and has promised he will make a decision within a month or so.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who recently launched her own White House bid — has called for spending limits to keep billionaires, like Bloomberg, from crushing the competition with a mountain  of spending


“Is this going to be a Democratic primary that truly is a grassroots movement that is funded by the grassroots and it’s done with grassroots volunteers, or is this going to be something that’s one more plaything that billionaires can buy?” she asked.




Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Staffs Up for Likely 2020 Presidential Run

January 11, 2019

New York Democrat signs up key staff members, plans first trip to Iowa

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2018 file photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks during the New York Senate debate hosted by WABC-TV, in New York. Gillibrand's Republican challenger is Chele Farley. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool, File) Photo: Mary Altaffer / Pool, AP

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) coasted to re-election in 2018 and has more than $10.6 million left over from her Senate campaign, seed money that can be used in her presidential bid. PHOTO: MARY ALTAFFER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is closing in on announcing a 2020 presidential campaign, signing up key staff members and planning her first trip to Iowa, according to people familiar with the plans.

Ms. Gillibrand’s staff will be run by Jess Fassler, her Senate chief of staff, and Dan McNally, a former campaign aide to Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) and the campaign arm of Senate Democrats, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

Meredith Kelly, a top communications aide to the House Democrats’ campaign arm, will lead Ms. Gillibrand’s communications operation, the people said. Ms. Kelly’s hiring was first reported by the New York Times.

 How to Prepare for a Presidential Run: The 2020 To-Do List

How to Prepare for a Presidential Run: The 2020 To-Do List
Presidential hopefuls are stepping out of the shadows, but their 2020 announcements are far from spontaneous. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains.

She has also hired two top digital aides, Emmy Bengtson and Gavrie Kullman, both highly sought-after Democratic digital specialists, according to people familiar with the move.

As part of the preparations, Ms. Gillibrand has hired Joi Chaney to become her new Senate chief of staff. Ms. Chaney formerly served as a staff member in the Senate and the Obama administration at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Glen Caplin, a longtime Senate aide to Ms. Gillibrand who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, is also expected to play a senior advisory role in her campaign. Mr. Caplin declined to comment.

Ms. Gillibrand plans to travel next weekend to Iowa—the location of the first 2020 presidential caucus and a sign that her campaign will be soon under way. Ms. Gillibrand’s Iowa plans were reported Thursday night by Politico.

Ms. Gillibrand, 52 years old, coasted to re-election in 2018 and has more than $10.6 million left over from her Senate campaign, seed money that can be used in her presidential bid.

The senator has positioned herself as a leading voice of the Democratic opposition to President Trump, with whom she tangled in December 2017 after the president called her a “flunky” for Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and said she would do “anything” for a political donation.

Ms. Gillibrand responded that Mr. Trump couldn’t silence her or the millions of women from speaking out “about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office.”

She is expected to join a field that already includes Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and could grow to include several of her Senate colleagues.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listen as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listen as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)

Following a midterm election cycle in which Democratic women took center stage, Ms. Gillibrand has championed electing more women to office and has been a leading voice in the #MeToo anti-sexual harassment and assault movement.

In this photo from January 29, 2017 US Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts speaks to people gathered at Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts. (Ryan McBride/AFP)

But some Democrats have accused her of opportunism, pointing to her evolution on issues such as immigration and gun control and her role as the first Senate Democrat to call for the resignation of former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken after the Democrat was accused of sexual misconduct.

Ms. Gillibrand’s advisers said at the time that she was standing up for her values.

Write to Ken Thomas at

Kamala Harris sounds like a 2020 candidate: ‘I think this is that moment’

January 8, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris indicated Tuesday that she’s seriously considering a 2020 White House run, by saying her mother would have wanted her to fix what’s wrong with Washington, D.C.

In an ABC interview, Harris said her mother, who died in 2009, would think DC is a “hot mess.”

Image result for George Stephanopoulos, Kamala harris, pictures

“And Kamala has to fix it?” George Stephanopoulos asked.

“Well yeah,” Harris said. “I mean, I was raised that when you see a problem, you don’t complain about it, you go and do something about it.”

[Read: 45 Democrats jostling to challenge Trump in 2020]

“I would get so upset at her when I got older,” Harris added. “I would come home with a problem, other parents would say, ‘Oh darling, I’ll take care of it.’ My mother, the first thing she would do, she’d look at us and she’d say, ‘Well, what did you do?'”

“So I think this is that moment,” she said. “And I believe for all of us, history will say and our children and our grandchildren will ask, at that inflection moment, where were you, and what did you do in service of your family, your neighborhood, your community and your country.”

While Harris sounded like she’s on the verge of running, she said at the top of the interview that she is “not going to decide right now.”


Probably a long shot.   Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/AFP


Image result for Kirsten Gillibrand, pictures

Kirsten Gillibrand

Image result for Beto O’Rourke, pictures

Republicans Need To Expand Their Base — Or Lose the Race

January 6, 2019

Rep. Will Hurd, the congressman in Texas’ toughest district, explains how he beats the odds—and why the GOP needs to reach out beyond its base.

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Everywhere he takes me, Rep. Will Hurd tells people—coffee-shop staff, breakfasting retirees, the proprietor at the historic Mi Tierra Cafe—that I’m here to figure out how he keeps winning Texas’ big swing congressional district. Sometimes he’s more blunt: How does a black Republican get elected in an area that’s 70% Hispanic?

Will Hurd

“It’s not rocket science,” Mr. Hurd says. “Look—show up, talk to people, represent them, right? It starts with the philosophy that my bosses are the 800,000 people that I represent, not anybody else.”

But clearly he’s doing something unusual. In 2016, 23 Republicans, including Mr. Hurd, won House districts that Hillary Clinton carried. Today only two of those seats are in GOP hands—Mr. Hurd’s and John Katko’s, in upstate New York. Democrats flipped the rest in November, beating many well-regarded GOP politicians. Minnesota’s Erik Paulsen and Illinois’s Peter Roskam—gone. Colorado’s Mike Coffman and Virginia’s Barbara Comstock—bye-bye. Texas’ Pete Sessions and John Culberson—hasta luego.

To reach back further, there were 13 House districts that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and then Mrs. Clinton in 2016. In the last Congress, they were all held by Republicans. Now they’re all occupied by Democrats, with the lone exception of Mr. Hurd. His most recent victory, a squeaker by 926 votes, wasn’t called until two weeks past Election Day. In the interim, his Democratic challenger attended congressional orientation with her fingers crossed. But a win is a win, so the question stands: What’s Mr. Hurd’s secret sauce, and can other Republicans learn the recipe?

On a cool Texas Friday two weeks before Christmas, Mr. Hurd runs a full schedule. Shortly past sunrise, he chats up a county commissioner over breakfast tacos—not “breakfast burritos,” which I’m told are a California invention. The agenda ends, half a dozen stops later, after nightfall with a Christmas parade in the town of Pearsall, population 10,345. All day, as we eat fajitas and brisket and drive around in his slate-gray Jeep Grand Cherokee, with holiday tunes playing softly on the radio, I plumb for what advice he might offer a colleague in a tight race.

“The campaign for 2020 is won or lost in 2019,” he says. “When the time comes for people to run crazy ads against you in the election that are completely untrue, the people that you’re asking to vote for you need to know that it’s untrue. And the only way you do that is by being in the communities.”

Given the expanse that Mr. Hurd represents, that’s no small job. Texas’ 23rd District runs up the Rio Grande between suburban San Antonio and El Paso County. “I don’t think people appreciate how big it is,” he says, adding that it’s larger than 26 states, covers 820 miles of the Mexican border, and takes 10 hours to drive end to end.

Last fall he visited all of the district’s 29 counties, holding meetings at local Dairy Queens. He even hit Loving County, the most sparsely populated in the contiguous U.S. Half the town of Mentone showed up, he says: “Nine of them—population 18 for the city, 95 for the entire county.” With so much time on the road, it can’t hurt that Mr. Hurd is energetically young, 41, and unmarried.

One lesson of such tours is that Capitol Hill is a bubble. At a taco joint in conservative Castroville, Mr. Hurd asks a breakfast group for their thoughts on the Saudi killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and the table gets pretty quiet. That subject is remote compared with a future bypass on U.S. Route 90. “What people talk about in D.C. is different from what people talk about here,” Mr. Hurd says in the car afterward. “Man, Khashoggi has dominated Washington, D.C., for a month. None of them brought it up.”

The congressman thinks his omnipresence has also helped avoid any raucous—and embarrassing—town halls. “One of my colleagues in Texas—there’s a picture of him, and he’s in a high-school gym, and there’s like 4,000 people, and they’re going nuts,” Mr. Hurd says. Yet Republicans who stopped holding town halls were pummeled for dodging voters. Mr. Hurd went the opposite direction: “I did 30 that summer. I didn’t have people yellin’ at me, hootin’ and hollerin’. Why? Because I had been there 97 times before.”

As we pull up to a middle school, where Mr. Hurd is speaking to a technology class, he gets on a roll: “This is how you win suburban women: Actually talk to them. Talk to their kids. Do things to make sure their kids are ready for the future. Don’t be a racist, and don’t be a misogynist.”

The Republicans who lost last year, I suggest, don’t fit that description. “No,” he agrees. “But here’s the thing: When people start thinking the average Republican is one of those things, then that impacts everybody. And so that’s why you have to ensure that you distinguish yourself from that average. Or we all have to work together to make sure the average isn’t seen like that. That’s the biggest challenge.”

Mr. Hurd worries the Republican Party is atrophying. Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, he says, won “staggering” percentages of young voters: “It’s almost the exact opposite of what it is today.” Already his home state is looking purple. “In 2016 in Texas, only one Republican congressman or woman got less than 55% of the vote—me,” he says. “In 2018, two losses, 10 Republican congressmen and women got less than 55% of the vote.”

He adds another statistic: “The average decrease in their victory was 15 points.” That’s true—I checked—and sobering. Some of this Democratic surge may reflect the weirdness of 2018, and regression to the mean is usually a good bet. Nonetheless, in Mr. Hurd’s view the trend is clear. “If the Republican Party in Texas doesn’t start looking like Texas,” he says, “there will not be a Republican Party in Texas.” Even nationally, it’s hard not to note that the defeat of Utah’s Rep. Mia Love has left Mr. Hurd the only black Republican in the House.

If expanding the GOP’s appeal presents a chicken-and-egg problem, a logical place to start might be with how Mr. Hurd became a Republican. “Oh, the question everybody always asks,” he answers, chuckling. “My dad would say he’s been a Republican since Lincoln freed us.” He goes on to cite other influences, none ideological: Growing up in San Antonio. Helping his parents run a small business. Studying at Texas A&M, where the George H.W. Bush library and grad school arrived his sophomore year. Joining the Central Intelligence Agency.

As an agent, he spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan, working officially for the State Department while doing undercover operations in other countries. “My job,” he says, “was to recruit spies and steal secrets.” He decided to run for Congress after briefing a group of lawmakers in Afghanistan. An Intelligence Committee member asked a clueless question about the difference between Sunni and Shiite, and Mr. Hurd figured he could be of use in Washington. Today he’s the one sitting on the Intelligence Committee. Is the other guy still around? “No,” he says, “but there are still people like him around.”

Mr. Hurd lost a GOP primary runoff in 2010, then ran again in 2014 and knocked off the Democratic incumbent. When he won a second term, it was the first time in six years that the fickle 23rd District re-elected a congressman. For voters outside Texas, if they’ve heard of Mr. Hurd, it’s probably for one of three reasons.

To start, he hasn’t been shy about thwacking President Trump when he thinks it’s warranted. Hours after Mr. Trump’s wild press conference in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin, Mr. Hurd said the president was “getting played by old KGB hands.” The congressman wants a “smart border wall” made of radar and drones, and he says a physical barrier is a “third-century solution.” In 2016 he voted not for Mr. Trump but independent Evan McMullin, a fellow CIA alum. “I served with him in Pakistan,” Mr. Hurd says. “He had my back in some really tough and nasty situations. And so I had his.”

Second is Mr. Hurd’s focus on cybersecurity and tech. He has written bills to ease data sharing among federal agencies and empower the U.S. chief information officer. His degree is in computer science, so it’s a natural niche—and, he adds, one that voters can appreciate: “You go into any crowd and you say, ‘Raise your hand if you’ve had to get a new credit card because of a hack.’ ”

Third is Mr. Hurd’s 1,600-mile road trip with then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat from El Paso. When flights between Texas and Washington were grounded by a blizzard in 2017, the two rented a Chevy Impala and drove. They streamed the trip on Facebook , as they debated issues, sang a Johnny Cash duet, and answered questions from the public. The enthusiastic response, Mr. Hurd says, confirmed to him “that way more unites us than divides us, and people want us to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.”

This friendship may have subtly helped Mr. Hurd to re-election. Two weeks after the trip, Mr. O’Rourke launched a bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz. He narrowly lost, but turnout in El Paso surged, and Mr. O’Rourke comfortably carried the 23rd District. Throughout the campaign, he had refused to say a bad word about Mr. Hurd, to local progressives’ annoyance. Though Mr. Hurd says he doesn’t believe in coattails, there appear to be not a few O’Rourke/Hurd ticket splitters.

Even more important are the inroads Mr. Hurd has made in Hispanic areas on the Rio Grande. He cites Val Verde County, population 49,205. In 2014 he lost there by 23 percentage points. Two years later it was 9 points. Last November: 0.2. “We came 24 freaking votes away from flipping Val Verde County,” Mr. Hurd says, “one of the largest counties on the border, a majority Latino district, that we almost turned red—a county on the border!—in this crazy environment and election cycle.”

Mr. Hurd says it helps that he doesn’t look or talk like other Republicans. But the biggest thing, he insists, is showing up and engaging people. One bill he passed, suggested by constituents, renamed the port of entry in Tornillo after a Mexican-American hero from World War I, who fought for his adopted country years before naturalizing in 1924. “I’m in El Paso,” Mr. Hurd says, “and these veterans come up to me and be like, ‘Marcelino Serna deserves additional honors.’ ” The congressman hadn’t heard of him. “We took it and did some research,” Mr. Hurd says, “and it was like, man, this guy’s a 100% bad-ass.” The citation for one of his many medals reads: “Private Serna displayed exceptional coolness and courage in single handed charging and capturing 24 Germans.”

He tells a story about his first visit to Eagle Pass, another border town. Mr. Hurd showed up to a tardeada, an afternoon party, where there were hundreds of people. At 6-foot-4 he’s hard to miss, and he recalls that the band stopped playing when he walked in. “Everybody asked the question: ‘Why are you here?’ ” he says. “My answer was, because I like to drink beer and eat cabrito”—roast kid goat—“too. And everybody laughed. And the second time I showed up, people actually shook my hand, all right? Third time I showed up, you’d have people walk by”—he drops to a conspiratorial whisper—“and be like, ‘I’m a Republican.’ Fourth time, people would talk about some of the problems that they had. Fifth time, I was able to talk about, ‘Hey, here’s the way we can solve it.’ ”

His share of the vote in that county has since risen from 18%, to 21%, to 27%. “Now, it’s not huge,” Mr. Hurd says, “but that delta is what makes up—you know, you put those together in 29 different places, and this is how you win.”

Mr. Peterson is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.

Appeared in the January 5, 2019, print edition.

Mark Steyn: Dems prefer ‘Muslim transgender candidate’ but will ‘make do’ with Biden

December 28, 2018
Conservative commentator Mark Steyn joked during an interview on “Fox & Friends” Thursday that the Democratic Party prefers a “Muslim transgender candidate” but will “have to make do with [former Vice President] Joe Biden” as its nominee.
Image result for Mark Steyn, photos
The comments come as Biden tops most polls as an early favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, with many pollsters pointing to the former Delaware senator having the highest name identification as a key factor for his early advantage in polls.
“Fox & Friends” fill-in co-host Katie Pavlich noted a Vanity Fair piece from the previous day that said Biden was reportedly upset by Obama meeting with Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) last month when the former vice president was still considering a White House bid.
“Obama has flirted with Beto and other 2020 rivals and Joe Biden is very upset,” said Pavlich, who is also a contributor to The Hill. “It seems like the former president is leaving behind Joe Biden as he pursues newer and younger candidates.”
“They’re looking for something more intersectional,” Steyn noted after some crosstalk. “They really would like a Muslim transgender candidate, but they will have to make do with Joe Biden.”
“The problem with Biden is it’s not Obama’s fault any more than it was last time,” he continued. “You can’t do this sort of Hamlet on the battlements, ‘Oh, I’d like to to run if you want me to run.’ People who want to be president get out there and run and become president.”

USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday found that 59 percent of surveyed Democrats and independents are “excited” about having “someone entirely new” run in 2020, while Biden was the top choice among named candidates, with 53 percent saying they would be excited for him to run.


Biden had considered running in 2016 but ultimately decided not to for family reasons. Multiple reports indicated that Clinton allies and Obama had pressured Biden to stay out of the race to clear a path for Hillary Clinton. In an interview with NBC in January 2016, Biden said he regretted every day not seeking the presidency during that election cycle.


“I regret it every day, but it was the right decision for my family and for me. And I plan on staying deeply involved,” Biden told Connecticut NBC affiliate WVIT.


Political experts believe anywhere from 20-30 Democrats could seek the nomination in 2020 against President Trump, who sits at 42.6 percent approval in the RealClearPolitics index of polls.
No president has lost a bid for a second term since George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Joe Biden will shape the Democratic race for 2020

December 27, 2018

December is proving a tumultuous month for US President Donald Trump, not least with the latest government shutdown adding to political uncertainty in Washington. With attention turning to 2019, focus is growing on the emerging Democratic presidential nomination battle, which could see the largest field of candidates for the party in a generation.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden. (AP)

In the near term, the single biggest decision that will shape the race could come as soon as January, with former Vice President Joe Biden announcing whether he will run for a third White House bid after running in 1988 and 2008. He has promised a decision in the first few weeks of the year, after visiting more than 30 states in 2018.

While Biden could yet surprise many in Washington by not putting his hat in the ring, he is the early favorite. This despite him being 76 years old, in what could ultimately become the first ever clash of septuagenarian Democratic and Republican candidates in US history if Trump, 72, seeks re-election too.

By Andrew Hammond

Although the first nomination contest in Iowa on Feb. 3, 2020, remains over a year away, a slew of new polls indicate Biden’s frontrunner status. For instance, one taken from Dec. 10-13 for the Des Moines Register,


CNN and Mediacom put Biden at 32 percent among Iowa voters. A survey for Focus on Rural America from Dec. 10-11 put him at 30 percent. To put this in context, no other candidate reached even 20 percent in either poll.

Yet he would potentially face a significant field, including the man some are claiming to be the “new Obama,” Beto O’Rourke, the congressman who in November’s Senate election nearly became the first Democrat to win a state race in Texas since 1994.

O’Rourke came in third place in the Des Moines Register / CNN / Mediacom poll with 11 percent, trailing behind not just Biden but also Sen. Bernie Sanders, who scored 19 percent. In the Focus on Rural America survey, O’Rourke secured third place with 11 percent, with Sanders on 13 percent.

Among the potential other contenders for the Democratic crown are US senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Tim Kaine and Amy Kobuchar.  Outside the Senate, potential runners include New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, actress and TV celebrity Oprah Winfrey, businessman Michael Bloomberg and former Secretary of State John Kerry. While it is widely presumed that Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, will not run again, she has not categorically confirmed this.

While the Democratic race is fluid, Biden (who would in 2020 be the oldest presidential nominee in US history) may yet consolidate his early position to become his party’s standard bearer. While he is not a prohibitive favorite yet to secure the nomination in the way Clinton was at this stage in 2016, by numerous benchmarks he has key advantages against other Democrats, if his good health remains.

The past few decades of US political history indicate that the victor in nomination contests for both major parties frequently leads national polls of party identifiers on the eve of the first presidential nomination ballot in Iowa, and also raises more campaign finance than any other candidate in the 12 months prior to election year.

From 1980 to 2016, for instance, the eventual nominee in around half the Democratic and Republican nomination races contested (that is, in which there was more than one candidate) was the early frontrunner by both of these measures. Moreover, in at least four partial exceptions to this pattern, the eventual presidential nominee led the rest of the field on one of the two measures.

On both the fundraising and national poll measures, Biden could become the clear favorite for the Democrats in 2020, so much so that some other potentially first-class candidates may decide not to even enter the race.

Presuming Trump seeks re-election and wins the 2020 Republican nomination, which would be probable but by no means certain, he could face a very tough race against Biden or whoever the eventual Democratic nominee is. One of the key factors that will influence the latter party’s prospects of defeating the Republicans will be whether, and how quickly, it can unite around its own nominee given the potentially large number of contenders.

While the circumstances of 2020 will be different from 2016, when Clinton and Sanders were engaged in a protracted fight, it is nonetheless the case that another divisive Democratic nomination contest would probably only benefit Trump if he is the Republican nominee again. Indeed, should Trump emerge easily as the Republican nominee in 2020, this may prove a tipping point in another tight general election contest.

  • Andrew Hammond is an associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view