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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

The Frustrations of Divided Government Play Out in Iowa Races

AMES, Iowa—It doesn’t take much time with voters in Iowa to re­cog­nize that the 2016 pres­id­en­tial race is be­ing fought in the chasm between the tower­ing chal­lenges fa­cing the coun­try and the crimped re­sponses that our po­lar­ized and para­lyzed polit­ic­al sys­tem can now pro­duce.

Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic audi­ences here di­verge wildly in their pre­ferred solu­tions for the coun­try’s biggest prob­lems—and even over what is­sues qual­i­fy for that list. But they are united by a com­mon con­vic­tion that Wash­ing­ton is now in­cap­able of mov­ing very far in any dir­ec­tion. As next week’s Iowa caucuses form­ally be­gin the 2016 vot­ing, each party is di­vid­ing over how to break that im­passe—with evol­u­tion­ary change that works with­in today’s lim­its or with the prom­ise of a re­volu­tion that some­how washes those lim­its away?

On both sides, the en­ergy is...

A Time for Culling, Not for Winning

It’s now less than a week be­fore the Iowa caucuses, two weeks be­fore the New Hamp­shire primary, and thus time for polit­ic­al afi­cion­ados to whip them­selves in­to frenzy. People of­ten be­come so pre­oc­cu­pied with the two con­tests that they lose sight of the lar­ger pic­ture. So take a deep breath, every­one: Neither party’s nom­in­a­tion is likely to be settled by the out­comes in Iowa or New Hamp­shire, or even the two com­bined. The Re­pub­lic­an race is likely to be de­term­ined much closer to Me­mori­al Day than New Year’s Day, and the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion should be ob­vi­ous by East­er, quite pos­sibly much soon­er, but not likely in Feb­ru­ary.

Iowa should win­now the more con­ser­vat­ive half of the GOP field, likely end­ing the cam­paigns of Mike Hucka­bee, Rand Paul, and Rick San­tor­um and al­low­ing Ted Cruz to con­sol­id­ate the more strongly ideo...

Palin Endorses Trump, Forging an Alliance of the Aggrieved

Sarah Palin's star may have dimmed since 2008. Republican pundits and donors may have wearied of her. But Republican pundits and donors don’t typically vote in the Iowa caucuses. To many, many of the people who do vote there, Palin remains a heroine and a martyr. Endorsements are usually said not to matter much in today’s politics—but if any endorsement in any contest ever can matter, Palin’s endorsement in the Republican Iowa caucuses will.

In 2012, Romney and Santorum finished only 34 votes apart in Iowa. If Palin tips a few hundred votes toward Trump in 2016’s neck-and-neck Trump-Cruz contest, she could set in motion a dynamic where Trump may win both Iowa and New Hampshire—a stunning and once-unimagined result.   

But Cruz has vocal friends, too. Radio talkers Rush Limbaugh, circumspectly, and Mark Levin, more explicitly, have made clear that although they like Trump, they prefer Cruz. The Texas senator has collected endorsements from Glenn Beck, James Dobson, Brent Bozell, and Ginni Thomas, among many other conservative luminaries. In the contrast between Cruz’s support and Trump’s, one sees something truly new and disrupting—a battle between those for whom conservatism is...

Donald Trump Could Ride Momentum to the Republican Nomination

How do you stop a boulder once it’s rolling down­hill?

For a Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment ter­ri­fied of the dam­age that a Don­ald Trump nom­in­a­tion could wreak, that’s the phys­ics prob­lem it could face if the celebrity busi­ness­man wins both Iowa and New Hamp­shire in the first nine days of Feb­ru­ary.

Those states ac­count for only 53 del­eg­ates of the 2,472 total in play, but a Trump vic­tory in both could make wins more likely in South Car­o­lina and Nevada later that month, which, un­der the laws of pres­id­en­tial-primary “mo­mentum,” could make his nom­in­a­tion all but in­ev­it­able.

“The party can’t do any­thing,” said Ari Fleis­cher, a seni­or aide to former pres­id­ent George W. Bush. “He could be the nom­in­ee.”

In past pres­id­en­tial elec­tion cycles, front-run­ner mo­mentum was usu­ally seen as a good thing by Re­pub­lic­ans Party lead­ers, al­low­ing can­did...

The Next President’s Power Play

Already in this young year, Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates have de­cried Pres­id­ent Obama’s use of ex­ec­ut­ive power—this time for his plan to uni­lat­er­ally tight­en gun back­ground checks.

But many of the GOP hope­fuls have also made clear they would be will­ing to wield the pres­id­en­tial pen them­selves if elec­ted—wheth­er to go around Con­gress and make new policy, or simply to roll back the Obama ac­tions they most des­pise.

This week­end, New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie said on Fox that the pres­id­ent is be­hav­ing like “a petu­lant child” who wants to act like a “king” or “dic­tat­or,” be­fore char­ging that the ex­pec­ted ac­tions were il­leg­al. At a Mis­sis­sippi rally, Don­ald Trump said, “There’s an as­sault on the Second Amend­ment.” And Sen. Marco Ru­bio told a New Hamp­shire crowd that Obama has “waged war on the Con­sti­tu­tion.” They all pledged to re­verse...