NEWS AND OPINION:
The political marketplace is often a shrill, cluttered place. But when likely presidential hopeful Ben Carson speaks, people pause. They heed his words. Why is that? “There’s a calmness, a humbleness about him. He has the ability to listen. Americans haven’t really seen these qualities on the public stage before,” Terry Giles tells Inside the Beltway.
He is poised to become campaign chairman should the retired pediatric neurosurgeon decide to run for president in 2016.
“You have to remember that this is a man who has done 15,000 brain surgeries, almost every one a life and death situation where he had to sit down with patients to go over their options. This is a man who literally made life and death decisions every day. You do that, and you get really calm after a while,” Mr. Giles continues. “He is also someone who knows how to conserve his energy. Some of those surgeries were 30 hours long.”
Earlier this week, the physician and author — who is also a columnist for The Washington Times — announced he had launched an exploratory committee for a White House bid, causing much speculation in the press. The campaign may not be typical; the staff will include someone designated to preserve a positive “culture” in public outreach.
“I think people will be amazed at the depth and the wide bandwidth of what he’s going to say. It can be complex, but it’s rooted in common sense. We hope to talk to America about a new model of leadership. It’s not about who makes the best speeches. We must elect people based on their character, on their wisdom,” says Mr. Giles, affirming that the search is on for a campaign team, and for those who can forge significant policy statements.
“Ben Carson brings unity, diversity and civility to the table,” Mr. Giles notes. “These days, I think people have forgotten what those things really mean.”
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CLINTON Vs WALKER: ‘IT’S VERY CLOSE’
Theoretical match-ups are many among presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle. New findings from Rasmussen Reports reveal that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has surged to the front of the pack of Republican presidential hopefuls in recent weeks, and “now gives likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a run for her money,” the pollster says. “It’s very close.”
Forty-six percent of likely U.S. voters say they would vote for Clinton in a matchup with Walker if the 2016 presidential contest were held today. Nearly as many (41 percent) would choose Mr. Walker instead. And the other favorites? The poll found that Mrs. Clinton gets 45 percent support to Jeb Bush‘s 36 percent. Ben Carson trails the former Secretary of State 47 percent to 36 percent.
And for those who wonder if anyone is paying attention at this early date: the answer is yes. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents say they are following 2016 closely. And among those voters who say they’re tracking things “very closely,” the poll reveals that Mr. Walker leads Mrs. Clinton 51 percent to 43 percent. The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted Feb. 28 - March 1.
An interesting little moment: Despite all the media hubbub, the National Portrait Gallery is not actually displaying the Nelson Shanks painting of former President Bill Clinton at the moment. You know the one — the artist revealed in a recent interview that it includes a reference to Monica Lewinsky‘s infamous blue dress, from days of yore. But for all the fuss, the painting is off the floor.
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“The work by Shanks is in storage,” gallery spokesman Bethany Bentley tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting that the work itself has been out of public view since 2009.
“Is this all a Clinton-spiracy? Was it taken down, banished from the public view because of the blue dress shadow that Shanks painted into the portrait?” asks Lorena O’Neil, a correspondent for the West Coast industry publication.
Ms. Bentley denies that the museum became aware of the reference right when Philly.com published Mr. Shanks’ revelations earlier this week — just like the public. Besides, the facility already has 55 Bill Clinton portraits in its collection; the image now on display is a 2006 work by Chuck Close, known for his clever and carefully rendered pixilated patterns.
THE MIDDLE CLASS DEBATE
Watching over the American middle class has become a mantra for both Democrats and Republicans — and for good reason.
“Amid debate over which policies would do the most to improve the lives of the middle class, large percentages of Americans identify with the term — either completely or with some qualification,” reports a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.
More Republicans than Democrats claim the title. Overall, 47 percent of Americans say they are middle class, compare to 53 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of Democrats.
But on to the excruciating but somehow revealing numbers: 39 percent overall say they are lower middle class, or lower class; 32 percent of the GOP and 42 percent of the Dems agree. At the other end of things, 12 percent overall say they are upper middle class or upper class; 16 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats agree. But alas. Public perception on the government’s role in it all is not so good.
“Seventy two percent say that, in general, the government’s policies since the recession have done little or nothing to help middle class people, and nearly as many say they have provided little or no help for small businesses (68 percent) and the poor (65 percent),” the poll stated.
It would provide quite a tweak to Obamacare. Sen. Ted Cruz introduced the Health Care Choice Act on Wednesday, which would remove insurance mandates in the health care law, and allow residents in one state the option to purchase a health insurance plan of their choice in any other state.
“Every last word of Obamacare must be repealed. And while we continue that fight, we must also send bill after bill to the President’s desk to stop its harmful effects,” the Texan Republican says. “The Health Care Choice Act will reduce costs, force insurers to compete for business and empower consumers to choose a health plan that meets their needs.”
With him on the legislation: Sens. John Barrasso, Mike Crapo, Marco Rubio and David Vitter. Rep. Marsha Blackburn has introduced companion legislation in the House.
“The Administration has done absolutely nothing to prepare for an upcoming Supreme Court decision that could leave millions of Americans unable to afford insurance thanks to this failed law,” Mr. Cruz continues, calling the act “true market-based reform” and consumer-friendly.
“Republicans must offer the American people alternatives that lower costs and break the status quo that favors big government and big health care business over hardworking Americans. The Health Care Choice Act is one step in that direction,” he adds.
POLL DU JOUR
• 64 percent of Americans say most people can get ahead if “willing to work hard”; 78 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats agree.
• 62 percent overall say the U.S. economic system “unfairly favors powerful interests”; 49 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents and 70 percent of Democrats agree.
• 49 percent overall say government aid to the poor does more good than harm; 24 percent of Republicans, 46 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats agree.
• 33 percent overall say the economic system is generally fair to most people; 49 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents and 70 percent of Democrats agree.
• 33 percent say hard work is no guarantee of success for most people; 20 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of independents and 43 percent of Democrats agree.
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