- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Despite persistent press coverage to the contrary, Republicans, and particularly conservative Republicans, are cheerful and enthusiastic about the presidential election next year — and fairly pleased with the burgeoning field of White House hopefuls. Six-in-10 registered GOP voters, in fact, say they have an excellent or good impression of their party’s presidential candidates, this according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. These voters also appear to be engaged and enlightened: Two-thirds say they are thinking a lot about the election itself these days. It is a dream come true for frantic strategists.

Things haven’t been this happy-go-lucky in eight years. The survey also finds Republicans are “more positive about the GOP field than they were at nearly comparable points in the past two presidential campaigns.” In May 2011, the positive ratings lingered at 44 percent. In September 2007, it was 50 percent.

Some are more engaged than others, however.

“Conservative Republicans are more familiar with the set of six likely Republican candidates than are moderate or liberal Republicans. In addition to being more familiar with the candidates, conservative Republicans generally offer, on balance, more favorable ratings of the candidates than liberal and moderate Republicans, with the notable exception of ratings for Jeb Bush,” the survey stated.

At the moment, Mike Huckabee earns the highest favorability ratings at 54 percent, followed by Sen. Rand Paul and Mr. Bush, both with 52 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio at 51 percent, Gov. Scott Walker at 51 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz at 46 percent.

MSNBC HOVERS AT 50,000 VIEWERS

“In a hyper-competitive fight for ratings as cable news viewership drops, MSNBC has seemed about as clever and competitive as a piano falling down a flight of stairs. Last Wednesday, the network hit a ten-year-low with an average audience in the demo of just 50,000. From 4 p.m. to midnight, none of MSNBC’s shows was able to break 100,000 viewers in the demo, which has long been considered a cut-off for viability in cable news,” observes Mark Joyella, a columnist for TVNewser.com.

“It wasn’t a fluke — the network’s shows on Friday again failed to break 100,000 in the demo, with Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow both fighting not for second place against CNN, but for third place with Forensic Files on HLN,” Mr. Joyella points out.

In a hypothetical scenario, he broaches the idea that suspended NBC anchorman Brian Williams could be granted a show on the struggling network, doing news plus a late-night monologue, complete with house band and guests. “Brian Williams Unplugged,” Mr. Joyella suggests, might be a panacea for the network’s ratings woes. Well, there’s a thought. Stranger things have happened.

EVER-EVOLVING GEORGEGATE

Three public apologies were not the charm for George Stephanopoulos, the ABC News anchor who may or may not be a journalist. He has already issued one statement and two on-camera mea culpas for failing to disclose his $75,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation while continuing to moderate “Meet the Press” and other political fare.

Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell has advised his conservative peers to stay off ABC until the network agrees to curtail Mr. Stephanopoulos’ participation in campaign coverage and analysis. “ABC has made it clear that they will not hold its anchors accountable for unethical and dishonest journalistic behavior,” Mr. Bozell says.

And now American voters have weighed in: 46 percent think ABC should ban Mr. Stephanopoulos from campaign programming since Hillary Rodham Clinton is running for president. Two-thirds of Republicans, 45 percent of unaffiliated voters and even 30 percent of Democrats agree, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey released Tuesday. There is some collateral damage as well here: 34 percent overall now say they are less likely to believe the reporting on ABC News because Mr. Stephanopoulos failed to disclose “this seeming conflict of interest.”

MR. O’MALLEY’S COUNTDOWN

He’s certainly looking hale and hearty and presidential these days. That would be Martin O’Malley. The former Maryland governor has revealed in a whirl of social media outlets that he plans to make a “special announcement” on the morning of May 30 — taking his terse message to Twitter and even SnapChat, complete with carefully edited video of his chosen spot for the revelation: a historic park that overlooks Baltimore.

The press is responding. “Why not Martin O’Malley?” asks the Harvard Political Review. But more telling, from The Associated Press comes this: “Nurtured by Clinton network, O’Malley now becomes 2016 rival.”

HOLA, SENORA BUSH

“Sera un placer platicar con todos uds por las redes sociales!”

And so wrote Columba Bush on her new Twitter account. Translated, that means “It will be a pleasure to talk with all of you by social networks!” It’s a reminder that she could prove an authentic draw for Hispanic voters, a coveted voting bloc for her husband, Jeb Bush, who just wrapped up a tour of Iowa. Mrs. Bush also penned an op-ed on domestic abuse for The Des Moines Register. Translated, that means “potential first lady lands on public radar.”

AND IT’S ON TO NEW HAMPSHIRE

If Iowa is on the itinerary, then New Hampshire is sure to follow. Ben Carson and Gov. Chris Christie have already come and gone. And now, the aforementioned Jeb Bush journeys to the Granite State on Wednesday in time to make a midday business event in the seaside town of Portsmouth, followed by a private house party in Bedford.

Heavy-duty fare looms: Mr. Bush is the featured speaker at a business roundtable hosted by the New Hampshire House Business Caucus and the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, this in the state capital of Concord, in an eatery that specializes in craft beers and savory fare.

Then it’s on to Manchester about 40 minutes to the south, to tape the obligatory “Conversation with the Candidate” at WMUR, the local ABC affiliate. Mr. Bush rounds out his day with a business meet-and-greet at an Italian restaurant to the east. But this is always a busy place: Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives in New Hampshire on Friday, her itinerary still shrouded in strategic mystery.

POLL DU JOUR

89 percent of Californians describe the state’s current drought as a serious situation.

70 percent say a water rate increase of 15 to 25 percent would be a “serious problem.”

65 percent favor Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory order to cut consumption by 25 percent statewide.

57 percent say agricultural water users can reduce consumption without many problems.

47 percent say its will be fairly easy for them to cut back their personal water use.

44 percent say it will be somewhat difficult to cut back on water.

27 percent say a hike in water bills will not be a serious problem for them.

Source: A Field Poll of 1,644 California adults conducted April 23 to May 16. Of cultural note: “To capture the diversity of the California population, the survey was conducted in six different languages and dialects,” the pollster advised.

Nervous laughter, scanty praise to [email protected]

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