Election 2016 – Halftime Notes on the Republicans

The 2016 presidential election is now basically at half-time with only the Wisconsin primary during a four week period.  Here are some basic thoughts on the Republican candidates and the Republican race in general.  I will have another post on the Democrats

Donald Trump

In my last post I wrote on the good and the bad of Donald Trump.  I stated some things I liked and some things I didn’t like.  In summary, I said that whenever I started to think he might be a good choice, he would say something that made me cringe and drove me away.

Up through the March 15 Super Tuesday 2 primaries, one could maktrump goode an argument that his attention-gathering statements were political brilliance.  If he had been ordinary, he would never have been taken seriously.  His blunt, non politically-correct statements drove him to prominence and to be the GOP front-runner.  Mission accomplished.  He was on the path to cruise to the nomination.  He said he could act very presidential.  It was the time to be presidential, the time to work on uniting the party around him and to reduce his negatives with a thought towards the general election.

Instead, he needlessly made abusive, divisive statements and has shown both a lack of thought on key issues and a total lack of self-control.  The post March 15 barrage started with another needless tweet out of the blue attacking Megyn Kelly.  He tweeted an awful picture of Heidi Cruz.  With polls saying 70% of women have a negative impression of him, how could he possibly think that these tweets would help him become the next president?

His statement saying women should be punished for abortions managed to alienate everybody, both pro-choice and pro-life.  It is obvious why the pro-choice would be alienated.  The pro-life movement has consistently stated it is not out to hurt the women.  Trump’s statement will be used against them for years.  Trump acted like someone who was not really pro-life, needed to act pro-life to get the nomination, and was spouting off what he thought was the pro-life position without understanding it.  He then went on to make a series of jumbled and thoughtless positions on foreign policy.

In fairness, many of the attacks on Trump say he is racist and sexist.  He is not racist or sexist.  He has taken controversial stands but there are reasons for his stands.  In his entire career, he has given major opportunities to minorities and women.  In the eighties, he put a woman in charge of constructing Trump Tower.  At that time very few women were prominent in construction.  No he is not racist or sexist.  He is just crude and offensive in general.

In short, in these last few weeks he has made so many cringe-worthy statements that I think he can not recover.

Ted Cruz

ted cruzTed Cruz’s biggest weakness is that he is rigid, uncompromising, refuses to work with others, so his colleagues hate him.  His greatest strength is that he stands staunchly behind his principles and doesn’t cave to pressure so his colleagues hate him.  His biggest strength and his biggest weakness are the same thing.

Perfect is the enemy of better.  In leading the effort to shut down the government to be perfect, he made things worse.  Trying to be perfect isn’t good.   Unless of course, you can achieve it.

I’ve heard people say Cruz is stupid.  Cruz is brilliant.  The well-known liberal Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz told Piers Morgan on CNN in 2013 that Cruz was one of the most intelligent students he ever taught:

One of the sharpest students I had . . . I’ve had 10,000 students over my 50 years at Harvard . . . he has to qualify among the brightest of the students.

Cruz was not my first choice.  I liked Walker.  I liked Fiorina.  I voted for Cruz in the primary.  Right now I think that Cruz, like Obi-wan Kenobi, is our only hope.


John Kasich

John Kasich has an outstanding record of accomplishment both in congress and as governor of Ohio.  If experience was the main factor in this campaign, he would easily be the nominee.  Kasich has failed as a candidate for two reasons.  First, he doesn’t inspire the Republican electorate.  Second, he cites many liberal positions,such as blanket amnesty, and he seems to eager to compromise with Democrats at a time when Republicans think we compromise too much.  His statement that he would consider a Democrat as vice president says all that you need to know here.john kasich

Kasich has no chance of winning the nomination and his continued presence in the race takes codes away from Cruz and helps Trump.  Unless Kasich has some secret deal with Trump, there is no reason for Kasich to still be in this race.  If Trump wins the nomination, he might have Kasich to thank.

Marco Rubio

Rubio is out of the race now.  His candidacy collapsed when he decided to make Trump-like comments about Trump.  It reminded me of the old like that you should never mud-wrestle with a pig.  You will just get dirty and the pig will like it.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or anybody else

There has been talk about the Republican establishment hijacking the convention and putting in Romney, Ryan, or another establishment candidate.  If this happened both the Trump and Cruz supporters would be furious.  I think that the Democrats could run Hillary from jail and she would still win.   If the Republican establishment tries to hijack the process, it will be a total disaster.  I really think that, unless Hillary is indicted, that the one Republican hope is to get behind Ted Cruz and help him win the nomination in a fair process.





Carly Fiorina’s Business Record: Triumph or Disaster

I started this post a month ago, shortly after the second Republican debate.  I was not able to complete it before going on vacation.  Now I return to it the day before the third debate.  Carly Fiorina was the clear winner from the second debate and her standing in the polls skyrocketed.  Since then, she has lost much of the momentum from this debate.  Carly_Fiorina

She has been subject to a relentless attack. Liberals attack her for being a firebrand conservative.  Conservatives attack her for being a closet liberal.  More than anything else, she has been attacked for her business record at Lucent and Hewlett Packard.   In particular, she has been savaged for her championing of the merger between HP and Compaq computers.  This leads to two questions:

  • How valid are the charges against Fiorina.  Was she truly a “disaster” as CEO?
  • Regardless of the validity of the charges, will they be an effective political weapon against her?

Fiorina began her career with six months as a receptionist for a real estate firm, moving up to broker before she left.  After a stint teaching English in Bologna Italy, she joined AT&T in 1980 at age 25 as a management trainee, selling telephone services to federal agencies.  In 1990 at age 35 she became the company’s first female officer as senor vice president.   In 1995 at age 40 she headed North American Operations when AT&T spun off Lucent Technologies.  She had a major role in Lucent’s IPO, described as one of the most successful IPO’s in US history.  Lucent’s price increased 10-fold by the time Fiorina left.  In 1998 Fortune magazine named her “The most Powerful Woman in American Business”.

In July 1999 Hewlett-Packard named Fiorina as its new CEO, making her the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company.  She was hired with the mission to change Hewlett-Packard’s culture to make it more innovative.  Her changes, however, were fiercely fought and she made her many enemies at HP.  The Tech bubble burst shortly after her arrival and HP’s stock plummeted.  HP had to layoff over 30,000 people during her tenure.

Her most controversial move was the merger with Compaq computers, which at the time was the second largest producer of personal computers after Dell.  There was heavy opposition to this merger including from HP founder William Hewett.  At the time, many considered the merger a disaster and HP’s stock plummeted further.  In February, 2005, she lost a power struggle with the board of directors and was fired.

Her rise from secretary to becoming the first woman CEO of a Fortune 20 company was undoubtedly spectacular.  Her record at CEO is certainly up to interpretation.  She was unpopular with many HP employees.  On the other hand, she was hired to shake up the company culture, so resentment was inevitable.  Her critics condemn her for Hewlett Packard’s price decline under her tenure and say that the tech crash is no excuse.  The same credits, however, refuse to give her credit for the stock rise at Lucent, stating it was due to the tech bubble.

Bloomberg did an interesting analysis of HP’s stock performance.  This chart illustrates the value of HP stock along with comparable companies till five years after her departure.HP Stock Values

This chart shows that from the time Fiorina became CEO of HP until five years after her departure, HP stock did better than its key competitors.  One can argue that this shows that her strategy was a success.  One can also argue that the credit would go to her successor but not to her.  Alternatively one could argue that HP might have done much better had she remained and been able to execute her strategy herself.  In short, her grade as CEO can only be incomplete.

The other question is whether the Democrats could use her business record as a weapon against her.  They certainly will try.  Barbara Boxer used attacks against Fiorina’s business record to defeat her in their Senate race.  No matter who the Republicans run, the Democrats will have an attack line to use against him or her.  If the Republicans refuse to nominate a candidate because they can be attacked, there will be nobody to nominate. Fiorina has had since her defeat in 2010 to come up with a strategy to counter these attacks.  She certainly will have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate her strategy over the months ahead, possibly in the debate tomorrow.