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Charlie Cook’s latest article on the state of the GOP presidential race has more than a few flaws in it. He got this part right:

First there is the establishment bracket, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and possibly former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney competing for that semifinal slot.

Despite the MSM’s ‘reporting’, this isn’t where the action is. It’s mostly a sideshow that’ll keep the DC pundits entertained. Think of this as the ‘vastly overrated’ part of the race.

Cook didn’t get this part right:

Then there is the conservative governor/former governor slot—with, potentially, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker competing, all seeking to be non-Washington and non-Congress candidates, but each with more conservative, or at least better conservative, credentials than Bush, Christie, or Romney.

John Kasich lost his conservative credentials over the weekend when he fought for Common Core. That’s a deal-buster with conservatives. It isn’t likely that Rick Snyder and Mike Pence will run so they can be ignored. That leaves us with Rick Perry and Scott Walker. That’s the real bracket. Let’s call this the conservatives with credentials bracket.

The MSM is writing off Rick Perry. That’s a major mistake. He’s a much more serious candidate this time than in 2012. He’s got a lengthy list of conservative reforms under his belt. He’s definitely anti-Washington. He’s definitely pro-border enforcement, which plays well with conservative activists. He’s signed tort reform, which has led to a major influx of doctors into Texas. While most of the nation worries about doctor shortages, that isn’t a worry in Texas.

That leaves Scott Walker in this bracket. Activists see him as the giant-killer who took on the public employee unions and beat them. Then the PEUs got upset with him and tried defeating him in a recall election. The PEUs took another thumping in 2012. They didn’t have their fill so they returned for another shot in 2014. Gov. Walker’s Act 10 reforms were so popular that Mary Burke, the Democrats’ candidate, didn’t even mention the subject.

That’s one of the brackets where the excitement will be.

Then there’s the youthful senators bracket. This bracket features Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. I don’t know that any of these candidates will advance to the finals but they’ll generate lots of excitement.

At the end of the day, I suspect that the finalists will be Walker and someone else. I’d be surprised if that someone else is Jeb Bush. Bush is definitely more formidable with the media than with activists.

Steve Kornacki did his best to (somewhat) subtly accuse Republican presidential candidates as hating Hispanics in this interview:

The big takeaway from this interview is Kellyanne Conway’s statement that “Republicans aren’t afraid of running against Bill and Hillary.” Simply put, there’s more fear amongst Beltway Republicans and GOP consultants than there is with heartland governors.

At this point, Hillary will have a difficult time running as an agent of change or as the candidate of youthful vigor. Hillary has been a fixture in DC for a quarter century. She might’ve been young when she arrived but she isn’t anymore. Fair or unfair, the reality is that she can’t play the agent-of-change-card at this point. She’s reached her sell-by date.

Of course, that’s irrelevant to MSNBC. They’re fixating on Rep. Steve King and Hispanic voters. It’s predictable but it’s a fool’s errand. When the Republican National Convention is held in July, 2016, there’s a distinct possibility that the ticket will be Scott Walker as the nominee and either Marco Rubio or Susana Martinez is his running mate. It’s virtually guaranteed that Martinez, Rubio, Brian Sandoval, Mia Love and Tim Scott will deliver primetime speeches at the convention.

People won’t think “Ohmigod. Republicans are the party of Steve King. I can’t vote for Scott Walker.” Democrats will do everything to paint Republicans as the party that hates Hispanics. That’ll be a difficult task when each night, Republicans will feature a Susana Martinez or a Marco Rubio or a Brian Sandoval, who will likely be in the middle of a fight to unseat Harry Reid at that point.

The excitement in that building will be the buzz. The applause will be frequent, the emotions will be high.

If you want to know what the Republican National Convention will look like, just watch the speeches delivered by Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Scott Walker. The enthusiasm during those speeches was noticeable and raucous.

Meanwhile, at the Democrats’ convention, the atmosphere won’t be electric. People will be able to contain their energy. The contrast between the two conventions will be stark. That contrast won’t put the Democrats in a positive light.

In the movie Rocky 3, Apollo Creed told Rocky that “When we fought, I trained hard but I didn’t have that look in my eyes. You had it and you won.”

I didn’t say that because I love the movie. I mention it because it’s a lesson between complacency and enthusiasm. There’s no question that, in 2016, the Democrats will work hard. There’s little question that Democrats will be a little complacent, too. If Republicans nominate one of their rising star governors, there’s no question that the 2016 Republican National Convention will be a great launching pad to a GOP victory.

Jim Geraghty’s evaluation of the GOP presidential candidates is fascinating. Rather than starting with the top tier candidates, let’s start by hearing what he said about the MSM’s top tier:

Jeb Bush: Sure, he’ll have the money, and he’ll have the name. But let’s not even get into the immigration, Common Core, business ties or family dynasty issues yet. Republican primary voters, particularly conservative ones, think that the Obama presidency is the worst calamity to hit America in their lifetimes, and fear it is doing permanent damage to the national values, identity, and standing in the world. GOP primary voters are going to want a fighter, and do they think Jeb Bush has been leading the fight against Obama?

Mitt Romney: When people tell Mitt Romney, “Governor, I really wish you had won in 2012,” they’re not saying, “Governor, I think you would have been one of the greatest presidents in our lifetimes.” They’re saying, “Governor, Obama is really, really, really terrible, and electing you would have spared the country a lot of pain.” He’s a good man, but a lot of Republicans are ready to move on to new options. Plus, you know… Gruber.

Chris Christie: If Bush and Romney are both in, you have to wonder how many big donors stick by him. He did better in his Iowa appearance than some might have expected, and he’s undoubtedly going to be a dominant figure in the debates. But he’s positioned himself in opposition to the rest of the party way too often, and you can’t win the GOP nomination from the Jon Huntsman slot, as the Republican nominee most acceptable to the Acela class that can’t stand Republicans.

Rand Paul: He’ll have his dad’s network, and he’s way more compelling than his father was. But there’s a ceiling to Libertarian-minded candidates in the modern Republican Party, and it’s going to be tougher to sell quasi-isolationist non-interventionism as the world blows up and grows even more dangerous in Obama’s final two years in office.

This isn’t 2008 or 2012, when the GOP didn’t field a bunch of top tier candidates like they’re fielding this year. In 2012, Paul Ryan would’ve swamped the field, including Mitt. This year, Paul Ryan would have a respectable following but he wouldn’t be seen as the prohibitive favorite.

Jeb Bush has irritated conservatives far too often to win the nomination. Sen. McCain got away with that in 2008 because he ran against a field of weaklings. Jeb won’t get away with that this time because he’s running against a virtual team of Olympic weightlifters. Mitt’s time came and went. Whether he officially runs is almost irrelevant at this point. That’s because he’s overmatched.

First Tier:

Scott Walker: He’s serious and accomplished enough for the “Establishment,” and indisputably conservative enough for the grassroots. The Left threw everything it had at this guy and he’s still going strong. Despite the questions about his charisma, he’s getting rave reviews for his passion in his appearance this weekend.

Marco Rubio: He’s arguably the best communicator in the Republican Party, and the Republican Party desperately needs a good communicator as its nominee.

With rave reviews from Charles Krauthammer and James Pethokoukis, he could end up being the conservative pundits’ favorite choice. Yes, there’s still irritation about the gang of “Gang of Eight” and anti-Senator skepticism to overcome, but he’s speaking about the broad, unifying national theme of American exceptionalism since 2010. Obviously, he offers a fantastic contrast with Hillary.

Rick Perry: The former governor of Texas is likely to be the only re-running candidate who improves upon his past performance. He still has a sterling economic record to point to, he’s been going toe-to-toe with the Obama administration consistently, he’s got enough charm to work on Jimmy Kimmel. This time, he won’t be coming off back surgery, he won’t start late and we’ll see just how much the hipster glasses help.

Bobby Jindal: Yes, he needs to speak slower. Yes, it’s not clear that a style that works in Louisiana will work on the national stage. But he’s a bit like Walker in that he’s amassed an indisputably conservative record while getting things done in two terms. There’s probably not another contender who knows more detail about more policies, and he’s guided his state through some severe challenges – post-Katrina rebuilding, a pair of serious hurricanes, the Deepwater Horizon and the drilling moratorium. What’s more, he’s been fighting the administration on issues like school choice for years and he moves fast when an opportunity opens like the House GOP botching a late-term abortion bill.

After Gov. Walker’s performance at Saturday’s Freedom Summit, he’ll be one of the most formidable candidates on either side of the aisle. While Hillary has her supporters, she doesn’t have supporters that’d run through brick walls to help her win. Gov. Walker’s supporters are passionate and they’re willing to do anything to help him win. (You don’t win 3 elections in 4 years by having supporters who are indifferent.)

As for Marco Rubio, there’s no question that his participation in the Gang of Eight immigration bill will hurt him with primary voters. Still, there’s no denying that he’s a powerful communicator with a compelling personal story that shouts ‘I’m living the American dream.’

Rick Perry is being written off by the MSM. That’s a mistake. They’ve focused too much on Perry’s oops moment during the 2012 and not enough on what he’s done on securing Texas’ border during the flood of unattended children. He’s a much more serious candidate this time.

At this point, I’d argue that Republicans are likely to win the White House. People are sick of President Obama and they just aren’t excited about Hillary. She’s been on the national scene for a quarter century. It’s impossible to sell yourself as a fresh face with Hillary’s resume.

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Allahpundit’s post about Rand Paul is a fascinating read, though I have a slight difference of opinion with him. Here’s what he wrote that I disagree with:

When I tweeted out my surprise a few hours ago, a dozen people tweeted back, “Maybe Paul’s just saying what he really believes.” No doubt. But the thing that distinguishes Rand from Ron and what makes him a legit contender for the nomination is that he’s willing to temper his foreign policy positions in order to make himself more appealing to mainstream conservatives. Remember when he complained earlier this year, as things got hairy in Ukraine, how certain Republicans (*cough*McCain*cough*) always seemed to want to “tweak” Russia? That was a fine libertarian/paleocon sentiment. A few weeks later, after Putin had gotten more aggressive and conservatives were demanding that Obama show some muscle, Paul took to Time magazine to demand “strong action” against Russia. Remember when he scoffed at the idea of intervening again in Iraq, with the U.S. effectively serving as “Iran’s air force” by bombing ISIS, only to decide a few months later as conservatives rallied for force that he would seek to destroy ISIS militarily as president? Last month he introduced a bill to formally declare war on the group that would even allow ground troops in certain limited circumstances. Remember when he seemingly endorsed containment of Iran on ABC’s Sunday news show, only to come back the next week after the predictable uproar on the right ensued with an op-ed insisting he was “unequivocally” not for containing Iran? It’s not just conservatives who’ve noticed these reversals. Members of Paul’s libertarian base like Jacob Sullum and others at Reason have noticed them too. And everyone understands what it’s about: Rand’s afraid that if he takes a traditional libertarian line on hot-button foreign policy matters, it’ll be too easy for 2016 rivals to convince tea partiers that he’s just like his old man after all and can’t be trusted to protect America. Watering down his libertarian impulses may be cynical, but it’s smart.

First, it isn’t smart staking out that many contradictory positions on foreign policy/national security issues. It makes Sen. Paul look like a reactionary, not a realist. We’re living with a reactionary foreign policy right now. It isn’t working out that well.

Second, offering that many contradictory positions on important national security issues opens Sen. Paul up to charges that he’s a flip-flopper. There’s little doubt that Sen. Paul would say that he changed his mind when confronted with additional information. That explanation won’t play because we’re looking for a president whose foreign policy is undergirded by intelligent underlying principles.

Third, Paul’s foreign policy instincts are exceptionally dovish. It isn’t just that he’s got libertarian leanings. It’s that he’s utterly reluctant to entertain the thought of force when initially figuring out the proper response to national security crises. It’s one thing to think of military options as the last option. That’s proper. It’s another thing to start from a default position that the use of military force is off the table.

I disagree with this statement, too:

Worst of all, perhaps, Paul’s devoted the past year to building the case that, as a “realist,” he’s actually the true heir to Ronald Reagan on foreign policy, not Rubio and the rest of the superhawks.

President Reagan wasn’t a realist. Period. President Reagan was a visionary. When he took office, the conventional thinking was that the Soviet Union was a superpower and that détente was the best policy. When President Reagan called the Soviets an “evil empire”, realists in DC criticized him, saying that he didn’t know what he was doing while accusing him of starting WW III.

Reagan was undeterred. In fact, he then proposed putting Pershing missiles in Europe. Realists tried repeatedly to sabotage President Reagan’s Tear down this wall speech but couldn’t.

The point is that President Reagan had a foreign policy vision. He also had a strategy to implement that vision and turn it into reality. For the last 2+ years, Sen. Paul has shown that he’s a foreign policy reactionary. It’s impossible to detect a President Paul foreign policy vision with the possible exception of him being a pacifist.

That won’t work in a terrorist-filled world.

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Dana Milbank’s article highlights the Left’s lack of intellectual gravitas.

Rubio’s emotional, and at times inaccurate, response to the policy change shows why Obama’s move to normalize ties to Cuba after more than half a century is both good policy and good politics. It’s good policy because it jettisons a vestigial policy that has stopped serving a useful purpose, and because it is a gutsy move by Obama that demonstrates strong leadership and will help revive him from lame-duck status. It’s good politics because it will reveal that the Cuban American old guard, whose position Rubio represents, no longer speaks for most Cuban Americans.

It apparently didn’t bother Milbank that President Obama didn’t negotiate a deal with Cuba. Apparently, Milbank likes the thought of giving up leverage without getting anything in exchange.

This wasn’t a negotiation. It was a capitulation. It sold out Cubans at a time when Cuba’s supporters were hurting and getting worse. Venezuela’s, Iran’s and Russia’s economies are tanking thanks to $60/bbl oil. That’s way less than they need to keep their economies afloat. Without Russia’s and Venezuela’s support, Cuba’s dictatorship dies the minute the Castros croak.

This paragraph is laughable:

But Rubio was responding with his gut, which has been seasoned by the unwavering dogma of Cuban exiles. He began his remarks with the phrase “As a descendant of Cuban immigrants and someone who’s been raised in a community of Cuban exiles,” and he observed that “Cuba is close to home for me, both because of my heritage, also because of the community I live in.”

Apparently, Mr. Milbank frowns on people with actual expertise, which explains his fawning over President Obama. President Obama didn’t bring expertise on issues. He just brought a cocky attitude and a certainty that, though he was devoid of expertise, he knew how to right America’s wrongs.

By comparison, Sen. Rubio understands the history and plight of the Cuban people. He’s gained valuable insight while sitting on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to supplement the insight he had before joining the Senate. This, in Milbank’s mind, disqualifies him from speaking intelligently on the subject.

This is the perfect illustration of the Left appreciating trash-talking narcissists more than they appreciate people with topical expertise. It’s the perfect illustration of the Left’s foolish priorities.

Marco Rubio’s op-ed utterly demolishes President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba. In his op-ed, Sen. Rubio correctly states that President Obama’s decision will have long-lasting, negative consequences — for us and the oppressed Cuban people:

The opportunity for Cuba to normalize relations with the U.S. has always been there, but the Castro regime has never been interested in changing its ways. Now, thanks to President Obama’s concessions, the regime in Cuba won’t have to change.

The entire policy shift is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. Cuba already enjoys access to commerce, money and goods from other nations, and yet the Cuban people are still not free. They are not free because the regime—just as it does with every aspect of life—manipulates and controls to its own advantage all currency that flows into the island. More economic engagement with the U.S. means that the regime’s grip on power will be strengthened for decades to come—dashing the Cuban people’s hopes for freedom and democracy.

Cuba’s economy has been circling the drain for 2-3 years. Venezuela and Russia, its 2 biggest supporters, have hit tough times, too, thanks to rapidly dropping oil prices. At exactly the time when Cuba is collapsing from within, President Obama threw them a lifeline with this initiative.

Already, a Minnesota representative is planning a trip to Cuba:

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Minnesota congressman who has long advocated for changes to the United States’ Cuba policy says a decision to normalize relations with the island country is a “monumental step” in the right direction. Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan praised Wednesday’s announcement that the U.S. would re-establish diplomatic ties to Cuba. Nolan traveled to Cuba in 1977 during his first stint in Congress and was involved in a past deal to release U.S. prisoners held there.

Nolan says he hopes to travel to Cuba next year to meet with officials there.

Another Democratic member of the Minnesota delegation, Betty McCollum, described the announcement as “a new beginning.” She says she would continue working to end a U.S. trade embargo with Cuba. McCollum spent time in Cuba last summer.

Apparently, Nolan and McCollum, like President Obama, are willing to ignore Cuba’s disgusting human rights abuses. Apparently, they haven’t thought things through nor have they put a high priority on human rights. Sen. Rubio has:

While my personal ties to Cuba and its people are well known, this is not just a personal issue. American foreign policy affects every aspect of American life, and our people cannot realize their full promise if the world becomes more dangerous because America retreats from its role in the world. Moreover, the Cuban people have the same rights that God bestowed on every other man, woman and child that has ever lived. All of those who are oppressed around the world look to America to stand up for their rights and to raise its voice when tyrants like the Castros are trying to crush their spirits.

It’s amazing that the ‘party of the little guy’ supports the dictators who trample the little guys for criticizing the Castros’ oppressive dictatorship. What isn’t surprising, though, is that Rick Nolan is ignoring the Castros’ reign of terror. He’s always been soft on human rights and friendly towards oppressive dictators.

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After John McCain lost in 2008, I spoke with a friend about senators becoming presidents. I half-kiddingly said that Republicans should pass a motion that senators should never be allowed to be the GOP’s presidential nominee. I know that such a resolution is impossible, which is why I said it in jest. That being said, senators don’t run things. They aren’t the decider. They’re the pontificators. Soon-to-be former Gov. Rick Perry, (R-TX), weighed in on the subject:

Perry, considering a repeat presidential bid in 2016, had just spoken at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Reagan’s famous “A Time For Choosing” speech. Among his scalding criticisms of Obama, Perry explained the president’s failings as due to his background as a U.S. senator, something that happens to apply to several of his would-be challengers for the GOP presidential nomination.

“If you’re in the Senate or if you’re in the House, you can give a speech and then go home. Governors can’t. We have to govern,” Perry said, adding, “And the president of the United States, historically, has had to operate that way, too; the ones that were successful. And one of the reasons why this President is not successful is because he’s never had that experience.”

Asked if the next president will be a senator, Perry said, “No.”

It’s worth noting that the top-tier candidates on the Democratic side are both senators, too. But I digress.

Gov. Perry is right, though intentionally a bit oversimplistic. Legislators work hard if they’re doing their jobs right. That being said, their job is mostly debating legislation. Their work is done during scheduled sessions. Presidents and governors work during sessions, too, to get their legislative agendas passed. During sessions, though, they’re also called on to deal with crises, whether it’s a president responding to international hot spots or governors responding to public safety crises within their state or on their state’s borders.

Then, after the sessions are over, presidents and governors are essentially on call 24/7 the rest of the year. They’re never on recess, though President Obama certainly makes it look like he doesn’t take the White House with him.

It isn’t a stretch to think that Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz think they see the next president of the United States when they look in the mirror each morning. They don’t. What accomplishments do these men have? They haven’t implemented major reforms like Scott Walker, John Kasich, Perry and Bobby Jindal have. They haven’t revived their states’ economies like Kasich, Perry and Walker have. The best that Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz can say is that they prevented Sen. Reid and President Obama from doing awful things.

They shouldn’t be discredited for that. What they’ve done isn’t insignificant. It just isn’t nearly as significant as what Govs. Walker, Jindal, Perry and Kasich have accomplished.

Lest this be just about Republicans, let’s ask what Hillary or Elizabeth Warren has accomplished. Hillary’s staff noted that she traveled more flight miles than any other Secretary of State in US history. That’s nice. She can redeem those miles so she and Bill can take a nice vacation together.

In terms of actual policies implemented, she got 4 American patriots killed in Benghazi by being asleep at the switch. She ignored multiple pleas from Christopher Stevens for enhanced security for the compound in Benghazi. Then she the nerve to say she hadn’t heard of those urgent requests.

Nobody will buy that BS in 2016. They didn’t buy it in 2012 and they aren’t buying it now.

Her first ‘accomplishment’ was presenting Russia with a reset switch that Russia interpreted as meaning that they could do whatever they wanted in Ukraine and anywhere else in eastern Europe and the middle east. Coddling our enemies (Russia, Iran) and mistreating our allies (Israel, the British and Iraq) isn’t what presidential resumes are built on.

As pathetic as Hillary’s list of accomplishments is, Elizabeth Warren’s list of accomplishments is more pathetic. In fact, it’s nonexistent.

It’s still early but I’d argue that 2016 is shaping up to be GOP year for taking back the White House. Rick Perry has presided over the strongest economy in the nation. Scott Walker passed collective bargaining reform, then staved off the unions’ attempts to kill the reforms. He also passed a $2.2 billion tax cut while creating 110,000 jobs. Bobby Jindal passed school choice laws that are improving educational outcomes in Louisiana. John Kasich’s economic policies have revived Ohio. He cut taxes while eliminating an $8 billion deficit upon entering office.

By comparison, the Democrats have a pair of wannabes as their top tier.

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With big fights on the budget looming, a group of GOP senators are pushing an ill-advised ‘defund Obamacare’ strategy. It isn’t a matter of whether Republicans will fight against implementation of the PPACA. It’s a matter of whether they’ll pick smart fights they have a chance of winning. Ed Morrissey makes the case against defunding the PPACA in this post:

Once again, the White House has chosen businesses over consumers and workers, in large part driven by the economic implications of the law it champions. So far, the White House refuses to budge on the individual mandate, even though the exchanges won’t be able to verify income levels to prevent fraudulent subsidy requests, nor secure the personal data needed for submission in the exchanges, putting consumers at risk for identity theft.

The administration doesn’t have much choice in this fight. If they cave on the individual mandate, they’ll be admitting that implementation of the PPACA is a slow-motion trainwreck happening in plain sight. There’s a time-tested political axiom that says, roughly, that ‘when your opponent is falling apart, it’s best to get out of the way and let them self-destruct.’

Ed’s right on with this opinion:

Democrats are simply not going to agree to separate ObamaCare funding from the rest of the budget, nor do they need to do so in the Senate. They have the votes to pass a budget or a CR without Rubio or any of the rest of the Republicans, since filibusters cannot apply to budgetary bills according to Senate rules. Rubio’s remarks are aimed more at the House, and both he and Cruz want to draw a line in the sand that will lead to a shutdown when Senate Democrats refuse to adopt any bills defunding ObamaCare.

I’ve agreed with the smarter approach from Day One. Apparently, Mitch McConnell is already there:

Americans should not be forced into the exchanges, and certainly not without these assurances. If you rush to go forward without adequate safeguards in place, any theft of personal information from constituents will be the result of your rush to implement a law to meet the agency’s political needs and not the operational needs of the people it is supposed to serve.

The data hub is a nightmare-waiting-to-happen. Republicans should push this as the reason why the individual mandate should be delayed. Here’s more on why that’s a potent argument:

After Obama unilaterally postponed enforcing the statutory deadline for the employer mandate, Republicans have argued that the individual mandate should also be delayed. The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin reported on McConnell’s demand to the CMS administrator for a delay, based on the inability of the selected contractor to ensure data security in the exchanges on time for the ACA’s October 1 rollout. “[J]ust last year,” McConnell wrote, “it was disclosed that more than 120,000 enrollees in the federal Thrift Savings Plan had their personal information, including Social Security numbers, stolen from your contractor’s computers in 2011.”

This is a potent argument, especially considering how worried people are about identity theft. Couple that with the IRS leaking confidential documents to political allies and it’s a political nightmare for Democrats waiting to happen.

There’s another benefit to delaying the PPACA. It keeps the issue alive through the mid-term election and into the presidential election cycle. That’s important because, though it’s called Obamacare, it’s really Hillary’s plan in many respects. Let’s remember that then-Candidate Obama criticized her for proposing the employer and individual mandates:

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama expressed opposition to a mandate requiring all Americans to buy health care insurance. In a Feb. 28, 2008, interview on the Ellen DeGeneres show, Obama sought to distinguish himself from then-candidate Hillary Clinton by saying, “Both of us want to provide health care to all Americans. There’s a slight difference, and her plan is a good one. But, she mandates that everybody buy health care.

“She’d have the government force every individual to buy insurance and I don’t have such a mandate because I don’t think the problem is that people don’t want health insurance, it’s that they can’t afford it,” Obama said. “So, I focus more on lowering costs. This is a modest difference. But, it’s one that she’s tried to elevate, arguing that because I don’t force people to buy health care that I’m not insuring everybody. Well, if things were that easy, I could mandate everybody to buy a house, and that would solve the problem of homelessness. It doesn’t.”

Causing Hillary to defend the individual mandate would be fun to watch. In a very real sense, she’s got a Romney-sized problem in defending herself on the PPACA. Delaying the PPACA’s implementation keeps the issue on the table for people who aren’t well-equipped to defend it. As a conservative, that’s a position I want to operate from.

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Jonah Goldberg’s op-ed is the most well-thought-out argument for Republicans to trust their instincts about the PPACA. Here’s a healthy dose of Jonah’s thinking on the matter:

Republicans should have a little more confidence in their own arguments. If you believe that ObamaCare can’t work, you should expect that it won’t.

I haven’t found a single Republican, even amongst the RINOs, that thinks the PPACA will work. The number of people that’ll get hooked on their premium support payments isn’t equal to the number of people who’ll get upset about high premiums.

Make no mistake, either, about whether people will feel the pain from higher premiums. Nearly two-thirds of the states have refused to create state-run exchanges. People living in states that don’t run their exchanges aren’t eligible for federal premium support. They’ll be the hardest hit with premium increases.

When Sen. Lee and Sen. Cruz say that this might be the last opportunity to defund the PPACA, there’s no doubt that they sincerely believe that. I simply disagree with their opinion. Here’s why:

Once government expands, goes the theory, reversing that expansion is nearly impossible. Liberals have their own version. They point out that once Americans get an entitlement, Social Security, Medicare, etc., they never want to lose it. They hope that if they can just get Americans hooked on the goodies in ObamaCare, they’ll overlook all the flaws.

There’s a lot of truth here, to be sure. But it’s not an iron law either. Sometimes, bad laws get fixed. It happened with Medicare in 1989 and welfare reform in 1995. Many of the boneheaded laws of the early New Deal were scrapped as well.

Thinking that people will “overlook the flaws” is like believing unicorns and rainbows will suddenly appear. Anything’s possible but it isn’t likely.

Rather than shutting down government, Republicans should get out of the way and let America see that there’s a slow-motion trainwreck happening right before their eyes and that trainwreck is called the PPACA. Jonah’s final point might be the most powerful:

Forcing a debt crisis or government shutdown won’t kill ObamaCare, but it will give Democrats a lifeline heading into the 2014 elections, which could have the perverse effect of delaying the day Republicans have the political clout to actually succeed in repealing this unworkable and unpopular law.

I totally agree. I’d rather pick fights I can win rather than picking fights that feel good momentarily.

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As I write this, Republicans are playing the role they often play: that of the timid, unprincipled party. They’re doing a terrible job negotiating the immigration bill. It’s time for them to tell Sen. Schumer that there won’t be a bill unless the fence is built. Yesterday, Sen. Schumer lied through his teeth when he said that building a fence “might take years and years and years.” A double fence doesn’t take long to build once there’s a will to do it.

Republicans should run from this bill. Instead, they’re giving platitude-filled speeches on the subject:

Sen. Marco Rubio stayed away from specific immigration reform policies during a talk Thursday, reiterating that America must be recognized as an exemplary nation that welcomes those seeking freedom they don’t have in their home countries.

“What we have is special,” Rubio said. “Every single human life is worthy of the protection of our values. Who else will do it if not us?”

The Florida Republican also appealed to America’s religious heritage, asserting that as the “salt of the earth,” the United States has a duty to be compassionate to the less-fortunate.

That’s pretty sounding Unfortunately, that isn’t what’s needed. What’s needed is for Republicans to tell Sen. Schumer that the bill isn’t going anywhere without guaranteed border security. If Sen. Schumer replies that it’s impossible to do with this bill, Republicans’ response should immediately be that it’s never impossible to build things like fences.

If Republicans vote for this immigration bill, they’ll be the minority party for a generation. They will have shown themselves to be as unprincipled as Democrats. Not as corrupt but as unprincipled.

At this point, they aren’t engaged in negotiations. They’re engaged in taking orders from Sen. Schumer. They’re frightened that the media and the DNC will paint them as mean-spirited, rigid ideologues. They shouldn’t worry about that. Democrats will paint them that way regardless of what happens.

As for Sen. Rubio, he should be ashamed. If he asserted himself on the fence, he’d win that negotiation. He isn’t asserting himself, which is why Republicans appear to be on the verge of signing onto another bad bill. If he doesn’t assert himself on that specific issue, he’ll never be president.

The bottom line is that no bill is better than a bill that doesn’t build a fence. The bottom line is that Republicans hurt themselves when they’re seen as being unprincipled. That’s what they look like now.