Last year famed Democratic campaign strategist James Carville told a roomful of businesspeople in Washington, “If Jeb Bush were named Jeb Smith, the nomination would be his for the asking.” That contention sounded plausible at the time. This morning, after an improved but still uninspiring debate performance by Bush last night, we can’t blame his long decline on America’s supposed distaste for dynasties and family wealth. His name is turning out to be irrelevant. An insightful analysis in this morning’s Washington Post shows that during the debate, viewers Googled Bush less than any other candidate onstage, including Rand Paul. Bush is a highly knowledgeable policy wonk beneath his obviously scripted and poll-tested talking points; he’s just not the kind of retail politician who engages today’s voters. He looks increasingly like a good potential cabinet member in someone else’s administration.
Yet the question persists: Post-financial crisis, will America embrace a wealthy, well connected candidate? The answer that springs to mind – of course it will, just look at Donald Trump’s popularity – doesn’t hold up. While Trump is popular among Republicans in a crowded field, trailing only Ben Carson, he’s highly unpopular among Americans overall. He’s the most disliked Republican candidate, regarded unfavorably by 59% of the public, while only 37% view him favorably, says the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. That’s why so many pundits dismiss him as a potential nominee; even if by some miracle he were to win the nomination, his chances of winning the election look minuscule.
Americans don’t much like Trump, but the weight of the evidence still suggests to me that even today, with concern about income disparity and the 1% running high, America would not reject a nominee because he or she is rich. We have a long history of alternating between plutocrats and up-from-nothing strivers in the White House. Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and George W. Bush were born rich; Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama were born poor. We don’t care,
Besides, though it’s often overlooked, virtually all the leading candidates this time around are rich. In addition to Trump and Bush, Carson reported that he and his wife earned between $8.9 million and $27 million over a recent 16-month period. Carly Fiorina, whose support spiked after the second Republican debate, reported a net worth of about $60 million. Hillary Clinton, still the leading Democratic candidate nationwide by far, and her husband Bill have earned over $100 million since he left the presidency in 2001, including over $25 million in the past two years.
The larger point is that we Americans have no objection to wealth – the public loves Warren Buffett and countless zillionaire athletes and entertainers – and we actually love political dynasties. Think of the Kennedys, the Daleys of Chicago, the Cuomos of New York; the latest generation of Udalls at one point had three cousins serving simultaneously in the Senate.
In politics as in so much else, America still seems to be a land of opportunity. We mostly judge candidates on their individual merits. You can even be elected president if you’re rich and well connected. But not if you’re rich, well connected, and uninspiring.
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What We’re Reading Today
SABMiller, A-B InBev close $105-billion deal
Finalizing the merger required selling SABMiller’s 58% stake in MillerCoors to Molson Coors for $12 billion. Unloading MillerCoors probably also ensures the combined companies won’t run into antitrust issues in the U.S. But as Carlos Brito‘s Anheuser-Busch InBev combines with Alan Clark‘s SABMiller, joining the world’s two largest brewers, the negotiators didn’t address potential antitrust issues in China. Fortune
Safeway may dissolve partnership with Theranos
In 2013, Safeway supermarkets committed to add 800 clinics to stores nationwide in order to offer blood tests using Theranos technology. But the tests have yet to begin, and Safeway is in talks to cancel the partnership with Elizabeth Holmes‘s company. The deal looked like a huge opportunity for Theranos, but with the company’s technology in question, Safeway wants to move on. WSJ
New York declares DraftKings, FanDuel illegal
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent cease-and-desist letters to DraftKings CEO Jason Robins and FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles on Tuesday, declaring that daily fantasy games are illegal forms of gambling. While not demanding that the two companies stop operations, he said they must no longer accept “wagers.” New York becomes the second state to make the declaration, after Nevada. Although DraftKings and FanDuel disagree with the ruling, it’s another blow to the companies’ billion-dollar-plus valuations. ESPN
Three men charged in JPMorgan Chase hack
The three Israeli men, Gery Shalon, Joshua Samuel Aaron, and Ziv Orenstein, are charged by U.S. authorities with running schemes that stole hundreds of millions of dollars from several companies. Most notably, the trio are accused of attacking Jamie Dimon‘s JPMorgan Chase, stealing 83 million customer records. It’s the largest attack against a U.S. financial institution to date.
Building a Better Leader
Effective leaders often underrate their abilities
These leaders also have more engaged employees. Harvard Business Review
The most important lesson for a young entrepreneur…
…is making sure you can communicate your vision. Fortune
When employee performance begins to lag…
…ask the worker how the company might be impeding his or her success. SmartBrief
A divide in the party
The fourth Republican debate highlighted differences among candidates, with some appealing to hardline conservatives and others urging greater pragmatism. The candidates launched fewer personal attacks and focused more on issues of immigration, military spending, and taxes. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were widely regarded as winners, and no one committed obvious gaffes. Frontrunner Ben Carson backtracked on the lenient minimum wage stance he took in the second debate, now saying he would not “raise it.” Washington Post
The sharpest divide between candidates centered on immigration. Donald Trump reiterated his plan to deport 11 million undocumented workers. Ohio Gov. John Kasich fired back, calling Trump’s plan “a silly argument.” Citing Ronald Reagan‘s policy, Kasich argued that the U.S. should protect its border, not remove law abiding people. Ted Cruz continued to oppose any plan to create a path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Fortune
Jeb Bush bounces back
While he clearly didn’t win the night, Jeb Bush reassured some of his supporters. He came out fighting early, demanding to speak instead of waiting his turn. He did not attack Marco Rubio, his former mentee with whom he lost a war of words in the third debate. Instead he focused on Hillary Clinton, presenting himself as a candidate who could beat her in the general election. Politico
Up or Out
Neel Kashkari, the former Treasury Dept. official who managed the bailouts of the banks and auto companies in the financial crisis, has been named the next president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. Fortune
Volkswagen has hired Johann Jungwirth, a former Apple executive with expertise in self-driving cars, to lead the new Digitalization Strategy Department. NYT
Fortune Reads and Videos
A former Facebook exec wants to create a 5th U.S. cellphone carrier
But to compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon, Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya must first spend billions on spectrum at auction. Fortune
Uber launches in South Korea…
…for the second time. Regulators shut down the first attempt by Travis Kalanick‘s company. This time it’s using commercially licensed drivers. Fortune
Veteran unemployment drops below U.S. rate
A spike of unemployed veterans in 2011 and 2012 appears to have been a fluke. Fortune
Google may build its own smartphone…
…which could put pressure on its partners to create better offerings. Fortune
“It is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country…Today we have sent a clear message: not in New York, and not on my watch.”– New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman discussing his decision to ban daily fantasy sports in the state. NYT
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