Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Capital Brief, 2 March 2016
After Super Tuesday: Clinton vs. Trump?

  • On Tuesday, March 1, about a dozen states and territories voted in both Democratic and Republican primary races (incl. Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, and Massechusetts).
  • Hillary Clinton won big on the Democratic side, amassing victories in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia among others.
  • Bernie Sanders took a handful of states – Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Vermont.
  • On the left, the overall delegate count stands at Clinton (595) vs. Sanders (405).
  • For the Republican contest, Donald Trump emerged as the decisive victor, taking wins in Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, among others.
  • Ted Cruz won his home state Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska. Rubio’s sole victory, Minnesota.
  • On the right, Trump stands firmly in first place with 319 delegates, followed by Cruz at 226, and Rubio with just 110.

  • Clinton’s victories on Super Tuesday reinforce the argument of widespread electability, at least among voters on the left. She won handily and did so in particular by amassing coalitions of minority voters. The so-called "Obama Coalition" is firmly in the Clinton camp, even if Sanders remains strong among young voters.
  • Despite momentum in the early voting states, Sanders’ few wins on Tuesday reinforce the argument that he is unable to build a coalition beyond isolated demographics (white, educated, upper middle class liberals and young people). Even Massachusetts – bordering his home state of Vermont, where Sanders was hoping to claim an important victory – swung for Clinton.
  • Following Super Tuesday, Donald Trump seems unstoppable as the Republican frontrunner. At this point, he has a healthy lead in the delegate count. He has proven able to turn out his supporters, not “reliable” voters, in all regions of the country and in states of varying demographics, sizes, voting histories. Super Tuesday proved that recent attacks on Trump, namely by Rubio, did nothing to dampen his stronghold over conservative voters.
  • Trump benefits from the splintering of the rest of the Republican field. Smaller candidates like Kasich and Carson have no reason to remain in the race at this stage. And After Tuesday, Cruz – firmly in second place – has no reason to quit now.
  • A path to victory for Rubio looks unclear. A win in Florida, his home state, would be important (a loss would be even more consequential), but he needs a string of victories to make the case that he can win all over the country in a variety of states and across the courants battling within the Party. In essence, he needs to demonstrate that he can do what Trump has already done.
  • The Establishment backs Rubio, but so far voters are unwilling to lend him the same support as the Party machinery. Unless Rubio wins big in the coming weeks, his best hope for securing the nomination may be to prevent Trump from winning the necessary number of delegates and going to a contested convention this summer. This strategy is dangerous and would underscore the reasons why primary voters so strongly rebuke the Establishment and what they see as elite, insular practices that ignore the will of rank-and-file conservative voters.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Capital Brief, 24 February 2016
Clinton Position Remains Strong, Trump Gains Big

  • On Saturday, February 20th, Democratic and Republican voters turned out to vote in two different contests – Nevada for the Democrats and South Carolina for the Republicans.
  • Hillary Clinton claimed a sound victory in Nevada at 52.6% against Bernie Sanders’ 47.3%.
  • On February 20th, Donald Trump won South Carolina (32.5%), then Marco Rubio in second (22.5%) and Cruz (22.3%). Then Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Ben Carson each took about 7-8%.
  • As a result Jeb Bush suspended his campaign, ending his bid for the presidency.
  • On February 23rd, Donald Trump won Nevada handily with 45.9%, Rubio placed second with 23.9%, followed closely by Cruz (21.4%), Carson (4.8%), and Kasich (3.8%).
  • In the wake of these two races, candidates have turned their attention to the next primaries: Saturday, February 27th in South Carolina for the Democrats followed by Super Tuesday (March 1st), and Super Tuesday for the Republicans. On March 1st, about a dozen states vote.
  • Clinton’s victory was expected and uncontested in its importance. The margin of victory seems to have no consequence on the electoral dynamic in the Democratic race.
  • During the past several weeks, Clinton has been campaigning intensively on questions of racial discrimination. She has evoked white privilege - a concept that has rarely been spoken of at this level of politics –, honed in on institutionalized racism and espoused the Black Lives Matter movement. She has sought and won the endorsements of a number of very famous Black public figures and released ads touting her history of combatting discrimination. Clinton seems to have understood the crucial importance of Black voters to her White House bid. More immediately, she is looking to ensure a convincing victory in South Carolina, the site of her worst defeat in 2008 and a place where there were accusations of coded racism on the part of her husband while campaigning on her behalf.
  • Many Super Tuesday states are very friendly for Clinton. It is possible that after the last counts of Tuesday’s votes, the path to the nomination may look much clearer for Clinton, but given the climate of resentment of “Establishment” candidates, Sanders still may surprise.
  • The real shifts are occurring on the Right. Trump’s solid win in Nevada (his third consecutive) makes him look increasingly stronger as a candidate – especially given that his popularity increases as his rhetoric toughens.
  • The smaller candidates (Kasich, Carson) will stay in the race through Super Tuesday, but absent any major surprise, they are both unlikely to claim any victories giving them a reason to stay in the race after Wednesday. Their continued presence seems more effective in steering votes away from Rubio.
  • Rubio continues to argue that he is a credible alternative to Trump capable of winning a general election against Clinton. Unlike the Party Establishment, voters seem to disagree so far. With only second and third place finishes, Rubio will need to do very well on Tuesday in order to prove that he is capable of winning something. Routinely claiming victory from third position begins to look less convincing as the race wears on. But support from Kasich and Carson voters could certainly help boost his chances, if they pull out.
  • Ted Cruz’s presence in the race is an element of further division. An ultraconservative candidate, he lacks the support of many conservative groups that back Trump. Given the bitter rivalry between the two, it is unlikely that a considerable part of that support will defect to Cruz. And the Establishment, behind Rubio at this point, finds Cruz even less palatable than Trump. Apart from an Iowa victory, he has not topped third place. Super Tuesday will help to better assess where both Cruz and Rubio stand.
  • What remains clear is that the remaining Republican candidates will likely need to unite around one person among them as an alternative to Trump’s gaining momentum.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Capital Brief, 3 February 2016
Voting Begins: Clinton, Cruz Take Iowa and Election Dynamics Shift

  • On February 1, the first electoral event of the 2016 season took place with the Iowa caucuses.
  • Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were predicted to finish in a virtual tie with the advantage given to Clinton. This indeed proved to be the case. Clinton won in a razor sharp victory, receiving 49.9% of the total vote (versus Sanders’ 49.6%). Voter turnout was particularly high, second only to the record-breaking 2008 (the year Obama won, and Hillary Clinton placed third). Following the Iowa caucus in which he received less than 1% of the vote, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley suspended his campaign.
  • On the Republican side, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz also went into the caucus in a virtual tie, with pollsters predicting a Trump victory. Ted Cruz surprised by winning with 27.6% of the vote, leaving Donald Trump with 24.3%, and Marco Rubio in third with 23.1%. No Republican candidate has pulled out of the race since the results on Monday.

  • On the left, Clinton’s victory could be considered a mixed result. She won, after all, in a state in which a quarter of Democrats identify themselves, like Sanders, as socialists. She won in a state traditionally difficult for the Clintons, thus becoming the first Clinton – and especially the first woman in history – to win this caucus.
  • Yet, Clinton invested heavily (money, staff, personal visits) over the past several months in an effort to win Iowa convincingly. Her Iowa infrastructure was better than Obama’s mythic operation in 2008. The narrowness of her victory may underline a lingering voter sentiment that the problem lies not in Clinton’s operational and tactical game, but resides rather in her person. If this argument holds true, it is perhaps most true for many young first-time voters, who turned out overwhelmingly to support Sanders (80% of voters under 30 cast ballots for him).
  • On the right, Iowa was an important loss for Donald Trump. Indeed Iowa voters showed that for as much as Trump’s anger discourse may have resonated and captured the public and media imaginations, ultimately: 1/ his proponents’ fervor did not translate into mobilization around Trump in this key electoral moment, 2/ temperament and policy mattered more to the base’s conservative voters than mere indignation and finally, 3/ Cruz’s grassroots operation outperformed Trump’s nontraditionally organized campaign effort.
  • The Republican Establishment has been eager to separate itself from Trump and Cruz. Trump’s defeat in Iowa was a first small step to achieving that objective. Cruz's victory was good for Cruz, but perhaps even better for Rubio. As the race moves forward, there will be a growing pressure on smaller candidates to rally their supporters and donors around a single electable Republican candidate
  • Jeb Bush was once considered the natural Establishment choice, but has proven to be a weak candidate with a diminishing momentum. If bolstered by a strong showing in the next voting states, Rubio’s solid performance in Iowa (23.1%) makes a convincing argument that he could/should be the Establishment heir, providing a moderate, electable alternative to Ted Cruz and thus a chance at beating likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
  • The overall electoral mood in 2016 is different than that of 2008. In 2016, 50% of Democratic voters say that experience is very important to them, whereas only 29% of Republicans agree. The opposite was true in 2008 - the last time Hillary Clinton ran - when Democratic voters felt that experience was secondary to judgment and temperament and nominated Obama.  Conversely, Republicans wanted experience first and foremost and nominated Senator John McCain.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Capital Brief is back!

In the lead-up to the 2012 election, I published a one-page weekly analysis of presidential election dynamics, taking the most noteworthy evolutions of the previous week and presenting them accompanied by a concise analysis.

After the jump, read the inaugural Capital Brief of the 2016 election season, this edition focused on the GOP and Democratic debates and their aftermath.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Last weekend, I was a guest of David Abiker on Europe1 (C'est arrivé cette semaine) to talk briefly about Obama's last State of the Union address, his potential impact on the 2016 presidential contest, the place of Donald Trump in the Republican race, and the heated battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the early primaries.

Listen to the full interview (French) at the link below, starting at the 9'30" mark.

C'est arrivé cette semaine (16 Jan 2016)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Recently, I had the honor of participating in France24's Debate (English), moderated by François Picard, on the topic of Obama's executive orders on gun control.

See the full video after the jump.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


My recent article, "America Tested by the Rise Foreign Nationalisms," was published in the April 2015 edition of ENA Hors les Murs.

The article takes a look at US foreign policy, and Washington's posture abroad, when confronted by the rise of nationalisms around the globe - looking especially at the cases of its sole peer competitor (China), historical allies (Japan, Israel), and potential strategic partners (India, Russia) - and the particular challenges each poses to US interests.

The consequences, posited in this article, demand a reflection on the US' role and means in defending and projecting its influence amid shifting balances in a world dissatisfied with the consequences of globalization, as evidenced by the rëemergence of powerful "domestic fronts."

The full article (in French) after the jump.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Click after the jump to read a recent article summing up the year in American politics for the December 2014 Issue of ENA Hors les Murs.

The article touches on the contradiction between an increasingly liberalizing society (health care reform, legalization of marijuana, homosexual marriage) and the Republican midterm rout. While evoking the existence of two distinct visions for America (both domestic and internationally) and demographic shifts that serve to define the two conceptions of the country, the article concludes on a note about Obama's approach and anticipates his action following the midterm losses. For example, rather than cultivate an Obaman political generation of leaders (much as the Clintons did), he has chosen to appeal directly to his electorate, to anonymous citizens - at the risk of short- and medium-term electoral gains - in order to be "on the right side of history" (immigration reform, climate deal with China). This article was published just prior to the announcement of the normalization of relations with Cuba.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I had the privilege to appear on France24's Debate with François Picard on the eve of the US midterm elections along with Dan Hazelwood, Josh Kraushaar, and Hank Sheinkopf.

The lively discussion discussed the role of President Obama as a galvanizing force for Republican candidates, the prospects for the president's final two years in office, the general sentiments of the American electorate, and the main issues at stake in the midterms.

Watch the debate after the jump!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Earlier this week, I joined Dr. Charles Cogan, Philippe Aigrain and Elle Wasylina on France24's Le Débat to discuss the recent NSA leaks and the question of which new measures to take in a changing security climate.

Watch the debate after the jump.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Head over to the website of revue Politique Internationale to read my article appearing in the Winter 2012 volume.

The article (in French) analyzes the nature and depth of ongoing social shifts and the consequences on the major parties' messages and strategies; the political and ideological preferences of this "New America" (composed of strategic demographic and electoral blocs); and how these preferences will impact both America's domestic and foreign politics.

Visit Politique Internationale to read the full article in French.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Chuck Hagel: Nominee, Secretary of Defense

Having Chuck Hagel (age: 66), an Obama confidante, at the head of the Pentagon is intended largely to provide political cover to end combat operations in Afghanistan and to begin to implement deep Pentagon budget cuts.

Hagel is chair of the Atlantic Council and member of Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board. He was formerly a Republican senator from Nebraska (1997-2009) and head of an investment banking firm. A two-time Purple Heart recipient, he would be the first Vietnam veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense. Hagel is known – and disparaged by many Republicans – for his independence vis-à-vis party orthodoxy on foreign policy issues and for holding views considered to be views outside of the conservative mainstream (ex. opposition to Iraq troop surge). Indeed, the vivid battle over his nomination has already begun among prominent Republicans, neoconservatives, Democrats, and pro-Israeli groups.

Opposition to Hagel is tri-fold. He has encountered major criticism for past statements about the pro-Israel lobby”: “[It] intimidates a lot of people around here. I havealways argued against some of the dumb things they do because I don't thinkit's [...] smart for Israel.” He has refused to add his signature to letters circulated around DC by AIPAC. Although Hagel has considerably better relations with other arms of said lobby (J-Street, Israel Policy Forum), and the support of heavyweights like Zbigniew BrzezinskiBrent Scowcroft, and most former US ambassadors to Israel, hardliners believe he will antagonize Israel. And to the contrary of the president, Hagel opposes sanctions against Iran, favors negotiations with Hamas and Iran, and has criticized the largesse of America’s defense spending.

Democratic opposition to Hagel centers mainly around a negative remark made about a gay colleague a decade ago. He has since apologized for the comment and has publicly stated his support for openly gay military service.

That Hagel personally knows war and has shown no reserve in expressing his reluctance to go to war may well have an impact abroad (US approach to Iran, willingness to align with Israel’s policies) as well as “at home” (increased attention to returned soldiers).

It is thought that Democrats will ultimately support the President’s choice and that Republicans will find it difficult to confront the potential backlash of opposing a decorated Vietnam War hero. But if Hagel wins a bitter nomination fight, Republicans may consider him weak and show less flexibility in cutting a deal to prevent the sequester from taking effect in late February.

John Brennan: Nominee, Director of CIA

Current Deputy NSA for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and close confidante of Obama, John Brennan (age: 57) is a career CIA agent who has been party to nearly every national security question issue in the Obama administration (including the raid on Bin Laden). Brennan was considered for the job of CIA director in 2008, but withdrew his name for consideration after facing accusations over past public support for “enhanced interrogation techniques” and sending prisoners to countries where torture might occur. Detractors insist that as a high-ranking official inBush’ CIA, Brennan condoned tactics like waterboarding that are considered torturous. In 2009, he condemned such practices.

A primary question elicited by this pick is whether the CIA will maintain, reinforce even, its current place at the heart of counter-terror operations, or if Brennan will usher it back to its traditional espionage capacities.

During his 25 years at the CIA, Brennan exercised a wide variety of functions, including the post of station chief in Saudi Arabia. Following his time in government, Brennan was head of a security consultancy, The Analysis Corporation, as well as chair of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Brennan speaks fluent Arabic.

Related Reading
Obama’s Nominations of Hagel and Brennan Signal Course Adjustments at Pentagon and CIA (WaPo)
Brennan Pick Revives Leaks Dispute (Politico)

photo credits: Associated Press

Monday, December 31, 2012


As 2012 winds to a close, so too does the time remaining for Congressional leaders and the President to reach a bargain on the fiscal cliff.

One of the major concerns is the prospect of $500 billion in automatic cuts to defense spending set to go into effect as part of the sequestration.

After the jump is a batch of links detailing how the sequestration will likely impact the larger defense community (Pentagon-both civil and military, defense industry, and defense lobbyists).

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I had the pleasure of sitting for an interview with France Info's Bernard Thomasson during his show "Le 12 14." We decrypt Obama's reelection and the increasing importance in American politics of the young multicultural Millennial generation - a coalition largely responsible for twice delivering Obama to victory.

Click here to listen to our discussion, originally aired on France Info on November 7 (around 3')

On a similar note, here is an article I published in March 2012 on the excellent site DIPLOWEB on how the emergence of two generational poles, the Millennials and the Baby Boomers, is shaping up to change US domestic politics and its foreign policy horizons.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Last night, NYU in Paris hosted a wide-ranging debate about the communications and messaging of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during this 2012 campaign.

Here is a brief recap of a few of the points I raised:

-Where once Obama was characterized by his opponents as "European," "not like us," or even "unAmerican," he has turned that discourse against his Republican rival - in the context of having contributed to outsourcing jobs, opposing the auto bailout (argument made notably in Ohio), and being too rich to identify with the average American's primary preoccupations (argument that his policies favor the elite class because Romney doesn't know anything else).

-The president is also using the metaphor of color to characterize the competition, which not only draws a racial distinction in the minds of some voters, but uses an evocative image to cast Barack Obama as the politician for America's future and Romney as a proponent of a by-gone era with its dated narrative and divisions. For example, Obama has accused Romney of being the candidate of "black and white" whereas the president is the "technicolor candidate."

-The 2012 campaign has been largely driven by a negative tone compared to 2008, the unifying and grandiose themes replaced by a competition which has been framed as a choice between visions for social, cultural, and economic justice in America.

-Hurricane Sandy could pose a problem in the communications operations in this last week. This could be disproportionately difficult for Romney. Without being insensitive about the real suffering and damage caused by the storm, it offers President Obama the occasion to once again assert the full authority of his office (free television airtime, reminding voters that he has immediate and privileged access to the most important lawmakers to coordinate the response). Power outages could negatively affect voters' abilities to view ads aired in these next days, the storm's path changes the candidates' stump schedules, and damages could prove an obstacle to voters wanting to turn out on Election Day.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Wikileaks recently published new documents giving further detail about the American presence at Guantanamo, but the topic has remained outside of the central electoral debate in the US.

Libération takes a look at why the prison at Guantanamo has not been closed (despite Obama's promise), the reasons it does not figure among the American public's top priorities, and why both Obama and Romney are reluctant to make it an electoral message.

I am pleased to figure among the specialists interviewed in the article.

Read: Guantanamo, la grande absente du débat américain (Libération)

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Along with France 2's Etienne Leenhardt, I was a guest on this week's installment of Médias Le Magazine on TV5, hosted by Thomas Hugues and featuring editorial panelists Thomas Isle, Jean-Louis Missika, and Anthony Bellanger.

We talked about the role of Super PAC spending, partisan TV networks like Fox and MSNBC, negative ads, social networks and humor in the winning voters in this year's American presidential election. 

Head over to Médias Le Magazine to watch the full episode (the segment on US elections begins at 8'50).