Longtime Democratic pollster and strategist Doug Schoen is one of those rare few Kennedy Democrats who remains clear-eyed on the geopolitical threats to America, and in particular those posed by the Russians, Chinese and Islamic supremacists. This is why Schoen wrote (with Melik Kaylan) a seminal book with bipartisan appeal: Return to Winter: Russia, China, and the New Cold War Against America.
During our discussion with Schoen, an ardent critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, we had the chance to ask some rapid-fire questions regarding the 2016 election.
Here are eight insights gleaned from our conversation:
“I think Trump in a certain sense represents what Putin is looking is for: Someone who believes he can negotiate. Somebody who is probably not as sophisticated as Putin is. And what Putin is trying to do is just further create chaos in our elections.
…I think in the formulation of Vladimir Putin, Trump is playing an important role to facilitate his larger purposes, and I am discouraged and dispirited that this is happening.”
“The answer to that is probably Marco Rubio. At this point I don’t see how he gets nominated, but I think he’d be the strongest general election candidate.
Right now [Ted] Cruz is within a couple of points of Hillary [Clinton] as is Donald Trump. So I think she’s gonna face a tough election regardless.
But I’d say Rubio is probably the strongest, and I think he’s got the strongest and best foreign policy from the perspective of my book, Return to Winter.”
“Well on the one hand he’s very conservative. On the other hand, he’s the best debater in the field, he’s very facile, and I think he’ll try to move to the middle and be both hawkish but one who wants to protect people’s privacy.
But I also think he’ll be very tough on Hillary [Clinton] and he’ll also be very tough on [Barack] Obama.
So I think with swing voters in swing states, it’s an open question whether they’ll go for Ted Cruz who is too conservative, or Hillary Clinton who they have substantial doubts about.”
“Well I think what most likely will bring [Donald] Trump down is losing Iowa badly to [Ted] Cruz, seeing if he can recover in New Hampshire, and then get to the Southern primaries where he’s polling well, but it’s an open question if he can win.”
“I would explain it simply: There’s so much anger among Republican voters to the Republican Establishment, what they’ve been saying with their support for [Donald] Trump, for Ben Carson when he was strong and certainly [Ted] Cruz is we want those who are most disconnected from the Washington Establishment.
The more of an outsider you are, the better you do.”
“I would bet either [Donald] Trump or [Ted] Cruz. I think you could make a plausible case for either one.
The other issue Trump has is I don’t think he’s invested enough in a ground game to get voters out. But this may be an election where you don’t need to do that.”
“I don’t think it’ll happen. I just don’t – somebody will emerge. But this is a very different year, so I can’t say never.”
“The possibility of a recession.
…I think depending on what happens in the first quarter, first two quarters of the year, that will basically be pretty important for voters who look at the economy and say: “Do we stick with the Democrats or do we go back to the Republicans?”
During the interview — which you can listen to in full below — we also had a chance to discuss Russia’s aims in China and Syria, whether low oil prices have put a crimp in Putin’s regime, the Russia-China cyberwarfare threat, how the next president will recover from President Obama’s disastrous policies, and a great deal more.