Early Returns

Paul Ryan's Caucus and Ben Carson's Lead

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

1. Dan Drezner: “Of course elections aren’t fair. They’re just fairer than the alternative.” Yeah. Elections are fine, as long as we don’t expect them to do too much. They can create healthy incentives for governing parties and politicians to attempt to avoid policy disasters! They are critical to healthy representation! But that’s about it. If democracy depended on a rational electorate, it wouldn’t work.

2. I linked this yesterday, but here it is again so no one misses it: Frances Lee on Paul Ryan, the House Freedom Caucus and the “Hastert Rule.” Speakers represent their party. They’ll do what the majority of their party wants. They have some agency -- sometimes there’s more than one thing the party wants and they have some room to choose; sometimes it’s a close call and they can choose.

3. At the Monkey Cage, Ray LaRaja and Brian Schaffner on room for agreement among different strains of campaign finance reformers and what the public appears to want. I’m all for higher (or no) limits in contributions to parties. I am skeptical, however, that public opinion will have anything to do with the next round of reform. And at the national level, waiting for a chance to implement any form of public financing is futile -- I support partial public financing of House elections, but I don’t expect to see it. Raising limits on giving to parties and candidates is realistic. Would reformers accept that limited progress? I suspect not. Even if they could get better effective disclosure in return. In any case, at least until the courts rule out various options, a lot more possibilities are potentially available at the state level.

4. At the Upshot, David Leonhardt has some interesting data about which states are teaching kids to read and do math.

5. Andrew Sprung on what the Wall Street Journal gets wrong about how Obamacare is doing.

6. My View colleague Paula Dwyer on “free stuff.”

7. Kevin Drum on the demise of “the great 1998 chart swindle.” Or put another way: It’s getting even harder for climate deniers and why that’s bad news.

8. Another fun Nate Silver/Harry Enten discussion of the presidential nomination contest. This time, Carson's lead in Iowa.

9. Interesting reporting from National Review’s Joel Gehrke about what the House Freedom Caucus wants from Ryan. I doubt much of their dispute with Speaker John Boehner was personal, but even structural problems can depend on personal relationships.

10. And: Wait, Ted Cruz is a slick operator? Well, I never. The Washington Post’s Katie Zezima and Matea Gold have the story. The real question: Which audiences are easier marks for him?

 Get Early Returns every morning in your inbox. Click here to subscribe.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.