Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trump: "Why Would I Change?"

Donald Trump declared himself the Republican Party's "presumptive" presidential nominee following his sweeping victory in Tuesday's primaries.   The large margin of Trump's wins not only makes it nearly impossible to stop him from receiving the GOP nomination, but it also serves as notice to Tuesday's other big winner, Democrat Hillary Clinton, that Trump will be a formidable opponent in the November election.

Trump swept every county in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, while losing only a small handful of counties in Rhode Island and Connecticut.   The demographic break down of Trump's victories is impressive according to exit polls done in three states.   For instance, in Maryland Trump was the first choice for Republican women, men, conservatives, moderates and every income group.  In Connecticut Trump won all income and education groups, including Republican voters with college degrees.  And in Pennsylvania Trump won among Republican voters who described themselves as angry, anti-establishment and against trade deals.

Trump has received nearly 10 million votes since February's Iowa Caucus, millions more votes than each of his remaining opponents, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich.  Trump needs to secure fewer than 300 delegates to reach the 1237 delegates required to win the nomination in the first ballot of the Republican convention.   Cruz has put all his marbles into winning the Indiana primary next Tuesday, including coordinating with Kasich's campaign, but Trump leads in state polls taken before his blowout victories Tuesday.   Trump has promised to campaign hard to win Indiana. 

The fact that Trump has done so well defies conventional wisdom.  His unconventional presidential campaign stands out for its lack of political correctness and detailed policy positions.  But that is what appeals most to his supporters.   His supporters are angry at leaders of both parties for decades of campaign promises unfulfilled, for endless gridlock and mismanagement.  They have seen manufacturing jobs disappear, the nation's infrastructure crumble and growing income inequality.  Many were devastated as a result of the 2008 market crash, the worst since the Great Depression, and are still struggling.   Meanwhile, they fear immigrants in this country illegally will take jobs and the government will take away their rights. 

Enter Donald Trump, who speaks brashly, bluntly and in a voice that resonates with millions of angry Americans.  His campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," speaks to a large faction of Republicans and independents who have had it with politics.  It doesn't matter to them that Trump insults Mexicans as rapists, women, Muslims, as well as his opponents and some world leaders.  It doesn't matter that he has flip-flopped on social issues, or that he doesn't seem to have a firm grasp of foreign policy.  His supporters don't care because he will be different than politics as usual, they really believe in outsider Donald Trump, they trust him. 

Yet, according to recent polls, more that 60 per cent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump, a number that would be insurmountable for any other candidate in the general election.   He does a bit better among Republicans, even though his negatives are high, much to the chagrin of the GOP establishment, which has been trying to write him off for months.  Last December, conservative writer Bill Kristol Tweeted, "Sticking to my prediction: Trump will win no caucuses or primaries, and will run behind Ron Paul in 2012 in IA and NH." 

Fresh from her victories in 4 of 5 states Tuesday, Hillary Clinton is reaching out to Sanders' supporters and beginning to focus her rhetoric on the national election campaign.  Many Clinton supporters believe that she will easily beat Trump in the presidential election next November.  But not so fast Democrats.  Trump already is shrewdly trying to get Senator Bernie Sanders to run as an independent in order to divide the Democratic vote. 

Clinton, an experienced but flawed candidate, is about to undergo months of relentless and scathing assaults.  Trump will attack her apparent strengths as failures, including her government experience, foreign policy service, leadership on women's issues and support among minorities.  He will attack President Bill Clinton's character, and mock the Clinton's mercilessly.  Trump will insult and bully Hillary Clinton in speeches and political ads in an effort to discourage Democrats and independents from voting for her election day.  Hillary Clinton is going to be in for the fight of her life. 

While it seemed unimaginable nearly a year ago, when he made his campaign announcement,  that Donald Trump could win his party's nomination, it is now possible that Trump could actually win the presidency this November to become the nation's insulter-in-chief.  Unpredictable, undisciplined and unscripted, Trump is dangerous.  After all, as Trump said in his victory speech Tuesday night, "I am me.  Why would I change?"

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Trump-Clinton Landslides

If you can make it in New York -- you will win your party's presidential nomination.  That is the big message following the landslide victories Tuesday by Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.   

Trump trounced his opposition, collecting 60 percent of the Republican primary vote and 89 delegates.  Senator Ted Cruz paid a huge price for mocking "New York values" as he won a mere 14 percent of the vote and zero delegates.  Talk about a Bronx cheer! 

"We don't have much of a race anymore," Trump said in his shorter than usual victory speech Tuesday night at Trump Tower.  As a result of his decisive victory in New York, Trump is all but certain to achieve the required 1237 delegates to win his party's nomination outright on the first ballot at the Republican Convention.  No matter, there is little doubt that he will come close enough to the magic number to fend off any attempts to stop him.  

"The race for the Democratic nomination is in the homestretch and victory is in sight," Hillary Clinton said at her victory rally late Tuesday.  While Hillary Clinton's Democratic victory was nearly as impressive as Trump's, Senator Bernie Sanders was and remains a formidable opponent with a huge passionate following.  Clinton reached out to Sanders' supporters in her remarks, "To all the people who supported Senator Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us."

Sanders congratulated Clinton Tuesday night, but told reporters in Burlington, Vermont, "We have a message that is resonating throughout the country."  His explanation for his New York loss was the process.  "Some 3 million New Yorkers were unable to vote (Tuesday) because they had registered as independents, no Democrats or Republicans, and that makes no sense," he said.  

There is no clear path forward for Sanders to the nomination.  Yes, he went from having no name recognition to drawing enormous crowds at his campaign rallies across the country.  Yes, he magically ignited the imagination and support from millions of otherwise disengaged young Americans.  Yes, his progressive voice gave hope to the disenfranchised and the victims of income inequality.  Yes, his anti-Wall Street fervor tapped into a deep-seated frustration in America.  Yes, his anti-war posture reflected the feelings of many in a war-weary nation.   

Sanders has run a brilliant campaign, a campaign that has generated tremendous emotion.  But emotion can hamper clear and practical judgement.  Were Sanders to decide to aggressively continue his attacks on Clinton, especially his negative attacks, he will be playing into the Republican's hands.  He may also make in impossible for some Sanders' supporters to vote for Clinton in the general election.  

On the other hand, Sanders could resume his positive campaigning, speaking out on issues that have shaped his campaign while highlighting his differences with Clinton.   This would be a constructive way to legitimately raise issues without turning his most ardent supporters against Clinton.  And there will come a time in the next few weeks when the Democratic Party will have to unite, just as it did following Barack Obama's nomination in 2008.  

Donald Trump has set his sights on the White House.  He has overcome gaffes,  he has won despite alienating Latinos, Muslims, women, Mexicans, and Fox News anchors.  He has staged a highly entertaining campaign that has drawn enormous crowds, and he has campaigned round-the-clock on Twitter.   Several times Trump has defied pundit predictions of his demise, most recently following his defeat in Wisconsin.  He has done so because he has tapped into the frustrations of millions of Americans who believe Trump is the one who will "make America great again," even though Trump has offered little in the way of details.  

Trump has proven to be a fierce and wily politician who will pose a tremendous challenge for Hillary Clinton.   And he has already started using his "crooked" Hillary Clinton line at rallies.   Trump has already begun to unify the GOP, even though many Republicans don't trust him.   

Yes, presidential candidate Donald Trump will be unpredictable and challenging in the general election.  But he will be near impossible to beat if the Democratic Party is divided, and Sanders' supporters stay home.  Then everything that Sanders believed in will be lost, and decades of progress for progressives will be deleted from history.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ted Cruz Closing Strong

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has run a very impressive campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. In fact, it is amazing to see he has done so well give his duplicity and polarizing nature.
Cruz has been shrewd in his approach to securing convention delegates, and he has displayed a keen understanding of each state's rules for winning delegates. Current GOP front-runner Donald Trump exploded into a Twitter rage over the weekend after Cruz won all of Colorado's 37 convention delegates. “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!” Trump tweeted.
Trump has only himself to blame for being outmaneuvered by the man he refers to as "lying Ted." The rules are the rules and they are well known to candidates who do their homework. Last August the Colorado Republican Party announced it would not let voters take part in the nomination process. At the time, the Denver Post reported, “The GOP executive committee has voted to cancel the traditional presidential preference poll after the national party changed its rules to require a state’s delegates to support the candidate that wins the caucus vote.” This begs the question, "If Trump can get out foxed in Colorado, how can he succeed in negotiations with China and Iran?"
Senator Cruz has carefully navigated the turbulent Republican nomination process to build the second largest collection of loyal delegates going into the convention. Once one of 17 GOP candidates running for the nomination, he has positioned himself well to be a viable alternative to Trump. Cruz kept his powder dry in the earlier primaries and caucuses, refusing to get caught up in the name calling and sniping that characterized much of the campaign. He was an outstanding college debater, but so far his debate performances during the primaries has been unremarkable.
Instead, he has focused on winning delegates with charm, wit and deceit. In the Iowa Caucus, the Cruz campaign adopted "social pressure" techniques to scare Republicans out to vote. It sent out mailers to likely voters with the heading "VOTER VIOLATION." The mailer included threatening text, "Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors' are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well." The Iowa Secretary of State later condemned this tactic, "Accusing citizens of Iowa of a 'voting violation' based on Iowa Caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act."
Cruz was so determined to win in Iowa that as caucus goers were preparing to head to the polls his campaign sent them an urgent email blast. The email claimed that Dr. Ben Carson would be dropping out of the race and they should instead vote for Cruz. Of course, the email was a deliberate lie, but Cruz eked out an important first victory over the field.
Ted Cruz has been the great disrupter since he first entered the Senate following his victory in the 2012 election. He is very unpopular among other senators because of his brash and divisive polemics. He referred to other Republican senators as the "surrender caucus" because they did not sufficiently oppose President Barack Obama. Cruz accused his own Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling "a flat out lie" on the floor of the chamber. Cruz is single handedly responsible for the 2013 government shutdown by rallying gullible House Tea Party members against their leadership's better judgment.
Fellow Senator John McCain has called Cruz a "wacko bird" and crazy. In February, Senator Lyndsey Graham, a former presidential candidate, said, "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you." Now, remarkably, Graham has joined those supporting Cruz as a way to keep Trump from winning the nomination outright. Their hope is that Trump will fail on the first ballot and some other candidate will emerge. But Cruz knows that, so he remains busy adding delegates using every trick in the book so he can be that some other candidate.
However, a word of caution to Cruz supporters, winning a party nomination is a lot different that winning the presidency. First, Cruz will have to unite a deeply divided convention, especially Trump delegates. Secondly, Cruz will have to moderate his extreme positions on everything from same sex marriage and abortion to immigration and "carpet bombing" ISIS. His economic plan is forecast to add trillions to the national debt by many economists, and will add thousands to the unemployment roles. His plan to eliminate the IRS is unrealistic and impractical. While he qualifies as a Latino, Cuban-Americans make up a small minority of the Hispanic population, which votes overwhelmingly Democratic. He will be challenged on his qualifications to run for president because he was born in Canada. His wife worked for Goldman Sachs, which is one reason Ron Paul observed in February, "He's owned by Goldman Sachs. I mean he and Hillary (Clinton) have more in common."
If Cruz makes it all the way to the White House, how will he unite his party? How will he persuade Democrats to work with him? How will his presidency bring an end to the gridlock on Capitol Hill? How will his emotive language and tough talk earn America more respect around the world? How will he bring Americans together? The simple answer is, he won't.
You see, Ted Cruz loves to hear Ted Cruz talk. His animated motions, hands thrusting down to emphasize his points, underscores the passion he has for himself. He projects a carefully crafted point and often punctuates it with a wry smile of self-appreciation, as if to say, "I'm amazing." He always speaks with the confidence of a man who believes he is the smartest person in the room.
Two years before he was elected the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln reportedly said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time." I am not sure Ted Cruz would agree with that.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Trumpmare Scenario

Donald Trump's campaign pledge is to "Make America Great Again."  Instead, if he is nominated, he may end up destroying the Republican Party.  

Trump's blustery, brash and in-your-face demeanor has attracted a large following of devoted acolytes that have lifted him to front-runner status for his party's nomination.    Ever the showman, Trump has gobbled up hours of free media time on television news outlets, which has resulted in huge ratings.  

Since he announced his candidacy last June in the opulent lobby of Trump Tower on New York's Fifth Avenue, he has overcome many political gaffes and consistently confounded political commentators who have many times predicted his demise.   At long last, though, it appears that the accumulated weight of his missteps has begun to drag on his campaign, and may have permanently damaged the Republican Party. 

Trump has referred to Mexicans and rapists.  He has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border, which he says Mexico will pay for.   He has pledged a mass deportation of all 11 million immigrants who are in this country illegally.   He has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.   He has humiliated his opponent's wives, including Heidi Cruz and Columba Bush.  He has attacked journalists, including Univision's Jorge Ramos and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who each have millions of loyal viewers.

Trump has alienated women.  "Look at that face!" he said of then opponent Carly Fiorina.  "Would anyone vote for that?"  He has unapologetically supported his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who has been charged with battery for grabbing the arm of a female reporter at a rally.  And, in an apparent attempt to strengthen his bona fides as a pro-life candidate, he said that there has to be "some form of punishment" for women who have abortions.   He later recanted that position following a firestorm of protests, saying in a statement that if abortions were illegal, "The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon women would be held legally responsible, not the women."

Trump has also alarmed our allies in Europe with is lack of understanding of foreign affairs and loose talk.  For instance, this exchange with MSNBC's Chris Matthews:     

Matthews: “Can you tell the Middle East we’re not using nuclear weapons?”

Trump: “I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.”
Matthews: “How about Europe? We won’t use in Europe?”
Trump: “I’m not going to take it off the table for anybody.”
Matthews: “You’re going to use it in Europe?”
Trump: “No! I don’t think so. But…”
Matthews: “Just say it, say ‘I’m not going to use a nuclear weapon in Europe’.”
Trump: “I am not taking cards off the table. I’m not going to use nukes – but I’m not taking any cards off the table.”
Trump rattled two Asian allies with comments he made in an interview with the New York Times. Trump said he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear arsenals as protection against North Korea and China.  
Many leading Republicans have expressed concern that if Trump is their nominee in November they will lose the Senate and maybe the House.  Nerves are so frayed that Trump suddenly traveled to Washington to meet with leaders of the Republican National Committee Thursday.  It was described in news reports as a "unity meeting" because RNC officials were concerned after Trump withdrew his pledge to support whomever the party decides to make its nominee at the Republican convention.  
Will the Republican Party awaken from what University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato calls its "Trumpmare?  Will RNC Chairman Reince Priebus heed his own warning, given when the party released its autopsy of its overwhelming 2012 election defeat?  "The RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic or community or region of this country," Priebus said.
A recent Reuters poll, taken before Trump's comments on abortion, found that 50 percent of American women hold a very unfavorable view of Trump.  Meanwhile, a Gallup Poll shows that 77 percent of Hispanics have an unfavorable view of him.  Overall, Trump's unfavorables are above 60 percent in all the recent polls, and they do not factor in his most recent gaffes.  
Trump's shadow hangs over the Republican Party.  Even if a contested Republican convention selects another nominee, the party has been badly hurt.  Priebus might reflect on the line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves."