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“Touting His Theoretical Appeal”: Does John Kasich Have A Strategy, Or Is He Just Meandering Around The Country?

Theoretically, one of the “winners” in New York Tuesday night was Ohio governor John Kasich, who won somewhere between three and six delegates (his first pledged delegates in close to a month) with about a fourth of the vote. Yeah, Trump beat him about 30 to 1 in delegates and by 35 points in the popular vote, but Kasich finished comfortably ahead of Ted Cruz, who’s been trying to define Kasich right out of the race as a hopeless loser.

So Kasich’s long-shot candidacy gets a bit of a reprieve, despite Trump’s perilous progress toward a first-ballot victory that would make both Kasich and Cruz bystanders in Cleveland. What’s Kasich’s strategy for helping avoid that disaster and making himself the ultimate choice of an open convention?

That’s hard to say. A thorough exploration of the Kasich campaign by Bloomberg‘s Mark Niquette earlier this week didn’t reveal any big, clear targets in the upcoming primaries, and certainly didn’t indicate the kind of coordination with Cruz — overt or telepathic — you’d expect from a campaign that needs to block Trump and draw a series of inside straights to stay in the game. Instead, the idea seems to be to show a pulse by picking up “100 to 150” delegates somewhere in the country, while working behind the scenes to harangue actual and prospective delegates with promising general-election polls in the hopes they will come around to Kasich in Cleveland. If there is a realization that picking up those token window-dressing primary delegates in places like Indiana and California could wind up helping Trump reach his goals, the Kasich people are being awfully quiet about it.

Worse yet, as RealClearPolitics’ Rebecca Berg shows in a devastating bit of reporting today, Team Kasich isn’t doing a lot to get people already sold on him into a position to nominate him on a later ballot.

While representatives for Donald Trump and particularly Ted Cruz have maintained a visible presence at the state and congressional district meetings where many delegates are being selected, often identifying and rallying behind a slate of their preferred candidates, Kasich’s organization has been weak or nonexistent. As a result, only a small share of the delegates selected thus far would favor Kasich on a second or subsequent ballot at an open convention.

Berg notes a particularly embarrassing no-show for the Kasich campaign in Virginia:

At the 10th Congressional District convention in Ashburn, Va., last weekend, rows of Trump and Cruz yard signs lined the parking lot, while volunteers for each campaign distributed lists of their preferred delegates. The district, which backed Sen. Marco Rubio, would have been fertile ground for Kasich to try to pick up support.

But there were no Kasich yard signs, and no volunteers distributing delegate slates. Not one would-be delegate expressed support for the Ohio governor. One prominent Kasich supporter, former Rep. Tom Davis, did attend the convention; he thought there would be opportunities to sway delegates friendly to Cruz or Trump, but on this day he showed no signs of trying to persuade them to Kasich’s cause. Ultimately, supporters of Cruz won the three delegate slots.

This dynamic has played out repeatedly across the country.

It sometimes seems the Kasich campaign believes in a sort of rhetorical enchantment whereby assertions of success are all that matters. It claims deep wells of support among Indiana’s newly elected (but not yet pledged) delegates. But Berg can find no evidence they’ve even contacted these people.

“The Kasich campaign didn’t ask me who I was for, so I don’t know who they’re talking to,” said one Indiana delegate, Mike Murphy, who is uncommitted to any candidate for a second ballot. “How can they declare victory?”

Having declared victory, however, Kasich will now almost certainly expend some effort to avoid embarrassment in Indiana’s May 3 primary, whether or not that makes sense strategically.

If Kasich doesn’t clumsily help Trump to a first-ballot nomination, though, it seems his wizards think his electability argument will sweep all before it in Cleveland. Niquette harvested this quote from Kasich’s prize consultant, Charlie Black:

Charlie Black, a longtime Republican strategist advising Kasich who worked on Ronald Reagan’s delegate-wrangling operation at the contested Republican convention in 1976, said Kasich doesn’t necessarily need that popular support, or even to win another state primary, to be the nominee.

“A lot of primary voters don’t care about electability, but delegates will,” Black said.

Maybe, but a lot of delegates also care about what primary voters think, and make judgments about a candidates’ electability based not just on dubious early polls but on how effective they are during the nomination contest. As John Kasich aimlessly wanders around the country touting his theoretical appeal, he is illustrating his lack of actual appeal. And that will likely be his undoing.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 20, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | GOP Convention, GOP Primaries, John Kasich | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Addicts Lives Don’t Matter”: LePage’s Callousness Takes An Ugly Turn, Even By LePage Standards

Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) ridiculous antics have made him something of a national laughingstock in recent years, with many observers inclined to laugh at his clownish behavior. But occasionally, the far-right governor’s actions are more repulsive than funny.

The Portland Press Herald reported yesterday, for example, on a LePage position that’s likely to literally cost lives.

Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill Wednesday that would allow pharmacists to dispense an anti-overdose drug without a prescription, saying that allowing addicts to keep naloxone on hand “serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

The Legislature passed the bill “under the hammer” – or unanimously without a roll call – this month as part of lawmakers’ attempts to address Maine’s growing opioid addiction epidemic.

In a statement explaining his rationale, the Republican governor argued, “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

Note, this was a written statement, not an off-the-cuff comment made during a press conference or an interview. LePage actually thought about his specific position, and argued that a life-saving drug treatment that prevents overdoes “merely extends” the lives of addicts – and he’s against that.

Maine’s governor, in a rather literal sense, made the case in writing that those struggling with opioid addiction don’t have lives worth saving. If LePage is convinced these people’s lives shouldn’t be extended, practically by definition, he’s making the case that their lives should be curtailed.

As long-time readers may recall, Naloxone – sometimes known by its brand name, Narcan – is a safe and effective life-saving treatment that prevents overdoses. It’s inexpensive; it’s easy to administer; and it’s harmless to others. Common sense suggests it should be readily available, especially in areas where the addiction crisis is especially acute.

And yet, Paul LePage is principally concerned with not “perpetuating the cycle of addiction.” If that means more of his constituents will overdose and die, so be it.

The Portland Press Herald’s article noted that the state legislation was actually recommended by CVS, which received a letter from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), himself a former governor, “asking the chain to expand the availability of the antidote. The bill got support from both law enforcement and health organizations during the legislative hearing.”

It’s probably why the bill passed the legislature without objection. One would have to be callous to a frightening degree to object to such a proposal.

As for the next step, Maine’s legislature – the state House is led by Democrats, the state Senate is led by Republicans – will meet next week to consider overriding some of the bills vetoed by the governor. Don’t be surprised if this bill is among those that become law whether LePage likes it or not.
* Correction:  I’d originally identified Sen. Angus King as a Republican. This was a typo. The senator is, of course, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 22, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Drug Addiction, Paul LePage, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump’s Makeover Will Fail”: The Idea That Trump Could Reinvent Himself Mid-Campaign Has Always Been Implausible

If Donald Trump’s political campaign ever gets re-told as an appropriately cheesy biopic, this current moment will be the crucial makeover scene, where the flawed hero finds a mentor who gives him a new polish needed to win. It’s easy to imagine how the scene would play out in an inspirational movie: The Trump campaign is in chaos as they realize he might not get a majority of delegates and his crude antics might alienate so many in the party as to hand over a contested convention to Senator Ted Cruz. As defeat looms, Trump turns to a grizzled political veteran in the form of Paul Manafort, who schools the roughhewn candidate on the necessity of being tactful. The refurbished Trump then goes on to win the Republican nomination and the general election.

This is certainly the scenario Manafort is trying to sell to Republican Party leaders. In a meeting in Hollywood, Florida, he tried to convince GOP bigwigs that Trump’s transformation was well underway and that the candidate was ready to pivot to the center by adopting a more moderate campaign persona. “The part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for, because he had first to complete the first phase,” Manafort said. “The negatives will come down. The image is going to change.”

There are ambiguous indications that some sort of pivot to moderation is happening. Yesterday Trump came out against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, which targets transgender people who want to use public bathrooms in keeping with their gender identity. But, as is his wont, Trump waffled on the issue Friday when he said that it should be left up to local communities.

Trump’s flexibility, some argue, would make him a formidable candidate in the general election. After all, he’s not anywhere as beholden to existing Republican constituencies as Cruz, who has deep ties to evangelical Christians, or Senator Marco Rubio, who never allows himself a thought that would alienate the donor class. So in theory Trump can afford to jettison unpopular GOP positions such as opposition to LGBT rights or tax cuts for the rich. This would make him a more viable candidate in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where the party has been shut out for nearly a generation. A Trump surge in those states would change the electoral map and give him a chance to win in November.

But the idea that Trump could reinvent himself mid-campaign has always been implausible. Aside from his core issues—a draconian immigration policy and mercantilist trade policy—Trump has already been a chameleon, saying whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. On abortion, he moved in a matter of three days from saying women should be punished to saying there should be no change in the legal status quo. On an appearance on Fox and Friends, Trump embraced the flat tax and then condemned it within a few minutes.

In terms of his persona, Trump’s ability to re-make himself seems minimal. Despite criticisms of his tweeting habits from even his wife, Trump continues to re-tweet white supremacists. And after briefly trying to be polite to “Senator Cruz,” Trump has reverted to his favorite nickname, Lyin’ Ted.

These wild shifts haven’t hurt Trump with his base, who apparently love his stance on immigration and trade so much that they are willing to forgive his ideological heresies. Conversely, though, Trump’s intermittent adoption of moderate positions hasn’t helped him with the general public, where Trump enjoys a near-record level of unpopularity.

Given this enduring unpopularity, any further shifts are unlikely to help. But Trump might still have a legacy for future Republicans who want to adopt a more centrist politics. Trump has shown that a Republican presidential nominee can win a plurality of the vote while being unorthodox on many issues (in Trump’s case, going against the party line on the Iraq war and free trade as well as flirting with abandoning social conservatism).

Even if Trump fails, it might still be possible for a future Republican to win with a streamlined version of his strategy. A successful Trumpian of the future would be anti-immigrant, but express it in less overtly racist ways that alienate mainstream opinion. Such a candidate might also avoid Trump’s blatant misogyny. In effect, the candidate would be Trump Lite—and thus, would be much more palatable to the general public in November.


By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, April 22, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP Convention, GOP Establishment | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“An Outdated Myth — An Illusion”: How The Media Created, And Then Killed, Political Momentum

Feel The Bern! Trump Train! Cruz-mentum!

There’s so much talk in the 2016 presidential race about momentum — the “Big Mo,” as it’s been dubbed for a quarter century. But here’s the truth: The power of momentum in politics today is an outdated myth — an illusion.

Ted Cruz supposedly had all the momentum after his Iowa victory. Then he got creamed in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Cruz had the Big Mo again after he pulled off a strong win against Donald Trump in Wisconsin. No dice. Now that Trump has won big in New York, has he ridden a tidal wave of momentum to achieve a significant bounce in, say, Pennsylvania or California? Nope. A similar effect is playing out in the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He won more than a half dozen contests in a row. Then Clinton crushed him in the Empire State. Momentum, shmomentum.

John Kasich’s entire candidacy was premised on the idea that strong showings in New Hampshire and Ohio would give him the momentum to outperform in, well, the other 48 states, where he had no infrastructure or reason to win. That hasn’t panned out.

Of Marco Rubio, the less said the better. He kept hoping that each primary would deliver that vaunted “momentum” that would push him to the next primary. Instead, like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, he kept running until he realized there was nothing under his feet, and crashed back to earth.

Why do political campaigns continue to put such faith in momentum despite the prevailing evidence that it simply doesn’t exist?

To answer that question, it’s instructive to wind back the clock to the greatest “momentum” story in recent American politics: Bill Clinton’s come-from-behind second-place finish in New Hampshire, which ended up propelling him to the Democratic nomination in 1992, and thence to history. People mocked Rubio for giving speeches after second-place finishes where he sounded like he’d won the nomination, but, hey, it worked for Clinton, didn’t it?

Well, why did it work? Because the idea of momentum works in tandem with a narrative. Bill Clinton branded himself “the comeback kid.” The media bought it. His unexpectedly strong showing prompted voters to give him a second look. Success breeds success. People want to support a guy who’s winning.

There used to be a lot of truth to this idea. But no more.

What changed? The media.

After Clinton won New Hampshire in 1992, every channel’s evening news and every non-right-leaning newspaper (meaning almost every newspaper) promoted the narrative that Clinton’s second-place finish was a big deal. The media telling voters that the candidate has done something unexpected that will give him momentum gets the voters to give the candidate a second look, to view him more favorably (he’s winning!), which drives up polls, which gives you another cycle of momentum, and so on.

The media-driven narrative of momentum used to be able to create actual momentum. But that only works when you have a unified media narrative to get the snowball effect started. And a unified media narrative is precisely what America no longer has.

Rubio did nothing to warrant winning a “comeback kid” designation in 2016. But imagine if he had, and then had been christened “the comeback kid” by CNN, and even maybe by Fox News. He still wouldn’t be called that by Rush Limbaugh, and certainly not by Breitbart (in the tank for Trump), or The Blaze (in the tank for Cruz), or MSNBC (in the tank against whichever Republican looks most electable).

The media today is fractured, fragmented. A consistent and coherent media narrative is very difficult to form around a candidate. And when it does happen, it’s in a way that is much harder to translate into momentum.

Political momentum in 2016 is a myth. And it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.


By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, April 22, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | General Election 2016, Media, Momentum | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Let’s End This Myth, Please”: Donald Trump STILL Isn’t Self-Funding His Campaign

Let’s end this myth, please.

After every one of Donald Trump’s campaign finance reports has become publicly available, the media breathlessly reports how much more money Trump has given his campaign.

In March, it was $11.5 million. So far in total, it’s $36 million.

A few weeks ago, I broke down why Donald Trump’s claim that he is “self-funding” his campaign is ridiculous: he’s loaning himself money at zero interest, not paying his campaign’s expenses outright, so that he can pay himself back in the future with money fundraised from his supporters.

Even if he were to pay off all of his loans with his own money — don’t count on it — Trump has so far received more than $12 million dollars in small (and large) contributions from his supporters, much of it through hat sales but some also in the form of maximum allowable cash donations. That’s not “self-funding,” not at all.

Candidates must also pay themselves for “in-kind,” or non-monetary, donations from companies that they own. In March, according to, Trump paid $476,426 to his own Tag Air — which has received more total Trump campaign money than anyone besides Rick Reed Media, Trump’s advertising people —  $83,597 on Trump Tower, where his campaign is headquartered, and more than $4,000 for lodging at his own hotels.

But we haven’t even seen the start of it.

Assuming Trump wins the Republican Party nomination, it seems increasingly unlikely that he will continue “paying” for his campaign himself. In 2012, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama’s campaigns — and supportive outside groups including super PACs — spent more than a billion dollars each on the election.

This time, some estimate the total cost of electing a president may be twice as high.

Though Donald Trump has held his tax records extremely close to the chest, unless he has $2 billion dollars lying around — and he’ll need all of it, against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — he will be forced to fundraise through more traditional channels: more high-dollar fundraisers, more mass appeals for donations from his supporters, and more accepting help from outside groups.

Don’t be surprised, amid all of that commotion, when we find out Trump’s $36 million in campaign debts to himself have suddenly… disappeared. And perfectly legally, too.


By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, April 22, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Donald Trump, Tax Returns | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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