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“No Political Makeover Can Save Donald Trump”: Trump Will Never Be Able To Button It Up

Donald Trump is about to get a makeover.

Paul Manafort — who is effectively Trump’s new campaign manager — told a group of knob-turners at the Republican National Committee late last week that the version of Trump seen during the primary was just a cynical act. Now the act is going to change. “[W]hat’s important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving,” said Manafort.

Surely the very important people at this meeting had to be peeled from the back wall after hearing this. Blown away! An act? You mean that when Trump constantly tells audiences that he will change when he becomes the nominee, that he can become “politically correct” as president, he was… telling the truth? You mean to say that a guy who simultaneously promises an enormous border wall to repel Mexican rapists and a permissive touch-back amnesty might have been pulling a few legs along the way?

Still, as unsurprising as this is, don’t believe the supposed import of this makeover talk. Trump will never be able to button it up. Not totally. Even as Manafort was promising Republicans that Trump would come around with a much more establishment-friendly message and campaign, Trump himself was changing his position on questions of transgendered access to bathrooms. On Thursday morning, to the liberal press, he said transgendered people should be able to use whatever bathrooms they want. Later, talking to Sean Hannity on Fox News, he defaulted to a states-rights position on the issue. He still couldn’t help but add, “But they are losing business, and they are having people come out against.” In other words, hey North Carolina, you should have the right to do something I obviously think is stupid.

Trump is never going to stop being Trump. And his campaign cannot succeed by flip-flopping now. You may have noticed that throughout the primaries, Trump often seemed to be trying to have it both ways. He could demand the border fence one day, and then say “I love the Mexican people” the next. He could call America’s major trade deals bad, and then immediately say, “I believe in free trade.” To close observers, it just sounded incoherent. But nobody is going to forget his signature positions. Just because he’ll start saying “I love Mexicans” more doesn’t make the footage of him saying “Somebody is doing the raping” go away.

That footage — and plenty more — will be featured prominently in ads from Hillary Clinton and progressive super PACs. It will be used to make upwardly mobile suburban white people — the backbone of the Republican Party — deeply uncomfortable with Trump’s candidacy.

Oh, and then there will be the footage of him saying several years ago on national television that he’s “very pro-choice” and wouldn’t restrict abortion in any way.

Or that he is for gun control. Here’s Trump in 2000: “I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

Say goodbye to two of the major activist groups who dutifully fill up the treasuries of GOP-allied direct mail operations, and who volunteer to go door to door during election time.

In a way, Trump followed the exact opposite ethic of his former nemesis. Jeb Bush said that a Republican candidate should be willing to lose the Republican primary in order to win the general election. Dutifully, Bush lost the primary. Trump has done the opposite — he was willing to lose the general election to win the primary. He used every trick he had for generating free media, and whipping up the intense support of about one-third of the Republican electorate in the primary contests. It just so happens that he did this in a way that cost him the chance of ever winning over the enthusiastic support of the rest of the party apparatus, and any chance of winning a normal general election campaign.

Becoming an establishment creature now would dispirit many of Trump’s core supporters. It would wreck any momentum his candidacy had at renovating the Republican Party’s stale ideology. Trump will have worse problems than even Mitt Romney did in trying to explain the convenient evolution of his views. Trump’s unreliability extends even to his own stunts. Months ago he skipped a Fox News debate to raise $6 million for veterans. They haven’t seen the money.

Trump cannot succeed in a general election without an unforeseeable intervention from beyond our normal politics — think a sudden economic crash, a terrorist attack, or the likelihood of war. A little campaign makeover certainly won’t change what is now the most well-defined and lustily disliked campaign in modern memory. The Trump reboot will not make Trump viable. It just makes his new campaign manager viable. This is nothing more than another layer of orange-hued makeup on an orange-hued corpse of a campaign.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, April 25, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Political Correctness | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Clown Car Race Heading Into Its Final Laps”: A Last-Ditch Effort From Cruz And Kasich To Stop Trump

As I noted after last week’s New York primary, neither Ted Cruz nor John Kasich can win the Republican nomination via delegates earned in the primaries. This is the point at which you would expect that candidates in that position would drop out of the race. But this is also the first time such a move would result in the nomination of someone like Donald Trump. So Kasich and Cruz aren’t about to ride off into the sunset. Instead, the two of them have joined forces in a last-ditch effort to stop Trump.

In order to understand their plan, it’s important to note that – because the delegates won to date have been spread between so many candidates – Trump still faces an uphill battle to win the nomination outright in the remaining primaries. The statement put out by the Kasich campaign is the most direct in laying out their attempt to stop him from being able to do that.

Our goal is to have an open convention in Cleveland, where we are confident a candidate capable of uniting the Party and winning in November will emerge as the nominee. We believe that will be John Kasich, who is the only candidate who can defeat Secretary Clinton and preserve our GOP majority in the Congress.

Due to the fact that the Indiana primary is winner-take-all statewide and by congressional district, keeping Trump from winning a plurality in Indiana is critical to keeping him under 1237 bound delegates before Cleveland. We are very comfortable with our delegate position in Indiana already, and given the current dynamics of the primary there, we will shift our campaign’s resources West and give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana.

In turn, we will focus our time and resources in New Mexico and Oregon, both areas that are structurally similar to the Northeast politically, where Gov. Kasich is performing well. We would expect independent third-party groups to do the same and honor the commitments made by the Cruz and Kasich campaigns.

The Cruz campaign issued a similar statement.

This all sounds similar to Jeb Bush’s attempt to negotiate a deal back in March (after he was out of the race) to stop Trump. In retrospect, it looks like Marco Rubio was on board with that one (his last hope before dropping out), but Kasich and Cruz never really committed to the plan. Now they don’t have any other option.

Trump responded as expected.

“Collusion is often illegal in many other industries and yet these two Washington insiders have had to revert to collusion in order to stay alive. They are mathematically dead and this act only shows, as puppets of donors and special interests, how truly weak they and their campaigns are,” he said in the statement. “Because of me, everyone now sees that the Republican primary system is totally rigged.”

I guess he doesn’t have as much appreciation for the “art of the deal” as he continually suggests. This clown car race is heading into its final laps. But it’s very possible that we won’t know which one is the last clown standing until they get to Cleveland in July.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 25, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, John Kasich, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump Upends Coalition”: How The Bathroom Controversy Exposes Rifts In The Increasingly Fragile Republican Coalition

It wouldn’t be an election without a good dose of culture-war sexual politics, and now Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are arguing about bathrooms. Specifically, the question of the law that North Carolina passed — mandating that transgender people use not the bathroom of their identity but of the sex written on their birth certificate — is now a part of the presidential campaign. When Trump was asked about it yesterday, he gave a perfectly sensible answer — but it was the wrong one. And in doing so, he highlighted just how fragile his impending nomination makes the complicated Republican coalition.

Here’s how it went down:

Trump said there was little controversy before the law was passed, and the measure has done nothing but hurt North Carolina economically. Businesses including American Airlines, Facebook and Google have condemned the measure, and the National Basketball Association hinted it might relocate next year’s all-star game from Charlotte.

“You leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday. “And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic. … I mean, the economic punishment they’re taking.”

Trump’s comments were met with fierce opposition from Cruz, who defended the law last week.

Cruz seems positively giddy to be able to talk about this issue. He describes the idea of transgender women using women’s rooms as, “Men should be able to go into the girls’ bathroom if they want to.” You’ll notice the contrast of “men” and “girls,” used so that you’ll think this is some sort of issue about pedophiles preying on children. To emphasize the point, he concludes, “Grown adult men — strangers — should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls.”

I won’t even bother refuting that rancid fear-mongering, except to say that the legislators in North Carolina were unable to cite a single case where a transgender woman assaulted someone in a bathroom in North Carolina, let alone any “little girls.”

But now Trump is gingerly walking back his statement, saying that the question should be decided at the local level, which is the best he can do to make Republican culture warriors less suspicious of him. And that’s where we get to the nature of the GOP coalition, which Trump doesn’t quite seem to grasp.

There was always an implicit bargain within that coalition, one that said that even if various kinds of conservatives had different priorities, they would sign on to each other’s agendas. The supply-siders would say that unfettered gun rights are deeply important, even if most of them don’t actually own guns. The antiabortion crusaders would say that military spending should always be increased. The neoconservatives would praise tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s a circle of interdependence and common cause, and to a great degree, they all came to believe in each other’s positions, even if they didn’t agree on what the top priority for the party should be.

But Trump has upended this bargain, partly because he has nothing resembling a coherent ideology, but also because he doesn’t appreciate the need to keep the coalition together. There are some issues, such as guns, where Trump has adopted the standard Republican position (without a trace of evident sincerity). But on others, he has been willing to anger parts of the Republican coalition. Perhaps it’s because of a careful calculation about what will play well in the general election, but I suspect it’s more impulsive — since Trump didn’t rise through Republican politics, he doesn’t have an intuitive sense of what’s important to which conservatives and what will make them angry.

So when a question he hasn’t thought about comes up, he just gives an answer that seems right for him at that moment. Then what often happens is that people who understand what Republicans think about that issue — reporters and Republicans themselves — say, “What?!?,” somebody clues Trump in to why his allies are mad, and within a day or two he comes back and clarifies what he meant to say, which winds up being something more palatable to the party. This has happened multiple times.

On issues that touch on sex, Trump’s impulses often seem basically libertarian (there are those New York values!), and as he tries to shift them so they can work within the GOP, he winds up ticking people off and going through multiple iterations before he can come up with the appropriate answer. So he says the wrong thing on transgender people, and he says that women should be punished for having abortions (which runs counter to the “We’re taking away your reproductive rights for your own good because you just don’t know any better” stance of the pro-life movement) but also says that there should be exceptions for rape and incest, which the hard-core pro-lifers don’t like either.

The bathroom issue highlights how Red America and Blue America are moving farther and farther apart. If you live in a state controlled by Republicans, your state legislature and your governor will ensure that gay people aren’t protected from discrimination, make abortions almost impossible to obtain, slash social services, undermine unions, make sure you can take your gun to church and generally do what they can to turn your state into a paradise of “traditional” values and right-wing economics. If you live in a Democratic state, your representatives are probably busy raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, expanding government-provided health care and child care, protecting people from discrimination and generally doing all the things the people in red states find horrifying.

Presidential candidates from either party can come from either kind of state, but if you cross over — if you’re a blue-state Republican or a red-state Democrat — you have to assure your voters that you believe deep in your heart that their kind of state embodies all the proper values. Trump doesn’t do that, or at least he doesn’t do it often enough.

For those who are already behind him, it doesn’t really matter. His supporters don’t have specific issues that are absolute deal-breakers, in large part because his campaign is built on personality. Cruz, on the other hand, has a campaign built on ideology. And when there’s a chance to pick up a culture-war baton like this one, he isn’t going to let it pass.

Does that mean that once Trump is the nominee, the social conservatives who really care about the culture war aren’t going to vote for him? Might they just sit the election out? We don’t know yet. What we do know is that they’re the ones who are most likely to get the short end of the stick from the GOP nominee, even as Republicans at the state level work like mad to advance the right’s social agenda.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 22, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Culture Wars, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“2016’s Scrambled Coalitions”: Trump’s GOP Foes Have Six Weeks To Topple Him From His High Wire

Republicans belong to a more ideological party, but ideology has mattered less in the GOP primaries this year than in the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Clinton is in a nearly unassailable position to win her party’s nomination. But assuming she prevails, her primary fight with Sanders has underscored weaknesses she will have to deal with to win in November.

And Donald Trump’s moves toward moderation on social issues last week reflect not only his campaign’s understanding that he cannot win as a far-right candidate but also his need to tread carefully to maintain the crazy-quilt coalition he has built in the GOP primaries.

New York and Massachusetts Republicans are quite different from the ones found in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Trump carried all five states, bringing together some of the most extreme voters on the right end of his party with a large share of those who consider themselves moderate.

As the 2016 primaries reach their decisive moment, the results so far point to a scrambling of alliances inside both parties.

To earn her delegate lead, Clinton has built a significantly different coalition in 2016 than she did in 2008. The most important and obvious shift is among African Americans, who formed Barack Obama’s base against her eight years ago and are now Clinton’s most loyal supporters. They will loom large in Tuesday’s primaries, particularly in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Clinton ran well behind Obama among voters under 30. She’s doing even worse among younger voters this year against Sanders.

She has done well among voters over 45, among those with a strong identification with the Democratic Party, and among the roughly one-third of primary voters who do not identify themselves as liberal (a group that includes many nonwhites). In her New York victory, she carried moderate and conservative Democrats by 2 to 1. But even where she has lost, this group has come her way. In Michigan, for example, she carried the non-liberals 52 percent to 43 percent.

Sanders speaks of increasing participation in Democratic primaries, but turnout this year has not exceeded the admittedly exceptional 2008. He does, however, seem to have mobilized more progressive voters: A comparison of the exit polls with surveys of Democrats nationally suggests that the primary electorate this year is more liberal than is the party as a whole.

Overall, turnout patterns have been mixed. They were down in many of the earliest states, such as New Hampshire, and sharply down in some later states, including Alabama, Texas and Ohio. But 2008 and 2016 turnouts were roughly comparable in other states, including New York, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

There is another factor in Sanders’s strength that points to a Clinton problem this fall: Even where she has won, she has run poorly among white men. In New York, Sanders got 57 percent of their votes; in Michigan, which Sanders won, he got 62 percent. She has also regularly lost in rural areas.

White men as a whole would likely prefer any Republican over any Democrat this fall, but Clinton would have to find a way to cut her losses. Against Trump, at least, polls suggest she would so overwhelm him among women that she could triumph anyway. This would be less clear if she faced a different Republican.

An awareness of his need to improve his standing among women may have prompted Trump to insist last week — to the consternation of social conservatives — that the GOP’s traditional platform plank against abortion include exceptions for rape, incest and protecting a mother’s life. He also spoke out against North Carolina’s anti-transgender law.

Trump’s willingness to part with social conservatives (for now, at least) also reflects the ways in which his vote defies the old Republican patterns.

In primary after primary, he has split white evangelical voters with Ted Cruz. At the same time, Trump has performed as well among moderates as he has among conservatives. A partial exception is New York, where Trump ran best among self-described conservatives. But even there, the exit polls still showed him defeating John Kasich narrowly, 46 percent to 42 percent, among moderates.

The failure of both movement conservatives and established Republican politicians to stop Trump so far arises from their inability to imagine that someone could appeal simultaneously to moderates — they see Trump more as a manager and leader who could get things done — and to the party’s most hardcore right-wingers on immigration and race, and also in the ferociousness of his opposition to Obama.

Trump’s GOP foes have six weeks to topple him from his high wire.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 24, 206

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Election-Year Blueprint”: Lieberman Mistakenly Believes He Has It All Figured Out

Though this may come as a bit of a surprise, the No Labels organization continues to exist, despite the fact that it doesn’t appear to have had any influence on anyone at any time on any level. A couple of years ago, Yahoo News reported that the outfit “spends a disproportionate part of its budget maintaining and promoting its own organization, trying to keep its profile high while ensuring a steady flow of fundraising dollars” from undisclosed donors.

The revelations did not, however, do any real lasting damage to No Labels, and as Slate’s Jim Newell explained the other day, the group and its leader even have a new election-year blueprint it wants the political world to take seriously.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, co-chairman of the nonpartisan “problem-solving” advocacy group No Labels, has a novel theory of what we’re seeing this campaign. “Take a look at the two most interesting, surprising candidacies of the presidential year,” he said Thursday at an event celebrating the release of No Labels’ “policy playbook” for the 2016 election. “They want people to do something different. The best politics may be unconventional politics.”

Lieberman, unconventionally, was explaining why he believes the moment is ripe for entitlement reform.

Ah, yes, there’s the Joe Lieberman we all know. The aggressively centrist former senator sees Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders generating some excitement on the right and left, respectively, and Lieberman naturally assumes their success reflects an opportunity for a policy agenda neither Trump nor Sanders want any part of.

“The best politics may be unconventional politics”? Maybe so. But consider the gap between the message and the messenger: a senator-turned-lobbyist appeared in a D.C. ballroom at a luxury hotel to pitch a centrist platform that no doubt delighted other D.C. centrists. It’s hard to even imagine a more “conventional” scenario. To think this relates in any way to the excitement surrounding Sanders and Trump is to miss the point of recent political developments in a rather spectacular way.

Or as the Slate piece put it, “For today’s discontented voters, the sort of ballroom-luncheon centrism practiced for so long by the likes of Lieberman is more the target than the solution.”

In fairness, on some issues, No Labels probably means well, and on a theoretical level, I can vaguely appreciate the appeal of non-partisan, technocratic policymaking.

But much of the No Labels blueprint for 2016 – called the National Strategic Agenda for reasons I don’t understand – include vague ideas that sound nice if one doesn’t look too closely and some credible ideas that Lieberman falsely assumed could receive Republican support.

Newell’s article noted that No Labels commissions polling that proves how popular its ideas are, and included this gem: “No Labels’ theory is that polling support will make risk-averse politicians feel safe enough to stake out what otherwise might be considered treacherous political territory. ‘I think the public would really honor and reward a leader who took the risks,’ Lieberman said.”

Yes, of course. And this explains why members of Congress took note of public attitudes and raised the minimum wage while approving universal background checks.

Oh wait, that didn’t actually happen.

In 2004, Lieberman launched a humiliating presidential campaign. In 2006, he lost a Senate primary in a state he’d represented for decades. In 2008, he was certain John McCain would be elected president. In 2015, he led an organization created to derail the international nuclear agreement with Iran.

Why anyone would take Lieberman’s political instincts seriously is a bit of a mystery.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 25, 2016

April 26, 2016 Posted by | General Election 2016, Joe Lieberman, No Labels | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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