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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

“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

“GOP Convention Rule 40(b)”: How An Obscure Rule Could Limit The GOP Convention To A Choice Of Trump Or Cruz

Back in the day, when national party conventions were largely autonomous events rather than infomercials for a nominee chosen in primaries and caucuses, you’d have many names, including multiple “favorite son” candidates who were not really running for president, placed in nomination, with extensive time spent on nominating speeches and even “spontaneous” floor demonstrations. As conventions became more tightly controlled and their managers worried about things like ensuring that the balloting and acceptance speeches occurred before East Coast television viewers were asleep, nonserious candidacies were sacrificed to efficiency. Among Republicans, the tradition developed that no one’s name could be placed in nomination without support from at least three delegations; that cut off the pure favorite-son candidacies. Beyond that, the status of conventions as ratifying rather than nominating events exerted its own pressure on “losers” who typically succumbed to the pressure to unite behind the nominee and grin for the cameras.

That was before the Ron Paul Revolution appeared on the scene. In 2012, the Paulites shrewdly focused on winning fights for delegates that occurred after primaries and caucuses in hopes of making their eccentric candidate and his eccentric causes a big nuisance at Mitt Romney’s convention. And so the Romney campaign and its many allies reacted — some would say overreacted — by using its muscle on the convention Rules Committee (meeting just prior to Tampa to draft procedures for the conclave) to change the presence-in-three-delegations threshold for having one’s name placed in nomination to this one:

Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.

This Rule 40(b), moreover, was interpreted to mean that no candidate who did not meet the threshold could have votes for the nomination recorded in her/his name.

Rule 40(b) succeeded in keeping the Paulites under wraps in Tampa, but as is generally the case, it remained in effect as a “temporary” rule for the next convention, subject to possible revision by a new Rules Committee meeting just prior to the 2016 gathering, and by the convention itself, which controls its own rules. In fact, its drafters may have intended to keep the rule in place to head off some annoying convention challenge to President Romney’s renomination.

Back in the real world, Rule 40(b) may have been in the back of some minds early in the 2016 cycle as a way to keep the convention from being rhetorically kidnapped by noisy supporters of Rand Paul, or of the novelty “birther” candidate Donald Trump.

Now, obviously, the shoe is on the other foot, and there is a growing possibility that the two strongest candidates for the GOP nomination, Trump and Ted Cruz, could join their considerable forces to insist on maintenance of Rule 40(b) or something much like it to prevent their common Republican Establishment enemies from exploiting a multi-ballot convention to place someone else at the top of the ticket.

Trump is currently the only candidate who is beyond the eight-state-majority threshold for competing for the nomination under the strict terms of Rule 40(b). But Team Cruz is confident enough that its candidate will also satisfy the rule that he’s the one out there arguing that Rule 40(b) means votes for John Kasich are an entire waste because they won’t be counted in Cleveland. And with both Trump and Cruz repeatedly claiming that the nomination of a dark horse who hasn’t competed during the primaries would be an insult to the GOP rank and file, maintaining Rule 40(b) is the obvious strategy to close off that possibility. A good indicator of the new situation is the evolving position of Virginia party activist and veteran Rules Committee member Morton Blackwell, a loud dissenter against Rule 40(b) before and after the 2012 convention, who now, as a Cruz supporter, is arguing that changing the rule “would be widely and correctly viewed as [an]  outrageous power grab.”

But can the Republican Establishment stack the Rules Committee with party insiders determined to overturn Rule 40(b) and keep the party’s options wide open going into Cleveland? Not really. That committee is composed of two members elected by each state delegation. No likely combination of Kasich and Rubio delegates and “false-flag” delegates bound to Trump or Cruz but free to vote against their interests on procedural issues is likely to make up a majority of the Rules Committee, or of the convention. Indeed, most of the anecdotal evidence about “delegate-stealing” in the murky process of naming actual bodies to fill pledged seats at the convention shows Team Cruz, not some anti-Trump/anti-Cruz cabal, gaining ground. If Trump and Cruz stick together on this one point no matter how many insults they are exchanging as rivals, they almost certainly can shut the door on any truly “open” convention and force Republicans who intensely dislike both of them to choose their poison.

That would leave Kasich with his fistful of general-election polls and the proliferating list of fantasy “unity” candidates on the outside in Cleveland, playing to the cameras but having no real influence over the proceedings. And you can make the case that this is precisely what the Republican “base” wants and has brought to fruition through the nominating process. It would, of course, be highly ironic if the Republican Establishment’s Rule 40(b) became the instrument for two candidates generally hated by said Establishment to impose a duopoly on the party. But there’s no President Romney around to put a stop to it.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine,  March 31, 2016

April 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Convention, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Tantalizing Option”: The Vice-Presidential Nomination Could Be A Key Bargaining Chip At A Contested Convention

In examining the many possibilities of a “contested” or “open” Republican convention without a locked-down nominee, it makes sense to look at the last time this happened: the 1976 Republican convention, where President Gerald Ford had a plurality but not a firm majority of delegates in his camp when the festivities began, in Kansas City. Today’s Reagan-worshiping Republicans should take particular note of how Ronnie (or, more specifically, his Svengali, the veteran political consultant John Sears) decided to deal with the situation: using the vice-presidential nomination to attract uncommitted delegates and force a rules showdown.

Keep in mind that prior to 1976 the ancient tradition in major-party politics was that vice-presidential choices were made at the convention itself, usually after the presidential balloting. But Reagan announced about three weeks before the confab that if he were nominated his running mate would be Pennsylvania senator Richard Schweiker. This shocked the political world, since Schweiker was, on most issues, one of the most liberal Republicans in the Senate (with a then-recent 100 percent rating from the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education, among other indicators toxic to conservatives). But more to the point, there was a bloc of uncommitted delegates in the Keystone State that Sears thought the maneuver might pull across the line, perhaps even bringing with them some delegates previously committed to Ford.

In the end, most of the Pennsylvania delegation was unmoved, and the ploy probably cost Reagan a shot at winning over a closely divided Mississippi delegation that was voting as a bloc via a unit rule (it annoyed Reagan partisan Jesse Helms so grievously he briefly toyed with an effort to draft New York senator James Buckley as a dark-horse alternative to both Reagan and Ford). But Team Reagan also used the vice-presidency as the basis for a rules challenge that tested Ford’s grip on the convention: a motion to require all candidates to disclose their preferred running mates prior to the presidential balloting. The idea here was that any name he came up with might alienate some Ford delegates (his earlier choice of Nelson Rockefeller as the actual vice-president offended conservatives greatly; Rocky had to disclaim interest in renomination in 1976 to avoid becoming a huge handicap in the primaries). That, too, failed, and demonstrated that Ford had the nomination in hand once and for all.

But the precedent of using a preemptive vice-presidential choice to help win a presidential nomination has lingered in the air as a tantalizing option ever since. And if it were ever going to happen again, this could be the year.

Let’s say Donald Trump is in Ford’s position of leading with a plurality but not quite a majority of delegates, and Cruz is in Reagan’s position of playing catch-up, going into Cleveland — not at all a remote possibility. There would be a pool of “unbound” delegates from an assortment of states, mostly in the West, where state parties have deliberately chosen to keep their options open. If either candidate thought a particular ticket would attract a critical mass of such delegates, would he hesitate to make it? Probably not. More generally, at a time when nervous Republicans will be extremely worried about party unity, purported “unity tickets” will be all the rage. Promising one could be the way Trump nails down the last few delegates he needs for the nomination, or, alternatively, could be the path to a Cruz nomination on a second ballot when most of the delegates become unbound. For those who believe party elites can get away with nominating someone other than Trump or Cruz in Cleveland, a proposed “unity ticket” that would poll well among both Republicans and general-election voters is an absolute must. Moreover, something exactly like the Reagan-Schweiker rules challenge in 1976 to force disclosure of running-mate preferences could happen again in Cleveland, since the presidential candidates will not control all of “their” delegates on procedural matters like convention rules.

Even if Donald Trump nails down a majority of delegates on June 7 with a solid showing in California and New Jersey, naming a running mate whose characteristics show a conciliatory attitude toward the rest of the GOP could be just what the doctor ordered to head off some party coup to deny him the nomination, via a rules change or some other devilish device. Being able to cite chapter and verse from the Gospel of Ronald Reagan as precedent would make a preemptive choice that much more likely. And there will always be some opportunist like Schweiker willing to be used as a key to pick the nomination lock. You can count on it.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 24, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Convention, GOP Vice Presidential Nominee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Freedom Of The Press Is No Longer Free”: GOP Wants Press To Pay Up For Good Convention Seats

The Republican Party wants reporters to pay up for the pleasure of their company at their 2016 presidential convention. And reporters, obviously, are not pleased.

On Monday, news broke that reporters would have to pay $150 each for a seat in the press risers overlooking the convention floor. For that, they get a chair, space at a table, and access to power outlets. Fancy!

Outlets that don’t want to shell out for space can send their reporters to the nosebleed section of the Quicken Loans arena, where they won’t have electricity and won’t be able to see what’s going on on the floor—in other words, where they won’t be able to do their jobs properly.

“I’ve been to every national convention since ‘84, and this is the first time we’re being asked to pay for a space in the arena,” said Jonathan Salant, who chairs the press gallery’s Standing Committee of Correspondents.

He and Heather Rothman, who chairs the Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents, aired their complaints in a terse statement.

“The convention committee said reporters who don’t pay still will be allowed into the arena,” they wrote. “But the vantage points they will be given will not allow them to follow convention proceedings, gain access to the convention floor to interview public officials, nor file stories on the event. We are concerned that the proposed fee smacks of forcing the press to pay for news gathering.”

Sean Spicer, the communications director for the RNC, didn’t respond to an email seeking further comment on fee. Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for the RNC, told Roll Call that it isn’t actually an access fee.

“There is no access fee,” she said. “For custom built work stations, there will be a minimal charge at a fraction of the actual cost.”

It’s still a very big first.

Representatives from the Democratic Party didn’t promise their party wouldn’t follow suit.

“Obviously, this is a different year in terms of funding but it’s too early in our planning to make any definitive determinations,” emailed April Mellody, who is helping put together the Democrats’ convention.

That said, one person with knowledge of the Democrats’ plans said it’s extremely unlikely they will charge reporters to use press writing stands.

“It’s the precedent of charging for access and that’s what bothers us,” Salant said.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, October 20, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Freedom of The Press, GOP Convention, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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