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“Bloodbath Alert”: Donald Trump Issues New Threat To Destroy The GOP

The big news of the morning is that the weak, doomed-in-advance efforts by Republican Party elders to hold off a crack-up of their party may be collapsing before our eyes: Donald Trump and his two rivals have now backed off their pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.

Here’s Trump:

“No, I don’t anymore,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, when asked if he remains committed to the pledge. Trump said that he would instead wait to see who emerges as the nominee before promising his support, recanting the pledge he previously signed with the Republican Party.

“I have been treated very unfairly,” Trump added.

It was always painfully obvious that Trump, in originally joining the Republican National Committee’s “loyalty pledge,” had carefully given himself an out, stating that he reserved the right to abandon the pledge if he were treated “unfairly.” Conveniently enough, Trump also knew he could define what constituted “unfair” treatment. Now he has done exactly this.

The crucial point here is not that this necessarily means Trump will run a third-party candidacy if the nomination goes to someone else at a contested convention. He may try to do that, but such an effort might depend on ballot logistics. Rather, what really matters here is that Trump is signaling his possible intention to do maximum damage to the party if he is denied the nomination, through whatever means he has at his disposal.

We simply don’t have any idea yet how much damage Trump can do to the Republican Party. It could go well beyond denying Republicans the White House. If a raging Trump, having lost the nomination at a contested convention, urges millions of his followers not to vote Republican, it could cause large numbers of GOP voters to sit out the election, potentially rupturing their plans for holding their Senate majority.

The significance of this spills over into the Supreme Court fight, too: GOP Senate leaders are explicitly refusing to consider Barack Obama’s nominee to keep the base energized, in hopes of holding that Senate majority. The idea: Republican voters might be fizzed up by the GOP leadership’s awesome willingness to do whatever it takes to prevent a liberal Court, and by the added benefit this strategy has of seeming to stick a thumb in the eye of Obama’s legitimacy as president. But Trump — by doing all he can to rupture the base — could roll a grenade into the center of all this.

Even if Trump wins the nomination with a minimum of convention drama, that, too, could do a lot of damage. If a lot of GOP voters alienated by Trump back the Democratic nominee or sit the election out, that could imperil GOP control of the Senate. It’s possible this could also begin to produce cracks in the GOP’s House majority. Paul Kane reports that political observers are suggesting it now looks possible that a Trump nomination could lead to major gains for Democrats in the House. Winning the 30 seats needed to take back the majority still looks like a major long shot. But some analysts think “double digit gains” for Dems are possible:

Such a big loss would leave Republicans holding the slimmest House majority either party has held in more than a decade. That could further destabilize the control of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan over a chamber in which his conservative flank has recently rebelled against his agenda.

If Republicans do lose the Senate, a much smaller House majority could matter a lot in determining whether the House can continue to function for Republicans as a kind of ideological island fortress, seemingly impregnable to the pressures of demographic and cultural change and evolving national public opinion.

This is why some Republicans may move to push a third-party challenger if Trump does win the nomination — to give Republicans a reason to go to the polls and vote for Senate and Congressional incumbents. But even in this scenario, they’d effectively be sacrificing the White House in order to do as much as possible to salvage their Senate (and House!!!) majority.

To be sure, it’s possible that Cruz could win the nomination at a contested convention and that Trump could support him. While this would also likely cost Republicans the White House, it could avert the most damaging down-ticket scenarios. But it’s also possible that we’ve only just begun to glimpse the damage Trump can do to the GOP.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 30, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Loyalty Pledge, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Establishment Heroes?”: Romney, Ryan Won’t Come To The Republicans’ Rescue

It’s a dream more than a few Republican officials have no doubt had in recent months: the party’s presidential nominating contest remains unresolved through June, and a contested election opens the door to Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan rescuing Republicans by riding in on a white horse. “Finally!” party officials declare in the dream. “Our establishment heroes will rescue us from the dreaded Trump monster!”

There are, of course, all kinds of problems with the fantasy. For one thing, both Romney and Ryan – who comprised the party’s failed 2012 ticket – have said they have no intention of seeking national office in 2016. For another, if the party sticks to its Rule 40, neither of these guys would even be eligible for the nomination.

But even putting this aside, there’s a more obvious problem: the American mainstream just doesn’t like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan that much. Public Policy Polling published some interesting results today:

PPP’s newest national poll finds that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wouldn’t exactly be the solution to the GOP’s Donald Trump problem, with Romney doing even worse head to head against Hillary Clinton than Trump does.

That’s not an exaggeration, by the way. For all the recent interest in Trump’s poor standing with the American mainstream – interest that’s well deserved given his position as the GOP’s frontrunner – Romney actually fares worse in hypothetical general election match-ups.

In the PPP results, both Clinton and Sanders lead Trump by about eight points nationally. Romney, however, trails both of the Democratic candidates by double digits.

The pollster’s analysis added, “Romney is incredibly unpopular nationally now – his 23/65 favorability rating is even worse than the 29/63 Trump comes in at.” It may seem odd, but when Romney delivered his recent speech condemning Trump, most of the public liked the attacker even less than his target.

And what about the Republican House Speaker? PPP found that the Wisconsin congressman would trail Clinton and Sanders in a general election by 5% and 7%, respectively, which is pretty similar to the advantages Clinton and Sanders enjoy over Trump.

In other words, the imagined saviors of the party wouldn’t actually save the party. Plenty of voters remember the last two Republicans on the national ticket, but that doesn’t mean they’re remembered fondly.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 31, 2016

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Rudderless Ship”: This Little-Discussed Organizational Issue Could Create Total Chaos At The Republican Convention

In early June, several hundred paid professionals and a supporting army of volunteers will slowly begin to assemble near the banks of the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, with the quadrennial mission of planning and executing a Republican National Convention, scheduled for July 18 to 21, at Quicken Loans Arena, in Cleveland. The event is convened by the RNC, but the ostensible managers actually play a subordinate role. Over the past four decades, their job has been only to build an apparatus for the conclave — a solid but mindless machine — and then turn it over to the “putative nominee” along with a long list of decisions that must be made to bring the event to life and then to fruition.

In a normal election year, the RNC’s Committee on Arrangements gives the assumed general election candidate and his staff a schedule of speakers with no names; the skeleton of a platform with few planks; some ideas for framing acceptance speeches with no actual speeches; and a process for total control of every word placed on a teleprompter, and for making sure nothing else gets said in the hall, but missing the vetters and enforcers who will crack the supplied whip.

But this time around — if, say, neither Donald Trump nor (less likely) Ted Cruz manage to rack up 1237 delegates — there may be no one to whom the keys to this turnkey operation can be handed. If there is a contested convention with any doubt about the identity of the nominee, a planning process that depends entirely on the arrival of a candidate-captain at least a couple of weeks before the first gavel drops will instead be rudderless. That in turn could immensely complicate the process of naming a nominee, and at the same time turn the convention from the highly choreographed informercial we’ve seen in both parties for decades into a disorganized mess that undermines the show of unity these events are intended to produce.

News media interest in a contested convention so far has focused almost entirely on byzantine scenarios for the presidential balloting and what they might produce. But a better and more immediate question is whether chaos will break out long before the balloting begins, in the full view of cameras and with no one in particular in charge.

As I’ve confirmed by conversations with veterans of conventions in both parties (and from my own experience as a script and speech staffer at six Democratic conventions), the modern national party conclave is designed to be celebratory, not deliberative. Many internal convention decisions normally made by the putative nominee’s operatives will have to be made some other way, and the number of conflicts could massively proliferate if the nomination contest spills over into every corner of the event, making every routine decision part of the struggle for power. Is the chairman of the host committee who typically greets delegates after the opening gavel a Trump person or a Cruz person? Maybe the convention needs two greeters! Is there boilerplate language in the draft platform carried over from the last five conventions that could serve as a point of departure for undermining a candidate’s support (e.g., vague support for trade agreements condemned as job losers by Trump or for infrastructure investments condemned by Cruz as wasteful)? They won’t be boilerplate anymore; they could become the meat and potatoes of minority reports and platform fights. Normally non-controversial proceedings such as credentials and rules could and probably will become exceptionally controversial, making “neutral” decision-making by the event’s nomenklatura impossible.

The potential for and fallout from a fight over convention rules — normally something handled long before the convention itself, out of the public eye — was actually illustrated by the 2012 GOP convention. Putative nominee Mitt Romney’s people grew so annoyed by the possibility of trouble on the floor from Ron Paul delegates (many named in post-primary-delegate-selection events that diverged dramatically from actual voters’ preferences) that the rules were rewritten to make Paul officially a non-candidate. Traditionally at Republican conventions candidates just needed some supporters in five delegations to have their names placed in nomination and roll call votes recorded for them. In 2012, a new rule (Rule 40) was adopted raising the delegation threshold to a majority of eight delegations. If not amended or repealed prior to or at the Cleveland convention (by a Rules Committee composed of two delegates for each state, and then confirmed by the full convention) Rule 40 could, ironically (given its Establishment provenance), wind up ruling out or at least limiting any competition for Donald Trump.

If there are any unresolved state-level disputes over properly credentialed delegates at the end of the primary process, those, too, could be revived at the convention if a candidate has something to gain or lose from a particular delegate being ruled in or out. In recent years the convention’s Credentials Committee has done its work discreetly, but again, if seating decisions have any impact whatsoever on the arithmetic of the nomination contest, they will suddenly be a big and controversial deal.

In this leaderless situation, there are really only two basic approaches the convention management can take. It can treat the absence of a putative nominee as a vacuum to be filled and plunge ahead with good-faith decisions made in loco parentis, subject to reversal by the full convention. If, as seems likely, the two viable presidential candidates in Cleveland are Trump and Cruz, decisions that may affect their interests (on, say, credentials or rules challenges, or even on which friends or enemies get prime speaking roles) coming from Convention CEO Jeff Larson — Reince Priebus’s appointee — or from Convention Chairman Paul Ryan will draw immediate and intensely hostile attention. Remember that Trump and Cruz are living repudiations of everything the RNC called for in its famous post-2012 “autopsy” report. Many of the operational people they will confront during those potentially tense weeks in June when decisions about the convention simply have to be made are presumptive enemies and saboteurs. It will not make for a cooperative atmosphere.

Besides, there’s only so much party or convention officials can do to offset the absence of a putative nominee. The overriding purpose of the modern party convention is to tout the nominee’s sterling personal qualities, inspiring “story,” accomplished record, and courageous agenda. Not knowing the identity of the hero to be lionized leaves little to be done other than to attack the opposition, perhaps too often and too loudly for the party’s good. The 1992 Republican convention, which featured Patrick Buchanan’s prescient but controversial “culture war” speech, showed the risks of too negative a convention message.

The alternative and politically safer approach for a convention without a putative nominee is to allow representatives of all viable candidates for the nomination to participate in decisions. So if Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the only active and feasible candidates going into Cleveland, the convention managers could simply duplicate the usual approach and have two sets of eyes on absolutely everything they do. Aside from making decisions harder rather than easier, this approach could politicize virtually everything the convention does, however minor, generating fight after fight.

This is the messy scenario that a contested convention is likely to create in the run-up to the event and over the first two to three days before the first (and possibly subsequent) presidential ballots are cast. If the chaos is allowed to proliferate or if inversely it is quelled with too much force, the legitimacy of the nomination itself could be called into question. And even if that doesn’t happen, very little time will be available after the nominee is known to get the party and the convention prepared for the rousing unity gestures of the crucial final night. One can easily imagine frantically suppressed protests, rows of empty seats, security and message-discipline lapses (like the Clint Eastwood fiasco of 2012), and just a bad scene all around.

The people already engaged in planning Cleveland surely know these growing risks, even if they are not eager to talk about it publicly, and even though the pundits haven’t focused on all the small and boring “process questions” that together add up to a potential calamity for Republicans. Maybe they can devise some radical changes in convention procedures to reduce the risk, such as front-loading the presidential balloting as much as possible to increase the percentage of the convention that’s “bossed” as it should be. Perhaps someone like Paul Ryan has the prestige to knock heads in those crucial days of late June and early July and force the remaining candidates to agree on as many things as possible out of sight of the cameras.

But all in all, and whatever their private candidate preferences, the people charged with executing this convention should probably hope Trump puts away the contest on June 7 decisively enough to remove the temptation of deliberation from Cleveland. For all the contrived gravity of motions made and seconded and votes recorded, American political conventions these days work best when they are Potemkin Villages built rapidly on the Prince’s orders to fool the casual observer.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 27, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Here’s A Shocker”: Republican Voters Really Don’t Care For The Idea Of Party Elites Picking The Nominee

It’s understandable that everybody’s absorbed with figuring out the various ways Republican Party elites could find to screw Donald Trump and/or Ted Cruz out of the presidential nomination and impose on the GOP a candidate more to their — and general-election voters’ — liking. After all, the whole “contested convention” thing is pretty novel, as is the white-hot antipathy of so many prominent Republicans to their party’s most likely nominee in a year when they thought they were going to have a downhill path to the White House.

What most of this speculation ignores is the growing evidence that actual Republican voters would not take too kindly to being shoved out of the decision-making process for a nominee. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post points to two emphatic data points:

A new Bloomberg Politics poll finds that 63 percent of Republican voters nationwide think that the winner of the most delegates should get the GOP nomination, even if he does not win an outright majority. Only 33 percent say the delegates at a contested convention should pick the nominee instead …

  [A] CNN poll earlier this week … found that by 60-38, Republican voters think the candidate with the most delegates should get the nomination, even without a majority.

As Sargent notes, both polls also showed Trump losing to Hillary Clinton in a general election, which will be the party elites’ excuse for taking over the nomination process if they can — and if they dare.

But they could be courting disaster if they do so. An even more emphatic indicator of rank-and-file antipathy to a bossed convention comes from a HuffPost/YouGov survey, which shows only 16 percent of self-identified Republicans and leaners being “satisfied” with a nominee chosen from outside the current field, while the idea makes 55 percent angry. The second-worst idea, respondents to the survey say, would be to nominate John Kasich, the closest thing to an acceptable-to-the-Establishment candidate left in the field and the brandisher of many a general-election poll. Seems Republicans who keep passing up opportunities to vote for Kasich may mean it.

There is, of course, more than a little irony in the insistence of Republican voters on intra-party democracy. This is, after all, the party that’s busy creating potholes in the path to the ballot box anywhere it can. And you could make the argument that latter-day “constitutional conservatism” is all about creating iron-clad protections for conservative governing models (and the interests that benefit from them) against popular majorities acting through Congress or the presidency to enact progressive policies. There’s very significant support among conservative activists for repealing the 17th Amendment to take away direct election of U.S. senators in favor of returning the privilege to state legislators.

In that context, this sort of opinion expressed by North Dakota RNC member Curly Haugland isn’t so surprising:

“Do the primaries choose a nominee or do the convention delegates?” he asked. “It can’t be both.” “Democracy is pretty popular,” he added, “but it’s simply not the way we do it.”

I suspect party leaders like Haugland are in the process of finding out that Republicans want democracy for themselves even if they are occasionally willing to deny it to those people who are presumed to want to live off the hard work of virtuous older white people, or murder their own babies, or force bakers of conscience to create same-sex-wedding cakes. And a “brokered convention” that ignores this sentiment may soon find those sunny general-election polls showing some non-Trump or non-Cruz candidate winning may be premature.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 25, 2016

March 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Voters, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Donald Is Trumping The #NeverTrumps”: Can Ted Cruz Or John Kasich Stop The Trump Train?

Terrible tag-team, murder-suicide or surrender? Those are the options available for the ill-named, ill-executed and probably ill-fated #NeverTrump movement.

The Ides of March were unkind to retiring Sen. Marco Rubio, whose hope-not-fear, praise the lord farewell speech could just as easily have been a brief Et tu, Florida? Then fall Marco! Rubio had played Brutus to Jeb Bush, his former governor and mentor, and then it was retired reality TV star Donald Trump, who doth bestride the party like a colossus, who administered the coup de grace against Rubio in the Sunshine State.

That reduced the GOP field to three finalists, only one of whom – Trump – has a clear and realistic path to an acceptance speech on the final night of the GOP convention in Cleveland. In addition to Florida, he picked up wins in Illinois and North Carolina and was in a tight battle for Missouri.

The one place he fell clearly short was in Ohio, where the popular, two-term governor – John Kasich – held serve and survived the kind of existential test that took Rubio down. But, as I argued last week would be the case, dopey Don won for losing: Kasich’s victory “guarantees at least two not-Trumps remain in the field … with Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz splitting the non-Trump portion of the pie.”

Do you want more happy news, Trump-ists? Savor this: Per The Washington Post’s Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy, the two states that have gotten seen the biggest anti-Trump independent expenditure efforts thus far (or at least through March 13, when the latest Federal Election Commission records were available to them) were Florida, where at least $15.7 million was spent, and Illinois, where another $5.3 million was poured in. Guess in which two states Trump ran up the biggest margins Tuesday night? That’s right – the Sunshine State and the Land of Lincoln, both places where Trump scored double-digit wins.

So where does that leave team #NeverTrump? With a series of unappealing options. In spite of Kasich’s win, this is arguably a two-man race now between Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is the only other candidate anywhere near the real estate tycoon in terms of delegates. But Cruz faces a number of problems, starting with his own alienating personality and approach to politics. The non-Trump GOP may yet coalesce around him, but it’ll do so holding its collective nose. Anyone who hadn’t made a virtue of accumulating enemies in Washington would already have the not-Trump field to himself by now.

And the time it took to winnow the field can be marked off in the Southern states and more heavily religious electorates that have cast their ballots already. Here’s where the campaign trail leads for Republicans: the Arizona primary and Utah caucus next week; Wisconsin two weeks later and New York two weeks after that; and then a week later most of the remaining Northeastern states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Where does Cruz notch his next victory? Trump’s going to be strong in Arizona, with former Gov. Jan Brewer and immigration nut Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his corner. Maybe the freshman Texas senator can score a victory in Utah but the map looks bleak after that. Can he go oh-for-April and survive until Indiana on May 3?

As FiveThirtyEight’s Carl Bialik observed Tuesday night, polls show that Trump is stronger vis a vis Cruz in states that haven’t voted yet:

Trump led Cruz by 17 points in places with votes on or before March 15, according to data provided by the online-polling company SurveyMonkey, based on its interviews of 8,624 Republican registered voters from Feb. 29 to March 6. But Trump’s lead expanded to 24 points in places that vote later.

In a hypothetical head-to-head against Cruz, Trump led by 1 point in places that had voted by today, but by 8 points everywhere else. As our delegate tracker indicates, Cruz needed a lead over Trump by now to be on track for a majority of delegates, because the voting gets tougher for him from here.

And that brings us back to Kasich. Appearing on CNN after winning the Buckeye State, the governor was spouting some fairly high octane spin: “I may go to the convention before this is over with more delegates than anybody else,” he said. “There’s 1,000 yet to pick.” Here’s the thing: Even if Kasich – who has less delegates than the dear-departed Rubio – wins those 1,000 or so delegates, he won’t get to the 1,237 needed for the nomination. And the guy whose first win in 31 tries just came in his home state isn’t poised to win the next 1,000 delegates anyway.

At this point Kasich’s sole hope – and arguably sole purpose – is to deny Trump delegates where Cruz is ill-equipped to do so. It’s the carve-up-the-map strategy offered last month by 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove laid it out on Fox Tuesday night: “Look at the contests coming up: We have bunch of Western states where Ted Cruz is probably likely to do well,” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of Northeastern states where he hasn’t been doing well where he hasn’t been doing well where John Kasich has done well. So you’ve got Cruz who could cover you know Utah and Arizona and Montana [on June 7] and you could have Kasich who could challenge Trump in places like Connecticut and Delaware. … It gets us to an even more contested convention. In chaos is opportunity for the little guy.”

This is what we’ve come to: Rove is trying to chart a path into chaos for his party in the hopes of benefiting the GOP establishment, or the “little guy” as he puts it. This is, by the way, the third of the five stages of Trump: the first two are the convictions that he could be stopped before or during the primaries and the third is the hope of a convention battle.

So the #NeverTrump-ists and their allies – specifically the Cruz and Kasich campaigns – have to decide quickly whether the last not-Trumps can either tag-team the front-runner before he recedes entirely from their view or at least stay out of each other’s way; the alternative is to continue competing with each other in the grim game of winnowing while more contests slide inexorably past them into Trump’s column.

Because sooner is becoming later and before they know it, the #NeverTrump will be faced with its own existential test: Whether to morph into #NeverTrumpUntilHeFacesHillary.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, March 17, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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