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“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

“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

“It May Be Too Late For The GOP To Stop Trump”: The GOP Is Much More Trump’s Party Than Theirs

For decades, the Republican Party gave voters the impression that they get to pick the presidential nominee. The much-weakened GOP establishment theoretically has the power to choose someone else — but not, I believe, the strength of purpose to do it.

The author of this dilemma is, of course, Donald Trump. After a two-week pause in the primary schedule, Trump — a Manhattan icon — is expected to romp in New York on Tuesday and capture the lion’s share of the state’s 95 convention delegates. Polls show he is also likely to post big wins the following week, on April 26, in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The bigger his victory margins, the closer Trump can come to securing 1,237 delegates, a majority, and thus making all the “contested convention” machinations moot. But it seems likely that when all the primaries and caucuses are done, he will fall short. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that he comes to the convention with around 1,100 delegates — far more than rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich. What happens then?

The Cruz campaign has worked tirelessly, and quite successfully, to ensure that as many delegates as possible are Cruz supporters, even if they are pledged to vote for Trump on the convention’s first ballot, which presumably would be inconclusive. In subsequent rounds of voting, those delegates would be free to switch to the Cruz side — and ultimately give him the nomination.

To pull this off, however, Cruz would need the support, or at least the acquiescence, of party insiders — who dislike Cruz almost as much as Trump. Many leading Republicans believe, in fact, that Cruz, with his hard-right views, would be an even surer loser in November than the unpredictable Trump, who is unburdened by philosophy.

I have heard veterans of GOP smoke-filled rooms make the argument this way: If the party is going to incur the wrath of primary voters and caucus-goers by nominating someone other than Trump, why pick a candidate who will most likely lose to Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee? Why not pick someone who has a fighting chance with independents, such as John Kasich? Or even a “white knight” such as House Speaker Paul Ryan (who made clear last week that he does not want the nomination)?

I have also heard prominent Republicans argue that the convention delegates will have what amounts to a fiduciary duty to choose a candidate who is fit to serve as president. Trump’s volatile temperament and ignorance of policy, according to this view, make him ineligible.

And then there’s the political calculation. Some GOP graybeards believe the party is unlikely to capture the White House with any nominee. But Trump’s massive unpopularity with the wider electorate — about two-thirds of Americans view him unfavorably, and a recent Associated Press poll of registered voters found that 63 percent said they would never vote for him — could threaten the party’s Senate and House majorities. Cruz, Kasich or a white knight might lose without dragging the rest of the ticket down with them.

All of this is fascinating to ponder, at least for those who love politics. But I wouldn’t bet on any of these scenarios. I believe that if Trump comes anywhere close to a delegate majority, the party leadership caves and he gets the nomination.

Trump would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see what’s coming. In recent speeches, he has staked out the position that the candidate who comes to the convention with the biggest number of delegates should be the nominee, period. Polls show that a majority of Republicans agree with the helmet-haired billionaire. It turns out that once you tell people they get to choose their standard-bearer, they don’t take kindly to being patted on the head and told to go sit in the corner.

Trump’s newly hired convention manager, GOP veteran Paul Manafort, accused the Cruz campaign of using “Gestapo tactics” to steal delegates. Trump said Sunday that, gee, he sure hopes there’s no violence in Cleveland if the party establishment tries to take the nomination away from him. Not that he would ever suggest such a thing, of course.

As I said, all of this is moot if Trump wins a delegate majority outright. But if he narrowly misses the magic number, I don’t believe the debilitated establishment can muster the solidarity it would need to deny him. At this point, I’m afraid, the GOP is much more Trump’s party than theirs.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 18, 2016

April 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, New York Primaries | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ted Cruz’s Balancing Act; Anti-Trump Or Trump Lite?”: A Party Suddenly Divided Between Satan And Everybody Else

Ted Cruz took a break from his usual performance as a hammer-headed movement conservative yesterday and tried on the ill-fitting but perhaps essential clothes of a party unifier while in a private meeting of New York Republicans, according to a report from Politico‘s Katie Glueck.

Ted Cruz on Monday acknowledged he’s concerned about how a contested convention might “fracture” the party ahead of the general election, especially if Donald Trump lashes out should he lose the primary.

“There is no doubt, we are likely headed to a contested convention,” the Texas senator told a private gathering of Republicans here in Manhattan, according to audio of the meeting obtained by POLITICO. “One of the greatest risks of a contested convention is, if you come out with a party fractured, it potentially makes you vulnerable going into the general election. I believe, in a contested convention, we’ll have a strong advantage and we will earn the majority of the delegates and unify the party. But in that circumstance it’s not difficult to imagine Donald Trump getting very upset, and making his upsetness [known].”

This solicitude for the feelings of Trump and his supporters is impressive for the guy who in the vocabulary of the mogul’s campaign is routinely referred to as “Lyin’ Ted.” But it’s a real issue for him. If he’s the nominee, he’s already going to be a general election underdog. Dealing with a Trump Rump faction, whether or not it encompasses a third-party or indie campaign, could be fatal for Cruz. And he does have some natural ties to the Trump constituency in terms of being a Republican more eager to shoot terrorists as they allegedly cross the border than over in some godforsaken Middle Eastern country.

At the same time, though, Cruz cannot really start worrying about Trump voters until he’s fully used the #NeverTrump movement to put himself into a position to win the nomination. If Cruz goes out of his way to remind Republican officeholders that he was their nightmare candidate until Trump showed up as the real devil, the temptation to go for the gold in a contested convention and blow up Cruz on a third ballot after Cruz blows up Trump on the second ballot will be powerful.

Beyond all that, you just don’t get the sense that the junior senator from Texas was cut out to be a unity figure, even for a party suddenly divided between Satan and everybody else. Unity candidates are reassuring and have a knack for making you see your own reflection in their soft and soulful eyes. Cruz has the persona of someone who’s been told by his crazy father a thousand times that God has chosen him to redeem America from its secular socialist captors. He’s in the presidential race not to unite Republicans but to smite Babylon and maybe bring on the End Times. He thus does not represent a natural compromise between those who want to lower their marginal tax rates and melt the polar caps and those who mainly want to ensure they’ll never have to “press 1 for English” or hold their tongues in the presence of women and minorities ever again.

Cruz’s ultimate appeal to non-apocalyptic Republicans is as a necessary evil in an extreme situation. That’s a low bar all right, but not one Ted Cruz will leap with any height to spare.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 18, 2016

April 19, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 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

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