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“Most Would Join His Ticket Only If He Kidnapped Their Children”: How Badly Will Trump Hurt Himself With His Choice Of A Running Mate?

When Donald Trump was asked by a local television station about his potential choice of a running mate, he responded, “Everybody wants it, that I can tell you.” Like many of the things Trump says, it was a laughably transparent lie; there are any number of Republicans who have said that they wouldn’t run with Trump, and that only counts the ones who have been asked by reporters. The number of prominent politicians interested in that job is pretty small, and you can’t blame them; while it’s possible to run on a losing ticket and emerge with your reputation intact (as Paul Ryan did), spending a few months going around the country talking about what a great president Donald Trump would be is unlikely to be a career booster. To emphasize the point, today Trump tweeted, “The only people who are not interested in being the V.P. pick are the people who have not been asked!” Which is actually much closer to the truth, since there are lots of people he hasn’t asked (he may not have actually asked anyone yet), and most of them would join his ticket only if Trump kidnapped their children.

Nevertheless, there are some willing to take that plunge into the unknown with Trump, and he’s been meeting with them as he gets closer to a decision. On Saturday he got together with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and today he’s meeting Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. The other names we’ve heard mentioned most often are former House speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who is managing Trump’s transition planning), and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, whose relationship with Trump seems based on their shared anger about immigration.

Of course, as a successful businessman who has hired many people, Trump will give this decision all the care and deliberation it deserves, arriving at a choice that nearly all Americans will praise for its wisdom and foresight.

Or maybe not. In fact, there are multiple forces pushing Trump to make a choice that will hurt him, not help him.

He wouldn’t be the first nominee to do so. The truth is that running mates almost never help the nominee win the election; at best, their selection provides a few days of positive news coverage that gives a small bump in the polls, which soon settle right back down to where they were before. The only times where a running mate had an appreciable impact on the race were those where they hurt their nominee, as Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin did.

So the best strategy is for the nominee to choose someone who would actually make a good vice president. Judging by what he’s said to this point, Trump might have a hard time determining who could perform well in the job, since he seems to have virtually no idea what the federal government does or how it works. But the most important factors are that the VP have a strong relationship with the president (vice presidents can’t be effective unless everyone knows they can speak for the president) and that he have a detailed knowledge of government. The ones who have been effective, such as Joe Biden and Dick Cheney (in George W. Bush’s first term, though less so in his second) are those with long experience in Washington that enabled them to navigate the federal government’s complexities to accomplish the tasks the president set out for them.

Trump has seemed to acknowledge this by saying that he wants someone with Washington experience as a running mate, an insider who can make up for what Trump himself lacks. But many of the people on his list don’t really qualify. Christie hasn’t served in Washington, and Ernst has been there only a year and a half, during which time she’s just been a backbench senator in a Congress that does almost nothing. Sessions has been in Washington for almost two decades, but he’s not exactly known as a legislative wizard, not to mention the fact that when people are calling your campaign racist, choosing the guy who once said that he thought members of the KKK were “were OK until I found out they smoked pot” might not be a great idea. Pence spent a decade in Congress, so he’d have a case to make, as would Gingrich, who engineered the GOP takeover of 1994, then went down in flames just a few years later after he oversaw the impeachment of Bill Clinton while simultaneously carrying on his own extramarital affair.

If those are the only options, one might think Pence is the obvious choice. He’s colorless, bland, uncharismatic and has the appropriate résumé. But is it really plausible that Donald Trump would make that kind of choice? Wouldn’t he want someone with a little more pizazz?

Now add in the fact that Trump is trailing in the polls, which increases the incentive to try to do something dramatic to dominate the news and shake up the race — which Trump is inclined to do anyway. Of course, that’s the same impulse that led John McCain to pick Palin.

The internal dynamics of the Trump campaign are opaque, but one can’t help but picture the candidate leaning back in his chair and saying, “I gotta tell ya, I really think Newt would be great,” at which everyone else in the room grinds their teeth and looks around nervously at one another, until someone finally speaks up and says, “Sir, the problem with Newt is that, well, everyone hates him. Republicans, Democrats, independents — nobody can stand the guy.” On the other hand, Newt is such a self-important, pretentious blowhard that he and Trump must get along great. He’s a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like, which might make him irresistible to Trump.

On the other hand, Trump might surprise us and choose a running mate who hasn’t been publicly discussed. He might be persuaded by his staff to choose someone sober and responsible. But given what has happened up until this point, the real surprise would be if Trump didn’t make a decision that looked bad on first glance, then revealed itself to be even worse than anyone had imagined.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 4, 2016

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republicans, Vice-President Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cruz Wants The Mantle Of Camelot”: Why Do Conservatives Keep Talking About John F. Kennedy?

A day before Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas got an earful of Bronx jeers for his rightwing views on immigration and “New York values,” he summoned up the ghost of liberal icon John F. Kennedy to signal that his was a lofty, aspirational campaign not unlike one mounted by the youthful candidate for president way back in 1960.

“The American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack,” Cruz said, quoting JFK during his acceptance speech in Wisconsin, where he had trounced his main primary rival, front-runner Donald Trump. “We are not here to curse the darkness but to light a candle that can guide us from darkness to a safe and sane future.”

Cruz, who has slowed the potty-mouthed Trump’s momentum towards the Republican presidential nomination in Cleveland this summer, has pulled out other high minded phrases from the fallen crown prince of Camelot (and also from Winston Churchill) while on the stump.

In Massachusetts, the nation’s bluest state, he contended that Kennedy was “one of the most powerful and eloquent defenders of tax cuts.” He even contended: “JFK would be a Republican today. There is no room for John F. Kennedy in the modern Democratic Party.”

Unremarkably, Cruz’s commentary elicited angry blowback from Democrats, notably Jack Kennedy Schlossberg, JFK’s Grandson, who labeled the senator’s rhetoric “absurd” in an article for Politico Magazine in January. Schlossberg also denied Cruz’s assertion that Kennedy, who would be 98 years old if he were alive today, supported limited government.

“(Kennedy) created new federal programs with ambitious goals, such as the Peace Corps,” Schlossberg wrote from Tokyo. “He did not spend his years in the House and Senate devoted to obstructing the opposition. He certainly did not lead an effort, as Cruz did, to shut down the federal government to score political points and deny health insurance to millions.”

Cruz, of course, is hardly the first Republican to invoke JFK’s name, image and age on the campaign trail. As noted by many a political junkie, Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana, George H.W. Bush’s pick for vice president in 1988, spoke of Kennedy when defending his inexperience during a debate with Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentson, his much older Democratic counterpart and running mate of unsuccessful presidential hopeful Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Bentson famously put down Quayle with scathing disdain: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

These days, Michael R. Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York since 1988, which was founded in 1962 with support from conservative icon William F. Buckley, doesn’t believe that Cruz’s praise of JFK is a deviation from conservative orthodoxy. “There’s no problem with Cruz (invoking) JFK,” he told The National Memo in a telephone conversation. “Reagan invoked JFK on tax cuts,” added Long, who also noted that Kennedy’s legacy crosses party lines: “He was an inspirational person who brought a lot of hope to a lot of Americans. Probably some conservatives voted for him because of his love of America.”

It appears that Cruz’s use of Democratic imagery is his attempt to sell what is otherwise a far-right candidacy to voters from both parties as well as independents. Last summer, Cruz told PBS host Tavis Smiley that his campaign was “modeled” after President Obama’s successful 2008 primary campaign with its emphasis on social media. Others don’t quite agree with that assessment

“While Cruz may hope to attract Democratic votes, I can’t think that’s his primary motivation,” said David Birdsell, Ph.D., Dean of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs in an email to this reporter. “Kennedy was known as a great speaker, Cruz fancies himself a great speaker too. Kennedy was the youngest person elected to the presidency, Cruz is only two years older than Kennedy was. Cruz wants the mantle of Camelot, but the garment doesn’t fit well and he suffers in the comparison.”

Birdsell, who believes Canada’s Justin Trudeau is far more “genuinely Kennedy-esque” than Cruz or Quayle, does regard the Texas senator as a political pro who has recognized the quality of Obama’s field operation. “He obviously loathes Obama but has the perspicacity to know there was something to learn from his campaign. That reflects well on Cruz, and the quality of his own field operation is the single most important reason he’s in second place. Lesson learned.”

Cruz, however, hit a roadblock in the Bronx this week for his hardline views on immigration and had to cancel a meeting at a charter school after students threatened a walkout. State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., a conservative Democrat who is also a pastor at a Bronx pentacostal church, hosted a sparsely attended event for him at Chinese-Dominican restaurant in Parkchester that also drew a few shouting local protestors.

Diaz, whose more liberal son Ruben Diaz, Jr. is the Bronx borough president and labels Cruz a hypocrite, said that he may also “do something” in the Bronx for Donald Trump, whose views are similarly loathed by many in the hispanic community.

“We’ve got to do something about the 12 million undocumented immigrants,” said the elder Diaz. “I want to build a wall to make America great again,” he added with a laugh, echoing Trump.

Trump, meanwhile, has put himself in the same league as Ronald Reagan on the issues, while his admirers have invoked Teddy Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson to describe his bellicose bloviating.

As for Trump’s purported allegiance to Reagan’s policies, Michael Long of the Conservative Party dismisses that notion. “He doesn’t come close to Ronald Reagan. He’s more like a populist candidate. Trump has brought a different style to this campaign that’s different from anything I’ve witnessed in my entire life.”

 

By: Mary Reinholz, The National Memo, April 11, 2016

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, John F. Kennedy, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Unreasoned Republican Roulette”: The GOP Tries To Move Beyond Cantaloupes On Immigration

Last week Rep. Steve King of Iowa made headlines when Right Wing Watch reported that he had smeared the vast majority of undocumented immigrants as drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes” from “hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” After well-deserved criticism from both his own party’s leadership and the White House, King defiantly stood by his remarks, claiming that he is the one being unfairly attacked. On the House floor, King cried, “I challenge this civilization to be reasonable!”

Good idea, Representative King. Let’s be reasonable.

And what exactly does a “reasonable” stance on immigration look like? One place we might look for clues is in the views of the majority of our country. There’s no question that fixing our broken immigration system is the right thing to do, but it is also the politically popular thing to do. A Gallup poll released this month found that 88 percent of Americans support creating a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including 83 percent of conservatives. A large majority (71 percent) say it is either “very” or “extremely” important that Congress pass new laws to reform our immigration system. Americans of all political stripes are on board with creating common-sense immigration laws.

Even prominent Republican donors are urging House GOP members to act on immigration. A letter sent Tuesday to Republican members of Congress, signed by the likes of Karl Rove and former vice president Dan Quayle, notes, “Standing in the way of reform ensures that we perpetuate a broken system that stifles our economy… and risk a long-lasting perception that Republicans would rather see nothing done than pass needed reform.”

A long-lasting perception, indeed — one that isn’t helped by the incendiary remarks of far-right GOP leaders like Rep. King, who, in addition to his most recent comments, has also compared immigrants to dogs. And King’s comments are only some examples from a whole wing of the GOP dead set against needed reform and downright offensive in their rhetoric. Just last week remarks surfaced of Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli comparing immigration policy to rat extermination. And Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has campaigned hard against immigration reform, calling it “a crock.”

But that’s not the only path possible for the party. Big name Republicans and everyday Americans alike are giving GOP House members a choice: Stand with common sense, majority opinion, and justice by supporting urgently-needed immigration reform, or give in to the voices of extremism who think immigrants are rodents and cantaloupe-calved drug runners.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, July 31, 2013

August 1, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Immigrants | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wishing On A Star”: The Debates Won’t Save Mitt Romney

If you’re a Romney partisan, and you’ve seen Barack Obama move ahead in the polls over the last couple of weeks, you may be saying to yourself, “Maybe the debates can save him.” After all, the four debates (three presidential, one VP) are the the only planned events between now and election day. Though you never know what kind of unexpected events might occur, tens of millions of voters will be watching. And so many times in the past, the race has been transformed by a dramatic debate moment.

Except that’s actually not true. As John Sides lays out quite well, after all the sound and fury, debates almost never change the trajectory of the race. Of course, something never happens up until the moment that it happens, but there’s strong reason to believe that the debates will change nothing this year in particular. But before I get to that, here’s Sides:

Why are presidential debates so often inconsequential? After all, many voters do pay attention. Debates routinely attract the largest audience of any televised campaign event. And voters do learn new information, according to several academic studies. But this new information is not likely to change many minds. The debates occur late in the campaign, long after the vast majority of voters have arrived at a decision. Moreover, the debates tend to attract viewers who have an abiding interest in politics and are mostly party loyalists. Instead of the debates affecting who they will vote for, their party loyalty affects who they believe won the debates. For example, in a CNN poll after one of the 2008 debates, 85 percent of Democrats thought that Obama had won, but only 16 percent of Republicans agreed.

All those memorable gaffes—George H.W. looking at his watch, Michael Dukakis not pounding his lecturn at the suggestion of his wife’s rape and murder, Al Gore sighing—turn out not to have had any discernible impact on the race. What was almost certainly the most disastrous debate performance of all—Dan Quayle’s in 1988—did not, you may recall, prevent him from becoming Vice President.

And this year is even less likely to produce anything significant. As James Fallows explained, Mitt Romney is at his best when he can prepare carefully, and at his worst when he’s taken by surprise. Over the course of the 500 or so primary debates the Republicans held, he was clearly the most informed and serious-seeming of the GOP candidates. Of course, besting Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann in verbal combat doesn’t exactly make you the Ted Williams of debating, but there’s little doubt Romney will show himself to reasonably knowledgeable, for what it’s worth. His problem, though, is that it isn’t worth much. He doesn’t need to convince Americans he can recite a ten-point plan, he needs to convince them that within him beats the heart of an actual human, one who understands and cares about them. The chances of him doing that are pretty slim.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 20, 2012

September 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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