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“It’s Not Too Late To Stop The GOP Apocalypse”: Republicans Are Sleepwalking Toward Catastrophe

These are, as the Chinese curse goes, interesting times. In a Republican presidential debate, the leading candidate defends the size of his penis and attacks the Constitution, asserting that he will order the U.S. military to commit war crimes. A few days earlier the same candidate said on national television that he had to “do research” on the KKK, David Duke, and white supremacism before he could take a position. During the week, the frontrunner threatened Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, because the Post had dared write articles he thought critical. “And believe me, if I become president,” Trump said, “oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

Welcome to Donald Trump’s world. Trump isn’t the first ridiculous character to run for president—Al Sharpton ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004—nor the first openly bigoted candidate—George Wallace ran for president three times. But Trump is the first ridiculous, openly bigoted candidate who stands a very good chance to win a major party’s nomination.

How did this happen? This was supposed to be the cycle with a great field of Republican candidates, experienced governors, two Cuban-American senators, a world famous African-American brain surgeon, a superstar female business leader. And yes, a reality television star billionaire who lived on Fifth Avenue and claimed to speak for the working men and women of America. The Democrats were mired in the past with two refugees from the 1960s, one an obscure democratic socialist from a tiny state who speaks fondly of a top marginal tax rate of 90 percent.With only 23 percent of voters believing the country was headed in the right direction, this election was to be a glorious march to a sweeping Republican victory. It all looked so easy, so sure.

But here we are in March and the leading Republican candidate is not only blasting Mexicans as “rapists,” researching the KKK, and treating the Constitution like it was an item on a menu you might or might not order depending on your mood; he is getting crushed by the socialist Larry David look-alike. You have to work at that.

Of course this sort of crazy confluence of events and unintended consequences has indeed happened before, and Barbara Tuchman described it beautifully in her classic Guns of August. The 1962 Pulitzer Prize winner describes how the civilized world blundered into World War I, that most savage of wars that no one seemed to have wanted and everyone was powerless to stop. In what was hailed as a moment of great renewal, a new century of golden opportunity quickly degenerated into the slaughterhouse of the Somme. That same toxic blend of miscalculation, greed, and arrogance that led to that war have all played out in the Republican primary.

It’s everyone’s fault and no one’s fault. There were some who welcomed Trump onto the presidential scene, confident that he could help scold an out-of-touch establishment slow to grasp the problems of a troubled America. In a July 2015 Politico piece, National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote that Trump had hit “on an important truth that typical politicians either don’t know or simply fear to speak. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best.” That’s obviously true,” wrote Lowry, who compared him to “Herman Cain squared—an early-nominating-season phenomenon with a massive media megaphone.”

By January, Lowry’s magazine was dedicating an entire issue to the urgency of stopping the threat of Trump, who “would destroy the conservative movement.” And I was just as wrong, if not more so. I wrote that facing a loss in Iowa, Trump’s ego would tilt him toward leaving the stage before being proven a loser. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

For various reasons, the Republican candidates have enabled Trump’s rise, slow to launch a concerted attack, largely giving him a clear path. Each candidate seemed more obsessed with this currently popular but insane notion of winning a “lane” rather than winning a race, while Trump was focused on winning a race. The civilized world raised a vast army and entrusted it to Jeb Bush’s Super PAC, Right to Rise. Instead of fighting the barbarians, it decided to fight other elements of the civilized word. Advantage, Barbarians.

So here we are. It takes 1,237 delegates to secure the Republican nomination. There seems little chance that any candidate other than Trump has a realistic shot at hitting that number before the convention. Logic dictates that the remaining candidates should focus on holding Trump as far below 1,237 as possible, with the goal of pushing the convention to a second ballot. While some speculate a second ballot might be a scenario for a new candidate like Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan to enter the race, that strikes me as unlikely. The far more plausible outcome would find two candidates joining together to form a ticket, pooling delegates to get over 1,237.

There are many—including, strangely, Ted Cruz—who attack this convention possibility as being one that would thwart “the will of the people,” to use a phrase that seems popular. This is utter nonsense. There are rules for securing the nomination, and as long as the rules are adhered to, the game has been played fairly. In 1976, the great conservative Ronald Reagan took his fight to the convention and came within one delegation (Mississippi’s) of defeating a sitting Republican president, Jerry Ford. Surely if a convention strategy is good enough to challenge a Republican president, it’s good enough to challenge a major Clinton donor like Donald Trump.

As the process moves into a slate of winner-take-all states, the key to the convention strategy—call it the Reagan Strategy, not the brokered-convention strategy—is for Rubio and Kasich to win their home states. But in what strikes me as a bizarre move, Ted Cruz is moving resources to Florida and attacking Marco Rubio on the air. Why? Does Cruz think he can win Florida? It seems the longest of shots. Much more likely is that he helps hand the state to Donald Trump. That will all but finish any chance Cruz has of becoming the Republican nominee.

So the madness and miscalculation apparently continues. The Republican Party is lurching toward the Somme, where death and destruction will replace hopes for a November victory. Dig your trench. Get your gas mask. The boys aren’t going to be home by Christmas.

 

By: Stuart Stevens, The Daily Beast, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Six Years Later, Still In A Bind”: RNC Chair’s Broken Promise Caused 2016 Nightmare

Reince Priebus had an awkward morning.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee appeared before some of his biggest skeptics at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and all but conceded that Trump will be the nominee.

It was hard to watch.

Priebus walked onstage with Sean Hannity, and the pair plopped down in bright white chairs for a heart-to-heart about the state of the presidential race. They started with a fairly dry discussion of the RNC’s re-vamped role as a data-gathering organization, with Priebus insisting that the party was doing everything it could to replicate Obama’s 2012 voter-targeting successes.

In 2012, Priebus noted, the party was “embarrassed.”

(Would hate for anything embarrassing to happen this time around!)

Priebus then effectively put a stake in the heart of Rubio’s presidential hopes. According to reports, Rubio and his team are gearing up for a chaotic turn at the party’s convention this summer—that means they hope they can use back-room deals and horse-trading to help Rubio win the nomination, even if Trump or another candidate gets more votes than he does in the primaries. There’s an emerging consensus that this is the only way Rubio could become the party’s nominee. After all, he’s only won a single early state contest, the Minnesota caucuses. Not great.

But Priebus said he doesn’t think any machinations like that will work.

“I think a lot of this is early talk,” he said, alluding to Rubio’s strategy.

“I think the odds of a contested convention are very small.”

When Hannity pressed him further on the prospects of a contested convention, Priebus all-but-explicitly made a dig at Rubio.

“I would suggest that it’s better to win,” he said. “And it’s better to win races and accumulate delegates.”

There’s only one candidate who is on track to win the nomination the old-fashioned way, and last night he bragged about his penis size.

It wasn’t always this way for Priebus. He was hailed as a hero when he came into the position as Republican National Committee boss following the Tea Party-driven election of 2010. While the election results from that year were fantastic for the RNC, the committee had been rocked by a spending scandal—including a bill for nearly $2,000 at a bonage club in West Hollywood. Donors blamed then-chairman Michael Steele.

Six years later, it was Priebus who was in a bind.

Perhaps more significantly, though, Priebus telegraphed a wee bit of chagrin about his party’s undeliverable (and somewhat impossible) promises. Towards the end of their chit-chat, Hannity pressed Priebus on a fact that’s very ugly for the party: Its voters are pissed.

“You look at the state polls, exit polls in every state, there’s anywhere between 55 and 65 percent of Republicans that feel betrayed,” he said.

“On the issue of repealing and replacing Obamacare, on the issue of promising in 2014 to stop executive amnesty, there’s a feeling that Republicans didn’t fight, that they were too timid, that they were afraid they were gonna get blamed for a government shutdown. How does that —”

Priebus interrupted.

“Yeah, if I could singlehandedly repeal Obamacare, if I could, obviously, tear up executive amnesty, I would do it right here,” he said.

“But they had the power of the purse,” Hannity retorted.

“They do, but they also have the Constitution that provides for veto authority,” Priebus replied.

That might sound like a wonky discussion about the mechanics of Congressional funding. But the reality is that it went straight to the heart of why so many loyal, rank-and-file Republican voters are willing to support the guy with the little hands: because on immigration, the Republican Party has over-promised and under-delivered.

In the final week before the 2014 midterm elections, when Republicans were working furiously to defeat incumbent Democrat senators and regain control of the upper chamber, Priebus made a promise he couldn’t keep: He promised that Republicans would defund the president’s executive action protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

“While I can’t speak for the legislature, I’m very confident we will stop that,” he told a Tea Party group on a conference call. “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen: Defunding, going to court, injunction. You name it. It’s wrong. It’s illegal. And for so many reasons, and just the basic fabric of this country, we can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen. I don’t know how to be any stronger than that. I’m telling you, everything we can do to stop it we

That didn’t happen.

In the months after Republicans won back the Senate—thanks in large part to activists rallying behind the party’s anti-undocumented-immigrant rhetoric—nothing happened. Some conservatives in the House and Senate tried to partially defund Department of Homeland Security, and the House took a symbolic vote on it. But fears of a government shutdown kept Republicans from going all-in on the immigration question. So Priebus’s promised opposition never truly materialized.

At CPAC, people remember.

“Look, I’m not—I’m for—I—I—I don’t think you can, you can’t promise things that you can’t deliver,” Priebus said, stammering. “That’s clearly something that you can’t do.”

The crowd murmured and booed.

“As the chairman of the RNC I don’t get—I don’t have the authority to walk across the street and pass the bills singlehandedly,” he said, after Hannity tried to shush the riled-up crowd.

“The people elected—that’s what are primaries for,” he continued.

Gulp.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, March 4, 2016

March 6, 2016 Posted by | CPAC, GOP Presidential Candidates, Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Odd Man Out”: For Ted Cruz, Anti-Trump Cabal Could Be A Suicide Pact

For Marco Rubio and John Kasich, the current anti-Trump cabal whereby every surviving candidate takes on the Donald in different states via a division of labor that involves tactical cooperation is a no-brainer. Both of these dudes face possible extinction in winner-take-all home-state primaries on March 15 in which they’ll need every anti-Trump vote. More fundamentally, they are in third and fourth place in total delegates. Rubio, in particular, is no longer in a position to insist on consolidation of non-Trump voters under his banner. But for Ted Cruz, the cabal forces a tough decision. He’s not in a position to stop Trump on his own. But if he cooperates with Rubio and Kasich and a Republican Establishment that despises him nearly as much as it does Trump, he could be enabling his own demise down the road and thwarting his own efforts to seize the party for the more militant elements of the conservative movement.

At the moment, Team Cruz is focused on the short-term challenge of winning in three states that vote tomorrow: Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana. The first two are closed caucuses with long-passed cutoffs for reregistration to change party affiliation — probably the least hospitable environment for Donald Trump’s campaign. And Louisiana is a closed primary in a state where Cruz has been running a relatively strong second to Trump in the polls. If the mauling of Trump in the Fox News debate in Detroit Thursday night produced lasting damage to his candidacy, it should begin to show up in these states.

But assuming March 6 goes well for Cruz, the strategic dilemmas begin. Sure, he’ll go for the gold in Mississippi and Idaho on March 8. But does he take a dive the same day in Michigan, where he’s been running even with Rubio and well ahead of Kasich? And does he entirely pull his campaign out of Florida and Ohio on March 15 to maximize the home-state cabal boys’ odds of beating Trump? Presumably he will, but he could wake up on March 16 to find his delegate advantage greatly reduced, and with the remaining list of Cruz Country states on the calendar looking mighty slim.

Looking ahead to the potential “contested convention” that is the anti-Trump cabal’s strategic linchpin, Cruz’s main leverage is the possibility that he could put Trump over the top on a second ballot if he is prematurely cast aside by the Establishment folk. He could even position himself as a “unity candidate” whose views on immigration and national security are closer to Trump’s than any other available candidate’s. More likely he’ll be the odd man out in whatever decisions the Establishment makes, having already burned his bridges to Trump’s insurgency to a smoking cinder. Right now the candidate running second to Trump seems doomed to failure whichever way he — or the worm — turns. His consolation will be that, like Rubio, he’s still very young, and, unlike Rubio, he hasn’t given up his Senate seat to participate in this wild presidential nominating contest.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 4, 2016

March 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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