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“Some Folks Are Gonna Switch Parties”: There’s Potential For Some Real Shifting In The Shape Of The Electorate

David Bahnsen speaks for a lot of Establishment Republicans. Today, he’s linked at the National Review. At this point, Bahnsen is so exasperated with the persistent popularity of Donald Trump that he’s calling on us all to beseech God to intervene.

I’m not sold on his political analysis here, but I do want to note his conclusion.

Trump will not be the President of the United States. His support level is maxed at 35-40% (generously) of the Republican primary voters. In a general election contest, he will lose the nine figure free publicity of the national media, who will turn on him in a New York minute. The blue collar white males who resent the economic changes of the last 25 years will be more than offset by his depleted support from Hispanics, females, and other grown-ups. His skyrocketing unfavorables will matter, and he will lose. And if I am wrong, that is even worse. The United States will be the laughingstock of the world if this man were to become our commander-in-chief.

You will not hear me talk about Trump’s ceiling. I won’t say he’s maxed out at any level. I am not about to say that he will lose the general election. I’m somewhere between skeptical, agnostic and terrified about these questions.

But, if Trump is going to lose as big as people like Bahnsen think he’s going to lose, it’s because a lot of moderate/soft Republicans conclude that it will be better if Trump loses to (presumably) Hillary Clinton than if he wins.

This is the time in the four-year election cycle when people love to promise that they’ll never support the nominee they don’t prefer. Sanders’ voters will never vote for Clinton. Erick Erickson will never vote for Donald Trump. If Ted Cruz is the president, we’re all moving to Costa Rica.

It’s mostly bullshit. The vast majority of people will hold their nose and vote for one of the two major party nominees. Very few committed Democrats or Republicans will cross over to vote for the other side. And no one is moving to Costa Rica.

But this cycle is a little different than most. I can see a lot of New Jersey Democrats who work in the financial sector deciding that they’d rather deal with Trump or Rubio or Cruz than with Bernie Sanders. And I can see a lot of Wall Street Republicans not going for the religious anti-choice extremism of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, and who know Trump well enough to be embarrassed by him and his desperate efforts to show he has class. They don’t like his act and they’re not haters on immigrants, Muslims, or anyone else.

This year, there’s potential for some real shifting in the shape of the electorate. And there really are some voters in both parties who might leave their party for good if they don’t get the nominee that they want.

There are also a lot of young voters who will be making up their minds about whether they’re aligned with the left, the right, or reality television.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 22, 2016

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Can Marco Rubio Win Anywhere?”: Trump’s Landslide Victory In South Carolina Is A Waking Nightmare For The Republican Party

By winning the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump demonstrated he can win anywhere.

By coming in second place, well behind Trump and barely (about 1,000 votes with 99 percent reporting) ahead of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio demonstrated he will have a hard time winning anywhere.

Rubio, and basically the entire Republican Party establishment, marched into South Carolina determined to play up an expected third-place finish as a kind of triumph and a second-place finish as outright victory. Before any networks had called second place, Rubio delivered an exultant speech promising to win the GOP nomination.

There are reasons to credit this as more than just amusingly strained political vaudeville. By breaking out of the pack of also-rans, Rubio forced Jeb Bush out of the race. If he hoovers up nearly all of Bush’s supporters, he stands to eclipse Cruz as the de facto leader of the non-Trump faction of the race. If John Kasich follows suit, after finishing below even Bush in South Carolina, Cruz may slip to a distant third. Viewed in that light, Rubio’s performance in South Carolina might genuinely and enduringly change the race.

But this also is the most charitable way to interpret Rubio’s distant second-place finish. Not because these are outlandish assumptions—they aren’t. It’s just that even if everything goes according to plan, Rubio will have proved fairly little in South Carolina.

By inundating Rubio’s campaign with endorsements and money, Republican Party officials have effectively communicated that they’ll attempt to thwart the will of the majority of GOP primary voters who support Trump and Cruz. And yet, despite all of that juice—and as badly as Cruz underperformed—Rubio can’t count on Cruz fading rapidly. He definitely can’t seem to come within spitting distance of Trump anywhere. And on top of all that, he’s yet to endure a concerted Trump onslaught the way Cruz has, and Bush did—and both those candidates were harmed badly.

Though the South Carolina returns drove Bush from the race, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that his supporters will overwhelmingly defect to Rubio. One of the most critical lessons of Iowa and New Hampshire is that Trump draws his support from across the party, including its mainstream. Many Bush supporters will presumably also defect to Kasich, who essentially skipped South Carolina and is pinning his ever-dim hopes on Northern primaries in Michigan and his home state of Ohio in March. Ben Carson’s supporters will likewise scatter, rather than defect to a single candidate in unison (though Cruz stands to be the single largest beneficiary).

Notwithstanding all these inconvenient truths, Rubio will emerge from South Carolina a party favorite and a media darling.

The person with the most to fear from the results is Cruz. South Carolina was supposed to serve as a model for the Super Tuesday states he needs to win—and with the evangelical turnout as overwhelming as it was, he should’ve been able to do better than a dead heat for second, double digits behind Trump.

Had Rubio finished third—ideally a distant third—Cruz could have credibly continued portraying the primary as a two-man race between himself and Trump. But Trump is a popular favorite, and Rubio is an elite favorite. Cruz enjoy neither of those advantages. To the extent that he thrives, it is thanks to the loyalty of conservative ideologues and Christian conservatives (many of whom, again, are still supporting Carson, Rubio, and Trump). If their affinity for Cruz isn’t robust enough to reliably outperform Rubio, his supporters will begin to question the logic of his candidacy. A fading Cruz would have little room to expand his appeal beyond right-wing purists (his concession speech tonight once again played up his “consistent conservative” bona fides), and his campaign would serve barely any purpose other than to deny Rubio a chance to challenge Trump one-on-one.

As time goes on, though, all the effort we expend examining the race for second place so granularly starts to seem like whistling past the graveyard. Trump probably could’ve won Iowa, and arguably should have. He won New Hampshire overwhelmingly. He just won South Carolina overwhelmingly, too, and is poised to do the same thing in Nevada’s caucuses on Tuesday night. This is a waking nightmare for the Republican Party. Their played-up enthusiasm for Rubio can’t disguise it.


By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 20, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Marco Rubio, South Carolina, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And They Can’t Seem To Shake It”: The GOP’s Conception Of The Republican Primary Is Laughably Wrong

Ever since Donald Trump vaulted to the top of Republican presidential primary polls, GOP strategists have clung to the view that he could be defeated the same way so many other insurgent candidates have: First, party actors would settle on a single candidate to represent the party’s institutional wing; then, slowly, that candidate would consolidate institutional and stakeholder support, until, by late January or some time in February, he would enjoy plurality support, if not majority support, of primary voters and eventually clinch the nomination.

This is how Mitt Romney fended off late favorites like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in 2012, and how, in slightly more chaotic fashion, John McCain climbed out of purgatory to win in 2008.

Two things changed in the 2016 cycle. First, Trump established dominance like no other insurgent candidate ever has. Though dark horse after dark horse charged into the race, none of them were able to truly split the reactionary vote with him. Second, no Romney or McCain-like figure ever emerged. Jeb Bush, who was tailored for that role, faltered almost immediately, paralyzing the establishment and fracturing its support among several (currently four) candidates with whom party leaders would be satisfied.

Nevertheless, the smartest minds in the GOP have maintained their faith in the old model. So committed to it are they that they’ve devoted a great deal of effort in recent days to damaging the first plausible competitor to Trump—Ted Cruz—because Cruz, equally detested and unelectable, also spoils their strategic analysis.

Nearly all available public evidence suggests this conception of the race isn’t just wrong, but laughably simplistic and far from representative of GOP voters’ preferences. The tragic thing for Republican leaders is that as poor as this strategic analysis seems to be, the other approaches available to them are just as bad or worse.

The fatal conceit of establishment Republicans’ strategy is its belief in a zero-sum relationship between the candidates that would satisfy them and the amount of support those candidates have within the GOP electorate. That a fixed segment of voters will behave in a way that perfectly mirrors the establishment’s political strategy. That if Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich enjoy a combined 25 percent support of Republican voters, then winnowing that “lane” down to one will yield a single candidate with 25 percent support.

If this were true, you’d expect any one of those candidates’ misfortunes to redound to the benefit of one or more of the others. Instead, poll after poll suggests that as other candidates falter, it redounds more to Trump and/or Cruz’s benefit than to anyone in the not-quite-hermetically sealed establishment cocoon.

Perhaps there are no “lanes” at all, or perhaps the lanes function very literally in that changing from one to another is easy and appealing when the one you’re in is backed up. The widely expected consolidation we were all promised is playing out more like a defection to leading, insurgent candidates. It may just be the case that voters whose first choice is a brash executive like Chris Christie, or a Cuban-descended avatar of the Tea Party like Marco Rubio, might see Trump or Cruz as a more natural second choice than another candidate with establishment backing.

Under the circumstances, you might have expected mainline Republican operatives to remain neutral in the Trump-Cruz feud, reflecting a last-best hope that the two would damage each other, or at least prevent one another from running away with the race.

Instead, terrified by the possibility that their theory of consolidation would work on behalf of a candidate (Cruz) whom they despise, many of these operatives have forged alliances of convenience with Trump, in order to arrest Cruz’s popularity before Monday’s Iowa caucuses. The problem is that this, too, is redounding to Trump’s benefit, rather than to the benefit of anyone else running.

If Cruz were to win in Iowa, where he was leading until this week, he would at least buy the establishment time to regroup after New Hampshire, where Trump leads mightily. Instead, the party’s faith in its own power to defeat Trump, mano-a-mano-a-mano-a-mano-a-mano, has increased the chances that he will sweep the first three contests and never look back.


By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, January 26, 2016

January 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Glad You Finally Noticed”: Latinos Are The One Group That Was Onto Donald Trump From The Start

A few weeks ago, during an appearance on CNN, a journalist who works for a conservative website said what many other political observers have been thinking: “Donald Trump is just not funny anymore.”

That is the popular meme that has been circulating throughout the media and the chattering class of pundits, analysts, and anyone else with an opinion and a burning desire to share it. I’ve heard it multiple times in the last several weeks, this idea that the Republican frontrunner is no longer as amusing and entertaining as he was a few months ago but has morphed into something divisive, demagogic, and dangerous.

I don’t know what planet these folks live on. But you can be sure that, wherever it is, there are no Latinos on it.

There are however scores of Latinos in the United States who—because of Trump’s boorish knack for insulting Mexico and Mexican immigrants, literally from the moment that he leapt off the starting blocks and announced his candidacy on June 16 — would say that Trump was never much fun to begin with.

We sure didn’t take much joy from his nativist swipes at Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail and crass insinuations that Bush is a moderate on immigration because his wife, Columba, was born in Mexico before coming to the United States legally and becoming a U.S. citizen. And while we would agree that the real estate mogul can be described as divisive, demagogic, and dangerous, many of us are wondering what took the rest of America so long to figure this out.

For much of the nation’s largest minority—the estimated 54 million people who make up the U.S. Latino population, less than 20 percent of whom have a favorable opinion of Trump, according to polls—the billionaire blowhard didn’t just become the GOP’s problem child overnight. The truth is that he has been that way since the moment he claimed, without a sliver of evidence to back it up, that Mexico was “sending” the United States its worst people—including rapists, murderers, and other criminals.

The media seem to have missed this part of the story. They know that Latinos don’t like Trump, but they don’t really understand just how deep this animosity goes or how long it is likely to last. They must think that Latinos will just eventually get over Trump’s tirades, which only illustrates how little they know about Latinos. When we hold grudges, we think in terms of centuries. So, in all likelihood, Latinos are going to be hating on Trump for a long time.

Let’s start at the beginning. For the first five months of his presidential bid, the real estate mogul was a novelty. This quality made him attractive to Republican primary voters and irresistible to a broadcast media that was starved for ratings and ad revenue. With the subtlety of an air strike, Trump said what was on his mind, without a filter, consultants, or handlers. He didn’t use focus groups or rely on polling before making major pronouncements or suggesting radical shifts in policy. He ripped into both political parties with equal enthusiasm, and called out opponents by name. If there is some unwritten code of professional courtesy that keeps politicians from telling us how they really feel about one another, The Donald didn’t get a copy. In just about every way you could imagine, he was refreshing and even—and dare we say it—fun.

In fact, as if to emphasize that point, the Huffington Post initially featured stories about Trump not in its “Politics” but in that portion of the site dedicated to “Entertainment.” It’s also worth noting that, with few exceptions, and with some early attempts to poke at Trump by repeating and amplifying some of his controversial remarks, the Fourth Estate has, for the most part, been on friendly terms with the presidential hopeful.

I remember the exact moment when this epiphany hit me. It was November 12, and while on the road for a speech I was watching CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.” Trump was the guest, and the topic was immigration. The dialogue between host and guest was cordial, and Burnett—who was formerly a financial news reporter—kept referring to Trump by his first name. It was Donald this, and Donald that.

I have a tough time imaging Burnett or, for that matter, anyone else in the media casually referring to other 2016 presidential candidates as “Jeb” or “Hillary.”

Of course, Jeb and Hillary have proper honorific titles that Trump lacks, I know that. But how about going with: “Mr. Trump?” There’s a weird chumminess to it. For the New York media, much of their familiarity with Trump comes from the fact the real estate tycoon is, shall we say, “from the neighborhood.” His spectacular Manhattan penthouse atop Trump Tower is just a short limousine ride from some of the skyscrapers that house the major television networks.

Besides, it certainly didn’t hurt that—even for a Republican—Trump is considered by many to be a moderate on social issues. He also has a long history of contributing to and voting for Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton.

Whatever the reason, Trump spent the first five months of his presidential campaign gliding along on a magic carpet of friendly media coverage. He took care of the media, by being available at a moment’s notice when they called and by consistantly delivering high ratings. And the media took care of The Donald by giving him tens of millions dollars in earned media and handling him with kid gloves.

But then came the sixth month—December—when, after being atop dozens of polls for weeks on end, The Donald suddenly became less fun and more scary.

The tipping point came on the fateful day of Dec. 7. That’s when Trump shocked the country by calling for a temporary freeze on visas for Muslims seeking to enter the United States.

Just a few days earlier, a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, carried out by supporters of the Islamic State, had killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. Worried that elements of the U.S. Muslim community might be in cahoots with terrorists, Trump urged a moratorium on Muslims traveling to the United States until “our leaders figure out what the hell is going on.”

That’s a good question: What the hell is going on? Many Americans really want to know the answer to that question. And they agree with Trump that the Obama administration doesn’t have a clue about the enemy or how to fight it. And, in the absence of any serious and meaningful policy from the White House, Trump has filled the vacuum. In fact, according to the polls, a majority of people agree with the candidate’s proposed moratorium on Muslims getting visas. What sounds controversial to some strikes others as common sense.

But the media and the chattering class aren’t buying any of it. The proposal rubbed them the wrong way. They pounced on Trump immediately. Some insisted that he is a bigot. Others accused him of stoking fears and resorting to demagoguery in order to pick on people who don’t have a voice.

To which, Latinos can only wince and respond: “Gee, you don’t say?”


By: Ruben Navarrette, Jr., The Daily Beast, January 4, 2016

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Latinos, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“What Used To Seem Impossible No Longer Does”: Donald Trump Could Actually Be The Republican Party’s Nominee For President

Though there are many Republican presidential candidates whose continuing presence in the race seems to defy common sense, last week saw the first withdrawal of the campaign, as former Texas governor Rick Perry decided to pack it in and sashay back to Texas. So we’re now down to a mere 16 GOP candidates, at least 14 of whom are hoping that at some point there will be a sudden and inexplicable surge of interest in the possibility that they might be president. Meanwhile, the two who are actually gaining support, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, are the most wildly implausible in the bunch.

Relish this primary race, my friends, because we may not see its bizarre like again.

The candidates will be debating again on Wednesday, and the RNC’s plan to limit and space out the number of debates seems to be working—if the idea was to heighten anticipation and the possibility that something interesting might occur when you cram all those contenders on stage. But unless you believe that Jeb Bush’s brain trust has come up with a zinger to use against Trump that is so spectacularly clever that it will be a rhetorical rapier driving straight through the heart of the latter’s campaign, I suspect we’re about to enter a new phase in the race.

In the three months since he announced that he was running, the tone of discussion around Trump’s bid has gone from “Isn’t he a crazy character?” to “Sure he’s leading now, but he has zero chance of being the nominee,” to “OK, he’s way ahead, but there are a lot of good reasons why he won’t be the nominee.” And what’s coming next? “Oh my god, Donald Trump could actually be the nominee.”

This is the point where, as a sane observer with a reasonable grasp of presidential campaign history, I’m supposed to say that as entertaining as the Trump candidacy has been, he can’t possibly win his party’s nomination. His support has a natural ceiling, as even in the GOP there could only be so many voters who will fall for his shtick. Unlike more traditional candidates, he won’t be able to put together the endorsements of key politicians and activists who bring with them the apparatus that turns primary voters out to vote. It’s one thing to lead in polls for a while, but it’s quite a different thing to actually get voters to push your button in the booth. Above all, as those of us in the know all know, eventually the act will wear thin and primary voters will turn to one of the more traditionally qualified candidates.

And yet here we are, and Trump is getting more, not less, serious. We keep thinking he’s reached his apex, but his support has only been going up. He now averages polling percentages in the mid-30s, and the only other candidate in double digits is Carson. Even if Trump originally decided to run as half a lark, he’s now most certainly acting like he thinks he can win. It’s only three and a half months before the actual voting starts—a period that will go by extraordinarily quickly, just you watch. Primary voters may well turn away from him for any number of reasons, but it isn’t as though millions of them are going to say, “Wait a minute—I thought Trump was a serious guy, but it turns out he’s just a blowhard! How could I have been fooled!?!” Everybody knows who he is already.

If you’re looking for someone whose candidacy will experience a quick fall, I’d bank on the good doctor, who knows as little about governing as Trump does, but has no particular argument to make to voters about why he should be president other than the fact that he has a compelling personal story. Which is nice as far as it goes (I don’t think anybody’s going to make a TV biopic about Jeb Bush’s inspiring journey from Kennebunkport to Tallahassee), but after voters hear it and say, “What a great guy!” the next part of the equation is extremely hard to come up with.

Trump, on the other hand, has an argument, one that may be even more perfectly suited for the Republican electorate in 2016 than most people realized. After seven years of all-out ideological combat against both Barack Obama and internal apostates, the case so many thought the GOP candidates were going to have to make—about who is the most conservative—turns out to be a secondary consideration. The emotions boiling up in the Republican ranks are dissatisfaction, disgruntlement, even disgust, not just with “Washington” and “government,” but with their own party and its leaders, who are seen as a bunch of ineffectual phonies who can’t get anything done.

So the guy who built a persona on firing people, not to mention on the single-minded pursuit of profit and garish excess, couldn’t have been better positioned to capitalize on the Republican moment. Voters may be deluded if they think that Trump is going to march in to Washington and whip it into shape, right before he builds a 2,000-mile wall on the southern border and forces China to give us back all our jobs. But when he tells them, “We will have so much winning when I get elected that you will get bored with winning,” it sounds like exactly what they’ve been waiting for.

Am I saying that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee after all? I’ll be frank and say I have no idea (which is part of what makes this all so interesting). But what I can say is that it no longer seems as impossible as it did just a few weeks ago. Bizarre, absurd, horrifying? Absolutely. But far from impossible.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, September 13, 2015

September 15, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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