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“Chairman Of His Personal Make A Wish Foundation”: Conservatives Shouldn’t Kid Themselves About Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz isn’t messing around. Donald Trump is probably going to come up just short of the number of delegates to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot — and it’s mostly Cruz’s fault.

Cruz and his campaign team have been working the delegate selection system hard, and grabbing delegates wherever they can find them. From the beginning of the campaign, his outfit has shown itself to be one of the most-savvy, technologically well-equipped, and hardest working units in politics today. It is as if his campaign is saying, “Sure, Donald Trump may end up with more votes by the end, but we will have the delegates, the institutional support, the donor support, and the working knowledge to run a national campaign. Trump won’t.”

Conservatives have noticed. Trump is complaining about a system that is rigged, but conservatives look at the Cruz campaign working the system and think it competent, not crooked. When Trump fails on the first ballot in Cleveland, many will argue that Cruz is the obvious choice.

But conservatives shouldn’t kid themselves about Cruz. Yes, he respects conservative institutions and competently sings the dearest lines from its standard songbook in a way that Trump can’t. Yes, Cruz wants the presidency so badly that even television viewers can feel the humidity rising from his flop sweat. Yes, he is working for it as if he is the chairman of his personal Make a Wish Foundation. But like Trump, Cruz would be a shockingly unpopular pick in a post-Goldwater national election. Although not as badly as Trump, Cruz generally repulses women, according to all polls. Republicans can’t do well in a general election unless they win — and win big — among married women.

Compared to Trump, Cruz may look like a normal Republican, sure. But the mainstream of the party and the big wallets of the donor class are never going to support Cruz in the same way that they’ve supported Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush before. Yes, they may come around to endorsing him. Some elected officials may even campaign for him, but if Cruz is the nominee, they’re going to be thinking about how to save their own seats and the year 2020.

And yes, even Lindsey Graham, who used to joke in an unsettling way about murdering Cruz, has come around to stumping for him. But I agree with Graham’s original diagnosis: “If you’re a Republican and your choices are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the general election,” Graham said, “it’s the difference between being poisoned or shot. You’re still dead.” In your heart, you know that Graham still thinks this way.

Ted Cruz doesn’t have any way of reaching independent and persuadable Democratic voters. It’s important to point out that part of Cruz’s unpopularity is his ideological conservatism. Successful national Republicans usually have a few “heresies” to advert to the center. The Bushes portrayed themselves as compassionate conservatives and triangulated on issues like education. McCain made himself a scourge of the corruption of money in politics, even when it brought him into conflict with typical conservative views on free speech. Romney was a businessman and technocrat, not merely a creature of politics. By contrast, Cruz is a man who seems to have received his entire political formation within the ideological hothouse of the conservative movement.

Cruz’s “disagreements” with the party at large tend to be about tactics. He’s for the extreme ones. Or they are hedges between different competing schools of thought within conservatism. He is willing to split the difference between neoconservative interventionists and conservative Jacksonians on issues of foreign policy. But this never, ever dulls the sharp edges of his partisanship.

Conservatives should be wary of having Cruz as their candidate precisely because he offers such a high-octane distillation of their views. As it would be for any movement promoting its ideas at their rawest state, an up or down vote for “conservatism” is a losing one for Republicans. That’s why the party historically tries not to nominate people like Ted Cruz.

And as hard as Ted Cruz works, he is simply not all that sympathetic a figure. He has an unsettling smile. He speaks in a very peculiar patois that sets much of the nation to instantly hold on tighter to their wallets for fear of being suckered. He may save the conservative movement from a reckoning that a Trump nomination will bring, but he is not much more likely to win the general election or save the Republican Party from its electoral demise.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, April 19, 2016

April 20, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Conservatives, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Magic Of The Granite State Has Worn Off”: Clinton Hit All Her Marks In South Carolina; Sanders Hit Almost None Of His

If the ability to break through among minority voters is the key to Bernie Sanders’s winning the Democratic nomination, there was no good news for him from South Carolina tonight. According to exit polls, African-Americans constituted a record 61 percent of voters, and Hillary Clinton won an astonishing 84 percent of them. That’s six points better than Barack Obama did there in 2008. In some demographics, Clinton’s vote was virtually unanimous: She reportedly won African-Americans over 65 by a 96-to-3 margin. Her overall 73.5 percent comfortably exceeds Bernie Sanders’s much-ballyhooed 60 percent in New Hampshire earlier this month. The states rolling up on the calendar, especially on March 1, mostly look more like South Carolina than they do New Hampshire.

Sanders did continue to win white voters (58 to 42) and under-30 voters (63-37), though the latter margin is his lowest yet among the young. He and HRC were even among white women, and Sanders did not seem to have any special appeal to non-college-educated white voters (he won white college graduates by a slightly higher percentage). Clinton handily won every ideological category, including self-described “very liberal” voters, and beat Sanders among “moderates” nearly three to one.

Although this was an open primary (actually, South Carolina has no party registration), only 18 percent of voters were self-identified independents (Sanders won 62 percent of them), and only 15 percent were first-time Democratic primary voters (Sanders won 70 percent of them). In general, Clinton hit all her marks and Sanders hit few of his own. The polls showing a late trend towards Clinton if anything underestimated its speed.

The results leave little hope for Sanders other than slow delegate accumulation in such Super Tuesday states as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. He’ll obviously win Vermont; he has a good chance in Massachusetts, might do well in Colorado and Minnesota, and might exceed expectations in Oklahoma. But the magic from the Granite State has worn off, and with it the idea that, as minority voters became more familiar with Bernie, they’ll trend his way, too. As Nate Cohn of the New York Times pointed out on Twitter, Sanders would need to win Latinos by the same 2-1 margin Clinton enjoyed in 2008 to make up for the margins she’s achieving among black voters. That seems improbable, to put it mildly, and I strongly suspect we’ll find out in Texas next Tuesday that he’s not going to carry the Latino vote at all.

The Bern may return in full force in some heavily white caucuses on March 5 (Kansas and Nebraska), March 6 (Maine), and March 26 (Alaska and Washington), but by then we may all be talking about when, rather than whether, Hillary Clinton wins the nomination.

 

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

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Much Smarter Politician”: Donald Trump Has Already Won The GOP Nomination. Now He’s Pivoting To Center

The entire establishment Right and much of the press are singularly obsessed with one question: how do we stop Donald Trump? The GOP is engaged in a “desperate mission” to stop him; Nate Cohn of the New York Times is speculating on how Rubio might be able to win the nomination without winning any Super Tuesday states; GOP strategist Stuart Stevens is offering messaging advice on how Republican candidates can still beat Trump; conservative media figures from RedState to National Review are still frantically trying to advance Marco Rubio’s cause.

But the reality is that barring some unforeseen collapse, Donald Trump has already locked up the GOP nomination. He is a national frontrunner who has come off three consecutive victories. There is no state polled outside of Texas in which Trump does not currently lead–and there he trails local favorite Ted Cruz, who is otherwise flagging behind Marco Rubio, the establishment lane candidate who trails Trump even in his own home state of Florida. The longer the primary season wears on, the more voters’ minds become made up and the loyalty to their preferred candidates hardens.

Some Republicans are hoping that as the field winnows to one or two candidates, Trump’s ceiling will be overcome by the number of Republicans voting against him. But there is no reason to believe that a two-person race will save the GOP from Trump. The evidence suggests that Trump, Carson and Cruz are trading essentially the same pool of voters–the so-called anti-establishment lane. Kasich and Rubio are vying for the same pool of establishment voters. But the key is that in most states, the anti-establishment lane is winning 55-60% of the vote. The only plausible pathway to an establishment victory would involve Kasich dropping out and ceding the field to Rubio even as Carson and Cruz stay in and chip away at Trump’s anti-establishment vote, allowing Rubio to slip in by the back door in a brokered convention. That scenario seems like a distant long shot, especially as an increasing number of politicians like Chris Christie see the handwriting on the wall and begin endorsing Trump.

Some Republican donors have seen the truth of the situation and are already looking into the possibility of an independent run for President–though no credible conservative candidate is yet forthcoming. Some are resigned. Some are in denial. But Trump has almost certainly already locked up the nomination.

That in turn explains some of Trump’s supposedly confusing and heretical behavior for a Republican candidate in recent speeches and debates. Trump has attacked George Bush over 9/11 and Iraq. He has attacked corporate cronyism and medical insurance companies. He has derided the inability of the government to negotiate on Medicare prices. He has spoken kind words about Bernie Sanders and his populist appeal. He has defended Planned Parenthood and his support for universal healthcare.

That’s because Donald Trump is a much smarter politician than almost anyone gives him credit for. Aware that he mostly has the Republican primary sewn up regardless of what he says or does, Trump is already pivoting to center. He is establishing his dual-purpose populist bona fides for the general election as a Jacksonian Democrat–fiercely racist and anti-immigrant, brash and outspoken, autocratic and authoritarian, anti-interventionist, anti-establishment and anti-corruption.

Trump’s pitch is simple: “I can’t be bought, and I’ll put real Americans first.” That includes xenophobic opposition to immigrants and various “others” in society that tickles the fancy of conservative voters, but it also includes anti-offshoring, anti-outsourcing and anti-corporate collusion platforms that will appeal broadly to many Democrats and independents as well.

Democrats, for their part, seem likely to nominate in the general election a candidate who is a quintessential neoliberal establishment figure and long-time supporter of free trade and high finance, and who will make a perfect foil and punching bag for Trump’s populist arguments. Rather than counter and anticipate Trump’s unique appeal, Democrats seem likely instead to believe that exposing Trump’s sleazy past will be enough to turn serious-minded independent voters away from him, and that Trump’s xenophobia will be enough to generate record turnout among the growing number of Hispanic and other minority voters.

Perhaps that’s a good bet. But everyone who has wagered against Trump has had egg on their face so far, even as Bernie Sanders’ parallel populist appeal has also dramatically outperformed expectations (though it will likely fall short.)

Trump may not win the general election. But he will be the Republican nominee, and he’ll be a much tougher general election candidate than most are currently acknowledging.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 27, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump Is The Product Of Our Failed Political System”: Questioning The Traditional Liberal Vs Conservative Paradigm

Donald Trump’s shocking transformation from reality-show host to Republican presidential front-runner is not some random and bizarre twist of fate. It grows from the failure of our political system to adapt to demographic change, economic disruption and a reorganizing world.

Trump’s victory Saturday in the South Carolina primary appears to have cleared away the cobwebs of denial. However improbable, outlandish or frightening it may be, Trump has a very good chance of becoming the nominee. He can still be beaten, but the debilitated Republican establishment does not seem up to the task; poor Jeb Bush bowed out after winning less than 8 percent of the vote.

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz essentially tied for second place, 10 points behind Trump’s winning 32.5 percent. Since John Kasich and Ben Carson turned out to be non-factors, the Republican race is left with three leading candidates — none of whom offers viable solutions. Trump is a wrecking ball, Cruz is a conservative ideologue, and Rubio tries to be all things to all people.

None addresses the nation and the world as they really are. Rubio promises an aggressively interventionist foreign policy of the kind that gave us more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cruz pledges to double down on failed economic policies — deregulation, tax cuts, tight money — and turn back the clock on social changes such as same-sex marriage. Neither offers much that sounds new or promising.

So it should be no surprise that substantial numbers of Republicans are seduced by Trump, who proposes knocking the house down and starting over. His demagoguery succeeds not just because of his fame and charisma. In sometimes appalling ways, he addresses the hopes and fears of much of the Republican base.

His pledge to build a physical wall along the border with Mexico hits a nerve with white voters worried about the “browning” of the nation. His disparagement of free-trade agreements gives hope to blue-collar workers left behind by the flight of manufacturing jobs. His advocacy of restraint in the deployment of U.S. troops, even with the Middle East in flames, draws nods from war-weary military families and veterans.

And Trump’s diagnosis of what is wrong with our politics — that the politicians are bought and paid for by special interests — is essentially correct. His supporters may disapprove of his extreme rhetoric, some of which is racially tinged, but still appreciate the fact that he is beholden to no one.

Can either Cruz or Rubio stop him? It looks doubtful. Trump’s support in the party may be well short of a majority, but he is far ahead of the others. Cruz’s showing in South Carolina was a disappointment; the evangelical Christian vote, which he desperately needs if he is to stay competitive, went narrowly for Trump. Rubio would seem to have wider appeal and thus be the more potent challenger, but there is no guarantee that he will scoop up all of Bush’s support — or that of Kasich and Carson, assuming they eventually drop out. At least some of those votes will go to Trump. And perhaps most ominously for the others, a majority of Republicans now believe Trump will be the nominee.

If he is, however, his appeal to independents should be limited. The Democratic nominee — and that is likely to be Hillary Clinton, following her decisive win over Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucuses — would begin the general election campaign with a big advantage.

To be sure, Clinton has exploitable weaknesses — notably the fact that so many voters do not consider her trustworthy. But her long record leaves no doubt that she would be a steady hand in the White House, as opposed to Trump, who would be anything but. Passionate anti-Trump sentiment could boost turnout and give Democrats a sweeping victory.

Such a result would not mean, however, that the Democratic Party has done a significantly better job of responding to new realities than the GOP has. It would just mean that most Americans believe putting someone with Trump’s views and temperament in the White House would be unthinkable.

Sanders’s core message is the same as Trump’s: that the system is rigged to favor the rich and powerful. Trump offers himself as an autocratic strongman; Sanders promises a “political revolution.” Together, they have shown that the establishments of both parties have lost touch with big segments of voters.

Many Americans seem to be questioning the traditional liberal-vs.conservative paradigm. The parties might want to pay attention.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 22, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Team Crazy Wins The Sane State”: We’ve Still Got Some Time For Sanity To Catch Up

Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu is fond of saying “Iowa picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents.” Let’s hope that he’s wrong this time, or America is headed for an apocalyptic “choice, not an echo” election.

Celebrity demagogue Donald Trump and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders won massive victories on Tuesday, sweeping virtually every voter group in the Granite State. It was a night for pitchfork populism, with the politics of cultural and economic resentment hitting overdrive.

What’s truly troubling is that New Hampshire traditionally serves as a speed-bump in the crowded primary calendar, calming hyper-partisan passions and pandering. Unlike the low-turnout Iowa Caucuses and play-to-the-base South Carolina, the “Live Free or Die” state offers an electorate that reflects the independent centrist sensibility of the American general electorate.

Forty-four percent of New Hampshire voters are registered independents, essentially mirroring national self-identification numbers. It’s an open primary, increasing competition and voter participation. And it’s a swing state, one of only seven that is considered up for grabs in a presidential election.

For Republicans, New Hampshire is a rare state where the party is evenly divided between conservatives and moderates. Libertarians have a strong presence and perhaps not coincidentally it’s the least religious state in the nation. Social conservative litmus tests have limited appeal here. For example, New Hampshire became the first state to legalize marriage equality via the legislature in 2009.  While the state isn’t exactly a bastion of racial diversity, New Hampshire has ideological diversity and a proud live-and-let live culture. In the last two presidential primary cycles New Hampshire backed John McCain and Mitt Romney after the Iowa caucuses elevated Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Earlier in the cycle, it seemed like one of the strong center-right governors—Chris Christie, John Kasich, or Jeb Bush—would be primed to repeat the pattern.

So much for that streak. The record will now show that Donald Trump romped to victory in 2016 with a nativist campaign. He updated the conservative populism of Pat Buchanan, the right-wing pundit who narrowly won the state in 1996 with an anti-immigrant, anti-trade, and anti-establishment agenda. Trump’s proudly anti-PC appeals defined deviancy down in this campaign, delighting in the attention that outrageously ugly “us against them” rhetoric can bring. His Teflon comes from being a reality TV star with a reputation for ruthless business success. Fame and fury more than compensate for a lack of conservative philosophy to those folks who just want an anti-Obama in the White House. Trump’s victory cut across all age, income, and ideological groups, according to CNN’s exit polls—though the more educated and wealthy a voter is the less likely they are to buy his B.S.

The prospect of a billionaire populist should be enough to make your head explode. But for the earnest liberal activists who clustered around Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign, the idea must be particularly insulting.

After all, the energy behind Bernie’s campaign comes from righteous anger at income inequality that has only deepened in the wake of the great recession, making millennials more receptive to a democratic socialist agenda than at any time since post-war Progressive Party members insisted that “Uncle Joe” Stalin was simply misunderstood.

Sanders’s campaign has so far succeeded in making “moderate” a dirty word in the Democratic primary—a mirror image of what the dynamic Republicans have been wrestling with for decades. Whatever the ultimate impact, we are witnessing the birth of a left-wing Tea Party that may divide the Democratic Party—with predictable results—for decades to come.

No doubt Bernie’s big win was boosted by his status as a Senator from Vermont. New Hampshire traditionally rewards neighboring state elected officials from Paul Tsongas to John Kerry. But his campaign also became a crusade against the governing establishment represented by Hillary Clinton. In the psychology of support, it is cool to like Bernie now. And according to CNN’s exit polls, he won almost every voter cohort—including, somewhat surreally, moderate voters. Only non-white voters, senior citizens, and those who made over $200k supported Clinton in New Hampshire.

It’s worth noting that these two opposite-in-everything men share two broad policy positions: a distrust of free trade deals and a belief that big money super PACs are trying to buy elections.

But while Bernie also rode a wave of populism to his victory, buoyed by his unscripted authenticity—any parallels to Trump stop there. While The Donald glories in incivility, Bernie refuses to go negative during the campaign. While Trump’s policies are all bumper-sticker bluster, Bernie glories in a five-year plan with detailed bullet points.

Perhaps the most relevant difference is that Trump has positive primary calendar ahead of him—he leads the polls in the upcoming conservative states throughout the South. Bernie has a much tougher road ahead in states that are both more conservative and more diverse. Democratic socialists from Vermont via Brooklyn don’t expect a friendly reception in the South.

Adrenalin is surging for Trump and Sanders supporters after their lopsided wins in a centrist state. But there is something nihilistic behind the anti-establishment anger that drove them to the polls. Because polarization doesn’t solve problems—it compounds them.

The authoritarian-tinged appeal of a strong-man or the promise of ideological purity makes true-believers feel invincible until they collide with reality in a constitutional democracy. Victory in presidential elections requires reaching out beyond the base and winning over the reasonable edge of the opposition. Effective presidential leadership requires working with congress in a spirit of principled compromise, defining common ground and achieving common goals.

The frustration that many folks feel with Washington stems from its current division and dysfunction, the sense that special interests are ignoring the national interest. They’re right. But the populist protest candidacies of Trump and Sanders will only deepen Washington’s division and dysfunction because they don’t offer any practical bipartisan solutions as a matter of pride. Banning Muslim immigration or single-payer healthcare may have their constituencies but they aren’t going to pass congress. Insults and ideological purity are only a recipe for further polarization, creating a feedback loop of frustration and alienation. Their prescriptions double-down on the disease.

Some hardcore partisan supporters no doubt love the idea of a Trump-Sanders general election, effectively forcing America to choose between two extreme visions. But despite their current popularity with the partisan base, neither man represents the vast majority of Americans. And here’s a proof-point to keep the moderate majority from fearing the future: Less than 0.3 percent of Americans have voted so far in the 2016 primaries. We’ve still got some time for sanity to catch up with all the crazy talk.

 

By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, February 10, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, New Hampshire Primaries, Populism | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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