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“GOP Establishment Is Beginning To Panic”: Are Republican Voters Going To Come To Their Senses About Donald Trump?

The metaphor most often used about Donald Trump’s candidacy these days is that he’s “defying gravity,” which implies that while a real candidate can rise and then stay high all the way to the nomination, a candidate like Trump is supposed to bounce up and then fall back down to earth. But even as Trump is no longer enjoying the blanket coverage that he did a month or two ago, he’s still leading the Republican field.

Meanwhile, the candidate in second place, Ben Carson, is every bit Trump’s equal when it comes to policy ignorance, appalling statements, and the potential for a disastrous general election. The establishment’s early choice, Jeb Bush, has cratered, while its second choice, Marco Rubio, is creeping up slowly, but so far seems to be generating much more interest from funders and strategists than from actual voters.

So as Byron York reports today, the GOP establishment is beginning to panic, about Trump in particular:

This weekend was an inflection point in the Republican presidential race — a moment in which some significant part of the GOP establishment came out of denial and realized Donald Trump might well become their party’s nominee.

“The Republican establishment, for the first time, is saying, off the record, this guy can win,” noted Joe Scarborough on MSNBC Monday morning. “I’ve heard that from everybody. I don’t hear anybody saying he can’t win the nomination anymore.”

That doesn’t mean Republicans have made their peace with a Trump victory. On the contrary — some are preparing to do whatever it takes to bring him down. Which could lead to an extraordinary scenario in which GOP stalwarts go to war to destroy their own party’s likely nominee.

The trouble is that they don’t have much of a war plan, partly because “the establishment” is far less organized and unified than you might think, and partly because there are only so many tools at their disposal. There’s talk of a large TV ad campaign against Trump, built on “the political insiders’ unshakable faith that negative ads work.” You can also see that faith in this interview with longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who’s running Jeb Bush’s “Right to Rise” Super PAC. Murphy’s argument for why Jeb is still the candidate to beat, despite the fact that his support has fallen to single digits and he’s now in fourth or fifth place in most polls, is essentially that Jeb will win because unlike the other candidates, he has a lot of money to run ads.

Ads can work, in the right context (though they have a short half-life; their effect tends to fade quickly). But they’re not a guarantee of anything, particularly when you have a candidate who has performed as poorly as Jeb, whose latest genius campaign maneuver is getting into an argument with Trump about whether his brother was actually president when the September 11 attacks happened. And the truth is that while Jeb may have raised the most money, some other candidates aren’t doing too badly either, particularly Carson and Ted Cruz.

In any case, the theory underlying not just Jeb’s candidacy but also Rubio’s is that eventually, the voters will come around to someone reasonable. They may need to be pushed in the right direction, but they can’t stick with the likes of Trump and Carson forever. The lower-tier candidates will drop out, the voters will coalesce around a smaller number of alternatives, and the choice will become clear, at which point one of the sane candidates will win.

Which could well happen. But by now, we should be wary of assuming anything about this race. How many people expected Trump to do as well as he has for as long as he has? The establishment and his opponents have tried a series of arguments against Trump, none of which have worked. He’s not a real conservative. He’s erratic. He’s ignorant. He’s killing us with Hispanics. If he was the nominee, we’d lose in a landslide.

All of which is true, but so far it hasn’t mattered. Trump is still leading, as he has from almost the moment he got into the race. As NBC News said this morning, “Donald Trump and Ben Carson are only getting STRONGER as we head into next week’s third GOP debate.” Nobody supporting Trump is unfamiliar with him; it’s getting less and less likely that an opponent will be able to say, “Did you know this about Trump?” and watch his support ebb away. They know who and what he is, and that’s why they’re behind him.

Trump is now putting together an actual campaign organization, with things like ballot-access specialists and ground operatives, which he didn’t have before. As Ron Brownstein points out, “Trump is ce­ment­ing a strong blue-col­lar base, while the white-col­lar voters re­l­at­ively more res­ist­ant to him have yet to uni­fy around any single al­tern­at­ive.” The longer that unification takes, the better position Trump will be in; it isn’t hard to imagine him winning one early state after another and building up an unstoppable momentum.

Those who have been observing politics for a long time — whether you’re talking about journalists or the insiders now trying to figure out how to stop Trump — still have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that he could really win. They now acknowledge that it’s possible, but it still seems crazy. Which it certainly is. But it’s looking like the establishment is going to have to do more than wait for primary voters to come to their senses if they want to stop him.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post,  October 20, 2015

October 23, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Low Information Republicans”: What We Have Here Is More Than A Failure To Communicate

One of the more common areas of discussion among political professionals is the phenomenon of low-information voters. These are folks who care about the country and its future, but choose not to keep up on current events, due to some combination of feeling busy, apathetic, and frustrated. Political pros find these Americans difficult to reach — and at times, easy to manipulate — precisely because they’re disengaged and far behind the curve.

The point isn’t that low-information voters are dumb, but rather, that they’re ignorant. In focus groups, you’ll hear these same folks express poorly thought out opinions based on vague “something I heard on the news” observations.

But what happens when we move past low-information voters and start looking at low-information politicians? Ezra Klein relayed an incredible exchange from last week about the ongoing fiscal debate in Washington.

Would it matter, one reporter asked the veteran legislator, if the president were to put chained-CPI — a policy that reconfigures the way the government measures inflation and thus slows the growth of Social Security benefits — on the table?

“Absolutely,” the legislator said. “That’s serious.”

Another reporter jumped in. “But it is on the table! They tell us three times a day that they want to do chained-CPI.”

“Who wants to do it?” said the legislator.

“The president,” replied the reporter.

“I’d love to see it,” laughed the legislator.

In other words, an elected member of Congress — a “veteran legislator,” not some freshman who’s only been in office a couple of months — wants to see President Obama endorse a “serious” policy like chained-CPI as part of a larger debt-reduction package, but the lawmaker has absolutely no idea that Obama has already endorsed chained-CPI as part of a larger debt-reduction package. Indeed, in this case, the Republican lawmaker was so incredulous, he or she laughed at reality, as if it couldn’t possibly be true.

So, is it fair to say Washington debates would be less ridiculous if low-information Republican lawmakers were simply brought up to speed on the basics? Would compromise be easier if GOP officials had some clue as to what President Obama is, in reality, offering?

Well, no, probably not.

Jon Chait reminds us of the classic Upton Sinclair line: “It is impossible to make a man understand something if his livelihood depends on not understanding it.”

As this is applied to the ongoing political debates in DC, Republicans seem ignorant to a jaw-dropping degree about some of the basics, but even if they suddenly became more informed, it’s likely they’d come up with new reasons not to govern constructively with the White House.

Indeed, we don’t have to speculate to know this is true. Over the weekend, Ezra highlighted concerns raised by Mike Murphy, one of the top political consultants in the Republican Party, who said President Obama could reach a bipartisan deal with Republicans if only he endorsed chained CPI, apparently unaware that Obama has already done this.

Reminded of the facts, Murphy dug in, saying Obama endorsed means testing, but “refused” chained CPI. This is factually incorrect, too — indeed, it’s the exact opposite of reality — and when this was brought to his attention, Murphy switched gears, saying chained CPI is a “small beans gimmick” and Republicans just aren’t able to “trust” the White House.

Keep in mind, Murphy’s no dummy, but his line of argument is literally incoherent. He wants Obama to endorse a policy. Told that Obama already endorsed that policy, Murphy denies it. Presented with proof, Murphy decides the policy he supports isn’t so great after all.

So what does Murphy recommend? That Obama “earn trust” with Republicans by “first” agreeing to spending cuts. But in our reality, Obama already embraced about $1.5 trillion in spending cuts in 2011, with no accompanying revenue. In other words, Murphy believes the way out of the current mess is for the president to give Republicans 100% of what they want, accepting another cuts-only package.

Ezra’s bottom line rings true: Republicans have effectively eliminated the possibility of compromise, since they “just want to get the White House to implement their agenda in return for nothing.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 4, 2013

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Deficits, Sequester | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Lesson Learned”: Obama’s Presidential Road Trip Annoys The GOP

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained on Fox News yesterday, “All [President Obama] does is go out and make speeches” instead of negotiating with lawmakers like him. Around the same time, on “Meet the Press,” Republican strategist Mike Murphy argued that the president should “stop the speeches” and “stop the politicization.” Also on “Meet the Press,” Republican pundit Michael Gerson complained about the “outside game [Obama’s] been pursuing,” in which the president hits the road, “beating up on the Congress.”

It’s not exactly subtle: Obama’s GOP detractors aren’t happy about the president taking his message directly to the public though outside-the-beltway events.

Then again, it appears the White House doesn’t much care. When Obama delivered a big speech on preventing gun violence, he did so not in Washington, but in Minnesota. When he spoke on immigration reform, the president skipped D.C. and traveled to Las Vegas.

The president will deliver the State of the Union from Capitol Hill tomorrow, but over the weekend, the White House announced the president’s plans for the rest of the week.

After Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address, the President will travel to three different communities to discuss proposals, unveiled in the speech, that focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and those striving to get there. On Wednesday, February 13th, the President will travel to the Asheville, North Carolina area for an event. On Thursday, February 14th, the President will travel to the Atlanta, Georgia area for an event. On Friday, February 15th, the President will travel to the Chicago area for an event.

To be sure, this is hardly the first time a president has taken a post-SOTU road trip, but these excursions come against an interesting backdrop.

For one thing, we have Republicans urging Obama not to take his message directly to the public, which should probably be a sign that the president is doing the smart thing, since his detractors probably don’t have his best interests at heart.

For another, keep in mind, the president played the game for much of his first term the way the GOP wanted: staying in D.C., huddled in closed-door meetings trying to find new ways to meet Republican demands. It appears Obama has learned a lesson he intends to apply to his second term: the old way wasn’t constructive, didn’t pay dividends, and failed to make GOP policymakers more cooperative and/or interested in governing.

Whether the new strategy works or not remains to be seen, but it’s a deliberate shift — Obama hopes to change the political environment, and create new public pressures, by making his pitch outside Washington, whether Republican lawmakers and pundits like it or not.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 11, 2013

February 13, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Loons And Wackos”: In GOP Civil War, It’s Limbaugh vs The Consultants

The last time we checked in with the post-election GOP civil war, Herman Cain was threatening to form a new party to compete with the GOP, Bill Kristol sparked a schism over tax increases, and Grover Norquist, the high priest of anti-tax dogma, was losing his grip on congressional Republicans.

This week, the Republican soul searching and polite recriminations via anonymous quote exploded into an all-out war of words between representatives of two wings of the party that have never gotten along, but largely kept quiet for the good of the conservative cause.

In one corner are the consultants, Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain’s 2008 campaign, and Mike Murphy, who advised Mitt Romney. In the other corner is Rush Limbaugh, the embodiment of the conservative id in human form. We don’t have a dog in this fight as there’s blood on both of their hands, so just sit back and enjoy.

Schmidt threw the first punch in this battle on “Meet the Press” with a left, left combo strike against the right flank of his party. GOP leaders have “succumbed to the base,” he said last Sunday, arguing that “to too many swing voters in the country, when you hear the word ‘conservative’ now, they think of loons and wackos.” As if that weren’t enough, when host David Gregory played a clip of Limbaugh, Schmidt took the bait. “Our elected leaders are scared to death of the conservative entertainment complex, the shrill and divisive voices that are bombastic and broadcasting out into the homes,” he said in a clear reference to the radio host.

A week later on the same show, Murphy tagged in and continued the pummeling, this time calling out Limbaugh by name. “If we don’t modernize conservatism, we can go extinct … we’ve got to get kind of a party view of America that’s not right out of Rush Limbaugh’s dream journal,” Murphy said. He continued to deliver the blows:

“We alienate young voters because of gay marriage, we have a policy problem. We alienate Latinos — the fastest growing voter group in the country, because of our fetish on so-called amnesty, when we should be for a path to immigration. And we’ve lost our connection to middle-class economics. We also have an operative class and unfortunately a lot of which is incompetent … The biggest problem Mitt Romney had was the Republican primary. That’s what’s driving the Republican brand right now to a disaster.”

It’s a rather stunning rebuke from someone who was a top strategist to the Republican Party’s standard bearer just a few weeks ago. And it’s a surprisingly earnest, clear-eyed diagnosis of the party’s problem — its policy — from a leader in a party that has spent a lot of time after the election talking about superficial fixes that won’t change much. (That said, it’s more than a little ironic for him to attack an operative class that doesn’t know how to win considering that he … is an operative who just lost.)

Limbaugh didn’t hesitate to fire back. “What, folks, did I or any of you have to do with the Republican primary? Did not Murphy get the candidate he wanted?” the radio host said Monday. Indeed, Limbaugh is right, at least in that he was never a fan of Romney during the GOP primary.

“All these consultants, do you realize they get rich no matter who wins or loses? Little-known secret,” Limbaugh said (right again). “We need to get rid of conservatism, is what is he’s saying. We need to get rid of all these people shouting stupid conservative stuff,” the radio host added.

Limbaugh then went after Schmidt personally, saying, “I don’t know where Schmidt has a victory to hang his hat on.”

Yesterday, he also put to bed any rumors that he would support tax increases, as he had hinted at earlier.

Schmidt’s membership card to Limbaugh’s conservative movement was revoked four years ago after McCain’s loss and when Sarah Palin seemed to make it her mission to destroy him. So it’s not particularly surprising that he would tangle with Limbaugh. But the addition of Murphy, and the openness and viciousness of the conflict, illuminates the front lines in the civil war as the party tries to remake itself for future elections.

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, November 21, 2012

November 22, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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