"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A ‘Base’ Election?”: The Trump Campaign Seems To Be Forgetting That Its Real Audience Isn’t In Quicken Arena

Thursday night’s official Republican National Convention theme is “Make America One Again.” After the first three nights, displaying Donald Trump’s campaign as a force for unity anywhere — even just in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena — will take some doing.

On Wednesday night, Team Trump deliberately provoked what can only be described as a lose-lose confrontation with Ted Cruz that created a nasty and divisive scene overshadowing the maiden speech of the vice-presidential nominee. With each such decision, you get the impression the people in charge of this convention have forgotten that the real “arena” is the general election, and that their real audience is an electorate far beyond this bowl seething with unaccountably angry delegates.

Otherwise it’s hard to credit the constant, interminable, over-the-top feeding of red meat to the crowd, beginning with Willie Robertson’s first-night taunting of people who are not “real Americans.” It may be understandable that speakers are tempted to interact with the people on the floor howling for Hillary Clinton’s incarceration, but the job of convention managers is to remind them that these people are TV props — ignore them and remember the whole world’s watching!

It’s almost as though the Trump people are treating the convention as the culmination of the mogul’s campaign: an opportunity to glory in their extremely unlikely conquest of one of America’s two major parties, to gloat over the shattered Establishment that’s being forced to accept them, and to shake their fists at the unbelievers who still mock their orange-tinted champion. That there is still a difficult election ahead and that this convention is a priceless earned-media opportunity to reach out beyond their own ranks seems to be lost on this wild show’s organizers and participants.

Perhaps they have oversubscribed to the idea that this is a “base” election with virtually no swing voters that will be decided strictly on the basis of who can get supporters so whipped up into a hate-frenzy that they vote at unprecedented levels. Or maybe they decided in advance that conventions don’t really matter as anything other than a reward to core supporters who are cavorting over the supine bodies of their class and ideological enemies in the GOP.

In any event, Donald Trump has set quite the challenge for himself in making unity, of all things, his announced theme for the climactic convention address, the one thing that could make people forget the atavistic images from the first three nights. As I noted in an earlier column, Paul Manafort says the tycoon is modeling his speech on Richard Nixon’s reasonably successful (if retroactively ludicrous) 1968 acceptance speech effort to pose as a moderate third-way alternative to the raging forces of left and right. In this case it would be like George Wallace seizing the podium at that 1968 convention and denouncing the furies he had himself conjured up.

Short of self-criticism, which does not seem to be in his repertoire, Donald Trump is going to have a hard time projecting himself as a unifying figure. But to have any chance of success, he needs to begin by reminding himself that it just doesn’t matter whether the delegates physically before him in the arena go away slightly disappointed that he passed up an opportunity to reflect their excited rage.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 21, 2016

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, GOP Base, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Power Of Sisterhood”: Trump, Clinton Could Post Record Numbers With Opposite Corners Of White America

The stereotypical Donald Trump voter is a non-college-educated white man. Hillary Clinton’s base of support is much more diverse, but in terms of general election swing voters, her stereotypical voter is probably a professional white woman. Stereotypes are always over-generalizations and are sometimes misleading. But depending on how the general election develops, the impressive strength of the major-party candidates among downscale white men and upscale white women could prove to be the key match-up.

Veteran journalist Ron Brownstein looked at the internals of some recent general election polls and found that adding gender to education levels among white voters produced a shocking gap between the two candidates.

In early polling, the class inversion between Clinton and Trump is scaling unprecedented heights. In the national CBS/NYT poll, Trump led Clinton by 27 percentage points among non-college-educated white men, while she led him by 17 points among college-educated white women, according to figures provided by CBS. The ABC/Washington Post survey recorded an even greater contrast: it gave Trump a staggering 62-point advantage among non-college-educated white men and Clinton a 24-point lead among college-educated white women. State surveys reinforce the pattern. In the Pennsylvania Quinnipiac survey, Trump led among non-college-educated white men by 43 points, but trailed by 23 among college-educated white women. In Quinnipiac’s latest Ohio survey, Clinton’s vote among college-educated white women was 20 points higher than her showing among blue-collar white men.

Brownstein argues that each candidate is reaching or in some cases exceeding the all-time records for their party in these demographics — which means the gap could be larger than ever, too. What makes the trade-off potentially acceptable to Democrats is that college-educated white women are a growing part of the electorate while non-college-educated white men have been steadily declining for decades. What gives Republicans some hope is the theory that blue-collar white men, who are usually somewhat marginal voters, will turn out at record levels for Trump. Sean Trende, the primary author of the “missing white voters” hypothesis explaining a big part of Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss, thinks Trump is a good fit for these voters despite his weaknesses elsewhere in the electorate.

To be very clear: even though these two opposite corners of the white vote are significant, in the end a vote is a vote and there are many dynamics that could matter more. Most notably, if Hillary Clinton can reassemble the “Obama coalition” of young and minority voters with the same percentages and turnout numbers as the president did in 2012 or (even more) 2008, she has a big margin for error among all categories of older white voters. And within the universe of white voters, racial polarization could give Trump a higher share of college-educated voters than currently appears likely, while Democrats have high hopes of doing very well among non-college-educated white women by hammering away at the mogul on both economic and gender issues.

In the end, Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and have a coalition that is growing while that of the GOP is shrinking. They also have a nominee who, for all her problems, raises far fewer worries among both swing and base voters than does the Republican.  Trump’s carefree attitude about who he offends could be more problematic in a general than in a primary election, and his disdain for the technological tools necessary to carefully target voters could prove to be a strategic handicap.

If the election does come down to a contest between women and men of any race or level of educational achievement, a Clinton victory would be not only historic, but a demonstration of the power of sisterhood against an opponent who’s a cartoon-character representation of The Man.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 30, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dems With A Different Name”: Bernie’s Independent Voters Are Very Likely To Cast Ballots For HRC In The End

Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight has helped unravel one of the great mysteries of Campaign ’16: Who are the self-identified independent voters Bernie Sanders is carrying so heavily in primaries and caucuses? Are they swing voters who might well swing to Donald Trump in a general-election contest with Hillary Clinton, or stay home in large numbers?

According to the Gallup data Enten is looking at, no, they’re not.

Sanders’s real advantage over Clinton is among the 41 percent of independents who lean Democratic, with whom he has a 71 percent approval rating as opposed to HRC’s 51 percent. Among the 23 percent who do not lean in either party’s direction — the stone swing voters — Sanders’s approval rating is 35 percent, virtually the same as Clinton’s 34 percent (both are much better than Trump’s 16 percent).

But aren’t a lot of the leaners swing voters, too, particularly if their favored candidate does not win the nomination? Probably not:

In the last three presidential elections, the Democratic candidate received the support of no less than 88 percent of self-identified independents who leaned Democratic, according to the American National Elections Studies survey. These are, in effect, Democratic voters with a different name.

Yes, Clinton may need to work on this category of voters, but the idea that they are unreachable or likely to defect to Trump doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. These aren’t left-bent voters who have lurked in hiding for years, waiting for a Democrat free of Wall Street ties or militaristic tendencies, and they’re not truly unaffiliated voters who will enter the general election as likely to vote for a Republican as a Democrat. They’ve been around for a while, and in fact they are being affected by partisan polarization more than the self-identified partisans who have almost always put on the party yoke. So while a majority of these Democratic-leaning independents clearly prefer Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee, they represent a reservoir of votes that are ultimately Hillary Clinton’s to lose.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 25, 2016

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Logical Move Is To Make A Deal”: What Republicans Risk By Obstructing Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination

Conventional wisdom states that Republicans have every political reason to block anyone President Obama nominates for the Supreme Court.

Any Republican who voted for an Obama nominee could face a primary challenge. The people who care most about judicial battles are ideological base voters, so swing voters in a general election wouldn’t blame one party over the other. And if a Republican wins the presidency, then Senate Republicans would confirm a conservative, while if a Democrat wins, the person’s nominee would be no different from an Obama nominee. Nothing lost by holding out.

But there are reasons to question all of these assumptions.

First, the immediate electoral risk for Republicans is in the general election, not the primary.

There are 21 incumbent Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2016. (Three other Republican incumbents are retiring from the Senate.) Six of them, five of which are in “blue” states, are rated as “toss-up” or “lean Republican” (as opposed to “likely” or “solid” Republican) by the Cook Political Report.

These six – Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Richard Burr (N.C.) – were all elected to their first terms in the Tea Party-infused 2010 midterm. This time, they will be running in a presidential year in which Democratic turnout will be higher.

Kirk, Portman, Toomey and Burr have primary challengers. But none have gained traction yet, and the primaries for most are soon – all in March except for Toomey’s in late April. Any vote on a court nominee would likely come after that.

(The one probably worried the most about a primary challenge is New Hampshire’s Ayotte; her primary is not until September, the filing deadline is June and Trump’s presidential primary win showed an unruly anti-establishment GOP electorate.)

For the other 15 “safe” Republicans up for re-election, several face nominal primary challenges, 10 of them in June or later. These folks won’t want to take any unnecessary political risks.

That leaves 30 Republicans who don’t face any immediate electoral pressures.

They may have a reason to worry about future primaries; political scientist Dave Hopkins noted that longtime Sen. Dick Lugar was ousted in the 2012 primary after voting for Obama nominees in 2009 and 2010. But those were votes for nominees that were considered to be “liberal” picks. The political dynamic around a pick widely deemed to be a centrist would be an entirely different ballgame.

That brings us to the second assumption: only base voters care about judges.

It’s an understandable assumption. It has been true when we’ve had Senate scrums over lower court judges. It has been true when voices on one side of the spectrum futilely try to rally opposition to a judge on the other side. (Contemporaneous polls showed little public interest in the epic 1991 Clarence Thomas and 1987 Robert Bork battles, not to mention the less-remembered 2005 conservative kneecapping of Harriet Miers.)

But none of those episodes happened in the middle of a presidential election.

In fact, SCOTUSBlog checked the record going to back to 1900, and found no instance of a Supreme Court seat left vacant on Election Day. If Republicans refuse to approve anybody by November, we will be in a truly unprecedented situation.

The public won’t tune out of the judicial battle because a presidential election season is the one time when most people tune in. And no matter who Obama picks, barring a poor vet and unexpected scandal, Republicans will be on the losing side of the argument.

Obama is highly unlikely to pick a left-wing version of a Bork. He would either pick someone in the “mainstream liberal” mold of Sonia Sotomayor or Elana Kagan, or he would offer a compromise choice, a centrist swing vote – perhaps negotiated with some Senate Republicans – putting the Supreme Court in perfect ideological balance.

Either direction squeezes obstructionist Republicans.

Republicans would have a relatively easier time resisting a mainstream liberal, or more accurately, it would be a bigger risk for individual Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for a mainstream liberal. That could be used against a Republican in a primary this year or beyond.

Nevertheless, a general electorate majority would embrace a mainstream liberal since he or she would uphold rights that are widely embraced, including abortion rights under Roe v. Wade and equal rights for gay people. Putting those hot-button social issues on the line for Election Day is an clear-cut loser for Republicans. Not only would Republicans be more likely to lose the presidency, they would also be more likely to lose the Senate.

Naming an undisputed non-ideological judge would put Republicans in an even worse political bind. A nominee showered with praise from the legal establishment as an eminently qualified straight-shooter would isolate Republicans as hostages to ideological extremists. They would not be able to claim that they were protecting the court from a dramatic ideological shift; they would be exposed as holding out for their own ideological comrade at the expense of good governance.

And that brings us to the final assumption: that Republicans lose nothing by holding out. On the contrary, they could lose everything.

As it stands, Republicans have the ability to bargain with Obama and win that compromise pick, ticking the court a half-step leftward into exact ideological balance.

By refusing to bargain, Republicans weaken their general election prospects for both the White House and Senate. If Democrats take both, they could install a young liberal – as well as replace older liberals Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer – and create a five-person Court majority that would rule for a generation.

Seeing the madness that is the Republican presidential primary, one could see why the Republican Party’s first instinct is to reflexively obstruct. But after making a cold calculation, clear-headed Republicans will see that the logical move is to make a deal.

The only question remains: How many clear-headed Republicans are left in the Senate?


By: Bill Scher, Campaign for America’s Future,; February 17, 2016

February 22, 2016 Posted by | GOP Base, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Electability May Be Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon”: “Can Win In November” Is Top Candidate Quality Voters Are Looking For

It’s a bit early in the presidential nominating process for “electability” arguments to become prominent. Voters are just now hearing candidates’ messages, which do not typically revolve around the ability to win a general election (though that may be a component in the message). Some of the more ideological voters may sense that caring more about electability than about core values or policy goals is unprincipled. But in polarized times like our own, the closer we get to the final choice of presidential standard-bearers, the more we’ll hear discussions of their strengths and weaknesses as general-election candidates.

Interestingly enough, entrance polls from Iowa and exit polls from New Hampshire show almost identical percentages of Democratic and Republican participants saying “Can win in November” is the top candidate quality they are looking for (as compared to perceptions of candidates’ empathy, honesty, and experience). But how these premature general-election worrywarts distribute their support differs considerably.

Among the 21 percent of Iowa Republicans placing a premium on electability, 44 percent caucused for Marco Rubio, 24 percent for Donald Trump, and 22 percent for Ted Cruz. As it happens, all three of these candidates stand for different theories of how a general-election campaign would be waged.

But among the 20 percent of Iowa Democrats prioritizing electability, 77 percent caucused for Hillary Clinton and only 17 percent for Bernie Sanders.

In New Hampshire, 12 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats ranked electability first among candidate characteristics.

Again, the Republicans so inclined were scattered, with 33 percent voting for Trump, 29 percent for Rubio (far above his overall percentage), and 16 percent for Kasich (New Hampshire Republicans were not, it appears, as impressed with Cruz’s “54 million missing evangelicals” electability argument, since only 6 percent of electability-first voters went in his direction).

But again, electability-first Democrats went 79-20 for Clinton.

Now it’s possible there’s some extrinsic reason for this finding other than Clinton having a superior perception of electability; maybe voters already inclined to vote for her simply find it easier to call her electable rather than “honest and trustworthy,” another choice. It’s more likely, though, that voters simply figure this well-known candidate running for president a second time is a better bet than a septuagenarian democratic socialist with a hybrid Brooklyn/Vermont accent and a strident tone. There’s really no reliable evidence for that; Sanders does as well as or better than Clinton in early general-election trial heats, but even if he didn’t, such polls aren’t terribly useful given the inclusion of many voters who aren’t yet paying attention to politics at all.

Later in the process, however, electability will begin to matter a lot to Democrats, especially if Republicans seem poised to nominate Rubio, who creates troubling generational comparisons to both Clinton and Sanders, or Donald Trump, whose character and conduct could create many millions of swing voters.

As I noted when listening to her in Iowa, Clinton does spend a good amount of time warning Democrats of the long-term damage Republicans could do if they controlled both Congress and the White House in 2017. That certainly gets people thinking about electability, and also thinking about liberal policies that need to be defended as opposed to less-immediate goals like amending the Constitution to ban unlimited corporate-campaign spending or building a majority to impose a single-payer health-care system on a balky Congress.

In any event, Clinton would be smart to explore these themes more often, and see what happens. It’s one thing to accuse Sanders of promoting “pie in the sky” policy ideas. It’s another altogether to describe him as a high-risk candidate who’ll invite catastrophe if he loses and won’t accomplish much if he wins. And Sanders would be smart to spend more time talking about the unconventional alliances he put together in and out of office in Vermont. Electability will eventually matter a lot.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 11, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Electability, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

%d bloggers like this: