Sunday, April 03, 2016

Trump: BFJ, Not Funny

And the joke is on all of us.  Turns out Trump did do this thing as a lark, thinking that he would finish in The Middle of the Pack in Iowa and then be free to return to his regular gig.  But no, he crushed his performance—which we’ll come back to defining in a moment—and methodically knocked out candidate after candidate—“And you’re fired!”

The amazing thing was, some of the guys he knocked out came back to him.  Ben Carson, Chris Christie.  Other people so deeply into character (Sarah Palin) that they could not leave the show.  Some new characters in the farce:  The Campaign Manager with the nasty streak; the woman with the imagination to do the American thing and file charges. 

Please, Trumpistas, listen.  He’s been toying with you.  He’s been pulling your strings like a sitar virtuoso.  The sounds resonate for you, and you come away from your encounters with his pitch convinced.  This is not a used car, though; not only do you have to kick the tires a bit more before you buy, but you’re hiring him to drive it, too.  And Trump has shown, over and over again, that he is not prepared to be President.   Even worse, if we refer to our countrys experience with St. Ronnie Reagan, he doesn’t seem to have the sense to hire people who are more responsible, more professional in their professional demeanor than he is.
#NeverTrump Update
More significant than the “Drumpfengaffen”—this week, the ones on abortion “punishment” for women, on Japan and South Korea’s response to North Korea’s aggressive nuclear policy, to the “unaffordable” cost of leading NATO’s protection of European freedom and prosperity, all of which just reinforce the known narrative of Trump’s limited understanding of the few issues the Republican campaign has addressed—more important than the outcome of the primary in Wisconsin (a solitary event in the extended blabfest of Act II, Scene 4, after the critical mid-March primary results, which firmly established Trump and Clinton as the frontrunners for the parties’ nominations), there is a quiet movement finally forming within the Republican parties’ meeting rooms (in olden days they would have been smoke-filled) which have the objective of blocking Trump’s first-ballot selection for the nomination.

Leading this quiet, not-quite conspiracy, in the sense that there is no agreement on the strategy, only on the intention, are the canny, hardened party pros working on behalf of Ted Cruz who work, state by state and district by district, to deny Trump committed delegates.  Some are ideologically committed to Cruz, others recruited merely out of the desire to keep the party’s control out of the hands of amateurs. Where they can, they work within the rules of the states to pick up Cruz-pledged delegates, but it is enough to get delegates who will not be pledged for Trump on the first ballot.  The success in the theft of a few in Louisiana caught the frontrunner’s attention, but there are also maneuvers afoot in Tennessee, in Georgia, in Missouri.  Then there is John Kasich’s candidacy, which exists to deny both Cruz and Trump access to his small share of delegates, though so far it does not seem able to add to his chances to promote a viable bid for the nomination.  The Kasich and Cruz campaigns had some initial discussions on cooperating, surely the most effective approach, but Cruz rebuffed the overtures and his campaign and associated PAC are attacking the Ohio governor vigorously in Wisconsin; except for the cirumstances—his weak placement in the horserace—Wisconsin would be a great state for his prospects, but he stands to finish a distant third because of the focus on the two leaders’ contest. 

The Real Kicker
With all the chitter-chatter of a possible contested convention--one to which Trump does not bring a majority of delegates committed to voting for him on the first ballot--the story that has gotten very little attention, but which I predict may be decisive in the contest, is the fate of  the delegate slots won by Marco Rubio, numbering 159 at the time he dropped out of the race just after his massive failure in his home state of Florida (the 159 are about 6.5% of the total).  Rubio “suspended” his campaign, which normally would have released his delegates, but he did not formally release them, and in fact he has followed up with letters to the states where he won delegates to say specifically that he was not releasing them.   I did find one somewhat authoritative voice to address the question in the aftermath of Rubio’s retirement from active campaigning, the lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who said that the results would vary based on individual states’ rules.

I predict that the Republican convention's (Republi-Cons, for short) Rules and Credentials Committees will have to deal with questions of the possible enforcement of pledges of “Rubio delegates”, even in the probable absence of Rubio actually being nominated on the floor, and possibly of voting to decide among competing delegate slates, and that the outcome of these challenges could be decisive (as they were in the last competitive convention, in 1976—the result of those contests put Ford over the top prior to the first ballot).

Finally, in this unofficial anti-Trump conspiracy, there is the notable example of the behavior of Speaker Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin, who has spoken scornfully of Trumpian rhetoric, but has noticeably not endorsed his chief rival, Cruz, in the lead-up to his state’s primary.  One can only speculate on the reason, but I suppose it is a combination of three possible but not mutually exclusive ones:
   a) Ryan detests Cruz as much or more than he does Trump,
   b) secretly he is hoping Kasich’s candidacy can survive, despite lacking Ryan’s significant endorsement, and/or
   c) he believes that they may come to him in the end, as his Congressional colleagues did when they were stuck for a viable candidate for Speaker of the House, and he is leaving the door open for that if the convention delegates can not agree on Trump, Cruz, or Kasich.
In any case, his lack of endorsement does provide for a fair three-way contest this week and leaves his options completely open.

Act II, Scene 4 will be the Wisconsin primaries in both parties, the results of each should provide for entertaining viewing this Tuesday.  In terms of, Cruz and Sanders are heavy favorites, with secondary markets on the margin of the winner:  will the Republican winner have a margin or greater than or =8% (currently  the market is at 56% Yes, up from 52; I'm betting Yes on Cruz' momentum or Trump's lack thereof.  Secondly, will the Democratic primary winner have a margin greater or equal to 5% (market is at 55%, down from 64%, at which point I bet No)..

Scene 5 will be the series of primaries in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states, which will have various storylines (Trump and Clinton’s home state of New York, the outcome of the vote of the “two Pennsylvanias”, the urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and their suburbs, vs. the Appalachian-flavored rest of the state, the Atlantic seaboard battles for Kasich to make headway), and then the final scene, which will be the California primary on June 7, which will either clinch the nomination for Trump, or for Clinton, or possibly set the stage for a drama in Act III, the tale of the Two Cities of Cleveland and Philadelphia.  Those scenes’ scripts have not yet been drafted.

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