Jun. 25

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Striking Parallels between Brexit and U.S. Politics

The movements fueling both the soon-to-be-Disunited Kingdom's exit from the European Union and Donald Trump's campaign have a lot in common. In both countries, millions of people are rejecting the status quo, the political leadership, globalization, and immigration. While it wasn't their official strategy, the "Leave" campaign in the U.K. could easily have adopted the slogan "Make Britain Great Again" and all its supporters would have cheered. What they want, as in the U.S., is to go back to a time when white Christian men ran the show, immigrants were tolerated only in small numbers, and companies did not ship jobs overseas to make a few bucks or quid.

On both sides of the pond, distrust of the establishment runs very deep. Large numbers of people in both countries believe their government does not have their best interests at heart and cares only about what rich people and multinational corporations want. What is especially noteworthy is that the polarization in both countries breaks along exactly the same fault lines. Young, college-educated, upper-middle-class professionals who live in cities support a more internationalized world (meaning the Democrats in the U.S. and pro-EU in the U.K.). Older, non-college, blue-collar workers who live in rural areas are more conservative and support Trump and leave-EU, respectively. In both cases, the reason that lower income people are more nationalistic and anti-immigrant is not that they are stupid or uninformed, but that their economic and social position has deteriorated in the past 30 or 40 years (especially for white non-college men) and they don't believe for a second that the elites give a hoot about them.

In the U.S., these people have found a hero in Donald Trump, who suggests he can make the good old days come back again. In the U.K., former London Mayor Boris Johnson (who is actually an American) is auditioning for the role of prime minister and using Trump's playbook to get it. (V)

Dump Trump Probably Doesn't Have the Votes on RNC Rules Committee

For Republican insiders who want to get rid of Donald Trump through convention shenanigans, the key is the convention's 112-person rules committee. The committee would have to pass some sort of rule that would unbind the delegates and allow them to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Politico has contacted all 112, and also surveyed their public statements, and has discovered a big problem with the Dump Trump plan: The majority of the 112 rules committee members are supporters of The Donald. They are not likely to pass a new rule that would deny Trump the nomination.

Now, as the National Review has observed, it actually takes only 28 committee members to issue a "minority report" recommending a rule change. Such a report would get a hearing from the full convention. However, Politico's numbers suggest that the Dump Trumpers might not even have that many people on the committee (not all 112 committee members were willing to talk, so we can't be sure). And even if there are 28 rules committee votes, the minority report would then have to get votes from a majority of the 2,472 delegates. That's an extremely tall order, particularly if there is no viable alternative candidate to whom the convention can turn. So, it's probably back to the drawing board for the GOP establishment. (Z)

Sanders Sorta, Kinda, for Clinton

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has announced that he will vote for Hillary Clinton for president, but he didn't endorse her or leave the race. He also said he would do everything he could to defeat Donald Trump. Dropping out of the race and endorsing Clinton could conceivably help defeat Trump, but he is not there yet. He first wants to know what she stands for. Actually, if he checks out her Website, he could find out what she stands for in quite a lot of detail, but apparently he hasn't done that yet. As runner-up, he has some leverage with her in getting her to support some of his positions, but he seems to be negotiating with her in a strange way, every day moving a little closer to endorsing her, but not getting there.

He was asked yesterday what he thinks about Brexit and was able to field the question quite well, without turning it into an ad for something he is selling (as Donald Trump did). Sanders said that Brexit shows that the global economy is not working for a lot of people in the U.K., just as it isn't in the U.S. This is completely consistent with what he has been saying all year. (V)

Sanders Getting Much of What He Wants

The committee responsible for drafting the Democratic Party's 2016 platform is already at work. And Bernie Sanders should be very happy with the early news, because it looks like he will get at least two of the biggest planks he wanted: A call for a $15 minimum wage, and the proposal for "an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall" to give the federal government more oversight over the nation's financial system.

Is this the result of some behind-the-scenes horse trading between the Sanders and Clinton camps? Or is it merely that the Vermont Senator's success persuaded party insiders that these are politically wise ideas? We may never know. Either way, Sanders will be able to take credit for the additions, which will in turn make it easier for him to hop aboard the Clinton bandwagon (Z).

Clinton Picks Up Two High-Profile Republicans

A lot of Republican insiders have a dilemma: The don't like the idea of voting for a Clinton, and they don't want to waste their vote on a third-party candidate, but they also dislike Donald Trump intensely. Some of them have taken a "wait and see" approach before declaring their intentions, hoping that a Trump 2.0 will emerge and take hold. Others see that as a pipe dream, and see no point in waiting.

Two prominent members of the GOP have just moved into the latter group. The first is Brent Scowcroft, who was National Security Adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush and also worked for Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Given his background, Scowcroft is primarily concerned with a candidate's foreign policy credentials, and he sees Hillary Clinton as a slam dunk over Trump, declaring that, "She brings deep expertise in international affairs and a sophisticated understanding of the world, which I believe are essential for the commander-in-chief."

Hank Paulson, meanwhile, served as George W. Bush's Treasury Secretary, most notably spearheading the 2008 bailout. On Friday, he penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, denouncing Trump in no uncertain terms:

Let's start by talking about his business acumen. When Trump assures us he'll do for the United States what he's done for his businesses, that's not a promise—it's a threat. The tactics he has used in running his business wouldn't work in running a truly successful company, let alone the most powerful nation on Earth.

Every good businessman or —woman carefully analyzes all the available facts before making a decision. Trump repeatedly, blatantly and knowingly makes up or gravely distorts facts to support his positions or create populist divisions...

When it comes to the presidency, I will not vote for Donald Trump. I will not cast a write-in vote. I'll be voting for Hillary Clinton, with the hope that she can bring Americans together to do the things necessary to strengthen our economy, our environment and our place in the world. To my Republican friends: I know I'm not alone.

Every election brings at least a few high-profile defections like this. In 2016, however, we are likely to see a much higher number than usual. (Z)

Republican Insiders: It's Kaine

Yesterday we had a story about how Democratic insiders think Hillary Clinton will pick Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) as her running mate. Now Politico has asked its panel of Republican insiders and they agree that Kaine is the Democrats' best choice, and for pretty much the same reasons as the Democrats give. Kaine was mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia, and chairman of the DNC before being elected to the Senate from a key swing state and next door to another key swing state (North Carolina). He speaks fluent Spanish going back to the time he was a missionary in Honduras. His elevation to the vice presidency wouldn't endanger a Democratic Senate seat, as would the choice of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). At 58, he is young enough to run for president in 2020 if Trump wins this year or in 2024 if Clinton wins. He is also a Roman Catholic, which could help with Catholic voters in the Rust Belt. Now that the Democrats and Republicans agree it will be Kaine, all we need to know is what Hillary Clinton thinks about the matter. But that will not be forthcoming until after the Republican National Convention has confirmed the GOP ticket. (V)

Polling the Veepstakes

Monmouth has conducted a new poll, focusing on the impact that various VP candidates might have on the two parties' tickets. They asked randomly-selected voters whether various candidates would make them "more likely" to vote Trump/Clinton, "less likely," or would not impact their choice. Based on the response, Monmouth reached three conclusions:

Given how far out we are from the election, as well as the fact that many of these names are unknown to voters who are not political junkies, we can't put too much stock in the first two items on the list. Further, the point of choosing someone like, say, Tim Kaine would not be to move the needle nationally, but to aid the ticket in a specific part of the country (Virginia and North Carolina) where he is known.

The real takeaway here is the third point, a sentiment that is unlikely to change much even once the number twos are announced. The fact is that, even in their home states, Veep candidates don't have that much impact. Indeed, there is a pretty good case to be made that Clinton and Trump should not be worrying so much about finding a VP that will help them, as much as making sure they don't choose someone who hurts them (Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle, John Edwards, etc.). (Z)

Potential Clinton Donors Are Afraid of Scaring Trump

As Bill and Hillary Clinton are talking to big donors, they are running into an unexpected problem: Democratic donors are afraid Clinton will amass such a big advantage in money that Donald Trump will drop out of the race before the convention, only to be replaced by a much stronger candidate, such as Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). Bill Clinton is scheduled to headline fundraisers in seven states next week, which will only increase his wife's financial advantage over Trump, whose campaign is running on empty. Bill has slipped up a few times in public this year and his once-legendary campaign skills might not be as good as they once were, so he is being kept away from the limelight and told to quietly raise money. The candidate herself is also spending a lot of time raising money rather than campaigning. The Clintons' goal is to raise enough money to saturate the airwaves before the convention, but to do it in a low-profile way that doesn't cause Trump or the Republican Party to freak out and cause Trump to drop out or be pushed out. (V)

Clinton Happy To Let Trump Dominate the News

In the aftermath of Brexit, Donald Trump is dominating the news cycle, basically applauding the Brits who voted to leave the E.U. and claiming credit for their victory. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is nowhere to be seen. That is not an accident. She is testing a new theory that P.T. Barnum was wrong and there is such a thing as bad publicity. Brexit offers Trump many opportunities to say things that demonstrate his lack of knowledge of international affairs, and especially international economics. While Trump is saying what a great idea Brexit is, stock markets worldwide are in freefall and all the business analysts are saying that it is going to get worse. Having his pronouncements contradicted by all the news around him is fine with Clinton. She probably remembers what the reaction was in 2008 when John McCain said: "The fundamentals of the economy are strong" just hours before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. A fairly basic principle of campaigning that Clinton understands well is that when your opponent is busy shooting himself in the foot, don't get in his way. (V)

Duckworth Dodges a Bullet

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is trying very hard to take over the Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). And one of the biggest millstones around her neck, as she tries to do so, has been a pending lawsuit stemming from her time as head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She was accused of retaliating against a pair of whistleblowers, and the timing of the case was such that Duckworth might well have been on the stand just weeks before the November elections. Those aren't the kinds of pictures a candidate wants in the paper.

Well, Duckworth need not worry any longer. A settlement has been reached, so there will be no need for her to testify. Further, the settlement included a finding of no wrongdoing on the part of the defendant. So while Kirk will still try to make political hay out of the affair (and, indeed, had some very pointed remarks after the settlement was announced), there isn't really anywhere for him to go with it. The Democrats, who know this seat is key to their hopes of retaking the Senate, are breathing a collective sigh of relief. (Z)

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