Clinton 2811
Sanders 1879
 Needed   2383
Trump 1542
Cruz 559
Rubio 165
Kasich 161
Needed 1237

Republican Convention Day 1: Drama, Vitriol, and Plagiarism

The first day of the GOP convention has come and gone. Political junkies suspected (hoped?) there would be some unplanned surprises, and they weren't disappointed. Here are the highlights:

  • The drama actually began before the convention had even been gaveled to order. The #NeverTrump forces are unhappy that they have to give their support to Donald Trump. Conservatives, led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), are unhappy that they were unable to secure some rules changes they wanted (for example, further incentivizing closed primaries). The two factions joined, and collected enough delegate signatures to force a convention-wide up/down vote on RNC rules (normally, the rules are approved by a voice vote, and such approval is pro forma). This maneuver required the majority of delegates from at least seven states to sign on; Lee, et al. reportedly had 11 states' worth.

  • By the time the convention opened, the Pro-Trump forces and RNC officials were aware of the budding rebellion, and they were prepared to counter. With Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) presiding, the convention was called to order, and he declared the RNC rules to be approved. As many conventioneers chanted for a roll-call vote, Womack disappeared for 15-20 minutes, and RNC and Trump campaign officials worked the crowd, trying to get enough delegates to sign new documents withdrawing their support for a roll-call vote. What happened next is anybody's guess. The RNC claims they were able to coax enough rebels to sign new pledges such that there were no longer seven states in support of a roll-call vote. The #NeverTrump folks and the conservatives claim they were defrauded. Whatever the truth may be, the insurgency was crushed. CNN has a 90-second video narrative of these events here.

  • Note that Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) name appears nowhere in the narrative above. Though he is officially the Chair of the convention, he conveniently chose to make himself scarce on Monday. In fact, he will spend much of his time in Cleveland not attending the convention.

  • Once the convention was in progress, under the watchful eyes of people other than Paul Ryan, the speeches began. The official theme of the day was "Make America Safe Again," but the real theme was how bad Hillary Clinton, radical Islam, and Barack Obama are, in that order. Sometimes the crowd ate it up, particularly when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was speaking. Sometimes, the rhetoric was laid on so thick that even the GOP faithful seemed to be a little restless. More importantly, juicy red meat for the base is nice, but one of the major purposes of the conventions is to win over fence-sitters, independents, etc. Though things may change later in the week, there was little on Monday night to show those voters why they should vote for Donald Trump.

  • Besides Giuliani, another speech that had people talking was the emotional address given by Patricia Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith. "For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism, the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton," declared Smith. "I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son." Many right-wing commentators saw the address as an effective means of giving a human face to the Benghazi tragedy. Many on the left were not impressed, suggesting that it was a cynical use of a young man's death for political purposes, and observing that none of the investigations into Benghazi placed the blame at Clinton's feet. MSNBC's Chris Matthews was particularly critical, declaring that, "[I]t's wrong to have someone get up there and tell a lie about Hillary Clinton. It's not true. It's logically not true. I think it's wrong that they ruined their evening with this."

  • Melania Trump spoke for about 15 minutes, and did a fine job, particularly given that she was obviously nervous. In fact, it seemed at first that she had given the speech of the night, if for no other reason that her address was upbeat and positive in amongst a sea of negativity and vitriol. For about an hour, she got positive feedback from both left- and right-leaning pundits, whose only critique was that she did not include any personal anecdotes about The Donald. But then, the bombshell dropped: Part of the speech was plagiarized from, of all people, Michelle Obama. This quickly became the story of the night, and by 11:30 EST, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC, among others, were running side-by-side comparisons of Trump's address and Obama's address from 2008. It will be very interesting to see how the Trump campaign—not known for admitting errors—responds to this. Trump and his wife were on an airplane to New York by the time the story broke, and so did not comment on Monday night.

  • The plagiarism story deflected attention from a handful of lesser errors made on Monday night. One of those was Donald Trump's curious choice to call into Fox News to blast Gov. John Kasich while the two Benghazi veterans were speaking at the convention. Fox cut away from the convention, of course, meaning that a fair portion of the GOP's voters did not see two of the red meatiest speeches of the evening. Another, more general, error is that there were simply too many speakers saying the same thing, over and over. By the time Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) got on stage, for example, it was nearly midnight EST. A fair bit of the convention hall was already empty, and undoubtedly a large number of TV viewers had also tuned out. When the Democrats take their turn next week, they would do well to remember that less is more.

  • Speaking of the Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama weren't born yesterday, of course. They both did their best to upstage the RNC, with Clinton campaigning in Ohio, and Obama issuing an open letter to police on Monday declaring his support for the "brave members of our law enforcement community."

In short, it was an eventful day. Tune in tomorrow; same bat time, same bat station. (Z)

Ten Ways the Convention Could Revive Or Kill the GOP

One down, three to go. Anything could still happen at the Republican National Convention and it could revive—or kill—the Republican Party going forward. David Lightman at McClatchy lists 10 questions that could determine the future of this year's campaign and the Republican Party in the future:

  • Can the anti-Trump forces get a lot of media attention?
  • Will the politicians who are refusing to show up at the convention get a lot of attention?
  • Will protests outside the venue get more attention than the speeches inside it?
  • Who will be the big stars?
  • Will Ted Cruz, who is already running for the 2020 nomination, shine?
  • Will anyone remember Mike Pence in a week?
  • How much do the recent tragedies in Orlando, Dallas, and Baton Rouge matter?
  • Will the speakers go so far in demonizing Hillary Clinton that they alienate independents and moderates?
  • Will Trump be Trump or will he act presidential?
  • Will Trump's post-convention bounce last, or be gone in a week?

By Friday, we will have an idea, but public opinion could take longer to settle down. (V)

Republicans Want to Reinstate Glass-Steagall

Carter Glass and Henry Steagall are probably scratching their heads in their graves. A top aide to Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, said yesterday that the Republican platform will call for a reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act. This development is very strange since the Republicans were the driving force in getting it repealed, even though Bill Clinton was the president who signed the repeal bill. Also, Republicans are for small government and Glass-Steagall put severe constraints on financial institutions, especially preventing any company from engaging in more than one of (a) retail banking, (b) investment banking, or (c) insurance. Finally, for the Republicans to be endorsing one of the most important things Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been fighting for seems odd, at best.

It could be a simple ploy to lure Sanders voters to support Trump. Or it could be something more subtle. The process of reinstating Glass-Steagall might consist of two steps. First, the Dodd-Frank law is repealed, then Glass-Steagall is reinstituted. It is not inconceivable that the Republicans in Congress will wholeheartedly vote to repeal Dodd-Frank, then find 100 reasons why they can't quite vote for Glass-Steagall just yet—or ever. It will be interesting to see how Republican politicians react when reporters ask them about this plank. (V)

Lobbyists Are Out in Full Force in Cleveland

Many lobbyists are afraid of what is going to happen at the Republican National Convention, but are going to show up anyway. The Hill spoke with 35 lobbyists for their story. Most said that they would show up, but see it more as an obligation than as something they were looking forward to. Many lobbying firms throw private parties for delegates, politicians, and others, often quite elaborate ones. In addition, some candidates are holding parties, often with a ticket price of $1,000 or more. Lobbyists who want to get into that politician's good graces may feel it wise to buy a ticket and show up.

A complicating factor this year is that Donald Trump has made a very big deal about the fact that he is so rich no donor or lobbyist can buy him. If you were a lobbyist, would you want to go to an event to which you were specifically disinvited? For many lobbyists, their lobbying won't be aimed at the top of the ticket, but at other Republican politicians. After all, despite a long list of nonattendees, quite a few governors, senators, and House members will be there. (V)

There Are No More Swing Voters

While a substantial number of voters are registered as independents, a new survey shows that 87% of them lean to one of the two major parties. In fact, 21% of the independents don't want to be registered as Republicans because they are to the right of the GOP. Similarly, 20% of the independents are more liberal than the Democrats. Only 4% of all voters are really, truly, independent and could vote either way in a given election. They are the only ones who are actually up for grabs.

There have been stories that the independents are low-information voters who don't follow politics. This is not true. Of the true swing group, 65% have a college degree. In fact, many of the independents don't fit into the patterns the parties have created. Many are liberal on abortion, LGBT issues, and immigration, but conservative on trade and the economy. Someone with those views doesn't fit neatly into either party. For some of these voters, the social issues dominate and they generally end up voting for the Democrats. For others, the economy is key and in the end they vote for the Republicans. This said, in a very close election, the 4% who are really on the fence could determine who wins. (V)

RNC Bans Tennis Balls But Not Assault Rifles at the Convention

The Republican National Committee wants to prevent trouble at the convention, so it has conveniently prepared a list of items people may not bring into the convention perimeter. Among the many items forbidden are tennis balls, sound equipment, umbrellas with metal tips, padlocks, sleeping bags, gas masks, ornaments, tents, coolers, lasers, canned goods, light bulbs, aerosol cans, ropes longer than 6 feet, non-plastic containers, ice chests, mattresses, BB guns, paintball guns, and water pistols. That is dangerous stuff. However, AR-15 assault rifles are fine in the perimeter (though not in the convention hall itself, by decree of the Secret Service). They are protected by the Second Amendment and Ohio is an open-carry state. There is no constitutional right to carry a tennis ball, however. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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