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

Republican Convention, Day 3: GOP on Cruz Control

Day 1 was full of drama and day 2 was relatively calm, making it somewhat hard to predict what day 3 would be like. The smart money was on drama, though, and as is so often the case, the smart money was right:

  • Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) spoke. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke, in a taped message. Eric Trump spoke. All of their speeches were fairly generic, and have already been forgotten.

  • The reason that the early speeches were forgotten: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stole the show, in a manner of speaking. It is unclear what Donald Trump & Co. were expecting when they gave a prime speaking slot to a candidate whose wife Trump insulted, and who was himself regularly smeared as "Lyin' Ted." But what they got was a forceful declaration of conservative principles as Ted Cruz understands them, which is very different from how Donald Trump understands them. In fact, Cruz mentioned Trump only once, offering the GOP nominee a halfhearted congratulations before launching into his harangue. As the Texas Senator finished up, and it was clear he had no intention of bestowing his endorsement, the boos began to rain down. "Don't stay home in November," he shouted, "If you love our country and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience." It got nasty enough that Cruz and his wife Heidi had to be escorted from the stage by a security detail.

  • There is already broad disagreement about Cruz's tactics. Some said he made a brilliant move. Others, many of them Trump supporters, called it "political suicide." The opinion here is that Cruz made a very shrewd choice. He's running for president in 2020, regardless of who wins in 2016. If the Senator is facing an incumbent Trump following a successful term, he probably can't win anyhow. If the Senator is facing an incumbent Trump following a terrible term, he can present himself as the anti-Trump. If the Senator is facing an incumbent Clinton, with Trump having gone down in flames in 2016, he can present himself as the leader of the "True Republican" faction that tried valiantly to save the party from Trump. And as a bonus, Cruz exacted a bit of revenge against the Donald, utterly wrecking the narrative that the GOP was unifying behind its candidate. It's true that some bridges were burned—megadonor Sheldon Adelson, for example, refused to let Cruz into his post-convention party on Wednesday night. But, if you're going to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.

  • There was little that Trump could do to respond to Cruz's snub on Wednesday night, since he was not scheduled to speak. As Ted Cruz left the stage, The Donald contented himself to smile and flash a thumbs up. Later, he tweeted it was "No big deal!" Anyone who believes that, we have a nice bridge for sale in Brooklyn. Nobody who was backstage could doubt that Trump and his campaign staff were furious.

  • Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton knows an opening when she sees one. She quickly cribbed a bit of Cruz's speech, and tweeted "Vote your conscience!" along with a link to her website.

  • Pence spoke shortly after Cruz. He gave an excellent speech, doing a very good job of introducing himself to America. Unfortunately for him, everyone was still thinking and talking about the Texas Senator. So, through no fault of his own, Pence was overshadowed.

  • Former speaker Newt Gingrich, the final headliner, delivered an address that must have been at least partially impromptu, as he tried to respond to Cruz and to clean up some of the metaphorical blood left on stage. Unfortunately for Trump, Gingrich isn't the speaker that Cruz is. Meanwhile, on the convention floor, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ)—who is a much better attack dog than Gingrich—was on the warpath. He blasted the Texas Senator: "It was an awful, selfish speech by someone who tonight, through the words he said on that stage, showed everybody why he has richly earned the reputation that he has on Capitol Hill." Well put, but angry words delivered offstage aren't going to cancel out angry words delivered in front of millions of people on national television.

The roller coaster ride reaches its conclusion tonight. Several high-profile speakers are on the docket, including RNC Chair Reince Priebus and Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK), but there is only one speech that will matter. The Donald and his surrogates have yet to make a clear case as to why people should vote for Trump (as opposed to against Clinton). Meanwhile, this is the last, best chance to convince viewers that the GOP is essentially unified, Ted Cruz be damned. Can Trump achieve both of these things in his speech? We will find out on Thursday evening. (Z)

Cruz's Speech Is the Only News Story Today

Speakers at conventions have gone off track before, but never has a prime-time speaker intentionally insulted the nominee the way Ted Cruz did last night. As the media are beginning to digest what happened Wednesday, it is becoming clear that the only story to come out of Cleveland last night was Ted Cruz's fiery speech. Here are some of the leads from major news sources this morning.

  • New York Times: "Cruz speech lays bare cracks in the G.O.P."
  • Washington Post: "Attempt for unity falls short as Cruz upstages Pence"
  • NY Daily News: "BOOS CRUZ: Senator booed at RNC after refusing to endorse Trump for President, urging GOPers to "Vote your conscience""
  • NY Post: "Ted Cruz knows exactly what he's doing"
  • LA Times: "GOP convention dissolves into boos as Cruz withholds endorsement of Trump"
  • Chicago Tribune: "Thunderous boos for Cruz for refusing to endorse Trump"
  • Dallas Morning News: "Cruz withholds endorsement, causing convention uproar and dividing delegates"
  • The Hill: "Convention erupts at Cruz snub"
  • USA Today: "Boos for Cruz as Trump's rival offers no endorsement"
  • Huffington Post: "Cruzquake"
  • National Review: "Ted Cruz booed off stage in Cleveland"

So today it is all about Cruz but the news cycle is very short. After Trump's speech tonight, it will be all about Trump. (V)

More Takeaways from Cruz's Speech

Politico's Glenn Thrush has one of the better pieces about Cruz's speech. It starts out with

Turns out that when you bully a guy for months, suggest his wife is unattractive, insinuate that his dad participated in the JFK assassination, call him "Lyin' Ted," dispatch your bouncer-like emissaries to coerce an endorsement —then give him a prime-time speaking spot on the third night of your nominating convention—well, you get the picture.

Thrush goes on to list five takeaways from Cruz's speech:

  • Frankly Donald, Ted didn't give a damn
  • Cruz gives Hillary a slogan
  • Cruz rolls the dice
  • Huge stakes for Trump on Thursday
  • Pence was good

OK, the last one wasn't about Cruz, so it is 4 out of 5, but good or bad, Pence is definitely an afterthought now. (V)

Trump Employee Falls on Her Sword for Melania Trump's Plagiarism

The story of Melania Trump's plagiarized speech is now in its fourth day. Her husband definitely wanted it to be a speech everyone remembered, just not quite like this. Everyone knew that with her weak grasp of public relations and less-than-stellar command of English, the former Slovenian model could never write the speech herself, so two of George W. Bush's best speechwriters, Matthew Scully and John McConnell, were assigned to do the job. They finished a month ago and sent it to her. Weeks went by and they heard nothing from her. It turns out she didn't like it and tore it apart.

She then apparently turned to an employee of Trump's company, Meredith McIver, who works in Trump Tower but is not associated with the campaign, for help. According to McIver, Mrs. Trump read her some passages over the phone that she liked. These included lines from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention. Some of these passages made their way into the final text. Trump meant these just as examples, supposedly, but McIver thought these were sentences she wanted to include literally. When Melania saw Michelle Obama's text in the final speech, didn't that ring a bell? McIver tendered her resignation, but Donald Trump refused it. A simple, innocent mistake. No problem any more. Time to move on.

Or maybe not. It took three days for this story to emerge. One has to wonder if the best minds in the campaign were racking their brains to find a story in which nobody was to blame for blatant plagiarism. The story brings to mind the 18½-minute gap in Richard Nixon's tapes just at the point Nixon was discussing the Watergate break-in and how his secretary, Rose Mary Woods, was later photographed in a nearly impossible position demonstrating how she must have accidentally erased 18½ minutes of tape.

But if McIver's story is true, then that ends it, right? Well, no, actually. McIver is an employee of Trump's business, not of his campaign. Corporations are forbidden by federal law from donating cash, products, or services to political campaigns. Unless the Trump campaign specifically reimbursed the Trump organization for the time McIver, a staff writer, spent working on Melania's speech, it would appear to be an illegal donation of services and thus a federal crime. The Washington Post has researched the Trump campaign's FEC filing and found no such reimbursement. So the campaign's solution to the plagiarism problem may have made the situation even worse. None of this gives the impression that the campaign is being run by seasoned professionals who know what they are doing. (V)

Tim Ahead of Tom in the Tim/Tom Race for Veep

Hillary Clinton is now dropping more clues in the game of "Guess the Veep." She is now saying that the #2 has to have experience in national security. It has been widely reported that the leading contenders are former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Vilsack has served as Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama administration and although agriculture plays an important role in foreign trade, it doesn't have any direct national security implications. In contrast, Kaine is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Is this another hint that Kaine is going to be her #2?

It is certainly possible, as he has executive experience (mayor, governor, chair of the DNC) and legislative experience (senator from Virginia), including some specialization in national security matters. Also—and very important—his election to the vice presidency wouldn't cost the Democrats a Senate seat as would the choice of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). If Kaine becomes vice president, term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), a close personal friend of both Clintons, will almost certainly appoint himself to the vacant seat.

For the benefit of people who are a bit thick and haven't gotten the message yet, yesterday White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that Kaine would make a good running mate for Clinton. White House press secretaries generally don't go off spouting personal opinions. They say only those things that their boss wants them to say. This doesn't mean that it's Kaine, but it strongly suggests that Obama wants Kaine and this could be a way he wants to put a bit of pressure on Clinton to choose Kaine above three of his own cabinet secretaries who are in the running: Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and Vilsack. (V)

"Hillary for Prison" Is a Best-selling T-shirt in Cleveland

In many countries, it is standard practice for the party in power to throw its opponents in prison, simply because the people in power don't like them. Turkey comes to mind at the moment. Up until now, the United States wasn't such a country, but numerous speakers at the Republican National Convention have explicitly said that Hillary Clinton has committed treason or, at the very least, is an accomplice in the murder of four Americans in Libya. The delegates have lapped it up and cheered wildly at these remarks. Also, "Hillary for Prison" T-shirts are a huge seller, with at least one vendor sighing that with two days left to go, supplies were getting perilously low. One member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, Michael Folk, ratcheted the volume up a bit when he tweeted that she should be tried for treason and murder and then hung on the Mall in D.C. Folk is also a pilot for United Airlines. No doubt his announcements are more exciting than just the current altitude and the weather at the destination.

While it is obvious that the Republican base loves this style to pieces, the people running the convention may have forgotten that Democrats and independents are watching, too, and some of them may not like what they are seeing. Assuming there is a plan at all, that plan seems to be to rev up the base so much that everyone turns out to vote, independents and Democrats be damned. One thing that is almost totally lacking at the convention is the Republicans' plan for fixing America. It is almost as if Republicans are saying that once they achieve their goal and put Hillary behind bars, all of the country's problems will be magically solved. Count on the Democrats to bring this subject up next week. (V)

Trump Offered Kasich the Job of De Facto President

CNN and other media outlets are reporting that Donald Trump's son, Donald Jr., tried to sign up Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) as his running mate with a promise to make him the most powerful vice president in history. According to the story, Kasich would be put in charge of domestic policy and foreign policy, while Trump would focus on Making America Great Again. Kasich said no. The Donald has denied that the offer was made, but Paul Manafort, one of Trump's closest advisers, has said on the record that Trump sees the Veep as being similar to the COO of a company, which is consistent with the offer. The fact that Trump has shown little interest in policy or governing strengthens the likelihood that the story is true, the idea being that Trump would set broad policies like "build a wall on the southern border" and let the Veep handle all the rest of it. (V)

Trump Willing to Turn His Back on NATO Allies

On Thursday morning, the New York Times published an interview with Donald Trump. In it, he laid out a rather unexpected foreign policy proposal, saying that a Trump-led U.S. might not defend NATO allies like the Baltic states if they haven't "fulfilled their obligation to us."

This would be a very dramatic change in approach to international affairs compared to the last 60 years. Republicans and Democrats alike have tended to view NATO as a cornerstone of American security, and a key hedge against Russian aggression. Leaving the Baltic States and other small, poorly-defended nations to their own devices would at the very least serve to push them toward the side of America's enemies, and might even encourage those enemies (i.e. Vladimir Putin) to stage an invasion without fear of recrimination.

On a lesser note, the story once again gives the impression that the lights are on, but nobody's home with the Trump campaign. At roughly 11:00 EST, Mike Pence introduced himself to the voting public, with a speech that included a passage on the importance of supporting America's allies. Four hours later, the Times hit the newsstands. So, not only is Trump upstaging his VP with the timing of the interview, he's also publicly disagreeing with him. To call this "undisciplined messaging" would be an understatement. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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