News from the Votemaster
• Seven Takeaways from the Debate
• Seven More Takeaways from the Debate
• Romney Slams Trump
• Is Romney a Hypocrite?
• Republicans are in Desperate Times; What Desperate Measures Might They Employ?
• The Republican Party Meets Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
• Koch Brothers Will Not Oppose Trump Nomination
• Do the Demographics Favor Trump?
• Pelosi against Superdelegates
• Grassley May Get Senate Opponent
The Republican candidates—Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)—met for the 11th time, this time sans former (?) candidate Ben Carson. And while it took almost six months, Trump was finally able to do what he has been desperately trying to do since the day he entered the race: He looked Americans straight in the eye, and made sure they understand that he's ideally qualified to be president, because he has a long penis.
That moment came quite early in the evening, and it was pretty much all downhill from there. At this point, we know what we're going to get at these "debates," and Thursday night brought few surprises. Rubio and Cruz threw haymakers at Trump, and he returned in kind. Kasich floated around on the periphery, just out of reach, playing butterfly to the other three stinging bees. And the crowd behaved just like they were watching another "Rumble in the Jungle."
Rubio was particularly aggressive, especially for the first hour of the debate. He hit The Donald on immigration, foreign policy, tax policy, and his ever-shifting political positions. At various times, the Florida Senator brought up Trump University, Trump's foreign-made clothing line, the kind words he's had for Vladimir Putin, and his failed business ventures (i.e. Trump Vodka), while characterizing the billionaire as a con artist, trust fund baby, and liar who can't possibly beat Hillary Clinton and who "thinks the nuclear triad is a rock band from the 1980's." Trump defended himself on all points (not always successfully) while repeatedly referring to his opponent as "Little Marco," and suggesting that Rubio is a liar, a scammer, a lazy Senator who doesn't show up for work, and a man so incapable of being a leader that "the people in Florida wouldn't elect him dogcatcher" at this point. Cruz, for his part, reiterated over and over that Trump is a closet liberal Democrat and supporter of Hillary Clinton and Jimmy Carter who is anti-gun, corrupt, a liar, and a hothead. As with Rubio, Trump bestowed a nickname upon Cruz—"Lyin' Ted"—while describing the Texas Senator as an obstructionist, loser, and "politician," as well as "the primary supporter of John Roberts, who gave us Obamacare."
Rubio and Cruz certainly left Trump sputtering more than once, and so probably did damage—at least a little—with their attacks. However, they occasionally waded into the fray with such gusto that it seemed they had not quite thought through exactly what they were saying. Rubio, for example, observed that, "Two-thirds of the people who have cast a vote in a Republican primary or caucus have voted against you. They do not want you to be our nominee." This might be a good point for Hillary Clinton to make, but for Rubio it implicitly means that he is an even worse candidate than the Donald, since 80 percent of the Republicans who have cast a vote have voted against him (Trump pointed this out in the debate). Cruz, meanwhile, advised the audience that, "You know, Donald has a tenuous relationship with the truth." Pot, meet kettle.
Ultimately, the most effective line of attack that the Senators took was not a criticism, per se, but instead their repeated calls for Trump to authorize the New York Times to release its notes from Trump's off-the-record interview about immigration policy. The Donald steadfastly refused. He's in a lose-lose position here: Whatever he said on that day must have been pretty bad, politically, but as long as the mystery remains some voters will fill in the gap by imagining something even worse.
On the whole, Trump had a bad night. Even he can't withstand that kind of withering fire for two hours and come out unscathed. Rubio belongs in the losers column, too. The tone and tenor of his attacks made him look whiny and, well, small—a perception that was strongly reinforced by the thrice-repeated "Little Marco" bit. Kasich was an afterthought. And that means that, somewhat by default, the candidate who had the best evening was Ted Cruz. Not that he had a good night, exactly, but he did manage to let Marco Rubio do the lion's share the dirty work.
In truth, the biggest winner of the night was Fox News and its moderators—Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace. They were very well prepared and asked some absolutely killer questions of the candidates (not that those questions always got answers). It's no secret that Fox in general, and Kelly in particular, do not care for Trump, and they put him in the corner more than once, most obviously when they played clips of him taking one position on an issue, and then taking the other side at a different time. They also crushed The Donald on healthcare, observing that his plan to save $300 billion a year negotiating lower Medicare drug prices will be rather difficult to manage given that Medicare only spends $78 billion a year on drugs. If the Democrats' oppo research teams were not watching and taking notes, they should be fired. They could ask The Donald for advice on firing people. That is an area in which he does have a lot of experience.
The next showdown is one week away, and will happen before Ohioans and Floridians cast their votes. So there's no reason to expect that we won't see the same quartet back for yet another boxing match. Get your giant foam fingers ready. (Z)
Nicholas Confessore in the New York Times has seven takeaways from the debate:
- Debates are no time to attack Trump; they roll off, like water off a duck's back
- The Republican Party is in open civil war with the three top candidates bitterly hating each other
- Rubio is tired and as Trump would say, has "low energy"
- Fox News does not like Trump and gave his opponents every chance to take him down
- Cruz and Rubio didn't attack each other so they could focus on Trump
- Kasich is still trying to make it as a compassionate conservative but no one is buying what he is selling
- Unless one of his former wives pipes up, no one will fact check the size of Trump's manhood
All in all, another edition of the Jerry Springer show. It is hard to imagine what a Trump-Clinton debate might be like. Against Sanders, Trump would throw mud, just as he has done with Rubio and Cruz. But visciously going after a woman could play out very differently. When Rick Lazio walked up to Hillary Clinton and shoved a piece of paper in her face and demanded she sign it during their 2000 debate, he lost the Senate race right there as it reminded every woman in New York state of some time a man had bullied her. (V)
Eric Bradner at CNN also has seven takeaways.
- It was a PG-13 debate that parents wouldn't want their young children to watch
- Trump was under attack from all sides, including from the moderators
- Ted Cruz sat back and let Rubio and Trump rip each other to shreds
- Kasich kept pointing out that not only was he the only adult in the room, but that Democrats will vote for him
- Trump defended the New York Times for refusing to release an off-the-record interview with him on immigration
- Despite goring Trump for two hours, all the other candidates said they would support him in the general election
- The debate won't change anything
Macbeth also got into the act and reviewed Trump's performance, saying: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." (V)
The 2012 Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney, slammed Donald Trump yesterday, saying:
Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.
Romney went on to say that Trump's domestic policies would lead to recession and his foreign policies would make the world less safe. Trump responded with a bunch of tweets, as is his custom: "I am the only one who can beat Hillary Clinton. I am not a Mitt Romney who doesn't know how to win."
Romney's speech is unprecedented. Never before has the previous Republican nominee called the current frontrunner a phony, a fraud, a bully, a misogynist, and a third grader. It's getting nasty. Already more than two dozen Republicans have said they won't support Trump in the general election. These include congressmen (e.g., Justin Amash, Carlos Curbelo, Bob Dold, Reid Ribble, and Scott Rigell), former Republican governors (e.g., Christine Todd Whitman, and Tom Ridge), conservative pundits and media personalities (e.g., Erick Erickson, Steve Deace, Bill Kristol, and Peter Wehner). Expect even more bigwigs to pile on in the next two weeks. If Trump is the nominee, how can these people maintain a shred of credibility if they end up supporting Trump in the general election? How are Republicans going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again? The Party could be irrevocably split. Senate candidates may openly oppose him. In contrast, It shouldn't be hard for the Democrats to come together after the primary. If Hillary Clinton wins, she will have to make some concessions to Bernie Sanders, such as giving him veto power over some key appointments, but they don't viscerally hate each other, the way Republicans hate Trump. In the end, either one of them will support the other one and campaign vigorously. Despite their promises to support Trump, it is far from clear what Rubio and Cruz's support for Trump will consist of. They could say: "I support the Republican nominee" and that's it until election day.
An interesting observation is that while Trump can tweet off Romney as a loser, the Democrats are likely to repeat Romney's remarks and amplify them a thousandfold. You inherited $200 million from Dad and you call yourself a business genius? You're a con artist and a fraud. Every Democratic surrogate will be saying that every day from the time it is clear Trump is the nominee until election day. They will play tapes of Republicans saying the same thing. It won't budge the 35% of Republicans who support Trump, but Republicans are about 1/3 of the voters. What about the other 85% or so of the country?
A Hillary-Trump battle would certainly be the dirtiest in decades. If Trump goes after Bill's tryst with Monica, Clinton is going to bring up his very public affair with model Marla Maples while he was married to Ivana Trump. It will be all out war. (V)
Paul Waldman, normally of the Washington Post but writing for CNN, certainly thinks he is. He observes that:
- In 2012, Romney lobbied for—and got—Trump's endorsement
- Both have questioned how "American" Barack Obama really is
- Both have embraced the false "Obama apologized for America" narrative
- Both endorsed foreign policy rooted entirely in military strength
- Both have suggested that minorities are the source of many of America's problems
Waldman's conclusion is that Romney and Trump are fundamentally the same, with the "only difference being that Trump says out loud what Republicans such as Romney prefer to imply." The whole piece is worth reading because the similarities in rhetoric between the two men are rather uncanny when placed next to one another. (Z)
GOP insiders are letting it be known that Mitt Romney's speech on Thursday wasn't just about making sure his "voice of reason" was heard. He may very well start working behind the scenes to maneuver the Republican nomination away from Donald Trump, and possibly even toward himself.
The supposed plan is based on the notion (probably correct) that none of the remaining GOP candidates can take down Trump singlehandedly. So, what Team Romney wants to do is prop up whatever remaining candidate can do best in each state. That means pushing John Kasich in Ohio and other moderate states, Marco Rubio in Florida and other states with Latino voters, and Ted Cruz in very conservative states. The hope is that, as a trio, they can accumulate enough delegates to block Trump from getting the 1,237 he needs. Then, at the convention, the Party could push Trump aside and bestow its nomination on Romney or on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI).
The Romney plan has a certain "smoke-filled room" appeal to it, but also has some serious weaknesses. To start, why would Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich play along with a scheme that leaves them on the outside looking in? Further, Romney and Ryan were not exactly competitive in 2012; why would 2016 be different? And finally, the Republicans who support Trump are already furious with the Party establishment. A stunt like this and they'd be gone forever.
In view of these issues, other members of the Republican Party are bandying about a different plan. Their idea is to run a "real" Republican as a third-party candidate. The candidate's job would not be to get 270 electoral votes. That would be impossible. The goal would be to win a few states and deny the Democratic nominee—who they universally expect to be Hillary Clinton—270 electoral votes. According to the Constitution, if no candidate gets 270 electoral votes, the President is chosen by the House of Representatives, with each state getting one vote. They can choose anyone from the top three electoral-vote getters. So if the third-party Republican won only a couple of states, far behind Clinton and Trump, it wouldn't matter. He could still be elected President.
Meanwhile, if no candidate gets 270 electoral votes for vice president, the Senate picks the vice president from the top two finishers (not top three). So, suppose Paul Ryan ran for president on a third-party ticket and picked off Ohio and his home state of Wisconsin, and that was enough to ensure neither Clinton nor Trump got to 270. Then the Republicans in the House could elect Ryan President, but they would have to choose between Clinton's running mate and Trump's running mate for Veep. If the incoming Senate is divided 50-50, the choice of Vice President could be important.
Needless to say, this kind of overt manipulation of the process, which would put the preferred candidate of a small minority of the electorate into the White House, would not go over well. President Ryan would have absolutely no mandate to govern, and both Democrats and Republicans in Congress would have every justification for resisting him should they want to do so. Meanwhile, the opponents of President Ryan (Democrats, Trump supporters) could very well coalesce into a political alliance that becomes entrenched for decades or even generations. Indeed, that is precisely what happened the last time that Congress chose the president. That was almost 200 years ago, in 1824, when John Quincy Adams was awarded the presidency over popular vote winner Andrew Jackson. The result was that the anti-Adams voters coalesced into the modern Democratic Party, which dominated national politics for the next 30 years.
The upshot is that the GOP has options for derailing Donald Trump, but they have to think very carefully about whether the potential short-term benefit is really worth the possibly serious long-term damage. (V & Z)
Well, it didn't meet the famous Swiss-American psychiatrist in person, since she died 12 years ago. But, at least some members of the GOP are coming to grips with her famous five stages of grief.Denial. For the first nine months of the campaign, everyone in the Republican party denied the possibility of Trump being the nominee. He wasn't serious, he wasn't conservative, he wasn't even a Republican. As of Tuesday, the denial phase is over.
Anger. Romney is angry (see above). Paul Ryan called Trump out for not denouncing KKK leader David Duke. Some of the neocons said they would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than Trump. There is anger a-plenty now.
Bargaining. Activists are trying to figure out tricks to stop him. Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck want a Cruz/Rubio ticket. Some Party leaders are pleading with Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) to leave the race. Others want him to stay in hopes of denying Ohio to Trump. Still others are plotting a brokered convention.
Depression. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that the reason nobody is doing anything is that there is not a whole lot anyone can do. No one thinks Trump can beat Clinton and it is very depressing.
Acceptance Alex Castellanos, the legendary ad man, tried to raise money for an anti-Trump ad campaign and failed. He said: "The 'Stop Trump' campaign is now officially a fantasy, about as real as 'the campaign to stop yesterday'." Ben Ginsberg, who ran Bush's Florida recount operation in 2000 said the chances are Trump will win outright. All hope is gone. It will be Trump.
It doesn't look good for the Republican Party, but at least some of them are coming to terms with Trump. (V)
Speaking of acceptance, the Koch brothers, who have an arsenal of $400 million at their disposal, have decided not to spend a penny of it opposing Trump, even though they despise everything he says and everything he stands for. They are simply convinced it would not work, it would be money down the rathole. They hate his protectionist views on trade and views on immigration, but they aren't going to do anything about it.
Very likely this also means they won't spend any money on his behalf in the general election. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she is likely to raise the better part of a billion dollars. If Trump can't count on people like the Koch brothers to come to his aid, he may have to dip into his own fortune to match Clinton. It remains to be seen if (1) he is willing to do it, and (2) if he is capable of it. No one really knows how much he is worth. Estimates tend to be about $4 billion. But Trump is not Warren Buffett or Carl Icahn, whose money is in stocks they could easily sell to raise cash. A lot of Trump's money is in real estate that is not easily converted to cash, and certainly not quickly. (V)
Ruy Teixeira, a political scientist who is an expert on demographics, has weighed in on Trump's chances in the general election, just looking at the demographics. Teixeira began by noting that the minority vote will be about 28% in 2016 and that Trump will have to win a very large chunk of the 72% of white voters to win. State by state, that doesn't look so easy. In Ohio in 2012, Romney won the white working-class vote by 16 points. Trump would need to get a 22-point edge there to win the state and Trump would also need to at least hold Romney's 10-point edge among college educated white Republicans, many of whom might be put off by Trump's extremism and stay home.
To win Wisconsin, Trump would need to win white working-class voters by 12-16 points. In 2012, these people split evenly between Romney and Obama, so Trump needs to really make big gains here.
In Minnesota, Obama actually won the white working class by 1 point. Trump would need a large margin here to carry the state. In Tuesday's caucuses, Trump came in third. Not a great start.
And so it goes in state after state. He would need to do far better than Romney among white working-class men to offset losses of suburban women and college-educated men. And Teixeira didn't even start on Latinos, who are an even larger fraction of the electorate than in 2012 and even less disposed toward Trump than they were toward Romney. Nothing is impossible in politics, but the demographics show that a Trump sweep of the Upper Midwest is not likely and if he can't pick off some Democratic states there, where is he going to flip electoral votes? (V)
Yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized the Democratic Party for having 717 superdelegates as voting delegates at the Democratic National Convention. She said: "If somebody has the majority of the delegates from the votes of the people, I think that you change that to your peril." Most likely, when RNC chairman Reince Priebus heard that, he was thinking: "I sure wish we had 350 superdelegates so we could nominate an actual Republican." The Democratic convention has about twice as many delegates as the Republican one. (V)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was counting on coasting to an easy seventh term this November. It may not be so easy now. Patty Judge, a former state agriculture secretary and lieutenant governor is expected to announce her challenge to him this weekend. If she does, Grassley's refusal to holding hearings on Obama's Supreme Court appointment will be a major issue—maybe the major issue in his reelection campaign. It could put Grassley in a bind. If he refuses hearings, especially if the nominee is a woman, it could cost him women's votes in Iowa and potentially his seat. If he holds hearings and the public finds the candidate to be completely acceptable, it will put the Senate Republicans in a difficult position if they don't hold an up-or-down vote. Grassley will be 89 at the end of his seventh term, a factor that could also play a role in the election. Judge is no spring chicken, but she is 10 years younger than Grassley. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
Mar03 The Republicans Have Two Weeks to Stop Trump
Mar03 Mitt Romney Under the Impression That This Is Still 2012
Mar03 Trump Releases Healthcare Plan
Mar03 Why Did Rubio Fail?
Mar03 Bad (Fox) News for Rubio
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Mar02 Winners and Losers
Mar02 Paul Ryan Issues Pro Forma Denunciation of Trump
Mar02 New York Court Declines to Throw Out Trump University Fraud Case
Mar02 Kasich Rules Out Running for Vice President
Mar02 New Hampshire Union Leader Apologizes for Endorsing Christie
Mar02 Could Trump Run as an Independent?
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Mar01 Trump Leads in Alabama and Oklahoma
Mar01 Trump Blames His KKK Remarks on a Bad Earpiece
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Feb29 Clinton Has More Votes than Trump So Far
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