Saturday, March 19, 2016

Race for the White House Volume 64

It is another Saturday and I could not be any less enthusiastic for writing about or even thinking about politics. This election year has to be proof that time travel was never invented, as someone would have clearly traveled back in time  to warn Republican higher-ups about the dangers the party faced.

After last Tuesday's primaries, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump look closer than ever to wrapping up party nominations.  That is definitely is the case for Clinton, who won all five contests, as she would have once been easily expected to do, but after her stunning loss in Michigan and indications that some states were breaking late for Bernie Sanders, her wins, as narrow in some places as they were, have once again, gone a long way in making her appear inevitable. Could it be that as spring is arriving, Democrats are being pragmatic and thinking about electability, even though polls show Sanders stronger?

On the Republican side, Trump won four contests, most significantly a large win in Florida, which immediately caused the state's outgoing Senator Marco Rubio to suspend his candidacy. The failure of Rubio as a Presidential candidate, especially when it looked like so much was aligned to fall in his favor a few weeks back is a pretty stunning development. It is probably only worth delving into once all the dust from this unorthodox campaign has settled, if it ever does. There is so much that Rubio miscalculated on, but he is a bright and talented person who gave an eloquent exit speech, albeit one with some mixed political messages, and I hope we have not heard the last from him. I trust though that if Trump is nominated, he will do the right thing and say that it is impossible to support such a vile figure.

So, while Trump had a "big night" last Tuesday, the most important development was probably that he did not win Ohio. Of course, the victory of an incumbent Governor, on the heels of a landslide reelection, won his own state's primary with 47 percent of the vote, might not seem that impressive, but the fact of the matter is that Trump did target the Buckeye State and John Kasich managed to win it, his first victory of the season, by a wider than expected margin. It may very well be that Kasich is unable to win another state, but he did do the anti-Trump faction of the party a favor by denying him those 69 delegates, and now the math is iffy for Trump to have enough delegates to clinch the nomination on the first ballot at the July convention. Once again, that is really all that this is about right now. Nobody else other than Trump can "clinch" and even if Trump does, the party can and should take steps to try to deny him, no matter what the ramifications are. The ramifications of allowing him to happen are far worse and completely unacceptable to many devoted and upset Republicans such as myself.

The GOP field was once 17, and considered impressive and deep, but just about everyone has now fallen by the wayside, and we are down to three; Trump, Kasich, and Ted Cruz. Out of those three, there is no doubt at all in my mind that Kasich would make the best President and easily would be the strongest candidate to run against Hillary Clinton. However, I just cannot feel good about any of this or any Republican campaign thus far. None of the candidates have organized in a way to best stop Trump and that problem continues.

So thus, while I most want Kasich to be President out of anyone currently running, and while I would be quite satisfied if he is to be chosen by the convention, the most sense, in most states, is to vote for Cruz now, as a desperate measure to stop Trump, since Cruz is easily closest to Trump on the delegate count and has the most potential to win some states. It all depends on if states award delegates in a winner take all or proportional basis. In some places in the Northeast and in California, Kasich may be a valuable presence in the race, but most of the remaining states will come down to Trump and Cruz. Arizona is winner take all and Trump, on the heels of his despicable anti-immigrant campaign, is expected to win there. Utah also votes the same day and while out of three Republicans, Kasich would definitely have appeal to the well-mannered, friendly Mormon folks, he really should not even be campaigning there. I do not see Utah as being a good state for Trump, for the reasons I just mentioned, and if someone else, namely Cruz, wins 50 percent of the vote in Utah, they win all the delegates from the state. If they win, but fall under 50, the delegates are split and Trump will win some. That is why it is crucial for Cruz to win the state and to make sure he can surpass a majority. Mitt Romney has stated he will vote for Cruz in Utah for that very reason. So, why is Kasich running ads there? Why is he campaigning there? It is totally a mixed up strategy. Along those same lines, it was dumb for Kasich to pull out of a debate when Trump pulled out. Kasich used to complain about not getting enough attention and even in a two way debate with Cruz, he would have gotten a lot of it.

Despite all the pleas to the contrary, might Kasich, the candidate I am now "backing", be acting as a stalking horse for Trump? Is there some kind of deal down the line he is hoping for? I really hope not but I do not know what to believe anymore and my trust in everyone associated with this campaign is at an all time low. There is also talk that Trump and Cruz will forge a deal, perhaps at the convention, and will try to freeze Kasich from even attempting a fight on the floor there. Once again, every respectable Republican needs to be on the page of stopping Trump using every possible legal method and that is not happening.

Speaking of that, there are a lot of completely legal but politically nuclear options the GOP could use to stop Trump, but never will. There is precedent for Democrats using those tactics to deny delegates elected on behalf of political nutcase Lyndon LaRouche from formally being recognized. While Trump definitely has more support than LaRouche could ever dream of, I think the principle is the same and that the Republican Party should have long ago acted to keep a party outsider, with suspicious motives and pyromaniacial tactics from taking over the party. Trump is perhaps crossing a legal line by advocating violence at his rallies and saying he will pay for the legal bills of those who commit assault against protestors. Might he one day be held criminally responsible for that? How about the fact that he is indirectly threatening riots if he denied the nomination at the convention? Reince Priebus and party officials have always been in a tough situation with Trump, but any outcome would have been preferable, including him threatening and even going through with a third party bid. At least the GOP itself would be facing what it is now.

To those who watch polls, it is clear that Barack Obama's approval numbers have gone up a few points over the last few months. Clearly, Donald Trump is the reason why and maybe Hillary Clinton, with her all political problems and faults, might have a role in that too. Obama is not going to looks as bad to some when America is faced with a choice  of his successors, especially as they relate to Trump. If he leads the Republican ticket, my party is at risk of catastrophic down ballot losses. Maybe that will matter to delegates in July at the convention and they will act accordingly. If not, there is not much hope.

This past week, Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a 63 year old judge originally from the Chicago area to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell insists that out of principle, he will not be considered before the Presidential election. On the merits, McConnell and Republicans are completely correct, but if my party is destined to a Trump or even Cruz nomination, maybe we ought to just take the damn deal. The politics is bad enough for Republicans already, even though every honest person admits that Democrats would be doing precisely the same thing if the shoe was on the other foot.

If the Republican Party is suicidal enough to nominate Trump (let's keep Cruz out of the equation for now), then it would probably be better to accept Garland, a nominee who is older and believed to be a good deal less liberal than anyone else Obama or Hillary Clinton might pick for the role. Sure, Garland is not exactly the kind of a judge a conservative would pick, but things could be far worse.

That is why I believe this is all politics. Obama picked Garland, not because he really wants to put him on the Supreme Court, as part of his legacy, but to put Republicans in a politically tight spot, such as Illinois Senator Mark Kirk as he faces reelection. Some think the Senate GOP will ultimately cave on the matter and indicate a willingness to approve Garland. I will say that if a day does come where that appears likely, we will see the nomination of Garland magically be pulled for some reason. This is all a game to the White House. Considering how teetering on the edge the Republican Party unnecessarily is these days,  it is easy to see why.

There is one thing that I wanted to add. On Tuesday, Donald Trump, to my disappointment, took almost all of the delegates from Illinois on the Congressional level, but at least three Trump delegates seemed to lose their races because they had ethnic sounding or Muslim sounding names, and they underperformed the other Trump delegates in those districts that nobody had ever heard of. It is really hard to see why else they would have lost if not for the way their names sounded.  It would be the epitome of karma if Donald Trump falls just a few delegates short from winning the nomination because of the bigotry of his supporters.

There are still well over 100 days until the GOP Convention kicks off and every day until then should matter.


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