Saturday, April 02, 2016

Race for the White House Volume 66

The pressure has been turned on in the Presidential race. Front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have had rough weeks, the latter in particular. Whether it matters or not in the outcome of the nomination contests, remains to be seen, although it is especially unlikely for the Democrats.

Bernie Sanders has won a host of recent contests over Hillary Clinton and has caught up somewhat in the delegate count. His campaign continues to be flush with cash and he has gotten a bit more bold about criticizing his opponent directly. Sanders supporters now openly boo Clinton whenever her name is mentioned by their candidate. While she denies anything is really going on to cause concern, a host of investigators continue to look into Clinton's email situation and she is said to have an interview pending, perhaps with the FBI director himself.

This Tuesday will see the state of Wisconsin vote and polls are showing that Sanders is favored. With all that going on, there was a pretty remarkable piece of video to come out this week. As Hillary Clinton campaigned alongside the ropeline, after giving a speech in New York (a state she represented in the Senate and where her campaign is headquartered, and where she desperately will need a solid win against the Brooklyn born Sanders), a young woman asked Hillary about contributions from fossil fuel companies. The candidate angrily snapped back at the citizen questioner, pointing her finger at her, and said she was tired of the Sanders campaign "lying"
 about her. That's all pretty harsh stuff rhetorically, but the optics of the way she lost her temper was really bad. Could it be possible that it was a designed move on purpose to show "passion?" I really do not think it worked out as intended, if that is what it was.

Regardless, the Republican contest, continues to generate more attention. Donald Trump had a bad week, without being able to claim victory in any state, as the GOP contests have gone into a slight hiatus. On Tuesday night, Trump took part, as did the other two active candidates, in a Town Hall forum on CNN. He was really off his game then. He had to answer questions about his campaign manager having been charged with battery in Florida, as it related to an episode of his roughly handling a conservative female reporter, insisting that Corey Lewandowski did nothing wrong to Michelle Fields, and in fact, she had inappropriately touched him and perhaps posed a threat to his safety. The surveillance footage of the event shows that both parties might have not exactly told the truth about what happened, but that the Trump campaign was especially false for saying that Lewandowski never touched Fields. Had they just apologized for the incident at the get-go, it is doubtful that any charges would have been filed and this would have gotten any coverage. Instead, they proceeded to taunt and continue to do so towards Fields, who has since left her job at the pro-Trump Breitbart website.

At the CNN event, Trump also doubled down on his targeting Heidi Cruz, by insisting that her husband Ted had started it, a reply that Anderson Cooper said sounded like a five year old. Throughout the nearly hour long segment, Trump looked particularly unable to discuss policy matters. When asked by a voter to name the top three priorities of the federal government, he said security, which of course is important, but also added education and health care. Really? That is something the Tea Party wants to get behind? Education and health care top priorities of the federal government?

All three candidates on Tuesday night seemed to indicate that the pledge to support the eventual nominee was no longer going to be possible. I am not surprised. Trump was never not going to support anyone other than himself, and with his polls already in steep descent, it is unlikely any Republican with future ambitions is going to be able to support Trump.

Throughout the event and the week, Trump has continued to run afoul of conservatives on policy matters, such as expressing a desire for the U.S. to withdraw from NATO as well as welcoming Japan and South Korea to obtain nuclear weapons. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a once highly touted GOP Presidential candidate, has now endorsed Ted Cruz, and Trump fired back saying that Walker was a horrible Governor who should have raised taxes and increased spending, instead of cutting taxes and cutting spending. Already, polls were starting to show Cruz having moved ahead, perhaps solidly of Trump in the Badger State. It is very clear that Trump has no real passion for policy, and is instead just making this all up as he goes along, based on what he thinks will score him points.

Nothing made more headlines though then a Wednesday Town Hall event in Wisconsin, this time hosted by MSNBC's liberal interrupter Chris Matthews. Trump, a one time pro-choice advocate (who has now also dodged a question about whether he has personally been responsible for any abortions) has claimed throughout this campaign that he is now Pro-Life. Matthews repeatedly asked him if there should be any punishment for women to have abortions. Trump appeared to pause to gather his thoughts, looked upward, and then said, yes, there should be, though he did not know what it should be.

That answer managed to outrage both the pro-choice and Pro-Life side of the debate all at once. Prosecuting or imprisoning women who have abortions has never been on the table for the Pro-Life community, even if abortion were one day illegal, and many in that movement feel he set the cause back tremendously by giving that answer. Ted Cruz and John Kasich, and a host of conservatives immediately distanced themselves from Trump's statement, even while Hillary Clinton and the left insisted, not surprisingly, but very dishonestly, that all Pro-Lifers share Trump's position on punishing women. Gee, it's almost like he did all this just to help her and to hurt Republicans.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has seemed to never back away from a position. Instead, he doubles down. This time though, his campaign released a statement reversing his statement on punishment for women who have abortions and have since gone to some lengths to claim that Matthews was overly aggressive and goaded him into that answer. And this is the candidate who talks about how tough he is and what a great negotiator he would be? What would Putin do to him? Trump cancelled events in Wisconsin, up until today, and moved largely under the radar, save for a surprise meeting with RNC officials. He has now given some other statements on abortion that make it clear that he really has no idea what he believes. He is winging it, just trying to say things that he thinks will please his voters. There must be some self-awareness of how bad the last couple of weeks has been for him, since he told an interviewer that if he had to do it all over again, he would not have re-tweeted that bad picture of Heidi Cruz. Trump even coming close to admitting any kind of mistake in judgement is pretty staggering.

While he continues to lead in delegates, and is still favored to win New York and other some other future contests, Trump's standing as a likely nominee has indeed taken some hits over the past two weeks. The split between him and Cruz looks deeper than ever, which makes it all the more doubtful that they will cut a deal at the convention, which would effectively make Trump the nominee.

The bottom line is that if Trump loses Wisconsin, as a couple of polls show him trailing by double digits, it will become even harder to for him to get to 1,237 delegates and win a first ballot vote at the Cleveland convention. If he does not achieve victory on the first ballot, it becomes doubtful he will have a chance at that point. What will happen? Cruz wins on the second ballot? Kasich on the third? Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan on the fourth? The options get better in my view as I continue the ballots, but there is a long way to go, and stopping Trump is more crucial than ever.

As an Illinoisian, I enjoy the fact that we have a friendly rivalry with our neighbors to the North. There are certainly some cultural distinctions and definitely a divide when it comes to sports, especially the NFL, but with all eyes on Wisconsin, I will be very proud of those Cheeseheads if they politically shred Donald Trump and accelerate the melting of his campaign.


Post a Comment

<< Home