Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung, but She’s Warming Up

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Source: AP. Graphic: Kevin Schaul and Samuel Granados. Washington Post

Newark   How many Tuesdays can be super? We must have calendared three or so by now?

In the latest, Donald Trump obliterated the field, besting the combined totals of both Florida’s own Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, sufficiently to force Rubio to drop his bid for the nomination. Trump also won North Carolina and Illinois and may end up taking Missouri in a close battle with Cruz, only losing Ohio to favorite son and current Governor John Kasich. Kasich says he’ll hang in, believing that the rest of the primary calendar with states like New York, New Jersey and California will favor his more middle-of-the-road effort. The math though says that there’s no way anyone catches Trump.

Hillary Clinton smashed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Florida and North Carolina and beat him solidly as well in Illinois and Ohio while leading the race in Missouri for an overwhelming takedown. The signs of a momentum swing in the rust belt after Sander’s upset victory in Michigan disappeared without a trace. My email inbox was missing its usual exhortations from the Working Families Party and Move-on boosting Sanders’ campaign. It’s man against the machine now, and all over but the shouting.

Paul Begala, a longtime Clintonista, political operative, CNN commentator and, frankly, a pretty funny guy, cracked wise in a discussion about a potential someday Rubio comeback that “Rubio’s future is behind him.” David Axelrod, Obama big campaign whoop, argued that there is no way that the Republicans can deny Trump the nomination even if he lacks the exact number and comes close, saying it would “be ludicrous” to assume that someone who didn’t run could be nominated in Cleveland at the Republican Convention or that someone who lost to Trump throughout the primaries could be nominated ahead of him. Begala quipped that with half of the Republicans saying the party would be destroyed if Trump was the nominee and the other half saying that the party would be destroyed if Trump were denied the nomination, he planned essentially to sit back and simply enjoy watching the show.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is now inarguably and incontestably in the catbird seat. Super delegates are noncontroversial; her nomination is now inevitable. Sanders has the resources to keep going through June, but strategically it may be time for him – and us – to make the best deal for Sanders’ Nation with both the Clinton campaign and, potentially, the next Clinton Administration. Clinton needs Sanders’ young supporters and his disaffected blue collar base to win in November, and she needs to dramatically move out of the hip pocket of Wall Street, the elites, and the establishment to embrace with sincerity a real program to decrease inequality. She needs Sanders on side. Sanders shouldn’t want to be a spoiler, and Clinton should resist being vengeful. It’s Democratic détente time.

On the Republican side it’s hard to see a deal, because only Trump is a dealmaker. Cruz is a last-stand-at-the-Alamo guy. Anyone who will try to shut the whole government down doesn’t care if he’s splitting a Republican Party and an establishment that he disdains. Rubio is totally damaged goods at this point. I would bet that Trump is going to have to talk to his new buddy New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about whether they could make a deal with Ohio’s John Kasich to be vice-president, but if Kasich stays in, they can’t do that until Christie tries to help deliver Jersey and New York to secure his own place on the ticket. Cruz might have the stomach for a third party bid but Rubio doesn’t, and with people like New York’s former billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, saying he’s against a third party bid, then how would it be financed, and who would be willing and able to lead it? They’re stuck in the muck.

November is what matters now. It will be interesting to see who has the skills to pull all of these Humpty-Dumpty pieces together.

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Is Senator Ted Cruz Most Hardball Campaigner Since Nixon?

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Marco Rubio, left, and Ted Cruz take part in the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on Sept. 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, Calif. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

New Orleans   There are a long list of things that can be said about Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz, many of them darned close to scary, but I have to admit one thing that has become increasingly clear about him: he plays hardball! His strike zone is high and hot towards the head with wickedly sneaky curves. If Marco Rubio has proven himself to be an immature, vacuous, empty suit, Ted Cruz is a take no-prisoners, win-at-all-cost, knife-in-the-back, sucker puncher the likes of which we may not have seen since Richard Nixon with campaign tactics reminiscent of George Bush the First’s dirty trickster, Lee Atwater.

The evidence is overwhelming.

In Iowa there was the well-publicized flyer his campaign put out in the caucuses to his evangelical hordes at the 11th hour saying that Dr. Ben Carson, another wacko, religious zealot had dropped out of the race, helping pave his way to first place in the caucuses there.

In Nevada, on the eve of the their caucuses he had to ask his communications director to walk the plank for him because they were putting out a video that his opponent Rubio was “dismissing the Bible” in some fashion, once again trying to stoke up his hardcore religious base out there in the desert and the Sodom and Gomorrah wilderness. On his “ends justify the means” moral compass, he came in 3rd there because he was caught in such an un-Christian act.

In Florida,which is likely the last stand for Marco Rubio in his winner-take-all home state where Donald Trump is still leading, although Cruz has virtually no chance at winning a single delegate and registering more than a token showing, he’s spending money and time in the run-up, even exploiting his own Cuban and Hispanic heritage for the first time, solely to pull votes away from Rubio and force him out of the race. In a brilliant tactical move he suddenly opened ten offices throughout Florida compared to Rubio’s five to up the ante. Talk about political hardball! No chance to win, helping the frontrunner Trump to potentially take the huge prize of all the delegates in order to try and reduce the players in the race.

This guy specializes in scorched earth tactics. This path to victory is Desolation Row. Remember, friends and neighbors, the original Cruz strategy was to buddy up to Trump in the early stages of the campaign and give him a bye from any harsh treatment. Cruz still has a light glove for Trump, as evidenced once again by his masterful tactics in Florida.

Senator Unpopular who even scares his colleagues in the Senate with his tactics, just to remind you, he tried to shut the entire government down with his quixotic attempt to try and force President Obama to ditch the Affordable Care Act, has shrewdly calculated that the only way he can win the nomination is to appear to be a more reasonable alternative to an even more frightening buffoon. He figures if the choice is Trump or Cruz, the devil or the deep blue sea, he’s got a good shot at being the deep blue sea, whether they like it or not.

This is one dangerous dude! He doesn’t make the Rubio mistakes, he’s a master of throwing the rock and hiding the hand. He’s willing to bring down the country, the Republican Party, and about anything else to have a chance to win. Every race for him is win at all cost, winner take call, the ends justify the means, and every pitch a behind the back of the head beanball.

When we have to hope for Mr. I’ll Negotiate to beat Mr. Crash-and-Burn, we know we’re out of our league and in serious trouble!

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Please enjoy Mount Moriah’s Baby Blue.  Thanks to KABF.

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Trump May Be Bad for Republicans but End Up Good for America

872ee2250d2a46388bd09dc64a242d79-be9e180507fc4bb49a3125bb6f926a08-2New Orleans   The Republicans are going after the mogul, Donald Trump, hot and heavy now. They’re hitting him both high and low….in fact very low, though the lower they go, the better he seems to like it and the more some people like him.

Fox News seems to have invited him to a butt-whipping in the Michigan debate, the last one before the next big round of primaries. They seem to be fascinated that he flip-flops, basically proving that big time developers selling castles in the sky, are exactly the same as politicians selling candy cane versions of the past and sugar plum fantasies about the future, just as the rest of us had always known. Did it matter? Not much.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio seems beaten, bruised, and out of his element. He’s pulled his expenditures and campaigns back from Ohio to make a last stand in Florida where he has already indicated he is forfeiting his Senate seat and Trump is still leading by 7 to 10%. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the Donald himself are running all over Louisiana seeing this as another ruby-red state where they might Duke it out. Yes, that was a pun!

Reportedly, big donors talked to both of these boys before the debate and encouraged them to keep the gloves on with each other, hang tough, and go after Trump in a desperate hope to have an once-in-a-lifetime brokered convention. An even richer brew is being concocted by some pols and donors for a third-party bid. Zombie-Romney came back from the political graveyard to take some solid shots at Trump’s unacceptability. There is starting to be serious discussion and debate about whether a Trump candidate might shift control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. Who says election years are ever boring?

The bottom line is that Donald Trump, now the current and seemingly on-going frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President is driving the Republicans totally crazy from precinct chairs on up to the Speaker of the House. Many focus on his xenophobic, racist, misogynist comments as if they are somehow aberrant, rather than just a clearer expression of the dog whistles and guttural roars that have built the Republican Party state by state for the last number of decades. His flirtation with the KKK and his dilatory handling of David Duke, the former grand pooh-bah of the white sheet wannabes may have come too far over the line even for the Republican Party.

Is it too much to hope that there might be a direct ratio working in the Trump candidacy that allows us to believe that there might be a direct proportionality between how bad Trump is for Republicans and how good he might be for America. Like it or not, if his crazy campaign and demagoguery either forces the Republicans to move to the mainstream or, even better, splits the party in two, separating the fringe freaks from the middle-righters, all of us as true patriots will owe Trump our deepest thanks for his service to the sanity of our politics in coming years.

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Rooting for Trump?

promoNew Orleans   Nevada results are in with Hillary Clinton edging Bernie Sanders by 5 percentage points, but perhaps more tellingly leveraging huge support from African-Americans to put a stake through the heart of his campaign. A coming romp for Clinton in South Carolina could end everything but the shouting. Donald Trump rolled the field in the Republican primary in South Carolina with Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in a cage match for second place. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspended his campaign failing to have ever caught traction after a last gasp in Carolina.

An analysis of Bush has some tilting towards Ohio Governor Kasich with a trickle here and there to others, but not enough to threaten Trump. Florida’s rich haul will presumably go to Rubio just as Texas will go to Cruz. Nothing seems to be settling in any way that seems comforting for the Republican establishment, and it looks even worse for the rest of us. While Rubio tries to position himself as the more moderate, establishment candidate now, parsing his positions it is hard to find much substantive difference between him and Cruz on the issues. Perhaps his style is a little less combative, and he delivers the punch with a smile, but the pain is the same on one issue after another.

Even as the Clinton train builds steam and starts to pull away, it’s hard to feel confident in her as a campaigner and sense any increased passion for her candidacy. Increasingly, I find myself secretly rooting for Donald Trump, thinking he might be the easiest candidate for Hillary to beat in the general election. And, if not Trump, give me Cruz, since he has more negatives than Clinton and, if anything, is even stiffer on the campaign trail. I’m very scared that Rubio could beat Clinton. The Republican faithful and true believers might find it off-putting as Cruz labels him the “Republican Obama,” but it’s just that concept that makes me worry that he just might be exactly that, the Republican Obama who could come out of nowhere and beat Clinton to the White House.

Even rooting secretly for Trump, it’s still hard to believe that in the long march through the primaries he won’t still self-destruct, but so far he seems impervious to catastrophes that fell normal candidates. He’s also a question mark for many. His positions have bounced back and forth on all kinds of issues, so it’s possible to hope he’s not as much as a hater as the others whose records are clearer, and imagine people voting for him to send their own protest message to the party and the world.

The hard truth to get around is that as long as the Republicans have multiple candidates in the list, Trump can win with his 30% and let the rest live or die at 20% support. A two horse race like we find in Clinton-Sanders makes it harder for the candidate challenging the status quo in the party. Super-delegates from the ranks of the party electeds and big whoops are numerous and though the majority remain uncommitted, Clinton has a couple of hundred committed and at last count Sanders had less than ten on his side of the ledger.

It’s hard not to get the feeling that this year’s election cycle is going to be scary all the way down the line.

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White, Right, and Ready to Fight – Yikes!

trumpandcruzNew Orleans   Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, has started releasing tweets directed at Donald Trump along the theme of “don’t be fooled by a fool.” Undoubtedly he is responding to the chilling cascade of poll results that indicate that Trump and his fellow traveler, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are winning the popularity contest in the Republican presidential primary with men who are “white, right, and ready to fight,” as the old saying goes. Reports indicate that Trump has 43% support among Republicans with a high school education or less. He also is leading among Republican higher income voters, who I assume think Trump is one of their own and will take care of them, and among women, which is such a head-scratcher that I would have to buy a clue to understand what about Trump is ringing their bell.

As a reigning member of the reader’s fan club for Eduardo Porter, columnist for The New York Times, it is worth mentioning his recent column where he makes a case that voter concerns over identity and its surrogate child, entitlement, “raises the specter of an outright political war along racial and ethnic lines over the distribution of resources and opportunities.” One of the headlines on the piece trumpets that “Racial Identity Returns to American Politics,” which is kind of a surprise since most of us had not realized that it had ever left American politics. Rather than pretending that these largely white Republican men who are overturning the Republican primary are doing so because of economic reversals and transitions, he takes the shine off of that rationale by quoting Mathew Yglesias who is suggesting that Trump’s real appeal is as evil as any might imagine, and his support is coming because these folks embrace his xenophobic and anti-immigrant rants totally. These are hard core conservatives who wish they could turn the clock back 50 years to a time when white people were 83% of the population rather than now at 62% and falling like a rock. Porter goes on to make the point that our miserly social welfare program in the USA stems from such “racial mistrust,” especially compared to Europe or at least Europe before it started going through the throes of the same regressive politics we’re seeing in the run up to Iowa.

Now, whether or not these folks will vote or just root for Trump and the tiny posse of armed occupiers in Oregon who seem pretty much all hat and no cattle so far, is also anyone’s guess. Many believe Trump may have the same problem turning out these lower income whites that progressives have proven they have turning out other low income and immigrant constituencies as well.

Maybe there’s hope if we live long enough and if demographics are destiny, whether white people like it or not. As every year flips over on the calendar the United States gets closer to a blended population where today’s minorities are tomorrow’s majorities, and today’s majority is a distinct, though privileged, minority. Might that mean that we finally can embrace a kinder and gentler social services and welfare regime? Maybe so. Sadly, I would also bet that the transition time will include moderate Hispanics and African-Americans who are conservative enough to appeal to the new minority of whites, similar to the strategy we are now seeing play out with Cruz, Rubio, and even for a hot minute, Dr. Carson. The whacks on the edges are less disturbing to me than the folks in the middle who have a surer path while offering us little hope and relief. Getting to the greener pastures could mean another generation, even though we need to be there now.

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The Money Primary: Ted Cruz Thins the Republican Herd and Scares Democrats

2016-money-raceNew Orleans      We now have three elections in the United States.  There’s the general election in 2016 of course when we pull the lever for our candidates, sorting out the ballot babies from the two main contenders offered by the Republicans and Democrats.  There’s the primary election where we poll between candidates earlier in the election year to see who might emerge on the final ballot.   For many of us this is a trivial exercise because our scarlet red states have watched earlier bellwethers, super Tuesdays, and significant prizes earlier in the year. This vote is often more of habit than heart.  And, then there’s the third election that happens much, much earlier where dollars, not votes, are counted that has become one of the most important, if not THE most important, primary operating solely for the one-percenters, deep pocketed, and self-interested where we are ordered to simply watch and wait.

Speaking for this vast, “silent majority,” and I can admit to have been already ticked off seeing Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side pile up such a huge league that the nomination is being all but conceded to her without any of the primaries being conducted, and then Jeb Bush streak to the lead in the Money Primary for the Republicans enough to become almost a frontrunner one day after being uncertain to run the next.  Bush being a Bush, and the Republicans being Republicans, they have become surprisingly committed to chaos and discordant voices, so a score of wannabes remained in the field, no matter how hapless and long their shots might be.

Senator Ted Cruz from Texas was an excellent example, so far right that he seemed the most radical of the crew, a captive of the Tea Party and an anarchist at heart.  The New York Times even ran a piece recently, clipping the heels off his boots by stating that he was less than heartily loved “deep in the heart of Texas.”

But, that was then, and this is now, and the Money Primary allows voting twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and follows its own whim, as money is like to do, not some regular schedule that makes it easy for pundits and papers.  In the Money Primary, Senator Cruz just put a huge ante on the table as his people confirmed that, in what seems like a one-week collection blitz, they scored and have almost finished collecting $31 million for four Super PACs that will coordinate expenditures with each other in support of Cruz.  None of this bundling for him, a Long Island private equity, hedge fund guy seems to have fallen head over heels for Ted and led the big bucks parade.  One veteran Republican fundraiser was quoted by the Times to the effect that most of the big boys would have thought they could raise and budget $30 million for the entire primary season.  With Cruz laying down $31 million almost nine months before the first primaries when all of the rest of us get to come out and play, too, I would bet he just forced the calculations to double to $60 million, maybe even triple towards $100 million for the serious candidates.

The Republicans have already seen one candidate, Mitt Romney, their 2012 standard bearer, pushed out in the Money Primary, when his big rollers told him in so many words, that they had “been there and done that.”  Now with this Cruz news a lot of the little Republicans must have spent some time on the phones and in conference with their families, telling them they would hang in for a hot minute, but their race was “one and done.”  Count Louisiana’s governor, Bobbi Jindal as toast, but Rick Perry of Texas, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Senator Lindsay Graham, and a bunch of others are also burned to a crisp.  You might have Senator Marc Rubio as still viable, but I would bet he’s on the bubble, too. Senator Rand Paul just announced, but his race now seems way more quixotic with a Cruz ideology and money sucking up the space.  Governor Chris Christie was already late for the party, and now he’s a goner, whether he admits it or not.  Jeb Bush and his money juggernaut just realized they are in a fight to the death.  There are still a lot of candidates and Cruz is a wild and crazy guy, so some of those that can put together the cash will still be viable, but the dark horses just got pushed off the track.

On the Democratic side they just got the memo that there’s a new game in town, and they better double down if they want to be able to compete in the general election, because whoever emerges on the Republican side is going to have a pile of money and the will and ways to have raised it.   Eventually, the rest of us will get to vote, but once all the money is raised and spent, the only mystery will be if any of our votes and voices matter compared to the big buck boys and their millions calling the shots.

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