Archive

March 7th, 2016

The most confusing Super Tuesday ever

    We're going to need some time to digest what happened on Tuesday night on the Republican side.

    Donald Trump won the most votes. He won the most states. He won the most delegates. But did he move closer to winning the nomination? That isn't so clear. FiveThirtyEight's delegate maven, David Wasserman, said going in that "a disappointing night for Trump ... probably means anything less than 250" delegates won. It appears as if he's going to wind up a bit over 250. This is fewer than half the delegates up for grabs, however, so he's not moving closer to an overall delegate majority.

    I've been looking at Trump's overall vote percentages to see if he was picking up support as the Republican field narrowed or if he would have trouble increasing his vote totals. Overall, his Super Tuesday results were mixed and not especially impressive. His apparent polling surge last week seems either to have dissipated or wasn't real to begin with.

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The frontrunners roll on

    Voters in the Deep South and New England made it clear on Super Tuesday that the voice of the people is not likely to be denied in either major party this year.

    Seven state primary victories each for Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have narrowed prospects that either of them can now be stopped for their party's presidential nomination.

    The harshest outcome of Tuesday's voting was to puncture the bubble of Marco Rubio in his rather sophomoric effort to deflate Trump with taunts, such as that he has "small hands" and may have wet his pants in debate.

    "Little Marco," as Trump calls him in equally infantile derision, finally managed to carry a state, Minnesota, winning 37 percent and beating both Ted Cruz (29 percent) and Trump (21 percent) there, the latter Trump's worst showing to date.

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The Elephant in the Race

    The audience in the theater takes its seats and slowly settles down. The curtain rises on a conventional living room in a conventional American home, neither squalid nor opulent. Middle class, it whispers.

    A woman of a certain age sits in a chair in the middle of the room, reading a book. In a dimly lit corner, unnoticed at first, is a fully grown elephant, munching hay.

    Enter a somewhat disheveled, gray-haired man. He sits in the chair to the left of the woman and begins to read a newspaper. Soon, however, he peers into the corner and does a double take.

    “Hillary,” he says, sotto voce. “I don’t want to alarm you, but there’s an elephant in the room.”

    “Don’t be silly.”

    “I mean it. Look, right there in the corner. That gray thing eating hay. It’s huge.”

    “I see it. It’s not an elephant.”

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Super Tuesday turnout shows increasing obsolescence of 2-party system

    East High School in Denver, Colorado, home to 14 precincts for the Democratic caucuses, was a mob scene on Tuesday night. It was hard to judge the turnout, but one of the organizers told me there were about 5,000 people there, and I believed him: Rooms designated for caucusing were overflowing, and several precincts gave up and held their votes in the stairwell or outside the building.

    This shows how special this election is -- and how obsolete the U.S. two-party system has become. Throughout the Super Tuesday states, vote organizers reported record or near-record turnouts fueled by several campaigns that are really revolutions, or counter-revolutions, in the making. The people who support them aren't giving up easily. If Super Tuesday was supposed to be about winnowing, it's not happening just yet.

    By the numbers, Hillary Clinton did well enough to start concentrating on the general election, and Donald Trump did well enough for Clinton to start strategizing about beating him. That, however, would be too simplistic a story.

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Republican dilemma: Trump or the Anti-Trump

    At about 10 p.m. on Super Tuesday, Donald Trump pivoted from candidate to nominee to president.

    He invited the country to the Florida White House. Rather than a victory speech in a rented hotel ballroom, he held a formal press conference at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach mansion/golf club. With its high ceilings, heavy molding, and a phalanx of flags, the setting was a Trumpian pastiche of the East Room. He even had a courtier, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, standing over his shoulder, nodding like Nancy Reagan and applauding limply like a listless Ed McMahon. What stagecraft.

    More important, Trump the showman tamped down the bombast, limited himself to a few personal insults, stayed on message and promised unity. He still delivered his usual stream of consciousness, each disparate thought loosely connected by "believe me," "to be honest with you" and "in all fairness," but it wasn't unhinged.

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Hillary Clinton’s Moment

    You can look at Hillary Clinton’s path to this juncture and marvel at how difficult she has often made things for herself, creating messes where there didn’t need to be any, frittering away advantages, misunderstanding the mood of voters, underestimating the mettle of opponents, and failing to cement an image — and a message — that seemed authentic and right.

    That’s a legitimate perspective. She’s a deeply flawed politician.

    But she’s also a preternaturally determined, resourceful and patient one. Her path illustrates that just as compellingly. For about a quarter of a century, she has been vilified as loudly as she has been lionized, told that her talents pale beside her husband’s, called “likable enough” but seldom lovable, and cast in supporting roles: the first lady, the secretary of state.

    She never retreated. Never gave up.

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Clinton's actually pretty good at this

    Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, full stop.

    No, she didn't formally clinch, and Bernie Sanders picked up victories in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Vermont. But the overall numbers are clear. Clinton crushed Sanders in the states she figured to win, and has kept it close in most states she figured to lose.

    For example, the political website FiveThirtyEight estimated she needed to win Virginia by 9 percentage points; she was winning by almost 30. In Georgia, she needed to win by 27 points, but she was ahead by more than 40; and in Massachusetts, Sanders needed to win by 11 but she won it narrowly.

    Large leads are difficult to overtake in the Democratic presidential race because strict proportional allocation of delegates means that even a slumping front-runner continues to get closer to locking up a majority. Nothing in the election returns to date, or polls of future states, or anything else indicates any nomination trouble ahead for Clinton.

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Clinton's America Never Stopped Being Great

    Sometimes, you take your laughs where you find them. For me, the funniest moment in an otherwise dreary and intermittently scary election year came when Candidate Trump visited the old state fairgrounds in Little Rock. A character seemingly straight out of a Charles Portis novel provided the most incisive commentary.

    The author of "True Grit" is the state's best novelist, a master of deadpan comedy in a tone-perfect Arkansas twang.

    According to the newspaper, a Trump supporter carrying a "Make America Great Again" sign encountered a young man on his way into the arena to bask in the Great Braggart's eerie orange glow.

    "America's already great, you dumb-butt!" the kid said.

    He could have been Portis' Norwood Pratt, the would-be country singer traveling the country with Joann the Wonder Hen, the College Educated Chicken. An ex-Marine, Norwood wasn't one to mince words.

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Clinton, Trump victories foreshadow nasty, contentious fall campaign

    Super Tuesday victories by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton put the nation on a path toward an ugly and contentious general election, pitting a pair of major-party presidential candidates saddled with vulnerabilities in a contest that will be decided by a fearful and angry electorate divided along racial, cultural and ideological lines.

    A Trump-Clinton general election would represent the continuation of a decade or more of politics marked by gridlock in Washington, distrust of institutions and leaders, and political discourse that has been on a downward spiral. Whoever wins in November would face the enormously difficult task of trying to bring the country together in the hope of being able to govern effectively.

    Trump would lead a Republican Party ruptured and with at least a portion of its followers dispirited by his nomination. He also would face resistance from legions of other voters who consider his nativist message bigoted and repellant.

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March 6th

Trump is a threat to American democracy

    While comparisons between Donald Trump and Mussolini or Hitler are overwrought, Trump's rise does illustrate how democratic processes can lose their way and turn toxic when there is intense economic frustration and widespread apprehension about the future. This is especially the case when some previously respected leaders scurry to make peace in a new order -- yes, Chris Christie, I mean you.

    The possible election of Donald Trump as president is the greatest present threat to the prosperity and security of the United States. I have had a strong point of view on each of the last 10 presidential elections, but never before have I feared that what I regarded as the wrong outcome would in the long sweep of history risk grave damage to the American project.

    The problem is not with Trump's policies, though they are wacky in the few areas where they are not indecipherable. It is that he is running as modern day man on a horseback - demagogically offering the power of his personality as a magic solution to all problems - and making clear that he is prepared to run roughshod over anything or anyone who stands in his way.

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