Archive

March 22nd, 2016

Trump and Clinton surge, with turbulence ahead

    Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the winners in a big presidential primary day on Tuesday. But both showed just enough vulnerability to keep the races intensely contested for at least another month.

    Trump decisively won all 99 of Florida's delegates, eliminating that state's senator, Marco Rubio, from the Republican contest. But he lost another winner-take-all primary in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich captured his first victory of the presidential campaign in his home state. Trump won narrow victories over Ted Cruz in North Carolina and Illinois.

    Clinton won landslide victories over Bernie Sanders in Florida and North Carolina and, significantly, also defeated him in Ohio. Clinton's strong showing widened her 2-to-1 delegate lead, keeping her in a dominant position to take the Democratic nomination at the party's July convention in Philadelphia.

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Too late, Marco Rubio remembered who he is

    Marco Rubio started the race for his party's nomination young. Too young, if you ask Jeb Bush, his political big brother, or if you listen to Donald Trump, as many did. He dubbed him "Little Marco," and it stuck. On Tuesday night, Rubio suffered the first loss of his storied career and it was a devastating one. Trump whomped him by almost 20 points in his home state.

    All political defeats are hard: They're so public and, at the same time, so personal. Grown men weep. There's an added hurt in Rubio's case. He was soundly rejected by the people who used to love him the most.

    It would be easy to blame Trump, and in his concession speech Rubio did some of that by deploring a political climate in which "people literally hate each other."

    But, in truth, he was felled by a general disgust with politicians. Rubio won his Senate seat in 2010 as a tea party darling. By 2016, he might as well have been dining nightly with Nancy Pelosi. To the angry base, he had become a Washington elite, in cahoots with Chuck Schumer on immigration to boot.

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The wrong way to make the case for keeping Assad

    On Monday, 392 lawmakers voted for a resolution to say that the Assad regime and its allies are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria and that the United States should support the establishment of a tribunal to bring the perpetrators to justice.

    Three lawmakers voted against the measure. The only Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, tweeted her explanation to me: "Voted against thinly-veiled call for no fly zone & war to oust Syrian gov, just like resos be4 Gaddafi & Saddam regime change war."

    Gabbard told me on Tuesday that "this resolution needs to be seen in the context of calls for a no-fly and/or safe zone by many of the same people who put forward this resolution." She pointed to language in the resolution that "urges the Administration to establish additional mechanisms for the protection of civilians and to ensure access to humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations."

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The primary system winnows U.S. voters

    Marco Rubio speaking with a catch in his voice to a small Miami audience of die-hard supporters -- and people in the audience openly weeping, hugging, hanging their heads -- will be one of the most poignant images I will carry back with me when my tour of primary states is over. This is an image of people being left behind by the relentless logic of the U.S. political system.

    In the last two months, I have talked to a slew of knowledgeable people in six early-voting states, and also in New York and Washington, D.C., who claimed not to understand what's going on in this election campaign. All bets are off, they said; all the rules are out the window.

    I shrugged this off. What I saw in the early-voting states was a genuine, grass-roots democracy with hundreds of thousands of engaged voters. They don't know or follow the "rules."

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The Humpty Dumpty Party

    Is Donald Trump’s presidential bid terrifying you?

    Try to relax. The bullying billionaire probably can’t make it to the White House.

    He needs to win a majority of all voters, not just Republicans. That will be tough when nearly two out of three of Americans already abhor him. And his bid could fracture or destroy the GOP.

    Barring credible reports that he’s an al-Qaeda operative or widely streamed footage of the guy having sex with multiple members of the Clinton family, Trump’s bound to keep winning primaries.

    He might even arrive at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland with 1,237 delegates, the usual threshold for automatically becoming the party’s nominee.

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March 21st

It's really tough to move out of a dead-end town

    The National Review's Kevin Williamson has written something about the U.S.'s small-town, working-class whites. It's not very nice, and outrage is being expended over his claim that these people are struggling largely because "they failed themselves." A sample from near the end of Williamson's screed:

    "The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump's speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn't analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul."

    Other people may read that and get mad about the "vicious, selfish" part, not to mention the blame-the-poor attitude of the whole piece. They're right to! I, however, cannot help but zero in on the last sentence -- and nod in agreement. People in communities that have hit an economic dead end really do need U-Haul. They surely need more than that, but moving away from poverty and misery is not in itself a bad idea.

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The 2016 field narrows, on one side anyway

    Hillary Clinton's Tuesday sweep of five Democratic primaries puts her more securely in the lead for her party's presidential nomination. Yet despite Donald Trump's victory in four of the five Republican state contests, his path to the nomination still encourages resistance within his party.

    Clinton rebounded from her defeat in Michigan last week by beating Sen. Bernie Sanders in three other Rust Belt states -- Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, where he had hoped to keep his comeback going -- as well as in Florida and North Carolina.

    The former secretary of state widened her lead to a cumulate margin of 1,606 delegates to 851 for the Vermonter, with 2,383 required for nomination.

    The political calendar now looks Northeast and West, where Sanders' populist pitch could prove more resonant than in the South swept so far by Clinton. But the gap between them nevertheless would require a remarkable change in the arc of the voting so far to deny her victory in Philadelphia in July.

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Take the Trump Quiz

    Donald Trump is very likely going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

    Take three deep breaths.

    I know we’ve been on this path for a long time, but it’s still hard getting your head around the idea, isn’t it? Just to ease the transition, our first-ever exclusively Donald Trump quiz:

    1. After his big string of victories this week, Trump appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where he was asked who his foreign policy advisers were. He said … 

    A. “I’m speaking with a lot of generals. Very impressive people. All winners.”

    B. “I’m speaking with myself.”

    C.  “I have a long list. It’s a good list. Vladimir Putin said it was the best list he’d ever seen.”

 

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Scalia’s “Conflict-of-Interest Airlines” Frequent Flyer Status

    How curious that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, of all places, in an exclusive West Texas hunting lodge.

    Yet more curious, all expenses for hizzonor’s February stay were paid by the resort’s owner, John Poindexter. He’s a Houston manufacturing mogul who won a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court in an age-discrimination case last year.

    In another curiosity, the names of some 35 other people who were in Scalia’s hunting party are being kept secret. Moreover, the late judge — an ardent promoter of corporate supremacy over people’s rights — was flown to the remote getaway for free aboard someone’s or some corporation’s private jet. The name of this generous benefactor has also been withheld.

    Curious, huh?

    This isn’t a murder mystery — by all accounts, Scalia died of natural causes. It’s a moral mystery: Who was buying (or repaying) favors from an enormously powerful member of America’s highest court?

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Rubio failed, and not just because of Trump

    The 2016 demise of Marco Rubio has been obvious for a while, but it is nevertheless a very big event. He was the Republican Party's choice. He lost.

    Starting last fall, I said he would be the most likely winner. I continued saying that through the early primaries and caucuses. In fact, he seemed on track to win up until his disappointing Super Tuesday on March 1, and even in the days after that I thought he was in fairly good shape -- that is, right up until his support collapsed the weekend after Super Tuesday.

    Since I have been dead wrong about Rubio, I can't turn around immediately and tell you why he lost. It's something all of us who study presidential nominations are going to need to study, and it's going to take some time, especially for those who believe that strong parties made up of formal organizations and informal networks control their presidential nominations.

    Is this year a fluke? A sign that the system has changed? Frankly, I don't know right now.

    But I can run through some reasonable explanations of what happened with Rubio.

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