Super Tuesday has come and gone with little change in the GOP nomination trajectory. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz scored enough points to keep the political ventilator on, but Trump maintained clear front-runner status. The election coverage was fairly boring, and mostly included supporters of candidates not named Trump holding on to fading pathways to the nomination, while Trump supporters continued to beam with confidence.
It would seem like a good day to be on Team Trump, but I can’t help but wonder if they realize the hazards ahead. It often seems like they think the Primary season will last forever, and cannot see beyond next week, or their next move. On the other side of the political spectrum, at least in party identification, I am confident they are focused on their next move, and well as every move required until November. We have often heard that a good chess player must see 5-10 moves ahead, while Grandmasters have claimed the ability to see in excess of 20 moves ahead. The Clinton’s and the political machine they wield are Grandmasters at the game of politics.
While we cannot see the detailed political field on the level of the very best, all of us can analyze a few critical points of the election that will take place in the near future. I must warn all GOP faithful and Donald Trump supporters that you may want to turn back now or cease reading if the “political horror” genre will cause you physical or emotional problems.
Transition to the General
Let’s pretend the Primary Election has concluded, and Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. Also, Hillary Clinton has escaped indictment and is the Democrat nominee. It is time to select Vice President Candidates. The requirements are fairly simple. Each nominee will search for someone that can “add” to the ticket, cover top of the ticket deficiencies, will not “steal” the spotlight, has the ability to attack the other ticket when needed, and will not mind attending many funerals.
Clinton will have a few possible options to explore. She could look to someone that may help in a specific swing state, someone to attract a specific element of the electorate that she has been unable to impress, or simply add overall quality to the ticket. The truth is it will be a combination of all three, but focus on someone that can add excitement, talking points, and quality to the General Election ticket. At nearly 70 years old, she will seek someone under 50. They are also very likely to be a minority male. Clinton will take care of playing the sexism card, but she will need someone that can pull the racism card if needed. Since she has shown her African-American support is almost automatic, I would expect a Hispanic. Some have mentioned Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Cory BookerSenate Democrat Average0% or former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, but I do not see any real tangible either offer a Clinton ticket. Clinton will already receive nearly 90% of the African-American vote, and win both New Jersey & Massachusetts without any needed help. The obvious choice appears to be Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, or even his twin brother Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Joaquin CastroHouse Democrat Average13%. Both would help with Hispanic voters, which are only “likely” to vote Democrat. Either Castro could help swing Florida, and even compete for Texas and Arizona against a Trump candidacy. If Clinton feels she does not need Castro to secure the Hispanic vote, or the “first Hispanic….” talking point; she could add significant buzz to her campaign by expediting the political career of current California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. All of these individuals would be a net positive to a Clinton ticket.
Now for the hard part. Who will Donald Trump select to add to his ticket? Some pundits have mentioned New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but I am unsure why. I do not see how two Caucasian males that reside in neighboring states that will be Clinton locks, and are only popular within the same segment of their own party make a competitive ticket. Another pundit favorite is Ohio Governor John Kasich. Kasich could add a level of elected office experience to the ticket, an inroad to the GOP establishment, and someone who does not repulse independents. That is not a lot in comparison to what Clintons choices will bring to her ticket, and while Kasich may help in Ohio, current polling shows Trump beating Kasich by nearly 20 points in the Buckeye State. It seems like a female without the last name Palin could be beneficial, but since Carly Fiorina would have to bring her face which has troubled Trump in the past, I am at a loss identifying a Republican female with appeal and would desire to be on a ticket with Donald Trump. Trump may attempt to rekindle his bromance with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ted CruzSenate Republican Average95%, but the benefits appear to be limited, there is already significant crossover within their targeted voters. Cruz’s most significant additions would be principled conservative elements of the Tea Party and securing Texas, but these could be offset by moderate and independent voters that may be troubled with Cruz. Also, I think Cruz would not want to risk a future run at the Presidency, and predictable expectations have not been attainable with candidate Trump. The highest reward may come from a reconciliation with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Marco RubioSenate Republican Average82%, which seems unlikely and could anyone look at a Trump / Rubio ticket without thinking of Donald Trump’s tiny little girlie hands. Ben Carson may be the best viable option, which would limit Clinton’s race based propaganda and provide a small but loyal voter base. At best, Carson adds 1% to 2% points to a General election ticket. An outside of the box selection that may offer some excitement to the ticket would be Tea Party favorite, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Jim JordanHouse Republican Average90%.
It is clear that Clinton has many options that will not only compliment her campaign but will create significant excitement among party loyalists and progressive activists. In contrast, Trump’s selection will be weighed down covering deficiencies of the candidate himself and likely not offer much external buzz with lasting strength. The uniqueness of candidate Trump, along with his non-traditional positions will create difficulty in pairing with a “great” Vice President selection.
The “Real” Debates
To date, Donald Trump has survived the GOP debates by limiting his exposure as much as possible within the large group on stage. When he is unable to hide within the group, he attempts to avoid being exposed by turning the event into a circus. He will usually launch personal attack on the media, his opponents, Hillary Clinton, or even Republican icons. The strategy appears to be simple, I am unable to provide an intelligent response, therefore I will throw this grenade with hopes few realize it is a distraction effort. The only Republican Debate that included substance and real policy discussions was the only debate Trump avoided due to his fear of Fox News Megyn Kelly.
The truth is his strategy has worked perfectly as we have seen much more qualified candidates that relish the opportunity to discuss ideas and policy struggle to communicate their positions. In the most recent debate which included less individuals on stage, he was successful in avoiding real policy discussions but became unhinged as Rubio and Cruz began to expose him as a candidate.
The fun and games will cease when he steps on a stage with only one other candidate. Hillary Clinton is often criticized for her personal political abilities, but the criticism is often a result of contrasting her with her husband’s abilities; a level that most cannot obtain. On stage with a policy lightweight like Trump, Clinton will humiliate the “billionaire”. At every opportunity she will take Trump around the world dropping name after name of foreign leader leaving Trump with a puzzled look. She may even throw in the name of a Game of Thrones character to see if he will attempt to act as if he knows of the person. On the economy, environment, and every other policy area, Clinton will discuss positions, legislation, and use all kinds of big words that Donald Trump cannot spell. If you think that his impetulant child antics will work with Clinton, maybe you should ask Rick Lazio. Lazio simply handed her a piece of paper and subsequently dropped 20 points in the polls. Nobody plays the “V Card” better than Hillary Clinton, and the optics of a red-faced Trump will be devastating. I am sure even the most vicious Trump haters will begin to feel sorry for the 70-year-old billionaire as Clinton exposes his lack of knowledge in front of millions of Americans.
Uniting the Party & McCain’s Media
All elections are simply a numbers game that revolve around the size of each side’s potential voter pool and the amount of each pool that is motivated to take action. In national elections, Republicans are always at a disadvantage since Democrats have significantly more registered voters, or a larger voter pool. Essentially, if there was a 100% voter turnout, and independents split, Democrats will always win. The good news, there is never anything close to 100% voter turnout, thus the only pathway Republican victory is to unite and excite Republicans while attracting the majority of Independents.
Trump does not have to worry about Independents, because he will be unable to unite the Republican voters. Every election, primary election losers mumble about the eventual nominee, but usually unite and focus on the Democrat’s nominee. This election is very different. The mumbles have turned into very direct public statements resulting in a coalition forming committed to focusing on protecting the conservative principles that serve as the foundation of the modern GOP over winning the election. Sure, some will wilt at the thought of another Clinton in the White House, and submit to voting for Trump. Actually, the majority of the coalition would eventually pull that Trump lever, but 5%-10% of “likely GOP voters” will stay home while another 5% will actually vote for the Democrat. No Republican candidate could overcome the loss of 10% – 15% of loyal Republican voters.
Simultaneously, as Trump is becoming unhinged recognizing many conservatives will not buy his “snake oil” pitch, the liberal “McCain Media” will be doing their finest work. The McCain Media earned its name after treating John McCain like the People’s Champion during his 2000 Primary Election loss, and again in his successful 2008 Primary Election only to tear into him like rabid dogs during the 2008 General Election. They loved him in 2000 to weaken George W. Bush and in 2008 to set him up for failure. During the 2008 General Election, they focused on item after item they obviously were aware of during both Primary campaigns, but never mentioned. Just when Republicans became excited and Democrats became nervous as a fresh-faced Sarah Palin was introduced to the nation, the McCain Media turned her into a “crazy, unintelligent, evil bimbo” from a state that was “barely American” within a week. All of this was taking place while refusing to lift a finger to investigate an unknown inexperienced Senator from Illinois that had political connections to domestic terrorists, a potentially anti-American father with radical Islamic views, spent a significant part of his youth in an Islamic nation, and claimed to spend the majority of his teen years intoxicated & skipping school, but ended up at two Ivy League Universities. This same media dug so hard into Mitt Romney’s past, they pushed stories of childhood bullying to protect their Democrat candidate.
Throughout the 2016 Primary Election, the liberal media have pushed the Trump candidacy. Sure a few principled liberals have condemned the actions of Trump, but the majority have been soft on Trump while some have even pretended to slightly admire Trump. MSNBC shows his rally’s nightly, and released a documentary about Donald Trump. They claimed it was the first of a series about the candidates, but apparently the budget went dry after Trump because it was a series of one. Liberal Clinton talking heads, pollsters, and even endorsing elected officials come on the air nightly encouraging Republican voters to give up and accept Trump while trying to hide their smiles.
Before the balloons fall from the ceiling in Cleveland, nightly news on every network will be interviewing those poor Trump University students that have now lost their homes, families and can’t afford their medication. They will wrap a million racism and sexism stories around his neck. There will be investigations into how a man that claims to abstain from alcohol launched a Vodka brand, and the distributors, investors, and employees that were hurt upon its failure. Anyone from the past that can speak negatively about failed ventures such as Trump Airlines, Trump Casinos, and even Trump Steaks will get their 15 seconds. They probably already have deals with Tony Schwartz, the man who most think authored “The Art of the Deal”, and highlight the pain he has went through each time Trump claims credit. Former acquaintances of Ivana Trump and Marla Maples will tell stories of horror. Claims will be made that Trumps children were raised by grandparents as Trump focused on his “brand”. Former associates of Fred Trump (or their children) will be eager to speak of how Fred did all the heavy lifting throughout the 80’s and 90’s behind the scenes for his son, and how most of his failures took place between the passing of Fred and Donald Jr. becoming of age to get the family business on track. Fred Trumps reported links to the Ku Klux Klan will get airtime once again. Women will make claims of affairs, even if they are false knowing the media will worship them. I am not suggesting any of these items, or the many others not mentioned have merit or should be fair game for the media; only that this is what will take place if Donald Trump wins the nomination. He is not special in the sense they would make attempts on whoever the nominee is, but only Trump will provide them more material than they can handle.
Trumps core supporters have proven loyal, and have shown no interest in allowing facts to diminish their support. They will only comprise less than 20% of General Election voters. They will be joined by millions of loyal Republicans that will support the nominee no matter their thoughts of the man. Still, a flip-flopping reality star with a liberal core will be met with a general election landslide that supersedes Mondale in 1984, and damage the Republican Party for decades. On the other hand, maybe I am wrong and Trump will suddenly master policy and the skill of debating, find the perfect VP candidate, and impress the liberal media enough to treat him fairly….and maybe I will visit a unicorn farm tomorrow.