US presidential race 2016
One of the unexpected joys of watching the primary season unfold is discovering the nicknames of the US states. Possibly my favourite to date is the Badger State, aka Wisconsin, where Democratic and Republican primaries will take place in a week's time. Right now, Ted Cruz appears to have a lead on Donald Trump in the Republican vote. If he were to win, a contested convention is still in sight. This is what many in the GOP are desperately hoping for, as Heather Digby Parton writes in Salon:
So far, Donald Trump has won 20 primaries and caucuses. Nobody who has won so many has ever been denied the nomination in either party. If it were anyone but him, the political professionals would pretty much be going through the motions by now, continuing to wage perfunctory primary campaigns but beginning to ready themselves for the next phase of the campaign against the Democrats. But because Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee the party is still flailing about, trying to figure out a way to wake up from their nightmare.
Right now, all eyes are on Wisconsin which votes on April 5th. The conventional wisdom says Ted Cruz has to win there in order to even sustain the argument that he might be worthy of taking the nomination on the second ballot at the convention if Trump comes up short. This is something of a desperate gamble, but it’s all they’ve got.
But what about the other GOP candidate still in the race, Ohio governor John Kasich? In yet another satisfyingly bizarre twist in this most compelling of political dramas, the latest polls handily collected in this post on The Hill show that Kasich, running a distant third to Trump and Cruz, is far and away the GOP candidate with the best chance of defeating Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton come election day. And that is why Kasich is hanging in there as he explained to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press over the weekend:
I mean, get out for what? If I'd have gotten out, Trump would be the nominee. He would have won Ohio. And frankly, we'll win some districts in Wisconsin. We will move to Pennsylvania, where I'm basically in a statistical tie with Trump. And when we go to New York and everywhere else, we're going to pick up delegates.
Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, the rather distasteful slanging match Trump and Cruz have had over each other's wives was discussed in this radio interview with Charlie Sykes. At one point in the 10 minute exchange, Sykes tells Trump he sounds more like a '12 year-old-bully on the playground' than someone campaigning for the Oval Office.
This bully thing seems to be catching. Earlier this month, actor Johnny Depp, when speaking of his dislike for Trump said: 'There's something created about him in the sense of bullydom. But what he is, I believe, is a brat'.
The bellicose, truculent style of campaign that has provided such rich pickings for Trump's many critics also helps explain the popular wisdom the billionaire businessman lacks the broad appeal necessary to win an election. This painstaking analsyis by David Byer on RealClear Politics largely supports that conclusion, on the basis Trump won't get enough support from black or Hispanic voters in particular. But, Byer warns, this could change.
If the fundamentals stay roughly where they are now, I suspect Hillary Clinton (who will almost assuredly win the Democratic nomination based on current delegate math) would be the favorite, based on the demographic problems I think Trump will have. But if the fundamentals go south for the Democrats — if there’s a recession, a scandal or an avoidable terrorist attack — then Trump could overcome his disadvantages and win the White House.
Back in January, The New Yorker carried a satirical piece from a fictional Trump staffer that recounted how Trump never wanted to win but his many attempts to throw the race just made him more popular. Now, this blog from Stephanie Cegielski, formerly communications director at a Trump-aligned Super Pac, suggests the New Yorker satire was uncomfortably close to the truth. A year ago, 'the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count'. And now? Well, Trump's a runaway train and Cegielski wants his supporters to do the right thing. Stop him.
He doesn't want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already and then some. If there is any question, take it from someone who was recruited to help the candidate succeed, and initially very much wanted him to do so.
The hard truth is: Trump only cares about Trump.
Photo by George Frey/Getty Images