Is Donald Trump likely to get the Republican nomination?

Well, it’s still debatable even with his huge primary win in New York yesterday and the likelihood of the party front-runner doing very well in a handful of northeast primaries next week.  As you have probably noticed, most regular observers emphasize he’ll need to win on the first ballot or he won’t win at all.

Why?  While earned delegates to the convention will be pledged to vote for him in the first round, they will be free to vote for whomever they want after that, and many of those delegates don’t want Trump.  Senate leader Mitch McConnell has estimated about 60% of the Trump delegates won’t vote for him after the first round.

While perhaps surprising, there is usually no necessary connection between primary voting and who are the delegates chosen to represent the state at the Republican convention.  Though they are pledged to vote on the first ballot for the candidate chosen in the primary, they don’t necessarily support the candidate themselves.

It’s important to understand that delegate slates are worked out in a different way in each state, but the commonality is that they are made up largely of party insiders who feel more loyalty to the party than to any particular candidate, at least if that candidate seems beyond the pale.  To most insiders Donald J. Trump does not represent “Republican values” (I’ll leave it to you to decide what those are).

In order to stop Trump from getting the 1237 votes needed to win the nomination on the first ballot, the Republican fractured “establishment” has the hope that Cruz and Kasich will grab up enough delegates in upcoming primaries to cut into Trump’s chances of reaching 1237.

In this regard I just read that Ted Cruz has gathered up most of defunct candidate Marco Rubio’s 17 delegates in Minnesota, another organizational coup like in Colorado, but more fodder for Trump’s narrative of a rigged election (of course, as you may have noticed Trump has added some election operatives to his campaign team of late, but he will likely win the battle of narratives by describing their actions only as self defense).

In addition to whatever pledged delegates the anti-Trump forces can gather, there are 108  delegates (by one estimate) who are “unbound”, party leaders who seem inclined to vote for anyone but Trump, though some have indicated their vote would reflect the primary voting and who knows how successful the cajoling of the Trump camp will be between now and July.

In line with the “rigged” narrative, though, Trump has been handed a God send in the form of the Pennsylvania primary next Tuesday, which has to be odder than most .  The state has 71 delegates but only 17 are pledged to reflect the primary voting in the state. The other 54?   Well, those are half of the 108 unbound delegates mentioned above, allowed to vote for whomever they choose at the convention.  Why so many in one state?  I have no idea, but even if Trump has a big win there, he can be assured of only 17 delegates (and that for the first round) while who knows about the other 54?

He seems likely to hold that up as exhibit “A” of the big fix……but I bet we see some rounding up of stray delegates by the Trump camp in upcoming weeks, while also playing the victim card.  Have you ever seen someone so skilled at playing both ends against the middle?


P. S. – In trying to illuminate the battle for delegates in the Republican primary, I might have confused more than helped.  If you have questions please reply using the “comment” button near the end of all that gobbledygook at the bottom of his post.

Also, for a more complete description of the upcoming Pennsylvania primary and the overall Primary voting picture go to:  http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2016/04/will-pennsylvanias-gop-primary-trump-the-partys-convention.

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MY TRUMP SLUMP: Could a fairy tale come true?

When I have written a post I have always known what it is about, but I’m not so sure about this one.  I have too many unhappy thoughts vying for attention and none of them can be easily encapsulated in a post.  And then again:  Which of you are eager to hear more unhappy thoughts?  Don’t you get a big enough daily dose from our media?

The most fun for me is to write about the Donald Trump Show and its ability to remain a sell out.  It is fascinating that he has become immune to criticism as he turns it all around into just more publicity for himself.   He’s so good at turning the tables, hardly anyone even tries to lay a glove on him these days.  The maxim that “bad publicity is better than no publicity” was tailor made for him.   Even better he transforms bad publicity into good, at least for his numerous supporters, who are so sick of the status quo.

However, the fun I’ve had with the Trump campaign has become hampered by my accepting the possibility he actually could become president.   Having called him a clown in a post last June, I now thinks he rates a good shot to win the Republican nomination, and ponder whether he might actually win the presidency.  If he has been this big of a surprise, whose to say he can’t be an even bigger one?

If world events appear even more unwieldy and dangerous than they are now, Trump’s decisive, strong man, winner image may entice more of the voters than I would imagine.    In a world that has come to seem staggeringly complex, Trump’s simple solution to every problem, i. e. HIM, offers to soothe anxiety, unless you believe as I do that for every complex problem there is a simple solution…..and it’s wrong.

If I did not have a doubt in the world about Trump’s electability, I could enjoy the show a lot more.   But I keep thinking of the Pied Piper who played a magic flute that enticed all the children of a small German town to follow him away.

OOPS! Mea Culpa Ted Cruz

(I wrote this post this morning before all hell broke loose in Paris, which is being covered on TV behind me.  That makes what I write below pale in significance, but I still want to send this out to tie up a loose end that bothers me.)

I have a passionate dislike for the way that information has become spun or twisted out of context or simply lied about to fit an ideology or cause.   What was called the “age of information” in my youth has become, at least in the realm of politics and all it touches, an age clearly marked by misinformation,   Gandhi said:  “Truth is God.”   I may not go that far, but I can relate.

So, I feel compelled to confess I was careless when I wrote:  “While the candidates touted their various economic plans and directed viewers to their web sites for details, the most important point seemed a sin of omission:  none indicated where they would cut spending, despite often wanting to spend more on one or more areas, national defense being the prime example.”

What failed to register in my mind is Ted Cruz’s saying he wanted to eliminate:  “..the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce and HUD.”  Yes, he did mention Commerce twice, but on his web site indicated the fifth department was the Department of Education.

Certainly those would be some major budget cuts, but they didn’t register as such with me at the time.   Perhaps subconsciously I marked it down as Ted throwing more red meat to his base.  But, in any case I was plain wrong in my statement about no indications of cutting spending.

On the other hand, Cruz has a whole tax plan that according to a Vox analysis ” will cost trillions upon trillions of dollars and lead to an enormous tax cut for the richest Americans.”  True, Vox would have to be seen as liberal leaning and more conservative analyses would undoubtedly be kinder to Cruz.

I just want to indicate a more balanced sense of Cruz’s vision.

ONE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING DONALD TRUMP

Yes, I am back to Donald Trump.   Not because of him exactly but because of what his success in this presidential primary so far says about us.  Not that I  know, but the question intrigues me.

What I do know is how off base I was when I dismissed him simply as an attention craving “clown” in a post last July.   My excuse is that he appeared clownish during the last presidential race when he insisted that Barack Obama may well have been born in Kenya.   All I could see then was an attention monger who was willing to do or say anything to attract more of the spotlight.   Given events since then, I surmise there is much more than met my eye.  Back then I thought it easy to understand Trump.  Now it has become a project.

Though I have never read it, I imagine Trump’s The Art of the Deal gets to the heart of how he operates.   When negotiating a deal you don’t begin with what you are willing to accept (unless you are Barack Obama).  You begin far short of that, so you have room to bargain.   I view Trump’s demand to deport all illegal immigrants to be his starting point for a deal.  If the Donald were to be elected president he would start there and work his way to a more reasonable alternative.

If he then accomplished immigration reform he would admit:  You think I would actually try to deport 11 million people?  That’s crazy.

The people who seem to know him best insist that Donald is really smart and he has obviously been very successful.  I infer from that he does not believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, nor does he plan to deport millions and build a huge wall.  I  look back at the birther issue and wonder whether it was a trial balloon to see what would happen if he asserted something outrageous and stuck with it.  What he got was lots of media attention and the beginning of a base of political support.   What I saw as clownish, he saw as field testing.

In making his birther argument Trump often indicated he had people investigating the matter and discovering information that raised questions as to where Obama was born.   If he ever produced a shred of evidence, I missed it.   He was testing the media and they failed the test.   He could say whatever he wanted and it would be covered not confronted.   Employing that technique he has taken a political race and turned it into a bigger reality TV hit than his Apprentice.

As he reminds us  daily, he’s what is drawing the big TV audiences for the Republican debates.   Now the star wants to dictate to the debate organizers some new terms otherwise he will boycott.  For example, he wants the channels to donate some of their profits on the show to charities.  Or he walks.

How good is that?  It is a show of both strength and heart, very attractive traits in a president.  Add to those traits the sheer fact that he has parlayed what initially seemed like a joke to many  into a front running primary campaign.   In short, he tells us he is a winner and up to now he is demonstrating it.

By now you may think that I’m doing a lot of speculating, even if you can appreciate my points.  Here’s something more concrete.

Years ago, I can’t recall when, in an interview with Larry King, Trump revealed a key to his make up.  King noted Donald often seemed to get the edge when interacting with others and asked how he did it.  Trump’s response was something like this:  Before I go there, Larry, has anyone ever said you have terrible breath?   Really Larry, I mean it. I’m not trying to be mean but it really is terrible and I am surprised you don’t know.”

Years later I saw Trump on TV dissecting the exchange, pointing out that the terrible breath comment was him demonstrating to King how he got the edge on others.  I think King missed his point.

Now I think it is the rest of us who don’t get the picture.  While his responses aren’t the usual poll tested political pablum that irritates us (mostly the reverse actually) , they are not exactly authentic, either.  Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders are authentic.  They speak their minds and have been saying the same sorts of things for years.

Trump, on the other hand, has said various things over the years and, since the media never presses for details (such acts could make the star boycott them), I have no idea what he really thinks.  All I know is that he has impressed me with his ability to fashion a political race into the THE DONALD SHOW.

I now think of him as more of a Svengali than a clown.  And he looks like a winner until proven otherwise.

Donald Trump: King of the Birthers

I began to think of Donald Trump as a clown when he became king of the birthers several years ago.  Prior to that I thought of him as a publicity hound who got plenty of what he wanted.  But when he pushed the birther agenda he went beyond his own life and added to the distorted political consciousness of our nation.  And it was distorted aplenty before that.

That also raised my contempt for the Republican leaders who acted like innocents as to whether Obama was Kenyan born, as if they thought he might be. I also was disgusted with journalists who allowed Trump to get away with implications of what his crack investigators learned about Obama’s birth.  Always implying solid information, while never producing any, and never pressed to do so.

Now Trump refers to the great scholars who question that the 14th amendment really includes what he calls “anchor babies,” but once again the press doesn’t press for names.  That’s how falsehoods are allowed to stand and blossom into the “truthiness,” that Steven Colbert has mocked so well.

A recent poll concludes that 61% of Trump fans believe Obama was born in Kenya, while 62% think he’s a secret Muslim.  Other polls are considerably lower.  What seems more believable to me is is 30 to 40% in those categories.  (In these ornery times I can imagine some respondents giving false answers to screw with the pollsters).  Whatever the exact per cent is, it’s a lot of people who believe in nonsense, nonsense that is having a surprisingly big impact on our presidential race.

This morning I did some googling in search of an understanding of how so many people could still be convinced Obama was born in Kenya.  Well, there is plenty of information on the net to support that idea if you want to find it.  Nothing that I find credible, though.

My favorite is a video which claims to be Obama admitting to his Kenyan birth, which actually is Obama mocking the idea at a White House Correspondents dinner. There he said he had a birther video of his own and then played a segment from The Lion King.  I’m sitting here wondering just how low an I. Q. level it takes to miss the joke.

There is also a Kenyan birth certificate which upon examination seems to have the authenticity of a three dollar bill.

The most convincing bit of evidence that I could find was that: “A 1991 literary client list booklet listed Barack Obama as having been born in Kenya.”   I checked it on Snopes.com and they said it was “true”.   But they said much more, that the folks at the (right wing) Britebart News prefaced their providing the information by saying that while they believed Obama was born in Hawaii, they wanted to share the information as an indication of Obama’s misrepresentation of his ideology.

As if to say:  It’s not our fault if others use this to distort the truth.  As Snopes goes on to detail, the woman who edited that bio-pic later said that the Kenya birth was a “fact checking error” by her tied to her having little information on Obama at the time.   I suggest you read the Snopes piece as the details illuminate how truthiness is generated.

So, for those who can’t stand President Obama, you can find “evidence” he was born in Kenya, as long as you take the spurious information at face value.

By the way, I have long wondered why neither side of the birther debate has tried to establish where Obama’s mom was at his birth.  I have never seen anyone try to prove she was in Kenya at the time, only that he was born there.   Wouldn’t she have had to be there, too.?

THE TRUMP SHOW CONTINUES: The Second Republican Debate

Donald Trump’s unique achievement has been to turn politics into entertainment by being the most entertaining of the candidates.  Tonight figures to be another big show.  If it is, I think the Donald’s numbers are safe.   Trump’s support will not go down until his fans have become tired of his shtick, just as fans of any popular TV show drop off over time.  The novelty loses its magic.  The tension now lies in our not knowing how long he can keep the show going.

The curiosity for me is which other candidate or candidates jump up their poll numbers tonight and how they do it.

If I were in a position to ask the Donald a question, I’d ask him to explain what he meant by saying he was an “entertainer”  in response to criticism for his comment about Carly Fiorina (“Would you vote for this face?”)  Is he implying that an entertainer should be judged differently than a politician?

I think he revealed much with that comment, surprisingly so, like an actor in a movie who gives an aside to the audience and then returns to character.   He and the character are not one and the same.   Trump’s authenticity isn’t as authentic as it seems.

I think many of his fans see the actor in Trump, but it doesn’t matter as long as they like the script.

But enough of that……   To go beyond the entertainment factor, how should we judge these candidates as presidential timber?  According to conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin there are seven things to look for in candidates who are not ready to be president .

Though I seldom agree with her on other topics, like her estimation of Obama (“feckless”), I think she’s an astute critic of her own party.  It might be interesting to read the list below and guess who she might be referring to and then go to her column for elaboration and her suggested culprits:

  1. If you plead on a major issue that it is a hypothetical ….. you are not ready for prime time.
  2. If you say you will have “advisers for that” in reference to major policy decisions or a basic understanding of the world, you are not ready for prime time.
  3. If you delight in creating chaos, you are not ready for prime time.
  4. If you make a martyr out of a government employee who refuses to do her job in compliance with the law (common law, statute or constitutional decision), you are not ready for prime time.
  5. If you declare you are in favor of a constitutional amendment to address some issue, you are not ready for prime time.
  6. If you attack the questioner or the question, you are not ready for prime time.
  7. If you promise to “abolish the IRS,” build a wall along the entire Mexican (or Canadian) border, get rid of the National Security Agency (instead only gather information on known terrorists) or start a trade war with China, you are not ready for prime time.

THE TRUMP SHOW: The Surreality of Politics as Reality TV

I’m beginning to tire of Donald Trump, but not of the process that has made him a wrecking ball to the campaigns of other Republican candidates.  Not true of all those candidates – Ted Cruz, for example, always says nice things about the man while positioning himself just close enough to siphon off fall away voters later.  Like Nascar drivers, Ted is drafting behind the Donald in good position to make his move when (if?) the frontrunner falters.

The others, though, seem on a tight rope, careful to show how they are both like him (to attract his supporters later) and not (to also attract his detractors).  Sometimes these lesser sorts dare cross from the prick of wit to the sting of insult in Donald’s eyes, which prompts a verbal whack, such as his pointing to Carly Fiorina and asking:  “Would you vote for this face?”

This, I surmise, in response to her saying that in dealing with foreign policy it is important to have some sense of the major players, playing off Trump’s confusing the Quds Force of Iran with the Kurds of Iraq in an interview.   If you criticize the Donald better expect a pie in your face.

Under normal circumstances I would suggest Carly produce a poster of Trump with the caption: “Would you vote for this face?”   But then I fear Trump would hold it up in some mass rally, and his fans would cheer wildly “yes.”  It’s not politics as usual since the Donald hit town.

I happen to know one of these fans who just emailed me:  “The more he takes cheap shots, the more popular he becomes.  Amazing. ”  Like so many others, he likes Trump’s unfiltered side, a sign of how mind numbing our politics have become that anything that actually seems unscripted is cheered no matter what it matters.   There must be some limit, right?  He can’t say something like “stone them to death” and still get cheers can he?

Well, perhaps.  Afterwards he could say he didn’t mean “stone to death” literally, as later he said he wasn’t criticing Carly’s looks but her “persona,” and later still that his comments were made “as an entertainer,” ….which means exactly what?  Is he saying his comments shouldn’t be taken so seriously, for after all, he’s just entertaining us.  Who knows but the not knowing further fuels interest as if it really matters what comes out of his mouth.

That we might further ponder the issue is evidence of his wiliness.  See how much coverage he gets from saying something contemptible and then changing what he said and then getting coverage for that and prompting fools like me to further ponder?

That’s the joke folks.   What he says doesn’t matter.  It’s his jabbing politicians and the politically correct police that matters to his fans, not exactly what he says.  It’s the rest of us who don’t get the joke.

People like me need to kick the habit (addiction?) of wondering out loud what Trump is up to now?   I have high hopes I can, and even think many of Trump’s fans will tire of his act or think more seriously about whether they actually want a person for president whose “primary” goal is to entertain us.

But my Trump-fan friend indicates I may be wrong.  When asked whether he would actually vote for Trump for president, he said he would if he got the nomination..

While typing I’ve been thinking of Bette Midler’s singing:  “Let me entertain you.  Let me make you smile.”