It’s Monday, so tomorrow’s another set of primaries. Won’t be any surprises on the Republican side, so much so that unless something wildly improbable happens we won’t have learned anything new about the eventual outcome. On the Democratic side, we are at long last going to see the end of any realistic shot the Sanders campaign has at the nomination. I had previously thought California might matter for the Democrats, but HIllary’s win last week in NY was so big and her current leads in PA so large that the race will essentially warp up tomorrow. Unless something epic happens! Which it might. Anyway….
None of that means that there aren’t planet of updates to be had, so let’s get to those bullets!
- Let’s start with some high-level stuff. Matt Kerbel, my all-time favorite political scientist, has a great look at all of the things you’ll need to pay attention to between the end of the primaries and the beginning of the convention. I’ll of course be providing updates along the way, but for now, this is a really great look at the three keys to the race: How many pledged delegates does Trump have? Who are those delegates? And what is the composition of the Rules Committee?
- Speaking of Rules Committee, last week I highlighted an effort by some delegates to change the rules in ways that would undermine the power of the Chair during the convention. That effort failed late last week, and in so doing the party dodged a potentially deadly bulletj. No matter what the outcome of the connection eventually is, the party wont be well served by chaos, and a set of rules that took power from the Chair and dispersed it to the delegates would’ve guaranteed chaos of some sort. No idea which candidate if any this benefits, but it’s at least one potential source of conflict we can strike from the list.
- Trump’s people spent a few days at the end of last week trying to make nice with the RNC. Paul Manafort gave a presentation to more than 160 members of the party elite – you know, the ones that Trump spends his days complaining about? – who had gathered in Florida for their last pre-convention meeting. Both Manafort and Trump have signaled that they intend to pivot towards the center over the coming months, with Manafort ever going so far as to say that Trump has been “projecting an image” and doesn’t really mean a lot of the things he has said. This should be highly entertaining to watchJ. On the one hand, Trump has spent literally decades building a personal brand centered on embracing excess, so the idea that he could just flip a switch and become someone else entirely is truly hilarious to me – and to Josh Marshall and Ann Coulter and Ezra Klein! When you’ve gotten all of us to agree on something, damn… Anyway, I’d be willing to bet everything I own that once each week between now and the convention. I mean, c’mon…does adopting a fake Indian accent while complaining about call center staffing sound presidential to you? How about mocking Kasich’s name or complaining about the way Kasich eats his pancakes? Yeah, didn’t think so. So expect a lot more of these “Trump’s still got some evolving to do” stories in the coming weeks.
- And look! Trump, this weekend, to a rally in Connecticut: “I’m not toning it down.” Dude is who he is. He’s made millions if not billions off that. He can’t change, he wont change, he don’t change, he shouldn’t change. And Manafort has since walked his comments back too, saying that the campaign would evolve, not Trump. So no more pivot to the center! Until next week, when I’m sure this will come up again.
- Manafort’s presentation to the party actually had 10 major points. I’ll summarize for you: he doesn’t want to undermine elites; he’s just playing a crazy person on teevee; he’s like Reagan in several ways (that, for the record, match the myths but not realities of Reagan); they want the party to unify now and not later. It all sounds reasonable if you don’t know much about modern American politics and media, but if you do…well…I sure would’ve loved to have seen the looks on the faces of the people in that room.
- You’ll be hearing a lot about Pennsylvania this week. It has a strange loophole primary system that will leave 54 of its delegates unbound. Some have promised to vote for whomever wins the state, others have pledged to individual candidates, and others have said they will make up their minds later. But no matter what they’ve said, they’re all free to do whatever they want at the convention itself, so it really doesn’t matter what they’ve promised. Particularly since voters will only see a list of names on the ballot, with no indication of who these people are or what they have promised to do. I’m sure the teevee people will say that “the pressure on these people will be intense, so surely they will all vote for Trump at the convention,” but that assumes that these people don’t have personal preferences that they are interested in preserving. Which of course they do, so no, you can’t assume that they will or won’t do anything in particular other than attend the convention should they become delegates. Much more here if you are curious.
- Although Kasich is trailing badly in the polls, he could end up with some delegates in each of Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island because of the ways those states award delegates proportionally and by district. So once again, ignore the state-wide vote and focus on those districts! Oh, and Trump’s magic number on the day is about 185.
- Cruz meanwhile has continued to maneuver behind the scenes to use the rules to pick up additional delegates, and by all accounts this weekend was as successful as his last.
- But wait! As the first bullet point reminded you, it’s not just how many delegates you’ve won but also who those delegates are. And even in NY, where Trump won in a blowout, there are signs that party elites are rapidly mobilizing to select anti-Trump delegates for their delegation. At the same time, both Cruz and Trump are rapidly drawing up plans for challenging the credentials of delegates at the convention, a highly contentious process that will likely have a huge outcome on even the first ballot. This is one of the main reasons why I keep insisting that Trump needs to secure well more than a majority of the available pledged delegates to be certain of the eventual outcome. I know that’s pretty much the opposite of what everyone else is saying – and hey, I could be wrong! – but if Madison has taught me anything, it’s that veto points matter. And boy are there a TON of veto points between Trump and the nomination! Trump is going to file protests; Cruz is going to file protests; Kasich is going to file protests; party regulars are going to file protests; party outsiders…well no, they wont file protests because outsiders can’t file protests. But that’s A LOT of protests, and it’s likely that at least some of each of them will be upheld, so…the outcome is at very best uncertain for everyone involved! Oh, and remember: some of these delegates have wanted to change the delegate rules for a LONG time, and they might mobilize for reasons that have nothing at all to do with any of the individual candidates. The kind of person who chooses to devote their life to the rules of the Republican Party is not like you or me, and they very well may choose to do things that make no sense to you, me, Cruz, or Trump. Another wild card in the mix!
- Once we get past this week, it appears that Cruz and Kasich are sort-of coordinating in an attempt to deny Trump delegates. Cruz is focusing on Indiana, leaving Kasich to take the lead in New Mexico and Oregon. Problem is, Kasich isn’t very good at this game, and he immediately undermined the whole thing by saying that he wont ask his supporters to vote for Cruz in Indianaj.
- One thing Matt Kerbel didn’t mention in his three keys to the convention is the party platform. Like delegate selections and convention rules, party platforms tend to be ignored by the public, but it is seen as critically important by party regulars. And given the likelihood of chaos at this convention, some party activists are already maneuvering to add some pretty controversial items to the party’s official platform. Add this to the ever-growing list of things Republican candidates in swing states and close races are going to have to worry about in the fall.
- And speaking of party activists, check out this report on how Trump has pissed of anti-abortion activists. Add this to the list of reason why a “move to the center” will never work. Party activists don’t trust Trump because Trump isn’t a party activist, likely doesn’t actually believe most of the things he has said, and has even now promised to “move to the center.” Given the imporance of abortion to the Reagan coalition, given how committed anti-abortion activists are, and given everything in the previous bullet, this is most defintiely something to watch.
- And the infamous Koch Brothers? They’re out on the convention too, and they think Hillary might not be all that bad compared to some of these Republicansj. Yup yup, they actualyl said that. Way to bury the lede Alex!
- Some of the activists are increasingly worried about the safety and security of their families at the convention. Because there have apparently been threats of violence against delegates and their families from some pro-Trump people.
- Here’s how the AP summarizes the delagate math on this side of the race: “Hillary Clinton can’t win enough delegates on Tuesday to officially knock Bernie Sanders out of the presidential race, but she can erase any lingering honest doubts about whether she’ll soon be the Democratic nominee.” Sorry California, but it looks like your Democratic Primary might not matter. Might I suggest that if you live there you re-register yourself as a Republican for this cycle so that you can weigh in on that race?
- Beanie on why he has struggled of late: “poor people don’t vote.” Well yeah, duh….this is not new, and until and unless that changes, movements like Bernie’s are almost certainly doomed to fail. No, scratch that. Campaigns like Bernies’s will fail, but movements might not. That’s why I was thankful when he got in, abut then wondered just waht the hell he was thinking when he started acting like he could win both the nomination and the general. Be ire certainly knows that “poor people don’t vote,” and that any movement aimed at the people from the middle down would have to be built over many cycles and not just one. So it’s good to hear him say it, but dude…why were you pretending like you didn’t know this for six weeks?
- Given this, we’re moving into the part of the campaign where people consider what’s next for Sanders and his movement. I’ll post the most interesting ones I find here. Here’s a really high-level look at his options. Here’s another one. Both are worth reading if you are into this sort of thing! And here’s a look at how Bernie may have impacted the views of Democratic-leaning millennials. [UPDATE: And if this polling is to be believed, Hillary’s “problem” with millennials goes away entirely in a race with Trump. Because of course it does.]
- One more: Bernie is making young people like the Democratic Party better. Trump is making them like it less. That’s…gotten scare the hell out of you if you are a Republican. Because no, people don’t conservative as they age; all of the research shows that they tend to they stick with whatever party they chose when they were young.
And let’s end with a hopeful thought. From Trump. Yes, from Trump! “I don’t think I’m going to lose, but if I do, I don’t think you’re ever going to see me again, folks.” Yes!