So it’s looking more and more likely that Indiana will make the end of both races. Cruz has done a piss-poor job of managing his own narrative as the race predictably headed into Trump territory in the North East, and his naming Carly Fiorinia as his running mate was so self-evidently stupid that I suspect it cratered his campaign in Indiana. So if Trump ends up taking the state tomorrow, that’ll be the beginning of the end for Cruz. Assuming, of course, that he decides to stand down at the convention. I’m not even remotely convinced that he’s going to do that, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made that point enough by now that there’s really no point repeating myself. So instead, let’s get to the bullets.
Starting this week, I’m going with three categories: Republican, Democratic, and General Election. In the first category I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing – rounding up stories about the fight for delegates and over the rules of the convention. In the second, I’m going to mostly focus on stories that examine how Bernie is managing the end of his campaign. And in the third, well…If people want to see a Clinton-Trump race, I’ve no problem with that. We’ve got all kinds of polling on that race, and political science tells us pretty definitively that we’ve entered the period in which the polls do a pretty good job of predicting the eventual outcome. So…three categories!
But first….before you do anything else, stop and read this post by Josh Marshall. It’s called “Political Bilingualism Takes the Stage,” and it lays out quite clearly what is likely to be the single-most important fault line of the coming campaign. I’m going to quote just enough of it to give you an idea of what it’s about, but not enough to keep you from going to TPM to read it. Here it is:
These two candidates aren’t just appealing to different demographics or voting coalitions. They’re operating in what almost amounts to two different political universes. In linguistic terms it is almost like two mutually unintelligible languages. I guarantee you that everyone who has voted for Trump in any primary so far loved those remarks. They hate Hillary. They hate ‘political correctness’. More than anything else they love provocation itself. But this kind of talk, while a single instance itself, reminds us that Trump has already all but disqualified himself with huge swaths of the electorate.
The things that make Trump popular with a certain part of the Republican base are precisely the same things that are driving his unpopularity with pretty much everyone else. The initial plan was for Trump to run hard right and then pivot center, but given who Trump is that’s always been a silly notion. Trump will stay Trump, and as he said today, he’s his own strategist, a great strategies, and he likes the campaign he is running. More importantly his supporters love it, and they are convinced – utterly convinced – that the rest of the country either hates Hillary as much as they do, or will come to hate her that much once Trump gets finished with her. I’m honestly not terribly interested in engaging that argument – history suggests that Hillary has stayed popular enough with a majority of the public over the last 25 years, and either way time will quickly tell the truth of it one way or another – but the point here is that the two parties are operating in largely parallel universes. And as Josh points out, that means the race this fall is going to be driven by demographics in ways unlike anything this country has seen in a long, long time. Trump will no doubt win white men and married white women by huge numbers, but the things that attract those people to him will drive hordes of others away. And given the way the Electoral College works, white men and married white women aren’t even nearly enough to win an election. But now I’m getting ahead of myself and way ahead of Josh, so let’s leave well enough alone and say…go read that article!
- If Trump wins big in Indiana – and recent polling suggests he will – all eyes turn towards California. And I think people are vastly underestimating the likelihood of California turning nasty, chaotic, brutish, and short. Those of you younger than me might find this hard to believe, but California used to be a swing state, and the state’s Republican Party was once one of the best in the nation – remember Nixon and Reagan? But then Pete Wilson decided he wanted to be Presdient right about the time that party’s base went all-in on immigrant-panic, and it’s been in a long, not-so-slow decline ever since (and no, electing Arnold in a 100+ person race as a Republican isn’t an effective counter to my claim). As the party there has wandered it’s way towards oblivion, the rifts between its various factions have grown deeper, and those rifts almost perfectly match the one playing out in the national party during these primaries this year. Given that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if things within the state degenerate rapidly over the next few weeks. In fact, they already are. And yes, Republicans, my Trump is Pete Wilson analogy should scare the shit out of you, not that you are at all likely to listen to me.
- While Benie has been laying off – excuse me, “right-sizing” – staff across the country, Hillary is expanding her organization in the states most likely to be battlegrounds this Fall. He’s also building a very strange case that Super Delegates are going to break for him as we head into the convention. This is why people who aren’t members of a party shouldn’t run for that party’s nomination – they end up saying things that are so totally cluelessj that they embarrass themselves without having the knowledge necessary to even realize they’ve done so. Dude, I love so many of your ideas. Please, just stop. You’ll thank yourself later, I promise.
- Let’s grant Bernie the fact that he’s built a movement. For the record, I’m not sure the evidence fully supports that, but let’s leave that aside and assume that there’s something crucial voting and polling data is missing and that it is actually happening. Given that he is not going to be the Democratic nominee, the question is: where does that movement go from here? Late last week, Bernie seemed to indicate that he would use his influence to push for three specific things: automatic voter registration; same-day registration and open primaries; a return to a Howard Dean-like 50-state strategy. These are all really interesting ideas, but as Political Animal points out, the first two are controlled entirely by state legislatures and state parties, so unless his people are willing to become seriously engaged members of the Democratic Party at the state level, there’s no way this is going to happen. And the 50-state strategy sounds like a great idea – I used to be all-in on it! – until you look at what it actually produces. Do Bernie and his people really want to see a Democratic Party populated by more Southern, conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats? Because it’s the South and the rural West where Dems tend not to run candidates, and if the party were to push hard into those places, you’d get exactly what you got in 2006 and 2008 – Democrats that behave like Republcans. Believe me, I get the impulse, I really do. But in our current political culture and with our current set of political institutions, I don’t think a true 50-state strategy does anything other than make the Democratic Party more like the Republican Party. I’m open to arguments as to why 2016 might be different than 2008, but I’ve yet to hear any good ones.
- And can we get real for a minute about all this? If Bernie really wants to make things more small- democratic, can he please come out against caucuses? Because caucuses are just voter ID laws on steroids.j And sure, doing so would mean repudiating most of his wins, but so what? He’s a principled revolutionary seeking long-term positive social change, yeah?
- Donald Trump says women don’t like Hillary. He’s right, particularly so with married women. The problem? No matter what Druge’s random headlines might scream, Women dislike Trump even more, and not just by a little bit. If you’re an older white dude I’m sure Trump’s whole “Hillary is an incompetent woman” line of attack sounds like a winner to you. It sure does to Trump! Me? I’m not gonna say nothing. Wouldn’t want to get in the way of what comes next.
- The last time Republicans were this unpopular a dude named Clinton became President.
- So far, Republicans in competitive races seem to want to have nothing to do with Trump. According to the widely regarded Cook Report, there are 11 Republican Senators and 34 Republican members of the House facing competitive races this year (Let me put down a marker here: that House number will expand by at least 10 between now and September 15). So far, only one has endorsed Trump, and most have either stayed on the sidelines or announced that they wont be attending their party’s convention this summer. Obviously it’s still early, and plenty of them could either change their minds or come around. But as the summer turns into the fall, keep that list from Cook Report in mind: if the people on that list break for Trump, it is because they believe it will help them in their own races to do so, and if they stay away it is because they believe associating themselves with him will hurt their changes. No need for punditry or back and forth on this – their own self-interested actions will quite clearly explain themselves.
- So far, Trump appears to have neither a plan for party fundraising in the general election nor a process for vetting and selecting a Vice Presidential candidate. And as Matt Kerbel points out, it is extraordinarily unlikely that anyone even remotely associated with the Republican establishment will want to serve if asked (he calls it the Sargent Shriver problem, another comparison that should terrify my Republican readers. But won’t, because reasons!) But I think he’s underselling the problem, because I think Trump is going to go WAAAY off the reservation with his pick. Mark my words: the VP selection will be one of three truly horrific mistakes that Trump makes between now and November. It will be like Palin but then worse- 72 hours of good press followed by two months of embarrassment, including one that drowns out everything else for a good 48 hours. Not sure yet what the other two will be, but as you can see, I’ve no problem making specific predictions, so I’ll be back with them once I figure them out!
- In the same ways that fears of an Obama presidency led people to stock up on guns and ammo, fears of a Trump presidency are leading to a surge in naturalization and new voter registrations. Hooray for new American citizens! Hooray for integration into the Ameican community! C’mon, Republicans, that’s what you’ve always said you wanted, right?
- Republican votes are angry. Some of Bernie’s Bros are angry too. But average Americans? Nope. The President’s approval rating has been above 50% for months, and consumer confidence is at the level that leads to the election of the incumbent party. And before you start screaming about how the polls are wrong, I’ll remind you Democrats of 2004 and you Republicans of both 2008 and 2012. The polls might be wrong from moment to moment, but the averages over time are solid. Which brings us back to where we started – Josh is right, two political universes, and for now at least there’s no bridging the gap between them.