Monday, April 25, 2016

The end...

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But is is, perhaps, the end of the end of the beginning." Winston Churchill, to the House of Commons, after a series of defeats in Europe and the Pacific, finally announcing the defeat of Rommel's army in Egypt.

The candidates may be feeling something like this.  As of this morning, almost everyone has concluded that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be the respective nominees.  The voters have not yet decided that, and they still get to decide the party nominee.

A larger question posed to both parties has risen up.  What is the purpose of the primaries, that is, do the voters get to decide (purely popular elections) or do the parties and their many moving  parts, get to decide?  Trump has called out the party rules as corrupt (despite the fact that he is winning proportionately more delegates than actual votes), and many on the Democratic side have wondered about the superdelegates. In addition, each state has different rules, which makes the entire process seem oddly out of pace with the electorate.

The history shows us that parties are voluntary organizations, to  which people belong, and that each organization has the right to establish its own rules.The primary voters are not necessarily even party members, Crossover voters in open primaries permit individual voters, who may or may not even consider themselves party members to vote.

Look at two of the candidates.  Donald Trump declares himself a Republican and leads the race, despite his very checkered past supporting Democrats and opposing Republicans.  Bernie Sanders was not elected to the US Senate as a Democrat. But there is no test in either party rules that prohibits any person from declaring themselves to be and then transforming into that which is.

The parties have created this system because so many voters reject party affiliation.  And it's those voters, the independents, the  first time voters, the people who reject party labels, that the parties need to win elections.

One might ask which candidate is best positioned to win those voters this fall? It is likely that both bases of both parties will be ginned up and ready to fight; but is there a candidate that can attract independent and unaligned voters to their cause?  To their side?

This week's primaries will not give any candidate the majority they need to win, but they will push us closer to the end of the beginning. But fear not, this campaign is nowhere near a conclusion, and there is much more to come.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

As we await the results of the NY primary, the media is still searching for a lasting narrative. This week, I have heard the following:
1. Bernie is gaining nationally, and if he comes within single digits, NY will be a huge win.
2. Bernie cannot win the general election, although he polls higher regarding voter trust than any candidate in the field.
3. When was the last time Trump said something offensive;  that is proof that his campaign is changing.
4. Cruz has no chance in NY, but in a week, he looks to win most of the midwestern and western primaries.
5. What is Kasich still doing in the race; Kasich in the race keeps both Trump and Cruz from winning.
6. Reince Priebus should resign.
7. Debbbie Wasserrman-Schultz should resign,

The campaign no one expected still surprises, and it looks like at least one, and perhaps  both campaigns might go to their respective conventions undecided. That would be unprecedented in modern history.   At that point, the party leaders, with various motives, both laudatory and reprehensible, might try to turn the conventions their way.

If Trump wins NY big, (count actual delegates won, not percentages), it will make it very hard for the leaders to fight his candidacy. If he gets close to the magic number, you will see party leaders grow quiet, content to hold their nose and save their own seats.

If the Clinton-Sanders fight continues, the party will be  much tougher to unite after it picks a nominee.  Make no mistake, the divide between Clinton supporters and the ardent supporters of Sanders have two very different visions for America. And the divide between McConnell Republicans and Trump-adherents is as wide (at least on its face) as the Grand Canyon.

California looms large- consider the ability of any candidate to bring in truly new voters and if their enthusiasm is either lasting or contagious.

This is quite a lot of fun, don't you think?

Friday, April 15, 2016

The campaign becomes harsher.

Hello from Nebraska.

Last night's Democratic debate showed that it is  just the Republicans feeling the pressure to do well in next week's New York primary. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders fought over Wall Street, tax return, Wall Street speeches, foreign policy and everything in between.  The polls are all over the place: Nationally they are tied. In New York, Clinton still appears to be up by low double digits. In the expectation game, if Sanders keeps it close, or wins, the campaign will go on. New York is not a game changer, no matter what the pundits say.  Even if Sanders wins, (that would be a big blow to her campaign going forward only if the superdelegates become less confident), the odds are high that Hillary will be the nominee.

But the debate is changing. Hillary had resisted supporting a $15 national minimum wage, changed her position last night.  The Democratic candidates now are on record of supporting a very high minimum wage.  That cannot be undone in the general election. In that regard, Sanders' campaign is defining the debate. On the other hand, Hillary appears the most competent candidate when talking about foreign affairs. But even there, Sanders has made his argument: do as I say, not as I did calls into question her judgment on Iraq and Libya.

Trump is riding a wave of New York home court advantage, but in this week's primary, it is how well Kasich and not Cruz does.  If Kasich can move closer to Trump, possibly holding him under 50%, then even without a win, he slowly transforms himself into the loser that the Republican party might actually turn to in a convention contest,

Cruz is looking ahead to other primaries, including California. I think that it will be California that determines the most important question in this primary season:  (no not who is the ultimate candidate), but instead, which direction will the two major parties head  A Cruz win in California will push the Republicans farther to the right, and a Sanders win  will push the Democrats to the left.

Watch for the issues that matter in California, Immigration,  taxes, social policy, character. What will matter to the California voters?  We all know that the issues across the nation play different in each state, with each state's voters deciding what matters to them.  In that respect what we are seeing in this primary season is that while the election for president is national, we are really seeing 50 plus separate elections, local elections, play out.

This is going to remain very, very interesting.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Another week, another Sanders win in Wyoming.  With that win, Sanders has won 8/9 of the last contests.  Yet in Wyoming, each candidate earned an equal number of delegates. In both parties, there is a growing feeling that the party system is ( or is being) rigged. The Democratic super delegates protect the establishment choice, and on the Republican side, Cruz has found a way to pick off a few delegates regardless of the primary results. And the likelihood of a contested convention in Cleveland  grows with each closer primary or Cruz victory.

New York looks like a big Trump win- if he does well he could take all the delegates. But if Kasich or Cruz do well ( or cut into Ttump's support to keep him below 50 %), then all bets are off.

Hillary should excel also. It's her adopted home, she served as its Senstor. But Bernie is drawing big crowds and the polls have narrowed.

Both side are playing this primary relatively safe. Not as much vitriol, but this week may change things.  Trump is realizing that politics is not business, and is ramping up staff to get organized for the primaries ahead and for a convention fight. As long as Bernie wins and stays competitive, and continues to outraise Hillary, he will be in the race.  And as this story unfolds, California looms very key. As we know, anything can happen in California and this season, Californians so long irrelevant in our recent national primaries, may finally play a major, even determinative role.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

New York, New York.

Now that the damage to the Clinton and Trump campaigns has been done by the voters of Wisconsin, the new fight is in New York  Both of the frontrunners (in the sense now not of momentum, but of actually won delegates) should be at significant advantages. Hillary served as the state's senator and makes her home (and the home of her private server there) and Donald has built his buildings and his reputation (as a brash and braggart from the Bronx) in New York.

Cruz has traveled there, yesterday, to double down on his New York values comments.  The question is whether there are any conservative Republicans who are as conservative as Cruz, enough to accept that most of NY Republicans are more like Trump than Cruz. 

On the Dem side, however, something appears to be happening.  While Hillary is still a big favorite, it  is Sanders, once again, who gins up the support.  He is drawing huge crowds, and they are very enthusiastic.  He out fundraised Clinton by $15 million in March, and has won 7 out of the last 8 primary/caucus contests.  He has the big MO, and this might not be as much a coronation as a last, best chance to stop the Sanders rush. 

If Clinton loses NY, she is in serious trouble.
If Trump wins NY, not much else changes.

In a larger context, the problems both parties are facing come at their conventions.  The  battles between candidates and supporters are becoming much more divisive, sharp and wounding.  Who believes that if Trump loses at the convention, many of his supporters will vote for Ted Cruz, or John Kasich. Trump is nothing if not a poor loser and he is not likely to work to unify the party so he can, like Reagan in 1976, get his chance 4 years later.  Trump might toy with running again if he loses, but I doubt he has the stomach for that.

On the Dem side, Hillary and Sanders, who played nice for so long, are now calling each other Unqualified to be President.  That's like saying.. well, you're unqualified to be President.  You cannot support someone not qualified.  So,, the bridge between those camps is if not on fire, certainly soaked in gas.  The longer this goes on, the tougher it becomes.

And the parties are, can we be honest now, not very courageous.  They both might just accept the worst possible outcome and hope to squeak by with very flawed candidates to win, despite the likelihood that this election would be a divisive, angry, scurrilous mess. 

So, what happens now? 
The FBI investigation and interview of Hillary and her aides looms.  Trumps fraud trial over Trump University appears to be set for later summer.  And John Kasich thinks that a contested convention will be his chance for the delegates to come to their senses and pick him as their candidate, despite the fact that he has proven to be the least successful potential nominee among the three remaining. No wonder Paul Ryan wants none of this.

Read up, find more news, explore the unconventional, and see what might be happening in the states after New York, including California, which, finally, might actually have a significant role in this primary season after all.


Sunday, April 03, 2016

The Campaign Continues, liike a bad penny.

And you thought getting rid of me would be easy.

Actually, I just cannot get enough of this crazy campaign.  The events  appear to be colliding. Trump finally stepped in something that he can wipe off with  his comments about punishing a woman in the event abortion became illegal.  Now, it wasn't his answer that was so bad (although it was pretty uninformed), but he went to  Hardball Chris Matthews, a notoriously partisan commentator and let himself get caught up in an entirely unrealistic question.  That, coming after the charge against his campaign manager (by a very democratic prosecutor for grabbing a reporter) did not help.

Republicans began to face the music. Either it will be Trump, and his likely damage to the down ballot (loss of Senate, fight to control the House), or Ted Cruz, the Senator the Senate loves to hate.

And Kasich stays in specifically to get to the convention that he believes will decide that it will be he that he confused and angry electorate turns to.

On the Democratic side, Sanders just keeps winning primaries and caucuses, but cannot keep up with the superdelegates that Hillary has pocketed. Hillary wanted few debates, then more, now none.  The story just keeps getting better and better.

The problem for both leading candidates is this: Among Republicans, over 30% have said they will never vote for Trump if he is the nominee.  And among Sanders supporters, nearly 1 in 4 have taken the same position. This poses a major dilemma for each party. The issue will not simply be who can win, but who can unify the divisions in their own party.  Neither leading candidate offers much encouragement there.

One more thing this week as to the single-issue voters and the flashpoint of abortion/right to choose *depending on your take.  We know that today, under Roe v Wade and its legal progeny, the government cannot restrict a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy in the first trimester, and can do so in the second and third trimester if the state's interest in protecting the unborn fetus (or some other interest such as the current popular state approach being used-- protecting the woman's health by insuring that clinics are aligned with hospitals). But the issue that should be put to every candidate, the issue that the Supreme Court in Roe (years later) admittedly shut down public debate over is this:
At what point does the government have the right to deny a woman the option of abortion to protect the life of the child? (Roe recognized this, but never answered it.) Since the test adopted by the Court balanced those separate interests, what are the issues that weigh on that scale?

And would advances in medical technology, such as those that make the survival rate of babies born more prematurely than were available in 1973 when Roe was decided, play a role in that balancing test?  In other words, if you believe in a living  Constitution, one that adapts with the new social mores and technology, wouldn't you have to accept that when medical technology makes the survival of more prematurely born babies likely, that the state interest in regulating abortions take effect much earlier than the Court test in Roe permitted? 

Food for thought and your comments, as always with due respect for the views of each other, are welcomed.

From windy, sunny, and soon to be wet Nebraska, thank you for your attention.