Thursday, March 3, 2016

Doing the Donald Trump Jump

Tweet: Trump unveils new puppet show: #JumpForTrump. Which Republican politicians are Jumping for Trump?

The show has been set to music (with apologies to Little Eva's Loco-motion).

Everybody's doing a brand-new dance, now

(Come on baby, do the Donald Trump Jump)

I know you'll get to like it if you give it a chance now

(Come on baby, do the Donald Trump Jump)

My G O P Senator can do it with me

It's easier than learning his A-B-C's

So come on, come on, do the Donald Trump Jump with me

You gotta swing your hips, now

Come on, baby

Trump's up

Christie's back

Well, now, I think you've got the knack

Wow, wow

My Senator John Mc Cain has done it to me

Amy Davidson (New Yorker) asserts that the GOP leaders are failing a Trump test; they have failed to call out Trump for his racist policies because they thought they could compete for his voters. That's an early symptom of the Trump Jump.

There are those on the Republican side who will feel that they threw everything they could at Trump, and that it mysteriously didn’t stick. But did they? For months, his opponents and Republican leaders failed to forcefully confront the pervasive racism in Trump’s rhetoric and policies, in part because they coveted his supporters. They were stirred to action last week when, after first disavowing the endorsement of David Duke, a Ku Klux Klan leader, Trump seemed to waver in an interview with CNN. (He blamed a bad earpiece.) On Tuesday, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, without mentioning Trump’s name, said that he expected any Republican candidate to repudiate “white supremacists,” and that the G.O.P. itself was not prejudiced. He then confirmed that he would support whomever the Party nominated, including Trump. Ryan’s Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, basically said only that Senate Republicans didn’t like the Klan. (One would hope not.) As a result, the test that Ryan and McConnell have set for Trump is too easy: just disavow David Duke, something Trump believes he’s already done. Is the Party capable of pushing harder than that?

John Cassidy, also at the New Yorker, asks the question that is chewing on the guts of the GOP.

The question mark hangs over the Republican Party, and how it will react to what my colleague Ryan Lizza aptly called “a hostile take-over.” Will it follow the lead of the #NeverTrump movement, and fight him to the end? Or will it mimic [Governor Chris] Christie and [Senator Jeff] Sessions, and fall in behind its new Maximum Leader? ...

So far the Republicans have been amazingly incompetent at (1) foreseeing the risks of a Trumpist takeover of their party, and (2) countering Trumpism (as faux conservatism) and preventing Trump's electoral successes. So your Scriber continues to bet that the GOPlins will wimp out and Jump for Trump. Apparently, as Steve Benen reports, the number of senators and representatives doing the Jump is growing.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ... released a statement yesterday [March 1st] quoting 11 Senate Republican candidates – 7 incumbents and 4 Senate hopefuls – praising Trump, vowing to support Trump, or both. [_I could not find the referenced DSCC statement. If you know of it, share the link._]

Our own beloved GOPlin, John McCain, has signed on to Jump for Trump. Steve Benen:

An NPR reporter asked John McCain on Monday if he’s serious about supporting Donald Trump if he wins the Republican presidential nomination. “I said I support the nominee,” McCain replied. When the reporter asked if that generic principle applies to Trump, the Arizona senator got agitated.

After an exasperated sigh, McCain told NPR, in the most annoyed tone possible, “Hello? I said I. Support. The. Nominee!”

If McCain is irritated by this line of questioning now, he should brace himself for months of additional aggravation. The New York Times reported this week:

If Republicans are worried about a Donald J. Trump presidential nomination damaging the party down the ballot in November, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, the Arizona Democratic who is challenging Senator John McCain, is offering a prime example of why they should be.

With Mr. Trump leading his Republican rivals in the race for delegates, Ms. Kirkpatrick unveiled an advertisement on Monday that hammers Mr. McCain for his promise to support the eventual Republican nominee – even if it is Mr. Trump.

The minute-long ad is available online here. Note, it juxtaposes some of Trump’s offensive rhetoric – including his rhetorical shots at McCain – with the senator’s vow to support his party’s nominee, no matter who it is.

A spokesperson for the McCain campaign called the ad a “cheap, pathetic display,” but I have no idea why. This is hardly out of bounds. If McCain is prepared to support his party’s nominee, even if it’s Donald Trump, the senator can’t seriously expect to declare the subject off-limits to scrutiny.

But maybe he's having second thoughts about Jumping for Trump.

Shifting strategies for stopping Trump

In the aftermath of Super Tuesday, remaining candidates and Republican officials are trying to deny Trump the delegates he needs for a first-ballot win. Here are snippets from the NY Times report.

Veteran Republican officials and aides to Mr. Trump’s rivals say they are now focused above all on denying him the 1,237 delegates he would need to clinch the nomination before the party gathers in Cleveland in July.

“Trump is on track to have such a dominating lead in the number of delegates, and with that big of a lead it’s going to be hard to catch him before the convention,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican campaign lawyer and rules expert.

That would give rise to the first convention since 1976 in which Republicans convened without already having settled on their nominee. And given the growing number of Republicans who have ruled out supporting Mr. Trump if he becomes the standard-bearer, the convention could become the kind of defining, which-side-are-you-on moment that scars the party, or worse, splits it in a fashion not seen since Theodore Roosevelt abandoned it in 1912.

It does seem that the GOP is dividing into Trump and No Trump.

On Thursday [that would be TODAY], Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, is to deliver a speech in Salt Lake City in which he is expected to warn of the devastating consequences for the party if Mr. Trump is nominated.

But much of the immediate challenge for those opposed to Mr. Trump is that there is no consensus about who is the best alternative to him. ...

And the choices for a Republican alternative to Trump may be winnowed further come March 15.

Mr. Kasich, on the campaign trail in Michigan, looked forward to the March 15 contests as clarifying. “Look, it gets down to, can he win Florida?” Mr. Kasich said of Mr. Rubio. “Do I win Ohio? And that’s what we’ll see. Because if you can’t win your own state, then I don’t know how you move on.”

If Mr. Trump’s momentum is enough to carry him to victory in Ohio and Florida, which both distribute their delegates on a winner-take-all basis, the Republican race may effectively be over. He will have dealt Mr. Rubio and Mr. Kasich humiliating losses in their home states and netted 165 delegates, putting him on course to capture a majority before the convention.

But the converse is also true, said Rick Hohlt, a longtime Washington Republican deeply engaged in the delegate-counting process. “There’s a general agreement that it’s mathematically very difficult for Trump to get the nomination with delegates before the convention if he is beaten in those two states.”

Of the Stop Trump effort, Mr. Hohlt added: “Florida and Ohio are the linchpin.”

Anti-Trump PACs have reserved $5 million in air time and the expectation is that that number will grow substantially. Anti-Trump business types are drumming up even more support for No Trump.

Can Trump be stopped at the convention?

Here's more from the NY Times report.

Stopping Mr. Trump in Florida or Ohio makes it at least possible to hold him short of a delegate majority before the convention. Two other factors offer his opponents hope: Many of the remaining state contests will be closed primaries, in which only Republicans can vote; Mr. Trump has drawn heavily from independents when they are able to cast ballots. And all but six states voting after March 15 will award delegates proportionally.

A contested convention would bring into play a series of complicated and crucial procedural votes. Perhaps the most significant would address a current rule stating that no candidate can be placed in nomination without having won a majority of delegates in eight states.

“The best case scenario for the Never Trump backers is to throw the convention into disarray, either by ensuring Trump does not reach the eight-state threshold so the rules have to be changed, or by changing the rules even if he does,” said Jeff Berkowitz, a former Republican National Committee official.

But if Mr. Trump is able to clear the eight-state bar, his supporters will aggressively resist any effort to revisit it.

To actually defeat Mr. Trump at the convention, Republicans would have to hope that he is first unable to win a majority on the initial floor vote. He would then have to be thwarted on subsequent ballots by delegates who abandon him and choose an alternative whose name has been placed in nomination. Rules vary state by state, but most delegates who are bound on the first ballot by how their states voted are free in later balloting.

Preparing for this possibility, Mr. Trump and some of his rivals have already begun the painstaking process of trying to elect friendly delegates in case those individuals become free agents on subsequent ballots.

But many veteran Republicans admitted that getting all the pieces to fall into place to defeat Mr. Trump would require the political equivalent of drawing an inside straight.

“I think it will be very difficult for anybody to keep him from getting the nomination now,” said Jim Nicholson, a former Republican national chairman. “He has so much momentum.”

If that is the case, that Trump does win the GOP nomination, then it falls to Democrats to stop Trump and reject Trumpism. That may be an awfully heavy lift unless Democratic voters can get motivated to vote in numbers more than have shown up in the primaries so far.

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