Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Trump far ahead in polls, but Kasich moves up and Rubio falls behind (as GOP faces fracture)

The latest three polls summarized by Steve Benen all agree that Trump continues his lead - double that of Ted Cruz in second place (averages: 40% vs. 21%). But the more interesting result is that John Kasich is beating Rubio and is close to or tying Cruz. In the most recent poll Kasich wins second place (20%), edging Cruz (19%), and pushing Rubio into the single digits and last place (9%)

Tonight (Mar. 8) we get to test the accuracy of these polls.

But any outcome today, and any scenarios you might imaging heading to the Republican convention, are not good news for the Republican party. Doyle McManus (LA Times reprinted as the Daily Star editorial this morning) explores the possibilities for a future of a political party that increasingly looks "unglued."

This is how a political party looks when it’s coming unglued.

Last week, the Republicans’ two most recent presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and John McCain, denounced this year’s likely nominee, Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump is phony, a fraud,” Romney said. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

McCain piled on, warning that Trump’s views on foreign policy were “dangerous.”

Dozens of other Republicans, including a conservative U.S. senator, declared that they would not vote for Trump .

And Thursday night’s televised debate among the candidates degenerated — again — into a shouting match of schoolyard insults. This from a party that likes to think of itself not only as the natural party of government, but as the party of ideas and family values.

Romney and McCain are right, of course. Trump isn’t just divisive and vulgar; with his anti-constitutional impulses on foreign policy and law enforcement, he’s a danger to the country. His election as president would be a disaster, and not only for the GOP.

So leaders of the establishment have concocted a plan to fight back — which will almost certainly fail.

Here is why.

The aim ... isn’t to crown a single establishment favorite. It’s merely to deny Trump a majority of delegates before the July convention in Cleveland — and then let the convention decide, the way conventions did a century ago.

This last-minute appeal isn’t likely to work for two reasons.

First, it won’t reduce Trump’s strength in the primaries much. It might even bolster it.

Many of the Trump voters who have pushed primary turnout to record levels are new voters, people who never saw much to like in Republican candidates before this year.

“Trump has brought out thousands of people we’ve never seen before,” one GOP operative told me.

Remember the rise of the Authoritarians?

Second, the establishment strategy is too complicated. If it’s to work, anti-Trump voters have to band together and vote for a different candidate in each state: Rubio in Florida, Kasich in Ohio and Cruz in North Carolina. Got that? Convincing social conservatives in Ohio to switch from Cruz to Kasich, or moderate Republicans in North Carolina to vote for Cruz, is a tough ask.

So what else might happen?

Sorry, GOP: You waited way too long to build an anti-Trump majority. Unless a miracle happens, you’re about to get knocked out by an anti-establishment wave — a wave you mistakenly encouraged .

And, again, that "wave" would be the ascendancy of Authoritarianism.

But even the establishment strategists’ best-case scenario concedes that Trump is likely to arrive in Cleveland with more delegates than anyone else. At that point, someone, somehow, will try to arrange a deal — among delegates pledged to candidates as varied as Cruz and Kasich — to create a majority around a single anti-Trump figure. At which point that huge bloc of Trump delegates does what, exactly?

The only guarantee is chaos.

Trump could still win the nomination, prompting more boycotts by traditional Republicans. Or, less likely, the establishment could deny the front-runner a prize he thinks he won fair and square — prompting an independent Trump campaign.

Either way, we effectively have a fractured GOP resulting in three parties. And, either way ...

... there’s already one winner: the Democratic candidate — who is almost certainly going to be Hillary Clinton.

"Flip-flop: GOP power base shifts" is one headline on this morning's Daily Star front page. Julie Pace (Associated Press) asserts that the "Establishment is starting to look like the outsiders."

Here is an additional observation from Pace that did not make it into the Star's version.

Rubio, of Florida, and Kasich, of Ohio, have one last chance to emerge as viable alternatives. Their home states vote on March 15 and offer winner-take-all caches of delegates that could revive sagging candidacies.

Rubio does not plan to leave Florida until after next week's primary. Campaign officials concede it will be virtually impossible to stay in the race without a home-state win, but have expressed confidence voters will move toward him as primary day draws closers.

But with Florida's easy access to absentee and early voting, more than 571,000 Republicans have already cast their ballots. With about 2 million people projected to vote, that's at least one in four Florida GOP voters who can't be persuaded to change their minds.

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