Monday, March 07, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, it was a good weekend for Ted Cruz and a very disappointing one for Marco Rubio. But hey, he won Puerto Rico and I'm sure that will translate to many victories elsewhere! Trump won two states, but perhaps there are some portents that his hold on the GOP nomination is not as sure as he would like to believe. At this point, he's only 82 delegates ahead of Cruz. While Ted Cruz wouldn't have been my pick of all the candidates running, having spent the past few months being horrified by Trump's domination of the polls, I will eagerly support Cruz if the alternative is Trump. It's funny. When Cruz first announced his candidacy, I thought it was quite hubristic of him to think that he had a path to the nomination in a field that contained so many experienced, conservative governors. But hey, I thought Scott Walker had a real chance. Shows how little I know.

James Antle writes that, even though Trump won Louisiana, it seems clear that he won because of early voters and those who voted on the day of the primary were not Trump voters.
Trump won the state on strength of early voters. He lost among people who showed up on election day. The RealClearPolitics polling average showed him leading by 15.6 percentage points, but he only carried Louisiana by 3.6 points.

Trump finished on the low end of his March polling, with a shade more than 41 percent of the vote, while Cruz overperformed even the high end at better than 37 percent.

If there was any sign that an anti-Trump vote is coming together, we saw it in Louisiana.
From his keyboard to God's ears. Such a trend might help Kasich in Michigan on Tuesday.

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John Fund has an interesting analysis
of the delegate math facing Donald Trump. There are still roadblocks that might prevent him from winning the magic number of 1,237 delegates. If he wins both Florida and Ohio on March 15, he will have to win just a bit over 50% of the delegates he needs.
But, as NBC’s First Read blog has reported, if Trump wins Florida but loses Ohio to Kasich, he will then have to win 57 percent of the remaining delegates to win on the first ballot.

But if Rubio wins Florida and Kasich wins Ohio, Trump will still lead in overall delegates but would then need to win 66 percent percent of the remaining delegates to reach 1,237. Given how much of the party opposes Trump, that would be unlikely.
The weaker that Trump seems as a national candidate against Hillary Clinton, the better the argument for GOP voters to let this thing play out until the convention.
A barrage of liberal attack ads, his failure to release his tax returns, his inability to hold consistent views on issues, and his sky-high negatives with independent voters would probably doom him against even the ethically challenged Hillary Clinton. In the RealClearPolitics average of all polls, Trump trails Clinton by 3.4 points, while Ted Cruz beats her by 1.5 points and Marco Rubio beats her by 5.0 points.

The key to a Republican win in the 2016 election might be to persuade the voters of Ohio and Florida to let the nomination contest play out until the Cleveland convention. At the convention, if Trump is a clear front-runner in terms of delegates, he will probably be the nominee. But if he commits more unforced errors over the next four months and displays even less discipline on the campaign trail than he has to date, Republicans will be grateful that they had the extra time to size up just what kind of nominee Donald Trump would be.
Meanwhile, Jay Cost has a more detailed analysis of where we stand in the delegate race by pointing out that there will be unbound delegates at the convention.
But one could add the fact that a solid number of delegates will be going to the Cleveland convention unbound. In particular North Dakota, Guam, and American Samoa will send all of their delegates unbound to Cleveland. That's a total of 46 delegates. Moreover, Pennsylvania will send 54 of its 71 delegates unbound. The three members of the RNC from Wyoming will also go unbound. That's a total of 103 delegates that nobody can win in a presidential preference primary or caucus.

There have been no contests yet for these delegates, but as there will never be a contest for them, we could add them to the count.
The result is to bring both Trump and Cruz's share of the delegate count down four points.
To receive a majority of all delegates, Trump would have to win 58 percent of the remaining delegates.

That is a very steep hill to climb. And expect it to get steeper next week. Trump should do well in Mississippi, but he will probably struggle in Hawaii and Idaho, while Michigan's delegates will probably split three or even four ways. If Trump does not win at least 58 percent of the delegates next week, he will have to average more than that thereafter.

Moreover, 72 delegates in Colorado, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wyoming are not selected according to presidential preference primaries or caucuses. Rather, the state or territorial parties selects them, and can choose not to bind them. While Trump may win some of them, it is probably unlikely he will win three-fifths of them—as the sorts of people making those choices do not fit the profile of the average Trump voter.

This underscores an important point: the best way to avoid a contested convention is for all of a candidate's major opponents to drop out. If one or more stay in, and fight for delegates in every contest, then it becomes difficult for anybody to win a clean majority of delegates.
We've never had to go into these sorts of rules about delegates before because it has never mattered.

There are scenarios one could draw up in which Rubio still could win. He has to win Florida and some of the bigger, northern states. But, after this past week, the post-mortems are coming out to explain why he has failed. The Washington Post blames his "poorly run campaign." He doesn't seem to have much of a national campaign structure to wage the campaign in all the states. They seemed to think that personal endorsements from prominent politicians plus a strong debate performance would help propel him into being the most likely opponent to Trump as it did, just barely, in South Carolina. And it seems that his personal attacks on Trump got him attention, but in the end what many had predicted about personal attacks happened. The benefit went more to Cruz than to Rubio.
But Rubio’s game plan ran into reality — the #MarcoMentum strategy, as it’s been dubbed on social media, was covering up massive deficiencies inside the states that were voting. Rubio had little to no infrastructure inside those key states, and each effort began when he was so far behind that momentum meant very little. He ended up a distant third behind Cruz, whose campaign has run a more effective, traditional effort to find supporters and then get them to the polls.

In pitches to fellow Republican senators, Rubio’s team highlighted its repeated support among “late deciders,” voters who make up their minds in the final week. But that meant little if the overwhelming majority of voters made up their minds earlier than that.

In Virginia, for example, Rubio won among late-deciders, winning 39 percent of those making up their mind in the last week, twice as much support that Trump picked up that week, according to exit polls. But that bloc represented just 35 percent of the electorate — Trump won 42 percent of voters who decided before the last week of the campaign, enough to win.
But this past Saturday, it seems that those late-deciding voters were going to Cruz instead of Rubio.

We'll have a clarified picture of the race after March 15, but then there will be quite a lull as the elections slow down.

Politico Magazine looks at the possibility of a primary bombshell derailing the course of the elections. There is a reminder of how many times in earlier elections something happened or was revealed that had the possibility of changing the course of the campaign.
Following March 15, the race slows down considerably. As an example, 24 states and the District of Columbia will have voted in the first two weeks of March. But in the five weeks that follow, only four states will vote. It's hard to see how Trump obtains a majority of delegates before May, at the earliest, and he could need until June 7, which is the last day of the primary season. That provides more time for the attacks on Trump to take hold.
And anti-Trump groups have plans to air strong attacks on Trump.
Miller said the campaign against Trump will focus on three basic lines of attack, aimed at his perceived strengths. One, it will attempt to puncture his image of being a truth-teller by portraying him as a phony. Two, it will attack the idea that Trump was a great businessman, and note that he's a populist and failed businessman who "screwed over" the little guy, whether it was vendors who had supplied his bankrupt businesses or students of Trump University. Three, they'll attack the idea that he's a "winner" by pointing out that he's unelectable in a general election.
This is when we'll all become experts on the arcane convention rules of the RNC.
At conventions, if nobody achieves a majority after the initial round of voting, most of the delegates won during the primaries and caucuses are no longer bound to any candidate. This provides an opening for other candidates in subsequent rounds of voting.

Complicating matters is that in 2012, as part of an effort to prevent an insurgent candidate such as Ron Paul from causing problems at a convention, the RNC changed its rules. In order to be considered for nomination, a candidate must have won a majority of delegates in at least eight states. Ironically, this rule could work to the advantage of Trump and against establishment Republicans trying to stop him.

The RNC has the power to change the rules before the convention. Alternatively, delegates can switch during the second ballot to give a non-Trump candidate the required support in eight states to be considered. But all of the convention scenarios bring their own set of problems.

Trump has run his campaign as a populist, arguing that he was looking out for the little guy, and that he'd take on the establishment and the special interests. If Trump wins the most states and delegates, but ends up losing the nomination due to arcane rule changes and parliamentary maneuvering by party elites, it would be seen as a vast betrayal of millions of voters. There would be a bitter battle on national television. A spurned Trump would almost certainly bolt the party with his loyal followers, running as an independent — even if it means as a write-in candidate. Were Trump to cost Republicans even a few points in some close states, it would be difficult for any GOP presidential candidate to beat Clinton.
Trump can continue to threaten to run as an independent candidate if he is denied the nomination at the convention, but there are arcane rules that would make that threat very difficult to carry out just as it would prevent an anti-Trump candidate from also launching an independent bid.
If Trump opponents hold out for a contested convention and the gambit fails, it would also be impossible to run a credible third-party candidate because of ballot access deadlines. And it would be too late for short cuts to gaining ballot access, such as working through the Libertarian Party or Constitution Party, because by that time those parties will have already nominated their own candidates. Given this, the groundwork for any third-party bid would have to be laid long before the GOP convention.
What blocks other anti-Trump candidate from launching a third-party run, would also block Trump.

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Ethan Epstein writes that perhaps Donald Trump's declining numbers were pushed along, not only by the increasing attacks on him, but also by his decision to try to pivot to the general election by revealing his liberal positions too early.
But Trump may have also made a political miscalculation over the past week or so, as well. He's become so confident in winning the Republican nomination, it appears, that he's aggressively moving to the political center. He's shaking the famed etch-a-sketch.

Consider: He lavished praise on Planned Parenthood during his Super Tuesday victory news conference. (Last summer, meanwhile, he said he supported shutting down the government unless federal subsidies to Planned Parenthood were scuttled.) He reversed his position on killing the families of terrorists. And most damagingly to his electoral prospects, given the theme he's built his campaign on, he promised "flexibility" on immigration.

All of that would be fine as a general election strategy, except Trump is being rather premature. While he does very well among independents, as Saturday's results demonstrated, Trump can't afford to surrender too many conservative votes yet. You have to win the nomination before you can etch-a-sketch in earnest.
It's a good image. In many ways, in terms of his position on issues, Trump is a human etch-a-sketch. Consider how he backtracked on whether he would order the American military to violate the Geneva Convention by killing the families of terrorists. He was bragging during the debate that the military would follow his orders simply because he told them to. That was a perfect reflection of his authoritarian impulse. But, apparently, someone explained to him that he couldn't just order the military to do whatever he thought was a good idea and he issued a statement that he would be bound, as president, by the laws and treaties of the United States.
That appears to be a reversal from Thursday night’s debate in Detroit, when Mr. Trump stood by his earlier promise to do things that were a “hell of a lot worse” than waterboarding to terrorist suspects, and also to authorize the military to kill family members of terrorists.

When he was asked Thursday night about making military officers obey orders on harsh interrogation methods, which they might consider illegal, Mr. Trump said, “I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.”

Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden said last week the military would flatly refuse to obey orders to commit torture or kill family members of terrorists. Under U.S. and international law, soldiers can be found guilty of war crimes if they obey an unlawful order.

Michael Schmitt, director of the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College, said in an interview that ordering the military to torture terror suspects would violate Article 17 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and that people who participate in torture—as well as their superiors and even the U.S. government—could face war-crimes charges for such behavior.

Ordering the military to kill the family members of terrorists falls under the legal definition of “collective punishment,” which is prohibited under the laws of war. “You may punish an individual for his or her violations of the laws of war, but you may not in any way harm others,” Mr. Schmitt said. He said it has been “universally agreed that it is unlawful.”

“We are bound by treaties and then we are bound by the customs of war, they have legal significance,” Mr. Schmitt said. “You can be prosecuted for violations of the customary laws of war.”

Mr. Trump’s new position Friday came after months of insisting that he wouldn’t back down on the issue of torture.
So it finally took him months to be made aware of the laws of the country and the limits of the power of the president. I'm sure that is comforting to all his supporters. They can tell himself that he might be an idiot who wants to do illegal things and rule outside the boundaries of the law, but hey, why should that matter? He'll eventually figure it out after a few months of insisting on having things his way.

And he flipped also from his position in Thursday's debate on his position on H-1B visas.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s remarks on visas for skilled workers, known as H-1B visas, enmeshed him in controversy on his signature issue of tightening immigration into the U.S. He appeared to retract his long-held opposition to such visas after the debate moderators pressed him on inconsistencies during his campaign.

“I’m changing. I’m changing,” Mr. Trump said. “We need highly skilled people in this country…One of the biggest problems we have is people go to the best colleges…[and] as soon as they’re finished, they’ll get shoved out.”

But an hour after the debate, the Trump campaign issued a statement clarifying his position. Mr. Trump wasn’t speaking about the H-1B guest-worker program, which “is neither high-skilled nor immigration,” the statement read. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program…No exceptions.”

His support for allowing more foreign graduates of American universities to stay in the U.S. is a position closer the GOP’s business wing and the technology industry, whose support he would want as he moves toward a general-election campaign. But it could put him at odds with anti-immigration groups that have been among his most ardent backers.

Business executives have long called for easing limits on H-1B visa for highly skilled guest workers, but over the past year more lawmakers in Washington have voiced concerns that companies are abusing the programs, including using loopholes to pay new, foreign hires at the low end of industry scales.
And isn't that just what Trump did at his Florida resort?
At Thursday’s debate, Mr. Trump defended the use of a separate guest worker program, the H-2B visa, that allows his private club in Florida to hire unskilled immigrants on a seasonal basis. American workers “don’t want a short-term job,” he said. “So we will bring people in, and we will send the people out.”
So if you're supporting Trump because of his positions on immigration, you might want to remember that his positions are very changeable. It only takes him an hour or two and suddenly, presto, chango! he's got a new one. If you love Trump because he "tells it like it is," you might want to notice that he changes what he says when convenient.
But the New Yorker is Forrest Trump in that you never know what you’re going to get. The GOP has to decide if it wants to buy that box of chocolates.

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Let's not forget the danger that Hillary Clinton is in from the investigation of her emails. The Washington Post identifies 14 emails on her server that she herself wrote and that were classified.
Hillary Clinton wrote 104 emails that she sent using her private server while secretary of state that the government has since said contain classified information, according to a new Washington Post analysis of Clinton’s publicly released correspondence.

The finding is the first accounting of the Democratic presidential front-runner’s personal role in placing information now considered sensitive into insecure email during her State Department tenure. Clinton’s ­authorship of dozens of emails now considered classified could complicate her efforts to argue that she never put government secrets at risk.

In roughly three-quarters of those cases, officials have determined that material Clinton herself wrote in the body of email messages is classified. Clinton sometimes initiated the conversations but more often replied to aides or other officials with brief reactions to ongoing discussions.
The WSJ finds another indicative email in the last batch to be revealed as well as the other bombshells remaining out there for her.
The latest release provides fresh evidence that Mrs. Clinton knew her server held national secrets. In one email from April 2012, aide Jake Sullivan forwarded Mrs. Clinton a blog post from a jihadist group. Mrs. Clinton replied: “If not classified or otherwise inappropriate, can you send to the NYTimes reporters who interviewed me today?”

The fact that Mrs. Clinton had to ask if this one was classified suggests she knew that people were sending sensitive information to her unsecure server. The new email dump also shows then-Sen. John Kerry sending Mrs. Clinton intelligence he’d obtained from top Pakistani generals.

There’s more to come. Federal judges have spent the past year doing what the State Department wouldn’t—that is, upholding the Freedom of Information Act. Judge Emmet Sullivan recently granted Judicial Watch discovery into whether State and Mrs. Clinton deliberately thwarted FOIA laws.

Judge Sullivan said from the bench: “Here you have Mrs. Clinton and [Clinton aide Huma] Abedin and their private counsel deciding, after neither Mrs. Clinton nor Ms. Abedin were government employees, what emails are federal records, and what emails are not. It just boggles the mind that the State Department allowed this circumstance to arise in the first place.” Yes it does.

Discovery could lead to depositions, interrogatories and new documents that show who approved Mrs. Clinton’s unsecure email arrangement, and who tried to conceal it. Judge Sullivan said he may also issue a subpoena requiring Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin to turn over the entire email system they used.

Many other lawsuits are also proceeding and could provide answers to the many questions that Mrs. Clinton has dodged. Did she turn over all her work email? How many did she edit before giving them to State? Who had access to the server containing confidential information? Was her email hacked by foreign governments or criminals?
It seems that the arguments to support Clinton is that she shouldn't face the same justice that others face. That's not a strong position for a presidential candidate to be running on.
One excuse we are likely to hear is that Mrs. Clinton shouldn’t be held responsible for others who sent her classified information, as California Senator Dianne Feinstein recently said. In other words, let Mrs. Clinton’s aides take the fall.

But those aides—and the country—wouldn’t be in this mess if Mrs. Clinton hadn’t set up an off-grid account to evade disclosure laws and protect her messages from public scrutiny when she ran for President. Her employees can hardly be blamed for using a system she designed, and Mrs. Clinton was responsible as the senior official for knowing the classification rules.

With Donald Trump emerging as the probable GOP nominee, the political and media temptation in Washington will be to protect Mrs. Clinton and legally excuse her behavior. But the law applies equally to everyone if it means anything. These investigations need to follow their honest course and hold Mrs. Clinton accountable for her actions. The country can handle the political fallout.

Jimmy Kimmel brought in Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane
to reprise their roles in The Producers.
Datechguy has an interesting point about the the plan in that skit.
Isn’t the “Plan” being listed pretty much what happened with Jeb Bush and to a lesser $ degree Rick Perry and Chris Christie? A candidate that wasn’t going to win that raised tens of millions dollars from a lot of suckers that made said consultants rich?

Isn’t that pretty much what the Marco Rubio team is doing right now?

That’s the problem with the skit, the reality the “secret plan” is actually what goes on all the time....

Now in fairness a political campaign is hard and long like Max Bialystock many consultants put in a lot of effort for that money in the political version of little old lady land.

But in the end compared to Mike Murphy Bialystok & Bloom are pikers.

Closing Thought 1: The reality is the skit isn’t about attacking Trump, it’s about attacking the Trump voter, isn’t the contempt for said voters by elites what motivated our current situation in the first place?

Closing Thought 2: Given what we’ve seen from this skit could have easily been made in 2008 about Obama, but the makers would never have the guts

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The death of Nancy Reagan has given us an opportunity to reflect once again on Ronald Reagan's presidency. It's a refreshing palate cleanser after this campaign season. Here is a touching set of pictures that capture the deep love between Ronald and Nancy. Their love for one another stands as an inspiration for all married couples.