Tuesday, April 26, 2016

To Veep or Not to Veep

Running behind this Tuesday, hauling out the boat to remove a ridiculous amount of mussels from the hull, quick new paint job, and then back in again just as our surprising April snowfall began.  Very close now to diving right into this majestic summer - with the boat and the Euros and a lazy July through October planned after banking some significant hours in the first few months of the year, it is going to be sweet.

Will we have a contested convention in Cleveland to look forward to?  I still hope so, even as Trump seems to be flirting with a cloak of inevitability.  Increasingly desperate, Cruz has floated various trial balloons.  The mutual non-aggression pact with Kasich makes perfect sense, although count on Kasich messing up the launch by not at least hinting to his supporters that for him to have a chance they may have to vote Cruz in Indiana to run this game out.  The musings about pre-announcing a VP selection are more intriguing.  We have never really seen a contested convention before, so what might work and what might not is a real unknown.

The best analogy is, of course, 1976.  A year perhaps best known for Newfoundland and Labrador's sole Brier win (perhaps, eh? -ed.), but also featuring a pretty compelling moment in US Presidential politics that I had never really considered...  Before this year (before now), have you ever heard the name Richard Schweiker?  This was the Senator from Pennsylvania that the upstart Reagan announced as his VP prior to the convention - which apparently started the now standard practice of announcing pre-convention.  For a great recap of the 1976 convention in its glorious chaos, check out this excellent oral history.

Not surprising to see Cruz following in the footsteps of his idol.  And as Reagan's efforts were meant to pull in delegates from Pennsylvania, has Cruz indicated a willingness to pick Fiorina with an eye to winning votes in California?  Colour me sceptical that Carly is the answer to Cruz's Trump problem, but who knows?  Worth the gambit at the very least, if only to keep his name in the spotlight.  But presumably a stronger pick would play even better.  Problem - who would want it?

All that a long lead in to the short prediction for the votes to come tonight.  118 delegates are at stake, and the 538 guide from late March had Trump winning 91, with Rhode Island and Connecticut the biggest vulnerabilties.  No matter what happens, it is likely nothing specific will be decided tonight.  Next Tuesday is Indy, though, where Cruz has a shot and Trump needs a decent amount to stay on target.  Momentum could swing another time if Cruz can figure out the argument that will stick, or if he can rally some of that Wisconsin magic. 

I hope he does at this point, just to keep the farce running on.  We will know a lot more in a little over a week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

You know you need unique New York

A favourite tongue twister in the title (more here, particularly love the Dr. Seuss riff on socks) marks another in the line of Tuesday primaries.  This brief commentary comes to you from St. John's, and a lovely view from my porthole window out the Narrows.

Why brief?  Well, what is new to say?  Clinton continues to lead, with Sanders pluckily picking away at her heels, an annoyance more than anything, while Cruz amasses delegates from the rank and file while failing to chip into Trump's long held leads in the votes to come.  Expecting more of the status quo to follow tonight.  Unless Bernie pulls out a shocking win, of course.  But such a result seems impossible bar a minor miracle (which may explain why he thought his time was better spent seeking an audience with His Holiness at the Vatican rather than the hustings!)

On the Republican side, the real drama seems to lie in the states to come, Indiana and California chief among them.  Cruz has lost an opportunity to really dent Trump by failing to do any damage to his poll numbers.  It has not helped him that Kasich does not look likely to have made the necessary breakthrough to keep Trump under 50% in NY, and so lower his delegate haul.  Look forward to the speeches tonight at least to see the new framing comments for the months to come.

One new thing to watch going forward is how much sway Trump (and Cruz) may have over the convention planning, assuming no candidate has the magic number of delegates before Cleveland.  I laughed at the Donald's comments that the GOP needs to put some "showbiz" into the convention, although he is probably not wrong.  All bets are off in terms of how the Republicans deal with the mess of a contested convention, I think I'm hoping for that outcome at this point just to see how it unfolds.  And to laugh along the way, of course.  Imagine suggesting this time last year that the mid-April NY primary would matter to both parties, and that the choices left on the Republican side would be Trump or Cruz?  Another reminder that most anything is possible.  And so not to settle for the mundane or obvious... "Nothing slipshod drip drop flip flop or glip glop.  Tip me to a tip top grip top sock."  Until next week!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Another Tuesday, Another Vote

The praxis here has been for postings to be made in advance of key primary votes.  Wisconsin today, so that means it is time for the usual update on the state of the race. 

Par for the course on the Democratic side, with Hillary set to run out the clock on Bernie.  Frustrating for his supporters, no doubt, but short of an indictment there is simply no way he captures enough delegates.  Feel the math, as Krugman said a few days ago in a good little piece.  How the Senator conducts himself in the coming months will be critical - but unifying against the eventual opponent should be about as easy as possible given the main contenders on the other side.

Trump has endured some difficult moments recently - exactly along the lines of what might have been expected shortly after his entry into the race.  The surprise is that it has taken this long.  His unfavourability ratings with women are verging on the hilarious.  I love how his response is only that "Nobody respects women more than I do."  How do you argue with that?  Heh.  I would not be surprised if he actually believed that, such is the ego. 

I have long thought that the real fun would be in eventually watching Trump lose, that his downfall (when it comes) would offer even more entertainment value than the shockingly unexpected rise.  He seems to be such a poor loser, and unwilling to accept any personal responsibility, that it cannot help but end terribly for him.  The whining and bitterness at the voters and/or the system will be excellent.

For a long time, it looked like it would be Hillary to put him to the sword.  Now it increasingly seems like Cruz could manage it in Cleveland.  He performed strongly in Utah and looks set for an impressive showing tonight in Wisconsin.  It is a sign of just how much Trump is struggling that Cruz is in with a chance.  Early on I assumed that Ted would be the only one of the candidates that the Donald could beat head-to-head, but even here the signs of weakness are on full display as the party fears the full consequences of turning the keys over.

Let's see how far below the 25 delegate marker Trump falls tonight.  Then it looks like the next big test is New York on the 19th and a bunch of states on the 26th.   New Hampshire seems ages ago - running for President really is a monstrous, all-consuming enterprise.  Trump will have a chance to regain some momentum in NY and after, but as the stories start to emerge about the extent to which convention delegates are bound after the first ballot, I really do wonder if all these crowds and rallies will be for naught.   In such an organizational fight at the grassroots level, I would take the zealot and true believer who has been planning his Presidential run for years over the demagogue who is used to coasting on his personality.  Every time.  I would love to see Trump fall agonizingly close to 1,237, only to see waves of his supposed delegates desert him in the contested vote. 

I have seen nothing to suggest that Cruz will get anything other than humiliated in the general election.  So should we spare a thought for Kasich's chances, as he putters away?  Nah.  As rational as his argument about actually winning the Presidency for the GOP may be, when you have to make the statement: "I'm not gonna be a pincushion. I'm not gonna be a marshmallow...", that's when you should know your race is almost certainly run.