Sunday, May 1, 2016

Primaries Are So 2015

Did you know that the presidential primaries are over? Yes, there are still a handful of states yet to hold votes, but, really, the races are finished. Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump will head the GOP ticket. All that's left is the bunting and confetti. Sort of.

Many in the mainstream press will continue to write about brokered conventions and scenarios involving the narrow path in Indiana and California for someone other than Trump to win the Republican nomination, but that will just be blather and the race for eyeballs and clicks. Bernie Sanders has seen his campaign contributions plunge over the past week and even those delegates that Ted Cruz was going to count on to go from 700 delegates to over 1200 in Cleveland are having second thoughts. And so they should, because the chances that there will be a delegate fight this summer is less than 1%. We have seen the nominees and they are set.

So now what happens? On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton will make the long, slow trudge into Sanders' territory to try and win over enough young people, who are now faced with the prospect that they're going to have to pay in full for their college degrees, to her side. I could certainly see many of these voters staying home rather than voting for her, but really, where else are they going to go? My hope is that enough of them were motivated by the Sanders campaign to begin a political life, whether that means running for office or just staying involved in their local political entities and pushing for the kind of change Bernie was talking about. Hillary will also make a million trips to Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Colorado and the other swing states to try and nail them down as early as she can. Then she can start flipping states that voted for Romney in 2012 and force Trump to defend what he has rather than allowing him to try and flip Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Michigan. Which I don't think he will.

For Trump, the issue is...what? To stop saying the things that have carried him so far? His appeal to the older white base of the party is a decided gamble because he'll need far more of the moderate voters in order to win the states he needs to get to 270. He's already shown that he will not back down, and his comments that Hillary is playing the "women's card" will only take him so far. It's not like he's offering women a compelling set of policies once he's in office (shudder). So by alienating and insulting them, he's giving them nothing on which to give him their vote. The same goes for Hispanics. In short, there aren't enough older whites to put Trump in office. His biggest decision, his choice for VP, will give us more insight into how he sees this campaign, but I think that Chris Christie or another white man would be a big mistake.

For the record, I didn't think that Trump was going to be the GOP nominee for the same reasons that most other people gave, but here he is. Hillary was always the presumptive Democratic nominee and she ran a good campaign against a worthy and surprising opponent.

Let the campaign begin.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Neutering of Trump. Just Spayin'

Word is that Donald Trump is going to be acting more presidential from this point forward. Of course, not everyone is buying it, but the New York primary seems to have marked a turning or shifting point in the GOP race, if for no other reason than it looks more and more like Trump will be the Republican nominee this fall. Yes, I know that many party stalwarts are still trying to undermine his campaign and delegate count, and they say that even if Trump is 10 or 20 delegates short of 1237 that they will stop him, but that's easy to say in late April or even May. Come July, when angry Trump supporters gather in the streets or threaten to walk out or support him for a third party run, the GOP will relent.

But, as we have read over the past few days, that might not be necessary because Trump now understands that if he really wants to be taken seriously as president, he's going to have to tamp down his comments, become less controversial, and appear like, well, a politician.

Welcome to the end of the Trump phenomenon. It's not like he commands a majority of the GOP popular votes, because even his most dominant showings are barely over 50%, except for his home state, and at best he commands 35-40% allegiance among the party's base supporters. That in no way can translate into an electoral victory in the fall. He has simply insulted and lied and shifted his positions too many times for him to capture the vital center from which all presidential aspirants must live during the campaign.

Take for example, the Cook Political Report's map of electoral votes. Can Trump really win Iowa after not capturing it in the caucuses? Are Nevada and Colorado really toss-ups given what he's said about Mexican immigrants? Virginia just elected a Democratic governor. Will Trump convince enough of those voters to switch to him? The only way he can do that is by fleeing from his bombastic past and embrace a boring future.

Trump has built his campaign on the provocative and the vague, but if he wants to appeal to more voters he's going to have to leave all of that behind and hope that most voters forget that he ever said such things. This will not happen. Also, his most loyal supporters don't want another politician in the White House. They want a real maverick who says what he believes, even if, possibly especially if, it's misogynist, racist, anti-Muslim and largely made up of magazine articles he's recently read. Will they continue to support a Trump who pivots to the party line?

I would think not.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Christie Era Is Over

It happened so quickly and so quietly that I wasn't sure exactly what transpired, but it appears that the Chris Christie era in New Jersey is over. Yes, I know we have to officially endure the Governor until January of 2018, but most of that time will find him drowned out by the presidential race, and by the time that's over it will be time for candidates to begin announcing their intentions ahead of the June 2017 gubernatorial primaries.

Chris Christie was the main architect of his own downfall, though of course he will blame everyone except himself for his not still competing for president or the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal that has his style written all over it. He banked on being the rude loudmouth in the 2016 race but it turns out that he's only a piker compared to Donald Trump, Christie's take-down of Marco Rubio showed that he could use the bully part of the bully pulpit, something that New Jerseyans always knew, but that the rest of the country had to actually see to believe.

The capstone to Christie's fall, though, was his very quick and very ugly endorsement of Trump not three days after leaving the GOP race. The way he looked standing behind the Donald will be an enduring, iconic image for approximately the next thousand years and will serve as a warning against candidates making major decisions while still in the throes of Stages 1,2,3 and 4 of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's continuum of the terminally ill.

And his move to Stage 5, acceptance, came last week when Christie didn't just blink, he all but sent a message that he was going through political torture at the hands of NJ Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney and the rest of the Democrats, when he appointed a Democrat to the State Supreme Court, ending six year political battle by, well, giving up (although the new nominee is evidently a financial backer).

All was not terrible for Chris Christie, though. He was able to use political cronies of both parties to get a state employee pension and benefit reform package through the legislature that has contributed to a four-year reduction in take home pay for a significant slice of New Jersey's middle class. And he can also point to the fact that he didn't ask the wealthy to contribute more to solve some of New Jersey's problems, arguing that they would leave the state. Meanwhile, less-than-wealthy people have left the state because they couldn't afford to live here.

And then of course there's that confounded bridge.

Chris Christie will go down in history as a failed governor because he wasted his political capital on his White House bid, when he could have done much more and run in, say, 2020 with a fuller record of accomplishments. He has, though, paved the way for a Democratic sweep in 2017. Bank on that.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest