Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mr. May vs. Ms. October

Those of us old enough to remember the halcyon days of the late 1970s and early 1980s when crime was high and so, it seems, was everyone else, might also remember the great New York Yankee teams of that era and their owner, George Steinbrenner. George knew greatness and proved it when he went out and bought Reggie Jackson to patrol right field for the 1977 and 1978 World Series champions. Reggie excelled when it counted and sealed the team's 1978 title with three home runs in the final game of the series. For that he was lauded as Mr. October. Clutch. In 1980, Steinbrenner bought Dave Winfield to play for the team, and he promptly fizzled in the 1981 series, going 1 for 22. For that, the Boss labeled him Mr. May. Unclutch.

I think we're dealing with the same phenomenon in the presidential race. Donald Trump has shown that he can win primaries and woo (some) voters with a message that's brazen, loud, racist, xenophobic, and politically incorrect, which is just an excuse to say terribly nasty things about women, Muslims, immigrants and members of minority groups. His economic policies are incoherent and his foreign policies would make the isolationists of the 1920s and 30s proud. He shifts his positions daily and repeats his signature slogan to mask the fact that he doesn't really have anything meaningful to say. It's an emotional appeal based on the time-tested media strategy that made him, and countless others, into wealthy television stars. He's run his campaign on the backs of the national media, using free air time and phone-in interviews to spout his vitriol and to deflect any criticism as nay-saying and negativity. Trump has no idea what's coming as he becomes the sole focus of investigations into his business practices, income, taxes and everything else that's bared in a national election campaign. He's already shown a Christie-like thinness to his skin when it comes to attacks and when the press really starts looking into his affairs he will have some memorably bad moments.

In short, Mr. May.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has actually won an election and understands what it takes to gather resources and organize a campaign. She has real, practical policies that would move our country forward, would honor all people and would continue to value America's place in the world. She has a positive message, and the experience being the focus of unrelenting attacks on her character and gender to draw from during the campaign. Does she have baggage? Enough to make me want to buy Samsonite stock. Emails, speeches, ties to Wall Street, the Clinton name and an unfortunate stint as the point person for her husband's failed health care reform effort. Will these hurt her in the campaign? You bet, but she's been through this before, has an experienced team of advisors and actual ideas that will help the United States. And she's also a terrific debater. She will come through when it counts.

Ms. October.

Right now, Republicans are coalescing around Trump and getting used to the idea that he's going to be the nominee. There are distinct pockets of opposition and many big GOP donors have said they will not be giving to his campaign. Some of the other money that would normally go to the top of the ticket is being funneled to House and Senate races as the party says one thing, that Trump is their guy, while whispering quite another, that Trump is likely to lose and bring our majorities down with him.

Meanwhile, the fun is on the left as Bernie Sanders makes a last ditch plea to voters in New Jersey and California to back him and send a message to the Super-delegates that they should back him instead of Hillary. I don't see this happening, but it's prolonging the campaign beyond what the party, and Hillary, wants. That will end by the end of June and I could see a Clinton-Sanders ticket in the fall. In fact, I would heartily welcome it. As for the polls, talk to me on July 30. That's when I'll start being interested.

Right now, it's Mr. May vs. Ms. October. In the end, the clutch hitter will win.

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