Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Last Quiet Week

You do realize that this will be the last week that food stores will be listing summer fruits, vegetables and other items in their sales flyers, right? After Labor Day it will suddenly be soup, oatmeal and cold/flu medicine time even though it's likely to be near 80 degrees where most of us live. Such are the vagaries of the seasons and the need to sell stuff.

But it also means that the political races will turn for home as people return to work after a vacation, if they can afford it, and politicians return to their capitals for a fleeting moment of relevance before spending full time campaigning. For all of the talk about how this year was going to see a different campaign with different rules, it has been a remarkably stable presidential race, and the Senate is coming down to a few important races to see if the Democrats can take control of the chamber. Donald Trump has changed the tenor of the campaign somewhat, but most of what he's done has not helped him and I can't see future races taking serious notes from his playbook.

At this point, the polling for the presidential race shows that Hillary Clinton has a solid lead that hasn't really changed much since the Democratic Convention in July. According to the RealClearPolitics national average, she has a 6 point lead as of today and is ahead in enough states to garner 272 electoral votes if the election was held today. Which it is not. Other state polling sites like,  the Princeton Election Consortium, and show Hillary with a bigger lead.

Most polling shows Trump with about 42% of the national vote, and that has been his ceiling since July. If anything, this is his biggest problem. He will somehow need to expand his appeal significantly if he is to seriously challenge Hillary over the next month, before the first debate on September 26. This will likely be his last chance to help himself since most research says that the first debate is the most important for possibly changing people's minds.

Of course, this all presupposes that Trump's potential pivot on immigration doesn't cause him to lose support from his base, or that something overly consequential is lurking in Clinton's email server or that we are attacked at home or abroad. Enjoy the last quiet week of August. Next week the real show begins

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I Will Always Tell You the Truth. And Other Lies.

Which, of course, is an absolute lie, no matter who says it. But the fact that it was Donald Trump, all-of-a-sudden apologizing and blabbering on about how in the heat of a campaign he might have said some nasty things about, oh, African-Americans, women, Hispanics, judges, pollsters, etc., makes it doubly ironic and self-defeating.

This is the Trump Pivot; the moment in the campaign where he gets serious and presidential and wants to be judged by what he says from this point forward and for us lowly voters to forget what got him the Republican nomination in the first place. That would be hate, accusation, blame, xenophobia, denial, sexism and blaming the victim. The only thing that would make his standing worse in the eyes of many Americans is if he publicly insulted the family of a fallen United States soldier because of some ethnic slur or ignorant remark.

Oh, wait.

And then the first issue he publicized was Hillary Clinton's health. Which turns out to be rather fine, thank you very much. And that came straight from her doctor. But I guess if you're going to deny climate change, you might as well double down and dismiss all scientific inquiry. So go ahead and smoke, right?

There will be no Trump Pivot. His new Breitbart-led campaign will be the height of cynicism and chock full of the right's 1990 greatest hits list, which includes the Clintons murdering Vincent Foster, trying to manipulate the money supply and all of the other untruths that the fringe has been dying to run on since 1994. Dump in a heavy dose of Benghazi and e-mails, and you pretty much have the Trump campaign's tactics right in front of you. It's the campaign the far right has wanted to run since the Reagan era began, but the party kept nominating politicians who actually had ideas. Not good ones, but actual governing experience. With Trump, they have their perfect front man--a huckster who only cares about spreading his name and enough ignorance to just say stuff and hope that it leads the news cycle.

The truth will unfortunately have to wait its turn, if it comes at all.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Lock Him Up

Don't you just love politics and politicians? Here's a group of people who seemingly do not ever consider that what they say about their opponents will even happen to them. And yet...

This week's ridiculousness comes, not surprisingly, from the Trump-Christie branch of what used to be one of America's great political parties; the GOP. These days it's difficult to see how they were able to elect George W. Bush, much less get through a week without one of their candidates self-destructing.

The once-and-never-again national candidate, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is on even thinner ice (consider that image) concerning the traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge that not only killed his presidential chances, but is also resulting in crater-like approval numbers across the state. Now we have some evidence that Christie "flat-out lied" when he said that his political team knew nothing of the bridge closure. He's denying it of course, and I can't see that this would lead his leash holder, Donald Trump, to dump him as his transition boss since at this point it looks like Trump's transition might be to a different floor on Trump Tower, as opposed to a move-in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The bigger issue, though, is that it was a during Christie's speech at the Republican Convention that  the crowd chanted that Hillary Clinton should be locked up for, well, unspecified crimes against, um, someone. Now Christie has leapt the queue and is looking more likely to be the one facing an actual indictment. Not that I expect one, but still. Christie has no one to blame but himself after endorsing Trump and tying his political future to a man who, at best, will lose the presidency for himself and the Senate for his party. Christie's fall is a monumental one, and after November he will be the lamest duck in the land as the Democrats jostle to pick someone to replace him.

In the meantime, the road projects are still stalled, NJ Transit still has one train track in and out of Manhattan, the public employee pension system is still massively underfunded, property taxes are sky high, and social services are lagging. Yet Christie still finds time to campaign for a candidate who accused Christie of knowing about the bridge closure and who Christie hopes will save him from a life of retired bliss in...Mendham. A nice town, to be sure, but certainly not where Chris thought he should be.

Outside the state, Donald Trump is mystifying the political press with his antics, which include saying that president Obama and Hillary Clinton founded ISIS, then saying, as most ignorant people do, that he was just being sarcastic, questioning the need to get his supporters out to vote in November, saying again that the only way Clinton can win, this time in Pennsylvania, is by cheating, and by traveling to those hotbed competitive states, Maine and Connecticut  instead of, say, Ohio or Florida where Trump absolutely must win in order to be elected (shudder).

If anything, these two gentlemen deserve each other, and it looks like they'll destroy each other in the process.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Trump-Christie Effect

In case you missed it, Donald Trump had a terrible week that saw any lead he had after the GOP Convention in Cleveland completely evaporate in a climate-changing blast of heat and parch. Not only did he dive into the empty pool of stereotype, anti-Islamic rhetoric and sexism, he ended the week by questioning the sanity and mental awareness of Hillary Clinton. She's gone from being corrupt to evil and unhinged in his eyes. It is certainly true that Hillary has spent a great deal of her campaign time attacking Trump for being unfit to be president, but when he acts the way he did last week, she has a point. If that's the way he's going to react after a political attack from the Khans, then how will he react when things go badly if (shudder) he wins the White House?

Republicans are running away from Trump in larger numbers than those he might have gained from disaffected Democrats, and his late week endorsement of Paul Ryan and John McCain's primary fights came far too late to be seen as sincere. And to think we've been told that Trump is a different person in private. Would it kill him to show us that side?

I don't have evidence, which is what makes personal blogging such a joy, but I can't help but think that Chris Christie, the now-popularly-challenged (30% approval) governor of New Jersey, is failing in his attempts to influence the Republican standard-bearer. Christie was done in because of texts and emails related to the GW Bridge scandal, and Trump's tweets seem to be having the same effects on his campaign.  But where Christie acts like a politician, Trump defies convention. If Christie is supposed to be running Trump's transition team, he's either not doing a very good job or, more likely, is having little affect on Trump's sense that he really needs to start focusing on Clinton's weaknesses in a coherent fashion.

Of course, having someone who's broadly disliked advising another person who's broadly disliked is not a recipe for success. Yes, Hillary also suffers from underwater favorability, but that's changing, if this new ABC news poll is any indication. We're still in Hillary's convention bounce window, so let's see what's happening with the polls once the Olympics are finished.

In the meantime, letting Donald be Donald doesn't seem to be a winning strategy.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest