The Inconvenience of Conscience

Photo credit: PBS NewsHour via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

And so it begins.

The next episode of the Civics Reality Show that is the Republican presidential nomination was previewed last Thursday when the Republican National Convention floated a draft rule that, if passed, would ignominiously squelch the nascent “Stop Trump” movement.

In an NBC News report, according to the draft rule:

…it would effectively lock-in Donald Trump as the GOP nominee and kill the “Stop Trump” movement once and for all…freezing the 2012 rules so that no alternatives go into effect this year.

The proposal states “any amendments” to the party rules will not “take effect” until after this year’s convention ends.

This is a wound that will bleed but for a short while but which promises to leave a nasty scar. While the immediate losers would be delegates who cannot, in good conscience, vote for someone they feel is neither suitable to represent their party nor to occupy the Oval Office, there will be a more devastating impact to the Republican Party.

How can a Party so invested in protecting conscience rights in virtually every area of its platform deny those rights to duly elected delegates to its own convention? The message this sends clearly is that the RNC does not, in fact, respect those rights when conscience is inconvenient for its goal of crushing dissent. This is not hard-knuckle politics; it is fear masquerading as functionality, and it bodes ill for the Republic beyond Donald Trump. Indeed, when combined with the horrific rash of SCOTUS rulings last week eviscerating conscience rights over abortion, everyone who has labored in the trenches to defend religious liberty should now be very afraid of a Republican Party willing to pile on. Continue Reading

The Great Paul Ryan Whisper

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

If timing is everything in politics, then Paul Ryan had a very, very bad day last Thursday as he endorsed — sort of — Donald Trump.

Ryan’s editorial in his hometown Janesville Gazette came on the same day as a Mother Jones report that a Trump delegate suggested that current political leaders may need to be “killed”; as a Timothy O’Brien article in Bloomberg Review reporting on the massive ethical conflicts of interest that a Trump White House would entail; and as an AP report that Trump University employees were instructed to demand a warrant before cooperating with law enforcement.

So the timing was a bit off. But will it ever be on? Virtually every passing day brings fresh stories about Trump, from his criticizing a Republican governor in her home state to his claiming that a “Mexican” (actually, born in Indiana) judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against him, then doubling down on his claim that Curiel should recuse himself because of his ethnicity.

Last Wednesday’s revelations also included stories of Trump University salespeople encouraging single parents to max out credit cards to pay for Trump U. tuition and claim that the sales person had found “an answer to their problems” (which of course involved giving money to Trump) and tales of “mentorship” that fizzled out once the large checks cleared. Surely even just one story — that of an Army reservist who claims she was fired from Trump U for taking Reserve duty — should have pushed Ryan to call the paper and yell, “Stop the presses!” just like in the movies. Continue Reading

The Republican Dilemma of the Stingy Billionaire

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

With the release of Donald Trump’s FEC filing on his holdings claiming his net worth above $10 billion, the question arises once again: why won’t Donald Trump self-fund his campaign?

Does Trump — a self-proclaimed elite businessman used to making investment judgments — know deep in his heart that he is likely to lose and thus doesn’t want to spend more of his own money even to become President — or is he in fact so illiquid that he can’t even come up with a paltry $500 million (less than 5 percent of his reported net worth) to help his own campaign?

The filing document is what the FEC terms a PFD or “Personal Financial Disclosure.” It is a projection by the filer of what they assert their worth to be. But facts are stubborn things, which is why, absent a tax return as proof of his PFD assertions, we’ll never really know for sure if he’s a financial genius or a charlatan. Are Trump’s unwillingness to self-fund and his unwillingness to reveal his tax returns two strands from the same cord? Without financial transparency, Trump’s claim that “this is the kind of thinking we need for this country,” remains spurious at best and a downright fraud at worst.

Mr. Trump’s PFD contains some other surprising information. For instance, he reported that his revenue increased $190 million during his run for the White House. Isn’t this, by extension, the kind of scandalous pocket-lining that voters — perhaps especially Trump voters — should find so upsetting about politics today? Continue Reading

Can Cruz Pull Off an Upset in Arizona?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

While it appears Utah is Ted Cruz’s to lose today, Arizona presents a unique challenge to his winning a GOP Primary Daily Double. 

The weekend polling of likely primary voters Maggie cited showed a few surprises. Prior to this poll, there had been a dearth of new polling, leading many to believe that the race was already decided for Donald Trump given the history of early voting in Arizona. John Fund, in a weekend National Review piece, agrees:

Arizona is an early-voting state, and people can cast ballots up to 26 days before the actual primary. As of last Thursday, 249,000 Republicans in Maricopa County alone (where Phoenix is located) had already cast ballots. That’s already more votes than the total cast in Maricopa in the 2012 GOP primary.

Early voting is a big advantage for Donald Trump, who tends to do very poorly among late deciders in primaries. “That banking of votes early on does help Trump tremendously, no matter what happens,” Richard Herrara, a political-science professor at Arizona State University, told the New York Post Friday. “He’s probably got a pretty sizable lead, so he’s just got to hold on.”

While the new polling shows Trump with a commanding lead (46-33) over Cruz, it appears the early vote (about 11 percent) actually went less strongly for Trump. For Cruz supporters expecting a repeat of his successes in closing with late-deciders, the weak Trump lead could be unwelcome heartburn, suggesting Trump is actually gaining strength and not operating from a previously banked vote. Continue Reading

Why Illinois and Missouri Matter Today

Photo credit: Tom Arthur via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Florida and Ohio have carried much of the attention over Super Tuesday II because of their 165 winner-take-all delegates. But Illinois and Missouri, with 121 delegates between them, could turn them into swing states.

A RealClearPolitics piece today notes their vital importance to the consolidation in the Republican Primary:

The Republican primaries Tuesday in Ohio and Florida have been the focus of most candidates and the media, but two other contests, in Illinois and Missouri, could be just as pivotal to Donald Trump’s march toward the nomination or its demise.

[…]

Trump leads in both states, but Sen. Ted Cruz has identified them as potentially fertile ground for his campaign, adjusting his recent schedule accordingly.

It seems a foregone conclusion that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are likely to split the majority of North Carolina’s 72 delegates.

Florida’s 99 delegates, though, are likely go to Trump:

Mr. Trump is poised to trounce the first-term senator in Florida, with polls showing the businessman maintaining a lead of about 20 percentage points.

“Florida is do or die for the Rubio campaign, but it looks like victory may have slipped from his grasp,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, whose own pre-election survey Monday showed Mr. Trump up 44 percent to 27 percent over Mr. Rubio.

Ohio, scored by Quinnipiac, is still a toss-up between Trump and Ohio Governor John Kasich:

Ohio is a real contest on both sides. Trump and Gov.

Continue Reading

Marco: Will He Drop or Won’t He?

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

This is not the narrative Marco Rubio anticipated he’d hear in the run-up to what was hoped would be one of the most significant moments in his young political career: having Florida GOP voters endorse their junior Senator as the next President of the United States. Instead, the political noise for him to sacrifice his campaign and allow a strategic conservative consolidation against front-runner Donald Trump has grown increasingly shrill.

It could be expected that opponents and pundits would call for him to drop or to throw in with another candidate. But word is that Rubio backers, donors, and even campaign insiders are also concerned about his survivability:

Many Rubio backers say they still believe Trump would be a political disaster but are worried that the freshman senator is not doing enough to make an effective case against the billionaire. Even with a strong win Sunday in Puerto Rico, Rubio has lost 18 of 20 nominating contest so far, and he faces grim odds in many of the states to come.

And CNN is reporting today an internal debate within the campaign over his remaining in the race ahead of Florida’s March 15 winner-take-all primary. The campaign spokesperson has denied any internal rift, but CNN re-confirmed the report with their source:

A battle is being waged within Florida Sen. Marco Rubio‘s campaign about whether he should even remain in the Republican presidential race ahead of his home state primary on March 15, sources say.

Continue Reading

Is South Carolina a Must-Win for Ted Cruz?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Must Ted Cruz win the February 20th South Carolina primary in order to have a clear path to the Republican nomination? In a word, no. While a distant second to Donald Trump could prove catastrophic, that is highly unlikely. Cruz need only place highly enough against the favored Trump and let the rest of field battle for elimination.

Here’s why:

1.) Cruz has the cash to compete. He invested little campaign cash or time in New Hampshire but came away with an unexpected third place finish, and surprised by finishing ahead of both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. 

The entire week prior to the vote, Cruz’s polling numbers remained remarkably steady while others jockeyed for position. It is testament to a smart campaign strategy, knowing they wouldn’t win but working and investing just enough to make a good showing. And while final percentages of the top five finishers is all most people see, the numbers behind them tell a different story. NRO details the carnage to the other campaigns:

Even more important, Cruz spent very few resources on New Hampshire: less than $1 million combined between the campaign and super PACs. Compare that to Bush, whose combined efforts spent $35 million in New Hampshire, while Christie spent $18 million, Rubio $15 milllion and Kasich $12 million. All of them were beaten by Cruz in a state that was supposed to be a bad fit for him.

Chris Christie bet it all and lost, and he has suspended his campaign, as has Carly Fiorina. Continue Reading

N.H. Says Take Your Pick: Angry Populist or Angry Socialist?

From left: Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

So complete has the Washington political culture of both parties bred a climate that favors insider power structure and cronyism (both corporate and political), that it’s no longer able to hide it behind smooth talk and show votes. It’s official: the Emperor has no clothes. The American electorate is angry, and their anger erupted into a full-on tantrum in New Hampshire last night.

While the good people of New Hampshire have flipped a middle finger to Washington, D.C., they’ve also presented a stark choice to their fellow Americans. Their message? “We’re so mad right now, we only see a choice between an angry populist and an angry socialist. So there. Chew on that.”

So complete were their victories (no, Trump didn’t underperform as I’d anticipated), first time voters flocked to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Note this CBS News summary:

First-time voters made up only a small percentage of the electorate Tuesday night – 15 percent on the Republican side (in comparison with 12 percent in 2012) and 17 percent on the Democratic side (down from 19 percent in 2008).

In both cases, however, the first timers went with the winners. Among the Republicans, Trump won 36 percent of these voters, Kasich came in second with 19 percent, and Cruz came in third with 12 percent. On the Democratic side, almost eight in 10 first-time voters supported Sanders.

As the primary season shifts southward, will anger subside and reason prevail? Continue Reading

Three Things to Watch For in N.H.

Photo credit: Tom Arthur via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

We correctly predicted the story out of Iowa would be Marco Rubio, as this Vox article details about his virtual tie with Donald Trump:

What happened next? There was a massive wave of media coverage about how “Marco Rubio was the real winner in Iowa.” By exceeding expectations, the argument goes, Rubio generated positive buzz that will help him raise money, recruit volunteers, and win later primary contests. That, in turn, could consolidate his status as the choice of the party’s mainstream.

But Vox also notes something else we’re witnessing . . . that Ted Cruz could surprise in New Hampshire while the risk is greater for the Rubio camp that he underperforms there — as you point out here in your third point — rather than take over the race as his ‘Marcomentum’ out of Iowa might have lead one to believe was possible:

Getting third place in Iowa is pretty good, but getting first place is better. And there’s no good reason to simply assume Cruz is going to be a one-state wonder. Cruz is in a dead heat with Rubio in national polls taken since Iowa. And he’s only about 2 percentage points behind Rubio in New Hampshire polls, a state whose Republican voters are known for supporting more centrist candidates.

New Hampshire may prove three things, in my estimation.

The first is that Ted Cruz, underwhelming (a.k.a. ‘loathed”) as he is to the chattering class and DC establishment types, is running a near flawless campaign (okay, yes, the Carson flap was an unforced error…). Continue Reading

Is Rubio’s Iowa Surge for Real?

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Updating my earlier post, I would like to point out an article in today’s Washington Examiner explaining the most recent Iowa polling from Opinion Savvy and Emerson College and handicapping the reality of the Marco Rubio surge:

Opinion Savvy, pulling from a list of registered voters, asked voters if they would caucus. If voters answered maybe or no, they were excluded. The second screen was for them to describe their polling place: is it a church, a school, or something else. If they said they didn’t know, they were excluded.

Dramatically restricting the sample to only the most informed, most likely caucus goers is probably what brought Trump down to 20 percent in Opinion Savvy’s poll. Quinnipiac, for instance, showed Trump’s lead dependent on first-time caucus-goers.

As for the Big Mo:

Momentum is an impossibly vague term in election analysis, but it’s not always meaningless…

Over a shorter timeframe (more analogous to Santorum’s surge) Rubio has gone from 10.8 percent in the RCP average 10 days ago to 16.9 percent today. That 16.9 percent includes his record-high 19 percent from Opinion Savvy and 22 percent from Emerson, with its very small sample size. If you exclude those, Rubio is at 15.4 percent.

A more likely source of new support for Cruz or Rubio would be the supporters of minor candidates.

The tighter survey techniques certainly add confidence to the late surveys. Moreover, it gives one pause to accept uncritically any media polling that does qualify caucus goers in the same manner. Continue Reading