Wednesday, March 30, 2016

GOP Convention Delegates Should Look to Governors for Nominee

Dear GOP Delegates,

When you get to Cleveland this summer and no one wins the nomination on the first ballot you will have a very important decision to make. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will be the clear leaders in the delegate race, but neither man can be nominated. Cruz has become the face of the anti-Trump movement and Trump heads the anti-establishment movement. So Cruz and Trump represent the deep divide within the GOP. To nominate either would be to perpetuate the divide and make it nearly impossible for the party to unify. So you must pick someone entirely different. I have some suggestions.

It would be great to see a successful governor like John Kasich nominated, but I don't think the party can look to any of the declared candidates from this cycle (a move that would require a change to current party rules - a change that is being considered). Speaker Paul Ryan would make an excellent choice. He is the intellectual leader of the GOP. But in the end, I think you need to look to a governor. Hillary Clinton is beatable and a Republican with a good reputation and executive experience is an obvious choice to challenge her.

There are three obvious candidates to consider: Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and Larry Hogan of Maryland.

Martinez is a successful and popular governor of a swing state. As a former Democrat she'd appeal to moderate and independent voters. As a woman, she would cancel out Clinton's cynical attempt to make gender a qualifying factor in the election. As a Latina, her nomination would do much to undo the tremendous damage done to the party image by Trump. But she also rescinded sanctuary status for illegal immigrants who commit crimes in her state which would appeal to Cruz and Trump supporters. Her Achilles heal is the weak job growth during her tenure. That would likely relegate her to the VP spot with Baker or Hogan.

Baker and Hogan offer similar appeal. Both were successful businessmen (which should appeal to Trump supporters) and both won election in very blue states. Perhaps most surprising, given the political make up of their respective states, they are the two most popular governors in the country. Baker and Hogan are fiscal conservatives. Baker is a social liberal, which may anger evangelicals - but I think they'd accept anyone over Clinton. Hogan has deftly avoided discussing social policies, but he could find success employing the same strategy he used to win in Maryland. On issues like same sex marriage Hogan simply acknowledged that it was settled law and he wasn't interested in relitigating the past. The Supreme Court has determined that same sex marriage is a constitutional right - it is settled.

Hogan ran on a promise to bring better management skills and a more responsible budget to a state with chronic structural deficits. Hogan tackled the structural deficit and is now battling state Democrats over mandatory spending formulas that threaten the return of deficits. Hogan is leading a discussion in Maryland that must be held at the national level as well. He's provided record funding for education (which should win over moderates and independents), has avoided any hint of scandal, and the Maryland economy is doing quite well.

Baker and Hogan are both in their first terms and Hogan has not held elective office before - but the success of Trump and Cruz makes clear that experience in elective office is no virtue this cycle. Neither men is part of the Washington establishment - which is a virtue this cycle.

So there you have it - three solid options to consider in Cleveland. A ticket the included Martinez and either Hogan or Baker would make for a strong challenge to Clinton. Much stronger than any ticket that included Trump or Cruz.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Trump, the Frankenstein's Monster of Conservative Talk Radio

Donald Trump spent part of his day today talking with a conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin. It was a contentious conversation because the host was a #neverTrump person. Amusingly, Trump had no idea until the host finally told him so 15 minutes into the conversation. It turns out that much of conservative talk radio is in the #neverTrump camp. I find it to be rather ironic that conservative radio hosts don't like Trump because they made him inevitable. These hosts have spent the Obama years railing against the establishment, convincing listeners that establishment Republicans were sell outs, that they refused to fight Obama (nevermind that Obama's domestic agenda effectively ended in January 2011 when the HOP tookover the House). They've spent years railing against illegal immigrants, hyping every rare instance of an illegal immigrant committing a heinous crime. Telling listeners that illegal immigrants are simultaneously taking our jobs and mooching on our supposedly generous welfare benefits. They've spent years selling anti-Islamic nonsense, convincing listeners that sharia is coming to America, that Muslim refugees are really just terrorists exploiting the system and that we're all unsafe (nevermind that more people die in the US from mass shootings at schools and movie theaters than from Islamc terror attacks).

So of course when Trump came along embracing every bit of this nonsense a group of voters that had been primed for the message embraced him. And of course, all of the credible candidates, who recognized that talk radio hosts were really just selling a load of bull to generate ratings (hate and fear are good for generating ratings and votes), were deemed to be "establishment" candidates and therefor unacceptable. And one by one, all of the candidates capable of winning in November were passed over and driven out of the race.

And so, Trump won over 40% the 17% of Republicans who voted in the primaries and now that 7%  of the party has made him the front runner. In so doing, they have done tremendous damage to the Republican Party image. They have made it nearly impossible for the party to gain any traction with the growing number of minority voters. They have attracted the overt support of white nationalists. They have turned the incredibly flawed Hillary Clinton into a solid front runner. They have put the GOP House majority at risk. They have created an opening for the GOP to lose all the ground it has gained in the last 40 years and again become a minority party.

And through it all, these folks have managed to convince themselves that Trump is a strong candidate and that a majority of Americans agree with them (nevermind that polling clearly shows Trump losing to Clinton and that Clinton's lead is growing). They excuse all of the nonsense that comes out of Trump's mouth and they even accept him attacking the spouses of his opponents. They accept his constant whining about unfair rules and his frequent threats of lawsuits. And they do this, at least in part, because folks like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and other broadcast blowhards have primed them for Trump's message. Now those broadcasters hate Trump. Probably because Trump has now become the leader of their movement - he's taken it away from them and with it their influence over their listeners. So I am amused by their embrace of #neverTrump - he is after all very much their creation.