Campaign Crawlers

Campaign Crawlers

The State of Indiana, the State of the Campaign

By 5.3.16

It was as if some blindfolded ISIS thugs were towering over a crouched Mike Pence. That’s when the Indiana governor on Friday praised Donald Trump as part of his peculiar and tortured endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz. Then in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star, Pence recovered with a bit of enthusiasm for Cruz. The reality is, given the conservative record of Sen. Cruz, Pence should have endorsed him earlier, and robustly.

Whatever the outcome today in Indiana, Pence was hedging his bets, if not telegraphing a Trump win. That’s right in line with Trump’s strategy of “inevitability.” The synergy is apparent — as certain Republican pols sense the energy, they endorse Trump; their endorsements, in turn, convey momentum that leads to more favorable news coverage. 

Campaign Crawlers

Kamala Harris Couldn’t Lose Senatorial Debate

By 4.26.16

STOCKTON, Calif. — Purely as an act of political mischief, this Republican has toyed with the idea of voting in June for Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., in the race to fill Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat. Under California’s “top two” primary rules, there’s the possibility that two Democrats could face each other in November. California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the Democratic front-runner, leans way too far left. Given Harris’ ties to national party biggies, I’d rather see the gaffe-prone Sanchez win the seat, as a Sanchez win would deprive Harris of a spot on a not-too-distant national ticket. Bonus points: Sanchez would be easier than Harris to take out in six years.

Campaign Crawlers

The Donald Comes to My Neck of the Woods

By 4.22.16

The line to get into Harrisburg’s venerable Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center snaked around the huge buildings. It was, to borrow a phrase, “yuge.” And it was still a full three hours early.

After all the fuss about Trump rallies, finally here was one mere miles from my front door. I could see for myself — and I did.


Some 10,000 Pennsylvanians and others would eventually pack inside, and it can be seen here in several places. 

Yes…ahem…that is me The Donald is referring to in the beginning and a few other places. But I’m not writing about this rally for that reason — (although thanks, Donald, for the shout out!)

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Rule 40b: Myth and Reality

By 4.19.16

For a long time Donald Trump has boasted, quite properly, about the efficiency of his campaign. He plausibly argued that his efficient operation was testament to his executive prowess. Though a novice candidate, he managed to control the news cycle with his Twitter and telephone interviews and rallies. More broadly, he set the agenda, and others followed. Further, while spending a fraction of what his opponents were spending, he continued to be the frontrunner, while forcing nearly all of his sixteen opponents out of the race.

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Donald Trump Meets the Wizard of Oz

By 4.12.16

When Dorothy meets the Wizard of Oz, there is a revelation.

The Wizard, it turns out, is from Kansas (actually New Britain, Connecticut). He even helped secure the nomination for Bob Dole in 1996. Dole was an awful nominee, but it’s not about excellence, or even winning. It’s about process, the chase, the ritual of capturing the nomination, even if nothing good comes of it; and, of course, churning massive amounts of campaign cash to achieve nothing more than enshrine the Democrat opponent, meaning that year the reelection of Bill Clinton. Bob Dole’s general election campaign was miserable, but it enriched the Beltway Consultant Class, a metric that matters in Washington.

In my focus group that year, I asked panelists why they felt Dole was old. It wasn’t his age, they said: “It’s just the way he is.” And for decades, mediocrity is just the way it is for the Establishment.

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Will Trump Stop Trump?

By 4.4.16

Trump will underperform in Wisconsin tomorrow.

What happens next is predictable, almost ritualistic, as I’ve written before.

Thus, the shake-up in Trump’s campaign on Wednesday is preordained, for several reasons. First, the Wisconsin defeat will provide the alibi, for something already in motion, not considered earlier by Trump, because disgruntled staff was reluctant to petition him. But in-house anxiety is now palpable, and that something is revamping the campaign’s top tier. Trump doubled down to support his campaign manager, under siege, as further evidence, not of Trump’s loyalty, but, it turns out, of the candidate’s detachment from reality. Second, the timing is supposed to avoid more searching questions; it won’t. Third, Trump wants to saves face, as if the problem doesn’t involve him; it does. Fourth, Trump’s campaign manager has been managing Trump’s rallies, not the campaign, but that’s because Trump, favoring a circus barker, played it this way. Fifth, Trump’s campaign manager has been a yes man to the candidate, but that’s because Trump valued sycophancy over candor.

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The National Enquirer Republicans

By 3.29.16

What was already the least-dignified Republican political cycle in modern American history sunk to new lows last week.

And though Donald Trump is the party bearing chief responsibility for the fiasco the GOP presidential primary has devolved into, this latest foray into gutter politics didn’t begin with him. Nor did it begin with Ted Cruz, Trump’s chief rival for the nomination.

Instead, it began with a little-known political action committee named Make America Awesome, headed by a political operative named Liz Mair. Make America Awesome is an independent operation with an awesome nonexistent bankroll the mission for which is to defeat Trump.

Now, in the current circumstances, in any realistic analysis defeating Trump means backing Cruz. Despite all the pontificating and bloviating about pre-convention rules changes and dirty deals developed in smoked-filled rooms, your GOP nominee will be one of the two. As such, Mair has to operate on the basis that any messaging she develops to attack Trump must be weighed against the inevitable, if categorically inaccurate, accusation that Cruz is behind it.

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A Counterpunch, But There Was No Punch

By 3.15.16

“I’m more of a counterpuncher,” Donald Trump has said repeatedly. Nearly six months ago when more candidates were in the race, he had typically continued: “You know, Jeb went after me and, if you know, Perry went after me and I went after him. Rand Paul for some reason, out of the blue, came after me, and I went after him. And the other one I guess would be Lindsey Graham. I thought these people were all fine and they came after me and then I had to go after them. Perhaps I did a better job than they did but they all went down and they went down big league.”

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The Library Debate

By 3.11.16

It’s been a long — though thankfully not as long as the previous cycle — slog through the Republican primary debate schedule, and it appears it’s finally over. Thursday saw the final debate on the schedule, and it certainly didn’t go out with a bang.

Which is not to say the debate had no value. As opposed to the fireworks-filled knife fights the previous two debates devolved into, this one was entirely substantive and contained lots of highlights.

So much so, in fact, that it was hard to name a clear winner. All four candidates had solid moments, though in a quieter setting all four also had pulled punches.

If there was a clear winner, it was the image of the four candidates as plausible presidents. With some qualifiers — John Kasich had a few momentary lapses into his former odd identity as a Spastic Octopus with inexplicably flailing arms, Donald Trump reiterated his claim of fitness as Israel’s foremost ally in the race based on having been the grand marshal of a parade down Fifth Avenue — the demeanor, behavior and rhetoric was mostly on a level commensurate with someone capable of delivering speeches from the Oval Office.

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A CPAC by and for the Record Books

By 3.8.16

If there was one word to describe this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, that word would be “retro.”

I’m not talking about the Lilly Pulitzer-esque elephant skirts worn by a gaggle of college Republican women, or the young men who openly embrace the middle pages of the Brooks Brothers catalog, though there were plenty of those. The conference, which is the largest yearly, national gathering of conservative activists, had, instead, a certain air of trying to relive glory days, belied and destroyed from within by an acid-orange life-sized Muppet currently flopping across the countryside, complaining that grocery stores have Mexican food departments.