The site uses cookies that you may not want. Continued use means acceptance. For more information see our privacy policy.

A Broken Convention

The convention is broken, but how broken depends on Cruz keeping it close.

Trump likely won’t go to the convention with a majority of the delegates.

We’re looking at final counts something like:

  • Trump 1200
  • Cruz 800
  • Kasich 300
  • Rubio 170

But will the convention divert the nomination from Trump if he’s really close? And how close does he have to be? It probably matters as much how close Cruz can get to Trump. If Cruz can get closer to Trump than Trump is to a majority, it will be much easier to make a case that the primary process resulted in a vague result, and the convention is thus empowered to make a choice.

But if Trump can see the finish line, and Cruz can barely make out what looks like Trump’s hair over the horizon? Much tougher case to make.

Cruz needs to actually scramble to make it more like:

  • Trump 1060
  • Cruz 960
  • Kasich 280
  • Rubio 170

The closer Cruz can make it, the better the case.

But even if they can make the case, the convention is likely to be messy. Unless Trump goes in with the majority, the convention will be an old-school battle of blocks of troops marching at one another in an open field. The Crucians will make a volley, the Trumpites will block and advance. There will be flanking maneuvers and drummer boys keeping the cadence.

In practical terms that means credential checks, rule squabbles, vote wrangling, backroom bridge deals to nowhere, favors for favors.

And that’s in both scenarios above. The only clean convention is one where Trump is nominated on the first ballot because he has a majority of delegates.

In Scenario A, Trump has more leverage. It will probably still be a mess, but it may be a clean mess. Trump may be able to use his lead to force things through in a semi-orderly fashion.

But in Scenario B, even though Trump has more leverage alone, Cruz, et al., can gang up on him. Expect them to do so.

The delegate loyalty question is real, but so is the public perception of what goes down. What do you do with 30% of the Republican Party in open revolt? It would be almost as bad as Trump taking the prize, surely. So the coalition (Cruz and the others) have to try to find a way to block Trump while making it look like it was a fair deal to as many of the Trump voters as possible.

That probably means they will come up with some sacrifices of their own to allow. Let some of their own delegates be unseated, let things get messy in a way they can manage. Let the average delegate think things are FUBAR.

The convention will have a lot of WWE-style fake backstabbing and mudslinging. Problem is, Trump actually participated in WWE. He knows what fake chaos looks like, how it moves. He also knows how little it takes to turn fake chaos into the real deal.

In Case of Glass, Break Trump

The chance for the GOP to stop Trump’s nomination is narrowing rapidly.

Maybe everybody except Ben Carson should drop out. I mean, it seems as plausible as any other plan to stop the current frontleader of the GOP race for the abnomination. Whoops—too late, he’s finally bowing out. Maybe the Super PACites can hold a meeting and turn everything around? Maybe throw a Romney speech at the problem.

The junior varsity candidates tried variously to out-bully a bully, to paint him as non-conservative, and to scare their voters with tales of a Clinton victory, but it’s yielded no fruit. How should they proceed?

Maybe they can paint the leader as too potent. They can claim that a Trump victory, with America winning so much that we have to change our name to the United States of Win, would make the country complacent. Losing builds character, they could say.

Or maybe they can look to Walt Disney and promise, not a wall, boring concrete with razorwire atop? Promise a coast-to-coast rollercoaster. Get people with a thing for adrenaline pay for it! Biggest coaster ever. $20 per ride times the population of the USA is six, seven billion. Add in the T-shirt revenues and a mandatory annual pilgrimage to the coaster, they could solve our tax imbalance while they’re at it.

Okay, maybe not. They hate mandates. What else is there, though?

What’s that? Behind the glass? A book of new talking points and policies. The risk of alienating their base (who have already defected to join the Trumpercoaster wing). The risk of sounding reasonable on issues from immigration to abortion to tax to climate. Nah, too much like the Churchill quote (‘… after they’ve tried everything else.’).

They have no strong way to get Kasich to drop out. States from Super Tuesday where either Kasich or Carson could be described as spoiler:

  • Virginia
  • Arkansas

But you can’t pin it on either one, as if Rubio had gotten either’s votes in Virginia he would have won; same for Cruz in Arkansas. But with Carson leaving, Kasich may be harder to oust: he did get some silver medals, and he can say that Carson, the spoiler, is gone. But Carson’s small share may not go all to Cruz or Rubio.

Cruz and Rubio have their horns locked together (in the contests, if not the debates) even as they feebly kick in Trump’s direction. And even if they all ganged up on Trump, it doesn’t appear that the voters would change their minds that much.

If Rubio dropped out, it might not even help if the votes split or went to Kasich instead of Cruz. If Cruz dropped out, it’s not clear that Trump wouldn’t pick up a lot of his votes.

Rubio came in second in two contests (narrowly in Georgia, over Cruz, and Virginia). Cruz came in second in four (Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Minnesota). Trump in three (Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska). Kasich in two (Massachusetts and Vermont).

It’s just hard to see what the Republicans can really do here. Rubio won’t drop out. Cruz won’t drop out. And Kasich may, but it probably won’t help.

It’s really hard to see how Rubio could win, as even if he takes Trump down, he has to do it in a way that doesn’t benefit Cruz. If Cruz could take Trump down, he might actually win, but his politics make it a tougher task.

That leaves the convention rules. Good luck with that brokered convention.

Good luck!

GOP Debate Ten

Rubio and Cruz misunderstand Trump, so their attacks are ill-targeted. While they may fire up their own voters, they probably won’t make Trump’s supporters care.

Rubio thinks he finally hit the piñata. But, come Super Tuesday, he’ll still be looking for the candy. Cruz tried to pin the donkey on Trump’s tail, but he’ll be lucky to come out with a win in Texas.

Why? They slammed Trump on all sorts of issues, from his labor practices to his business practices to the fact that he (also) repeats himself. Why won’t Trump just fall down like a regular politician?

The problem is, Rubio and Cruz think Trump is a regular politician. They think his rhetoric is the same weak sauce that politicians have peddled for years. But they’ve made a grave error in not hearing Trump clearly. They have failed to understand why Trump is winning, and attacking him (at least, as they have) is not the best way to stop him.

Trump does appeal because of his bravado, but there’s more to it than that. This is a Republican candidate that actually says Planned Parenthood does positive things for women. If Rubio or Cruz said that, they’d be kaput. But Trump says it from a different place. He says it and it comes off as honest and without the strings attached to things that politicians say.

Then Rubio and Cruz attack him for holding what they paint as a negative, the people just don’t take it to heart. Because the attack assumes that you already disagree with Trump, which his supporters don’t.

But Planned Parenthood is small potatoes compared to Trump’s real issues, and Cruz and Rubio have failed to attack those or co-opt them. Big issues like trade deficits, sure, but the biggest issue that Trump rallies people with is: Trump acknowledges that people are getting a raw deal in a very specific way.

Like Sanders, Trump is pointing at corruption of money in politics. But he’s also pointing at trade. He’s pointing at illegal immigration. He’s not the Great Oz, but he’s Dorothy telling everyone that the Great Oz—the American Dream—is just a humbug from Omaha. That the rally cry of the Republicans has been a big stage show.

To Trump supporters, Cruz and Rubio are just a couple of winged monkeys, swooping and screeching. The traditional Republican line isn’t a good fit.

Via Politico: 25 February 2016: “11 most interesting moments of the GOP debate”:

Rubio accused Trump of having just five lines. “Everyone’s dumb, he’s going to make America great again. Win, win, win. He’s winning in the polls. And the lines around the states,” Rubio said, mocking the front-runner. “Every night. Same thing.”

The problem with Rubio’s attack is that he underestimates the key lines:

  • Everyone’s dumb
  • Make America Great Again
  • Win, win, win

That everyone includes Rubio. Trump claims that the whole damn system is distorted, and it’s hard to disagree with that, even if you do disagree about how he’ll probably try to fix it. But folks like Rubio and Cruz don’t make that case. Cruz tries a little, but still falls back on agreement with the establishment too often to be believed.

Those three lines (the poll thing—bravado; the lines around the states is not one of Trump’s greatest hits—a b-side at best) all say basically the same thing: “Hey, voter, these guys [China, Mexico, Obama, the establishment, etc.] are taking you for a ride. I want to stop that from happening and make them pay.”

Cruz and Rubio just say, “Obama is taking you for a ride, so replace him with a Republican rider.” And, as long as they do, they will have a very hard time, attacks be damned, of making inroads with Trump supporters.

Or I’m wrong. We’ll find out Tuesday.