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Presidential Horse Race 2016: For the good of America, Donald Trump’s zero-sum game must end

As New Yorkers head out to vote in their primary today, it’s a good time to assess the overall state of the 2016 Republican race.

Donald Trump remains the clear frontrunner with around a 200 delegate lead. The past month has been very quiet in terms of voting activity, with just one primary and several state conventions taking place, resulting in an uninterrupted string of Ted Cruz victories. As a result, Trump’s margin has narrowed considerably and the Donald Trump pledgemomentum in the campaign has seemed to move towards Cruz.

But with the race shifting from the west and Midwest to the liberal/moderate east coast today and next week, it appears as though Donald Trump will wrest back control of the contest and once again open up a commanding lead.

Ideologically speaking, it appears Cruz has consolidated much of the conservative movement behind him, especially after Marco Rubio dropped out having lost badly to Trump in Florida last month.

But there’s also little doubt that some not-Trump Republicans may be “not-Cruz” voters as well. These are the John Kasich supporters. There aren’t many of them outside of his home state and in more liberal areas, but their numbers are large enough to potentially make a difference today and next week.

Which brings up a question…is Ted Cruz really getting people behind him or is his support based solely on the fact he’s the last remaining realistic alternative to Trump? Is #NeverTrump enough?

If that’s the case, history suggests Cruz will have trouble stopping The Donald.

W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner writes, “[A]s long as there is any caginess about whether these Republicans actually support Cruz rather than just opposing Trump and leaving the door open for a white knight to claim the nomination, the GOP front-runner can plausibly complain the Tea Party Texas senator is at least an unwitting tool of the establishment…

“A lot of Trump's up-and-down campaign can be explained by the calendar. He's been strong in the Bible belt and the Northeast but struggled in the Great Plains states as well as the caucuses. It's easy to imagine Trump winning Maine if it had been a primary rather than a caucus, but in Utah it would have made no difference.”

Though they weren’t labeled “#NeverMcCain” or “#NeverRomney” at the time, similar movements have been seen before.

In both 2008 and 2012 the Republican establishment favorite emerged as the dominant candidate fairly early in the campaign. In ’08, John McCain lost badly in Iowa but came back in New Hampshire and South Carolina and the dye was cast from then on. Conservatives couldn’t decide on whether to back Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney as an alternative, splitting the not-McCain vote and virtually guaranteeing the nomination would go to the wishy-washy Arizona senator.

Four years later Rick Santorum eeked out a win in Iowa but had difficulty uniting the not-Romney vote after that, having to share the anti-establishment tide with Newt Gingrich for a time and even somewhat with Ron Paul, who was popular with libertarians and younger voters.

Santorum did finally manage to win the backing of the conservative movement, but it was too late to stop Romney at that point.

Turning to the present, 2016’s anti-establishment vote is again split, this time between Trump the frontrunner and Ted Cruz, who continues to annoy the elites by failing to bow down before them and apologize for past wrongs. That could explain why Kasich still sticks around, though it’s not clear whether he hurts Trump or Cruz more (though it would seem it’s Cruz in liberal areas).

I personally thought after Cruz’s Wisconsin win that the momentum generated would swamp Trump in the upcoming primaries, but that doesn’t appear to be happening. Trump always looked to be strong in his home state of New York, but he’s maintaining a national lead as well and his delegate total should swell considerably today and next week.

If Trump comes in somewhere around a thousand delegates by the end of April, conservatives and Republicans will really have to decide on how badly they want to stop Trump before his total gets too high that they’ll lose in the court of public opinion if the nomination goes to Cruz at the convention.

Whether it’s true or not, Trump seems to have convinced the public that the nominee should be the one with the most votes and delegates heading into Cleveland in July.

Like he’s done throughout his campaign, Trump is using his populist appeal to advance an argument – “the system is rigged” – that doesn’t have much basis in reality. But it sure sounds good to people who don’t understand the complexities of the nominating process. They keep bringing up a “constitutional right to vote” as if there was such a thing and it applied to political party nominating processes.

The system isn’t rigged at all. Delegates matter, polls don’t. And it’s not like Trump has won the majority of votes in all the primaries. He hasn’t reached 50 percent in a single state yet. That means a majority of Republicans have voted for someone other than Trump, and it’s not even that close.

I think Ted Cruz is a terrific candidate who has run a near flawless campaign to get as far as he has in a tough political environment – and he could very well end up winning the nomination. But if Trump is going to continue to play the “I win, you lose” zero-sum game, the public is going to be turned off regardless of what happens at the party convention.

Then Hillary will win in November…and we ALL lose.

Cruz admits he’s worried about the party fracturing at the convention

The candidates themselves don’t often talk about the damage that’s potentially being done to the party through this year’s overly contentious campaign, but Ted Cruz addressed the subject candidly yesterday.

Katie Glueck of Politico reports Cruz said on Monday, “’There is no doubt, we are likely headed to a contested convention,’ the Texas senator told a private gathering of Republicans here in Manhattan, according to audio of the meeting obtained by POLITICO.

“’One of the greatest risks of a contested convention is, if you come out with a party fractured, it potentially makes you vulnerable going into the general election. I believe, in a contested convention, we’ll have a strong advantage and we will earn the majority of the delegates and unify the party. But in that circumstance it’s not difficult to imagine Donald Trump getting very upset, and making his upsetness [known].’”

As I’ve argued before, Trump has some serious decisions to make prior to the July convention. With three months to go until Cleveland, he can afford to complain about the party being “rigged” and the nomination being “stolen” from him and still leave time to repair the ruptures.

But when the delegates actually meet this summer, this “whiner” strategy will not only likely fail, it risks permanently ruining his reputation and that of the family name.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what Trump truly cares about, but there is no question in anyone’s mind that he loves and values his family. I think he’d be willing to soil his own brand for the sake of getting back at the Republicans, but he also shares the name with his children.

In other words, his actions have long-standing reach beyond his own person. For once in his life, it’s not just about The Donald and what he wants at any given moment. If Trump makes a stink and violence breaks out, etc, then his portion of the history books won’t be about celebrity, buildings and wine – it will be about how he selfishly helped bring down the country.

I think everyone’s concerned about what will happen after Cleveland. But taking the totality of the circumstances, I’m betting Trump and Cruz will find a way to settle this graciously. Cruz will do it for the sake of the party and the country; Trump will do it because of his family.

Ted Cruz bills himself as the consistent conservative. Turns out, he’s right

With so much talk of ideology – or lack of it – dominating the Republican race, much has been written about who’s really a conservative versus those who are merely pretending to be in order to fool the base into voting for them.

Donald Trump, for example, is fond of calling himself a conservative but always adding the qualifier “with common sense”.

I think such a statement just proves Trump doesn’t know what conservatism really means, but that’s beside the point. There is a candidate in the field this year who not only understands the limited government, constitutional point-of-view, he’s lived it.

Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times writes, “There have at times been perceptible shifts from Mr. Cruz during the campaign, in both tone and substance, coaxed by the resonance of Mr. Trump’s populist anger and hard-line positions on trade and immigration.

“But at its core, Mr. Cruz’s brand of conservatism is the product of decades of careful study and manifest intellectual firepower, fusing a host of historical strands into what he has called ‘opportunity conservatism.’”

Trump is notorious for changing positions on issues, sometimes in the same answer to a question, but Cruz knows where he stands and isn’t afraid to stick to his guns.

Flegenheimer observes that where Cruz continues to receive criticism is over tactics, such as the 2013 government shutdown, but his conservative issue positions have largely become accepted by the GOP and the media, precisely because Cruz knows where the base stands.

Cruz is fond of saying, “If I am elected president, I will do what I say I will do.” Anyone who doubts should take a look at the Texas senator’s background. He isn’t someone who will promise to advocate and then pull back because he’s intimidated.

The problem most conservatives have with Trump is his lack of grounding in ideology. The outlandish behavior doesn’t help, but it’s not the main issue. Simply promising to make “great deals” doesn’t provide much guidance in what he views as a “great deal.”

Ted Cruz has been specific in his proposals to reduce the size of government. He may not always succeed in the endeavor, but one thing is for sure – he’ll fight to the last on every position.

And that’s exactly what the country needs right now, a clear choice in the November election.

If the convention reaches a second ballot, will Mitch McConnell vote for Ted Cruz?

Finally today, if it were solely up to New Yorkers, Donald Trump would likely be the Republican nominee.

But there are others who maintain there will be a contested convention in July and if that’s the case, Trump could lose on the second or subsequent ballots. The ultimate symbol of the Republican establishment, Mitch McConnell, said as much this past weekend.

Jordain Carney of The Hill reports McConnell told a local ABC station on Saturday, “’When a nominee gets to 1,237 he will actually be the candidate. If he doesn't, there will be a second ballot, and about 60 percent of the delegates who are bound on the first ballot will be free to do whatever they want. And I'm increasingly optimistic that there actually may be a second ballot.’

“He noted that he's expecting to be a delegate for Kentucky and that ‘on the second ballot I'll be free to do whatever I want to.’”

McConnell wouldn’t say who he’d vote for in that scenario, but did mention it would be someone who he thought could beat Hillary Clinton – and hinted it wouldn’t be Trump.

That basically leaves Ted Cruz. Wouldn’t it be ironic if McConnell ends up campaigning for Ted? Now THAT is a sign the party really can unite after all.

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Mitch McConnell should be banned from voting anywhere. This man is a Republican Harry Reid

Cruz is the Platform personified

Time and again, both nationally, and in various state races, the GOP has shown conservatives that it doesn't much care for the party platform, or those who voted for it.
Here in NH, we have liberal policies like Medicaid expansion because GOP senators voted for it, and against the platform. But since there is no penalty for voting against the party platform which they ran on, these Dems with 'R' labels get the benefit of the calls for unity and asses in seats (literally in many cases), and we lose ground even as we win elections.

This year, it HAS to be different - there is a stark choice between a man whose principles line up almost perfectly with the declared intentions of the GOP, a dangerous populist demagogue who *might* believe in the party platform (but probably doesn't), and an even more dangerous communist (whoever wins the Dem nomination).

Is Mitch McConnell more committed to the party platform, or to any deal that keeps his seat? If he cares about principles, he'll vote Cruz - July will tell us.