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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Trump’s tough talk risks delegate revolt

We end yet another fascinating week in the 2016 Republican nomination race with a look at the game-within-a-game, the fight to win the hearts and minds of the delegates.

Yesterday I talked about how Donald Trump’s arrogance over his win in New York on Tuesday could potentially backfire by turning off voters in Indiana, but I didn’t think much about how his recent attack lines on the “rigged system” could harm him where it counts the most – with the  convention delegates themselves.

But it’s clear that his over-the-top rhetoric is having its own effect. His words may be whipping his supporters Donald Trumpinto a frenzy at the ballot box, but they’re not the ones who are going to cast the consequential votes on the floor of the Republican National Convention in July.

David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner reports, “RNC members say Trump is carrying his criticism too far — to his detriment.

“To begin with, there is little appetite among GOP activists to create uniform rules for presidential nominations. The state parties are jealous of their power to make their own rules, and compared it to the conservative, Republican principle of limited government and valuing states' rights.

“Additionally, while they can understand generalized attacks on the system for political gain, Trump essentially calling them all crooks, and referring an organization they have in some cases devoted years of their life to as corrupt, is too much for them to stomach. Trump could end up regretting his rhetoric, they said, especially if Cleveland, or November, doesn't go his way.”

Needless to say, if Trump fails to reach the 1237 number (or something close to it) going into the convention, there will be enormous pressure on the delegates to determine the proper path forward.

They’ll have to deal with the possible strong-armed tactics of the frontrunner who’s all but threatened physical harm to people who don’t do what he wants.

Similarly, there’s the pressure they’ll feel to support Ted Cruz on the second and subsequent ballots because a sizable portion of them will have been elected to fulfill that role. If they follow through on their preference they not only face the backlash from Trump, but also from a likely hostile media and an extremely angry portion of the electorate that will feel it’s been robbed of something it never had the absolute power to determine in the first place.

By questioning the legitimacy of the system this far out from the convention itself, Trump has backed himself into a corner. The only “safe” way out would be to embrace Cruz as the nominee, if it happens, or try and work some sort of a deal with Cruz to allow him to support the party and save face at the same time.

In the meantime, he can tone down the “rigged” bombast and acknowledge that it was his own neglect of the process that led to this problem in the first place.

Or, find a way to use the process to his advantage. There’s some evidence that the effort is already underway.

Alex Isenstadt and Shane Goldmacher of Politico report, “[T]he billionaire is dispatching his most senior aides, including newly ascendant political strategists Paul Manafort and Rick Wiley, to woo the delegates here at the beachfront hotel and resort where the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting is underway. The gathering brings together the party’s 168 committee members, all of whom will be delegates this summer in Cleveland — and who could prove crucial in a deadlocked convention…

“To many, the outreach represents a new phase for Trump. While most Republican hopefuls court the party’s powerful establishment hierarchy, the businessman has been dismissive and outright disparaging of it.”

It seems pretty clear one of the conditions party leaders will insist upon includes some moderation of Trump’s attack lines. Such a request would not be out of line.

After the Romney debacle four years ago, everyone knew this cycle was going to be contentious and possibly unpredictable. The “no rules” attitude of the race’s frontrunner is seriously clashing with the very rules-bound forces in the Republican Party.

If they don’t get together soon and find some way to tactfully coexist, both sides will lose. And again, that means Hillary Clinton spends at least another four years living in the White House.

#NeverHillary. That’s what we need to focus on.

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s about to get bumpy

If you’ve been listening to the media post-Tuesday, you’re hearing Donald Trump telling both Ted Cruz and John Kasich to get out of the race and pundits (and Newt Gingrich!) spouting about how New York is a game-changer and Trump’s nomination is once again inevitable.

The only problem is, it’s not.

John Adams is famous for saying “facts are stubborn things” and in the 2016 Republican presidential race, the facts involve delegate counts.

Trump did achieve an appropriately huge win in New York and will likely repeat the feat next Tuesday, but those numbers were already baked into projected delegate counts. After this month, Trump’s smooth road gets considerably bumpier.

Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics writes, “[W]e really don’t know how this plays out. Trump’s worst-case scenario probably leaves him with around 1,158 pledged delegates (assuming Kasich stays in), while his best-case scenario probably leaves him with 1,283. We also don’t know what the 130 or so unbound delegates will do; at least some of them would vote for Trump on the first ballot.

“Regardless, this race seems destined to be decided by Republicans who vote in a closed GOP primary in places like Berkeley, Compton, and Watts, Calif. Which is a fitting end for what can only be described as a screwball process.”

In his article, Trende does an outstanding job of breaking down the likely outcome of Indiana, the state that now looks to be the key to the entire race. But even if Trump does better than expected there, it still isn’t over…technically.

The challenge for Ted Cruz after New York (and next Tuesday’s east coast primaries) is convincing voters in subsequent states that Trump can be stopped well short of the 1237 number and that he can win at the convention.

This will offset a lot of the “me too” voter affirmations that always come along when a party frontrunner has all-but locked up the nomination. That doesn’t look to be happening this year – largely because Trump is such a controversial and unconventional candidate – but there’s no telling when such crowd mentality behavior could start.

People instinctively gravitate to a winner. Nobody likes to be on the losing side. Cruz must somehow convince Republicans and conservatives that Trump is wrong about being inevitable…and that we’re only halfway through the game, not at the final handshake.

Trump takes the middle ground on North Carolina’s bathroom law, finds himself in no man’s land

If there’s one thing about Donald Trump that prevents many conservatives from supporting him, it’s the fact people just aren’t sure of his true ideological underpinnings.

The doubt is especially acute when it comes to social issues. As Ted Cruz highlighted by questioning Trump’s “New York values” in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, The Donald has been all over the map throughout his life on many topics ranging from abortion (where he once described himself as “very pro-choice”) to traditional marriage.

Now there’s some doubt that he’s with conservatives on the simple matter of transgender public restroom use, too.

Commenting on the now infamous North Carolina “bathroom” law, Nick Gass of Politico reports Trump said during an interview on NBC’s ‘Today’ show, “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble. And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic — I mean, the economic punishment that they're taking.”

Ted Cruz didn’t have any hesitation in saying grown men should not be allowed to use the same bathroom with little girls, pointing out there are any number of sick perverts out there waiting to abuse society’s new embrace of political correctness.

In the same NBC interview Trump indicated he doesn’t know whether his companies employ any transgender people and he’d allow Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner to use whatever bathroom he/she wanted in Trump Tower.

I think that’s called a copout from a politician who doesn’t want to take a stand on a topic that might result in a visit from the PC police. Whatever happened to Trump’s willful stomping on political correctness? Where’s Ben Carson on this issue?

Only in 2016 could the subject of crossdressing men using women’s bathrooms be seriously in question. Trump’s position, or lack thereof, either once again exposes his heartfelt social liberalism or possibly reveals a tack towards the center in a pre-general election attempt to improve his favorability ratings with the younger generation.

It seems that kids and liberal entertainers are the only ones who really care about this issue. Shouldn’t we be talking about passing a federal budget or the need to protect religious liberty?

During her victory speech the other night, Hillary Clinton said she’d fight to guarantee “LGBT rights” among other leftist causes. Now it looks like Donald Trump would have no problem doing the same.

RNC rules committee decrees, no changes in the rules

Finally this week, with the heavy potential for a contested nomination fight looming on the horizon, there have been some rule change proposals made recently in regards to how the convention should be conducted and how much power the establishment would retain to introduce a “white knight” compromise candidate if the delegates end up deadlocked through several ballots.

But when push came to shove on Thursday, nothing happened. Citing the need for transparency and continuity, the committee took up the matter of rules changes and decided nothing should pass.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports, “The lion's share of the debate centered on a bid by a longtime Oregon committeeman Solomon Yue to change the rulebook to Roberts' Rules of Order, a common rulebook in government meetings.

“Yue believes the change would create more transparency while also clamping down on the ability of party leaders to insert an establishment alternative into the race.”

In an interview after the meeting, Yue himself seemed satisfied that he’d been heard on the matter and had no objections to the committee’s decision.

In a “normal” year, such meetings of the RNC rules committee wouldn’t receive any attention whatsoever, except maybe by those who are keenly tuned-in to the usual tricks of the establishment.

But in 2016, it’s a big deal.

We won’t know until July whether anything that was decided on Thursday will have any consequence. In the meantime, there are campaigns to run and delegates to win.

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