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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Trump reaches out to #NeverTrump, but will they listen?

One of the top stories from last week was Donald Trump’s introduction of a list of potential Supreme Court nominees he would choose from should he win the presidency, a gesture that was generally well received by critics and supporters alike – though I can’t think of a single #NeverTrumper who publicly reversed their position because of it.

The list itself was apparently compiled with input from trusted conservatives in many different capacities, demonstrating that Trump is at least listening to the concerns of his biggest detractors – or is possibly Donald Trumpdelegating authority.

And, as it turns out, Trump solicited opinions from those who have sworn to never support him, too.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports, “Recently the Trump campaign reached out to National Review, whose ‘Against Trump’ edition galvanized the #NeverTrump movement, seeking input in compiling a list of possible Supreme Court nominees. It was just one example of Trump attempting to mend fences, or at least establish contact, with his most determined detractors as he tries to consolidate support as the Republican presidential nominee.”

York then shares a couple other such overtures Trump or his campaign made to former or current “enemies.”

York concludes, “It's not clear what long-term good the Trump peace initiative will do. Both sides have called each other a lot of names, and the #NeverTrump forces have invested a lot in opposing him. But it might lead to some interesting conversations.”

As I’ve written a number of times, this type of behavior has been very typical of Trump all throughout the campaign. He plays to win (which means playing dirty at times), deploying any number of tactics to not only bruise and weaken his opponents, but also keep his most ardent supporters motivated and aggressive.

He wins and then says nice things about his defeated and rendered hopeless opponents. It’s like a gladiator remembering his foes with fondness for the gallant fight they put up before he finally ended the match by stabbing them through the heart.

Trump is continuing the pattern now by asking for help from the same people he vanquished. What can I say, it’s a smart strategy.

I myself was impressed with the names Trump offered up as his top choices for Supreme Court vacancies, though I’m not familiar with all the judges listed. He named people who weren’t fans of his, too – which might actually help them get confirmed when the time comes.

But I also think Trump realizes he has a lot to gain by appeasing the concerns of conservatives while not really jeopardizing a whole lot in the process. A list of appointees for the Supreme Court is a low-risk venture. For most Americans, the concept of the Supreme Court is a bit mysterious. They generally don’t see Justices in the media the way they do congressmen, senators and administration officials.

Justices don’t go to the microphones to explain themselves after a major case decision is announced. They aren’t showcased on news talk shows. They aren’t interviewed for news stories – at least about the individual case rulings. Federal judges of all levels have to be the most powerful people no one’s ever heard of.

And the Americans who can actually name all nine justices (well, eight now) are probably in the low single digits by percentage. Probably half the country couldn’t name a single sitting Justice. Sad, but true.

When average people think of the Supreme Court, they likely envision a bunch of white haired old men wearing black robes sitting around a big table with stacks of books discussing whether abortion should be legal or not…and then flipping a coin to vote.

People know nothing of the power the Court wields to steer the direction of American society, literally holding the ultimate say in whether laws such as Obamacare will dominate their lives for the next few decades; or whether their state would have the power to determine its own marriage laws; or whether a Christian baker or photographer should be forced against his will to service a same-sex wedding.

The fact is, the entire federal court system as well as federal administrative agencies, with their rule-making power, has incredible sway over all of our existences.

That’s why this election matters. Donald Trump wants to win. He needs conservatives in order to beat Hillary. It’s only natural he would reach out to people like #NeverTrump who have sworn oaths to never vote for him. If he can convince his most ardent skeptics to come around, he greatly increases his chances to win.

Judging by the sound of it, they’re still not convinced.

Jonah Goldberg writes in National Review, “I honestly believe that a President Trump would do enormous, perhaps fatal, damage to the conservative movement as we know it. I also believe that without the conservative movement, this country is toast. But I further believe that Hillary Clinton would do obvious and enormous damage to the country. That’s why I’m not voting for either of them. That’s why this election sucks.”

Goldberg essentially argues his single vote doesn’t matter and he needs to stick to principle in order to do his job of writing for National Review.

Fair enough. I get the #NeverTrump position and I also understand Trump’s late efforts to reach out to them. If he’s smart, Trump will be sending hand-written notes to everyone who’s opposed to him up until Election Day. He’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so. If for nothing else, the news media will continue writing stories about his peace offerings. It makes him look good.

But this election is not just a matter of supporting Trump or the Republican Party. It’s a matter of participation, at the very least. People who decide not to support Trump because they believe he’s a loutish idiot without principles who will damage the conservative movement are also basically admitting that they’re no longer participating.

They’re leaving the game to sit on the couch and watch reruns of ‘I Love Lucy.’ That’s the easy way out.

And their only purpose at this point is to try and convince more people not to participate. I don’t think that’s wise – or healthy.

Many of us are unsure of what to do about the election this year. But what we shouldn’t do is stop participating. Participation means staying informed and staying in the race and continually making demands of both candidates…protecting our interests.

Donald Trump owes a lot of us little notes of contrition. But when he does so, he deserves some credit for the deed.

Conservatives don’t always know what we want, but we know what we don’t want

Another consequential happening of last week was Mitt Romney’s announcement that he was ending his search for a conservative third-party challenger to Trump and Clinton, ruling himself out of the candidate pool in the process.

Upon reading the news, I thought ‘this is the end’ of the third-party talk.

Not so fast. Respected conservative blogger Erick Erickson says Mitt Romney should re-open the search and focus on the 2012 Republican nominee as the White Knight candidate. Erickson wrote in The Resurgent, “I opposed Romney in 2008 and 2012, but I think the time has come for Mitt Romney. I’d gladly work for a Romney Presidency given the choices between Clinton and Trump…

“I can’t believe I’m even writing this. But seriously, Mitt Romney should run for President again and transcend party for the good of the country.”

I couldn’t believe it either -- a conservative who is actually calling for a “Draft Romney” movement?

Erickson is no ideological fence-sitter and has been extremely critical of the GOP establishment in most cases. He’s not a Republican honk by any means. But this is nuts, pure and simple. The 40-something percent of people who already support Trump would not be inclined to drop him for Romney. Ditto in spades for Clinton voters.

Sure, something like two-thirds of respondents in a poll said they’d be open to a not-Trump/not-Clinton alternative. But if you start naming names on who that “replacement” would be, I’d bet that total drops dramatically. I’m guessing a healthy number of those disgruntled people are leftist Bernie Sanders supporters who would never, ever, consider Mitt Romney even over Hillary Clinton.

Mitt Romney had his chance. Conservatives supported him, by and large. While we don’t always know what we want in a candidate, but we know what we don’t want. Romney would be near the top of that list this year.

Trump’s poll numbers are rising because Republicans are accepting him

While many conservatives remain skeptical of Donald Trump and are looking for more clues that he’ll govern as a conservative, yet another sign that #NeverTrump’s dreams of a third-party candidate are fading quickly is Trump’s improving poll numbers.

Practically speaking, they’re going up because Republicans are begrudgingly accepting him.

Steven Shepard of Politico reports, “The main reason for Trump’s surge over the past few weeks? He is earning increasingly larger shares of the Republican vote — even as some prominent GOP leaders, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, haven’t yet committed to supporting their party’s apparent nominee. But rank-and-file Republican voters are lining up behind Trump in large numbers, closing the gap with Clinton’s support among Democrats, which had been higher during earlier stages of the campaign.”

The polls also show Clinton with a slight drop in support from Democrats, likely because of the protracted primary fight with Bernie Sanders. Common sense says most of those displeased Democrats will head back to Hillary once the party establishment has dumped Sanders along with the rest of the garbage from the Democrat convention.

In the end, it looks like a pretty traditional Democrat vs. Republican general election contest is taking shape after all. The question will be whether Trump can rally enough of his non-traditional voters to make up for the numbers gap that has existed between the parties in recent national elections.

Trump is going to need those votes because he’s already way behind Clinton in terms of the size of his campaign operation, too.

Kenneth P. Vogel and Isaac Arnsdorf of Politico report, “At the outset of the general election, Hillary Clinton’s campaign looks like a well-oiled juggernaut next to Donald Trump’s vastly smaller, self-funded operation, a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission reports filed Friday found.

“Through the end of last month, the period covered by the most recent FEC filings, Trump’s campaign had spent less than a third as much Clinton’s ($57 million to $182 million) and had assembled a staff about one-tenth the size of her (70 employees to 732), with a fraction as many offices (Trump last month paid $101,000 in rent vs. $328,000 for Clinton), the analysis found.”

There’s no doubt Trump has gotten by thus far on universal name recognition, cooperative news outlets, social media and the enthusiasm of his supporters. He was able to beat all his Republican opponents through the most unconventional campaign ever attempted.

Good for him. But I also can’t help but believe if Trump and the RNC are unable to quickly build a “traditional” campaign for him for the general election, it will be extremely difficult to win against Clinton.

The Clinton “machine” is real, folks.

Lack of campaign infrastructure could be the reason why potential conservative independents have stayed away from challenging Trump. Facts are facts – they’d be starting out much further behind…even Mitt Romney would have difficulty competing with Trump now that the party (even Lindsey Graham) is getting behind its nominee.

Trump’s improving poll numbers are encouraging for him, as is the fact Republicans are warming up to him. But it’s clear he still needs a lot of help with the “rest” of his campaign. Will he get it?

Trump now top dog in the Real Clear Politics average

Finally today, all of Donald Trump’s good fortune of late has resulted in his first overall lead in the Real Clear Politics polling average.

Rebecca Savransky of The Hill reports, “Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has overtaken Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in an average of head-to-head national polls, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.

“Trump leads Clinton by 0.2 percentage points, 43.4 percent to 43.2 percent in the average, overtaking the Democratic front-runner for the first time in the average of polls.”

If you want to see for yourself, here’s the link.

The naysayers will keep insisting Trump will lose big in the fall. He still might. But it’s becoming clear that Americans are at least taking a glimpse at The Donald and in comparison to Hillary Clinton, maybe he doesn’t look so bad.

Expect him to tout these new poll numbers quite a bit in the coming days and weeks.

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Trump and Conservatives

I am a constitutionalist who enthusiastically supported Ted Cruz even before he announced his candidacy for President. Much as I find him personally repulsive, unprincipled and untrustworthy, I will vote for Donald Trump this November. What he doesn't know about our Constitutional republic scares me, but the fact that he tapped the Federalist Society and/or Heritage Foundation for advice on Supreme Court nominations did much to allay my fears. Doing so was a tacit admission that he knows what he doesn't know, and is willing to listen to those who do know.

I respect the views of Erick Erickson immensely, but find his most recent blogs to be ridiculous (see, e.g., "Republicans for Hitler"). I half-jokingly refer to this primary season as one race between Leon Trotsky and Josefina Stalin on the "Democrat" side, and one that was between James Madison (Cruz) and Benito Mussolini (Trump)on the other. While the Trump movement bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the nationalist/populist movements that propelled Hitler and Mussolini into power, Trump is not the evil racist that Hitler was. Whether he's a new authoritarian Mussolini remains to be seen. For now I'm willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.