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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Will Hillary Clinton get a poll bump of her own?

With Donald Trump now ahead in the Real Clear Politics polling average, it’s safe to declare the “Trump bump” is real.

Since Ted Cruz left the race three weeks ago, The Donald has been busy meeting with Republican leaders, making media appearances and by the looks of it, purposely trying to steer away from anything too controversial that might get his name in the news for the wrong reasons.

Hillary ClintonAs I argued yesterday, Trump’s releasing of his Supreme Court nominee list last week was a low risk venture.

It’s probably too early to say, but it looks as though Trump’s advisors have finally convinced him to tone it down so as to slowly begin the process of improving his image. Trump himself said many times over the course of the primary campaign that being presidential would be “easy.”

I guess “being presidential” means refraining from profanity and references to one’s own anatomy in front of a national audience. I think they used to call it decorum. Such is life in 2016 politics.

Whatever the reason for his rise, Trump is clearly making headway in public opinion.

Which leaves the question: won’t Hillary Clinton enjoy the same benefits after her own race is called in her favor?

Not necessarily, according to Leon H. Wolf of RedState, who writes, “Sure, the GOP primary was even more bruising than the Democratic one, but it is well and truly over at this point. All the contestants have surrendered to Trump. None of them will be at the convention arguing loudly to their supporters that Trump only won because the rules are rigged (even though, interestingly, Bernie Sanders has gotten a larger share of the Democrat vote than Donald Trump has gotten of the Republican vote so far). Trump’s presence at the convention will be an almost entirely celebratory one, and anyone who won’t fall in line won’t get invited to speak.

“On the other hand, Bernie is loudly telling his supporters that he is going to contest this thing all the way to the convention. And he is telling his supporters – inaccurately – that the reason he is primed to lose is because the establishment has rigged the game against him (in reality, he is losing badly in votes cast).”

Sanders’ behavior of late has certainly engendered a lot of quizzical looks from diehard establishment Democrats who can’t understand why he doesn’t just recognize what Trump’s Republican opponents did – namely, that they couldn’t win – and just gracefully bow out.

It makes me chuckle every time I see a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker – and they outnumber the Hillary stickers about a hundred to one.

But Bernie has definitely backed himself into a corner with his “system is rigged” rhetoric, similar to the situation Trump created after the Colorado Republican state convention in mid-April, only Trump had the advantage of arguing from a position of strength. After all, The Donald was still the clear leader in delegates when he was making the “rigged” case and his opponents had been mathematically eliminated.

Voters were sympathetic to the message. Then came the late April northeastern primaries and the race was all-but over. Trump didn’t need to rail on the system any longer, since the system had delivered him a victory.

Sanders is making the same claims as Trump, but from a position of weakness. He’s behind in the overall vote count, seriously behind in delegates (thanks to the Democrats’ super-delegate system) and his constant nagging about the unfairness of the system looks like sour grapes whining.

Trumped whined too. But at least he had the car keys in hand even if he wasn’t yet sitting in the driver’s seat.

Now Bernie’s stuck. Pundit Bill Scher writes in Politico Magazine, “Sanders likely grasps the potential danger of alienating too many progressives. Despite the charges that the toxicity comes ‘from the top’ of the Sanders campaign, Bloomberg News reports that Sanders has personally reached out to fellow senators and given ‘behind-the-scenes assurances’ that he ‘understands the need for party unity.’ If so, Sanders may be deliberately walking a tightrope: keeping his supporters animated to maximize his delegate count and his leverage, while preparing for the eventual pivot towards compromise in Philadelphia.”

As time goes on and Trump’s poll numbers continue to improve, the side winds blowing on Sanders to fall off that tightrope will increase to hurricane strength. And if Sanders makes a big stink at the Democrat convention in July, I doubt we’ll see a “Hillary bump” at all.

Much of this is conjecture at this point. History suggests Hillary’s numbers will rise after she’s officially named the party nominee (unless she’s indicted, of course, but maybe even then, knowing Democrat voters). Good feelings will once again reign in Democrat-land as they pull every trick in the book to win in November and therefore hold onto their power base.

There’s an awful lot of big government loving special interests that are banking on having “Crooked Hillary” in the Oval Office, dishing out favors on the taxpayers’ dole.

They’re not going to let a little socialist worm like Bernie Sanders prevent them from “unifying” their efforts. Sanders himself doesn’t want to be remembered as the reason why big government socialism was discredited. He’ll find a way to make nice.

Here’s predicting Hillary will get that “bump”. The question then becomes what Donald Trump will do to counter it.

Has #NeverTrump become #AnyonebutTrump?

One group that could desperately use some kind of “bump” is #NeverTrump, the ill-defined group of conservatives and Republicans who have sworn they’ll never hop on the Trump train for any reason.

While the Trump “bump” must be concerning to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, it must be devastating to the #NeverTrumpers. One of the group’s main justifications for existing was their insistence Trump would lose badly to Hillary in November. Therefore, they argue, if a credible conservative alternative could be found to run against both of them, the GOP and the country would be saved.

The only problem is their basic assumptions aren’t proving to be true. And no one wants to lead them, either.

W. James Antle III and Gabby Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner write, “Everything that could go wrong for #NeverTrump during the primaries did. Murphy's Law is playing out again with the third-party efforts, starting with a lack of establishment support…

“For many of them, it is also personal. Prominent anti-Trump conservatives have been targeted by Trump supporters for harassment, threats and racial or ethnic slurs, especially on social media. Trump and those around him have done little to discourage this behavior.”

Antle and Morrongiello also present a list of potential “independent” candidates who could lead the movement, names such as Romney, Rubio and Senator Ben Sasse. All have flatly denied interest in running for a variety of reasons.

As one of a significant number of conservatives who has reluctantly accepted the fact Donald Trump is going to be the only realistic alternative to Hillary Clinton, I’m wondering how the #NeverTrump movement figures they are still relevant or even viable at this point.

First off, though we have various lists of names who’ve taken the #NeverTrump oath, you can’t pick up the phone and reach their command center. Several not-Trump organizations sprung up during the primary season but none were able to gain much steam – or influence the outcome.

Many of them ended up endorsing Ted Cruz, but the establishment faction of #NeverTrump remained more inclined towards John Kasich. If they couldn’t decide on a leader back then, how could they possibly settle on ONE person now?

Second, who is their constituency and audience? Who is going to keep listening to their “don’t support him for the good of the party” message for six more months before ultimately deciding #NeverTrump isn’t going anywhere?

Lastly, besides their opposition to Trump, what does the movement really stand for? Antle and Morrongiello’s article quotes long-time establishment consultant Rick Wilson, for example, hardly a conservative. Would Wilson be able to agree on the same candidate to run as say, radio host Mark Levin?

Has #NeverTrump become #AnyonebutTrump? How would they all agree on one person?

#NeverTrump’s problems are simply not solvable. They probably could even use a new name…but I bet they couldn’t all agree on that, either.

Whispers about Newt Gingrich for Trump’s VP are becoming roars

With the prospect of a third-party challenger pretty much out the window right now, attention turns to what will likely be Donald Trump’s single most important decision before November’s election – the selection of his running mate.

The media has floated dozens of names from the likely to the highly implausible. One in particular seems to be showing up over and over again, a man who prior to the 2016 campaign would not have been on many peoples’ short list for the GOP number two.

Eliana Johnson of National Review writes, “Trump’s search for a vice-presidential nominee is underway. The campaign confirmed last week that it had tapped veteran Washington lawyer A. B. Culvahouse to vet potential nominees, and Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that [Newt] Gingrich is among a handful of people Trump is considering. Both the Trump campaign and a spokesman for Gingrich did not respond to requests for comment…

“Gingrich’s influence within Trump World is widespread. Inside Trump’s newly established campaign offices in Washington, D.C., his fingerprints are everywhere.”

Gingrich would be an intriguing choice for Trump, that’s for sure. He’s been out of office for almost two decades, so he’s as much of an “outsider” as anyone else. But he’s also got connections to the highest levels of the Republican Party…not to mention some heavy baggage of his own.

Newt is known for his non-stop flow of ideas and would no doubt be useful to a nominee who is admittedly weak on policy details. Gingrich would also fulfill handsomely the role of attacking the Democrats’ nominee, something he would not only do well, he’d relish it.

Conservatives would likely welcome the choice of Gingrich, but we probably won’t hear much more than rumors about it ahead of the party convention in July. Until that time, speculation will continue…

Trump to remain on American soil until the election

Finally today, if you thought an “outsider” candidate like Donald Trump would feel the need to shore up his foreign policy credentials by traveling abroad ahead of a general election match-up against a former Secretary of State, think again.

When prompted, Trump said he’s going to remain stateside until the election.

Jesse Byrnes of The Hill reports, “Donald Trump has no plans for now to travel overseas, saying he doesn't believe a foreign trip would help his campaign.

“’I don’t think it registers with the voters to be honest with you,’ Trump told The Wall Street Journal for a story published Monday. ‘What I really want to do is focus on our country and the election, but I might. I’ve been invited by numerous countries to go.’”

On balance, I think Trump is right. A trip abroad would basically only provide a photo-op for the Republican nominee – and he already has all the free media exposure he could ever ask for. World leaders will get to know the new president one way or another.

Trump has already articulated the basic outlines of his foreign policy views. Voters will be making their decisions based on what he’s already articulated. Having him touch down in France isn’t going to change things.

This is yet another area where Trump is showing some solid instincts. Let all the foreign policy noise focus on Hillary – she’s got an awful big mess out there to answer for.

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