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Presidential Horse Race 2016: What would George Washington think of #NeverTrump’s convention coup?

To speak or not to speak. That is the question.

As we crawl ever closer to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in three weeks, talk is turning towards what we might expect to see from a made-for-TV political event straight from the mind of career entertainer-turned-politician-turned Republican nominee Donald Trump.

George WashingtonTrump has talked often about wanting to do a different kind of convention, hinting he may even have athletes speak about him in lieu of endless droning political addresses from current or wannabe politicians.

Such a strategy might not help a candidate from an urban district in a heavily blue state get exposure for his longshot congressional run, but having prominent Republican athletes take the stage will likely get more people watching from their couches. In all honesty, I’d be a lot more interested in hearing what Mike Ditka has to say than John McCain.

But as fascinating as the speakers list promises to be, whoever is not speaking will also generate headlines. The Donald himself suggested his former rivals in the Republican primaries may not be given time in the spotlight if they refuse to endorse him before the convention.

Jessie Hellmann of The Hill reports, “Donald Trump won't invite former rivals Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio to speak at the Republican National Convention without endorsements from both, he told The New York Times

“Trump's comments come as his campaign and the Republican National Committee work to ensure next month's convention goes as smoothly as possible. There have been rumblings that displeased delegates will stage a revolt to try to oust the presumptive Republican nominee, but RNC leaders are threatening to withhold speaking slots and warning that attempting to undermine Trump violates party rules, The Times reported.”

Hellmann’s article noted that since Cruz won the majority of delegates in at least eight states, his name will likely be placed in nomination. Therefore, Trump cannot deny Cruz a speaking slot on his own under party rules.

It’s hard to tell whether Trump’s no-endorse-no-speak threat is just typical gamesmanship or if he’s really serious about barring his most prominent former rivals from taking part at the convention. We know Trump’s ego is about as big as the convention arena itself, but even he must realize it’s not going to look good to his former opponents’ supporters if their guy is kept out of the show.

That might not be such a big deal in Kasich’s case, since many of his backers probably make up the backbone of #NeverTrump. But excluding (or trying to exclude) Cruz from the microphone could have serious repercussions for Trump with conservatives.

Of course there’s no guarantee Cruz would be inclined to say anything nice about Trump, so there’s some risk involved in allowing the Texas senator to use primetime as a platform for re-airing old grievances. But as I’ve said many times throughout the primary season, Cruz isn’t about vendettas or sabotage, he’s about advancing the conservative cause and the Constitution.

Cruz was no doubt hurt when Trump mercilessly attacked his wife and father in the last month of the campaign. But almost two months have passed since Ted suspended his presidential run and in the meantime he’s gone back to the Senate, continued fighting for limited government and consistently deflected questions on Trump.

Will he endorse? Who knows; I’m thinking he will at least say he’ll “vote” for Trump because to continue to stonewall, as Kasich is doing, isn’t doing anyone any good. Cruz knows he’ll have a lot more influence on the direction of a Trump administration than he would on a Clinton administration.

If Hillary wins in November, Cruz knows he’ll be spending much of the next four years fighting her and the leaders of his own party in trying to stop her agenda. If Trump wins, on the other hand, Cruz will be able to use his considerable persuasive skills in pursuit of actually passing legislation rather than stopping it. He can try and move party leaders to the right instead of simply getting them to act.

There’s a big difference there.

As far as Trump goes, he’s still displaying some aspects of the never-give-an-inch stubbornness that got him through the primaries. How many times did he say, “I don’t need their support”?

But the nominee is already having enough trouble consolidating conservatives and Republicans around his candidacy. He possibly could win the general election with his current coalition of populists, some conservatives and disaffected Democrats. If he can add the unquestioned backing of his former rivals and their followers, he’ll be that much closer to a winning combination.

Here’s thinking there will be a lot of talking behind-the-scenes between the parties and most of these skeptics will show up at the convention, talk a lot about the need to defeat Hillary Clinton and find a way to squeeze in some nice words about Trump. Something like, “He’s a great competitor. You know how I know that? He beat me.”

The media will continue on with the narrative of a divided Republican Party; but everyone else will leave satisfied, if still a little stung from the unhealed wounds of the primaries.

Forget not being invited to speak, many establishment Republicans don’t want to speak

We’ve seen it literally since the beginning of the campaign, Republican establishmentarians trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump.

At first it was because they didn’t take him seriously. We heard a lot from the media, for example, about how the New York reality TV star’s campaign was just another flash-in-the-pan, similar to other failed “outsider” bids of the past, such as Herman Cain’s or Ross Perot’s.

As the polls continued to show Trump with commanding leads nationally and in a few of the early states, people argued the surveys were flat out wrong…or resorted to insulting Trump’s populist backers as a collection of ignorant racist rednecks that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Then, with Trump’s triumphs in the Republican primaries, #NeverTrump sprouted like a weed in a driveway crack, insisting Trump will certainly lose in November and complaining he’ll ruin the party and conservatism if allowed to go forward unchecked.

Now there’s a media report that no one wants to speak at the party convention next month because of Trump.

Alex Isenstadt of Politico shares the bad news, “With the convention less than a month away, POLITICO contacted more than 50 prominent governors, senators and House members to gauge their interest in speaking. Only a few said they were open to it, and everyone else said they weren’t planning on it, didn’t want to, or weren’t going to Cleveland at all — or simply didn’t respond…

“Trump’s team is tight-lipped about whom it’ll extend speaking invitations, as is the Republican National Committee. But many of the party’s most prominent pols say they’re flat-out not interested — and that Trump should look elsewhere. Their rejections range from terse to abrupt, and — in a year otherwise lacking in GOP unity — they seem to be using the same talking points.”

Isenstadt also notes Mitt Romney and John McCain had no such trouble filling their conventions’ speaking slots. Hmmm…they were the establishment candidates, right?

The “I don’t want to be seen with Trump” crowd is characteristic of the same sort of political hysteria that grips wary politicians every time there’s someone who’s perceived as being kryptonite to one’s own chances of getting elected.

In 2014, for example, I don’t think there were many Democrats who were overly anxious to be seen with Barack Obama, but the media wasn’t making hay over their similar hesitance to campaign with the head of their party. Or, more currently, how many Democrats are willing to join forces with Hillary, seeing as she’s got unfavorable ratings that are almost as high as Trump’s?

These self-righteous snobs are the same type of people who would bar the door at church to a homeless family because they weren’t dressed properly. And let’s not forget, Peter denied Jesus three times when it mattered most.

Meanwhile, the media is gleeful to report every possible negative response involving Trump. It’s almost like, “Yay! Some Republican bashed Trump, now I have something to write about!” They can’t type and push the send button fast enough on these reports. It’s pathetic.

I have no doubts many people have serious reservations about getting too close to Trump. Some have valid reasons, others don’t. But the fact some politicians don’t want to speak at the party convention isn’t really news. Reporting a negative is counterproductive.  (Note: the story does contain a paragraph about Trump supporters who would speak.)

Go to a Trump rally and you’ll have plenty of grassroots “common” folks who have no problem with the nominee. And last time I checked, they’re the ones with the votes that count.

Let these people speak – it would be more interesting than anything an establishment politician had to say.

#NeverTrump to put boots on the ground in Cleveland to wage campaign against Trump

While there are apparently quite a few #NeverTrumpers who are planning to boycott the speaker’s podium during the Republican convention itself, that’s not stopping them from sending in people early to prepare for their certain-to-fail coup attempt.

Kyle Cheney of Politico reports, “Anti-Donald Trump forces will be sending an ‘advance team’ to Cleveland this week to begin preparing their effort to strip the Republican presidential nomination from Donald Trump.

“In a Sunday night conference call with allies around the country, the leaders of the effort described a slow-building organization that would begin setting up a command center outside the arena where the Republican National Convention will be held next month.”

A command center? Seriously? Think of all the talent that’s being wasted on this completely fruitless exercise. Instead of these people actually acknowledging reality and making their choice in the two-person presidential race – and then working to help Trump win – they’re spending time and resources trying to collect figurative signatures for a petition to nowhere.

Cheney reported one of the #NeverTrumpers, Iowa’s Steve Deace, even compared their struggle to that of the Founding Fathers.

One of the things that strikes me most whenever I go to the birthplace of American liberty, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, is the magnitude of the issues those people – sometimes known as our Founding Fathers – had to grapple with as they contemplated breaking away from their king and mother country to establish independence.

Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Patrick Henry debated the concept of liberty on their journey to self-government. Today, in contrast, the #NeverTrumpers are trying to lobby political party convention delegates to overthrow a potential president on a procedural vote.

Washington, who despised political parties, must be gritting his teeth in heaven.

The fact some or most of the anti-Trump leaders are former Cruz supporters makes it all the more painful to watch. As I said last week, the senator himself needs to weigh-in on what his people are doing. I’m guessing he’s not proud of their effort, even if he might be amused by Trump getting a little taste of his own medicine in the public spectacle category.

#NeverTrump is turning what was once seen as principled and respectable opposition into a joke. They need to take a long hard look at what they’re doing and how they’re being perceived. No one wants to look like a clown…unless you’re at the circus, of course.

Could this be the start of the Democrats’ own #NeverHillary effort?

Finally today, though we often hear about how Donald Trump is doing worse than usual in some heavily red states, Democrat Hillary Clinton is having troubles of her own in securing normally reliable blue states.

Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner reports, “Despite an increasing lead over businessman Donald Trump in head-to-head matchups, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is struggling to connect in some reliably blue states.

“Washington Post authors Philip Rucker and John Wagner report that there's concern among Clinton supporters who believe Trump might do well in three Rust Belt states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

It could be that we’ll see some realignment of the electoral map this year, but not along the lines the media likes to highlight.

Of course Democrats laugh off the notion Trump will compete in these states. But again, if he’s able to sway a few points in the black vote, he could easily surprise people. Trump needs to keep hitting on his economic populist message…and the votes will come.

With Hillary doing so poorly against expectations, maybe now we’ll see the beginnings of a Democrat-led #NeverHillary campaign. Nah, those people support their nominee through thick and thin no matter how crooked, corrupt or criminal they may be.

It’s a lesson a lot of Republicans could stand to learn.

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