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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Donald Trump draws out VP announcement to last moment

The news wires were red hot on Thursday afternoon as word leaked of Indiana Governor Mike Pence being selected to serve as Donald Trump’s running mate.

The Hill broke with the news shortly before one o’clock EDT, but there was no confirmation from the Trump Donald Trumpteam that Pence was indeed the last man standing in the Trump Veepstakes for the rest of the day.

Then terrorists struck in Nice, France and Trump pulled the plug on a Friday official announcement, too.

Harper Neidig of The Hill reports, “Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is Donald Trump's vice presidential pick, according to multiple media outlets.

“Trump campaign aides on Twitter said the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has yet to make a decision, but separate media reports said the conservative governor has emerged as Trump's choice.”

The “multiple media reports” referred to by Neidig came from Roll Call, CBS and the Indianapolis Star, apparently. Clearly someone with credibility to speak spilled the beans early and we’ll just have to see whether we’re going to have to pick them up and put them back in the jar or if Pence really is going to be making the long journey with Trump this fall.

One indication could be whether Pence has officially withdrawn from his reelection race for governor, which would have to be done today by noon. The Indy Star reports Pence apparently he won’t be running for reelection, so there’s another clue.

Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort tweeted out that the official announcement would come at 11 a.m. on Friday, but as indicated above, Trump himself postponed the date due to events overseas.

So for now we’ll just have to assume it’s Pence and be prepared for a Trump-ian surprise in case it turns out to be Newt Gingrich…or Chris Christie. Or who knows, maybe it’s Sarah Palin. Better keep an eye on private jet departures from Alaska (that’s how we found out she was John McCain’s choice in 2008, remember?).

In these situations it’s always very difficult to tell who’s kidding who.

But regardless of who Trump names, his choice of running mate is definitely going to matter in terms of governance of the country. The vice president’s constitutional duties have not increased since the earliest founding of the republic, but in recent times, perhaps starting with the team of Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, America’s #2 has been turned into a very consequential role.

Michael Barone writes in the Wall Street Journal, “The president, according to Mr. Mondale, did not feel threatened by a deputy willing to give advice sometimes different from his own views. The vice president was not one to go off the rails either in public statements or by whispering around town.

“That relationship carried forward to subsequent administrations. ‘I believe,’ Mr. Mondale wrote in 1981, ‘the new president and vice president are showing every sign of continuing this tradition and further strengthening the role of the vice president.’ The same judgment holds today. Similar access and responsibilities were given to Vice Presidents George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle (if you doubt that, read Bob Woodward’s book on him), Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, as Joel Goldstein’s recent book, ‘The White House Vice Presidency,’ recounts.”

Yes indeed, in modern times the presidential ticket from both parties has been sold very much as a partnership effort. And it’s more than just names on bumper stickers. The vice presidential role has evolved into becoming the president’s chief advisor and is usually given credit – or blame – for policies done well or gone bad.

If you don’t believe it, harken back to how much attention Dick Cheney generated during the GW Bush years. There was a time during the early days of the Iraq War when Cheney was generating as much news coverage as the president. The media always depicted Bush as an incompetent lightweight, so Cheney had to be calling the shots, right?

So any way you look at it, Trump’s eventual “official” announcement will come with some import. The race is heating up and it’s about to get even more exciting, folks.

Recent polls are severely undermining #NeverTrump’s argument that Trump will lose

With all the hub-bub surrounding Donald Trump’s running mate choice together with the dump-Trump movement’s attempted coup taking place right before our eyes in the RNC Rules Committee meeting, we shouldn’t lose sight of what’s going on outside of Cleveland.

A couple new national polls are providing very good news for Donald Trump and the uptick in popularity couldn’t have come at a better time, just as some in his own party are desperately battling to replace him.

First, Jesse Byrnes of The Hill reports on the latest CBS News/New York Times poll. “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in a dead heat in the race for the White House heading into their respective conventions, according to a new national poll.

“Trump and Clinton are tied at 40 percent each in the CBS News/New York Times poll released Thursday, with Clinton down 3 points and Trump up 3 points from last month.”

Byrnes also notes that about nine in ten voters for both Trump and Clinton indicated they’ve already made up their minds on who they’re going to vote for in November, virtually guaranteeing a tight race heading into the fall campaign season.

Trump will certainly be happy with the CBS poll results, but there’s even better news to chew on for the Republican nominee. Rebecca Savransky of The Hill reports, “Donald Trump has opened up a 7-point lead over Hillary Clinton nationally, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday.

“Trump has 44 percent support to Clinton's 37 percent among likely voters polled by the conservative-leaning Rasmussen. Another 13 percent favor another candidate, and 6 percent are undecided.”

It should be noted the CBS poll’s sample is made up of registered voters. Rasmussen uses a more reliable likely voter model, so it could be argued the Rasmussen survey should be given greater weight. Of course #NeverTrump and the Democrats would point out Scott Rasmussen badly missed his 2012 election forecast, a fact that’s haunted the pollster ever since.

Historically, Rasmussen’s polls have tended to lean Republican, but seven points? It also would make sense to believe Rasmussen has made some adjustments to his methodology since 2012 because getting the numbers wrong would not only mean a credibility deficit for him, he’d likely be out of a job as well.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports attempts to skew the polls have already begun by Trump’s enemies. “The odd part this year is that, overall, the polls favor the unskewers' preferred outcome: Trump's defeat. The about-to-be-nominated Republican is trailing in RealClearPolitics averages of polls nationally and in a bunch of swing states. If the election were held today, Trump would lose. Of course, that could change — that is what campaigns are for. But whatever happens, the urge to deny polls that disagree with one's political views remains strong.”

The accuracy of any poll, regardless of who conducts it depends on the quality of the sample and the model used to balance the number of participants from each party. For example, for polls using a 2012 turnout model you’re going to include more Democrats. If you’re looking at a mid-term election like 2014, you’ll favor increased Republican turnout.

Pollsters often complained during the Republican primaries about how difficult it was to get the numbers right considering Donald Trump was not a traditional politician and his voters came from all different parts of the ideological spectrum. Add the fact most people no longer answer landline phones and you’ve got real problems reaching people to ask them their political preferences.

It logically follows that polling for the general election will prove just as challenging as it was for the GOP primaries considering you’ve got Trump’s appeal to a good portion of white Democrats and Hillary’s criminal problems which could serve to depress Democrat turnout.

I’ll leave the heavy analysis to the pollsters who over the years have been right a good portion of the time and even when they’re wrong, they’re usually in the ballpark.

The Real Clear Politics average now shows Clinton leading Trump by a little over three points. As I noted yesterday, battleground state polls are moving in Trump’s favor as well. I’m guessing Trump will get some sort of a bump from the Republican convention next week (similar to the primary debates, the “curiosity” factor will likely drive ratings sky-high), so we could very well be seeing Trump opening up a respectable lead by next weekend….if the polls correctly measure it.

I also do not expect Hillary’s email scandal problems to fade as many Democrats would hope. She’s damaged goods as a candidate and it’s doubtful there will be half the interest in whomever she chooses for a running mate as there has been for Trump.

There’s still plenty of time for Trump to hurt himself if he makes some stupid political moves as he’s been known to do in the past. But I can’t help but think if The Donald plays it smart and conservative, he’ll have a very good chance to defy the odds and win in November.

Like you would expect, Trump’s convention speakers list isn’t your typical GOP lineup

For all the snickering Donald Trump’s detractors did behind his back concerning his supposed inability to put together an impressive nominating convention speakers list, the nominee in waiting has actually compiled a pretty nice program.

In typical Trump fashion, it’s not a lineup you’d get at most conventions…but I doubt many people – outside of the establishment, perhaps – are complaining.

Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times reports, “The roster of speakers obtained by The Times, and confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of the convention planning, reveals a lineup lacking many of the party’s rising stars. Instead, it features some of Mr. Trump’s eclectic collection of friends, celebrities and relatives, from his Slovenian supermodel wife to professional golfer Natalie Gulbis.

“The parade of people seems to have been selected to broaden Mr. Trump’s demographic reach.”

Peters notes there are prominent women on the list as well as a number of minorities to portray diversity in the GOP. Those elements are expected. There’s a “big tent” element at every convention where party leaders try to appeal by identity to the broadest swath of the electorate.

But there’s also some news value in who won’t be speaking next week. Of course that list is headed by the entire Bush family, but neither of the past two party nominees – Mitt Romney or John McCain – will be in front of the microphones either.

And then there’s 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, a long-time Trump supporter who was omitted from the list.

Trump aides are quick to point out the schedule isn’t yet complete, so there’s still time for some folks to reconsider. And we all know The Donald loves surprises, so there’s bound to be a speaker or two who show up that weren’t anticipated. Palin would probably fit nicely into that category.

For his part, Trump indicated Alaska was too far away for Palin to attend the convention… Hmmm… That’s never stopped her in the past. Palin must like airplanes for all the time she spends on them.

At any rate, it looks like Trump’s convention will be quite a show, one way or another. With all of the happenings inside and outside the arena, boredom is not an option.

#NeverTrump collapses in RNC Rules Committee, Trump nomination all but set

Finally today, the intrigue surrounding the choosing of Donald Trump’s running mate was matched or even exceeded by the drama taking place inside the RNC Rules Committee gathering on Thursday, where a secret meeting was held between RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and competing forces of #NeverTrump.

Kyle Cheney of Politico reports, “Prominent conservative activists huddled in secret with senior Republican National Committee officials here to hammer out agreements intended to prevent divisive fights over the rules of the Republican Party, including attempts to deny Donald Trump the GOP nomination, according to multiple attendees.

“Emerging from the closed-door huddle, top RNC spokesman Sean Spicer described the gathering as an attempt to present ‘unity’ among Republicans.”

Judging by the dearth of statements from either side after the meeting, it certainly appeared as though nothing was resolved.

Later in the day, the vote confirmed that the #NeverTrumpers simply did not have enough support to dump Trump.

Again, Cheney reports in Politico, “Efforts to block Donald Trump’s nomination — hyped for months by proponents as a growing grassroots movement among Republican activists attending next week’s convention — turned out to be a flop.

“During key votes on Thursday evening, only 12 hardcore holdouts continued to resist Trump’s nomination as they were when members of on the powerful 112-member Convention Rules Committee considered a proposal to prevent delegates from rejecting Trump. A long-anticipated ‘conscience clause’ proposal intended to stymie Trump fizzled with similarly minimal support.”

I can’t help but feel the days of #NeverTrump are numbered and the only question left unanswered is how much of a stink they’re going to put up next week in an attempt to disrupt Donald Trump’s personal political convention.

Folks in the know claim the anti-Trump people don’t have nearly enough support to accomplish even their bare minimum demands. Perhaps it’s time they recognized that they’re outnumbered and surrounded…and there’s no use in carrying on the mission any longer.

It’s time to get behind Donald Trump.

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