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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Is #NeverTrump really just a front for Paul Ryan?

As the 2016 Republican presidential campaign progressed, a number of prominent Republicans and conservatives hedged on whether to support Donald Trump in the unlikely (back then) scenario that the New York billionaire reality TV star actually won the party nomination.

Then the months passed and the share of the “outsider” vote never wavered, with the establishment candidates combined rarely rising above a third of the support in opinion surveys. All of a sudden, the likelihood of a Trump Paul Ryannomination became a lot less of a laughing matter and took on the aura of possibility.

Meanwhile, Trump doubled-down on his original positions regarding illegal immigration and Muslim refugees, to the great chagrin of the establishment elites. They kept insisting, “Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that statement, I could finance my own presidential run.

Along the way, Trump insulted every one of his Republican opponents in succession, whenever they got close enough to be a threat.

None of the establishment’s white noise warnings about Trump deterred his supporters. But his oddball behavior eventually gave birth to a fairly sizable swath of the GOP in the form of #NeverTrump, whose members are on record saying they won’t vote for Trump under any circumstances.

The stated motivation behind the group has been to force consolidation behind the other candidates – and recently, a good many of them have endorsed Ted Cruz. You would think that would mean they’d be giving their full effort to ensuring Cruz is elected, but it hasn’t worked out that way.

Maybe they’re just being lazy or waiting for someone else to take on the mantle of defeating Trump. Or maybe it’s because they’re merely lying in wait to bring in someone else at the Republican convention in July, when the party will likely be torn between Trump and Cruz.

Who would they draft to “save” the party? I’m hearing a lot of rumors about Speaker Paul Ryan these days.

Scott Wong of The Hill reports, “With the ugly GOP primary race heading toward a possible contested convention this summer, some of the Speaker’s biggest fans have begun rooting for Ryan to become this year’s GOP nominee — a consensus pick in the event the delegates in Cleveland can’t agree on anyone else...

“Ryan has repeatedly insisted there is no scenario in which he’ll agree to be the GOP nominee this year. And any ‘Draft Ryan’ effort in Cleveland would certainly trigger a revolt from Trump and Cruz supporters, who believe the nominee should be someone who ran for president this year and won a large number of states.”

Yes indeed. If the establishment tries to steal the nomination from Trump or Cruz, there will be utter chaos in Cleveland.

As far as Ryan denying that he’d accept any such elevation to head the party presidential ticket, didn’t he issue the same types of “no way” statements last fall when all the elites were working so hard to convince him to replace John Boehner as Speaker?

I don’t think it would be hard at all to “persuade” Ryan to take the slot if the elites offered it. Once thought of as a promising young conservative House member, Ryan has turned into the face of the Republican establishment now – probably even more so than his 2012 running mate, Mitt Romney.

Given Ryan’s penchant for talking about tone in politics and demonstrated willingness to give Democrats virtually everything they ask for in budget negotiations, he is the perfect choice to perpetuate the type of politics that led to Trump’s rise in the first place.

Ryan chose not to run for president this year for one reason: he couldn’t win. There’s no way the establishment’s going to get by unscathed with this one should it come to pass.

We should all be keeping an eye on the situation, including on the #NeverTrump people. It could very well be that their end design is to make Paul Ryan the nominee. If that’s the case, don’t be surprised if the #NeverRyan forces vastly outnumber the anti-Trump people at the ballot box.

Through its placement on the primary calendar, Wisconsin is set up to play a vitally important role in determining the Republican nominee

I’m not sure if it was by design or pure luck that Wisconsin’s Republican powers-that-be positioned the state’s primary between the critical multi-state Tuesday contests and the latter half of the calendar, but whatever the reason for placing it on April 5, the Badger State could ultimately play a vitally important role in determining the eventual nominee.

The Republican race seems to have developed an impasse between Donald Trump’s doggedly stubborn supporters and the rest of the party, now mostly siding with Ted Cruz. Last week’s contests in Arizona and Utah further exposed the divide, with Cruz annihilating Trump and John Kasich in Utah with nearly 70 percent of the vote and Trump almost reaching 50 percent in his Grand Canyon State win.

Next week’s Wisconsin primary will almost serve as the rubber match, with the winner clearly having the momentum going into the many important states yet to vote.

At first glance, Wisconsin would appear to be fertile ground for another Trump victory, yet the most recent polls show Cruz either tied with the frontrunner or slightly ahead there.

And some are even saying Wisconsin should favor Cruz.

John Fund of National Review explains why. “Trump also lacks two factors in Wisconsin that have served him well in other states: prominent local supporters and talk-radio air cover. In Arizona, for example, he had the backing of former governor Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, and several state legislators. In Wisconsin, the most visible elected official supporting Trump is Van Mobley, president of the board of trustees of Thiensville, a small Milwaukee suburb of 3,223 people.

“As for talk radio, the environment in Wisconsin is dramatically different from what it is in other states, where Trump has enjoyed praise from hosts such as Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity. (Savage is now threatening to withdraw his support for Trump in the wake of Trump’s attacks on Heidi Cruz, and Rush Limbaugh is often complimentary of Cruz.)”

Wisconsin’s local talk radio shows weren’t Trump fans from the beginning, apparently. Ever since The Donald made disparaging remarks about Gov. Scott Walker in the very first Republican debate in August, the dye was cast against him in their minds.

Let’s not forget, Walker was the second major candidate to leave the race back in September, calling at the time for the party to unite around someone other than Trump during his concession speech (if you can label it that).

Maybe Walker was smart enough to see the future and all the discord in the party over Trump’s candidacy. Who knows.

It’s also yet to be seen how or if Trump’s recent Twitter tirades against Heidi Cruz have any effect on Wisconsin’s voters. It’s an open primary, so Democrats and independents can participate on the Republican side – a factor that’s helped Trump a great deal the past couple months.

Wisconsin will also serve as an important test on whether the anti-Trump forces can do more than just complain about the frontrunner. Several are running ads in the state and assisting with on-the-ground organization to turn out votes – hopefully in favor of Cruz.

Trump and Cruz pan for delegate gold in Rocky Mountain High

Hard as it is to believe, Super Tuesday was almost a month ago. One of the states voting on March 1 was Colorado, which held non-binding caucuses on the Republican side. I heard most people didn’t even bother to participate since it was really just a “show vote” anyway.

I believe Ted Cruz won the unofficial vote, but it doesn’t matter because all of The Rocky Mountain State’s delegates will be chosen at the state party convention taking place on April 8 and 9.

Eli Stokols of Politico reports, “When Colorado Republicans scrapped their binding straw poll as part of the state’s March 1 caucuses, it looked like they were forfeiting their relevance in the GOP’s front-loaded nomination process…

“[But] with a still unsettled three-way primary fight appearing to be headed for a contested convention in July, Colorado’s GOP assemblies over the next week offer Donald Trump and Ted Cruz a major opportunity to win a significant pile of delegates chosen almost completely by party insiders. Now, it’s up to the three candidates to convince the party to pick delegates who promise to vote in their favor.”

Needless to say, there’s a lot of pressure coming from the campaigns to elect delegates favorable to their candidate, though Cruz apparently is significantly ahead in terms of organization. Folks-in-the-know admit the process is so complicated that there’s no way to say for sure who will come out ahead.

There’s also somewhat of a push to elect unbound delegates, which could potentially increase Colorado’s “kingmaker” power if there isn’t a candidate with the requisite 1237 delegates necessary to secure the nomination going into the national convention.

It appears to me the most likely scenario is Cruz “winning” the state with a solid majority of the delegates. Stokols’ article mentions one Colorado county’s unofficial straw poll providing roughly the same percentages as Cruz’s win in Utah.

When taken together with Trump’s lack of visible organization in the state, it looks like a good couple days for the Texas senator on April 8 and 9. “Winning” Colorado at the state convention won’t generate the headlines that a primary victory would, but it’s the delegates that really count.

If you don’t believe it, just ask Donald Trump for his opinion on the matter.

Hillary tells Bernie to tone it down or she won’t debate him

Finally today, much has been written about Donald Trump’s various attempts to dictate the terms of the Republican presidential debates, forcing the outright cancellation of one just last week because he refused to participate.

On the Democrat side, it appears Hillary Clinton is doing the same thing.

Jesse Byrnes of The Hill reports, “A top aide to Hillary Clinton's campaign on Monday dodged questions about setting up a debate with Bernie Sanders in New York, saying it depends on the senator's ‘tone.’

“’This is a man who said he'd never run a negative ad ever. He's now running them. They're planning to run more,’ Joel Benenson, Clinton's chief strategist, said on CNN. ‘Let's see the tone of the campaign he wants to run before we get to any other questions.’”

Are the Clinton people serious? Threatening to deprive voters of a debate because Sanders is running ads they don’t like?

Democrats have never been keen on free speech, but this is a little extreme even for them.

Clinton doesn’t want to debate Sanders because she’s flat out afraid his momentum will continue and she’ll be forced to prolong the race a lot longer.

With the Republicans fighting each other the way they have been, a drawn out campaign is the last thing she wants to steal attention away from the GOP implosion.

Come on, Hillary. Everyone wants another chance to see you and Bernie go at it. Talk about a cure for insomnia.

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