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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Trump family pledges allegiance to The Donald at CNN Town Hall

Ever been in the situation where you liked a colleague’s family but weren’t necessarily crazy about the guy himself?

I have to admit I was a little skeptical when CNN announced it was doing another Town Hall series with the Republican candidates this week, with the new twist being they’d be appearing on stage with their families for joint interviews of any meaningful length.

Trump family town hallTuesday night was Donald Trump’s turn in the not-so-hot seat, first facing about fifteen minutes of questions from host Anderson Cooper before he was joined by wife Melania, sons Donald Jr. and Eric and daughters Tiffany and Ivanka.

As you would expect, as the “children” of wealthy parents and privilege, all the “kids” carried themselves very well, though I wouldn’t say they were as relatable to average folks as John Kasich’s clan were the night before.

Probably the biggest takeaway from Tuesday night’s forum was the notion that people believe in Trump’s ability to assume the office of the presidency because they believe solely in him and him alone.

As Trump shared the stage with his wife and children speaking eloquently on the vastness and success of the Trump Empire, I don’t think the Constitution was mentioned a single time in the hour plus of the program. In their minds, “Making America Great Again” involves turning over the controls of government to the Donald J. Trump Corporation and having them turn it around like they would one of their businesses.

Trump’s “children” are firm believers in their dad, which is understandable and commendable. But they all talked about his abilities as an aggressive dealmaker and loving father rather than his undying devotion to the constitutional “system” of government that sets America apart from the rest of the world.

America is “great” because we have a Constitution that lays out in very specific language what the president and Congress can and cannot do.

The Trump family made it clear on Tuesday night that The Donald does pretty much whatever he wants. I can’t help but think this is the way he sees the presidency – as an opportunity to occupy the lead chair in the White House boardroom with a bunch of Trump managers sitting around the table waiting to receive orders.

If anything, Trump’s main selling point is that the American “system” is corrupt and he’s above it because he doesn’t take campaign contributions and is therefore beyond the influence of the corruptors.

Another interesting aspect of the town hall came with a question from a citizen on whether The Donald speaks to the women in his life the same way he talks down to his opponents in debates.

Trump answered that he talks very differently to people in a private setting and he would be a very different general election candidate. The Donald said his tone would completely change toward his fellow Republicans after he won the nomination. He basically indicated tone was an easy thing to fix, just like you’re turning it on or off.

Then Trump admitted he had “two left to beat,” obviously saying he was going to keep up the harsh trash-talk in the Republican race until he wins.

Then he’ll be the nice guy everybody loves.

Isn’t he all but confessing he’s two faced and that he can turn the rhetoric on and off whenever he pleases?

It struck me as very odd, but the audience seemed to eat it up. A couple of the questioners who had supposedly only been “leaning” Trump came right out and said they were convinced and would vote for him now.

Again, if you like The Donald’s spiel, you’ll support him. If you don’t, you’re looking for the best not-Trump alternative.

Overall, as stated above, Trump’s family was very impressive. But Eric’s and Ivanka’s explanations for why they didn’t register in time to vote in the Republican primary were very poor. Ivanka basically said she’s registered as an Independent and didn’t realize she needed to sign up as a Republican to vote for her father.

Ditto for Eric, who didn’t really add a whole lot on the matter.

This was one of the first subjects broached by Cooper once the family appeared on stage, following shortly after their father had just railed about how “millions” of voters had just been disenfranchised in Colorado and how the “system” and the RNC are rigged against him.

Astonishingly, Trump said he was aware of the rules and Cruz and the Colorado Republican Party had somehow tilted the election against him anyway.

So…Trump’s saying apparently the rules were deliberately changed in order to stop him and he thinks the results are illegitimate because he lost. It’s yet another sign that a Trump presidency would not be bound by “rules”, that he’ll make “great deals” with “great people” and America will be “great again”.

Only one problem – Trump’s “great people” are getting trounced all over the country by Cruz’s superior organization and adherence to those “rigged” rules.

Lastly on the CNN Town Hall, Cooper asked Trump once again how bothered he would be if he goes to the convention with a clear lead and doesn’t end up the nominee.

Trump didn’t look perturbed at all. He essentially said “I’ll go back to doing something else” and that would be the end of it. He said he’s only running for president because he feels he can help the country and he’ll win because he can beat Hillary Clinton.

Clearly Trump and his family believe it, as did the audience on Tuesday night. In Trump’s world, “belief” is definitely enough, the system and everyone who gets in the way be damned.

Democrat hack says he’s got the dirt on Donald Trump, should we believe him?

When rumors started flying late in the spring of 2015 that Donald Trump was once again considering running for president, many people rejected the notion outright as another publicity stunt from an already hopelessly famous man who revels in media attention.

Some ignored the reports because Trump had mentioned/threatened to run several times before, including in 2011, only to pull back when the time came.

Others dismissed the whispers because they figured Trump would never risk it. After all, he’s been an extremely well known celebrity for over three decades, has admitted to numerous affairs, has been married three times and has given hundreds of interviews over the years where he’s said potentially thousands of politically damaging things.

How could such a man hope to compete in the somewhat puritanical Republican Party, where unlike with the Democrats (where such behavior is not only condoned but championed) “playing the field” is frowned upon if not looked at as constituting automatic disqualification.

Just imagine Mitt Romney as an example of the model Republican. He’s so uncontaminated you could run him through a car wash and the water would come out cleaner. The media even had to go back 50 years to find an example of Mitt doing something mean to someone.

That’s what a GOP presidential candidate looks like…not Donald Trump. In such a judgmental environment, how could Trump even hope to survive the primary season?

Well, to the great surprise of most and chagrin of others, Trump’s not only traveled deep into the process, he’s got a solid chance of coming out the other end with the nomination.

But just because he won over some in the Republican Party doesn’t necessarily mean he’s been thoroughly vetted. Apparently the Democrats seem to agree. Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico reports, “[Liberal Democrat media operative David] Brock, who is a leading supporter of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, said that his non-profit opposition research outfit American Bridge started researching Trump last July, and has unearthed some damning stuff.

“’We sat on it all so as not to help the candidates who might have been stronger general election candidates,’ Brock said, according to his prepared remarks, which American Bridge released to POLITICO.”

There’s nothing real new here. We already figured the Democrats were salivating at the prospect of Trump being the Republican nominee. Brock just confirmed it…while asking for money at the same time.

The real question isn’t whether there’s more information out there on Trump – no doubt, there must be. The issue is how the Democrats might have something potentially more harmful to Trump’s electability than has already been introduced through the course of the Republican primary campaign.

We already know a lot more about Trump now than we did a year ago, with many of the new revelations bringing about calls of “TMI” (too much information) already. We know he’s a notorious playboy masquerading as a family man, has made friends with the mob and has strong-armed unwary people out of their money to run schemes like Trump University.

We know he’s wanted to kick old ladies out of their homes using private eminent domain, too.

We get it. So what could the Democrats have on Trump that we don’t already know?

Again, Vogel reports “Brock asserted that, if Trump does win the GOP nomination ‘a bare-knuckles campaign is necessary’ to brand him as a greedy, misogynistic racist, and ‘a danger to the Constitution, a menace to democracy, and a threat to the nation as a whole.’”

In other words, pretty much a re-run of the campaign they ran against fellow rich guy Romney in 2012.

Vogel’s article does note the Democrat strategy against Cruz would be different than with Trump (there was no strategy against Kasich listed, chuckle), which would be more along the lines of smearing the Texas senator as hurtful to the poor and dangerous to women’s rights.

Again, just shades of the same campaigns they always run. Don’t talk about policy – just scare everyone to death. See, I could be a Democrat strategist too!

I personally don’t give much credence to Brock’s claim they’re sitting on a mountain of information that will bring down Trump. It’s all stuff we largely already know or anticipated would eventually come out about him. It hasn’t been enough to deter Trump’s supporters in the Republican primaries thus far and he’s already at or near 70 percent unfavorable in the general election hypotheticals.

How much more harm can be done?

The fact Brock didn’t mention any of the National Enquirer-type material in relation to Cruz should prove yet again there isn’t any merit to the claims.

Cruz’s enemies will keep trying. But in the end, it will be the delegates in the Republican convention that choose the nominee in July and the voters who elect a president in November.

The Democrats and all their threats won’t change that fact one bit.

With Kasich, another case of ‘what did you expect him to say?’

I didn’t watch all of the CNN Town Hall with John Kasich on Monday night, but what I did see consisted mainly of Kasich reiterating the same policy positions he’s been offering all along and his attractive wife and daughters telling America how quirky and “normal” the Ohio governor is when he’s at home away from the spotlight.

During the program, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Kasich the inevitable question about the possibility of being Donald Trump’s running mate. Kasich said, once again, he would not make a good vice president and that he believes he’s going to win the Republican nomination at this summer’s convention.

Going a little further, Nick Gass of Politico reports Kasich on Tuesday doubled-down on his answer concerning whether he’d pair up with Trump. “’Zero chance,’ the Ohio governor repeated during an in-studio interview with ‘CBS This Morning’ ahead of a major speech he is set to deliver titled ‘Two Paths.’

“Kasich continued, ‘Look, I am running for president of the United States. And that’s it. If I'm not president, which I think I have an excellent shot to be, I will finish my term as governor and then maybe I’ll be a co-host on this show. You never know.’”

Judging by Kasich’s tepid reception from the voters in the Republican primaries, the producers of the show probably wouldn’t offer him a co-host position in either one would want to watch.

Kasich’s firm denial is just a little ironic because Trump himself listed Kasich as someone he’d consider for VP, along with “Little” Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whom he was bashing just a week ago.

But truly, what did you expect Kasich to say when asked that question for the thousandth time?

The fact Kasich completely rules out being a potential vice president is just continuing with the same disingenuousness that pervades his entire campaign. He knows deep down he can be vice president if he plays his cards right, but won’t say so.

Likewise, he knows he won’t be president (at least in 2016), yet insists that he still has a chance.

Kasich is either lying or living in a fantasy world that only he inhabits. If that isn’t the definition of a politician speaking out of both sides of his mouth, I don’t know what would be.

At this point, people are hungry to see the Trump vs. Cruz contest play out. Kasich sticking around is merely white noise to the thundering sound from the symphony. He’s irrelevant. I almost feel guilty for giving him so much space in this column.

Paul Ryan says he won’t be the GOP’s “white knight”. Does that leave Rubio as the establishment’s last hope?

Finally today, Speaker Paul Ryan squelched any remaining speculation that he would be offering himself as the establishment’s “white knight” and accept the Republican presidential nomination at this summer’s likely contested party convention.

Rebecca Savransky and Cristina Marcos of The Hill report, “Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday definitively ruled out running for president, saying the Republican nominee should be one of the candidates already running.

“’Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept, the Republican nomination,’ Ryan said at Republican National Committee headquarters, adding: ‘Count me out.’”

In saying the nominee should be someone who actually ran for the job, Ryan was also effectively dismissing a huge group of potential replacements. That’s a big statement coming from the figurehead of the establishment, but he seems sincere.

Assuming Ryan is now off the list (I would never say never when it comes to Ryan and the establishment), it narrows the pool of candidates the elites would consider bringing in at the convention.

Other than Ryan, Mitt Romney would be the next most likely “white knight.” But with Ryan saying the eventual winner should be someone who ran in the primaries, the names Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio come screaming out at you.

Bush said on Tuesday that he was probably not even going to attend the convention, so that strongly implies he wouldn’t do it. That leaves Rubio…or Kasich. But why would they want him? He’s only won in his home state and has come in last practically everywhere else.

Rubio is yet to release his delegates or endorse Ted Cruz in the remaining primaries. Clearly, he’s waiting around to see what develops.

One way or another, I highly doubt we’ll see Rubio standing before reporters to rule himself out anytime soon. Maybe it’s time to dust off that Rubio opposition research.

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