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Presidential Horse Race 2016: After Tuesday’s huge Trump wins, can he be stopped?

Ted Cruz’s campaign said all along that they knew Tuesday, April 26 was going to be a tough one for their candidate, but I’m not sure anyone saw what happened yesterday coming.

Donald Trump took all five northeastern blue states, as expected, but it wasn’t just a regular, run-of-the-mill, garden variety win. It was a blowout in every respect.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports, “The front-runner swept all five states voting on Tuesday — Pennsylvania, Trump winsRhode Island, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware — by large margins of victory. That will likely put him at about 950 delegates, according to The Associated Press, 287 away from the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination before July's Republican National Convention.

“Trump’s victories had been expected; even his opponents publicly predicted he’d win all five states and instead targeted Indiana and California. But his strong margins of victory on Tuesday show that Trump is not slowing down.”

Not only is Trump not slowing down, he’s stomping on the accelerator.

Trump beat John Kasich by 29 points in Connecticut. He won by 40 points over Kasich in Delaware. The margin was 31 points in Maryland, again over Kasich. Then there’s the 35 point triumph over Cruz in Pennsylvania. And in Rhode Island, Trump ended up 39 points ahead of Kasich.

Yes, Ted Cruz finished last in four of the five states on Tuesday and won only one delegate, in Rhode Island of all places where he got just over 10 percent of the vote.

John Kasich didn’t fare much better…he only won five delegates, also in Rhode Island, despite finishing second in four states.

Of course the Pennsylvania delegates are technically unbound, but there’s no getting around it…Trump dominated everywhere. Because Trump easily bested 50 percent in all five states, even if the entire not-Trump vote was concentrated in one candidate, he still would have had a big win.

Further, Bill Hemmer of Fox News indicated Trump won every county in all five states. This means he won in urban areas, rural areas, suburbs, coastal areas…conservative places, liberal places and in-between places. Just a total whitewash.

With such a huge win, Trump didn’t really need to feel conciliatory towards his opponents and his victory speech isn’t what I would call humble. Surrounded again by his family and other supporters, including Duck Dynasty’s Willie and Korie Robertson, Trump reveled in his successes, declaring himself the presumptive nominee and calling for Cruz and Kasich to drop out of the race.

The Donald expressed gratitude to his supporters, of course, and even thanked the media for their “very, very fair” coverage. Trump should thank the cable news networks, they’ve helped him every step of the way (more on this below).

One thing about Trump’s speech that was somewhat new was his digs at John Kasich, whom Trump gleefully pointed out has fewer delegates than even Marco Rubio. It’s true, so you can’t really argue Trump’s point. Kasich has won something like eight delegates since his home state win on March 15, so why he’s still hanging around is anybody’s guess.

According to the Ohio governor at least, Kasich was supposed to challenge Trump in the northeast and other more moderate/liberal areas that would supposedly be open to an establishment candidate.

It didn’t happen.

Tuesday’s results proved one thing for sure – Trump’s “rigged system” line of attack is working. It’s almost like he’s no longer running against Ted Cruz, he’s challenging the entirety of the political system. He even claimed he’ll “beat Hillary easily.”

The question is whether the “rigged system” argument has staying power for six more months.

For those who doubt Trump can win in the general election, they should give some serious thought to how well this message is going to play against Hillary Clinton, who again on Tuesday night repeated her basic lines about preserving “rights,” equal pay, family leave and all the socialistic nonsense she always talks about.

Americans in 2016 are hungry for an anti-establishment “outsider,” and thus far, Trump is looking to be that candidate.

The #NeverTrump people are in a crisis over this one. Ted Cruz has basically one week to turn things around in Indiana. Something dramatic needs to happen to stop the bleeding and show Cruz is a viable candidate again…maybe something like a Marco Rubio endorsement?

If Trump wins in The Hoosier State, he most likely can’t – or won’t – be stopped.

And then it’s on to #NeverHillary.

What came first, cable news exposure or Donald Trump’s frontrunner status?

Now that Donald Trump has marched triumphantly through the late April blue state primaries, we should take yet another look at what got him there in the first place.

As has become his custom, Trump seemed to soak up every second in the spotlight on Tuesday night, savoring each word as he rattled off self-praise for his smashing victories.

Naturally, all the cable news shows carried his speech live. What else would you expect?

Interestingly enough, though, those same cable networks are not taking the credit/blame for Trump’s success in 2016.

T. Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner reports, “CNN's CEO batted down more criticism on Monday that his network helped contribute to the political ascent of Donald Trump, even as his organization continues to offer lopsided coverage that favors the casino tycoon more than any other 2016 presidential candidate.

“’We are covering the story, and he's been the Republican front-runner for almost a year now,’ Jeff Zucker said this weekend. ‘I only wish that CNN had that much power to be able to create a front-runner on either side.’”

Adams’ article details just how much coverage Trump has received from cable channels and it dwarfs all the others, including Hillary Clinton.

(Note: Because of all the free media, Trump is reportedly resisting paying for ads in key states.)

No, CNN didn’t do it alone, but the network absolutely had a hand in it.

With the need to fill 24-hour news cycles with content viewers are interested in, it’s no surprise cable news channels are looking to Trump to provide it. After all, The Donald may have made most of his vast fortune through making “great deals” on real estate, but he’s achieved his fame through being an entertainer and professional celebrity (for lack of a better way to put it).

It’s the ultimate chicken-or-the-egg political scenario. Did gobs of cable news coverage make Donald Trump into the Republican frontrunner, or did his frontrunner status beget the gobs of coverage?

Many are wont to compare celebrity Trump to also hopelessly famous Ronald Reagan in terms of their respective abilities to use media to convey a message and propel their candidacies. But Trump’s world is much different than the one Reagan lived in.

Reagan was an actor, sure, but he had a much bigger challenge in fighting through hostile liberal media figures than Trump has ever had to do. Frankly, it looks like the media is scared of Trump because they know what’s coming should they get up close and ask him tough questions.

Don’t believe it? Ask Megyn Kelly what she thinks.

Reagan also didn’t have Twitter to perform up-to-the-minute spin control of potentially damaging occurrences. He had the three major networks with liberal “celebrity” news anchors, liberal Newsweek writing biased stories and liberal newspapers such as The New York Times and Washington Post critiquing his every move.

Yet Reagan was able to overcome all of it because he had principles and knew how to articulate them.

Trump not only has social media on his side, he’s got a host of cheerleaders in the conservative media helping him along. Saying Reagan and Trump are cut from the same cloth is like comparing apples to oranges (no pun intended).

Cable networks love having Trump call into their shows because he generates interest, both negative and positive. In return, he puts on a good “show” for the people. You can’t get down into the minutiae of policy details with Trump because he won’t allow it.

And when he does, such as with Chris Matthews in talking about abortion a few weeks ago, look what happens. Trump falls flat on his face because he’s not ideologically grounded and hasn’t spent years thinking about politically palatable issue positions.

For him, it’s much easier to rail against the “rigged system” than it is to present a policy paper. And sadly enough, the American public in 2016 would rather watch “entertainment” than grind on substance.

As a result, Trump has developed a somewhat symbiotic relationship with CNN, Fox News and even the major TV networks. They have him on, they don’t ask him too many tough questions with even tougher follow-ups, he goes on Twitter afterwards and says nice things about the network and the host and everybody’s happy.

I wonder sometimes what this campaign season would have been like if Tim Russert were still alive. There just isn’t a take-no-prisoners tough journalist like Russert these days who commands respect from both sides.

It’s a shame. Americans are getting the short end of the stick with the current news coverage. It’s all about sensationalism and ratings. We all lose…at least those of us who aren’t looking for entertainment from our political office seekers.

So we can give Zucker and CNN a pass for claiming they didn’t create the phenomena that is Donald Trump the presidential candidate. But they didn’t go out of their way to hinder him, either.

Danger ahead! Cruz and Kasich are vetting VP choices

With the delegate drubbing that both Ted Cruz and John Kasich took yesterday in the solid blue northeast, you would think it’s a bit premature to be talking about potential running mate prospects for either one of them.

But Donald Trump’s clear frontrunner status hasn’t stopped them from at least beginning the process.

Scott Wong of The Hill reports, “Kasich over the weekend said his team had begun putting together a shortlist of vice presidential picks and suggested that he could name his running mate ahead of July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland...

“Reports emerged Monday afternoon that the Texas senator is vetting Cary Fiorina, a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who dropped out of the presidential race in February and endorsed Cruz in March. An aide to Fiorina confirmed to The Hill that she is being considered.”

As I’ve said before, the process of vetting vice presidential candidates is something all campaigns go through at some point after the voting begins and there’s some potential to need to choose someone before the party convention.

Wong’s article indicated that the possibility of a Cruz-Kasich ticket wasn’t likely. I agree with that one.

But why would Kasich be talking about vetting candidates at all? It must be part of his overall delusion that he’s actually going to win the nomination.

For Cruz, naming a running mate ahead of the convention presents an interesting conundrum. Such a bold move could motivate more people to come onboard, but it also could be seen as a desperate or pandering move directed at some constituency.

The fact that Fiorina is being vetted should surprise no one. As Cruz’s most visible and dedicated surrogate, it makes sense she would get deep in the process.

But just like with the presidential nominee, the convention delegates will have their say on who runs with him, too. Again, Wong reports, “[C]hoosing a vice presidential nominee isn’t really up to the presidential candidates. Technically, GOP rules state that delegates hold a separate vote on determining who fills the No. 2 slot.

“And while delegates have given deference to the presidential nominee in recent elections, this year could be different. In the event of a brokered convention, the vice presidential spot could be used as leverage to swing delegates from certain states one way or another.”

In other words, getting too excited or too upset over what might or might not be is just fraught with danger. Cruz and Kasich would be wise to avoid the subject altogether.

Cruz again tells Trump to get in the (debate) ring

Finally today, with Donald Trump now firmly established as the frontrunner going into the Republican convention, the balance of the primary season will focus almost exclusively on whether he can reach the magic number of 1237 delegates.

Indiana next Tuesday will be critical to Cruz’s hopes of stopping Trump. In that spirit, he’s once again challenged The Donald to debate him.

Jesse Byrnes of The Hill reports, “Cruz's campaign issued a statement Monday evening saying the Texas senator had accepted two invitations to debate in Indianapolis this week in events hosted by WRTV and WIBC.

“The Cruz campaign suggested Trump was ‘afraid’ to debate in the state, where the businessman has led by single digits in several polls released this month.”

There’s little doubt that another debate or two might add some pizzazz to a political race that’s become full of soundbites and pundit pontificating. The candidates themselves must convince the remaining voters that something worthwhile can be achieved by finishing the string of primaries through June 7.

Debates would help in that regard.

Continuing to duck the debate issue does make it appear as though Trump doesn’t want to risk something embarrassing happening at such a critical point in the campaign.

But after yesterday’s near wipeout of his rivals, Trump probably has few worries about anything but the 1237 number. Sharing a debate stage probably won’t help him get there, so here’s guessing he won’t do it.

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