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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Conservatives say to Trump, Show me, don’t tell me

In a campaign year that’s been chock full of oddities, firsts and non-stop rule breaking, it should come as no surprise that the only thing left undetermined in the Republican presidential nomination “horse race” is whether all of the horses, spectators and track personnel will agree to meet once again at the same venue.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s convincing win in Indiana last Tuesday along with Ted Cruz and John Kasich pulling out of the race, there’s a collection of people going back and forth in the media either voicing support for Donald Trumpthe almost certain nominee or reaffirming their hard stance that they’ll never vote for him – ever.

Or, like Speaker Paul Ryan, there are others who are holding out for some future assurance from Trump that he’ll fall in line with the Republican Party. What Ryan meant by his ambiguous waffling on the endorsement question isn’t exactly known. The Speaker didn’t provide Trump a checklist of things to say or do in order to earn full-throated establishment support.

Others warn that if Trump snuggles up too closely with the establishment that wavering conservatives will abandon him completely.

In a statement issued Friday, conservative leader Richard Viguerie said it’s up to Trump himself as to whether conservatives will ultimately unite behind him. “Personnel is policy. To achieve that populist – conservative unity Mr. Trump needs to win he must do more than talk a good game; he must demonstrate a real commitment to breaking the Washington Cartel, and the only way to do that is to join with conservatives to change the people making the policies in government and at the Republican National Committee…

“Right now conservatives are mostly on the sidelines waiting to see if Trump will govern as a conservative. And conservatives will remain Doubting Thomas until they see the hard evidence of Trump’s personnel choices – his VP candidate, Supreme Court nominee, White House team and whether or not he remakes the RNC with conservatives.”

Viguerie’s advice is good common sense for The Donald, but then again, the presumed Republican nominee has not seemed open to solid suggestions from others many times during the campaign. We all know by now Trump pretty much sticks to a counsel of one, so who knows what’s guiding his decision-making process at this stage of the game.

Other reputable conservatives echo Viguerie’s call for assurances from Trump himself. Andrew C. McCarthy writes in National Review, “Still, for those of us who oppose Donald Trump but are not implacably #NeverTrump, there is a benefit in making the effort (to explore an independent conservative bid). It would put pressure on Trump to prove to us that, if elected, he would be accompanied by a strong vice president; would surround himself with sound advisers who are up to the serious financial, national-security, and rule-of-law challenges we face; and would appoint principled constitutionalists to the federal courts and throughout the executive bureaucracy.

“Erstwhile detractors who are now racing to hop aboard the Trump bandwagon without wresting concessions are making a mistake. They should read The Art of the Deal; for now, they are just earning its author’s contempt.”

McCarthy’s article is a concise rendering of the best arguments for and against mounting a possible independent conservative candidate against Trump. The writer himself said he would ultimately decide to vote for Trump if it was clear that the Republican nominee is the only means of stopping Hillary Clinton from compiling 270 Electoral Votes in November.

But McCarthy argues the best alternative may be to try to defeat the Democrat by running a conservative Independent who could win enough states to force the election into the House of Representatives, where Clinton would be certain to lose.

It’s an intriguing theory, one worth exploring.

I personally believe Trump will be shrewd enough to take Viguerie’s and McCarthy’s advice and prove to the half of the Republican base that he’s serious about changing the direction in Washington by evicting the establishment and welcoming proven conservatives into his administration.

He will decide to do it this way because it’s his only prayer to be elected. He certainly will attract some disaffected Democrats and anti-Hillary Bernie Sanders supporters in the general election, but the numbers won’t be sufficient to give him a plurality in enough states to win Electoral Votes.

First and foremost, Trump needs to reunite the Reagan coalition (as Viguerie suggested). In order to do that, he must offer incentives to bring back some of the #NeverTrumpers to his side. Perhaps most importantly, he needs to convince the skeptics such as McCarthy and a lot of us who supported Ted Cruz that his corrosive primary campaign strategy was just a lot of hot air intended to win the nomination at all costs, not a preview of what’s to come if he takes a seat behind the president’s desk in the Oval Office.

Trump can choose proven “outsider” conservatives to keep his anti-establishment voters happy while offering an olive branch to those who feel stepped on, plowed over and ignored during the primary campaign. This is a time where “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco” isn’t going to be good enough to forge a winning coalition.

There are plenty of angry Americans still left out there, Mr. Trump. But they’re not the kind who has propelled your candidacy. Your best “deal” yet may be to show people you’re legitimately intending to cut a new course in policy and personnel. That’s how you’ll “Make America Great Again.”

For conservatives, now the “horse race” is all about “Show me, don’t tell me.”

If Trump fails to bring conservatives into his camp, he’s finished.

The Bush family’s refusal to back Trump is a win-win for both sides

While it’s clear Trump still has a potential opening with the conservative movement (based on Viguerie’s and McCarthy’s comments above) by convincing conservatives that he’ll govern consistently as president, he will be going into November without the support of the past two Republican presidents and the presidential brother who ran against him for the party nomination this year.

Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico writes of Jeb Bush’s decision to stay out, “The former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate congratulated the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for successfully tapping into the anger and frustration voters have shown with the status quo in Washington. But he also expressed that he isn’t optimistic that either candidate likely to be on the ballot in November can fix what’s broken…

“Bush’s comments also come during a week in which his father and brother, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, announced that they wouldn’t attend the convention this summer, nor will they endorse the real estate mogul.”

McCaskill points out Jeb’s and Lindsey Graham’s declarations that they won’t vote for Trump violates the pledge they made last fall to support the eventual party nominee (note: former opponents Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry all said they’d honor the pledge).

Graham’s backing won’t matter in any case because no one pays attention to him anyway. But Jeb’s position is interesting and somewhat understandable. Trump recognized early on that his best possible strategy to get people riled up was to rail against the George W. Bush presidency and its most visible failures in terms of stemming the tide of illegal immigration and prosecution of the Iraq War. His deeply personal and insulting campaign against Jeb and the former president would leave a lot of permanent scars.

Jeb is a good and decent man, even if he is an establishment Republican. He didn’t deserve the beating that he took, but at the same time, a pledge is a pledge.

The Bush family’s refusal to back Trump may cost him some donors, but it will also shore up his anti-establishment credentials with the people who count the most, the voters. In deciding to sit it out, they may very well end up helping Trump’s campaign. He can truthfully claim in debates against Hillary Clinton that he doesn’t have the backing of the Washington establishment and use the Bush family as an example.

A gifted deal-maker would call that a win-win for both sides.

Mitt Romney as the Independent White Knight? You can’t be serious.

For those conservatives and Republicans who may be searching for that Independent choice for president, they’ll no doubt be looking for someone who can jump in right away with name recognition, potential fundraising credibility and enough instant momentum to make him or her a viable candidate.

Enter Mitt Romney. The former Republican nominee’s name has been cropping up a lot lately, mostly in reference to his very open opposition to Donald Trump’s candidacy. Romney has made it known on numerous occasions that he’s firmly in the #NeverTrump camp, which is spurring rumors that he may once again be considering running for the top job.

But would he really do it?

W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner thinks Mitt may leap at the chance, writing, “In terms of practicality…there is probably no one better positioned to do this than Mitt Romney. A younger, more ambitious conservative might have a chance of actually being elected president on the Republican ticket someday. They'll be reluctant to risk being seen as the Ralph Nader of the right in 2020, after four years of Hillary Clinton…

“Finally, I suspect, though I obviously don't know, that Romney regrets deferring to Jeb Bush and company at the beginning of the Republican primaries.”

The notion of Mitt Romney running as an Independent candidate is a bad one for several reasons. First and most glaring is he already ran once and lost badly to a very vulnerable incumbent. Second, his lack of definable principles and indelible ties to the establishment are the reasons he lost badly. Third, Trump will only get a boost from having both Mitt and Hillary in the race, as he’ll be able to run against both of them.

Lastly, Americans are just flat out tired of the political games going on in Washington when there are real issues to be solved out there. Donald Trump has tapped into the anger of the grassroots; adding Mitt Romney to the picture will only fan the flames.

Sarah Palin takes her name off the table for Trump’s VP

Finally today, in the never-ending speculation on who The Donald might choose to run with him on the Republican ticket this fall, we can pretty much remove early Trump supporter Sarah Palin from the list.

Palin didn’t definitively rule herself out, but she did indicate it might not be in Trump’s best interests to select her name from the hat.

Jessie Hellmann of The Hill reports Palin said to CNN’s Jake Tapper during an appearance on the network’s “State of the Union” program, “Well, I want to help and not hurt, and I am such a realist that I realize there are a whole lot of people out there who would say 'anybody but Palin.’

“I don't want to be a burden on the ticket, and I realize in many eyes, I would be a burden. I just want the guy to win, and I don't know if I would be the person to help him win.”

We all know by now Donald Trump isn’t exactly predictable, but we also have learned through the course of the past year he has excellent political instincts.

Because of this, it’s plainly clear he wouldn’t name Sarah Palin to his ticket. Thanks to an overbearing and often vicious media, Palin’s name is not well received in a large swath of the American population.

Being a gun-rights supporting conservative woman in America isn’t an easy thing for liberals to accept. Michele Bachmann received much of the same treatment Palin did when she ran in 2012.

But ultimately, Palin’s right. The unfortunate truth is Palin would be a burden on the Trump ticket. Unlike Trump’s semi-perfect family, Palin’s is more well-known for run-ins with average citizens and tabloid stories than great accomplishments.

Simply put, Sarah would be put through the meat-grinder on issues that have nothing to do with any of the important concerns of the day.

Palin would almost certainly have some role in the new administration if Trump wins…but it won’t be by being Trump’s vice president.

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