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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Are we beginning to see a humble side of Trump?

With the presidential primaries now behind us and the two party nominees determined, the entire focus of the presidential race now shifts from state-by-state friendly campaigning to planning the party conventions and mapping out a strategy to win November’s general election.

I wouldn’t blame Donald Trump if he wanted to take a break after all of this, but there’s just too much work to do to pause now.

Donald TrumpIn baseball terms, the regular season and league championships are over and it’s time to get ready for the World Series, only in politics, the Fall Classic lasts a half a year. Think of all the traveling the nominees will have to do, the fundraisers, the campaign rallies. It’s a months-long show that’s just beginning.

And to kick it all off, we saw a kinder, gentler Donald Trump during his victory speech on Tuesday night.

Rebecca Berg of Real Clear Politics reports, “Speaking from his golf club in Westchester, N.Y., with the aid of teleprompters, a rare move for the celebrity businessman who lives off-script, Trump said it would be an ‘honor to lead the Republican Party to victory this fall’…

“This leashed version of the normally bombastic candidate was met with quick approval from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who for weeks has sought to soothe GOP concerns about Trump’s fitness for the presidency.”

By using the teleprompter, Trump was perhaps providing a preview of the message discipline he intends to offer from here on out (at least in controlled settings), though I doubt he’ll be utilizing them in campaign rallies.

As would be expected, the speech touched on many of the themes Trump ran on in the past year.

“We can’t fix the rigged system by relying on the people who rigged it…We can’t solve our problems by relying on the people who created them.”

In an attempt to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters, Trump once again promised to go after the bad trade deals that have so animated a large portion of the American electorate this year, both conservatives and liberals. He also returned to the subject of illegal immigration and promised to solve the problem. Most importantly, Trump hit heavy on the topic of jobs and putting America back to work.

It’s a collection of themes that will resonate with Americans…again, if he can stay on message and stop talking about biased Mexican judges and his opponents’ personal lives.

But Trump saved his most pointed remarks for the Clintons and promised a major speech aimed at them next week. We can only hope he’ll stick to attacking the former first couple mostly on their policy positions, even though we know there’s quite a bit of personal scandal fodder there as well.

Message discipline will be extremely important for Trump, especially during interviews with non-friendly media (which basically means everyone except Fox News and Michael Savage)…This where he seems to get in trouble.

In thinking about it, could Trump’s problem be that he actually answers questions too directly? Americans aren’t used to it. Seasoned politicians all have their ways of avoiding talking about something they don’t want to address.

As a hypothetical example, let’s say a debate moderator asks a typical politician a question on whether he intends to ban birth control if he is elected president. The professional politician laughs at the premise of the question and then starts talking about how he’ll bring jobs back to the country.

So far, Trump not only answers the off-the-wall questions, he gives his usual stream-of-consciousness answers to them to the point of getting in trouble with the PC police who have their filters automatically set to snag any reference to gender or ethnicity from a Republican.

It’s not necessarily the fact that Trump answers questions, it’s how he answers them. Maybe he’s too honest.

Trump didn’t take reporters’ queries after his speech on Tuesday night (at least that I saw), so it will be interesting to see whether his new toned-down style will also transfer to general badgering from the media. It’s well known by now journalists are already in Hillary’s corner.

Lastly, Donald Trump hates to lose. If he wants to win in November, he’s got to be willing to change some things about the way he comes across to the public. He’s come an awful long way to blow it now – and that could be the reason why we saw a more subdued Trump on Tuesday night.

Some elements of #NeverTrump are resorting to calling non-believers stupid

Of course all the conciliatory toned speeches in the world from Trump probably won’t move the #NeverTrump crowd off their lofty perch, who appear to be just as set in their opposition to The Donald now as they were before it became clear there wasn’t going to be any White Knight independent savior candidate for them this year.

As an example of their immovability, Steve Berman of The Resurgent writes, “Let me say it one more time, for the umpteen-thousandth time: Donald Trump is not fit for the office of President of the United States. No political argument can ever or will ever change that fact. And it is a fact…

“But many of our party leaders pretend they don’t get it. Either they’re genuinely stupid, or they’re being willfully ignorant and intentionally obtuse. For my part, I don’t think they’re stupid.”

Berman specifically chastises Paul Ryan for his “I have to support the nominee to pass our agenda” stance and then concludes his piece by saying the #NeverTrumpers will accept the blame if Trump loses…and that they’re taking names (of those who’ve attacked them).

Taking names? I think there will be plenty of names taken if Trump loses, but it will be of those self-righteous individuals who stood by and made excuses while allowing Hillary Clinton the opportunity to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice who then takes away your gun rights.

One of the important rules in media is to not insult your audience. Rush Limbaugh talks about it often. It’s generally not a good idea to dig at the people who are listening to your show or reading your columns because then they won’t listen to your show or read your columns.

I’ve been a big fan of Erick Erickson’s over the years and have found his writings and publications helpful and mostly correct. But Erickson’s The Resurgent and even his old stomping grounds at RedState have basically just become nests for #NeverTrump hornets who buzz around using every argument under the sun to try and pry people away from supporting Trump.

We get it. There’s a lot not to like about Trump. We agree. But there’s even more not to like about Hillary and this is a two-person race now. The primaries are finished. Get over it.

These people aren’t debating the issue of Trump’s candidacy as much as they’re trying to convince EVERYONE that he’s the political equivalent of the anti-Christ who is masquerading as a populist and once in office will burn the earth if his smallish hands get ahold of the federal steering wheel.

For as much as many of these #NeverTrumpers claim to be anti-establishment, a number of them were ardent Marco Rubio supporters early on…who then switched to Ted Cruz when it was clear Rubio wasn’t going anywhere. They also cried foul just a week ago when Rubio said he’d support Trump and are now pacified again because Marco piled on the Trump basher bandwagon after his Mexican judge comments.

No matter how much the #NeverTrump media’s audience might try to at least get them to crack open the door of possibility of backing Trump, they scream and whine and refuse. And now they’re calling anyone who might concede Trump would be a better alternative than Hillary Clinton stupid.

Stupid? Really?

As I’ve said a lot lately, I feel sorry for the #NeverTrump movement. They’re largely a collection of political junkies who’ve backed themselves into a corner and won’t look for a way out. As if taking a suicide pill is better than trying to work on Trump to steer a straighter path.

Yes, Hillary Clinton really IS so bad that many of us who couldn’t stomach the thought of Trump a few months ago are now moving towards supporting him. It’s an either-or choice in the general election. One will win, the other won’t.

If Trump is the loser, we’ll be the ones taking names.

Conservative radio host tells RNC to change convention rules or else

It’s safe to say many conservatives who don’t necessarily consider themselves #NeverTrump are still unsure about whether they can fully support the nominee. My feeling is this group will still vote for The Donald in the two-person contest against the truly awful Hillary Clinton, but that’s as far as they’ll go.

It’s similar to how the establishment usually treats conservatives who defeat their candidates in primaries. They may vote for the candidate in the election, but they won’t help him win.

Think of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin or Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock or even Colorado Senate candidate (and now Congressman) Ken Buck in this category. All were heavily supported by the conservative grassroots to win statewide primaries but left to die at the ballot box by the establishment after making controversial statements that the elites didn’t like.

Where Trump is concerned, there’s a question of whether this collection of conservatives and establishmentarians will work for his election – you know, volunteer, contribute, walk the precincts...

One such fence-sitter said Trump either must change or the party must pull a switch at the convention.

Nick Gass of Politico reports, “Either the Republican National Committee must change its convention rules or the presumptive Republican nominee needs to change his personality, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt remarked on his program Wednesday morning…

“Making sure to note that he disagreed with those who said they could not support their party's nominee up to that point, Hewitt said he waited until the primary was over and ‘stayed Switzerland’ until the last ‘72 hours.’”

Hewitt is suggesting nothing short of a revolution should take place at the party convention next month. But he’s also hinting Trump can avoid all of this by changing the way he does things.

Becoming more presidential seems to be the asking price for many of these fence-sitters. The normally serious-minded Republicans don’t buy into Trump’s quirky rage act and are in essence demanding that he stick to talking about the issues like any normal politician.

It’s actually not bad advice. Trump likely has a good chance to win the election if he tones down the parts of his personality that turn people off. He can still champion tough stances on controversial issues without pushing the limits of taste and accepted public discourse.

Surveys say Americans are most concerned about jobs and the economy. As a businessman, creating jobs would seem to be Trump’s expertise. It shouldn’t be hard for Trump to refrain from the types of personal smears that have gotten him in trouble to this point.

Perhaps he should take his teleprompter with him to more events…and then the Republicans won’t have to change the rules after all.

Trump says publicity will equal all the $$$ he’ll need for the fall election

Finally today, many are predicting this year’s will be by far the most expensive campaign of all time. Normally speaking, each candidate would probably be expected to raise and spend about a billion dollars.

But this year hasn’t been normal in any way and Donald Trump is betting his general election victory wouldn’t come nearly so dear because the media will provide him all the exposure he’ll ever need.

Mark Hensch of The Hill reports Trump told Bloomberg, “’I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people need, because I get so much publicity. I get so many invitations to be on television. I get so many interviews, if I want them.’

“Bloomberg Politics on Wednesday reported Trump would not commit to fundraising even half of his previously pledged $1 billion total. He also gave no specific benchmark for how much cash his campaign needs.”

The money issue puts Trump in a bit of a conundrum. He still wants to enjoy the perceived benefits of “self-funding” and therefore be theoretically beyond the influence political money supposedly buys. But he also has a duty as the nominee to raise money for all of the party’s candidates and operations.

Trump may get a flood of free exposure but that doesn’t mean someone who’s running for Secretary of State in Missouri will get the same benefit.

Trump’s being a bit shortsighted here and a little bit selfish. Being the figurehead of a political party carries with it some duties. Raising money is one of them. This is one area where Trump the “star” needs to go along for the good of his supporting cast.

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