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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Crooked Hillary provides the balm to heal all Republican wounds

Throughout the course of the Republican presidential primary campaign, the forces opposed to all things Trump have depended on one common element to maintain any kind of cohesion in their antipathy to The Donald: a fractured and divided GOP.

However, with the announcement by FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday (and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday) that Hillary Clinton will not face any kind of criminal repercussions for her treasonous email dealings, Republicans are starting to rally around a similar message: Hillary Clinton is so ethically Mark Levinbankrupt that she cannot be president under any circumstances.

And that makes the prospect of voting for Donald Trump look all the more attractive, even to those who may have opposed him up to this point.

As reported by Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner, #NeverTrumper Mark Levin said on LevinTV on Tuesday night, “‘She used multiple smart phones. Multiple mobile devices. She lied about that. She lied about the servers — with an 's' — plural. She lied about not getting any classified information. Always skating on the edge, always protected and dammit she might be the next president of the United States.’”

To my knowledge, Levin hasn’t indicated whether reconciliation with Trump is in the cards, but his tone certainly suggests he feels Hillary must be stopped at all costs.

Similar condemnations of Hillary’s reprieve came from virtually all parts of the GOP. In an op-ed in Time, Senator Rand Paul wrote, “The rules and laws are apparently for the other people, not for Clinton. It’s disgusting, and it should preclude Clinton from ever holding high office again. How can we trust someone to be Commander in Chief who would not even qualify for a security clearance if her name weren’t Clinton?”

On his Facebook page, Senator Ted Cruz added, “If we are to remain a beacon of hope and freedom for the rest of the world, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we remain a nation of laws, and that our laws apply equally and fairly to us all. Under President Obama, we have seen the most politicized Department of Justice in history; I very much hope that politicization has not similarly corrupted the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

For the record, neither Paul nor Cruz is officially #NeverTrump. Paul has said he would vote for the Republican nominee and Cruz seems to be coming around. We’ll know for sure in the next two weeks as Cruz will certainly have to declare some sort of intention ahead of the convention.

Did all of these folks come right out and say, “We now support Donald Trump because Hillary Clinton is such a lying troll”? No. But the tone of their declarations indicates serious apprehension about Clinton and turns their focus towards someone who’s not only personally corrupted, she’s antagonistic to just about everything they believe in.

In this realization, Donald Trump starts to look pretty sound. It’s now a case of Slick Willy meets Crooked Hillary … combine the two together and you get a Slick Crook. I can’t think of a better way to sum up the power couple that is the Clintons. Donald Trump should adopt the new moniker – it’s catchy and easy to remember.

But Trump has already proven more than proficient at making up his own nicknames.

The real value -- in the political sense -- of this apparent softening of opposition to Trump comes at the margins of the electorate. Common sense (and backed up by statistics) says all Trump needs to win this year is to sway a few points from the “undecided” voters to make a major shift in the outcome in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Pennsylvania in particular looks promising.

Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes, “Republicans may not be committing political hyperbole this year when they say their presidential candidate can win Pennsylvania, experts say…

“And it all comes down to tweaking the margins in existing red counties rather than flipping traditionally blue counties…”

Zito’s analysis includes a closer look at the regions of the state where Clinton may underperform Obama’s numbers from 2012 and where Trump could do better than Romney with working class voters who were not as enthused with Mitt’s shallow establishment appeal to them.

The fact Crooked Hillary was let off the hook by Obama’s FBI and Justice Department won’t matter a hoot to the ardent Hillary supporters who would vote for her even if she were sitting in a prison cell, but it might slightly depress Democrat turnout in critical areas Clinton would need to beat Trump.

That’s where a couple point switch in a key swing state like Pennsylvania could make a huge difference.

No one is claiming that Tuesday’s FBI announcement is going to wholesale change the minds of Trump’s most enthusiastic Republican critics, but it’s a great step in the right direction in trying to bring more people onboard the #NeverHillary express.

Add the fact the issue will not go away between now and the election and it’s a win-win for the Republican nominee.

Stuffy Republican foreign policy establishment chooses Hillary…good riddance

One faction of the #NeverTrump movement that isn’t likely to come around is those Republicans who have already come out in support of Hillary. A few prominent former Bush administration officials have already publicly pledged allegiance to the Clintons and from what it sounds like, much of the stuffy GOP foreign policy establishment is likely to go along with them.

Michael Crowley and Alex Isenstadt of Politico report, “Two former senior officials from the George W. Bush administration tell POLITICO that they will cast a ballot for Clinton over Trump. They are Stephen Krasner, a Stanford University professor who served as the State Department's director of policy planning from 2005 to 2007, and David Gordon, a senior advisor at the Eurasia Group who was Krasner’s successor in that post, which provides strategic thinking.

“Also saying he would choose Clinton over Trump is Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA case officer and influential neoconservative writer for The Weekly Standard. Gerecht, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been a harsh critic of Obama’s foreign policy, opposing last summer’s nuclear deal with Iran and arguing for ‘war’ in Syria.”

The elites contend Trump isn’t qualified to lead on American foreign policy, a line of thought that probably comes straight out of Ivy League faculty lounges and preaches that only academics with PHDs in foreign affairs can possibly understand the complexities of national security.

This belief seems to permeate American society and I’ve never quite understood why. I think anyone with a basic education understands that American interests should take precedence over those of foreign powers and you don’t necessarily have to send the military into every nook and cranny of the world to put out fires that aren’t related to our problems here at home.

It’s well known that neoconservatives believe American-style democracy can and should be spread all over the world. It hasn’t worked in the Middle East in the past 25 years and I doubt it ever will. You don’t need a diploma on the wall to recognize this fact. Donald Trump is worldly enough to know what America’s interests are and he will also be surrounded by a lot of smart people with diverse opinions.

If the neoconservatives believe only those who have vast experience in international relations are qualified to be president, it pretty much rules out any governor from running for the office. Was Bill Clinton qualified when he ran in 1992? True, he studied abroad and was a pot smoking (“I didn’t inhale”) anti-war protestor, but does that impart some special kind of wisdom?

In addition, recall all the predictions from the establishment in 1980 that Ronald Reagan was a potential warmonger who couldn’t be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button. The same phenomenon is happening to Trump now.

Once in office, Reagan restored the military to its full capability and won the Cold War without firing a shot. Deterrence is a strategy that works when used properly by leaders who are sincere and command respect. Trump appears to be from this same line of thinking, though he also recognizes the current threat from Islamic radicals and aims to do something about it.

If Americans want a new perspective in how their government should be run they’re also likely open to a new way of thinking on foreign policy. We’ve been dominated by aggressive actors ever since Reagan left office in 1989. Maybe it’s time to try something new – or go back to the old -- and the neoconservatives can huddle with Clinton and criticize from the outside after they lose in November.

Ernst says she wants Trump to win in Iowa, but probably not with her on the ticket

Just yesterday I went out on a limb and predicted Iowa Senator Joni Ernst would be Donald Trump’s choice for a running mate, but it now looks like Ernst herself is all but taking herself out of the contest.

Burgess Everett of Politico reports, “[Ernst] met with Trump on Monday and received effusive praise afterward, with Trump predicting he will ‘see her again.’ But it likely won’t be as his running mate.

“’I made that very clear to him that I’m focused on Iowa. I feel that I have a lot more to do in the United States Senate. And Iowa is where my heart is,’ Ernst said Wednesday. ‘I’m just getting started here. I have a great partner with Chuck Grassley, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot. And I think that President Trump will need some great assistance in the United States Senate and I can provide that.’”

In saying so, Ernst could be sending a signal she doesn’t feel she’s ready to face the media meat-grinder that is a major party presidential campaign. She also indicated she hasn’t submitted any vetting papers to the Trump campaign.

I thought Trump would choose Ernst purely because she could help him patch some political holes in his candidacy, not because she was necessarily the best one for the job. I don’t know enough about Ernst to say how she’d hold up in such a situation.

If Trump truly wants Ernst on the ticket you can’t help but feel he’ll make a determined pitch to bring her around. It certainly sounds like her support is solid and she doesn’t waffle like so many other Republicans when talking about Trump.

One way or another, Ernst appears to have a bright future in Republican politics and could very well end up on a national ticket someday – perhaps even at the head of it (or more likely as Ted Cruz’s VP).

Time will tell if she’ll establish enough credibility with conservatives to get that far. As for now, we’ll just have to wait and see who Trump taps to run with him.

(Note: For what it’s worth, here’s a report from Jesse Byrnes of The Hill that claims Trump has ten names under consideration, including some that haven’t surfaced yet. I think Trump has probably really narrowed the list down considerably and is just trying to keep the anticipation going for news value.)

No, Donald Trump does not plan to try and compete in all fifty states

Finally today, another area of Donald Trump’s candidacy that has received quite a bit of speculation (and criticism from #NeverTrump) is where on the electoral map he plans to compete.

Trump himself has said many times he plans to win everywhere and no traditionally blue states should be automatically ruled out because he’s so popular all across the country. A report that came out yesterday indicates that might not be the case – at least the compete everywhere part.

Mark Hensch of The Hill reports, “Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will home in on 17 battleground states ahead of this fall’s general election, according to a Wednesday report.

“Trump’s priority list includes Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, The Wall Street Journal reported.”

The list doesn’t include the reddest of red states and probably the only one that wouldn’t seem to belong is Minnesota, a state so liberal that it was the only victory for favorite son Walter Mondale in 1984.

As indicated above, Trump would seem to be competitive in the traditionally Democrat rust belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where his populist trade policies will likely bring out the working class “Reagan Democrats” in full force.

As time goes on we’ll get a better indication of just how competitive – or not competitive – an outsider candidate like Trump will be in these different states. A lot will depend on whether Hillary Clinton will be forced to defend blue territory that would normally be a slam dunk for her.

My feeling is the closer we get to the election the more people will move away from the status quo. Every election seems to be a “change” election, but with all the economic and cultural damage Obama has inflicted on America in the past eight years, people will begin to come to their senses.

One thing’s for sure…it will be fun to watch.

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Time to Convince Neoconservatives

If Trump prevails at the nominating convention, he will have plenty of time to convince neoconservatives to vote for him in the general election. Clearly, he did not need them to win the primary election contests. He was willing to irritate them by criticizing G.W. Bush with ignorant claims that appeal to ignorant people.

The neocons know that the world is a perilous place that erupts in battles for domination. When bad guys are given the time and space to amass resources, they come up with some diabolical schemes that do a lot of damage to innocent people, who are trying to mind their own business. The neocons know that the best approach to keeping peace (avoiding big battles for domination) is to consistently go poking around to find the hornets nests before they can multiply; when found, a strategic, contraceptive application of pesticide resolves the problem for awhile.

Ignoring the nest will not prevent the hornets from spectacularly hurting innocents, or your nation. Ignorant people like to think that ignoring the bad guys and their machinations will protect them. Ignorant people like their leaders to tell them that it is fine to ignore bad guys; hence, President Obama; hence, Donald Trump in the Republican primaries.

The neocons know that the Middle East needed an application of pesticide to quell the growing nests of hornets. They know that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were necessary, even with the missteps that should have been avoided. They know that withdrawing from the region was a damnable error in judgment. They know that if the G.W. Bush plan had been kept and followed into the next generation, the people in Muslim majority countries would have learned to live with plurality in peace, and that Iran would be on its way to being a democratic republic and an ally of the United States, helping to keep a lid on the hornets nests in the region, instead of stirring them up.

The neocons know that the people’s leaders must explain things to the ignorant people, teaching them about the realities of the world in which they live. Trump is not even trying to do that, to lift people out of their ignorance. Instead, he has stated very clearly that he likes dumb people.

While the education system, committed to producing state dependents, intentionally fails to form citizens knowledgeable about world affairs, conservatives have high obstacles to negotiate. So, when picking a candidate for the leader of the free world, they look for someone, who will do his part. As yet, Trump has not.

Hopefully, Trump will show more maturity in the days to come. If he emerges from the nominating convention as the Republican candidate for President, he will have a few months to demonstrate that he is a mature human being, willing to consider the realities of leading the free world. It should not take much to convince the neocons to support him over the other candidates for President; to override their nightmare concession to Clinton of “better a little red than dead.” Some maturity in foreign policy considerations is a price that Trump should be willing to pay.

How to handle Hilary

Republicans would be wise to recognize that the best way to pull voters away from the Democrats will be by emphasizing the inequities and unfairness of the government and the consequences when the rule of law is lost.
In other words, don't go after Hillary at all. Go after the system that allowed her to escape justice. She is the poster child for the corrupt elite.
Trump is the outsider- Hilary the insider. Go with your strength and motivate those that want real change.

NeverTrump or Always Hillary

We're still seeing major fractures in the Republican Party over Trump. They're trying to change the rules to bring in a conscience clause to deny Trump the nomination. They just never stop. I believe Bush has a hand in this. Unless we hear that Cruz, Kasich, are going to support the nominee, there's still a possibility of a show down at the convention and it won't be pretty.