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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Turmoil and red meat at the first day of the Republican Convention

Donald Trump promised an entertaining show for his nominating convention and he got it, though I’m not sure the verbal fireworks were quite what he had in mind.

The late afternoon hubbub over approving the convention rules threatened to overshadow the entire convention, but by the end of the evening, everything seemed to have calmed down and, except for the lack of establishment politicians, the program didn’t look too different from what we normally see at a political convention.

Sheriff David Clarke#NeverTrump had its moment (more on this below) and the frightened party establishment folks looked truly scared at one point, but by the time the evening TV sets came on, all was pretty much well in GOP-land.

And all in all, the Republicans put on a pretty solid production.

W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner sums it up nicely. “After an afternoon in which supporters of presumptive nominee Donald Trump and anti-Trump delegates clashed, the first line-up of primetime convention speakers served up generous helpings of red meat.

“Controversies that outrage many grassroots conservatives got prominent play Monday night, including Benghazi, the Hillary Clinton email scandal and Operation Fast and Furious.”

The evening portion began with a short address by “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson, complete with his American flag bandana. It ended with a rather dry keynote speech by Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn who served in the Obama administration and was considered as a potential Trump running mate.

The most poignant moments of the program came well before the “primetime” ten o’clock hour speeches of Melania Trump and Flynn, though the Republicans were given a stir when The Donald himself appeared to introduce his wife.

I thought the best moments included Benghazi mother Pat Smith emotionally blaming Hillary Clinton for her son’s death and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke defiantly opening his speech with “Blue Lives Matter,” which brought the audience to their feet.

Colorado Senate candidate Darryl Glenn was also terrific. I can only hope he can raise the money to compete in a very winnable race since he would be a tremendous addition to the Senate.

Melania Trump gave a talk meant to soften up her husband’s image. As an immigrant herself, some would say it helped reassure people that Trump isn’t solely anti-newcomer. She spoke as a wife would of her husband. A nice speech but nothing really unexpected.

On the whole I think the program will serve to get supporters fired-up about the fall campaign. It’s clear Hillary Clinton will not be spared from warranted criticism of her corrupt and illegal dealings – and she’ll finally be brought to account for her weak response to the Benghazi attack. I can see the fall commercials now, complete with Pat Smith blaming Hillary personally for her family’s loss.

But there’s still clearly a lot of work to do to bring the #NeverTrump people around…if that’s even possible now.

#NeverTrump wanted convention chaos and they got it

After several months and an endless number of insults and arguments, you had to figure #NeverTrump was not going to just dry up and blow away quietly because their official convention coup plans had been mercilessly crushed by the party establishment last week in the RNC Rules Committee.

On the floor of the Republican convention on Monday, #NeverTrump carried their last crusade straight to Republican leadership and got what they wanted – a virtual shutdown of the convention, albeit temporarily.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports, “The Republican National Committee ignored an outcry from angry delegates on the GOP convention's first day and adopted the convention's rules by a voice vote…

“The eruption over party rules came after a group of ‘Never Trump’ supporters seeking to unbind delegates thought they had secured enough signatures to force a roll call vote on the party rules. Those delegates were also joined by those looking to decentralize power from the RNC and encourage states to restrict primaries to registered Republicans, changes encouraged by allies of Cruz.”

The #NeverTrumpers claim the RNC fixed their petitions so they’d come up short of the necessary signatures. In the end, the whole affair killed much needed reforms of the RNC that had been worked on for years by Virginia's National Committeeman Morton Blackwell.

There is fault here with both camps.

It’s funny how some in the #NeverTrump movement have bought into the “Trump is intentionally sabotaging the election in favor of Hillary Clinton” conspiracy theories, but couldn’t the same be said about them – that they’re deliberately bringing down the Republican Party nominee because they didn’t get their way in the primaries?

As I was watching Colorado’s Kendall Unruh being interviewed on CSPAN at about 5 p.m. EDT yesterday, the thought occurred to me that #NeverTrump is purposely trying to sabotage the election…but in favor of what?

In the interview, Unruh again provided the laundry list of anti-Trump arguments, how the establishment was squelching the “voice of the people” and how another candidate should carry their message forward against Hillary Clinton.

I didn’t hear it specifically from Unruh, but apparently John Kasich’s campaign manager was making some sort of stink earlier about not being allowed a speaking slot (because he wouldn’t endorse Trump) and Ted Cruz is being allowed to speak, even though he hasn’t yet uttered the “e” word (see next segment).

For a collection of people who are so concerned about the “voice of the people,” #NeverTrump is not very willing to concede they lost in the primaries.

At the same time, the establishment should have allowed the process to go forward with a roll call vote that they were assured to win. If anything, having the anti-Trump forces lose badly in front of the national audience would have not only made for good entertainment, it would have provided additional legitimacy to the whole process.

Instead, there’s nothing but holes in the concept of “unity” and the convention is basically only a few hours old. The establishment’s heavy-handed tactics assured a bad outcome, which just goes to show they still don’t get what’s really embarrassing about all of this.

It isn’t that there’s some opposition to Trump; it’s the establishment’s insistence that the party give the appearance of “unity” when it doesn’t exist. Instead of allowing a simple vote, the elites shut down the microphones.

People don’t call the GOP the “stupid party” for nothing. It looks like there’s plenty of stupidity to go around on both sides of the Trump question.

Ted Cruz will back Trump because everyone will be better off when The Donald wins

While there weren’t many questions left unsolved heading into the Republican convention this week, certainly one of the largest is whether Senator Ted Cruz will utter the “e” word in reference to Donald Trump during his speech on Wednesday night (or before or after).

Glenn Thrush of Politico reports, “One of these days, and maybe soon, Ted Cruz just might have to endorse Donald Trump.

“But he’ll never concede Trump could have beaten him in a fair fight — and he’ll never accept that Trump’s me-first philosophy represents a sustainable future for the GOP. Above all, Cruz wants to use the big stage in Cleveland to present a non-Trump alternative vision for his party’s future, one rooted in constitutional conservative principles and competent campaign management modeled, oddly enough, on Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 White House runs.”

Thrush’s article includes many quotes from Cruz in talking about his 2016 experiences. I highly recommend you read the entire story if you have time.

As for this week, it may sound strange to say about a promising politician like Cruz who is only in his mid-forties, but how he manages his convention speech and the endorsement question could have a major impact on his political viability in the years to come.

Of course there’s precedent for Cruz to study in preparing his address, namely Ronald Reagan’s handling of being edged out in the 1976 convention where the Republican establishment did everything it could to ensure Gerald Ford ended up with the nomination.

Reagan gave a rousing speech at the convention, acted gracious in defeat and even campaigned for Ford ahead of the November election against Democrat Jimmy Carter. Reagan never gave Ford a wholehearted endorsement but did as a good party man would do in the lead-up to the election – back the nominee and try to help him win.

I predict Cruz will do the same and will likely endorse Trump, giving the topic about 30 seconds worth of speaking time and then move on to making the case against Hillary Clinton. Cruz knows that subject well, having delivered his stump speech hundreds of times…and defeating Hillary is now the best (and perhaps only) cause left for Cruz to fight for in 2016.

There's no evidence Cruz is actively encouraging the #NeverTrump movement. As I’ve argued many times, Cruz has nothing to gain in continuing to oppose Trump now and his career could potentially take a significant turn for the worse if he is perceived as the inspiration behind the last remnant of the #NeverTrump holdouts.

Cruz knows full well he’ll need the conservative-populist coalition of voters that Donald Trump built in order to win in the future – and Ted also realizes he (and the country) are much better off by having Trump win the election in November. There are a number of reasons why.

First, should Trump lose in November, Hillary Clinton will be able to run roughshod over not only the Supreme Court, but also the entire judicial system. With Democrats in virtually complete control of the judiciary with lifetime appointments, there won’t be much Cruz can do about it once he does win the nomination and the presidency in x number of years.

Second, Cruz’s Senate profile will be increased by being part of a senate majority where he can not only more effectively influence legislation, he can actually steer public opinion in the right direction on the biggest issues of the day.

We all know by now Cruz sees the powerful interests of his own party as adversaries in a similar fashion to the Democrats. Ted will continue to represent the People in this regard, but if he’s only the junior senator from Texas in the senate minority with a newly elected Hillary Clinton in the White House, he’ll be like a voice crying out in the wilderness without nearly the microphone (if Hillary wins the Democrats will also probably take over the senate).

Third, Trump may offer to appoint Cruz to an important position in his cabinet. Cruz would be perfect for any number of roles, but how about Attorney General? Can you imagine the effective law enforcement this country would have under Cruz’s leadership?

If you don’t think so, just compare the thought of Cruz as AG to Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch in the same capacity. Not close.

Fourth, Trump could be effective in starting to break up the Washington cartel. From its inception, Cruz based his campaign on battling the powerful elites in Washington, the marriage between big business and government that’s led so many politicians to favor their own interests over those of the people they represent.

Coming from outside the system and never having been elected to any office, Trump is not beholden to any of the traditional establishment interests.

Whether Trump will really fight them rather than joining them remains to be seen. But if there’s any softening up of the “cartel” it will make Cruz’s job easier once he gets to the Oval Office himself.

Fifth, Cruz gains absolutely nothing by appearing to be a sore loser. In effect, by graciously accepting defeat and helping Trump, he looks “presidential” in the process and destroys the oft-repeated notion that he isn’t likable and is only into politics for himself.

Whether it was fair or not, Cruz carried a reputation of being an ambitious power-seeker who was all too willing to step on the bodies of party leadership and fellow senators to draw attention to himself. As the leading voice of a small group of senators who spoke truth to power, Cruz wasn’t about to win any popularity contests with the party establishment.

But his reputation as a “lone wolf” didn’t help him win in the primaries. Cruz was viewed by many as a combative back-stabber who was only using his senate platform to prop up his future presidential campaign.

If Ted works on behalf of Trump’s campaign and others’ reelection efforts, the “ambitious power-seeker” knock will slowly fade.

Lastly, Cruz would benefit from a Trump election win and presidency because America would be a better place with Trump as president. I can say that without hesitation because our country’s continued slide to economic and cultural ruin would only be accelerated under four or more years of corruption, lying and politically correct dogma propagated by Hillary Clinton.

Simply put, there wouldn’t be much of a country left for Cruz to save if he doesn’t help Trump win now.

As the shrewdest person in any room, Cruz knows he’s better off with Trump as president. Hopefully he can convince the remaining party skeptics to get on board as well.

Beyond Cleveland, Trump is just getting started

Finally today, we’ve only concluded the first of four days at the Republican National Convention and already the nominee is looking forward to the immediate aftermath of the hoopla and to the fall campaign.

Donald Trump has said many times he would make this election about the failings and lack of character of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and all signs indicate he intends to keep those promises.

Eddie Scarry of the Washington Examiner writes, “When the Republican National Convention ends this week, Donald Trump says he will have taken it to a new level against Hillary Clinton. ‘I guess you could say we'll start during the convention, but we're really going to get it in gear right after the convention,’ Trump told the Washington Examiner. ‘We're doing really well.’

“During a wide-ranging interview, Trump laid out what makes him a conservative, where he got his working-class appeal and how he feels about being called ‘racist.’”

Scarry’s interview of Trump doesn’t reveal anything particularly new as much as it reinforces some consistent themes we’ve heard throughout the primary season.

For example, Trump is wealthy yet he relates well to blue collar workers. Trump says it’s because he’s worked with them his whole life while managing his family’s building projects. I’ve heard from people who know Trump that he’s a very likeable, gregarious and generous person away from the microphones.

It’s not difficult to see how he’d feel comfortable around those who work with their hands for a living despite having wealth beyond most people’s wildest dreams.

During the interview, Trump doesn’t offer great detail on how he intends to fix certain complex issues, such as trade. He merely repeats he’ll “make great deals,” the same thing he’s been promising for over a year now.

His standard answer isn’t going to satisfy the nerdiest of policy wonks, but in essence, that’s what trade agreements are comprised of – negotiated “deals”.

The most interesting part of Trump’s discussion with Scarry was his assertion that he hasn’t really begun to go after Hillary, despite having delivered an entire speech exposing her as a corrupt liar, calling her “Crooked Hillary” hundreds of times and negatively critiquing her every move.

I guess for now we’re going to have to see just exactly what “getting in gear” means to Trump. It should be interesting, for sure. 

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