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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Will the real Hillary Clinton voters PLEASE stand up?

In discussing the 2016 presidential race with various people over the past year I’ve encountered an awful lot of perplexed Republicans, a few of whom still vow not to support Trump (aka, #NeverTrump) and most of which say they’ll vote for the Republican nominee with different degrees of enthusiasm.

I’ve observed that the closer we get to the election the more people seem energized by the notion of a true outsider coming into Washington and changing the culture if not the policy direction. They’re still a bit put-off Hillary Clinton signby Trump’s personality, but they like his straightforward and typically blunt honesty (even if they don’t always agree with him).

One thing I haven’t found in great supply is Hillary Clinton supporters. Sure, my college aged daughter talks about hearing a lot of anti-Trump banter among her peers and my elementary school son says most of his class is for Clinton (demographically speaking, not surprising), but other than encountering a random person here and there, I just see no groundswell of support for the Democrat this year.

Even Democrats I’ve known for years don’t want to talk about her. No shocker there.

This lack of buzz for Hillary makes the polls appear all the more baffling. As of yesterday, Clinton still maintained a little over one point lead in the Real Clear Politics Average with the conglomeration of polls finding her at exactly 45 percent support.

And I don’t doubt that there are a lot of Hillary supporters out there, even if a good bunch of ‘em are simply voting for her because of a fear of Trump. It all counts the same. And I’m also not claiming the polls are wrong, either (at least not entirely). After having studied politics for decades, I know the pollsters are usually in the ballpark if not right on top of home plate in accuracy.

But just like Hillary is a virtual no-show on the campaign trail, her voters aren’t visible.

I can’t help but feel there are a lot of Democrats who are fed up with Hillary’s lies and Obama’s overreach and incompetence. Statistically speaking, their lives haven’t been improved by Democrat policies, so why would they choose her?

On the street interviews aren’t finding a lot of support for her either. This particularly interesting story from Jacqueline Alemany of CBS News is typical of what I’ve been encountering.

Alemany writes, “[H]ere on Como Street in Struthers (Ohio), where CBS News spent a recent weekend knocking on every door on the block, (Hillary supporters) were in the minority. All around … the community was ditching their Democratic roots and flocking to Trump…

“Struthers was once known as the ‘cradle of steel west of the Alleghenies.’ But the industry has struggled in a technology-driven economy: Since January 2015, Ohio has lost nearly 1,500 steel jobs, most of them here in northeastern Ohio.

“Despite positive national indicators, perceptions of economic stagnation have damaged Obama’s reputation here - and it’s been a drag on Clinton.”

The people interviewed in Alemany’s piece are fascinating, not only for what they said, but also for their realness and candor. A few were for Hillary but the majority was Democrats who are fed up with things like the rate increases under Obamacare and the failed promises of Obama and his party.

As has been the same with my own experience in chatting with people, Alemany said some of the town’s residents were reluctant to talk about their support for Trump, which leads me to believe his base of support is somewhat broader than is otherwise perceptible.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the same phenomenon exists in other traditionally Democratic constituencies such as African-Americans or Hispanics, though the proportions would be much smaller.

The normally reliable W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner is skeptical Trump’s overtures to black voters will bear fruit, however. Antle writes, “It's the latest Trump paradox. He has begun to do the kind of minority outreach promoted by Republicans from Jack Kemp to Rand Paul yet he retains a tin ear on race…

“When addressing the real problems of black poverty and unemployment, to say nothing of the crime that plagues many inner-city neighborhoods, Trump is often seen as condescending. ‘Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen,’ Trump has said in reciting the litany of problems facing many African Americans before asking for their votes by saying, ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’”

Antle does not seem impressed by Trump, concluding it’s the right type of pitch for Republicans to make but perhaps the wrong messenger.

Fair enough. I somewhat disagree with Antle, thinking Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric in this case is likely to appeal to those most dissatisfied with the living conditions in their communities. And many inner city neighborhoods aren’t great places to live. If you don’t believe it, head to downtown Detroit.

I think Trump will get some of these people to listen to him.

Which leads me back to those “missing” Hillary voters. If people are debating the degree to which Trump will steal away Democrats from her, which constituency will stand up and shout, “I’m With Her!”?

I’m guessing if that’s the question, we’ll be hearing a lot of crickets chirping.

Speculation is rampant on the first presidential debate, but predicting the event is more difficult than ever this year

With the first Trump-Clinton presidential debate a mere four days away, naturally there’s a lot of curiosity surrounding how the two candidates from opposite sides of the ideological, political experience and policy spectrum will handle the pressure to perform in front of what is predicted to be a record-setting viewing audience of around 100 million.

The lead-up to the debate (set to take place at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York) seems focussed on the different strategies each candidate might employ, ranging from Trump’s unusual hands-off preparation to Clinton’s practicing for two different Trumps.

Steve Berman touches on the subject at The Resurgent, “Hillary Clinton has chosen to keep herself out of the public in the week leading up to her first head-to-head debate with Donald Trump…Donald Trump, on the other hand, has a full schedule, mostly focused on battleground states North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“While Clinton spends her days in debate prep, Trump has no desire to talk about policy–his debate prep is being ahead in polls. He will certainly bludgeon Clinton with this–and why it may hurt Hillary to stay off the road. It lends credence to ‘she has no stamina’ (that’s becoming more obvious), and it gives Trump a chance to keep dominating the headlines, despite all the liberal media cheerleading for Hillary.”

Berman is a #NeverTrumper, and for him, this actually counts as analysis – and for once, I agree with him. Clinton seems to be following an overall campaign strategy of staying out of sight (she cancelled another campaign appearance in North Carolina the other day and stayed home instead).

It’s similar to Obama’s behavior of the past several months, whose public favorability rating seems to increase the more golf he plays. The president can ignore the poor citizens of Louisiana in their time of need in order to stay on vacation and tee it up – and the public rewards him with his highest average favorability rating in years.

Clinton is following a similar path to Obama. Her advisors likely recognize that the more she’s kept hidden from view the better her chances are to one, not have another health “episode” and two, perpetuate the lie that her policies will actually improve lives.

I can’t help but think the majority of her debate practice must be devoted to figuring out the best way to phrase her lies so as to not engender a follow-up from the moderator and also make it sound believable. She’s good at it, too.

But at the same time, she would be wise to not take Trump lightly.

Rich Lowry writes at National Review, “The truth is that there is a lower standard for Trump, but the media won’t be able to change that no matter how much they rends their garments and fact-check Trump in TV chyrons and put the word ‘lie’ in headlines. This lower standard is an inherent feature of Trump’s candidacy and the nature of the race.”

Lowry says there are five reasons for Trump’s lower standard:

1. Trump is an amateur;
2. Trump is a radical disrupter, not the conventional candidate trying to preserve the status quo;
3. It wants to be a change election;
4. He’s being attacked as a dangerous monster;
5. Disgust with the political class is abiding and deep.

Reason number five is by far the most relevant here. There are millions of Americans all across the country that sees Trump as a hero just because he isn’t politically correct. There is a fine line between ignoring the normal civil rules of politics and outright rudeness, but Trump seems to have developed a better grasp of where that divide might be in the past month or so.

And Trump certainly has an advantage in one sense. As a non-politician no one expects him to sound like one. Ever since his very first answer to the first question in the first Republican debate in Cleveland thirteen and a half months ago, he’s gotten through it largely by “winging” it. (For those who are curious, the first question was from Megyn Kelly asking Trump about his past statements on women. Remember Rosie O’Donnell?)

The Republican nominee likely won’t be able to reel off two minutes’ worth of statistics and names of foreign leaders in answer to the moderator’s questions next Monday night, but he doesn’t have to. All he needs to do is avoid looking “mean” and at the same time, highlight Hillary’s rotten record on every possible occasion.

Trump needs to not insult her personally but talk a lot about what she’s done. Like saying, “she hasn’t told Americans the truth” but don’t say, “You’re a dirty scandalous liar.”

Trump the non-politician speaks in broad generalities about policies, but that’s okay. When talking about tax policy, for example, it’s better to describe the outlines of his proposal rather than get bogged down in specifics that just make most peoples’ eyes roll. Very few understand the metrics of these policies. Trump should tell Americans what he’s for and why he’ll fight for it as president.

In essence, that’s the real job of the chief executive in the first place because the president doesn’t make the laws, Congress does. Or at least that was true until Obama came on the scene.

Despite all the talk and conjecture about the debate, one thing is for sure: until the two candidates actually hit the stage, no one really knows how they’ll act.

Are the #NeverTrumpers truly on life support or just wandering the world alone?

If we’re all left wondering whether any true Hillary supporters are still out there and what the candidates will do next week in their first debate, we’re also a little puzzled about what’s happening these days with the #NeverTrumpers.

Of course we learned this week that the Bush family – or at least one of them – is going to vote for Crooked Hillary. Similarly, we know John Kasich isn’t wild about RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; and we even heard from Ted Cruz on Tuesday regarding his position on the topic.

Rebecca Savransky of The Hill reports on the Republican primary runner-up, “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday declined to say if he plans to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but he made his focus clear.

“’My focus is on defeating Hillary Clinton and helping preserve a Senate Republican majority,’ the Texas senator told CNN reporter Manu Raju.”

I think Cruz’s response is code for saying he supports Trump, because the Republican nominee is the only one who can possibly defeat Clinton at this point.

It doesn’t mean Cruz is going to come right out and say “I like Trump”, but it’s further than John Kasich has gone. I still think Cruz will announce he’ll vote for Trump as the best option remaining against Clinton, a good way to get the party higher-ups off his back and preserve his option to run again in the future.

As for the rest of the #NeverTrumpers, it’s got to be tough going these days as a collection of lonely nomads wandering the political desert without a candidate, a cause or even friends.

For his part, Trump doesn’t sound like he has much sympathy for them. Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico reports, “The anti-Donald Trump movement is on its death bed, the Republican presidential nominee boasted on Wednesday.

“’You’ll hear about these Never Trumpers, who are dying. Right now they’re on respirators, OK,’ Trump said in response to a question about whether he will stand firm on his commitment to naming ‘true constitutionalists’ to the Supreme Court.”

While I don’t believe the #NeverTrumpers are actually dying or even in the hospital, they are showing signs of resignation and looking forward to the after-election-life.

Erick Erickson, in a post titled “Coming to terms with Trump” reaffirmed that he can’t get himself to reconcile with the Republican nominee – or with Crooked Hillary either.

In his lengthy post Erickson laid out the case against Clinton and I thought, based on the title, that maybe he was possibly going to finally join the Trump side. Not so. Erick concluded, “I think Hillary Clinton will do lasting damage to the country. I cannot vote for her.

“Having reconsidered my opposition to Trump, I think Donald Trump will do lasting damage to the witness of the Church in America and I therefore cannot vote for him.

“I am without a candidate. I just cannot vote for either one. Whichever is elected, it is God’s will and as his holy and inerrant scripture commands, I will pray for my President as I pray for the current President. But I will not harm my witness nor risk Trump’s soul to serve my political desires.”

It really is an incredible post (in the wow, he really thinks that way?), highly recommended if you have time.

I’m not sure how Erickson ever got to this point of attaching such holy significance to this year’s election while making such astounding leaps of faith and logic, but I think someone needs to have a talk with the guy.

Disbelief in Trump the man has nothing to do with the political cause at hand. We’re talking about government policies, not our immortal souls. I’m not voting as a member of my church congregation for Trump as my preacher. I’m voting for an imperfect man to be president, who I hope to keep nudging to the right if he gets elected and strays from the conservative path.

Trump may or may be forced to atone for his sins in the afterlife. That’s up to God. Right now, he’s the best choice to lead the United States after Obama leaves office.

It’s something every last vestige of #NeverTrump should probably give some thought – and prayer, too.

Poll analyst Nate Silver boosts Trump’s chances of winning dramatically

Finally today, while we continue the search for real Hillary voters to stand up and let themselves be known, renowned poll analyst Nate Silver now rates Donald Trump’s chances of winning in November at near even odds.

Rebecca Savransky of The Hill reports, “Statistician and data expert Nate Silver on Tuesday gave Donald Trump a 44.5 percent chance of winning the general election — the GOP presidential nominee's highest odds to date.

“Clinton held a 55.5 percent chance of victory, according to Silver's FiveThirtyEight ‘Polls-plus’ forecast, which shows what ‘polls, the economy and historical data tell us about Nov. 8.’”

What Savransky’s report didn’t say is Silver had Trump’s chances of winning somewhere in the low teens a little over a month ago. Just about everyone was writing him off at that time, especially when he made the change at the top of his campaign management.

Isn’t ironic how no one is even mentioning the switch now? And why isn’t anyone talking about Khizr Khan anymore (other than Hillary at least)?

The focus of the campaign has turned back towards Hillary and her scandals, health, emails, Clinton Foundation…and otherwise. Meanwhile, Trump is behaving himself.

All in all, a good combination and a trend that I think will last until Election Day.

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