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Presidential Horse Race 2016: All eyes on Mike Pence as he tries to steer Trump back to the issues

As one of four general election candidate forums this year, tonight’s vice presidential debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine is getting its deserved share of news coverage.

The event, which will take place at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia (moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBS News) is being billed as a battle between two relatively reserved politicians who – at least in terms of Mike Pencepersonality – lack the attention grabbing abilities of the two candidates at the top of their respective tickets.

And already the media is placing pressure on Pence to perform well tonight because of Donald Trump’s “bad week” that followed last Monday’s first presidential debate.

In a story titled “Trump's Bad Week Raises Stakes for VP Debate,” Caitlin Huey-Burns of Real Clear Politics first lays out all of Trump’s recent media-fueled stumbles and then writes, “Trump’s response follows a familiar playbook, used most recently in his feuds with Judge Gonzalo Curiel and Khizr Khan. Even his most ardent supporters are imploring him to show more discipline with just five weeks to go before Election Day, and as Clinton gains a post-debate bump in the polls.

“Trump has not only raised the stakes for himself in the next forum, but also for his running mate Mike Pence, who may be stuck in a defensive crouch during the first and only vice presidential debate in Farmville, Va., on Tuesday.”

I agree with the “Trump needs more discipline” part and even wrote about it yesterday. But I also argued that ultimately the American public will decide this election based on the economy and the issues rather than what Trump said twenty years ago (and this also includes the recent report on his tax returns) or tweets at 3 o’clock in the morning.

So in essence, the media is helping the Democrats advance the notion that Trump is an out-of-control madman who’s been put on the proverbial political ropes by Crooked Hillary’s questioning of his temperament and can’t possibly hope to recover unless Mike Pence digs him out of the hole tonight.

I think we’ve heard it all before. It seems there’s a similar “Republicans are in trouble” narrative every four years in the lead-up to the vice presidential debate. It goes kind of like this: the media’s unrelenting onslaught has pounded the Republican ticket for weeks or longer and the vice presidential debate is depicted as one of the last chances for the beleaguered non-Democrats to try and get things right.

Think back to 2008 when the newness of Sarah Palin being named as John McCain’s running mate had worn off, the financial crisis had caused McCain to stupidly “suspend his campaign” and the media was busy tearing Palin to shreds because she didn’t fit the mold of your ordinary establishment candidate.

In case you forgot, here’s a video snippet of Katie Couric asking Palin about where she gets her news from. Because Palin didn’t answer specifically, the pundits hooted for days that “Palin doesn’t read” and that she’s just an ignorant backwoods bumpkin with a funny folksy accent that was ripe for impersonations by Saturday Night Live comedians (Tina Fey, right?).

In contrast to those doltish Republicans, there was the sleek “light-skinned with no negro dialect” (Harry Reid’s words) Barack Obama and back-slapping good guy “Uncle Joe” Biden who had also described Obama during the Democrat primaries as “an African-American that’s articulate, bright and clean.”

Fast forward to 2012 when the vice presidential debate was previewed as a matchup between wonky Paul Ryan taking his books and policy papers to go up against “Uncle Joe” Biden. Prior to the debate, Ryan was skewered in the media as a heartless government-cutting autocrat who would delight in throwing granny off the cliff rather than pay her Medicare bills.

Afterwards, naturally, the pundits said the incumbent vice president “won” the debate and couldn’t get enough of talking about how Biden said Ryan was offering “malarkey” in place of facts.

It’s similar to the way they’re treating Trump and Pence now, isn’t it? Only Mike Pence is the VP nominee this year and he’s the “conventional” politician so the media is largely giving him a pass.

In fact, there was even a story in Politico yesterday that was semi-praiseworthy of Pence’s refusal to engage in negative campaigning.

After talking about Pence’s unsuccessful and deeply negative 1990 campaign for Congress, Matthew Nussbam and Darren Samuelsohn of Politico wrote, “Pence vowed his negative approach wouldn’t be repeated. Running for office ‘ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate. … a campaign ought to be about the advancement of issues whose success or failure is more significant than that of the candidate,’ he wrote in his apology, which was published in the Indiana Policy Review.

“Pence’s associates say they saw the lingering sting, and they saw Pence grapple with the consequences.”

The Politico reporters added that Pence admitted negative campaigning didn’t work for him (he lost the election badly), so that factor may be part of why he prefers to only talk about policy when campaigning these days. Nussbaum and Samuelsohn also indicated Pence’s “no negative” pledge is being put to the test by Trump and this year’s campaign.

I don’t think it’s as simple as being negative or not negative for the Republican VP nominee. Mike Pence’s job tonight is to truthfully observe that Hillary Clinton’s entire career has been marked by one deception after another and one policy failure after another.

She can’t be trusted to tell the truth; Americans know it and they need to be reminded of it again and again prior to Election Day.

And if Hillary won’t talk about Obamacare, Trump and Pence should do it for her. With health insurance rates set to skyrocket in the next year, Democrats realize the issue is a loser for them. Pence should point out that Kaine not only advocated for Obamacare, he’s been one of the law’s greatest defenders.

Lastly on the debate tonight, Pence is well positioned to act as a contrast to Trump’s personality. Where Trump is famous for hitting back hard, Pence can take the high road and set himself up as the demure, thoughtful member of the partnership.

I’m thinking that Americans will like Mike Pence and he’ll come out of tonight’s debate with a lot of positive impressions. Whether the media will see fit to report them is another matter entirely.

Does Trump’s odd behavior of late really betray a desire to lose the election?

At several points in the 2016 campaign various commentators (myself included) have openly speculated on the theory that Donald Trump was only running for president to add something interesting to his already fascinating lifetime resume and not necessarily a desire to spend four or eight years residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For example, after Trump skipped the final Republican primary debate before the Iowa Caucuses (supposedly because of a feud with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly), I wrote in late January, “Could it be maybe he wants to start drawing back before it’s too late?

“Before you say ‘no way,’ consider this: Trump loves the media spotlight but even he sees the writing on the wall. Should he win the presidency, all the love and adoration he now enjoys will likely evaporate quickly as he not only endures the enmity of the Democrats, many Republicans will turn on him as well.”

Meanwhile, #NeverTrumper Erick Erickson has also posed the question throughout the summer, asking “If Trump wanted to lose to Hillary Clinton, what would he be doing differently?

Then there’s Democrat commentator Brent Budowski, who wrote in The Hill in August, “The more likely scenario, if Trump does not want to be elected president, is that he will keep saying and doing things that any freshman political science student in college would know will doom his candidacy, and that after he loses a potential landslide to Hillary Clinton, will shout from the rooftops: ‘I was robbed!’

“I am not saying that I believe Donald Trump is trying to throw the election to Hillary Clinton, but I am saying this is a prospect that is now worth seriously considering if the endless series of Trump blunders and gaffes continues.”

Up until last week I’d dismissed all of the “he really doesn’t want it” theories – including my own – as nothing more than side notes that are interesting to talk about but have no basis in reality. But when he tweeted at 3 o’clock in the morning on Friday about Alicia Machado’s “sex tape,” I began to wonder again.

So have some others whose opinions I respect.

John Fund of National Review writes, “[U]nless Trump comes across as a little less thrilling and a lot more responsible, he will never be able to persuade swing voters he won’t embarrass the country in the White House. If Americans on Election Day think that Donald Trump has the maturity of a 13-year-old boy, undecided voters will conclude he is 22 years shy of the age requirement for president stipulated in the Constitution. They won’t vote for him, and he will be shipped back to the gilded cage of Trump Tower. The way he’s acting, it seems as if he might prefer the comfort of that safe zone over the responsibility of the Oval Office.”

It’s true; Donald Trump should not be playing the part of Tom Hanks in a real life version of the movie “Big”. There isn’t a lot of excuse for his childish behavior and it must stop, if for nothing else, it’s making his supporters look stupid in defending him. The Republican nominee needs to take a good long look at the way he handled last week and find a way to give up responding to every bit of goading from Crooked Hillary and the media.

I think most objective observers would agree Trump has the better side of the argument on the economy this year and he’s secured the support of his base by championing the immigration issue. But his deviations in discipline are costing him where marginal undecided voters are concerned because these folks care more about things like “temperament” and decorum than they do something like a straight up analysis of which candidate would offer better Supreme Court nominees.

If Trump really wants to win the election, like I believe he does, he needs to stick to talking about the issues. Period. Perhaps he can take a page out of Mike Pence’s book tonight on how to handle his next debate. If that’s the case, I doubt anyone will be questioning his desire to win anymore.

The last thing Trump wants on that “life resume” is to be branded a loser in the presidential race which will come complete with honorary membership in the not-so-pleasant “club of losers.” Michael Dukakis is probably “president” of the group…and Mitt Romney is the treasurer.

It would be much better for all of America to give the “loser club” dishonor to Hillary next month. Trump needs to get back on track – and fast.

Supreme Court gives Trump a “gift horse” to talk about immigration again

Speaking of getting back to the issues, the Supreme Court on Monday practically giftwrapped a key topic for Trump to talk about in every speech and debate between now and November 8.

It’s almost as if an appropriately dressed courier strode straight up to Trump Tower, rang the doorbell, handed him a box and said “here it is!”

Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner reports, “The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request to reconsider President Obama's executive actions on immigration, a decision that will leave in place a lower court ruling that blocked Obama's effort to protect millions of illegal immigrants.

“In June, the court deadlocked 4-4 on the question of whether to lift the lower court's injunction against Obama's immigration plan, which left the injunction in place. Monday's decision not to revisit the case again leaves Obama's plan blocked.”

I’ll admit Democrat politicians are smart but I’m not so sure about their judges. These ends-oriented Democrat appointed Justices on the Court must certainly have known that by locking this matter up in a 4-4 tie they were going to thrust this question into the heart of the election discussion.

And let’s not pretend they were ruling on the merits of the case…because there’s no way they could come to the conclusion that Obama’s action was justifiable under the Constitution.

The immigration issue at hand couldn’t be any clearer: Elect Donald Trump and he’ll appoint a new Justice who will uphold the Constitutional Separation of Powers; or, Elect Hillary Clinton and you’ll get a fifth vote to rubberstamp every executive action under the sun, no matter how far removed from the law.

Hillary must be salivating at the potential damage she can do to the Constitution and our fundamental rights with several dozen strokes of her executive order pen. If you think Obama is bad, just wait until Hillary gets her chance to do some order signing. She’ll impose the Equal Rights Amendment through executive fiat.

You think I’m joking?

Also at stake are our fundamental rights to speak, worship as we choose and bear arms, not to mention federalism and all that goes with it. Monday’s Court action is a great way to define the meaning of this election and hopefully will get people talking about something other than what Trump said in 1996. But it all starts with the nominee himself.

An old saying goes, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” and here’s an occasion where Trump had better jump all over this Supreme Court inaction to highlight the difference between his position and Hillary’s on immigration, judicial appointments and executive orders.

We can only hope he’ll find the subject more worthy of his attention than sending tweets about Alicia Machado and Crooked Hillary’s marital problems.

Even after eight years in the White House, Obama still does not understand Americans

Finally today, since Sarah Palin is in the news today it’s only appropriate that our lame-duck president saw fit to make a connection between the former GOP VP nominee and the current head of the Republican Party ticket.

Rebecca Savransky of The Hill reports, “President Obama in a new interview draws a connection between former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and the current GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

“’I see a straight line from the announcement of Sarah Palin as the vice presidential nominee to what we see today in Donald Trump, the emergence of the Freedom Caucus, the tea party, and the shift in the center of gravity for the Republican Party,’ Obama told New York Magazine.”

It seems Obama longs for the days when all Republicans just rolled over and accepted the march of socialism. He shouldn’t be disappointed – there are still a lot of Republicans who are happy to “work” with him.

Beyond that, it’s flat out hilarious that someone as ideologically and ethically compromised as Obama should be commenting on conservatives at any level, but it makes for a good quote and the media no doubt loves it.

For my part, I see a straight line from Saul Alinsky to Ted Kennedy to Bill Clinton to Obama to Harry Reid to John Kerry to John Edwards to Joe Biden and finally ending at Crooked Hillary, who is perhaps the most corrupted untrustworthy liar of the whole bunch.

And considering that group, that’s truly saying a lot.

Obama has been in the White House for eight years and he still shows no signs of “getting” what the people outside the major cities really want, which is simply freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and a government that does only what’s essentially necessary to function while protecting their rights.

Americans don’t want a benevolent federal dictator. You know, they’re the ones who “cling to guns and religion.”

Should Hillary win next month, I see absolutely no hope for healing the divide in the country since the elite class as represented by Obama doesn’t want to accept an alternative view.

Therefore, we can only pray that Donald Trump gets his act together and starts talking about the issues the way Mike Pence will tonight.

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