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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Why conservatives should now channel Abraham Lincoln

Note: With the conclusion of the election, the 2016 Presidential Horse Race series is coming to an end. Tomorrow will be the final edition. Starting Monday I’ll be taking a daily look at the Trump transition, offering insight into Trump’s personnel choices and political moves.


A mere few hours after the conclusion of what many are calling the most momentous election of our lifetimes, in separate remarks yesterday Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seemed poised to accept the will of the Abraham LincolnAmerican people and called for unity in the country.

T. Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner reported, “Hillary Clinton publicly conceded defeat Wednesday morning, telling a gathering of staffers and media in New York City that her failed presidential candidacy had at long last come to a final, crushing end...

“[A]s she apologized to her staff and supporters, Clinton encouraged voters to give the GOP nominee a chance.

“’I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans,’ she said. ‘Trump is going to be our next president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.’”

Obama sounded similarly compliant in his brief media appearance at the White House.

Needless to say, the defeated Democrats’ tone was in stark contrast to what we heard from the stump just a few days ago where both of them depicted Trump as the devil incarnate in a last-ditch desperate attempt to muster their supporters to come out and vote for Hillary. 

Of course neither Clinton nor Obama had much of a choice in needing to make nice; if they had sounded bitter and defeated after the election it would have a potentially devastating effect on their respective legacies. And let’s face it, with the horrible rear-end kickings the Democrats have endured since Obama became president, a legacy is about all either one of them has left.

Timothy P. Carney of the Washington Examiner wrote, “Obama was excellent at getting people to vote for him. He was also good at getting donors to spend money for him. These are very important political skills, but they are not the entirety of politics. In the other aspects of politics, Barack Obama was a loser.”

I find it more than a little ironic that many Republicans said Donald Trump’s nomination would lead to a crack-up in the GOP. Instead of splitting the party apart, Trump not only won the presidency when likely no other Republican could but he also helped preserve the party’s congressional majorities.

Contrast Trump’s political record with Obama and Hillary’s. When Obama was first elected in 2008, Democrats controlled both the House and Senate – the latter with nearly a filibuster-proof majority.

Then came Obama’s poor abilities to sell people on his policies (such as Obamacare) and his fellow Democrats at election time. His party lost control of Congress. Add Hillary to the mix and now the Democrats are out on all fronts – the executive, both houses of Congress and arguably the Supreme Court after Trump appoints the successor to Antonin Scalia.

If one of the aging Democrats on the Court (Ruth Bader Ginsburg at 83 and Steven Breyer at 78) retires or becomes incapacitated in the next four years, conservatives could cement their majority for years to come.

This will probably be the most significant legacy of Donald Trump. Obama’s and Hillary’s are already set in stone. They lost more than just an election on Tuesday night – they permanently scratched their names into the book of historic losers.

And we’re all better off for it.

In dealing with #NeverTrump conservatives should remember Abraham Lincoln

As it became clear early Wednesday morning that Donald Trump was going to be the next President of the United States, my mind wandered a bit from the election returns streaming across the screen to the bitter ideological and partisan struggle that is taking place in the country right now.

While I was beyond relieved that Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, I remain concerned about the possibility that our country may have already passed the point of no return. Certainly this could be the case with the conservative and Republican members of #NeverTrump, the nebulous opposition group that not only opposed our president-elect during the GOP primaries they extended their intransigence to the general election fight against the Democrats.

The most prominent members of #NeverTrump have made it clear on numerous occasions that never means never, and under no circumstances would they reconsider their opposition to Trump. Several of them even cited their religious faith as a reason to refrain from backing him. They made hurtful videos. They wrote lengthy op-eds. They seemed proud of their opposition as if it placed them on some kind of moral high ground.

On top of it all, they got personal and questioned the character of those who came to support Trump regardless of their preferences during the primaries.

Considering the threat that Hillary Clinton posed to much of what us conservatives hold dear, such resistance from #NeverTrump was almost akin to treason – not against the country, but against our side in the non-stop ideological battle to hold on to our sacred God-given rights.

This rhetorical war raged back and forth for months and I’ll admit I took part in many of the battles. I questioned the #NeverTrumpers’ intelligence as well as their motives. I wondered aloud whether there might be some deeper reason why this ill-defined group was so combative to the man who won the Republican nomination fair and square through the primary process.

I suggested their opposition to Trump was akin to opposing Trump’s voters. In essence, they were fighting the Republican base. It made no sense.

And lastly, I pondered whether reconciliation was even possible now. I figured a lot of it would depend on the reactions of the #NeverTrumpers to Trump’s election. At least initially, the anti-Trump forces seem ready to move on amicably.

David French wrote at National Review on Wednesday, “I have never been more wrong about anything in my life than I’ve been in my assessment of Donald Trump’s political prospects. I discounted him in the primary, and I was discounting him in the general election all the way until about 9:30 p.m. on election night. He is now my president-elect and the future commander-in-chief of the most powerful military the world has ever seen.

“I pray earnestly and unambiguously that God may bless him, grant him wisdom, and open his ears to wise counsel. I pray earnestly and unambiguously that I end up being just as wrong about his character and capabilities as I was about his political prospects. I want him to be good, to be wise, and to be worthy of the Oval Office.”

Wow. You may recall that at one time French was rumored to be the “independent” candidate #NeverTrumpers were putting forward to run against Trump at the Republican convention. French wisely declined. I’m sure he considers his decision to stay out as one of the best of his life. French certainly didn’t make things better for the conservative cause but now it seems as though he’s willing to accept a role in fighting for the right side.

But that’s never been the issue.

All along I was primarily disgusted by the #NeverTrumpers’ stated assertion that Trump supporters would no longer be welcome “at the conservative table” after the election. The whole notion that this hideously small minority of so-called conservative writers and intellectuals would be the ultimate arbiters of who gets in the proverbial conservative door was preposterous to me.

Trump supporters offered a myriad of reasons for supporting him and on balance any one of them individually was justification enough for their position. #NeverTrump had no right to judge those conservatives and Republicans who made the journey to fight against Hillary and the Democrats.

To the victors go the spoils and it would be all too easy to take names and make blacklists of #NeverTrumpers. I personally have wrestled with whether I would be open to welcoming them back into a potential governing coalition, regardless of the outcome of the election.

In the process, I couldn’t help but think of the aftermath of the American Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln concluded his second inaugural address with these immortal words:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

If a man as great as Lincoln was inclined to forgive his enemies I believe it is the duty of the rest of us to be charitable towards the vanquished on the Republican side.

Just like with Trump the new president, conservatives will need to keep an eye on the #NeverTrump contingent to determine whether they’re worthy of support and forgiveness. In time we’ll see if never truly does mean never – for all our sakes, let’s hope not.

Pollsters rival Clinton and Democrats for title of biggest loser

It’s safe to say most dedicated political observers could be considered poll junkies. The horse race aspect of any political contest is irresistible to many, simply because our culture likes winners and losers.

Donald Trump himself was fond of citing polls during his campaign speeches, particularly those surveys that favored him. Pundits and cable personalities often plan their programs around poll leaders. Callers on radio shows want to talk about them. Journalists write about them. It’s an attention grabber.

The only problem with this American obsession with opinion polls lies with the possibility that they’re wrong. Such was the case on Tuesday night and pollsters are already taking heat to explain their failings.

Jonathan Easley of The Hill writes, “Pollsters and election modelers suffered an industry-shattering embarrassment at the hands of Donald Trump on Tuesday night.

“Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, had long said the polls were biased against him. His claims — dismissed and mocked by the experts — turned out to be true…

“Pollster John Zogby believes that many in the industry weighted their polls too heavily in favor of Democrats, pointing to polls that had an 8- to 9-point advantage for the party, when it should have been in the 4- to 5-point range, he said.”

Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday morning, “Crystal ball” Political analyst Larry Sabato was very forthright in admitting he got it wrong this time around and suggested he and his colleagues are going to have to go back over the results and thoroughly review their models and methods to try and do better next time.

That’s a good thing, but the damage is already done. From now on, no one’s going to put the same kind of stock in the polls as was true just a couple days ago. The genie’s out of the bottle.

I’m not a statistician and I don’t know much about poll sampling and model formation, but I’ve been arguing for months that pollsters could be off this election because they were using old data models to try and forecast what was going on this year.

It’s a well-known saying that the biggest mistake military strategists make is trying to re-fight the last war. Simply put, the turnout models from 2012 didn’t work this year. According to reports, millennial turnout was down as was African-American turnout – both keys groups for Democrats.

Combined with slightly better numbers for Trump among those who did show up to vote and Hillary ended up losing millions of votes that pollsters gave her credit for in their pre-election forecasts.

Polling is extremely difficult under the best of circumstances and this year, with two unpopular candidates and a non-traditional election scenario it was even more challenging to get it right. People should be willing to give pollsters the benefit of the doubt for being off a bit.

The biggest problem I had with pollsters this year was the arrogant “I’m right/you’re wrong” confidence in the accuracy of their own particular snapshots of the American electorate. In his article, Easley noted, “Of the 11 national polls to be released in the final week of the race, only two — a Los Angeles Times/USC survey and one from IBD/TIPP — showed Trump with the lead.

“The L.A. Times survey was criticized as ‘experimental’ by industry experts for polling the same pool of people and for the way it weighted black voters.

“But for the second consecutive presidential cycle, the L.A. Times and IBD/TIPP surveys were among the most accurate, making them the gold standard going forward.”

It should be noted the LA Times survey was about three points off the final total, but at least the minds behind the survey stuck by their guns in countering the groundswell of polls showing Hillary way ahead. I think the IBD/TIPP poll takes the prize for being the most accurate this year. The final version showed Hillary with a +1 lead which will probably end up being closest to the real number (Clinton took the popular vote by +.2).

The pollsters’ next big test will come with the 2018 midterm elections. Will the Trump coalition show up to give him a larger Senate majority? And will the pollsters get it right? Time will tell.

Trump well-wishers come out of the woodworks, but what are they really after?

Finally today, several different Republicans who were outright opponents of Donald Trump’s candidacy offered their congratulations and well wishes on Wednesday. Among them were George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush and John Kasich.

And then there was none other than 2012 GOP nominee and leading #NeverTrumper Mitt Romney.

Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico reports, “Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney offered support for President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday.

“’Best wishes for our duly elected president: May his victory speech be his guide and preserving the Republic his aim,’ he tweeted.

“Romney’s well wishes come after a Trump election night victory that shocked the political world and rattled world markets. And Romney's tone was a significant departure from his rhetoric during the campaign, when he was an outspoken critic of the media mogul, calling him a ‘phony, a fraud.’”

That “phony” and “fraud” stuff is all in good fun, right? It’s just a shame that such name-calling had to come from Trump’s fellow Republicans. Did any Democrats label Hillary as a “phony” and a “fraud”?

Isn’t it funny how a little Trump victory can turn these former bitter critics into well-wishers and “happy to work with you” offers?

Heck, a lot of the Democrats said similar things. Even ultra-liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren offered to “work with” Trump -- and she was definitely one of Hillary’s chief attack surrogates.

I’m not one to ever question motives, but the Democrats don’t have a lot of options other than to offer assistance to Trump. We’ll see how fast their attitudes change when the new president asks Congress to repeal Obamacare and nominates his first Supreme Court Justice.

As far as Romney and the Bushes go – it’s good to see that the Republican Party is finally uniting, though it would have been better to occur several days ago. Now it just looks like these people are trying to salvage their own tarnished reputations rather than offering sincere congratulations.

At least for the Democrats, I’m guessing it’ll be back to the same old bomb-throwing shortly after Trump takes his oath of office. But that’s about all they have right now.

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