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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Obama prepares the way for a President Donald Trump

Note: With the conclusion of the election, the 2016 Presidential Horse Race series is coming to an end. Today is 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.


As the dust continues to settle from Tuesday’s explosive Donald Trump victory in the 2016 presidential election, I’m reminded of the famous ending to the 1972 Robert Redford movie, “The Candidate.”

Trump and ObamaIn the scene, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of supporters after he surprisingly won the election, Redford’s character sought to escape. Finding a quiet place, he asked his advisor, “What do we do now?

I mention the movie not because Trump has no idea “what to do now,” but because the president-elect himself must be wondering how to proceed from this point onward. For about a year and a half Trump has been on the campaign trail virtually non-stop, appearing to be energized by the enthusiasm of the same people who turned out by the millions on Election Day to provide him a victory.

Along the way he’s taken unprecedented criticism from virtually all angles for not only his controversial statements and unconventional demeanor, but also because of a perceived lack of a real governing platform or the know-how to step into the Oval Office on day one and start implementing his policies.

Such criticism is likely unfounded. But just because Trump has proven to be a master politician doesn’t mean he’ll be 100% prepared to take over once everything is readied for him.

That’s what a transition is for. I’m guessing Trump will be an astute student of the duties of the office of the president and will do a fantastic job of pushing things along splendidly as soon as it’s called for.

But he’ll need a solid cabinet. Apparently names are already being considered for the top jobs.

Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia of Politico report, “President-elect Donald Trump does not have the traditional cadre of Washington insiders and donors to build out his Cabinet, but his transition team has spent the past several months quietly building a short list of industry titans and conservative activists who could comprise one of the more eclectic and controversial presidential Cabinets in modern history.

“Trumpworld has started with a mandate to hire from the private sector whenever possible...

“He’s also expected to reward the band of surrogates who stood by him during the bruising presidential campaign, including Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, all of whom are being considered for top posts. A handful of Republican politicians may also make the cut, including Sen. Bob Corker for secretary of state or Sen. Jeff Sessions for secretary of defense.”

Of course the Politico writers couldn’t resist an obligatory jab at Trump in their article, asserting that due to the tone of the campaign he may have difficulty attracting qualified people to serve on his cabinet – especially women.

This is liberal-speak for “Trump is still a buffoon and nobody likes him.” It’s pure speculation on the journalists’ part and a projection of values on other people that has no basis in reality. For one thing, there haven’t been any Republicans that I can think of that have outright panned Trump’s election. Everyone – even the #NeverTrumpers – has been gracious in defeat or victory and have wished Trump success, offering prayers and assistance.

Even sports figures have sounded respectful tones. New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall commented, “The thing I like about this whole situation is we have a flawed man leading our country, and I think that's a good thing because we try to put certain people in certain positions on a pedestal and we expect perfection. That's not the case. There's only one perfect man who walked this earth. It gives hope to those who are flawed. People get second chances. I hope he does a great job.”

Marshall has had a number of second chances himself, so he should know about the need for them. It should be noted that American-flag disrespect-er Colin Kaepernick admitted he didn’t vote and said he didn’t care who won because both candidates are “racist”. I guess that’s one less vote for Hillary in California.

Getting back to Trump’s potential cabinet, I’m sure there are many, many prominent Republican politicians and private citizens who would be more than happy to serve with him, including women. I’ve suggested for a long time that Carly Fiorina would make for a terrific White House Press Secretary, but she could also fit very easily into Trump’s administration is some other capacity as well.

And the media has been chuckling over the possibility of Sarah Palin assuming the role of Secretary of Energy (though the Politico story tabs her for Interior Secretary). Why not? There probably aren’t many people in America that know more about the subject than she does.

The job of finding the right person and right personality for each position will be difficult work. From observing Trump throughout the course of the campaign I would think he will favor individuals who he feels he can trust and work with at the same time. After all of the social media tweets and media quotes from Republicans of all stripes, it will be no small task.

From the list of names Politico provided it appears that any number of establishment politicians are putting themselves into consideration, including Chris Christie as a possible attorney general. Rudy Giuliani is also mentioned for that role. Newt Gingrich and Bob Corker have been floated for Secretary of State.

Iran-deal supporting Corker would be a disaster in that role. Trump honors loyalty, but he isn’t stupid. Certainly Trump realizes Corker paved the way for the deal to go through. Conservatives would not support the nomination and it isn’t a good way to start off the administration. Corker should be left in the Senate.

Trump looks to be filling a number of the roles with business titans who wouldn’t be well-known to the public, but Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke is supposedly being considered for Secretary of Homeland Security. Clarke would need to be vetted along with everyone else, but can you imagine the change in tone that would take place if the conservative plain-talking Sheriff Clarke were to replace Muslim-appeasing Obama puppet Jeh Johnson in that position?

We don’t want to “count our chickens before they hatch,” but I would not only be open to the proposition, I would welcome it.

One way or another, looking at Trump’s possible cabinet line-up, there would be improvement across the board from what Obama has given us the past eight years. Just envisioning Loretta Lynch packing up her office brings a smile to my face.

If Trump is true to his word he should have no problem keeping his voters happy

Seeing as Donald Trump was elected just a few days ago and no one is exactly sure how he intends to keep the multitude of promises he made during his campaign, you might think it’s a little early to start looking at the next presidential election in 2020.

But with Republicans looking very strong in the 2018 midterms – especially in Senate races -- and Trump’s already solid core of voters that provided him convincing victories in formerly reliable Democrat territory, it’s never too soon to speculate.

Political analyst Sean Trende writes in Real Clear Politics, “If Trump governs well – if the recession is delayed or brief, he could conceivably hold on to his white working-class support while bringing college-educated whites back into the fold – he would have a hard time losing. Combining Trump’s share of the white working class with Romney’s share of college-educated whites would give him around 63 percent of the white vote, and most of what he would need to win re-election.

“Of course, if Trump were to govern as a pragmatist by, for example, abandoning economic libertarianism, endorsing infrastructure spending, making good on his plan to build a wall, but with a ‘big beautiful door’ in it, and attacking special interests, he could have cross-racial appeal.”

I’m not sure I completely agree with Trende on all points, but the analyst does make several good arguments.

I think Trump will hold onto his winning coalition simply by keeping his biggest promises, namely enforcing the immigration laws, sealing the border, eliminating “Sanctuary cities,” restoring the military, staying out of foreign wars, improving the country’s image abroad and perhaps most importantly, bringing America’s trade imbalance back to some semblance of sanity.

And in addition, he’ll need to restructure or vastly reduce the federal government’s role in education, including fostering local school choice and/or vouchers for private schools and home schooling. Further, if Trump is able to improve the business climate in America’s inner cities, conditions will improve. Achieving a redo on education will seal the deal.

To his benefit, Trump doesn’t need the consultant class to whisper in his ear on how to go about retaining his own political appeal. The president-elect instinctively understands what his supporters want and seems to recognize what is needed to broaden the GOP’s coalition.

We’ve spent the past eight years talking about the growing demographic influence of minority voting blocs in American politics. If Trump simply keeps his promises – and the Republican congressional leadership grants him some leeway on priorities – it should be good enough to put him in good shape for 2020.

There’s also the role of the Supreme Court to consider. Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner reports, “Donald Trump's surprise victory in Tuesday's presidential election has the potential to change the direction of the Supreme Court for far more than four years.

“Trump's victory means he is poised to nominate the next justice on the Court that could be confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate in the new Congress. Conservative court-watchers appeared jubilant after Trump's victory.”

As well they should be. The federal judiciary has been the key actor in upholding Obama and the Democrats’ unconstitutional legislation and executive orders. With more originalists on the Supreme Court and lower courts, states will be given more leeway to govern themselves free of interference from Washington.

Trump’s administration wouldn’t have much influence on cultural or social issues – unless they rule by financial edict like Obama’s administration, threatening to starve states that don’t conform with the left’s view of social policy – but his Supreme Court definitely can have a say. With more abortion and same-sex marriage/religious freedom cases certain to come before the Court in the coming years, Trump’s appointed Justices will be crucial in preserving any semblance of traditional values in America.

In other words, by simply keeping his word Trump can sustain the coalition that voted for him. Keeping promises is always difficult for a politically-minded president; it shouldn’t be as hard for Trump. Being an outsider has its advantages and I believe Trump will use them accordingly.

Give #NeverTrump a key to the conservative door, just be ready to change the lock

I couldn’t bring the Presidential Horse Race 2016 to a close without a few last comments on #NeverTrump. These anti-Trump Republicans and conservatives provided more than their fair share of interesting commentary throughout the campaign, causing every conservative to look within him or herself to determine what really matters. It’s more than just principles – we all have ‘em – it’s a matter of core values and what you’re willing to adopt or give up in order to further them.

Make no mistake, I still hold it against #NeverTrump for not helping the rest of us defeat Hillary Clinton. As discussed above, none of the benefits of having an originalist, constitutionally based Supreme Court would have been possible had she ended up the president-elect.

The results would have been disastrous. And, as Sean Hannity said so truthfully, #NeverTrump would have owned all of it if the election was close.

Now the more prominent members of the #NeverTrump faction are coming forward to offer thoughts on how they should get past their animosity and begin to function again in the political system.

David French writes in National Review, “I remain worried that our nation has put an unfit man in the Oval Office, and deeply distressed that many people — especially Christian people — defended the indefensible to get him there.

“But I also know those people. Unlike 99 percent of American pundits, I live in the beating heart of Trump country. He carried my county by 39 points. He won my precinct with 72 percent of the vote. His supporters are my friends and neighbors. They’re some of the best people you’ll ever meet, and many of them made the decision to back him with no small anguish in their hearts. They felt they were voting in self-defense, and — frankly — they didn’t believe many of the worst charges against Trump. I respect their choice, and if a Trump administration ultimately reflects their values, then this nation will be better for it.”

After having been away from active Republican politics for so long, it’s only natural that the #NeverTrumpers want to be let back in the conservative door. At least now they’ve stopped calling all of us Trump supporters racists and unprincipled idiots. Now the #NeverTrumpers are even saying they like and respect us.

Erick Erickson had a slightly different take. “We are not selling out our principles by wishing Trump well and hoping for the best. We are not selling out our principles by giving him a chance and the benefit of a doubt — a benefit we did not give him when we turned out to be wrong about the election.

“The American people disagreed with us. Be humble and recognize it was not because of racism or bigotry or bad motives. It was because people are fearful of the future and think no one in Washington has listened to them. Donald Trump has.”

The same was also true prior to the election when the #NeverTrumpers were busy making all sorts of claims about how Trump only won the Republican nomination because of the Alt-right and Democrats voting in GOP primaries. And they said if Republicans had only bonded together, someone other than Trump would have gone up against Hillary Clinton.

And that person would have lost, too.

To his credit, Erickson points out Trump ended up doing better with minority voters than Mitt Romney did. So the “racist” part didn’t appear to stick. And in a separate post, Erickson also admitted to being very wrong about reading the election. Fair enough, he’s humble.

As I argued yesterday, it’s time to extend an olive branch to the #NeverTrumpers, which is now made much easier by the fact Trump won the election. Thankfully there were more than enough supporters so the #NeverTrump antagonists could not bring him down. We were lucky. So were they.

The wounds can now heal. But it’s safe to say that the next time the Republican primaries roll around without an incumbent, most of us will be wary of who this group gets behind…unless it’s Mike Pence, of course.

Trump visits the White House, prepares for the next phase

Finally, speaking of reconciliation, Donald Trump visited the White House on Thursday for a transition meeting with Obama, receiving the low-down on how to handle the next couple months before his inauguration.

From most accounts, the meeting went well.

Jordan Fabian of The Hill reports, “President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump put on a show of unity Thursday at their first meeting at the White House.

“The two men, who have been sworn enemies for years, met for more than an hour and a half in the Oval Office, even though Trump said they were only scheduled to meet for 15 minutes.

“’I have been very encouraged by the interest in President-elect Trump’s wanting to work with my team around many of the issues that this great country faces,’ Obama told assembled journalists following what he called an ‘excellent’ and ‘wide-ranging’ discussion.”

Once again, it all goes back to the private Trump versus the public one. The candidate Trump verbally punched Obama and Hillary Clinton harder than anyone else possibly could. The amicable private Trump met with the president for ninety minutes instead of the scheduled fifteen – and it looks like they got along swimmingly.

For his part, Obama seemed sincere in offering his assistance to Trump, though I doubt the president was anxious to provide clues on how to dismantle what’s left of his legislative legacy.

From the body language of the two men you could tell they don’t like each other very much. But they were civil and professional, as a president and a president-elect should be. Maybe there is hope for healing in this country after all.


On a personal note, it’s been thrilling to cover the 2016 presidential horse race for the past sixteen months. I would like to thank CHQ Chairman Richard Viguerie and CHQ Editor George Rasley for their support, encouragement and guidance along the way.

It’s been one heck of a ride. As conservatives, our journey doesn’t end here, however. We must continue to support our new president and be willing to criticize him when necessary. Politics may be a spectator sport, but governing requires knowledge, constant vigilance and participation. Keeping a close watch on our elected leaders is the duty of every American.

I for one am looking forward to it.

Jeffrey A. Rendall

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