Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Only Ted Cruz Benefits From An Ugly Brawl Between Jeb And Trump


Texas fascist Ted Cruz is counting on Jeb Bush and Donald Trump to destroy each other so that the nomination falls into his own lap. With the Koch machine growing tepid about the pathetic performance of their preselected puppet, Scott Walker, and Rubio, the Adelson candidate, unable to get any traction, Cruz is growing more and more confident by the day... as long as Trump disappears.

As Dana Milbank explained in his Washington Post column yesterday:
Attempting to out-conservative Trump is folly-- even if the guy is a former liberal who nakedly reinvented himself for this campaign. Trump, if he is thinking about anything, is not thinking about preserving his electability should he somehow win the Republican nomination. He is taking the most conservative positions possible on a range of issues-- and otherwise viable contenders are doing themselves damage by trying to match him... Nobody has been hurt by Trump more than Walker, who has seen his support drop nearly in half in the last month, to single digits. After his flat performance in the debate, he lost his longtime lead in Iowa... There is no way to outflank Trump on the right. Trump, without a care for Republicans’ long-term electoral viability, is making a parody of the conservative-dominated Republican primary process by embracing the most extreme positions, particularly on immigration. The showman has reduced GOP politics to absurdity-- and you can’t trump that.
Meanwhile polling, nationally and in the early states, keeps showing Trump with an insurmountable lead, and Jeb sinking, sinking, sinking.... Yesterday, for example, Monmouth released a poll of South Carolina Republicans showing Trump with 30% and the only "competition" coming from Ben Carson at 15%. No one else is in double digits. Huckabee and Rand Paul, who were counting on doing well there, are at 3% each. Trump is ahead with "very conservative" voters (33%), "somewhat conservative" voters (31%) and even Republicans who describe themselves as "moderate to liberal" (23%). Trump is winning among evangelicals (33%), teabaggers (33%), men (35%) and women (25%), and South Carolina Republicans agree that "the country needs a president from outside of government who can bring a new approach to Washington" (61%) rather than "someone with government experience who knows how to get things done" (28%). Among those who prefer an outsider, two-thirds are backing one of the three candidates who have never held elected office: Trump (42%), Carson (20%) or Fiorina (6%).

PPP's latest poll, also yesterday, was for primary voters in New Hampshire. The headline? Trump up big in NH; Sanders leads Clinton. Trump is taking 35%, with the next highest Kasich at 11% and Fiorina at 10%. No one else is in double digits. Christie, who practically has taken up residence there and has to win this or at least come in second, is at 4%.

Tuesday we took a look at how George Will was castigating the other Republican candidates for not effectively taking down Trump, who he actually compared to Hitler. Party establishments in Virginia and North Carolina (and now South Carolina too) are trying to write Trump out of the party, but that could open up a can of worst-case scenario: Trump running as an independent. A Luntz-run focus group Monday showed that nothing disqualifies Trump among his supporters. Luntz discussed Trump’s past liberal stances and played past video of Trump saying provocative things about women. Yet when the focus group was over, not a single person who was planning to vote for him said they had changed their mind.
The focus group was made up of 29 people, six of whom said they no longer support Trump but did in the past. Asked to describe Trump in one word or phrase, the answers varied: “businessman,” “brave,” “successful,” “results,” “decisive,” “leader,” “guts,” “charismatic,” “bombastic,” “not a politician,” “not P.C.,” “true American,” “brash,” “decisive,” “kick ass and take names.”

“When he talks, deep down somewhere, you’re going, ‘crap, somebody is thinking the same way I am,’” said one man.

Asked to recall the specific moment they decided to support Trump, most people pointed to his comments on Mexico and the border when he entered the race.

...Luntz gave the participants 21 examples of things that could be problematic for Trump today. That includes how Trump was once pro-choice, supported single-payer healthcare, gave more money to the Democrats, supported stricter gun laws, supported the legalization of marijuana and has been married multiple times.

Yet, most people in the focus group said it was difficult for them to even care about most of them.

“The man’s entitled to change his mind on things,” said one woman.

“In the last 15 years, how many times have you guys changed your mind on something?” said a man.

“Exactly,” another woman added.

Luntz then asked the participants to rank what policy they like most from Trump. The most popular was Trump’s belief that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced.

When Luntz reminded the group that Trump was once for single-payer, which is even more liberal than Obamacare, most people shrugged. “Different time,” someone said.

...All this means the rules of politics don’t seem to apply to Trump. Things that would probably damage-- or end-- other campaigns don’t dent Trump at all.

His poll numbers, both nationally and in early caucus and primary states, continue to dwarf those of the other 16 Republicans running. And he’s drawing crowds of 30,000 [not true; there were only 20,000- ed], like he did last week at a football stadium in Alabama.

The campaigns of his rivals don’t seem to know what to do or how to attack him: the three people who have gone after Trump the hardest-- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Texas Sen. Rick Perry and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham-- have seen their poll numbers evaporate.

Some, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have tried to lay low and not comment on Trump, while others, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has gone out of his way to praise Trump so he can inherit the businessman’s supporters when he inevitably loses momentum.

But, as the focus group indicated, that might not be so inevitable after all. “It’s really hard to see how you bring him down,” Luntz said.
So Jeb Bush is trying to work up some kind of fight in himself to go after Trump for real. I suspect he's doing it because more and more Republican voters are asking, "How's he going to take on Putin or the Korean guy if he can't even stand up to a bloviating schoolyard bully like Trump?" Michael Barbaro assured NY Times readers Monday that Jeb is standing up to Trump's childish taunts... even if no one in their right mind wants to roll around in the slime with a pig.
Trump has called Mr. Bush’s immigration plans “baby stuff” and his education policy “pathetic.” He has expressed mock sympathy for Mr. Bush’s audiences, who he says must be so bored that “they’re sleeping.” Over the weekend, Mr. Trump even poked fun at a new Bush campaign advertisement that inadvertently rendered his left hand many shades darker than his right.

“Jeb,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, “just can’t get it right.”

After enduring those slings and arrows for weeks, to the mounting dismay of supporters, Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, and his aides have decided to venture outside their comfort zone and borrow a page from Mr. Trump’s playbook: Hit back, with force and creativity, over and over again in the coming weeks.
Jeb said Trump's immigration agenda is "unrealistic" and said he should read the book, Immigration Wars, that Jeb wrote a few years ago. When interviewed about Jeb's new "assertiveness," Trump laughed. He said sarcastically that reading Bush's book "would be exciting" and added, "Bush has definitely seen what is happening to his campaign. It’s starting to crumble." Though Jeb reportedly had a more adversarial tone than usual, let's face it, that round sure didn't go to him!
Even as he sought to take the shine off Mr. Trump’s candidacy, he demonstrated just how much the Republican presidential field is now campaigning on Mr. Trump’s terms. Pressed to explain his embrace of the term “anchor baby,” which many immigrants find offensive, Mr. Bush wound up echoing Mr. Trump’s resistance to linguistic sensitivity. “I think we need to take a step back,” Mr. Bush said, “and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness.” (Mr. Bush said he was referring to “Asian people” who travel to the United States to give birth.)

Mr. Trump greeted this with amusement. “That sounds a little familiar,” he said in the interview.

Those close to Mr. Bush said his campaign was reluctant to so quickly enter the phase dominated by combat between candidates. Mr. Bush has barely begun introducing his own record and résumé to voters, which remains his primary objective.

Mr. Trump has shown staying power-- and has made Mr. Bush the focus of his derisive, name-calling campaigning style. Mr. Bush and his aides felt they no could no longer avoid a sustained confrontation without appearing cowardly. (And they took real umbrage at Mr. Trump’s insults, especially when he called Mr. Bush “a low energy person”-- a phrase Mr. Trump repeated several times during the interview.)

...But counterpunching at Mr. Trump poses its own hazards. A seemingly constant presence on television, he has by far the loudest megaphone in the Republican primary and can make life miserable for his foes.

Sally Bradshaw, a top adviser to Mr. Bush, said the campaign was treating Mr. Trump “as we would treat every other candidate.”

“Trump has for weeks been attacking the governor,” she said, “and Jeb has taken those opportunities to highlight their differences on the issues. It’s a contrast we welcome.”
Writing for The Atlantic, Republican strategist David Frum, who worked for Jeb's brother, doesn't think the new strategy will work. He wrote that taking off the gloves and going after Trump on his own terms is a losing proposition.
In New Hampshire this week, Bush criticized Trump more openly than at any point since Trump rose into first place in the polls. Bush attacked Trump as a pseudo-Republican, a supporter of partial-birth abortion and single-payer health care, and an inconsistent and unreliable purveyor of vitriol whose immigration enforcement ideas would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. NPR quoted a Republican observer’s explanation of the new tactic: “What Jeb is desperately trying to do is find his swagger right now. The knock against Jeb is that he’s low voltage and not willing to fight. The best way to shake those perceptions i[s] to engage against the person who is in the media on a 24/7 loop.”

Jeb Bush may feel he has no choice. Donors have invested tens of millions of dollars in his campaign, and many of them must, by now, be getting uneasy. If the uneasiness intensifies, the flow of checks will slow. Every campaign runs on money, but Jeb Bush’s more than most. He’s hoping through sheer staying power to impose his nomination on a recalcitrant party. The money buys the staying power. If the money dwindles, his fortunes fall hostage to the Republicans of the early states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, none of them a promising Jeb Bush firewall.

...Trump certainly hurts Bush, but he hurts other candidates more. Bush’s most immediate problem is not that the base doesn’t trust him-- it didn’t trust John McCain either, yet he nevertheless won the nomination-- but that his donors enjoy too many plausible alternative choices. Bush needs to hustle the donor-acceptable alternatives out of the race as fast as possible, as Mitt Romney was able to do in 2012, leaving donors with a stark alternative: me or some sure-loser madman. Once the donors are locked up and locked down, the party base will sooner or later have to submit. In 2012, as Bachman, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich exploded on the tarmac, base voters swung to support Romney.

Bush’s trouble is that he doesn’t have the clout to push the other donor-acceptable alternatives out of the race. Real-world politicians quit when they see they can’t win, and except for Rick Perry and George Pataki, none of the donor-acceptable alternatives will look at today’s polls and think, “I can’t win.” So Carly Fiorina and John Kasich and Marco Rubio and Scott Walker will linger in the race, subdividing the big money and waiting to pounce on any Jeb Bush misstep or defeat. Bobby Jindal will hang on too-- what has he got to lose?

But if Bush can’t drive out the donor-acceptable alternatives, Trump can. Trump is doing just that to Scott Walker right now. Four months ago, the clever thing to say about Walker was that he was the one candidate who could win both the base and the big donors. That unique strength has proved instead a unique vulnerability, as Walker has been whipsawed by the internal party argument over immigration. Walker-- a strong-willed politician, but not a nimble one-- has tangled himself in a sequence of contradictory answers. He has tumbled from first place in Iowa to third. Dependent on a smaller donor group than Bush, Walker is also more susceptible to donor panic. Walker is a real-world politician, with a job back in Wisconsin and other life options than the presidency. The candidate Bush supposedly feared most may end as one of the first to exit the race.

Thank you, Donald.

The second reason Bush shouldn’t fight Trump: Even if Bush wins, he’ll lose. Jeb Bush is a candidate with many points of vulnerability: personal, familial, financial. Most of Jeb Bush’s Republican rivals will be reluctant to broach these issues in any but the most elliptical way. The norms of American media will inhibit journalists from reporting on them. If Bush can win the nomination, he can rely on the threat of mutually assured destruction to deter the equally vulnerable Hillary Clinton from pressing very hard.

But Trump is not playing by the usual rules. Show Trump a line, and he’ll cross it. He has crossed it. And Jeb Bush is a candidate who needs lines respected almost more than any other.

In the first Fox debate, for example, Trump talked about how beholden candidates become to their donors. Those remarks drew blood. And there will be more, if this tweet from today is any indication:

Why jump into this wrestling match? Trump may well deflate or make a lethal misstep or just get bored sometime before New Hampshire. If, after New Hampshire, the race devolves into a two-way Bush-Trump fight, Bush will surely have the upper hand. Until then, it’s in Jeb Bush’s interest to avoid tangling with a rival who seems to care more about damaging everyone else than electing himself. If he can’t convince his donors of that truth, then Jeb Bush’s greatest apparent strength-- his fundraising-- may be revealing itself as a nearly equal weakness.
And Cruz just sits there, quietly gaining support from the party's "serious" far right fringe, just waiting for Trump and Jeb to finish off each other's electability arguments.

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JEB Bush is caught in the Bush family trap of needing to appear nice-but-firm. However, JEB, George W., and George H.W. Bush only pretend to be gentler, kinder, more compassionate Republicans. The truth is the exact fucking opposite: They are at core inhumane beings, with two former presidents who were major war criminals and the third family member openly campaigning to be the third.

They each and as a family personally embody and represent the meanest, dirtiest, most despicable, and murderous nature of the worst of the American oligarchical system of oppressions, plural, both at home and abroad. They are Northern Hemisphere doppelgangers of the fascist and nazi dictator butchers of Latin America, both historical and at present, all of whom were supported and enabled, indirectly and very directly, by the Bush War Criminal Family and other American oligarchy henchmen and hangers-on throughout modern American history.

Jeb and his whole family deserve what they get, if what they get is incarceration with solitary confinement and zero luxuries for the rest of their natural lives, plus irrevocable banishment of the family from American politics and government in perpetuity. THAT would be a demonstration of sound governance.


Post a Comment

<< Home