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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Supreme Court tosses Trump a softball – will he blast it out of the park?

As we reach the end of another consequential week in the 2016 presidential horse race, the Supreme Court on Thursday handed Donald Trump more prime topics to talk about in this year’s election, an unanticipated gift that will help him define the differences between him and Hillary Clinton even further. The Court’s long-awaited decision on executive amnesty resulted in a four-four split -- and that’s bad news for the Obama administration.

Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner reports, “A deadlocked Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a blow to the White House by leaving in place a lower court ruling that halted President Obama's executive action to Trump Supreme Court picksgrant legal status to an estimated four million illegal immigrants.

“The justices split 4-4 in the case, called U.S. vs. Texas, meaning that the appeals court ruling would stand as the final word in the case. That effectively blocks what would have been one of President Obama's key domestic policy achievements and underscores the limits of the president's policy of executive action to bypass Congress entirely rather than attempt to cut deals.”

Of course conservatives were pleased with the Court’s holding because we’ve argued Obama’s action was unconstitutional all along. But we’re also not satisfied because the issue is far from settled politically.

There isn’t a whole lot of middle ground on this one. Conservatives are happy that FINALLY there’s been some sort of official (and legal) restriction placed on unfettered executive power and Democrats (and probably some establishment Republicans as well) are upset that their potential new voter base and cheap labor force may not materialize after all.

Seeing as the vote was a 4-4 tie, it also means that crucial fifth vote in the next term will likely mean the difference between Obama and Hillary’s vision of rule by executive fiat versus the conservative, pro-Constitutional view that a president must defer to Congress to legislate on issues such as immigration.

Tyrants everywhere are frustrated today as a result.

If Donald Trump is smart, he’s now got (at least) three concrete issues to focus on in the campaign: First, “Crooked Hillary”, two, immigration/terrorism and three, Supreme Court appointments.

Well, a fourth would be jobs, jobs, jobs.

But I wouldn’t want to pile on. One thing’s for sure, there will be plenty to discuss and disagree over in the coming months, providing voters a concrete choice between two visions in November.

The Donald’s anti-Hillary speech on Wednesday revealed Trump’s growth as a politician

Whenever Donald Trump steps up to a microphone, you just know you’re going to get a mixed reaction on whatever he has to say – and that was certainly true in the aftermath of his blistering tongue-lashing of Hillary Clinton on Wednesday.

Naturally, Democrats weren’t happy. But there were a fair number of squishy Republicans who didn’t care much for Trump’s remarks, either.

Daniel Lippman of Politico reports, “Donald Trump’s Wednesday attack on Hillary Clinton was, for many Republicans, exactly what they’d been waiting for: a disciplined, scripted attack on what the GOP contends is a deeply flawed Democratic candidate.

“But with Trump, it’s never quite that simple: Even as some Republicans praised his anti-Clinton jeremiad, others ripped their party’s presumptive nominee for pushing a policy agenda that, at points, strayed far from the party line.”

The Republican dissenters seem to mostly be from the big business wing of the GOP that seeks to preserve the free trade deals Trump and Bernie Sanders have been railing against for over a year now. These critics claimed Trump’s economic populist message wouldn’t attract new voters to his cause -- but I disagree.

He may not pick up many elites with this kind of argument, but the masses are where the votes are – and that’s where Trump aimed his message, at the folks in large cities who’ve suffered under the policies of both parties that have led to crumbling infrastructure, failed schools and a scarcity of jobs, much less good paying ones.

Most inner city residents will continue to vote Democrat and therefore ensure more of the same for years to come. Trump doesn’t need a wholesale reversal in voting behavior to help him, however. If The Donald is able to pick up a few more points from the black voting bloc, for instance, he’ll be in good shape.

But perhaps the most surprising thing of all about the Trump’s speech was his ability to stop drifting all over the place when he speaks.

The Donald’s new teleprompter-inspired message discipline provides the best version of Trump the politician – someone who has something to say but doesn’t always communicate it very well.

Throughout the Republican primary campaign Trump would often deliver disjointed and sometimes rambling speeches his supporters loved but would be panned by critics and opponents alike. Off the cuff, Trump is no Ted Cruz. Cruz is used to committing to memory long orations and delivering them with a precision that’s virtually unmatched in politics today.

Along those lines, we all thought Marco Rubio was similarly proficient at extemporaneous speaking until Chris Christie exposed him as the master of the “25 second speech” in what probably was the most crucial moment of the entire campaign season during a debate just before the New Hampshire primary.

Rubio, Cruz and Trump all have a gift, but it shows up in different ways. Rubio won people over by painting rhetorical pictures of “The Next American Century,” but couldn’t back it up with real accomplishments or substance that people could chew on.

Meanwhile, as the smartest candidate in the presidential race from either party, Ted Cruz could not only stay on message, he was able to compartmentalize what other candidates said in the past and weave them into his message.

Let’s not forget Trump first called him “Lyin’ Ted” in the South Carolina debate when Cruz correctly quoted Trump’s views from months before on funding Planned Parenthood. Far from a “lie”, Trump couldn’t get away from Cruz’s truthful assertion, but instead indicated those were no longer reflective of his current views.

It’s often appeared Trump didn’t know what he meant with past statements, but then again, he’s a businessman and an entertainer, not a politician who’s used to being quoted on the record and having to explain it later.

Trump threw in the “Lyin’” part to counterpunch in what he always saw as verbal boxing matches, sometimes known as Republican presidential debates. Trump’s words would often qualify as low-blows, but they served their purpose and focused attention back on the asserter, not the assertion itself.

Was Cruz lying? Of course not. But in a televised presidential debate with 90-second answers, Cruz didn’t have time to lay out a case for what Trump said and when he said it.

Which brings me to Trump’s genius, which was amply demonstrated in his anti-Hillary speech on Wednesday. Despite his elite education and lifelong business success, Trump has never lost the ability to communicate with Americans on a level everyone understands.

They may not truly grasp how Trump feels about Planned Parenthood in particular, but they could understand Trump felt Cruz was trying to distort his views on the subject.

There’s a similar dynamic at play with the Trump/Hillary matchup. Both candidates are going about their business of trying to define each other. Day after day Hillary talks about how “dangerous” and unstable Trump is. But Trump’s catch phrase “Crooked Hillary” gets to the essence of what he’s trying to say about her in an instant.

Namely, she can’t be trusted, because she’s all about power and her own self interests.

Heck, even liberals agree Trump’s speech hit its mark. As an example, liberal Michelle Goldberg of Slate writes, “Donald Trump’s Wednesday morning speech about Hillary Clinton’s record is probably the most unnervingly effective one he has ever given. In a momentary display of discipline, he read from a teleprompter with virtually no ad-libbing, avoiding digs at Bill Clinton’s infidelity or conspiracy theories about Vince Foster’s suicide.

“…Trump spoke for 40 minutes without saying anything overtly sexist. Instead, he aimed straight at Clinton’s most-serious weaknesses, describing her as a venal tool of the establishment. ‘Hillary Clinton gave China millions of our best jobs and effectively let China completely rebuild itself,’ he said. ‘In return, Hillary Clinton got rich!’ He added, ‘She gets rich making you poor,’ and called her possibly ‘the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.’”

As I’ve said a lot lately, if Donald Trump can stay on message by making Hillary’s record the main topic of conversation, people will stop focusing solely on his off-the-wall comments and concentrate instead on the key elements of this year’s election.

If you don’t believe it, everyone’s now talking about what Trump said about Hillary on Wednesday and no one is bringing up his post-Orlando comments or the Mexican judge flap.

It’s amazing what a little message discipline will do for you. Should Donald Trump stop wandering off topic about how beautiful his daughter is and instead talk about how Hillary’s refugee program affects America’s blighted inner cities, he arguably can’t be beat.

He’d be Trump the politician with real ideas as opposed to The Donald the blowhard who isn’t fit for office.

Now, all we have to do is wait and see if he can pull it off.

CNN hires Corey Lewandowski, but we can’t quite figure out why

It’s safe to say, when most of us heard Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had been fired on Monday, we weren’t the least bit concerned about whether he’d be able to find work again anytime soon.

Now comes news Lewandowski has already found a new place to park his briefcase.

T. Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner reports, “Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has landed a job at CNN, according to Politico.

“He will join the cable news network as a political commentator, the report, which is based on anonymous sources, said. His position will be salaried and he will remain exclusive to CNN.”

Lewandowski landing a job at a place like CNN is a little puzzling for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is most people who get to know him can’t stand the guy.

As an example, Adams’ article refers to an unnamed source who claimed Trump’s children thought of Lewandowski as “a little Napoleon a—hole.”

That’s not exactly the type of person you want representing your network, but hey, if “Napoleon” brings in viewers, who are we to deny him a job? Lord knows lots of sleazy former political operatives gravitate into the “commentary” arena after getting the axe from their real jobs. Maybe Lewandowski will become the Republican version of George Stephanopoulos.

He’ll also no doubt write a book someday about his year with Trump where he’ll get a multi-million dollar advance in order to spill the beans on his former employer’s family. I can just see it now. I bet Trump will never speak to him again after it’s released.

In the meantime, Lewandowski has continued to shower praise on Trump since being canned and likely will persist in his new capacity as “commentator”. His value as a network personality depends on Trump’s ability to win. If the Donald loses, no one will care what Lewandowski has to say.

Time will tell if anyone wants to even hear him now…

Gary Johnson knows he won’t win, so he just wants to get on TV

Finally this week, I’ve barely mentioned him in passing, but Libertarian Gary Johnson is out there campaigning for the same office as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but people don’t seem to be giving him much credence.

Maybe it’s because Johnson doesn’t appear to take himself very seriously.

Bianca Padro Ocasio of Politico reports, “Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson is hoping this year’s divisive election will give him the edge he needs, if only to make it to the presidential debate stage.

“’You know, as strange as this whole election season is going, I might just be the next president of the United States,’ he said at the 33rd annual National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Washington.”

Johnson will be the next president when donkeys fly and unicorns rule the earth. Who knows, if Hillary gets elected, that might be a possibility after four years’ time.

As of today, Johnson is polling at 8.6 percent in the 3-way Real Clear Politics average and 7 percent in the four-way race.

Unless something drastic happens, it’s probably best just to focus on the two people who have a realistic chance in the contest, even if Johnson should somehow get in the debates.

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Lyin Ted

The Lyin' Ted remark came out of the Iowa primary. Some jerk local Congressman tweeted that Dr. Carson had dropped out of the race. I can't recall his name. I can only recall his jackass smile, as he lurked behind Cruz, who was making a victory speech.