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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Will Donald Trump’s messed up hair lead to a win in November?

It’s safe to say, there was a time – and not too long ago – when media pundits were so highly critical of Donald Trump that some of them were even accusing him of intentionally sabotaging his campaign in favor of a Hillary Clinton victory.

Leading #NeverTrumper Erick Erickson famously asked last month, “If Trump wanted to lose to Hillary Clinton, what would he be doing differently?”... on several different occasions.

Donald Trump Jimmy FallonTrump’s critics were basically saying he couldn’t do anything right.

With polls turning around and Hillary Clinton making more news these days for her various lies and misdeeds than for any kind of substance, some political observers are now saying Trump is doing everything right.

After writing that Trump has successfully softened his image since Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Bannon took over the reins of his campaign, Jake Novak at CNBC added, “[T]he pièce de résistance happened Thursday night on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.’ Trump not only cracked jokes and seemed self-deprecatingly likeable, he even (gasp!) let Fallon mess with his hair! Video of that hair tussle is already going viral on Internet, (‘Jimmy Fallon’ has been #1 trending on Twitter since), making the image something akin to Bill Clinton playing the sax on the old ‘Arsenio Hall Show’ in 1992.

“Yes, both scenes are similarly intellectually meaningless, but they're still politically potent. And because Trump has been such a media punching bag and pariah, this moment could be even more helpful than Clinton's was 24 years ago.”

I particularly liked Novak’s article because I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw Fallon messing up Trump’s hair on national TV. I don’t know if the moment was planned out in advance (I suspect it was), but if Trump ends up winning on November 8, historians will likely give Fallon a big chunk of credit for the gesture.

For what it’s worth, here’s a look at Bill Clinton’s sax moment with Arsenio Hall. I thought Bill’s shades-wearing horn-blowing inside a TV studio made him look more like the obnoxious loose playboy that he is, but most people seemed to love it at the time. Good ‘ol boy Bill was no longer the sleazy philandering politician and became “cool” overnight.

I’m not sure the exact same phenomenon will repeat itself with Trump this year, but the moment will most certainly help in making the New York businessman seem more “human” to voters. Again, if you haven’t seen the video, I’d highly recommend you watch it.

Can you imagine Fallon messing up Mitt Romney’s hair? If he had, maybe Americans would have forgotten about the former Republican nominee’s “47%” comment. Fallon could offer to do the same with Crooked Hillary (she’s going to be on his show this week) but then the media would be on him for not only a sexist gesture, but also picking on an old woman.

Novak speculated that Trump is enjoying a bump in the polls because his “humanizing” has made it okay for his quiet supporters to begin speaking up and revealing they support him. I agree 100%.

I believe the trend will continue as we get closer to the election because the late deciders will see Trump as “acceptable” – and viable -- and cast a vote for change.

If that happens, maybe Trump will see having had messy hair as a good thing.

Donald Trump’s economic message is a winner, and it’s what the electorate wants to hear

For those who have been following the 2016 presidential race closely, it’s been somewhat of a mystery why Donald Trump has not taken greater advantage of some of his natural strengths to do better in his match-up with Crooked Hillary Clinton thus far. Clinton is not only an unpopular public figure and a proven liar, she is a poor candidate on the campaign trail who rubs people the wrong way.

Of course the polls have been moving in Trump’s direction lately, and for those of us in the #NeverHillary contingent, that’s a positive development.

But there’s little doubt Trump could have been doing better much sooner if he would only stick to a message that would surely resonate with the seventy percent of Americans who think the country is on the wrong track. Most people likely believe America is deteriorating primarily because of economic struggles.

Therefore, Trump would do well to focus on the economy, just as Bill Clinton did in 1992 at the behest of his campaign manager James Carville, who coined the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid!” to keep his candidate from straying too far from the main point.

Trump looks to have finally learned his lesson lately as his campaign has been much more focused on the economy – and it’s paid dividends in the polls. A recent Fox News poll showed voters favoring him by seven points on handling the economy, with over 50 percent saying he’d do a better job than Hillary on the issue. That’s huge.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes, “Trump's renewed advantage on the economy suggests his focus on issues and a more disciplined campaign style are paying off for him.

“And not just issues — economic issues. A new Bloomberg poll of Ohio showed just how critical economic issues are for voters with less than two months to go before Election Day. Bloomberg pollsters read a list of nine issues to likely voters — immigration, healthcare, climate change, the threat from the Islamic State, taxes, a decline in real income for American workers, unemployment and jobs, trade and other. Unemployment and jobs was at the top of the list, with 36 percent, followed by income decline at 17 percent. (Healthcare was also at 17 percent.) If one added together the economy-related issues — jobs, income, taxes, and trade — the total came to 64 percent. That dwarfed concerns about any other topic, including terrorism.”

None of this is surprising and definitely contradicts the recent U.S. Census Bureau report showing median incomes actually rose in 2015 for the first time in years. When I saw the census paper I couldn’t help but think the numbers were intentionally cooked for the benefit of election year politics. In order for incomes to rise, it only makes sense people need to have jobs (we’re not talking about public assistance here).

The unemployment rate may be down to a tolerable 5 percent (or thereabouts), but the workforce participation rate, meaning the percentage of people of working age who are actually earning income is the lowest it’s been since the dog days of Jimmy Carter. The unemployment rate is the figure everyone pays attention to these days but the workforce participation rate provides a much better measure of the economy’s health.

Regardless of the government’s cooked books for Hillary census report, it’s obvious from the survey numbers that Americans are very worried about the economy. To be fair, the economy tends to be the most important issue in every election, but this year the worries must be particularly acute.

Therefore, it only makes sense for Trump to take a bit of James Carville’s advice and focus like a laser on his economic proposals.

Thankfully, he’s doing just that. Charles Gasparino writes in the New York Post, “[F]or every positive report about the Obama economy, like one earlier in the week showing a slight ebbing in income inequality, there are many more demonstrating that Americans still remain massively under-employed and have wages barely budging, as Trump explained.

“And he did it with style, at one point quipping that ‘it used to be cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now, the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint’ — a reference to the water crisis that engulfed the city that has come to symbolize how government these days is bloated and inefficient.

“He couldn’t have said it better.”

Gasparino says Trump should give a version of the speech (which he delivered on Thursday night to the New York Economic Club) every day until Election Day.

I agree. I can’t help but feel Trump needs to filter through all of the media’s nonsense (like all the hoopla over his admission on Friday that Obama was born in the United States) and stick to the heart of the matter – the economy. It’s what people care about. It isn’t what Hillary Clinton, the Democrats and the media want to deal with, but when Trump talks about jobs and the economy, people pay attention.

With a month and a half left until the election, the winning formula for Trump is really obvious: jobs, jobs and more jobs. What is Hillary going to talk about? Welfare, amnesty and the fact Trump is too crazy to be president.

There isn’t a lot of substance there and people are sure to notice.

Reporter’s week in Europe proves Trump scares the Europeans to death

With so much going on domestically concerning the American presidential race, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the rest of the world is looking on with bewilderment about this most unusual of elections.

Real Clear Politics reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns spent the week in Europe after Labor Day and found the people there as intensely curious about Trump and Crooked Hillary as Americans seem to be.

One thing’s for sure – the prospect of Donald Trump winning the election appears to frighten them.

On foreign policy, Huey-Burns writes, “Our foreign policy debate is top-of-mind among Europeans. Based on my conversations, many were less concerned about what a Clinton administration might portend for policy; instead, there were many more questions about what a President Trump would do, particularly as it pertained to participation in NATO and the WTO, both of which the GOP nominee has criticized.

“Many raised concerns about Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin and whether his administration would empower Moscow and in turn undermine NATO’s Article 5 – which stipulates that an attack on one state is considered an attack on all -- and thus upend traditional U.S. alliances. The nominee’s support for Brexit is also a worry.”

Foreign policy isn’t the only thing Europeans are concerned about with Trump, but it seems to be foremost on their minds. To their credit, it almost sounds like the Europeans are better informed on the issues than the roughly half of the American electorate that supports Hillary.

The fact Trump evokes anxiety among the Europeans is on balance a good thing, not something to be feared. The establishment elites in both parties talk often about how horrified foreign leaders are at the prospect of having to deal with Trump, but that’s only because those leaders are used to the status quo and are frankly terrified that Trump will alter the balance.

NATO is a perfect example of a seventy-year-old strategic alliance that needs to be revisited and updated. The Europeans need to pay more for their own protection. That’s Trump’s policy, and a sound one especially since the U.S. national debt will pass $20 trillion at some point in the near future.

The bottom line is no American voter should be anxious about what the Europeans – or any other country or region – thinks about Donald Trump. Trump has made it clear throughout his candidacy that as president, he’s going to base his foreign policy on whatever is best for American interests in terms of trade and military matters.

Obama may be a “citizen of the world” and reject the concept of American exceptionalism, but Trump appears to have no such inhibitions that our country’s foreign relations must be tied to some sort of realistic goal in making our own citizens’ lives better. We don’t benefit a whole lot from U.S. guaranteeing peace in Europe when our own infrastructure is crumbling.

An Change scares the skittish Europeans without much basis in fact. Look how terrified they were when Brexit happened a few months ago. The dire predictions of economic doom and gloom simply didn’t come true. And the world won’t end if Donald Trump takes the oath of office in January.

Many of the same criticisms of Trump were leveled at Ronald Reagan when he was running for president, namely that Reagan’s tough talk on defense was certain to get the world into a nuclear war. The opposite happened. The Soviet Union crumbled; the Berlin Wall came down (eventually) and America emerged as the world’s lone super power.

Regardless of who wins this year many of the world’s problems will remain. The U.S. can only influence so much; but what we can assure, and Trump will work towards accomplishing, is that American interests are at the top of the list when sitting down opposite to foreign heads of state.

And the Europeans had better get used to the idea. Their free ride is history.

Battle over Obama’s judicial appointees should be a major issue in this year’s election

Finally today, everyone knows about the ongoing fight taking place between the Republicans and Democrats over Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, but bickering over this one confirmation is just the tip of the proverbial judicial iceberg for our Senators.

Lydia Wheeler of The Hill reports, “More than four dozen judicial nominees are in limbo as President Obama’s term draws to a close.

“Senate Democrats are blasting their Republican colleagues for not only blocking the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but also 53 other judges in the lower courts, calling their obstruction ‘unprecedented’ and ‘irresponsible.’”

If Democrats truly think this they must not remember how they were the ones who started the judicial nominee stonewalling when George W. Bush was president. And, don’t forget they were the ones who began the whole notion of obstructing and blocking judicial nominees going back to the confirmation hearings of the supremely qualified Robert Bork in the eighties.

Democrats are just getting a dose of their own medicine. Mitch McConnell has apparently offered to give them a package of four judges to confirm. Dems won’t take it – they want them all or none, playing the race card along the way.

The Senate fight is just one reason why the issue of judicial nominees belongs front and center in this year’s campaign. Most people only talk about the powerful influence of the Supreme Court on our governmental system, but they forget the top judicial body is usually only ruling on the merits of decisions handed up from the lower courts.

Appointments to lower courts are arguably just as important. Obama has already appointed more judges than George W. Bush did in his two terms, now amounting to about 40 percent of the federal judiciary. Do we really want to cement Obama’s legacy in the courts any further by not only approving his appointees, but adding four more years of Hillary’s judges to the mix?

I think not.

Donald Trump absolutely should be talking about the economy in every speech, as I mentioned above. But if he’s smart, discussing judicial appointees should be right alongside jobs and trade in importance.

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