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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Round Two of the Great Trump vs. Clinton bout goes decidedly to the challenger

As we are now less than a month away from Election Day, in most years the presidential race would have settled into a set pattern by now with both parties seeking to ramp up their get-out-the-vote efforts and the candidates merely looking to shore up their messages and avoid any costly missteps as the clock ticks down to end the game.

Not this year. With both candidates having just endured more embarrassing revelations in the past few days, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look as though they’re just getting started in making their cases for why they deserve to be elected president.

Trump Clinton debateThe storm over Trump’s audio tape appeared to subside somewhat by the end of Sunday, helped along by the Republican nominee’s refusal to heed calls to step down. Trump even called his Republican critics “self-righteous hypocrites” for their continued outbursts of negativity, implying they seek to gain political favor by joining in on the effort to condemn their own candidate.

Meanwhile, Crooked Hillary Clinton was in damage control mode herself seeking to deflect attention away from another email document dump. But the press has been much more preoccupied with Trump’s sex life, so naturally we haven’t heard much about it.

This was the lead-up to the second presidential debate which took place at Washington University in St. Louis, moderated by liberals Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper. With all of the spurious intrigue in the air, it’s safe to say everyone was waiting to see how Trump would handle the hurricane-force media winds swirling around him.

The program didn’t get off to a very good start as the candidates didn’t even shake hands when they entered the stage. “Wow, did you notice that?” I’m guessing that was a typical reaction in living rooms across the country.

But in the end, I thought Trump did very well – much, much better than in the first debate. In contrast to the first face-to-face contest two weeks ago, Trump was much more focused on the issues, kept up a steady stream of attacks on his opponent and wasted very little time defending himself or his family history.

There were a couple questions that Trump didn’t directly answer – the one on what he would do about the humanitarian crisis in Syria comes to mind – but by and large he kept interruptions to a minimum and talked a lot about how Hillary represents the status quo and he represents change.

As would be expected, Trump passed off his comments on the audio tape as “locker room talk” and then started explaining about how the world has bigger problems to be concerned with, such as “ISIS chopping off heads.”

Time and again Hillary claimed Trump wasn’t telling the truth in his answers. She kept asking people to go to her website to fact-check Donald Trump…but if no one trusts her or believes her already, why should people believe the “facts” that are on her website?

I’m having a very hard time believing that people are responding well to Hillary’s pleas – except maybe her most ardent supporters. Otherwise, why would you go to her website at all?

Going into the debate I thought Trump’s only chance at redemption this late in the game would be to come across as completely humble, apologize profusely and demonstrate that he’s a changed man.

There was some of that – Trump did apologize again for his words but in his own inimitable way, didn’t really dwell on it. He hovered in the background while Hillary walked all over the stage trying in vain to connect with the audience. Trump largely stayed in the center of the stage when answering, kind of awkwardly holding up his microphone with rather stiff body language.

Clearly he’s not comfortable with the “game show host” aspect of town hall forums. Fair enough.

He also “sniffed” a lot into his microphone, similar to the first debate. I don’t think he can get away with blaming the mic again this time.

If the contest was decided on presentation and body language alone, Hillary won hands down. If it was based on content and making good, substantive points, Trump was the clear winner.

To his credit, Trump not only brought up Hillary’s emails and correctly backed her in a corner on them, he also created probably the debate’s most memorable moment at the same time. After promising to appoint a special prosecutor if he’s elected to look into Hillary’s corruption, she replied, “It’s good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of law enforcement in this country.”

Trump then said, “Because you would be in jail.”

The audience laughed and applauded – against the rules, according to the perturbed moderators.

Another funny line came when Trump said this, “She got caught in a total lie. Now she’s blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe, who never told a lie. That’s the difference between Abraham Lincoln and you.”

The focus group convened by Frank Luntz (on Fox News) after the debate overwhelmingly gave the “win” to Trump. I’ve been saying for a long time that if Trump could stick to talking about Hillary’s record and the issues, it would be a big winner for him.

Here’s why: After the initial shock of what Trump said on the audio tape wore off, it occurred to me that one, the tape was from over 11 years ago; two, the people who were most “offended” by it on the Republican side were the same establishment holdouts that didn’t enthusiastically support him in the first place and lastly, Trump’s supporters were probably still behind him (which turned out to be true).

The parallels to Bill Clinton’s many and varied sex scandals in the 90’s were striking, at least the way Americans reacted to it. For whatever reason, people didn’t care that their president was an adulterous sleazebag. Bill’s approval ratings only went up with each new revelation concerning his lurid appetite for women who weren’t his wife.

A similar phenomenon seems to be taking place now with Trump, though there are distinctions. There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that Trump has actually cheated on wife Melania. Trump isn’t yet the president and of course his party is different.

Even evangelical leaders signaled continued support of Trump if only because they know electing Hillary would spell disaster for religious freedom and almost permanently seal any hope of curbing legal abortion much less repeal Roe v. Wade.

Towards the end of the debate there was an audience question concerning the Supreme Court and how the candidates would go about choosing new Justices.

Hillary replied, “I want to appoint Supreme Court Justices who understand how the world really works.” Understanding “how the world really works” is the job of the elected legislature. Interpreting laws is the purview of the judiciary. Apparently Hillary doesn’t understand the basic difference.

Hillary then babbled about how she wanted Citizens United repealed and mumbled something about preserving Roe v. Wade and “marriage equality,” which is liberal-speak for same-sex marriage.

In his answer, Trump talked about the list of judges he produced and said he wanted judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia, “people who will respect the Constitution of the United States.”

A good answer. I think it would have been even more effective by simply stating, “I want judges that will enforce the law.”

One final note. Trump complained often about how the moderators kept interrupting him and not Hillary, which is true, but his beef was primarily concerning ABC’s Martha Raddatz. Raddatz even “fact checked” him a couple times, which was inappropriate and over the top.

I thought Anderson Cooper asked some tough and relevant questions for both candidates. I had no problem with the job he did.

To conclude, I think Donald Trump clearly won the second debate and it should help him regain lost traction in the race if enough Americans tuned in to watch. It was Trump’s most substantive debate to date, talking about Obamacare, Hillary’s emails, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s past and about his “extreme vetting” proposal for Muslim immigrants.

Trump was calm and collected when Hillary attacked him personally and showed that he was very capable on the policy front as well as offering a little “entertainment” element to politics.

It will be interesting to see how the polls react in the coming days.

Note: For a treatment on why the audio tape should not distract from the real issues at stake this year, click here.

Could pollsters be cooking their poll results to make a Trump election seem illegitimate?

Before the most recent dust-up over Trump’s audio recording, it occurred to me that perhaps the pollsters might have a different and separate motivation for finding Hillary Clinton with a comfortable and growing lead.

Could it be that pollsters are inflating Hillary’s poll numbers to make it look like a Trump election was somehow illegitimate?

There has been a lot of media speculation that Trump would call foul if he does actually end up losing, but after seeing a fair amount of evidence that would tend to point to a Trump lead, I began to wonder if Hillary and the Democrats might be the ones griping after November 8.

Consider the recent Pew study that found American workers are very worried about Trump’s strongest issues in this election, namely outsourcing, foreign imports and immigrants as the top threats to their jobs. And jobs and the economy are always near or at the top of the list of concerns of voters in every election.

Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports, “The Pew Research Center found that an overwhelming 80 percent of adults believe that the increased outsourcing of jobs to other countries ‘hurts American workers.’…

“The concerns about outsourcing, immigrants and foreign imports, has led a majority of Americans to say that they feel their jobs is less secure.”

The Pew report also indicated Americans believe they need more education to keep up with the demands of a changing world economy.

I can’t help but think these concerned Americans would trust Trump more than the Democrats on this issue because he is, well, a businessman. Meanwhile, the only jobs Hillary Clinton seems to be creating are in the government sector along with the various federal law enforcement agencies that have been forced to staff-up because of so many investigations into her crooked dealings while acting as Secretary of State.

They certainly must be hiring at the FBI. If Hillary wins the White House, they’ll need a lot more help in the future, too.

Which brings me back to the polls. Simply put, they don’t make sense. Or, in the alternative, there’s a “secret vote” that is yet to reveal itself.

Milton Rosenberg writes at The American Spectator, “It follows that the slight Clinton majorities coming from the ‘closely contested’ and electorally crucial states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina may be illusory. If there is a small silent majority for Trump out there it will show from the privacy of the voting booth rather than in the polls.”

I believe there is a “silent majority” out there that would favor Trump. The only question is how large it might prove to be and whether these secret Trump voters will be swayed by negative events like the Trump audio tape.

It could very well be that people will get so sick of the media’s fixation on Trump’s personal life that they’ll be more inclined to vote for him.

If Trump does end up winning next month, be prepared for a furious counter-reaction to his victory from the political left. Whether the pollsters are doing it intentionally or not, they’re creating conditions for a real disturbance after the election. Troubled times are on their way in either scenario, in my opinion.

Reports of the RNC’s meltdown over Trump were greatly exaggerated

Finally today, with all of the speculation over Donald Trump potentially dropping out of the presidential race because of the audio tape there were similar rumors involving the possible departure of Republican National Committee personnel.

At least publicly, there is no sign of bailing on their nominee.

Rudy Takala of the Washington Examiner reports, “A report that the Republican National Committee is struggling with Donald Trump's latest controversy is mistaken, a spokesman said Sunday.

“’The report is 100 percent false,’ RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told the Washington Examiner. He made the same statement on Twitter in a response to an MSNBC host who made the claim that staffers were being told ‘to do what's best for them’ in terms of whether to retain employment with the party.”

The whole notion that party staffers would be told to jump ship is preposterous. Even if Trump would decide to step down the party would still run a candidate in the election. It’s not like people would get up and leave tomorrow and RNC headquarters would be empty.

It’s clear the Republican Party has developed many deep fissures over this year’s election and it doesn’t begin or end with Donald Trump. As I’ve said many times before, even if Trump weren’t the nominee the media would be ripping to shreds any of the others just as savagely. As the leader of the Washington establishment, Hillary Clinton would be receiving the same type of assistance regardless of who won the Republican nomination.

Donald Trump isn’t making things any easier for Republicans this year, but he is not the problem. The problem is the party can’t decide what it truly stands for. Is it the party of big business? The party of the defense establishment? The party of social conservatives? The party of corporate welfare?

There’s no doubt the discussion will go on long past Election Day next month. If Trump wins, it will answer some of those questions.  If he loses, the searching will only continue.

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Demographic Outreach

In music, a market exists for a particularly raunchy form of Hip Hop / Rap Music, where the lyrics and videos sexually objectify women. The patrons of “raunchy” Rap seem to belong to a minority demographic that resides in the inner city; a demographic which Trump has diligently pursued, in contrast to previous Republican Party candidates for President. Perhaps with the recently released recording of Trump talking about his flirtations with women, the Trump campaign found a way to enhance the candidate’s appeal to this inner city demographic, and to coax them into voting for him.

“Building his street cred,” is the jargon that comes to mind from depictions on television.

Trump Mopped the Floor with Her

"Bill’s approval ratings only went up with each new revelation concerning his lurid appetite for women who weren’t his wife."

That's because people couldn't stand her then, either. We were glad to see her getting screwed over by her adulterous husband.

What the party stands for....

In that regard, Trump actually seems to have (or speaks as if he has) a better grasp of what's the Party claims to stand for that the Party elites.
Remember when he signed the pledge to support the Party's nominee, and stated his committment to the GOP "and to the conservative principles for which it stands".
Part of the reason for the ruckus is that Trump is not a big fan of corporate welfare nor of the Military-Industrial Complex. He would upset the DC applecart if he wins.