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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Did Donald Trump win or did Republicans just lose?

With the ever-present support/not support battle between Donald Trump backers and the #NeverTrump people continuing unabated, there’s also an ongoing parallel debate taking place concerning Trump’s unlikely rise and who’s ultimately responsible for it.

Polls continue to show Hillary Clinton with a lead (the Real Clear Politics average has her at a +5.7 points) and although we still have almost six months to go until the general election – and even two months until the GOP Trump and Megynconvention – many naysayers are already forecasting doom for The Donald. (More on the polls below.)

With a fairly large segment of Republicans and conservatives already convinced Trump will lose in November, naturally there’s a great deal of finger pointing between various groups placing blame for allowing Trump to effectively “steal” the party nomination.

If the poll numbers gradually get worse as time goes on, the intensity of the attacks will increase accordingly. For now, there’s just a lot of hand-wringing and over-analysis taking place.

Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review writes, “The question these precriminations seek to answer is who, besides Trump himself and his supporters, paved the way for his nomination. Four groups are in the dock: Trump’s primary rivals, Republican officials, the media, and conservatives.”

Ponnuru provides solid analysis on all four groups’ roles in either promoting Trump or failing to stop him. It’s fairly clear from the tone of Ponnuru’s examination that he’s a member of the “Trump will lose” faction, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the analysis. It’s well worth a read if you have time.

Having followed the campaign closely since the end of July 2015, I think there isn’t so much needed “blame” for Trump’s rise as there should be credit to the candidate himself for his willingness to break established unwritten “rules” on how to run for president and managing to come out on top despite the array of powerful forces pitted against him.

Trump overcame a number of sizable hurdles in his journey to the present. First, there was the matter of low expectations and a political establishment that was often hostile because they failed to take him seriously.

No one believed that someone who had never held political office before could be seen by large swaths of the public as not only competent to be president but also uniquely qualified for the office because of his perceived lack of taint from the system itself.

True, outsiders have run in the past and some even did quite well, for a time. Looking back to the fall of 2011, for example, “pizza man” Herman Cain topped the polls for a month or so until allegations of personal misconduct (women accusing him of impropriety) and a lack of policy gravitas combined to bring him back to earth.

But Donald Trump is no Herman Cain. Though Cain is wealthy and somewhat famous in his own right, Trump’s name and fortune is exponentially greater and The Donald ran on the notion that he didn’t need or would not accept big contributions from “friends” or supporters alike.

All along, it’s not exactly clear how much Trump raised in small dollar contributions (his website still accepted donations) or spent on campaign operations. Meanwhile, his opponents accumulated tens of millions and spent most or all of it on TV ads that didn’t work, campaign infrastructure that didn’t produce or consultants who couldn’t find a way to stall Trump’s momentum.

The “pros” were wrong. Trump was right. Who gets the blame…or credit?

Only Ted Cruz’s extremely professional operation produced tangible results. But Ted didn’t have Fox News and The Drudge Report in his pocket, either.

In addition, the conservative media helped Trump fill the spending gap by providing all the coverage the candidate could possibly ask for. But it wasn’t the media driving the big crowds to Trump events. Even the ever-present leftist protestors at Trump campaign stops helped fuel the frenzy. There’s nothing like being told by leftist apologists that you’re racist and sexist to your face – it only helped Trump in the end.

And while it’s also true the party establishment failed to rally behind Trump’s opponents until the contest was effectively out of reach, there was no clear indication such a consolidation at an earlier time would have made any difference in the outcome.

By late fall when it was evident Jeb Bush was going nowhere and Marco Rubio seemed to be the best bet for the establishment, the wave of endorsements in Rubio’s favor didn’t do a thing to Trump and only served to infuriate the conservatives who were already inclined to support Ted Cruz.

Meanwhile, Trump chugged along with a healthy lead in national polls and was competitive or leading in every single early voting state.

Trump’s opponents often hurt themselves, too, but couldn’t touch the frontrunner. Much of the same media that was fawning over Trump was also glowing towards Rubio after his “surprise” third-place finish in Iowa. Rubio then had his “roboto” moment with Chris Christie in the New Hampshire debate and he was never the same afterwards.

So in essence, I don’t think “blame” needs to be assigned to anyone for a singular failure to prevent Trump from winning the nomination. Trump won because he was the candidate who best tapped into the national mood and was smart and capable enough to steer public opinion when things got rough for him.

A perfect example is he and his family’s performance at the CNN Town Hall before the New York primary. Trump had just endured a humiliating loss in Wisconsin, yet he put on his TV face with his wife and grown kids by his side – and people all across the country saw him as the man they wanted: The “lovable” Donald who railed against the system… The rich guy who still comes across as likable and relatable… The anti-Romney.

Doubters will continue to doubt. But if these people keep getting caught up in the “blame” game because of Trump, they’re only doing themselves a disservice.

Donald Trump narrows Hillary’s lead in a new poll, but can you trust it?

It’s funny in a sense that many folks are so sure Donald Trump is going to lose in November because the polling evidence of late shows he’s at least in the game with Hillary Clinton despite sky-high unfavorable ratings and the intense dislike of many in his own party.

Yet another new poll shows Trump gaining on Clinton, too. Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico reports, “Donald Trump continues to cut into Hillary Clinton’s lead nationally, according to a national NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll released Tuesday.

“Trump has reduced the 5-point advantage Clinton held last week to just 3 percentage points. But the former secretary of state still leads 48 percent to 45 percent.”

Trump also leads among independent voters, 44 to 36 percent.

Polls have generally shown the Trump-Clinton match-up getting closer since The Donald became the presumptive nominee after Indiana two weeks ago.

As always when it comes to polling – and especially assessing data that concerns the volatile Trump, you have to wonder whether pollsters are really on top of the rapidly shifting public opinion or if they’re missing something somewhere. There’s much concern that the general election polling will be unreliable, and with good reason.

Steven Shepard of Politico writes, “Ten months after the New York billionaire announced his White House bid, pollsters are grappling with his force-of-nature candidacy and the many questions it raises for their industry. Will he produce a surge of new voters that they can’t predict? Will voters be less likely to admit to live pollsters that they intend to support him in November? And given the talk of a potential third-party candidacy, how would that prospect scramble the polls?”

Of particular concern to the pollsters is forecasting turnout, which could either be much larger in the general election (like it has been in the GOP primaries) because Trump brings in new people – or depressed because both he and Hillary Clinton are so despised by the electorate as a whole.

There’s also the specter of a potential third-party candidate on the Republican side, though it’s not looking too promising for that to happen at this point.

For his part, Trump has decided to upgrade his own internal polling, hiring reputable Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio for the general election campaign. Even Democrats admit Fabrizio is good at what he does – truly, a smart hire for Trump.

Messaging and polling will be essential as we get closer to Election Day. Trump’s been able to wing it so far, but he’ll now be going up against a Clinton machine that will do anything to get Hillary elected.

One way or another, it will be interesting.

Democrats have Bill Clinton, Republicans hide the Bushes

As Republicans and conservatives continue to sift through their feelings on Donald Trump, one thing that’s become obvious on the campaign trail is the utter absence of any former presidential might helping to draw crowds or more importantly, raise money.

Bill Clinton is a fixture in Hillary’s campaign, of course, and the former first couple goes out of their way to sell Hillary’s candidacy as a potential package deal. Hillary does the talking during events, but Bill is often right behind her smiling and clapping along.

In contrast, the Republicans have no presence whatsoever from either of their living former presidents. The Bush family has been notoriously absent from anything officially Republican since February, when George W. briefly came out of his shell to campaign for brother Jeb in South Carolina.

Since then, the family has let it be known that none of them will vote or campaign for Donald Trump. I’m guessing Trump is just fine with it, too.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes, “But how could Bush support the candidate who slapped down his brother and trashed his own White House record? That would be a stretch even for a nimble politician.

“Still, the refusal to support Trump makes Bush and his family look like they are putting personal interests over the party. And in the end, some Republicans wonder whether that might end up helping Trump.”

It’s entirely understandable why George W. would want to stay as far away from Trump as he can possibly get. Trump made it a point throughout his campaign to say – loudly – how fervent he was in opposing the “mistake” that was Bush’s Iraq War. Jeb stood there smirking whenever Trump mentioned it in debates, clearly steamed that the party frontrunner was making hay by trashing his own family.

At the same time, Trump is smart politically to put distance between him and the Bush family. While George W’s reputation has certainly improved some since leaving office, he’s still highly controversial with the American public as a whole.

So we won’t be seeing much of the Bush family for the rest of the campaign. The question is, will anyone notice?

Trump to speak on damaging incidents during primary season

Finally today, Donald Trump has committed a basket full of verbal gaffes during the primary season, leading many to dismiss him as completely unfit to serve as president.

Perhaps in an attempt to make things right with the #NeverTrump people or to merely set the record straight, Trump’s going to be addressing several of the more outrageous events in the coming weeks.

Mark Hensch of The Hill reports, “Trump will revisit and try to smooth over past incidents in an attempt to polish his image before the general election, according to The Washington Post.

“’I may explain this stuff during speeches,’ he said in the article published Tuesday. ‘It may be old news, it may not be old news, but I’m just telling you.’”

Trump has said many times that he doesn’t apologize and hasn’t even asked God for forgiveness. While I doubt he’ll be voicing the words “apology” or “I’m sorry”, it does take some level of contrition to realize what he said wasn’t appropriate and to express some remorse for it.

One wonders if this was one of the conditions Paul Ryan and party leaders laid out during their meetings last week. Trump fixes the mess, and then he gets money and an endorsement.

Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (who’s been a PR nightmare of his own) says Trump won’t be pandering and just wants to correct the narrative about him.

That’s certainly understandable. But the media will decide the narrative they want to portray…and I doubt it will be pretty.

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Trump was treated like a celebrity and didn't have to take a political stand on anything. American people look up to celebrities and Trump was no different. The followers don't care what He says. It is like a badge of honor to be a Trump supporter.

Makes Cain look like a policy heavyweight

Of course time will tell whether Trump hires an "A" team of mostly conservative advisors, but to call Herman Cain a policy lightweight is a great insult.
As a talk show host and a star speaker at conservative events, Cain had done plenty of research into what did and didn't work by the time he ran. In a way, he was tapping into the same TEA Party anger which elevated Trump - the people were (and still are) fed up with Washington running entirely for its own benefit.
So the 9/9/9 tax plan sounded simplistic, but it was a step toward a FairTax, and the numbers essentially balanced. Cruz's flat tax plan is simplistic, too - perhaps that is what we need - the less levers for Congress to tweak, the better.
As for the allegations of impropriety, note that the women had shady backgrounds (the lead accuser had such a reputation for false claims that managers would only meet her in pairs for self protection), were represented by the infamous Gloria Allred, and slunk away as soon as Cain departed the race - in other words, as much substance as Roger Stone and David Pecker's attempt to slime Cruz.

Cain ran right into the Romney/Establishment machine, and they were determined to destroy him, just as they were determined to destroy Newt, as soon as he caught the attention of the public.

Did Republicans lose?

Yes, they did. Most of them were promoting illegal immigration and/or vastly expanded legal immigration. That was a non-starter.

Others were promoting so-called 'free trade' in markets that clearly are manipulated.

Others wanted to launch new wars, and paid no attention to a war weary nation and a military that's been 'rode hard and put away wet'.

And even others wanted to use the social issue hot buttons to energize a base that they had sold out on just those issues. But the base had no incentive to fight over issues already LOST by their quisling 'leadership'.

There is no doubt that republicans lost.

Betcha can't say the word ESTABLISHMENT

Yeah! Right! It was not the Republicans that lost. It was the Establishment Republicans that lost. Get it?