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GOP Presidential nomination gets murky…sort of

I’ve said several times in the last few weeks that Donald Trump is the most likely Republican nominee for President. But events that seemed to start with last week’s sophomoric “there’s nothing wrong with my penis” debate, and continue through last weekend’s voting, cloud that picture a bit.

During last week’s debate, Marco Rubio was shrill in aggressively attacked Trump, Trump responded poorly, Ted Cruz saw the opportunity, and was the net beneficiary. Cruz’s strength in states that weighed in this weekend seemed mostly at the expense of Rubio, but he seemed to take some from Trump as well. All told, it is Ted Cruz who moves into this week with enough momentum to make people wonder, mostly at Marco Rubio’s expense.

Here’s why Trump is still in the best position:

Starting with Florida and Ohio on March 15th, then moving into big midwest states, the GOP will have a bunch of winner-take-all contests. In addition to Florida (which Trump comfortably leads) and Ohio (where Trump and Kasich will battle, but Trump currently leads), those delegate-rich winner-take-all states include Illinois (winner-take-most), Missouri, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Those states represent 457 delegates. While I cannot find reputable recent polling for Missouri or Arizona as I write this, Trump doesn’t trail in any of those states. In states with recent polling, Trump currently leads in all of them to varying degrees.

If Trump were to win those states, added to the 384 delegates he’s already earned, his delegate total would rise to 841, of the 1,237 needed for the nomination. Just as importantly, since the above states constitute all the delegate-rich winner-take-all states between now and April 26, the other Republican candidates would be falling far behind, as they continue to split delegates in the proportional states (with Trump taking his fair share of them as well).

Here’s why Trump’s position is weakened:

Voting in Louisiana this weekend demonstrated how fast a candidate with a tenuous hold on supporters can fall. Granted, Trump only underperformed his polling by about 2%. But he was supposed to win the state by 15%, and only won by 4%, with a strong surge from Cruz. Trump’s support was relatively stable, but Marco Rubio’s support completely collapsed between the early voting period and election day, probably driven by Rubio’s shrill debate performance last week, and Cruz taking advantage of it.

gop-debateThe volatility of the race may indicate that all the polling in those winner-take-all states mentioned above may ultimately not be worth the paper its printed on. And the biggest irony here is that, for all the attacks on Trump from all quarters in the last week, the key reason Trump suddenly looks weak has less to do with voters leaving Trump, and more to do with voters leaving Rubio. For all the endless discussion for months about Trump’s ceiling, perhaps we should have been considering Trump’s floor.

It is by no accident that Cruz is now spending heavily all over Florida, where a much-weakened Rubio fights, probably unsuccessfully, to avoid losing his home turf. And it would not be surprising if Ohio Governor John Kasich won in his home state the same day. This newly-exposed volatility may well mean that, instead of Trump marching on toward the nomination by taking the big winner-take-all state delegates, at mid-month we may soon begin to see candidates split these states. This, in turn, makes it much more likely that nobody will get to the GOP convention with a majority of delegates, setting up the contested convention people always talk about but which seldom happens.

I still think the most likely outcome in Florida is that Trump wins, if only because Florida has a robust early voting period. Many of those voters have already cast their votes, and Trump may have already won it, regardless of subsequent events. The real show in Florida, aside from where the 99 delegates go, may be whether Trump and Cruz can deliver the knock-out punch to Rubio’s campaign. Meanwhile, in Ohio, it’s John Kasich’s chance to be taken seriously if he can win at home.

 

The current GOP volatility makes this Thursday’s Republican debate in Miami do-or-die for Rubio, and absolutely crucial for Cruz and Trump.  And it also may be time to invest heavily in the international popcorn corporation of your choice, because the last few days of the GOP contest have been anything but clarifying.

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The depth of Republicans’ despair

The National Republican leadership should have listened to GOP political consultant Alex Castellanos, who was among the first to sound the alarm bell about Donald Trump and come up with an early plan to stop him. But they didn’t.

They should have listened to Trump rivals Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, and later Jeb Bush, all former GOP governors who read a Trump candidacy for what it was: a potential electoral disaster. But they rolled their eyes.

They could have listened to ABC News political pundit and former Bush campaign chief strategist Matthew Dowd, who continually pushed back on the state of denial and challenged anybody to explain to him how they imagined Trump would stumble. Some openly scoffed at him in ways that could only be described as abusive.

dead gopPotential funders of an anti-Trump campaign probably assumed that various Presidential rivals’ superpacs would be effective in attacking Trump, but instead, Jeb Bush’s superpac attacked Marco Rubio, and Rubio’s super pac attacked Jeb, and Ted Cruz’s superpac attacked Rubio. 

Then they placed their faith in Cruz’s appeal to evangelicals to save them from Trump, but after South Carolina they discovered that Southern evangelicals hate minorities more than they love Jesus. This in no way should have been a surprise, since these same voters didn’t hesitate to abandon the Democratic Party in a rage in the 1960s in the wake of Democrats’ support of the Voting Rights Act empowering minorities – why Republicans thought they’d follow along now is beyond comprehension. 

Few wanted to confront the notion that Trump was the logical end of what they themselves had built – a mountain of rage, xenophobia, misogyny, and racism, which Trump had tapped into with perfect pitch. They built that mountain through thousands of local races across America over the past eight years, backing candidates in GOP primary elections from sheriffs to mayors and state legislators, where actual policy differences were microscopic; the only real differences between their backed Tea Party challengers and the defeated Republican incumbents is that the incumbents didn’t hate the President enough, weren’t pissed off enough, and wouldn’t bow to their Tea Party masters fast enough. 

It all came to a head yesterday, when the bombshell hit that Governor Chris Christie had endorsed Trump. There aren’t many true game-changing events in politics, but this event certainly was one. It was such a strong symbol of the unconditional surrender of the so-called “establishment” that deniers could no longer deny. One could no longer ignore Trump’s evil genius, with the endorsement coming on the heels of Trump’s miserable debate performance the night before, and the emergence of what Trump deniers imagined might be “Marco-mentum.” In only 12 hours, Trump once again dramatically dominated the news cycle. Gone was the newfound buzz in Rubio’s candidacy, gone was the notion that Trump was on the ropes, and gone was any notion that Trump’s march to the nomination would be interruptible this Tuesday as GOP voters go to the polls to allocate hundreds and hundreds more delegates, most of them to Trump.

Unless something happens that they cannot even imagine yet, Trump’s nomination is all-but-done. If it’s still possible to stop him, the people with the means to fund it can’t imagine what it is, and are too divided to coalesce around a single plan to get it done. They try to imagine a brokered convention, but can’t figure out who the brokers might be.

The Republican leadership stands today in open despair and grief, some sensing for the first time that they’ve waited too late to stop a Trump nomination, many still in denial that they helped build Frankenstein’s monster in the first place. They’ll soon put their game face on and pretend to follow along, but they’ve already seen their future, and it’s bleak.

The New York Times has an excellent must-read piece on where all this leaves them: planning for a Democratic White House and trying to save what’s left.

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The day that I actually wholeheartedly agreed with the NRA – the Penis Compensation Caucus is un-Texan

It may come as some surprise to regular readers of these pages (are there any regular readers of these pages?) that I am not necessarily against open carry of handguns as a public policy.

I’m absolutely certain that position will come as a surprise to the number of my NRA fans (that number may well equal zero), who probably did not fully appreciate this piece I wrote on gun control for Texas Monthly a while back.

But no, open carry doesn’t particularly upset me. For one thing, if responsibly crafted, the law wouldn’t put a single new gun on the streets – it would merely change the way concealed weapons permit holders are permitted to carry the guns they’re already carrying.

I do believe, however, that the concept of open carry for handguns is highly situational, a conclusion easily reached based on my dual residences in Austin and in far West Texas. For example, I doubt many people would so much as bat an eye if somebody walked down the streets of Marathon, Fort Davis, or Alpine, located north of the Big Bend, with a handgun strapped to his belt. But if instead of walking down main street in Marathon, that same person was walking down Congress Avenue in Austin, some people would certainly be startled, and many would question the propriety of that.

So no, assuming that an open carry bill limited open carry permits to those already carrying through a CHL, and gave cities and counties an opt-in provision (we ARE for local control, aren’t we?), I’d probably fall asleep so fast I wouldn’t have time to oppose the bill. Apparently Democratic candidate for Governor Wendy Davis doesn’t disagree either.

But do you know what’s even more surprising than people like Wendy Davis or me not opposing open carry laws? The fact that the NRA has come out in opposition to those nutty open carry activists who keep popping up around Texas, armed to the teeth with assault rifles and showing up in fast food restaurants and other retail stores, accomplishing little other than frightening folks and making everybody uncomfortable. I call them the Penis Compensation Caucus.

The NRA has now called their activities “outright foolishness.” And I couldn’t agree more, because those activists only manage to demonstrate that they are both bullies and cowards. Assuming there’s some difference between a bully and a coward, that is.

Here’s more of what the NRA said:

To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary.  It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.

As a result of these hijinx, two popular fast food outlets have recently requested patrons to keep guns off the premises (more information can be found here and here).  In other words, the freedom and goodwill these businesses had previously extended to gun owners has been curtailed because of the actions of an attention-hungry few who thought only of themselves and not of those who might be affected by their behavior. To state the obvious, that’s counterproductive for the gun owning community.

More to the point, it’s just not neighborly, which is out of character for the big-hearted residents of Texas. Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners.  That’s not the Texas way. 

I couldn’t agree more, NRA – it’s just not the Texas way. But never fear – no matter what the NRA says, open carry activism promises to be alive and well later this week in Fort Worth, where such fools plan to be in attendance, complete with their penis compensation instruments, at the Republican State Convention.

Yee-haw, y’all.

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Further signs that wacky Texas politicos are falling behind

Honestly, one of the few things Texas politics has had going for it in recent years is the laughs.

Which is why it totally disturbs me when there are clear signs that we are falling behind. Our home-grown wackjobs are increasingly not up to par these days.

Which is why I want you to meet Mark “Coonrippy” Brown. He’s running for governor of Tennessee (as a Republican, of course). He, like so many other Republicans, is concerned about our God-given Constitutional right to keep Rebekah, his pet raccoon. Apparently the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency took Rebekah away after she…um…did what raccoons do – attacked the chickens at the neighborhood high school. So he’s running for governor to right this wrong. They will pry his pet raccoon from his cold dead fingers.

No word yet on how ol’ Coonrippy plans to blame this on Obama, but I’m totally looking forward to it. There are even signs that Coonrippy’s catching on, since the morning The Daily Caller endorsed him.

If you’re not entertained yet, you’re almost dead to me, but I’ll give you one more chance: Coonrippy also makes videos. Here’s one of him during one of his favorite activities – showering with Rebekah The Chicken-killing Raccoon:

Texas politicos: tighten up your act, before it’s too late!

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Republican outreach to minority voters hits overdrive, seen as wildly successful

Nah, just kidding, the Republicans are totally in the ditch.

Here’s an example of why: right-wing Republican hero Phyllis Schlafly said last week that Latinos have too many children out of wedlock, and don’t understand the Bill of Rights or the concept of small government. She apparently said it in expressing her opinion that the Republican Party shouldn’t reach out to Latino voters at all.

Schlafly, the founder of Eagle Forum, is an undisputed leader in the National Republican Party. According to her bio, she’s played a major role in every Republican National Convention since 1952, and was elected as a delegate to eight of them, most recently in 2012. She ran for Congress as a Republican twice.

How important is she to Republicans? Glad you asked. The Republican-led Texas State Board of Education recently required that school children learn about her in future history textbooks. Imagine the thrill of Texas school children learning all about how stupid Schlafly thinks Latinos are.

Here’s the chapter and verse, excerpted from the rules the SBOE adopted in 2010:

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 4.55.02 PM

Gosh, it sounds like we’re really going to be improving public education, while the Republicans improve their political lot with Latino voters!

So, just to review, following the 2012 election, the Republicans paid big-time lip service to doing a better job of reaching out to minorities. One of the most important conservative leaders in the Republican Party – one so important that Republicans in Texas insisted she be featured in future history books – is bigoted against Latinos, and doesn’t mind explaining why.

That, my friends, is how Republican minority outreach efforts are going. Any questions?

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Sh*t John Cornyn heard in a bar

Pity poor John Cornyn, the so-called “senior” Senator from Texas.

Following Ted Cruz’ surprise victory in last year’s elections for Texas’ other US Senate seat, Cornyn has been brown-nosing Cruz and every other right-wing wacko he can find, prior to having to face Republican primary voters in his own re-election next year. He undoubtedly fears that he’ll be pasted with the dreaded “establishment Republican” label and lose to somebody far more wacky than him. That’s exactly what happened to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, the heavy favorite to win last year, until he got pasted with the “establishment Republican” label and lost to the far-wackier Cruz.

So as post-2012 election Republicans nation-wide take stock in their party and make course corrections, Texas’s own proud native son’s course correction? Go nuts. His specific objective is to be just slightly more nuts than Cruz – a difficult task, given that Cruz’s objective is to be just slightly more nuts than Joe McCarthy.

Cornyn’s latest effort on that front is to claim, via Twitter a couple of weeks ago, that a “friend” told him that 300 people per night are crossing the border on his property:

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 9.20.55 AM

Let’s do the math. 300 people per night would be 109,500 people per year. Oh hell, let’s give the immigrants Christmas and Easter off, and call it an even 108,900 folks. That’s more people than the total population of Round Rock, Wichita Falls, or Odessa. And they’ve all been sneaking in undetected by all, in one spot, except for Senator Cornyn’s “friend.”

The people who actually do this for a living say it’s ridiculous, and Cornyn steadfastly refuses to identify his “friend.” At this point, it might be a fair question to inquire as to whether Cornyn feels like he actually has a friend. One would hope he at least has a faithful dog.

This would all be pretty funny except that this ain’t some back-bencher Louie Gohmert nutcase deal: John Cornyn is the number two Republican leader in the United State Senate. This is what passes for the upper echelon of the national Republican leadership, folks.

Forget about how Texans should demand more out of their elected grown-ups – how ’bout if the National Republicans demand better from their own leadership? When it it going to occur to thinking Republicans – and there are plenty – that the people at the very top of their political food chain are acting like morons, and in turn are making non-tea party Republican-leaning voters nation-wide look like idiots for having supported them?

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, Senator. And here’s the truth:

— the number of people we are catching as they cross the border has decreased dramatically, a measure which even Republican agree means fewer are crossing in the first place

— the number of people we’re deporting is at an all-time high – a lot higher than under the Bush administration, or Clinton before Bush

— the percentage of border real estate under “operational control” has been dramatically increasing, not decreasing, by an average of about 126 miles per year since 2005

— the number of border patrol officers has more than doubled, from about 10,000 to 21,000, between 2004 and 2012. And those of us who hang out in the border region can see it – you can’t hardly swing a dead cat around there without slapping some hapless border patrol guy.

Senator Cornyn is fully capable of being part of solutions, and as the number two Republican in the Senate, one who think he would be. He should opt for that, instead of trying too hard to avoid getting picked last on the Republican schoolyard kickball team by repeating stories he hears in bars and continuing to be part of the hyper-partisan fear-mongering blather machine.

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Attention Texas Republicans

Have a nice day.

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Remember all those Republicans who complained about ACORN voter registration?

Yeah, well, oops. Watch this:

Update: also, now there’s this. Which means that somebody’s wrong – either the woman was working for the clerk’s office or she wasn’t. Seems like somebody should get to the bottom of it, and either train folks better, or indict somebody.

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I would like to thank our military veterans for their service

but I’m not so sure about these clowns.

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Nothing is more important to Texas Senate candidates than family values

…but apparently only when they’re talking about YOUR family.

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If only the Republicans had known this…

…before their convention in Tampa.

 

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