Archive for 2016

Spencer to Kasich: Keep it Simple and Surprise ‘Em

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

stuspencerStuart K. Spencer, California’s grand master Republican strategist, who has just been hired as a consultant by John Kasich, has three key words of advice for the Ohio governor’s GOP convention game plan: simple, suspense and surprise.

“Why am I doing this? Because I’ve spent my life trying to keep the Republican Party together and this may be the last chance,” Stu, an old friend and a certified Great Man, told Calbuzz on Wednesday.

“I’m not a spokesman for the Kasich campaign and I only talked to them yesterday,” he said. “The last thing we should be doing is talking tactically or strategically or talking about the process.”

JohnKasich (1)Old Reagan Hand. Kasich, who trails far behind Donald Trump in delegates, has acknowledged that the only way for him to win the GOP presidential nomination is at an open convention; that would come about only if Trump fails in the remaining primaries and caucuses to capture the 1,237 delegates needed for a first-ballot victory when Republicans gather in Cleveland this summer.

If that admittedly long shot scenario plays out, bringing Spencer on board sure improves his chances of pulling it off.

The 89-year old Spencer ran Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial campaigns in 1966 and 1970 and presidential campaigns in 1980 and 1984. He said that Kasich will confront a three-front war in Cleveland: 1) a Trump delegation composed mostly of neophytes in party procedures and operations; 2) Ted Cruz delegates who are evangelical purists with considerable organizational expertise and; 3) delegates previously pledged to the dropped-out Marco Rubio, who would be up for grabs.

“And those three fronts could form a coalition along the line somewhere,” Spencer said.

Stu agreed that Kasich has a persuasive case for being the only candidate standing who could actually defeat Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee. However, he added: “That’s a good argument, but that doesn’t necessarily get you there with the delegate group that’s going to be there.”

Kasich – and, of course, Trump and Cruz as well – will try to convince Rubio’s delegates that he’s the only genuine conservative Republican who stands a chance against Clinton. “My hope is they’re making those calls to those people today,” Spencer said.

Spencer confirmed that he and Charlie Black, another Republican warhorse, have been hired to be on call for consultations, as reported by Politico. The two GOP warriors were on opposite sides of the last GOP convention struggle, in 1976. Then Spencer was working for Gerald Ford’s presidential re-election, and Black for Reagan’s unsuccessful insurgent challenge.

9-20-11webthumbTimes They Are a-Changin. Spencer has not yet talked to the candidate, he said. But he stressed that the game has changed radically since his heyday, when white voters were in the majority. “All the old rules we played by aren’t applicable any more,” said Spencer who forcefully argued in 1997 that the GOP had to reach out to Latino voters or risk extinction.

“Old white men aren’t going to win the general election,” Spencer told us. And while it drives him crazy that the leading GOP contenders are driving Latinos away from the party, “I’m Irish enough that I can have a drink. Or call all my Mexican friends and complain.”

For his part, Trump appears to be preparing for Cleveland, not by seeking to cut deals for more delegates, but by threatening violence if he is denied.

“I think we’ll win before we get to the convention,” Trump told CNN on Wednesday morning. “But I can tell you, if we didn’t, and if we’re 20 votes short, or if we’re 100 short, and we’re at 1,100, and somebody else is at 500 or 400 – because we’re way ahead of everybody – I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots.”

At an open convention, however, that still might not make him the nominee.

As for Kasich, whatever he does in Cleveland, Stu told Calbuzz, “It’s got to be simple, there has to be suspense and there has to be a surprise involved.”

The GOP’s Best Hope: Kasich and Rubio Ticket

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

johnkasichOn Super Duper Tuesday, Hillary Clinton, with her five-state sweep, relegated Bernie Sanders to the ash heap of history, and John Kasich, by winning Ohio, kept hope alive for the Republican Establishment, who lost their boy Marco Rubio in Florida.

Sanders no doubt will continue running on the Democratic side, but he now has reverted to a message candidate, which is how he began, and his hopes of winning the nomination have been crushed.

The most likely scenario going forward is still for Trump to win the Republican nomination outright by racking up 1,237 delegates, but he would have to over-perform in the upcoming contests, including California’s June 7 primary, which may be relevant after all.

If Trump does have a majority of delegates at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, he’ll be the official Republican Party candidate. If not, well, several other intriguing scenarios loom:

bill_kristolThird Party Option: Although it’s unlikely, a Trump triumph could spark a third party option organized by high profile members of the GOP Establishment, including elitist faction leader Bill Kristol, who have vowed to get behind the third party campaign of a mainstream conservative. Such an effort surely would fail, but keeping control of the Congress is a far more important priority for the GOP bigwigs than winning the White House and this would allow the party symbolically to reject the fascism of Trump while giving political cover to incumbent House members, Senators and governors.

But if Trump doesn’t make it to Cleveland with a majority of delegates, and Cruz and Kasich have racked up enough delegates to keep him from a first-ballot victory, all bets are off. Moreover, there will be a bunch of unbound delegates — Rubio’s and others — who will be for sale in play.

cruzmunsterThe Ted Option: Cruz would continue to argue that he’s the only conservative Republican who stood up to Trump and has a chance of beating Clinton. What he’d have going for him in Cleveland is that lots of the delegates will be the kind of grass-roots, Bible-thumping, knuckle draggers who have rallied to Cruz. But no one in the GOP hierarchy can stand him. And they don’t really want a die-hard, evangelistic flame-thower at the top of their ticket. Still, despite his smarm and oleaginous personality, Cruz would be a more respectable choice for conservatives than the unpredictable and unstable reality TV big shot.

If Cruz can’t put it together,  however, delegates to the RNC – and these will be Republicans, not independents – could well decide on a second, third or fourth ballot, to come to their senses, boot Trump and nominate a ticket with at least a fighting chance to win a general election, while posing a major challenge for Clinton and the Democrats.

calbuzzartThe Calbuzz Option: Calbuzz says: The shrewdest move for Republicans would be to nominate Kasich and Rubio, who would be a superb vice presidential attack dog despite getting skunked by Trump in his home state, thus giving the GOP a genuine chance of winning the two most pivotal toss-up states in the nation.

Trump’s supporters would, of course, go nuts. Especially those who hate the Republican Establishment, i.e. all of them, and The Donald might even mount a third party candidacy of his own. The chaos and recriminations would be great spectator sport.

But the GOP regulars running the convention might well be willing to risk it in order to create a ticket that a) would have an outside chance of winning and b) would do less damage to down-ballot Republicans running for U.S. Senate and House and statehouses.

Forget all the conspiratorial talk about a “brokered convention.” Every convention is brokered is some way or another, including who gets picked as a running mate by the presidential nominee. And it would all be within the rules, which party regulars control.

Like Trump, this is rich.

Death of Truth: The Brazen Lies of Donald Trump

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

trumpeyesDonald Trump is many things: an archetypal narcissist, a reckless provocateur, a vicious demagogue, a menacing bully and a ruthless thug. Most of all, he’s a pathological liar.

As such, he is the most fully evolved creature of an insidious political development we first described in 2010 and coined “the death of truth.” In the 2016 presidential race, it has become a familiar meme, and explanatory variations on the theme now may be found everywhere from Al Jazeera and NBC to Politico and the Washington Post.

As Trump stands on the brink of building an insurmountable delegate lead in tonight’s Super Duper Tuesday primary voting – only John Kasich by winning Ohio can stem his momentum – the fundamental elements of his victory-through-lying campaign are unchanged, if monstrously magnified, from the way we reported them back in eMeg Whitman’s failed GOP bid for governor.

Perhaps it’s just a case of wishful nostalgia, but it seems to us that before the rise of Fox News, Rovian manipulation and the abnegation by certain people of fact-based reality, there was some sort of agreed-upon truth that was adjudicated daily by the mainstream media.

In that race, day in and day out, we catalogued a stream of Whitman’s transgressions against the truth, enabled in large part by the unprecedented stacks of cash she threw into her campaign, which overwhelmed efforts by the MSM (and certain plucky bloggers – we name no names) to communicate the Actual Facts to voters.

whitmanlies3288 lies a day: So it is more than a little ironic in 2016 to find ole eMeg leading the charge against Trump’s constant spewing of falsehoods, fabrications, contradictions and exaggerations. In her defense, The Donald’s brand of perfidy does represent a quantum leap from her less staggering mendacity.

To wit, Politico just reported on over 60 Trump falsehoods in just the past week. This followed an earlier report by WashPost fact checker Glenn Kessler that 58 of 76 Trumpisms in the final weeks of 2015 were untrue. From Politico:

The result: more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false – the kind of stuff that would have been stripped from one of our stories, or made the whole thing worthy of the spike. It equates to roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average (emphasis ours).

From warning of the death of Christianity in America to claiming that he is taking no money from donors, the Manhattan billionaire and reality-show celebrity said something far from truthful many times over to the thousands of people packed into his raucous rallies. His remarks represent an extraordinary mix of inaccurate claims about domestic and foreign policy and personal and professional boasts that rarely measure up when checked against primary sources.

Donald-Trump-in-kitchen-of-top-floor-apartment-Trump-Tower-NYCTransformation of truth: Six years ago, we cited three factors underpinning the rapidly advancing ability of politicians to transcend the traditional, and now quaint, boundaries of fudging and spin and begin to discard all notions of fact-based, objectively verifiable reality:

-The attention span of the average citizen, never very long, has been hyper-accelerated by the rise of new media, including the Internets, where something is old before it is barely new — and certainly not fully digested — and everyone is off on the next new thing. Beyond that, the rise of ideologically sated outlets like FOX and MSNBC ensures that partisans will never again have to watch something with which they disagree.

-The lugubrious mainstream media is often strangled by self-imposed, on-the-one-hand-on-the-the-hand, false-equivalency “balance,” in part intimidated by loud, if unfounded accusations of “bias” most frequently lobbed  by the right-wing. Thus the MSM at times seems unable and/or unwilling to cut through the miasma and call a lie a lie or a liar a liar. (Even Jerry Brown won’t call a spade a spade, referring instead to Meg Whitman’s “intentional, terminological inexactitude.”)

-It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

Each of these factors has metastasized since then. In the case of Trump, his base of voters not only has short attention spans, but also a shortage of education and a psychological bias towards authoritarianism, a story for another day.

And although he has not spent vast amounts on his “self-funding” campaign, Trump has more than made up for it by commanding massive amounts of largely uncritical “news” coverage, worth multiple times what broadcast and cable advertising would cost. And in this, the MSM has been horribly complicit, giving Trump constant access to the airwaves and only recently beginning to call out his lies for what they are.

jeffersonWe don’t need no stinking facts: In an excellent examination of post-truth politics, boston.com recently reported on new research reported in the journal “Political Behavior:

Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite.

In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to correct facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters – the people making decisions about how the country runs – aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

mark twainAnd so in the Year of Trump, we find that one of Thomas Jefferson’s most cherished statements — “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” – is no longer operative.

What is operative, alas, is Mark Twain’s timeless dictum: “A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.”