by Rod D. Martin
February 27, 2016
The Half-Full Report is Dr. Jack Wheeler’s weekly column at To The Point News. Rod is filling in for Jack this month.
Last night’s GOP debate showed Donald Trump’s weaknesses in stark light. The impromptu tag team of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio repeatedly forced Trump off his game and demonstrated that he just doesn’t know much about some of the most vital issues facing the country.
But was it enough?
Cruz is leading Trump by 16 points in a head-to-head matchup. But short of Marco getting hit by a bus, head-to-head isn’t an option. In the SEC primary states, Bloomberg reports that Cruz and Rubio are tied at 20%. Trump, at 37%, is beating both of them by 17 points. And while it’s two weeks off (March 15), yesterday’s PPP poll has Trump beating Florida’s junior Senator in his own state by 20 points: 45% to 25%. Trump carries Florida Republicans in every demographic.
Serious people watching last night’s debate could not miss Trump’s weakness. His inability to name more than one element of his own health care plan was particularly disconcerting. If Ted and Marco had focused fire on the frontrunner rather than each other lo these past several debates, Trump might well be an ex-candidate like Florida’s ex-governor.
But alas, they did not.
Remember those outlier polls from last week, the ones from NBC and the Wall Street Journal? Well, they were outliers all right. In South Carolina, Trump not only won 32.5% to Rubio 22.5% and Cruz 22.3%, he also won Evangelicals 34% to 26% (Cruz).
It only got worse in Nevada (a caucus state for which we had little useful polling a week ago). Trump won there 45% to Rubio 23.9% and Cruz 21.4%. He even trounced them with Hispanics: 45% to 27% to 18%. Yes, Donald Trump tied the two Hispanic candidates combined among their own ethnicity. And despite higher than usual Evangelical turnout, 40% of it went to Trump, just 23% to Cruz.
Evangelicals were supposed to be Ted’s firewall. Trump is a strip club and casino owner who as of last night still thinks Planned Parenthood “helps millions of women” and who’s lived a flagrantly immoral life. Yet here we are.
If you’ll permit me a bit of sidebar, the Trump press conference is on in the background as I write this. It has been for over an hour and a half now (yes, that’s an hour and a half of additional free airtime: thank you Roger Ailes). At the moment, Trump is saying Rubio is a terrible liar, sweats too much and is a “nasty guy,” about which he opines that “there’s no place for nastiness, no place.”
A few minutes ago, he was marveling at what the media would do to him – indeed, how he would be forced out of the race! – if he ever dropped an f-bomb on camera like Vicente Fox did yesterday (“I’m not going to pay for that f*cking wall”). Trump actually demanded Fox apologize, sounding every bit the Sunday School teacher.
I have yet to hear a single television personality mention the eye-rolling irony of Trump’s headlines from just three weeks ago, when he was dropping f-bombs at a rally in New Hampshire. Cruz, Rubio and the moderators failed to confront Trump with them last night too.
Of course, the question they probably asked themselves was did Trump pay Fox to attack him (as Carson begged his opponents to attack him last night). It is hard to imagine how anyone could more perfectly play into Trump’s hands.
The presser I just mentioned started with Chris Christie’s endorsement of The Donald. But it’s just one of several signs of a growing Trump consolidation. The news has been full of a Rick Scott VP rumor for several days. And Mike Huckabee’s daughter joined the Trump campaign this week as a “senior advisor.”
The Sarah Huckabee story may matter more than the others. Mike Huckabee’s likely Trump endorsement (if this doesn’t already count as one) would join those of Robert Jeffress, Jerry Falwell, Jr. and others who are providing cover for Evangelical support. The reluctant version? “Maybe they know something I don’t.”
The question is whether they actually do.
So is it over? It’s certainly easy to make that case. But no, it doesn’t have to be.
65% of Republicans still oppose Trump. Just 133 of 2,472 delegates have been selected, and the 24 contests between now and March 12 which will select 963 more will do so proportionally. Trump could easily win the headlines but only a minority of the delegates.
On March 15 everything changes, as RNC rules allow winner-take-all primaries from that date forward. Trump’s pluralities could turn truly devastating.
If Cruz and Rubio can continue what they achieved last night, even knocking Trump down a few pegs could keep one or both of them sufficiently competitive to remove the luster of Trumpian inevitability: that alone might put the winner-take-all states in play. And just keeping him under 1,237 would produce a brokered convention at which almost anything could happen.
Of course, if one of these guys could be persuaded to get out of the other’s way, Trump would go down in flames. Crazier things have happened.
On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders is expected to lose South Carolina right on schedule. But he came within five points of beating Hillary in Nevada, 47.3% to 52.6%.
The media spin is that this was a huge win for Hillary. But the only reason it felt that way is that by caucus day, everyone thought Bernie was as likely as not to win. And the general consensus was that a Hillary loss would be the end of her.
Not surprisingly, Hillary’s narrow avoidance of death came largely from union workers in the big Las Vegas casinos (infer what you will). Likewise, answering our earlier question about whether black voters were as tenaciously Clintonian as promised, they went for Hillary 75% to 25%; hence everyone’s South Carolina prediction.
But the bigger story is that not only did Sanders win whites by a point, he won Hispanics 53% to 47%. And he continues to win virtually everyone under 35 – with margins above 80% – including young blacks and even young women.
This bodes very badly for Clinton going forward. California, Texas and Florida, the three most heavily Hispanic primaries she’ll face, collectively select 37% of Dem delegates.
South Carolina is small. She’ll win it on the backs of hyper-loyal older blacks. But if Hispanics can deliver similar victories for Sanders in the nation’s three biggest states, Hillary’s new momentum will be ephemeral at best.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that top Clinton aides and State Department officials must be questioned under oath regarding Hillary’s email scandal.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The question remains two-fold: not whether but how much does Obama hate her; and not whether but how much does he like Sanders.
Solve for those variables and you may learn the outcome of the Democrat nominating contest, all other factors notwithstanding.
What is certain is that the President could have made Emailgate go away if he’d wanted to. That he hasn’t certainly means something.
As I’ve noted previously, all three of the top Republican contenders have gone on record promising to prosecute Hillary. That is unprecedented. No one knows what Bernie would do.
Hence, unless there’s an ironclad secret deal, from Hillary’s perspective the only thing that’s certain to save her is winning. Even if control of the Justice Department proves too little too late, the pardon power is absolute.
Expect desperate acts. Eventually some of them could catch up with her.
Ignoring the issues movement conservatives have with Trump, it’s easy to understand his appeal to regular folks. Peggy Noonan writes in today’s Wall Street Journal about “Trump and the Rise of the Unprotected”, in which she points out (with far greater eloquence and detail than this paragraph) that the elites are responsible for this year’s revolt because they’ve built a system that shelters them from the consequences of their own policies.
In that same vein, a key Bernie Sanders economic advisor said this week that the Obama Administration has been a “financial holocaust” for blacks and Hispanics.
Yes, and yes. Whether Trump, much less Sanders, is the solution is quite another matter.
Republicans actually showed some spine this week, regarding Obama’s planned Scalia replacement.
As I reported to you last week, Mitch McConnell’s first reaction was a Washington Post op-ed (with Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley) promising the next President will make the pick.
This week he doubled down, telling the House Freedom Caucus “there’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell” he’ll allow Obama’s nominee to get through. Moreover, Judiciary Committee Republicans announced a consensus Tuesday that they will under no circumstances allow hearings before the inauguration.
Obama immediately tested this, floating Hispanic Governor Brian Sandoval (RINO-NV) in hopes that Senate Pubs would break ranks for one of their own. No such luck: the leadership immediately rejected the idea of a Republican nominee. Sandoval removed himself from consideration the next day.
Across the pond, David Cameron struck the deal he wanted with the European Council and immediately called his promised referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU.
All the cool kids are for Brexit. Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced his support, sparking speculation that he’s gunning for Cameron’s job.
But the most important supporter is, or rather was, Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady came to realize that, in her words, the European Union is “fundamentally unreformable,” and that Britain would do better by joining NAFTA.
It happens that this has been one of my favorite notions since my Cambridge years, long before “Mrs. T” enunciated it. An Atlantic Free Trade Area would be a far more appropriate home for Britain, and would greatly strengthen U.S. industry and trade, without the suffocating political overtones of an EU (or as some fear, a North American Union). It would also put tremendous pressure on Europe to negotiate a better trade deal with us.
The referendum is June 23. As of yesterday’s ORB poll, Leave is beating Remain 52% to 48%
A couple days ago here in To The Point, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote a must-read piece called “U.S. Shale Revolution Will Ruin Russia, Iran and OPEC”. You really need to take a few minutes to read it if you haven’t already: it’s more mind expanding than a cabinet full of illegal substances.
But no sooner had Ambrose written his piece than Newsmax ran this one, “U.S. Oil Exports Mark Game-Changing Shift in Global Power”. Most people have kind of yawned at the prospect of U.S. exports. Comparatively few have thought them through: exports, at least now that America is the world’s largest producer, mean that U.S. allies like Israel and South Korea are insulated from 1970s-style oil embargoes. American oil tankers guarded by the U.S. Navy can take care of all their needs.
To the degree that high oil prices have been more risk premium than real, this really is an earthquake. It’s often said that “oil is a global market,” which in part means that risk anywhere is shared everywhere. But now that’s not necessarily true. And the more high-risk countries America can insulate from a shock, the more the high end of the global price range is capped.
Technology saves us again.
Republicans can occasionally be useful for something. Bloomberg reports that abortion clinics are closing at an historically unprecedented rate, “propelled by Republican state lawmakers’ push to legislate the industry out of existence.” 162 providers have closed just since 2011; only 21 have opened.
All of this takes place as a Marist poll finds 81% of Americans, including 66% of self-described pro-choicers, want to ban abortion after just 12 weeks (the first trimester) at the most.
This is my last Half-Full Report before Jack returns, so I just want to thank everyone for reading, and particularly to thank Jack for his faith in me. As I’ve said many times, Jack Wheeler is a genuine American hero; he is certainly one of mine. It’s been a joy and an honor.
This article originally appeared at To The Point News.