March 12, 2016
As usual, it’s all about Donald Trump. We figured he would control the news between the final debate and voting on March 15. The only question was how and with what?
We got our answer yesterday when MoveOn.org and other protestors were able to shut down a Trump rally at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
This was a long time coming. Trump elicits strong feelings (to put it mildly) in much of the citizenry, and it’s easy to get a ticket to one of his events. To ensure a packed house, they regularly issue far more tickets than seats.
This leaves plenty of Trump fans waiting outside. It creates the potential for a face-off with protestors on the street and conflict inside the building.Given how charged the election is becoming, how fired up people of all persuasions are, and what a lightning rod Trump is, the only surprise is that it didn’t get worse sooner.
With media embeds from several networks following The Donald, and thousands of smartphones at each event, anything that happens can and will be recorded for posterity and immediate distribution.
Today Trump held a rally at an air base in Ohio. A far more controlled environment than a college campus in Chicago. Even with Secret Service protection, there were still plenty of protestor interruptions, and an eventual tense moment when someone charged towards the stage and threw something at him.
This is only the beginning.
The March 15 to Trump or not to Trump referendum now has another component. Voters need to decide if they want to avoid a long hot summer of protests, a chaotic fall campaign, the general circus a Trump nomination would lead to.
Or if they want to back down, allow protestors to take away the first amendment rights of a candidate to speak and thousands of voters to hear him. It crystallizes the choice of going with or against The Donald.
Voters who detest conflict and strife will have extra reasons to vote #NeverTrump. Voters who are tired of backing down, tired of elites telling them what to do, have extra reason to support him.
As you may have expected, Trump is not backing down. He will not change his rhetoric. He will run against the protestors. When events began to spiral yesterday evening, he called in to all of the cable networks to get his message out. We can expect to hear from him constantly between now and Tuesday (and after of course.)
This will crowd out his opponents. The Ben Carson endorsement was set for Friday morning in case he needed to blunt a bad debate narrative. That didn’t happen, so it was a nice addition.
He may well have planned to play another card if he hadn’t drawn this one, but he got an ace. Whether it was the pope, ex-presidents of Mexico, or Mitt Romney, each time a block of primaries approaches, Trump gets his foil.
Unless or until this is a two or at a minimum three-person race, controversy is almost always going to help him. It heightens the pressure on his opponents. Even a couple extra points for Trump and most of Tuesday is out of reach for anyone else.
Meanwhile, with each opponent needing to step up and defeat him in at least one state, their exposure is being limited at the worst time. Let’s see how the three anti-Trumps are dealing with the latest Donald-induced upheaval:
In the long run this is perfect for him. He’s the only candidate who can directly criticize Trump for creating a poisonous environment without a giant cloud of hypocrisy hanging over him.
With Rubio having temporarily visited the gutter before pulling himself back up, he’s the one establishment-approved candidate who can speak up for decency and hoping everyone gets along.
If he winds up in a three-way race after Tuesday, it will pull ex-Rubio supporters who really care about this sort of thing to him instead of Cruz. Trump makes Ted look mild by comparison, but he’s only running as a unifier of the conservative movement, not the country.
There is a bit of short-term risk. In Ohio, the entire key to his existence, he’s running directly against Trump. There are more than a few voters there who are deciding between the two.
Protestors keeping people from speaking isn’t something that appeals to many GOP voters. You can certainly argue that some voters deciding between the two just got a reminder that Trump is too incendiary, but others are reminded why they want a tough guy.
Kasich was quick to speak out and went all-in as he should. As people get to know him better, he’s building a distinctive brand. As he attempts to turn an Ohio victory into a reason to stick around until the convention, this helps build the idea that a Trump-Cruz race would not represent the entire party.
As long as Trump doesn’t get too far ahead in delegates on Tuesday, it’s a case he can make without fear of guaranteeing a Trump win.
A little more of a tightrope than Kasich. Most Cruz voters will find themselves horrified at the success of the protestors and realizing Trump today, Ted tomorrow. Though Cruz is quick to point out these things don’t happen at his events, in part this is only because he’s not the front runner.
Trump is a better target, a more visible target, a more likely nominee. However, if the protests continue to build, I can’t imagine a scenario where they decide a Cruz nomination is great for the country and they choose to hang up their signs for the duration of the campaign if he gets picked.
On the one side, a vote for Cruz is a vote for a strong conservative who fights political correctness, fights the D.C. establishment and breaks fewer taboos in the process. On the other, he’s the next target.
If Trump can’t effectively push back. If they silence him (at least during public events, there’s no silencing him overall), what chance does Cruz have? Firing up the Trumpists doesn’t help Cruz in the areas where they compete to turn their vote out.
Missouri, Downstate Illinois, and parts of North Carolina just became a tougher obstacle for Cruz.
I heard him calling in to one of the cable networks to comment on the fracas last night. It was painful beyond recognition. He attempted to straddle the line between blaming Trump and blaming the protestors, doing both.
Rubio pointed out many of the protestors looked suspiciously like professional agitators, claimed they received financial incentives, and mentioned the long history of liberal/progressive protesting in Chicago.
That was fine. He could have taken as much time as he wanted giving the conservative pitch for free speech and against the protest class. Especially in the home of the community organizer-in-chief, it was a great time to make points with Republican voters at home.
He also spent time criticizing Trump for his tone, for the environment he’s created. It’s very true these sorts of things did not happen at Ben Carson events, despite his disdain for political correctness. Though it didn’t get him nominated, Carson did prove it’s possible to do this without causing this.
Rubio’s point is not without foundation, but his record on the subject is. He’s not John Kasich. He’s the guy who spent a week talking about Trump’s hands and spray tan. This is fundamentally different from suggesting Muslims not be allowed to enter the country. It’s different from talking about Mexican rapists.
But Marco lost his license to talk about tone when he changed tactics. Though everyone criticizes it now, it was a justifiable choice. It also wasn’t an immediate failure. His numbers improved in Virginia once he went insult comic.
However, now he’s changed course and repudiated his time as a comedic bomb-thrower. This is the worst of all worlds and makes him look weak. He can’t do the full Kasich, but also doesn’t think he can just attack the protestors.
It makes for a shaky, muddled message. Only a candidate firing on all cylinders could make it up that steep verbal hill. That candidate is not Marco Rubio. With this latest variable, he gets one step closer to final irrelevancy.
As we get ready for a big voting day, we’re left where we were months ago. The nomination is determined by how the various candidates deal with Trump. Those who handled it worst are already gone. None have done well enough to lead him in delegates or victories.
Trump acts. The others react. Rinse, wash, repeat.