Friday, March 11, 2016

'Elegant' and 'civil', my ass

My POV was that Rubio had a very good showing in what they're calling the 'civil' debate.  Few other than red partisans agree with me, it seems.  Most of the chatter this morning is around harmony ... and discord.

Donald Trump was on cruise control for so much of the early going in the 12th Republican debate Thursday night that he teased his rivals about their timidity. 
“So far, I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Trump said with a wry grin and a glance at Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. 
Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich all steered clear of open confrontation with Trump for much of the night on the debate stage at the University of Miami. It was clear that all the candidates, even Trump, were aware that the nasty tone of the last two debates had turned off many voters. 
The tepid atmosphere seemed to suit Trump, who held himself back this time from insulting the other candidates, in a departure from his recent practice. There were no references to “little Marco,” no labeling of Cruz as “nasty” or a “liar.” 
Trump has shown signs of trying to soften his roughest edges in the last few months, as he has tightened his grip on the Republican nomination. And more than ever Thursday, he sought to portray himself as more presidential than he has often appeared. 
After the debate, Trump referred to the evening as “elegant.”

Yes, it was ... if you don't consider discussion -- or the lack of it -- of waterboarding, or bombing women and children, or choke-slamming journalists or sucker-punch assaults at your rallies 'inelegant'.  If 'elegant' is defined as no dick-length comparisons, then hey, it was artful.

In the first half hour of Thursday’s debate, Trump and his GOP rivals seemed to almost go out of their way to avoid attacking one another even as they debated heated topics like entitlement reform and immigration. 
At one point, Cruz trashed Democrat Hillary Clinton, suggesting she believed that Social Security could be made solvent by cutting waste, fraud and abuse. When a moderator pointed out that Trump had only minutes earlier voiced the same position and asked if he was comparing Trump to Clinton, Cruz backed off. “I’ll let Donald speak for himself,” he replied. 
Just seconds later, Trump and Cruz tangled over immigration—with the real estate mogul accusing his rival of previously supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. But instead of blasting Trump—as he has previously on the issue—Cruz just laughed it off. 
Trump repeated his charge—albeit in a softer tone—but then he notably shifted back to a more conciliatory tone. “We’re all in this together. We’re going to come up with solutions. We’re going to find the answers to things,” Trump said.

Peace, love, and understanding.  On the stage.  Off it, not so much.

Former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush will meet with three of the four remaining Republican contenders on Wednesday and Thursday, perhaps to drum up a plan to deny Donald Trump the party's nomination. 
The news comes as Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have struggled to gain traction in a GOP race once thought to be dominated by the former Florida governor. 
Bush will meet with the candidates in Florida, where all three are campaigning ahead of Tuesday's primary in that state, an aide said. 
None of the three campaigns offered insight regarding what, exactly, the meetings with Bush will discuss, although it's speculated the Republicans are seeking a strategy to ensure the party's nomination goes to anyone but Trump, the party's current front-runner.

There's also a call for Condi.

A group of Republican donors and strategists has been working to persuade former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to make an independent bid for president, according to a memo outlining the plan obtained by POLITICO Florida.

The group has grown increasingly dissatisfied with New York billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner who has roiled the party’s establishment as he has surged ahead in the polls.

“The reality of the matter is that we will have President Trump or President Clinton — if we don’t have President Rice,” read the memo, which was written by Joel Searby, a consultant with Florida-based GOP firm Data Targeting.

POLITICO reported last month about a memo that a group of donors was working on with Data Targeting to look at the viability of a third-party run amid Trump’s ascent. The newest memo, sent Thursday, is an update on the firm’s work.

“We have been in touch with Dr. Rice through her chief of staff,” read the plan, which is stamped “confidential.” “She is reluctant at this stage. We are asking for anyone wanting to assist to encourage her to run.”

That should turn out as well as finding WMD in Iraq.  Perhaps this commentary from Josh Marshall is the prelude to the conversation that Bus, Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich are having later today in Florida.

As everyone has noted, Trump is now trying not only to pivot to the general election but reassure GOP party stakeholders with his restraint and smother his competitors with talk of unity. I thought Trump and Cruz did very well for themselves but in very different ways. Trump owned his frontrunner-dom, didn't deign to rise to the taunts of his competitors and didn't let the moderators -- especially Dana Bash -- orchestrate a confrontation. He didn't allow himself to get knocked off that game. A bit more tired by the end of the debate, he was a little less able to keep attack Donald under wraps. But overall, he kept it cool and restrained. He kept to his plan.

Cruz was attempting something very different.

He knocked Trump a few times here and there. But that wasn't his main goal. Most of what he was trying to do he could have done even if Trump wasn't on the stage. Cruz's main goal was to talk to the audience, to engage in a soliloquy of conservative purity and drive. There is a big basket of anti-Trump votes out there. And Cruz's goal was to scoop them up. So attacking Trump, except to set up his own perorations, was basically irrelevant. He was trying to swoop up the existing anti-Trump vote, not pull Trump's supporters away from him.


Rubio and Kasich both had some good moments. But they're both basically out of the game.


The upshot is that Trump has decided he has little need to attack his opponents any more and much to gain by smothering his opponents and defanging GOP stakeholders with expressions of unity and demonstrations of restraint. On the driving themes of his campaign though, economic nationalism, xenophobia and revanchist anger at losers, freeloaders and protestors, there was no shift at all.

Everything I saw tonight made me think that Trump is well on his way to becoming the GOP nominee. I see no big obstacle stands in his way. Just as important, if for whatever reason Donald Trump isn't the nominee, it is now extremely difficult to see how the nomination won't go to Ted Cruz. Maybe you can steal the nomination from one factional, plurality winner. You can't steal it from the guy who came in a close second too. That just won't fly.

Drumpf.  With a slight opening for Poop Cruz.  Those are the two end results from a raunchy ten weeks of conservative gang wars, and now comes the distillation down to one.

Not all that fun or interesting after all, was it?

Vox called it for the two at the front, declared civility both winner and loser, and the biggest losers were the #NeverTrump effort and international trade deals.  If it turns out that the GOP indeed chooses to deny Obama a win on the TransPacific Partnership, I can be happy about that.

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