Let's start with the easy part:
It will be demeaning to the American people if we are brought to the point of knowingly electing the most corrupt presidential candidate ever - Watergate (yes, fired as junior counsel for dishonesty), Whitewater, Travelgate, sexual predator enabler, Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, the e-mail saga. One thinks of the latter days of Rome with the people complicit in the moral decline. Hillary beats Trump, and likely beats Cruz. This cannot stand.
And the second easy part:
Kasich is eminently qualified - successful governor of a major state; 18 years on the House Armed Services Committee; chair of the House Budget Committee when last the budget was balanced. Yes, he is part of the "Establishment" - it comes with experience. Yes, he committed the sin of accepting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare - is comes with a governor doing what he thinks best for his state. It would be nice politically if he were Latino - he's not. It would be nice if he represented a generational change - he doesn't. He is transparent, experienced in policy and in executive function, and a fiscal and foreign policy conservative.
Now, the harder part: How can he get there without winning the primaries and caucuses? Let's lay out a logical path.
- Each convention sets its own rules for nominations. The 2012 convention set Rule 40(b), requiring that a candidate had to have a majority of delegates from 8 states in order to be nominated - a block for Ron Paul. This cycle, the Rules Committee will propose a set of rules which must gain approval of a majority of the convention delegates. It is hard to envision the Trump and Cruz delegates, who will comprise some 80% of the convention, accepting a change which will allow a third option. The rules can, however, be changed by a motion from the floor during the convention. If anybody other than Trump and Cruz can get the votes to get nominated, they can get the votes to change the rules.
- A month ago Trump seemed nearly inevitable; things have changed. He lost Wisconsin; he lost Colorado; it has become clear that he (and the media) grossly underestimated the importance of a ground organization necessary to gain delegates in the arcane world of state and district conventions, and, where he has won, to identify delegates who will remain loyal to him on convention procedural votes (Rules and Credentials) and in nominating votes beyond their minimum obligation. The conventional wisdom is that if Trump doesn't get the required 1237 votes on the first ballot, that his support will erode significantly. That 1237 is comprised of the delegates which he has won, and a portion of the 200 or so delegates who come into the convention unbound (state party leaders; 54 from Pennsylvania, for example). With the unbound delegates tending to be long-time party loyalists who will very much want to win the election, it is unlikely that Trump can count on more than 30 or so - the real number below which he is highly unlikely to win is about 1200 - 450 above where he is today. A stretch.
- The Trump camp, late in developing a ground game to corral delegates, has complained that the game is rigged against him. The truth is - per solid analysis at fivethirtyeight.com - that before Trump began whining when he lost all 34 delegates in Colorado's conventions, he got all of the delegates with less than half of the vote in the "winner take all" states of Arizona, Florida, and South Carolina, and that in the first 35 states he got 37% of the vote and 48% of the delegates. He will get no sympathy in Cleveland.
- The second question is whether Ted Cruz can get enough votes to win going in (highly unlikely) or on the second ballot when most of the delegates are free to vote as they choose. There are two dynamics: How many of the Trump (or other) delegates can he gain? How many of his own delegates will he lose? This will emerge as the central question.
- The secret sauce is the delegates themselves, a point early understood by Cruz and not foreseen by newcomer Trump. Given the complexity of the process and the "home court advantage" in each state, it is hard to know the outcome, but there are a few general truths:
-- The process favors people who have been active in the party (or at least the political process - maybe the Tea Party) for a period of time. They are known to the people putting slates together. They can accumulate references for people making the selections - the campaigns or the political party hierarchy. They can participate in the campaigns to help their candidate win the local election. Bias toward the Establishment.
-- The process favors people who can take a few weeks off from work and spend $5000 to $10,000 to attend the convention. Bias toward the Establishment.
-- The allocation of the delegates favors states which vote Republican, but within that, every congressional district has three, giving a bit of an edge to districts which vote Democrat but skew moderate to liberal among Republicans. Each delegate from heavily blue Hawaii represents 1000 voters; the delegates from heavily red Waukesha County, Wisconsin represent 63,000 voters. Significant bias toward the moderates.
My conclusion? The history is waiting to be written. Trump will likely fall short before the convention and will lose delegates after the first vote. Cruz will eventually pick up a significant portion of the Trump delegates, but the people in the room will place a high priority on beating Hillary and the polling will show a clear advantage for Kasich. At least it is worth getting into the ring.
This week's video is an interview of John Kasich by a definite non-supporter, Sean Hannity, in which he explains how he can win the nomination at the convention.
bill bowen - 4/15/2016