US Presidential Race — Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney, Trump’s hands-on approach

The following column is rated PG-13 – Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Well, after this last week in politics, perhaps I should rate it R. More on that later.

First, let’s check out the boring race for the Democratic nomination. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won seven Super Tuesday voting states big time to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’ four. (Alabama: Clinton – 78%, Arkansas: Clinton – 66%, Colorado: Sanders – 59%, Georgia: Clinton – 71%, Massachusetts: Clinton – 50%, Minnesota: Sanders – 62%, Oklahoma: Sanders – 52%, Tennessee: Clinton – 66%, Texas: Clinton – 65%, Vermont: Sanders – 86%, Clinton – 64%.) After the voting, Clinton led Sanders, 1063 to 430, including the “superdelegate” hacks. (Estimates may be slightly different depending on the reporting authority and fluidity with superdelegates.)

Saturday, Louisiana, Nebraska and Kansas took to the polls, Clinton taking Louisiana (71%), Sanders took Nebraska (57%) and Kansas (68%). And although the Vermont senator did win nearby Maine on Sunday (64%), not too far in the future, Sanders’ supporters will “Feel the Burn,” not “the Bern.” Hillary is now very close to halfway done in delegates needed to clinch the nomination. The latest delegate count has Clinton with 1,147 and Sanders 498, with 2,383 needed to win.

The Democrats debated again Sunday evening, angrily interrupting each other, and with an aggressive Sanders also criticizing policies passed during the Bill Clinton administration. Right, go back a couple decades and attack the second most popular Democrat in front of Democrats. Good luck with that.

In the news, the last batch of Clinton’s emails were released by the State Department. It was almost a year ago when Hillary declared, “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.” When all was said and done, over 2,000 of her emails had to be redacted because they contained classified information, and 22 of them were not released at all because they were “top secret.”

Also, the Justice Department granted immunity to Bryan Pagliano, the staffer who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for president and who set up her private server in her home in 2009. We will see where all of this goes, if anywhere. I don’t expect the Obama administration to do the right thing, and Clinton supporters, no surprise, make excuses and don’t care.

On the Republican side, businessman Donald Trump won seven Super Tuesday states, Texas senator Ted Cruz took three, Florida senator Marco Rubio one, and Ohio governor John Kasich none. (Alabama: Trump – 43, Alaska: Cruz – 36%, Arkansas: Trump – 33%, Georgia: Trump – 39%, Massachusetts: Trump – 49%, Minnesota: Rubio – 37%, Oklahoma: Cruz – 34%, Tennessee: Trump – 39%, Texas: Cruz – 44%, Vermont: Trump – 33%, Virginia: Trump – 35%.)

Cruz did win about two-thirds of Texas’ 155 delegates, which was pretty good, not great – he hoped for a sweep of the delegates, and he did well on Saturday taking Kansas (48%), beating Trump by 25 points when the only two polls taken before the caucuses there showed Trump ahead by 12 and by 6 points (hmm) and Maine (46%). Trump won Louisiana (41%) and Kentucky (36%). The delegate count now stands at Trump with 391, Cruz with 304, Rubio with 148 and Kasich with 37, with 1,237 needed to win.

In the beginning of last week, Trump got himself in hot water by hemming and hawing about white supremacists and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who endorsed Trump. The Donald feigned ignorance rather than just say he disavows them even though he has in the past. Everyone jumped on Trump saying he cared more about the votes of racists than about morality.

As much as I dislike Trump, I thought the criticism was way overdone in an effort to somehow in some way, try to hurt the GOP frontrunner. Also, many thought David Duke’s endorsement in and of itself was a disqualifier for a run for office. Well, the Ku Klux Klan endorsed Ronald Reagan when he ran for reelection.

Reagan of course, unlike Trump, repudiated the endorsement right away and did not mince words, but candidates cannot stop crazies from supporting them. Trump should have been more careful, but it didn’t matter anyway to his supporters. As with Hillary and her die-hards, nothing sticks to “The Teflon Don.”

Trump opponents called for the businessman to finally release his tax returns, and of course Trump refused claiming his being audited by the IRS prevented it, but it remained unclear from him what years were being audited. Many believe when the returns are released, they will show Trump did not put his money where his mouth was when it came to supporting “the troops,” as one example

Cruz speculated the returns could show something more sinister, e.g., Trump having business ties to the mafia. Perhaps if Cruz had made an offer to Trump he couldn’t refuse, we might get some answers about it.

Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson suspended his campaign. Carson is a nice guy and no doubt a brilliant surgeon, but he never should have run in the first place.

On Thursday, former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a speech excoriating Trump calling him a fraud, a liar, a bully, a misogynist, a con man, and even a failed businessman. (So what do you really think of the guy?)

At the end of his speech, Romney said this: “His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”

This unprecedented kind of attack brought positive and negative reaction, but whether it will matter, and it certainly won’t to Trump supporters, remains to be seen.

The Cruz campaign announced on Friday that it opened ten campaign offices across Florida, ostensibly to weaken Rubio with attacks and prevent him from winning his home state and so, knocking him out of the race or at least hurting his position at a brokered convention. Or better yet, preventing a brokered convention completely. (More on that in a bit.) Cruz has no chance in Florida, the latest RCP poll showing him well behind Trump and Rubio, but it’s a smart move.

The candidates met again to debate, and again, the forum looked like a school cafeteria food fight replete with insults, accusations and even vulgarities. Not the stuff of presidential discourse.

There were two debates really – the Cruz and Rubio tag-team attack Trump debate, and the Kasich stay positive substantive debate. And there were two winners according to pundits, Kasich for being professional, and the Fox News moderators who not only did their best to keep three of the combatants under control, but for their using graphics to catch Trump in inconsistencies and false math when it came to government budget cutting. (Disclosure – Kasich is my top choice.)

Trump was blasted for refusing to release the transcript of his January interview with the New York Times editorial board, where rumors are he softened his position on illegal immigrants. He was also attacked and questioned about his controversial Trump University, for using foreign workers on his projects, and for flip-flopping on torture and possibly on illegal immigration. During the fighting, Trump called Cruz, Lyin’ Ted and he called Rubio, Little Marco. Sheesh.

The low point of the forum, as if it couldn’t get any lower, was when Mr. Trump showed his hands to defend against a crass insult by Rubio earlier in the week.

Look, I enjoy a good verbal fight and even on occasion a bawdy joke, but as entertaining as the Republican campaign and the debates have been, the race and the forums have been equally appalling and disgraceful. Donald Trump caused this descent into the rhetorical depths, and a couple of his opponents felt they had no choice but to join him in the basement. What a shame.

And speaking of shameful, the audiences are becoming more and more raucous making the embarrassment complete. The whooping, shrieking and hollering do not just use up time or interrupt the already interrupting adversaries, but the candidates play to their supporters making the whole childishness setting worse even. There are only a couple debates left, but please, no more audiences!

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So what’s coming next? On Tuesday, the Democrats have open primaries in Michigan and Mississippi; Clinton should win comfortably in Michigan and huge in Mississippi. The Republicans have a closed caucus in Hawaii, a closed primary in Idaho, and open primaries in Mississippi and Michigan. There is no polling data on Hawaii and Idaho, Mississippi has only one recent poll and Trump was way ahead, but the big enchilada is Michigan with 59 delegates awarded somewhat proportionally.

Most recent Michigan polls have Trump well ahead of the pack, but a recent ARG poll had Kasich up 2 points over Trump. The ARG pollsters don’t sample as many people as the other pollsters, and so, have higher margins of error, but its New Hampshire poll did show Kasich coming in second which he did, when other polls did not.  Kasich has also been spending time and money in Michigan so it might pay off with a good result. I hope so.

As I have mentioned before, March 15 is critical to the campaigns of Rubio and Kasich. Winner-take-all states begin voting with Florida (99 delegates) and Ohio (66 delegates) key to their “favorite sons.” Other states conducive to less extreme candidates also begin a voting run at that time, and Rubio and Kasich must rack up delegates there.

In Florida, Rubio is way behind Trump at this point by nearly 20 points in the RCP average, while Trump is only 5 points ahead of Kasich in an Ohio Quinnipiac poll taken in late February.

Should Rubio lose his home state, he may be out of the game, because even if he stays in until a brokered convention (no one winning a majority of delegates before the convention), it would be hard for him to argue he should be the choice for president after the first ballot. Same with Kasich.

If either wins, they have an argument at a brokered convention even if Cruz has more delegates. The establishment will be running things when all is said and done and it hates Cruz. Cruz knows this, which is why he railed against a contested convention a couple days ago.

So will there be a brokered convention? I certainly hope so. After Saturday, Trump had collected 44% of the delegates allocated. That means in order for him to win on the first ballot, i.e., having a delegate majority, he will have to win 56% plus of the remaining delegates, and most of the remaining states still use proportional systems while some of those winner-take-all states may go to someone other than Trump.

Slim as the chance may still be to derail Donald, until we know more on March 15, for those of us who feel Trump would bring the Republican Party crashing down in the general election (and Cruz would do the same as well, by the way), hope springs eternal. After all, Kansas looked like Trump and it ended up Cruz. Maybe, just maybe, this last week put a chink in Trump’s armor.

Finally, an observation. Speaking of David Duke, I remember back in 1991 when the race for governor of Louisiana came down to the former Klansman and the corrupt former governor Edwin Edwards, there was a popular bumper sticker that read, “Vote for the crook, it’s important.” Should the 2016 race come down to Clinton and Trump, will there be similar car decals? For both sides?

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Thank you, Nancy Reagan. RIP.

About the Author
Shia Altman who hails from Baltimore, MD, now lives in Los Angeles. His Jewish studies, aerospace, and business and marketing background includes a BA from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Baltimore. When not dabbling in Internet Marketing, Shia tutors Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and Judaic and Biblical Studies to both young and old.
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