I’ve written a lot of pretty rough things about Donald Trump over the last 18 months. I’ve called him an entertainer and an emotional extremist, a guy with a black hole at his center. I’ve likened him to P.T. Barnum and a dime-store psychic.
Whether from incompetence or instability, Donald Trump has made himself not the default alternative to a deeply distrusted candidate, but the dominant and more divisive figure of the two.
Any reporter who has ever spent time on a presidential campaign has heard the perennial rant about “process stories.” That’s when the candidate tells you that really he is desperate to illuminate in numbing and nuanced detail his plan to reverse the decline of American manufacturing (which consists of about 500 words of boilerplate blather on his website), but all we in the media ever ask about is how he intends to win, so he can’t. Bernie Sanders rails against a rigged system supported by “superdelegates” and “closed” primaries.
Just recently, the media seems to have latched on to the idea that it has been culpable in enabling Donald Trump’s antic march to the Republican nomination. But the guy who really predicted it was Gary Hart, back in 1987.
The problem with the #NeverTrump movement, which aims to keep Donald Trump from clinching the Republican nomination, is that you don’t win campaigns solely by running against somebody else. You have to give voters something — or someone — that they can be for.
After winning the Ohio primary, Gov. John Kasich was the last man standing against Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the only candidate left with governing gravitas. Somehow, the brash, prickly boy wonder of the Gingrich revolution had been elevated to the position of his party’s designated grown-up.
Now you have a rough idea of how Republican insiders in Washington are feeling this week. With the season of choosing passing its midpoint, governing Republicans are slowly resigning themselves to what looks like a two-man race between the unpredictable Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, a man so universally disliked that if you Google “hated senator,” every single link that pops up is about him. When it comes to Trump versus Cruz at the top of the ticket, most in the so-called establishment would prefer the devil they know to the daredevil they don’t.
The real question isn’t whether Republicans have a chance to win with Donald Trump, because they do. The question is what kind of president he would be. My guess is that President Trump wouldn’t actually be the reactionary, often venomous leader we’ve seen rallying the faithful these last few months. He might well turn out to be something worse.
If the field of Republican presidential hopefuls not named Donald Trump remains overcrowded after this weekend's South Carolina primary, and if Trump himself cruises to a victory there and ends up winning the nomination, a lot of Republican leaders may look back and conclude that it was Chris Christie who cost them the victory.
While Bernie Sanders focuses relentlessly on the big themes that preoccupy voters, Hillary Clinton’s campaign feels like it’s all about her résumé, her mettle, her 25 years of suffering through the indignities of public service. She has to stop allowing the campaign to become a referendum on her — and turn it, instead, into a referendum on the guy she wants to replace.
As Jeb Bush's campaign sinks, it looks like we’re witnessing the last week of the long Bush dynasty in Republican politics — vanquished, in part, by Marco Rubio, a onetime confidant who understood where American politics was going.
Some polls have Bernie Sanders overtaking Hillary Clinton in Iowa and opening up a double-digit lead in New Hampshire. Is Sanders making a last, spirited stand before reality crashes down on him? Or is this the year when the molecular structure of our politics — on both sides — is about to be smashed apart and scrambled?
Bernie Sanders, who needs to consolidate the populist left of his party, has been decidedly less liberal on gun violence than either of his rivals. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)
One of the most frequent refrains among Republican voters this year is that Barack Obama was tragically unprepared for the office when he was elected president. Most often, Rubio tries to head off this comparison by repeatedly and acidly berating Obama, as if desperate to get across that, despite the obvious parallels, he’s really nothing like that other guy. “We are not a weak country, and we are not a weak people,” I heard Rubio tell audiences when I spent time with him in Iowa this week.
For many months now, like the anxious producers of some hot reality show, the American media has been waiting for Donald Trump to get up onstage and say the one thing that will lead to his swift and inevitable unraveling. (Waiting is not quite the same as hoping, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Back in college, when he was contemplating a career in public office, Chris Christie got some advice from a political science professor that he never forgot.
Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: AP Graphics Bank, Getty Images Parisians had barely returned to the streets last weekend before analysts on this side of the ocean started talking about the effects of the latest terrorist attacks on 2016. Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and cable personality, reacted to Saturday’s Democratic debate on Twitter: “The Democrats don’t realize or recognize how afraid the #ParisAttacks have made the country. We are not the same country today.” Taking a more sober view, the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin, one of the best political reporters around, wrote that the “assault on Paris had thrust national security to the heart of the presidential race” in a way that would recast the primaries, if not the general election too.
The issue surrounding Ben Carson, we’re told, is integrity — whether he made up stories to create a persona that isn’t real, and thus whether he can be trusted to lead. In Tuesday’s debate, while making an otherwise reasonable point about the mortgage interest deduction, Carson breezily asserted that all kinds of Americans had been buying houses before the income tax was enacted in 1913. Because the scrutiny of Carson’s personal story most closely mirrors what happened when a supremely qualified Democrat ran some 30 years ago — and it raises for me a lot of the same reservations about my own industry. It seems that maybe he did not actually try to stab a childhood friend or bludgeon his mother with a hammer, nor can it be verified that he was offered admission to West Point by Gen. William Westmoreland.
Martin O'Malley speaks at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Iowa in October. Hillary Clinton will try to solidify her standing as the inevitable nominee. Bernie Sanders will be out to reverse a perceptible slide in the polls.
Photo illustration: Yahoo News Watching last night’s Republican debate while the World Series played on another channel brought to mind the late Yogi Berra, who once described the shadows in Yankee Stadium’s left field this way: “It gets late early out there.” Going into last night’s debate, there was still plenty of time left on the calendar for any of the party’s governing candidates to incite some passion among voters and break away from the second-tier blob. I agree with those who thought Marco Rubio had command of the stage last night, dealing a pretty sharp blow to his friend and fading mentor, Jeb Bush.
Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP An open letter from Donald Trump Dear Republican voters: I’m pretty tired of these losers in the media saying I don’t really want to be president and I’m just here to star in another reality show. Like anyone would shoot a TV show in Iowa. Give me a break. It’s true that I am undeniably magnetic.