The CNN/ORC poll, completed ahead of Trump’s
victory last night, found Clinton leads 54 percent to 41 percent, a
13-point edge over the New York businessman, her largest lead since last
Overall, voters are evenly split on their
opinion of Clinton -- 49 percent see her favorably and the same share
unfavorably. But a decidedly larger group (56 percent) see Trump
unfavorably than see him favorably (41 percent).
Intellectual honesty requires me to point out that Hillary’s overall
head-to-head strength is hiding some surprisingly soft numbers on
Clinton is also more trusted than Trump on
many issues voters rank as critically important, with one big exception.
By a 50 percent to 45 percent margin, voters say Trump would do a
better job handling the economy than Clinton would.
Clinton has the edge on a range of other
issues. She is more trusted than Trump on terrorism (50 percent Clinton
to 45 percent Trump), immigration (51 percent to 44 percent), health
care (55 percent to 39 percent), the income gap (54 percent to 37
percent), foreign policy (61 percent to 36 percent), education (61
percent to 34 percent) and climate change (63 percent to 30 percent).
It’s fair to wonder if Trump could play his cards right, make the
election a referendum on the economy -- notice the different numbers on
immigration, terrorism, and foreign policy -- and make this race a lot
closer than his skeptics expect. But then again, with numbers like
these, any other Republican would have had a better shot of beating
You may come up with your own list, but I can think of seven key
moments in this past year where something unexpected happened, and
Donald Trump ended up benefiting from that turn of events.
1. How likely was it that 17 Republicans would choose to run for
president, creating such a logjam that they couldn’t all appear on stage
at the same time? This mass delusion among long-forgotten and long-shot
Republicans meant that a rising governor like Bobby Jindal would never
appear on a debate stage in prime time, because the networks chose
national poll standing as the criteria to appear in the 8 p.m.
hour. How likely was it that experienced, accomplished conservative
Republicans like Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Jindal would end up being
sidelined early, while relics like George Pataki and Jim Gilmore, and
retreads like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee hung around month after
The cattle call created an early dynamic of Trump against the crowd;
the guy known for reality television, who began the race throwing down
the gauntlet by charging that Mexico was sending rapists into the United
States, versus a baseball team’s worth of governors, senators and
retired governors and senators, all offering more or less the
traditional GOP rhetoric.
2. For at least a decade, a slew of prominent conservative voices
warned their audiences about “RINOs” and sellouts and liberal candidates
who only posed as conservatives when needing votes in a primary. How
likely was it that these figures, who appeared to prize conservative
principles and strong records for years, would suddenly welcome Trump, a
longtime Democratic donor who had supported gun control, abortion on
demand, higher taxes, TARP, the auto bailout, and described himself as
“very liberal when it comes to healthcare”?
How likely was it that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham,
Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and Matt Drudge would not merely tolerate
Trump’s previous liberal views but excuse them or conclude they were
irrelevant to the 2016 discussion? How likely was it that they would
look at Trump’s recent declarations that he’s pro-life and pro-gun and
they would believe him?
The most common defense of Trump was that he, alone, was willing to
take on the issue of illegal immigration in the bold, direct way so many
Americans wanted. But these same people who declared the supremacy of
this issue never seemed bothered by Trump’s past hiring of illegal
immigrants, his extensive use of foreign workers, his flip-flopping on
H-1B visas, and the “touchback amnesty” aspect of his plan, where
illegal immigrants could apply for citizenship after they returned to
their own country. If illegal immigration was such a defining issue, why
did so few Trump voters want to explore these parts of Trump’s record
3. Trump’s friends in conservative media embraced him and refused to
let go, even when it was clear many other conservatives found him
repulsive on an ideological and character level, and when Trump did
things that would embarrass any right-thinking person. Mark Levin
stopped giving Trump the benefit of the doubt after the mogul started
arguing that Ted Cruz was a Canadian ineligible for the presidency.
How likely was it that Trump’s friendly voices would stand steadfast
and simply ignore Trump’s more ridiculous arguments, such as that the
guy who rushed the stage was ISIS, that Justice Scalia was murdered,
that he knew a two-year-old who instantly developed autism from a
vaccine, that if elected he would “find out who really knocked down the
World Trade Center,” the tweet about Heidi Cruz, or Tuesday’s accusation that Cruz’s father consorted with Lee Harvey Oswald?
4. How likely was it that the rest of the Republican field would be
so focused upon attacking on each other and spend such little time and
resources attacking the front-runner? Who would have figured Jeb Bush’s
super PAC would choose to spend about $20 million trashing his former
protégé, Marco Rubio, instead of Trump?
5. For a long time, the hope of the anti-Trump forces was that he
only represented a large plurality in the party, not a majority. It was
fairly clear after South Carolina that John Kasich was a niche
candidate, the Republican for those who don’t like Republicans, and that
he had little chance of winning outside of his home state. Yet he
continued, in state after state, finishing in the low single digits,
ensuring there was never a two-man race. Maybe if Kasich had dropped out
earlier, Trump still would have won -- but we’ll never know, because
the Ohio governor was always there to split the non-Trump vote.
6. How likely was it that the last indisputable conservative standing
would be the one who had made so many enemies throughout the Republican
Party? On paper, a choice between Trump and Cruz should have been a
no-brainer for every Republican official.
Even Cruz’s enemies thought he
was smart; Trump proved himself stunningly ill-prepared and
uninterested in learning more. Cruz was indisputably conservative;
Trump’s positions depend on who’s asking the questions. Cruz had fought
hard fights in the courtroom and in the Senate and had the scars to
prove it; Trump spent the past decade hosting a reality show. Cruz polls
better than Trump when matched against Hillary. Cruz never said nice
things about Vladimir Putin.
But ultimately, when it came down to Trump and Cruz, most of Cruz’s
colleagues sat on their hands. Clearly, many GOP members of Congress loathe
him, either for his efforts during the government shutdown or for what
they see as a selfish, grandstanding, condescending personality.
This dynamic makes both Cruz and his colleagues look bad. Ted Cruz
had the worst awareness of his own standing with his colleagues since Jon Snow managed the Night Watch.
A common reality-show contestant slogan is, “I’m not here to make
friends.” Well, sometimes you should try. A lot of politics is about
coalition-building, and every leader needs allies. People are less
inclined to follow you if they don’t trust you and like you. You’re in
this together; you might as well try to minimize antagonism, and that
includes all I’m-the-only-man-in-Washington-you-can-trust poses.
But Cruz’s congressional colleagues look petty by putting past
disputes and personal pique first at this moment when the stakes are so
high. Unless congressional Republicans are as shamelessly opportunistic
and ideologically flexible as Trump -- not as unlikely as it once seemed
-- they should see a Cruz presidency as more productive and better than
a Trump one. Yet they’re more willing to roll the dice on Trump -- and
seemingly more comfortable with the prospect of a Hillary Clinton
presidency than a Cruz one.
7. Those of us who don’t like Trump did our part; we voted for
somebody else. But ultimately, we couldn’t unite around one alternative.
The good news for the #NeverTrump movement is that entering Indiana, 16
million Republicans wanted someone besides Trump. The bad news is, they
were split among candidates -- mostly Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich -- and 10
million Republicans wanted Trump.
I’m Getting Tired of Crazy People. They’re Probably Tired of Me, Too.
Speaking of Kasich, here’s how the memo from his Chief Strategist John Weaver last night began:
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: John Weaver, Chief Strategist
RE: What’s Next
results are not going to alter Gov. Kasich’s campaign plans. Our
strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the
nomination at an open convention. The comments from Trump, on the verge
of winning in Indiana, heighten the differences between Governor Kasich
and his positive, inclusive approach and the disrespectful ramblings
from Donald Trump.
I feel like politics is spending more and more time with delusional
people, trying to reconnect them to reality. The guy in second place,
way ahead of Kasich, just dropped out, Kasich is still behind Marco
Rubio, who dropped out more than six weeks ago, in delegates, and this
guy is still talking about being picked in an open convention.
Even Kasich’s allies acknowledge that the
path is a narrow one. At the Republican National Committee meeting in
Florida last month, Matt Borges, the Ohio GOP chairman and a staunch
Kasich backer, described their pitch to RNC members as “esoteric”
because it depended on the premise that the race would not only go to a
contested convention, but that it would take three or four ballots to
decide the nominee. If Trump didn’t lock it up on the first, and Cruz
didn’t lock it up on the second, Kasich’s moment would come. With Cruz
out and Trump on a glide path to 1237 delegates, that moment looks more
and more remote.
But there’s another problem: money. Kasich’s
campaign ended March with only $1.2 million cash on hand. His Super
PAC, New Day for America, ended March with about the same sum in the
bank. Resources have been a problem for Kasich all along -- even as the
field dwindled, money never coalesced behind him. To have even a chance
at stopping Trump, with the newfound momentum that comes with a string
of wins and the title of “presumptive nominee,” Kasich would need a lot
of money. And it seems unlikely he’s going to get it.