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SUPER TUESDAY: Who was the biggest loser?

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 2/03/2016 Arnold Steinberg

The biggest loser last night was Chris Christie, the cardboard cutout on the stage behind Donald Trump. He had the spot Donald Trump occupied when Sarah Palin was endorsing Trump. It was a position of discomfort, an unlikely solitude but, in this case, essential in Christie's not-so-subtle bid for the vice presidency, if Trump is nominated. The reality is that before Trump ran for president, Chris Christie was deemed the candidate most likely to insult someone. In other words, if Trump is the nominee, Christie will not balance the ticket. Sorry, Chris.

Of course, Christie actually has a long way to go to be the biggest loser. Shall we guess how many pounds? Even after the campaign, perhaps he remains concerned about weighty issues, such as his evolution, or shall we more accurately say, abrupt switch, from Trump critic ("Donald is a friend, but...) to Trump enthusiast ("Donald and I had disagreements because we were running against each other.")

It will turn out that Donald Trump does not like fat people, unless you are a veteran, and your obesity is untreated by the Veterans Department. Although Christie is high energy, he does not fit the Trump profile. "I love fat people," said Trump one day, "and fat people love me." But he added, he would not marry an overweight woman or have someone who is not height and weight proportionate as his running mate.
As for the remaining Republican candidates, they are suddenly on the offensive against Trump. But when you attack late, it seems desperate, like mudslinging. It also plays to the Trump storyline that The Establishment is ganging up on him and pulling out all the stops. The anti-Trump effort, from its inception to its new iteration, is awkward, because it doesn't involve people, only donors and candidates and their operatives. An effective ad should involve real people, but finding them for ads, and scripting, producing and directing those ads would have required creativity and thought, hard work and time. Why do that when you can use computer-generated graphics in an editing bay and produce an ineffective ad? It is no easy task for the anti-Trump folks to ignore what has worked in the past so that they can make obvious repeat blunders. Why make new mistakes when you can make old mistakes?
Sen. Cruz has a tough time because he appears schizophrenic. For months, he has been singing Trump's phrase. It's as if, now off his medication, he is aggressive. And Sen. Rubio, long a conscientious objector in the on-again, off-again war against Trump, has assumed Trump's signature insult style that has gained Sen. Rubio coverage, but we're not yet sure about votes.
So Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are having a tough time against Donald Trump. Many conservative voters continue to excuse all of Donald Trump's deficiencies, however egregious, according to the newly enfranchised Political Doctrine of Original Sin. We are all political sinners, and Trump is merely repenting.
The longer you wait, the harder it is to dislodge someone of his or her sentiment. Opinion hardens, in part because people like to feel they are right. That's a major reason why the clumsy attacks against Trump since the beginning of the year have not resonated. Nor have they found that soft spot in which you praise the wisdom of the Trump voter while causing him or her to reconsider, and still leave the voter feeling like a wise and good person, not someone who was taken in by what Marco Rubio calls "the con man."
All this is no easy task. But it is done all the time in politics. You provide a graceful way out for your target voter. It's akin to trying to reach voters who backed an incumbent for many years, and now you're challenging the long-time elected official. So, you come up with a script/rationale, such as: "I've always backed Congressman Jones. But times have changed. He hasn't..." etc.
Now we hear talk that some of the same donors and operatives of the eminently successful Jeb Bush campaign are putting together a new Stop Trump Super-Duper PAC. This follows the tradition in Republican politics - -if you fail; we'll give you another chance and more money from donors too rich to miss the cash, because you SuperPac is too big to fail.
One scenario to stop Trump could involve a failure for the frontrunner to reach the critical mass on the first ballot in Cleveland, that is a (1237) majority of delegates. In general, delegates are only pledged to their candidate for the first ballot and are "free agents" afterwards. Most living Americans have never seen a convention go beyond the first ballot. That's because long before the convention, the nominee usually is known.
Already, the anti-Trump forces show their rhetorical inelegance. They frequently speak of a "brokered convention." This suggests what some students used to learn in their history books, when history was taught in schools. Party kingmakers in smoke-filled rooms made deals. These were the power brokers who traded favors and privileges, patronage and policies, to agree on the party's nominee for president and vice president. Then, they instructed (ordered!) delegates how to vote.
But people don't smoke any more. And a few powerful insiders don't tell the masses of delegates how to vote. And in this Internet age, any meeting in a room, with or without cigarettes, gets on Facebook, Twitter and the networks within minutes. So, it would not really be a convention brokered by nefarious agents of the evil Koch brothers.

If the anti-Trump forces really are considering this route, they ought to be celebrating the virtues of an "open convention." Instead, they resort to the pejorative, because a positive image and favorable language elude them. The sage of the conservative movement, Morton Blackwell, knows the importance of framing an issue properly. For example, he also has pointed out, that when Republicans wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, they never should have threatened a "government shutdown," a pejorative, and the consequences of which (stock market gyrations) alienated the 401k/IRA saver class that constitutes much of the Republican Party. It was President Obama, of the executive branch, who should have been portrayed as the guy who shuts it down.
Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, in different ways, appeal to the alienated voters who feel America has left them behind. In fact, it is more Obama's America that has failed them. Communist/socialist Bernie Sanders is so unreservedly ideological and economically illiterate that he wants more of the same. Billionaire Donald Trump sees the solution in revamping immigration and trade policies. That's a whole other subject. But each man would self-portray as a victim if Super Delegates at the convention were used as the margin to deprive them of the nomination.
Sanders refuses to use any potent issues against Hillary. He doesn't "care about your damn emails." And he doesn't demand each day the release of the transcripts for the $225,000 Wall Street speeches. He seems intent on losing, but he tells his supporters otherwise. So, unless things change (and they could), Sanders could lose without protest or rancor. He can claim credit for Hillary expropriating his theme and his rhetoric, and for her patronizing and divisive approach to African-American voters, in which she validates the hateful line that voters oppose Obama on account of race.
But the key here is that Bernie and Donald see a "rigged" system that is screwing ordinary Americans. And both attack special interests and SuperPacs. Will each person soon attack Super Delegates who are not obligated at all to reflect the primary voting? In both parties, these Super Delegates are the party elders or, as Trump would say, "the lobbyists, special interests, and The Establishment who back the 'all-talk, no-action' politicians; or, as Jeb would say, they have "right to rise" to the occasion.
If Hillary were ever threatened, the Super Delegates would prevent Bernie from being nominated. But there would be an uproar, the likes of which would make the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention child play. And that brings us to Cleveland. If the Republicans think they can somehow go beyond a first ballot, they better start preparing the storyline now.

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