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Trump and Clinton Take Command of U.S. Presidential Race

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 22/02/2016 James Marshall Crotty

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As I predicted months ago, it's likely to be Donald John Trump vs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a genuine Battle of New York, in the U.S. general election. There are still primaries to go before we sleep, but as South Carolina and Nevada voters proved Saturday night, the likely trend line is not breaking.
On the Democratic side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders might fight all the way to the July 25 convention in Philadelphia, forcing Secretary Clinton to expend precious resources, while tilting her even further to the Santa Claus fringe, in order to fend him off. However, in the end, she has Democratic insiders (read: super-delegates) in her pantsuit pocket.
You see, the Democratic Party's way of awarding delegates is fundamentally corrupt and elitist ("We pander to minorities, students, and progressives, but you don't think we trust them with the party, do you?"). Therefore, if you are a threat to the Super Pac status quo, you must win by a decisive margin to turn the super-delegate count your way. And Socialist Sanders is not going to feel that level of Bern, especially with "progressive" economist darlings like Paul Krugman castigating his economic plan as "voodoo of the left" and Sanders himself as "not ready for prime time." Even though Sanders and Clinton are almost equal in popular votes and voter-selected delegates, Clinton is crushing the Vermont Senator in the overall delegate count due to her purchase on most of the party's super-delegates (read: establishment party hacks).
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As for Trump, his only threat is if the GOP race quickly consolidates down to himself and one other opponent. Unfortunately, for Trump haters, that consolidation is not happening fast enough. If that consolidation does not occur before March 15, Trump could win some "yuge" winner-take-all primaries, which begin on that date.
After Mr. Trump crosses that Rubicon, consolidation becomes increasingly moot. Thus, urgent phone calls to drop out are likely being made right now by GOP apparatchiks to Dr. Ben Carson (Gentle Ben doesn't have a prayer, but he's staying in the race to spite fellow fundamentalist Ted Cruz for the latter's dirty tricks in Iowa ) and John Kasich, the prickly aw-shucks Governor of electorally vital Ohio. Kasich's best shot is to hold on until March 8 (when Michigan votes) and March 15 (when Illinois, Missouri and Ohio all cast ballots). If Kasich does not win at least two of those four Midwestern states, it will be too little, too late to catch "The Donald" (though a Veep slot could remain in play).
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When the inevitable happens and Kasich and Carson join God-awful Jeb (who, Praise the Lord! finally "suspended" his ridiculous campaign) in the expanding dropout pool, it should redound to Senators Rubio and Cruz. However, given Rubio's strong second place showing in the Palmetto State, such consolidation should give him a slight edge.
Ted Cruz is just too rabidly evangelical to gain deeper traction outside of fundamentalist strongholds, as well as his home state of Texas. Rubio (a transparently slick, hypocritical and homophobic snake in his own right) vs. the more socially liberal Trump (who's effectively closeted his true feelings on gay rights) could get intriguing. However, consolidation around Rubio won't be enough to overcome Trump's sizable advantage after Super Tuesday, unless, come the Ides of March, Rubio carries his home state of Florida, where polls show Trump leading by a lot.
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Unfortunately, for Rubio, most Republican voters this cycle are not looking for a Junior Senator who looks and acts like he is delivering a canned speech at Boys State. That would destroy their narrative that America made a bad choice with the inexperienced Junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, the Teleprompter Kid. The GOP base wants an experienced, confident "killer," as Trump would put it, who can stand up for working class Americans on trade, illegal immigration, and on keeping their children out of fruitless quagmires abroad.
Moreover, they want a ferocious no-filter truth-teller who can eviscerate Mrs. Clinton on her documented lies to the families of Benghazi victims and on her role in covering up her husband's infidelity. In these voters' minds, Hillary was a hypocritical and duplicitous enabler of Bill Clinton's serial abuse of women.
Though they are willing to stomach loose talk from Potty-mouth Trump, GOP voters don't want the country embarrassed again by Mr. Clinton's personal peccadilloes (especially when L'Affaire Lewinsky caused Mr. Clinton to hesitate in taking out Osama bin Laden for fear of being accused of a Wag the Dog maneuver). Though looking at slack-jawed Bubba on the trail these days, he doesn't seem all there anyway, so it's hard to see how much damage the vegan ex-POTUS could do, even with a Viagra prescription.
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Finally, the GOP wants someone who will use our enormous American advantage to confront enemies like Iran, Russia and China, rogue states like North Korea, and economic competitors like Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and South Korea. GOP voters see Trump as the last, albeit mercurial, hope to call out other nations who are blithely coasting on a liberal safety net because Uncle Sam is paying, with enormous blood and treasure, for their ultimate national defense. These voters are sick and tired of the U.S. doing the heavy lifting in various theaters (including an expanding role in the Pacific, as Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently confirmed to Charlie Rose) without being directly or indirectly compensated for playing protector of last resort.
I visited Altes Europa this past week for the Berlin International Film Festival (or Berlinale), which I previously thrashed in this space. The open borders crowd in leftist hotbeds like Berlin - where naive politicians and war-weary citizens feel free to caricature Trump and diss the U.S. - conveniently forget that without America, a newly expansionist Russia would have co-opted parts of Poland, the Baltics and most of the Ukraine by now, or at least used its energy leverage to keep Europe quiescent. How soon Germans forget that it took Reagan standing up to the Soviet Union to open the door to reunification.
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Various parts of the GOP base, along with moderate Reagan Democrats, now realize that it might take a Machiavellian narcissist like Trump to keep a wily pig like Putin and his "little green men" out of Europe's backyard. This is no time for the gentleman politics of Reagan and Gorbachev. As even GOP evangelicals instinctively grasp, this is the age of the trash-talking, go-for-broke, ad hominem celebrity death brawl. And in Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin might finally have met his cheesy, egomaniacal match.
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On Saturday night, the Berlinale gave out its Golden Bear to the tedious refugee documentary Fire At Sea, while championing refugee or pro-refugee filmmakers throughout the boring, if heart-felt, ceremony (I was in attendance). Of course, this shameless liberal posturing hides an inconvenient truth. Germany - hamstrung by its own anti-surveillance edicts - still counts on the U.S. to do the heavy lifting in fighting radical Islamic jihadists, who don't give a camel's arse about how nice the German people are to Muslim refugees. ISIS and its affiliates just want Germans and all other "apostates" dead. Moreover, they will use whatever opening Germany gives them to set up shop in German cities, recruit terrorists, and, if that is ever compromised, to commit atrocities on German soil.
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Against this sleeper cell backdrop, the only major hurdle for Trump is in winning over the GOP's hard-right neocon base, some of whom he alienated in coming out so strongly against the Bush family and their deceitfully sold Iraq War. One could hear Trump backtracking on the Bush-bashing in his Sunday interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. He instinctively knows that the GOP's hawks - for whom U.S. boots on the ground is always the unblinking solution to any conflict - do not yet trust that a non-interventionist like Trump will do what is necessary to crush ISIS in its caliphate.
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Ironically, it is on this very head that a closet hawk like Hillary Clinton might have her one clear opening against the billionaire real estate tycoon. The War Party in Washington is much more likely to see massive U.S. boots on the ground in the Middle East if "3AM Call" Hillary is elected President.
James Marshall Crotty is the peripatetic publisher of Monk: The Mobile Magazine, author of How to Talk American (Houghton Mifflin), and director of the urban debate documentary Crotty's Kids. He writes about the intersection of travel, culture, and politics. To learn more, please go to

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