Confessions of a Primary Insider III

Wondering if the nominations would remain open until the summer political conventions, I reached out a to campaign operative who responded as follows:

“Thanks for your message. I know I should have written sooner, but I was waiting for the fallout from the voting in New York, where both Hillary and Trump won in a walk. So does that mean it’s over?

“Let’s start with the Republicans. Who thinks that The Donald can be caught between now and the Cleveland convention? By Cruz?

“Teddy racked up 14 percent in New York (I assume that’s the vote of those people on the subway muttering to themselves), and he’s taking that as a mandate to steal the nomination from Trump at the convention? Dream on, smart guy.

“Same with John Kasich, who ran a distant second to Donnie all over New York State, except in Manhattan, where there are fewer Republicans than there are Bull Moose in Central Park.

“Meanwhile, Trump won New York City, Long Island, Westchester, and upstate, including hard-luck Buffalo (thanks to Bills Coach Rex Ryan keeping his foot out of his mouth).

“In the delegate count, Trump took home 89 and Kasich got four (at least they can rent a car for the trip out to Cleveland), while Cruz got nothing to go along with his 14 percent of the vote and his sneer about ‘New York values.’

“I would say that remark was an update on Jesse Jackson’s 1984 campaign aside about ‘Hymietown,’ except that Cruz probably wants to evoke all of lower Manhattan, in those studded motorcycle chaps, standing in line at the Ramrod, waiting for a transgender restroom.

“Not only did New Yorkers say, ‘Hey, Ted Cruz, this Bud’s for you,’ but they voted for the Casino King with a nonchalance that implies he could well be a Rockefeller Republican, the heir to Jacob Javits, Charles Goodell, or George Pataki, if not Fiorello La Guardia.

“It’s a comparison worth thinking about, as Rocky had his own divorce issues, and (with Trumpian panache) he took his curtain call on the New York stage rolled up in the rug of his mistress (although the tabloid coverage of his in flagrante last stand was wall-to-wall).

“For Trump in 2016, the New York primary was better than winning the trifecta at Yonkers. He swept the delegates, making up for all those Trump defectors that Cruz has lured away among the Colorado and Louisiana delegations.

“And he managed to wedge Kasich ahead of Cruz for the leading role in ‘Anybody But Trump,’ which remains a struggling, Off-Broadway production. (‘Mr. Kasich stars in this dated, if slightly amusing comedy about a midwestern governor who answers the want ad of a Grand Old Party that needs someone who isn’t crazy to run for President.’)

“Not until the Republican wagon train (I know, in honor of Ronald Reagan, that should be the 20 Mule Team of Borax) finds its way to Kentucky on May 17 does Cruz or Kasich have any chance of winning a primary. I can’t see either of them doing much in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or even California, despite their Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to consolidate the opposition against Trump.

* * *

“Yes, it is possible that Trump may arrive in Cleveland on July 18 without sufficient delegates to win a majority on the first ballot, but those who think the Republicans will pump smoke into the convention hall and choose James Garfield on the 36th ballot (in 1880 he pulled ahead of James G. Blaine) are indulging in Cruz-controlling fantasies.

“All Trump needs for the nomination is 1,237 delegates of which he has 845 (to Cruz’s 559). Even now Kasich, with 148 delegates, lags behind Marco Rubio, who, despite dropping out of the race, is holding on to his 171 delegates.

“So even if Trump doesn’t arrive in Cleveland with a majority (I think he will), once lakeside he can tape a few episodes of The Apprentice in which Rubio and Kasich try to trade him their delegates for a paid internship in the Trump administration. (‘Tell me about your experience with the postal service’)

“What choice will they have other than to grovel in Trump’s makeshift boardroom? Rubio will never join a Cruz alliance to deny Trump the nomination, and Kasich will realize that Trump can deliver on any deal while all Ted can do is promise to look after the Ohio governor down the road.

“The bigger question is this: Why should the Republican establishment in Cleveland take down Donald to elevate Cruz to the nomination, when most senior Republican officials hate Ted more than they do The Donald?

“Nor can anyone say that Kasich, with one primary win (in his home state of Ohio), is worthy of the Republican nomination, however brokered.

“At best that ought to get him an (off-night) speech at the convention and maybe a cabinet job in the Department of the Interior, provided he can swing Ohio to Trump in the general.

“Another reason Trump will whip the Republican convention into line is because none of the party stalwarts really want to tangle with such a gilded porcupine. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for sure, wants none of that mud wrestling. Truth be told, he doesn’t even want to be Speaker.

“Nor does the Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want to wrangle an angry Trump into some candidate-sized Havahart trap. John Boehner? Yes, he’s from Ohio, but he’s out of the House and scorned for letting Obama roll him on health care, if not his crocodile tears.

“So who will lead the Cleveland coup de main? Mitt Romney? Mittens might throw a few bucks into the Dump Trump hat, but he’s not going wear it backwards or talk smack to GOP lieutenants in the smoke-filled rooms. Don’t forget: Mitt sucked up to Trump and his billions in 2012, and Donald kept the blue dress.

* * *

“How, I hear you ask, did Hillary manage to run the table in New York, after Bernie won about 149 primaries in March and April?

“A large part of the reason is that, by the time he got to New York, Barefoot Bernie was tired. Don’t forget, he’s 74 years old, and his elections in the past only lasted a few months and took place in Vermont, where he could sleep in his own bed, in L.L. Bean flannel sheets. To win all he had to do was hum a few union hymns and remind voters of the state’s tradition of crusty independence.

“Now he’s running against Clinton Incorporated (Hillary, Bill, Chelsea, Huma, and every Democratic state senator in the country). Still, he is largely beating them at their own game.

“He’s flipping off Wall Street, raising campaign contributions in “bundles” of $20, attracting millennials, and sweeping primaries in states as diverse as Nebraska, Idaho, and Michigan.

“Bernie has 1,202 delegates to Hillary’s 1,446. But her lead among superdelegates (who says money doesn’t buy happiness?) is 502 to 38. Case closed, unless some of them want to be paid off again, this time with $20 bills.

“My take on his New York loss is that Bernie’s visit to the Pope was his bridge too far. File it under hubris, fatigue, Archangel Gabriel, whatever. You followed that story, didn’t you? If not, here it is:

“While Hillary was on Staten Island telling firemen that she would be ‘fighting’ for them in Washington (about her only applause line), Bernie decided that he would cold call on Pope Francis, and he loaded up his family and a few friends on a chartered, largely empty Delta 767 jet and flew off to Rome—yet another small town politician petitioning for sainthood.

“Bernie may have been interested in meeting the Pope, but was Frankie feeling the Bern? Apparently not so much. For starters, I am sure, Jorge Mario Bergoglio a.k.a. Pope Francis, who grew up in Buenos Aires, probably didn’t know much if anything about the independent socialist mayor of Burlington, Vermont, turned U.S. senator and presidential hopeful.

“The matchmaker for the papal visit was Monsignor Sánchez Sorondo, who booked Bernie’s Delta entourage into the Pope’s guest house in Vatican City and leaned on his Argentine friend to say a quick hello to the Vermonter as another hero to the down-trodden.

“It must have taken quite a lot of coaxing, because instead of waving to the crowds from that balcony over St. Peter’s Square, Bernie spent his first and only night in Rome cooling his heels with Professor Jeffrey Sachs (director of The Earth Institute—how’s that for a modest job description?), who was also in town to say some rosaries about climate change. I guess at the Vatican even Beltway prophets like Bernie and Jeff must look like itinerant money changers.

“Finally the monsignor prevailed with his papal pal, because Bernie was told if he was in the lobby of the guest house at 6 a.m., the Pope would give him the apostolic version of a high five on his way to the airport. (Francis was flying off to bless and rescue some Syrian refugees.)

“Bernie is not Catholic (he was born Jewish but isn’t particularly religious, by his own admission). But his wife Jane is, and she went to parochial schools in Brooklyn. New Yorkers who went to Catholic schools are an important primary constituency, up there with Irish immigrants and Mets fans.

“Both Mr. and Mrs. Sanders showed up in the guest-house lobby at 5:45 a.m. to receive the Pope’s blessing. (They had to dress; he could wear his robe.) In another brilliant tactical move, the Sanders campaign staff kept photographers away from the ecumenical line dance; otherwise they would have caught Francis striding toward the popemobile and only breaking step briefly to fist bump the eager Brooklyn supplicants, who were standing near the front door like trick-or-treaters.

“Unfortunately, for Bernie, the excursion to Rome only generated cynical or bemused headlines (the New York Post wagged: ‘Bernie Sanders invited himself to the Vatican’). Meanwhile, Hillary was kissing all the babies between Riverhead and Rochester, and she won, as they say at Aqueduct, ‘going away.’

* * *

“Given that Sanders is what the Bensonhurst mafia calls a ‘walking corpse’ (dead but he doesn’t know it), why will he continue his campaign until the Democratic convention in Philadelphia at the end of July?

“I am sure much of the reason is found in the rhetorical question, “What else does he have going on?” He has money flooding into his campaign accounts, he gets 10,000 at his rallies in Greenwich Village, and he can travel around the United States on a chartered jet, with an adoring press in attendance. Sounds better than getting back to his desk in the Senate and answering constituent complaints about Amtrak service to Brattleboro (I’ve taken it there; the station is literally a hole in the wall).

“Besides, Hillary isn’t going to give Bernie a favor bag when he shows up at Her convention any more than she plans to hand over those transcripts of her own prayer breakfast at Goldman Sachs, when she must have said something such as:

Bless this corporation of your poor. Uplift those proprietary traders who are cast down. For those who suffer innocently, I pray that you will sanctify their endurance of the wrongs worked on them, keeping their hearts free of bitterness and short positions. Cheer with hope and bonuses all discouraged and unhappy people, and help those who are tempted into sin by their ambition; though they be troubled on every side, suffer them not to be distressed; though they be perplexed, save them from insider trading.

“In the remaining primaries on the Democratic schedule, however, Hillary should stay even with Bernie, if not defeat him in Pennsylvania, California, Maryland, and New Jersey, which ought to ensure her nomination.

“His only hope for the nomination is if she gets sick or indicted, neither of which is impossible, give that she’s 68 years old and in the past has fainted, had a blood clot, fallen, and has taken blood-thinning medication, perhaps to keep the FBI from clogging up her broadband.

“It’s to her credit that she has held up as well on the campaign trail as she has. Bill, however, is starting to look like the Ghost of Elections Past (‘in my days of woe, we called them superpredators and stayed out of liquor stores with Plexiglas’).

“Nor is it looking likely that the Obama administration will allow James Comey’s FBI to run Hillary in for those 2,000 classified e-mails that turned up unexpectedly on her home server—as mysteriously as Hillary’s missing law-firm billing records resurfaced in the White House in 1996.

“Already Obama has gone on national television to say, ‘I don’t think it posed a national security problem,’ and then to add: ‘This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.’ If that prejudicial statement, coming from the boss of the Attorney General, didn’t bury the case, nothing will.

“At the very least, Hillary’s lawyer can subpoena the President as a character witness in case career-Republican Comey doesn’t get the memo about her innocence and turns Madame Secretary’s aides into state’s witnesses against their old boss for running the American foreign policy with the online security standards of Ashley Madison. (‘Life is short. Have a war.’)

* * *

Speaking of infidelity, I trust you heard that Ted Cruz’s phone number is showing up in the phone logs of a Washington, D.C. escort service and bordello. Teddy, we hardly knew ye, unless he was hooking up with angels?

“The madame in question died some years ago, and the phone numbers of her rich-and-famous clients have been available for some time. (But not the names of the callers or their nom de nuit, in the spirit of “Client 9,” Eliot Spitzer’s flag of convenience.)

“Now her lawyer has gone back to court to get permission to release the actual names on the madame’s client list, which may explain why Heidi and the kids are making so many campaign appearances with Ted.

“If the press were ever to ask Trump if he had dallied in the arms of an hourly companion, he probably would say: ‘Yes, and I have to tell you, I was the professional, not her.’

“While the press had a small firestorm about Cruz’s number among the brothel’s phone logs (he was unmarried at the time he might have been dialing for darlings), his answer (‘I have never been unfaithful to my wife’) did not exactly match the question (‘Are you now or have you ever been affiliated with Pamela Martin and Associates?’)

“The reason Cruz was on the hot seat was that the National Enquirer was at same time reporting that, while married, Preacher Ted had tarried with five other women in the political world (none of whom was the Virgin Mary).

“Leaving nothing to the imagination, the Enquirer ran pictures of the possible lovers (kind of like that gallery of Tiger’s women) and described the lurid details of the trysts, although everything sleazy ran with the obligatory pictures of Cruz being lovey dovey with Heidi. They are the Al and Tipper of PDA in 2016, which is never a good sign.

“Cruz denied the affair reports and accused Trump of ratting him out to the Enquirer. Actually, their bad blood over their wives had begun earlier, when the Cruz campaign (actually a PAC called Make America Awesome) ran a picture of Melania Trump naked on fireside fur, as if posing for Penthouse, and included the caption: ‘Meet Melania Trump, your next first lady. Or you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.’

“The only thing missing from the card was an 800 number, where you can ‘chat live’ with beautiful Russian and Ukrainian women about the Indiana primary.

“Trump then tweeted side-by-side images of Heidi Cruz and Melania. In the tweet Heidi looks caught in the act of biting the heads off kittens while Melania has the grace and poise, well, of Miss Universe. The Trump caption reads: ‘The images are worth a thousand words.’

“In response, Cruz shouted and screamed, ‘Leave Heidi the hell alone!’ but in the exchange the pros took note that Trump is no amateur when it comes to slinging sexual mud. Bill and Hillary, take note or notes.

* * *

“In general, you don’t read much about the press in this election. Except for the running feud between Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly, there really aren’t any storylines involving celebrated members of the fourth estate.

“There’s no Hunter Thompson flying high with Wild Turkey on the press plane. Nor is there a Dan Rather stalking Richard Nixon or the Bush clan (‘No sir, I want you to be careful, Mr. Vice-President…’)

“The Morning Joe is clearly decaf. Jon Stewart is retired (but apparently he’s still chasing down wild pigs), although ‘Saturday Night Live’ is still trying, as is Samantha Bee. I used to love Jackie Broyles and Dunlap, but they seem tired. Maybe they miss ol’ Fred Thompson?

“For the rest we have the human Ambien, Wolf Blitzer, and on the other side all those chipper foxes and friends. No wonder Trump and Hillary are in a cakewalk. Who’s calling them out? No one.

“Part of the reason that political reporting is a dying art is because few newspapers and magazines bother to assign full-time correspondents to the candidates.

“News coverage in this election means television, which is good at picking up an awkward soundbite or two but hopeless when it comes to deconstructing Trump’s business empire or Hillary’s compromises with evil.

“Most of what is written about the campaigns (especially all those political columns in places like National Review or The Nation) is based on the television coverage, which approaches the election much the way CBS lusts after the National Football League.

“Keep in mind that elections are huge sources of revenue of the large networks. When Jeb Bush blew through his $162 million war chest, most of that went into 30-second campaign spots that were posted to some network affiliate in Boston, Columbia, or Cedar Rapids. The same can be said for the $200 million that Hillary has already spent to prove her eloquence and fitness for office.

“In theory, network news divisions are separate from the advertising salesmen, but at the end of the day television broadcasters are best understood as corporate cheerleaders, not muckrakers. Think of Ron Burgundy, but without all the integrity.

“Why else did Megyn’s bosses make her drop by Trump Tower and smoke a piece pipe with Donald? Because Trump is a brand, and national brands sell ad space. It’s hard to magine H.L. Mencken toadying up to Calvin Coolidge.

“Think too what it costs to hire a journalist to cover a candidate on a full-time basis. By my reckoning, you need $300,000 a year to keep a reporter on the campaign trail, which includes salary, airfare, hotels, car rentals, and all the booze that is fit to drink.

“Yes, bloggers and social mediators are important voices in the campaign, but rarely, if ever, do they see a candidate in person, except maybe at a debate or afterwards in the green room.

“Nor do the candidates feel much need to give the reporters access to their campaigns. They make it easy for camera crews to set up at staged events, but they feel no need to grant longer interviews to print reporters, who will only file 500 words on milk subsidies with the Bangor Daily News.

“And if you want to measure the extent to which the press has become a hostage to their own ratings, look no further than Donald’s entire strategy: which is to be outrageous every single day so that the networks will clamor for interviews, and he can run his entire campaign on free airtime.

“Trump has spent almost nothing (about the same as Kasich and Scott Walker) on his campaign. Why should he? Every day he can call up Fox or some other network and answer (softball) questions from the shill host. He can do that from anywhere, and his message is out there. The others, including Bernie and Hillary, have to pay big money to be heard.

* * *

“Speaking of the networks, the only people who think either the Republican or Democratic convention will offer more excitement than, say, the annual meeting of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry are the TV executives who have to gin up enthusiasm for six of the dullest days in summer television.

“I take it you have been to one of these political Woodstocks? If not, let me explain the drill.

“Delegates arrive from all over America and are appointed to one of many local hotels where there is a hospitality buffet for the duration, plus a lot of minivans and chartered buses parked out front.

“Most delegations host a cocktail party at some point. The rest of the time, the delegates are out shopping, going to a local baseball game, visiting the botanical garden, or sampling local delicacies, which can includes dishes in all shapes and sizes (and some of them even take credit cards).

“Over the three days and nights of the convention, the delegates occupy their assigned seats (Utah is in the nose bleeders), launch balloons or wave funny hats (as directed), and cheer lustily when their chairman casts their pre-allocated votes for one candidate or another ‘from the great state of….’

“A handful of delegates sit on the Rules or Platform committees, but most are detached from the political process. Yes, they get to hear the live speeches that never make the network feeds. Otherwise, the studio audience for Jeopardy! has more engagement than does your average delegate.

“Obama famously addressed the 2004 Democratic convention, which put him on the national political map. But then so, too, did Bill Clinton at the 1988 convention, when he stretched his allocated 15-minutes of fame into 48-minutes of Castro-like tedium. Delegates only cheered when he said, ‘In conclusion….’

“Even the excitement of finding out the vice-presidential candidate has largely been taken away from the convention delegates. In 1956 Adlai Stevenson II let the convention select his running mate (it went with Estes Kefauver over John F. Kennedy). In recent years, nominees select their vice-presidential running mates before the convention, to give everyone ample time to vet their closet skeletons.

“In Philadelphia, Hillary will try to incorporate the Sanders wing of the Democratic party into her supporters, while trying to move as far to the center as she can manage, without, say, being accused of selling out to Goldman Sachs.

“The Democratic convention will show a bunch of Clinton home movies (Hillary as a Brownie, Bill shaking John Kennedy’s hand, etc.); balloons will descend on the Clintons; Obama will get to drag out his long good-bye (Jeter’s and Kobe’s took less time); and in three days no one will remember or believe anything that has been said.

* * *

“Trump’s challenge at the Republican convention is less about winning the nomination than it is to come away from Cleveland with the Republican Party still a going concern and not in liquidation.

“Many party loyalists think of him as a third-party candidate who is attempting a reverse takeover of the GOP. They don’t trust him to support candidates at the state and local level, and they fear an electoral disaster, of Barry Goldwater (52 electoral votes) or Alf Landon (8) proportions, that will strip away the Republican majority in the Senate, and even, God forbid, the House.

“What the Trump haters forget, however, is that he has been attending conventions his entire life, and probably enjoys them. He likes entertaining, lavish parties, wolves of Wall Street, empty platitudes, sweeping pronouncements, and golf—all of which surround the Republican summer jamboree.

“Plus, while Trump may be rude and arrogant to those he doesn’t know, he’s not a snob to those he meets, and in Cleveland he will happily mix with state delegations, in a way Mitt or the robotic John McCain could only dream about.

“He may well park his gold enameled plane near the convention center and let delegates tour it or he’ll give them all engraved Parker pens that read: ‘Make American Great Again — Best wishes, Donald J. Trump.’

“For my money, he’ll turn the staid Republican convention into a live screening of You Too Can Be a Billionaire, and delegates will leave the shores of Lake Erie wondering why they so hated that nice man with all the gift bags.

“Only a few delegates will be reminded of Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby’s neighbor, who often looked back across the lawn at the shining lights of his friend’s mansion and over-the-top parties:

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

* * *

“In the general election, Trump vs. Hillary, who wins?

“That’s the only question anyone on the campaign trail wants answered. They don’t care about Donald having three wives or Hillary’s Whitewater condos. Nor do they care about Trump’s tilted roulette wheels or Bill’s so-called indiscretions. (I take it you have seen that Monica has reinvented herself as a faith healer for cyberbullying?)

“All anyone wants to know is who will win the fall election, which gets down to this question:

—Does America want Obama’s or Bill Clinton’s third term?

“Call it one or the other, but essentially Hillary is a nostalgic placeholder, as happens in countries like Peru or Argentina, when a popular president is barred from serving a third term.

“I know, she has many accomplishments in her own right—the Senate, Secretary of State, etc.,—but let’s face it: if I gave you a week to think it over, you could not tell me anything she achieved in either position.

“Yes, you might tell me she gained experience, wisdom, or judgement, or whatever that comes from attending a human rights forum in Kazakhstan, but you won’t cite something called The Clinton Doctrine, because it doesn’t exist and, if it did and had some value, it might already be for sale on eBay or at Sotheby’s.

“As the legal heir to either Clinton’s or Obama’s terms in office, however, Hillary has what the courts call ‘standing,’ and it could well be that the country will choose a hybrid candidate between Bill and Barack before it will go with an Atlantic City developer who is new to the political scene.

“And keep this in mind: many are elected President only after earlier having lost a campaign for that office or something similar. Nixon lost in 1960, Reagan in 1976, Johnson in 1960, Franklin Roosevelt in 1920, and even Thomas Jefferson 1796.

“The American electorate feels more comfortable, in general, with second-time candidates who have lost before, than it does with newbie nominees. Very few candidates have come from nowhere to win a presidential election.

“Finally, the electoral map that got Bill Clinton elected in 1996 is virtually the same as that with which Obama won in 2012. Both won with a coalition that included liberal New England, the Democratic Midwest (from Ohio to Minnesota), and the liberal West Coast, plus Florida. Can Hillary duplicate this result? She has a good chance.

“On paper, Hillary should win New England to Minnesota, at least along the Great Lakes (not Indiana), some Midwest states such as Missouri, and then California and the liberal West. She might even pick off Arizona and New Mexico, given Trump’s anger at illegal immigrants. She should be strong in Florida and perhaps Ohio, especially if she picks Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown as her running mate.

“How does Hillary lose?

“She has big problems if the wildcard nature of Trump’s reality show puts New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania into play as swing states. All of them have had Republican governors in recent years.

“Nor is Hillary lucky in having to run against an in-stater, especially one so well known. On paper, both Hillary and Trump are New Yorkers, but few in the state would tell you they consider Hillary a true New Yorker. ‘Chappaqua?’ I hear you ask. ‘A bolt-hole,’ they would respond. If anything, she’s a Washingtonian. But a New Yorker? Fuhgeddaboudit.

The second big question is this:

—Does the novelty of Donald Trump redraw the electoral map?

“In his soundbites, Trump is a conservative, getting ready to drop the big one on ISIS or wall up the Mexican and Canadian borders. But the unpredictable Trump is also the most liberal Republican candidate to stand for President in 2016.

“Even the occasionally moderate Kasich is more doctrinaire than Trump, who on any given day can support Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, abortion, impeaching George W. Bush, or trade tariffs.

“In the general election, the Clinton forces will play up his off-the-wall personality, but if that doesn’t stick (‘Yeah, he’s crazy. So what?’) they will face a Republican candidate who is liberal on many social issues but conservative on the deficit and internationally. It can be a formidable combination.

“Think of Dwight Eisenhower. Admittedly, Trump is only a five-star general in his imagination, but like Eisenhower in 1952, he could just as easily have run this time as a Democrat. It was only a few weeks before the 1952 Republican convention that Eisenhower came out for the party. Similarly, Trump was registered as a Democrat from 2001 until 2009. No wonder he invited the Clintons to his third wedding.

“Trump’s hybrid affiliations might be to his advantage in an era when few voters identify with party hierarchy or ideology. Forty-three percent of the electorate define themselves as independent.

“Trump’s best chance to break the Democratic electoral coalition could be in Pennsylvania, which since 1988 has voted Democratic in presidential elections, but which has also elected conservative Republicans to the U.S. Senate and as governor. Pennsylvania, as James Carville said, ‘is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.’ For Trump, the more Alabamas the better.

“If Trump redraws the presidential map, it has to include winning in Pennsylvania, or he will lose.

* * *

“So what happens now?

“Both Kasich and Cruz can appear on their own cable channel (TedSic?) and speak 24/7 about how the Republican fight will ‘go to the convention,’ but in most of the remaining primaries neither will place better than an also-ran second.

“Kasich is auditing for the role of Fred MacMurray in ‘My Three Sons,’ when what the electorate wants is a remake of Double Indemnity. (Film noir, about a plotting insurance salesman, also played by MacMurray.)

“Cruz would like us to believe he’s ‘God’s other son,’ but for that he might have to lay off (to use another Don Imus-ism) the hired hoes.

“Trump may try to act more presidential or not, depending on his mood. He’s in the ideal position of needing neither money nor votes to catch up in the race.

“In the remaining primaries he can concentrate on two or three big races, while Cruz and Kasich, because they are so far behind in votes, delegates and money, will have to spread themselves too thinly to get any traction.

Hence the Cruz-Kasich (Papal?) Bull, dividing the known universe of remaining primaries into spheres of influence, for one of the either candidates.

“Trump also benefits from having two candidates against him, as they are dividing the Anybody But Trump vote, making the opposition look weaker than it may be.

“Finally, Trump’s reality-show notoriety will feed on itself, making his events that much more popular. Even the violence that occasional breaks out at his campaign stops helps keep him in the news.

“Why go to a Kasich event and listen to him talk about his daughters when you can catch a Trump speech (actually they are more like talk-radio ramblings) and a fight might break out. The National Hockey League operates along the same lines.

* * *

“When the election gets down to Hillary vs.Trump, the vote will reduce to a contest between angry white males and angry white females.

“Demographically, Hillary will position her candidacy to pull in the Latino vote (‘A vote for Trump is a vote for your own deportation’), better educated men, women of course (‘It’s our time’), and Bernie’s millennials while Trump will make a play for the disaffected (men and women), those suffering from Clinton fatigue, gunners, aspirational young people, birthers writ large, 9/11 truthers, and anyone who thinks that America has lost its way, economically or internationally.

“The far right—Evangelicals and the like—and the far left (liberals who hate Obama for drones and Clinton for Wall Street pandering) may refuse to vote, leading to low turnouts in places like New York and California, although for the first time in a generation voters in each state might find themselves in a position to decide the election.

“As for the all-important swing states, I think they will be: New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, and Nevada.

“Trump will win the presidency if he can carry New York and Ohio, while Hillary makes it if she wins either of those swing states, which is a lower barrier, as Democrats have often won both.

“I am assuming the Democrats will win in Florida, much of New England, and along the West Coast, although not in Nevada. I am giving the South to the Republicans, including North Carolina, but not Virginia. Missouri, I give to Hillary, but that could be a fight.

“I’m off to pick up a few credits at Trump U. As ESPN’s baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian likes to ask, ‘Is this a great game, or what? And he only gets to cover A-Rod.

“Your friend,


Matthew Stevenson is the author of many books, including Reading the Rails, Appalachia Spring, andThe Revolution as a Dinner Party, about China throughout its turbulent twentieth century. His most recent book, about traveling in France and the Franco-Prussian wars, is entitled Biking with Bismarck. His new book is: Our Man in Iran.