Stopping Donald Trump

The most common question I get is “Can Donald Trump win in November?” The answer is yes. This is my fifth rewrite of this post because I don’t seem able to get my head around it myself. Plus, I keep getting sidetracked by why he needs to be stopped. So let’s start with how he can win, and then on to how.

The Donald certainly has a path to victory. First, while this year is a year unlike any other in American electoral history, the stats say that the incumbent party does not hold the White House for a third term. Second, he has amassed more Republican primary votes than any other Republican, and the contests aren’t over yet. The corollary is that Republican turnout is up 64% so far, while Democratic turnout is down 17%.  There are also a lot of troubling signs relative to Trump’s match-ups with the Democrats. And most importantly, there’s the platform on which he’s run.  (more…)

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Preparing for 2020

While there is still plenty of time left in the 2016 election, discussion has already started about the rules for the 2020 election.  Changes to the delegate selection process tends to be driven by “fixing” what the party sees as the problem in the last election cycle.  For example, a lot of the changes on the Republican side (e.g., the binding rules, penalties for states violating the rules) were driven by what the party leadership thought went wrong in 2012 — Ron Paul doing better at state conventions than he did on caucus nights, states violating the timing and proportionality rules.

The two parties are at different stages of the process for modifying the procedures for 2020.  For the Republicans, the process for convening the next convention is part of the party rules .  Normally, the rules can only be amended at the convention.  In 2012, the convention granted limited “one time only” authority to the Republican National Committee to change the process.  Given the difficulty of making changes on the fly during a convention, it is likely that the Republicans might give the RNC this power again.  For the Democrats, the actual drafting of the rules for the next convention is done by the Democratic National Committee after the convention.  Typically, the most that has happened during the nomination process is an agreement to have a study commission to look at revisions to the rules.


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A Divided Court(?)

This week at the United States Supreme Court saw eight opinions in the argued cases (leaving 28 cases still to be decided).  The actual opinions raise questions about the ability of the Supreme Court to function with only eight justices.   Since the actual discussions between justices occur in private, it is hard to tell whether the decisions reflect divisions on the merits or just a tendency to only decide what absolutely needs to be decided.  However, in several cases this week, the Supreme Court — having taken review on a broad issue — issued a very narrow decision sending the case back to the lower court to re-examine the broad issue.


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Alaska joins Maine in calling for end to superdelegates

The Alaska Democratic Convention … also approved a resolution demanding an end to the use of super delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

“This year especially, we’ve seen a lot of concern about super delegates and the weight they’re given in the party. And some people would really like the delegation to reflect the will and the vote of the people,” said Jake Hamburg, the communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party. – KTVA

Alaska’s resolution is non-binding, and Maine’s binding resolution doesn’t take effect (in theory) until 2020, but, in reality, once the primaries are over this issue will likely just fade away.

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Affordable Care Act — The Next Challenge

While still having to deal with the current attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act (round two of the battles over the contraceptive mandate in the Supreme Court), the next challenge is working through the lower courts.  On Thursday, a Bush appointee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that one part of the Affordable Care Act required annual appropriations.  In particular, the part involved requires insurer’s to reduce deductibles and co-payments for certain low-income persons.  In return, the federal government reimburses the insurer’s for those reductions.  While the insurer’s have a right to those payments, the District Court found that this entitlement still requires Congress to appropriate the money.  In the absence of an appropriation, an insurer only obtains payment upon filing a lawsuit (adding additional costs to the process).

The next step in this case will be an appeal to the D.C. Circuit.  At that stage, besides challenging the merits of this ruling, there will almost certainly be a claim that members of the House lack standing to pursue this challenge.  However, the one thing that this case makes clear is that — as long as Republicans have hopes of having the courts gut the Affordable Care Act — they will continue to file challenges to every section of the act.  Of course, given the current balance on the Supreme Court, voters can put this version of shopping for judicial activism to rest by electing a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate.  Maybe then, we will be able to turn our focus to making the health care system work better rather than fighting in court over the last reform.

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Delegate Math — Weeks of May 16 and May 23

As this week’s primaries showed, with Kasich and Cruz out, it’s only a matter of time until Trump gets to 1,237 delegates.  There are still pitfalls ahead for Trump, but those pitfalls are about the convention going rogue on the platform and the vice-presidential pick.  Whether that happens depends upon how much Trump wants to alter the 2012 platform (which is hard to tell given how vague Trump’s actual positions are) and whether Trump can find an acceptable vice-presidential candidate.   Over the next two week’s the Republicans will have primaries in Oregon (May 17) and Washington (May 24).    Oregon allocates its twenty-eight delegates proportionally with no winner-take-all provision; so Cruz and Kasich should get some delegates, but Trump should take twenty or more delegates.  Washington allocates thirty delegates by congressional district and fourteen delegates state-wide.    Given that Washington has a twenty percent threshold for winning delegates, Trump is likely to get all forty-four.   Including the uncommitted delegates who have pledged to support Trump, Washington should put Trump unofficially over the top.

For the Democratic Party, the next two weeks consists of two primaries (Oregon and Kentucky on May 17), the Nebraska county conventions spread out over the two weeks, the Washington Congressional District conventions on May 21, and the Wyoming state convention on May 28.


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Super Delegates 2016 — The Arguments

The two parties take very different approaches to the election of pledged delegates.  In the Republican Party, the influence of winner-take-all states and winner-take-most states allows a front runner to win the nomination while only getting a plurality of the vote.  In the Democratic Party, the fact that 14% of the delegates (officially unpledged party leader and elected officials, unofficially superdelegates) go to the convention as unpledged delegates and the pledged delegates are allocated proportionately, make it hard for even a clear front-runner with a majority of the votes to win enough pledged delegates unless the other candidates suspend their campaigns.   As a result, for the second competitive cycle in a row, both candidates need the support of at least some of the super delegates to win the nomination.

There are a lot of different arguments for what superdelegates should consider in making their decision.  The problem for Bernie Sanders and his supporters is that almost every argument favors Hillary Clinton.


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Supreme Court — Pending Opinions 2015-16

Now that arguments have ended for the term, the next seven weeks (starting on May 16) will focus primarily on  issuing opinions in the cases heard over the past seven months.  (There is also the small matter of deciding what cases to hear in the fall.  In the three months of argument since Justice Scalia died, the Supreme Court accepted a grand total of seven cases for the fall — the average over the past decade is 17-18.  With only twelve cases currently on the docket for the fall, there are approximately fifteen to twenty available argument slots.  Given the delicate balance on the court, the Justices may be stingy with grants over the next two months.)  There are currently, thirty-three cases still awaiting opinions.

It is still too early in the term to guess at who will have the significant opinions that still remain.  While there are decision in most of the cases from October-January, the death of Justice Scalia scrambles the number of cases that we would expect each Justice to have from these months.   (Justice Scalia would have been assigned at least one opinion in both months, but died before any of his December or January opinions were issued.  Those opinions would have been re-assigned.  Additionally, his death caused one of the January cases — the union dues case — to be affirmed on a 4-4- vote.  We do not know if Justice Scalia had that opinion or if Justice Alito had that opinion.    If Justice Alito had that opinion, he might not have been in the majority on the last case remaining from January.)  As I have discussed in the past, not every case that the Supreme Court hears is politically sensitive or a close call.  There are several potentially significant cases that will be a close call, and the absence of Justice Scalia may influence the results in these cases.


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Delegate Math — Week of May 9

With Donald Trump being the last Republican standing, delegate math on the Republican side is almost meaningless.  (Of course with early voting, some segments of votes have already been cast and some segment of voters tend to vote against the presumptive nominee.)  On May 10, the Republicans will have primaries in Nebraska (thirty-six delegates on winner-take-all basis) and West Virginia (thirty-one directly elected delegates — three in each district and twenty-two state-wide.  There are some weird restrictions on the twenty-two state-wide delegates that could distort the results if voters do not understand the rules).  Trump still needs 223 more delegates to clinch the nomination.  As such, he will probably not officially clinch the nomination until June 7, but it would take some very bizarre results between now and June 7 to stop Trump from getting the nomination.  In the upcoming weeks, I am sure there will be several posts on this site on what the nomination of Trump means for this year’s elections and the future of the Republican Party.

On the Democratic side, counting superdelegates, Hillary Clinton is approximately 189 delegates short of clinching the nomination.  The main event this week is the West Virginia Primary on May 10.  The delegate breakdown in West Virginia is seven delegates in both the first and second districts, six delegates for both the third district and the at-large pool, and three pledged party leader delegates.  Given votes in similar states, Bernie Sanders has a shot at getting to five delegates (64.3%) in the first and the second and four delegates in the third and at-large.  With an almost certain 2-1 split for the pledged party leaders, that would give Sanders a 20-9 advantage.


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Trump’s GOP heads to Cleveland

With John Kasich suspending his campaign today, even NBC News will now have to call Donald Trump the presumptive nominee.

We’ll keep the sidebar GOP numbers updated, but will no longer be updating the state-by-state results for the GOP.

Of course, Clinton has been the presumptive nominee for the Democrats for 2 months, but no one is allowed to call her that yet,,,

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