By Chuck Conconi
There is an unavoidable level of cynicism that comes from watching politicians who have traded insults with Donald Trump during a campaign rush to the White House seeking the president’s blessing and, just maybe, an impressive appointment.
How else could anyone explain Sen. Ted Cruz with his wife and children dining at the White House with President Trump? During the Republican primary campaign, Trump’s attacked Cruz by sending out an unflattering photograph of the Texas senator’s wife Heidi, next to a glamour photograph of Trump’s former model wife, Melania. He also at one point threatened, “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. (magazine) shoot in his ad. Be careful Lyin’ Ted or I will spill the beans on your wife.”
An angry Cruz responded that the photo didn’t come from his campaign and countered: “Donald, real men don’t attack women. Your wife is lovely and Heidi is the love of my life.” He later called Trump “a sniveling coward,” and told him to “leave Heidi the hell alone.” He also called Trump a “small and petty man who is intimidated by strong women.”
After such a virulent exchange that went beyond the usual, “it’s just politics,” it is legitimate to ask how could Cruz and the president have a cozy family dinner at the White House? And, why would Heidi attend after being so publically insulted? Although Trump is now the most powerful man in the world, why would a man like Cruz go to the White House with his family to dine after all the venom between the two men?
Some speculation is that Cruz, who has had presidential ambitions, is aware that that office is probably not in his future—but there is always the possibility of a Supreme Court nomination.
Cruz does have useful credentials—he was a law clerk to J. Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and in 1996 became the first Hispanic to clerk for then Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He has the requisite right wing conservatism and he could help Trump with Hispanic voters in 2020.
Cruz, however, is not alone in seeking presidential appointments, even after intense public clashes with Trump. Look at what Trump has said about former governors Rick Perry, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., and Mitt Romney—who was also the Republican candidate for president in 2012.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said of Trump: “He offers a barking carnival act that can best be described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean spirited nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” Perry is now part of the Trump cabinet. He is Energy Secretary.
Romney traveled to Trump Tower in New York amid speculation that he would be rewarded by being named Secretary of State. It was a futile trip. Trump termed the former Massachusetts governor “a lightweight,” and said that Romney had begged Trump for his endorsement when he ran for president in 2012. “I could have said, ‘Mitt drop to your knees,’ “and he would have dropped to his knees.”
This was Trump’s revenge for Romney saying, “He’s a phony and a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”
Why did Romney want a cabinet position so badly that he embarrassed himself by going before Trump as a supplicant?
But what also seemed mystifying is that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a practicing Mormon who was offended by the news of Trump boasting about groping women, decided he would want to be part of the Trump Administration.
Huntsman said at the time: “In a campaign cycle that has been nothing but a race to the bottom—at such a critical moment for our nation—and with so many who have tried to be respectful of a record primary vote, the time has come for Governor Pence to lead the ticket.”
It seems, however, that Republican Huntsman, who also once tried to run for president and served the previous administration as its ambassador to China, still covets another title. He met with Trump and apparently, all has been forgiven—Huntsman is to be nominated as ambassador to Russia.
If a couple of fourth graders talked to each other in that manner on the playground, someone would probably get a bloody nose. 10-year-olds understand that words have meaning and can be hurtful. Politicians no longer seem to understand that. But maybe I’m just being cynical.
Ron Faucheux is a political analyst, author and pollster. He publishes LunchtimePolitics.com, a daily newsletter on polls. He also runs Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan survey research firm that has worked for the Advocate and WWL-TV.
After the bloodletting of last year’s election, most of us aren’t ready for another one. But, in fewer than 20 months, America will elect a new Congress and 39 of the nation’s 50 governors. The future of both parties hangs in the balance.
If the intensifying Democratic resistance to President Donald Trump has any success, it most likely would happen in gubernatorial and U.S. House races. The U.S. Senate will be much tougher for them.
Republicans hold 33 governorships and, with that, set state policy in 60 percent of the country. If they can maintain this advantage, it will give them decisive influence over the reapportionment of congressional and state legislative seats after the 2020 census.
This year and next, Republicans have 28 of those governorships up for election and Democrats have only 11. That’s why Democrats are trying to gin up what they call an anti-Trump “tsunami” to exploit their opposition’s broad exposure.
In November, Democrats are aiming to retake New Jersey’s governorship and keep Virginia’s, two states with term-limited incumbents. These are often interesting indicators.
Next year, Democrats will focus on flipping at least nine potentially vulnerable GOP-held governorships, including those in big states such as Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. Republicans have far fewer opportunities.
Looking at Congress, Republicans hold a 43-seat majority in the House. Taking into account the five vacancies, Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats to shift control.
We’ve seen the president’s party suffer losses of this magnitude twice in recent times. Republicans lost 30 House seats in 2006 when President George W. Bush’s popularity was sinking, and 26 seats in 1982 after the first two years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency when the economy was still sluggish. We’ve also seen bigger shifts in 1994 and 2010, when first-term Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton lost 52 and 63 House seats, respectively.
It’s too early to tell whether Democrats can take the House. There are now about 30 Republican seats and half that many Democratic seats at potential risk, which gives Democrats more running room.
In the Senate, Democrats have the exposure problem. Twenty-five seats on the ballot in 2018 are Democratic-held, and only nine belong to Republicans. To make matters worse, Democrats also have to defend five vulnerable incumbents in strongly pro-Trump states.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, for example, must overcome forces that produced a 42-point Trump win in his state to win re-election. Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, Joe Donnelly, of Indiana, Jon Tester, of Montana, and Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota, represent states that gave Trump victory margins of between 19 and 36 points.
Democrats now appear to have only two shots at Republican incumbents, Sens. Dean Heller, of Nevada, and Jeff Flake, of Arizona. Either could be vulnerable, but neither will be easy pickings.
Other GOP Senate incumbents up for election are in the Republican strongholds of Alabama, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. It would take Category 4 winds at their back for Democrats to have a chance at any of those seats.
In the end, Trump is the wild card. As the central force in American politics, what he says and does matters.
However, some Republicans theorize that even if Trump loses support, it may not have much effect on GOP candidates in state and district races. As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker reasons, Trump is seen as a separate and distinct entity, and his personal controversies won’t rub off on other Republicans.
Maybe so. But Trump and congressional leaders still have to hack their way through the controversial details of thorny issues, from health care, tax reform and budget cuts to funding infrastructure and dealing with immigrants. If they flub their chance, Republican candidates across the country could tank. But if they deliver, and if Trump follows up on his successful speech to Congress, the Democratic resistance would flop.
It’s an understatement of biblical proportions to say a lot of water must still flow under the proverbial bridge between now and November 2018. But, it’s no understatement to say Republicans — in the stormy, unpredictable era of Trump — are already checking the skies, hoping the levees will hold.
Campaign veterans Archie Smart and Wyeth Ruthven sat down to discuss the strategies and messaging witnessed by over 100 million people during the first Presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. The debate took place on September 26 at Hofstra University.
Smart, Executive Vice President of Qorvis MSLGROUP, emphasized that one of Trump’s main endeavors in the debate was to appear presidential and what could be described as a referendum on his temperament. Did he succeed?
According to Smart, the answer is a mixed bag, as he saw success during the first half of the debate, before Clinton began to needle him into frustration. Smart points out, however, that this is Trump’s first one-on-one debate, compared to Clinton’s more extensive background on the stage.
Ruthven, Vice President of Qorvis MSLGROUP, agreed that Trump’s status as a first-time debater could have had an impact on his performance, although as he pointed out, “No one has had any practice debating Donald Trump.”
From the perspective of a media trainer, both candidates had their positive and negative moments.
Ruthven stated that Clinton fell flat on her trade answers; in this case, the strict two-minute time limit adhered to in the beginning by moderator Lester Holt helped Trump succeed in getting his messaging on the issue across.
Trump fell flat on his tax answers, according to Smart.
It has become apparent over the course of the election that these candidates take radically different approaches in their appeals to the public. The role that digital strategy, big data and technology play factored into the debate, as Trump used the podium to address Clinton’s massive spending on executing strategies that included attack ads. Trump favors a more traditional media blast approach, putting himself on TV as much as possible.
“The proof will be in the pudding,” said Smart, suggesting that it will be a fascinating case study once the results are in and its evident which approach prevailed.
This debate was only the first of four. The next will premiere on Tuesday October, 4 at Longwood University in Virginia.