Monday, August 08, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Frankenstein Economics, GOPer Defections

So, Monday August 8, 2016, and the Donald campaign is moving in what they hope is a new direction, but the blowback from last week's events is not over.  So we're simultaneously in something like a normal campaign, and still in one that is extraordinary.

After making his pro forma Republican endorsements and turning his full lying attention on Hillary Clinton, Trump tried to up the serious candidate quotient today with an address on the economy.  Early reviews has it a mishmash (or Frankenstein monster) of ideas from everywhere, and an attempt to toe the Ryan conservative line.  That latter view is expressed by Eric Levitz, who saw it as a particular pitch to the GOP donor class:

But in his big speech on economic policy in Detroit, a bored-looking Trump just read GOP boilerplate off a teleprompter...The agenda Trump outlined Monday was virtually identical to the standard GOP plan for redistributing wealth to its donor class, save for the tycoon’s opposition to all trade deals and refugees (at one point Trump argued that “our roads and bridges fell into disrepair” because we “resettle millions of refugees at taxpayer expense”).

That latter claim is off by geometric measurement, by the way.  In its fact checking (which finds most of Trump's claims typically false) ABC provides the numbers: over the past 8 years, the US settled about half a million refugees at a cost of $1.2 billion a year, .03 of the federal budget.  Repairing and replacing infrastructure will cost about a trillion and a half.  That's, you know, more.  In addition to ABC's checking, the WPost goes into detail about Trump's enormously false claims on energy.

But Trump trying to change the subject collided with other significant stories that extend last week's narrative of serious people, including Republicans, publicly declaring him unfit and unqualified.  WPost's Carol Morello:

A group of 50 former national security officials, all of whom have served Republican presidents from Richard M. Nixon to George W. Bush, have signed an open letter calling Donald Trump unqualified to be president and warning that, if elected, “he would be the most reckless President in American history.”

The letter offers a withering critique of the GOP nominee, saying he “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president. The signatories declare their conviction that he would be dangerous “and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” They state flatly that none of them intend to vote for Trump in November. Some have decided to vote for Hillary Clinton..."

Commenting on the letter--full of GOP neocon names--the subtitle to Lucia Graves' piece in the Guardian proclaimed: There’s rarely a great deal of agreement in Washington, but the importance of keeping Trump’s fingers off the nuclear button is fast becoming a consensus.

Fresh batch of Republicans defect to Clinton reads the Politico headline.  They include a former Bush II official and a former governor of New Hampshire who called Trump: a “defective nominee” who is “deranged” and whose “psyche is sick...”  Politico speculates whether the next batch might include Condi Rice and Henry Kissinger.

Another Republican defector who went public Monday is Frank Lavin, "an official in every Republican administration since Reagan" who wrote: "Trump falls short in terms of the character and behavior needed to perform as president. This defect is crippling and ensures he would fail in office. Trump is a bigot, a bully, and devoid of grace or magnanimity. His thin-skinned belligerence toward every challenge, rebuke, or criticism would promise the nation a series of a high-voltage quarrels. His casual dishonesty, his policy laziness, and his lack of self-awareness would mean four years of a careening pin-ball journey that would ricochet from missteps to crisis to misunderstandings to clarifications to retractions."  Lavin said he would vote for Hillary Clinton.

Another major defection Monday evening in a WP oped: Senator Susan Collins of Maine: I will not be voting for Donald Trump for president... With the passage of time, I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologize. But it was his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing — either because they do not share his power or stature or because professional responsibility precluded them from engaging at such a level — that revealed Mr. Trump as unworthy of being our president."

Late Monday the New York Times commented:Ms. Collins is the most senior senator to split publicly with Mr. Trump, and her message of censure could send a message to other Republicans that it is safe to shun the party’s presidential nominee."  

Meanwhile the last polling cycle results continue to show Clinton strong in formerly competitive places like Virginia, and even GOPer strongholds like Georgia where two polls say she leads, the latest by 7 points.

Some kind of a Trump rebound seems almost inevitable, but the details of the ABC/WPost poll over the weekend that gives her an 8 point lead are devastating:

79 percent of Americans polled say he doesn't show enough respect for people he disagrees with, 70 percent express anxiety about a Trump presidency, 67 percent think he lacks the personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively, 64 percent doubt his understanding of world affairs, 63 percent see him unfavorably overall, 62 percent say he's not honest and trustworthy, 61 percent think he's unqualified for office, and 60 percent think he's biased against women and minorities.

The Virginia poll probably also reflects much else that's been happening, as many in VA work at the Pentagon and for the federal government.  That Clinton leads 49-37% is less significant than that she leads the commander-in-chief test 57-36, or that she has 95% of Virginia's Democrats while Trump has but 79% of VA GOPers.

Now the first national poll of the new cycle--though not a major one--gives Clinton a 13 point lead among likely voters. Politico's report: "Hillary Clinton’s post-convention bounce has been amplified through the weekend, giving the Democratic presidential nominee a double-digit lead among likely voters, according to a new poll released Monday."  The Monmouth University poll shows only 3% of likely voters are undecided.

 "Likely voters" is at once the most potent and the most problematic category in polling, as it depends on what the pollster decides makes a voter "likely."  But Politico says the poll is especially significant since it was taken Thursday through Sunday, after the ABC/WPost national poll.  If polls taken later this week come close to matching this, Clinton's lead is likely to remain at least into the late September debates.

But a victory of 10 points or more would mean a landslide, and Republicans, already fearful of the downticket dragged down by Trump, worry that in this case they would probably lose the Senate and could lose the House as well.

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