Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Don't Panic

According to Douglas Adams, the one item a cosmic hitchhiker needs is a towel, and a single two word motto: "Don't panic."  It's a lesson hitchhikers on this ridiculous non-cosmic but weirdly almost cosmic campaign might take to heart.

The alt.right and the Trump campaign, believing their own p.r., reportedly stayed up bleary-eyed, even past the Donald's preferred tweeting time, to watch their wikileaks dream turn to nothing.  There was no announcement, no docu dump at all--although promises of a ten-week spate of such in future.  Along with a denial that the intent is to sink Hillary's campaign.

And after the angst over a tightening race in PA, two new polls put Hillary up by 9 and by 10 points respectively, in the Keystone State.  One of the polls isolates a chief factor in Clinton's climb: Dem voter enthusiasm over GOPs, 90% to 75%.

Polls show Clinton leading slightly in Nevada and North Carolina (although another poll gives her a bigger 6 point lead in NC.)  Nationally, new polls show Clinton expanding a lead, and in the average, just under 50% of voters surveyed.

Signs of more trouble for the Trump Foundation: Real Clear Politics reports that Trump made strategic donations through his foundation to obtain early support for his presidential ambitions. "That check is one of at least several donations to suggest Trump used his private foundation, funded by outside donors, to launch and fuel his political ambitions. Such contributions, if they were made solely for Trump’s benefit, could violate federal self-dealing laws for private foundations." 

And people called this the much-unanticipated vice-presidential debate?  Not at all.  The RNC clearly anticipated it--posting a story claiming victory for GOPer Pence, with details on how he did it--an hour before the debate was scheduled to begin.  (Looks like a sign of panic to me.)

Now it's over. I suspect this is going to be the consensus: Taegan Goddard:

"Pence needed to do something to reverse the momentum. He didn’t do it. Aside from brushing aside what Trump has said, it’s not clear what his strategy was. On some issues, like Russia and Syria, Pence actually disagreed with Trump.

All Kaine needed to do was make the debate about Donald Trump but he couldn’t do it either. He came off as nervous and overly rehearsed. He didn’t effectively call out Pence for denying basic facts about Trump.

If you scored the debate on style, Pence probably won narrowly. He looked into the camera and came off as the calmer of the two. I suspect most instant polls will find Pence the winner.

However, Kaine was a much better running mate. He defended the nominee at the top of his ticket. Pence wasn’t willing to do it.  After watching the debate, it’s clear that Kaine is running for vice president in 2016. But Pence sounded more like he’s running for president in 2020."

Interesting factoid at MSNBC: Facebook listed viewers priorities, and the first two were taxes and Russia.

Josh Marshall:

But I think the most salient point is that there were two debates happening on that stage tonight...The two debates were so distinct that if I squinted and looked from one angle I could almost see a straight Kaine v Pence presidential debate happening, one in which Donald Trump didn't even exist. Pence is not a terribly impressive politician. But in this debate, when it came to hitting the standard GOP political and policy points, he held up pretty nicely. Kaine was solid too...But big picture - in this alternative universe Kaine v Pence face-off where Donald Trump didn't exist - Kaine and Pence were fairly evenly matched.

But there was this wholly separate debate happening at the same time that was entirely about Donald Trump. And it was largely a monologue by Tim Kaine.

For the aftermath of the debate, I think the key point will be that though Pence didn't have his heart in it, Pence did deny numerous Kaine claims about Trump that are demonstrably true. I'm sure we'll be hearing about that from the Clinton camp.

Kaine himself didn't always come off as well as I might have expected. But he did great for his running mate, sometimes by defending her in ways that are difficult for her to do herself but far more often by reading out crate loads of opposition research on Trump and simply reminding people of all the stuff he's said. Kaine landed lots of punches on Donald Trump, while Pence left Trump largely undefended. Pence got in very few hits on Clinton, but not many. Whether Pence made a tacit decision to abandon his boss or simply wasn't up to the challenge I don't know. But the net effect was that he let Kaine land punch after punch on Trump, largely undefended. That's really all that matters."

Jonathan Chiat:

"Pence provided an evening of escapist fantasy for conservative intellectuals who like to close their eyes and imagine their party has nominated a qualified, normal person for president. It is hard to see how he helped the cause of electing the actual nominee."

"The first and only vice-presidential debate of 2016 was less a game-changer than a channel-changer, a snippy and probably inconsequential 90 minutes marginally won by Mike Pence..."

Short version of nearly all analyses I've seen so far: Pence may have won, but Trump lost.

Who by the way may have upstaged his v-p with his live tweets.  And this very interesting tidbit from the Politico report linked above:

Clinton and her brain trust, according to several Democrats I spoke to, were satisfied (if not elated) by Kaine’s performance. Whether Trump appreciated Pence’s defenses, well that’s less clear. Moments after the candidates left the stage, John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times quoted a Trump adviser saying that the GOP nominee, who was watching the debate from a hotel in Vegas, was less than satisfied with his running mate. “Pence won overall, but he didn’t win with Trump,” the adviser told Harwood.

One late entry, a further wrinkle on the consensus, by Benjamin Wallace-Wells at the New Yorker: Everybody Won at the Vice Presidential Debate Except Donald Trump.

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