The new conventional political wisdom is that Donald Trump — who, not long ago (like, earlier this week), was the runaway favorite to win the GOP nomination — is suddenly in trouble.
The #neverTrumpists, and the big-money boys behind them, are prepared to take the credit, although it’s doubtful they deserve any — even if the latest conventional wisdom turns out to be right, of which the betting markets, who still give Trump a 62 percent chance to win, remain skeptical.
Whatever else we know, there’s this: For better or for (mostly) worse, all the credit goes to the Donald, who is, on his own, both the reason he might win the nomination and the reason he might lose it.
Even though the only rule that seems to apply to Trump is that none of the rules apply to Trump, that’s not quite true. You’ve seen the signs, Trump losing delegates in Louisiana, Trump facing the threat of losing delegates in South Carolina, Trump threatening to sue someone. And so, Trump and his entire — yet meager — leadership team went to Washington to make nice with GOP chair Reince Priebus, who gave the team a quick lesson in how to hold on to your delegates once you’ve won them, a sort-of primer on convention-delegate politics that Trump had never bothered to learn, because, you know, running for president is one thing — it’s fun; you get to beat up protesters; you get to spend quality time with Chris Matthews; you get to laugh at the “poorly educated” who buy your poorly educated spiel — and doing the hard work of winning the presidency is another.
So this is where the Republicans find themselves — with a weakening Donald Trump (maybe; OK, let’s say he loses Wisconsin to the loathsome Ted Cruz and then goes home to New York and wins in a landslide, how weak would he actually be?) and nowhere to turn except to the loathsome Ted Cruz or to a contested convention in which they steal the nomination from Trump and try to convince Paul Ryan or, cue the laughter, Mitt Romney, to lead the coup.
The biggest news in TrumpWorld, even bigger that Trump’s campaign chairman getting arrested for battery, bigger than Trump saying (and then recanting) that, in his world, women who get abortions should be punished, bigger than his announced nukes-for-all policy, even bigger than the poll showing 72 percent of women see Trump unfavorably, was this: The Republican candidates are all backing away, in varying degrees, from promising to support the eventual winner.
Trump took the expected escape route, claiming he has been treated “unfairly,” and not just by Megyn Kelley, and that all options, including the nuclear option, must remain on the table.
You can see where this leads. The real question now is which scenario is worse for Republicans — Trump running as their nominee and getting clobbered in November (Larry Sabato predicts a 347-191 Electoral college landslide for Clinton) or Trump not running in November as the GOP nominee and taking his millions of disaffected Trumpistas home with him so that Republicans get clobbered in November.
Which bring us, of course, to Bernie Sanders, who, in the latest turn in Democratic convention wisdom, is annoying the hell out of the Clintons and maybe scaring them a little, too. Yes, a 74-year-old socialist, which must drive Republicans crazy, realizing how they’re dooming their chances this year.
If everyone got Trump wrong, everyone also got Bernie wrong. And, of course, still get him wrong.
One, the idea that he should get out of the race when he still has an outside — if way outside — chance of winning the nomination is absurd. The point is that he’s still in contention, he still has money, lots of it, his message still resonates with his large audience, he keeps the Democrats in the news, he makes them forget about the emails, and he’s a slight favorite to win in Wisconsin before facing the (maybe) inevitability of Clinton’s strength in the more diverse eastern states.
Two, that Democrats, and Bernie, should worry now about unifying the party. It’s barely April. Does anyone really worry that Susan Sarandon is doing a Thelma and Louise on the Democratic Party because she said that a Trump presidency might bring on the revolution? I love Sarandon the actor, but I’m not sure how she rates as a revolutionary.
Three, there’s history, folks. You could look it up.
Some of us are old enough to remember way back to 2008 when Clinton stayed in the race against Obama to the end. Polls showed that as many as 50 percent of Clinton supporters — they called themselves PUMAs or Party Unity My Ass — said they wouldn’t vote for Obama. Of course 90 percent did. There was also word that Latinos, who went overwhelmingly for Clinton in the primaries, wouldn’t vote for Obama. You know how that turned out. The same way the women’s vote turned out.
It isn’t that the Bernie or Busters aren’t just as passionate, if less likely to throw a punch, as the Trumpistas. It’s that the revolutions are different.
According to the polls, most Sanders supporters like Obama, who is suddenly sitting at 50 percent approval ratings (thanks, Donald). Some even like Clinton, however vulnerable she is and however unlikely she is to be — or should be — forgiven for the Goldman Sachs speeches. A new Pew poll shows that Sanders supporters are not anti-government, which is how most revolutions begin, but anti-Wall Street, anti-Citizens United, anti the stuff Bernie’s anti.
Once the Democrats go to their convention, you can expect Obama to rally the troops, you can expect Elizabeth Warren to explain to Sanders supporters why she’ll support Clinton, you can expect the crowds to boo video of The Donald/Lyin’ Ted.
You can expect Clinton will have a plan.
Meanwhile, you can be sure the Donald will have the Donald.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr.