We’ve just celebrated the 4th of July, which is, among other things, the unofficial middle of the American summer. It’s hot and usually quiet. But this year anticipation is high. For what — well, that is the question.
The national party conventions happen in about two weeks. Since the 1950s conventions have been meticulously scripted. Heated arguments among delegates and uncertainty did not make for good television. Therefore, national committees long ago adapted to television by pushing the informal decision-making into the primaries and giving candidates an air of inevitability prior to the conventions. Ronald Reagan’s challenge to sitting president Gerald Ford in the 1976 cycle was almost the exception, but ended up setting the pattern.
This year, however, the inevitability remains only for the political insiders. They still don’t know what is going on this cycle. For the rest of us, there are a handful of tenacious Donald Trump supporters, a handful of Hillary Clinton loyalists, and everyone else. The everyone else wants options.
For the Democrats, the current desire comes out of the e-mail investigation. The FBI released its report and recommendation for Department of Justice action. The short version: if any normal person tried this, they’d be brought up on charges for multiple security violations, but no sane prosecutor would indict Hillary Clinton. The FBI laid out the case, possibly hoping it would haunt her later. It might. It is horrible reading, hence, Democrats’ disgust and worry with their party’s nomination, but the FBI ultimately recommended no charges.
The decision surprised many. Given the weight of the evidence and Donald Trump’s heavier hitting on the scandal — one of the main pro-Trump arguments concerns his willingness to speak plainly about Clinton’s wrongdoings — an indictment would give evidence that Justice was paying attention.
This was magical thinking. The government players are worried about executive backlash, not popular backlash. The more likely she was to win the White House, the less likely an indictment. And nothing made Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House more secure than having Donald Trump as the presumed nominee.
This is why drama is highly likely at the Republican convention. The six weeks since Trump has become the presumptive nominee have given us enough time to analyse the numbers and trends. It is grim reading.
The polls are pitiful. Even the cold, realist analysis post Orlando did not help him. He did get a bounce after the Orlando attack — Americans generally do not trust the Democrats with our safety — but even terrorism cannot bring his poll numbers up to Hillary Clinton. Anyone else vs Clinton, and Orlando would have seen a decisive shift.
Then, Trump has money woes. These Texas politicians have more money on hand. Republican big donors are not flocking to him, and Republican politicians depend on small individual donations anyway. (Counter-intuitive given the Democrats’ professed policies, but Republicans were the party of the small donor.)
He needs to put his own money in to send a signal to the big donors — the ones he spent much of the primary trail bashing — that he is committed to winning. He has forgiven the 50 million dollar loan he made to his primary campaign, but he hasn’t committed that kind of funding again. He likely cannot fund his own campaign. He’s a new money guy moving funds around for flash so he can look like he’s wealthier than he actually is, see link above about campaign spending going to Trump entities.
Then, there are the staffing problems. In June, he had a staff of about 30. That’s the size of staff a presidential candidate needs for a state like Arkansas. For comparison, Clinton had over 700 staffers.
The campaign spokeswoman who wrote the open letter after she quit the campaign was obviously telling the truth. Trump’s intended the run as a publicity stunt for his brand and to get a few issues on the national radar. When the combination of media fawning and elite scorn catapulted him to a plurality, he got cocky(er) and greedy(er). He had no actual plan for the race. There is nothing there.
Finally, he can’t find a running mate. Newt Gingrich seems most likely, but Gingrich can read the numbers. Only politicians with no other options (see, for example, Rick Perry) would risk this political suicide, but none of those pols balance Trump. We also do not know who will speak at the convention beyond Ted Cruz, who has enough bound delegates to earn the podium without seeking permission. Everyone else needs Trump’s leave, and they do not want it. He is political poison for anyone with future political prospects.
Thus, this July has become a long wait during which we only know to expect the unexpected. Commentators might fill the month with speculation, but honestly, no one knows anything.
(Image: Gage Skidmore)