A Call For a Convention of States From a Surprising Source

In the weeks since the election, Jeb(!) Bush has been conspicuously absent. He ended his absence today with a surprising op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that, among other advice to the president-elect and the Republican Party, calls for a convention of states to amend the Constitution.

Bush, who acknowledges that Mr. Trump “tapped into the anger and deep distrust that voters feel toward Washington” and the belief that “our system is skewed in favor of the powerful and the connected,” points out that “This election was more about voting against something than voting for something. Americans voted against the ‘establishment,’ against the country’s changing culture, against a dysfunctional Washington, against the privileged, against Hillary Clinton—and, yes, against Donald Trump.”

Bush notes that, even though Republicans won a decisive electoral victory, neither Trump nor the party is popular. To assume that the election results are a mandate for everything that Trump campaigned on, even as he trails by more than 2 million popular votes, might lead to the same trap of federal overreach that ensnared Barack Obama.

Instead, Bush argues for a positive agenda that will appeal to the majority of Americans. “Americans, by wide majorities, agree that Washington is broken, so let’s send power back to the people and back to the states,” Bush writes. “Republicans should support convening a constitutional convention to pass term limits, a balanced-budget amendment and restraints on the Commerce Clause, which has given the federal government far more regulatory power than the Founders intended.”

What Bush is referring to here is typically referred to as an “Article V convention” or a “convention of states,” an alternative method of amending the Constitution that has never been used, but that has been much discussed in recent years. Article V of the Constitution provides that two-thirds of the states can call a constitutional convention and amendments can then be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures or conventions in three-fourths of the states. This would require 34 states to call for the convention and 38 states to ratify.

While the election of 2016 may give Republicans their best chance at a successful Article V convention, it is by no means a slam dunk. Ballotpedia shows that starting in 2017, Republicans will control all three branches of government in 25 states. While this is a historic high, it falls short of the number of states required to ratify an amendment or even call for a convention. Conversely, only five states are completely controlled by Democrats. This falls short of the 13 states needed to block an amendment.

These numbers mean the Republicans have an advantage, but the 20 states with bipartisan government control will be decisive. A constitutional convention would be dominated by Republicans, but there would be no blank check. Republicans would be forced to compromise to amend the Constitution.

Perhaps realizing the difficulty of amending the Constitution, Bush offers an agenda that can be accomplished through Congress. “Most critically, Republicans should reverse the Obama-era policies that have made America weaker, both here and abroad. We need to repeal and replace ObamaCare, eliminate business-killing regulations, and reverse the massive expansion of government. While we protect our borders and our laws, we should also take on the hard work of reforming legal immigration and affirming the role that immigrants play in building up our economy and our nation.” Bush also calls on the new president to “restore American leadership in the world” and “protect and reassure our friends and allies.”

He also calls upon Republicans to repair their party’s tarnished image. “Republicans must restore our brand as the party of conservative ideals, shared prosperity, liberty and responsibility,” he writes. He stresses that this should be done “without stooping to the identity politics of the left. Let’s not focus on angst, grievance and division over race, class or gender.”

Bush makes the point that Trump’s victory was neither a license for Republicans to take reckless action or an excuse to take the reins of power and then rest on their laurels. Democratic overreach and disregard for the will of the people is what handed the Republicans this victory. The voters will hold Mr. Trump accountable if he does not follow through with his promise to “make America great again.”

“The GOP has no excuse for failure,” Bush writes. “We are in charge of both the executive and legislative branches in Washington, and we dominate in the states like never before. We have the power to set the agenda, and we have the responsibility to govern, not merely on behalf of the voters who supported President-elect Trump, but for all Americans.”

When Being Right Is So Wrong

Does anyone else see the massive hypocrisy of Donald Trump’s “pivot” on immigration? I realize that it’s genuinely good for Trump to “see the light” on attempting to deport 12 million illegals, regardless of their individual situations. Erick rightly gave some credit to Trump for coming to a useful conclusion.

But I have to question, as I have for months, Trump’s genuineness. It’s one thing to really believe that illegal immigration across the Mexican border is the central threat facing America–as Trump has claimed since June 2015, then “evolve.” It’s quite another to repeatedly reject those exact same arguments from his political rivals for months, publicly, in debates, then adopt the very same policies for the general election.

Either Trump was disingenuous then, or he’s disingenuous now, or both. I’m inclined to go with “both.” One thing Trump has never lied about, is that he can become anything he wants. Back in August 2015, he became a hard-right immigration hawk, further to the right than Ted Cruz. He trashed Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for their soft stance on “touchback amnesty” and a path to legal residency by paying a fine.

Then Trump magically came to the same conclusion, with Sean Hannity holding his hand to help explain the “evolution.”

“Right.”

Pardon my cynicism, but Bush wrote a book in 2014 titled “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution.” In the book, Bush outlines a six-point solution to illegal immigration. All Trump brought to the party was a wall. At least Ted Cruz believes in his positions and his opposition to the “Gang of Eight” was based on principle not simply what was needed to win.

Trump may be right to make this pivot–objectively right in arriving at perhaps the best solution. But nobody could be more wrong in being right.

Jeb Falls In Behind Cruz, Where’s Marco?

If there’s anyone who deserves to be bitter after their exit from the race, it’s Jeb Bush. The darling of donors, the well-wisher of Wall Street, the rebel of the blue-blooded Bush clan felt called to become the president.

It was not to be. Trump set his 18-inch smooth-bore mouth squarely on Jeb and heaved Volkswagen-sized high explosive insults onto the calm and well-mannered Bush. After well over $100 million of campaign funds and another $100 million of super PAC money, Bush left in tatters after South Carolina.

Now that Rubio is out, Jeb has fallen in behind Ted Cruz.

“Today, I am endorsing Ted Cruz for President,” said Bush. “Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests. Washington is broken, and the only way Republicans can hope to win back the White House and put our nation on a better path is to support a nominee who can articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential.”

Bush continued, “For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies. To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that.”

“I’m truly honored to earn Governor Jeb Bush’s support,” said Cruz. “Governor Bush was an extraordinary governor of Florida, and his record of job creation and education innovation left a lasting legacy for millions of Floridians. His endorsement today is further evidence that Republicans are continuing to unite behind our campaign to nominate a proven conservative to defeat Hillary Clinton in November, take back the White House, and ensure a freer and more prosperous America for future generations.”

That may even earn some free points with former President George W. Bush, who has said he dislikes Cruz personally.

But the question remains: Where is Marco Rubio?

The one person who could most help Cruz stop Trump is silent, other than telling us he has no interest in a unity ticket.

If Jeb can overcome his bitterness and disappointment, Rubio needs to grow up and fall in line. You can say you’re #NeverTrump all you want, but until you actually do something about it, it’s just words.

Can Bush Make An Honorable Exit?

Out of cash, out of momentum, and out of time, it’s now inevitable that Bush will be out of the race. All that’s left is the death certificate of an announcement.

But to whom will Bush pledge his support, if to anyone? And can he do it honorably before Saturday?

If Bush dropped out today, he could play kingmaker in South Carolina, propelling either Rubio or Cruz to a possible win. It would be a great prize for either of them.

But candidates prefer to get out with honor, with a “last stand” mentality. So says Dan McLaughlin.

The desire to go out on a high note, or at least to feel like you gave it everything you had and didn’t walk away prematurely, can lead to some counterintuitive dynamics. It can be easier to walk away after a vaguely respectable showing than a terrible one – thus, Christie and Rand Paul were a bit quicker to let go after New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively, than were Carly Fiorina and Rick Santorum. Santorum followed Iowa by announcing a bus tour of South Carolina, which was then scrapped a few days later; Fiorina was insisting she was in it for the long haul only hours before dropping out.

You’d think Jeb would jump at the chance to get out and stop Trump at the same time. Like Captain Ahab with Moby Dick, to “spit my last breath at thee.” Yet he’s got a problem.

After spending millions disparaging his previous protege Marco Rubio, how can he now pledge his support for him and make that seem in the least bit honest? And with the seemingly genuine personal dislike George W. Bush has for Ted Cruz, how can Jeb pledge his support to Cruz? It’s a conundrum.

But that’s the problem Jeb faces. Getting out now and giving his support to, say, Kasich is a useless and futile gesture which will leave him a laughingstock forever. Getting out with no endorsement before South Carolina is quitting.

So Bush soldiers on, defrauding his supporters, keeping a soon-to-be-unpaid staff around, and running a sham of a campaign just to assuage his ego and please his family.

The best thing he could do is admit it, honorably stand behind one of the two conservatives who can stand against Trump, and leave it all on the field as a conservative, not a candidate. That’s the honorable thing to do.

 

Drop-Out Bingo: It’s Bush, Bush, and Bush In South Carolina

I previously predicted that nobody will drop out after South Carolina, that it’s going to be everyone in the pool through the March 1 “SEC Primary.”

If you look at the latest S.C. polling, it makes sense that everyone should let their chips ride until the massive 661 delegate dump on March 1. Currently, Trump has 17 delegates; Cruz 11, Rubio 10, Kasich 5, Bush 4, and Carson 3. South Carolina awards delegates in a modified winner-take-all. It’s likely that Trump will take the 29 statewide and RNC delegates along with a large chunk of the county delegates, unless there’s a surprise.

It’s extremely likely that nobody will take any delegates other than Trump, Cruz, and Rubio. All the candidates have known this since New Hampshire–it’s not news. Nevada is not much of a player with 30 delegates (which should mostly go to Trump).

Therefore, there are only two reasons to drop out after South Carolina: (1) out of cash, and (2) sheer futility. If sheer futility mattered, Bush and Kasich would drop out today. Carson is done, and his cash may not last until March 1. It’s irrelevant either way for Carson.

But why would Bush stay in? For one thing, I think he wants a share of the March 1 delegates. Much hay has been made about Bush and Right to Rise cancelling $3 million in March 1 media buys, and given the spectacular fail of Bush’s New Hampshire spending, that only makes sense. But Bush did the same thing in Iowa a month before the caucuses–he also pulled $2 million out of South Carolina.

Bush may be totally lost in a hall of mirrors, or he may be coming to realize that, as they say in economics, his supporters are price inelastic. That means no matter how much advertising he buys, his supporter base won’t grow (or shrink much). Right to Rise has been targeting Rubio, trying to clear the “establishment lane” (I hate that term) for Bush. And Bush is the second choice of 10 percent of South Carolina voters, according to the latest Bloomberg poll.

Bush will stay in because he wants to be the “waiting in the wings” voice of reason and authority. He’s waiting to see exactly how nasty, divisive and self-destructive the three-way cockfight between Trump, Cruz and Rubio will get, and then he’s hoping to walk on as the adult in the room. That could be a valid strategy.

But it’s not.

It’s what we in the business world call a domino plan: Everything has to fall exactly right for it to work. Kasich, who’s ahead of Bush in national polls as first- and second-choice, would have to drop out before March 1 (which I don’t think will happen). Then either Trump, Cruz or Rubio will have to make a major gaffe. Trump could walk onto the Las Vegas Strip wearing nothing but a boa feather and brandishing an AK-47 and it wouldn’t be a gaffe for his supporters. Cruz is fairly gaffe-resistant, although Trump and Rubio have resorted to innuendo. Bush is hoping for Rubio to somehow self-immolate, which has not happened.

I would look to the night of March 1 for Bush to read his (already written?) concession speech, releasing his guilt- and shame-ridden donors from their secret oaths and vows.

Being Thankful for Donald Trump

He’s vulgar. He’s a bully. He’s a philanderer.

He’s a showman on par with P.T. Barnum.

And yet, in some small way, I am thankful for Donald Trump for one reason and one reason only: he has utterly destroyed the GOP Presidential primary.

Rewind to a year ago. Jeb Bush was the freight train rolling down the tracks. He was “inevitable” and “the legacy” candidate. To his credit, he and his team backed it up with a tremendous fundraising haul, cracking $100M into his super PAC, Right to Rise, by the end of the second quarter in 2015.

In June of 2015, Donald Trump announced he was running. From the moment he opened his mouth to announce he was running for President, he was panned by the media. Written off as a blowhard and a showman, no one (I mean, no one) gave him a chance.

And then something funny happened.

He tapped the angst of the American taxpayer. Note I didn’t say the tea party or conservative base. The American taxpayer because if nothing else, Trump’s coalition is anything but conservative. They are terrified that America’s best days are behind us and that with our descent into a nation like any other will come the loss of jobs and security. Even more importantly than a loss of jobs and security, a loss of identity as the greatest nation on earth.

To their troubled ears, Trump shouted, “I’m gonna make American great again!”

And folks said, “Wait, no one else is saying that!”

Has he backed it up with many details? No, therein lies Trump’s inherent problem. It’s hard to define what the plan is when your vocabulary is that of a sixth grader.

However, people wanted to hear someone, anyone, say, “I’m going to make us great again.” With that comes a frenetic energy that we have not seen in a Presidential primary in a generation. And it’s blowing pundits’ and consultants’ minds nationwide.

Because of it Scott Walker, considered by many to be a lock in the GOP Final Four, crashed and burned early (partly due to the political pygmies he surrounded himself with). Rick Perry, THE jobs governor-gone. Jeb Bush, The Inevitable One, struggles to crack 5% in the Real Clear Politics poll average. Chris Christie-about to be shot out the back end of the pack. John Kasich-meh.

And the issues. The issues!! We’re actually having a debate on immigration, the sacred cow of the GOP Establishment. If Donald Trump had not brought the issue front and center, how many of you think we’d be discussing the merits of Marco Rubio’s Gang of 8 bill? Or Jeb Bush’s bald support of amnesty (and Common Core-had to add that one)? Anyone? But to the chagrin of the GOP Beltway types, not only did Trump shove the issue to the center of the GOP Primary, he has forced the issue since.

Does he actually believe what he is saying? I doubt it. He’s a consummate showman (see “P.T. Barnum”). The camera wavers off of him, he says things like, “I’m going to ban Muslims from entering the United States!” and boom, the cameras are back.

The fact of the matter is, Donald Trump has totally shaken up what the GOP Establishment hoped would be a tightly scripted primary that crowned either Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio the nominee.

While there is a still a long ways to go before this thing is over, I am just going to put it out there one more time: I am thankful for Donald Trump.

Jeb! Succumbs To The Langoliers

Stephen King wrote a short story in 1990 about what happens when people slip into the past, asleep and unaware the world has passed them by.

Fact is stranger than fiction, and Jeb has succumbed to the Langoliers. In King’s story, the Langoliers are monsters whose job is to eat the past. In the story, the hapless airline passengers and crew manage to find their way back to the present, but Bush is unlikely to make the jump.

In New Hampshire, Jeb sadly tried to push himself into the present, and failed.

Speaking at the Hanover Inn near the Vermont border on Tuesday, Mr. Bush finished a fiery riff about protecting the country — “I won’t be out here blow-harding, talking a big game without backing it up,” he said — and was met with total silence.

“Please clap,” he said, sounding defeated.

The crowd laughed — and then, finally, clapped.

The moment when the Langoliers devoured Jeb! was caught for eternity on Twitter.

Unlike Huckabee and Santorum, who were paraded through Trumpland in a triumph after kneeling before Zod, and Rand Paul, who left with his dignity intact, or Carson, whose campaign is slowly imploding, Bush is simply fading away while the Langoliers and consultants consume him bit by bit.

The Bush Campaign is the Craziest Thing in Politics Today

I get relentlessly needled by friends for liking Jeb Bush and being open to supporting him. I’ve said repeatedly that he is not my first choice, but I do not consider him a bad choice. But his campaign apparatus? Yeesh. It seems more like a get rich quick scheme for consultants than a political operation.

The combined Bush campaign and Right to Rise super PAC are burning through major cash with Bush barely pulsing with voters. Not only that, but polling suggests there are about as many Republican voters who would rather drink bleach than vote for Donald Trump or Jeb Bush. In some polls, more voters would prefer Trump to Bush and bleach to both.

In fact, Jeb Bush’s initial campaign of floating the “I’m interested” trial balloon and then going out to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to get surrounded with the veneer of “chosen one” status really precipitated the Donald Trump rise. Republican voters, having suffered through John McCain and Mitt Romney as appointed “winners” decided they would rather hitch their wagons to Trump and burn it all down.

Since then, the Bush team has flat out refused to acknowledge this reality and instead chosen to burn down the Rubio camp, hoping against hope that willing bleach drinkers will have second thoughts and accept Jeb’s campaign instead of downing Clorox. It is not going to happen when there are still so many other alternatives.

Jeb Bush is not getting a fair shake. He is attached to a last name from which voters are ready to move beyond. The mere connection to his family name and base of family donor support has made grassroots activists insane and driven them into the welcoming embrace of Donald Trump. Fair shake or not, however, the Bush campaign is just not viable and the only people who seem not to notice it are in the Bush campaign.

His campaign ticks on and consultants continue to profit.

Jeb Bush’s supporters have spent $15 million on slickly produced ads to win over Iowa voters. Barely registering in the polls and increasingly desperate in the shadow of the Iowa caucuses, he’s now trying a cost-free, personal tactic: hugs.…

Right to Rise has spent more than $24 million on ads contrasting the former Florida governor with one or more of those three, most often Rubio, data from advertising tracker Kantar Media’s CMAG show. That’s on top of a tidal wave of millions of dollars of mail to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire opposing Rubio, Kasich and Christie — sometimes all three at once, expenses documented in Federal Election Commission reports.

Over at BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins has a profile of Mike Murphy, the man running Right to Rise.

If Donald Trump ends up on stage this July formally accepting the GOP presidential nomination, don’t be surprised if everyone from Washington Republicans to Twitter conservatives gathers outside the convention arena in Cleveland to burn Mike Murphy in effigy.

The problem with this story is that Jeb Bush put Mike Murphy in that position. If Trump ends up on stage this July, Murphy only enabled it because Jeb Bush enabled Murphy. It’s a heck of a thing to behold.