Notes from the primaries: Is Trump getting a makeover?

With the Trump campaign finally becoming more professional, mainstream Republicans will face greater pressure to show their support


2016 Overview

As we discussed last week, the central question in the Presidential race now is whether Clinton and Trump can use the late April states to reestablish control over their nominating contests. Both are polling well in New York (19 April), and on 26 April’s ‘Super Tuesday’ of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

If the polls hold, both Trump and Clinton will enter the final month of primaries in very dominant positions, raising questions about whether their opposition can or should continue. So there is a lot riding on the outcomes of these late April states.

On the Democratic side, the margin in New York will matter.  Polls have Clinton with double digit leads.  Recent states have found Bernie over-performing public polls, however, and in other large states like Michigan and Wisconsin without other contests Sanders has been able to close very strong.  My guess is that the final outcome will be closer to mid single digits than 15 points. But whatever it is, the final margin tomorrow night will be important for setting the stage for the five states voting next week.

How Do Democrats Make Peace?

If Clinton does as well as is expected over the next week, calls for Sanders to drop out will get very loud. Clinton needs Sanders and his spirited following for her general election campaign. How will the peace be made? What can Sanders show his supporters they got for their remarkable run?

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wrote a few pieces on this matter last week, suggesting that at least one part of the deal could be the Democrats’ adopting significant changes in their own party nominating process at the July convention. Among the things Sargent says that could be considered are eliminating caucuses, establishing an independent process to schedule debates, opening up primaries to independent voters, limiting the number of states that can vote on any given day and more.  His pieces are well worth a read, and offer some smart thinking about the road ahead.

Is Trump getting a makeover?

Perhaps the most interesting development in the Presidential race is the apparent rebooting of the Trump campaign. Shaken perhaps by unexpected losses, inadequate political preparation, legal challenges for his campaign manager and historically high disapproval ratings, it appears that Mr. Trump is in the process of professionalising his campaign.

This is a deeply pragmatic step, both by him and his party. He is still the likely nominee, and Republicans need to do everything they can to salvage his candidacy as a blowout this year will do particular damage to Republicans across the country. With long time establishment figure Paul Manafort joining the Trump campaign, it will now become acceptable for others to follow, justifying it as ‘good for the party.’

This sensibility will eventually extend to Trump’s choice for Vice President. If offered, the pressure on folks like Kasich, Walker and Rubio (all named by Trump for his shortlist) to join the Trump ticket ‘for the good of the party’ will be immense. And my assumption is that one of them will indeed hop on board.

Whether all of this will be enough to make the general election competitive given the damage Trump has already done to his brand of course is the big question. But remember, for the GOP, there is a huge and consequential difference between Trump losing with 48 per cent of the vote, and losing with 45 or 44 per cent.

One early sign of this makeover will be in how Trump handles his victories over the next week. Will there be a change in tone? Style? Language? Worth watching.

Simon Rosenberg is the founder of the think tank NDN/NPI. In the run up to the US election Left Foot Forward will be reposting his weekly analysis of the campaign trail as a UK exclusive. You can find previous columns here


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