I hope Les Moonves is happy. The head of CBS said that Donald Trump is great for business.“Donald’s place in this election is a good thing,” Moonves said at a conference Monday in San Francisco. Trump’s circus-like antics have been great for ratings, and that means business for the media. “Bring it on, Donald. Keep it going.” Before excoriating Moonves’ twisted civic values, please know that virtually every media executive in the country is probably thinking the same thing.
The quality of public discourse has become worse than we could have imagined. And here we are, with a Super Tuesday validation that he probably will be the Republican nominee. He can’t wait to debate Hillary Clinton and probably aspires to do what the Republicans did to Mike Dukakis in 1988, to paraphrase Republican strategist Lee Atwater, “strip the bark off the little bastard,” and “make Willie Horton (her) running mate.”
What can we expect of that general election debate that starts now? Surely it won’t be a sophisticated exchange regarding strategies and tactics to resolve the critical issues we face. It won’t be about the relative merits of incursions into other nations, trade policy, serious tax reform, Obamacare and the like. Trump will talk about Hillary having a bad hair day (he should talk), her health and energy levels, how heavy she is, how her suits emphasize her hips, how her anger is just post-menopausal. He’ll do everything he can to fight for the Presidency at the level of a middle school adolescent. And she’ll have to tough it out because, if she can’t stand up to this bully, how will she stand up to Vladimir Putin or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Fortunately, she’s a more combative candidate than Michael Dukakis was.
But she’s a flawed standard-bearer with disturbingly high unfavorables. There are almost as many people who say they’d never vote for her as say they would never vote for him. Republican primary turnout is up and Democratic turnout has been down. Notwithstanding Sanders supporters, there’s a clear enthusiasm gap. And the number of Democrats and Independents who took Republican ballots to vote for Trump is not a good sign.
At this point, it looks as if the electoral college map will stay roughly the same as in recent elections with the same number of battleground states. But many of these are in the troubled upper Midwest and fertile ground for courting Reagan Democrats.
The fragmentation of the race smooths Trump’s glide path to the nomination, which is unlikely to change unless he self-destructs, which seems less and less likely. When he errs, intentionally or not, his support seems to grow.
Can you say President Trump? Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. But I can say party nominee Donald Trump. Reasonable Republicans across the country should be concerned about the governors and legislators who could be swept to defeat because of the top of the ticket. Then again, has “reasonable Republican” become an oxymoron?
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