By Mark Green
When you combine a Putin personality (says Kasparov) with a sociopath (says author of Art of The Deal), you get a Convention that wants to jail Hillary Clinton. Stuart Stevens and Ron Reagan agree that he's unlikely to win but may splinter the GOP into Reformicon and Nativist Wings.
Ron recalls when successful conventions "were aspirational, offering a hopeful vision of the future -- while attacking their opponents for whatever. This one was merely a scam, like his Trump University, casinos, steaks. There's now the possibility of a grifter-in-chief, even a psychopath-in-chief."
Stevens was the chief strategist of Romney Campaign: "I dealt with Trump in 2012. He was the most insecure and deeply damaged person I'd ever met. He's running based on Americans feeling as if they woke up to sounds downstairs at 4am. This is what authoritarians do. But that's not an America we're living in - people aren't afraid to go out of their homes, aren't afraid of dying in a terrorist act. He probably won't win but, as nominee of a major party, he could. Look at Senate races as a real marketplace - no one wants to run with him."
"People ask 'how does he get away with it?' He doesn't. Romney and Obama both had favorables over 50 percent -- Trump is at 30%. The election breaks up into four groups: white men, white women, blacks, Hispanics. In none is Trump doing better."
Ron agrees but makes a larger point: "So what does it say about a party that they are nominating a psychopath, a man who believes in magical thinking rather than facts?" Stuart, a Republican who's helped elect previous Republican presidents and senators, sighs. "You're right."
Host: In the Cruz-Trump clash, who had the moral high ground (which might be an inch tall, admittedly)? Reagan jumps in: "Bless Ted Cruz's malevolent little heart. Though Trump wins in the immediate term since he's the nominee, anyone who gets too close to Trump in this election will have a stink on them that won't wear off." Stevens laughs at the whole contretemps: " Since when is it controversial to be asked to 'vote your conscience?'"
Christie? As for the bloodthirsty, off-with-her-head chanting of "Lock her Up! Lock her up!," there's again agreement that the obsession with her was a missed opportunity to make a positive case for him and his program. "Yeah his kids tried and did an ok job," said the kid of a Republican nominee on the panel, "but it was in the service of a psychopath."
As for Giuliani's screaming fit of a speech, Stevens says that "I lived in NYC for much of his years as mayor. He helped the City in many ways. But his speech was bizarre, like he was trying out for a sequel of Network. Nearly all the speeches sought to make America safer for White Americans."
The Host felt a geographical obligation to explain his fellow New Yorker. "When Rudy shrieked 'What happened to One America -- not a black or white but AMERICA?' Perhaps it went away when American's chief birther questioned the nationality of our first black president, when Giuliani said that he didn't think Obama loved America, when the mayor vilified the character of an innocent black man killed by the police?"
We briefly note Mike Pence -- but then so did Trump -- because in tone he was so at odds with the other speakers. But not in his facts. For the record, the Iranian Nuclear Deal is not only not "the worst nuclear deal ever [Trump, Christie, Pence], it's working for now to stop them from building such a bomb, as the head of the Israeli Defense Forces acknowledges. Clinton's comment about the Benghazi attack -- "what difference, at this point, does it matter?' -- of course was not indifference to the four American deaths but about whether it was sparked by an anti-Muslim film; and numerically, crime is falling and employment rising in America.
Which still leaves the question: can persistent, enthusiastic lies conquer data in a political campaign? Yes they can, which puts the burden on the Clinton campaign - with the major advantage of going second - to convincingly and memorably remind undecided voters that one party has delivered more jobs, less crime, cleaner air, more health care, an expanded franchise, a pathway to citizenship, rights for women and the LGBT community and less war than the other.
Last, assume that the trend-lines and fault-lines of both parties and their nominees culminate in a Clinton win -- who among these names today are the likeliest GOP nominee in 2020, assuming that there is a GOP? Cruz, Pence, Ryan, Rubio, Cotton?
Neither bites. Ron says "none of them" because the only plausible nominee will be someone who was in no way tainted by the Trump candidacy. Stuart explains the more significant contest will be who wins the soul of the party -- sane Republicans or Trumpians. Will it become a conservative party or a white nationalist party?