A funny bit from today’s rally via the Free Beacon but also one that’s useful at the margins to #NeverTrumpers, I think. The Cruz-Kasich alliance may last but I wouldn’t bet on it. Even in a best-case scenario where it holds through the end of the primaries, Kasich will discover quickly in Cleveland that (a) he’s not going to be nominee, (b) that being so, his strongest play is for VP, and (c) he’s probably better off as Trump’s VP than Cruz’s. As Cruz’s VP, Kasich would be sidelined as a squishy moderate, trotted out occasionally only when Cruz needs a liaison to Congress. As Trump’s VP, he’d be the voice of experience in the administration and would be in a position to fill the vacuum in Trump’s policy knowledge with his own preferences. What’s encouraging about this clip if you’re anti-Trump is that Trump might just insult the famously thin-skinned Kasich into adopting a #NeverTrump position himself. It’s an awfully dumb thing to do given that Kasich will be able to help put him over the top on the first ballot, but you know Trump. Displease him and he’s going to lash out.
Speaking of which, where does this fit into the new, more sober and “presidential” image that’s supposedly in the works? He’s still holding off on that, huh?
“You know, being presidential’s easy — much easier than what I have to do,” he told thousands at a rally in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “Here, I have to rant and rave. I have to keep you people going. Otherwise you’re going to fall asleep on me, right?”…
“When I’m out here talking to you people, I’ve got to be different,” Trump said…
Trump revived his “birther” criticism of Cruz, which he has previously used to suggest the Texas senator is ineligible to run for president because he was born in Canada. Cruz’s mother is an American citizen, and most experts say that Cruz is eligible.
“Rafael! Straight out of the hills of Canada!” Trump declared, referring to Cruz by his given name.
Here’s how his lawyer celebrated the transition to presidential-ness that Paul Manafort swears is coming:
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) April 24, 2016
His new putdown nickname for Kasich is “1 for 41 Kasich,” which, let’s face it, is as clumsy as “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary” are unmemorable. Why not “Slobby John”? “Little Marco” wasn’t bad insofar as any shot at a man’s stature is a blow to his male pride, but Trump’s insult game has palpably deteriorated ever since Jeb Bush left the race. No one brought out the artist in him the way “low-energy Jeb” did. In fact, per Michael Dougherty, it’s partly because of that that Trump’s going to be stuck being Trump for the rest of the campaign whether Manafort likes it or not:
In a way, Trump followed the exact opposite ethic of his former nemesis. Jeb Bush said that a Republican candidate should be willing to lose the Republican primary in order to win the general election. Dutifully, Bush lost the primary. Trump has done the opposite — he was willing to lose the general election to win the primary. He used every trick he had for generating free media, and whipping up the intense support of about one-third of the Republican electorate in the primary contests. It just so happens that he did this in a way that cost him the chance of ever winning over the enthusiastic support of the rest of the party apparatus, and any chance of winning a normal general election campaign.
Becoming an establishment creature now would dispirit many of Trump’s core supporters. It would wreck any momentum his candidacy had at renovating the Republican Party’s stale ideology. Trump will have worse problems than even Mitt Romney did in trying to explain the convenient evolution of his views. Trump’s unreliability extends even to his own stunts. Months ago he skipped a Fox News debate to raise $6 million for veterans. They haven’t seen the money.
I think Dougherty’s underestimating how much of a “transformation” Trump’s fans would tolerate in the interest of winning. The alt-right’s put up with him praising Israel and telling the world how much he loves Mexicans; his broader fan base will put up with him sounding more like a traditional candidate — if he’s capable of that. The motivation in both cases is the same: They believe that the “real Trump” is the one who says the stuff they like, with anything he says to the contrary dismissible as a tactical lie designed to make him more electable. As Stu Burguiere put it, Trump tells his base that they’re seeing the real him now and that he’ll be putting on act in the general while he’s telling the establishment that he’s putting on an act now and they’ll be seeing the real him in the general. But maybe Dougherty’s right that Trump fans will only take so much. After all, Trump superfan Ann Coulter grumbled a few days ago that she hated the more low key Manafort-trained Trump. It wasn’t until he started mimicking Indian call-center operators at a rally this weekend that she brightened up about him again. That’s a good lesson for the Trump campaign. If he really is going to try to be more presidential this fall, a little light ethnic mockery from time to time will go a long way.