Republicans beginning to make peace with Donald Trump as nominee

They thought it was impossible. Some still fear it. Others can barely believe it. But leading Republicans are beginning to accept the idea that Donald Trump will be their party’s presidential nominee.

In the wake of the businessman’s commanding wins in five Eastern states this week, a growing number of national Republicans and GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill say Trump has taken on an indisputable air of inevitability. Some argue they should get behind him now and abandon the “Never Trump” efforts still nursed by some establishment Republicans. Embracing Trump, these Republicans say, may be the GOP’s only hope of blocking Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.

“Donald Trump is going to be our nominee,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott wrote on Facebook this week. “The Republican leaders in Washington did not choose him, but the Republican voters across America did choose him. The voters have spoken.”

“Republicans now need to come together,” Scott wrote, warning that continued opposition to Trump “will be nothing more than a contribution to the Clinton campaign.”

On Capitol Hill, support for Trump has also gotten markedly easier to find.

“I don’t understand. I mean, it’s not ‘Never Trump.’ It’s ‘Never Hillary.’ Never, never, never Hillary. Come on. Wake up and smell the coffee,” said Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, who earlier this week cast his ballot for Trump, along with all members of his large family and 57 percent of Republican primary voters in his state.

“I’ve never seen a party attack one of its own candidates with this aggressiveness,” Kelly said of GOP establishment figures who oppose Trump, blaming it on an elitist Washington attitude out of touch with voters.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a respected senior member of the Senate, previously endorsed Jeb Bush and then Sen. Marco Rubio and said he doesn’t intend to endorse Trump. But Hatch said of Trump, “It looks to me like he’s going to win, and if he does, I’m going to do everything in my power to help him.”

Some leading Republicans have forecast that a Trump candidacy could spell electoral disaster, help Democrats win back control of the Senate and even cost safe Republican seats in the House. They point to Trump’s disparaging comments about women and minorities that have contributed to high unfavorability ratings.

Hatch, along with others, disagreed.

“I think he could be great if he’ll get serious about being president, and I think he will,” Hatch said. “When he gets hit with reality that this is the toughest job in the world, he’s a clever, smart guy who I think will want to be remembered for doing good things, so I have a feeling he can make that transition.”

On Thursday, Trump picked up endorsements from two House committee chairmen: Reps. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who chairs the Transportation Committee, and Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs Veterans Affairs. He talked foreign policy in a phone call with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who heads the Foreign Relations Committee. Corker later was full of compliments about Trump, though he said he had no plans to endorse him.

To be sure, not all are on board. Some in the GOP continue to cringe at the thought of vulnerable Senate Republicans and candidates getting linked to Trump’s provocative stances or attempting to distance themselves from them.

“My feeling about Donald Trump is, I don’t think that that’s our best foot forward at all,” said Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, an outspoken Trump critic. “And I can’t imagine being forced to take some of those positions that he’s taken. A ban on Muslims, build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it, you name it.”

It remains uncertain whether Trump will amass the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination ahead of the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. If he does not, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hopes to make a play to win the nomination as balloting progresses. Ohio Gov. John Kasich also remains in the race. Next week’s primary in Indiana, where polling suggests a close race, could be crucial in determining whether either Cruz or Kasich can continue to argue they have a path forward.

Roger Villere, longtime Louisiana state GOP chief and one of the national party’s vice-chairmen, said a “clear supermajority” at the Republican National Committee spring meeting earlier this month in South Florida were warming to the idea of Trump as standard-bearer.

“There were a lot of them who Trump wasn’t their first choice, but when we got in closed rooms and everybody started talking, the general consensus was that he’s going to be our nominee, and we will rally around him,” Villere said Friday. “I wouldn’t say it was even reluctance. It’s just the reality.”

Offering a common party refrain, Villere added, “All of our possibilities are clearly superior to what the Democrats have.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Martin Dyckman: Impose a delay on tummy tucks; they’re more dangerous than abortions

Any law that invades the privacy and liberties of American citizens should come into court facing a heavy burden of proof. Does it serve a compelling public interest? Is it the most reasonable — that is, the least restrictive — approach?

That’s doubly true in Florida, whose state constitution contains an explicit right to privacy.

That’s why the Florida Supreme Court did the right thing last week to put a hold on the Legislature’s latest mean-spirited and colossally hypocritical attack on the reproductive freedom of Florida women.

To hear the sputtering hysterics of some legislators, you might think the court had overturned the 2015 law requiring a woman to see the doctor at least 24 hours before he or she can perform an abortion.

In fact, the court merely suspended that provision while it decides whether it even has the jurisdiction to do that. Assuming the answer is yes, the next question would be whether to leave it on the shelf during the long process of debating and appealing the constitutionality of the law itself.

That’s still at the trial stage in circuit court at Tallahassee, where Judge Charles Dodson properly granted a stay pending subsequent arguments on whether the law is, in fact, an unreasonable obstacle to a woman’s right to control her own body.

It’s hard to imagine how the stay hurts anyone, but the state appealed and persuaded the First District of Appeal to put the waiting period back into force. That’s what led to last week’s 5-2 Supreme Court decision.

So far, 11 judges have had their say on that narrow question of timing. Only six of them did the right thing.

The five who didn’t are Supreme Court Justices Ricky Polston and Charles Canady, and a First DCA panel composed of that court’s judges Brad Thomas and Susan L. Kelsey, along with William F. Stone, an elected circuit judge from Okaloosa County sitting by special appointment.

It’s another of those reminders that who you elect governor really matters. It was the stridently anti-choice Jeb Bush who launched the appellate careers of Thomas, Polston and Canady. It was Charlie Crist, a Republican then, who promoted Polston and Canady to the Supreme Court. Kelsey is Rick Scott‘s responsibility.

Polston and Canady are frequent, virtually predictable dissenters to Supreme Court decisions favoring citizens against the government, as in this case, or workers and consumers against corporations.

In one particularly cold-blooded moment, they objected to the court’s proportionality reviews of death sentences because the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t require them. On Thursday they voted to preserve arbitrary low limits on workers’ compensation attorneys’ fees that the majority held in violation of an injured employee’s access to the courts.

To Crist’s credit, he balanced those appointments by later naming Justices Jorge Labarga and James E.C. Perry, who joined Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and R. Fred Lewis in the order temporarily suspending the waiting period.

But Perry faces mandatory retirement next year and Pariente, Quince and Lewis will be out in January 2019. A nominating commission composed entirely of Scott’s people will winnow their potential successors, and that could be the death knell for reproductive rights in Florida. It’s a close call whether the current case, brought by Gainesville Woman Care LLC and others, will be completed by then.

The core issue is whether the law imposes an unfair burden on a woman seeking an abortion by forcing her to first see the doctor who will perform it and then wait at least a day to have it done.

It is a significant burden. Not all women can afford to take time off from work and travel what might be a considerable distance on two separate occasions. The brief filed by Julia Kaye, the ACLU staff attorney in charge of the case, also points out that this increases “the risk that her family members, employers or others will discover that she intends to end the pregnancy.”

It could, she said, “prevent some women from obtaining an abortion altogether.”

And that’s the transparent purpose. As State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, a co-sponsor, put it last year:

“One day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view an image of the unborn child’s ultrasound image, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith are minimal considering the effects that will remain for a lifetime beyond that irreversible decision.”

None of that — NONE OF IT — is the government’s business.

And that gets to what I said about hypocrisy.

No other medical procedures are subject to any waiting period in Florida, and there are a lot of them that are just as irreversible and, what’s more, a lot more dangerous.

According to statistics posted by the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, the mortality rate for legal induced abortions is a negligible .6 per 100,000 procedures. That’s less than one death per 100,000, which compares to 8.8 women dying for every 100,000 live births.

The death rates following cosmetic surgery are astronomically higher. One study put the risk from liposuction at 19.1 per 100,000 procedures. Another calculated the risk to range from one in 600 to one in 3,000 for tummy tucks.

The death rate from vasectomies is negligible. But they’re practically irreversible too, with lifetime consequences.

So doesn’t Florida require pudgy women and reluctant fathers to wait 24 hours after a consultation before going ahead with their tummy tucks, liposuctions and vasectomies?

To hear the legislators, it’s because no one can get those on a same-day basis. That strikes me at fatuous nonsense. The real reason is that it’s because they’re more concerned with other people’s fetuses than with other people’s lives.

***

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina.

Congressional GOP beginning to accept Donald Trump as nominee

Congressional Republicans are beginning to accept, and even embrace, an outcome that was once unthinkable: Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee.

In the wake of the businessman’s commanding wins in five Eastern states this week, a growing number of lawmakers say that Trump is taking on an air of inevitability. Some argue they should get behind him now instead of trying to stand in his way, as some establishment Republicans are still attempting to do by backing various “Never Trump” efforts.

For some lawmakers, supporting Trump is seen as their only hope of stopping the Democrats’ likely candidate, Hillary Clinton, in November and ensuring a Democratic president doesn’t fill Supreme Court vacancies.

“I don’t understand. I mean, it’s not ‘Never Trump.’ It’s ‘Never Hillary.’ Never, never, never, Hillary. Come on. Wake up and smell the coffee,” said Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, who earlier this week cast his ballot for Trump, along with all members of his large family and 57 percent of Republican primary voters in his state.

“I’ve never seen a party attack one of its own candidates with this aggressiveness,” Kelly said of GOP establishment figures who oppose Trump, blaming it on an elitist Washington attitude out of touch with voters.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a respected senior member of the Senate, previously endorsed Jeb Bush and then Sen. Marco Rubio and said he doesn’t intend to endorse Trump. But Hatch said Thursday of Trump: “It looks to me like he’s going to win and if he does I’m going to do everything in my power to help him.”

Some leading Republicans have forecast that a Trump candidacy could spell electoral disaster, help Democrats win back control of the Senate and even cost Republicans seats in the House. They point to Trump’s disparaging comments about women and minorities that have contributed to high unfavorability ratings.

Hatch, along with others, disagreed.

“I think he could be great if he’ll get serious about being president, and I think he will,” Hatch said. “When he gets hit with reality that this is the toughest job in the world, he’s a clever, smart guy who I think will want to be remembered for doing good things, so I have a feeling he can make that transition.”

To be sure, not all are on board, and some lawmakers cringe at the thought of vulnerable Senate Republicans and candidates getting linked to Trump’s controversial stances or attempting to distance themselves from them.

“He’s looking more inevitable, yeah. I’ve been wrong all along,” said GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, an outspoken Trump critic. “My feeling about Donald Trump is, I don’t think that that’s our best foot forward at all. And I can’t imagine being forced to take some of those positions that he’s taken. A ban on Muslims, build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it, you name it.”

It remains uncertain whether Trump will amass the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination ahead of the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. If he does not, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hopes to make a play to win the nomination as balloting progresses. Ohio Gov. John Kasich also remains in the race.

On Capitol Hill, Cruz remains an unpopular figure, having disparaged party leaders and led the charge to force a 16-day partial government shutdown in 2013 in a futile attempt to cut off money for President Barack Obama‘s health care law.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, who resigned last fall under conservative pressure, lashed out at Cruz in comments published Thursday in Stanford University’s student newspaper, calling him “Lucifer in the flesh” and saying: “I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

Perhaps partly because of Cruz’s unpopularity, it’s getting easier to find leading lawmakers speaking publicly in favor of Trump. On Thursday, Trump picked up endorsements from House committee chairmen: Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who chairs the Transportation Committee, and Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, spoke on the phone with Trump on Thursday and later told reporters they had a good and substantive conversation, though he has no plans to endorse him.

On Trump’s foreign policy speech, Corker said: “Let’s face it, the foreign policy establishment in Washington hasn’t been exactly brilliant in their assessments of things, and I do like the fact that he’s challenging that status quo, I really do. … I think his campaign, like anybody who hadn’t been in the public arena before, is evolving.”

Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida was a leading Rubio backer, but said now “it’s time to move on.”

“The people have spoken. The Republican primary electorate has spoken so he deserves the opportunity to be our nominee,” Rooney said. “If he screws it up as the nominee and hurts the down-ballot ticket, then he screws it up. But right now the people want him to be the nominee.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

The million dollar Insurance Commissioner question

About a month ago, when FloridaPolitics.com offered “The Good, the Bad and the Interesting” of the applicants for the next Insurance Commissioner, we highlighted the legal requirements for the job.

They’re high … on purpose.

HB 3, passed in Special Session E in 2002, implemented a 1998 constitutional amendment that merged the jobs of Comptroller and Treasurer into the Chief Financial Officer position, shrinking the number of statewide elected officials serving on the Cabinet. The Offices of Financial Regulation and Insurance Regulation would now be led by appointees — nominated and approved by the Cabinet — and requiring the concurrence of both the Governor and the CFO.

It was at a time, not too different from the present, where both positions were filled by strong leaders, then-Governor Jeb Bush and then-CFO Tom Gallagher.

The legislation required that any political appointee have five years relevant private or public sector experience. The intent was to depoliticize these positions by making them appointed, requiring a super-duper vote by the Cabinet, and also by creating a high bar of qualifications for consideration, preventing any “fix” or purely political favor.

As FloridaPolitics.com also pointed out last month, many of the applicants did not meet the legal hurdle for the job of Insurance Commissioner. Last week, Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State news picked up on that in “How will Scott’s insurance pick [JeffBragg survive scrutiny?”

As Smith correctly pointed out: “in the public sector, the applicant must be a senior official at the state or federal level regulating companies or agents. Bragg was a senior official in Washington at the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIP). However, despite his assurance before the Cabinet (“I regulated the program,” he said) TRIP itself doesn’t regulate anybody or anything. Insurance executives insist TRIP operates basically as the Florida CAT fund does.”

Smith reached out to the Cabinet members and got a variety of slightly dodgy answers about Bragg’s qualifications — except the Governor’s office, who did a complete dodge.

Presumably, state Rep. Bill Hager‘s work at his expert witness insurance practice qualifies as full-time private sector employment, which he outlined in an addendum to his application.

Despite the noticeable difference in caliber between Bragg and Hager, as evidenced during their interviews — a subject I touched upon in March — as well as the Governor’s inexplicable behavior following the interviews, the real million dollar question is this: What happens if the Cabinet appoints a legally unqualified person? Can it actually happen? Would that person’s actions have the force of law? Would the legal issues surrounding a potential Commissioner Bragg mire his authority?

Smith’s article also insinuates that Scott is trying to pull exactly the kind of fix that HB 3-E was supposed to prevent.

While the palace intrigue of the appointment process after the Gerald Bailey scandal has been at an all-time high, the theater of the interviews and public statements (or lack thereof) regarding the final two candidates is enough to rival Hamlet in the minds of many Tallahassee insiders. At the very least, this topic is at least worth a response from the Governor’s Office, if they are, in fact, continuing to push Bragg.

With Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater continuing to flex their Cabinet muscle in support of Hager, the only unknown is Adam Putnam. Will he finally show his cards?

None of Florida’s GOP U.S. Senate candidates ready to commit to attending RNC in Cleveland

Last month, Donald Trump warned of “riots around the Republican National Convention should he fall slightly short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination and the party moves to select another candidate.

The feeling that this year’s Republican National Convention could be a raucous and uncomfortably unpredictable affair has led to some top Republicans, including former Governor Jeb Bush, to say that they’ll be staying home when the party gets together for its four-day confab this July.

FloridaPolitics.com contacted all five of the Republican candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat to inquire about their plans, and none of them were ready to commit to attending.

Three of the candidates — Carlos Beruff, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Todd Wilcox — said they definitely would not attend.

Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. David Jolly, said the Pinellas congressman has not reached a decision yet. “The congressman will decide closer to convention dates.”

Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Beruff, said the Manatee County real estate developer “will not be at the convention.” Hartline said Beruff will be “campaigning in Florida.”

“He has no plans to go because the convention is just before our primary, so he thinks it makes more sense to stay here talking to voters than to go to Cleveland,” said Brad Herold, campaign spokesman for DeSantis.

 And Erin Isaac, spokesperson for Wilcox, said, “Todd is focused on continuing to talk with Florida conservatives about his vision for restoring America’s prominence and getting back to citizen government by ending career politicians. He has no plans to attend the convention.”

Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for the Carlos Lopez-Cantera, said the lieutenant governor is not planning on attending the convention, saying he will be in Florida at the time.

 CNN reported on Wednesday that a top GOP leader said that he has advised his colleagues to hold campaign rallies and town halls in their home states during the time of the convention. Based on the comments above, that advice appears to have made its way to Florida’s Senate candidates, one of whom may be sharing a ballot with Trump or Ted Cruz in November.

***

With additional reporting from Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster and Scott Powers.

Today on Context Florida: American Transformers, Floridian president, TR’s big stick, open carry convention and dealmaking

Today on Context Florida:

There’s a new reality show in America, says Adam Goodman, generating ratings and rave reviews before an audience that had been waiting a long time for it to begin. It’s called “The New American Transformers,” but unlike the “Transformer” movies this series does not revolve around a galactic battle but something much more down to Earth. It is a story about Americans looking to transform a system that’s broken, in a country that’s lost its way, led by politicians who’ve become more interested in self-preservation than national revival. The search for newness, freshness, and a jolt of confidence Goodman says explains why both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, hailing from wholly different universes of ideology and temperament, whether they win or lose, are scoring big today.

It bugs Jac VerSteeg that Florida, now the third-most populous state, never has managed to get a Floridian elected president. It looked like there was a great chance this year, with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio starting out as strong possibles. Donald Trump has deep Florida ties. The state could kind of claim him if he were elected. But it’s not clear he could even carry Florida in the general election. I’m not sure what needs to happen for a Floridian to be elected president. But I’m sure what should not happen. Do not elect Rick Scott to the U.S. Senate in 2018. He is virtually a conglomerate of all the weaknesses of this year’s Floridians who ran – plus Trump’s bad points.

Steve Kurlander suggests that we need to bring back Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick.” After Brussels, our military buildup in Iraq is inevitable. America indeed needs to rebuild its presence in Iraq and the Middle East and embrace being the world’s policeman. We need to stay in Iraq for decades to build a democratic nation there. The U.S. is not an evil imperialist. Rather our presence is a righteous method of assuring our security and the human rights of citizens in foreign countries. The bombings in Paris and Brussels highlight Obama’s misguided decision to abandon Iraq, which ultimately led to the rise of ISIS.

In the spirit of “we ain’t got the good sense God gave a goose,” Linda Cunningham says we’re fixing to tar-and-feather poor “Jim,” the West Coast anti-gun guy who started that petition to allow folks to carry guns into the arena at this summer’s GOP convention in Cleveland. By the time Jim fessed up to being the creator, more than 52,000 people had signed the online petition, which Jim (he’s not giving his last name to interviewers) says was satire. Now everyone’s mad at Jim. The gun lovers are mad because Jim was poking fun at them. The gun haters are mad because, well, because they got taken, too.

Private speculation evolved into overt planning last week as the Florida Chamber of Commerce became the first to signal the formation of a task force focusing on the next iteration of state-directed economic development in Florida. With similar efforts surely to follow, Dale Brill believes that forthcoming recommendations for strengthening Florida’s economy in a post deal-making era should be bold.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

Foundation for Florida’s Future’s report card grades lawmakers for 2016 Session

Twenty legislators earned spots on the Jeb Bush-founded Foundation for Florida’s Future honor roll this year, according to a press release.

The nonprofit organization, which supports initiatives such as school choice, issues a yearly report card on lawmakers “for their actions to improve the quality of education in the Sunshine State through support for student-centered policies,” the release said.

“Because of their actions the parents of students with disabilities now have more options in preparing their children for success, all students will have greater access to our wealth of excellent public schools, and the groundwork is laid for a future in which every child can receive a personalized education,” Executive Director Patricia Levesque said.

The lawmakers achieving top marks for their work are:

Senate

  • President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando
  • Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers
  • Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg
  • Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz
  • Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee
  • Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate
  • Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland

House of Representatives

  • Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island
  • Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach
  • Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami
  • Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs
  • Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah
  • Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando
  • Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami
  • Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake
  • Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee
  • Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero
  • Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg
  • Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover
  • Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor

Here’s more from the release:

By grading lawmakers on a scale of A-F, just like students and schools, Florida’s Education Report Card gives the public a clear and comprehensive assessment of who is keeping the promise of a quality education in the Sunshine State.

It measures reforms based on seven core principles: Data-Driven Accountability, Digital Learning, Effective Teachers and Leaders, Outcome-Based Funding, Rigorous Academic Standards, School Choice and Measuring of what Matters.

Grades are based on legislators’ voting records and demonstrations of leadership. House and Senate voting records are calculated in a ratio of favorable votes cast for student-centered policies out of the total opportunities to vote on those policies.

For more on the 2016 legislative report card, click here.

George P. Bush to visit Tampa April 12 for fundraising luncheon

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush will be in Tampa this month at a fundraising luncheon hosted by former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will appear Tuesday, April 12, at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa. Co-hosting the event, which begins at noon, is A-list lobbyist Slater Bayliss of Cardenas Partners.

Although his father recently ended a presidential bid, the grandson of George H.W. Bush and the nephew of George W. Bush is expected to continue making his mark on both the Lone Star and national political landscapes. Before his election in 2014 as Texas Land Commissioner, George P. made the most of his political pedigree, starting with a major address for his uncle at the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Rumors abound that the ambitious young Bush will one day run for president.

“Viva George P! Speculation is already growing that Jeb Bush’s eldest son may make a bid for the White House,” The Independent wrote in 2012. That same year, The Atlantic referred to him as “a political dynasty’s young hope.”

Most recently, Bush and his brother, Jeb Bush Jr., co-chaired “Mission: Next,” a committee that tailors events toward Republicans under age 40 with fundraising skills. The group was formed to support their father’s presidential bid.

The Oxford Exchange is at 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. RSVPs with Lavana Harvey at Lavana@WeatherfordPartners.com, Ann Herberger at Ann@WoodsHerbergerGroup.com or (305) 772-4311.

Donald Trump’s abortion flub shows risks of “winging it” on policy

It was a question sure to come up at some point in the Republican primary campaign.

“What should the law be on abortion?” asked MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to Donald Trump at a town hall event in Wisconsin.

“Should the woman be punished for having an abortion?” Matthews pressed. “This is not something you can dodge.”

Trump’s bungled response — an awkward, extended attempt to evade the question, followed by an answer that, yes, “there has to be some form of punishment” — prompted a backlash that managed to unite abortion rights activists and opponents. And it also brought an unprecedented reversal from the notoriously unapologetic candidate less than a week before Wisconsin’s important primary.

The episode demonstrated the extent to which Trump has glossed over the rigorous policy preparation that is fundamental to most presidential campaigns, underscoring the risks of the billionaire businessman’s winging-it approach as he inches closer to the Republican nomination.

“Well, bear in mind I don’t believe that he was warned that that question was coming” and didn’t have a chance to really think about it, said Ben Carson, a former Trump rival who has since endorsed him, in an interview with CNN.

He should have, said political professionals.

“When you’re just winging it, that’s what happens,” said Kevin Madden, a veteran of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney‘s campaign. “Running for president, it’s not a take-home exam.”

And this wasn’t the first time Trump’s approach has gotten him in trouble.

He raised eyebrows during a debate when he appeared unfamiliar with the concept of the nuclear triad, an oversight his opponents happily pointed out.

At a town hall on CNN earlier this week, Trump appeared to falter when asked to name what he believed were the top three priorities of the federal government. Among his answers: health care and education. Trump has vowed to repeal President Barack Obama‘s landmark health care law and gut the budget of the Department of Education.

The lack of preparation extends beyond policy. This week, Trump called into a series of radio stations in Wisconsin, apparently unaware the interviews were likely to be combative.

At the end of a remarkable interview in which he compared Trump’s behavior to that of “a 12-year-old bully on the playground,” WTMJ-AM’s Charlie Sykes asked Trump if he was aware he’d called into someone unabashedly opposed to his candidacy.

“That I didn’t know,” Trump said.

During a recent rally in Vienna, Ohio, Trump delivered his usual indictment of the North American Free Trade Agreement and blasted American companies that have shipped jobs overseas.

But he seemed unaware that Chevrolet, which builds the Chevy Cruze sedan in nearby Lordstown, had recently announced that it was planning to build its 2017 hatchback model in Mexico. It was the kind of local knowledge that requires research and legwork, and could have helped Trump connect with his audience and others in the state.

For most presidential candidates, especially those new to it all, getting up to speed on the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy is a process that begins early. While Trump’s campaign did not respond Thursday to questions about the kind of briefings he receives, it’s clear he has done things differently.

Who does he consult on foreign policy?

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things,” Trump said on MSNBC this month. He’s also said he gets information about international affairs from “the shows” and newspapers.

He announced members of his foreign policy team only this month and met with them Thursday as part of a series of appointments in Washington.

Out on the trail, Trump largely skipped town hall events in the early-voting states that were the hallmarks of several rival campaigns. Chris Christie and John Kasich, for example, held dozens of the events, fielding hundreds of questions on every topic imaginable.

Trump might well note that most of his GOP rivals are gone, and he’s still the front-runner.

But what about his abortion comments?

“None of the other candidates would have made that mistake,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports anti-abortion legislation and candidates.

Michael Steel, an adviser to former Trump rival Jeb Bush, said that candidates and presidents have to be able to respond to issues as they arise, which requires a “tremendous amount” of work behind the scenes. It’s one reason major candidates from both parties typically have government experience.

“I think we’ve seen in a variety of venues including the debates that he doesn’t seem to have the knowledge and background on important policy issues that you would expect from a presidential candidate,” Steel said.

Bush spent the months after he announced his candidacy last summer developing a comprehensive domestic and foreign policy platform. Campaign employees assisted by more than 100 outside advisers briefed him in frequent sessions, said Justin Muzinich, the campaign’s policy director.

“He took policy extraordinarily seriously,” Muzinich said.

Dannenfelser, the abortion opponent, said there is still time for Trump.

“The question is, will he be able to get to the point of confidently communicating his position to contrast with Hillary Clinton in a way that helps?” she said. “I think it’s possible.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

 

Poll shows 62 percent of Floridians support pathway to citizenship for undocumented

A poll published earlier this week shows that 62 percent of Floridians support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while 18 percent say they should be deported. The poll also shows that 16 percent of Floridians support allowing illegal immigrants to become permanent legal residents, but not full citizens.

The numbers come from an exhaustive national survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). It was conducted from April 2015 through January 2016 and comprised of a massive sample size of 42,000 interviews.

The survey shows that with the single exception of South Dakota, majorities in all states support a pathway to citizenship. The states with the highest support for providing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally with a path to citizenship tend to be clustered in the Northeast and along the West Coast. Approximately two-thirds of residents in Washington (68 percent), Connecticut (67 percent), New York (67 percent), Rhode Island (67 percent), Massachusetts (66 percent), and Oregon (66 percent) back a path to citizenship.

The lowest support for the road to citizenship policy can be found predominantly in Southern states, such as South Carolina (56 percent), Arkansas (55 percent), Alabama (54 percent), and West Virginia (54 percent). It’s lowest in South Dakota, where fewer than half (46 percent) of residents back that policy.

The survey also found that by a 50 percent-36 percent margin, Florida respondents in the PRRI poll believe that the growing number of newcomers strengthens American society. A total of 2,572 Florida citizens were surveyed.

Both Democrats running for president this year, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, support a legal pathway to citizenship for the approximately 11.3 million undocumented people in the U.S. Among the Republicans who are or were running for president, only John Kasich and Jeb Bush supported allowing illegal immigrants to become permanent legal residents, but not full citizens. None back a full pathway to citizenship.

“These findings show that despite the hate we’ve seen from Republican presidential candidates, not only do Americans largely favor pro-immigrant policies, but two-thirds of Republican voters agree,” said Juan Escalante, director of Florida’s Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group. “In the short term, it may benefit Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to pander to hard-liners in their party and peddle hateful rhetoric, but these numbers show that the general election is a different story entirely. In light of these figures, Republican presidential prospects, and prospects for Florida candidates who are falling in step with these anti-immigrant policies, are looking grim.”

According to InsideGov, Florida has an estimated 605,000 undocumented immigrants, the fourth most of any state in the U.S.

Pew Research estimates that there are 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.as of 2014, down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2012.