Donald Trump’s Detroit speech comes at pivotal point in campaign

As Donald Trump’s poll numbers plummet, political observers are wondering if the Republican presidential candidate can get his campaign back on track Monday with what’s billed as a major address before the Detroit Economic Club.

Trump is expected to “unveil his policy agenda for revitalizing the American economy,” his campaign said in a press release.

The address comes at a critical point in the presidential campaign.

“It’s a chance for him to get back on message, after a couple of weeks where it’s been bad news after bad news after bad news for him,” said Susan Demas, editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter.

Since the Democratic and Republican conventions, Trump has created a series of controversies that have generated negative headlines — from his battle with a Gold Star family; to his long delay in endorsing House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Sens. John McCain and Kelly Ayotte in their primaries; to his comments on foreign policy that have some questioning his fitness to be president.

Meanwhile, while polls showed Trump and Hillary Clinton essentially tied after the GOP convention, Clinton has since jumped to a significant lead in a number of swing states. A Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll released Thursday had Clinton ahead by 9 points in Michigan and an EPIC-MRA poll released Friday had Clinton up by 11 points.

“Trump is cratering,” Republican strategist Frank Luntz tweeted on Thursday. “He needs to overhaul is general-election strategy if he wants to have any hope of winning in 95 days.”

The Fivethirtyeight.com website is now giving Clinton a 75 percent chance of winning in November, based on current polls, the economy and historical data.

“If Trump’s actually going to have a chance to win,” then he needs to use his Detroit speech to turn things around, said Dennis Lennox, a Detroit-area GOP strategist.

The event “presents a pivot opportunity for Trump to help him overcome two really bad weeks,” Lennox said.

Lennox said there’s a good chance that Trump can it pull it off, noting that Trump has done well in other circumstances he’s given a formal speech, such as a March address on foreign policy before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“Trump’s biggest problem is that he has these rallies where he goes off message,” Lennox said. “He’s not a career politician, so message discipline for him is a little different than it is for someone like Clinton.”

Monday’s event also a chance for Trump to make inroads with Michigan voters, said Lennox and Demas.

“Trump has made a big deal about changing the map (of past presidential elections) and Michigan is a big deal for him,” Demas said. “It’s not a coincidence he’s making a major address here.

“It’s also a chance for him to press reset button and he could get a lot of positive press,” she said.

Positive press may be the goal of the Trump campaign, but Steve Hood, a Democratic strategist who also has a radio show on AM 910 in Detroit, said Trump’s speech could be upstaged by protesters.

“People are planning a serious, massive protest where they actually build a human wall and refuse to let people in,” Hood said. The speech, originally planned to be at the Renaissance Center has been moved to Cobo Hall, citing security issues.

It also possible the protesters “will go too far and make Donald Trump sympathetic,” Demas said.

Despite Trump’s struggles in recent days, all three analysts interviewed said the presidential race remains in flux.

It’s a “fluid period,” Hook said. “There’s still a chance Trump can win, and the Democrats are taking nothing for granted.”

Demas agreed.

“Trump is trailing, but it’s August,” she said. “There’s still time for him to make up ground.”

But like Luntz, Demas said Trump needs to change his strategy.

“His not-politically-correct shtick that made him a winner in the primaries has caused him a lot of problems in the general election campaign,” she said.

She said one of his biggest problems right now are questions being raised by prominent conservatives such as Charles Krauthammer and Joe Scarborough on whether Trump has the temperament to be the world’s most powerful leader.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of prominent Republicans, prominent people from the foreign policy community, who are raising questions,” she said. “People are very nervous about someone who seems so erratic.”

Conservatives also have raised questions about Trump’s economic stances, which have diverged from traditional Republican policies.

“The audience at the Detroit Economic Club is not likely to agree with Trump on immigration, on trade, on the fact that he’s gone after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” Demas said.

The GOP business community does like his plan to slash taxes, she said, but are much less enthusiastic about his call for massive spending on infrastructure projects.

Lennox agreed that Trump is not a traditional Republican, but said that helps explain his appeal.

Trump is moving the GOP beyond the “party of free trade and international intervention,” Lennox said. “That’s not your average Republican anymore.”

Lennox thinks Trump has a real shot at winning in November, not just because of his populist message but also because of his opponent.

“I believe nothing brings Republicans together,” he said, “than someone with the last name of Clinton.”

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Donald Trump Vs. Hillary Clinton — The Social Media Report

The last two presidential elections have proven how vital social media is to becoming President of the United States. So I thought it would be fun to compare the online presence of the two candidates currently vying for that job. Here are the stats I collected on August 5, 2016. (Of course, stats on the Web change by the second.)

Google

Let’s start with searches, specifically Google. We know that when people want to learn about something – or someone – Google is by far the most popular search engine.

The total number of Google results returned when I typed in “Donald Trump” were 228 million. I received 145 million when I did the same for “Hillary Clinton.” Interesting, but what really matters is what the top three search results are, because the first three spots in a Google search garner the most clicks (“Roughly 60% of search engine visits go the top three results,” according to Business2Community).

Donald Trump’s top 3 search results are led by the site for his business interests:

His official campaign site shows up as the fifth entry.

Hillary Clinton’s official campaign site is the first of her top three search results:

Klout

Klout is a website that uses social media analytics to rank the online social influence of its users, providing a score between 1 and 100. In other words, your Klout score represents your social influence.

Hillary Clinton’s Klout score is 95. And the topics she’s most often associated with are Activism, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Children, Donald Trump, Economics, Elections, Government, Hillary Clinton, History, Human Rights, Immigration, LGBT Issues, Politics, Republican Party, September 11th attacks, The White House, US First Ladies, US Senate, and Washington.

Donald Trump’s score is 6 points lower – 89 – and his topics are Affordable Care Act, Benghazi, Bill Clinton, Border Security, CNBC, CNN, Conservative Politics, Donald Trump, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fox News, Government, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Police, Politco, Politics, Republican Party, The White House, and Twitter.

Interestingly, both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton are deemed experts by Klout on Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, immigration and the White House.

LinkedIn

Donald Trump does not have a personal profile that I could find. There is a page with his name on it, but it seems to be an unauthorized spoof. Nor is there a company page for the Trump Organization. There is a Donald Trump for President group with 5,200 members.

Hillary Clinton is a LinkedIn Influencer. Her page has 465K followers. Her Summary reads like this: Wife, mother, grandmother, women and kids advocate, FLOTUS, FLOAR, Senator, Secretary of State, dog person, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate.

Twitter

We all know that Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter rivals the Kardashians’. He has amassed over 10.7 million followers and sent over 32K tweets. That’s 25% more followers than Hillary’s 8.1 million and more than four times her number of tweets. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump are using their Twitter accounts to broadcast rather than to listen. Mrs. Clinton is following only 743 people and Mr. Trump is following just 45.

Facebook

Hillary Clinton has received 5.4 million total page likes, which is slightly more than half of Donald Trump’s 10.2 million. But the level of engagement in their Facebook pages is similar. She has 3,317,442 “people talking about this,” and he has 3,158,144.

YouTube

Despite the huge amount of video content both candidates have posted, it appears that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has a YouTube channel. So I did a Google video search to determine the relative quantity of content: Hillary has 10.6 million entries, and Donald Trump has 14.9 million.

Instagram

The candidates are closer when it comes to Instagram:

  • Hillary Clinton: 1.8 million followers, 658 posts, following 74
  • Donald Trump (realdonaldtrump): 2.2 million followers, 870 posts, following 15

Lastly, I looked at the candidates’ official campaign websites. Both prominently feature an opportunity to contribute from $10 to $100 to the campaign on the home page – not surprising. Mr. Trump’s site has an additional, bright-red button encouraging contributions of $150.

You can draw your own conclusions about what these statistics predict, but the number that really matters is voter turnout, especially in battleground states with a lot of electoral votes. Of course, that’s fueled by social media.

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Kasich: Trump Jr. called aide to float VP offer

Ohio Gov. John Kasich still isn’t ready to support Donald Trump for president — but he confirmed that one of his aides was contacted about possibly joining the real estate mogul’s ticket as his vice president.

Kasich told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he didn’t receive a call himself. But he said one of his aides confirmed to him a New York Times report last month saying Donald Trump Jr. tried to entice Kasich with a position as the most powerful vice president in history — putting him in charge of all domestic and foreign policy — was accurate.
“That’s what one of them has told me, yes,” Kasich told Tapper in an interview aired Sunday on “State of the Union.”
The Trump campaign has previously denied the details of the Times’ report. When it was published late last month, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller told CNN “it’s completely ridiculous” and that an offer was never made. Trump Jr. also denied making such an offer.
The Ohio governor, however, told Tapper he was never interested in serving as vice president.
“I never considered it … I’d be the worst vice president. I have too many opinions,” said Kasich, the last Republican challenger left standing amid ahead of Trump’s nomination.

Why he skipped the GOP convention

Kasich raised controversy in some GOP circles by declining to attend the Republican National Convention — which was held in his home state — but he’s at peace with the decision, which he told Tapper was about “manners.”
“If I wasn’t prepared to go there and get up and endorse a nominee, I just thought it was inappropriate to go into that convention hall,” Kasich said. “Some people are really furious with me about that. But I did what I thought I needed to do.”
Added Kasich: “Believe it or not, I wanted to show respect to the nominee.”

How Trump could earn his vote

Kasich said that response to his decision to not endorse Trump has been mixed and that he sometimes gets “a little grief over this.”
“I’ve had a lot of people pound on me about you need to do this, you need to do this, this is about the party,” Kasich said. “And I love my party, but I love my country. And I have to be true to myself. I wish that I could be fully enthusiastic. I can’t be.”
He refused to say whether he would vote for Trump.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end,” he told Tapper, but made it clear he will not be voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
When asked if Trump could do anything to earn his vote, Kasich said: “There’s so much water over the dam now, it’s become increasingly difficult. But I want, you know, unifying.”

‘A little bizarre’

Kasich has long called for the party to unify, and expressed displeasure with Trump’s hesitation to endorse several prominent establishment GOP candidates, notably House Speaker Paul Ryan, Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. (Trump eventually endorsed all three Friday night, several hours after the interview was taped.)
Kasich called the initial decision not to endorse “a little bizarre” and took issue with Trump’s treatment of McCain.
“As far as I’m concerned, McCain shouldn’t even have to run for election in the Senate,” Kasich said. “He ought to be in the Senate as long as he wants to be.”
To that end, Kasich said he would help McCain’s re-election fight.
“I don’t care what it takes,” he said.

Can Trump win Ohio?

As for Trump winning the Buckeye State, Kasich isn’t as optimistic, saying he believes the nominee will do well in the state but not well enough to carry it.
“He’s going to win parts of Ohio where people are really hurting and where people of both parties have failed to fix our education system,” he said. “But I still think it’s difficult if you are dividing to be able to win in Ohio. I think it’s really, really difficult.”

The black hole

The Ohio governor also said he watched the Democratic convention speech delivered by Khizr Khan, the grieving father of a fallen Muslim US soldier, who attacked Trump from the dais, prompting Trump to engage in a multi-day feud with the Khan family. Kasich recalled his time spent comforting those killed overseas, saying he meets frequently with Ohio families who lose a child in combat and that is his job to comfort them.
“I’ve seen the black hole. I’ve had the deep mourning and the pain,” Kasich said, referring to the loss of his parents, who were killed by a drunk driver. “But here’s what I know: I believe the Scripture when it says those who give up their life, or serve someone else, will wear a big crown. That their service is marked in the book of life, never to be erased.”
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Is Donald Trump testing his exit strategy?

TRUMP-GOPIt is a sign of how poorly Donald Trump is doing in the polls that he already is working on his reasons to be a sore loser.

The system, he says, is “rigged” against him and his voters.

“I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged, I’ve got to be honest,” he warned in a rally Monday in Columbus, Ohio, and later that day on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program.

“I’m telling you, Nov. 8, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged,” he told Hannity.

Trump’s only evidence for fraud consisted of “precincts where there were practically nobody voting for the Republican” in the 2012 election. “If you don’t have voter ID,” he said, “you can just keep voting and voting and voting.”

That’s his own version of the standard Republican argument for mandatory voter ID cards. I have long found it suspicious that Republicans push for photo ID cards, which tend to reduce low-income and minority turnout, in face-to-face voting.

Recent court decisions in North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio, South Dakota and Kansas, among others, have overturned various voter ID restrictions as nice on paper but illegally discriminatory in practice. Voter fraud is far too rare to be worth the denial of voting rights that such laws have brought about, the courts have ruled.

But Trump’s exaggerations are mild compared to those of some of his supporters, such as radio host Alex Jones, who warned that the Obama administration might “cancel the election.” And Trump’s occasional adviser Roger Stone raised eyebrows by telling Breitbart News that Trump should prepare for a “violent postelection contest.”

“I mean civil disobedience, not violence,” said Stone, “but it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in.”

“Not violence” but a “bloodbath?” Stone’s ominously colorful language reminds me of Trump’s Twitter freakout in 2012 after he learned of President Barack Obama’s re-election victory. Trump condemned America’s democratic process, said the Electoral College should be shut down and called for a revolution. Cooler heads prevailed — that time.

Is Trump reviving those anxieties now to prepare us for charges of voter fraud in November? That’s often his style. As we have seen, Trump doesn’t let an absence of facts or evidence get in the way of his conspiracy theories. His recent political life, after all, began with a bogus birther theory about Obama’s birth certificate.

“What does that mean?” Obama said incredulously when asked about Trump’s charge in a news conference. After all, elections are run by state and local agencies, not the federal government, Obama pointed out.

“You know, go out there and try to win the election,” Obama said. “If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and ends up losing, then maybe he can raise some questions. That doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment.”

Hardly. As Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton enjoyed a healthy post-convention bump in national polls, Trump gave her an extra boost with his own series of unforced errors.

For example, he wouldn’t let go of his unwinnable feud with the Muslim parents of a U.S. Army captain who died preventing a suicide bomber from killing his fellow soldiers. Trump also refused to endorse fellow Republicans Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Arizona Sen. John McCain for re-election.

Trump even (gasp!) booted a crying baby from a rally moments after saying he enjoyed hearing crying babies. Other politicians kiss babies. Trump ejected one as if the little bambino were a Black Lives Matter protester.

In a campaign year already shaped largely by working-class fears, suspicions and frustrations about Wall Street, Washington and “the liberal media” and other institutions, Trump’s fears find many willing ears, just as Sen. Bernie Sanders’ did among Democratic voters.

We have enough baseless paranoia about our institutions — and unhinged extremists on the fringes — without Trump and Friends stirring up more of it. Even so, this campaign year should serve as a wake-up call to both parties. We need to resolve such pressing issues as immigration reform, trade treaties and income inequality at the ballot box, not on the streets.

Trump has the right issues, but he hasn’t been the right leader.

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Donald Trump tries to make amends in GOP after gaffe-filled week

Donald Trump tried to mend fences with a few critics within the GOP on Friday.

After some high-profile spats with the speaker of the House and two key senators, Trump did an about-face.

CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett reports it’s been a tumultuous week for Trump. He attacked a Gold Star family, kicked a baby out of a rally and refused to endorse fellow Republicans in primary races.

That caused turmoil for the party and for his campaign. On Friday night, Trump tried hard to make amends as his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, tried to take advantage of his gaffe-filled week.

Trump tried to heal party divisions Friday by endorsing House Speaker Paul Ryan after refusing to announce his support earlier in the week. He also endorsed two key Senate Republicans.

“I hold in the highest esteem Sen. John McCain,” Trump said. “I also fully support and endose Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.”

Trump admitted he needs the support of the entire coalition to win the general election.

“But I need a Republican Senate and a House to accomplish all of the changes that we have to make,” Trump told supporters. “We have to make them.”

By his side was running mate Mike Pence, who praised Trump’s off-the-cuff style that’s found the campaign in trouble.

“He says it like it is, and he will make America great again,” Pence said.

The Republican nominee tried to stay on message, hammering Clinton.

“She’s a monster, OK?” Trump said.

But he couldn’t resist bringing up incidents from earlier in the week, blaming the media.

“The whole place is cracking up, and the next day in the newspaper it said, ‘Trump throws baby out of arena,'” he said.

Speaking at a journalism conference, Clinton continued to paint Trump as unsuitable and unprepared for the White House.

“But I do have this old fashioned idea: when you run for president you ought to tell the voters of America what you would do as president,” Clinton said. “I want you to hold me accountable, press and citizens alike.”

But she couldn’t avoid questions related to the investigation into her handling of classified information while secretary of state.

“What I told the FBI, which he said was truthful, is consistent with what I have said publicly,” Clinton said. “So I may have short-circuited it, and for that I, you know, will try to clarify.”

Trump tried to capitalize on those comments, instantly sending out an anti-Clinton web video.

He also sent out an email and text message to supporters, using his Ryan endorsement as a fundraising opportunity.

And he needs more of those. Earlier this week, the Trump campaign announced more than $80 million in fundraising from last month, but sources told CBS News that after Trump’s week of missteps, fundraising has stalled.

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Paul Ryan 1, Donald Trump 0

Donald Trump is a proud man. He rarely admits that he’s wrong. He even said, at one point in this campaign, “A lot of times, when you apologize, they use it as ammunition against [you].”

But Donald Trump effectively apologized twice on Friday — or at least admitted he was wrong twice. And, arguably, he did it three and even four times.

First, on Friday morning, there was Trump’s admission that he mistook video of the release of U.S. hostages held by Iran in Geneva as video of a transfer of $400 million from the United States to Iran. Then, on Friday night, he endorsed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (R-Wis.) reelection after declining to do so just three days prior.

Oh, and he also endorsed Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), whom he also conspicuously declined to back earlier this week.

“We will have disagreements, but we will disagree as friends and never stop working together toward victory — and very importantly, toward real change,” Trump said of Ryan in Green Bay, Wis.

The endorsement followed plenty of uncertainty. In comments to The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker on Tuesday, Trump declined to back Ryan and said nice things about Ryan’s primary opponent, Paul Nehlen. The snub was particularly notable since Ryan delayed his own endorsement of Trump. But given that endorsement eventually arrived, Trump’s lack of reciprocation was seen as a political faux pas — or perhaps a signal to Ryan that his continued criticism of Trump’s controversial comments wasn’t appreciated.

Trump also thumbed his nose at Ayotte, citing her lack of direct support.

“You have a Kelly Ayotte who doesn’t want to talk about Trump, but I’m beating her in the polls by a lot,” Trump told Rucker. “You tell me. Are these people that should be representing us, okay? You tell me.”

In the end, though, it looks like a GOP nominee who often says things he might regret had come to regret these comments. Trump trails in the presidential race badly in recent polls — by as much as 15 points — and the potential for the GOP establishment to desert him was just not something he could take on.

Ryan has set himself up as the conscience of the GOP. He withheld his endorsement of Trump for a long time before coming around, and he has regularly weighed in when the establishment saw Trump going too far.

But what’s most notable here is that Ryan continued his criticism of Trump even after Trump threatened to withhold his endorsement.

“We just came out our convention, and yeah he’s had a pretty strange run since the convention,” Ryan told Jerry Bader of Wisconsin local radio station WTAQ in an interview Thursday. “You would think you ought to be focusing on Hillary Clinton — on all of her deficiencies. She is such a weak candidate that one would think we’d be on offense against Hillary Clinton, and it is distressing that that’s not what we’re talking about these days.”

Ryan reassured that his support wasn’t a “blank check” and even sent a fundraising email that could be read to warn of a potential landslide Trump loss in November.

If Trump wanted Ryan to kiss the ring and back down, he didn’t get it. But despite that, he felt the pressure to back the most significant figure in the GOP establishment. And in doing so, he also bowed to the pressure he faced to endorse two senators who would be very important to GOP efforts to hold onto the Senate.

We’re past the point where things like this can be cast as Trump truly changing tack and shifting into general election mode. But clearly, this was one case in which he bowed to the kind of political reality he usually shrugs at.

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Donald Trump reveals his economic advisers

Top row, left to right: David Malpass, Howard Lorber, Harold Hamm; Bottom row, left to right: Steve Mnuchin, Tom Barrack, John PaulsonDonald Trump on Friday unveiled his team of economic advisers, which draws heavily on industry executives in finance and real estate.

The list has some big Wall Street names, such as Steven Feinberg and John Paulson, and billionaires, including Harold Hamm and Andy Beal.

And several are Trump donors, including Beal, Hamm, Feinberg, Tom Barrack and Steven Mnuchin, who also serves as finance chairman for Donald J. Trump for President.

None of the advisers is a woman. Trump on Thursday struggled to name any women he’d consider appointing to his Cabinet, other than his daughter, Ivanka.

The Republican nominee also plans to unveil policy initiatives on Monday at the Detroit Economic Club. His plan focuses on “empowering Americans by freeing up the necessary tools for everyone to gain economically,” according to the campaign.

Trump has often said he wants to renegotiate trade deals and bring back manufacturing jobsthat have been shipped overseas — both of which would be tough to do and may not lead to much new employment, experts said.

“For too long we have watched as President Obama and Hillary Clinton have ruined our economy and decimated the middle class,” Trump said in a statement. “I am going to be the greatest jobs president our country has ever seen.”

The campaign’s policy team will be led by Stephen Miller, with Dan Kowolski serving as deputy director. Miller was communications director for Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, an early Trump supporter, while Kowalski has served as deputy staff director of the Senate Budget Committee’s Republican staff.

Additional members of the economic team will be added later.

Trump’s economic advisory team includes:

Tom Barrack, who founded Colony Capital, a private equity firm. He also served in the Reagan administration as deputy undersecretary of the Interior Department.

Andy Beal, who founded Beal Bank and other financial firms, including CSG Investments, Loan Acquisition Corp. and CLG Hedge Fund.

Stephen Calk, who founded Federal Savings Bank and National Bancorp Holdings, which is primarily focused on increasing home ownership among veterans.

Dan DiMicco, who was former CEO of Nucor Corp, a large steel producer. He wrote the book “American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us To Greatness,” on how to revitalize manufacturing.

Steven Feinberg, who co-founded Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm which focuses on investing in distressed assets.

Harold Hamm, who is chief executive of Continental Resources, an oil and natural gas producer. He spoke at the Republican convention.

Howard Lorber, who is CEO of Vector Group, a publicly traded company involved in the real estate and consumer products industries. He also serves as chairman of Douglas Elliman Realty, a real estate brokerage firm.

David Malpass, who served as deputy assistant Treasury Secretary under President Reagan and deputy assistant Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. Malpass also founded Encima Global, a consulting and research firm that provides analysis on global economic and political trends.

Steven Mnuchin, who is CEO of Dune Capital Management, a private investment firm, and was an executive as Goldman Sachs. Mnuchin raised eyebrows when Trump picked him as finance chair because he contributed multiple times to Hillary Clinton when she was a senator from New York.

Stephen Moore, who founded the Club For Growth and is chief economist for the conservative Heritage Foundation. Moore was the senior economist of the Joint Economic Committee under Chairman Dick Armey.

Peter Navarro, who is a trade expert and professor of economics and public policy at the University of California, Irvine.

John Paulson, who is president of Paulson & Co, a hedge fund. He made billions by betting against the housing bubble in 2006. He has had to use his own fortune to shore up his firm’s finances in recent years, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this year.

Steven Roth, who is chief executive officer of Vornado Realty Trust, which develops, owns and manages office and retail properties in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco.

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Will Donald Trump make it to November?

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — An unprecedentedly bizarre presidential campaign turned even more so over the past week as Republican nominee Donald Trump was labeled “crazy” in headlines and media speculated openly how the party could replace him at the top of the ticket.

The dozen indications for narcissistic personality disorder listed by the American Psychiatric Association got a lot of attention because they were all — all — disturbingly apt descriptions of the behavior Trump has shown over the past year.

His obsessive feud with the parents of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq over remarks they made about him at the Democratic convention seemed self-destructive as it cast Trump in a very bad light and kept him from exploiting a stream of negative news about his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
It allowed President Barack Obama to claim more forcefully than ever that the Republican nominee is unfit for office and “he keeps on proving it.”

Even conceding that a certain amount of Democratic disinformation and media bias crept into the coverage of all this, it was a harrowing near-meltdown that is likely to leave a permanent mark on Trump’s campaign.

The situation calmed by Wednesday as Trump dropped the feud with the Khan family and appeared to get “back on message.”

But the public got a glimpse of out-of-control behavior, compared by many to a runaway train, which will be hard to un-see.

Republicans have their own reasons for wanting to keep Trump on board. Down-ballot candidates need the votes of Trump supporters to maintain Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, so they can’t afford to alienate them by repudiating the nominee.

But Democrats, too, have a vested interest in keeping Trump in the race as they field their own deeply flawed and unpopular candidate for the White House.

Trump sympathizers have charged that Khizr and Ghazala Khan were put on the Democratic convention agenda to talk about their fallen son, Humayun, precisely to bait Trump into the kind of reaction that was not long in coming.

Whether it was a tactic or not, the ensuing fracas went almost too far as it opened the door to speculation about actually replacing Trump on the ticket.

In the current rules of the Republican National Committee, Rule No. 9 specifies that the 168 committee members can name a replacement if any vacancies occur on the national ticket “by reason of death, declination, or otherwise.”

The three committee members from each state would cast the same number of votes the state would have in a full convention, and the same simple majority would be required for the new nominee.

However unfit they want to show Trump to be, replacing him is not something Democrats want to achieve.

Imagine for a moment that Trump gets fed up with the whole thing, or his family intervenes to save him from further embarrassment — both seem unlikely at the moment but it is a volatile race — and the RNC coalesces around, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan as the new presidential nominee.

Ryan would no doubt be happy to keep his good friend Mike Pence as running mate and a Ryan-Pence ticket could pose a much more formidable challenge to Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

Far better to keep Trump in the race, sucking up all the media oxygen with one controversy after another. This keeps the media spotlight away from Clinton, and eases the political pressure on her for her own transgressions.

After all, how hard will any investigative team of journalists dig into the murky dealings of the Clinton Foundation if undermining the Democratic candidate would help boost Trump into office?

Trump has bragged that he can play the game any way that is required, and will appear exceptionally presidential when he wants to.

Perhaps that is true, and Trump in the coming weeks will appear more reasonable and close the gap in the polls that has opened up between him and Clinton. Or perhaps Trump will turn in a brilliant performance in the presidential debates and regain ground that way.

But it will be difficult for any but his hardcore supporters to forget the pettiness, the vindictiveness and the sheer lack of discipline on display from the candidate in the past week, removing any benefit of the doubt about his character that may have survived the preceding months.

If the Democrats can continue to discredit Trump without actually pushing him out, it will be more than ever Clinton’s race to lose.

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We can’t look away: The joy of Donald Trump and political rubbernecking

We can't look away: The joy of Donald Trump and political rubberneckingWhen I was a teenager, my friend and I enjoyed taking a daily walk through the large cemetery in our neighborhood. The cemetery was located near the local state university and situated beneath a steep hill where luxury condos somehow coexisted next to subsidized housing for the elderly and poor. As teenage boys of the hip-hop generation tended to do, we argued about if Rakim would win a rap battle against Big Daddy Kane, lied about our sex lives, tried to figure out if we would do a dance routine at the next basement party like Kid and Play in the movie “House Party,” and generally got into mischief after reading the names on the tombstones.

When cars would speed down the hill and make the sharp turn at its base, their tires would loudly squeal. As we walked about the cemetery, I would yell out “boom” whenever I heard that cue. On one Saturday afternoon, my “boom” was met with the sound of a collision and screams. My friend and I were shocked by my uncanny timing, and what we later joked, must have been an act of telekinesis or clairvoyance. We ran to the sound of the noise and there was a car, overturned several times, and smashed beyond belief. The very young male driver failed to make the turn. He was standing nearby, thrown from the car, covered in blood and in shock at what had just happened. His female companion was sitting on the ground next to him crying.

Donald Trump’s campaign and his takeover of the Republican Party are the political equivalents of a car accident. The American corporate news media — and many among the public, on both the left and the right — are participating in an act of political rubbernecking. They are transfixed by the skid marks on the road and the broken bodies lying nearby.

Liberal schadenfreude is also compelling; the apparent implosion of the Republican Party under the boot heel of Donald Trump is transfixing.

The headlines provide ample evidence of these raw pleasures. They read, “Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party,” “Republicans are Plotting an Intervention,” “Is Donald Trump throwing his campaign?” and that he is causing a “freak-out” by pushing the GOP to its “breaking point.”

I am transparent in my sentiments. I will not hide or conceal how I am happy that Donald Trump is causing mayhem and chaos for the Republican Party. He is a pitiable and pathetic human being. The Republican Party is the country’s largest white identity organization. I laugh and smile as the racism and bigotry that has been the name brand and driving force of conservative politics and the Republican Party since at least the end of the 1960s has summoned a monster in Donald Trump that they cannot control. The name of the iconic Japanese monster “Godzilla” or “Gojira” roughly translates into “gorilla whale” in English. This is a perfect label for Donald Trump, he who is the “gorilla whale” causing trouble for the Republican Party and movement conservatives.

Most among the chattering classes and commentariat are not so honest in their feelings about Donald Trump and the tumult he is causing the Republican Party. Some of this is a function of denial. Many of the so-called “smart people” have still not come to terms with how they so misjudged the enduring allure and appeal of Trump’s racism and bigotry in the Age of Obama. Others are still in shock about the ease with which Donald Trump jettisoned the standing norms and rules about how political campaigns and elections in contemporary American politics are supposed to be conducted. Here, one should not forget that while the Fourth Estate is supposed to be a critic and watchdog of the powerful in a democracy, they are also in bed with institutional power, enforcing its rules and norms. And there are others in the corporate news media who are complicit (if not actively in league) with Donald Trump, a man who has received at least two billion dollars in free media exposure during the 2016 presidential cycle.

Across all of those groups, there is a reluctance to admit that Donald Trump gamed and hustled them on an epic scale.

The meta game is not complicated. The American corporate news media operates within a very narrow limit of what constitutes the “approved public discourse.” Certain voices and “expert opinions” are allowed. Others are rejected as too far outside of the “mainstream.” There is an ecosystem at work which filters certain guests and viewpoints across the major networks. These guests in turn know what their assigned role is within the highly choreographed—although not often if ever explicitly stated—rules of the performance. The host moderates; “both sides” of an issue are presented; false equivalency is maintained; untruths and outright lies are allowed to go uninterrogated and exposed; the echo chamber reverberates; the commercials are then played.

The viewers are given lots of “information” but not much critical insight or real knowledge of complex events. Why? Because generalists and political insiders that the producers have access to are featured; real experts who would speak plainly and directly on the issues of the day are for the most part avoided.

This model of news coverage and presentation is utterly incapable of effectively confronting the Donald Trump phenomenon.

Donald Trump is an insider who knows these rules and decided to break them. He maintains neither a veneer of competence nor professional political acumen. Trump is a reality TV show celebrity. The “reality” in “reality TV” is itself a lie. Trump knew that he could play on emotion and his status as a “successful” celebrity to win voters. In all, he is a fantasy projection and avatar, a professional wrestling political performance artist.

Media scholar Neil Postman’s warnings about the perils of distraction, entertain, politics, and spectacle have also been shown to be prescient in terms of explaining the allure of Donald Trump. Writing at CNN, Will Bunch explains:

The amazing part is that way back in 1985 — the year Stern conquered the New York airwaves and a brash young Trump was best known for breaking apart the upstart USFL football league — one prophet predicted today’s political crisis. That prophet’s name was Neil Postman, a New York University professor and media critic. His landmark book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” predicted that schlock entertainment values would eventually strangle American democracy like a cluster of poison ivy.

Postman’s thesis was that the ominous warnings of an Orwellian future, complete with totalitarian censorship, had badly missed the mark. “Censorship, after all, is the tribute tyrants pay to an assumption that the public knows the difference between serious discourse and entertainment — and cares,” the media theorist wrote. “How delighted would all the kings, czars and fuhrers of the past and commissars of the present be to know that censorship is not a necessity when all political discourse takes the form of a jest.”

It’s unlikely that Trump has ever read “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” but his ascent would not have surprised Postman (who died in 2002).

The pollsters and statisticians are predicting that Trump will lose the election to Hillary Clinton. But of course, this hinges on how one defines “lose.” Donald Trump will likely find a way to financially profit from his political adventure, his supporters are giving him millions of dollars, his narcissism has been further expanded and fueled, and if this was all just an elaborate hustle, Trump has, in many ways, lost nothing and gained much.

But this is a bizarre political year where the normal rules have apparently been suspended. Rationality must sometimes surrender to emotion. Trump’s supporters do not care about his policy expertise or knowledge. They love Trump because he makes politics “fun” with his attacks on “political correctness,” incitements to violence, and professional wrestling style carnival barker speeches. In the era of the 24/7 cable news cycle, a public with a profoundly limited attention span–and where they receive immediate pleasure and dopamine hits from the distractions provided by their cell phones and “likes” on social media which they, in turn, use to drown out the anxieties of living in a culture of cruelty and under the neoliberal nightmare–I worry that a type of political decision-making predicated on “fun” is not an outlier.

If the American people in this moment of populist upset and rage want “fun” they will not choose the boring competence of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Donald Trump is the most entertaining thing in American politics today. Both the corporate news media and many millions of the American people know this to be true.

As the old saying goes, the big story is not when the plane lands safely but when it crashes. As such, political rubbernecking is great sport and entertainment.

Donald Trump is exploiting this fact to the maximum.

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Former CIA Chief Smacks Down Donald Trump In Clinton Endorsement

Michael Morell ripped Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for his lack of experience and relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as heendorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a New York Times op-ed Friday.

Morell held leadership roles at the CIA for over three years, serving as the agency’s acting director on two occasions during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. He lauded Clinton in the opinion piece for being “prepared, detail-oriented, thoughtful, inquisitive and willing to change her mind if presented with a compelling argument” during their shared time in the Situation Room.

Trump, on the other hand, exudes traits that “suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief,” Morell wrote.

These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.

The dangers that flow from Mr. Trump’s character are not just risks that would emerge if he became president. It is already damaging our national security.

Putin preyed on Trump’s “vulnerabilities,” currying the businessman’s favor simply by complimenting him, Morell said. Trump’s adoration of Putin, a leader with a reckless and dangerous track record, makes him “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” Morell added. He also hit Trump for his proposed ban on Muslims, saying it directly contradicts American values and undermines security.

“My training as an intelligence officer taught me to call it as I see it. This is what I did for the C.I.A. This is what I am doing now,” Morell said in the op-ed. “Our nation will be much safer with Hillary Clinton as president.”

Morell said that he isn’t a registered Democrat or Republican and that this is the first time he has come out in favor of a candidate.

“Between now and [Election Day], I will do everything I can to ensure that she is elected as our 45th president,” he wrote.

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