Cruz, Trump, & the Turning Tide

How should we analyze the voting in Saturday’s Republican caucuses and primaries? We could do it the conventional way and simply say it was a draw between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz since both won two states. That would also be the superficial way.

While I was in the Atlanta airport Saturday evening, I was taken captive by the monitor broadcasting CNN (since Atlanta is the home base for that network). I don’t normally watch CNN because I prefer actual news, but sometimes it’s good to hear what’s being said on faux news stations, if only to know what silliness is being spread around.

One commentator rather breathlessly stated that Trump’s apparent victory in the Kentucky caucuses was somehow a foothold in the South that marked some kind of important milestone for the candidate. Since I was in a public place, I refrained from laughing too loudly.

Going beyond the superficial, here’s what I see. If you look at the margins of victory for both Cruz and Trump, you see quite a difference. Cruz took 48% in Kansas, more than doubling Trump’s 23%. In Maine, Cruz had 45%, Trump 32%. Those victories were astounding, especially considering polls had shown Trump to be ahead in both states.

Ted Cruz at KS Caucus

Trump’s victories were somewhat less convincing. He took Kentucky 35-31% and Louisiana 41.4-37.8%, which is only a 3.6% spread. Again, polls had shown him well ahead, not indicating how close the races actually turned out. In fact, those who voted in Louisiana the day of the primary gave the edge to Cruz over Trump; the only reason he won was due to absentee ballots turned in weeks ago.

One wonders if Cruz would have won Louisiana if no one had been allowed to vote early. The last two debates were awful for Trump. The one last week, in particular, revealed him at his worst: making a sexual reference; changing his position on immigration (and having to “clarify” it later); and declaring that the military would obey him if he ordered it to kill women and children of terrorists (another one he had to walk back afterwards).

Those kinds of displays of waffling, budding dictatorship (interesting how they co-mingled), and vulgarity are making the more sensible erstwhile Trump supporters have second thoughts.

By the way, it’s the delegate count that matters, not how many states one wins. Trump’s delegate lead is 382-300 over Cruz. That’s hardly a done deal for the nomination when 1237 are required to become the nominee.

There’s another factor I hate to mention, but feel I must. Without Marco Rubio in the race, it is more than conceivable that Cruz would have won both Kentucky and Louisiana. Many are calling for Rubio to withdraw now, not only for the good of the Republican party but for the political salvation of the nation itself.

Rubio is determined to stay in, thinking a win in his home state of Florida will turn everything around. I’m not convinced. I don’t believe there is a viable path to the nomination for him even with a Florida win. All his continued participation is doing (and the same can be said for John Kasich—perhaps even more) is making a Trump nomination more likely.

I would be more than pleased for a Cruz-Rubio ticket to emerge from this, but in order for that to happen, there must be a meeting of the minds and a willingness on Rubio’s part to take the second spot. Or Cruz could promise him a cabinet position such as secretary of defense or secretary of state, especially since Rubio is so articulate on foreign policy.

Meanwhile, I believe Trump is becoming increasingly exposed as an easily ruffled bully who is, in his core, basically insecure. Most braggarts are. One evidence of his insecurity unveiled itself in an Orlando rally a couple of days ago when he asked his followers to raise their right hands in a pledge to stay loyal to him and vote.

Donald Trump Swear to Vote

When’s the last time a candidate felt he had to make his supposed supporters swear publicly that they will come out and vote? That’s not the action of a secure man.

I’m beginning to see the tide turn against Trump and toward Cruz. I’m rather perturbed by comments that imply the last debate was a total disaster for Republicans. Those who take that view are promoting a false moral equivalence: that all the candidates were a disaster. Not true. Only one was. Cruz, in fact, in much of the commentary I saw, even from those who are not public Cruz fans, was seen as above the fray and more strikingly presidential, seeking to explain policy rather than merely turning the tables on Trump.

I’m looking for Christian character and constitutional consistency. No one has a perfect record in that regard, but I’m convinced that Ted Cruz is the closest we have to that in this race.

Super Tuesday Results & the Way Forward

Donald Trump wins seven of eleven states and some people call the race over. Yet Super Tuesday’s results aren’t as clear as some would like to believe. Number of states won is not the same as number of delegates won—and that latter category is what determines the ultimate winner.

Trump-Rubio-Cruz

It appears that Trump now has 316 of the 1237 needed to win the nomination, while Cruz is at 226 in his delegate count. That’s not exactly a blowout at this point in the race. Rubio trails with 106. Kasich and Carson are not really in the game any more, despite what their campaigns say.

Cruz got the biggest delegate prize of the night, his home state of Texas. There are some more primaries on Saturday, and they are possible wins for Cruz as well—Kansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky. We’ll see if he can capitalize on those.

There were disappointments for Cruz last night, chief of which would be Arkansas going for Trump by about 2% over Cruz. But he did pick up Oklahoma and Alaska in addition to Texas.

Rubio won Minnesota and thought he might take Virginia, but fell short. His path to the nomination might be over, but he will pin all his hopes on his home state of Florida and try to believe a victory there will be the springboard into future successes.

However, to me at least, it seems it’s either going to be Trump or Cruz and that Cruz’s only hope is that Rubio will bow to the inevitable and graciously withdraw now. I realize that conclusion will raise the ire of Rubio’s backers, but I honestly don’t see how he can win. If he’s staking everything on a brokered convention, I think that is a mistake, and rather unlikely.

Let Me Out

Trump has turned this election cycle into a mess and has badly damaged the entire Republican brand. Some will object that the Republican establishment already damaged the brand (with which I won’t completely disagree), but he has found a way to pull the wool over the eyes of angry voters, somehow convincing them that he is a viable candidate and someone to be trusted.

Love the Suckers

The latest rumor in the rumor mill is that if Trump gets the nomination, there will be two new entries into the race, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg—who will draw votes from the Democrats—and an as-yet-unnamed conservative who will bolt the Republican party in an attempt to coalesce all those who will remain unreconciled to Trump. I am one of those.

Under that scenario, with four candidates, it’s possible that no one will be able to get the majority of the electoral votes, thus throwing the decision into the House of Representatives, as was done in the elections of 1800 and 1824. Republicans control the House, thereby making the final choice either Trump or the conservative alternative.

Interesting scenario. How feasible is it? I don’t think it’s likely, but I wouldn’t rule it out or think that it would spell the end of the republic. We’re already near that end with either a Clinton or Trump presidency. At least this scenario would offer the possibility of avoiding both of those outcomes.

But in the meantime, we are still in the primary season and, despite dire predictions Trump has it all sewed up, I’m not ready to accept that nightmare. I still believe Cruz has a narrow path he can follow, especially if Trump continues to shoot himself in the foot with his out-of-control comments and actions. There’s still time for people to wake up and see him for what he really is—the ultimate political insider with illusions of grandeur.

The Trump Takedown

How many times have I commented that Donald Trump had a bad debate, only to then see him win the vote afterwards? That doesn’t deter me. Here goes: Donald Trump was taken down more than a few pegs in last night’s Texas debate. He practically shrank in stature while standing on the stage. Now, will that translate into greater sanity at the ballot box this coming Tuesday?

Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz

The reason for Trump’s worst debate performance to date is that both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio finally figured out they needed to man up and tackle him directly. No more of this “my good friend, Donald” approach, but being brutally honest publicly about a good many of Trump’s shortcomings.

Rubio was marvelous in mocking Trump’s constant repetition of words and phrases, humorously recalling his own stumble back in the New Hampshire debate. He was quite articulate throughout on a variety of issues and showed he could stand up to Trump even when the latter thought the best policy was to reprise his role as The Constant Interruptor.

Cruz also didn’t let up. He pressed Trump on a number of points and again proved his mastery of issues. As with Rubio, Cruz didn’t back down when Trump did his best to disrupt Cruz’s comments.

Trump was his insulting self, particularly petty toward questioner Hugh Hewitt, who reminded him that he had promised, when being interviewed on Hewitt’s radio program, to release his tax returns. When Hewitt reminded him of that promise, Trump’s riposte was to denigrate Hewitt by saying his ratings are dismal.

That’s the tried-and-not-so-true Trump tactic: when you don’t have a real answer, be rude to the questioner and find a way to call him a “loser.”

For me, the most satisfactory result of this evening, besides seeing Trump being challenged and revealing his vulnerabilities, was the way both Cruz and Rubio focused on Trump and barely attacked one another. I’ve been waiting for that. For the first time, they awoke to the reality that the real problem is the man who stood between them on that stage, not one another.

Trump’s diehard supporters won’t be fazed by any exposure of their idol’s falseness. Real hope lies with those voting on Tuesday who may have had their eyes opened watching this debate. I pray there were a multitude of those.

A Choice That Is No Choice

Donald Trump wins the Nevada caucus. Polls in upcoming states are looking good for him. He’s the Republican (sort of) version of the Obama messianic complex, but perhaps illustrated differently:

Know He's Wrong

In my view, as much intellectual power is being shown in supporting Trump as Democrats exercised in their worship of Obama. And the two candidates who might have a shot at doing something about this are trying to destroy each other instead.

Car Crash

If you think this makes no sense, that means you still have some sense.

Meanwhile, on the other side, we have a candidate who ought to be prosecuted and sent to prison, but the focus of the media is not exactly on her misdeeds.

If Only

So we face a choice between a progressive, entitled, and should-be-convicted liar on one side vs. an arrogant, profane, deceptive liar on the other.

Hold Your Nose

A Trump-Clinton election choice is no choice at all.

A Personal Perspective on Evangelical Support for Trump

This is going to be a calmer post than I originally intended. My emotions ran high Saturday night with the results of the South Carolina primary. Make no mistake, I am deeply disturbed by political developments in the Republican party, but I will attempt to offer a reasonable commentary to explain my deep concern.

While Trump’s victory, in itself, is disturbing, it’s the way he won that bothers me more—with the apparent backing of a plurality of evangelicals.

Donald Trump 4According to the exit polls, Trump took about 34% of evangelical voters, while Cruz got around 25% and Rubio slightly fewer. One can always say that at least the combined tally for Cruz and Rubio was greater than Trump’s number, but just the fact that 34% self-identified evangelical Christians would vote for this man defies logic.

Perhaps logic is in short supply. Perhaps real evangelicalism is in short supply also. Perhaps the term “evangelical” has come to have so many different meanings that it is now a worthless word.

To me, an evangelical is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, committed to reflect the righteousness of God in one’s own life. A real disciple of Christ would want to see His ways permeate society, and a real evangelical Christian would never vote for a person whose lifestyle and policy positions were in direct opposition to the Biblical message of salvation and moral behavior.

Yet that is precisely what 34% of evangelical South Carolinians did.

First, let me say that I don’t necessarily accept the notion that all self-identified evangelicals are really Christians. Many are probably “cultural Christians” in the sense that they grew up in the church and still attend but have never had a face-to-face encounter with the Living Christ followed by a genuine heart change and desire to serve Him gladly.

God & GovernmentThen there are those who may be genuine Christians but who either don’t have a good grasp of how Biblical principles apply to government or who are operating out of emotion—angry over the trends they see in the nation and allying with Trump simply because he expresses their anger well.

Voting on emotion, and particularly the emotion of anger, is not the Christian way. We need to stay focused on principles and vote according to which candidates are most consistent with those Biblical principles.

I’ve said the following things previously, but the time is ripe for a reminder. If you vote for Trump, here is the man you are voting for:

  • Donald Trump has publicly stated that he can’t think of anything for which he has had to ask God for forgiveness. That’s because he claims to be a good man. This means he has no understanding of sin in his life and no desire to get rid of it. Neither does he have a clue as to why Christ laid down his life for sinners, since Trump doesn’t consider himself to be one of them.
  • Trump dumped two wives at his own personal whim when another woman appealed more to him.
  • He has boasted of having had sex with many married women. He also calls his sexual dalliances his own personal Vietnam (where he was able to avoid serving) because he dodged his own bullets of sexual transmitted diseases.
  • He built a casino with a strip club. How is that in any way acceptable to a Christian?
  • Up until recently, he was aggressively in favor of abortion, even the partial-birth variety. He says he is now pro-life, yet continues to claim that Planned Parenthood does many good things for women. He even touted his sister, a pro-abortion judge, as a possible candidate for the Supreme Court. That sister, by the way, decided a case that rejected a partial-birth abortion ban.
  • Just last week, he said he endorsed Obama’s healthcare mandate while simultaneously saying he would get rid of Obamacare, as if the mandate has nothing to do with that monstrosity. Does he even know what he’s talking about?
  • His entire campaign has been built equally on vague generalities, personal insults toward other candidates and anyone else who crosses him (e.g., Megyn Kelly), profanity-laced harangues, and phony threats of lawsuits (even a threat against Cruz using a video of Trump in his own words displaying his abortion views).
  • Increasingly, he has become an embarrassment by his over-the-top behavior at debates and rallies. He never really answers criticisms of his positions with reasoned responses. Rather, he starts yelling that the accuser is a liar, constantly interrupting and losing his temper. Is that what we should want in a president?

No one in the Republican field of candidates is more inherently contrary to a Biblical worldview than Donald Trump.

Yet he gets 34% of the evangelical vote.

This is a travesty. Those who claim to be the representatives of Jesus Christ in this woeful world need to match their words with their actions, and one of those actions is to vote according to the Biblical worldview they profess to believe in.

To vote for a man like Donald Trump is to violate one’s confession of Christian faith.

I’ve said it rather bluntly, but I will not back down despite the criticisms that may come for being so blunt. It’s time to be serious about how our faith ought to be expressed in the political realm.

Our Campaign Dramedy

With Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders in the presidential race, this campaign has taken on historic significance already—as possibly the most bizarre in American history.

First, we have a former First Lady, senator, and secretary of state who could be the first First Lady and secretary of state to end up in prison.

Clinton's E-mails

Besides that, she’s also, shall we say, a trifle greedy and disconnected from what most people experience in life:

Connect

Just this past week, she tried her hand—again—at humor that kind of fell flat as she took to barking like a dog in a campaign appearance. It was odd, almost surreal. One wonders who told her that would work. Yet perhaps she’s used to doing whatever is considered necessary to achieve her goals:

Learned to Bark

Her main opponent, outright socialist Bernie Sanders, spends all of his time telling everyone what “free” things the government will give them. With all the hubris of someone who never understood Economics 101, he boldly goes where no one ever should go. If we follow him, we can expect certain results that have been tried the world over:

Make America Greece

On the Republican side, Trump has turned what is supposed to be a serious consideration of issues into a circus, and in the process, has dazzled untold thousands by his grandiose promises, his public vulgarity, his steady stream of personal insults, and continual threats of lawsuits. It hasn’t been pretty.

Presidential

What might some of our former presidents who believed in the dignity of the office think of the current dramedy?

Front Runners

That’s pretty much what I think, too.

Political Cartoon Day: Campaign Edition

So many political cartoons, so little time and space to share them all. I’m going to try today, though. The emphasis will be on the Democrat side, but I won’t forget Republicans either.

Hillary Clinton has got to be one of the more radioactive candidates in presidential campaign history. Some Democrats are finally beginning to hear the alarms going off:

What

She thought she would waltz to the nomination, but results in New Hampshire show she hasn’t even won the majority of women, which has to be dismaying for her, since she bases most of her “appeal” on being the first woman president:

Shut Up

Yet there is some question about just how effective her husband’s support on that issue really is:

One Reason

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has surprised everyone with his appeal, which comes down to one thing only:

Free Stuff

Despite his appeal to pure-bred socialists like himself, Sanders realizes he needs to reach out to voters who might not ordinarily support him. So where does he go to win them over? To that champion of uprightness and integrity, Al Sharpton:

Black Votes Matter

Even though Sanders swamped Clinton in New Hampshire by 22 percentage points, they got the same number of delegates, thanks to Democrat party rules that include “super delegates” who can choose whomever they want. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Delegates

That would be Sanders’s philosophy coming back to bite him. Yet, despite how the game may be rigged for her, Hillary isn’t taking any chances. Perhaps she will unveil another campaign revamp. Hillary 4.0?

Revamp

On the Republican side, South Carolina may be Jeb Bush’s last gasp; that’s why he has brought in the former president to campaign by his side. Will it help?

Campaign Support

And Donald Trump keeps being Donald Trump, which is a problem in itself. His use of insults, vulgarities, threats of lawsuits, and claims of being cheated are what seem to dominate his campaign. Don’t go looking for any real substance there; you’re just supposed to feel his anger and jump on board his train wreck.

For what it’s worth, he’s pledged to stop using curse words and obscenities publicly.

Juvenile

For the record, I’m not impressed.