Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Can Republicans put the brakes on Donald Trump?
Chances to prevent Trump from winning the nomination exist, but are slipping away.

So far insurgent businessman Donald Trump has been running away with the Republican primary elections. The question on the minds of Republicans is whether anyone can prevent him from becoming the Republican nominee for president.  As the nation moves toward Super Duper Tuesday on March 1, there are important differences that may act to narrow the race and put the brakes on Trump.

Game changers

The first game changer is the departure of Jeb Bush. Marco Rubio is expected to be the primary beneficiary of Jeb’s departure since the two were competing for the same pool of Republican voters. If the combined totals of Rubio and Bush from South Carolina were applied to Rubio, he would have been in a near tie with Donald Trump instead of Ted Cruz. This may have resulted in Rubio winning some delegates, which were apportioned by congressional district in South Carolina.

The second game changer is that that the nature of the primaries changes on March 1. Up to this point, second tier candidates could stay in the race and reasonably hope to win delegates because most of the primaries were based on proportional representation. If you won 10 percent of the vote, you won 10 percent of the delegates.

On March 1, that changes. Thirteen states are holding primaries and caucuses on March 1 and 10 of these states have a minimum threshold for a candidate to receive delegates. In most cases, the threshold would mean that John Kasich and Ben Carson would be unlikely to receive any delegates from most states even because they are polling at less than 10 percent. Massachusetts is the only state with a threshold less than 10 percent and Virginia has no threshold. These and the caucus states of North Dakota and Wyoming are the only states where Carson and Kasich have a chance of winning a single delegate. After March 1, they will be hopelessly behind and will probably drop out.

Who benefits from dropouts?

As the field of candidates dwindles, Cruz and Rubio have more to gain than Trump. An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll in early February asked about the second choice of Republican voters. Cruz and Rubio were the top second choices of most Republicans. Specifically, Rubio was the strong second preference of Bush and Kasich voters while Carson voters split between Trump and Cruz with Rubio running a close third. While the poll includes several candidates that have already dropped out and is slightly dated for such a dynamic election cycle, the indication is that Rubio would have the most to gain as more candidates drop out.

Trump’s weakness may be that in most cases he is restricted to about a third of the vote. Roughly two-thirds of Republicans have consistently voted against Trump and Real Clear Politics polling shows that this seems to be holding true in most upcoming primaries. For the first half of March, Cruz, Trump and Rubio could be in something close to a three-way dead heat.

Super Duper and Super Tuesdays

On Super Tuesday, March 15, there is another shift. Many primaries after this point are winner-take-all. The big prizes are Florida, Illinois and Ohio. It is fair to assume at this point that Trump will take these delegates.

In another Super Tuesday primary, Missouri is winner-take-all if a candidate receives more than 50 percent. If not, delegates are awarded by congressional district. This may be similar to Trump’s sweep of South Carolina in which he lost some counties and precincts, but won all congressional districts with less than 50 percent of the vote.

The key for Rubio and Cruz will be to seize the momentum from Donald Trump on March 1 and win large shares of delegates in the Super Duper Tuesday states. If they can make a strong enough showing to take away the sense of inevitability surrounding Trump then they may be able to build enough support to deny Trump victory in the winner-take-all states, including Rubio’s home state of Florida, beginning on March 15.

The delegate fight

The ultimate winner of the Republican nomination must win a majority of the 2,470 convention delegates. The magic number to clinch the nomination is 1,237 delegates. To put that in perspective, Trump currently has only 81 delegates after the Nevada caucuses, six percent of the requirement. Another 565 delegates are at stake on March 1.

Rubio and Cruz appear to be evenly matched with Rubio holding a slight lead in many states. The combined total of Rubio and Cruz votes is greater than Trump’s share, but it is apparent that the two are splitting the conservative, anti-Trump vote. Either would probably beat Trump if the other were to drop out, but with both in the race it is difficult, if not possible, for either to gain the advantage. At this point neither seems likely to drop out.

If neither Cruz nor Rubio is able to win the nomination outright, they may still be able to prevent Donald Trump from winning a majority of the delegates. With more than half of the states distributing delegates proportionally, splitting the delegates between the three frontrunners may mean that Trump doesn’t have the required number of delegates even if he wins most states. For example, Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses, but the victory margin was so slim that he only received one more delegate than Trump and Rubio.

Also making things more difficult for Trump is that not all delegates are up for grabs. Most delegates are bound by the results of the state primary, but a small number of delegates are unbound and free to vote for the candidate of their choosing. If the delegate race is close, the unbound delegates might be a deciding factor. The winning campaigns get to choose some delegates, but others, often party officials, automatically have delegate status. These unbound delegates would probably not vote for an insurgent candidate like Trump.

An additional wrinkle in the nominating process is Rule 40. Rule 40 requires that a candidate win at least eight states. At present it appears that this requirement would be more of a limiting factor for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. This rule was amended by the Romney campaign in 2012 and may be amended again prior to the 2016 convention.

Contesting the convention

If no candidate wins a majority of the delegates, the result would be a contested convention. In a contested convention, no candidate is nominated on the first ballot. Depending on state rules, delegates are then released to vote for any candidate and the cajoling starts. Additional votes are taken until someone is able to claim a majority.

A contested convention would most likely favor Marco Rubio although it wouldn’t have to nominate one of the declared candidates at all. With Rubio’s support from other elected Republicans and Cruz’s antipathy toward other Republicans, Rubio’s campaign would probably fare better in a contest of coalition building.

Whether Republicans can put the brakes on Trump is an open question at this point. The March 1 primaries are unlikely to settle the issue. If Trump wins high percentages of delegates on March 1 and sweeps the winner-take-all states beginning on March 15, it will be very difficult for Republicans to prevent him from winning the nomination.

Read and comment on this article at Conservative Firing Line and Freedom Daily!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why a hard line on immigration will lose the election
Amid the Republican battle on illegal immigration and deportation of illegal immigrants, the effect of immigration policy on the general election is lost. The general election will likely hinge on the outcome of a handful of swing states, most of which were won by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. In order to win the White House, the Republican candidate must flip the states of Florida, Iowa, Ohio and Colorado as well as win North Carolina, which was won by Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

The hardline stance of several Republican candidates in the primary is almost certain to make it difficult or impossible for them to win these swing states in the general election. Losing even one of these states would put Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in the White House. To understand why immigration may kill the chance of electing a Republican president, let’s take a closer look at the State of Florida.

The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, recently published estimates of the racial and ethnic composition of swing state electorates. The group estimates that the largest minority voter group in Florida will be Hispanics with an estimated 20.2 percent of the electorate. Blacks are projected to increase to 15.5 percent of voters and Asians to 2.2 percent.

Pew Research puts the share of Hispanic voters for 2016 slightly lower at 18.1 percent. In either case, the Hispanic share of the electorate is steadily increasing. Exit polling also reported by Pew found that Hispanics made up 17 percent of Florida voters in 2012 and 14 percent in 2008 so a 2016 share of 18-20 percent is realistic.

While all minority groups are growing in the state, Hispanics make up the fastest growing group. In this year’s election, minority voters are likely to make up between 35 and 38 percent of the electorate. This would be a substantial increase over the 33 percent they represented in 2008.

Who do these groups vote for? Washington Post exit polls show information specifically for Florida for the past two election cycles. As is well established, Obama won virtual unanimity among black voters with 95 percent in 2012 and 96 percent in 2008.  

Among Hispanic voters, Obama won a less commanding majority. In 2008, Obama won the Hispanic vote by 57 percent to John McCain’s 42 percent. In 2012, the total was practically the same with Obama at 60 percent and Mitt Romney at 39 percent. In Florida, Romney lost by 74,309 votes out of 8.4 million votes cast. That is a margin of 0.8 percent.

Many observers believe that Romney lost the race with a comment in a primary debate in January 2012. In that debate, Romney stated that his plan for dealing with illegal immigrants was “self-deportation.” The election could have easily turned on the feeling of many Hispanics that Romney and the Republicans didn’t like them and didn’t want them in the country.

If Hispanics respond to an innocuous remark in a debate with a landslide for Democrats, the question that needs to be addressed is how they would respond to a policy of mass deportations and the elimination of birthright citizenship. Many conservatives believe that Hispanics and other legal immigrants will back conservative candidates with a hard line on illegal immigration because they resent the illegals who don’t wait their turn. Is this belief supportable by fact?

In August 2015, a Gallup poll found that two-thirds of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Among Hispanics, support for what some Republicans call “amnesty,” runs even higher. Seventy-seven percent of Hispanics favor a pathway to citizenship for illegals.

On the issue of birthright citizenship, most Americans favor keeping the Constitution and birthright citizenship as is by a margin of 57-39 percent according to an August 2015 Pew poll. Among Hispanics, 73 percent oppose trying to end birthright citizenship.

The same poll found that 72 percent of Americans believe that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States. Only 17 percent favor a national effort to deport all illegals. The survey did not give statistics on the question for Hispanics, but did note that 60 percent of Hispanics saw an increase in deportations as a bad thing and that 46 percent were concerned that a close friend or family member could be deported.

For most Americans, immigration reform is not an important issue. Last week, Gallup found that the economy was the most important issue for most voters at 17 percent. Ten percent of voters name immigration as the most important problem, placing it in a tie for third place with jobs and unemployment.

Hispanic voters agree that the economy and jobs are the most important issues according to a Univision poll from last July. Unlike most voters, Hispanics rank immigration as another “hot button” issue.

“A lot of individuals and a lot of people in the Hispanic community feel that the extreme right-wing, anti-immigration rhetoric tends to be code for anti-Hispanic rhetoric, and that’s why it has such traction,” said pollster Fernand Amandi. He added, “On the question of a pathway to citizenship, Hispanic voters that we asked say that the majority are more likely to support a candidate for president that advocates for a position that includes a pathway to citizenship, when it comes to a comprehensive immigration reform plan.”

Using the “Swing the Vote” tool from Five Thirty Eight, we can see that a shift of the Hispanic vote by three points nationally would move Florida to the Republican column. Specifically, in 2012, Obama won Florida by 74,309 votes. That means that flipping only 2.6 percent of Florida’s Hispanic vote would have flipped the state to Romney.

Winning 43 percent of Hispanics should not be an unattainable goal for Republicans. George W. Bush won 44 percent of Hispanics nationally as recently as 2004. Chris Christie won the Hispanic vote outright in New Jersey, a solidly blue state, in 2013.

The immigration vote will be important in other swing states as well. Colorado has a Hispanic electorate that, at 15 percent in 2012, is almost as large as Florida’s. Virginia and Ohio have fewer Hispanics, but have large immigrant populations, many of whom are naturalized and can vote. These voters can be reasonably expected to oppose candidates with policies that they perceive as anti-immigration and unfriendly.

The American Immigration Council estimates that almost five percent of Ohio’s population are immigrants. About half of these Ohioans are naturalized and eligible to vote. About two percent of Ohioans were Hispanic. This is 60 percent of Obama’s margin of victory in 2012.

In Virginia, the AIC statistics show that immigrants make up 11 percent of the population. About nine percent of these are Hispanic. Again, half of these Virginians are US citizens who are eligible to vote. Again, this is more than half of Barack Obama’s margin of victory.

Almost all swing states have Hispanic and immigrant populations that could easily be decisive in the 2016 general election. By focusing on the divisive issue of immigration rather than topics that unite voters against the Democrats, Republican candidates may be making it impossible to win the election in November.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Marco Rubio gay arrest story debunked

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

An article began making the rounds on the internet this week alleging that Marco Rubio had been arrested for soliciting a gay prostitute in a Miami park in 1990. If true, the allegations could shatter the campaign of the Republican candidate who is currently surging in the polls.

The story, published on a website called The Political Insider, further claims that Angel Barrios, one of the teens arrested with Rubio that night, was later implicated in a gay porn ring. The article also contains a photo of a “gay foam party” with an arrow pointing to a man that is allegedly Marco Rubio. The Political Insider “bombshell report” concludes with a video from Infowars that makes many of the same allegations.

The Political Insider piece is based on two articles, one from the Washington Post and another from the Miami New Times. The article gets some details of Rubio’s 1990 arrest right, but omits and misrepresents crucial facts that are readily available in the same sources that Political Insider cites. It is true that Marco Rubio was arrested in Wainwright Park in Miami with two friends on May 23, 1990 when he was 18 years old. Political Insider paints this arrest as being connected with gay prostitution and implies that there was no other reason to be in the park at night, but neither original source makes these claims.

According to the Post story, a local homeowner association cited complaints about the park including “gang warfare, gunfire, prostitution (straight and gay), drug dealing and muggings.” The Post also quotes Delrish Moss, a Miami police public information officer, as saying, “It was very dark and had lots of trees. People went out there to smoke illegal substances, have sex, drink.” The Political Insider ignores everything except the gay prostitution angle.

Todd Harris, a spokesman for the Rubio campaign, told the Post, ““When he was 18 years old, he [Rubio] violated a municipal code for drinking beer in a park after hours. He was never taken into custody, never hired a lawyer and never appeared in court. Why The Washington Post thinks that is a story is beyond me.”

In response to the Rubio campaign’s response, The Political Insider breathlessly notes that “the police incident report never mentions alcohol!” The reason is explained in the Post article. The arrest was for the misdemeanor offense of being in the park after it was closed. The Post further explains, “There’s no indication that Rubio was involved in any illegal activity other than drinking beer and being in a public park after closing. The police incident report, which does not mention alcohol, states that drug activity was ‘not applicable.’” The misdemeanor charges were later dropped.

The Political Insider goes on to say that Angel Barrios, one of the boys arrested with Rubio that night, “was sued for running a gay pornography studio in a property his company owned.” The Insider quotes the Miami New Times which says that “Barrios was associated with perhaps the most notorious gay porn ring in Miami history….” Pretty damning guilt by association, right?

Not exactly. At the time, Barrios owned a property management company which rented a house to the firm that produced the porn. Barrios is quoted in the same article that the Insider cites as saying, “We are not in the gay porn business. We are not in the straight porn business. We are not in the porn business. My poor father, he had no idea what was going on in there.” The report continues, “Barrios says that he moved quickly to force the business out and that the gay porn site was gone within six months.” The incident occurred in 2007, 17 years after Barrios’ arrest with Rubio.

The New Times report goes on to say that the City of Miami sued Barrios and Cocodorm, the porn company, for illegally operating an adult business in a residential area. Barrios and Cocodorm countersued. Eventually the city waived the fines against Barrios and removed a lien from the house.

“They [Cocodorm] offered to pay all the attorneys' fees if we sued the city,” Barrios explained to the New Times. “I was looking at these huge civil citation fines from the city for something I had nothing to do with. So I was happy to let them go to court to try to get rid of these fines.”

Barrios denied that he and Rubio had a sexual relationship. “I have nothing against gay people, but this is just so far from the truth,” he said, “I have kids, and now they’re reading all this garbage online. It’s insane.” The New Times reported that Barrios “laughs out loud at the idea of having had a sexual relationship with Rubio.”

Neither source presents any evidence that Rubio and Barrios had any contact after the 1990 arrest.

Barrios did talk about the arrest and his friendship with Rubio in the Post. Barrios says that, while in school, they “were just messing around and partying. Trying to get pretty girls.” Barrios did not recall why they were at the park that night. “We never even used to go to that area,” he said. “That might have been the first time I went there.”

He also said, “I don’t think we got handcuffed and taken to jail.” Instead, they got a “piece of paper.” The Post describes this as a “promise to appear” in court, but Barrios said, ““I don’t think we even ended up going to court.” The Post notes that the charges were dismissed two months later and that “record searches turned up no evidence that mug shots were taken.”

As to the foam party, on the Jimmy Fallon Show Marco Rubio did talk about going to a foam party once, but there was no indication that it was a “gay foam party.” Rubio indicated that he did not enjoy the foam party since the foam ruined his boots, a tacit indication that he was clothed, unlike the men in the Political Insider photo.

The Insider links the picture to a gay website called Not mentioned by the Insider is Towleroad’s description of the picture: “Another photo shows a gay foam party at the ’90s South Beach gay nightclub Warsaw Ballroom, and show’s a man’s profile which Madsen says ‘is believed to be’ Rubio. The face is obscured, so it really could be anybody” [emphasis mine].

An additional photo on Political Insider allegedly shows Rubio dancing in what the New York Observer called a “Chippendales performance” when it published the photo in April 2015. The Insider does not provide any context for this photo, but far from being a strip club act, the picture was taken at an annual male talent show at South Miami Senior High School in 1989. The Observer identifies Rubio and the other dancers as members of the school football team, the Cobras.  Rubio also performed a rendition of “Still” by Lionel Ritchie. He did not win the title of “King Cobra.”

One final question is who “The Political Insider” really is. The site makes no pretense of objectivity with its claim that “we break down the barriers employed by the government and the liberal media….” To underscore the site’s pseudonews status, the byline of the Marco Rubio article is an anonymous handle, “Kosar,” not the actual name of a writer. The terms and conditions page of the site invites submissions and makes no mention of journalistic standards, editorial supervision or basic fact checking.

The information presented in this article is readily available. Much of it came from the same sources that the Insider linked in its piece. If a reader bothers to click the link and read the articles from real news sources, the truth is readily apparent. Instead, The Political Insider selectively quoted and misrepresented the real news accounts.

[An attempt was made to contact The Political Insider for this article, but no response was received. I have elected not to provide a link to the original article to avoid driving traffic to a fake news story. Caution should be exercised in visiting The Political Insider site. My computer got slow every time I went to the site.]

Rubio’s previously undisclosed arrest is a legitimate issue. Just prior to the 2000 election, news broke that George W. Bush had a previously undisclosed arrest for DWI in 1976. Bush had been leading in the polls, but the news of the arrest was enough to sway the popular vote to Al Gore.

Even though Rubio’s arrest was real, the charge that he is a closeted homosexual is unsupportable by fact. The article from Political Insider is nothing more than a very thinly veiled attempt to destroy Rubio’s character and standing in the conservative community.