WHO IS MERRICK GARLAND? … BUDGET MELTDOWN … TRUMP K-O, CLINTON SWEEP … BERNIE HIJACKS THE DEM PARTY … “I THINK BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN, I CONSULT MYSELF” … FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL … WHY PUERTO RICO’S FINANCIAL CRISIS MIGHT DECIDE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL RACE … and other news of the week.
House returns on Monday, Senate not till April.
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Will Stone, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kayla Baca)
WHO IS MERRICK GARLAND? President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. NYTs: “On the bench, Judge Garland has a reputation as a moderate, admired by both Democrats and Republicans, who has come down on the government’s side in a number of cases. He has not objected to the death penalty — he said it was ‘settled law’ in a 1995 confirmation hearing — and he deferred to the Bush administration on the rights of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He has been notably deferential to executive agencies and is seen as reluctant to second-guess experts. HE COULD TIP THE SCALES OF DIVERSITY … back toward Ivy League-educated white men (see chart above).
SO MUCH FOR THAT RUMOR MILLThe Hill: “Senate Republican leaders are tamping down talk in their conference of voting on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court in the lame-duck session after the elections.” FOLLOWING YOU HOME Politico: “Senate Democrats are preparing a national pressure campaign aimed at blunting Republicans’ stubborn opposition to Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, in a bid to keep the issue red hot as senators scatter across the country for a 17-day recess. The Democratic strategy … takes aim at Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and other senators up for reelection. … Dem slogan: ‘Do your job.”
FREEDOM CAUCUS SOUNDS DEATH KNELL ON BUDGET Huffington Post: “From the basement of a Capitol Hill restaurant, Tortilla Coast, Freedom Caucus members took an official position against the $1.07 trillion budget that’s scheduled for a committee vote on Wednesday.
RYAN CONFRONTS BUDGET MELTDOWN Politico: “The House Republican budget is in trouble. Speaker Paul Ryan’s Republican leadership team knows it. Most members of the House are acutely aware of it. And most of them even realize how bad it will look. … Top Republicans believe the GOP will be able to advance the 2017 budget out of Committee, but whether it will ever be able to make it to the House floor is an open question. Most aides and lawmakers involved in the process doubt it will garner the requisite votes to clear the chamber.” ANOTHER FIRESTORM FOR RYAN Bloomberg: Paul Ryan didn’t know until after he became speaker of the House that it meant he’d also be chairing the Republican presidential nominating convention in July. The sharply divisive Republican primary contest means that, instead of a largely ceremonial role, Ryan is almost certainly going to end up with the unenviable job of trying to piece back together a shattered Republican Party. Whether that task will mean trying to unite a splintered party behind an unpredictable outsider, Donald Trump, or brokering a contested convention where Republicans slug it out over possible alternatives, Ryan will likely be on the hot seat. And everyone will be watching to see whether he is trying to tilt the outcome.”
SPENDING BILLS Politico: “The House Appropriations Committee will begin subcommittee consideration of spending bills next week, a subcommittee chairman said in a brief interview. The move suggests House Republicans plan on moving forward with the appropriations process, even as the GOP is struggling to pass a budget through the House. Rep. Charlie Dent, chairman of the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, said his panel would mark up legislation next Wednesday, March 23, the first to move among the 12 panels.”
“TRUMP K-O’S RUBIO BUT FALLS TO KASICH IN OHIO” Politico: “Donald Trump knocked Marco Rubio out of the presidential race with a win in Florida but fell to John Kasich in Ohio, a split decision in the evening’s biggest delegate prizes that will drag out the Republican nominating fight – possibly all the way to a contested convention. The Ohio loss denied the business mogul the knockout blow he had hoped would make him the presumptive nominee and gave renewed hope to Republicans bent on blocking him from winning the nomination outright. But Trump again was the night’s big winner.”
AND ON THE DEM SIDE, CLINTONS PATH TO NOMINATION CLOSE TO ASSURED “Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders is now about three times what Barack Obama’s was over her in 2008,” per the NYTimes She won Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri.
Nate Cohn explains how daunting the road has become for Bernie Sanders:
“About half of all of the pledged delegates to the Democratic convention have been awarded. To prevail, Mr. Sanders will need to win from here till the finish by a 15-point margin….The next month includes numerous favorable contests: Utah, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, Wyoming and Wisconsin. But Mr. Sanders is unlikely to win by such huge margins in the delegate-rich, affluent and diverse states along the coasts like California, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. There he needs big wins to counter Mrs. Clinton’s commanding delegate lead.”
In other words, it isn’t enough for Sanders to rack up a string of victories from here on out; they would have to be very big victories that average out to a double digit advantage. That seems unlikely.
SANDERS PLEDGES TO GO ALL THE WAY TO THE CONVENTION Sanders has the money to keep going, and he has every incentive to do so, since he can continue to build his movement and in the process, maximize his leverage later.
HOW HILLARY BEATS TRUMP … AND TRUMP BEATS HILLARY. Two game plans for the bruising race we are about to see. Click here for Politico Magazine Cover Story.
And more not to miss reading: The great David Maraniss and Robert Samuels, “THE GREAT UNSETTLING: Storms brewing for decades shaped the turbulence of the 2016 campaign” – Part 1 of a 4-part series, “Looking for America”: “Each presidential campaign has its own rhythm and meaning, but this one unfolded with dizzying intensity, an exaggeration of everything that came before. It felt like the culmination of so many long-emerging trends in American life. The decomposition of traditional institutions. The descent of politics into reality-TV entertainment. Demographic and economic shifts quickening the impulses of inclusion and exclusion and us vs. them. “All of it leading to this moment of great unsettling, with the Republican Party unraveling, the Democrats barely keeping it together, and both moving farther away from each other by the week, reflecting the splintering not only of the body politic but of the national ideal. … So much of this campaign seemed to be about differing takes on what it meant to be an American.” Read Here.
HOW BERNIE SANDERS IS HIJACKING THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY TO BE ELECTED AS AN INDEPENDENT The Fix: “Asked by an Ohio voter why he chose to run as a Democrat, despite having served for years as an independent, Sanders explained his thinking. “We did have to make that decision: Do you run as an independent? Do you run within the Democratic Party?,” he said. “We concluded — and I think it was absolutely the right decision — that A) in terms of media coverage, you had to run within the Democratic Party.” (B, if you’re curious, was that you needed to be “a billionaire” to run as an independent.) It’s understandable that dyed-in-the-wool Democrats would find this annoying. Imagine, a politician so crass as to leverage the resources available to him in order to win an election! But from that standpoint, it’s worth than they think. … What’s important to note is that Sanders isn’t just hijacking the party’s processes — he’s hijacking the results. If you look at the exit and entrance polling reported by CNN, you’ll notice that Sanders consistently does far better with independents that vote in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. It’s fairly simple to figure out how much of Sanders’s support in each contest comes from independent voters. In many cases, it’s nearly half. IS THIS FAIR? To put a fine point on it: In eight of the 15 contests for which we have data, 40 percent or more of Sanders’s support came from independent voters. In at least three states — New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Michigan — those independent votes likely handed Sanders the win. SANDERS RAN AS A DEM because he recognized that blazing his own trail through the political wilderness didn’t make sense. The party — a party with which he has caucused for years — had already done that hard work. But Sanders is competitive because he has organized an Internet-based army and because he is getting huge support in primary voting from independents.” Full Article.
“After tonight, while it is clear we are on the right side, this year, we will not be on the winning side,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) when he suspended his presidential campaign on March 15, after losing the FL primary to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. (Reuters)
TRUMP THREATENS MORE VIOLENCE. THIS TIME DIRECTED AT THE GOP Trump said Wednesday that a contested GOP convention could be a disaster if he goes to Cleveland a few delegates shy of 1,237 — and doesn’t leave as the party’s nominee. “I think you’d have riots,” Trump said on CNN. Noting that he’s “representing many millions of people,” he told Chris Cuomo: “If you disenfranchise those people, and you say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re 100 votes short’…I think you’d have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.” Threats like like this could only make it harder for Senate Republicans to continue to refuse to act on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Their implicit position is that President Trump should get to pick that nominee instead, if he wins the general election, a stance that will grow increasingly untenable as Trump looks more and more likely to win the nomination, and simultaneously looks more and more crazy and reckless.” TRADE TALK, STUCK IN TIME WARP “Trump’s claims on trade, currency manipulation and manufacturing are either wrong or no longer valid. If he became president, he (and his supporters) would have a rude shock that the problems he complains about are overstated or no longer exist — and solutions such as raising tariffs might backfire. Taken together, his vision is a whopper.” (WashPost Fact Check, Glenn Kessler, gives Four Pinocchios to Trump for his rhetoric on trade.)
I CONSULT MYSELF Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he talks with consistently about foreign policy, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are,” Trump said. “But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”
THE YEAR WAS 1972, BUT IT COULD BE 2016 It’s time for me to re-read for the umpteenth time gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72” and Timothy Crouse’s “The Boys on the Bus.” For those unaware, Thompson wrote with a glass of Wild Turkey in his lap and a galaxy of multi-colored drugs in his bag, but he was keenly observant and oh- so funny! Fear and Loathing looked at the Democratic Party’s total breakdown as it split over efforts to deny George McGovern the Democratic nomination (SOUND FAMILIAR?). Boys on the Bus observes the “Pack Journalism” mentality of the reporters covering the campaign. FOUND THIS GEM (h/t Wikipedia) “Thompson was writing for Rolling Stone in 1972 and the magazine procured a first-generation fax machine (called the “mojo wire”) allowing Thompson to extend the writing process precariously close to printing deadlines” (let’s say that Thompson had an issue with meeting deadlines). Despite the unconventional style, the book is still considered a hallmark of campaign journalism and helped to launch Thompson’s role as a popular political observer. Thompson, despite his drug and alcohol stupors, pretty successfully predicted the future.
HOW WOULD HUNTER THOMPSON COVER TRUMP? WashPost: “It was 45 years ago that gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson beat his way to Las Vegas, longing for something already gone, a time when ‘there was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.’ He was writing in 1971 about the heady counterculture days of the mid-’60s, although the words could be appropriated by various ideologies this election year. Feeling out of time, his senses altered by hallucinogenic drugs, Thompson rendered a novelistic evocation of Las Vegas as the wasteland of the righteous capitalist ideal. One can only wonder what Thompson would have done with the materialization of candidate Trump.”
ONE LAST INDIGNITY: THE TEA PARTY SWIPES JOHN BOEHNER’S SEAT The Fix: “It was one of the tea party’s few highlights in Tuesday’s congressional primaries. But laying claim to former GOP House speaker John Boehner’s old seat is a big one, both for the bragging rights and the momentum it gives House conservatives in their ongoing fight to purify their party ideologically. Warren Davidson, a businessman and former Army Ranger, won a 15-way Republican primary Tuesday in the special election for Ohio’s 8th Congressional District … in a campaign that quickly became ground zero for the [Tea] party’s ongoing identity struggle in the House that Boehner used to run. … you can imagine how good it feels for the conservatives to get to say they took the former speaker’s seat, especially after spending the past few years directly challenging Boehner and, eventually, forcing him out.”
WHY PUERTO RICO’S FINANCIAL CRISIS MIGHT DECIDE THE 2016 RACE Politico Magazine In the past two years, approximately 1 million Puerto Ricans have flown north [to Kissimmee, Fl and nearby Buenaventura Lakes [two suburban cities roughly 15 miles south of the Universal and Walt Disney resorts], in search of work and stability, escaping a crippling debt crisis that has left the Caribbean island with double the unemployment of the mainland. … Their presence is likely to be felt as well in the voting booth where their citizenship gives them an opportunity to weigh in on one of the most contentious presidential cycles in recent memory.
Should the two front-runners confront each other in the general election, Puerto Ricans could play a decisive role in determining who wins this battleground state that has picked the winner in the past five presidential elections. While not allowed to vote in the general if they live on the island, Puerto Ricans can cast ballots if they reside in the mainland. Click here for full article … a fascinating read.
OBAMA’s CUBA TRIP WashPost: “President Obama’s planned trip to Cuba next week is being anticipated as an historic chance to thaw relations with Havana in almost every corner of Washington … EXCEPT CONGRESS Publicly, Congress’s biggest Cuba boosters are celebrating Obama’s visit — the first by a sitting president in almost 90 years — as a potential game-changer that could speedily galvanize public support to lift the decades-long travel ban and trade embargo keeping U.S.-Cuba relations partially frozen. But privately and pragmatically, most lawmakers acknowledge they do not expect 2016 will be the year they help the president knock down the barriers separating the U.S. and Cuba since the Cold War. Until Congress acts, the president can’t fully restore relations between the two countries, cementing that bit of his legacy. PRESIDENT CAN SEND A POSTCARD HOME Days before Monday’s groundbreaking trip to Cuba by the President, mail service has resumed between the U.S. and the island nation. Wednesday was the first time mail traveled directly between the two countries in more than 50 years. Previously, mail was delivered between the two nations, but it went through third countries.”