Now that these primaries are over, history has its eyes on you, Indiana. Do you want to give Trump the nomination, or do you want to be responsible for throwing the banana peel in his path? No one knows! The state makes it hard to collect data by banning automatic polling — the frugal pollster’s best friend — so information about what voters are thinking is scarce. And the campaigns desperately want to know that very thing. Trump probably can’t win the nomination on the first ballot without winning Indiana’s heart — which means, conversely, that winning the nomination on the second ballot becomes much harder for Cruz if he doesn’t perform well here. (See the grim, implacable logic of game theory.) The primary is only a week away, which means that residents only have to deal with overeager presidential candidates trying to shake their hands for a few days. But don’t neglect your responsibility, dear voters! The future of the election is in your hands, so maybe more than 20 percent of you can turn out this year?
Life is difficult. You’re continually ground down by the randomness of luck, hemmed in by circumstance, battered by your insecurities, hobbled by your flaws and the poor choices you can’t rescind or undo. It can be hard to raise your eyes from the muck, to look to the horizon, to want to arrive in the future enough to prepare for it. So, with all that in mind, we’ve got to take a second here to applaud candidates John Kasich and Ted Cruz for keeping the faith and leaving their hope unfurled. Because even as Donald Trump continues to stomp through the primary calendar, these two gentlemen are going ahead with the process of vetting vice-presidential and presidential candidates. This is like shopping around for places to have your wedding after the person you asked, whom you aren’t even dating, has politely but firmly declined your proposal twice. Keep your dreams alive, gentlemen. Where there’s life, there’s hope. And there’s life. For now.
John Kasich’s parents named him, simply, John, and it’s not short for Johnathan. It’s just John, a fact our team of interns/gerbils discovered when doing the background research for this edition of Winners/Losers. Also, despite the fact that his father was also named John, the former Governor Kasich is not a Jr. or a II. Despite not having a proper full first name or a generational suffix to distinguish him from his dad, John has managed to have a long and distinguished political career. That makes you a winner in our book, J.K., even if you’re getting destroyed in the 2016 GOP presidential primary by a guy nobody likes and a guy everyone likes less than the guy nobody likes.
The Grim, Implacable Logic of Game Theory
The big news earlier this week was that Kasich and Cruz made an agreement to collude to try to deny Trump the majority of delegates. Basically the idea is that they both would pull back in the states in which the other candidate was stronger, essentially conceding those states to the other candidate in the hopes of stopping Trump.
In a previous edition of this column, we talked about how if the Republican candidates were serious about stopping Donald Trump, they would need to form an alliance like this, but we also pointed out how fragile such an alliance would be, since each candidate would have a strong incentive to not follow through. And lo and behold, almost immediately after the candidates announced their pact, it began to fall apart. Both candidates failed to fully commit to the strategy, running advertising and holding events in states where they had announced they were conceding to the other non-Trump candidate. It’s hard enough to collude when fighting against the math that tells you to break your pact; it’s basically impossible when you don’t like or trust the person you’re supposed to be cooperating with.
Even worse, it appears that their supporters were understandably both confused and annoyed by this attempt to game the system. And Trump absolutely eviscerated them in this round of primaries, so: Solid effort, fellas, but you lose. Again.
North Carolinians Without Photo ID
North Carolina didn’t vote on Tuesday, but something did happen that could affect how easy it will be to vote in the state come November. On Monday, a federal judge upheld a state law that mandates that voters bring photo identification to the polls — and limits early voting and gets rid of same-day registration completely. The law was passed shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance rules were outdated, and was designed to stop voter fraud — and only the kind of fraud stopped by voter ID — which seems to only exist in the imaginations of legislators pushing for these electoral law changes. The judge said that he did not see how the law could be seen as instituting voting restrictions: “There are simply very many easy ways for North Carolinians to register and vote.”
The law was passed three years ago but only went into effect during the presidential primary this year, due to long, ongoing legal tangles. Couple the new laws with increased turnout, and the hours-long lines some voters in the state had to deal with seemed inevitable. Many other states trying out new voter ID laws for the first time this election cycle also saw long lines and confused voters.
Unsurprisingly, the plaintiffs in the voting-law case plan to appeal the decision, which means this case could end up at the Supreme Court. And given the drama going on at the High Court — or at least the drama going on in the legislative and executive branch with regard to the Supreme Court — who knows what that could mean.
When is their Trump-surrogate contract up again? It looks like Chris Christie and Mary Pat can’t deal with this much longer. The governor is clearly trying hard not to make the same face he did one of the last times he stood behind Trump at an event, a face best summed up as “Trump cast Petrificus Totalus on me and all I can move is my eyes — please save me.” Unfortunately, Christie’s alternate expression disconcertingly mirrors the one of the man in Edvard Munch’s The Scream. This expression could also be read as “Did I leave the oven on?” Either way, he still doesn’t look like he is enjoying himself.
His wife, Mary Pat, isn’t doing any better. At one point, Trump said, "I think [the] only card [Hillary] has is the women's card. She has nothing else going. And, frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don't think she'd get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she has going is the woman's card. And the beautiful thing is women don't like her, okay?” The entire time, Mary Pat was standing behind him, clearly wanting to make a series of faces — and admirably managing to only half make them.
Don’t worry, guys. There are fewer than 200 days until the election!
After Kasich and Cruz did their passive-aggressive pinky swear, Donald Trump did what he always does: insulted them in a way that sends fourth graders to take notes so they can follow his example after someone steals their Cheetos in the cafeteria. "I have never seen a human being eat in such a disgusting fashion,” he said, recounting the time when John Kasich treated the Bronx like a borough-wide buffet. “I’m always telling my young son Barron, I’m saying and I always do it with my kids. ... I would say, 'Children, small little bites.'"
He continued: "This guy takes a pancake and he’s shoving it in his mouth. It is disgusting. Do you want that for your president? I don't think so, I don’t think so. Honestly it’s disgusting.”
Nope, he’s still got more to say: "This is just a guy who's a stubborn guy who eats like a slob and shouldn't have press conferences while he's stuffing stuff down his throat.”
Trump is right. Small bites do look far classier.
The People Who Didn’t Get “I Voted” Stickers in Baltimore
Everyone knows that the best part of voting, besides democracy and whatever, is getting a sweet sticker so everyone else you see knows that you are a better citizen than they are. Unfortunately, if your election officials forget to include said symbolic adhesives in each polling place starter kit, how are you going to take part in this crucial tradition? Sorry, Baltimore!
This exact scenario happened in the city yesterday, which did not make voters happy — and even inspired a frantic Reddit thread. The election director took the blame, and said that polling-place workers could pick up stickers at HQ. “I know [the stickers are] important to me, and important to the voters,” he told the Baltimore Sun, “but I have other things of importance to deal with: making sure people can vote.”
Citizens of Baltimore deprived of a stylish electoral accessory can take comfort in the fact that they weren’t suffering alone, judging from complaints on Twitter. Stay strong, America. Hopefully this nightmare is almost over, and Obama will call for a sticker stimulus package before the general.
That Time in the Presidential Election Cycle When We Start Talking About Third-Party Candidates
Ugh, and it’s already here. During the 2012 race, we had Americans Elect, which Thomas Friedman said would do to elections “what Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies.” Since President Bloomberg is currently running for reelection and the Senate has been replaced by 100 Apple Watches, we all know that plan went swimmingly.
This cycle we have former Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei saying that someone who is too young to run for president — but was the subject of an Aaron Sorkin movie — should campaign with the Innovation Party. Even Donald Trump is in on the fun, trying to think several steps ahead of everyone else, even though everyone has already figured out what he’s trying to do.
Yes, we get it, you’re trying to see if you can split the Democratic vote. Cute. But really. Third-party candidates don’t win presidential elections. Maybe stop fantasizing and focus on the crazy history that is playing out in front of our own eyes? That you’re making so much of yourself?
So remember how a bunch of Republicans — Real Conservatives, true believers, grassroots activists, establishment politicians, pundits, party insiders, etc. — loosely banded together to declare that they would never vote for Trump? Remember how they decided that their primary goal would be to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination outright, dragging Trump into a contested convention in which they hoped to successfully deny Trump the nomination, giving it to Ted Cruz or Zombie Reagan or somebody?
They were the ones who said repeatedly that the majority of the Republican Party was against Donald Trump, that he could never reach 50 percent with Republicans nationally, and that the only reason he was getting a plurality of voters was because of a divided field and a failure of the non-Trump campaigns to collaborate. Well, Trump hit 50 percent in a national poll this week for the first time. Not only that, he just steamrolled both Kasich and Cruz, sweeping all five primaries. He was expected to win pretty handily, but he was absolutely not expected to be hovering around 60 percent. This is an unmitigated disaster for the Never Trump movement, the Republican Party, the nation at large, the world, your future children, and their children’s children.
Indiana, like we said to open the column, is the party’s last real shot at stopping Trump from getting the majority of the delegates necessary to win the nomination on the first ballot. So here are two related pieces of bad news about that! The first is that Trump is leading the polls in Indiana by a healthy margin. The second is that Trump is now consistently doing better at the ballot box than his polls indicate. This could all be over but the tears (and, like, the wall, we guess?) in a week.
Allow us to cannibalize our own content and close with this: