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Do Democrats Not Understand 2020 Voters?

Historically, we Americans have been among the world's most optimistic people. Why? One reason could be that every American, with the exception of those whose ancestors were already here when Columbus arrived or those whose ancestors were brought here in chains, is either herself an immigrant or the direct lineal descendant of immigrants. To be an immigrant — to leave family, friends and familiar places; to dare to strike out across the sea or the continent to a foreign place; to live among people you have never seen; to speak a language you have never heard — is an act requiring enormous human courage. But being an immigrant is also a testament to optimism that here, in this blessed country, we are free to improve our lives and the lives of those who follow us.

That special American optimism has influenced our political choices of national leaders. Even after a president sorely disappoints us, we somehow remain confident that we will find in the next leader the qualities missing in the flawed predecessor. Think about it: Richard Nixon, after serving in the U.S. House, the Senate and two terms as Dwight Eisenhower's vice president, may have been our most experienced and credentialed president. After the criminality and corruption of Watergate and Nixon's resignation in disgrace, in the next election came former one-term Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, lacking in Washington experience and promising never to lie to the American people.

But Carter, a conscientious, intelligent and honorable man facing economic problems, seemed to change his mind a lot. So, in 1980, voters, looking for the opposite, chose the ideological leader of the nation's minority party, Republican Ronald Reagan, who had not changed his mind since 1962.

President George H.W. Bush, who essentially "won Ronald Reagan's third term," faced rough economic seas in his reelection, and when the president appeared confounded by an electronic scanner at a grocery checkout counter, voters doubted their president understood the hard times they were enduring. Enter Democrat Bill Clinton telling voters "I feel your pain." Voters found the empathetic, connected leader they were then looking for.

After eight years of Clinton, by a 2-to-1 margin, American voters judged their nation to be "headed in the right direction," and the president enjoyed a 65 percent favorable job rating. Yet an electorate, disappointed and angry by disclosures of the president's lies, self-indulgence and adultery in the White House, responded to George W. Bush's promise to "restore dignity to the Oval Office."

You get the point. So, what about 2020? When the Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll asked Americans whether Donald Trump has "the right temperament to be president," by more than 3-1, voters said no. When asked whether Trump was "knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency," voters again answered no by 2-1. On being "steady and reliable," voters answered no by 2-1, and on "dealing with an international crisis," Trump received a 2-1 negative response from the voters. American voters are exhausted from the controversies, the outbursts, the haranguing and the intemperance which have characterized this presidency.

So, what do the Democratic candidates in their last debate before Super Tuesday do? They bicker; they shout; they talk over one another; they yell —- exactly what the voters do not want in 2020. The only two exceptions from this vantage point were the two former mayors, Pete Buttigieg and Mike Bloomberg, who lowered the emotional thermostat and spoke in audible but not relentlessly abrasive language. Believe me; voters in 2020 are not looking to replace Donald Trump with a Democratic version of the incumbent. We want someone who has demonstrated competence, knowledge and maturity. We want someone who does not need to be on Twitter, on TV and in our faces 24/7. We're looking for what's missing — not for more of the same.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

3 Things To Tell Anyone Thinking About Voting For Donald Trump

Donald Trump is a “genius.” That’s the message delivered by Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie after an anonymous source mailed a tax return that shows Trump’s $916 million loss in 1995 means he could have avoided paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.

This leads to a few questions.

If he weren’t a genius, how much more than a billion would he have lost in 1995? Does that mean that the tens of millions of Americans who do pay taxes are huge dummies? Trump has spent much of his campaign suggesting that he may not defend NATIO allies who don’t pay their fair share. Does this mean he will now give up his Secret Service detail? And if this loss is proof of Trump’s genius, why not show us all his tax returns to drown us in his brilliance?

Maybe because he hasn’t paid any taxes since 1977, as David Cay Johnston has suggested for over a year?

None of these questions or answers will likely convince Trump’s diehard Beliebers to abandon Donald.

They believe he’ll be ruthless for them and they also tend to believe things like Obama is a gay Muslim, Michelle Obama is a man, and their two kids were kidnapped to be used as props. Let’s just try to convince these people to keep their heads above the sneeze guard at the salad bar. There aren’t nearly enough of them to elect him president.

But there are millions of undecided Americans who are considering Trump or a third-party vote that could end up electing Trump. And the exposure of Trump’s massive yet legal scam to avoid taxes presents an opportunity to explain why a vote for Hillary Clinton — the best and singular option for defeating Trump — is necessary to stop Trump.

What Trump’s huge loses and massive gains through the tax system show is that a rich kid who was born into a system built to benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else can’t really fail.

Trump’s ego is too big to fail, but his lies aren’t. He’s selling America empty promises the way he sold creditors on his failing casinos and the same way hucksters have been selling time-share and Ponzi schemes forevermore.

Yes, America needs improvement. Workers need raises. People in inner cities need better infrastructure and schools. No one should avoid the doctor for fear of the bills. These are real fears that Trump exploits. And his solution is simple: Give me power.

“You have 40 days until the election,” he told a crowd of supporters last week. “You have 40 days to make every dream you ever dreamed for your country come true.”

If your dreams are of an America where billionaires get more tax breaks, where Wall Street is unleashed to do exactly the same things it did to crash the economy last time, where polluters can wreck the climate and expect you to pay for it, then Trump is the Wizard of your Oz. But for Americans who lived through the Great Recession, we don’t need a George W. Bush-style economy combined with a trade war that could slice 10 to 12 percent from your retirement savings.

When the rich have never been richer, no one should be suggesting transferring trillions more to the rich. We should be asking them to pay more to rebuild America, as Clinton does. Trump will only make life easier for them.

We all want respect. But Trump is using that basic need to play us as suckers.

So before it’s too late, here are three things you might consider telling a potential Trump supporter.

1.He think rich guys don’t have to follow rules.
Trump’s big argument is that by using the system to get workers to subsidize him, he knows how to make it work for you. The problem with this claim is that he’s refusing to separate himself from his businesses even if he wins. They won’t be in a blind trust, but will likely be run by his daughter and will always have his name on them. He is his businesses and has never shown any ability to put anyone else’s interest above his own. He doesn’t feel the need to honor his sacred responsibility to this country or even the contracts he signed with the hundreds of workers who depended on his word. Instead, again and again he’s shown that he doesn’t think he needs to follow the law or even the basic constraints of decency. He rants against outsourcing after outsourcing everything he could put his name on. He rants against immigrants even though he hires them over citizens and won’t even clarify his own wife’s path to citizenship. He’s using “strategic racism” to bring out the rage in his supporters, while engaging in almost everything he preaches against. And there’s no evidence that would change should he become president.

2. His biggest fans would be his biggest victims.
Reminder: Immigrants didn’t bundle bad mortgages and crash our economy costing us millions of jobs. Rich guys like Trump did. So why does Trump want you so fixated on immigrants at a time when illegal border crossings and crime are near a generational low? Because then you won’t think about the real crisis America faces. Immigrants who want to pay taxes help the economy while billionaires who avoid them, help to gut it.  “Perhaps no group bears more responsibility for the plight of the middle class than billionaires,” Richard Eskow reports. “An IMF study confirms that increasing inequality, especially at the very top of the wealth and income scale, is weakening economic growth.” The people who are especially hurt by inequality are Americans who don’t have college degrees. Their working-class parents — buoyed by strong labor unions and liberal governance that demanded the rich pay taxes — found an economy where they could prosper and retire. Workers today can expect no such hope without higher education. These older workers make up much of the Trump base and have seen their hope of raises diminish along with union membership. Now Trump fans see their kids, who are likely to equal their parents’ educational level, unable to compete. It’s the Trump Trap. Conservative economics built it and Trump is using it to scam the right’s biggest victims.

3. He’s cruel.
Trump’s politics of dominance require him to shame anyone in his way. This worked perfectly in the GOP primary, but as president it would mean we’re being led by a man who is in a never-ending war with his insecurities. Trump needs to defend his ego from every slight and sees criticism as a threat to his identity. This seems to provoke him to unleash unspeakable cruelty over and over. He lusts for war — and then lies about that lust as soon as it might hurt his image. But it’s his personal cruelty that should most terrify voters. “He willfully causes pain and distress to others,” The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf writes in an article ripe with example after example, from the ruthless mocking of women’s looks to cutting off the medical care of a nephew who developed cerebral palsy. “And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust.”

Yes, Americans love winners.

But even more than winners who ruthlessly dominate their opponents, we love winners who are willing to give up power — leaders who know that the public good matters more than their private interests.

Look at the classic example.

When George Washington handed back his commission as commander in chief to Congress in December of 1783 after leading the colonies to independence from England, he vowed to return to his farm and never hold public office again.

The man whose forces Washington has just defeated, King George III, couldn’t believe it.

“If he does that,” the king reportedly said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

Washington did do that.

He only returned to public service when the loose bonds of the Articles of Confederation evolved into a new Constitution, requiring a chief executive who could be trusted not turn himself into a king. And then Washington willingly gave up power again, after two terms.

From our Republic’s birth, America has depended on leaders who saw beyond themselves and imagined a nation moving ever closer towards the founding promise that the powerless matter just as much as the powerful.

Trump is a man who feeds on personal power — and expecting that addiction to disappear when he’s the most powerful man alive doesn’t just threaten our peace and prosperity. It threatens the greater ideal America has always aspired to.

IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 1, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar


Ted Cruz Might Not Need Trump Supporters

By Nathan L. Gonzales, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON—Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is poised to absorb Donald Trump’s supporters when the billionaire exits the race for the GOP presidential nomination, according to one of the campaign’s most common narratives. But how many Trump supporters are open to supporting another candidate?

The quickest analysis of the Republican race divides candidates into distinct establishment and anti-establishment lanes, including lumping Trump, Cruz, and Ben Carson supporters together as a monolithic force that is interchangeable between the candidates.

Unsurprisingly, the situation is more complicated.

Trump and Cruz have found success in Republican race by railing against the Republican establishment and there is a tendency to couple their fates because of their outsider message. But part of Trump’s appeal is his personality and profile, as evidenced by a December CNN piece, “Trump supporters’ second choice? Trump.”

“There isn’t anybody else,” 47-year-old Sean Hadley told CNN at a Trump rally in Des Moines, Iowa. “Everybody else is bought and paid for, no matter what party.” Trump supporter Ernie Martin also said he didn’t have a second choice because he didn’t trust any of the alternatives because “they’re all connected to Washington.”

Cruz might be able to attract some Trump supporters with his rhetoric and policy positions, but he can’t change who he is — a sitting senator, a politician — and who he is not — a successful businessman and celebrity.

In some big ways, Cruz is not identical to Trump — a larger than life candidate who people hope can bring about change and fix what’s broken in the country through sheer force of personality, as Yahoo’s Jon Ward wrote after spending time talking with Trump supporters in line for a rally last month.

Of course, that evidence is anecdotal, but not necessarily irrelevant. And Trump’s support in the polls is undeniable, as is the possibility that he leaves the race before winning the nomination. But identifying precisely how many Trump supporters are amenable to Cruz is challenging.

“We are fighting to be their second choice,” one Cruz ally told Roll Call about Trump supporters. “We have a majority of his second choice voters. If he does drop, we, by a majority, are the beneficiary.”

A mid-December automated poll of Iowa Republican primary voters by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic company, backed up that assertion and showed that 36 percent of Trump supporters said Cruz was their second choice. Carson was second with 14 percent while none of the other candidates cracked double digits. Another 14 percent said they were “undecided” on the second choice question.

But, even though Trump outpaced Cruz 28 percent to 25 percent on the primary ballot in that PPP survey, a potentially more important question is whether Cruz needs Trump supporters at all.

According to the Cruz loyalist, the Texas senator is well-positioned in Iowa on Feb. 1 in a lower turnout scenario that includes Republicans who have participated in previous caucuses, without any current Trump supporters.

For example, a December poll by Selzer & Co. for The Des Moines Register showed Cruz with a 31 percent to 21 percent advantage over Trump in the Hawkeye State, followed by the rest of the field.

But Trump performs better in higher turnout scenarios when the pool of participants includes Republicans who have rarely or never participated in a caucus before, and thus deemed unlikely to vote.

“If turnout is up a little bit, we like where we are,” according to the Cruz source. “If it’s up a lot, it starts to get much stronger for Trump.”

Part of that confidence stems from Cruz’s effort (and not just Trump’s) to attract Republicans who haven’t previously been involved. The Carson campaign is appealing to casual Republicans as well.

Of course, the race in Iowa, and subsequent states, will come down to turnout, including Trump’s ability to get those infrequent or new Republicans out to vote.

“We still have a significant number of voters that are unlikely to turnout,” said the Cruz supporter. “He just has more of them than we do.”

©2016 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidates businessman Donald Trump (L) and Senator Ted Cruz (R) pose together before the start of the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada December 15, 2015. REUTERS/David Becker 


A New Data-Mining Technique To Uncover New Hampshire Influencers

By Sasha Issenberg, Bloomberg News (TNS)

In recent weeks, as Ben Carson began to slip in national polls of the Republican presidential primary field, volunteers at New Day for America, the super PAC backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich, began calling Carson backers in New Hampshire who might be open to Kasich as a second or third choice. But these weren’t just shots in the dark. They were equipped with a target list of voters identified as social anchors — people who are particularly influential within their personal networks, based on information culled from yearbooks, church lists, sports rosters, and other sources nationwide.

The list was prepared by Applecart, a New York-based data company that specializes in taking social-network analysis offline. Rather than merely looking for relationships validated on sites like Facebook and Twitter, Applecart is using a variety of sources to build its own map of the analog links between Americans. The idea is to help campaigns identify the voters who are likeliest to shape the attitudes and opinions of others around them, and then work to engage them as supporters. Applecart’s approach upends the logic of volunteer campaigns, in which campaigns look outward from the supporters they already have; instead, Applecart’s system starts with the targets they want to reach and then moves back to find people who are connected with them. “What we’re talking about is not finding that Rihanna is probably influential to my 19-year-old female cousin, but that the one person in her community whose name no one knows yet is influential (to her) because they went to high school together,” says Sacha Samotin, 24, one of Applecart’s founders.

Samotin and two classmates began the company three years ago as undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania, meeting as research assistants to John DiIulio, a prominent political scientist who once served as adviser to George W. Bush. Under DiIulio’s guidance, the trio embarked on a project to take the sort of social-media targeting that was then in vogue — that year the Obama campaign developed a pioneering app called “Targeted Sharing” — and apply it to those who had not agreed to open up access to their online friend lists, or were not even active on Facebook at all. (A recent Pew analysis showed the generational cohort most likely to be Republicans was aged 69 to 86.)

Applecart executives are coy about its methods for retrieving the underlying data, although they hint that it stretches from labor-intensive work like library visits nationwide to scraping of websites, such as law-firm directories that inventory co-workers. Samotin says Applecart has developed processes around this work that it is currently seeking to patent.

On Applecart’s “social graph” of New Hampshire, each voter is treated as a node in a network with each of their known contacts webbed around them. (Around a dozen voters in the state were found to be “hermits,” with no meaningful interpersonal links.) Nuclear family, extended family, friends, professional acquaintances, and non-professional acquaintances are each assigned different statistical weights, then mixed with other values such as geographical proximity to calibrate a “connection score” between the voters in question. “A coworker who lives on the same block as a Manchester voter would be in a different category than a coworker who lives in Nashua,” says Samotin.

One application of such mapping was validated last year, when Applecart mimicked a classic 2006 experiment in which political scientists at Yale sent Michigan residents copies of their own voting records, along with those of their neighbors, with a threat to send out an updated notice after that year’s primary marking who had cast a ballot. Turnout among those who got the mailer increased 8 percentage points, the largest effect ever produced by a single piece of direct mail. When Applecart analysts replicated the experiment, they replaced neighbors’ vote histories with those whose names were likely to be personally familiar to the recipient. In one southern state that had competitive statewide elections last year, the “socially inspired” approach increased turnout among recipients by 14.6 percentage points.

An intimate approach to grass-roots politics is essential to Kasich, who has increasingly banked his campaign on a strong showing in a state where the difference between finishing in eighth place and third could be as few as 20,000 votes. Applecart was sought out by the pro-Kasich super PAC in part because — unlike outside groups backing Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz — it wanted to develop the type of volunteer-based field activities that others have left to the candidates’ own organizations. “So many companies use data to overcomplicate politics,” says New Day chief strategist Matt David. “We’re trying to use data to leverage existing relationships to find Kasich supporters, and then turn them out.”

When volunteers arrive at New Day phone banks either in New Hampshire or Kasich’s political base of Columbus, Ohio, they are given call sheets prioritized by who the voters know. The targets are prospective “anchors,” those whom statistical models have identified as open to Kasich (even as a second or third choice) and also whose connection scores showed them as likely to be interacting with others. The idea is to convert these anchors into de facto campaign surrogates. “It doesn’t take too many people who are connected to a persuadable target to say nice things to them about John Kasich,” to start to close the deal, says Matt Kalmans, a 22-year-old co-founder of Applecart.

Outreach to party and elected officials, who are usually approached on a candidate’s behalf by other elites, follows a similar logic. “One of the strategies we’re using is instead of going directly to the (person from whom they’d like an endorsement) we go to the people around them and try to push them,” says New Day political director Dave Luketic. “That’s incredibly important because one of the metrics they use is: can this guy run a good campaign?” This is one area where the super- PAC is at a particular disadvantage, given that it is legally forbidden to directly communicate with the organization that secures endorsements. “We just set ’em up and the campaign knocks ’em down,” Luketic says.

©2015 Bloomberg. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Governor John Kasich speaks at the debate held by Fox Business Network for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Hauck