Trump and Clinton cement their claims to front-runner status

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TRUMP S CAROLINA

 

 

 

 

A BIG WEEK-END?

BUSH S CAROLINA LOSS
Donald Trump takes the stage in Spartanburg, S.C., last night.&nbsp;(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)</p>

THE BIG IDEA:

Good morning from GREENVILLE, South Carolina.

Marco Rubio will edge out Ted Cruz for second place in the Republican primary here. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the Florida senator received 165,881 votes to the Texas senator’s 164,790. Jeb Bush dropped out after getting less than 8 percent of the vote.

But the big stories out of last night are Donald Trump’s decisive 10-point win and Hillary Clinton’s 5.5-point victory in the Democrats’ Nevada caucuses. The billionaire and the former Secretary of State are now each in the driver’s seat, front-runners to win their party’s respective nominations. Both won two of their first three contests and are strong favorites to win the fourth (Nevada for Trump this Tuesday; South Carolina for Clinton next Saturday).

— The deeply-divided anti-Trump factions in the GOP really only have three weeks to get their act together if they’re going to stop the first-time candidate. If Donald wins Cruz’s home state of Texas on March 1 and then Rubio’s home state of Florida on March 15, it’s difficult to see how the convention in Cleveland does not become his coronation. “Let’s put this thing away and let’s make America great again,” a confident Trump said last night.

— Cruz failed to carry a single county, including here in the deeply-religious Upstate, which should be tailor-made for someone with his profile. As National Review executive editor Rich Lowry put it, “If tonight is any indication of his strength versus Trump, how is Cruz going to win any March 1 state besides Texas?”

— While Rubio got his groove back after the fifth-place finish in New Hampshire and benefits from Bush being out, it’s not at all clear which will be the first state he actually wins. Remember only a few weeks ago top people linked to his campaign were saying they could win South Carolina outright.

— “As the campaign moves soon from a series of isolated contests in single states to primary days with multiple contests across a much wider terrain, Trump holds some key advantages,” Dan Balz explains in his column today. “The principal one is that the race will become ever more nationalized, favoring someone who has shown mastery for dominating media coverage at the expense of his rivals. A second is that his coalition appears similar to that of past winners of the nomination, as he is doing better than the others among Republicans who call themselves ‘somewhat conservative’ or ‘moderate,’ rather than those who say they are ‘very conservative.’ … A third is that against a divided opposition, Trump can continue to win primaries and caucuses with less than half the vote. That could become significantly more valuable starting on March 15, when states award delegates on some version of a winner-take-all basis.”

— NBC’s Chuck Todd notes that Trump won by double digits despite defending Planned Parenthood, saying George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction as a pretense to invade Iraq and getting into a war of words with Pope Francis.

Giving Obama His Due

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OBAMA EGAN OP ED

 

From the New York Times Sat. 1/16/16…. This should start a worthwhile dialogue about the quiet impact of the unprecedented Obama Presidency.
Timothy Egan new York times Jan. 16, 2016
Op-ed

I still hold onto a couple of magazine covers and newspaper front pages, despite their preservation in the digital afterlife, marking the moment when a nation that had embraced African-American slavery chose a black man to be its president.
Barack Obama’s election in 2008 swept “away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease,” The New York Times reported. The New Yorker, with its cover of a glowing Lincoln Memorial, heralded “the resurgence of America’s ability to astonish and inspire.” They sensed “the beginning of a new era.”
You couldn’t help thinking of these trumpets of hope while watching the graying head of the president on Tuesday night. As he walked to the exit, he turned to soak in the scene of his final State of the Union address. “Let me take one more look at this thing,” he said.
By any objective measurement, his presidency has been perhaps the most consequential since Franklin Roosevelt’s time. Ronald Reagan certainly competes with Obama for that claim. But on the night of Reagan’s final State of the Union speech in 1988, when he boasted that “one of the best recoveries in decades” should “send away the hand-wringers and doubting Thomases,” the economic numbers were not as good as those on Obama’s watch.

At no time in Reagan’s eight years was the unemployment rate lower than it is today, at 5 percent — and this after Obama was handed the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Reagan lauded a federal deficit at 3.4 percent of gross national product. By last fall, Obama had done better than that, posting a deficit of 2.5 percent of G.D.P.
Still, Obama can shape only so much of his own legacy. A big part of the 44th president’s place in the national narrative will depend on what happens to the forces of darkness that were unleashed in his time — things that can’t be quantified by a government agency.

Much of the country is now more openly intolerant, quick to hate and nasty. One reaction to Obama has been the rise of an opposition party that is a home for xenophobes, defeatists and alarmists. They are the Eeyore Party with a snarl. As we heard again during the Republican debate on Thursday, Obama’s opponents are drawn to the “siren call of the angriest voices,” as Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina artfully put it. If the majority follows those voices, the Obama presidency will shoulder a sizable amount of the blame.
Is that really his fault? Did his presidency give rise to a bigoted billionaire with know-nothing followers? Part of the ugliness seems a reaction to the straitjacket of political correctness, which preceded Obama, and got worse in some corridors, mainly academia. But it may also be that the country was not ready for a transformational president; rather than sweep away the last racial barrier, his years in office showed just how deep-rooted the sentiment behind those barriers remains.

These are tricky questions, ones that cannot be answered with certainty. But give Obama, the rare politician who is prone to honest self-reflection, credit for raising the issues himself. One of the “regrets of my presidency,” he said on Tuesday, was that the “rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.”
Could Obama, with that first-class intellect to go with a first-class temperament, with that pitch-perfect sense of humor, have been a better schmoozer and deal maker? Certainly. He was never very good at hiding his condescension for Republican leaders. But that party was united in a single goal — to defeat him at every turn.

This Congress is done with him. That was as clear as the blank prairie stare on the face of House Speaker Paul Ryan. What was a dysfunctional, bickering relationship is now a divorce. Call in the lawyers. Obama could propose Grandmother Appreciation Day and not get a single vote from Republicans because, well, he proposed it.

On policy, then, Obama has been a remarkable doer, though you wouldn’t know it from the curiously inept self-promotional apparatus of his White House. The swagger we saw from this president on Tuesday — saying, “anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” and “if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change have at it, you’ll be pretty lonely” — was absent most of the last seven years.

But on the mastery of changing hearts and minds, the “ability to astonish and inspire,” he falls short. His presidency, as of now, has not been transformational. He has 370 more days, or thereabouts, to make a dent in a hard history.