Donald Trump’s big wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada have GOP leaders panicking. Plus Democratic strategists plan a November theme: “Be Very Afraid” … of the GOP…. (More)

“I think there’s something there”

Unless the dynamics of the WHannabe race change dramatically, Donald Trump will be their nominee in November. And that has Republican leaders in a full-blown panic. That’s why Mitt Romney – of all people, and with no apparent sense of irony – attacked Donald Trump on his taxes yesterday:

There might be a “bombshell” revelation to be discovered in Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s tax returns, 2012 party nominee Mitt Romney said Wednesday.

He also called on the entire GOP field to release their tax returns.

“I think there’s something there,” Romney said of Trump’s returns, “Either he’s not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is, or he hasn’t been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay,” Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Your World.

It’s probably true that Trump isn’t nearly as rich as he claims. For all his self-proclaimed ‘genius,’ analysts say he would have been just as wealthy today if he had simply put his inheritance in an S&P index fund back in 1970. And maybe he is cheating on his taxes.

But let’s face it: neither “He’s no smarter than the market as a whole” nor “He cheats on his taxes” will dent Trump’s image with his supporters.

“A bizarre, Occupy-esque conspiracy theory”

That may be why the National Review’s Charles Cooke calls for a ‘Manhattan Project’ attack on Trump:

For the last eight months or so, a significant portion of the Republican party’s voters have been in thrall to a bizarre, Occupy-esque conspiracy theory, which holds as its central thesis that sabotage and pusillanimity are the root causes of the Right’s recent woes. In this mistaken view, the conservative movement’s failure to counter all of the Obama era’s excesses is not the product of the crucial democratic and structural factors that prevent any one faction from ushering in substantial change, but of a lack of will or desire. Sure, the advocates of this view will concede, the shutdown of 2013 was doomed from the start, in large part because the public sided with President Obama. But if the GOP had just held out a little longer, they imagine, the “power of the purse” would have prevailed and the popular dynamics would magically have shifted. The same insistence obtains elsewhere: Sure, there is no precedent in which a second-term president willingly repeals his centerpiece legislative achievements simply because the legislature has elected to play hardball with its powers. But somehow, the critics believe, this time would have been different. Why, they ask repeatedly, didn’t the Republican party just “fight” harder?

Given how broadly this opinion is held, one would have expected the 2016 primary season to reveal a penchant for purity that redounded to the favor of a candidate such as Ted Cruz. And yet, oddly enough, quite the opposite has happened thus far. Led by Donald Trump, the most frustrated voters have instead put their efforts behind a well-telegraphed attempt to burn down the whole political edifice and reconstruct it from scratch. Because it has been imperfect, the GOP must be destroyed.

Notably absent from Cooke’s tirade is any acceptance of responsibility for demanding the impossible from Senate and House Republicans. Again and again, he and other right wingnuts told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell not to negotiate and instead to force President Obama to commit the political equivalent of hari-kiri: repeal his signature health care law, meekly sign right-wing budgets, etc. Again and again, Boehner and McConnell tried to placate voices like Cooke … and again and again, they lost both in policy and in public standing.

But I digress. After spinning a tale of conservative doom should Trump win the GOP nomination, Cooke continues:

If I sound frightened or eschatological in my tone, that’s because I am – not, pace Trump’s obsessed chorus, because I am worried about the security of my job or scared that I will lose some mythical umbilical link to Reince Priebus’s champagne parties, but because we are fighting for everything here and a plurality of the Right’s voters are sleepwalking in lockstep with the other side. How, one wonders, will future generations look back at this behavior? How will they comprehend that at the end of February 2016 under 10 percent of all super PAC spending had been trained on Donald Trump? How will they see John Kasich’s admission that he doesn’t know if he should even be president, or process that Ben Carson put the construction of his own political shopping network above the country he supposedly loved? And what will they make of the fact that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio wasted so much time pretending that they meaningfully disagreed with each other? Now is the time to throw everything at Trump, and to stop this disaster in its tracks. Will our children wonder why we were so reluctant?

Tomorrow night, as they stand on either side of Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz must find their resolve and all-but-machine-gun the man to the floor.

And he wants other Republicans to join the War On Trump:

In the meantime, conservatives who are not running for president must ensure that every spare dollar is spent attacking Trump. Melt down the fences if you have to; we need long-range bombers here. If Donald Trump can flood the airwaves with his nonsense, his opponents can counter it incessantly. And while they are at it, they can tie him up in court, just as he’s trying to do to Cruz. There are a good number of “just asking” questions ready to be put to them, among them “Trump’s mother was Scottish, can he really be president?” and “Trump ran a host of scams designed to rip off the poor; surely one of them would like to sue him?” Thus far, part of Trump’s media strategy has been to say something outrageous and then to move on before it can be rebutted or fact-checked. Why are his rivals not doing the same thing to him? Why, moreover, are the men in charge of the big guns all-but flirting with the snipers on the other side?

“Either they are too stupid to recognize it, or they don’t want to take the blame”

Balloon Juice’s John Cole offers a detailed (but not family-friendly) reply:

Either they are too stupid to recognize it, or they don’t want to take the blame, or some combination of both, but they built Trump. It was decades of these stupid mother f–ers shouting about Obama being a secret Muslim or Hillary murdered Vince Foster and Dan Burton shooting a f–ing watermelon to prove it to another melon based theory about Mexicans having calves the size of cantaloupes and women wanting to abort babies for sh–s and giggles and sending rock salt to Olympia Snowe and claiming there is no global climate change because LOOK RIGHT F–ING HERE I HAVE A SNOWBALL IN FEBRUARY or convincing America that welfare and food stamps only go to young bucks buying t-bone steaks or welfare queens with big screen tv’s or that public transportation is totalitarianism or that the main cost cutting technique of health care reform will be Death Panels or that prison makes you gay or that man and dinosaurs lived together in harmony or that women can magically abort pregnancies created by rape or that scientists are genetically creating human/mice superbrains or that agribusiness is using aborted fetuses in soda or that if gay people marry pretty soon people will be marrying dogs or that Presidents Lincoln and Washington used electronic surveillance and actually writing, promoting, and believing a fucking book that said liberalism is fascism and running this person as a Vice Presidential candidate[.]

Cole continues, and you should read it all … including Cooke’s non-rebuttal.

And Cole is right. Trump is the embodiment of everything the right wing have been talking about for decades. If Cooke and others would admit that, the Republicans might make progress. But don’t hold your breath….

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“The slogan is ‘Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid’”

And BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith reports that Democrats are planning for a bitter general election campaign:

If Hillary Clinton manages to beat Bernie Sanders, the early primaries have already revealed that there’s only one strategy for the general election against a Republican, be it Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz: Scorch the earth.

There was a scenario, which looks more like a fantasy, in which Clinton was a movement. Women in their twenties, thirties, and forties would rally to her the way black Americans rallied to Obama; she would run on her own mantle of change.

In reality, nobody is that excited about Hillary Clinton, and young voters, women and men – the foot soldiers of any Democratic Party movement – aren’t coming around. She lost a resounding 82% of voters under 30 in Nevada. Her campaign now rests on the hope that voters of color like her well enough, if nowhere near as much as they like Obama. And that means that when she faces a Republican, she will have to destroy him – something the people who will be doing the destroying acknowledged when I asked them earlier this month.

“The slogan is ‘Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid,’” said Paul Begala, who is an adviser to the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA.

“Offering an illusion, if not a lie”

In other words, she’ll have to tell the truth about Republicans, as The New Yorker’s Ed Kilgore explains:

Putting aside the questionable assertion that the Kidz – as opposed to, say, labor and LGBT folk, and great big adult-advocacy groups – are “the foot soldiers of any Democratic Party movement,” Smith is suggesting that going negative (or “comparative”) is the ugly person’s ugly alternative to the positive, inspiring kind of campaign Americans want and deserve.

But this year, at least, campaigning on the unicorns you will ride to Happyland on the cheers of millions of previously unheard Americans is, arguably, offering an illusion, if not a lie. That is indeed what Hillary Clinton keeps saying about Bernie Sanders’s message that he is uniquely capable of overcoming gridlock by conjuring up a mass movement that we’ve never seen before. Whether you agree with Clinton on that or you don’t, there is far less doubt about what Republicans will be able to accomplish if they win the White House while hanging on to control of Congress (and if the former happens, the odds of the latter are very high). A single executive order and a single (if big and very fat) budget-reconciliation bill could wipe out much of the Obama legacy in a matter of weeks. And that’s before you even get to executive-branch and judicial appointments – including perhaps multiple SCOTUS nominations – and the GOP’s own “positive” agenda of high-end tax cuts, tight money, “deregulated” fossil-fuel use, harassment of abortion and contraception providers, restricted voting rights, and (depending on the nominee) global unilateralism and adventurism.
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No matter how much both parties talk about Barack Obama this year, he won’t be on the ballot in November and thus this cannot entirely be a referendum on his tenure in office. That makes it a “comparative” election almost by definition. If your opponent looks like a ravening wolf at the door, saying so early and often might be the best way in the current environment to make yourself look pretty.

Ben Smith may call that “scorching the earth.” I call it “honesty.”

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Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill (AP)

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Good day and good nuts