Tag Archives: presidential

Rick Perry tapped to head agency he would eliminate if he could remember the name

Donald Trump wants Rick Perry to run an agency the former Texas governor would eliminate if he could only remember its name.

Trump’s latest appointment is an insult to our functioning democracy.

Putting Perry in charge of the Department of Energy is the perfect way to ensure the agency fails at everything it is charged to do, so Trump might as well just lock the doors for four years.

This isn’t leadership by Trump, it’s a reckless, dangerous decision that proves he has little interest in a functioning government and every interest in propping up his fossil fuel billionaire buddies.

Perry’s clear financial interests in major energy projects like the Dakota Access pipeline make it obvious that there’s no way he could manage the agency’s activities impartially.

His ideological obsession with promoting dirty fossil fuels and ignoring the climate crisis means he is just as unfit for this position as the other climate deniers Trump is promoting for key posts.

Americans didn’t vote for more fossil fuels, more drilling and fracking, and more pollution, but that’s what we’re getting with Perry and Trump. We strongly urge Senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for communities across the nation and oppose this nomination.

Analysis: Trump’s Machado tirade proves he’ll never be presidential

Donald Trump’s week-long tirade over former Miss Universe Alicia Machado proved one thing: He’s incapable of acting presidential.

He may surround himself with new staff and even listen to their advice for a while. He may stick to a scripted, more measured message if it looks to be working.

But he’ll always be a man/child who can’t resist lashing out with petty, offensive barbs against any perceived foe, whether it’s a judge who ruled against him or a military father whose son was killed fighting for the United States overseas. His psycho-emotional state is permanently rooted on the grammar school playground. (Although Maureen Dowd, in a column this morning for The New York Times, said his catty behavior is reminiscent of a 13-year-old girl).

Trump will always be the man who humiliated a young beauty queen about her weight, then defended his comments two decades later when Hillary Clinton raised them in a debate. And the man who  just 38 days away from potentially being elected president of the United States deepened his highly personal criticism of Machado in a pre-dawn, unhinged Twitter tirade.

“Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?” Trump wrote in a message timestamped 5:30 a.m.

There’s no evidence that any sex tape exists except in the Donald’s damaged mind. It’s just another fabrication he invented in the heat of the moment, just as he does all day long on the campaign trail.

Some voters may applaud Trump’s moves. Some may prefer his stubborn refusal to censor himself. Enough voters may ultimately elect him president.

But Trump’s pattern of pre-teen, abrasive behavior has left him deeply unpopular with many Americans, particularly women and minorities, who hold significant sway in presidential elections. If Trump does win in November, he’ll have to figure out a way to lead a country where many people believe he’s racist, sexist and uncivil.

Most Republican leaders long ago gave up hope that Trump would make a full-scale pivot into a more palatable politician in the general election. But they’ve still found ways to rationalize their support for him, to look past his most volatile moments and offensive rhetoric.

Some Republicans hinge their hopes on a belief that if Trump is elected president, he’ll surround himself with high-quality experts to help guide his decision-making. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, both of whom have their own designs on the White House, argue a Trump presidency would at least give them a chance of implementing conservative legislation in Congress, while a Clinton White House would be nothing more than an impenetrable roadblock.

But Republicans might also worry that Clinton’s ability to get under Trump’s skin so easily has provided a blueprint that world leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin could use to rile him as president. And they should have no illusions that the brash businessman can control his belligerent behavior and avoid offending many Americans.

Trump’s decades in the public eye are littered with examples of long-held grudges with business associates and demeaning comments about women. One of his first moves after clinching the Republican nomination was to start a feud with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, claiming his Mexican heritage made him biased against Trump in a legal case. Trump emerged from the party conventions this summer locked in an ugly fight with Khizr Khan, an American Muslim whose son was killed serving the U.S. Army in Iraq.

The latest controversy came at one of the most critical stages of the campaign — on the debate stage in front of a televised audience of 84 million people and with early voting already underway in some states.

Trump struggled to fend off Clinton’s criticism of comments he made about Machado two decades earlier. When Clinton accused him of calling the former Miss Universe “Miss Piggy,” he said, “Where did you find this? Where did you find this?”

Rather than let the matter go, he acted out the next morning, apparently blind to how offensive his comments seemed.

“She gained a massive amount of weight,” said Trump, who owned the pageant at the time she won. “It was a real problem. We had a real problem.”

Surely by week’s end, Trump was aware that his criticism of Machado risked damaging his campaign and giving Clinton fresh fodder to argue that he is too thin-skinned to serve as commander in chief.

That made his decision to keep the story alive all week and deepen his denigration of Machado all the more perplexing. Does he possess any self-awareness or self-control?

“Using Alicia M in the debate as a paragon of virtue just shows that Crooked Hillary suffers from BAD JUDGEMENT! Hillary was set up by a con,” Trump wrote in one of three early morning messages about the Venezuelan-born Machado, who is now an American citizen.

Clinton advisers can hardly believe their good fortune as the race barrels toward the finish line. The Democrat has struggled to persuade voters she is honest and trustworthy. And the race with Trump is far closer than most Clinton supporters expected.

But the core of Clinton’s case against Trump has always been that the Republican is too hypersensitive, offensive and ignorant to be trusted in the Oval Office. And just over five weeks from Election Day, Trump is giving her more evidence.

“When something gets under Donald’s thin skin, he lashes out and can’t let go,” Clinton wrote in her own Twitter message. “This is dangerous for a president.”

—By Louis Weisberg, based on a report by AP White House correspondent Julie Pace.

 

On a number of issues, Trump sounds like a Democrat

As he tries to charm Republicans still skeptical of his presidential candidacy, Donald Trump has a challenge: On several key issues, he sounds an awful lot like a Democrat.

And on some points of policy, such as trade and national defense, the billionaire businessman could even find himself running to the left of Hillary Clinton, his likely Democratic rival in the general election.

Trump is a classic Republican in many ways. He rails against environmental and corporate regulations, proposes dramatically lower tax rates and holds firm on opposing abortion rights. But the presumptive GOP nominee doesn’t fit neatly into a traditional ideological box.

“I think I’m running on common sense,” he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I think I’m running on what’s right. I don’t think in terms of labels.”

Perhaps Trump’s clearest break with Republican orthodoxy is on trade, which the party’s 2012 platform said was “crucial for our economy” and a path to “more American jobs, higher wages, and a better standard of living.”

Trump says his views on trade are “not really different” from the rest of his party’s, yet he pledges to rip up existing deals negotiated by “stupid leaders” who failed to put American workers first. He regularly slams the North American Free Trade Agreement involving the U.S, Mexico and Canada, and opposes a pending Asia-Pacific pact, positions shared by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

“The problem is the ideologues, the very conservative group, would say everything has to be totally free trade,” Trump said. “But you can’t have free trade if the deals are going to be bad. And that’s what we have.”

Trump long has maintained that he has no plans to scale back Social Security benefits or raise its qualifying retirement age. The position puts him in line with Clinton. She has said she would “defend and expand” Social Security, has ruled out a higher retirement age and opposes reductions in cost-of-living adjustments or other benefits.

“There is tremendous waste, fraud and abuse, but I’m leaving it the way it is,” Trump recently told Fox Business Network.

It’s a stance at odds with the country’s top-ranked elected Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who has advocated fundamental changes to Social Security and other entitlement programs. But it’s also one that Trump argues keeps him in line with the wishes of most voters.

“Remember the wheelchair being pushed over the cliff when you had Ryan chosen as your vice president?” Trump told South Carolina voters this year, referring to then-vice presidential candidate Ryan’s budget plan. “That was the end of that campaign.” Ryan was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012.

Complicating the efforts to define Trump is his penchant for offering contradictory ideas about policy. He also has taken recently to saying that all of his plans are merely suggestions, open to later negotiation.

Trump’s tax plan, for instance, released last fall, called for lowering the rate paid by the wealthiest people in the United States from 39.6 percent to 25 percent and slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent.

Trump described it as a massive boon for the middle class. Outside experts concluded it disproportionately benefited the rich and would balloon the federal deficit.

Close to clinching the nomination, Trump now appears to be pulling away from his own proposal. While he still wants to lower taxes for the wealthy and businesses, he now says his plan was just a starting point for discussions and he would like to see the middle class benefit more from whatever changes he seeks in tax law.

“We have to go to Congress, we have to go to the Senate, we have to go to our congressmen and women and we have to negotiate a deal,” Trump said recently. “So it really is a proposal, but it’s a very steep proposal.”

Trump has a similar take on the minimum wage. Trump said at a GOP primary debate that wages are too high, and later made clear that he does not support a federal minimum wage. Yet when speaking about the issue, he says he recognizes the difficulty of surviving on the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

“I am open to doing something with it,” he told CNN this month.

On foreign policy, Trump already appears working to paint Clinton as a national security hawk who would too easily the lead the country into conflict.

“On foreign policy, Hillary is trigger happy,” Trump said at a recent rally, He listed the countries where the U.S. had intervened militarily during her tenure as secretary of state and pointed to her vote to authorize the Iraq war while she was in the Senate.

Trump’s own “America First” approach appears to lean more toward isolationism. One of his foreign policy advisers, Walid Phares, recently described it as a “third way.”

“This doesn’t fit any of the boxes,” Phares said.

Clinton has advocated using “smart power,” a combination of diplomatic, legal, economic, political and cultural tools to expand American influence. She believes the U.S. has a unique ability to rally the world to defeat international threats.

She argues the country must be an active participant on the world stage, particularly as part of international alliances such as NATO. Trump has criticized the military alliance, questioning a structure that sees the U.S. pay for most of its costs.

“The best thing about Donald Trump today is he’s not Hillary Clinton, but he’s certainly not a conservative, either,” said GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus and a Ted Cruz supporter in the 2016 race, in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”

Trump looms large as Republicans gather for state convention

 

Wisconsin Republicans struggling with accepting Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee gather this weekend for the annual state convention in Green Bay, where disparate reactions to the billionaire businessman will be on full display.

While some influential Republicans in the state have yet to publicly warm to Trump and others remain staunchly opposed, still other office holders and activists are slowly coming around and say more will follow.

“People need to be able to lick their wounds, regroup, and move into the next stage,” said Brian Westrate, an activist from Eau Claire who voted for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “I do believe the party will coalesce.”

Westrate is one of the state’s 42 delegates to the national convention and will be among about 1,000 party faithful at the convention that begins Friday.

“I’m 100 percent moving forward,” Westrate said. “We are going to do everything possible to elect the conservative nominee.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker are among the state and federal elected officials who are slated to speak. Each represents a segment of where Republicans stand on Trump.

Ryan said last week that he couldn’t support Trump yet, but the two men said after a meeting Thursday they’re committed to working together. Johnson, who is in a tough re-election battle with Democrat Russ Feingold, is standing by his pledge to back whoever becomes the nominee. And Walker, who endorsed Cruz and campaigned hard for him in Wisconsin, is sticking by Trump for the general election.

Others aren’t yet on board. Prominent conservative Milwaukee talk radio host Charlie Sykes, who embarrassed Trump in an interview days before Wisconsin’s primary, remains outspoken against him. And Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, who warned that Trump as the nominee would “destroy” other GOP candidates’ chances elsewhere on the ballot, refuses to endorse him.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called last week for Republicans to get behind Trump. But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he’s still looking for Trump to offer a “Republican vision that people can rally toward.”

That’s a feeling echoed by many other Republicans.

Bill Jaeck, a longtime Republican activist and fellow delegate to the national convention from Yorkville, said he was in “discover mode” with Trump. Jaeck said it would help if Trump would say who would be in his cabinet, and who he would nominate for any U.S. Supreme Court vacancies.

Patty Reiman, a Republican activist from Whitefish Bay and a delegate to the national convention, did not support Trump but is taking another look at him out of “due diligence.”

“I am a true Republican so I do have some concerns with his stands on some of the issues,” she said.

Reiman, like many Republicans, said she was worried about how having Trump as the presidential candidate could affect other races. But she said she thinks the party would ultimately support Trump.

“I believe we will because it’s important that we do not have a Democrat in office,” Reiman said. “If our candidate is Donald Trump, he will also align himself with good people who are good conservatives. I’m confident this will all come together.”

Trump clearly has ground to make up among Republicans in Wisconsin, a state where he lost to Cruz just five weeks ago by 13 points.

In a Marquette University Law School poll taken a week before Wisconsin’s primary, 55 percent said they were uncomfortable with the idea of Trump as president — the highest negatives for any candidate. Even among Republican primary voters, 23 percent said they were uncomfortable with Trump — higher than either Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

That same poll showed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton defeating Trump by 10 points in Wisconsin.

Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

Ryan’s hometown says he’s doing the ‘best he can’ on Trump

House Speaker Paul Ryan continues to walk a fine line on Donald Trump, stopping short of endorsing the presumptive GOP presidential nominee after their highly anticipated meeting today.

Ryan described that meeting as a “positive step,” and the two men issued a joint statement calling on Republicans to “unite around our shared principles, advance a conservative agenda and do all we can to win this fall.”

Ryan’s reticence to embrace the abrasive billionaire is not likely to score points for him within his party. When the Janesville Republican began his tenure as House Speaker, he had the support of nearly 70 percent of his party. Since then, his approval rating has fallen to 40 percent among GOP voters, while 44 percent of them have turned against Ryan.

Meanwhile, the party has quickly unified around Trump. A PPP poll released on May 10 found that 72 percent of Republicans now say they’re comfortable with Trump, while only 21 percent still say they aren’t.

But it different in Ryan’s 1st Congressional District, where voters clearly have their representative’s back. In truth, few Republicans or Democrats in Wisconsin found fault with Ryan’s statement last week that he was “just not ready” to back Trump.

“I think he’s a very smart, reasonable, honorable man, who is trying to get his party organized and whole again,” Lynn Westphal, a 55-year-old nurse and self-described independent, said of Ryan.

In an interview at a Main Street café, just across from Ryan’s Janesville office, Westphal said she thought Ryan was handling the situation “the best he can.” Patty Schumacher, a 59-year-old banker and independent, agreed.

“It’s going to take a bigger push than just him,” she said.

Her sister, 61-year-old Maryanne Kessel, chimed in: “But he’s a good one to lead it.”

Ryan was first elected to the House in 1998 and represents the southeast corner of the state along the Illinois border. He was tapped to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and was elected speaker in October.

His hometown of Janesville is a Democratic, blue-collar, union city in Rock County, still reeling from the closure of its General Motors plant in 2009. The downtown has lost its vibrancy, and the main employers are now Mercy Health System, the school district and the county. The town of around 65,000 is peppered with people who are Ryan’s old high school buddies, are friends with his wife or worked on his campaign.

“What I like about Paul is he calls a spade a spade,” said Dave Dobson, who leans Democratic but said he would back Ryan for president if he entered the race. “He doesn’t play political games.”

Dobson, a siding and window contractor, poured two overflowing spoons of sugar into his coffee as he joined his friends at the counter of Citrus Cafe. MSNBC played above the bar, running coverage of Ryan telling a reporter earlier that morning that he would step down as chairman of the Republican National Convention if Trump wanted him to do so.

Miguel Maravillo, a 40-year-old worker at a Mexican grocery store in Janesville who criticized Trump’s generalizations about immigrants, said it was brave of Ryan to voice his hesitation. Maravillo said in Spanish that many people criticize Trump in private, but they don’t say it “to the four winds.”

Trump didn’t do all that well in the district, finishing well behind Ted Cruz in the state’s April presidential primary. And even the Trump supporters here had few harsh words for Ryan.

“I think we need Ryan on board, but I understand,” said Kevin Anderson, a 49-year-old welder who lives in Beloit, just south of Janesville.

In a series of interviews here, no one gave much of a chance to Ryan’s primary challenger, businessman Paul Nehlen, even though Sarah Palin boasts that she’ll oust Ryan for his disrespect toward Trump by supporting his opponent. According to a recent poll, Republican voters in his district support Ryan by 78–14 percent.

Many of Ryan’s GOP constituents said they still held out hope that Ryan would change his mind and join the presidential race. That included Anderson, the Trump backer.

“I almost wanted it to go to a contested convention,” Anderson said.

But McCann, a pharmacist who usually votes Republican, says he is holding out for a Ryan candidacy in 2020.

“I don’t think this is his time yet,” McCann said.

Louis Weisberg contributed to this story.

Trump grants permission to flout political correctness

Donald Trump’s inflammatory statements about Mexican immigrants, Muslim refugees and women who get abortions may eventually be his campaign’s undoing, some analysts say. But don’t tell that to the many supporters such as Titus Kottke, attracted to the Republican front-runner specifically because he shoots from the lip.

“No more political correctness,” said Kottke, 22, a cattle trucker and construction worker from Athens, Wisconsin, who waited hours last weekend to see the candidate in a line stretching the length of a shopping mall.

Trump is “not scared to offend people,” Kottke said. He agrees with some of the views Trump expresses but likes the fact that the candidate shows the confidence to reject the dogma of political correctness. That “takes away your freedom of speech, pretty much. You can’t say anything.”

For years, conservatives have decried political correctness as a scourge of orthodox beliefs and language, imposed by liberals, that keeps people from voicing uncomfortable truths.

Now, some Trump supporters — many white, working-class voters frustrated with the country’s shifting economics and demographics — applaud him for not being afraid to make noise about the things that anger them but that they feel discouraged from saying out loud.

“It’s a cultural backlash,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican political strategist who ran Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Millions and millions of people in this country, blue-collar people, feel that their values are under assault, that they’re looked down upon, condescended to by the elites.”

Trump rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has quit the 2016 race, are among the candidates who also have outspoken in decrying political correctness.

But Trump has made defiance of the manners usually governing politics a signature of his campaign.

“The big problem this country has is being politically correct,” he said in a debate in August, when pressed on his comments about women that brought criticism. “I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

In doing so, Trump tapped into a frustration shared even by many voters who disagree with him on other issues. In an October poll of Americans by Fairleigh Dickinson University, more than two-thirds agreed that political correctness is a “big problem” for the country. Among Republicans, it was 81 percent.

That sentiment is clear in conversations with Trump supporters.

“Let him be a man with the guts to say what he wants,” said Polly Day, 74, a retired nurse from Wausau, Wisconsin, who came to a Trump rally last Saturday in nearby Rothschild. “Should he tone down? He’ll figure that out on his own. I like him the way he is.”

At the same rally, Kottke said Trump’s rejection of political correctness is one of the main reasons he supports him, along with the candidate’s determination to improve security, protect jobs and keep Muslims out of the country.

Plenty of others agreed with him.

“Finally somebody’s coming in that has the cojones to say something and to do something,” said Ray Henry, another supporter. “I think he’s saying what a lot of what America’s feeling right now … enough’s enough.”

Trump’s flouting of political correctness has turned out to be a potent rhetorical weapon, political analysts say, but could prove troublesome.

“At its best, not being politically correct comes across as direct, unfiltered and honest. At its worst, not being politically correct comes across as crude, rude and insulting,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who previously worked for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. Trump’s supporters “may find it refreshing. That doesn’t mean they would find it presidential.”

Ayres and other analysts say Trump’s rejection of political correctness appeals to voters frustrated by the setbacks of the Great Recession and the global economy; immigration that has made the country more heterogeneous; and cultural trends such as gay marriage and measures to fight discrimination against African-Americans, which make them feel marginalized.

“This doesn’t fall out of left field,” said Marc Hetherington, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University who studies polarization and voter trust. “But what these political actors have done, Trump and Cruz in particular, is give that … worry and frustration a voice.”

That frustration was made clear in a poll by Quinnipiac University, released Tuesday, that found a deep vein of dissatisfaction among Trump supporters.

Nine in 10 questioned said their values and beliefs are under attack. Eight in 10 said the government has gone too far in assisting minorities, a view shared by 76 percent of Cruz supporters. But Trump was unrivaled in claiming the largest number of supporters — 84 percent — who agreed that the U.S. needs a leader “willing to say or do anything” to tackle the country’s problems.

Political correctness entered the American vocabulary in the 1960s and 1970s. New Left activists advocating for civil rights and feminism and against the Vietnam War used it to describe the gap between their high-minded ideals and everyday actions.

“It was a kind of understanding that you can’t be perfect all the time,” said Ruth Perry, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who wrote a 1992 article on the early history of political correctness. “It was an awareness of the ways in which all of us are inconsistent.”

As it gained broader usage, political correctness came to mean a careful avoidance of words or actions that could offend minorities, women or others, often to the point of excess. Conservative critics have, for decades, pointed to it as an enforced ideology run amok.

“I think that the American people … are sick to death of the choking conformity, the intellectual tyranny that is produced by political correctness,” said Nick Adams, an Australian-born commentator who wrote Retaking America: Crushing Political Correctness.

Adams, who has lived in the U.S. since 2009, said he believes many voters are drawn to Trump’s rejection of that correctness, and his emphasis on reclaiming individualism, identity and self-confidence stripped away by it.

At the Wisconsin rally, a number of Trump supporters offered a similar appraisal.

“We have gone overboard with political correctness, everyone backtracking on their statements,” said Chris Sharkey, 39, of Wausau, who says he chafes at behavioral strictures in his workplace, where human resource officers tell employees to avoid discussing politics.

The U.S., Sharkey said, needs to step up screening of Muslims trying to enter the country and bring back jobs employers have moved overseas — and Trump shouldn’t have to apologize for saying so.

But some observers say Trump’s appeal is less about speaking a particular truth than it is giving frustrated voters a means to vent.

“There’s this sense of angry, white working-class discontent,” said Patricia Aufderheide, a professor of communication at American University who edited a book of essays on political correctness.

“Trump has given people permission to say things out loud that are usually tucked in until after the third drink at Thanksgiving dinner,” she said. “But I think they’ve always been there.”

 

Wisconsin primary victors: Cruz, Sanders

Wisconsin forcefully asserted itself in the 2016 presidential race, with Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Bernie Sanders winning their respective primaries in the state on April 5.

“I’m glad Wisconsin turned out to be so important but I’m so glad it’s all over, you know?” said Kenosha voter Amy Harrison. “It was like so exciting, but too much ugly and too many ads and too much money.”

The national focus in the primary frenzy shifted to Wisconsin in late March. Sanders was riding high on wins in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state when his plane touched down March 26 and he rallied voters in Madison — not for the first time and not for the last.

The polls showed him with an edge over Hillary Clinton and, over time, that edge grew. On primary day, Sanders won every county except Milwaukee.

“With our victory tonight in Wisconsin, we have now won seven out of eight of the last caucuses and primaries,” said Sanders, who was in Wyoming on election night.

“Bernie’s recent string of victories proves that his message is continuing to resonate with voters across the country,” said Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org. “The political revolution that Bernie has ignited is continuing to catch fire — and can very well carry him to victory in New York.”

For his Wisconsin victory, Sanders won at least 47 delegates while Clinton gained at least 36, according to the AP.

The former secretary of state and U.S. senator spent primary day in New York. She tweeted a statement after the polls closed and results began posting: “To all the voters and volunteers who poured your hearts into this campaign: Forward!”

Cruz’s win in Wisconsin threw a wrench into Donald Trump’s drive to the nomination and prompted more speculation about a brokered convention that could lead to the selection of a non-candidate. House Speaker Paul Ryan has been mentioned as a possibility by many in the GOP leadership and Gov. Scott Walker, who suspended his presidential campaign last fall after running out of money, has insinuated he could be the nominee.

Cruz, at his rally in Milwaukee April 5, declared his Wisconsin victory a turning point for the party and the campaign.

“It is a call from the hardworking people of Wisconsin to America. We have a choice. A real choice,” he said.

With the state’s Republican forces seemingly united against him, Trump slipped and stumbled in Wisconsin through the worst week of his campaign. He first pledged unquestioning support for a campaign manager accused of battery against a female reporter in Florida and then delivered a bumbling declaration that women who undergo abortions should be punished, angering people on all sides of that issue — and quickly retracted.

The conservative Cruz collected 36 Wisconsin delegates and Trump picked up six. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose record is quite similar to Walker’s, also campaigned in the state, keeping the race from becoming a two-man contest. Kasich won no delegates.

An early analysis of the vote, based on exit polling conducted April 5 for the AP, showed Wisconsin Republicans are scared of a potential Trump presidency.

Democrats, in the exit polling, said they went with the candidate who most inspired and excited them.

The AP reported nearly 60 percent said Sanders inspires them more about the future of the country. However, more than half said Clinton is the candidate best suited to beat Trump. Three-quarters said Clinton has realistic policies, more than the two-thirds who said that of Sanders.

With the election ended, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning congratulated Sanders for his victory and both Democrats for “continuing to run campaigns that focus on the issues that matter most to voters in the Badger state and the American people.”

Voter turnout for the primary was the highest in a spring election since 1980, with a strong showing in early voting and long lines on primary day.

Voters casts their ballots at the Water Tower during voting in Wisconsin U.S. presidential primary election in Milwaukee April 5. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Voters casts their ballots at the Water Tower during voting in Wisconsin U.S. presidential primary election in Milwaukee April 5. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Trump imperils the “Cheesehead Revolution” of Scott Walker

A trio of Wisconsin Republicans — House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Gov. Scott Walker — were ushering in an aggressive brand of pro-corporate conservatism dubbed the “Cheesehead Revolution.” Their aim was to position the GOP and its billionaire donors for success in the 2016 presidential election.

Then came Donald Trump.

With the anti-Trump movement in full swing even as Trump solidifies his front-runner status in the presidential race, the focus turns to the April 5 primary in the home state of those three Republican heavyweights. They are trying to chart a course in the face of a revolt over Trump’s rise and what it means for the future of the Republican Party — and for each of them individually.

“The great plans came off the tracks with the presence of Donald Trump, both in terms of where the party would be and presidential ambitions,” said Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who ran against Walker twice and lost both times. “Donald Trump changed everything.”

The “Cheesehead Revolution” began in 2011. With Ryan rising in the House, Walker a new governor, and Priebus taking over the party apparatus, the trio represented what looked to be a unified party in a swing state that could become a GOP stronghold in presidential races to come.

But in 2012, Mitt Romney lost to incumbent Barack Obama, with Ryan as his running mate. Priebus tried to steer the party in a more inclusive direction.

In 2013, he issued the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” aimed toward an immigration overhaul and outreach to minorities, and driven by the recognition that Hispanics in particular were rising as a proportion of the population.

Now that tract is known as an autopsy report.

The recommendations put Priebus at odds with more conservative Republicans. And now, two of the three remaining presidential candidates, Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have built their campaigns not on trying to broaden the party by reaching out to Hispanics and minorities, but by appealing to evangelicals and more conservative white voters.

Priebus’ report, which was rejected by far-right Republican nationalists, “has been haunting the Republican Party” ever since its release, said Steve King, an Iowa Republican congressman who backs Cruz.

“It’s awfully hard to recover from something like that,” King said.

Trump launched his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. He’s made a border wall a cornerstone of his platform. Those positions have torn at the party’s core, contributing to efforts to stop him.

Priebus puts the best face on the chaotic campaign. He says his party is large enough to handle a variety of opinions about the best course. He cites record fundraising and voter turnout. He calls it a “miracle turnaround.”

Ryan became House speaker in October, replacing John Boehner, and his stock has risen to a point that some Republicans see him as an alternative to Trump if the nomination isn’t settled going into the summer convention. “Paul Ryan has brought about climate change there,” said King, meaning the climate in Congress, “and I mean that in a very complimentary way.” King is one of the most conservative members of Congress and revolted against Boehner for talking to the Obama administration.

Just as he refused initial calls to run for speaker, Ryan has tried to tamp down talk of being drafted as an alternative to Trump at the convention.

Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of Wisconsin’s state Assembly, said Trump’s rise has helped to put the Republican Party at a crossroads. But Vos said he still believes Walker, Ryan and Priebus are in positions to “change the face of government.”

Vos pointed to Walker’s record as governor as proof that with a “good, articulate leader,” Republicans can advance their conservative agenda, even in a politically divided state like Wisconsin. Vos endorsed Cruz on Friday.

But Walker has been struggling with public support since his failed presidential run. His approval rating in the state has been below 40 percent since last fall. His call in September for other Republican candidates to join him and drop out of the race to make it easier for others to take on Trump went ignored for months.

Walker still hasn’t endorsed anyone in the race, with Wisconsin’s primary just over a week away. He told AP he sees Trump’s popularity as an “an anomaly” that is overshadowed in significance by Republican success in governor’s races and state legislative contests for years.

“You look over the last five, six years, the story that’s had the longer impact is not who the nominee is for one presidential election but this shift that’s happened nationally,” Walker said.

Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who lost to Walker in 2010 and 2012, said the political landscape has changed for Walker and Republicans since the governor won a recall election four years ago over his battle with public-service unions in the states. “A lot of the glitter’s gone,” he said.

This story is based on reporting by AP writer Scott Bauer.

 

Super PACs spend $300 million, but fail to sway voters

Four years ago in Florida, a super PAC pummeled Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich with $10 million in attack ads, clearing him out of the race to the benefit of eventual nominee Mitt Romney.

Prior to yesterday’s primary election in Florida, attack ads rained down in the Sunshine State. PACs spent $18 million against Donald Trump, as outside groups tried to edge the front-runner off the path to the nomination.

But like so many other aspects of 2016, super PACs aren’t working out as planned.

Outside groups so far have spent roughly $300 million on the presidential race, an Associated Press analysis found. For all of that money, Trump, who has dismissed super PACs as a “crooked business,” is leading the Republican field.

And on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders deflects the big-money spending of front-runner Hillary Clinton’s allies by using their mere presence as a fundraising opportunity. That could help explain why Priorities USA, a super PAC backing Clinton, has spent just $6 million of its $50 million.

“People are kind of on to them,” Ben Carson, who recently dropped out of the Republican presidential race and now backs Trump, said of outside groups. “There’s so much at stake that people don’t have a lot of time to pay attention to silly ads, and that’s essentially what these super PACs do. They haven’t found anything useful to do.”

For the early voting states, well-funded advertising campaigns to take down Trump didn’t exist. That changed with Florida, where the airwaves were crowded with Trump-bashing ads.

One of the hardest-hitting spots called the billionaire businessman “offensive, out of control,” as it plays bleeped-out clips of him using harsh language. Another told Republican voters that Trump is “very liberal” and is “playing us for chumps.”

Still more ads ridiculed Trump’s for-profit university, his real estate company’s use of foreign workers and his delay in condemning the endorsement of a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Like so many arguments against Trump’s candidacy, the messages failed to resonate.

Trump decisively pummeled Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida yesterday, forcing him to suspend his once-promising campaign. The group that spent the most to take out Trump in Florida was Rubio’s super PAC, Conservative Solutions.

Across the country, Rubio has benefited from $64 million in spending by Conservative Solutions and a companion nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors. He’s won just three of 27 primary contests.

Rubio’s failure to launch follows that of fellow Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Rick Perry, who also couldn’t leverage millions of dollars in super PAC help. Carly Fiorina ran her entire presidential bid on the back of a $12 million super PAC, but she, too, sputtered out.

Such efforts account for the bulk of the nearly $300 million in outside spending that the AP tallied by reviewing Federal Election Commission reports and ad buys tracked by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

That’s with almost eight months to go. In the entire 2008 election, outside groups spent less than $40 million on federal politics.

The cash tsunami followed the 2010 Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, which held that spending on elections has free speech protections. That means that while the candidates’ official campaigns are limited to donations of $2,700 per election, individuals, corporations and unions can form outside groups to spend limitless amounts.

Presidential super PACs debuted in the 2012 GOP primary. In addition to hammering Gingrich, the pro-Romney group, called Restore Our Future, spent millions of dollars crushing Rick Santorum.

“We played a very vital role in that we litigated the records of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum,” said Carl Forti, who ran Restore Our Future.

That’s exactly what groups are trying to do now with Trump. The difference, Forti said, is that the ads cannot match the “overwhelming” amount of news coverage that Trump has attracted.

An earlier advertising effort to define Trump and Sanders could have worked, said Anthony Corrado, a professor at Colby College in Maine, who specializes in the influence of money in politics. But at this point, doing so plays right into an outsider’s hands, Corrado said.

“For both of them, a rising tide of money against them only reinforces their image as the guys that the Washington insiders are worried about.”

The Sanders campaign seems well aware of that.

“Just yesterday, the Clinton campaign’s largest super PAC announced hundreds of thousands of dollars in new spending in Missouri, Illinois and Ohio. And there’s more coming,” his campaign manager Jeff Weaver wrote.

He concluded by asking for $3.

 

Wisconsin taxpayers dole out $577,000 in overtime pay for Scott Walker’s security team

Taxpayers paid out more than $577,000 to nine current and former members of Gov. Scott Walker’s security team last year after a federal agency found the state had wrongly withheld overtime pay from them.

The payouts cover a period of time, from May 2013 to May 2015, when Walker frequently traveled for his presidential run, according to the State Patrol. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1WDIIUG ) reports that Walker’s campaign and political organizations paid the airfare and hotel costs of the security team during that time, but not the state troopers’ salaries.

State officials were forced to make the payments because the federal Department of Labor determined the State Patrol’s payment systems were flawed and had wrongly withheld overtime pay from the security team. It worked with the state to calculate what was owed over the two-year period it reviewed.

Four sergeants received the lion’s share in overtime payments, about $320,000 in all. Three others were paid between $62,000 and $66,000 each, one was paid about $55,000 and one was paid about $10,000.

Democratic state senator Jon Erpenbach said Walker had gotten carried away with security costs. He said he doesn’t hold the state troopers who protect Walker responsible for the big payouts.

“I think they have every penny coming to them because they were just following the governor’s orders,” Erpenbach said. “They didn’t do anything wrong. Governor Walker did.”

Members of the security team did not respond to requests for comment from the newspaper.

The team provides round-the-clock protection for Walker and occasional security for his family, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and visiting officials.