With Donald Trump now ahead in the Real Clear Politics polling average, it's safe to declare the "Trump bump" is real.
Since Ted Cruz left the race three weeks ago, the Donald has been busy meeting with Republican leaders, making media appearances and, by the looks of it, purposely trying to steer away from anything too controversial that might get his name in the news for the wrong reasons.
As I argued yesterday, Trump's releasing of his Supreme Court nominee list last week was a low-risk venture.
It's probably too early to say, but it looks as though Trump's advisers have finally convinced him to tone it down so as to slowly begin the process of improving his image. Trump himself said many times over the course of the primary campaign that being presidential would be "easy."
I guess "being presidential" means refraining from profanity and references to one's own anatomy in front of a national audience. I think they used to call it decorum. Such is life in 2016 politics.
Whatever the reason for his rise, Trump is clearly making headway in public opinion.
Which leaves the question: Won't Hillary Clinton enjoy the same benefits after her own race is called in her favor?
Not necessarily, writes Leon H. Wolf of RedState: "Sure, the GOP primary was even more bruising than the Democratic one, but it is well and truly over at this point. All the contestants have surrendered to Trump. None of them will be at the convention arguing loudly to their supporters that Trump only won because the rules are rigged (even though, interestingly, Bernie Sanders has gotten a larger share of the Democrat vote than Donald Trump has gotten of the Republican vote so far). Trump's presence at the convention will be an almost entirely celebratory one, and anyone who won't fall in line won't get invited to speak.
"On the other hand, Bernie is loudly telling his supporters that he is going to contest this thing all the way to the convention. And he is telling his supporters—inaccurately—that the reason he is primed to lose is because the establishment has rigged the game against him (in reality, he is losing badly in votes cast)."
Sanders' behavior of late has certainly engendered a lot of quizzical looks from diehard establishment Democrats who can't understand why he doesn't just recognize what Trump's Republican opponents did—namely, that they couldn't win—and just gracefully bow out.
It makes me chuckle every time I see a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker—and they outnumber the Hillary stickers about a hundred to one.
But Bernie has definitely backed himself into a corner with his "system is rigged" rhetoric, similar to the situation Trump created after the Colorado Republican state convention in mid-April, only Trump had the advantage of arguing from a position of strength. After all, the Donald was still the clear leader in delegates when he was making the "rigged" case and his opponents had been mathematically eliminated.
Voters were sympathetic to the message. Then came the late April northeastern primaries, and the race was all but over. Trump didn't need to rail on the system any longer, since the system had delivered him a victory.
Sanders is making the same claims as Trump, but from a position of weakness. He's behind in the overall vote count, seriously behind in delegates (thanks to the Democrats' super-delegate system), and his constant nagging about the unfairness of the system looks like sour grapes whining.
Trumped whined too. But at least he had the car keys in hand even if he wasn't yet sitting in the driver's seat.
Now Bernie's stuck. Pundit Bill Scher writes in Politico Magazine, "Sanders likely grasps the potential danger of alienating too many progressives. Despite the charges that the toxicity comes 'from the top' of the Sanders campaign, Bloomberg News reports that Sanders has personally reached out to fellow senators and given 'behind-the-scenes assurances' that he 'understands the need for party unity.' If so, Sanders may be deliberately walking a tightrope: keeping his supporters animated to maximize his delegate count and his leverage, while preparing for the eventual pivot toward compromise in Philadelphia."
As time goes on and Trump's poll numbers continue to improve, the side winds blowing on Sanders to fall off that tightrope will increase to hurricane strength. And if Sanders makes a big stink at the Democrat convention in July, I doubt we'll see a "Hillary bump" at all.
Much of this is conjecture at this point. History suggests Hillary's numbers will rise after she's officially named the party nominee (unless she's indicted, of course, but maybe even then, knowing Democrat voters). Good feelings will once again reign in Democrat-land as they pull every trick in the book to win in November and, therefore, hold onto their power base.
There's an awful lot of big-government-loving special interests that are banking on having "Crooked Hillary" in the Oval Office, dishing out favors on the taxpayers' dole.
They're not going to let a little socialist worm like Bernie Sanders prevent them from "unifying" their efforts. Sanders himself doesn't want to be remembered as the reason why big government socialism was discredited. He'll find a way to make nice.
Here's predicting Hillary will get that "bump." The question then becomes what Donald Trump will do to counter it.
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