For those new to this site, I have taken to calling Bill Kristol the Hari Seldon of Republican politics. For much of the 90’s and 00’s, Kristol basically ran the Republican Party. In the Bush years, he was largely responsible for crafting the Forever War strategy that came to define the Bush administration. That disaster seems to have landed him in exile, or maybe he is just re-charging his batteries, it is hard to know, but he is very much back in the game now.
Kristol is leading the charge to stop Trump from gaining the 1237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. The first part of the plan was an organized media blitz through the usual conservative media organs. The last two weeks has been a steady stream of hysterical rants about Trump and his racists extreme alt-right extremist supporters. The idea is to not only to paint Trump as a racist, but to keep him from making his points. It’s the classic game of playing defense by going on offense.
The second part of the plan was to pour all available resources into the Wisconsin primary. They had two weeks to buy off every pol, talk show host and newspaper writer. Wisconsin is one of those weird breadbasket states where being nice counts for more than being right so Trump was always going to be vulnerable there. Cruz would be the nice version of Trump and thus win the primary. The hope was that a big win would deflate Trump’s support elsewhere, thus preventing him from reaching the 1237 delegate number.
The Encyclopedists are smart so you should never underestimate them. Kristol did not become the Hari Seldon of American politics by being a fool. He’s also ruthless. A man with no loyalties outside his narrow group, who believes he is chosen by fate to orchestrate the Great Plan, is not a guy prone to letting emotion get in the way. That’s why he is willing to back Cruz for now, even though he hates Ted Cruz more than he hates Trump.
That’s the genius of this scheme. Cruz will never be the nominee. He is just about eliminated from gaining the 1237 he would need to win the nomination. That means he has to figure out how to win a second ballot convention. Kristol has been working on that since last fall and is way ahead of Team Cruz. All the talk about horse trading at a brokered convention is nonsense. The party controls the bulk of the delegates, well more than is needed to pick the nominee. The rest is just theater.
The results thus far looks pretty good for the Foundation. Kristol is surely pleased with the outcome, but he now faces the big hurdle. In April, the primary schedule is NY, CT, DE, MD, PA and RI. These are states where Trump has a massive edge over Cruz. The holy roller stuff really turns people off in these states. A month of Trump winning will inevitably beat down the Cruz support as he begins to look like a fringe candidate and a tool for the NeverTrump idiots.
I’m no Hari Seldon, but I’m having a tough time seeing how this Wisconsin win carries through a month of losing to give Cruz a chance at being competitive in May. The math says Cruz will be eliminated by April 26th, baring a miracle. His rationale for remaining in the race at that point, is to be a dick and keep Trump from winning. Maybe that’s enough for him, but I wonder if his voters will agree. History says support drops off once a candidate is no longer viable.
That means the Foundation has to think they can ignore April by shifting the conversation from Trump winning primaries to some other topic, like his inability to beat Clinton in the general. The flaw in this plan is that the Democrats suddenly have a Sanders problem. Kristol would be fine with a Clinton presidency. The Conservative Industrial Complex could raise money of it and they largely agree with Hillary anyway. Sanders winning complicates the math a bit.
Regardless, it strikes me that everything is now pointing to California. The game between now and June 7th will be to create a narrative around stopping Trump from the nomination, thus making California an important primary. To do that means two months of Trump bashing that will make the last two months look like a Trump rally. The only way the Seldon Plan can work is to marginalize Trump to the point where he can’t win the nomination so we should expect a tsunami of sewage coming from so-called conservative media.
This is where being smart beats being right. Trump is running a tightwad campaign, spending very little on TV and social media. In California, the voters expect and demand a massive air war of ads. Kristol will launch a $50 million ad campaign against Trump in California, starting in May. Trump is too cheap and stubborn to run a TV campaign to match it so the Kristol people have to be optimistic. Reagan won California in 1976, keeping Ford from getting the necessary delegates to lock up the nomination. Ford lost to Carter in the fall.
That’s the plan, forty years later.