Contrary to their performance in the past 12 months, for Maryland’s primary late last month, most of the pundits, forecasters, pollsters and politicos had it right about pretty much all the races in the state. They just weren’t right enough — the winners did even better than predictions and poll numbers.
Hillary Clinton didn’t just defeat Bernie Sanders, she clobbered him by 30 points, winning 63% of the vote and every county except small Allegany, Carroll and Garrett, losing them by a combined 400 votes.
Isn’t it interesting that the Democrats, in some of the strongest Republican counties, voted for the socialist? Or that on issues like jobs, trade and Iraq, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders sound very similar?
Trump didn’t just win Maryland, he triumphed. He won 54% of the vote statewide, claiming every congressional district and county against two candidates, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, who also campaigned here. Trump gets all Maryland convention delegates on the first two ballots, and is now (most likely) the party nominee. Trump won Howard with 42% and Anne Arundel with 54%; Kasich was second in both.
Republican Congressman Andy Harris, who got 78% of the vote against three opponents, agreed Trump will be the nominee. “Bring it on,” Harris said. Like all the earlier predictions of Trump’s demise, Harris said current forecasts of a big Trump loss to Clinton will prove untrue. And their likely one debate — Hillary won’t want more, Harris said — “will be the most watched presidential debate in history.”
Manipulating the Media
Trump loves to rail against the media that he has artfully manipulated to lift his candidacy with little paid advertising and, until recently, scant staff.
“It’s so much easier to be presidential,” Trump told a crowd of 5,000 jammed into a Hagerstown airport hangar April 24. “You think this is easy? I’ve been ranting and raving. I have to entertain 18,000 — whatever the number of people we have here.”
Entertain he does, with more energy than explanation, and it is hard not to laugh at some of his more outrageous asides and insults.
“We’ve got to be a little bit careful about changing” into a more presidential style, he said, given how successful he’s been.
The current conventional wisdom — the consensus that is right much of the time — is that The Donald polls so unfavorably that he will have difficulty beating Hillary, who also polls unfavorably, though less so. Polling has found that changing unfavorable impressions of a candidate is harder than changing people’s views on an issue.
Trump has violated so many political and social standards with impunity that it is not impossible to conceive he can turn this campaign truism around. Hillary hasn’t gotten totally Trumped yet, the way Jeb Bush and so many others have been.
One of the key ways he has manipulated the media is by playing into our fondness for controversy and confrontation. Compromise and comity are boring; outrageous and unusual is what makes the news. Trump’s long years in the public eye have taught him well.
After all, what kind of show would “The Apprentice” have been if he had called in the human resources people to assist an employee who was not performing well. No way. “You’re fired,” he’d say.
Republicans, even those not fond of Trump, are coming to accept him. They already detest Clinton, whom they expect (or hope) will be indicted over the email scandal. If she’s not indicted, these “Hillary in Prison” folks think the FBI investigators will leak the worst of their findings, further damaging her.
Perhaps more troubling to Clinton is how she might handle those issues on which Sanders and Trump agree, particularly the open trade agreements which she enthusiastically supported, until recently. Trump talks about this relentlessly in every speech, even more than he talks about immigration. He leads many speeches, as he did in Maryland and Pennsylvania, with the number of manufacturing jobs that have been lost in the area and how he would bring them back.
On the Iraq war, Clinton now admits she was wrong to vote for the invasion, but it’s hard not to see that it did destabilize the entire Middle East. “The worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history,” said Sanders. And how about Libya?
Will it come down to counting the skeletons in Trump’s and Clinton’s closets, with victory going to the flawed candidate with the fewest skulls?
In the races to replace Barbara Mikulski in the U.S. Senate, Rep. Chris Van Hollen easily bested fellow Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards by 117,000 votes, 53% — fully benefitting from his dominance in money, advertising, endorsements and field organization. Edwards beat him only in the two majority black jurisdictions, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, but not by enough to make up for him trouncing her in the rest of the state.
Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga, as expected, will face him in the general election; she received 36% of the vote against a huge field of 12 men and one woman. Like Van Hollen, she had the dough and the endorsements of the entire GOP political establishment; however, unlike him, she was virtually unchallenged on TV, where she portrayed herself as a down-home, business-owning, motorcycle-riding grandma.
Szeliga said she never even met her closest rival, Chris Chafee, who received 14% support. His campaign was based entirely on roadside signs and being first on the ballot (in alphabetical order). While her serious competitors, Richard Douglas and Chris Kefalas, made the rounds of GOP political clubs and garnered just single digits, Szeliga passed on forums and all but a couple of debates, spending her time dialing for dollars.
It is no surprise that Szeliga, who has pretty conservative credentials as a delegate and a former aide to Andy Harris, will be running as a folksy outsider like the rest of us, while “leaving the country in better shape for our kids and grandkids.”
On election night, she told the crowd, “If you like the direction Washington is going, if you think we’re headed in the right direction, then I think you want to give Chris Van Hollen a promotion (followed by boos from the crowd). If you like career politicians, if you like D.C. insiders, then I think you’re gonna wanna vote for Chris Van Hollen (more boos).
“Together, we’re going to change Washington,” said Szeliga, taking Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s “Change Maryland” message to the national level.
Edwards’ Parting Shots
Democrats were upset with Edwards’ distorted attacks on Van Hollen about being soft on gun control and protecting Social Security. But with some bitterness on election night she left them with food for thought, as they rejected another black politician in favor of an older white guy, as they did in 2008, nominating Ben Cardin over former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who endorsed her.
“To my Democratic Party, let me say today Maryland is on the verge of having an all-male delegation in a so-called progressive state,” Edwards said. “When will the voices of people of color; when will the voices of women; when will the voice of labor; when will the voices of black women; when will our voices be effective, legitimate, equal leaders in a big tent party?”
School Board Shakeup
In a race described here last month, two of three incumbents on the Howard County school board lost their reelection bids against a slate of candidates backed by the teachers union and a bipartisan coalition. Only incumbent Janet Siddiqi survived, coming in fourth for three seats in the nonpartisan race. Voters could only vote for three, but six candidates go on to the general election. Why not let us vote for six?
After 10 years on the board, Ellen Flynn Giles lost her bid for a fourth term (her first term was only two years). Anne DeLacy, a former teacher’s union president, lost her bid for a second term after alienating her former school colleagues.
The principal gripe with the board members is their support for Superintendent Renee Foose, whom they granted another four-year contract, and the general feeling that Foose and the system were not communicating with the community and were not being held accountable by the board. We’ll be hearing more about that come this fall.