The Pope and Trump
Whatever were the motivations for Pope Francis’ charges launched presumably against Trump, he has certainly injected a totally unexpected voice from a totally unexpected source into campaign 2016. So surprised was Trump himself that during his Thursday night town meeting on CNN with Anderson Cooper, his push back against the Pope was to suggest that maybe the Pose’s remarks were misunderstood! The impact of this contretemps will not be seen until the South Carolina polls close on Saturday night as there will be no official polling available before then. One of the curious sidebars to this attack in a Republican campaign that already has been infused with extensive religious content, is how the Catholic candidates themselves—Bush, Rubio, and Kasich—respond to the Pontiff’s commentary; both with respect to content and to implicit Papal intercession in the American electoral process.
The Republican primary in South Carolina is presenting unexpected challenges in addition to the voice of Pope Francis. After Rubio obtained the support of many of the statewide political officials from Governor Haley down—except for Senator Lindsey Graham’s support for Bush—it seems that Rubio is being pushed to make a major comeback and strong showing in South Carolina. Similarly Bush needs to do much more than show up—and soon. Trump’s lead has declined but while he is still expected to win, besides the damage from the Pope’s remarks, he is facing a Cruz campaign which is growing more and more combative. Finally, Kasich seems to be inching up and gaining favorable responses but he is still trailing dramatically, especially financially.
Hillary does not want to lose Nevada. Bernie’s gradual move up in the polls is beginning to genuinely scare some of her supporters. If he wins, she and mainstream Democrats will be flaying around almost as much as are her Republican mainstream counterparts. If Bernie loses, it was to be expected. The true take-away from Nevada will be how much of the Latino vote moved to Sanders; especially since New Hampshire. That statistic will be the measure of whether Hillary can still count on wide-spread Latino support as she had been expecting beginning on Super Tuesday.
The fact that the President is handing-off attendance at the Scalia funeral to Vice-President Biden makes no sense and can only be interpreted negatively for Obama. This is not the funeral of a racist senator like Strom Thurmond; rather it the service for an outstanding jurist with whom Obama had very serious substantive legal disagreements but who did sat on the nation’s High Court for 30 years. The President might have taken a page from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s book; demonstrated some real character, shown up, and sat through the Mass. Unless the family specifically asked him not to attend, his absence demonstrated a level of pathetic political pettiness. Even his spokesperson appeared to be stuck with a lack of words to explain Obama’s decision. Given the political ugliness that has been exposed in the country already since Scalia’s passing as well as what is likely looming ahead, Obama should have risen above this small-mindedness and shown the nation and Scalia the proper dignity that Heads of State usually afford to important national figures.