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Diplomacy in Action

The Florida and Ohio Primaries: State of the Race in Two Key Battleground States

Allan Lichtman, Professor of American Political History, American University
Washington, DC
March 14, 2016




Date: 03/14/2016 Location: Washington, DC Description: Washington Foreign Press Center briefing with Allan Lichtman, Professor, American University. - State Dept Image

2:00 P.M. EST

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you for participating. On behalf of the Washington Foreign Press Center, I want to welcome our speaker today, Allan Lichtman, American University professor of history and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster. Today he’s going to talk about the Florida and Ohio primaries and the state of the race in two key battleground states. Without further ado, here is the professor.

MR LICHTMAN: Thank you very much. This current politics seems to have baffled all of the pundits, but those of you who might have listened to my foreign press briefing a few months ago know that I’m not surprised at all by the rise of Donald Trump on the Republican side, and I want to talk first about the Republicans. Why has Donald Trump been able to not sweep away the opposition, but become the frontrunner in what looked like a very strong Republican field? There are several reasons why.

First of all, Republicans are angry at their own party. They see their party in control of both the United States House and the United States Senate but not accomplishing anything in terms of their particular goals, whether it be cutting back on government spending, deporting undocumented immigrants, taking a tougher stand on ISIS – they don’t see government responding to their particular concerns.

Secondly, Donald Trump is tapping into something that runs deep in American history, and that is the fear of foreign influences. He has played on that fear throughout his campaign, and we’ve seen this for hundreds of years of American history. In the early 19th century, it was fear of the Irish, then fear of the Germans, then fear of the Jews, then fear of the Hispanics, now fear of the Muslims. Somehow, America – at least a segment of it – has always been able to find a scapegoat for discontent and stir up popular opposition to that particular scapegoated group. Of course, all of these fears have proven totally unfounded as all of these peoples have integrated themselves into America and become important contributors to American life and American society, but Trump plays into that historic tradition in the United States.

Third thing that is powering Trump is that he seems authentic. He says a lot of things that maybe other candidates on the Republican side believe but are simply afraid or too timid or too scripted to say. Trump seems like the authentic candidate who directly plays into the beliefs of a segment of the Republican base – a significant segment.

And, of course, he has played on something else, and that is violence and fear of violence. And that has really dominated the headlines in recent days. Well, that is nothing new in American politics. We saw another maverick politician – George Wallace, the former segregationist governor of Alabama, who ran as an independent candidate in 1968 and ran very strongly – also provoking demonstrators, talking about the violent demonstrators, saying if any demonstrator lay down in front of his automobile, that would be the last automobile they would ever get in front of. And indeed, at some of the George Wallace rallies we saw some violence breaking out. Richard Nixon in 1970, during the midterm election campaign when he was President, deliberately let protestors into his rallies so he could denounce them as thugs and bums and misfits and un-Americans, and violence broke out in late October at one of his events, where demonstrators threw eggs and rocks at his motorcade. So this playing on violence, the fear of violence, blaming it on others is nothing new. Again, Trump is playing on something we haven’t seen very recently in American politics but certainly is there.

And so the big question is: How will Trump fare in the big winner-take-all primaries? By winner-take-all, we mean whoever wins these primaries gets all the delegates – close to 100 in Florida, close to 70 in Ohio – and right now it looks like Trump is going to win Florida. He is going to beat the sitting senator from Florida, if you believe the polls, Marco Rubio, and that will do two things. Number one, it will essentially knock Rubio out of the race. He will not be viable if he loses his home state. And it will give Trump a very big delegate lead even if he loses Ohio to another favorite son candidate, the sitting governor, a much more popular figure in his state than Rubio is in Florida, Governor Kasich. And even if he loses Ohio, winning Florida will be a huge boost, and he’s also likely to win the North Carolina primary and to be highly competitive in Illinois.

So the most likely outcome is Donald Trump will pad his delegate lead going into the next round of primaries, that Rubio will be out of the running, Kasich will either be out of the running if he loses Ohio or dangling on life support, since he really doesn’t have much beyond Ohio. Ohio would be his only win, and that would essentially leave the Republican contest down to a battle between Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, with Trump having a big advantage.

Now, a lot of Republican establishment figures like Mitt Romney are saying, well, Trump may not get the 1,200-plus delegates he needs for an outright majority at the convention, and even if he’s leading, maybe deals could be made at the convention to deny him the nomination. I think that’s a fool’s errand. If Trump is coming in with a clear lead and the Republican Party denies him the nomination – denies the popular choice the nomination – it’s going to rip the party apart and it may even lead to Donald Trump running a third-party campaign. He said he wouldn’t do that, but as we know, politicians change their minds all the time.

The Democratic side actually surprises me a little bit more. I did not predict that Bernie Sanders would be dogging the heels of Hillary Clinton this late into the primary season. I did not see the win coming in Michigan, which gave his campaign new life and now seems to be making him competitive in three states of the five: Ohio, which we talked about; Missouri; and Illinois. Clinton seems to have Florida pretty well wrapped up and North Carolina pretty well wrapped up.

The difference, of course, is that neither Florida nor Ohio on the Democratic side, unlike the Republican side, is – are winner-take-all primaries. They are proportional primaries, and that works to the disadvantage and advantage of Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner. It works to her disadvantage because, if Florida were winner-take-all – it’s the big prize, has the – by far the most delegates – she’d likely win all of those delegates. As it is, she has to share them. But the proportionality of the Democratic primaries works to her advantage because she already has a big lead: 200-some-odd pledged delegates, 700-some total delegates when you count the superdelegates – party officials and elected officials who choose their own candidate. She has a huge lead, and given that the Democratic primaries are proportional, it’s essentially mathematically impossible for Bernie Sanders to catch up.

So in essence, Bernie Sanders is the best friend the Republican Party ever had, because he can’t win the nomination but he can make life difficult and painful for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats by prolonging this fight. The last time the party holding the White House, as opposed to the opposition party, like the Democrats in 2008 – the last time the party holding the White House survived a major nomination struggle, a neck-in-neck struggle and still won the presidency, you have to go back two centuries to James Garfield, the Republican candidate, in 1880, who won the popular vote by one-tenth of 1 percent. So if Sanders makes this race close, the only folks that will help will be Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, the two likely Republican nominees. I’ll stop here and take your questions.

OPERATOR: Gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press * and then 1 on your touchtone phone. You’ll hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. Once again, to ask a question please press * and then 1.

MR LICHTMAN: Please ask them to speak slowly and loudly.

OPERATOR: And our first question comes from the line of Marta Torres with La Razon Newspaper, [Spain]. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello and good afternoon.

MR LICHTMAN: Good afternoon.

QUESTION: So then do you see Donald Trump in the White House?

MR LICHTMAN: (Laughter.) That’s a very difficult image for me to conjure up, isn’t it. But it certainly not impossible. There is one scenario that could produce a Donald Trump presidency. That is he wins Florida and Ohio and maybe one or two other primaries tomorrow and then will and truly be the unstoppable Republican nominee. If he racks up the two winner-take-all primaries and does well in others, he’s going to have an insurmountable lead and either will come in with a majority or so close to a majority that they can’t take the nomination away from him.

He still would not be favored to beat the Democrats, unless Bernie Sanders made this a very close, bitter, and protracted race that went on for months and months and months. Then that would greatly hurt the Democrats and open up the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency.

QUESTION: Can I ask another question?

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

QUESTION: So what is happening to these elections? Because I see that the candidates who are running are – they most unpredictable candidates. We have Hillary Clinton, which is not very popular in part of the country. Then we have Bernie Sanders, who says things that I’m not very well seeing in part of the voters. Maybe he – what he says can appeal to European voters, but some of the things he says in the U.S. are very questionable. And then we have on the Republican side Donald Trump, then Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and all of these people who are not supposed to there. They’re preferable runners but who are there.

MR LICHTMAN: Well, I think you’re right. I think on the Republican side in particular – so I want to talk about first – the establishment favorite, the early favorite, is not even in the race anymore, and that is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of an American president, George W. Bush, and the son of an American president, George H.W. Bush. It is a testament to the tremendous discontent that’s running through a lot of the Republican base that Jeb Bush couldn’t even make it through the first round of primaries. Despite huge money advantage, despite big spending on his behalf, he faded away. And except for Marco Rubio, who’s likely to disappear tomorrow, you have two leading Republican candidates, neither of whom represents the Republican establishment.

Obviously, Donald Trump in every way is running against the Republican establishment. And the Republican establishment, the leaders of the party, the senators, the governors, the officials of the Republican National Committee – for the most part, they despise Ted Cruz. They see Ted Cruz as unscrupulous, self-centered, simply advancing his own interests and not at all concerned with the welfare of the party. It’s of great significance that I believe this late only one or two of his Republican colleagues in the Senate have even endorsed him.

On the Democratic side, I think a lot of people were surprised of the resonance of Bernie Sanders’ message. As popular as Barack Obama is among Democrats, I think a lot of Democrats feel that he hasn’t really played to the Democratic base, which is as left wing as the Republican base is right wing, and Bernie Sanders is appealing to that base in a way that Hillary Clinton has been unable to do. So it’s not so much Bernie Sanders himself, as he seems to have hit a real sweet spot with the kind of message for a political revolution, because a lot of Democrats are just as unhappy, for totally different reasons, as are a lot of Republicans.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

OPERATOR: We have a question from Christoph Gisiger with Finanz und Wirtschaft, [Switzerland]. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello, this is Christoph. I have a question about the possibility of a contested convention in Cleveland for the Republicans. Could you maybe go into a little bit deeper into that optional possibility?

MR LICHTMAN: Yes. A contested convention is extremely rare in modern history. It used to happen all the time, but starting in the 1970s both parties changed their methods for selecting delegates to the nominating conventions. Prior to that time, some delegates were selected by the party bosses behind closed doors; some were selected in open primaries and caucuses. But starting in the ’70s, both parties adopted a system whereby all the delegates, with the exception of superdelegates that were added on later, are selected in open processes, primaries or caucuses. And the result has been, in the modern era, typically nominations are wrapped up well before the convention.

There have been a few exceptions – 1976, most notably, when it was unclear whether the sitting incumbent president Gerald Ford on the Republican side or his challenger Ronald Reagan had a majority of delegates. But that was resolved at the first ballot. What we haven’t seen since the 1950s, since 1952, ’48, is a real contested convention where nobody wins on the first ballot because nobody has a clear majority and there’s bargaining and horse-trading and perhaps someone other than the candidate with the largest number of votes can emerge. Because after the first ballot, delegates can be traded any which way. They’re not held to any given pledges.

As I said, though, there’s a real danger if that happens for the Republicans that if Donald Trump does come in not with a majority but with a commanding lead and they deny him the nomination, that could rip apart the party and even lead Donald Trump to run as a third-party candidate, say on the Constitution Party ticket. He said he wouldn’t do that, but as we know, politicians are very changeable.

QUESTION: Very interesting. What are the probabilities that something like that could happen, in your point of view?

MR LICHTMAN: Well, I think we’ll know a lot more tomorrow. If Donald Trump wins Florida and Ohio, I think that’s not going to happen. I think he’s going to be the nominee, just – he’ll have just too big a delegate lead and too much momentum. If, in fact, he wins Florida, loses Ohio to Kasich, loses Illinois to Cruz, then I think there’s a real possibility of a contested or brokered convention, because that probably won’t give Donald Trump enough momentum to gain the 1,200-plus delegates that he needs to have an outright majority or even put him close.

So tomorrow night may well decide what’s going to happen at the Republican convention.

QUESTION: Interesting. Just one more question, if you allow.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

QUESTION: What does it mean, like, just in the city of Cleveland – do you think that there that maybe we’re going to see some more chaos and maybe even --

MR LICHTMAN: I wouldn’t be surprised. I would not be surprised if it’s a real bitter fight between Donald Trump and the stop-Donald-Trump campaign. I hope not. We haven’t really seen violence at a convention since 1968. I certainly hope not. But Donald Trump has proven to be a great inciter of violence, and hopefully he won’t do that at the convention, but nothing is impossible.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

OPERATOR: Question from Morten Bertelsen with Norway’s business daily [Dagens Naeringsliv]. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks for doing this, professor. I really appreciate it.

MR LICHTMAN: My pleasure.

QUESTION: Very interesting. I’d like to go back to the contested convention again.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

QUESTION: And what makes you so certain that the party will not try to take away his – nominating Trump --

MR LICHTMAN: Oh, I think they might. I didn’t say they wouldn’t. I think they might well, but I said it would have dire consequences for the party if they did that, presuming he had a big lead but not a majority. Let’s say he had 1,100 delegates and Cruz had 800 and several hundred more were scattered about the other candidates. In that case, if they denied him the nomination, I think it would rip apart the party. I think a lot of Trump supporters would be very disillusioned, particularly those he pulled in from the independent ranks I think would desert the Republican Party. And it’s even possible Trump could latch on to, say, the Constitution Party or some other third party and run his own campaign. He said he wouldn’t do that, but I wouldn’t hold him to that. You can see Rubio and Kasich are already backing off their promises to support whoever the Republicans nominate.

So I’m not saying they won’t try to wrest the nomination from Donald Trump if he doesn’t have a majority. I think they will, or at least they might, but I think it will be a very bad omen for the party.

QUESTION: Right, okay. So let’s assume for a second that Donald Trump is indeed the nominee. Could you talk or could you say a few words about this Reagan coalition? We see that Donald Trump is expanding the electorate in many states and he’s attracting blue-collar voters and so forth. Does he stand a chance in a general election against, say, Hillary Clinton or – yeah, especially against Hillary?

MR LICHTMAN: Well, as I told you, the only way that a victory by Hillary Clinton could be spoiled would be by Bernie Sanders, not by Donald Trump, if he persists in dogging Hillary Clinton, takes it all the way to the convention, makes it a close nomination, keeps attacking her. That’s going to hurt the Democratic Party a great deal and open up the possibility for a Republican win. We don’t know if that’s going to happen or not, but I don’t think Donald Trump by himself can generate a win separate and apart from a devastatingly negative primary contest among the Democrats. His negatives are just way too high.

QUESTION: Right.

MR LICHTMAN: And remember, Donald Trump has not even come close to the kind of scrutiny that he is going to get if he is actually the Republican presidential nominee. Every aspect of all his business dealings is going to be put under a high-powered electron microscope, and I don’t know how well he would withstand that kind of scrutiny.

QUESTION: Right. Great. Thank you, sir.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

OPERATOR: Question from Ines Trams with ZDF German TV. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, hi. It would be great if you could elaborate again on the difference between a contested and a brokered convention. Do we talk about a contested convention when the decision is about those candidates that have been running before? And do we call it a brokered convention when the back office of the Republican Party comes up with a totally new candidate – for example, Mitt Romney? Is that the difference between contested and brokered convention?

MR LICHTMAN: I hate those terms because they’re very fuzzy. And since we really haven’t seen this phenomenon in many decades, it’s very difficult to create that terminology. I prefer to say a contested convention is one like the 1976 Republican convention, where you were not sure, because it was so close, who, if anyone, between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford would have the majority. It turns out Gerald Ford had the majority. He won on the first ballot and there was no wheeling, dealing and horse-trading. A brokered convention is one where you go in and no one clearly has the majority and as a result there has to be some kind of negotiations, horse-trading, wheeling and dealing, candidates dropping out, giving up their delegates. And that may or may not yield an outside nominee. It could yield a nominee from one of the existing candidates. That’s typically, in the old days, what happened. It was usually someone who was already running on the first ballot who got the nomination. It is possible you could bring in someone who didn’t run at all in the primaries. We’ve seen that happen before. We saw that happen in – on the Democratic side in 1952 when Estes Kefauver, the senator from Tennessee, swept the primaries, but the party bosses – in the days when party bosses had way more influence than they do today – nominated Adlai Stevenson, who hadn’t participated in the primaries at all. He was the governor of Illinois.

So that’s possible, but I think under – unless it’s a contested convention that’s resolved on the first ballot, I think all of these other scenarios are fraught with difficulty for the Republican Party. If they bring in a Romney from the outside, an establishment figure like that, it’s going to alienate the Trump supporters. It’s going to alienate some of the Cruz supporters. Cruz is trying to play himself as the establishment candidate, but he’s not. The Republican establishment hates Cruz. They see him as a self-serving obstructionist politician.

So there are real dangers if you go beyond a contested convention into a brokered convention, no matter what the outcome, whether it’s picking someone who’s not the leading vote-getter or bringing in someone who hasn’t competed at all.

QUESTION: One follow-up question, if I may.

MR LICHTMAN: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You mentioned the parties’ bosses, that they don’t have that much power today as they --

QUESTION: That’s right.

QUESTION: -- as they used to have. Who are the parties’ bosses today? Is there a certain number of bosses, established party members who actually do have the right, the written right to make all these decisions? Or is it just those bosses, those Republicans who are kind of important? Who gets together in the --

MR LICHTMAN: Very good point. It used to be we had real party bosses. The classic party boss was Mayor Daley of Chicago, the mayor in the 1960s, who pretty much controlled the entire delegation to the Democratic Party from Illinois. That was a real party boss who had real impact upon the convention. You don’t have anyone like that today. There is no party official or elected official on the Republican or Democratic side who actually controls the way Mayor Daley in effect did an entire block of delegates that they could move one way or the other.

So we don’t even talk about party bosses anymore because they don’t exist. So we talk about, particularly on the Republican side where it’s more of an issue, the party establishment. And who is the party establishment? Prior presidential candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney. Leaders of the House and the Senate like Paul Ryan in the House or Mitch McConnell in the Senate. Influential governors like Governor Scott of Florida. But none of these people have delegates in their pocket, so the best they can do is help with fundraising, help with endorsements, help with campaigning, but they can’t swing delegates. They don’t have the kind of control the old-line party bosses once did.

OPERATOR: A question from Celia Cernadas with Catalunya Radio, [Spain]. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for this – for helping us, the journalists.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

QUESTION: My question is: What has happened to Marco Rubio? I mean, what has happened that he’s not even able to win in his own state? And where has all the Jeb Bush support – all the support he had from the Super PAC and from other politician – where does this support has gone after Jeb Bush retired from the race? Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN: Yeah. The Marco Rubio phenomenon is almost as remarkable as the Donald Trump phenomenon. Just as the rise of Donald Trump has been extraordinary, the fall of Marco Rubio has also been extraordinary. Particularly once Jeb Bush dropped out, a lot of the pundits – and by the way, the pundits are always wrong; never listen to them. And I’m not a pundit; I’m a historian, remember. (Laughter.) Marco Rubio was considered to be the establishment favorite. He wasn’t a liberal, but he wasn’t a far-right Republican. He was kind of a middle-of-the-road for a Republican from a critical swing state, Florida, that Republicans must win to win the presidency – young, handsome, looking towards the future.

So what happened to Marco Rubio? One, he just got caught up in the tide, the anti-establishment tide. This just wasn’t a good year for anyone, whether it be Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Governor Kasich – it was not a good year for anyone representing the establishment. Two, he had no message. Nobody knows what the Marco Rubio message was. We know what the Donald Trump message is, we know what the Ted Cruz message is. Nobody – but nobody could tell you what the Marco Rubio message is. And then finally, he made a huge mistake by going personal, getting down in the gutter with Donald Trump. He should have heeded what the great Republican President Dwight Eisenhower said when he was called upon to attack the demagogue Joseph McCarthy. He said, “I am not going to get down in the gutter with that man,” while Marco Rubio went down into the gutter.

And a lot of that – the Jeb Bush money, the Super PAC money is now being fired against Donald Trump. The problem is the kind of people who support Donald Trump are not going to be moved by Mitt Romney and others campaigning against him or – they’re not going to be moved by these ads. And there’s an old saying, “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” Right now, the only alternative to Donald Trump is Ted Cruz, who is deeply repugnant to most of the mainstream Republican figures. And they are only embracing Ted Cruz with great reluctance, the old clothespin support – I’ll put a clothespin on my nose and support Ted Cruz.

So at this point, there really isn’t a somebody to represent the middle of the road of the Republican Party.

QUESTION: Just a very short follow-up. What would happen with Marco Rubio’s delegates if he drops out tomorrow?

MR LICHTMAN: I think he’s going to have to drop out tomorrow. If he wants to have a political future, he can’t drag this on to the point where it’s only blood in the water.

QUESTION: Yeah. And his delegates, who will take them? I don’t know how this works.

MR LICHTMAN: Well, right now they’re his and it depends on what happens at the convention. But he can – he’s going to hold on to them because he may want to use them as a bargaining chip if we get to a convention with nobody having a majority. He doesn’t have to give them up; just suspends his campaign, doesn’t end it.

QUESTION: Okay. Okay, thank you.

OPERATOR: Follow-up from Christoph Gisiger. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, it’s me again. Thanks again for having us.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

QUESTION: It’s very interesting what you’re saying. And you just spoke about Marco Rubio, but I wonder, actually, what’s the game plan of John Kasich? I mean, he’s probably going to win Ohio, but what then and what’s his plan with respect to the convention?

MR LICHTMAN: It’s Ohio then the deep blue sea, frankly, for him. He’s going to fall into the ocean. He doesn’t really have bright prospects in subsequent primaries. Winning 1 out of 25 or so primaries is not exactly a sterling resume to go forward. Kasich has one and only one hope, and that is you do get nobody coming in with a first ballot victory, you do get bargaining and horse trading and wheeling and dealing, and somehow, someway the delegates decide he has the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton and they turn to him. That’s his only hope. He cannot mathematically come close to getting a majority of the delegates going into the convention. I think even if he won every subsequent primary, he wouldn’t have enough delegates to give him the majority. So his only hope is, “Here I am, I’m at the convention. Pick me; I have the best chance to win.”

QUESTION: Very interesting. But do you think it’s even possible that maybe he’s even playing for the job as the vice president already?

MR LICHTMAN: Could be, could be. It’s always possible that you could choose one of your opponents as your vice president. Barack Obama did that in 2008 with Joe Biden, although Joe Biden wasn’t much of an opponent. John F. Kennedy did that with Lyndon Johnson in 1960. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen on occasion. Ronald Reagan did that with George H. W. Bush in 1980, so very possibly.

QUESTION: Interesting. Just one more question, if you allow, about the convention. Can you maybe explain for us the rules, how the technicalities actually work at the --

MR LICHTMAN: Oh, I’m probably not the guy to do that. You’ll need someone from the Republican Party.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR LICHTMAN: I cannot go through all the arcane rules of the convention. And by the way – I do know this – the convention can change its rules. The convention is the governing body of the party, and if the convention decides to change the rules, the convention can change the rules. There’s no higher authority.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you very much.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

OPERATOR: Question from Marta Torres with La Razon newspaper. Please go ahead. Ms. Torres, your line is open.

If there are any additional questions, please press * and then 1.

We have a question with Juliano Basile with Valor Economico, [Brazil]. Please go ahead.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you for having us. I would like to know one thing about the coverage in the United States, because most of the papers are writing bad stories about Donald Trump and he’s still winning. How can you explain that?

MR LICHTMAN: Donald Trump is doing something very brilliant. He is banking on the old adage that no publicity is bad publicity. He knows that the mainstream press is going to write negative stories about him because he challenges them, he taunts them; he even gets into fights with Fox News, the conservative cable outlet that should be favorable, at least to some extent, to him. So he deliberately provokes the press because he wants to be the story. And even with all this negative reaction to the violence at the Trump rally, who is the story? It’s still all about Donald Trump, and everybody else is an afterthought. So Donald Trump revels in all kinds of publicity whether it’s good publicity or bad publicity.

I also do think – maybe not enough, but I do think the media has recognized the power of the Donald Trump movement and has acknowledged reluctantly and late – and as you know, many months ago when I gave my first foreign press briefing, I, of course, predicted that Donald Trump was the most likely Republican nominee when all the pundits were going the other way. So I think kind of kicking and screaming they’ve come to recognize the Trump phenomenon, but I think it is recognized in the press.

But the critical point is Trump provokes the press because he believes no publicity is bad publicity, and he may well be right about that.

OPERATOR: Question from Omur Sahin with Birgun [Newspaper, Turkey]. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi.

MR LICHTMAN: Hi.

QUESTION: Thank you for having us and thank you for your speech. I really wonder, why do you think the Republican establishment is against Donald Trump if their only alternative is Ted Cruz? Is this because he’s not insulting Muslims, Mexicans, or journalists?

MR LICHTMAN: No, nothing to do with that.

QUESTION: I mean – uh-huh.

MR LICHTMAN: Ted Cruz, while his rhetoric is not inflammatory, is no more friendly to so-called foreign influences in the United States than Donald Trump. His immigration policy is not much different than that of Donald Trump and fundamentally different from that of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. As I said, it is only with the greatest reluctance, with a clothespin – they’re putting clothespins on their nose – that the Republican establishment is tilting toward Ted Cruz, because they have roundly hated Ted Cruz for a very long time. As I said, it’s very telling that throughout most of this campaign, not a single one of his colleagues in the Senate endorsed Donald Trump – Ted Cruz.

So why are they so fearful of Donald Trump that they’re willing to go for Ted Cruz? One simple reason: Donald Trump is unpredictable and uncontrollable. The Republican establishment – which, by the way, is solidly conservative; don’t think it’s – because it’s moderate for Republicans it’s not solidly conservative on issues like taxation and immigration and climate change. They’re not all that much different than the Republican right wing, quite frankly. The reason they are so opposed to Donald Trump that they’re willing to go to Cruz has nothing to do with issues. It has everything to do with the fact that Trump is, number one, uncontrollable, and number two, unpredictable. The Republican establishment will have no influence or – I wouldn’t say no, but minimal influence on a Trump presidency, and they have no idea what a Trump presidency is going to look like because throughout his life Trump has been everywhere on all of the issues. At one time he was pro-choice. Now, of course, he’s pro-life. He at one point was for a single-payer or close to it on health care. And now, of course, he wants to repeal Obamacare. On and on and on and on. They have no idea what a Trump presidency is going to look like. They pretty much know a Cruz presidency will be down the line Tea Party, right-wing Republican presidency. They have no idea who Donald Trump would even appoint to the Supreme Court. He could appoint a maverick. Ted Cruz they know will appoint an Alito type – a down-the-line predictable conservative.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

OPERATOR: A question from Andrei Sitov with Tass, [Russia]. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, sir, for doing this. And I’m sorry I joined the call late, so maybe you have covered that. But if you could repeat briefly, then, if Senator Rubio drops out of the race --

MR LICHTMAN: If who drops out?

QUESTION: Huh?

MR LICHTMAN: If who drops out? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.

QUESTION: If Senator Rubio --

MR LICHTMAN: Yes, got it.

QUESTION: -- drops out of the race, who gets his votes in your opinion?

MR LICHTMAN: Yes.

QUESTION: And this is obviously a hypothetical, but also there is the question of convention delegates. Some people have already pledged to Carson, to Rubio, and Rubio may drop out. So who gets the pledged delegates at the conventions?

MR LICHTMAN: Yeah, I’ve already answered the second question, which is he’s going to hold on – he’ll suspend his campaign. He won’t kill his campaign. He’ll hold onto those delegates so that he can bargain at the convention.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR LICHTMAN: The first question: Who gets the Rubio votes? The conventional wisdom says the Rubio votes go to Ted Cruz. And that’s not entirely true. First of all, outside of Florida, there aren’t that many Rubio votes. You can see how poorly he’s polling elsewhere. I would say the majority will probably go to Ted Cruz, but some will go to Donald Trump and some will go to Governor Kasich. So while Cruz might be the beneficiary, the way the math works out, he’s not going to be an overwhelming beneficiary if Rubio suspends his campaign.

Everybody thought, well, once Jeb Bush is out, all those votes will go to Rubio, this fellow establishment Florida – it didn’t work out that way. So it’s very hard to know whose votes some – when someone suspends their campaign, where their votes are going to go. Same thing with Doctor Carson. Everybody thought he was the polar opposite of Donald Trump. Donald Trump had attacked him, and now he’s endorsed Donald Trump. So it’s very unpredictable.

QUESTION: And I’ve actually met a couple of people who used to be for Carson who now say they are for Trump. I also want to just check with you my understanding of the situation, that basically the only person standing now who has a chance for a clear victory before the convention is Trump --

MR LICHTMAN: Correct.

QUESTION: -- on the Republicans. Right?

MR LICHTMAN: Correct.

QUESTION: Right. And then --

MR LICHTMAN: There’s no way Cruz can get enough delegates to have a majority. If Trump wins winner-take-all in Florida and Ohio tomorrow, then he has a real shot at a majority. Nobody else does.

QUESTION: No, but he doesn’t. I mean, in Ohio, obviously, it’s Kasich’s game. So if it’s split, Ohio and Florida are split, what’s your prediction then?

MR LICHTMAN: Well, if Ohio and Florida are split, I think Trump is still going to get the most delegates. But it’ll be very difficult – it’ll be much more difficult for him to get an outright majority of delegates --

QUESTION: Right, right.

MR LICHTMAN: -- because Kasich then hangs around, Cruz hangs around. That’s not a good outcome for either, interestingly, Trump or Cruz.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. And for the party.

MR LICHTMAN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. You probably missed it, but I discussed at length before the problems a party would face at a divided convention.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir.

MR LICHTMAN: Sure.

I’ll take one more question.

OPERATOR: And that will go to Thais Bilenky with Folha [de Sao Paulo, Brazil]. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you so much for doing this. My question is: How historical do you think this election is? Because we tend to think that what we are living is the most important thing in the world. So I don’t know if in 10, 20 years – how will we remember this --

MR LICHTMAN: I’m sorry, I did not – you’re asking me how important this election is?

QUESTION: I mean, historically, if you think how will – how will this election will remember – will be remembered?

MR LICHTMAN: Okay. First – I got you. First of all, we don’t know. One of the strange features of American politics is elections go on forever. It seems like this election has been dragging on forever, but we’re still six months out, seven months out from the actual election. So there is a very, very long way to go. We still haven’t even selected the nominees yet. So it’s very, very difficult to say how this election will go. Everyone thinks it’s going to be a big surprise election. Well, maybe. But let’s say it’s Hillary Clinton against Ted Cruz. That’s a pretty standard, predictable outcome – nothing unusual, nothing strange. You’ve got kind of your Democratic establishment candidate and somewhat of a Republican establishment candidate. It may be very much of a garden variety election.

And look, also, at every election everybody says this is the most important election in modern history. All elections are important. 2000 election, where George W. Bush beat Al Gore by 537 votes in Florida, was hugely important for shaping the foreign and domestic policies of the United States. Barack Obama’s historic victory in 2008 was extremely important. So to say this is a more important election than any other I think is incorrect.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR LICHTMAN: Except for one thing. I will add one thing. We are facing perhaps an unprecedented challenge in human history, and that is climate change. Like it or not, climate change is here. We see its manifestations everywhere, with the spread of the Zika mosquito and the virus disease, the fires, the droughts, the polar caps melting. If we don’t deal with climate change, humanity could be facing a grim future. And the outcome of this election may well decide whether the leader of the world – and I don’t mean any offense to any other nation, but in terms of its power, its economy, the United States is the world leader – will the leader of the world (a) acknowledge and (b) take real steps to deal with climate change? I think that – you don’t hear about that. You hear about all these phony issues like trade, as if trade has cost America its prosperity, which is such a pile of nonsense. At best trade is a wash. Yes, it costs some jobs, but it creates jobs through exports. Building a tariff wall around the United States isn’t going to do a darn thing for anyone.

So we get all these minor issues – building a wall around the Mexican border; come on, how childish can you be – when we’re facing – and you don’t even hear about it, hardly – humanity’s greatest challenge. In that sense, and only in that sense, I think this may be one of the most important elections in American history.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much.

MR LICHTMAN: Thank you. Thank you all.

MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for participating. This event is now concluded.

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