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June 23rd, 2017

Insight

Now the real fun is about to begin

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published August 25, 2015

 Now the real fun is about to begin

This may be the most entertaining road show yet. Round and round the presidential campaign goes, and where it stops nobody knows. Even Mitt Romney is said to be thinking about jumping in again, no doubt figuring that some of Jeb's "investors," who are familiar indeed, may be looking for another place to place their bets.

Hillary Clinton's campaign still gets respectful attention, but nobody's any longer practicing what to call her if, as in a prospect ever more unlikely, she's actually elected. Madame President? That sounds like something from a bordello, or worse, from France. Mrs. President? The feminists wouldn't like that, because it pays homage to a husband. "Miss President" sounds like everybody's seventh-period Latin teacher, perhaps fetching in her own way, but not much fun.

Joe Biden, everybody's good old, slightly daffy uncle, lovable but prone to gaffes, boners and extravagant slips not only of the tongue but sometimes of the brain, like his suggestion, meant to warm the hearts of gun owners, that if you hear a varmint or a prowler in the middle of the night, the thing to do is to take your shotgun to the front porch and blast away at the night. (Hoping nobody is still up across the street is optional.)

The Republican establishment has the opposite problem. They're having to quit laughing at Donald Trump and start taking him seriously. He keeps increasing his polling lead over the field, and where that stops nobody knows, either. He's an "outlier," the currently fashionable $2 word for "outsider," but he's not as outsiderly as he used to be.

The liberal media, the Greek chorus assigned to enlightening the halt, the unhip and the dumb, spent the weekend chortling over the fact that the Donald attracted "only" 20,000 fans to a football stadium that seats 30,000 in Mobile. The cops wisely declined to offer an estimate of the size of the crowd, but it was bigger than anyone else has drawn so far. Who but the Donald, who compared it to a crowd at a Billy Graham revival meeting, would risk holding a political rally in a football stadium in Alabama, exposing empty seats and inviting unwanted comparisons.

President Obama himself threw a big flat rock in the Democratic pond on Monday with a resounding splash. He sent his press agent out to suggest to reporters that he might endorse someone in the Democratic primaries, and it didn't sound like he was talking about Hillary. The president, said press secretary Josh Earnest, thinks taking Joe Biden on his ticket seven years ago was the smartest political decision he ever made. He reminded everyone that he had spoken "warmly" about Hillary, too. Then it was back to praising good old Joe.

"I'll just say that the vice president is somebody who has already run for president twice. He's been on a national ticket through two election cycles ... So I think you could make the case that there is no one who has a better understanding of exactly what is required to mount a successful national presidential campaign ... I wouldn't rule out the possibility of an endorsement in the Democratic primary."

A press agent always speaks for the man who pays him, so we can safely assume that Mr. Earnest didn't make a semi-endorsement, sort of, on his own.

Mr. Obama's endorsement would be valuable in a Democratic primary, a signal that he has found someone who will protect his "legacy," such as it will be. In the general election, his endorsement might be a sloppy kiss of death, where voters of all kinds could rush to make the judgment that is likely to be the verdict of history — Mr. Obama was a freak of history, elected by a well-meaning but naive electorate eager to show good faith and hope for the best.

Taking a flier is rarely a substitute for making a sound judgment. Nominating a candidate with little political experience can be tempting. The Republicans tried it in 1940, nominating Wendell Willkie, a Wall Street lawyer who had never been elected to anything, thinking everyone shared their contempt for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

That's what terrifies the Republican establishment about Donald Trump. If the establishment understood politics a little better than it does, establishment Republicans would recognize how they brought the Donald to political prominence themselves. The establishment doesn't understand how cable-TV, the Internet and a succession of mushmouth candidates have changed everything.

The Republican grass roots hankers for rough justice, applied without mercy. These are the grass roots that are a minority of a minority, but they're loud, they're angry, and they're out for blood.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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