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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

The Donald Trump Conundrum

August is arriving, and we are entering week six of Donald Trump's rise—first into the double digits, now into first place—in the national polls for the Republican presidential primary race. While there are few if any experienced GOP pros or political reporters who think Trump can actually win the nomination, it's hard to argue with where he is right now. Even after his unfortunate remark questioning the heroism of Sen. John McCain—who was held captive and tortured for five and a half years in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp while Trump cooled his heels stateside on one draft deferment after another (student, then medical)—the bombastic real-estate mogul remains at the head of the Republican pack.

Donald Trump talks to the media during his trip to Laredo, Texas, July 23, 2015. (Matthew Busch/Getty Images)The fact that Trump's very conservative, anti-immigration, militantly anti-establishment, and—most important—angry backers never cared much for the independent and sometimes-moderate McCain helps to explain why the comment had so little effect on the businessman's poll numbers. But the McCain incident also suggests that, while Trump's candidacy is almost certainly destined to fail, he is less...

Crowded Primary Field Is Good News for Republican Voters

The situation in which Republican voters find themselves these days is looking more and more like the experience of someone visiting a Baskin-Robbins. Walking into the ice-cream shop, one is immediately overwhelmed by the choices afforded by 31 flavors, but delight soon sets in. One starts off with a large number of options to consider, narrows it down to a handful, and maybe samples a few before making a final decision.

While GOP apparatchiks are concerned about the consequences of the unprecedented size of the field of contenders, Republican voters are deliriously happy with the large and varied selection of candidates. Particularly in Iowa and New Hampshire, where party activists crave being courted, they are in heaven these days.

There is nothing inherently wrong with starting out with a big field; typically, the Darwinian course of caucuses and primaries ultimately serves to winnow it. That natural-selection process was disrupted in 2012, when a couple of wealthy benefactors kept a few candidates on life support, allowing them to stick around longer than they would have otherwise. There's no question that the extended nomination fight, which dragged well into April, made Mitt Romney's odds even longer than they would have...

A Momentous Week, and a GOP That Needs to Change

The momentous events of the last week can be interpreted in numerous ways. But one thing has become increasingly clear: The Republican Party needs to change.

One of the key organizing principles—an obsession, even—of Republicans in recent years has been their vehement opposition to the Affordable Care Act. This has been the centerpiece of Republican rhetoric and a focus of the party's legislative agenda, with the House of Representatives having voted something like 60 times to repeal or defund all or parts of the law. Obamacare will long be in the GOP stable of examples of what they say are President Obama's and congressional Democrats' extreme policies, but with the Supreme Court's King v. Burwell decision, their focus will need to shift to something else now.

Though Obamacare has been a divisive subject, it is the controversy over the Confederate battle flag and the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision on gay marriage that bring to sharp focus the cultural and generational disconnect between the Republican Party's conservative base and the direction of the country as a whole.

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina church and the resulting...

Bernie Sanders and the Age Question

In recent weeks, many have started treating Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination seriously, but without addressing or even acknowledging the elephant in the room—Sanders' age.

Sanders, now 73 years old, will be turning 75 on Sept. 8, 2016, two months before the presidential general election. That makes him six years and six weeks older than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the strong favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Clinton, 67, will be turning 69 on Oct. 26, 2016, about two weeks before the election. This is not to argue that Clinton is too old to run or serve; if elected, she would be about eight months younger than Ronald Reagan was when he won his first term in 1980. People age at different paces, and there is debate over whether Reagan's capacity began getting taxed either late in his first term (as his son maintains), during his second term, or not until he left office. But I suspect that most people would agree that being 69 years old when first elected president is at the very high end of the acceptable age range.

For those on the left who believe that raising Sanders...

Why Hillary Clinton Is Underwater

Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidacy roughly eight weeks ago, and since then, a few things have become apparent.

On the positive side for her, she has put together a first-class team of professionals, a blending of some of the younger people from her 2008 campaign who have gone on to impressive careers since then, a second group of very talented pros from the Obama 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and a third, smaller group of inner-circle folks from Hillaryland to create a comfort zone—familiar faces that know and understand her, and vice versa. Her campaign launch seemed quite successful and designed to draw a contrast with the royal trappings of her previous presidential effort.

On the negative side, a decision was made early on—by whom, it is not clear—to keep the media at a distance, to make her generally unavailable for questions. As predictable as the sun coming up in the east, this resulted in several weeks of sustained negative coverage emphasizing the arrogance and aloofness of her candidacy and campaign. This was precisely what the carefully planned and executed launch and rollout was designed to prevent. At one point, counts were publicized of how many days...