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

Will the Vice Presidential Candidates Matter This Year? Maybe, but Not the Way You Think.

Veepstakes speculation is rampant as we approach the national conventions for both major political parties.

Media reports have detailed the wide array of options available to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as they decide who will be their number twos for this campaign, and perhaps for four or eight years to come.

Who will Trump and Clinton pick? That depends on each candidate’s goals – both for the remainder of the presidential campaign and after Nov. 8. Political observers widely agree that the most important characteristic to look for in a running mate is the ability to serve as president in the event of unforeseen circumstances, like a president’s death, incapacitation, resignation or impeachment.

However, when campaign staff and trusted political advisers vet potential running mates, they are certain to also weigh political considerations. That is, whether a given running mate will help or hurt the presidential ticket, with voters in general or with a key voting group. Particularly if the campaign is at a competitive disadvantage, its strategists may look to the running mate as a potential “game changer.”

The electoral advantage most commonly associated with vice presidential candidates is geographic. In other words, they are expected to...

When Obama Gains, Clinton Scores

President Obama is finishing his second term on a rising tide—and lifting Hillary Clinton in the process, according to the latest Allstate/Atlantic Media Heartland Monitor Poll.

In the survey, 51 percent of Americans said they approved of Obama’s job performance, while 43 percent disapproved. That was the first time in Obama’s second term the Heartland Poll has found majority support for the president’s performance.

Obama’s gains are directly benefiting Clinton. The survey found that among adults who approve of the president’s performance, Clinton leads Donald Trump by 77 percent to 7 percent. By contrast, Trump crushes Clinton by near-mirror-image 71 percent to 7 percent among those who disapprove of Obama. Overall, Clinton led Trump by 44 percent to 36 percent among registered voters, the survey found.

The results underscore how much assessments of an outgoing president shape the race to succeed him. In the 1988 race, just over four-fifths of voters who approved of Ronald Reagan voted for George H.W. Bush, while 88 percent of those who disapproved of Reagan backed Democrat Michael Dukakis, exit polls found. Similarly, in 2000, just under four-fifths of those who approved of Bill Clinton’s performance...

Hillary Clinton, Tracy Flick, and the Reclaiming of Female Ambition

This time last year, at a producer’s conference in Hollywood, a member of the audience asked Reese Witherspoon whether she’d ever consider playing Hillary Clinton in a movie. 

She already had, Witherspoon responded: One of her earliest roles in film was Tracy Flick, the teenage villain of Election, 1999’s dark satire of high school politics. And: She was only partially joking. “When I did meet Hillary Clinton,” Witherspoon recalled, “she said, ‘Everybody talks to me about Tracy Flick in Election.’” 

It is supremely strange, on the one hand, that the American public would associate the former lawyer and First Lady and U.S. senator and secretary of state—and also the mother, and the grandmother, and the woman whom the American media once spent years chastising for an expressed preference against cookie-baking—with a cupcake-wielding adolescent. On the other hand, though, the association makes perfect sense: Election is all about the layered strifes of, well, elections. It revels, in its sardonic way, in the lingering martial framework of the “campaign.” The story of Tracy Flick’s effort to win the presidency of Carver High School’s student government is a broader meditation on political ambition—and on...

Why Gingrich Is Right for Trump

Now that Don­ald Trump is be­com­ing more de­pend­ent on out­side coun­sel for ad­vice, he ap­pears to be slowly morph­ing in­to a more con­ven­tion­al pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate. And as he mulls over his op­tions for a run­ning mate, he’s be­ing urged to pick In­di­ana Gov. Mike Pence, the most bor­ing, check-the-box fi­nal­ist. Pence would in­deed be the safe choice for Trump, of­fer­ing an olive branch to shunned con­ser­vat­ives and rais­ing the like­li­hood of a re­spect­able loss.

But if Trump ac­tu­ally wants to win the elec­tion, he’d be best-served think­ing out­side of the box. In that re­spect, former House Speak­er Newt Gin­grich would be the go-for-the-fences polit­ic­al choice—even though many es­tab­lish­ment-minded Re­pub­lic­ans view him as a man­ic, un­pre­dict­able talk­ing head with an ego the size of Clev­e­land’s cav­ernous and now-de­mol­ished Mu­ni­cip­al Sta...

Donald Trump Isn't Sorry

Being Donald Trump means never having to say you’re sorry.

That, he explained to Jimmy Fallon last September, is among the advantages of never being wrong. “I fully think apologizing is a great thing, but you have to be wrong … I will absolutely apologize sometime in the distant future if I'm ever wrong.”

Instead of apologizing swiftly, assuming responsibility, and putting controversies behind him, Trump prefers to deny potential problems, disclaim responsibility, and move on to some fresh controversy. It flies in the face of decades of accrued wisdom about how to handle political crises. And it appears to be working for him. 

That’s one way to understand the weekend’s controversy over an ill-advised tweet. On Saturday morning, Trump shared an image showing Hillary Clinton’s “History Made” logo superimposed on a pile of cash, and a six-pointed star with the words, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”

When social-media users quickly objected that the conjunction of the star and the cash seemed to traffic in anti-Semitic tropes, Trump took the rare step of deleting and replacing it:

He offered no...

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