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Two Southern conservative newspapers bolt from Trump

Dallas Morning News endorses Hillary Clinton; Richmond Post-Dispatch opts for Johnson

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states smDALLAS (CFP) — Two major Southern newspapers that are normally stalwartly Republican on their editorial pages have broken with the party for the first time in decades in refusing to endorse Donald Trump for president.

The Dallas Morning News endorsed Hillary Clinton, the first time Texas’s largest newspaper has endorsed a Democrat since before World War II. The Richmond Times-Dispatch endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson, ending a string of Republican presidential endorsements stretching back to 1980.

The Morning News editorial board not only endorsed Clinton, it ran a separate, scathing editorial calling Trump unqualified to be president and urging readers not to vote for him.

“Donald Trump is no Republican and certainly no conservative,” the editorial said. “We have no interest in a Republican nominee for whom all principles are negotiable, nor in a Republican Party that is willing to trade away principle for pursuit of electoral victory.”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

While Clinton has “real shortcomings,” including showing “poor judgment” in using a private email server when she was secretary of state, the paper told its readers that, in comparison, Trump is worse.

“Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy,” the editorial said. “For all her warts, she is the candidate more likely to keep our nation safe, to protect American ideals and to work across the aisle to uphold the vital domestic institutions that rely on a competent, experienced president.”

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson

The  Times-Dispatch endorsed Johnson in a September 4 editorial, despite the fact that Virginia’s junior U.S. Senator, Tim Kaine, is Clinton’s vice presidential running mate.

“Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton meets the fundamental moral and professional standards we have every right to expect of an American president,” the editorial said. “Fortunately, there is a reasonable — and formidable — alternative.”

The Richmond paper called Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico, “a man of good integrity, apparently normal ego and sound ideas. Sadly, in the 2016 presidential contest, those essential qualities make him an anomaly.”

The paper also said that while Kaine’s presence on the Democratic ticket “flatters” Virginia, “it is futile to vote for a presidential candidate because one likes the vice presidential nominee.”

The Times-Dispatch has endorsed every Republican presidential candidate since 1980. The GOP candidate carried Virginia in every election from 1968 until 2008, when Barack Obama moved the Old Dominion into the Democratic column.

The last time the Morning News did not endorse the GOP standard-bearer was in 1964, when it remained neutral in the contest between Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, a Texan running against Republican U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. It had not endorsed a Democrat since throwing its support to Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, as World War II loomed.

A Democrat has not carried Texas in the presidential race since 1976.

Poll: Clinton up by 9 points in Florida; Rubio holds his own in Senate race

Trump hurt by huge gap with minorities, women

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugGAINESVILLE, Florida (CFP) — Buoyed by a whopping 50-point margin among minority voters, Democrat Hillary Clinton has opened up a comfortable lead in the key swing state of Florida, a new poll finds.

But a Monmouth University survey released August 16 found that Clinton’s coattails were not reaching down to the U.S. Senate race, where Republican Marco Rubio held a small lead over both of his possible Democratic opponents.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

Clinton was the choice of 48 percent of likely voters in the poll, compared to 39 percent for Republican Donald Trump, 6 percent for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 1 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Clinton’s lead of 9 points was well outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, is very nearly a must-win state for both Clinton and Trump. No candidate has won the White House without carrying the Sunshine State since 1992. No Republican has won without it since 1924.

Key demographic results within the polling data show that Clinton’s lead is largely the result of Trump’s weak support among minorities and women.

Trump was the choice of just 19 percent of black, Latino and Asian voters in the poll; Clinton ran 50 points ahead, at 69 percent.

Clinton also held a 30-point lead among women, a gap twice as large as Trump’s 15-point lead among men. The poll also showed Clinton with a 10-point lead among white women, a group Republican Mitt Romney carried by 17 points in a losing effort in 2012.

Trump’s lead among white voters in the poll was 14 points. By contrast, Romney carried white voters by 24 points in 2014.

Trump also continued to suffer from lingering dissent to his nomination within the GOP. Just 79 percent of Florida Republicans polled said they would support Trump, and he was losing 12 percent of the GOP vote to Clinton.

Clinton did much better among Florida Democrats, getting 94 percent support. Just 4 percent of Democrats in the poll said they would vote for Trump. Clinton also held a 17-point among voters who identify as independents.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

In the U.S. Senate race, the poll showed that Rubio–who changed his mind and opted to run for re-election after losing to Trump in the GOP primaries–is outperforming the top of his party’s ticket.

Rubio polled 48 percent to 43 percent for Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is running against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for his party’s Senate nomination. Rubio’s lead over Grayson was larger, 50 percent to 39 percent.

Grayson and Murphy will square off in an August 30 primary, in which Rubio will also face businessman Carlos Beruff.

Analysis: Libertarians get dream ticket, but will voters take them seriously?

Johnson and Weld will need to overcome some of their party’s more colorful positions

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states sm(CFP) –The Libertarian Party met over Memorial Day weekend in Orlando, deciding to invest its fortunes with two former Republican governors, Gary Johnson of New Mexico and William Weld of Massachusetts.CFP Facebook Mugshot

For a third party in America, that’s an unusually high-powered pedigree. And given the deep unpopularity of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Libertarians left Florida with high hopes of a breakthrough in 2016, particularly if their ticket can get into the fall debates.

But the height of the hurdle that Johnson and Weld face became apparent during the party’s presidential debate, when the candidates were asked if states should be able to issue driver’s licenses.

One after another, the candidates emphatically said no—except Johnson, who pointed out that it might not be such a bad idea for the government to make sure that people roaming around on the roadways have been vetted for basic competency.

Johnson was booed.

Here are some other statements made during the debate: Crystal meth should be as legal as tomatoes. Public education should be abolished. The Pentagon should be funded with bake sales. The second-place finisher in the presidential race, Austin Peterson, even opined that in the future, he hoped that gay people will not only be able to marry but to defend their marijuana fields with assault rifles.

And the vice presidential votes were being tabulated, a candidate for the party chairmanship took the stage, turned on some music and stripped down to his skivvies. That’s probably something we won’t see this summer in Philadelphia or Cleveland.

It was all rather entertaining, and, unlike in the Democratic and Republican contests, there was a marked absence of personal attacks between the candidates. Good for them. The question, however, is whether these positions can advance a run for the White House. Or is rigid ideological consistency the hobgoblin of electoral success?

The key to victory for any political party is to cobble together enough broad constituency groups to reach critical mass. But the Libertarians’ mishmash of unusual positions is likely to subtract from their coalition, not add to it.

For instance, religious conservatives, particularly in the South, aren’t going to cotton to their support for legalizing drugs or the fact that Johnson quit his job as head of a cannabis company to run for president. National security conservatives are going to find it difficult to get behind a militantly non-interventionist foreign policy and a drastically downsized military.

Likewise, Bernie Sanders supporters turned off by Clinton will be wary of a party that wants to eliminate virtually all social programs, turning instead to voluntary charity to take care of the old, the sick and the poor. They’re also going to have problems with a party that is as zealous in defending gun rights as the NRA.

Johnson and Weld, with their political pedigrees, may be able to transcend some of this baggage. Indeed, during the debate, Johnson often seemed to be the voice of reason, as when he said he would have signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (for which he was also booed.)

Certainly, Johnson can’t be held responsible for all the wild things Libertarians say, just as Republicans can’t all be held responsible for some of Trump’s more incendiary utterances. But if he and Weld distance themselves from some of the more outlandish positions of their party, they are going to draw ire from their own partisans, who proved in Orlando that they take a rather dim view of apostasy.

The Libertarians’ fondest hope is that Johnson can get to 15 percent in the polls, getting him into the debates. Then, the American public will see him as a viable alternative to Trump and Clinton, and he will catch fire, propelling Libertarians, if not to the White House, then at least to major party status.

But this presupposes that voters’ dislike of the major party nominees will be strong enough to overshadow what it is that the Libertarian Party actually believes. And Johnson has another hurdle—convincing voters he can run the country without a single member of his party in Congress. He would be forced to make an unending series of compromises with Republicans and Democrats, and compromise is something to which his party seems particularly allergic.

Of course, we have come to expect the unexpected during this topsy-turvy 2016 campaign, in which a socialist and a reality TV star are two of the last three major party candidates standing. So maybe, just maybe, Johnson and Weld can pull of the miracle. But if they do, it will be in spite of the Libertarians’ colorful positions, rather than because of them.

Libertarians choose Johnson-Weld ticket in Orlando

Former Republican governors of New Mexico and Massachusetts will lead party into the fall

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

white-house-chaseORLANDO (CFP) — Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has won the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, as the party hopes to ride the deep unpopularity of the Republican and Democratic nominees to a breakthrough result in the fall.

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson

“I will work as hard as I can to represent everybody in this room,” Johnson told convention delegates after they made their selection May 29 in Orlando. “I think that millions of people are going to be trying to understand what it means to be a Libertarian.”

The delegates also grudgingly went along with Johnson’s request to nominate former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate, after Johnson made two separate pleas to delegates who were skeptical of Weld’s Libertarian bona fides.

“I’m asking you to give me the tools needed to actually win,” Johnson. “If it’s Bill Weld, there’s actually an opportunity to take the White House.”

Weld’s nomination was only secured with some difficulty after three of the defeated presidential candidates took the microphone to endorse other candidates. Some delegates booed and shouted at Weld.

Weld, who joined the party just two weeks before the convention, told delegates “it’s been a learning experience.”

“I think every day I become a better Libertarian,” he said. “I pledge to you that I will stay with the Libertarian Party for life.”

After two ballots, Weld managed to win a bare majority, ahead of Larry Shape, a New York City businessman.

It also took Johnson two ballots to secure the nomination, with 55 percent of the vote. He narrowly missed winning an outright majority on the first ballot, with 49 percent of the vote.

Trailing behind Johnson were Austin Petersen, a magazine publisher and former Fox Business Channel producer, and John McAfee, founder of the anti-computer virus company that bears his name.

Johnson, 63, served as governor of New Mexico as a Republican from 1995 to 2003. He was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 2012, winning just 1 percent of the vote.

But given the historically low approval ratings of both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, Johnson and the Libertarians are hoping to do much better this time around, particularly if Johnson can get into the presidential debates.

With Weld on on the ticket, “at a minimum, I think we’re in the presidential debates,” Johnson said.

In order to get into the debates, a candidate must be on the ballot in enough states to win an Electoral College majority and must be polling at least 15 percent in national polls.

The Libertarian Party expects to be on the ballot in all 50 states, meeting the first criterion. National polls that have included Johnson have put his support at about 10 percent, below the necessary threshold.

The Libertarian and Green parties have joined in a lawsuit to force the Commission on Presidential Debates to let their candidates into the fall debates.

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