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USAPP Managing Editor, Chris Gilson looks at the best of the week’s political blogging from academics and think-tanks. 

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The 2016 election 

With the parties’ presidential nominating conventions due to start – beginning with the Republican Party – this week, Princeton Election Consortium has an overview of where the polls stand. They say that Hillary Clinton is slightly ahead of where Barack Obama was in 2008 and 2012. FiveThirtyEight comments that Clinton’s pre-convention lead is only as safe as John Kerry’s was at the same time in 2004. It’s received wisdom in political science that a nominee’s polling numbers will tend to improve after a party convention. Sabato’s Crystal Ball looks at previous post-convention polling bounces for both parties, reporting that the median since 1988 is 5 percent for the Democrats and 4.5 percent for the GOP. Mischiefs of Faction also talks the conventions, arguing that introducing proportional representation and a shorter nomination calendar would mean conventions would be more interesting – and more democratic.

FiveThirtyEight comments that given how closely they identify with the nominees, there’s probably very little that will change the supporters of either Trump or Clinton. Monkey Cage reinforces this with a survey that shows why Trump will not win over supporters of Bernie Sanders. Matt Ray meanwhile has a comprehensive discussion of how the racial revanchists who “yearn for a new Jim Crow” don’t have enough support to win this year. Saideman’s Semi-Spew looks at two recently released pictures from the Democrats and Republicans, both showing their interns. The GOP’s shows an almost entirely white crowd, in contrast to the Democrats’ diversity.

On Thursday, Balkinization continues its series called “Will the U.S. Survive the 2016 Election”. They write on three potential outcomes of the presidential contest: Donald Trump wins with the GOP keeping the House and Senate; Clinton wins and the Democrats win back the Senate; and Clinton wins the White House and both the House and Senate. They say that the first two alternatives could be called a “government”, while the second would be “mired in legislative gridlock”. Speaking of the election result, is it possible that it might be swayed by Google? No way, says Statistical Modelling…

This week also saw both presidential candidates name their vice-presidential picks. Smart Politics examines whether or not VP nominees carry their home states. The answer? Only slightly better than even odds.

Donald Trump and the RNC

The big highlight of the week was of course the Republican Party’s presidential nominating convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Unsurprisingly there was a great deal of commentary on what turned out to be a markedly different gathering to those of previous years:

  • The RNC had a record low share of Black delegates – only 18, or 0.7 percent (Lawyers, Guns & Money)
  • Why were the protests at the convention so small? (Monkey Cage)
  • In his speech, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, refused to endorse Donald Trump, instead urging the convention to “vote your conscience” (Outside the Beltway)
  • Why Cruz’s strategy was a good one… (The Faculty Lounge)
  • … and why it might have been the first speech of his 2020 presidential campaign (Lawyers, Guns & Money)
  • Cruz isn’t the only one – many Republicans are looking ahead to 2020 already (Outside the Beltway)
  • The speakers hurting Trump at the RNC are the ones who never turned up such as Ohio Governor John Kasich (Mischiefs of Faction)
  • Five quick observations on the convention (Sabato’s Crystal Ball)
  • Trump godfather featuredDonald Trump accepted his party’s presidential nomination, while reaffirming his planned ban on Muslim immigration and calling for mass deportations (Immigration Prof Blog)…
  • …themes referred to by some as being “dark and dystopian” (Outside the Beltway)
  • Trump’s speech was actually the most negative in over four decades (Monkey Cage)
  • Trump is actually running one of the two GOP Conventions that have been going on in Cleveland (Mischiefs of Faction)
  • Donald Trump’s wife Melania’s speech was accused of having been plagiarized from an earlier speech by Michelle Obama (Outside the Beltway)

Donald Trump

  • Trump’s policy positions show that he is actually un-American… (Saideman’s Semi-Spew)
  • as well as anti-conservative and anti-constitutionalist (Balkinization)
  • What Trump might be like as President (Balkinization)…
  • and trying to imagine how Trump’s Department of Justice might operate (The Volokh Conspiracy)
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reckons that Trump can be contained if he becomes president – but can he? (Bradford DeLong)
  • What do Republicans really think about Donald Trump (Nicholas Kristof)
  • One of Trump’s advisors this week said that Hillary Clinton should be “Shot for treason” (American Power)
  • Does Trump even really want to be the President? (Outside the Beltway)
  • And does his party have a future? (Lawyers, Guns & Money)
  • Will Americans turn to Trump if they feel that the world is in chaos? (FiveThirtyEight)
  • There’s zero chance that Trump will be able to raise $1 billion for his presidential campaign, as he’s suggested (Monkey Cage)

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic campaign

FiveThirtyEight wonders how Hillary Clinton will respond to Trump going “all-in” at the RNC this week. They say that she can pick from a 1964 – portraying Trump as unfit for office- or a 2012 –based on voter turnout and defending President Obama’s accomplishments – strategy. At the Republican Convention former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, suggested that Clinton was connected to Lucifer. Tongue firmly in cheek, Marginal Revolution makes some observations to clarify the issue.

Speculation grew that Clinton would select Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. FiveThirtyEight writes that if she did select Kaine, then it would be a “dull story”, and that he would do little to help her to win the election.

Saideman’s Semi-Spew reckons that Clinton’s stances on LGBTQ+ issues are a sign of progress.

Congressional and downballot races

Given that 15 first-term US Senators are running for reelection in the current cycle, Smart Politics examines how many traditionally lose their first bid for reelection – usually about 3.5.

Donald Trump has seven levels of support in Congress, reckons FiveThirtyEight: from True Believers and Eager Unifiers to Trump Snubbers.

The Government, Beltway and the Supreme Court

There has been a good deal of criticism levelled against Hillary Clinton over the way that she handled potentially classified material on her private email server during her time as Secretary of State. But members of Congress are careless with classified material as well, says Monkey Cage. Staying in the House Beat the Press writes that the Speaker, Paul Ryan (WI), has essentially called for eliminating nearly the entire federal government. 

Immigration Prof Blog writes Thursday that the country’s immigration courts have a backlog of 500,000 cases, with more than 200,000 added in the last five years.

Also on the courts, Election Law Blog comments on the Fifth Circuit Court’s ruling that Texas’ strict voter ID law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. They say that the Court did not strike the law, it merely softened it, and compares it to a similar North Carolina law.

U.S. Supreme Court Credit : OZinOH (Creative Commons BY NC)

US Supreme Court Credit : OZinOH (Creative Commons BY NC)

Turning to the Supreme Court, Monkey Cage argues that the Court’s new definition of corruption – following the its overturning of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s conviction for that offense – is out of step with what most Americans consider it to be.

Foreign policy, defense and trade

The Baker Institute Blog writes this week that the US has dodged a bullet in the context of the coup attempt in Turkey. They explain that if the coup had succeeded, then the US would have been in a difficult position; while it tends to oppose such coups, there is a long history of dealing with military autocrats if they align with US interests.

Monkey Cage has the results of a new study which shows that Russian elites are more militaristic – and anti-American than they have been for many years.

Closer to home, Nicholas Kristof argues that the US is helping deport child refugees back to their home countries in Central America – likely to die.

Obamacare and health policy

Increasing costs for insurers who are part of Obamacare has been in the news recently. Beat the Press writes Monday that these cost increases are likely down to more people signing up to exchanges who are less healthy than the population as a while – not rising health care costs in general.

The economy, society and criminal justice

Marginal Revolution discusses a new and different economic theory of the Donald Trump movement – inadequate savings. Beat the Press meanwhile has the news that the country’s core inflation rate has fallen to 1.4 percent if shelter is excluded.

Mischiefs of Faction takes a close look at the party’s stances towards free trade over the past 15 years. They find that while Clinton’s emphasis on jobs is consistent with her party’s recent votes on free trade agreements, Trump’s similar opposition to such agreements does not align with how the GOP has generally voted. 

The Volokh Conspiracy makes the case this week for more policing, commenting that the move to “purely reactive” policing ignores the needs of residents in high-crime areas. Lawyers, Guns & Money meanwhile argues why police need unions; they support police in a time when they are under incredible pressures and scrutiny. Still on policing, Monkey Cage has a chart which illustrates how Americans feel about protests and police responses, and what can be considered a proportional response.

Featured image credit: DonkeyHotey (Flickr, CC-BY-SA-2.0)

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Note:  This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of USAPP– American Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics. 

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