Why you should care
Because as one great election battle ends, a new one will inevitably begin.
I was going to write about how the Donald could potentially make a comeback — even this close to the election and with this kind of deficit. That might have featured a powerful apology tour combined with the delivery of a crisp and compelling economic plan, or the broad and extensive deployment of Ivanka in key swing states as a surrogate. And if Trump had persuaded Senator Bob Corker plus several key moderates to agree to serve in his Cabinet, the billionaire might have had a real shot.
But as much as I love comebacks — I’m a Cleveland sports fan, after all — I just don’t think Trump can pull it off. So I am going to put that kind analysis aside (sorry, Harry Truman) and look ahead to a handful of intriguing things that may yet unfold …
Is Ivanka up next?
Anyone paying even a tiny bit of attention this election cycle knows that Ivanka Trump could put in her own bid for office one day. But what many people may be missing is just how many other Trumps are likely to be in the spotlight for at least a little while in the coming years. Donald Trump Jr. seems like a surefire contender, though it’s almost inevitable that he’s going to end up in hot water. The father of five that he is, Trump Jr. has had such a penchant for off-color misstatements of late — you have to assume that someday one (or more) of those remarks will have a serious, perhaps politically fatal, consequence.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) October 6, 2016
Besides Ivanka, the family member who I think will most thrive in other ways is certainly less appreciated: Trump’s son-in-law and political consigliere, Jared Kushner, who has all the makings of a future politico. Young, handsome and rich, with a powerful wife, Kushner could one day be to Trump what Jack Kennedy was to his father. Indeed, the 35th president took the best of his old man and eliminated many of his father’s excesses to ultimately win the highest office in the land. I could easily see Kushner learning from Trump’s historic run — and painful flubs — while building a more elegant and mainstream campaign that one day puts a member (or two) of this clan in the White House. It’s not hard to see why some people think of Ivanka and Jared as the new Claire and Frank Underwood.
The Next Rachel Maddow
In the coming weeks we will look at our election-year MVP team — all of the personalities and people who made this campaign season exceptional. While I won’t spoil the surprise here and unveil the full roster, I will nod to the best political commentator of the bunch: CNN’s Van Jones. The one-time geek (as his sister has called him) turned Yale law student (briefly) turned communist turned White House adviser turned Glenn Beck foil has ultimately turned into the top analyst this season with smart, clear and simply gripping commentary. In my books, he beats out radio and MSNBC commentator Hugh Hewitt, who did some terrific work on the GOP side, especially in the primaries.
If you aren’t familiar with Jones’ work yet, it’s not too late. Watch the video of him below, owning Trump spokesman Jeffrey Lord, or this other clip of him chastising Trump for threatening to jail Hillary Clinton, calling it a “new low in American democracy.” The man who used to quietly advise the artist formerly known as Prince is definitely poised for an even bigger platform next year. Indeed, if CNN is smart, it will quickly make him its own Maddow.
The One to (Really) Watch
The Trump-Clinton race has turned a lot of states away from their normal or expected trajectories — and I am not just talking about swing states. Reliably Democratic footholds like Maine and Iowa could go for Trump, while more classically red states like Georgia and Arizona could vote Hillary. But if you want to watch for what could become the biggest surprise of the night on Nov. 8, keep your eye on South Carolina — it could kick off a new civil war of a different sort.
The Palmetto State has been part of the Solid South for nearly 50 years. Not since Jimmy Carter has a Democrat won there. But if Trump truly tanks and both Black voters and turned-off white women give HRC an edge, it could not only be the surprise of election night, but it also might accelerate other opportunities for Democrats across the South in the years to come. Such an unthinkable win could spur hesitant blue donors and organizers to redouble their efforts not just in swing states such as Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, but in parts of the South that have seemed impermeable for a generation: Mississippi, Alabama, even Texas. Talk about change; talk about a series of surprises.
Bill Plays the Blues
With what looks like a strong lead, what will Hillary do next? Gloat? No. Play it safe? Nah. Go for broke? Hell, yeah. Expect Clinton to send out the greatest campaigner of modern times, not just to help elect her, but also to focus on helping Democrats retake the full Congress — both the House and the Senate. With such support, HRC could give herself an opportunity to pass early transformative legislation and, importantly, forestall painful investigations that are sure to come next year if she wins and the GOP is still in charge.
So instead of hunkering down in swing states like North Carolina and Ohio, expect to see Big Bill in safely blue presidential states like New York and New Jersey that have vulnerable GOP House seats. He is sure to lose sleep, his voice and maybe even his healthy new diet in what could be his last true campaigning hurrah!