— subtitle on TV ad depicting a cleaning product dissolving lumps of limescale.

“We got the Trump water, we got some steaks, oh, they’re beautiful steaks, they’re yours for fifty dollars … I’m kidding.” Jeyesus Chrayast. On the stage in Florida, before the usual half-dozen flags, Donald Trump was giving an infomercial. He was actually giving an infomercial. He had just won the Michigan and Mississippi primaries, and was holding the now usual “press conferences” at one of the properties he owns.

Beside the line of flags was a table, piled high with 24 packs of bottled water, bottles of Trump Wine, a couple of dozen steaks on a serving board, and copies of Trump magazine piled high. As a nation watched, jaws hanging, Trump extolled the virtues of the properties he owns — “they’re really great; they’re beautiful places to stay” — the magazine available free when you stayed there, the steaks, the wine, the water. Entwined in all this was a press conference in the approved “rambling” style, the whole thing went for 40 minutes, and the news networks took the whole thing. Of course they did. You couldn’t look away. Trump had done it — made it impossible for Saturday Night Live to do a cold-opener sketch on it, because he’d fused the event with the sketch itself. “Live from America, it’s the selection of the chief executive and commander-in-chief!”

Later, Trump would say that the stunt was in response to accusations that he had a series of failed businesses. The display did not exactly dispel that. Trump Water was discontinued years ago; Trump wine is made by his sons; and the Trump steaks, also discontinued, were provided by a Florida outfit called Bush Brothers. Everyone tut-tutted and wondered if this was not a misstep for Trump, etc, etc, which makes you wonder if they’ll get this before Trump bombs Scotland in May 2017.

The act got him almost an hour of national TV coverage for free, and untold hours of talking about it the next day. Then there was a bonus from people talking about what a con it was. And Trump continues to keep everyone guessing. What’s next? People keep watching, which is more than can be said for the usual boring victory speeches, night after night. Trump also got a win in Hawaii, long after everyone had gone to bed (actually, I was up, watching SVU, idly reflecting on the fact that the rate of falsely reported rapes in SVU-land is, for plot purposes, about 19,000% what it is in the real world, and the show has probably set the cause back by decades) and Ted Cruz took Idaho, the only man whose head makes potatoes look good.

Poor old Marco Rubio! He was hoping for a bridging win in Hawaii, which would get him to Florida, but it was not to be. He didn’t even make the threshold in other states, so he got no delegates from the night. That’s about as sad a result as you can get, but he must keep going. He’s the Latino Willy Loman, traipsing around with a bag of samples of something no one wants to buy — the American dream sure, but the one you have when you’ve eaten a cheese pizza. Meanwhile, Trump is spritzing reporters with wine he doesn’t make.

Rubio is now polling 10 points behind in Florida, and being badly outgunned in ad buys, which suggests that he is running out of money. His voice has never recovered; he looks and sounds eight years old. No one could honestly think of him as presidential material. By now, he’s probably desperate to lose Florida, so he doesn’t have to get up every morning and do three speeches a day to thinning crowds, in warehouses near airports, up and down the peninsula. “No, Marco,” he’s thinking, “‘the VP slot. Eyes on the prize.” And that sweet bauble. Put your feet up and wait for someone to shoot President Cruz — most likely the secret service assigned to Ted Cruz. “Where are we now? Tallahassee Paint Thinners? OK. My dad was a bartender, but he had a dream …” That would be Camp Rubio.

Inside Camp Hillary, well, it does not bear thinking about, because Bernie Sanders won Michigan. He bloody won it! He lost Mississippi of course, a real shocker: about 85-15. But he was always going to do that. Michigan seemed like a loss too, but Bernie led from the start and never lost the lead, bringing it in 50-48. No one had expected it, least of all the Sanders campaign, which hadn’t even scheduled a victory speech. They’d flown to Florida, and Bernie had to come out of his hotel at about 11pm, looking like an old guy in a Holiday Inn, who’d been woken by headboard-banging next door, and came out to kvetch: “Can’t a guy get a little SLEEP!?” It’s amazing how utterly unaffected his vote is by the fact that he looks like he’s wearing a dressing gown and slippers.

The Michigan win answered two things: first, that he can win the black vote (he got 30% in Michigan) and second, that sleazy attacks don’t work among the Democrats, the way they do among Republicans. In the debate, Hillary hit him with a charge that he’d voted against the auto bailout (he’d voted for it, but against a second vote where it was bundled with a Wall Street bailout), and he wasn’t thinking quick enough to make a clear reply. He seemed a little blindsided by it, as if, after all this, he still doesn’t know the Clintons. The Clintons, my god. Bill, interviewed after the loss, grinned and said that “Hillary probably spent so much time sorting out the [water] problems of Flint, she didn’t do as much campaigning as she should.” If you made that man eat shit, he wouldn’t need a toothpick. But the mood at Camp Clinton … my god. I bet she goes back to Flint and turns the poisoned water back on. “Drink this fuckers, haaaaa!” Why did she lose? Well, this from MSNBC:

Amanda Renteria: “I think Rubio and Kasich stay in even if they lose their home state.”

Interviewer: “I bet they won’t.”

AR: “Will Cruz?”

Int: “Errrr, Cruz already won his home state.”

AR: “Oh.”

Renteria is Hillary’s national campaign political director

The Michigan win means the Sanders campaign will look a little less forlorn going into next week, with Ohio, Florida, Illinois and North Carolina. He could land a heavy blow on the Hillary campaign in Ohio and Illinois. Florida? A grumpy old Brooklyn Jew? Forget the primary. They might not let him leave. He’ll stay in, whatever, but he only needs one win (hint: won’t be North Carolina) to give him a solid narrative. And if he won Ohio and Illinois, it would show that he can win the rust-belt states — the states that Trump might be able to take from the Democrats in the general — and that might start to concentrate the minds of the powers-that-be.

Ahead, in the days to come, a bit of a reflection on what just happened, but as a short take-away: after this ongoing sequence of results, neither party, and especially the Republicans, can return to the policy mix they have employed for decades. They will have to reconstruct themselves, or they will prompt internal revolt and collapse. Wins for Trump and Sanders in Ohio and Illinois will tamp that down. Meanwhile, breathless announcement: Jeb Bush will meet with Rubio, Cruz and Kasich as part of the ongoing anti-Trump campaign. Scary. Trump should have left the Bush Brothers wrapping on the meat, and just have it look like he butchered them, and left them on a board, with the water and the wine, like some Cthulhu communion.

Who would the characters in SVU vote for? Answers in the comments. Include “skeevy guy played by actor who’s been in three episodes” and “black lady judge”.


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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