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Why I’m putting away my political crystal ball

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Prognostications are part of a political pundit’s job description. If you bat a Ted Williams-level .400 over your career that’s commentator Hall of Fame stuff. But mostly we all get most of the calls wrong. There are just too many moving parts in politics, including even the weather, as when hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina indelibly impacted not just their physical victims and vast stretches of property but also political careers and elections.

Thus The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis and I are parading our near perfect win streak of predictions after three GOP primary contests. We have both called both races the same way and got only the bronze in New Hampshire wrong. (We both underestimated the damage Chris Christie did to Marco Rubio.) Eight out of nine win/place/show calls is pretty good, and enough for me to put away my crystal ball for the foreseeable future.

Matt may be more intrepid, but from here on out there isn’t enough time or data for me to predict whether Donald Trump continues his incredible ascent or tumbles back to earth, the victim of the traditional force of political gravity that held, until this year, that Republicans usually nominate the next in line, or at least someone who, like George W. Bush in 2000, has been around the GOP chicken dinner circuit for at least a few years.

If Donald Trump has ever been a Lincoln Day dinner speaker it will be news to me. But that hasn’t mattered this year and doesn’t look like it will. What is going to matter is rhetoric and delivery, the promise of fundamental, D.C.-wrecking change and the passion to make primary voters believe you can deliver it.

I view this still as a four plus one race. Dr. Carson is the plus one, a man without a path to the nomination but with a powerful message. Each of the remaining four have plausible paths to that nomination or at least to an open convention. All of them can beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but only if they hang together after a winner emerges. If even one of them defects, Hillary’s odds of overcoming her massive defects as a candidate skyrocket. It is impossible to predict what will happen come the fall (no one foresaw a financial panic in 2008) but if the GOP not only unites but rallies around the nominee, the Supreme Court vacancy created by the tragic loss of Justice Antonin Scalia will be filled by an originalist.

And those are the stakes, and except for threats posed by enemies abroad, they cannot be higher. If the former secretary of state names the next Supreme Court justice, expect the First Amendment’s free speech-defending Citizens United, the Free Exercise and Religious Freedom Restoration Act-defending Hobby Lobby and the Second Amendment-defending Heller to all be overturned within a term or two or three. The “living Constitution” theorists will have triumphed. And not just for the proverbial “generation.” There will be no return from the land of a left-far left five member majority on the court.

So whoever carries the day — Cruz, Kasich, Rubio or Trump (or even Dr. Carson in some scenario I cannot foresee) — the GOP must rally to their banner or forever forfeit the right to proclaim their upset with any or all Supreme Court decisions.

Clarity arrived when Justice Scalia departed. If there was ever any doubt about the stakes of 2016, it is gone now. And everyone will get that by November. That’s one more prediction I am willing to make.

 

 

This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.

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