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Trump Up the Volume

California Republicans in the era of Trump

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Donald Trump's campaign has so far been a general exercise in name-calling, immigrant-bashing and snippy tweets directed at out-of-favor reporters.

He's running on the power of his celebrity and channeling Ted Nugent while saving the gory policy details for later—except as they relate to immigration. That one's a no-brainer: Everyone must go!

It's a drama driven to heights of nativism, and thanks to the pugilism of Trump and his extreme views on immigration (not to mention his extremely positive views of himself), we're looking at the most hateful electoral throw-down in memory. At the first GOP debate, he laid claim to the immigration mantle and said nobody would be talking about it were it not for him.

None of the other candidates disagreed, even as Trump has driven the other top-tier candidates to the right on immigration and pushed the GOP establishment into frenzied distraction in the process. Trump's willingness to spill buckets of blood goes beyond his support for those two thugs who beat up a Mexican in his name a couple months ago ("The people that are following me are very passionate," was his heinous defense, before he thought better of it).

Trump has already dropped a Willie Horton ad on Jeb "Third Time's a Charm" Bush for daring to utter the word "love" in connection with a fair enough question about why Mexicans come here to work and then send money back to their families.

Trump's ad juxtaposes Bush's "love" comment with the Mexican rapists he plans to exploit all the way to the White House. The ad is priceless in its irresponsibility and rhetorical violence, and his poll numbers are holding steady. That Trump, he just says what's on his mind. Mexicans have meanwhile responded with Trump piñatas in the North Bay and beyond.

Last week was quite a run for readers of political tea leaves and the prospects for Tea Party favorites. Trump led the pack as Bush made that unfortunate "stuff happens" comment about the Oregon mass shooting. Meanwhile, Carly Fiorina continued to fib mightily about Planned Parenthood videos, Ted Cruz accused Obama of tearing the country apart—pot, kettle, black—and Ben Carson was looking like the adult in the room, although he also looked like he just woke up from a meat coma. Then he started talking about guns. Youch!

On the other side, Hillary Clinton breezed through California for various $2,700-a-plate donor dinners last week, which included a visit to Belvedere in Marin County.

But she'll need to pivot to a more Bernie Sanders–like populism if she hopes to ascend to the White House, says David McCuan, Sonoma State University political scientist. That's something she failed to do against Obama in 2008, he recalls. Now she faces the prospect of facing off against Trump in 2016 in the general election, and I think we can all agree that would be a wild freaking ride.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner, having been Pope-shamed in his own house and having at last determined that his party has been given over to a strain of rampant yahooism—straight up announced his resignation from Congress, and set off a desperate scrum to replace him.

The putative favorite out the gate was the Kern County–based majority leader Kevin McCarthy, but as the week wore on, McCarthy emerged as nothing if not totally compromised, and perhaps incompetent.

Just as Boehner was bailing out on the GOP-led House, McCarthy went on Sean Hannity's show and uttered the truth—at long last!—about the Benghazi select committee in Congress: that its purpose was to help drive down Clinton's poll numbers. McCarthy said he'd bring a Benghazi-like focus to Planned Parenthood via another select committee. Hannity thanked McCarthy for his efforts on behalf of the American people.

But the moment of unscripted get-Hillary truth-telling cost McCarthy, and by week's end he was being challenged by Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz for the leadership role. The vote is Oct. 29.

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