January, 2016

Cruz Was Big Loser of GOP Debate

Political insiders tell Politico that Sen. Ted Cruz “had the worst night of the seven GOP presidential candidates on stage Thursday.”

“More than 4-in-10 GOP insiders – given the choice of the seven GOP candidates on the stage, plus Trump – rated Cruz as the loser of Thursday night’s debate, citing his defensive posture on his past immigration stances and opposition to ethanol subsidies.”

Des Moines Register: “Without the dominant national front-runner in the room, the target was the candidate who inherited center stage for the night: Ted Cruz. But the Texas U.S. senator largely forfeited this golden opportunity.”

Trump May Be Unstoppable If He Wins Iowa

“A wide range of senior Republicans told Politico that if Trump wins Iowa, he’ll more than likely be the nominee. One factor they repeatedly pointed to: An Iowa victory over Cruz would validate opinion polls showing him in command of the race. The Trump phenomenon would officially become a reality.”

Said a top official of a rival GOP campaign: “If Donald Trump wins Iowa, I think he has won—period. Ted Cruz is supposed to win Iowa. If Trump wins, he’ll be on a trajectory to come out of the SEC primaries [March 1] with close to triple the delegates of anyone else.”

Trump Ditches Debate for Telethon-Style Rally

“Donald Trump kept his word and skipped the seventh GOP presidential debate of the campaign Thursday night to stage a production that was equal parts campaign rally, telethon and televised revue,” the Washington Post reports.

Reuters: “Trump’s gamble that he could leave the battlefield to his rivals for one night appeared to pay off, with just days to go before Iowa holds the first nominating contest of the 2016 election season. No one appeared to emerge as a central challenger to him during the two-hour face-off in Des Moines.”

Politico: “Trump’s gambit split the political press corps between his own much-hyped event and the debate they would otherwise be covering across town, where seven of his rivals shared the spotlight instead. It also guaranteed that Trump’s name would once again dominate the headlines on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.”

Daily Beast: “Though he was rarely mentioned, Donald Trump’s absence was felt all night—but mostly because of the lack of put downs, which were replaced by a wide-ranging policy discussion from foreign policy to abortion to who loves Jesus more.”

The 7th GOP Presidential Debate

The seventh GOP presidential debate was an odd combination of vicious attacks and boring, rehearsed stump speeches.

Donald Trump came out unscathed. If he got a chance to watch, he must have been very amused seeing his rivals kill each other. After showing video montages of his rivals flip-flopping on issues like immigration, one can only imagine the montage Fox News had planned for Trump. He was a big winner by not being there.

Of those debating, Jeb Bush had the best night. He showed himself to be the most thoughtful person on stage. He appears to have actually discussed these issues before and was especially effective challenging Rubio on immigration. Without Trump on stage, it was as if Bush could finally relax and be himself.

Rand Paul was also very effective. He stands by his positions — such as surveillance and immigration — no matter how unpopular. He also had the crowd stacked with supporters which helped.

Ted Cruz came out early trying to mock Trump but it flopped badly and he never mentioned the GOP frontrunner again. He spent the rest of the debate being attacked by everyone. It’s almost as if Trump is right when he says, “No one likes Ted.” It was not his strongest night.

As for Marco Rubio, he just speaks too quickly. He’s not polished, as some claim, he’s programmed to avoid answering questions. He talks like a robot. His best moment was when he unloaded on Cruz over immigration but he’s had much better debates.

Chris Christie made sure everyone knows he’s a governor and that Cruz and Rubio are not. He took every chance he could to attack Hillary Clinton but he made little effort to distinguish himself as a better choice than his rivals.

John Kasich must have been thinking about New Hampshire because he didn’t really show up tonight.

Ben Carson never really shows up. I’d be surprised if his total speaking time was much more than five minutes.

Finally, no matter what Trump says, Megyn Kelly is actually a pretty good moderator. She was tough in her questions and didn’t let anyone push her around.

Does Rubio Really Have Momentum?

Nate Silver: “If anything’s happening, it seems to be confined to Iowa. Rubio has lost a few points, not gained them, in New Hampshire. And his national polls have been flat.”

“There’s also a conspicuous sign that Rubio doesn’t have momentum. Despite being the sort of candidate who should have appeal to ‘party elites,’ Rubio hasn’t received any endorsements from current governors or members of Congress since Sen. Jim Inhofe endorsed him on Jan. 9.”

Rubio Sees Opening If Trump Wins Iowa

New York Times: “The Florida senator and his advisers have concluded that a head-to-head battle with Mr. Trump over the next several weeks would be much more advantageous than one with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, whose success would greatly complicate Mr. Rubio’s hopes of consolidating his support inside the Republican Party.”

“A victory by Mr. Trump would send panicked Republicans toward Mr. Rubio, his campaign reasons, especially donors who have been reluctant to get behind Mr. Rubio because their allegiances are with other candidates.”

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“Once you’ve gotten that ruling from the federal judge and you’re the last man standing in this presidential contest next to Donald Trump, we’ll be happy to have a debate with you one-on-one, anywhere you want, because that’s the way the system works. But, as it stands right now, we don’t even know if Ted Cruz is legally eligible to run for president of the United States.”

— Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, quoted by BuzzFeed.

Cruz Shifts His Attacks to Rubio

Sen. Ted Cruz, “who has been harshly criticizing Donald Trump all week on the campaign trail and in television commercials here, is now broadening his attacks to include Senator Marco Rubio, an unmistakable acknowledgment that Mr. Rubio is gaining support in the closing days before the Monday caucuses,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Cruz incorporated a critique of Mr. Rubio into his closing stump speech at a rally in West Des Moines on Wednesday night, arguing that his colleague had effectively given up the fight against same-sex marriage… Just as striking, Mr. Cruz’s campaign quietly began running an ad in Iowa Thursday targeting Mr. Rubio over his support of ‘amnesty’ for undocumented immigrants.”

Another Poll Shows Trump Leading in Iowa

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa finds Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential race with 31%, followed by Ted Cruz at 23%, Marco Rubio at 14% and Ben Carson at 9%.

Key finding: “Cruz has seen a large drop in his favorability rating over the last few weeks, from 69/18 down to just 56/35. Trump’s continued focus on the ‘Canadian birther’ issue may really be a big part of what’s helping him at Cruz’s expense.”

Branstad Warms Even More to Trump

When Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) appeared at a breakfast this morning, he had an opportunity to criticize Donald Trump for skipping tonight’s GOP debate, the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Branstad not only declined to bash Mr. Trump for his decision to hold a separate event in Des Moines at the same time as the debate, but he also marveled at what he described as the Trump phenomenon and predicted a record Republican turnout on Monday.”

Said Branstad: “I’ll never forget the Iowa State Fair when he’s giving rides on his helicopter.”

Where’s the Old Bill Clinton Magic?

New York Times: “It is still early enough in the race for Mr. Clinton to warm up. (And he can take some time to warm up.) A more subdued Bill Clinton may not be such a bad thing either, say some Democrats, who cringe as they recall the distraction of his piping-hot words about Barack Obama in the 2008 race.”

“Yet the Clinton of lore, the once-in-a generation political natural who fought back to win his party’s nomination in 1992 and came through in clutch moments with great speeches over the years, has yet to appear.”