August 27, 2015

Fiorina Will Almost Certainly Miss the CNN Debate

  5:18 pm

With this morning’s Quinnipiac poll averaged in, here are the latest candidate averages as defined by the CNN debate criteria:

cnn avg 8-27

If this looks a little odd to you, you’re not the only one. Remember, CNN has determined they will average polls from July 16 to September 10 to determine who the top ten in the race are – meaning there will more than likely be more polls in their average from before the Cleveland debate than after it. This is mystifying because it doesn’t reflect the true state of the race, and Carly Fiorina is going to be the biggest casualty.

Notice in the CNN average, she is in 12th place with just 1.92%. However, if we were to look at just the three post-debate polls, she suddenly shoots up into 7th place:

cnn avg pd 8-27

It would be tough to see Fiorina, who has gotten 5% in every poll after her Cleveland debate performance, locked out of the grown-ups club this time around. She’s currently doing better than Christie, Paul, Huckabee, and Kasich, but still won’t have a seat at the table.

But wait — what if polling continues to put her at or around 5% from now until the debate? It still wouldn’t matter. Math is not on Fiorina’s side here because of CNN’s rules. I started playing around with my spreadsheet to see if I could figure out what it would take to get Fiorina into the top ten, then came across this article from The Fix where they already figured it out: for Fiorina to make CNN’s top ten debate, twenty more polls would have to be released between now and then showing her at 5%. Given how slowly polls are coming out this time around, that’s just not going to happen.

What this does is keep Chris Christie alive slightly longer (assuming the rumors of him dropping out after August aren’t true). It also gives Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee a nice artificial lift as well. Perception counts for a lot in a televised debate, and CNN’s numbers have Jeb and Walker flanking Trump at center stage, with Huckabee nearby. If, however, they used only post-Cleveland polls, Carson would be center stage with Trump with Jeb off to the side, and Huckabee would be over at the edge of the stage.

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August 22, 2015

Trump, Cruz Holding Secret Talks, Forming Alliance

  8:00 am

We’ve known for quite some time that Senator Ted Cruz was playing friendly with Donald Trump, with Cruz refusing to attack The Donald and even praising him after some of his more outlandish moments on the campaign trail. Armchair pundits just assumed it was a strategic move by Cruz: looking to win over Trump voters so he could surge when Trump faltered. But what if there was something more to the story?

Cruz, Trump in Secret Talks
Behind the scenes, Cruz has been methodologically developing Trump’s support. The two candidates have met in person at least five times and talk by phone occasionally. And in the future, they may even hold events together.

The two campaigns privately discussed a possible joint event this year in Washington, D.C., and Cruz was invited to join Trump’s infamous trip to the Mexico border, though a scheduling problem prevented him from attending, sources told The Daily Beast…

In Cruz, Trump has a prominent politician who is willing to defend his comments. He may even have, in his mind, a potential running mate.

We’ve talked before here at Race about how important alliances are going to be in a campaign with this many candidates. A very clear alliance between Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio emerged early on and has only gotten stronger. Expanding the circle from there, we can see a larger alliance forged under Mitt Romney’s watchful eye: Rubio, Graham, Fiorina, Walker, Kasich, and Christie all appear to be on the same team, refusing to attack one another and all attending a number of strategy meetings with Romney.

So if that group of six are the Allies, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz would be the Axis powers (or, switch the two terms of you prefer). And this new two man Axis will be formidable: together, the two of them represent 29.3% of the GOP support in the RCP national average — the exact same combined amount represented by the six members of the Allies.

If you were trying to game out who Trump might choose as a Vice President, the answer may have been under our noses the entire time. Trump/Cruz might have an incredibly powerful appeal to the GOP base — the only question might be how long the two could keep their grand plan under wraps, especially if they really do begin holding joint campaign events together.

For Cruz, this arrangement has no downside, of course. If Donald Trump wins the nomination, he gets to be VP. If Donald Trump falters and loses, he stands to gain most of Trump’s supporters and could potentially win the nomination himself. It’s a brilliant strategic move.

For the Allies, they now have two targets at which to aim and a lot of work to do — and much of that work will be done behind the scenes. We already noted a moment of coordinated response against Trump last week, the opening salvo in what promises to be a long, protracted fight for the soul of the Republican Party. Those who support that team in the background will continue to hold meetings and attempt to develop strategies to fend off the Trump/Cruz threat.

In other words, folks, grab some popcorn. This is about to get really interesting.

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August 19, 2015

RUMOR: Christie to Drop Out at End of August if IA, NH Numbers Don’t Improve

  6:30 pm

The Dropout Watch for the GOP primary race was activated nine days ago when it became public that Rick Perry’s campaign was broke and not paying any of their staff. This week, we can add another campaign to the list of those on life support: Chris Christie.

Rumors are swirling that Christie, facing horrendous numbers in Iowa (11th place @ 2%), New Hampshire (6th place @ 5%), and nationally (11th place @ 3%), is preparing one last push in in the Hawkeye and Granite states. If this round of campaigning and advertising fails to move the needle, Christie is considering dropping out at the end of August.

The necessary caveat: the rumors were picked up by the DC Whispers blog, a source of… questionable authority. And the Christie campaign is denying it (but what else are they supposed to say?). However, Bush/Cheney strategist Matthew Dowd has pegged Chris Christie as being the most likely to drop out as well, and the chatter among DC insiders is that both Perry and Christie’s campaigns are dead in the water.

Once the vultures start circling and the narratives are written, it’s virtually inevitable that candidates will end their bids (the only notable exception being John McCain in 2008). Once a cycle of these rumors begins, it affects fundraising, the ability to hire quality staff, and, when it enters the psyche of voters, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in the polls. We may soon see the largest field in history contract by two.

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POWER RANKINGS: AUGUST

  12:53 pm

1. Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio at number one? How? Trump is leading! Breitbart News says Trump is the frontrunner! Well, August horse race polls are not the best indicator of how the race shakes out, as President Giuliani should remind you. Favorability and overall acceptability combined with organization and fundraising are better indicators of long term success. With Bush and Walker stumbling, Marco Rubio stands to benefit the most. Rubio was considered by many to be the big winner in the first debate, and he is trending up across the early states, leading Bush in both Iowa and Nevada. With the other establishment candidates faltering, the likable and charismatic Rubio is gaining, with a surge in fundraising added to his leading campaign haul. Soon, the establishment will need to decide to double down on the increasingly unfavorable Jeb Bush or, as the Democrats did in 2008, move their support to the young rising star.

2. Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush slips from the top spot after a month of dreadful news for the dynastic presidential hopeful. Despite early leads in fundraising and organization, Bush’s numbers have continued to slide, partly due to the rise of Donald Trump, but also due to the lingering concern of a third Bush candidacy. The upward trends of Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. John Kasich leave Bush with little room for error, as he trails Rubio in Iowa and is staring down a Kasich surge in the Bush firewall of New Hampshire. With his unfavorable numbers topping both Trump’s and Clinton’s, Bush’s argument of electability is now largely without merit. His Right to Rise super PAC is now hoping a massive media blitz will help stop the bleeding.

3. John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. Kasich added the support of Tom Rath, who joined former Sen. Sununu in backing the Ohio governor, in a direct blow to Jeb Bush’s New Hampshire effort. Rath and the Sununu family have long standing ties to the Bush family, and this could be an indicator of more defections to come. Kasich also received the endorsement of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a longtime Mike Huckabee supporter who has clearly sensed that the tanking former Arkansas governor is finished.

4. Donald Trump  Chairman and President of The Trump Organization 

Xenophobic billionaire and prominent Democratic donor Donald Trump continues to lead with a small plurality in the fractured GOP field. Despite any conservative credentials, gravitas, or substance, Trump has proven resilient due to his bombast and star power combined with a saturation of press coverage from Democratic allies in the media. Still, the Planned Parenthood supporter has awful favorable/unfavorable numbers and still lacks a professional campaign organization. Also, unlike other wealthy self-funded candidates like Perot, Forbes, or Bloomberg, Trump has not yet committed substantial money to his campaign.

5. Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

Cruz continues to be steady as he goes. With Trump filling the role of blowhard, Cruz seems almost substantive by comparison. He has stayed out of the fray, performed well in the first debate, and has watched as the numbers of his top social conservative opposition (Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, Walker) tank. As it stands, Cruz will benefit the most from the inevitable end of Trump and the fall of others such as Perry and Huckabee.

6. Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker was damaged the most in the first debate, with his numbers in free fall ever since. It seems that the Pawlenty comparisons he tried to shake have proven resilient. To make matters worse, Walker has flip-flopped on a number of issues in a desperate bid to chase headlines with Donald Trump. His trends don’t look good.

7. Ben Carson  former Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital 

Dr. Carson benefitted the most from the first debate, seeing a surge into to second place in multiple polls behind only Donald Trump. The former surgeon also has very high favorable numbers across the party spectrum, and has raised enough money to be a credible candidate. However, his organization has thus far been underwhelming, and his grasp of foreign policy is still a glaring weakness going forward.

8. Carly Fiorina  former CEO of Hewlett-Packard

The clear winner of the “kid’s table” debate, Fiorina has used her debating talents and media savvy to launch herself into the top ten and will likely make the main debate next month. Her consistent and substantive attacks on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton have earned her a devoted fan following, but her lack of funding will keep her from the top tier.

9. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul’s numbers have tanked in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally. He, along with Scott Walker, seem to have taken the most damage from the first debate. Things have gotten so bad that Rand has now trotted out Ron Paul on the trail in a desperate final bid for attention.

10. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

The New Jersey governor has slipped out of the top ten nationally and is in danger of missing the next debate. To add insult to injury, his friend John Kasich has stolen the role of “straight talking governor” in New Hampshire. Christie is going for one final media push, but rumors are swirling that his campaign could end soon.

Drop Out Watch:  Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore

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August 7, 2015

Gaming the Race Six Months Out – Part One, Candidate Overview

  3:58 pm

Now that the first debate is in the books and we are hitting the tail portion of the summer, the Race 4 2016 is beginning to really take some shape. I decided to put my analyst hat on for a bit here and try to game out the race the rest of the way. This is probably an exercise in futility and things could look very different six weeks from now, let alone six months. However, I think this will be a fun exercise.

First, here are some quick and, best as I can, impartial thoughts on the candidates, their performance thus far and their viability.

Governor Jeb Bush – Make no mistake, Jeb Bush remains the front runner. Still. Barely. His grasp on that position is tenuous, at best. All the money in the world will not be able to overcome what appear to be very real deficiencies in Bush as a candidate, especially against a field this strong. What was obvious last night was that even Bush’s best niche as a candidate – the serious, focused, “adult in the room” – was usurped by more talented candidates.

Dr. Ben Carson – Dr. Carson’s appeal, which I never really understood, was on display last night, at least at times. He is likable, genuine and he fills a nice niche as an outsider which will appeal to a segment of the party. Yet, as things begin to get closer to voting I see Carson’s support, and money, drying up.

Governor Chris Christie – Governor Christie was one of the stronger candidates on stage in last night’s debate and showed at least some of why he was once thought of as a front-runner. He is beginning to carve out a place as the tough guy in the race and his exchange with Rand Paul will at least win him a second look from mainstream conservatives, but he will remain strongly disliked by the far-right. He has work to do, a lot of it in fact, but it appears he will have some staying power.

Senator Ted Cruz – Senator Cruz is who we thought he was – the hardcore, far-right conservative. And that is a formidable position to hold in a GOP primary. Cruz’s appeal is largely with middle-aged, working-class white men in the rural and exurban South and Heartland who listen to talk radio, drink Bud Light and drive pickup trucks. His goal as the race moves into its next phase will be to consolidate his support among that group and, as I will explain in my next column, he is probably the candidate best positioned to do that.

Mrs. Carly Fiorina – Mrs. Fiorina demonstrated, forcefully, why she belongs on the main stage with the serious candidates. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was sharp, articulate, quick on her feet and extraordinarily presidential. More importantly, as a woman, it is going to be hard for other candidates to attack her. That, coupled with her very obvious and real talents as a candidate, she appears poised to be in the race for the long haul if she can raise the necessary money.

Governor Jim Gilmore – A lot folks were not aware that Governor Gilmore was even in the race. After a largely forgettable performance in the afternoon debate yesterday, I am not sure many more know he is in the race now and I doubt he will be in the race much longer.

Senator Lindsey Graham – Senator Graham was largely disappointing in the afternoon debate yesterday. I found that somewhat surprising as Graham is a good communicator and his folksy demeanor plays well. Yet, as someone who was largely an afterthought going into yesterday he had to do more. He will not last much longer.

Governor Mike Huckabee – The former Arkansas Governor did well, as expected, yesterday. An excellent communicator with a loyal following, Huckabee has staying power in the race. His problem, however, is two-fold; one he not that strong of a conservative on issues beyond the social and he never has been much of a fundraiser. He needs to do a lot of work on both those areas if he is going to make it to the final round.

Governor Bobby Jindal – Governor Jindal performed strongly in yesterday’s debate, demonstrating a strong grasp on policy and a top-tier intellect. Problem is, in a field this large it is going to hard for a candidate like Jindal, with little name recognition and even less money, to stand out. Sans finding some kind of silver bullet, and firing it soon, Jindal will be an early exit. He will, however, make an excellent cabinet secretary in a Republican administration.

Governor John Kasich – Governor Kasich was very strong yesterday. As a late entrant into the race there were concerns Kasich had waited too long, that does not appear to be the case.  His very strong debate performance figures to bring a major boost both his name recognition and fund-raising ability. Being from Ohio and having a long resume of successful governmental experience will help too. Barring a major gaffe, which is a possibility given his penchant for speaking off the cuff, Kasich is a good bet to remain in this race for the long haul.

Governor George Pataki – The former Governor of the Empire State, who performed well in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and can boast being a three-term governor of a dark, dark blue state, did not perform badly in the afternoon debate. He was not great, either. And for a candidate that is near the very bottom of the barrel, that will prove highly problematic and Pataki will likely be forced to exit the race sooner rather than later.

Senator Rand Paul – Perhaps no candidate’s performance both in yesterday’s debate and the race at large has been more polarizing than Paul’s. He has a sizable and vocal base of support from libertarians and libertarian-leaning conservatives but his challenge has always been if he can expand upon that. Truth be told, I do not think we have a definitive answer on that yet. Even if the answer turns out to be no, and it the estimation of yours truly it is trending that way, Paul will have staying power, because of his base, as his father demonstrated. With his re-election to the Senate a virtual guarantee, Paul will likely remain in the race long-term to highlight the issues about which he and his base are passionate, even when it becomes clear he has no chance in hell to win the nomination.

Governor Rick Perry – On paper, Governor Perry looks like a very formidable candidate. He is a multi-term, widely successful governor of the nation’s second-largest state, a “checks all the boxes” conservative with charisma, a southern base of support and is one of only two veterans in the Republican race. Yet none of that has translated into support. It’s puzzling. And Perry and his team will have to solve that puzzle soon if he is to remain in the race much longer.

Senator Marco Rubio – Those of us who follow politics closely are all keenly aware of the very formidable strengths Senator Rubio brings to the table. Last night, the rest of the country got to see it as well. Rubio was good. Very good. He can sell conservatism in a way that appeals to such a broad segment of the electorate. Recent talk about the “Rubio summer slide” should be silenced after last night’s performance. As his supporters (which, full disclosure, yours truly is one) have been saying his slow-and-steady wins the race approach looks like a good grand strategy. He is going to be able to raise plenty of money, he is excellent on the stump, in interviews and, as we saw yesterday, in debates as well. Rubio will be in the race for the very long haul.

Senator Rick Santorum – Senator Santorum’s second run at the presidency looks like it will end a lot sooner than his first. It is hard to find a niche to which he appeals; others are better-equipped to go after blue-collar voters and hardcore social conservatives. However, he is a tenacious politician and he will not give up easily, quickly or without a fight. It is plainly obvious to everyone now that he is not going to win, or even get close, to the nomination, but it will take Santorum a lot longer to get out of the race than another candidate who found themselves in a similar position.

Mr. Donald Trump – Trump was nothing short of awful yesterday; he was the very definition of un-presidential. Many political observers, most especially yours truly, have struggled mightily to understand his appeal. So it is possible that Trump’s supporters – the ones who voted him the debate’s runaway winner in yesterday’s Drudge poll – liked what they saw last night and will continue to support him. However, it is hard to imagine that yesterday’s embarrassing performance did not hurt him at least somewhat. Trump’s death as a candidate will likely, unfortunately, be a long and slow one. There is a segment of voters who do genuinely like him, passionately, and the media cannot get enough Trump talk. To make a sports analogy, Trump is the Tim Tebow of the 2016 race.

Governor Scott Walker – Governor Walker had a steady performance last night. He really did not do anything to distinguish himself but he certainly did not make any gaffes or do anything damaging. He has been doing the ground work in Iowa where his natural appeal makes him an ideal fit for first in the nation caucus state. Yet, Walker is going to need to start doing more lest his charisma gap – which is very real – does not lead voters to at least start looking at other candidates.

Part Two of this piece, which is coming very soon, will make an attempt to game out the next eight months of the race. Stay tuned!

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An Undecided’s Take on Last Night’s Debate

  2:00 pm

As one of your resident undecided Republican primary voters, I went into the main show last night looking to see how the main candidates stood up to scrutiny. I had all of one definite opinion pre-debate – I was not going to vote for Donald Trump in the primary. That has not changed, but my views on some of the other candidates have changed a bit actually seeing them in a debate setting. To give a little background on my views/votes – in 2008, I was a Fred-head and unabashedly supported Thompson in the primary. In 2012, I started off as a Cainiac, but as the wheels derailed and his train fell apart, I ended up voting for Perry in the primary. I start this off as an undecided primary voter who had few leanings except for an opinion that Donald Trump is not fit to be President, so that bias will still come through below.

  • Jeb Bush – I feel overall Bush did no harm in this debate, but the fact is he was underwhelming. He did part of what he needed to do – he explained to voters how he’s different than his brother and how he governed in Florida. That said, he seemed to hold back and, quite frankly, was a little boring at times. I was expecting more out of him.
  • Ben Carson – Carson did as well as he could considering the setting and the lack of airtime he received. His last two answers he knocked out of the park. But, in the entire debate he felt less like a Presidential candidate and more like a candidate for local office. He was soft spoken, which is fine, but it came across to me as a lack of fire in the belly.
  • Chris Christie – I was undecided on Christie leaning toward ignoring him in the primary before the debate. After the debate? I felt he won the battle with Rand Paul on issues of data collection. I felt he had some solid answers and definitely gave himself a boost in this debate. Him arguing and defending his record is a must in the debate setting, and I felt he gave good answers on life issues. On foreign policy, though, he felt more like Rand Paul’s foil than someone with a separate detailed policy. He did well as Paul’s foil, made Paul look childish, but that’s not enough for me.
  • Ted Cruz – Ted Cruz was polished, well spoken, and…bland at times. Cruz is usually so much more bombastic, he seemed to tone that down during the debate. The bombast is part of Cruz’s charm as a candidate, so I’m not sure what made him decide to pull it back. He’s positioning himself as the main conservative alternative and I think he did well trying to do that, but I feel his performance did not make him truly stand out. All that said, when his answers were the most personal was when I felt he did the best – talking about his faith and that of his father, was a well done response to a bit of a clown question.
  • Mike Huckabee – Huckabee continues to be Huckabee. He was folksy. He was on point on social conservatism. He was pushing the Fair Tax. What surprised me was his well crafted (at least some of them) answers on foreign policy issues. While retaining his folksy charm, he gave some hard hitting commentary on the Iranian deal which definitely resonated with me and I’m sure it did with other voters as well.
  • John Kasich – Kasich did a good job introducing himself as the new guy in the room. That said, to me – he came across like he was giving me a lecture most of the time more than offering me policy details. His discussion of his blue collar roots felt forced and not genuine. He also doubled down hard on defending some of his more center-left positions. That’s fine that he’s ready to defend them, but don’t expect right leaning primary voters to be happy about it (including me).
  • Rand Paul – Rand Paul ran as the libertarian alternative – just like his father. And in the debate setting, he came across much like his father did, albeit a little less off the wall. His foreign policy answers were where he was the weakest, especially when talking about cutting funding to Israel and his exchange with Christie on the collection of phone record data. Chanting “Fourth Amendment” at Christie while he was trying to have a substantive debate was childish and made him come across as petty and abrasive.
  • Marco Rubio – Rubio won this debate, hands down. He was polished. He avoided jumping into any of the Trump confrontation. He gave red meat answers on the issues with a smile and a manner of speaking which does not alienate moderate voters. He also talked about his back story and did so in a way without feeling forced like Kasich’s discussion of his father the mailman.
  • Donald Trump – Trump did exactly what I expected him to do. He was rude to the moderators. He did his best not to actually offer any policy details, except to say that single payer works well in Canada and Scotland (it doesn’t). I do not understand how you could watch his debate performance and still come out of it supporting him for President. He was not Presidential, said he’d consider going third party if he lost the primary, and still refuses to explain with any evidence why he thinks the Mexican government is pushing people across our border. He also bragged about “owning” politicians who he donated to. It was petty and unbecoming of a Presidential candidate. I think it will be a travesty if he is in the next debate and Perry / Fiorina are not.
  • Scott Walker – Walker’s performance was vanilla. It wasn’t bad and it had some real high notes, including hammering home the Obama-Clinton doctrine on foreign policy and discussion of his multiple wins in Wisconsin. As an Evangelical Christian myself, his comment on his faith in Christ was priceless. That said, overall he just wasn’t memorable. The comparison between him and Tim Pawlenty are going to get more and more frequent.

And there you have it – my thoughts on the debate. Cause I know you were looking for them. To put them into the categories Matt did before, I felt it went:

Helped Themselves A Lot: Rubio

Helped Themselves a Little: Christie, Cruz, Huckabee, Kasich

Did No Harm: Bush, Carson

Did A Little Harm: Paul, Walker

Crashed and Burned: Trump

__________________________________________________________________________

-Matthew Newman is an engineer and blogger who also writes at Old Line Elephant and Red Maryland. Follow Newman on Twitter @mdmrn.

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Debate Reaction Roundup

  11:36 am

Yesterday before the debate, Nate Silver calculated that less than one-tenth of voters were paying attention to the Republican primary. Let that sink in for a moment — that means over 90% of folks are not engaged and following this race like we political junkies are.

Aside from the obvious implications about polling, that means for 90+ percent of folks, last night was a chance to see the candidates and get an impression of them for the very first time.

That’s huge. And when we view the debate through that lens, rather than choosing winners and losers, a more helpful metric might be: who helped themselves, and who hurt themselves during these introductions?

Helped Themselves A Lot
Kasich – The homefield crowd helped him a lot and gave him the subconscious appearance of being well-liked and respected. In a field with loudmouth hotheads (Trump, Christie, Cruz) and impersonal bores (Bush, Jindal, Walker), Kasich fills the niche of the warm, personal, “I feel your pain” guy. I see voters watching the debate last night and saying, “You know, I like him.” Very few people even knew who Kasich was before last night, so his goal was to make a positive first impression. He did that with flying colors.

Rubio – Knowledgeable, fluent, intelligent, crisp and able to pivot on his feet to hit curveballs, Rubio clearly shined last night. Most every media outlet (including Fox News, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post) declared him the “winner.” The one moment that might come back to haunt him was his abortion exception talk. Fact checkers could hit him with it now and Democrats will certainly hit him with it in the general.

Helped Themselves A Little
Huckabee – Huckabee did what Huckabee does best: excel at being personable, likeable, and at delivering scripted jabs in the form of humor. In a campaign, Huckabee is most at home on the debate stage, and he evidenced why he’s a solid second-tier candidate in this race. Huckabee is hurt by being overshadowed in this massive field, however — the NYT notes they “lost track” of him on the crowded stage last night, and the Washington Post notes Huckabee has carved out a solid but small niche that will only be enough if other candidates slip away.

Carson – Another candidate who gets lost amidst the heavy hitters, Carson had to show up in a big way last night to break through. He didn’t quite achieve that, but he certainly didn’t do any harm, either. His soft-spoken mannerisms don’t command attention, but at the same time they’re not off-putting. Carson’s closing statement/joke was his strongest statement of the evening, which is good for him because it’s the one most folks are likely to remember.

Cruz – It seems that Cruz’s goal in this race is to become the default conservative, and he continued down that path last night. Cruz did nothing to stand out above the crowd, but also didn’t get himself in trouble by reverting back to the bomb-throwing firebrand he’s become stereotyped as. For voters looking to settle on a generic conservative candidate, Cruz gave them that option last night.

Christie – Governor Christie was hoping to be the dominating, loud, truth-teller in this field, but Donald Trump swooped in and took that role instead. Last night, Christie reminded voters why, before the various scandals that have rocked his tenure in New Jersey, he was considered one of the frontrunners. He used Rand Paul as a foil in the national security debate, filling the role of Rudy Giuliani fighting with Ron Paul back in 2008, and it worked well as a way to reassert himself with the sizeable neoconservative wing of the party.

Hurt Themselves A Little
Bush – Bush is in second place in this race, behind a candidate few pundits expect to last – so in essence, he is the frontrunner. However, he is that specifically because 90+ percent of voters aren’t paying attention yet; to those 90%, Bush offered little last night in the way of a reason to support or vote for him. Almost everyone declared his performance underwhelming — the Washington Post called him “lackadaisical,” Fox News says he was just “okay” and that “he failed to excite,” and CNN even called him the outright loser of the night, noting he was “aloof,” “defensive,” “nervous, halting, and painfully uninspiring.” I didn’t see it as being that bad, but after two subpar performances (Cleveland and the New Hampshire forum) Bush is really going to have to step up his game if he wants to remain in the driver’s seat.

Walker – Walker is Iowa’s darling, and his responses were tailored toward maintaining that relationship with the first-in-the-nation caucus state. However, it is his own description of himself that might do him in during this race: “aggressively normal.” Walker slipped a couple of points in the futures markets during the debate, not because he did anything wrong, but because he kept earning comparisons to Tim Pawlenty, another vanilla, boring midwestern governor who had great unrealized potential.

Hurt Themselves A Lot
Trump – This was the obvious one. Trump was crass, unpresidential, and left even his supporters scratching their heads and rethinking their support. Many Trump fans have taken to social media to declare support for other candidates after watching the Trump disaster unfold last night. The big question is: will the defections be enough to translate into a drop in the polls and allow the other more serious candidates to regain some of the media’s attention now?

There’s one candidate I can’t quite place on this scale: Rand Paul. The responses to his performance last night are starkly divided, with some loving it and some hating it (indeed on the CNN panel, one panelist declared Paul the winner of the evening and another declared him the biggest loser). It seems to me that Paul was able to burnish his libertarian credentials last night and shore up that portion of his niche voting bloc – so in that way, he helped himself. At the same time, his campaign was supposed to be about expanding his base beyond his father’s libertarian base, and he certainly harmed himself in that respect last night. Paul remains a candidate with one of the most fervent bases of support, but one of the smallest as well.

Finally, zooming out a bit, Fox News was a big winner last night – showing grit and a determination to challenge the candidates. It was a bit of an “Only Nixon could go to China” moment, in that if MSNBC or CNN had asked the same questions Fox did, there would be cries of bias and unfairness. Instead, when Fox asked them, they came across as tough and reasonable. Also, I’d say the Republican Party as a whole was a winner. One of the subplots of this 2016 race for the GOP is to recover from the disaster of the 2012 race where Mitt Romney was the only serious candidate in what became rightly known as a clown car. While liberals are attempting to stick the GOP with that same epithet this time around, this field put that misnomer to rest last night. The 2016 field features a myriad of accomplished and serious candidates (and it helped to not have Santorum or Perry on the stage).

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August 4, 2015

July 29, 2015

Chris Christie Vows to Overturn the Will of the Voters

  11:43 am

Or at least the will of the voters in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, that is.

Per Bloomberg, the Garden State Governor vowed to enforce federal law on the issue of recreational marijuana and in doing so over-turn the will of the people who voted to legalize the drug in their states.

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie, a Republican campaigning for the 2016 presidential nomination, said Tuesday during a town-hall meeting at the Salt Hill Pub in Newport, New Hampshire. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”

The governor said he believes marijuana alters the brain and serves as a so-called gateway to the use of harder drugs. Pointing to his own administration of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program that he opposes, he said elected officials can’t unilaterally choose which statutes to enforce.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of legal marijuana, and polls show a clear majority of voters favor decriminalizing the drug for recreations use, this kind of federal overreach may not sit well with Republican primary voters who support states rights. This is a blatant attempt to usurp the power the states and their voters and bodes poorly for what Christie would do as president – federal overreach is not a popular position to take when trying to win the support of conservatives, especially younger conservatives and those living in the western portion of the country whose conservatism has a libertarian bent.

On the other hand, it could help Christie with older and more socially-conservative Republican voters who share his views that marijuana is a harmful substance and a “gateway” drug. It also could, and likely is, a desperate ploy to grab attention and get his name in the headlines prior the final polling that will determine the 10 Republicans who end up making the cut for the August 6 Fox News debate.

So what say you, Race family? Is this a good move, a bad move or neither for Christie?

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POWER RANKINGS: JULY

  9:16 am

1.  Jeb Bush  former Governor of Florida

Gov. Bush returns as the default frontrunner, in part due to his historic fundraising strength, but more so due to the effects of the “Summer of Trump”. With the left-wing billionaire dominating media coverage of the race, lesser known candidates have been deprived of much needed air time. Bush, with his dynastic name, is somewhat immune to this effect, leaving him relatively unscathed in national polls. However, Trump does pose a bigger threat to Bush than other candidates running, mostly due to the unpredictable, anti-establishment history of the New Hampshire electorate. Unlike Scott Walker, Bush has been unable to maintain his early state lead, falling far behind Trump in the first primary state. The longer Bush stays behind a buffoon like Trump, the weaker he looks and the less likely a third Bush presidency becomes.

2. Scott Walker  Governor of Wisconsin

Walker has finally entered the race and immediately added to his commanding lead in Iowa. Walker’s early state strength is more impressive when you consider other candidates have seen their numbers crumble in the wake of the Trump media frenzy. Walker’s aligned super PACs have over $20 million in the bank, more than enough to build on and sustain his Iowa lead. However, Walker has become the new favorite target of the left-wing billionaire, and he must be careful how far into the weeds he wants to go in responding to the erratic and unelectable Clinton donor.

3. Marco Rubio  U.S. Senator from Florida

Sen. Rubio has seen some of his poll numbers fall as the Florida republican has receded from media attention, focusing more on fundraising and organization during the summer. His efforts have paid some off some, as his campaign raised the most money of any candidate, and his super PACs brought in the third most. Rubio has also avoided some of the more embarrassing elements of this summer’s campaign, namely getting dragged too deep in the muck by realty TV show character Donald Trump. Rubio has managed to retain his stunningly high favorability ratings, making him the most liked candidate in the field, something that bolsters his electability argument against the more unfavorable Jeb Bush and the rapidly declining Hillary Clinton.

4.  John Kasich  Governor of Ohio

Kasich’s late start hasn’t stopped him from making big inroads in New Hampshire, a state his campaign has focused heavily on. With a team that knows New Hampshire well, a local boost from the Sununu family, and solid PAC fundraising, Kasich may still become a top challenger to Bush on the establishment side. Now that it looks like he’ll make the debates, his momentum may continue to build. With the bursting of the Trump bubble looming, attention will turn to candidates who are not insane or a blight on party, and Kasich will be a top choice when that occurs.

5.  Ted Cruz  U.S. Senator from Texas

With the “bomb-throwing loudmouth” slot being filled by Trump, Cruz finds himself largely without his natural niche. He lame attacks on Sen. Mitch McConnell won’t win him back his status as Cruz is the only candidate in the field who hasn’t stood up to Trump’s more outlandish statements, leaving the Texas senator open to criticism for weakness and gutlessness. However, Cruz’s fundraising has put him in a position to capitalize on the collapse of other candidates in the far-right bracket of the primary process, making him the most likely of the fringe candidates to survive a longer campaign.

6. Chris Christie  Governor of New Jersey

Christie’s comeback has been very slow, but a few polls released since his announcement have him doing slightly better than expected. His unfavorables still need major work, and his New Hampshire-or-bust campaign needs strengthening, but he’s done enough to make the debates, where his talents can be most effective.

7. Rand Paul  U.S. Senator from Kentucky

Paul’s numbers continue to slide, a fact that was made more alarming but his horrible fundraising quarter, both by his campaign and aligned PACs. Paul’s “libertarian moment” seems to have passed him by. With so many candidates soaking up the media spotlight, Paul was supposed to have the money and an organization to give him an edge in the early states. It just hasn’t materialized.

8. Rick Perry  former Governor of Texas

Gov. Perry has been the strongest voice for conservatism in the face of the media-created Trump bubble, taking the liberal billionaire to task for a number of his leftist positions and idiotic statements. Perry, one of only two veterans running for the nomination, has earned a true second look for his courage in the face of media hysteria.

9.  Donald Trump  Chairman and President of The Trump Organization 

It is with great embarrassment and tremendous shame in my party that I have to include this buffoon in these rankings. Unfortunately, Trump’s numbers cannot be ignored. However, polls alone are not the decisive factor in primary elections, with money and organization at this early stage carrying greater weight. Trump has yet to put serious money into his campaign the way Ross Perot did, and his lack of a real ground game will show over time. The fact that the Koch brothers have cut him off to their database and research puts him in greater need of his own “yuuuge” financial resources.

10.  Mike Huckabee  former Governor of Arkansas

Gov. Huckabee followed his disturbing defense of Josh Duggar last month with an outlandish attack on the President this month, comparing him to the SS officers who committed mass genocide against the Jews during World War II. This pattern of nonsensical rhetoric was coupled with a disastrous fundraising quarter for the TV host-turned-also ran. On top of it all, Huckabee’s numbers in Iowa are tanking, leaving his chances of being the nominee on life support.

Honorable Mention:  Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal,  Ben Carson

No Chance: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore

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