The pulse of the Pocahontas Pizza Ranch; Christmas at Camp Cruz

Good morning Austin:

It was hot and crowded at the Pizza Ranch in Pocahontas, Iowa, Thursday morning to hear Ted Cruz.

A woman up front apparently fainted, but was quickly OK.

Afterward I conducted a very quick focus group with students from Pocahontas Area High school.

 

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In the back row, from left to right, that’s Jessica McQuiggan, Caleb Betten and Devon Weidauer. In the front row, from left to right, it’s Sam Brinkman, Lucas Koster, Taylor Thomas and Austin Rosenboom.

All, but Brinkman, are seniors at the high school. Brinkman graduated last year and is now at Iowa State.

They all plan to caucus for Cruz. Rosenboom and Koster are still 17, but will be 18 before the November election so are eligible to caucus.

Rosenboom took credit for being the intellectual guiding force in leading the group to Cruz, but Thomas thought her father deserved some credit.

“My dad is obsessed with him,” she said. Her father, a police officer, worked the event.

When I asked Betten what he liked about Cruz, he mentioned their shared religious faith.

Weidauer agreed.

“I look at it as the foundation for everything. Like really, conservatism is grounded in all that.”

From Rosenboom: “The Founding Fathers, they didn’t put it in the Constitution, but every single one of their personal belief systems was God before country, and I believe that they also based the Constitution and every other political document that they wrote off of their religion.”

Rosenboom said what drew him to Cruz was, “his constitutionalism. But his constitutionalism. That’s what our country is built on. The Constitution.”

“My dad is a Trump supporter,” Rosenboom said. “It’s an odd household”

As for Trump, there was a consensus that he was a bit boorish and unpolished, but “straightforward,” and “kind of good to have in the debates.”

Rosenboom suggested he might be better suited to being First Lady, a kind of figurehead position where he could project his personality but do no real harm.

“Any self-respecting conservative would not support a candidate who believes in nationalized health care,” said Rosenboom. “And he plans to replace Obamacare, not repeal it.”

“He’s a populist,” said Rosenboom.

The Pizza Ranch Cruz crew said that most of their classmates either don’t care or are for Trump.

Of Trump’s raising the issue of whether Cruz’s Canadian birth might render him ineligible to be president, Rosenboom said it reflected the calendar.

“Now it’s time for competition,” he said. “The caucuses are in three weeks. Since Ted Cruz is such a solid candidate, it’s hard to find anything.”

President Obama has been in office for nearly half their lives.

McQuiggan recalls her fourth-grade teacher impressing on her students the history-making of his election as the first black president.

All agreed he has been a disappointment.

“I can’t believe he got a second term,” Weidauer said.

Of the other candidates, Rosenboom said, “Rubio’s not a constitutionalist – Gang of Eight bill, and (Mike) Huckabee’s basically a socialist. He’s really a religious guy. Don’t get me wrong, I like that part of him. And Santorum, he’s pretty far right, I mean farther right, in the wrong way. His recent attack ad on Ted Cruz is extremely ridiculous and really takes a lot of credibility away from him.”

 

Voiceover: Ted Cruz is wonderful at reading children’s fairytales on the Senate floor.

Rick Santorum spent his time in the Senate a little differently. 8 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, helping to modernize today’s army to better be prepared for today’s threats. Santorum also wrote and passed tough laws putting harsh sanctions on Iran. And for more than a decade, Rick Santorum has been a leader and fighter… taking on radical Islam.

Santorum: “Not all Muslims are jihadists, but all jihadists are Muslims.”

Voiceover: You want someone to read one helluva bedtime story, Ted Cruz is your guy. If you want to protect America, and defeat ISIS, Rick Santorum’s your President. Because serious times need serious people.

 

 

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Christmas at Camp Cruz

At a press gaggle later in the day at an airport hangar in Webster City, Cruz found himself once again answering “birther” questions, and touting Camp Cruz.

It is incredible. Here in Iowa w  have rented a college dormitory with 48 beds. There is so much over-demand that we rented another 36 beds and those beds are full every day from now until the Iowa caucuses.

I believe we have had 796 volunteers from all across the country who are coming up here and who are knocking on doors and who are staying at – we’re calling it Cruz Camp. They’ve decorated it. They have signs. It’s volunteers from all over the country and, you know, it’s an amazing thing.

About half of them are from Texas and when you have people – I’ve got to say, for us Texans to be trudging through the snow in cowboy boots, it’s not necessarily the safest plan. But it is an incredible source of strength for this campaign, the grassroots fervor here in Iowa.

We have these roughly 10,000 volunteers, but to have these national volunteers flying in. We had volunteers on Christmas at Camp Cruz to be here helping to reach out to voters, and it’s a huge source of strength and enthusiasm.

Here is a report on Camp Cruz from Kasie Hunt. It begins about two-minutes-thirty-seconds in

It’s just like summer camp, except that instead of spending your days canoeing in the sunshine, you spend your days canvassing in the bitter cold of Iowa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Iowa, is Cruz the front-runner, or Trump’s chump?

Good morning Austin:

 

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If it’s Thursday, this must be Storm Lake, Iowa. And Pocahontas, Humboldt, Webster and Goldfield.

It’s Day Four of Ted Cruz’s six-day, 28-county tour of Iowa in advance of the Feb. 1 caucuses.

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My time in Iowa has left me presumably better informed, but ultimately less certain about the likely outcome here. Less certain, because while everything seems to be breaking Cruz’s way, it is impossible to discount the possibility that Trump will trump.

From my story in today’s Statesman.

Both Cruz and Trump promise to upend the old order, and Cruz has taken great pains to align himself with Trump’s break-the-china spirit. But while Trump appears to operate from his gut and on the fly, and his draw and promise is that you never know what he’s going to do next, the strength of Cruz’s appeal is that he says exactly what he’s going to do, and he then does it.

Trump enters 2016 still the master of all the surveys — with a commanding lead in national polls, and Cruz a distant second. The sole exception is in Iowa, the nation’s first presidential nominating contest, where most polls place Cruz first, ahead of Trump.

We’re in uncharted territory because of Trump,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Family Leader conservative group. A kingpin among Iowa evangelicals, Vander Plaats backed caucus winners Santorum in 2012 and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008. He endorsed Cruz late last year, and he began traveling with the Cruz entourage on Tuesday along with U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a right-wing icon and ardent Cruz backer.

“In a lot of ways Trump has been fantastic for the campaign because he’s blown up the establishment lane. He’s blown up politics as usual. He’s blown up what I call the mainstream media and all their predictions,” Vander Plaats said. “And, quite frankly, I think he’s provided a lot of cover for Ted Cruz. It used to be Cruz is so far out there, now he’s pretty moderate.

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Cruz seemed to be closing the deal Monday with Judy Schapman at Charlie’s Steakhouse in her hometown of Carroll. But, she said of her spouse, “Tom really likes Trump, he does, and we know quite a few people that do.”

True enough, said Tom, her husband, a retired funeral director standing close by: “Anything we can do to turn everything upside down I’m for.”

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Santorum and Huckabee won Iowa both based on late surges that made them the premier choice of evangelical voters. But neither had the money or organization to fully exploit their wins in Iowa.

“With Santorum it was, he wins the Iowa caucuses and then what,” said Tom Berkheimer, a chemist from Johnston who was at Cruz’s town hall meeting Monday night in Winterset, at which Cruz was interviewed on stage by Dr. James Dobson, the national evangelical leader who has given Cruz his blessing.

The difference with Cruz, Berkheimer said, is that, “he’s got the organization and he’s got the money” to go all the way.

And, said Berkheimer’s wife, Melissa, “Trump has been blocking for Cruz,” knocking establishment candidates to the side and clearing the field.

“I love what Trump has done to tear down the GOP, and Cruz can now rebuild it to new heights,” she said.

Right now, Cruz ought to win, complicating Trump’s trajectory. But there is also a possibility that Trumpmania will burst through here and make him hard, maybe even impossible, to stop.

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From Trump to the Washington Post on Tuesday:

“Republicans are going to have to ask themselves the question: ‘Do we want a candidate who could be tied up in court for two years?’ That’d be a big problem. It’d be a very precarious one for Republicans because he’d be running and the courts may take a long time to make a decision. You don’t want to be running and have that kind of thing over your head.”

 Trump added: “I’d hate to see something like that get in his way. But a lot of people are talking about it, and I know that even some states are looking at it very strongly, the fact that he was born in Canada and he has had a double passport.”

From Jennifer Mercieca,professor of communication at Texas A&M University, on The Rhetorical Brilliance of Trump the Demagogue:

Trump will also employ a rhetorical technique called paralipsis to make claims that he can’t be held accountable for. In paralipsis, the speaker will introduce a topic or argument by saying he doesn’t want to talk about it; in truth, he or she wants to emphasize that very thing.

For example, in New Hampshire on December 1, he said, “But all of [the other candidates] are weak and they’re just weak – I think that they are weak generally if you want to know the truth. But I don’t want to say that because I don’t want to…I don’t want to have any controversies, no controversies, is that okay? So I refuse to say that they are weak generally, okay?”

Cruz’s initial response was light.

Then yesterday, at a gaggle with reporters, a more sober response:

As a legal matter, the question is quite straightforward and settled law. The child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen. People will continue to make political noise about it, but as a legal matter it’s quite straightforward.

But there’s the rub. Trump is a “political noise” machine. Cruz can blame the media for letting Trump dictate the day’s news, but the fact is, he can.

Last night on Fox, it was no less than Geraldo Rivera saying that Trump may have Cruz in a bind on this.

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Switching to MSNBC, same story.

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Ay yi yi.

OK. So maybe, even if it is clearly not his intention, Trump really is doing Cruz a favor by getting this out now, early, so Cruz can effectively dispose of it.

But probably not.

No definitely not.

Is Cruz handling Trump effectively?

And so, one big unknown here is whether it is a correct reading of this political moment to locate Trump’s support in his celebrity and to extrapolate from that the notion that it may prove fleeting on its own. As Tyler puts it: “The question is, are fans supporters? I don’t know.”

From Jonathan Martin and Matt Flegenheimer in the New York Times:

ONAWA, Iowa — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas insists he does not want to be seen as the front-runner in the Iowa caucuses. “The only way I know how to run is as an underdog,” he said here after a speech on Tuesday, waving off any Joe Namath-style guarantee of victory.

But try as he might to hold down expectations, Mr. Cruz has plainly become the candidate to beat in the caucuses. Barring new and damaging revelations, many Iowa Republicans now say the only thing standing between him and a victory on Feb. 1 is a groundswell of first-time or infrequent voters turning out for Donald J. Trump, of the sort that materialized for Barack Obama in 2008.

Cruz’s six days in Iowa ends Saturday. Trump will be here for one day – Saturday – and hold two rallies. Cruz’s crowds have been consistent and impressive. But, will Trump in a day draw as many or more people than Cruz  has in a week? I don’t know.

Cruz’s crowds have greeted him warmly, but – unlike the reception he received in Cisco, Texas, in advance of this week in Iowa – with some reserve.

For Sen. Ted Cruz, Tuesday’s teeming event at the Myrtle Wilks Community Center in this tiny town in the Big Country region between Abilene and Fort Worth was both a prayer meeting and a pep rally sendoff for the frenetic last month before the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa, where he now looks like a front-runner.

The passion in Cisco was close to a 10. Almost every applause line lifted the crowd from its seats. Those same lines – and they are the exact same lines – delivered in Iowa have won applause, but it was often tepid, pro-forma applause. More 5 than 10 on the applause meter.

Maybe it’s the Iowa persona. Maybe Cruz’s campaign is still building toward its emotional climax. Maybe it’s as Matt Schultz, the chair of Cruz’s Iowa campaign, told me Tuesday after what was probably Cruz’s largest event of the trip so far at  Dordt College in Sioux Center, “We haven’t peaked.”

“This is going to be an amazing ride,” Schultz said.

But America really hasn’t seen a candidate like Trump before. That has been an amazing ride.

From my story in today’s paper.

Both Cruz and Trump promise to upend the old order, and Cruz has taken great pains to align himself with Trump’s break-the-china spirit. But while Trump appears to operate from his gut and on the fly, and his draw and promise is that you never know what he’s going to do next, the strength of Cruz’s appeal is that he says exactly what he’s going to do, and he then does it.

My guess is that the Trump crowds Saturday will be ecstatic, will be at a fever pitch. Eleven on a scale of ten.

But, as Rick Tyler put it: The question is, are fans supporters? I don’t know.”

I don’t know either.

How many of those who thrill to Trump aren’t even registered to vote?

As the Times reported, “”state party records indicate only modest gains in the numbers of registered Republicans over recent months, a pattern little different from that in past election years. There are now a little more than 612,000 registered Iowa Republicans. In early August, there were about 609,000.”

As I write this, Rudy Giuliani, who knows the perils of ever being labeled a front-runner as well as anyone, is on Morning Joe talking about Trump.

Is it celebrity or is it real voting. If it’s real voting, Trump will be the nominee.

Here in Iowa, it may be a head-heart thing. For many potential caucus-goers, their head is with Cruz, but their heart is with Trump. They just want to see what would happen if he got in – how great would that be – even if they have a lurking concern that it could all go terribly, horribly wrong.

A few days in Iowa have left me impressed with the state-of-the-art Cruz operation, and open to the possibility that Trump may yet lay waste to their best-laid plans.

 

`If we allow non–believers to elect our leaders …’ Ted Cruz with James Dobson

Good morning Austin:

The evangelical vote is central to Ted Cruz’s hopes of winning the Iowa caucuses March 1. He has picked up the endorsement of many leading evangelical leaders, in Iowa and nationally, perhaps none more important than that of Dr. James Dobson.

Here is how the Cruz campaign announced Dobson’s endorsement last month.

HOUSTON, Texas – Presidential candidate Ted Cruz today announced the endorsement of Dr. James Dobson, one of the nation’s most trusted spokesmen and advisors on marriage, child development and the family.

Dr. Dobson is the founder and president of Family Talk, where he produces a radio program heard on 1300 outlets around the world and on the Internet. Dobson has advised three presidents on matters pertaining to marriage and the family. He is the author of more than 30 books dedicated to preserving and equipping families, including classics such as Love Must Be Tough, Love for a Lifetime, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, The New Dare to Discipline, Bringing Up Girls, Bringing Up Boys, and Your Legacy: The Greatest Gift.

“Ted Cruz’s record on religious liberty, life, and marriage is second to none in this Republican field,” Dobson said. “I have met with the senator on multiple occasions: he is brilliant, articulate, and informed. Shirley and I have been praying for a leader such as this, and we are confident that Ted Cruz has the moral and spiritual foundations to lead our nation with excellence. Speaking as private individuals, we urge conservatives and people of faith to join us in supporting his race for the presidency.”

Dobson earned a Ph.D. in child development from the University of Southern California and holds 17 honorary degrees. In 2008 he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

“Dr. Dobson has mentored and encouraged three generations of American families,” Ted Cruz said. “Dr. Dobson’s wisdom and common sense have inspired health and healing in millions of lives. He has rallied people around the world with a vision for happy marriages and beautiful home life. I am deeply grateful for Dr. Dobson’s gift to the world – he has been a voice of hope and a guide to many of us, and I am thrilled to have his support.”

Dr. Dobson is married to Shirley Dobson, the Chairwoman of The National Day of Prayer Task Force. Shirley and her team sponsor tens of thousands of prayer gatherings annually, in which millions of Americans participate in prayer for the nation. Together the couple authored Nightlight: A Devotional for Couples. They are the parents of two children and have two grandchildren.

Last night, Dobson came to Winterset, Iowa, to interview Sen. Cruz before a packed-to-overflowing house at the Winterset Stage as the featured event on the first day of Cruz’s six-day, 28-stop tour of Iowa.

Here are some highlights of their conversation.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, the Iowa Republican who has endorsed Cruz and introduced him at each of his stops Monday, introduced Dobson.

King: There is probably not a more astute voice in all the United Sates of America than Rr. James Dobson on family issues and Dr. james Dobson said I’m going to endorse Ted Cruz for president because I see him as a unique and a rare and gifted leader who we need right now …  Not only am I endorsing him on paper but I am al in in making my endorsement.

Dobson: I tell you what, there is a wonderful energy in this room, standing room only, people standing around the edge. That says something about the candidate we here to honor tonight.

The room is not jammed tonight for me. It’s for Sen. Ted Cruz, who I really believe is is going to be the next president of the United States.

There are a lot of good candidates this time around. We are really blessed to have a number o f people who have great ideas and are very qualified and many of them believe the same things I believe.

Washington is in a mess right now. The Congress, the court system, is kind of spiraling out of control and certainly our president isn’t  doing us any good right now. That’s why I looked for a candidate who was strong enough to take on Washington …  I believe Ted Cruz is one of them and it’s why I put my name on the line.

Bringing Cruz on stage, Dobson noted the senator’s grueling campaign schedule, and asked, How in the world are you holding up. You don’t even look tired.

Cruz likened what is he doing to a pastor preaching a sermon and being lifted by the amens of his congregation.

It’s impossible not to be lifted up and inspire, and that’s how I feel every day.

My father was a minister, said Dobson, and he would say, “that’ll preach.” That’ll preach.

Dobson: I worked with Ronald Reagan for five years. I worked with three other president and I have never seen the situation as dire as it is now and I believe you are strong enough to stand up and take on Washington. Are you ready for that job?

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Cruz: Well I hope and believe I am, but I agree, it is an incredibly difficult job. The challenges facing this country have never been greater – the challenges facing the world. And it is a job frankly that is too big for any one person, and if you don’t’ begin every day on your knees asking God for his wisdom and support, I don’t be live you’re fit to do this job.”

Dobson: Would your day-by-day experience with God play a role as president of the United States?

Cruz: Absolutely. Yes. So last night, before we started the bus tour we spent – Heidi and I and our senior team – spent about a half hour on the phone, all in different places, in prayer, and that’s how we began our campaign.

A dear friend of ours, who is our finance chair, he passed on a story that is a powerful analogy, because we are entering the final stretch, we’re entering the stretch where we are less than 30 days away from the Iowa caucuses. In 90 days, by the end of March, it is likely we will know who the nominee is and we know the attacks are coming from every direction and so, Willie (Langston), our finance chairman, he passed on that outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, there is a statue of Jesus as a 12-year-old boy, holding he world with one finger, and if you look directly across from St. Patrick’s’ Cathedral, you’ve got Rockefeller Center, and you have the giant statue of Atlas struggling to hold the world on his shoulder, and the question Willie asked is, `Do we want to try to lift the whole world on our shoulder, do we want to try to carry the burden of this campaign, but,  even more so, the job of being president on our shoulders, or do we want to entrust Jesus who, as a 12-year-old boy would hold the world on his finger?

Dobson and Cruz commiserated about voter turnout among evangelical citizens.

Dobson: Evangelicals – only fifty percent are registered and only fifty percent of those registered actually come out to vote.

That’s 25 percent of evangelicals. That is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace that they would not care enough about our country and the fabric of our nation and our children and all the implications for marriage and everything else, that we wouldn’t give 15 minutes to go register our opinions …

They’re obviously energized here. We’ve got to have huge numbers to get the job done.

Cruz Well, Dr. Dobson, you are absolutely right. In the last presidential election, a majority of evangelicals did not vote. Fifty-four million evangelicals stayed home. In the last election, millions of Reagan Democrats and blue collar Catholics across the Midwest and New England stayed home.

I believe the key to wining in 2016 is very simple. We have to bring back to the polls the millions of conservatives who stayed home. We have to awaken and energize the body of Christ.

We look at our federal government now. We have a federal government that is waging a war on life, a war on marriage, a war on religious liberty. We have a federal government that is advancing a secular agenda, that puts the ability of Bible-believing Christians to live our faith more and more in jeopardy, that is appeasing radical Islamic terrorism, in fact refused to even acknowledge its name. And if you look at the federal government, you might as, why do we have a government attacking life, attacking marriage, attacking faith, attacking religious liberty.

Well is it any wonder when a majority  of believers are staying home?  If we allow non–believers to elect our leaders, we shouldn’t be surprised when our government doesn’t reflect our values.

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They talked about the national debt.

(Dobson complimented Cruz on his beautiful daughters. Thank God they look like their mother,” said Cruz, proof that “God is a benevolent God.”)

At that point, Cruz and Dobson got spritzed with some water from a leaky pipe above.

“The budget is so bad, the pipes are leaking,” Cruz said.

“I thought you were spitting,” Dobson said.

On everyone claiming they will take on the Washington establishment, Cruz said, “the natural next question is, when have you take on Washington, and when have you stood up, not just to Democrats, but leaders in our own party. The last time we beat the Washington cartel, it was 1980.

Dobson said the focus of his concern was the Supreme Court.

Dobson: They’re killing us, they’re absolutely killing us, especially with what they just did with marriage.  Thirty states voted on a definition of marriage and every single one of them voted to put traditional marriage of a man and woman into the constitution, and here you’ve got five members of the judiciary who overrode that. Whatever happened to Abraham Lincoln’s statesman, this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people?

Cruz Dr. Dobson. Let me quote the movie Jerry Maguire. You had me at hello.

Listen our courts are out of control and the Supreme Court in particular. We saw last summer two lawless decisions in the space of 24 hours, back to back.

Cruz: Those decisions were fundamentally illegitimate, they were lawless, and they will not stand.

Dobson: The greatest fear I have for the outcome of this election is that Hillary Clinton will be allowed to make perhaps three and maybe four appointments to that court and, because they have no checks and balances, that’s the end of us. I mean, that is going to be disastrous if it happens.

Cruz:  Dr. Dobson, You are exactly right. As bad, as lawless, as out of control as this court is, the next president will appoint one, two, three, maybe even four Supreme Court justices, and we are one justice away form a five justice ultra-left-wing majority that will tear down our constitutional liberties fundamentally.

Cruz talked about how, as solicitor general for the state of Texas, he successfully defended keeping the Ten Commandments on the state Capitol grounds.

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Cruz: If Hillary Clinton is elected president, we will see the Supreme Court ordering Ten Commandment monuments to be torn down on courthouses and public steps all across this country.

Another major victory we had was defending the Second Amendment right keep and bear arms. We brought together 31 states and went to the Supreme Court and we won 5-4. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, the Supreme Court will rule that no individual Americans has any individual right to keep and bear arms whatsoever, and the government can make it a a felony for you to own a firearm and protect your family.

At that point a voice bellowed from the rear of the hall: Come and take it!

Cruz: Iowa and Texas have some things in common.

Dobson: I’m grateful this is a friendly crowd.

Dobson asked Cruz to outline what he would do his first day in office, the meat of his usual stump speech.

Rescind Obama’s executive orders, launch an investigation of  Planned Parenthood, shred the Iran deal, order the IRS and Justice Department to stop prosecuting people because of their faith and, “Number five –  to begin the process of moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the once and eternal capital.”

Then Dobson and Cruz moved on to more explicitly religious terrain.

Dobson:  How can we pray for you, sir?

Cruz: You know it’s a great question and I would ask for three things

Number one, for peace. That has been our prayer – for peace in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the attacks that we have the calm like Jesus when he arose from the slumber on the ship to calm the seas. That we have the peace of serving an almighty God. That no mater what lies, no matter what attacks, no matter what slings and arrows come our way, that everyone that is a part of this team have a peace.

The second thing I would ask for is wisdom. When Solomon was given a choice of anything in the world that he cold have,that is what he asked for.

You talked moments ago about the incredible challenges facing this country, the threat abroad, the threats at home. If there’s one thing you need as a candidate, if there’s one thing you need as a president, it’s wisdom and judgment and discernment.

And the third thing that I would ask for, and I confess this is selfish, but what I would ask that you pray for our girls Caroline and Catherine. They’re seven and five and by far the hardest part of this campaign is leaving the girls.

Cruz talked about FaceTiming that morning with his five-year-old, Catherine, on her new iPad, that morning from his hotel room.

Cruz: I tell you, when you’re the father of two little girls waking out to go on the campaign trail, and one girl grabs one leg, the other girls grabs the other and they say, `Don’t go daddy.’

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That’s hard and it has been hard. Our girls have paid a price in this campaign and we do everyting we can to embrace them with unconditional love, but it is not easy, so I would just ask that you, pray for our girls that they know they are loved by their mom and dad and they are loved by their father in heaven, and that they maintain a spirit of joy and peace as well.

Then Dobson talked to the audience about Cruz’s wife, Heidi.

Dobson:Now I want to tell you something you might not know. He’s got a secret weapon he hasn’t raelly unleashed it yet and her name is Heidi

I heard her speak last weeked nand she is a superstar. She loves the Lord with all of her heart. She is great mother.

I heard her speak and I wasn’t writing it down but here is what I got.

She had to make a decision whether she wanted to make this journey – not that there was anything wrong with your relationship – but to make this journey that took a lot out of her and her children and she was praying and she was asking, `Should I do this for Ted?’ And she came to the conclusion that should do this but not for Ted, but for the Lord. He is asking me to do this.

Is that accurate?

Cruz: The story you told is exactly right.

Heidi spent a lot of years building a very, very successful career and when we were deciding whether to run, particularly if you are the parents of young girls, that’s not an easy decision, and she was struggling with it and she was listening to a CD of Christian songs. Her brother is a missionary in Haiti. His name is Scott and he’s an orthopedic surgeon and cares for kids and he’s been a missionary in Hati for many years, and Heidi’s parents were missionaries and Scott’s wife, Marni, had sent Heidi his CD of Christian songs, and “you just need to listen to this.”

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And she was driving home and there was one song in particular that it said, “Lord, you’ve given us everything we need and you’ve given us so much of what we want, but help us not to seek your hand but to seek your face.” And Heidi literally pulled off to the side of the freeway and began crying, and that became her prayer. Our prayer has never been, we are seeking the hand of God – we haven’t asked, “Give us your help in winning this race.” That’s not our prayer. We are not seeking his hand. Her prayer was, “Let us seek your face, let this campaign reflect your love, reflect your glory and let his will be done,” and that moment changed her heart where she said, “i’m not doing this for Ted, I’m doing it for the Lord, for our country, for our children and the future.

Dobson concluded by saying that, if Cruz is elected, Heidi wold be the first pro-life First Lady since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

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Dobson: There has never in American history been a pro-life first lady. Think back, Barbara Bush, all the others, going all the way back to 1973 when Roe v. Wade was handed down, there has not been one and first ladies are usually the most respected women in America. They have great influence. They have great power, the influence …. but here hasn’t been one and we’ve got got a chance to get one this time.

Cruz: Dr. Dobson. Thank you for being here. There are some of us who, literally our whole lives, have admired you. You ahve been a voice for Christian values and and an aide to parents raising kids.

With that, Cruz announced the formation of the campaign’s Iowa and national Home School Coalition – some 7,000 strong –  and brought some on stage.

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Izzy Wadsley, 3, is the daughter of Melinda Wadlsey, a home-schooler, who works for the pro-Cruz super PAC Keep the Promise in Iowa. She was at a midday appearance by Cruz Monday in Carroll, Iowa.

Cruz’s day began with a mob scene at King’s Christian Bookstore in Boone, Iowa.

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Cruz’s day ended with a mob scene at Penny’s Diner in Missouri Valley, Iowa, a couple of miles from the Nebraska line.

“Why am I so optimistic? Because it’s 10:30 at night and it’s standing room only in a diner.”

Ted Cruz

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Mark McKinnon, left, executive producer of a Showtime doc on the 2016 election, and Robert Draper, who writes fot the New York Times Magazine.
Mark McKinnon, left, executive producer of a Showtime doc on the 2016 election, and Robert Draper, who writes fot the New York Times Magazine.
Cruz press secretary Catherine Frazier
Cruz press secretary Catherine Frazier
Penny's diner at 2 a.m.
Penny’s diner at 2 a.m.

Ted Cruz and the ghosts of caucuses past

Good morning Austin:

 

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I’m in Iowa.

It’s very cold and the ground is covered with snow and ice.

I arrived here Saturday and I will be spending six days, beginning Monday, following Ted Cruz as he barnstorms across the state with stops in 26 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Right now Cruz is the man to beat in Iowa and, while Donald Trump is ostensibly his prime opponent, he must also contend with the ghosts of caucuses past, by whom I mean former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, each of whom won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and 2012 respectively on the strength of their support with evangelical Christian voters – the key to Cruz’s success here – and went on to become the runners-up in the nomination contests those years.

Neither Huckabee nor Santorum are doing too well in the polls right now, but that does not mean they aren’t working it.

From Kathy Bolten  in the Des Moines Register on Sunday.

PELLA, Ia. — Mike Huckabee on Saturday began a grueling January campaign schedule that will include 150 events scattered across Iowa, a state he describes as “ground zero” in his bid to become president.

“We know that the key to winning it is grinding it out the old-fashioned way, county after county,” the Republican said after his third stop of the day.

Twenty-five campaign events are planned through Thursday. The first six-day blitz includes a stop in Keokuk County, the 99th Iowa county the former Arkansas governor will have visited since announcing in May his bid to seek the Republican presidential nomination.

“We’re not just driving through and waving,” Huckabee told the 35 people gathered at Pella Christian High School on Saturday afternoon. “We actually did events in all 99 counties. And, we’ve done all 99 counties since the middle of May.”

A few Republican presidential candidates had said they planned to complete the “full Grassley,” a campaign strategy named after Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who annually visits each of the state’s counties. Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, completed the milestone in September. He began logging his visits in 2012, according to a Des Moines Register article.

National polls consistently show Huckabee trailing the now 11 people vying to become the Republican presidential nominee. Those same polls also show Huckabee getting among the highest favorability ratings of those in the race.

Precisely eight years ago to the day – Jan. 3, 2008 – Huckabee won a stunning victory in the Iowa caucuses in what had to be among the best, most exhilarating days of his life.

From the Washington Post on Jan. 4, 2008.

DES MOINES, Jan. 3 — Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee rode a wave of evangelical fervor to victory over Mitt Romney in Iowa’s Republican caucuses Thursday, an outcome that hardly seemed possible two months ago.

Tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics,” Huckabee told supporters at the Embassy Suites here. “And tonight it starts here in Iowa, but it doesn’t end here. It goes all the way through the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

After spending nine months near the bottom of the pack, Huckabee surged to become the front-runner in Iowa in December and never relinquished the position, despite a barrage of negative ads from Romney’s methodically built and well-financed operation.

But Huckabee now heads to New Hampshire, where voting takes place Tuesday, with little support in the polls and only a ragtag organization to mount a second come-from-behind victory. To succeed, he will have to broaden his message, which has largely been designed to appeal to the Christian conservatives who helped him win Thursday night. New Hampshire voters tend to be less focused on social issues and more concerned with lowering taxes and reducing the size of government.

Thursday’s turnout shattered the previous record of about 87,000 voters, with more than 125,000 projected to have caucused. Sixty percent of Republican caucusgoers described themselves as evangelicals, according to entrance polls. Those voters went for Huckabee over Romney by more than 2 to 1.

With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Huckabee had won 34 percent of the delegates awarded, Romney held 25 percent, and former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) were tied for third, with about 13 percent each.

For Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, the defeat is a devastating blow to his “kindling strategy,” conceived in Boston years ago, to spark a fire in the early-voting states by outspending and out-organizing his rivals. He spent millions in Iowa alone, in part by tapping his personal fortune, in the hope of building an insurmountable lead.

Of course, McCain, with his 13 percent in Iowa, went on to win the nomination that year. Romney would win the nomination four years later.

And Huckabee – he’s back at it.

From Prezography
(From Prezography – prezogprahy.com)

Yesterday afternoon, Huckabee  was at a the Machine Shed restaurant in Urbandale, just outside Des Moines, where a crowd of 100 – plus about 15 media types – filled the room the room to capacity, as part of his “grueling” itinerary. It was a good crowd, a warm crowd, but, as the Register story indicated, just because Iowans like Huckabee a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will caucus for him for president this year.

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 6.19.24 PMRight now, Huckabee is down there in Paul/Christie/Fiorina/Kasich territory in recent Iowa polls, though a notch up from Santorum, who, in an even more spectacular out-of-nowhere performance, won the caucuses in in 2012, albeit in a virtual tie with Romney.

On Meet the Press Sunday, Rand Paul complained about the polls.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Yeah, the interesting thing is, is that I think the polls are not scientific. A lot of people who follow polls never had any math classes. They don’t understand anything about standard error, standard deviation.

CHUCK TODD:

You are right about that.

Standard deviation, huh? There he goes showing off his fancy Baylor University education.

But I thought Huckabee did a better job of challenging the meaningfulness of Iowa polls at the Machine Shed.

Huckabee said that, “we polled 5,000 voters in Iowa just before Christmas. Seventy-five percent had not made up their minds and 58 percent weren’t even leaning toward one candidate or another. It’s that wide open.”

“Nobody can predict how it’s going to turn out,” Huckabee said, noting that was the case in 2008, “when I won and I got more votes than anyone in the history of the Iowa caucuses. I didn’t kow that until a few months ago ,but now I tell everyone because I think it’s pretty cool.”

So, the question of why Huckabee and, for that matter, Santorum, are running again may have something to do with the fact that they defied the odds before and their low standing in the polls, far from being daunting, puts them right where they need to be to defy the odds again.

But there is a more nefarious story line afoot on why Huckabee is trying to hard in Iowa again.

From the Bolten story in Sunday’s Register.

At two campaign stops on Saturday, Huckabee mentioned an article in a national publication that stated he was only in Iowa to ensure U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas didn’t win the state’s caucuses. The article said Huckabee was encouraging people to support Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Huckabee didn’t mention either candidate by name.

Huckabee described the story as “dumb” and “ludicrous.”

“Let me give you’re a little hint,” he said in Pella. “If I wasn’t serious about winning Iowa, do you think I’d be fighting snow and single-degree temperatures for a month, doing five and six campaign events a day just to help another candidate?

“Folks, I’m barely willing to work this hard for myself. I’m not going to do it for someone else,” he said.

That seems a very compelling response.

Also, watching Huckabee up close, it’s easier to see why he persists.

People here like him.

“You’d have to have a hole in  your soul not to like him,” said Gary Updergraff at the Machine Shed.

Gary Updergraff and Mike Huckabee at the Machine Shed
(Gary Updergraff and Mike Huckabee at the Machine Shed)

And, there is the useful example of Joe Biden, who didn’t even get one percent in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses in 2008 – the year Huckabee won on the Republican side – but did make a sufficiently positive impression on Barack Obama, whose win in Iowa was instrumental in his ultimate victory, to become Obama’s choice of a running-mate.

From Politico a couple of days ago.

Donald Trump will win the GOP presidential nomination and pick Mike Huckabee as his running mate. The FBI will file criminal charges related to Hillary Clinton’s use of a home-brew email server as secretary of state. A Ted Cruz-Nikki Haley GOP ticket will defeat a Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine Democratic ticket to claim the White House.

These are just a handful of 2016 predictions from members of The POLITICO Caucus — a collection of the top activists, strategists and operatives in the first four states that will cast ballots next year.

TRUMPHUCK definitely has possibilities. Say it quietly. A couple of times. To yourself.

But, as much as Updergraff likes Huckabee, he doesn’t think so, and, this being Iowa, Updergraff told Huckabee that, despite his affection for him, he’s with Trump

Updergraff, who formerly owned a chain of golf shops and restaurants, thinks Trump has the dynamism to reverse America’s trajectory and to run the nation more like a business. I mentioned to Updergraff the Politico prediction.

No, said Updergraff shaking his head. Ted Cruz is his choice for vice president. He said he wants it to be Trump-Cruz, which sounds like a Caribbean casino tour.

Why Cruz, I asked.

Updergraff said Cruz is very smart, and that Trump would only serve one term, followed by two terms for Cruz, followed by two terms for Secretary of State Marco Rubio  – a 20-year golden age of Republican hegemony.

Much is made of the beauty of the democratic process in Iowa, and it is well-deserved.

Iowa enables one to appreciate how people, in their political predilections, are like snowflakes – each perfect  and distinct.

Meet John Strong.

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Strong approached me.

Strong is focused on veterans’ issue.

He is also intent on making sure Hillary Clinton is not elected president because, he said, she is part of the whole Clinton-Gary Hart-George McGovern-Jane Fonda cabal. The Clintons ran Texas for McGovern. Hart was McGovern’s campaign manager. (He notes that Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor who is competing in the Democratic caucuses this year, cut his teeth as an organizer for Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign). And jane Fonda, well he said, many veterans believe that  Hanoi Jane should have been tried for treason.

Strong has been seeking commitments from candidates that he if they are elected, they will never invite Jane Fonda to sleep over at the White House.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal promised, as did South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. But they have both since dropped out of the race.As we were talking, Huckabee entered the room, and I nudged Strong to let him know so he could seize the moment.

 

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He thanked me and went to work.

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After first talking about veterans, Strong pressed Huckabee on the Fonda sleepover issue.

Huckabee readily agreed that he would never invite Jane Fonda to stay at the White House. And, he said, even if he did, which he wouldn’t, he is sure that Jane Fonda would never accept an invitation from him.

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Later, during the Q-and-A after Huckabee’s remarks, Strong asked Huckabee whether he thought Putin was rooting for Hillary to be elected so he could push her around.

Huckabee agreed.

And Strong asked about Fonda sleepovers, just to get in on the public record.

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Strong has shown up at Clinton events in Iowa with signs that say, “Hillary invited Hanoi Jane to the White House,” and “Hillary crapped on veterans.”

He also deploys a half life-size effigy of Hillary as a witch, labeled, “Hillary’s House of Horrors.”

He carries a small replica of that latter in his pocket.

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Like Updergraff, Strong likes Huckabee, but he is not backing Huck.

Strong prefers Jeb! or Chris Christie.

He is not a fan of either Trump or Cruz.

“I say dump Trump and lose Cruz.”

He explains that he is more moderate than they are, and that they are too far right  and not particularly electable.

If elected, he predicted, Cruz will be a “Cruz missile,” blowing up any chance of getting anything done in Washington.

And Trump, he said, would instill in folks the fear that he would blow up the whole world. Strong said he would foresee Democrats reprising the Daisy attack ad that LBJ used against Goldwater in 1964.

As it happens – and I didn’t know this until after I talked with Strong – but Huckabee’s audience Sunday included a group of LSU students led by their journalism professor, Robert Mann, who is with the university’s Manship School of Mass Communication, and is the author of an acclaimed book about the Daisy ad.

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From the description of the book from LSU Press:

The grainy black-and-white television ad shows a young girl in a flower-filled meadow, holding a daisy and plucking its petals, which she counts one by one. As the camera slowly zooms in on her eye, a man’s solemn countdown replaces hers. At zero the little girl’s eye is engulfed by an atomic mushroom cloud. As the inferno roils in the background, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s voice intones, “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”

In this thought-provoking and highly readable book, Robert Mann provides a concise, engaging study of the “Daisy Girl” ad, widely acknowledged as the most important and memorable political ad in American history. Commissioned by Johnson’s campaign and aired only once during Johnson’s 1964 presidential contest against Barry Goldwater, it remains an iconic piece of electoral propaganda, intertwining cold war fears of nuclear annihilation with the increasingly savvy world of media and advertising. Mann presents a nuanced view of how Johnson’s campaign successfully cast Barry Goldwater as a radical too dangerous to control the nation’s nuclear arsenal, a depiction that sparked immediate controversy across the United States. 
 
Repeatedly analyzed in countless books and articles, the spot purportedly destroyed Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Although that degree of impact on the Goldwater campaign is debatable, what is certain is that the ad ushered in a new era of political advertising using emotional appeals as a routine aspect of campaign strategy.
In the Daisy context, Huckabee’s supposed negative campaign against Cruz doesn’t sound all that fearsome.
But, in a New Year’s Eve conference call with supporters, Cruz told them to expect an onslaught in the next month leading up to the caucuses.

“I want to tell everyone to get ready, strap on the full armor of God, get ready for the attacks that are coming,” Cruz said. “Come the month of January we ain’t seen nothing yet.”

 

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Note to Team Cruz. “Ted” is a great name for embedding in political slogans. You’ve already used TrusTed.

So how about BravehearTed. Maybe a little face paint at the caucus night victory party. Think about it. Evangelicals. Mel Gibson.

Of the Huckabee “attacks,” here is Amanda Carpenter, forrmerly communications director in Cruz’s Senate office.

Back in 2008 on the day of the Iowa caucus, when I was reporting on my first election for Townhall.com, I happened to be grabbing lunch in the same hole-in-the-wall restaurant as then-Huckabee National Campaign Advisor Ed Rollins.

He sat in the cafe loudly trash talking the Romney campaign to any reporter he could call on his cell phone. Expletives and insults flew. Anyone sitting in the eatery could hear him. I, stunned any known operative would be so foolish to speak in such a way in a public place, wrote it up as an item.

Today, Huckabee still seems to be employing operatives to shovel nasty, vindictive stories to reporters. This year, their ire is directed at Ted Cruz as they seek to undermine Cruz with evangelicals by lying about his positions, even accusing the Texas senator of supporting “amnesty.”
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Huckabee’s SuperPAC is aggressively exploiting a report in Politico that falsely claimed Cruz spoke differently about gay marriage at behind-closed-doors New York fundraisers than in public. In reality, Cruz has made the same federalist argument about gay marriage many times in very public venues.

Huckabee himself has also dished out the same anti-Cruz line, although in a blog post he wouldn’t identify Cruz by name.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. These are the same people who physically blocked Ted Cruz from speaking to reporters at a rally in support of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis.
Mike Huckabee may be a Christian, but has a very un-Christian like habit of wanting people to believe he is the only Christian on the national stage. And now, he’s smearing Cruz’s record to do it.
Here is Huckabee, on his campaign blog, dishing out, as Carpenter would put it, the anti-Cruz line.
Conservatives are being asked to ‘coalesce’ around yet another corporately-funded candidate that says something very different at a big donor fundraiser in Manhattan than at a church in Marshalltown. Shouldn’t a candidate be expected to have authenticity and consistency, instead of having to look at a map to decide what to believe and what to say?
The national story on all this was from Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson at National Review
To a concerned and angry bunch of Iowa Republicans, their mission heading into next month’s caucuses is as simple as ABC: Anybody But Cruz. As the Texas senator solidifies his front-runner status with just over a month to go before the February 1 caucuses, a loose network of social-conservative activists has undertaken a quiet effort to defeat him by any means necessary — even if that means rallying together behind a more electable rival to their own preferred candidates. Many supporters of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, the last two winners of Iowa’s Republican presidential contests, are grappling with a pair of grim realities as the 2016 caucuses approach. Not only have their candidates been stuck in the low single digits for months in Iowa, but they also view Cruz, the new front-runner, as a phony opportunist who has pandered to Evangelicals for political gain, particularly in Iowa. And they fear that if Cruz notches a win in the Hawkeye State — especially if he does so by a wide margin, which many Republicans now view as a distinct possibility — he will emerge as the overwhelming favorite to capture the nomination. These assumptions have led to a pair of common conclusions: First, that preventing Cruz from winning Iowa is more important than promoting their own preferred candidates. And second, that if the only way to accomplish that is by throwing their support to another candidate, it should be Marco Rubio.

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The anti-Cruz effort may not be limited to ad campaigns. Sources familiar with the discussions say there are proposals to pool resources that can be used for voter outreach and education as well. A primary target of such a campaign would be Iowa’s churches, where Cruz’s opponents believe parishioners have been misled about the Texas senator’s record on the issue of same-sex marriage. After assuring voters that opposing gay marriage would be “front and center” in his campaign, Cruz told attendees at a Manhattan fundraiser earlier this month that it would not be a “top-three priority,” according to a recording leaked to Politico.

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While Cruz’s remarks do not represent an overt contradiction, his view — that each state should make its own marriage laws — is atypical for a candidate who, like Cruz, has worked tirelessly (and rather successfully) to win the endorsements of Evangelical leaders across the country. “Ted Cruz is not your classic social conservative,” says Craig Robinson, the former executive director of the Iowa Republican party. “Ted Cruz is fine with 50 different marriage laws. Ted Cruz is fine with 50 different laws defining when life can begin. Ted Cruz has been extremely fortunate that a guy like Rick Santorum hasn’t been on the debate stage with him, because Santorum would flesh out those differences.”

At the Machine Shed Sunday, Huckabee delivered a line that offered a similarly veiled criticism of Cruz, saying that there are, “two kinds of Republicans in Washington: ones that won’t fight at all and those that fight but never win.” Cruz, presumably, is among the latter.
You can hear a reprise of the line at the end of this video, in which Huckabee notes those who say, “Vote for me, I’m a fighter,” and adds,  “I just want to ask you something. If you fight but never win, what’s the point?”
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In an availability with reporters after the Bull Moose event, I asked about criticism of him and his supportive super PAC going negative on Cruz. Huckabee asked me to be specific. I mentioned the accusation that Cruz was saying one thing behind closed doors in Manhattan and another to voters in Iowa. Huckabee said he wasn’t the one who reported that, and taking note of the fact was not negative campaiging.
Here’s Rand Paul offering a critique of Cruz on Meet the Press Sunday.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you one more question about Ted Cruz. Do you think he deserves this reputation in the Senate that he’s difficult to work with?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

You know, I think people have different strategies and approaches to how they deal with people. I’ve had many disagreements with those in leadership. But I could try to keep it on a professional basis. I don’t go to the floor and call people liars, because I don’t think that one, that meets the rules of the Senate. The rules of the Senate say you’re not supposed to attack someone’s character.

And I think you can call them out, and I’ve given ten-hour speeches, 13-hour speeches, without calling anybody names. But talking about the history of our country, the importance of the Bill of Rights, the importance of the Fourth Amendment and privacy. But I tend not to have the same strategy of attacking people personally. It hasn’t done well for them in Washington. It may be rousing people, but ultimately, I don’t think that personality would allow him to be the nominee.

And here was what Trump, who just unveiled his first TV ad,  had to say on Cruz on Face the Nation.

JOHN DICKERSON: You said that Senator Cruz appeared to be kind of copying your immigration plan. Your plan, as I understand it, is deportations, and then you will let the good ones back in once they have left the country. His plan…

TRUMP: Yes. Well, they have to go through a process.

DICKERSON: They go through a process.

His plan is just deportation.

TRUMP: OK.

DICKERSON: So, is he stricter on undocumented…

TRUMP: No. Well, first of all, his plan just happened, OK?

In fact, I was watching the other day, and I was watching Ted talk, and he said, we will build a wall, the first time I have ever heard him say it.

And my wife, who was sitting next to me, said, “Oh, look, he’s copying what you have been saying for a long period of time.”

No, no. I’m talking about deportation. And people can come back into the country, not just that group, but other people can come back. But everybody has to come into our country legally. And I want a strong border. And I’m the one that came up with it.

Look, when I announced that I was running, I brought up illegal immigration. It wasn’t even a subject that would have been discussed in this debate. And now it’s one of the very big subjects.

Ted Cruz is trying to step up his whole game on amnesty and on illegal immigration, because it was actually quite weak. And you listen to him and Marco Rubio, they’re trying to solve the problems that they have had in the past, because they were both weak on it. And I have been very strong on it. So they’re trying to get stronger.

But, look, nobody has that position like I have that position. I want the wall. I want strong borders. I want everybody out. Now people are coming to me. But nobody has that issue like me. And nobody is going to be able to do it like me.

Nobody — as an example, on the wall, nobody is getting Mexico to pay for the wall, the cost of the wall, but me. They don’t even know about that. They — it’s not even in their vocabulary.

DICKERSON: But nobody thinks you’re going to get Mexico to pay for the wall.

TRUMP: Oh, I will. You know why? They make a fortune with us, so much more money than what you’re talking about.

They’re making a fortune. We have trade deficits. We have — if you look at the kind of numbers that Mexico makes with us, the wall is peanuts. Only a businessperson would say that. The politicians don’t understand it. They’re all talk and no action.

DICKERSON: You said that the good ones would come back on an expedited basis. Wouldn’t Senator Cruz say, well, that’s amnesty?

TRUMP: I think that the good ones will be coming back. And I would say that we want to have them back. But we want to have lot of other people.

We have one problem. We have millions of people waiting on lists that have gone through a legal process and they can’t get into the country. We have to take care of them. I want people to come in. They just have to come back legally.

DICKERSON: When you say about Senator Cruz not too many evangelicals come out of the Cuba, what does that mean?

TRUMP: Well, it just means that Cuba, generally speaking, is a Catholic country. And you don’t equate evangelicals with Cuba. I don’t.

I think of evangelicals, and I have a — I guess I am. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Protestant. But I don’t see it as coming out of Cuba.

DICKERSON: But you’re not questioning whether — as far as you know, he could be more devout than you are.

TRUMP: It’s possible. Certainly, it’s possible. I’m not questioning. And I say it in a somewhat smiling manner, but there’s a little truth to it.

(LAUGHTER)

To date, Cruz and his campaign, have not taken umbrage at anything Trump has had to say.

After arriving in Iowa Saturday, I went over to Fort Des Moines Church of Christ to talk with pastor Michael Demastus.

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I watched the first Republican presidential debate in August at a debate watch at the church. I checked back in with Demastus in the fall during Cruz’s campaign in D.C. to defund Planned Parenthood. Demastus is the Polk County chair – Des Moines is the county seat – for the Cruz campaign. And, each Monday morning he goes over Cruz headquarters in Urbandale to pray with the Cruz campaign staff and volunteers.

“For evangelicals in Iowa, Ted Cruz has become the guy we have coalesced behind,” said Demastus, who caucused for Huckabee in 2008 and Santorum in 2012. He thinks both of them are great and wonderful people, but this time the evangelical stars were aligned for Cruz.

He has no problem with others – including his 19-year-old son, who choose to stick with Huckabee or, in his son’s case, Santorum.

“My son is ardently behind Rick Santorum.”

But, he said, he was dismayed that thd coalescing around Cruz had brought out the worst in some Huckabee supporters, who had grown churlish and petulant in their sniping at Cruz. He said, the caucuses can cause Iowans to deify their candidates in unhealthy ways.

“The way that people swoon over some of their candidates is really insanely ridiculous. Once Feb. 2 comes, they’re not going to be back until we get down to the general election after the nomination and, even then, it will be very limited what they come back to Iowa for.”

And, Demastus said of Iowa evangelicals, “Once Feb. 2nd comes, we are going to be here fighting for life, marriage, religious liberty,” and need to get along.

“They are important people,” he said of the presidential candidates, “but they look at iowans through a very utilitarian lense.”

“Ted Cruz is no different. I haven’t made myself think that just because the jock needs his homework done and he lets me sit at his table, it doesn’t mean that he thinks that I’m all that. I’m not stupid and I think it’s important that we keep that in perspective. We’re still nerds.”

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Meanwhile, we’ll close out with Martin O’Malley.

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On Sunday, This Week in Iowa, devoted its full half hour to O’Malley, who talked about his campaign,, and, as is his wont, sang and played guitar. His choice of music – Greg Brown’s The Iowa Waltz.

 

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Here is another O’Malley performance of The Iowa Waltz.

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OK. Fine. but a very safe choice, and, well, a little boring.

Here are the lyrics:

Home in the midst of the corn, The middle of the U.S.A. Here’s where I was born, And here’s where I’m goin’ to stay. [chorus:] Iowa, Iowa, Winter, spring, summer and fall. Come and see, come dance with me, To the beautiful Iowa Waltz. We take care of our own, take care of our young, Make hay while the sun shines. Growing our crops, singing our songs, And planting until harvest time. [repeat chorus twice]

Ho. Hum.

You wanna be president Marty? Live a little. Take some musical risks.

My suggestion, get a female vocalist like Greg Brown’s wife, the incomparable Iris Dement, and try a rendition of the duet, In Spite of Ourselves.