In South Carolina, how Trump could bury Bush and cripple Cruz

Good morning Austin:

As you exited the space at the North Charleston Coliseum where the Bush brothers had their rally Monday, this  is what you saw.

 

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What does that say? Does it say what I think it says?

Let’s take a closer look.

 

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That’s what I thought it said.

Could be worse.

Could have said, Resistance is Futile: Trump 2016.

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It’s too big to be strictly subliminal in intent

Maybe it’s meant ironically.

Like Mission Accomplished.

More likely, it is simply prophetic.

Here’s the recent Real Clear Politics polling average.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 1.39.46 AMThis does not look very good for Jeb. In fact it doesn’t look great for anyone but Trump. The peril for Bush is that his candidacy will perish here.

After the Bush rally

After the Bush rally

Cruz’s crisis is not quite as existential. He may well still finish second. But he might not. Marco Rubio is proving resilient and one can only manage how well he might be doing if he hadn’t had that big speed bump with his poor debate performance in New Hampshire.

If Rubio finishes second or effectively ties Cruz for second, he is better positioned to become the anti-Trump candidate. Cruz would still be the conservative candidate, but a Trump triumph in South Carolina Saturday would signal big trouble ahead for Cruz on Super Tuesday when Cruz needs to dominate in Texas and a handful of other Southern states.

And Trump appears to have been unscathed by anything that happened at Saturday night’s debate in Greenville.

I talked to Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, who hasn’t endorsed a candidate, but was at Ted Cruz’s event on the USS Yorktown.

I asked about Trump.

I like what he’s getting at, I just don’t like the way he’s getting at it. He’s tapped into something that’s incredibly real and powerful.

Sanford said there is enormous economic anxiety out there, more than you would imagine based simply on the raw numbers. And, there is a feeling of inequity and inequality in the way the economy operates that is fueling the success of both Trump and Bernie Sanders.

But, like most observers, Sanford thought that Trump hurt himself on Saturday night at the debate in Greenville by suggesting that Bush bore some culpability for 9/11, that he had not kept America safe.

I think its going to hurt him. People don’t have a strongly-formed opinion about Megyn Kelly, but it’s different when you go to the heart of the American psyche and 9/11 – you know about this and you let it happen? This guy has defied all political convention so what do I know, but let me say I think he went too far. Everybody has their Waterloo and I would argue that this was a Waterloo moment. If he had concentrated on the economic issue, he owns that. But if he’s going to be assigning blame for 9/11, that’s crazy world stuff. He’s original. He’s real. They want real.

But with his comments Saturday night, Sanford said, a lot of South Carolinians were probably thinking, “Oh yeah, he’s real, but he’s also really weird.”

Sanford made the same points on Hardball last night, adding, if Trump still wins big in South Carolina, Katy bar the door, I think he’s going all way to the nomination.

Looking at yesterday’s Public Policy Polling poll, Katy bar the door.

The poll, conducted since Saturday’s debate in Greenville, was chock full of interesting details.

From PPP:

PPP’s new South Carolina poll continues to find Donald Trump with a wide lead in the state. He’s at 35% to 18% each for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, 10% for John Kasich, and 7% each for Jeb Bush and Ben Carson.

What’s striking about Trump’s support is how consistent it is across different demographic groups- he’s at 41% with ‘somewhat conservative’ voters, 40% with younger voters, 38% with men, 36% with self identified Republicans, 35% with Evangelicals, 35% with middle aged voters, 34% with non-Evangelicals, 31% with women, 30% with self identified independents, 30% with ‘very conservative’ voters, 30% with seniors, and 29% with moderates. He has a lead of some size within every single one of those groups, similar to what he was able to do in New Hampshire.

The race is still pretty fluid in South Carolina- 29% of voters say they might change their minds between now and Election Day. Trump benefits from having supporters who are pretty resolute though- 77% of them say they will definitely vote for him, compared to 76% for Cruz and 62% for Rubio. Among voters who say their minds are completely made up, Trump’s support goes up to 40% to 20% for Cruz and 16% for Rubio.

There are some reasons within the numbers to think Rubio might put in an unexpectedly strong performance on Saturday night. If voters have to choose just among the top three candidates he finishes in a clear second place with 28% to Trump’s 40% and Cruz’s 22%. Among voters who are either undecided or support one of the also rans- Bush, Carson, Kasich- 37% say they would move to Rubio compared to 19% for Trump and 13% for Cruz if they had to choose one of the top three. So if strategic voting occurs, that’s likely to be to Rubio’s benefit.

One surprising finding from the poll is that Ted Cruz has the worst net favorability rating of the candidates, with 42% of voters seeing him positively to 48% who have a negative opinion of him. He and Jeb Bush (41/43) are the only candidates under water. Showing that popularity isn’t everything Ben Carson is by far the most widely liked hopeful in the state with a 68/23 favorability rating, followed by Rubio at 58/32 and Kasich at 52/29. Trump is only the fourth most well liked at 50/43, but in contrast to the other candidates most of the voters who like him are also planning to vote for him.

-There’s been a lot of speculation that Trump might take on water after attacking George W. Bush on Saturday night, and Bush is relatively popular with 64% of voters seeing him favorably to 25% who have an unfavorable opinion. But despite his comments Trump is still leading even among voters with a positive view of GWB- he gets 26% to 22% for Cruz, 20% for Rubio, and 10% for Jeb Bush. And Trump is dominant with the swath of voters that doesn’t like George W. Bush, getting 57% to 12% for Kasich, and 11% each for Cruz and Rubio.Trump’s support in South Carolina is built on a base of voters among whom religious and racial intolerance pervades. Among the beliefs of his supporters:70% think the Confederate flag should still be flying over the State Capital, to only 20% who agree with it being taken down. In fact 38% of Trump voters say they wish the South had won the Civil War to only 24% glad the North won and 38% who aren’t sure. Overall just 36% of Republican primary voters in the state are glad the North emerged victorious to 30% for the South, but Trump’s the only one whose supporters actually wish the South had won.

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-By an 80/9 spread, Trump voters support his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States. In fact 31% would support a ban on homosexuals entering the United States as well, something no more than 17% of anyone else’s voters think is a good idea. There’s also 62/23 support among Trump voters for creating a national database of Muslims and 40/36 support for shutting down all the mosques in the United States, something no one else’s voters back. Only 44% of Trump voters think the practice of Islam should even be legal at all in the United States, to 33% who think it should be illegal. To put all the views toward Muslims in context though, 32% of Trump voters continue to believe the policy of Japanese internment during World War II was a good one, compared to only 33% who oppose it and 35% who have no opinion one way or another.

There continues to be evidence that the race for the Republican nomination will get a lot tighter down the line as more candidates drop out. Trump leads Rubio only 46/45 in a head to head match up, with supporters of Bush (73/10), Cruz (67/26), Carson (54/34), and Kasich (50/29) all strongly preferring Rubio to Trump if those were their choices. If Rubio can make the race in South Carolina more into a choice between him and Trump he has the potential to end up with a strong second place finish. Trump has wider leads in head to heads with Bush (50/40) and Cruz (48/38)

Look at this.

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And look at this.

 

 

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Thirty-six percent of Republicans in South Carolina — the state that started the Civil War — are glad the North won, slightly more than wish the South won, with a third of the Republicans are not sure. Cruz backers are evenly divided on the question. But less than a quarter of Trump voters — voters supporting the man that Cruz would have you believe is the embodiment of New York values — are glad the Yankees prevailed.

Meanwhile, the attacks on Cruz’s character from Trump and Rubio — and also Ben Carson — appear to have taken a steep toll on how voters view Cruz.

Carson — the best-liked candidate — may not have attacked Cruz at Saturday’s debate, but John Phillip Sousa IV, who heads Carson’s super PAC, has kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-Cruz emails to the group’s vast list. Like this:

Ted Cruz is up to no good yet again in South Carolina.

Despite getting caught using dishonest tactics in Iowa, Cruz and his pals won’t let that embarrassment stop them from trying to divert willing and able supporters of Ben Carson to their cause.

I know that you believe honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness are the most important traits in our next president, which is why now is the time to stand up to the Cruz campaign’s unethical Washington tactics.

If you’re tired of politics-as-usual, and want a candidate with real integrity to take the White House in November, sign our petition demanding that the Republican establishment condemn Ted Cruz’s underhanded tricks immediately.

There’s no question that the Cruz campaign cheaTED in Iowa, but by signing this petition you can stand up for what you believe in, and demand the kind of real accountability that is lacking in politics today.

You can sign the petition HERE, and we thank you in advance for your support.

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Trump’s other advantage over his rivals, is that he’s fun to watch. He’s simply a good politician.

In this, he is a lot like George W. Bush.

Watching the former president in North Charleston Monday night, I was reminded of how funny and likable he is. He was nearly indistinguishable from the Will Ferrell impression.

Cruz and Rubio. Rubio and Cruz. Sounds like a Miami law firm.If you’ve been injured on the job, call Rubio and Cruz.

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And there was the real George W. Bush Monday delivering these classic lines:

I’m really glad to be back in this great state. I have a lot of fond memories. I walked in the Okra Strut in Irmo. I was pleased they didn’t make me dress as an okra stalk.

And:

Perhaps my most interesting memory came in Greenville before the 2000 primary. David and Susan and Laura and I went to Tommy’s Country Ham House. We were eating breakfast. In fact, I was eating some bacon when I look out the window and a PETA protester dressed as a pig pulled up in a dump truck. He had a huge load of manure in the parking lot to try to prevent me from leaving. It was kind of a sign of things to come. But, let me tell you something about the Ham House. Even a steaming pile of manure can’t ruin their good bacon.

And:

Where we’re spending a lot of time on our ranch where we have become tree farmers. Gives me a chance to practice my stump speech.

And:

I’ve written two books, which surprised a lot of people especially up East who didn’t think I could read let alone write. I’ve been one to defy expectations. I’ve been misunderestimated most of my life, and it’s a real shock to people that I’ve become an oil painter. The signature is worth more than the painting.

The Bush rally lasted just under 45 minutes, beginning to end.

A few hours earlier, about 10 minutes up the road, Trump held a press conference, just Trump and reporters, that lasted for the same length of time, and he was in total command. He is very good at it. Like W., he is a natural politician.

Asked, for example, about the fate of immigrant Dreamers if he is elected president, Trump said, “You know what I want, I want Dreamers to come from this country. You mention Dreamers. I want Dreamers to come from the United States. We’re always talking about Dreamers. I want the children growing up in the United States to be Dreamers. They’re not dreaming now.”

He went on, launching into a riff about how poorly African-American youth are faring, and not just youth, but African-Americans in their 30s, 40s, 50s, “in their prime,” despite there being an African-American president, who, he said, had done nothing for them.

Fair or not, it was a very effective way of turning the question back toward his theme.

The other casualty in South Carolina, is, I think, any chance that Cruz might end up as Trump’s running mate. More than half of Trump’s Monday’s press conference was devoted to excoriating Cruz as the biggest liar he had ever encountered.

It’s not unheard of for mortal political enemies to end up sharing a ticket, but this seems hard to overcome

But, when I got a chance to ask a question at the very end of the new conference, I decided to nail it down.

Q – Just to clarify, Is Ted Cruz off your short list for vice president?

Trump -No, he wouldn’t be on my short list.

 

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