Spoiler alert: Why won’t sore winner John Kasich quit the race?

Good day Austin:

The word coming from the Ted Cruz campaign is that John Kasich is a spoiler.

The word coming from Sean Hannity on Fox last night is that John Kasich is a spoiler.

Selfish. Establishment tool. Deluded.

https://twitter.com/seanhannity/status/709954328312815620

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OK.

First, watch Glenn Beck, who loves Cruz and hates Trump, and see why he is so much better than Sean Hannity.

Second, on a personal note, I am worried about Sean Hannity.

It’s not the way his hair sits on his head, which remains, as it has always been, unsettling.

It’s that he loves Donald Trump but he also loves Ted Cruz. He wants them both to be president, but, of course that can’t happen. Never mind that Cruz now fashions himself as the only person who can save the Republican Party and the nation from the disaster of Donald Trump. Never mind that the reason Cruz feels Kasich is obliged to get out of the race is so he can have the one-on-one with Trump in order to take the New York huckster out.

 

 

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What Hannity doesn’t like is not that Kasich is messing up Cruz’s chances of bringing down Trump but that Kasich’s candidacy invites thoughts, the mere possibility, that the Republican Party could nominate someone other than Trump or Cruz. And, in Hannity’s view, and in the view of the Cruz campaign, it is illegitimate for a candidate to persist who does not have a mathematical possibility of clinching the nomination before the Cleveland convention, where, in Hannity’s view, anything that occurs that does not simply hand the nomination to whoever has the most delegates coming in, no matter how shy of the 1,237 delegate that candidate might be, would be a terrible  injustice, or as Trump put it yesterday, a reason to riot in the streets of Cleveland, not that he would condone that.

That construct works for Hannity because he’s fine if Trump is the nominee.

But for someone who loves Cruz but doesn’t also love Trump, that is a dangerous line of reasoning, because if Kasich’s chance of securing the delegates needed to win the nomination before Cleveland are none, Cruz’s chances are slim – very, very slim and within spitting distance of none.

If Ted Cruz is going to be nominated in Cleveland, it is much more likely to happen on a second or third ballot than on the first ballot. And, right now, there is a lot more chance that Cruz would be Trump’s running mate than that he would win the top spot.

Would Trump pick Lyin’ Ted as his running mate?

Sure. Why not? It appears, he has already promised Dr. Ben pathological-like-a-child-molester Carson some role in his administration in exchange for his endorsement.

Would Cruz go for it?

Well, of course Cruz would prefer an appointment to the Supreme Court by President Trump that would enable the 45-year-old brilliant legal mind to shape American society well into the End Times. But, if Trump doesn’t go for that, vice president in a Trump administration could be a really plum job –  even more important than being vice president in the George W. Bush administration. And how sweet would it be for Cruz to return to Washington in 2017 as President of the Senate.

And, for what it’s worth, a Trump-Cruz ticket would be Sean Hannity’s dream come true.

So feh on Kasich, the spoiler whose only real claim to the nomination is that he might actually prove electable in the fall.

What a loser.

From Matt Bai at Yahoo! Politics caught up with Kasich yesterday in Pennsylvania.

“I have a unique opportunity, because we’re now gaining momentum,” Kasich told me, shrugging off the obstacles. “What would you rather have, momentum in the first quarter or momentum in the fourth? Cruz didn’t win anything last night. I did.

“And you know what? People across the country are celebrating that victory in Ohio. Because they believe it sends a message that somebody who has a record, somebody who can bring us together — that there’s hope for that yet.

“I don’t see that anybody is going to have enough delegates,” Kasich told me. “And then you have a convention. I mean, why are people hyperventilating about that?”

Kasich’s plan, in other words, is to keep Trump from amassing the 1,237 delegates he needs, and then to effectively declare a reset at the convention. His campaign added a team of serious party insiders this week — among them the superlobbyist Vin Weber and the longtime strategist Charlie Black — to begin preparing for a delegate war.

But as Kasich well knows, the “hyperventilation” in some circles comes from imagining what will happen if Republican operatives try to overturn the will of their own voters. And this is why Kasich needs to do more than simply keep Trump under the magic number; he also needs to win a bunch of states that aren’t his own between now and early June.

In the end, an establishment-led challenge will be viable — or at least something less than suicidal — only if the leaders of various delegations can plausibly make the case that Kasich was the party’s strongest candidate by the time the primaries ended.

If nothing else, there’s little question that he’s now the most electable of the bunch. I asked him if it felt odd, despite his sharply conservative record and evangelical fervor, to have become the Republican Democrats like best.

“I have always been able to attract the independent and conservative Democrats,” Kasich told me as the car came to a stop. “When their party’s turned hard left and they feel left behind, we’ve always had an ability to get those votes.”

Aside from electability, Kasich’s calling card is his governing experience, in Washington and Ohio, which dwarfs that of either Cruz or Trump. But, at least so far this year, that preparation is tallied on the negative side of the ledger.

Also, unlike Cruz, Kasich was never an apologist for Trump.

So, what would get Kasich out of the race?

Money, or lack thereof. That’s the surest path, accompanied by doing a lot of losing.

Or, a devastating nickname.

So far, Trump has a not bestowed one on Kasich that perfectly encapsulates his  essential weakness, his fatal flaw.

But, I’m sure his time will come.

In the meantime, Kasich needs to finish ahead of Cruz in places like Wisconsin and New York and Pennsylvania  and Connecticut, to demonstrate that it is not he who is spoiling things.

Cruz wasn’t out campaigning yesterday, but his campaign did release an illuminating statement “regarding President Obama’s decision to nominate Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Merrick Garland is exactly the type of Supreme Court nominee you get when you make deals in Washington D.C. A so-called ‘moderate’ Democrat nominee is precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make – someone who would rule along with other liberals on the bench like Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Make no mistake, if Garland were confirmed, he would side predictably with President Obama on critical issues such as undermining the Second Amendment, legalizing partial-birth abortion, and propping up overreaching bureaucratic agencies like the EPA and the IRS. We cannot afford to lose the Supreme Court for generations to come by nominating or confirming someone that a dealmaker like Donald Trump would support. Washington dealmakers cannot be trusted with such crucial lifetime appointments. 

I proudly stand with my Republican colleagues in our shared belief – our advice and consent – that we should not vote on any nominee until the next president is sworn into office. The People will decide. I commend Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley for holding the line and ensuring that We the People get to exercise our authority to decide the direction of the Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights.

I must admit that my paramount fear about a Trump presidency is not that he would recklessly name a widely-respected centrist jurist to the Supreme Court. But it cuts to the core of Cruz’s critique of Trump, which is first and foremost that the intemperate Trump is too moderate.

Meanwhile, according to this week’s Gallup Insiders’ Briefing, through all the tumult since Trump announced last June, his high standing with Republican voters is undisturbed, but, among the broader public, he is even more unpopular than Hillary Clinton.

Some excerpts:

Trump is not well-liked by Americans, and has become less so over time. He is less well-liked than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat.
 
His national image started out as 32% favorable/56% unfavorable in July.  As his familiarity has inched up, all of this increased recognition has gone to the negative side of the ledger.  From July to present, his favorable is down by 3 points, his unfavorable up by 8 points. He is now at a -35 net favorable (29%/64%).
 
Trump was best liked in late August and early September, when his favorable was slightly above average at 38%. Trump’s most negative image came for the week ending March 5, with 28% favorable, roughly where he is today. On average since July, 33% of Americans have held a favorable opinion of Trump while 58% have been unfavorable. 
 
In contrast to what national adults think about Trump, rank and file Republicans generally like him.  
 
Trump’s image has averaged 57% favorable/36% unfavorable among Republicans since July. After Trump’s image dipped earlier this month, it has improved and is now remarkably close to his overall average, with 59% of Republicans holding a favorable view of him and 36% an unfavorable view.  Republicans’ net favorable views of Trump have ranged from a low of +5 in late February/early March to as high as +33 in September.
 
  Among the “Non-Trump” Candidates, Kasich Now Best Liked
 
Of the two Republican candidates who remain standing in Trump’s considerable shadow, John Kasich now enjoys the highest net favorable rating among Republicans and Republican leaners nationwide. His +33 net favorable rating as of Tuesday compares with +17 for Ted Cruz (and +23 for Trump). Before suspending his campaign Tuesday night, Marco Rubio had plunged to an all-time low of zero in net favorability with Republicans nationally. Kasich has also demonstrated impressive momentum, managing a fairly steady three month climb from his all-time low of +2 in late December. Kasich has also become better known, with his familiarity among Republicans climbing about 20 percentage points.
 
Over the same period Cruz’s favorability rating nosedived, similar to Rubio’s. However, before the March 15 primaries Cruz managed a slight recovery from his recent nadir.  Where Kasich and Cruz go from here remains to be seen, but, combined with the results of the March 15 elections, their images suggest that they may have enough GOP goodwill to continue in the hopes of achieving something at a possible brokered convention.
 
I spoke yesterday with Frank Newport, Gallup editor-in-chief, who talked about their findings.
Right now, among Republicans, Trump has a better image than Cruz, but by just a few points. Both candidates have liabilities with Republicans, more than third of Republicans are unfavorable about both.
Neither one of them has an image advantage at the moment.

Kasich’s a little better liked than either of them, but even a lot of Republicans don’t know a lot about Kasich.  About 30 percent of Republicans really don’t know who  he is.

This is the first time in our data (for the favorable/unfavorable question, beginning in 1992)  we’ve had two candidates, possible front-runners, who among the general population have over 50 percent unfavorable ratings – that would be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – and of those two, Trump is more unpopular than Hillary.

He clearly has major image problems with the electorate as whole. This is unusual to have a candidate at this stage who is this deeply disliked.

Hillary Clinton – you know we’ve been tracking her for 25 years, she is very labile. When she’s not running for president, she is in the favorable, plus side. She has the potential to spring back.

But for now, Newport said of the prospect of a Clinton-Trump race, “it raises the specter – kind of a James Bond term – of a third-party candidate.”

 

For Ted Cruz, it’s one step forward and two steps back

Good morning Austin:

Ted Cruz’s election night routine is to come on stage with a big grin and say, “God bless” whichever state he just won or surpassed expectations in.

Last night, at his campaign watch event at Houston’s Hyatt Regency, there was no state for Cruz to invoke God’s blessing on.

For a candidate who has been promoted by key supporters as God’s anointed candidate, the question today is why God has forsaken him, especially just as he would assume the mantle as the only man who can fulfill the holy mission of standing in the gap and stopping the Republican Party from nominating Donald Trump – Donald Trump ! –  for president of the United States.

Cruz came very close in Missouri, which ended in a virtual dead heat, but it appears he lost to Trump though a recount is possible. But, if that loss stands, Cruz went winless in five states Tuesday, undermining his momentum heading into what now promises to be a long slog to try to deprive Trump of the 1,234 delegates he needs to secure the nomination in Cleveland in July.

 

New York Times
New York Times

Without a Missouri win, it appears that Cruz picked up only 34 delegates last night, increasing his total from 376 to 420. He went from trailing Trump by fewer than 100 delegates to lagging nearly 250 delegates behind.

According to an AP analysis, Cruz would need to win 75 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination.

NBC put the new delegate tally  at 656 delegates for Trump, 408 for Cruz, 172 for Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race last night, and 138 for Kasich, and calculated that Trump could get to the requisite 1,237 delegates without having to crack 50 percent in any of the remaining contests.

The stark reality for Cruz is that, with yesterday’s primaries in Florida and North Carolina, every state of the Old Confederacy has now voted and Ted Cruz – who was depending on the South to be the cornerstone of his strategy – has won exactly one of those states, his home state of Texas.

Cruz has done better in the South of late. He finished a strong second in North Carolina, just as he had in Louisiana. According to the CNN exit poll, Cruz fought Trump to a draw with the 68 percent of the North Carolina GOP electorate who identify as evangelical Christians, but his strategy depended on evangelical voters being his go-to constituency.

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Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said last night that, one-on-one, Cruz can thrash Trump the rest of the way, especially in the 18 of 22 upcoming contests where Democratic crossover voting is not allowed, and clinch the nomination before Cleveland, or short of that, triumph in a contested convention.

But, in a bit of whack-a-mole, even as Trump helped Cruz by knocking Rubio out of the race – albeit at the huge cost to Cruz of Trump picking up Florida’s 99 delegates – up pops Kasich who defeated Trump in his home state.

While Roe contends that that’s it for Kasich – he just peaked and has nowhere to go – Kasich’s victory continues to deprive Cruz of his clean shot at Trump and gives Republicans who despair at the prospect of a Trump nomination but disdain or even despise Cruz, with an alternative.

On Wednesday on MSBC’s Morning Joe, Carly Fiorina, who has emerged in recent days as Cruz’s top surrogate, said that Kasich, fresh off his victory, doesn’t have a path to the nomination and ought to quit the race and leave it to Cruz.

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“Every day John Kasich remains in the race, it benefits Donald Trump,” said Cruz, saying that a candidate without a path to victory ought to make way for a candidate with one.

Not gonna happen.

It will be up to Kasich in the next few days to put some meat on the bones of his game plan, and up to the Cruz campaign  to effectively make the case that Kasich’s best day is behind him, and to better establish that Cruz is truly the sole locus of anti-Trump sentiment.

But Trump is heavy favorite to win Arizona’s winner-take-all primary on Tuesday, which would more than offset a loss in Utah, which also votes Tuesday.

Trump said he won’t be participating at Monday’s Fox debate in Salt Lake City, and Kasich consultant John Weaver tweeted, “No debate in SLC Monday due to Trump backing out.” Which leaves Cruz, but I’m not sure an evening alone on stage is what he needs or desires or Fox wants.

The big thing going for Cruz -and Kasich – remains Trump, and the enormous doubts that swirl around his candidacy. But, increasingly, their fate depends on Trump doing himself in, and, try as Trump might, week after week, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

But it appears that Trump will keep trying.

Tuesday night, it was Trump, petulant and ungracious in victory, and on Wednesday on Morning Joe, breathtakingly imperious.

Asked who he consults with to be sure he is prepared to be president on Day One, Trump, on the phone, said, “I am speaking with myself because I have a very good brain. I know what I’m doing.”

“My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”

Alrighty then.

 

 

 

 

Beware the Ides of March. America’s Caesar may widen his delegate lead.

Good day Austin:

It is March 15. The Ides of March. Bad day for Julius Caesar back in 44 BC.

From The Telegraph today:

Julius Caesar suffered 23 stab wounds on the Ides of March but only one of them, the second stab wound he received to the breast, was fatal to the 55-year-old. In his book, military historian Barry Strauss, says that the problem was that many of the estimated 60 conspirators were amateurs at murder. “Very few soldiers, even good ones, have what it takes to stab a man to death,” Strauss writes. “It takes sheer physical strength and a certain brutality to drive a dagger through a man’s flesh.” Some of the stab wounds hit rib cage bone. Excruciatingly painful but not fatal.

And who were those conspirators?

The Establishment. Senators. Romans.

Carl Cannon, Washington bureau chief for Real Clear Politics, carries this line of thought far deeper than I am able to in his RCP Morning Note:

Does Donald Trump recognize himself as Julius Caesar? Your guess is as good as mine. But The Donald’s vainglory has nothing on Caesar’s, who in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” speaks of himself in the third person when he makes his initial appearance on stage.

The play’s opening, like the 2016 primary season, features a conversation between the elites and the working man. That discussion is really a debate between “tribunes” (our version is the Republican establishment) and the commoners (Trump voters) who see what Caesar already knows: to rule Rome you need the working people with you, not the patrician tribunes.

It doesn’t take much to see U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as Roman senators Brutus and Cassius. Appalled that a man so flawed has become so powerful, they hatch a plot to stop him.

Caesar doesn’t worry overmuch about Brutus-Rubio, but has his eye on Cassius-Cruz.

“Let me have men about me that are fat,” says Caesar-Trump. “Yond’ Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

But the senators believe that Caesar-Trump and the cult worship he engenders are the real threat to the Republic. Sound familiar now?

Casca, another one of the conspirators (John Kasich?) is astonished at how the crowd responds to Caesar’s bluster, which he compares to a circus. Presaging the real Donald Trump’s own line about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and not losing any voters, Casca says the working stiffs are sheep who would forgive Caesar if he stabbed their own mothers.

Two thousand sixty years later the question is whether the long knives can take down the man who would be an American Caesar before it is too late.

 

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Probably not.

For starters, if polls are remotely accurate, it would appear that Marco Rubio in Florida is armed with a rubber dagger. In Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich seems likely to prevail, if narrowly, over Trump, he was backed up yesterday on the campaign trail by Mitt Romney, who just doesn’t seem to know a shiv from Shinola.

And it is unlikely that Trump will take the stage tonight at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, and deliver the line et tu, Lyin’ Ted.

Cruz is still not quite prepared to go in for the final, brutal kill. While describing the prospect of a Trump nomination as a disaster for the party and the country, Cruz said Monday that there were only very limited circumstances under which he would not stick to his commitment to support Trump if he were the Republican nominee.

“I can give you one example where I wouldn’t support Donald Trump,” Cruz said. “If, for example, he were to go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, I would not be willing to support Donald Trump.”

Well, there’s a line in the sand,

Back in January at a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa, Trump boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose vote.”

But Cruz said yesterday, were Trump to act on that impulse, he would lose at least one vote.

In fact, Cruz wants Trump to triumph in Florida and Ohio, so he can get his one-on-one race with Trump, even as he wants to beat or wound Trump in Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina. He wants the story Wednesday to be that Republicans must confront a clear, practical choice between Trump and Cruz, and quickly come to terms with that.

It will be a nifty trick, if he can pull it off.

But more likely, Cruz will find himself with Trump expanding his delegate lead over him, though perhaps not over the combined strength of the anti-Trumps; Rubio doing what it takes to keep his existing cache of delegates in place so he can control them in Cleveland, and Kasich emerging as a third alternative, who could either become Cruz’s primal enemy or de facto partner in trying to stop Trump.

Cruz will be in Houston tonight, and it will be very interesting to see how he frames the race when he takes the stage at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom.

As I watched speeches last night by Trump, Cruz, Kasich and Rubio, I think the problem facing Cruz is that, of the four, he is the least fun, or even comforting, to watch.

Maybe it was the soft blue light of twilight, but Donald Trump’s rally at the airport outside Youngstown, Ohio, yesterday was – even after a week in which Trump managed to nurture the anxiety that maybe he is the prototype of a new populist-nationalist American fascism  – strangely calming.

Or, I suppose, maybe that is the real, relax-and-enjoy-it, seductive appeal of fascism, which is not all jackboots and goose-stepping, but also the warm glow of knowing that everything’s gonna be all right because Big Pappa spins beautiful stories that says it’s going to be.

Having said that, I should note that I do not fit the authoritarian mindset that would predispose me to Trump.

From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog,

One of the reasons that Donald Trump has flummoxed pollsters and political analysts is that his supporters seem to have nothing in common. He appeals to evangelical and secular voters, conservative and moderate Republicans, independents and even some Democrats. Many of his supporters are white and don’t have a college degree, but he also does well with some highly educated voters, too.

What’s bringing all these different people together, new research shows, is a shared type of personality — a personality that in many ways has nothing to do with politics. Indeed, it turns out that your views on raising children better predict whether you support Trump than just about anything else about you.

Matthew MacWilliams, a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, conducted a poll in which Republicans were asked four questions about child-rearing. With each question, respondents were asked which of two traits were more important in children:

  • independence or respect for their elders;
  • curiosity or good manners;
  • self-reliance or obedience;
  • being considerate or being well-behaved.

Psychologists use these questions to identify people who are disposed to favor hierarchy, loyalty and strong leadership — those who picked the second trait in each set — what experts call “authoritarianism.” That many of Trump’s supporters share this trait helps explain the success of his unconventional candidacy and suggests that his rivals will have a hard time winning over his adherents.

When it comes to politics, authoritarians tend to prefer clarity and unity to ambiguity and difference. They’re amenable to restricting the rights of foreigners, members of a political party in the minority and anyone whose culture or lifestyle deviates from their own community’s.

“For authoritarians, things are black and white,” MacWilliams said. “Authoritarians obey.”

So, stipulating that I’m decidedly not of the respect/good manners/obedience/well-behaved school of parenting, or even  dog-owning, there is something very reassuring about Trump’s narrative.

Sure he is pandering to prejudices, narrow-mindedness and every bully instinct of the junior high schoolyard. But, when he’s not musing about paying the legal bills for what would appear to be a stone-cold racist supporter who sucker-punched a black protester in North Carolina, his us vs. them is, if you’re an American citizen, fairly inclusive.

Sure he wants to beat the stuffing out of old pal Hillary Clinton; sure he led the charge in the shameless Birther effort to deligitimize President Obama, but, unlike Cruz, he doesn’t seem to have a pent-up carte blanche animus against liberals, Democrats and blue America that Cruz embodies.

Of course there is also, on the wee bit negative side of the ledger, the fact that most everything Trump says is either made up out of whole cloth or just simply  wrong.

From Politico:

Donald Trump says he is a truthful man. “Maybe truthful to a fault,” he boasted last week at a North Carolina rally where one of his supporters sucker punched a protester.

But truthful he is not.

With the GOP front-runner scooping up delegates in a march toward the Republican nomination, POLITICO subjected a week’s worth of his words to our magazine’s fact-checking process. We chronicled 4.6 hours of stump speeches and press conferences, from a rally in Concord, N.C., on Monday to a rally on Friday in St. Louis.

The result: more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false – the kind of stuff that would have been stripped from one of our stories, or made the whole thing worthy of the spike. It equates to roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.

From warning of the death of Christianity in America to claiming that he is taking no money from donors, the Manhattan billionaire and reality-show celebrity said something far from truthful many times over to the thousands of people packed into his raucous rallies. His remarks represent an extraordinary mix of inaccurate claims about domestic and foreign policy and personal and professional boasts that rarely measure up when checked against primary sources.

But, you get past all of that, and Trump is mesmerizing, entertaining, and, if you’re going to have to live with a ubiquitous presence for the next however many year, good company.
And so, I found myself lighting up when, toward the end of his Youngstown appearance yesterday, he did a reprise of his bizarre dramatic reading of the Al Wilson 1969 Northern Soul classic, The Snake.
This is great, I thought.
Would it be so terrible to give Trump a whirl, for four years, maybe eight? As long as he didn’t end the world before then, or announce, a la Michael Bloomberg in New York, that circumstances really require in 2024 that he serve a third term to keep America great, or that maybe elections really were an inhibition on achieving ultimate American greatness.
In the meantime, it’s kind of compelling watching the Republican Party, conservatism, Brietbart, Fox and the component parts of  Sean Hannity himself being  torn asunder by one guy with a very big ego, his gut instincts and a staff of about three.
What snapped me out of my Trump reverie, though, was watching Kasich’s speech Monday before a hometown crowd in Westerville, Ohio, though it might as well have been Winesburg, Ohio, so evocative it was of wholesome American small-town values. With Kasich, there is no “us” and “them.’ It’s all “we.”
And, anger be damned, he says,, American has been through far tougher times before and done just fine.
I defy you to watch this without tearing up as he describes the long line of mourners at the funeral of his parents, who died in a car accident, and how his father, the mailman, had been part of the lives and ups and downs of every family, every home, he delivered mail to.
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Kasich even survived being introduced by Mitt Romney, the Damper Dan of American politics.

“Wow, what a welcome,” Romney said, kicking off the festivities. “John, this is your hometown, right?”

Romney watched with affection as Kasich worked the kind of simple rhetorical magic that could have elected Romney president.

Here’s Rubio yesterday.

I won’t dwell on him.

He talks too fast. He still appears two-cycles-too-soon, but his message is also one of uplift.

Then there’s Cruz.

Cruz finds himself in a remarkably strong position.

He and his campaign deserve a lot of credit.

But, as I noted earlier, his message is very hard-edged, and, more than Trump or Kasich or Rubio promises an America in which the pitched battle between Red and Blue America only intensifies.

Also, I would offer this piece of constructive criticism:

GET A NEW SPEECH!

I know that candidates tend to use the same stump speech ad infinitum, but I think Cruz is carrying this to a ridiculous extreme, and a self-defeating one now that his higher exposure means that viewers are increasingly going to see him speak multiple times.

Trump’s extraordinary gift is keeping the Trump Show alive and interesting, and Kasich’s gift is appearing to be speaking directly to his audience.

One other critique of Cruz.

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In his remarks yesterday, Cruz says:

You know a couple of debates ago, Hugh Hewitt asked all of us about religious liberty and the Supreme Court, and Donald Trump turned to me and he said, `I’ve known a lot more politicians than you have.’ Now, in that, he’s right. Donald has been supporting liberal Democratic politicians for 40 years. I have no experience doing that. But Donald went on to say, `Ted, When it comes to Supreme Court justices, you have got to be prepared compromise. You have got to negotiate with the Democrats and go along to get along.” Well, let me be very clear to the men and women of Illinois, I will not compromise away your religious liberty.

Good one. Except that that really doesn’t accurately characterize that exchange, and is more a reflection of words that Cruz attempted to put in Trump’s mouth at the debate than the words that actually came out of Trump’s mouth. One would think that with a candidate like Trump, who provides such ample fodder with virtually everything he says, that would not be necessary.

Here is the transcript of that exchange from the debate in Houston just before Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, thank you.

I want to turn our attention now to another critically important issue for the American people, the United States Supreme Court, where filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia has become a major campaign issue. I want to bring in Salem Radio Network host, Hugh Hewitt.

Hugh?

HEWITT: Thank you, Wolf.

To me, it’s the most important issue. I’ll start with you, Senator Cruz. Do you trust Mr. Trump to nominate conservative justices?

CRUZ: Well, Hugh, I agree with you that it — Justice Scalia’s passing underscores the enormous gravity of this election. Justice Scalia was someone I knew personally for 20 years; was privileged to be at his funeral this weekend. And with his passing, the court is now hanging in the balance. We are one liberal justice away from a five-justice radical leftist majority that would undermine our religious liberty; that would undermine the right to life; and that would fundamentally erase the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms from the Constitution.

Now, I think the voters of Texas, the voters across Super Tuesday are assessing everyone standing on this — this stage. In the past, Republican presidents always promise to nominate strict constitutionalists. So I’m certain if you took a survey, everyone would say they would do that.

But the reality is, Democrats bat about 1,000. Just about everyone they put on the court votes exactly as they want. Republicans have batted worse than 500, more than half of the people we put on the court have been a disaster.

I’ve spent my whole life fighting to defend the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. I can tell you, for voters that care about life or marriage or religious liberty or the Second Amendment, they’re asking the question: Who do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who do you know will nominate principled constitutionalists to the court? I give you my word, every justice I nominate will vigorously defend the Bill of Rights for my children and for yours.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Mr. Trump, Senator Cruz mentioned the issue that keeps me up at night, which is religious liberty. Churches, Catholic and Christian colleges, Catholic adoption agencies — all sorts of religious institutions fear that Hobby Lobby, if it’s repealed, it was a five-four decision, they’re going to have to bend their knee and provide morning-after pills. They fear that if Bob Jones is expanded, they will lose their tax exemption.

Will you commit to voters tonight that religious liberty will be an absolute litmus test for anyone you appoint, not just to the Supreme Court, but to all courts?

TRUMP: Yes, I would. And I’ve been there. And I’ve been there very strongly. I do have to say something, and this is interesting and it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s not Ted’s fault. Justice Roberts was strongly recommended and pushed by Ted. Justice Roberts gave us Obamacare. Might as well be called Roberts-care. Two times of the Supreme Court, Justice Roberts approved something that he should have never raised his hand to approve. And we ended up with Obamacare.

That is a rough thing. And I know Ted feels badly about it. And I think he probably still respects the judge. But that judge has been a disaster in terms of everything we stand for because there is no way — no way that he should have approved Obamacare.

Now, with that being said, these are the things that happen. But Ted very, very strongly pushed Judge Roberts, and Justice Roberts gave us something that we don’t want.

HEWITT: Ted Cruz, Senator, the chief justice got Hobby Lobby right, but what do you make of Mr. Cruz’s criticism?

CRUZ: Well, listen — Donald knows that it was George W. Bush who appointed John Roberts. Yes, it’s true, I supported the Republican nominee once he was made.

But I would not have nominated John Roberts. I would have nominated my former boss, Mike Luttig, who was the strongest proven conservative on the court of appeals. And I’ll tell you, Hugh…

(APPLAUSE)

… you know, it’s interesting now that Donald promises that he will appoint justices who — who will defend religious liberty, but this is a man who, for 40 years, has given money to Jimmy Carter, to Joe Biden, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer, to Harry Reid.

Nobody who supports far-left liberal Democrats who are fighting for judicial activists can possibly care about having principled constitutionalists on the court.

And what Donald has told us is he will go to Washington…

(BELL RINGS)

… and cut a deal.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump…

CRUZ: So that means on Supreme Court…

HEWITT: … can I…

CRUZ: … he’s going to look to cut a deal, rather than fight for someone who won’t cut a deal on the Constitution, but will defend it faithfully.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Can I trust you on religious liberty?

TRUMP: Well, let — let me — let me just say — let me just say this. Look, I watched Ted — and I respected it, but he gets nowhere — stand on the Senate floor for a day or two days, and talk and talk and talk.

I watched the other senators laughing and smiling. And when Ted was totally exhausted, he left the Senate floor, and they went back to work. OK? We have to have somebody that’s going to make deals.

It’s wonderful to stand up for two days and do that. Now, Ted’s been very critical — I have a sister who’s a brilliant…

HEWITT: Mr. Cruz, will you make a deal about religious liberty?

TRUMP: … excuse me. She’s a brilliant judge. He’s been criticizing — he’s been criticizing my sister for signing a certain bill. You know who else signed that bill? Justice Samuel Alito, a very conservative member of the Supreme Court, with my sister, signed that bill.

So I think that maybe we should get a little bit of an apology from Ted. What do you think?

HEWITT: Let me — Senator.

CRUZ: Let me tell you right now, Donald, I will not apologize for a minute for defending the Constitution. I will not apologize for defending the Bill of Rights.

(APPLAUSE)

And I find it amazing that your answer to Hugh and to the American people is, on religious liberty, you can’t have one of the these crazy zealots that actually believes in it. You’ve got to be willing to cut a deal.

And you know, there is a reason why, when Harry Reid was asked, of all the people on this stage, who does he want the most, who does he like the most, Harry Reid said Donald — Donald Trump.

Why? Because Donald has supported him in the past, and he knows he can cut a deal with him.

(BELL RINGS)

You know what, Donald…

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: Senator Rubio.

CRUZ: … I don’t want a Supreme Court justice that you cut a deal with Harry Reid to undermine religious liberty, because that same justice will also erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: When you say crazy zealot, are you talking about you? Crazy zealot — give me a break.

HEWITT: Senator Rubio, you’ve heard this exchange on religious liberty. You have said that religious liberty will trump even the ability of people to stay away from same-sex marriages, not provide flowers, not provide baked goods, et cetera. Are you satisfied with this exchange on religious liberty?

RUBIO: Well, I think you ask a very important question, because the issue here — the next president of the United States has to fill this vacancy.

Justice Scalia — in the history of the republic, there has never been anyone better than him at standing for the principle that the Constitution is not a living and breathing document — it is supposed to be applied as originally meant.

And the next president of the United States has to be someone that you can trust and believe in to appoint someone just as good as Scalia — plus there may be at least two other vacancies.

So you ask Mr. Trump to respond and say that he would, and he says that he would. But the bottom line is, if you look at his record over the last 25 or 30 years, on issue after issue, he has not been on our side.

Now, if he’s changed, we’re always looking for converts into the conservative movement. But the bottom line is that, if (ph) you don’t have a record there to look at and say, “I feel at peace that when Donald Trump is president of the United States, he’s going to be firmly on our side on these issues.”

In fact, very recently, he was still defending Planned Parenthood. He says he’s not going to take sides in the Palestinians versus Israel. These are concerning things.

And so, yes, I have a doubt about whether Donald Trump, if he becomes president, will replace Justice Scalia with someone just like Justice Scalia.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Well, let — let me just say — let me just say, first of all, I have great respect for Justice Scalia. I thought he was terrific. And if you talk about evolving, Ronald Reagan was a somewhat liberal Democrat. Ronald Reagan evolved into a somewhat strong conservative — more importantly, he was a great president. A great president.

As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.

So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly. And I wouldn’t fund it.

I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.

(APPLAUSE)

Finally, per President Obama’s visit to Texas last week, I thought the president had one unfortunate line as he mocked Trump – and his product line of steaks, wines and such – at a Democratic fundraiser Saturday in Dallas.

You know that’s like some $5 wine.’They slap a label on it. They charge you $50 and say it’s the greatest wine ever.

Has anybody tried that wine. How good can that wine be?

OK, I get it that Obama is saying that Trump is ripping folks off. But he also comes across as a bit of a wine snob, and that has a whiff of the condescension he displayed most notoriously at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008 in which he attempted to explain to his wine-and-cheese crowd what makes folks tick in what might now be called Trump Country.

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Based on his remark in Dallas, it seems he might now amend that analysis to suggest that those Trump Americans are clinging to their guns, their religion, their nativism and their Two  Buck Chuck.

 

The deft demagogue: Q -`Do you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?’ Trump – `I mean a lot of them.’

Good morning Austin:

Welcome to Austin, Mr. President.

Have a great day here.

Meanwhile …

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 10.43.03 PM

“And so far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Trump said about a third the way through Thursday’s 12th Republican presidential debate.

And afterward, Trump spun the event as “elegant,” as if he were Fred Astaire to Ted Cruz’s Ginger Rogers.

And yes, it seemed, so low was the bar, that everyone seemed to buying into last night’s debate as some kind of high-tone, high-brow affair.

And yet this followed a day in which Trump rallies – and Trump’s campaign manager – were in the news, for acts, or, in the latter case, an alleged act, of real physical menace. And this was said of a debate in which Trump managed one of his most deft acts of sheer demagoguery yet.

Here it is:

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, let me start with you. Last night, you told CNN quote, “Islam hates us?” Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?

TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.

Watch this. It is genius. Donald Trump doubles down on an outrageous statement – the kind, countless by now, that he routinely makes, any of which would have felled a lesser candidate – but delivers it as an affable laugh line that re-enforces to a tee what people like about him the most – his refusal to be politically correct.

And, truth be told, my guess is that while most Americans know that what he said was inappropriate and not what you want a president to be saying, if said Americans were attached to some Frank Luntz meter, their pulses would quicken, and, if they were filing out a survey with a guarantee of anonymity, and were asked whether a) very few, b) a lot, or c) all Muslims hate us, “b” would do very well, followed by “c” and then “a.”

Back to the debate.

DINAN: Do you want to clarify the comment at all?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ve been watching the debate today. And they’re talking about radical Islamic terrorism or radical Islam. But I will tell you this. There’s something going on that maybe you don’t know about, maybe a lot of other people don’t know about, but there’s tremendous hatred. And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.

(APPLAUSE)

DINAN: Senator Rubio, your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, said in response to Mr. Trump’s comment last night, I’m sorry — Senator Jeff Flake, I apologize. Your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said in response to that comment, Republicans are better than this. Do you agree?

RUBIO: Well, let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says cause he says what people wish they could say. The problem is, presidents can’t just say anything they want. It has consequences, here and around the world.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: And so let me give you one. Two days ago, I met this extraordinary couple who were on furlough because they are missionaries in Bangladesh. It’s a very tough place to be a missionary. It’s Muslim.

And their safety and security very much relies upon friendly Muslims that live along side them, that may not convert, but protect them and certainly look out for them. And their mission field really are Muslims that are looking to convert to Christianity as well. And they tell me that today they have a very hostile environment in which to operate in because the news is coming out that in America, leading political figures are saying that America doesn’t like Muslims. So this is a real impact. There’s no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world.

I can also tell you if you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you’re going to see crescent moons there. If you go anywhere in the world you’re going see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: And they love America. And as far as I know, no one on this stage has served in uniform in the United States military. Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America. No matter what their religious background may be.

DINAN: Mr. Trump?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Marco talks about consequences. Well, we’ve had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and could have been the White House. There have been a lot of problems.

Now you can say what you want, and you can be politically correct if you want. I don’t want to be so politically correct. I like to solve problems. We have a serious, serious problem of hate.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: There is tremendous hate. There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means. Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.

(BELL RINGS)

Now I will say this, there is tremendous hatred. The question was asked, what do you think? I said, there is hatred. Now it would be very easy for me to say something differently. And everybody would say, oh, isn’t that wonderful.

DINAN: Mr. Trump, thank you.

TRUMP: We better solve the problem before it’s too late.

DINAN: Senator Rubio?

(APPLAUSE) RUBIO: Well, here we go. See, I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m interested in being correct.

Not bad for a ho-hum, feel-good debate.

Then there was this at a Trump rally Wednesday in Fayetteville, N.C.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 4.44.09 AM

 

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, I want to start with you in this block. Earlier today, a man was arrested and charged with assault after sucker- punching a protester in the face at your rally in Fayettville, North Carolina. This is hardly the first incident of violence breaking out at one of your rallies.

Today, Hillary Clinton, your potential general election opponent, clearly indicated she sees this as an issue for the campaign. She said, quote, “this kind of behavior is repugnant. We set the tone for our campaigns, we should encourage respect, not violence.” Do you believe that you’ve done anything to create a tone where this kind of violence would be encouraged?

TRUMP: I hope not. I truly hope not. I will say this. We have 25 (thousand), 30,000 people — you’ve seen it yourself. People come with tremendous passion and love for the country, and when they see protest — in some cases — you know, you’re mentioning one case, which I haven’t seen, I heard about it, which I don’t like. But when they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger.

They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals, they don’t like seeing higher taxes, they don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. And I know — I mean, I see it. There is some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.

TAPPER: Some of your critics point to quotes you’ve made at these debates — at these rallies including February 23rd, “I’d like to punch him in the face,” referring to a protesters. February 27th, “in the good ol’ days, they’d have ripped him out of that seat so fast.” February 1st, “knock the crap out of him, would, you? Seriously, OK, just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise.”

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people. And we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people, not only the loudness, the loudness I don’t mind. But doing serious damage. And if they’ve got to be taken out, to be honest, I mean, we have to run something.

And it’s not me. It’s usually the municipal government, the police because I don’t have guards all over these stadiums. I mean, we fill up stadiums. It’s usually the police — and, by the way, speaking of the police, we should pay our respects to the police because they are taking tremendous abuse in this country and they do a phenomenal job.

(APPLAUSE)

So we should pay — we should truly give our police. They’re incredible people, we should give them a great deal more respect than they receive.

(APPLAUSE)

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 4.46.16 AM

OK. So, yes, let’s hear it for the police, who, in the best tradition of the Dallas Police Department, 1963, lead someone in their custody into harm’s way.

Only, as I recall, the Dallas police actually arrested Jack Ruby on the spot, unlike the Fayetteville police, who let Old Man Racist be so he could enjoy the rest of the rally, and tell Inside Edition how much he enjoyed sucker-punching the black guy, and threatening, with a certain KKK panache, to kill him next time he encounters him.

The scene, however, was captured on video by Ronnie Rouse, a friend of the victim, Rakeem Jones,  and, alas, the next day, the Fayetteville police  had the sad duty of arresting OMR.

Back to debate, one would expect that even if Trump didn’t want to be very forthright in his condemnation of the violence, his rivals would seize the moment to set a higher standard, and score some points off Trump along the way.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz, are you concerned at all that these kind of scenes potentially hurt the Republican party for the general election?

CRUZ: Listen, I think for every one of us, we need to show respect to the people. We need to remember who it is we’re working for. You know, we’ve seen for seven years a president who believes he’s above the law, who behaves like an emperor, who it is all about him and he forgot that he’s working for the American people.

And let me — let me ask, turn the camera our here. How many of y’all feel disrespected by Washington?​

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Washington isn’t listening to the people. And that’s the frustration that is boiling over. And we need to nominate and elects a president who remembers, he works for the people. You know, at Donald’s rallies recently, he’s taken to asking people in the crowd to raise their hand and pledge their support to him.

Now, I got to say to me, I think that’s exactly backwards. This is a job interview. We are here pledging our support to you, not the other way around.

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And the only hand raising I’m interested in doing is on January 20, 2017 raising my hand with my left hand on the…

(BELL RINGS)

… bible and pledging to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of United States.

TAPPER: Thank you senator.

Yes, some 78=year-old racist clocks a young black man and Ted Cruz cuts to the chase – it’s Obama’s fault.

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, if you’d like to respond.

TRUMP: It shows the total dishonesty of the press. We were having — on a few occasions, again massive crowds. And we’re talking and I’m saying who is going to vote on Tuesday? Who is going to vote? The place goes crazy. Then I say, hey, do me a favor. Raise your right hand. Do you swear you’re going to vote for Donald Trump?

Everyone’s laughing, we’re all having a good time. That’s why I have much bigger crowds than Ted, because we have a good time at mine.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: But we’re all having a good time and the next day, on the Today Show and a couple of other place, not too many. Because when you look at it, everyone’s smiling, laughing. Their arms are raised like this. They had pictures, still pictures of people and they tried to equate it to Nazi Germany.

(BELL RINGS)

It is a disgrace. It was a total disgrace. And I’ve had reporters, people that you know, come up to me and said that — what they did on the Today Show was a disgrace.

(APPLAUSE)

And then, on the day of unassailable civility, there was this:

 

Ay yi yi.

So who won last night’s debate?

How does it change the race?

Who knows.

I think both Marco “on the ropes” Rubio and John Kasich did well enough to materially improve their prospects of winning their home-state winner-take-all  primaries in Ohio and Florida Tuesday. If they both win, Trump may not be on his way to a first ballot win in Cleveland in July and it will be a free-for-all with Cruz very much in the mix.

If Trump wins both, it may knock both Rubio and Kasich out of the race and give Cruz a clean shot at Trump, but a Trump that will be hard to catch. And, if Trump wins one and loses the other, Cruz will not be as far behind, but he’ll still have to knock another candidate out before he gets the one-on-one race he craves.

 

From  Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo on Cruz’s performance last night:

He knocked Trump a few times here and there. But that wasn’t his main goal. Most of what he was trying to do he could have done even if Trump wasn’t on the stage. Cruz’s main goal was to talk to the audience, to engage in a soliloquy of conservative purity and drive. There is a big basket of anti-Trump votes out there. And Cruz’s goal was to scoop them up. So attacking Trump, except to set up his own perorations, was basically irrelevant. He was trying to swoop up the existing anti-Trump vote, not pull Trump’s supporters away from him.

He was also looking for ways to drive home the point that there are only two candidates left who can be the nominee. In that goal he had Trump as an ally. Cruz is a consummate bullshit artist. But on his hand-raising gyre, shifting from Trump’s heil-hand-raising rallies to raising his own hand at his inauguration next January, that was some quality bullshit. No question. There’s a certain earnest, unironic and treacly sentimentality that is like mother’s milk for traditionalist American conservatives – think Ronald Reagan, embodying an American eagle, on a flag background, on a blue sky. Cruz was deep in that groove tonight and I think he helped himself.

xxxxxxxx

Everything I saw tonight made me think that Trump is well on his way to becoming the GOP nominee. I see no big obstacle stands in his way. Just as important, if for whatever reason Donald Trump isn’t the nominee, it is now extremely difficult to see how the nomination won’t go to Ted Cruz. Maybe you can steal the nomination from one factional, plurality winner. You can’t steal it from the guy who came in a close second too. That just won’t fly.

And from Scott Bland and Steven Shepard at Politico:

Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate with a realistic chance of winning the 1,237 delegates necessary to claim the party’s presidential nomination, according to a POLITICO analysis.

A close examination of demographics, polling, and delegate allocation rules in the remaining states suggests there is a path for Trump to win a majority of delegates, but it is a tightrope walk that leaves the businessman with little margin for error.

The outlook for his rivals is grim – there is almost no way they can get to the magic number.

Barring major upsets in Florida and Ohio next week, Ted Cruz will need to win approximately 70 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination outright. That essentially makes Cruz’s path to 1,237 as unlikely as Marco Rubio’s route.

Meanwhile:

And, from David Brady at the Christian Broadcasting Network:

 

Ted Cruz: “Donald has done well in the southeastern states. He has had a good base of support. We’ve done well as well, we’ve been typically second in each of those states, and we’ve racked up delegates. Now Donald has a harder problem in the west, it’s interesting, his location he does well in the southeast. He does well with a certain demographic of voter. Donald gave a press conference where he said, to quote him, ‘I love the poorly educated.’ Listen, part of it is I think Donald is taking advantage of his voters because I understand what they’re angry about, but Donald if you’re angry at the corruption of Washington, you don’t solve it by supporting someone who has been enmeshed in the Washington corruption for forty years.”

Ted Cruz on the Christian Broadcasting Network
Ted Cruz on the Christian Broadcasting Network

 
Ted Cruz: “Listen, Donald does well with voters who have relatively low information, who are not that engaged and who are angry and they see him as an angry voice. Where we are beating him is when voters’ get more engaged and they get more informed. When they inform themselves, they realize his record. He’s what they’re angry at. He is the corruption, and if you want someone to stand up to Washington, the only one who has been doing so in this race is me.”

Ted Cruz with the Duck Ayatollah
Ted Cruz with the Duck Commander

 

 

Making TV great again. Trump show rolls on; Cruz auditions as summer replacement

Good day Austin:

About halfway through Donald Trump’s 43-minute victory speech/press conference last night at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, I felt like I was watching a relaxed second-term press conference at the Florida White House, with Helen Thomas replaced by a woman with an appreciative cackle.

Good stuff, and, I thought, another Trump innovation by mixing fans in with reporters at his news conferences.

Make America Great Again?

Yeah. Right.

As an enemy of modernity, my nostalgia is for the unifying American greatness of Ed Sullivan, Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson, when all Americans watched the same shows and had common cultural touchstones, of an America before the atomizing of the culture into so many shards of narrowed interests and  divisions.

But Trump wins a couple of big primaries yesterday – in Mississippi and Michigan! – and we’re all watching the Donald Trump Show. Fox, CNN and MSNBC put Trump on and never left him, would be with him still if he hadn’t, after what amounted to a full hour-long show once you add commercials, called it a night.

Word is that Hillary Clinton spoke to supporters last night, but no one who was not actually there knows for sure because it fell during the Trump Hour and was as well-covered as a tree falling in an Upper Peninsula Forest.

Saw a little John Kasich, who seized the moment before he slipped from second to third behind Ted Cruz in Michigan, to give an upbeat speech with the steady affirmation of his nodding wife behind him.

Also caught a little Bernie Sanders -who won a stunning victory over Hillary Clinton in Michigan (and the expected shellacking in Mississippi) – in what appeared to be a hotel hallway somewhere, on his way to checking in.

But this is all  a quibble.

We’re all tuned in to Trump, love him or hate him, and he really delivers so much more than the usual politician.

It begins with the Trump monologue, studded with the Trumpian mix of self-congratulation, insults and humor.

And then, like Carson, he does  a post-monologue bit.

Carson had Carnac.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 5.59.58 AM

And Art Fern.

Last night, Trump debuted his QVC bit, which was essentially a rebuttal to Mitt Romney’s dissing his product line. That Trump used fake Trump products to prove that the products that Romney said no longer exist still exist was purest Trump.

Props to the props department.

From the Daily Mail.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 6.20.48 AM

There’s no parody like self-parody.

There was also the surprise celebrity drop-by.

On Carson it was usually Bob Hope, but, also, here, Groucho Marx.

For Trump last night it was Yankee Great Paul O’Neil, though the camera never swung around to prove he was actually there.

Then there was the free-wheeling press conference replete with joshing insults of the reporters – “Jeremy, nobody ever listens to you.”

What was missing?

A sidekick. A jovial sidekick.

An Ed McMahon.

“Chris Christie’s here someplace,” Trump said at one point last night. “Where’s Chris?”

The question was never answered.

Yesterday was a very good day for Trump.

 

CNN
CNN

 

 

And Michigan.

CNN
CNN

Winning both Mississippi and Michigan is an impressive indication of the breadth of Trump’s support.

And, for good measure, he won Hawaii.

CNN
CNN

 

It was obviously a miserable night for Marco Rubio, who risks slipping below the foam before he even gets to the showdown he has pledged to win next week in his winner-take-all state of Florida with its 99 delegates.

He’ll probably bob up for the Florida vote. But he may end up being fed to the sharks.

What went wrong?

From Trump last night on “little Marco:”

He became hostile about two weeks ago and it didn’t work. See, hostility works for some people, it doesn’t work for everybody. Okay? No, but he became very hostile. You know what, it doesn’t work for him. He was better. He would have been better off had he kept the original pitter patter going, but this didn’t work

On MSNBC this morning, Kellyanne Conway, who heads a Ted Cruz super PAC, called on Rubio and Kasich, but mostly Rubio to quit the race quickly.

The anti-Trump or no-Trump vote has a solid bloc of support, but right now it’s fractured.

Rubio and Kasich, do you want to be a spoilers or do you want to be kingmakers. These next couple of days are huge. Rubio’s best day, his best leverage, is today and this weekend. It’s not next Wednesday after he loses. 

We want Sen. Rubio out and endorsing Ted Cruz and campaigning with him and helping him win Florida.

For Ted Cruz it was a pretty good night.

Passing Kasich for second in Michigan was eye-catching.

He won Idaho.

CNN
CNN

Trump won 68 delegates yesterday to 58 for Cruz, 16 for Kasich, and nothing for Rubio.

Trump still has the most delegates, but Cruz is a solid second.

AP delegate tracker
AP delegate tracker

 

From Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight;

Cruz’s evening was reasonably good also, however, with two second-place finishes (very narrowly in Michigan ahead of Kasich) along with what looks like a fairly emphatic win in Idaho. He won’t lose many delegates to Trump — he’s down about 10 as I write this, with a chance to gain some back in Hawaii early this morning. Cruz had a reputation for being a regional candidate, but he now has won states in all four regions of the country: the Northeast (Maine), the Midwest (Iowa and Kansas), the South (Texas and Oklahoma) and the West (Idaho and Alaska). His chances look pretty good of emerging as the main challenger to Trump, much to the GOP establishment’s chagrin

Cruz is heading into the heart of Rubio country with a rally this morning at Miami Dade College, in hopes of sealing Rubio’s fate and getting closer to the one-on-one showdown with Trump he wants and needs (there’s still the matter of Kasich, who, like Rubio, has everything riding on  his winner-take-all home state primary Tuesday) if the race is to become the referendum on Trump that the anti-Trump, polls suggest, might be able to win.

But he really, really could have used a win in Mississippi last night. Outside of Texas, Trump is on his way to having swept the South. The idea that Ted Cruz is going to lose the South but then thwart the South’s choice by defeating the New York billionaire in New York and New Jersey and Illinois and Pennsylvania and California seems, on the face of it, far-fetched.

From Eliana Johnson & Alexis Levinson  at the anti-Trump National Review.

Going into Tuesday’s primaries, the last elections before the race enters its final and determinative phase when Ohio and Florida award 165 delegates on a winner-take-all basis next week, Trump’s enemies had hoped to stall his momentum. In particular, they hoped that Ted Cruz, whose campaign is based in large part on his appeal to Evangelical voters, could throw up a roadblock in Mississippi, and that John Kasich could arrest Trump’s momentum in Michigan.
Both Cruz and Kasich failed. And as they did, the slow death of the Republican party ground onward. Hope of preserving the conservative movement that has sustained it for nearly four decades diminished further. In the Magnolia State, Trump came dangerously close to 50 percent of the vote, routing Cruz, who had the endorsement of the state’s governor, 48 to 36 percent.

His easy victory put to bed the idea that he is starting to struggle with the South’s conservative voters, or that Cruz is gaining enough momentum to overtake him. Exit polls suggest that Trump continues to best Cruz among all but the most conservative voters, and continues to defeat him among the Evangelicals who were supposed to be the heart of his electoral coalition. Trump handily won the 84 percent of Mississippi primary voters who identified themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians: He took 49 percent of that group to Cruz’s 37 percent. And though Cruz continued to best Trump among self-described “very conservative” voters, that group once again proved too small to carry the day.

From the Trump Show last night:

Ted Cruz, it’s interesting because he’s always – I mean, he’s always saying, I’m the only one that can beat Donald Trump, you have to vote for Donald Trump and you’re going to vote for Donald Trump and you’re going to be miserable, you have to vote for me. But he’s the only one that can beat Donald Trump and I’ve heard it so many times and I said, but he never beats me. I mean, take a look, he never beats me. Meaning he rarely beats me. The fact is that we’re going to do well. Ted is going to have a hard time when he gets to certain states, he’s going to have a hard time. One of the things we do is we get up to New York, I’m going to do great. We get to New Jersey.

And:

By the way I can be very presidential. If I want to be, I can be more presidential than anybody. You know when I have 16 people coming at me from 16 different angles, you don’t want to be so presidential. You have to win, you have to beat them back. right? But I would say, and I’ve said this a couple of times, more presidential, more presidential than anybody other than the great Abe Lincoln.

He was very presidential.

Trump coloring book
Trump coloring book

Trump also said he liked a negative attack ad against him and his profanity so much, that he hopes they keep it on the air.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Gulp: America can’t look to one NY billionaire to save us from another

Good morning Austin:

Back on May 4, six weeks before Donald Trump came down the escalator and announced his candidacy for president, First Reading asked the question: Who is more populist – Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz?

Bernie, right?

I mean his campaign is all about – all about – wealth and income inequality and breaking up the incredible concentration of American wealth in the hands of a tiny few. He’s so far left in the Democratic Party that he’s not even actually a member of the Democratic Party. At a time when Democrats are afraid of being called “liberal,” he’s proud to call himself a socialist. He’s running against the Koch Brothers and Cruz is a creature of the Kochs.

So, no contest. Right?

But wait, don’t count Cruz out.

If it’s the job of a good populist to upset the apple cart, rile the establishment, rattle the powers-that-be. Cruz has done more of that in first 28 months in office than Sanders has done in his nearly quarter century in the House and Senate. In fact, Sanders the socialist is probably better liked by the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate than Ted Cruz – probably much better liked.

Also, if Cruz goes the distance, it will be astride an existing grassroots tea party movement, which was born out of the same economic tumult as Occupy Wall Street, but which has proved a far more powerful, important and lasting movement than Occupy.

The tea party, after all, has a controlling interest in the Republican Party in the biggest Republican state in the nation here in Texas. There is nothing comparable anywhere on the left.

But, I concluded:

Even this populist moment, such as it is, is unlikely to deliver a Bernie Sanders-Ted Cruz battle of the populist opposites in the 2016 general election. But, if it somehow happened, it’s not clear to me which outcome Big Business/Corporate America, would find more unsettling.

My guess is there would be a quick clamor for a self-financed independent candidacy by Michael Bloomberg to save America from the masses, and that would make for a most memorable race – a Boston-born Jew vs. a Brooklyn-born Jew vs. the Canadian-born son of a Cuban immigrant. What a country.

Well, since that was written, a far more populist figure – in Trump – entered the race, Sanders prospects have risen and, it would appear, fallen, and there was no “quick clamor” for a Bloomberg candidacy.

But Bloomberg took the possibility of an independent candidacy extremely seriously – even opening a campaign office in Texas (?!) – and only yesterday quieting the non-existent clamor by announcing he was not going to do it because he couldn’t risk helping elect Trump, or throwing the presidential outcome into the House of Representatives.

From his columnThe Risk I will not take –  at Bloomberg View explaining his decision:

I’ve always been drawn to impossible challenges, and none today is greater or more important than ending the partisan war in Washington and making government work for the American people — not lobbyists and campaign donors. Bringing about this change will require electing leaders who are more focused on getting results than winning re-election, who have experience building small businesses and creating jobs, who know how to balance budgets and manage large organizations, who aren’t beholden to special interests — and who are honest with the public at every turn. I’m flattered that some think I could provide this kind of leadership.

But when I look at the data, it’s clear to me that if I entered the race, I could not win. I believe I could win a number of diverse states — but not enough to win the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency.

In a three-way race, it’s unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress. The fact is, even if I were to receive the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, victory would be highly unlikely, because most members of Congress would vote for their party’s nominee. Party loyalists in Congress — not the American people or the Electoral College — would determine the next president.

As the race stands now, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience.

I have known Mr. Trump casually for many years, and we have always been on friendly terms. I even agreed to appear on “The Apprentice” — twice. But he has run the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears. Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, appealed to our “better angels.” Trump appeals to our worst impulses.

Threatening to bar foreign Muslims from entering the country is a direct assault on two of the core values that gave rise to our nation: religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. Attacking and promising to deport millions of Mexicans, feigning ignorance of white supremacists, and threatening China and Japan with a trade war are all dangerously wrong, too. These moves would divide us at home and compromise our moral leadership around the world. The end result would be to embolden our enemies, threaten the security of our allies, and put our own men and women in uniform at greater risk.

Senator Cruz’s pandering on immigration may lack Trump’s rhetorical excess, but it is no less extreme. His refusal to oppose banning foreigners based on their religion may be less bombastic than Trump’s position, but it is no less divisive.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 5.38.03 AM

Here is the map that Bloomberg’s folks drew up for him.  I don’t know. Seems awfully optimistic, with the sworn enemy of guns and the Big Gulp winning in Tennessee and Georgia, and tying Trump in Texas.

But, no matter. He took a clear-eyed look and chose to take a pass.

Here, from Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, an alternative map.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 7.48.30 AM

From Silver:

(T)his scenario does not have Trump winning all that many votes: only 35.5 percent, a figure that coincides with his low favorability ratings among the general population. But that would nonetheless be enough for Trump to win most swing states if Clinton and Bloomberg split the remainder of the vote. Here are the estimates our model produces for the traditionally most competitive states:

But, what is quite remarkable, per the report by  Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns at the New York Times, is how methodically Bloomberg had set about contemplating a run.

The decision by Mr. Bloomberg, who served three terms as the mayor of New York, ends months of intensive preparation for a candidacy. Convinced that a restive electorate was crying out for nonpartisan, technocratic government, he instructed his closest aides to set up the machinery for a long-shot billion-dollar campaign that would have subjected his image to a scorching political test.

They covertly assembled several dozen strategists and staff members, conducted polling in 22 states, drafted a website, produced television ads and set up campaign offices in Texas and North Carolina, where the process of gathering petitions to put Mr. Bloomberg’s name on the ballot would have begun in days.

Mr. Bloomberg held extensive talks with Michael G. Mullen, the retired admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about forming an independent ticket. Lawyers for Mr. Bloomberg had completed the process of vetting Mr. Mullen, and all that remained was for Mr. Bloomberg to ask formally that Mr. Mullen serve as his running mate.

Torn between his aspiration and a mountain of data showing that the path for an independent campaign aimed at the political center was slim and narrowing, Mr. Bloomberg, 74, ultimately abandoned what would probably have been his last chance to run for the White House.

 

 

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The choice of Mullen was also the wrong admiral for Texas4Bloomberg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Trump v. Cruz. And Little Marco? Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rubio?

Good day Austin:

OK.

So maybe Marco Rubio did not end up last night lying in the gutter, riddled with bullets uttering his own pathetic epitaph.

But he is now bleeding, staggering toward the Ides of March when Florida votes, propelled only by the fevered hope his home state can nurse his wounds and revive him the way that Cruz’s home state rescued and restored him when he appeared on the ropes coming off third place finishes in South Carolina and Nevada heading into Super Tuesday.

Only Cruz was comfortably ahead in polls going into Texas, while Rubio is uncomfortably behind in polls in Florida nine days out, and reeling toward a say hello to my little friend final shootout that will likely lead to a bad end in Miami.

(note language in Tony Montana’s bitter end. It’s more explicitly vulgar than a Republican debate.)

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 6.55.36 AM

As of today, based on yesterday’s results, it appears far more likely that the Republican race is coming down to a mano-a-mano contest between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz that both Trump and Cruz say is what they want, and that, if anything, the third, odd-man-out, who is most likely to survive the winner-take-all Florida and Ohio primaries on March 15, is Ohio Gov. John Kasich and not Rubio.

It was Cruz’s best night since he won the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, and all the better because it is that much further down the road toward the Republican National Convention in July, and that Cruz finds himself today in a sweeter spot than seemed possible after doing way less well in the South outside Texas on Super Tuesday, way back last week. (It was last week, right?)

From Trump last night (who appeared subdued or, as Mitt Romney put it on Meet the Press this morning, uncharacteristically low energy.):

Marco Rubio had a very, very bad night and personally I’d call for him to drop out of the race. I think it’s time he drop out of the race. I really think so.

I don’t think tonight he can rant and rave, oh he comes in third, he comes in fourth, every time he comes in third of fourth. You’ve got to be able to win and he has not been able to win and I think it’s time that he drops out.

I would love to take on Ted one on one. That would be so much fun. Ted can’t win New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California. I want Ted one-on-one, OK?

This morning on Fox & Friends Sunday repeated that view.

From Cruz last night in Idaho, which is one of four states that vote Tuesday.

If you’re a supporter of Marco Rubio or John Kasich, both good, honorable men, both men I respect, but if you don’t want to see Donald Trump as the nominee, then I invite  you to join our team as so may supporters of Marco Rubio did in the state of Maine. They came together and united because they said, `We cannot let this happen. The stakes are too high. We are fighting for the future of this country, the future or our kids.’

Rubio was in Puerto Rico Saturday ahead of today’s primary.

“The map only gets friendlier after tonight,” Rubio said. “We knew this would be the roughest period of the campaign.”

And this:

FOX News
Rubio Campaign Communication Director Alex Conant
March 5, 2016

ALEX CONANT: Ted Cruz has shown that he can win his home state and neighboring state, Oklahoma, and small rural caucuses, like Iowa and Alaska, and now Kansas. Unfortunately, there are only two states left that have caucuses, Utah and Hawaii. After that it is all primaries. Marco has done well in primaries so far. We beat Ted Cruz in Virginia. We beat Ted Cruz in South Carolina. We beat Ted Cruz in Georgia, a state that Ted Cruz originally thought he might actually win. So we feel really good about the map moving forward. And after we win the Florida primary, the map, the momentum and the money is going to be on our side. And ultimately, we believe Marco is the one candidate who can unite Republicans, who can grow the conservative movement and defeat Hillary Clinton this fall. So we are very optimistic about the race going forward. At this point, nobody is on track to having the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. But after we win Florida, we are going to be on our way to doing so. 

Bravo . Well done. Here is some previously unseen footage of Conant preferring for that appearance on Fox.

Things could change yet again, but Super Saturday was very, very good for Ted Cruz.

He won big in the caucuses in Maine and Kansas, and finished a strong second in the primaries in Louisiana and Kentucky.

He picked up 64 delegates to 49 for Donald Trump, 13 for Marco Rubio and 8 for John Kasich.

It resulted in front pages like this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.58.01 AM

Two Cruz victories buoy challenge to Trump Drive.

From Jonathan Martin:

Senator Ted Cruz scored decisive wins in the Kansas and Maine caucuses on Saturday, demonstrating his enduring appeal among conservatives as he tried to reel in Donald J. Trump’s significant lead in the Republican presidential race.

Mr. Trump contained Mr. Cruz’s advances by winning in Louisiana and Kentucky. But the Texas senator’s wins were sure to energize the anti-Trump forces who are desperately trying to stop Mr. Trump’s march to the nomination, and they left little doubt that Mr. Cruz, who has now captured six states, is their best hope.

xxxxxxx

Mr. Trump’s losses underlined his continued vulnerability in states that hold time-intensive caucuses: He has lost five of seven such contests. He has performed far better in states holding primaries, which require less organization, and some of which also allow Democrats and independents to vote in Republican races.

Such voters, who can be receptive to Mr. Trump’s anti-establishment message, have augmented Mr. Trump’s support. But if Mr. Trump is not able to bolster his organization and start performing better in caucuses and states that allow only Republicans to vote, Mr. Cruz may be able to deny him the 1,237 delegates needed to capture the nomination before the convention.

From the Kansas City Star:

Here is what happened yesterday in Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas and Maine.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.22.49 AM
Super Saturday. Real Clear Politics

And, from NBC:

NBC
What happened yesterday?

From the Kansas City Star:

While Cruz’s caucus victory may have been a mild surprise, the margin stunned analysts. Trump’s overwhelming defeat reflects a growing problem for his campaign: In primaries open to Democrats and independents, he typically prevails. In caucuses, where only registered Republicans can vote and where organization matters more, the flamboyant TV star stumbles.

Cruz will collect 24 convention delegates from Kansas, a state GOP official said. Trump will collect nine, Rubio five and Kasich one.

The results don’t include provisional ballots cast by voters not found on registration lists. If and when those votes are counted, the delegate allocations could shift.

Cruz’s win came partially from a far superior organization in the state, analysts said. His campaign manager is Kansas City political consultant Jeff Roe.

Trump had only one major Kansas endorsement, from Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and virtually no campaign presence in the state. Trump spoke to Kansas voters only on the day of the caucuses, in Wichita. Cruz came to the state twice in the final days before the voting.

“Cruz had more of a ground mobilization campaign in Kansas than Trump did,” said Chapman Rackaway, a political science professor at Fort Hays State University. “Evangelical candidates like Cruz tend to benefit from church mobilization very strongly.”

The Kansas results represented a setback for Rubio, who barnstormed the state in the final hours of the caucus. He had the endorsements of Gov. Sam Brownback and former senator Rick Santorum, who won the 2012 presidential GOP caucus in Kansas.

That didn’t appear to help.

From Aaron Blake in the Washington Post.

Ted Cruz: Cruz won just two of the four states on Saturday, but the two he lost wound up being closer than expected — and will probably be cast as signs of potential Cruz momentum. In perhaps the most significant development of the night, primary-day votes in Louisiana turned a primary that basically all of the major networks called early on into a competitive race. Donald Trump had a YUGE margin among early voters, but as the night wore on, Cruz’s much-stronger primary-day performance made it a competitive race. Could that primary-day performance reflect a shift in the race more broadly? It’s possible. We would note that Louisiana is probably a state Cruz should compete with Trump in and maybe win. But insofar as this is still a momentum race, Saturday suggested Cruz momentum. And given many were declaring Trump the presumptive nominee and Marco Rubio had such a poor night, that’s significant. Cruz still needs to start winning primaries that aren’t his home state of Texas or don’t border it, but Saturday was, all things considered, a good night for his narrative.

From Philip Bump’s analysis in the Washington Post.

This suggests that the shift probably wasn’t a function of Ted Cruz’s (clearly strong) get-out-the-vote effort. Field efforts like that result in relatively limited swings, and it’s hard to see how they could have run a hugely successful turnout effort throughout the state uniformly.

Instead, this looks like the state of Louisiana bailed on Marco Rubio in favor of Ted Cruz. Which could explain why Cruz is targeting Florida all of a sudden. On Saturday night, Donald Trump called for Rubio to drop out of the race. If he can repeat what he did in Louisiana in Florida in just over a week, Cruz will take Rubio out himself.

On Sunday, Mitt Romney, on Fox News Sunday, said he thought his speech last week  calling for a concerted collective effort to keep Trump from seizing the nomination, had its effect

Well it was a big night for Ted Cruz last night and I think that’s overwhelmingly because people are taking a closer look at Donald Trump.

And, Romney on Meet the Press:

I think people in Ohio are likely to get behind John Kasich, their popular governor there, and if i were a resident of Ohio, that’s who I would vote for. And in Florida, i think a lot of people look at Marco Rubio, are very impressed with his track record, what he’s done in that state, they’re probably going to get behind him. I think h’es going to win in that state. We’ll see. It’s close.

You’re going to see one of the three, and right now it looks like Ted Cruz, emerge as the strongest contender, but you know that can change. We’ve seen a lot of surprises in the campaign, but one of those three I’m going to endorse before the convention … and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure one of those three is the nominee.

The Cruz campaign, however, is not interested in a Mitt Romney United Front against Trump, and is going all in in Florida in hopes of spoiling Rubio’s chances there and force him out of the race, either before the vote, or immediately thereafter.

From the Cruz campaign Friday.

HOUSTON, Texas – Following a strong showing on Super Tuesday, the Cruz for President Campaign is communicating a serious commitment to competing hard in the winner-take-all Sunshine State primary on March 15th. As the vaunted Ted Cruz ground operation moves into Florida, the campaign opened 10 offices all across the state this week.

From Rush Limbaugh on Fox News Sunday:

For the longest time the Republican Party has told us they can’t win with just Republican votes and that’s why they support amnesty, that’s’ why they support the Democrats on many of their issues to go out and get Hispanics or other minorities. Well guess who’s doing it? Donald Trump is doing it. Donald Trump has put together a coalition, whether he knows it or not, whether he intended to or not, he has put together a coalition that is exactly what the Republican Party says that it needs to win . And yet look what they’re doing. They’re trying to get Trump out of the race cause they are not in charge of it, they are not in control of it. And it’s the most amazing thing to watch this happen.

Gov. Romney comes along and tries to talk people out of Trump and that’s not going to work . You can’t talk his supporters out of supporting him. The only guy that’s going to be able to do that is Trump himself.

Limbaugh prefers Cruz. He said that Cruz’s overriding emphasis on appealing to conservative evangelicals had “limited his appeal,” but that he proved at Thursday’s debate that “he’s just in a different league” than the other candidates, and that, contrary to what’s often written and said about him, “He’s a nice guy, he’s a likable guy, he’s not cazy, he’s not nasty, and certainly he’s not a liar. He’s a down the middle guy who anybody can trust. He’s got plenty of integrity.”

As significant for Cruz as Limbaugh’s assessment Sunday, was that of Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime antagonist, on Meet the Press, who acknowledge that if Trump is to be stopped, it’s probably up to Cruz to stop him  and that it would be best if Rubio and Kasich appreciated that reality and got out of the race before March 15.

At the end of the day,  I know what I’m getting with Ted Cruz.

xxxxx

Yeah, if I can work with Ted Cruz, it shows that there is hope. It’s not like I prefer Ted Cruz.

xxxxxx

But Ted is a conservative. He’s more ideological than I am, but he is a Republican conservative and Donald Trump is not. I hope Rubio wins Florida, I hope Kasich wins Ohio, but if I had to support Ted Cruz over Donald Trump I would  because I think he is a Republican conservative and I think that he might could beat Hillary Clinton.

xxxxxx

I think Rubio and Kasich have got to decide among themselves, can they be an alternative to Trump over time.  To me, it’s clear that Ted has made the best case so far that he can be the alternative to Trump. The best thing I think could happen is for the party to unite before Ohio and Florida and make sure we not only beat him – Trump – in Ohio and Florida, but beat him thereafter, and right now it seems Ted Cruz has the best case to be made.

Even before the votes were counted last night, Cruz had gotten a boost with the results of the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll.

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Next up. A primary today in Puerto Rico, and then, on Tuesday, primaries in Michigan, Mississippi and Idaho, and caucuses in Hawaii.

Here’s the latest polling in Michigan and Mississippi.

 

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Mississippi. Magellan Strategies = 2/29/15

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 5.40.01 AMBack to where  we began with Cruz’s rise and Rubio’s seeming demise, here are two takes.

The first is from Frank Bruni of  the New York Times, who has written among the most withering criticisms of Cruz:

Just when you think it can’t get any worse for the sober-minded, cool-headed traditionalists in the Republican Party, it does. They see their gold-plated gate crasher taken down a peg, only to find themselves faced with the prospect of kissing up to Ted Cruz.

On Saturday he matched Donald Trump’s two victories, in Louisiana and Kentucky, with two of his own, in Kansas and Maine. He got substantially more delegates from the four contests overall than Trump did.

And it was like the cosmically mischievous twist in an O. Henry story. The prayers, pleading and plotting of G.O.P. elders were answered: A rival candidate indeed gathered some steam, restrained Trump’s momentum and staked an equal claim to at least one news cycle’s headlines. But that candidate was a creature they find every bit as loathsome as the crass billionaire, if not more so.

And then there was Marco Rubio.

What in the world ever happened to Marco Rubio?

To the Rubio who was supposed to be the party’s savior and hope, I mean. The Rubio who made donors’ hearts beat faster. The Rubio they kept foisting on Republican voters, except that the donors didn’t see it as foisting. They saw it as benevolent instruction in which candidate was really best for all involved, which candidate could deny Democrats a third consecutive term in the White House.

Rubio is essentially the Christmas fruitcake of the 2016 cycle: presented as a gift, received as something neither appetizing nor especially nutritive.

And the last word comes from Lexington at The Economist.

SENATOR Marco Rubio of Florida, a young Cuban-American with a stirring, up-by-the-bootstraps life-story, was once called the future of the Republican Party. His poor showing in a series of presidential nominating contests held on March 5th—including a fourth place in the New England state of Maine—leaves his campaign for the White House running on fumes. After Republican presidential primary elections or caucuses in 19 states, Mr Rubio has a win in just one, Minnesota, to his name. His last hopes rest on his home state of Florida, whose large haul of delegates is up for grabs on March 15th, though he is lagging in opinion polls there.

Mr Rubio ticks many boxes on the lists that conservative donors, Republican strategists and pundits draw up when looking for winners. He is Hispanic and has spoken movingly of his sympathy for immigrants, but is conservative enough that he was elected to the Senate as a Tea Party hero. He can be sunny, upbeat and funny on a good day, but is also a disciplined candidate (to the point of extreme caution). He entered the 2016 race with a plan: to be the candidate who appealed to Establishment types and voters focused on electability and an optimistic vision for the future, while staying far enough to the right that he would not anger ideological purists.

Alas for Mr Rubio, his straddling strategy increasingly looks like a stretch too far. He is distrusted by the hard-right, who call him a backer of “amnesty” because he once worked with a cross-party group of senators on immigration reform. At the same time he has fallen short with mainstream, college-educated and white-collar Republicans, who have watched him harden his tone and portray the country as a dystopia on the brink of doom in a bid to catch the front-runner, Donald Trump, and his rival Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Damagingly, as his support ebbed in recent days, Mr Rubio indulged in the sort of schoolyard abuse for which Mr Trump is notorious, mocking the billionaire’s “orange” sun-tan and seeming to question Mr Trump’s manhood. Talk-radio hosts have been bashing Mr Rubio for days, and suggesting that Mr Cruz is the only bet for Republicans anxious that Mr Trump has broken with conservative orthodoxy on such issues as abortion, gay marriage or government-funded healthcare.

Mr Rubio’s wretched March 5th coincides with a good night for Mr Cruz, who won caucus contests in Kansas by 25 percentage points and Maine by 13 points, and came a closer second than expected to Mr Trump, who won in Kentucky and Louisiana. A bumpy night for Mr Trump looks all the more turbulent because exit polls suggest that he did best among voters who cast ballots some days ago, and less well with those who turned out on election day. That will encourage Stop Trump forces within the Republican Party, who hoped that the New York property tycoon would be damaged by recent controversies and policy reversals. These include his muddled and initially equivocal response to praise from a white supremacist veteran of the Ku Klux Klan, and a double flip-flop over torture, when he seemed to say that as president he would order torture in defiance of international law, changed his mind to say he would heed the law and then changed it again to say that laws against torture needed loosening. Less cheeringly, many Trump supporters were probably most dismayed to hear their hero say in a TV debate that his current views on immigration, including a promise to deport 11m people without legal papers, would become more flexible in office.

Alas for Stop Trump leaders whose main concern is picking a candidate with general election appeal, their headaches are not eased by Mr Cruz’s rise. The Texan senator may be more polished than Mr Trump, and more of a conventional conservative. But he lacks Mr Trump’s astonishing ability to excite apolitical voters who want a champion to punish America’s foes and punch the ruling classes in the face. Mr Cruz is essentially a rigid ideologue whose plan for victory involves driving up turnout among exceedingly conservative and evangelical Christians. Mr Trump called on Saturday night for Mr Rubio to drop out to make this a two-man race, saying: “I want Ted, one-on-one.”

 

 

 

 

 

Trumped? It takes a village to bring down a well-endowed front runner

Good morning Austin:

It’s going to take a village to bring down Donald Trump.

And so, each in his own way, Trump’s four rivals did their part to fell the giant  – including Dr. Ben Carson (he also serves who only stays away) – and with a big assist from Mitt Romney, the party’s last nominee and, with the demise of Jeb Bush, the closest thing to the embodiment of that chimerical thing called the Republican establishment, who summed up Trump’s crimes against probity and decency in a speech yesterday in Utah.

But mostly, by laying out the case against Trump early in the day of the 11th debate, Romney sapped a bunch of Trump’s attention and energy ahead of the debate. Trump replied to Romney’s 17-minute speech with another epic, vivid, bravura nearly hour-long stream of consciousness monologue at a rally in Portland, Maine, before flying to Detroit for another long debate, which was essentially an opportunity for Fox/Megyn Kelly to vet Trump, abetted by hectoring from Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

But, when all was said and done, Trump once again made political history by establishing, in the most explicit terms, in both Maine and Michigan, that he is the phallic top dog.

“He begged me for an endorsement (in 2012),” Trump, in Portland, said of Romney. “I could have said, `Mitt, drop to your knees and he would have dropped to his knees.'”

And then, in the most memorable moment of last night’s debate, this:

RUBIO: But let’s be honest too about all this. The media has given these personal attacks that Donald Trump has made an incredible amount of coverage. Let’s start talking again about the issues that matter to this country. I’m ready to do that starting right here right now tonight.

BAIER: Mr. Trump, your response?

TRUMP: Well, I also happened to call him a lightweight, OK? And I have said that. So I would like to take that back. He is really not that much of a lightweight. And as far as — and I have to say this, I have to say this. He hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I have never heard of this. Look at those hands. Are they small hands?

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: And he referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.

BAIER: OK. Moving on.

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OK. Let’s back up.

Here was Romney in Utah.

Frankly, the only serious policy proposals that deal with a broad range of national challenges we confront today come from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich. One of these men should be our nominee.

(APPLAUSE) Now, I know that some people want this race to be over. They look at history and say a trend like Mr. Trump’s isn’t going to be stopped. Perhaps. But the rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

If the other candidates can find some common ground, I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism. Given the current delegate selection process, that means that I’d vote for Marco Rubio in Florida and for John Kasich in Ohio and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state.

And here is Trump’s reply in Maine.

What is most significant about what Romney had to say, is that Ted Cruz is now within the penumbra of establishment acceptability. There was a time, a few weeks ago, that Cruz might have considered this the kiss of death. He reveled in being that least acceptable choice – even less acceptable than Trump – to the Republican powers-that-be in Washington. And there was reason to believe that those powers-that-be would be as happy or happier with let’s-make-a-deal Trump than obdurate showboat Cruz.

But now, it’s very much in Cruz’s interest to be credible as someone who could emerge as the consensus anti-Trump, and, with Romney’s speech, he clearly crossed that threshold.

The results Super Tuesday, and especially Cruz’s  delegate-rich victory in Texas, gave Cruz a decided advantage over Rubio as the most credible Trump rival, and last night’s debate confirmed Cruz’s place as a more serious challenger to Trump than Rubio.

But, I don’t see any quick coalescing around Cruz. And, even from his own strategic perspective, that might be OK.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who, in a more orderly universe, with his experience and electability, would be the front runner, did very well again last night and improved his chances of defeating Trump in his home state’s winner-take-all primary on March 15, an outcome that would help everyone but Trump.

And, Cruz should probably be rooting for Rubio to come from way behind to beat Trump in Florida’s winner-take-all primary, also on March 15, though that’s a tougher strategic call.

In the meantime, thanks to Texas, Cruz’s stack of delegates isn’t all that far behind Trump’s.

AP

From Cruz last night’

The stakes are too high and if you are one of the 65 to 70 percent of Republicans who recognize that nominating Donald would be a disaster, then I ask you to come join us. If you’re supporting other candidates, come join us.

We welcome you to our team because we’ve demonstrated not once, not twice, not three times, but five separate times (wins in Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska, and finishing second to Trump’s third in Minnesota) we have beat Donald. And if you don’t want him to be the nominee, then I ask you to stand with us as a broad coalition of people who believe in the Constitution, believe in freedom, and want to turn this country around.

From Jonathan Last at the Weekly Standard:

In theory, Ted Cruz’s best states are behind him. But at the Detroit debate, Cruz was clearly the class of the field and it’s clear that no one should count him out as the delegate race moves into its next phase.

The delegate math is complicated, but the basic gist goes something like this: Donald Trump has a commanding lead at the moment, but it is not a given that he will reach the 1,237 threshold he needs to clinch a majority. Simply put, Trump has failed to break through the ceiling of support he’s held since New Hampshire even as the field has consolidated. While he will be helped by winner-take-all states, where he can sweep full slates of delegates even with his plurality, he may be hurt by closed-primary states, where only Republicans vote. So his path is more challenging than it appears.

Cruz’s path is more challenging still. But tonight’s strong performance can only help Cruz—both with voters and with the party regulars who would play a big role in deciding the nominee should there be a brokered convention.

What Cruz did at the debate was make three parallel cases:

1.) Trump is a fraud who can’t be trusted to keep his word.

2.) Trump is not either conservative or Republican in any meaningful way.

3.) Trump actually is the corruption that he decries.

There are 155 delegates at stake Saturday in caucuses in Kentucky, Kansas and Maine and a primary in Louisiana. This should be good terrain for Cruz, and his organizational strength should also give him an edge in the caucus states, so it’s very likely that he will narrow Trump’s delegate edge, if only slightly.  I think Rubio will probably do well in the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday. But then Trump is likely to expand his advantage Tuesday in the Michigan and Mississippi primaries.

Having said all this, and despite Cruz et al. scoring some significant debating points against Trump, Trump remains a transfixing, entertaining presence, the master of colloquial rhetoric studded with humor and telling detail.

“He talks he way people talk when they talk with each other,” Joe Scarborough said on Morning Joe today.

From the Boston Globe:

After speculating about their comparative net worth, Trump circled back to a fundraiser he held for Romney in 2012. Though he complemented Romney’s wife, Ann, “a really lovely woman,” Trump said many of the donors in attendance told Trump that Romney was “a stiff.”

Trump said that so many people RSVPed for the fundraiser, they had to hold two consecutive events on the rainy day in Las Vegas four years ago.

“Because everybody’s shoes were so wet, I ruined my carpet.” Trump said. “This carpet was wiped out, and nobody thanked me for the carpet. Hey, maybe I can send Mitt a billed for carpet ruined.”

The crowd cheered.

Rubio has proved capable of exchanging insults with Trump with some aplomb, but that probably hasn’t enhanced his minimal gravitas.

And, while Cruz has done a better job of maintaining his dignity (though not nearly as good a job as Kasich), he still can be very annoying.

 

CRUZ: Breathe, breathe, breathe.

TRUMP: Lyin’ Ted.

CRUZ: You can do it. You can breathe. I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard. But just…

RUBIO: When they’re done with the yoga, can I answer a question?

CRUZ: You cannot.

(LAUGHTER)

RUBIO: Unbelievable.

CRUZ: I really hope that we don’t — we don’t see yoga on this stage.

RUBIO: Well, he’s very flexible, so you never know.

(APPLAUSE)

And, at least for me, Trump ultimately gets the better of Cruz’s demand that he authorize release of an off-the-record conversation he had with editors at the New York Times.

KELLY: Back in January, you gave an off-the-record interview to the New York Times. It was apparently audiotaped. Now, a recent report in Buzzfeed citing sources at the Times reports that in that interview you expressed flexibility when it comes to your immigration policy, specifically with respect to your promise to deport the 11 million people who are now living here illegally. You have suggested that you may have expressed some flexibility when it comes to the size of the wall that you want to build. But did you tell them, specifically, that you are flexible when it comes to your deportation plan?

TRUMP: I don’t know exactly what — when you talk about off the record. First of all, Buzzfeed? They were the ones that said under no circumstances will I run for president. And were they wrong. But a lot of people said that.

Then, I did have a meeting with the editorial board of the New York Times, a very nice meeting. Many of those things were off the record, I think at their suggestion and my suggestion. And I think being off the record is a very important thing. I think it’s a very, very powerful thing.

And I will say this. These three gentlemen have gone off the record many times with reporters. And I think they want to honor it, and I would always honor that.

I will say, though, in terms of immigration — and almost anything else — there always has to be some, you know, tug and pull and deal. And, you know, when I watch Ted stand on the Senate floor, I had great respect for what he did. He stood there for a day-and-a- half or something. In the meantime, what came of it? Nothing. You have to be able to have some flexibility, some negotiation.

Now, sometimes you ask for more than you want and you negotiate down to the point. I may have discussed something like that with the New York Times, but I would never release off-the-record conversations. I don’t think it’s fair, frankly, to do that to anybody.

KELLY: How flexible are you on this issue?

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

TRUMP: Not very flexible. No, not very flexible. I give the example — I’m going to build a wall. I’m the one that wants the wall. I’m the one that can build the wall.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s going to get built. And by the way, Mexico is going to pay for the wall. I can tell you that. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

(APPLAUSE)

But — and I used an example. And this isn’t necessarily what was said, but whatever was said, the wall’s 50 feet high. Is it going to be 45 feet or 40 feet? That could very well be. That could very well — he wants it to be higher.

(LAUGHTER)

That could very well be. But there’s always give and take. There’s always negotiation. And the best negotiator that knows what he’s doing will make a great deal. But we need give and take in government. If you don’t have give and take, you’re never going to agree on anything.

(APPLAUSE)

Cruz returned to the off-the-record interview later.

CRUZ: Donald, you could resolve this issue very quickly by simply…

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

… releasing the New York Times tape. Because, listen, maybe it’s right.

TRUMP: This wasn’t on the subject.

CRUZ: … that you didn’t tell them you’re misleading the American people. If that’s the case…

TRUMP: Tapes were not on the subject, but that’s…

CRUZ: If you didn’t tell them that, the tapes will prove you’re innocent.

KELLY: OK.

CRUZ: But if, in fact, you went to Manhattan and said I’m lying to the American people, then the voters have a right to know.

TRUMP: No, no. You’re the liar. You’re the lying guy up here.

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: Because we’ve been lied to too many times.

TRUMP: You’re the — you’re the one. You’re the one.

CRUZ: Why don’t you release the tapes? Release the tapes.

TRUMP: You’re the one. Now, let me just tell you. Let me just tell you.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. I’ve given my answer, Lyin’ Ted. I’ve given my answer.

KELLY: All right. Let’s leave it at that.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

Let’s leave it at that. We have more to get to.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

I get what Cruz is doing here, but does he really want to set a precedent that would essentially undermine any future off-the-record conversations between a politician and the press? And, the idea that Trump told  an editorial board that can’t stand him that he doesn’t mean what he says, is not credible. I’m sure what he told them is that everything is negotiable, and I know that is anathema to Cruz, but, ultimately, my guess is Americans would prefer a president who acknowledges, even if it’s off the record, that governing is a negotiation and not a relentless, unyielding purity test.

And maybe, that was enough o get this column today from the  New York Times Paul Krugman:

What Donald Trump has done is tell the base that it doesn’t have to accept the whole package. He promises to make America white again — surely everyone knows that’s the real slogan, right? — while simultaneously promising to protect Social Security and Medicare, and hinting at (though not actually proposing) higher taxes on the rich. Outraged establishment Republicans splutter that he’s not a real conservative, but neither, it turns out, are many of their own voters.

Just to be clear, I find the prospect of a Trump administration terrifying, and so should you. But you should also be terrified by the prospect of a President Rubio, sitting in the White House with his circle of warmongers, or a President Cruz, whom one suspects would love to bring back the Spanish Inquisition.

As I see it, then, we should actually welcome Mr. Trump’s ascent. Yes, he’s a con man, but he is also effectively acting as a whistle-blower on other people’s cons. That is, believe it or not, a step forward in these weird, troubled times.

 

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Super Tuesday: Cruz beat Rubio (and Trump did OK as well)

Good morning Austin:

Take that Sarah Palin.

And so, Ted Cruz won the biggest prize – the crown jewel of Super Tuesday – with a very solid win in his home state.

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And, with the victory in Alaska, Cruz has claimed the two largest states in land area, and, with what has to be some special satisfaction, won Alaska after his one-time political patron, Sarah Palin, threw him over for Donald Trump in Iowa, which Cruz also won.

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Cruz not only avoided disaster, but he  comes out of Super Tuesday with, as he promised, the second largest stack of delegates after Trump.

 

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The New York Times

What went right in Texas for Cruz was what went wrong in South Carolina, and went wrong again in Alabama and Georgia.

Texas

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Alabama

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Cnn exit polls

Georgia

CNN exit polls
CNN exit polls

Here was Cruz at his victory party at the Red Neck Country Club in Stafford last night.

While Cruz defeated Trump in three states, his real Super Tuesday triumph was over Marco Rubio.

From Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics on why Cruz was a winner and Rubio the big loser Tuesday.

Ted Cruz: He delivered a victory in his must-win home state of Texas and added an upset victory in neighboring Oklahoma, where pre-election polls had him trailing Trump by double digits. Cruz exited Tuesday night with a second-place finish in delegates and number of states won, bolstering his case that he’s the only candidate in the field who can defeat Trump.

xxxxxx

Marco Rubio: What started as a promising night with strong early returns in Virginia quickly turned into a bad dream for Florida’s freshman senator. His near miss in Virginia – losing by 30,000 votes, probably because John Kasich siphoned off 96,000 votes while finishing fourth – was followed by a string of third-place finishes. Most disappointing among them was Rubio’s failure to reach the 20 percent threshold in Texas, leaving him empty-handed in the most delegate-rich state on Tuesday’s map. Rubio’s night was salvaged with a victory in the Minnesota caucuses, sparing him the indignity of going winless in the first 15 contests of the primary. Regardless, his date with destiny remains in his home state on March 15.

At his “victory” celebration Pledged to get in his pickup truck and travel to all 50 states to stop Trump.

Tom Brokaw on Rubio on Morning JoeHe looked like the student council president how just found out he didn’t have a date for the prom.

My favorite image comes from a line Rubio has used in the last few days and used again last night:

“I will go through all 50 states before we stop fighting to save the Republican Party … I will get in my pickup truck and drive around this country if I have to.”

OK.

From Alexander Burns at the New York Times

The results were a grievous setback for Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has insistently argued that among the Republican candidates, only he has the political standing to compete with Mr. Trump in a head-to-head race. Mr. Rubio’s backers have urged other candidates to stand down and allow him a clean shot at Mr. Trump, who is a polarizing figure even among Republican primary voters.

Mr. Cruz outpolled Mr. Rubio in many of the states that voted on Tuesday, however, especially in the South, and was the only candidate other than Mr. Trump to win more than one state. Though Mr. Rubio handily won the Minnesota caucuses, his otherwise limp finish may have cost him any leverage he had to demand that other candidates defer to him.

Still, Mr. Rubio urged Republicans not to give up hope of thwarting Mr. Trump.

“Do not give in to the fear, do not give in to anger, do not give in to sham artists and con artists who try to take advantage of your suffering,” he said in Miami. “I will campaign as long as it takes and wherever it takes to ensure that I am the next president of the United States.”

Limp finish.

Not good.

From my story in today’s paper:

At his victory celebration at the Red Neck Country Club near Houston, Cruz called on the other three candidates aside from Trump to “prayerfully consider our coming together, uniting,” behind his candidacy as the only one who can stop Trump from laying claim to the nomination.

“Tomorrow morning we have a choice,” Cruz said. “So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely.”

Our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten, that can beat and that will beat Donald Trump,” Cruz said to cheers, before Minnesota was called for Rubio. “We are the one campaign that has beaten Donald Trump, one time, two times, three times.”

From Robert Costa and Philip Rucker in the Washington Post:

Trump’s deepest disappointment on Tuesday came in Texas, where he had salivated at the chance of toppling Cruz.

Cruz sounded triumphant as he addressed supporters at the Redneck Country Club outside of Houston, a colorful venue where a chandelier made out of beer bottles hung and a chair with legs made out of guns was parked at one of the bars. He sought to frame the race going forward as one between only him and Trump.

 

Jennifer Bendery at Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday night that Republicans may have to hold their noses and unify behind Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for president if they want to save their party from Donald Trump.

“Ted Cruz is not my favorite by any means,” Graham said in a CBS interview. “But we may be in a position where we have to rally around Ted Cruz as the only way to stop Donald Trump.”

Graham, who not too long ago was running against Cruz and Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, said it’s still a long shot that Cruz could beat Trump. And the Texas senator isn’t exactly the most likable Republican in town.

“Short of a major scandal, probably not,” said Graham of Cruz’ chances. “And if Marco [Rubio] doesn’t win Florida, I don’t know how he goes forward.”

But Cruz has one thing going for him: He’s the only candidate who’s picked up multiple wins in state primaries besides Trump. As of late Tuesday, Trump had won a total of nine primaries and Cruz had won three. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the next runner-up in the polls, just won his first state, Minnesota.

A few days ago, Graham had this to say on Cruz.

If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you,” the former presidential candidate said at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s 72nd Congressional Dinner, referencing the Texas senator’s unpopular reputation on Capitol Hill

Cruz stayed alive, which was a significant accomplishment. It was well off what he had once hoped to accomplish on Super Tuesday, but he’s still in the game.

But, Lindsey Graham notwithstanding,  he remains nearly as anathema to the powers-that-be in the Republican Party as Trump, and it is hard to look at the map and see all that many targets of opportunity, unless he is simply turning the campaign into a referendum on Trump.

As Rubio correctly pointed out last night, Super Tuesday should have been Cruz’s best night.

And it doesn’t seem likely that Rubio/Kasich/Carson are going to defer to Cruz and get out.

The alternative is that  Cruz and Rubio and Kaisch (and Carson) to turn this into a band of brothers buddy movie – each separately but in coordinated fashion taking on Trump.

Chuck Todd called it a “weird non-aggression pact,” with little likelihood of success.
BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH

After Cruz spoke to the ebullient crowd at the Red Neck Country Club, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chaired the Cruz campaign in Texas, offered a few thoughts.

I’m surprised by how far Trump has gotten but he has done it on celebrity and name ID and not policy, and at the end of the day, the American people may like him personally but their children and their grandchildren and their jobs and their country are more important than his celebrity and they will make that decision.

Two out of every three Republican voters have been choosing not to vote for Donald Trump and they will now coalesce behind Ted.

Marco, I believe Marco will be out of the race before the 15th (of March, when Florida and Ohio vote) because why would he possibly want to go back to Florida and have his head handed to him and lose by 10, 15, 20 points. That ends his political future. The same thing with (Ohio Gov. John) Kasich. Does he want to go back and be governor when he’s just lost an election and probably finished third? So since they are going to get out by the 15th, which is when the winner-take-all states kick in, they should get out before the next primaries Saturday and Sunday.

Because here’s what we know, here’s what we believe. Our polls show that 75 percent of Ted Cruz voters go to Trump, so for all those people who want to get Ted out of the race and have someone ride to the rescue, if Ted’s out of the race, Trump wins handily. But we also know that when Marco gets out of the race, the vast number of his supporters  go to Ted, not to Trump.

While Trump’s victory was short of the clean sweep it might have been, it remains truly remarkable in its range.

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CNN exit polls

 

“It’s only too bad that winner didn’t take all because if winner took all, this thing would be over,” Trump said.

 

KEEPING AUSTIN WEIRD

And then there’s this:

https://twitter.com/RobMorroLiberty/status/704908264149000196

 

 

Not so Super Tuesday: On wet pants, small hands, Fat Tony, Donald Trump and David Duke

Good morning Austin:

There is a rich history of embarrassing White House relations: Billy Carter, Roger Clinton, Hugh Rodham. Tony Rodham.

But in the Trump White House, it will be different.

The president will be the embarrassment and the relations will be admirably elegant.

Watch this Super Tuesday message to Texas voters from future First Daughter Ivanka Trump, who is nine months pregnant.

Somehow, I think Ivanka would have handled a question about whether her father disavows the support of David Duke with more aplomb than her father did on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.

JAKE TAPPER: I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who recently said that voting against you at this point would be treason to your heritage.

Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?

TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know.

I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.

TAPPER: But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don’t want their support?

TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about.

You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.

TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?

TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know.

TAPPER: OK. I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but…

TRUMP: I don’t know any — honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him.

This response was nonsensical on many levels.

Trump had two days earlier, when asked pretty much the same question at his press conference when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed him, had offered a disavowal of Duke’s support, if of the most perfunctory, unsatisfactory, sort.

But, Trump knows a lot about David Duke. He’s thought and talked about him in the past.

One example, here, from an interview with Larry King on CNN on November 19, 1991, two days after Duke won 39 percent of the vote in the runoff for governor of Louisiana. (Per the winner, Edwin Edwards: The only thing we have in common is we’re both wizards under the sheets.)

KING: Did the David Duke thing bother you? Fifty-five percent of the whites in Louisiana voted for him.

Mr. TRUMP: I hate-

KING: Four hundred New Yorkers contributed.

Mr. TRUMP: I hate seeing what it represents, but I guess it just shows there’s a lot of hostility in this country. There’s a tremendous amount of hostility in the United States.

KING: Anger?

Mr. TRUMP: It’s anger. I mean, that’s an anger vote. People are angry about what’s happened. People are angry about the jobs. If you look at Louisiana, they’re really in deep trouble. When you talk about the East Coast – It’s not the East Coast. It’s the East Coast, the middle coast, the West Coast-

KING: If he runs and Pat Buchanan runs, might you see a really divided vote?

Mr. TRUMP: Well, I think if they run, or even if David Duke– I mean, George Bush was very, very strong against David Duke. I think if he had it to do again, he might not have gotten involved in that campaign because I think David Duke now, if he runs, takes away almost exclusively Bush votes and then a guy like Cuomo runs- I think Cuomo can win the election.

KING: But Bush morally had to come out against him.

Mr. TRUMP: I think Bush had to come out against him. I think Bush– If David Duke runs (for president), David Duke is going to get a lot of votes. Whether that be good or bad, David Duke is going to get a lot of votes. Pat Buchanan – who really has many of the same theories, except it’s in a better package – Pat Buchanan is going to take a lot of votes away from George Bush. So you have these two guys running, or even one of them running, I think George Bush could be in big trouble.

OK. Let’s pause here for a little background on Duke from the great documentary, Louisiana Boys, directed by Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker and UT”s Paul Stekler


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Duke is very pleased with what Trump is saying, Reminds him of himself.

Listen here.

Of course, Duke would like it better if Trump was a little more head-on in taking on the Jews – who far more than blacks or Mexicans or anyone else are, for Duke, the root of the problem – but, he said, going after immigration is really going after the Jews andJewish control, and he understands that Trump may have to be ever-so-slightly more politically correct than he is.

And Duke said, Trump is head and shoulder above his opponents.

“This idea Cruz is an outsider, it’s total hogwash folks. Hogwash, ” said Duke.

But, amid the outrage about Trump and Duke, it is useful to remember that Duke went from neo-Nazi to Grand Wizard of the KKK to a serious Republican candidate for governor.

And then, remarkably, there is Katrina Pierson, the former Cruz acolyte who is now Trump’s national spokeswoman, on CNN, explaining how Duke is a former member of the Klan, just as the late Democratic Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd was, and yet, she said, when Byrd endorsed Obama for president, no one demanded that Obama apologize.

Wow.

Clearly, Trump is the inheritor of the Duke constituency, though Trump’s constituency is vastly larger and broader.

From Public Policy Polling’s pre-primary poll in South Carolina:

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.-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.

 

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Trump was roundly criticized for his demurral Sunday on Duke.

But what about Ted Nugent, friend of Rick Perry, who campaigned for then Attorney General Greg Abbott for governor in 2014, not long after  he said this about President Obama:

I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago, Communist-raised, Communist-educated, Communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN, community organizer, gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.

On a First Reading at the time I wrote:

What makes Nugent’s description of Obama as a “subhuman mongrel,” different in kind from even most of Nugent’s other outrageous statements, is just what an evocative throwback it is to a time – which, depending on your age, is either a very long time ago or not so long ago at all – when interracial marriage was considered an offense to God and man and the children of such a marriage were somehow less than fully human. It is a deeply personal insult that suggests that Obama was “subhuman” from the moment he was conceived, by his very being, and not because of anything he ever did aside from being born.

That doesn’t make Nugent a Klansman, but it’s the kind of language that would warm the heart of a Klansman, and after all, as Katrina Pierson notes, even David Duke is no longer a Klansman.

And Abbott, at last Thursday’s debate, declined to advise Trump on whether to accept white supremacist support.

Nugent is high on Trump.

I am a big fan of Donald Trump because I believe in bold, aggressive unapologetic truth, period. And I’m not a fan of Megyn Kelly, though I often turn on Fox just to look at her. Sometimes when I’m loading my magazine I like to just look at her and usually sit naked on the couch dropping hot brass on my stuff.

You don’t fight a culture war politely like Mr. Rogers, Jeb Bush.

You get angry … you swing some crowbars and you lop off heads as necessary.

This is a nasty, mean culture war, and you’re not going to win it by adjusting your tie.

 Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who endorsed Trump Sunday, had this to say on Monday. From Buzzfeed.

Asked on The Matt Murphy Show on Alabama radio if he was “comfortable” that Donald Trump believes in equality, Sessions said, “Well, I think so. He’s disavowed this before. And, you know, you get asked these questions — I don’t know what happened. But I would just say this: he needs to make that clear and I think it would be important for the people to know that.”

You can listen here.

Well, I suppose Session is an authority on the perils of racial insensitivity.

It cots him a federal judgeship when he was nominated in 1986 by President Reagan.

Sarah Wildman in New Republic in 2002, wrote about the ultimately successful effort in the Senate to block Sessions’ appointment to the federal bench because of his racial views.

Another damaging witness–a black former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama named Thomas Figures-testified that, during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he “used to think they [the Klan] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers.” Sessions claimed the comment was clearly said in jest. Figures didn’t see it that way. Sessions, he said, had called him “boy” and, after overhearing him chastise a secretary, warned him to “be careful what you say to white folks.” Figures echoed Hebert’s claims, saying he too had heard Sessions call various civil rights organizations, including the National Council of Churches and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, “un-American.” Sessions denied the accusations but again admitted to frequently joking in an off-color sort of way. In his defense, he said he was not a racist, pointing out that his children went to integrated schools and that he had shared a hotel room with a black attorney several times.

During his nomination hearings, Sessions was opposed by the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, People for the American Way, and other civil rights groups. Senator Denton clung peevishly to his favored nominee until the bitter end, calling Sessions a “victim of a political conspiracy.” The Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee finally voted ten to eight against sending Sessions to the Senate floor. The decisive vote was cast by the other senator from Alabama, Democrat Howell Heflin, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice, who said, “[M]y duty to the justice system is greater than any duty to any one individual.”

xxx

Since his election as a senator, Sessions has not done much to make amends for his past racial insensitivity. His voting record in the Senate has earned him consistent “F”s from the NAACP. He supported an ultimately unsuccessful effort to end affirmative action programs in the federal government (a measure so extreme that many conservatives were against it), he opposed hate-crimes laws, and he opposed a motion to investigate the disproportionate number of minorities in juvenile detention centers. Says Hillary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, “[Sessions’s] voting record is disturbing. … He has consistently opposed the bread-and-butter civil rights agenda.” But it has been on judicial nominees that Sessions has really made a name for himself. When Sessions grabbed Heflin’s Senate seat in 1996, he also nabbed a spot on the Judiciary Committee. Serving on the committee alongside some of the senators who had dismissed him 16 years earlier, Sessions has become a cheerleader for the Bush administration’s judicial picks, defending such dubious nominees as Charles Pickering, who in 1959 wrote a paper defending Mississippi’s anti-miscegenation law, and Judge Dennis Shedd, who dismissed nearly every fair-employment civil rights case brought before him as a federal district court judge. Sessions called Pickering “a leader for racial harmony” and a “courageous,” “quality individual” who was being used as a “political pawn.” Regarding Shedd, he pooh-poohed the criticism, announcing that the judge “should have been commended for the rulings he has made,” not chastised.

And yet, despite his record as U.S. Attorney, attorney general of Alabama, and senator, Sessions has never received criticism from conservatives or from the leadership of the Republican Party. President Bush even campaigned for him in the last election. It’s true, of course, that Sessions isn’t in a leadership position, like Lott. But, if conservatives are serious about ending the perception that the GOP tolerates racism, they should look into his record as well. After all, if Noonan and friends are really “tired of being embarrassed” by this kind of racial insensitivity, they can’t just start yelling once the news hits the stands.

Sessions  emerged in the 2016 presidential candidate, the arbiter of anti-immigration-amnesty purity – at least in the estimation of Ted Cruz.

From the Washington Post

Ted Cruz just can’t stop name-dropping Jeff Sessions.

By our count, Cruz said the words “Jeff Sessions” five times at Thursday’s GOP debate in Des Moines. He also did it twice at the Jan. 14 debate in Charleston, S.C. Oh yeah, and once at the CNN debates in Simi Valley, Calif., and in Las Vegas. And each time, it probably left a few viewers wondering, “Who the heck is this Jeff Sessions guy?”

Cruz and Sessions (R-Ala.) are among the most conservative members of the Senate and have repeatedly and publicly praised each other — especially when it comes to their mutual resistance to comprehensive immigration reform. Both senators vocally opposed the 2013 “Gang of Eight” bill, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Sessions later gave Cruz effusive praise, saying, “Without the vigorous opposition of Ted Cruz, this bill likely would have passed.”

 Cruz isn’t just bringing up Sessions’s name as a “thank you” for that praise. The Texas senator wants to be linked to Sessions as strongly as he can be. Sessions is the ranking Republican in the Senate Judiciary Committee and was ranked by National Journal in 2007 as the fifth-most conservative Republican in the Senate. Cruz called him “the strongest opponent of amnesty in the United States Congress.”

Most importantly, though, Sessions happens to be the guy who vouches for Cruz’s continued assertions that he never favored legalizing undocumented immigrants. Cruz keeps trying to explain an amendment he filed to that Gang of Eight bill allowing for a path to legal status — not citizenship — was a “poison pill” meant to kill the bill. Even legal status, you see, is regarded by many on the right as “amnesty.” Cruz insists he never actually favored a path to legal status but wanted to kill the Gang of Eight bill with that amendment. (Our fact-checker has said it’s impossible to know for sure exactly what Cruz’s intent was.)

Sessions, though, hasn’t endorsed Cruz. He was seen donning a “Make America Great Again” hat at a Donald Trump rally in August, and he voiced his support for Trump’s immigration plan. So it’s no guarantee that Cruz will get Sessions’s support.

No guarantee. Definitely not.

 

 

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Well, at least Cruz got the endorsement of Duck Commander Phil Robertson

Cruz has described the Robertson endorsement as the highlight of his campaign. It exemplifies his fight for real American duck blind values vs. liberal, Donald Trump New York values.

But Robertson has a kind of a  Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah view of race.

From a GQ profile:

 Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, I tell you what: These doggone white people—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

 

I don’t know if Phil Robertson voted in the 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial election, or if he did, who he voted for.

Maybe he was among the minority of white voters who did not support David Duke.

 

INSULT COMICS

smigel1JPG

 

In Iowa, I ran into Robert Smigel and his creation, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, who has produced some great videos out of the campaign. Like this.

Cruz has a lot to learn about the art of the comic insult.

On Hannity recently, he said, “Donald Trump, like Hillary Clinton, is a rich New York liberal.”

But listen how much more piquantly Triumph puts it.

Trump used to be a  bigger Democratic supporter than Michael Moore’s bras

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smigel2Marco Rubio recently entered the arena of insult comics.

There’s Small Hands.

And, of course, the classic Wet His Pants.

But, face it, he’s still no match for Trump (you can’t spell TRIUMPH without TRUMP), who responded to Wet His Pants with It’s Rubio, a brilliant impromptu pantomime worthy of Chaplin.

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If Cruz lacks the insult comic chops, it doesn’t mean doesn’t have a much-mentioned mean streak, which was on display Sunday, when he did the Full Ginsburg, appearing on all five Sunday shows.

He would have done better to have gotten an extra hour sleep and done a Half Ginsburg.

Watch him on Fox News Sunday.

WALLACE:  Senator, I’ve got one more question for you.

Your campaign has been involved in a series of incidents that are people are calling dirty tricks.  I want to put up a list to them.  

In Iowa, the Cruz campaign sent out tweets saying Ben Carson was suspending his campaign.  That was false.  The campaign put out flyers accusing people of voting violations.  That was false.  

In South Carolina, a Cruz super PAC attacked Trump over the Confederate flag and your then communications director posted a link this week accusing Rubio of disrespecting the bible.  That was false.  

Question, do you take personal responsibility — this is your campaign except for the super PAC — do you take personal responsibility for this series of incidents?  What does it say about the culture of the campaign you’re running?  

CRUZ:  Chris, every accusation you raised there is incorrect.  I appreciate your reading the Donald Trump attack file on that.  

WALLACE:  Come on, sir.  

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE:  Wait a minute.  Wait a minute, sir.  You personally — you personally apologized to Ben Carson on a debate stage.  

CRUZ:  Chris, please don’t interrupt me.

WALLACE:  You fired your communications director.  

CRUZ:  Chris, please don’t interrupt me.

WALLACE:  Don’t say this is an oppo file on our part, sir.  

CRUZ:  Chris, please don’t interrupt me.  Our campaign from the beginning —

WALLACE:  Well, I mean, please don’t say — please accuse me of something I didn’t do.  

CRUZ:  Go ahead, Chris.  Let me know whether I’m allowed to answer.

WALLACE:  Well, don’t accuse me of something I didn’t do.  Two of those things you apologized for one and fired your communications director.  Don’t say this is the oppo file.  

CRUZ:  Chris, our campaign from the beginning has been the highest level of integrity when others have engaged in personal attacks and insults.  We don’t respond in kind.  

And, you know, what’s striking, you just had Donald Trump on the air.  You didn’t ask about the fact that he sent out a fabricated quote from Tom Coburn impugning my integrity.  Tom Coburn, Senator Coburn came out and said it was an utter fabrication and yet Donald continued repeating what he knew to be false.  

You didn’t ask Donald Trump about the robocalls that went out from a white supremacist group supporting Donald Trump telling people do not vote for a Cuban, vote for Donald Trump.

You know, when it comes to telling the truth and not telling the truth, you didn’t ask Donald Trump about the fact that in the last debate I asked him true or false, you support socialized medicine, the government paying for your health care.  He said false and it’s directly contrary to what he said for 20 years on the record.  

Listen, Chris, the facts matter.  I understand that —  

WALLACE:  Senator —  

CRUZ:  — there are folks that don’t want to focus on the facts.  But, listen, the voters care about the truth.  They care about Donald Trump’s record of giving —

WALLACE:  Senator Cruz, we’re flat out of time.  

First of all, I don’t think anybody is going to think I did an easy interview with Donald Trump.  I asked him about plenty of things.  

If you want to ask him those questions, guess what?  You’ll get the opportunity at the Fox debate on Thursday.  

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Then it was over to Meet the Press, and this edifying exchange around the three-minute mark.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. You released summary pages of your tax returns, so did Marco Rubio. And you said the only reason you released summary pages is because Marco Rubio released summary pages. Why should Donald Trump – how are you forcing Donald Trump to release his tax return if you’re only releasing the first two pages?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Well, listen. I’ve released nine years of tax returns. And by the way, the first five years have everything. The last four have summary pages. I’ve got nine years of tax returns. Donald Trump has not released so much as a paper clip. And Donald needs to release his taxes. You know, Mitt Romney this week–

CHUCK TODD:

So will you be happy if he just does summary pages? Will you be happy if he just does summary pages?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Look, it would be a very positive step in the right direction. I would be thrilled, if he releases the whole thing, I’m happy to release everything. I’ve released, for five years, I’ve released everything. We just matched what the opponents did for the last four years. But the critical point, Chuck, as Mitt Romney observed, the fact that Donald seems terrified to release his taxes suggests that there’s a bombshell there.

And it’s natural to wonder, “Well, what is it that he’s hiding in his taxes?” Maybe it’s that Donald Trump doesn’t earn nearly as much as he has so loudly told everyone. Maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Who knows, maybe it’s the case that Mitt Romney is richer than Donald Trump. He can answer that by releasing his taxes. On the other hand, maybe it’s the case that he has given large sums of money to left-wing groups like Planned Parenthood.

You know, he praises Planned Parenthood in the debates over and over again. Maybe he’s been a big financial supporter of that. All of those questions Donald can put to rest. Or you know, maybe it is the case that Donald, there have been multiple media reports about Donald’s business dealings with the mob, with the mafia. Maybe his taxes show those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported. Regardless of what the bombshell is–

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me stop you. Wait a minute. Senator Cruz, let me stop you there. That’s openly speculative. Do you have any facts to support that Donald Trump has mob ties?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Oh sure. ABC, CNN, multiple news reports have reported about his some dealings with, for example, S&A Construction, which was owned by “Fat Tony” Salerno, who is a mobster who is in jail. It is owned by two of the major New York crime families. And that has been reported in multiple media outlets. You know, you’re going to have Donald on the show later today, you ought to ask him, “Donald, have you written a check to Planned Parenthood? If so, how much and when?”

I mean, that’s the question that Donald ought to answer. We don’t know what it is that he’s hiding in those tax returns. But I can promise you this, if he’s the nominee come September, October, every day on the news will be about those tax returns, about whatever the bombshell is. And Republican primary voters deserve to know before the nomination, not after. Because you better believe Hillary Clinton and the media are going to go to town on it. And the primary voters should be able to vet all of us.

So, we are supposed to believe that if we get Donald Trump’s income tax returns, there will be Fat Tony listed as a dependent, or Mob bribes reported as income?

And, on the first two pages, which is all that Cruz is providing. And if he’s really trying to pressure Trump to reveal his taxes, why is he only providing two pages of his? Does he have something to hide?

MAPPING SOCIAL MEDIA INTEREST IN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN AUSTIN

IdealSpot in Austin, taps into social media, mostly Facebook data, to provide businesses with site selection and location analytics with advanced demographics.

They have recently used those tools to look at social media interest in presidential candidates, over time.

From Josh Winters at IdealSpot  in December.

Mapping Social Media Interest in 2016 Presidential Candidates

As poll after poll emerges from the morass of political dark waters, we often find ourselves confused about the truth of the 2016 Presidential race. The traditional source of truth in campaigning, polling, has become difficult to trust due to low response rates and otherwise poor results, but is so far without replacement. Further, the aim of traditional polling is to predict results using demographics and surveys, when what pollsters are really looking for is support within specific geographic boundaries. Much like in commercial site selection, campaigns are turning to social media and big data to develop a clear image of their base.

We at IdealSpot have developed a tool to do exactly that. By applying our Customer Location Targeting to the most popular 2016 presidential candidates (as of the time of writing), we are able to map the interest of voters in our hometown of Austin, TX. These maps represent the number of people who have expressed explicit interest in each candidate, whether that be through visiting a social media profile, clicking an ad, or searching for related terms. The darkest outlined regions represent locations with the densest support of each candidate, while the lightest regions are the least dense. Click each image to get a better look.

2016 presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton support in Austin (range: 52 to 68,438 people)
Hillary Clinton support in Austin (range: 52 to 68,438 people)
2016 presidential candidates: Bernie Sanders support in Austin (range: 34 to 210,366 people)
Bernie Sanders support in Austin (range: 34 to 210,366 people)
2016 presidential candidates: Donald Trump support in Austin (range: 30 to 47,580 people)
Donald Trump support in Austin (range: 30 to 47,580 people)
2016 presidential candidates: Ted Cruz support in Austin (range: 48 to 30,383 people)
Ted Cruz support in Austin (range: 48 to 30,383 people)

Austin is often considered a liberal city, but as we see here that is not entirely the case. Downtown Austin is definitely feeling the Bern, but suburbs and surrounding towns like Round Rock and Buda express more interest in the GOP. South of Sunset Valley (in the Slaughter Lane area) we see a region of contention between all candidates. We invite you to explore correlations with variables like age, net worth, and education using our free demographic overlays!


Here are some more maps, and animations made out of those maps, from Josh Winters.,

DONALD TRUMP

Donald Trump. Social media interest.
Donald Trump. Social media interest.

 

 

 

Donald Trump February 22
Donald Trump February 22

 

 

Donald Trump February 8
Donald Trump February 8

 

 

Donald Trump. February 1
Donald Trump. February 1

 

 

Donald Trump. Jan. 25.
Donald Trump. Jan. 25.

 

 

Donald Trump. December 10.
Donald Trump. December 10.

 

TED CRUZ

Cruz
Cruz social media interest

 

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Ted Cruz. Feb. 22

 

Ted Cruz. Feb. 8.
Ted Cruz. Feb. 8.

 

 

Ted Cruz. Feb. 1
Ted Cruz. Feb. 1

 

 

Ted Cruz. Jan. 25
Ted Cruz. Jan. 25

 

 

Ted Cruz. Dec. 10
Ted Cruz. Dec. 10

 

BERNIE SANDERS

Bernie Sanders social media interest
Bernie Sanders social media interest

 

Bernie Sanders. February 22.
Bernie Sanders. February 22.

 

 

Bernie Sanders. Feb. 8
Bernie Sanders. Feb. 8

 

Bernie Sanders. Feb. 1
Bernie Sanders. Feb. 1

 

Bernie Sanders Jan. 25
Bernie Sanders Jan. 25

 

Bernie Sanders. Dec. 10
Bernie Sanders. Dec. 10

 

HILLARY CLINTON

Hillary Clinton social media interest

 

Hillary Clinton. February 22.
Hillary Clinton. February 22.

 

Hillary Clinton Feb. 8
Hillary Clinton Feb. 8

 

Hillary Clinton Feb. 2
Hillary Clinton Feb. 1

 

 

Hillary Clinton. Dec. 10
Hillary Clinton. Dec. 10