Coasting past the Malachi Crunch. On the Houston debate.

Good morning Austin:

Oh man.

What a mess, though maybe unavoidable if Trump is to be kept from taking over the Republican Party

I’m only sorry that former President George H.W. Bush had to see that.

The former president and his wife, Barbara, were in the audience at last night’s debate at the University of Houston in their hometown.

It had to be bittersweet to begin with because of the absence of their son, Jeb, who dropped out of the race after Saturday’s loss in South Carolina. But, by the time it was over, they were probably relieved he wasn’t in the middle of this any more.

After last night’s debate, Dr. Ben Carson complained that it was World Wrestling Federation.

“It was reminiscent of the old wrestling Malachi Crunch,” said Chris Cuomo on CNN.

What’s that?

Here’s the definition from the Urban Dictionary:

1. Demolition Derby maneuver in which two contestants working in tandem crash into an opponent simultaneously from opposite sides, thereby creating the effect of a trash compactor. Coined in an episode of Happy Days, when the Malachi Brothers execute this maneuver on Pinky Tuscadero’s car at the climax of the demolition derby. Pinky survived.

2. Any wanton attack that involves a two-pronged blitzkrieg by equal forces, converging on an incapacitated target.

3. Lascivious maneuver in which a female with ample bosom attacks a passed-out concert-goer with said bosoms, placed on either side of said concert-goers head, and subsequently crushing that head.

OK. Well, let’s put aside definition 3 and concentrate on 1 and 2.

Ted Cruz, but especially, Marco Rubio, came loaded for bear Thursday. Flanking Trump, they mounted by far the most withering, sustained assault on Trump of any debate.

“Cruz and Rubio worked together to bring down the 800-pound gorilla,” said Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, who was in the spin room for Rubio after the debate. But, while Villalba believes that the performance will catapult Rubio past Trump and toward a strong second-place finish in Texas, I am not so sure.

My guess is that Rubio still places third in Texas, behind Cruz in first and Trump in second, and that his performance last night is akin to what Chris Christie did to him at the Manchester, N.H., debate, damaging Trump’s standing while ultimately undermining his own long-term prospects.

He, like Cruz, needs a two-person race with Trump. Each needs the other out of the race, and as soon as possible, to demonstrate that they can win, one-on-one against Trump.

The best thing that could happen for Rubio is for Super Tuesday to establish him as Trump’s most formidable opponent. The absolute best thing would be to knock Ted Cruz out of the race. For that happens, he needs Cruz to lose in Texas. But, if anything, last night’s debate, by tarnishing Trump,improved Cruz’s prospects of winning Texas, even if it might also improve Rubio’s finish. But, if Cruz wins Texas, there is almost no chance of his leaving the race anytime soon.

TRUMP: Here’s a guy — here’s a guy that buys a house for $179,000, he sells it to a lobbyist who’s probably here for $380,000 and then legislation is passed. You tell me about this guy. This is what we’re going to have as president.

RUBIO: Here’s a guy that inherited $200 million. If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now?

TRUMP: No, no, no.

RUBIO: Selling watches in Manhattan.


TRUMP: (Inaudible) I took…

RUBIO: That’s where he would be.

TRUMP: That is so wrong. We’ll work on that. I took $1 million and I turned into $10 billion.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 5.53.59 AM

RUBIO: Oh, OK. One million.

TRUMP: I borrowed $1 million…

RUBIO: Better release your tax returns so we can see how much money he made.

TRUMP: I borrowed $1 million, I turned it into $10 billion…

RUBIO: Oh, he doesn’t make that money.

TRUMP: … more than $10 billion.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 5.46.30 AM

From David Farenthold and David Weigel in the Washington Post.

In the 10th Republican debate, Donald Trump was finally treated like a front-runner: He was relentlessly attacked, sometimes on the same personal terms that Trump has hurled at others.

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) sought to turn Trump’s biggest strength — his business record — into a weakness, casting him as a shady actor who peddled a “fake” university and used undocumented immigrants on a major project.

“If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be? Selling watches in Manhattan,” Rubio said at one point. He began and ended the debate with veiled jabs at the way the reality TV star has changed this race: “The silliness. This looniness!” Rubio said in his closing statement.

Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) criticized Trump for his changes of position on political issues, and at one point even seemed to intimate he needed medication to stay calm.

“Donald, you can get back on your meds now,” Cruz said at one point. “You can relax.”

Trump responded with equally personal attacks on the two senators, deriding Rubio as someone who was easily rattled and Cruz as a friendless outcast in the Senate, who used dirty tactics on the campaign trail.

“This guy’s a choke artist,” he said, meaning Rubio. “And this guy’s a liar,” he said, meaning Cruz.

This debate, held in Houston and broadcast on CNN, was the last chance for Rubio and Cruz to undermine Trump before the vital Super Tuesday primaries next week. And in battling Trump, the two were battling each other: Each wanted to show GOP donors that he was the strongest opponent for Trump and cause a consolidation that would force the other man out.

And, from Alexander Burns in the New York Times:

It was the messiest and most confrontational debate of the Republican presidential primary, repeatedly descending into free-for-alls of cross talk and name-calling.

And for Donald J. Trump’s opponents, it may have been the best debate of the race.

With the Super Tuesday primaries next week, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida finally laced into Mr. Trump, battering him for his business deals, his thin knowledge of policy and what they characterized as his political opportunism.

The debate revealed the acute urgency each candidate now feels in making his case, and captured how Mr. Trump’s opponents are approaching what may be their last really good chance to slow his political momentum.

We haven’t hit bottom yet

Even by the standards of 2016, this was a nasty debate. Mr. Trump has set the standard for personal vitriol in the campaign, and he lived up to it in Houston, mocking Mr. Rubio as a clumsy “choke artist” and once again calling Mr. Cruz a liar to his face.

But for once, Mr. Trump’s opponents reciprocated — especially Mr. Rubio. The Florida senator caricatured Mr. Trump as a dunce on policy who repeats five canned lines over and over, and said that Mr. Trump would have amounted to little without inheriting a fortune from his father.

Should the race ever narrow to just Mr. Trump and either Mr. Rubio or Mr. Cruz, it could showcase a level of raw political violence unlike any recent presidential primary campaign.

“This was a pitiful display of political discourse,” said David Gregory on  CNN.

“I love you brother but your big brain is getting in the way,” said Cuomo.

“Marco Rubio brought the heat. I’m not sure he’s the beneficiary of anything he did last night,” said Michael Smerconish. “I think he was doing Ted Cruz’s dirty work.”

Bright and early today Rubio was on Today.

There is no way we are going to let a con artist take over the conservative movement and Donald Trump is a con artist. His target audience are working people who are really struggling  in this economy but he has spent a career sticking it to working Americans.

We are not going to turn the conservative movement over to a con artist.

Trump, meanwhile, may have taken it on the chin, but after the debate, he didn’t sound beaten up or defeated.

“I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the debating  process,” he said. And, he said, pointing to his big lead in the polls, his job is “to coast and head to the clubhouse.”

It may prove a very sound strategy.

From Bloomberg Politics:

Donald Trump holds a substantial lead in the southern region where Republican voters have their say on March 1, displaying remarkable strength for a twice-divorced New Yorker in Bible Belt states home to some of the nation’s most conservative voters.

An online Bloomberg Politics poll shows the billionaire is backed by 37 percent of likely Republican presidential primary voters in the seven states surveyed, while Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas are tied at 20 percent.

Trump beats both Rubio and Cruz in hypothetical, one-on-one matchups in the region, weakening the argument that the front-runner’s march toward the nomination would be slowed if it were only a two-man race.


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Remember the Alamo? For Cruz in Texas, it’s Victory or Death

Good morning Austin:

Texans have an Alamo complex. It is a heroic and inspiring story.

But, as a political rallying cry, Remember the Alamo, has its limits, because, in the very short term, it didn’t really end well.

Nonetheless, here was Ted Cruz yesterday, at a homecoming rally in Houston before an adoring crowd where he was endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott, reading from William Barret Travis’ Letter from the Alamo, on the 180th anniversary of its writing.

“You know,” Cruz said, “when it comes to leading the fight for freedom, there are no words more powerful than those penned by William Barret Travis.”

Commandancy of the Alamo
Bejar, Feby. 24, 1836

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World

Fellow citizens & compatriots

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country VICTORY OR DEATH.

William Barret Travis,

Lt. Col. comdt.

Cruz didn’t read the P.S., but it is good too:

P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves. Travis

Of course, if Donald Trump had been at the Alamo, everything would have been cool and the Texians would have survived, protected by a wall that the Mexicans, for obscure reasons lost to the mists of history, had paid for.

As Cruz finished reading the letter, the crowd erupted in chants – TED, TED, TED, TED!

“With those words, William Barrett Travis captured the essence of Texas,” Cruz said.

And then he launched into a story with even more ominous overtones for his prospects.

You know former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm tells a story from the 1980s when he was a conservative Democrat when he was rounding up support for Ronald Reagan’s tax plan, and he was talking to other conservative Democrats in Texas, saying, `Come on guys, this is what you stand for.’ And he drew the analogy of Travis drawing the line in the sand and said `this is the opportunity to step across that line.’ And he said those other Democrats said, `Well Phil, everybody who stepped across that line died.” And Phil’s response was, `Well yes they did, and everybody who didn’t step across that line died too, and nobody remembers their names.’

The Alamo. Phil Gramm. I was half expecting Cruz to invoke the memory of John Connally.

From Sam Howe Verhovek’s Feb. 15, 1996 report in the New York Times. Dateline, Houston.

HOUSTON, Feb. 14— He peaked too early.

A year ago, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas was assembling a campaign juggernaut. He declared for President before anyone else. He raised $4.1 million at a dinner in Dallas, one of the largest takes for a single campaign event in American political history. He spent a fortune winning dozens of straw polls, all nonbinding but all intended to bring an air of momentum and inevitability to Mr. Gramm’s bid for the White House.

And while several big G.O.P. names like Kemp, Cheney, Quayle and Bennett skipped the race, bemoaning the logistical and gastrointestinal demands of the chicken-dinner circuit, Mr. Gramm said he just loved asking people for support.

But today, barely a week after voters started selecting actual delegates to the Republican convention, Mr. Gramm’s $21.1 million offensive came to a screeching halt, in perhaps the most spectacular collapse of a Presidential campaign since Mr. Gramm’s fellow Texan, John B. Connally, famously spent $12 million to capture one delegate to the 1980 Republican convention.


The owlish, drawling Mr. Gramm delighted in telling audiences that his own wife’s first reaction to him was “Yuck!” — the real point being that in time, she came to discover his virtues and the American people would too. But voters spent far less time with him than Wendy Lee Gramm did.

“I don’t think he could ever overcome the ‘Yuck!’ factor in this campaign,” said Richard W. Murray, a political science professor and longtime Gramm observer at the University of Houston.

Invoking Gramm was all the more peculiar for Cruz because Gramm has said he prefers Rubio, but thinks Trump will win.

From Politico:

Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm thinks Donald Trump will win the Republican presidential nomination, but he prefers Marco Rubio.

Gramm, who ran for president in 1996, told U.S. News and World Report, “If I was going to invest my money I’d invest it with Trump, but my vote would go to Rubio.”

“I just think he’s got a Reaganesque quality to him. He can state strong positions and still smile. His optimism shines in an era where people are not very optimistic,” Gramm continued.

Gramm said that while he may not agree with Trump, he believes the Manhattan billionaire has made constructive contributions to the political debate.

“I disagree with a lot of what Trump is saying. Looking back on it now I have to give him his due. He has spoken to a lot of frustrations that people like me weren’t paying attention to,” Gramm said. “At the end of the day, I think he will have contributed to our process. I wouldn’t have said that six months ago, but I believe it now.”

OK. It’s been a very long, rough week for Cruz. Third place in South Carolina was not what he wanted or needed.

On Tuesday morning, Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe, declared, “Ted Cruz’s campaign is over … Mark it down. He’s not going to win the nomination. He may win Texas. It’s over.”

Scarborough said he could identify the moment that Cruz’s candidacy died. When he lost the evangelical vote in South Carolina to Trump, even after Trump praised Planned Parenthood.

Later that day, Cruz suffered another third-place showing in Nevada, and there was cascading coverage counting the Cruz campaign as dead or dying. The long knives of all those who didn’t like, who hated Cruz, were out.

Yuck, they said of Cruz. Yuck, and good riddance.

But yesterday was the equivalent of a cleansing breath for Cruz and his campaign.

Abbott’s endorsement might have seemed inevitable and pro forma.

But it mattered.


As I wrote yesterday:

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said that Abbott’s endorsement was perfectly timed for both the governor and the presidential candidate.

“The Cruz campaign is at a critical juncture facing a must-win situation in Texas on March 1. He needs all the help he can get,” Jones said. ‘If he could ask for only one endorsement in Texas, this is the endorsement he would want.”

Jones said that Abbott’s endorsement may be especially important in persuading more mainstream Republicans not to jump ship for Rubio in their desire to stop Trump.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is chairing Cruz’s campaign in Texas and has campaigned for him in Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. Politically, Jones said, Abbott could not afford to sit out the race and risk alienating Cruz supporters and emboldening a potential future challenge from Patrick.

But it would have been awkward for Abbott to endorse Cruz while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was still in the race, in a state in which the Bush family continues to count on the loyalty of key political figures and donors. It was also Gov. George W. Bush who named Abbott to the Texas Supreme Court. Jeb Bush’s withdrawal from the race after yet another disappointing showing in South Carolina cleared the way for Abbott to back Cruz, Jones said.

The political establishment in Texas is with Cruz

Patrick has been working it hard.

A lot of local officials have skin in the game.

He remains the love of the tea partiers who turn out to vote, though they will be joined by a lot of other voters in what appears to be a big turnout election.

To the extent that a voter wants to be with a winner in Texas, Cruz remains the safest bet.

And I don’t think the love/yuck balance for Cruz is as vulnerable to recent events in Texas, where feelings about Cruz were already better-formed, as it is elsewhere.

I ran into Steve Munisteri at the Harris County Republican Party 2016 Reagan Lincoln Dinner, at which Cruz spoke.

Steve Munisteri, right, with Cruz Texas State Director Tyler Norris
Steve Munisteri, right, with Cruz Texas State Director Tyler Norris

Munisteri was the Texas Republican chairman until he left last year to be a senior adviser to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. Munisteri was the architect of the Texas primary this year – its date and modified proportional rules. He is as smart an observer of what’s going on here as there is.

He thinks Cruz will win, but without reaching the 50-percent-plus-one threshold statewide that would render the contest for at-large delegates winner-take-all.

This is my logic. I don’t think Rubio gets to the 20 percent. I could be wrong. Which means that the only division of the at-large would be Trump and Cruz, so if Cruz is even a little bit ahead of Trump, it means he gets over 50 percent (of the 47 at-large delegates)  That puts him at 27 delegates there, and if Cruz wins the districts but doesn’t win by a majority, he gets 72 delegates there. You put that together with the 27 and that’s 99 (out of the state’s 155) delegates.

I think a good rule of thumb is I’m expecting about two-thirds for Cruz and one-third for Trump, unless there’s some big erosion of Cruz’s support that no one has picked up on.

Working in Cruz’s favor is that probably a third of the vote was already cast in early voting before the Nevada results were in and would have been unaffected by any discouragement in its aftermath.

Cruz already has a lead in the bank, so that would mean Cruz would have to erode to a point where Trump not only caught him, Trump has to beat him by a few points just to be even with Cruz, who already has a lead.

So, I’ve been going out on a limb saying that Cruz will win in Texas, and I’ll look like an idiot if he doesn’t, but I do think he’ll win.

If you really want to understand how all this works, read this from the Green Papers, explaining how the delegates are allocated in Texas. Otherwise jump ahead.

Tuesday 1 March 2016: All 155 of Texas’s delegates to the Republican National Convention are bound to presidential contenders in today’s Texas Presidential Primary. [General Rules for All Conventions and Meetings. Rule 38.]

  • 108 district delegates are to be allocated to presidential contenders based on the primary results in each of the 36 congressional districts: each congressional district is assigned 3 National Convention delegates. These delegates are allocated to the presidential contenders as follows:
    • If a candidate receives a majority of the vote (more than 50%), that candidate is allocated all 3 of the district’s delegates. [General Rules for All Conventions and Meetings. Rule 38. Section 8.a. and 8.b.]
    • If no candidate receives a majority of the vote and at least 1 candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, the candidate with the most votes (plurality) receives 2 delegates and the candidate receiving the next highest number of votes receives 1 delegate. [Rule 38. Section 8.b.]
    • If no candidate receives 20% of the vote then the top 3 vote getters each receive 1 delegate. [Rule 38. Section 8.c.]
  • 47 at-large delegates (10 base at-large delegates plus 34 bonus delegates plus 3 RNC delegates) are to be allocated to the presidential contenders based on the primary results statewide. These delegates are allocated to the presidential contenders as follows:
    • If a candidate receives a majority of the vote (more than 50%) that candidate is allocated all 47 at-large delegates. [Rule 38. Section 9.a. and 9.b.]
    • If no candidate receives a majority of the vote and at least 2 candidates receive 20% or more of the vote, the 47 at-large delegates are allocated proportionally among those candidates receiving 20% or more of the vote. Rounding rules: Beginning with the candidate receiving the largest number of votes, round any fraction to the next whole number of delegates. Continue this process with the next highest vote getter and repeat until all the delegates are allocated. [Rule 38. Section 9.b.]
    • If no candidate receives a majority of the vote and only 1 candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, the 47 at-large delegates are allocated proportionally between the candidate receiving 20% or more of the vote and the candidate receiving the next highest number of votes. Rounding rules: Beginning with the candidate receiving the largest number of votes, round any fraction to the next whole number of delegates. Continue this process with the next highest vote getter and repeat until all the delegates are allocated. [Rule 38. Section 9.b.]
    • If no candidate receives 20% of the vote, allocate the 47 at-large delegates proportionally. Rounding rules: Beginning with the candidate receiving the largest number of votes, round any fraction to the next whole number of delegates. Continue this process with the next highest vote getter and repeat until all the delegates are allocated. [Rule 38. Section 9.c.]

An Emerson College poll out yesterday conducted Sunday through Tuesday showed a very tight three-way race in Texas, with Cruz at 29 percent, Trump at 28 percent and Rubio at 25 percent.

But most polls show Cruz with a larger lead and Rubio lagging further behind.

From my story today with Sean Collins Walsh.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has a commanding 12-point lead in his home state over businessman Donald Trump as the candidates head into Tuesday’s GOP presidential primary in Texas, according to a Texas Pulse/American-Statesman poll conducted Feb. 19 to 22. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is a distant third.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 5.19.52 AMHere is the Real Clear Politics polling average for Texas.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 6.43.39 AMHere is new University of Houston poll:

HOUSTON, Feb. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Statewide poll results published today by Houston Public Media and University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy show that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has a 14-point lead over Donald Trump among registered Texas Republican voters who are likely to vote on Super Tuesday. Although Cruz is ahead in his home state, the poll indicates his lead is not enough to ensure the 50 percent vote margin he needs to capture all 155 Texas GOP delegates from Trump. With 19 percent of poll respondents still undecided, Cruz’s performance during Thursday night’s Republican Presidential Debate looms large since it is his last opportunity to sway Texas voters before the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1.

“Winning isn’t the game; it’s about the number of delegates,” said Richard Murray, University of Houston professor and co-director of the poll. “The Houston debate is a high stakes contest, especially for Cruz, who needs to win a large majority of delegates in his home state.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 5.23.13 AM

And here is the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 7.32.18 AM

Another new poll, taken Monday, showed Cruz with a nine-point lead over Trump.

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — The latest KTVT-CBS 11 / Dixie Strategies Poll of more than 1,400 likely primary voters in Texas shows Republican Ted Cruz has increased his lead over real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 7.35.31 AM

So, Cruz should win Texas and come out with a very significant number of delegates.

If he doesn’t, he’s done.

But, to really be viable he has to win elsewhere Tuesday, or, at the very least, accumulate enough delegates so the story the next day is that Cruz comes out of Super Tuesday on a relatively equal footing with Trump in delegate strength – and way, way ahead of Rubio.

As Munisteri told Kevin Diaz of the Houston Chronicle

“He has premised his campaign publicly on the fact that he plans to do very well and gather tremendous momentum on what he calls the ‘SEC primary,'” said Steve Munisteri, a former chairman of the Texas Republican Party who worked on the Rand Paul campaign.

“Even if he were to win Texas, and not win any other Southern states, that would probably put him in a death spiral.”

Cruz, Patrick and others have been very straightforward. Cruz has to do very well Tuesday.

There is really no use in low-balling their expectations, because if Cruz falls flat Tuesday, it’s all over regardless of what expectations he set, and it will fall to Rubio or Kasich to become the anti-Trump.

On Morning Joe today, Scarborough said the stop-Trump forces were depending on pixie dust.

And there is about Rubio a certain ruby slipper strategy, that if Rubio and Nikki Haley and Bob Dole all click their heels and say, there’s no place like home, he can win the nomination.

From Michale Barbaro and Jeremy Peters at the New York Times:

Senator Marco Rubio has persuaded wealthy donors, Republican Party elders and his colleagues in Congress that he represents their best chance to overtake the seemingly invincible force that is Donald J. Trump.

He just cannot seem to persuade the voters.

His distant second-place finish in Nevada on Tuesday night — 22 points behind Mr. Trump and just 2.5 ahead of Senator Ted Cruz — highlights how precarious his path is becoming and the profound difficulty Mr. Rubio faces as the candidate of the party’s pragmatic mainstream in a year of voter anger and rejection.

Mr. Rubio’s time and his opportunities for victory are quickly running out, according to even his own supporters, who are offering increasingly candid assessments of his chances.

With four states having voted, Mr. Rubio has not won a single contest or managed to commandingly defeat Mr. Cruz, despite his formidable advantages. In South Carolina, he campaigned with a popular governor who had endorsed him. In Nevada, he continually reminded voters of the six years his family had lived in Las Vegas.

Even those who have sketched out possible paths for Mr. Rubio to win the nomination acknowledge that they are quirky and slender, dependent on forces mostly outside his control.

Quirky and slender? Who’s his political strategist? John Waters? Steve Buscemi?

I think Cruz is better off with Travis and Gramm and Connally.



Also speaking at last night’s Harris County dinner was Ben Carson, who remains in the race and will be one of the five candidates on the debate stage tonight at the Republican presidential debate at the University of Houston.

Why, you may ask, is Ben Carson still in the race?

The answer is, he is running for vice president.


Here is an email I received this week from John Philip Sousa IV, head of Ben Carson’s Super PAC and a pivotal figure in drafting Carson to run.

Jonathan —

Only 3 states have voted. We still have 50+ states/territories to go. The field has gone from 17 candidates to 5.

Today it is critically important that we press on for one very important reason.  That reason is simply this…

Without Ben Carson on the Republican ticket, either as our presidential nominee or even as our vice presidential nominee, the Democrats will win the White House and the America we love will disappear.

With former Florida Governor Jeb Bush out of the race and Ohio Governor John Kasich teetering on the brink, this race is still in flux.

And, ironically, in some ways, nothing has changed.

Ben Carson is still the key to a Republican victory in 2016.

Trump, Rubio, and Cruz are all destined to lose in 2016 because without Ben Carson on the ticket, they will lose the African American vote.

The demographics of America have changed dramatically, and that is why Ben Carson must stay in this race.  He may not win the GOP nomination, but he still holds the wining hand in this political poker game.

If Ben Carson is on the ticket, either as president or as vice president, we can win the White House by winning upwards of 25% of the black vote and 35% of the Hispanic vote.  That translates into a Republican landslide and a dominant Republican majority for years to come.

And, the good news is that even today, Dr. Carson is the near universal choice of a vast majority of Republicans for the number two spot on the Republican ticket.

So, now is not the time to throw in the towel.

By fighting on, there is always the possibility that Ben Carson will once again become resurgent.

But, even if that does not happen, by keeping his hat in the ring, it increases the odds that he will be chosen as the vice presidential candidate of the GOP in 2016.

And, with Dr. Carson on the ticket, we will win in a landslide that will drive far left radicals like Obama, Clinton, and Sanders out of the political mainstream.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to make sure that Ben Carson is on the Republican ticket in 2016.


I am more committed to the election of Ben Carson as our next president or vice president than ever before.

You and I both know that it’s no accident that Ben Carson has come this far.  It’s only by the Lord’s hand that a little known surgeon reached the top ranks of the Republican candidates for President of the United States.

We are simply God’s instruments.  We must not fail Him. 

I pledge to you that The 2016 Committee will re-double our efforts to put Ben Carson on the Republican ticket. 

Can I count on you to do the same thing, Jonathan?

Please chip in right away to help us keep fighting for Dr. Carson.

We must make sure that Ben Carson is in the game to the end for your kids’ future and quite frankly to insure that our country will continue to be the place where our freedoms are protected.



John Philip Sousa IV

So Carson is prepared to run on a ticket with Donald Trump who effectively destroyed his candidacy with a truly unhinged diatribe at a rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in November, after Carson had swept ahead of Trump in the polls, in which Trump suggested that Carson had the pathological qualities of a child molester.


Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 5.37.52 AM

Well, as Joe E. Brown put it at the end of Some like it Hot, nobody’s perfect.

Meanwhile, back in Austin, Rick Perry went out for custard yesterday.














From Mount Trumpmore to $5 mini-fridge cookies: On understanding Trump Nation

Good morning Austin:

Before the festivities at last night’s Ted Cruz election night event in Columbia, a young woman was distributing copies of The Trump Coloring Book (Post Hill Press)



I wouldn’t say it’s better than the Ted Cruz coloring book. But it’s bigger, fatter, huger.



I’m not sure why there was a woman distributing a Donald Trump coloring book at the Cruz party.

While the Cruz comic book is genuinely reverential, the Trump comic book more mocks Trump than glorifies him, as in this depiction of Mount Trumpmore.


As with everything Trump, the line between parody and reality is thin to non-existent.

But as the results rolled in last night, the prospect that we may soon be living in Trump Nation improved considerably.

Trump has now won big in New Hampshire and Iowa and, if history is any guide, that means he will be the Republican nominee. And if he is the Republican nominee, well, it’s certainly conceivable that he might defeat either a Jewish socialist or a woman who embodies the status quo, and maybe even the status quo ante, more than perhaps any person in America at a moment when America is very restless.


The argument last night at the Cruz event – the spin if you will, but it may also be the truth – is that, as Cruz put it, “Only one candidate has demonstrated that he can beat Donald Trump, nobody else has gotten close.”

South Carolina was a disappointment for the Cruz campaign insofar as they had to explain why they came in third in a state as conservative and evangelical as he’s going to find.

From the CNN exit poll.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 7.27.14 AM

How is this possible?


Last night, Cruz laid out what he contended were three consecutive performances where he defied expectations.

Well, I don’t think he actually defied expectations in any of the three, except to the extent that he was expected to finish second in South Carolina and instead finished third. But putting that aside, Cruz pointed to his victory in Iowa; to the fact that, as a “Bible-believing Christian,” he still placed third in unchurched New Hampshire, and to the fact that he essentially tied for second in South Carolina, even though Trump and Rubio beat up on him mercilessly and Rubio had top-flight backing in South Carolina from Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.

For the Cruz camp, Rubio’s edging them out for second, albeit by a relative handful of votes, complicates that task of explaining why this is now a two-person and not a three-person race (with apologies to John Kasich). Their argument is that only they have the money, the organization, the calendar and the political record to take it to Trump and defeat him.

“You cannot beat Donald Trump from the left,” Cruz said last night, referring to Rubio.

Perhaps. But it is not at all clear you can beat him from the right. From yesterday’s results:

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 7.42.40 AM

Yes, Cruz can point out that on abortion, health care and issue after issue, Trump has not been a “consistent, courageous conservative,” that he has consorted with and contributed to Democrats, including the Clintons. But to the many voters, who are not punctilious about ideological labels or purity, it’s going to be hard to paint Trump as a liberal. He is, after all, the guy who called for temporarily banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country, which,  according to the ABC exit poll, was a position supported by nearly three-quarters of GOP voters in South Carolina yesterday.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 7.55.26 AM

And then there was this from the Public Policy Polling pre-election South Carolina poll.


Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 9.02.42 PM

Cruz is depending on doing very well on Super Tuesday, March 1, in Texas and a slew of other states including friendly turf in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.

But Saturday’s results in South Carolina suggest that Trump is going to give Cruz a run for his money with evangelicals, conservatives, neo-Confederates and Islamaphobes – and do that while also being the preferred candidate among those Republican voters who do not think of themselves as very conservative.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 8.43.38 AM

Cruz may prevail.

But in the meantime, it’s time to get used to the idea of Trump Nation.

The good new is that Trump Nation is already readily accessible because they gather with one another in the thousands with great regularity.

The further good news is that, for all the anger and frustration that undergirds his populist nationalism, Trump Nation – at least when it gets together to hear from the man – seems like a pretty happy, even rollicking place.

A Donald Trump rally is an “immersive experience.”

That was how Grant Pezikian, 18, a senior at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, S.C., put it to me Friday  after a massive Trump rally in his hometown on the last day of campaigning before the South Carolina primary.

He and his friend, Christy Salinari, were both wearing T-shirts he had made at his families Fric ‘n Frac, which is where one goes to make such things.

Pezikian appreciates how “bold and outright” Trump is in the way he expresses himself. At his high school, he said, a lot of classmates think Trump is “too extreme.”

Moreso than for other politicians, folks tend to dress up for Trump rallies, or at any way dress in a manner that makes clear they are at a Trump rally.


This is John Mancini. He is from Westfield, N.J. He made this T-shirt that I especially liked because it is done as if Trump were a character on Beavis and Butthead, and I think it’s safe to say that both Beavis and Butthead would be huge Trump fans.

I mean really.

He said pussy – at a political rally.

Beavis and Butthead and South Park and the Simpsons have done more to challenge and puncture political correctness than TrumpCruzRubioCarson, and to challenge PC of both the right and left. If political correctness means that there are certain things you can’t say, the Republican right is in as smothering a place as anywhere on the left.

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 10.44.16 AM


And here Trump has an advantage because, way more than any of his rivals, he is willing to shred the shibboleths of the left, right or center. He is the first Republican presidential candidate I know of to pick a fight with Fox and the Pope (though maybe it was the Pope who picked the fight).


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Mancini loves Trump. But that does not mean he does not also love Ted Cruz.

“I dig Cruz,” he said. “He’s good stuff.”

“I hope Trump and Cruz stop pissing on one another,” Mancini said.

Mancini also digs Gretta Van Sustern, who was at the rally.

“You’re the best, Greta,” Mancini yelled at Van Sustern. She smiled and they exchanged a quick bit o banter about her devotion to the Green Bay Packers.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 10.37.53 PM



A Trump rally does have its set pieces.

There’s the call-and-response on The Wall.

Trump: We’re going to build a wall.

Trump Nation: Yay!!!!

Trump: And who’s going to pay for it?

Trump Nation: Mexico!!!!

And there is sort of a purification ritual in which a protester – there always seems to be one – is escorted and hooted out.

At the Myrtle Beach rally on Friday, a man with a smooth radio voice announced before the rally began that there was a protected protest site outside, but that this as a private event paid for by Trump and that if anyone should spot a protester, they should not engage with or harm them, but simply raise their hand or a sign and start chanting, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.

Very good, if a little Invasion of the Body Snatchers creepy.


The cult of Trump has drawn quite a few camp followers.

Among the most engaging, even endearing, is Zach Dodson, the 13-year-old, seventh-grader at Hill Middle School in Fort Mill, S.C., who is in the video at the top of the page.

Zach, his mother in tow, has been to 15 Trump rallies.


To understand the dynamics of Trump Nation and a Trump rally, one could do worse than talking to Zach. In fact, I’m not sure one could do better.

Here is my exclusive First Reading interview with Zach.

FR: You’ve been to 15 Trump rallies. Do they get boring after a while?

ZACH: No. At one of the rallies he mentioned that the problem with having all these rallies is that he has to say something different every time. But I think he does a really good job of that, so it doesn’t get too boring.

FR: So he keeps it interesting?

ZACH: Yes. Like first, The Wall, then after a while it starts to fade way, get boring. Ban on Muslims, and he’s back up there and now he stays up there. So it’s never really getting boring.

FR: What do you like most about Trump?

ZACH: He’s different. He’s not a politician. He’s got proven success. He has different ideas and not the same ideas with just slightly different rhetoric or campaign scheme. He’s got his own campaign scheme. I mean it’s really different than everyone else.

I think he’s the only one that puts the American people first. He says if any ideas don’t benefit the American people, I don’t like that idea. Like illegal immigration. He wants to stop it but the Democrats will never want to stop it because that’s where their votes come from.


FR: You’re 13. Have you been interested in politics for a long time?

ZACH: Not really in politics. But I was in business because I loved money. I first found out about Trump when I was five-years-old and I went to Vegas and we were going to stay in one hotel and I told my parents, `No, let’s stay in the tower made of gold that says Trump on it.’ And Trump, in the room, had the little mini –refrigerator filled with cookies that he charged five bucks a cookie for, and I ate the whole fridge.

FR: What was your best moment at a Trump rally?

ZACH: The best moment was the first time I got a picture with him. We asked for a picture but then something was wrong with my mom’s camera, so she tried to switch to her phone and Trump stood there for like two minutes waiting for my mom to figure out what was wrong and then take a picture. Eventually Trump said, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” and then my mom finally gets the picture.

FR: Are you going to be plunged into depression with the South Carolina election ending?

Zach: No. There’s North Carolina.


Then there is Bill Waters.

As folks waiting on a long line to get into Friday’s rally, a man with a booming voice kept chanting:
Vote for Cruz, you’re going to lose. So get off your rump and vote for Trump.

It was Waters, who was dressed like a construction worker and had a sign that said, “Ready to work on the wall.”

He caught Trump’s eye during the rally, with Trump saying that at first he thought it said that he was ready to work on Wall Street, but that would be fine too, Trump said. There are some good people who work on Wall Street.

Here is a link to Waters, recreating his chant, after the rally.

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Water’s day job is dressing up as the Statue of Liberty to drum up business for a tax service office.

He really enjoys it.

Here is some more on that.

From Stephanie Robusto at WMBF:

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – You may barely see him as you speed by the busy intersection, but once you spot Bill Waters, you will never forget him.

Many people complain about the potholes and other road repairs needed on Glenns Bay Road. As crews begin work on the Riding on a Penny Project, Waters maneuvers past the potholes and traffic congesting the road on his bicycle, glad to have a road to get to a job he loves.

He pops his bike into the back room of Liberty Tax Service in the Food Lion plaza and gears up to change into his uniform. In this case, it’s a green velvety gown, complete with a headpiece. He transforms himself into a human version of the Statue of Liberty, ready to get your attention and business for the tax service company.
His positive attitude is infectious, as he makes a round around the parking lot before heading to his spot by the street. Whether the workers know it, he first waves to each individual business storefront in the plaza, shouting out greetings to customers walking out of them.

“It’s not work! It is play! I love making people smile,” he said to a man walking out of the Food Lion grocery store.

Waters talks a mile a minute, and seems to walk even faster.

Using a small piece of land between a drainage ditch and construction cones, Waters dances over to access his ‘office.’

However, the view from his office is changing. With construction on every corner, you can barely see his crown from the roadway. So, he hops up on an electrical box and transforms it into his stage. The construction may slow down traffic, but it doesn’t slow down Bill Waters.

“It’s great because it slows people down and they can see me longer,” said Waters between shouting out greetings to cars. When a driver beeps his or her horn, Waters lights up. “Some people take pictures, I must be famous on Facebook by now,” he added.

While commuters groan about the added construction, Waters revels in it.

“Growing up as a kid I loved construction vehicles,” Waters said while pointing out his favorite vehicles digging up the area across the street from his office view.

Finally, here is Waters with five local girls who got to Scholars Academy, a public school in Myrtle Beach, and who, when they stand in the right order, spell, T-R-U-M-P.


Michelle Cox, a mother of one of the girls, explained:

This is an assignment from their AP Government and Politics class – Mr. McDowell – to see who could get closest to the candidate and get a picture.

They didn’t get their man.

We got to the corner but he’d already gone. Didn’t quite get him. But if we got in the paper that might get them some points.

OK, Mr. McDowell. Here they are. They tried.


They are:

T: Ingram Cox, 15.

R: Lily Gibson, 15.

U: Sydny Stegall, 14.

M: Alexandra Simons, 15.

P: Jade Crooks. 15.

I’m not sure whether Mr. McDowell’s assignment was more Government and Politics or Celebrity Stalking, but I guess it admirably achieved its objective of getting his students engaged, of making them first-hand witnesses to politics, and maybe even, history in the making.

Maybe, in the age of Trump, Mr. McDowell’s assignment was right on target.

“While they can’t vote in this election they will be your second-term voters,” said Michelle Cox.


Why Ted Cruz isn’t Ronald Reagan

Good morning Austin:

I met a very elegant  San Antonian yesterday at the Greenville County Republican Women’s luncheon.

Her name is Diana Denman, who was in South Carolina to lend a hand to the Ted Cruz campaign ahead of Saturday’s primary, just as she had in Iowa before the Feb. 1 caucuses.

Denman was a friend to Ronald Reagan. An actress as a young woman, “my first vote for Ronald Reagan was for president of the Screen Actors Guild.”


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I met her climbing up to the balcony — the luncheon was full to capacity. She offered that she liked Cruz precisely because she liked Reagan.

“I served with Reagan as a presidential appointee and was vice chairman of the Texas Republican party.  I see in this brilliant young man a statesman. I see him prepared, incredibly well prepared, to lead this country. To follow in (Reagan’s) footsteps economically with his flat tax, to restore the military …. to respect this country.”

But I wondered whether Cruz could project Reagan likability. Ronald Reagan was, after all, a man who had built a successful career playing likable people in the movies.

She agreed that Reagan, “was like a Teddy bear people wanted to hug.”

Cruz has built a reputation on who doesn’t like him. He’s relished it. He has made enemies of most of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate and worn it as a badge of honor.

He has fashioned himself the new Reagan. 2016 is 1980 all over again. Barack Obama is Jimmy Carter. And Cruz is Ronald Reagan.

The trick, however, is how to explain the likability gap between Cruz and the Gipper.

He has sought to do this by suggesting that the Washington establishment detested Reagan quite as much as they detest him.

Among his favorite lines in his stump speech:

Washington despised Ronald Reagan. By the way, if you see a candidate who Washington embraces, run and hide.

 From Denman:

 If someone should say to me that he doesn’t get along with some of his cohorts, the American people are so completely tired of what is happening in Washington, so it’s almost a yellow rose to pin on him that they don’t want to talk to him, because all Americans are disgusted with them.

When one is strong in believing in your principles and convictions, the grassroots will be grateful.

I was early for him in the Senate race. The old Texas saying is, your word is your bond. Everything he said he was going to do in the Senate he has done.’

Here is the last Cruz ad of the South Carolina campaign.

It ends with a quote from Rush Limbaugh.
“This is the closest in our lifetimes we have ever been to Ronald Reagan.

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But Cruz’s likability problem, which is the most serious obstacle to his doing the Full Reagan, worsened considerably since his victory in Iowa, and especially in the last 10 days in South Carolina — thanks in large part to the assertion, repeated over and over by Donald Trump and Marco Rubio — that Cruz is a big liar, who Trump refers to as a “a nasty guy,” altogether more Tricky Dick than Gipper.

It has taken its toll.

From this week’s Public Policy Polling South Carolina poll.

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

I spoke with University of Texas government professor Daron Shaw, who co-directs the Fox Poll.

I actually think Cruz is extremely well positioned right now. My sense is that people are underrating how impressive it will be if he does what I think he’ll do on March 1, and that is win a big chunk of those states.

My assumption is is that those are states where Ted has done spade work. His coalitions are stronger in  those states, even than in South Carolina, which is pretty strong for Ted. Alabama, Mississippi, probably Texas, Oklahoma — those are states that Ted should do really well. If Ted wins  five out of eight or six out of eight states on March 1, I think that is a huge set of wins. Now granted it’s proportional, and you’re not going to have a huge delegate toll, but I’m amazed at how we underrate the power of raising your hands Election Night in victory and giving a speech before a cheering crowd. That sill drive images and drives narratives and people are underrating, they’re sort of writing it off, `Well Cruz has all these states so on March 1 he is going to do real well.’ But, when that happens, I think it is going to be very striking.

Trump has his group. The establishment group is all over the map. And Ted is in a really good position.

Shaw thinks the sooner it gets to be a head-to-head race with Trump, the better for Cruz, and to do it on friendly southern turf.

Cruz, per his Senate race against former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, likes running to the right of the front-runner.

Ted has better credentials as the outside, anti-establishment guy than Trump has as a conservative.

But, Shaw said, Cruz’s likability problems hangs over his prospects:

I think his likability numbers are really dangerous right now. The tag on him — if Marco Rubio is too callow and inexperienced and Trump’s a bully, Ted is being defined as the guy that nobody likes and Trump has built on that, and that’s really a problem.

It’s not a Senate race. Its a presidential race and people don’t like to vote for somebody they don’t like. And I don’t know how Ted deals with that.

And if I were on Ted’s team, I’d be very concerned with how do you deal with that. I think that at some level you have to be just a little bit likable, and I think Ted’s in danger of losing control of that, and that’s something that probably could hurt him and maybe cost him the nomination and certainly that could cost him in the fall.

You talk about New York values. What New York values means to me is the New York guy really knows how to pick out your weak spot. That’s Trump. It was Ted, it was Marco, it was Jeb. He just picks it and picks it. He’s got a genius for that.

I know Ted from the Texas Lyceum. I worked with him in 2000 on the Bush campaign, and I never thought of him as unlikable.

The media is always looking …whats the hook?  Some are right but some of them are not right. You know Carville used to rail on this that once the media settles on one of these they’ll never back off. They are trying to figure out Ted. They haven’t gotten it right but this unlikable thing is becoming a meme and I think it’s political poison. What do you do, have Ted kiss babies?


I also talked with Kirby Goidel, an expert on political communication at Texas A&M University.

There’s a quote originally about FDR but was often applied to Reagan as well, “second rate intellect and fiist-rate personality. Where Cruz is probably first-rate intellect, second- or third-rate personality. (the actual quote, from Oliver Wendell Holmes, was that  Roosevelt had a secondclass intellect but a firstclass temperament.)

I think it’s a real challenge because to extend beyond your base and especially to extend to a broad segment of the electorate, people have to like you.

It’s even different than Hillary Clinton, who’s got strong unfavorables but most of the people who work with her like her. But the people who’ve worked with Cruz are the ones who don’t really like him, so I think he’s got an even bigger challenge.

I really admire sort of the disciplined campaign he’s running. That he’s drawn this up about as well as he could have possibly drawn it up and he’s carved out exactly what he wants to do and is very disciplined in going about it. But it does present an issue.

I think sometimes it can be played exactly the way he’s played it — that it’s not really a weakness, it’s a strength. But I’m not sure he’s really been able to do that yet, at least with a wide segment of voters. I think it’s a challenge that he has to overcome.

Even worse than being unlikable is being inauthentic. The trouble for Cruz is he’s just not a likable guy, and I think the challenge for him is sort of how to play that in way that’s a strength.  At the end of the day we tend to vote for the candidate that we see as more likable. I think that’s a pretty consistent pattern over time. We vote for people we’re comfortable with.

How does Cruz get beyond his base? It’s really hard for me to see how he does that, unless he is winning establishment support, but the establishment seems to like him less then Trump.

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

Good morning Austin:

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




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

Let’s take a closer look.



That’s what I thought it said.

Could be worse.

Could have said, Resistance is Futile: Trump 2016.


It’s too big to be strictly subliminal in intent

Maybe it’s meant ironically.

Like Mission Accomplished.

More likely, it is simply prophetic.

Here’s the recent Real Clear Politics polling average.

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

After the Bush rally
After the Bush rally

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

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

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

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

I asked about Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From PPP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.02.11 AM

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

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

Look at this.

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And look at this.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.42.16 PM

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









CRUZ: (SPEAKING SPANISH). At the GOP Debate, Cruz goes bilingual on Rubio

Good morning Austin.

And buenos días Señor Cruz.

Great debate last night.

That’s entertainment.

Reality TV at its finest. No wonder Donald Trump’s doing so well.

Compelling characters. Running feuds. A brutal elimination process winnowing the field, and having voters in a motley order of states do the judging is a brilliant touch.

Last night’s may have been the best, with all the “you lie, you lyin’ liar” line of fire – mostly coming from Trump and Marco Rubio and aimed at Ted Cruz; with Trump blaming 9/11 on W and Jeb!, looking like he actually belonged center stage and with sounded like a stacked audiecne, defending every member of his family except George P.

Who am I missing?

Of course.

Carson last night offered an apparently spurious quote from Stalin, which was, true or false, quaint, and that segued into the impeccably dreamy logic that could propel him back into contention.

Joseph Stalin said if you want to bring America down you, have to undermine three things: our spiritual life, our patriotism and our morality. We, the people, can stop that decline, starting right here in South Carolina. If all the people who say, “I love Ben Carson and his policies, but he can’t win,” vote for me, not only can we win, but we can turn this thing around.

And then there’s John Kasich, the brother from another planet, who is the kind of control in whatever social experiment is being conducted here –  the normal guy, the Marilyn Munster of the show, who can break through the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience.

As in, from the middle of last night’s melee, this:

KASICH: I’ve got to tell you, this is just crazy, huh?


KASICH: This is just nuts, O.K.? Jeez, oh, man.

But my very favorite exchange of the debate was this one between Cruz and Rubio, the two lean and hungry Cuban-Americans in the race.


CRUZ: You know, the lines are very, very clear. Marco right now supports citizenship for 12 million people here illegally. I oppose citizenship. Marco stood on the debate stage and said that.

But I would note not only that — Marco has a long record when it comes to amnesty. In the state of Florida, as speaker of the house, he supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. In addition to that, Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office.

I have promised to rescind every single illegal executive action, including that one.


CRUZ: And on the question…


RUBIO: Well, first of all, I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision, because he doesn’t speak Spanish. And second of all, the other point that I would make…



What a great moment.

Here was my initial take last night.

Here, in answer to that, from Time.

Cruz then responded in Spanish, taunting Rubio. “Ahora mismo, díselo en Español si tu quieres” the Senator from Texas said, which roughly translates to “Right now, say it in Spanish. If you want.”

Here are some other tweeted reactions.

As you can see, it is not at all clear who got the better of this.

My own thinking has evolved a bit since last night.

At the moment it happened, I thought Cruz had by far the better of it.

He got called out for not being able to speak Spanish by Rubio, he let loose with some Spanish. So there.

I couldn’t really hear what he said, only that he had said something, that it was in some kind of Spanish, and that he had scored a vivid debating point at a very high-profile debate.

But, over time, I wondered whether it was too clever and glib.

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 9.10.02 PM

Cruz started this. In the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, Cruz began delivering a a sneaky attack line on Rubio in rural iowa.

“Marco Rubio has gone on Univision and said in Spanish, ‘No, no, no, I wouldn’t rescind amnesty.”

It’s a way of not only saying that Rubio is soft on immigration, but also insinuating that he is saying one thing in English and another in Spanish to try to bamboozle monolingual Anglos, and calling attention to the fact that Rubio is the Cuban-American Republican in the race who speaks Spanish, which in a party that doesn’t like to have to press one for English, is automatic cause for suspicion and irritation.

It’s a politic line of attack that probably works to Cruz’s advantage in the Republican nomination battle, but is further evidence why, in a general election, Rubio might be able to cut into Democratic majorities with Hispanic voters, and I don’t think Cruz can.

Glenn Beck has come to introducing Cruz at rallies as the man who will be the first Hispanic president of the United States, and it kind of falls flat because I don’t think either Cruz or his audience think that that figures importantly, if at all, in what he is about.

Here from Lizette Alvarez and Manny Fernandez in the New York Times some very good background on the relative Hispanic identities of Cruz and Rubio.

MIAMI — One candidate, Marco Rubio, nurtured by the sprawling Cuban-American community here, bounces effortlessly between two cultures — fritas and hamburgers, Spanish and English — in a city so comfortably bilingual that news conferences pivot between the languages.

The other, Ted Cruz, is partial to cowboy boots, oversize belt buckles, hard-right politics and the fire-and-brimstone style of the Baptist church. Mr. Cruz, a rare Cuban-American outlier in a state where Hispanic usually means Mexican-American, attended overwhelmingly white Christian schools in Houston and prefers Spanglish to Spanish.


For Mr. Rubio, assimilation meant embracing his American and Cuban sides with equal gusto. Celebrating Noche Buena with lechon asado — Christmas Eve with marinated pork — and then watching the Miami Dolphins on New Year’s Day. Speaking Spanish on Univision, English on Fox. Riffing on rap and dancing to Cuban music.

Papá, his grandfather, who tended to Mr. Rubio’s Cuban side during the family’s six years in Las Vegas, made an endless stream of cafecitos, or Cuban coffee, told him about Cuban history and had Mr. Rubio read a Spanish-language newspaper aloud so “I would learn to speak his native language correctly,” Mr. Rubio wrote.

Nelson Diaz, a former aide to Mr. Rubio and now the chairman of the Republican Party in Miami-Dade County, said of Mr. Rubio: “He is American 100 percent, but he is very in touch with his Cuban background.”

In West Miami, where Mr. Rubio began his political career and lives surrounded by Hispanic immigrants, he showed his cultural dexterity at a recent rally by joking that he would bring a Cuban pork roasting box to Washington. “Vamos a llevar una Caja China a la Casa Blanca,” Mr. Rubio said. His wife, Jeanette, who is Colombian-American, stood nearby.

It is this version of Mr. Rubio that has drawn Latinos to his corner, even as his tap dance on immigration continues to dampen enthusiasm. “He clearly understands and has lived the story of the immigrant,” said Javier Palomarez, the president of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Marco gets it.”

With so many here touched by the vagaries of immigration policy, most in Miami want to improve the law. Recognizing this, Mr. Rubio joined Democrats in writing an immigration reform bill in 2013 that created a path to citizenship and fortified border security. For this, Mr. Rubio earned widespread praise.

After fierce backlash from conservatives and Tea Party supporters, though, Mr. Rubio quickly distanced himself from the bill and moved to emphasize border security and enforcement as a priority. This angered Hispanics who viewed it as an attempt to placate the conservative base. They also have criticized Mr. Rubio for failing to defend Latinos more robustly from Mr. Trump’s attacks.

Mr. Cruz, who unlike Mr. Rubio won his Senate seat with relatively tepid Latino support, faces an even more arduous task wooing Latino voters. His positions on immigration and his reluctance to embrace his Latino roots have hurt him among Hispanics from both parties, political experts said. Mr. Cruz supports squeezing out undocumented immigrants by tightening enforcement, temporarily freezing immigration levels and changing the 14th Amendment to end birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Even Latino Republicans have been unsparing in their criticism of Mr. Cruz.


In his autobiography, “A Time for Truth,” published in 2015, Mr. Cruz described how, growing up, Rafael turned into Rafaelito and then Felito. “The problem with that name was that it seemed to rhyme with every major corn chip on the market,” Mr. Cruz wrote. “Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos and Tostitos — a fact that other young children were quite happy to point out.”

His preference for Ted, a suggestion from Mr. Cruz’s Irish-American mother, infuriated his father, Rafael, who in 1957 fled Cuba for Texas after being arrested and beaten by agents for Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban dictator. “He viewed it as a rejection of him and his heritage, which was not my intention,” Mr. Cruz wrote. For two years, his father refused to call him Ted. Today, Mr. Cruz serves as his son’s Spanish-speaking surrogate.

The name change is but one example of how Mr. Cruz has de-emphasized his Latino identity. Unlike Mr. Rubio, Mr. Cruz had only his father and a few relatives to connect him to the island, its language and traditions. Once his father became a born-again Christian, religion, not ethnicity, appeared to dominate the Cruz household.

Interrogating this subject can also go terribly wrong, as here, from Bloomberg.

Mark Halperin subsequently issued a mea culpa about the interview.

We wanted to talk with Senator Cruz about his outreach to Latino voters the day after he spoke at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. My intent was to give the Senator a chance to speak further about his heritage and personal connections to the community through some casual questions. I rushed through the questions, and that was a mistake — it led to poor tone and timing. I also understand why some felt the questions were inappropriate. As for asking Senator Cruz to welcome Senator Sanders to the race in Spanish, that was meant to be the type of light-hearted banter that he’s done with us before on the show. In no way was I asking Senator Cruz to “prove” he was an “authentic” Latino. I apologize to those that were offended, and to Senator Cruz. I promise that I will work to make the tone and questions better next time.

Finally, Jannell Rose at the Washington Post, offered a really excellent breakdown of all that was really at play last night when Cruz spoke Spanish.

There is a dark period in American history. It’s one to which some Americans seem eager to return. It’s one when people were barred, shamed or even punished for speaking languages other than English. That was especially true outside the home.


It is nothing to celebrate. It has left the United States far behind other countries in terms of the share of adults who can operate in two languages or more. Millions of Americans who could have grown up speaking any number of languages and reaping the brain-boosting benefits — simply didn’t.

Now what, you ask, does that have to do with a heated moment during Saturday’s Republican debate in which Ted Cruz started speaking Spanish?

Well, possibly, quite a lot. Cruz may have been born in Canada — much to Donald Trump’s delight — but he grew up in Texas during the final decades when the ideas described above could be repeated in public without so much as a single side eye. Cruz has said before that his Spanish is “lousy,” and back in 2012 when Cruz was running for the Senate, his Spanish-speaking opponent tried to needle Cruz into a Spanish-language debate.

Cruz refused, saying something that lots of Texas Republicans seemed to like: Most people don’t speak Spanish. The goal was probably to throw the championship debater, Cruz, off his game, but also to associate Cruz with a particularly modern kind of alleged cultural failing. Cruz’s opponent knew that might have meaning in a state with a lot of Latino voters.

The inability to speak fluent Spanish has become a source of embarrassment for some Latinos. Sometimes, that’s the subject of something a little more serious than teasing. There are some — emphasis on some here — Spanish-speaking Latinos who regard the inability to speak Spanish as an indicator of capitulation to old-school, self-loathing, and bigotry-fueled pressure to assimilate by emulating white Americans.

Now, some things in American life have so changed that, for many months, there were more than a few Republican politicos who regularly insisted that the ability of former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) — the white son and brother of a former president who is married to a Mexican-American — to speak Spanish was going to help him win a big chunk of the Latino vote.


Rubio almost certainly knows all about the full array of fraught social, political and emotional issues that rotate around Spanish-speaking skills for some Latinos. He almost certainly heard about that most-awkward and, shall we say, ill-advised moment back in May when Bloomberg’s Mark Halprin tried to force Cruz to speak Spanish on demand during an interview. Halprin seemed to think Cruz should prove his Latino bona fides.

And, Rubio, like Cruz’s Senate challenger, probably saw it as a great way to throw Cruz, the master debater, off-kilter and maybe even to change the subject. They were, after all, tangling on a debate stage on one of the issues about which pooling data indicates a goodly portion of Republican voters may have some doubts about Rubio. He is not a solid immigration hard-liner.

Likely sensing some of all of this, Cruz absolutely clapped back. This is something he’s been goaded about and even criticized for in the past.

The only real surprise was that Cruz’s reply came quick. And, it came out in Spanish.

“Marco, si quieres … ahora el mismo, dicelo ahora, en Espanol, si quieres.” (That translates roughly to  “Marco, if you want … right now, say it right now, in Spanish, if you want.”)

So, we’re going to have to be frank and tell those of you who don’t speak Spanish that what Cruz said was the kind of grammatically unorthodox thing you might say when flustered, when non-fluent and or when trying intentionally to sound tough. We can’t say for sure which of those three really dominated Cruz’s response here. Only Cruz really knows.


For now, we’ll leave you with this: America, this was one of those moments full of history and emotion and deep social meaning that a good portion of the audience likely did not fully comprehend. But, it’s worth noting because that entire exchange was made possible by decades of misguided, scientifically unsound and bigoted thinking that plenty of Americans continue to laud every day.

Two Corinthians walk into a voting booth. On Cruz, Trump and South Carolina’s evangelical vote

Good morning Austin:

When Donald Trump spoke at Liberty University last month he stumbled a bit in quoting scripture.

 “Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, right? Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ But here there is Liberty College, Liberty University, but when you think that, that’s so true. But is that the one, is that the one you like? Because I loved it, and it’s so representative of what’s taken place. And we are going to protect Christianity.”

That provoked some smirks and snickers, in person and in print, because 2 ‘Corinthians is generally said aloud as Second Corinthians, and Trump, speaking at the world’s largest Christian university, was laying bare his unfamiliarity with Holy Writ.

Campaigning in Iowa, Ted Cruz, who had announced his candidacy for president at Liberty last March, and knows his “2’s” from his “seconds,” had some fun with it.

“Two Corinthians walk into a bar,” he said to knowing laughs at campaign stops ahead of the Feb. 1 caucuses, before launching into a quick imitation of Ricardo Montalban’s classic extolling of the virtues of the Chrysler New Yorkers’ rich Corinthian leather.

But Trump had the last laugh. Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and son of the founder of both Liberty and the Moral Majority, subsequently endorsed Trump for president, cut a radio ad for him, even came to Iowa to campaign with him.

Here was Jerry Falwell Jr. explaining his endorsement in the Washington Post.

I do believe Trump is a good father, is generous to those in need, and is an ethical and honest businessman. I have gotten to know him well over the last few years and have come to admire him for those traits.

I do not believe, however, that when Jesus said “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” that he meant we should elect only someone who would make a good Sunday School teacher or pastor. When we step into our role as citizens, we need to elect the most experienced and capable leaders.

As I said, Jimmy Carter is a great Sunday School teacher but the divorced and remarried Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan saved this nation when it was in nearly the same condition as it is today.

Jesus said “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Let’s stop trying to choose the political leaders who we believe are the most godly because, in reality, only God knows people’s hearts. You and I don’t, and we are all sinners.

From Messiah College historian John Fea’s blog:

  •  Trump’s pronunciation is quite common among Christians (and evangelicals) in the United Kingdom and I have heard this pronunciation used many times by American evangelical ministers as well.
  • Most American evangelicals would have said “Second Corinthians 3:17.” Trump’s pronunciation thus shows how little he knows about the American evangelical subculture even as he claims to understand them.  He does not speak evangelicalese.
  • Finally, anyone who thinks that the big story of Trump’s visit to Liberty is how he cited this Bible verse is missing the bigger picture .  From a historical point of view, the Liberty response to Trump illustrates yet another case study of the close relationship between evangelicals and the GOP that began about forty years ago. From the perspective of Christians, Trump’s visit should cause serious concern, especially when Jerry Falwell Jr. holds Trump up as a Christian who follows the Golden Rule, displays Christian “fruit” (he quoted Matthew 7–“by your fruits you shall know them”–to describe Trump in a positive light), and has “radical” ideas just like Jesus did.

Trump, meanwhile, is not one to be laughed at without pointing a finger of blame, as he did on CNN after his Liberty appearance.

Donald Trump says it’s Tony Perkins’ fault he said “two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians” during a speech at Liberty University this week — a mistake that raised questions about his biblical knowledge as he courts evangelical voters.

The Republican presidential front-runner said in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon Wednesday that Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, had given him notes on what to say when he visited the evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia.

“Tony Perkins wrote that out for me — he actually wrote out 2, he wrote out the number 2 Corinthians,” Trump said. “I took exactly what Tony said, and I said, ‘Well Tony has to know better than anybody.’ “

Trump’s pronunciation of the Bible verse drew laughter from the Christian audience — but he downplayed it, saying his Scottish mother would have said “two Corinthians,” as well.

“It’s a very small deal, but a lot of people in different sections of the world say two, and I’ve had many, many people say that to me. My mother, as you know, was from Scotland, and they say two,” Trump said.

 Perkins said Thursday he was “guilty as charged” of writing the verse the way Trump described.

“No, I don’t dispute it at all. I wrote the scripture reference, which is 2 Corinthians 3:17, which is how it’s written,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “OutFront.” “I’m guilty as charged. That’s exactly what I did. I sent him a couple of suggestions of some things he could talk about as a connection point.”

“It shows that he’s not familiar with Bible,” Perkins added. “Donald Trump’s a very interesting guy. There are some things about him that I find fascinating, that I like about him, as well as other evangelicals.”

Perkins, who has not yet endorsed a candidate, said “there’s a lot more to consider” before he gets behind a candidate.

Well yes. But on the Wednesday before the caucuses, Perkins came to Iowa to endorse Cruz at a pro-life rally in West Des Moines.

Afterward, I talked to Perkins about 2 Corinthians and about his decision to endorse Cruz, and it turns out the two events were related.


Perkins shrugged about Trump calling him out for not writing out S-E-C-O-N-D CORINTHIANS. He said he likes Trump and has a good relationship with him and wasn’t there to say anything negative about Trump. But he did say that the publicity around 2 Corinthians – which he said is Liberty University’s motto – persuaded him to declare his heart and publicly endorse Cruz to clear up the impression that had been left in the public mind that, because he had advised Trump on his speech at LIberty, he was backing Trump.

So, I suppose, with Perkins’ endorsement, Cruz got the last laugh after all.

Except that as political money in the bank, I suspect Falwell’s endorsement  for Trump was more bang for the buck than Perkins’ endorsement of Cruz.

Last night, Perkins spoke up for Cruz at a Carolina Values Summit at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, that was attended by Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who was originally scheduled to appear on his own behalf but, after dropping out of the race post-Iowa, spoke on behalf of his new candidate of choice – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The last Winthrop Poll from early December had Trump with 24 percent, Cruz with 16 percent, Carson with 14 percent, Rubio with 11 percent and jeb Bush with nine percent:

Winthrop Poll Director Dr. Scott Huffmon noted, “Trump leads across multiple categories of voters from a high of 35% among those who wish to create a database of Muslims in the U.S. to a low of 22% among Evangelical Christians, who will make up nearly 60% of the S.C. GOP Presidential Primary electorate. Ted Cruz is tied with Ben Carson at 17% among Evangelicals. This is a significant drop for Carson among Evangelicals.  He registered 33% support among this group in a Monmouth Poll a month ago. It is worth noting that 1 in 5 Evangelicals remain undecided.

Polls in January showed Trump maintaining a lead, including among evangelicals, where, according to the most recent NBC/WSJ/Maris poll, Trump was the choice of 33 percent to 25 percent for Cruz.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.12.46 AM

As Huffmon noted, Carson has suffered a steep slide.

But, last night in Rock Hill, Carson was even more warmly received than Cruz. Those who have watched Carson disappear in the debates may not appreciate how engaging and compelling he can be in the more relaxed and open atmosphere of his solo appearances before what are really adoring audiences who, whatever they think of his presidential prospects, truly admire and love him.

What those admirers do in South Carolina matters.

Political strategist Arnold Steinberg writing at the conservative American Spectator:

“I really appreciate the support given to me by the evangelicals,” Donald Trump said in a 30-second Iowa ad released two days before the February 1 caucuses and also appearing on Facebook, an ad that might play well in South Carolina. “They’ve been incredible. Every poll says how well I’m doing with them. And you know, my mother gave me this bible, this very bible many years ago.” Trump then holds it up, open to the “Holy Bible” title page. “In fact, it’s her writing here,” he adds, as he flips to the first page. “She wrote the name and my address and it’s just very special to me. And, again I want to thank the evangelicals.” Speaking with conviction, he ends with emphasis and impact: “I will never let you down.” The spot cuts to the words, all caps, white on black: “TRUMP: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

How many of the other candidates could do a sales pitch with the Bible? Rand Paul, possibly after his last debate performance in Iowa but he was on stage only because Trump’s boycott opened a slot, and he has now suspended his campaign. Huckabee or Santorum? Maybe, but even Iowa voters saw these two past winners in their state as anachronistic. And now they are both are out of the race. Scott Walker, a favorite in early, meaningless Iowa polling, dropped out long ago, partly because he was not a closer on camera.

Ted Cruz? His roots in this constituency are deep, yet with a similar ad script, Cruz might have seemed robotic. Even in his lengthy Iowa victory speech, Cruz did not approach intimacy. In contrast, Trump was acting but seemed natural. For several days in Iowa, Cruz was busy fending off inconclusive but unrelenting attacks on his “Canadian citizenship” — Trump planting doubt provided a further excuse for some social conservatives to rationalize Trump. The high-tech Cruz campaign even made a tactical blunder a few days before the Iowa caucus with its controversial mailing to drive voter turnout. The mailing implied the targeted voter had committed a “voting violation” — a deception that turned off a few evangelicals. The maneuver also allowed the Iowa secretary of state to attack Cruz for misleading voters. Can anyone imagine salesman Trump, always a couple of moves ahead in the chess game, authorizing such a blowback mailing?

But who cares, the Cruz people will properly note, their guy placed first. But this is due largely to his tremendous investment of time and money, and an incredible “ground game” volunteer operation. Political novice Trump mistakenly assumed he could win Iowa without a full-scale volunteer operation. Finally, Trump’s refusal to appear at the final debate probably hurt him among undecided voters, who broke considerably for Rubio and Cruz, not for Trump.

Months ago Carson, an impressive man with perhaps the most potential, especially with evangelicals, was on track to win Iowa, but his momentum peaked with lackluster debate performances. Weeks ago Carson’s campaign was in disarray with staff firings or resignations, and then, after Iowa, more downsizing. By contrast, Trump’s do-it-yourself campaign has seemed to be working. Trump makes his decisions unilaterally, and his political instincts have mocked the conventional wisdom. Some evangelicals projected into Trump’s rebellious campaign a rebellion against the secular culture. When the votes were counted in Iowa, Carson — who months ago I would have expected to win Iowa — helped split the evangelical vote and came in fourth. Carson was reduced to raising the specter of a dirty trick by the Cruz camp, spreading a press report, while some caucus voting was still going on, that Carson was getting out of the rate. And Trump orchestrated the escalation of the Cruz-Carson feud. It remains to be seen whether the fallout will hurt Cruz down the line.


Even Trump’s second place showing in Iowa would have been impossible without his improbable support among Iowa religious conservatives, however you label them, and they have given him, rather than denied him, a launching pad. The paradox is that perhaps half the Iowa evangelicals had an unfavorable view of Trump. If Trump continues to do adequately with evangelicals in a multi-candidate primary, those evangelical voters will have “skin in the game.” Certainly, Falwell and other evangelical “leaders” who have endorsed Trump are now far more deeply invested in him as their choice for Republican nominee. Expect them in other states.

But if the race after South Carolina narrows to just Trump, Cruz, and one other (Kasich, Rubio, or Bush), then Trump could face a tougher overall challenge, and well see what happens to evangelicals. Christie and Fiorina already are gone; the former had little evangelical voter following, and Fiorina had claim to “values voters” but, in the end, little support at the polls. If after South Carolina Carson collapses or drops out, those evangelical voters would normally be more supportive of Cruz, but Trump has raised the specter of Cruz using a dirty trick to cheat Carson out of second place in Iowa. It seems like an eternity ago when Trump suggested the world renowned neurosurgeon was just an “OK doctor” and later Trump questioned Carson’s Seventh Day Adventist faith. Since then Trump has publicly courted “Ben” who, despite his well-known good nature, may harbor bad feelings toward Cruz. Carson may still be going to sleep each night wondering if the Cruz’s campaign’s implication that Carson was dropping cost him four votes per precinct in Iowa, cheating him out of second place, and, if so, was this God’s will, and what is the meaning?

Political analyst Philip Bump, reviewing in the Washington Post the CNN exit polling of voting in Tuesday’s New Hampshire election, pointed out that Trump’s across-the-board victory there almost extended to evangelical voters, where remarkably he and Cruz were basically tied. This finding has profound implications for South Carolina. Pundits keep talking about John McCain’s 2008 victory there over Mitt Romney, partly as a result of the state’s critical fundamentalist Christian vote, amidst a subterranean attack on Romney’s Mormon faith. Next week Cruz needs a home run among South Carolina evangelicals, but it’s unlikely he’ll run the table with them.

Trump wasn’t in Rock Hill last night. He was holding a rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

But, in his closing remarks, Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., an African-American Christian preacher and Pentecostal bishop from Maryland, who was the prime convener of the Carolina Values Summit, sounded very much like Jerry Falwell Jr. in describing the criteria that should guide conservative Christian voters in choosing a candidate.

The should look for a candidate who can “lead with vigor, authority and clarity,” he said.

“We all know people in our lifetimes who claim to be great teachers and believers, who taught Sunday school but they didn’t do such a good job as a president,” Jackson said.

“God sometimes uses people who don’t know him right now but who have been put forth, set up to make a difference,” Jackson said. “In the Old Testament there is the story of man name Cyrus and Cyrus was anointed by God to be a deliverer, if you want to call if that, of the Jewish people. So there’s a biblical precedence that some of the greatest deliverances that happened for God’s people came through the agency of folks who were not born again themselves at all but hey had great leadership, great authority, great power”

I talked to Winthrop’s Huffmon yesterday.

He said that 57 percent of the Republican primary electorate – and 69 percent of the Christian Republican electorate – identify as evangelicals.

He said historically, South Carolina evangelicals have not coalesced around a single candidate.

“Cruz is hoping to change the calculus for evangelicals in South Carolina, he is hoping they will coalesce, which normally they won’t. One candidate may have a greater percentage of the evangelicals but they tend to spread themselves out just like other voters. Cruz needs to make South Carolina evangelicals behave a little bit more like Iowa caucus evangelicals.”

“We’re the buckle on the Bible Belt, so as long as any candidate pays homage to religious reasons, that gives anybody who is religious an excuse to support them on any other issue they want to vote on. ‘Well, they’re talking about their faith, I know they’re a good Christian and I want to vote for them for that and blank, and  frankly the and blank is the real reason they are supporting him.”

“So all of the candidates – including He-who-can’t-name-my-favorite-Bible-verse-and-Two-Corinthians – he will say something to reach out to evangelicals and that will give them  a reason hey can vote for him.”

Theologically they can justify it by noting, like Falwell and Jackson have, that “God didn’t choose perfect people. He chose Rahab the prostitute and Matthew the tax collector. These were all imperfect people.”

“As long as they look at somebody and that person pays homage to their Christian belief or heritage it gives them free rein to support the candidate of their choice politically and they will,” Huffmon said, “and Cruz wants to change that and his ability to defeat Trump here depends on it.”





Welcome to South Carolina and the mean season of GOP politics

Good morning Austin:

After the celebrated niceness of Iowa, and the vaunted civic virtues of New Hampshire, the Republican presidential nominating contest moves to South Carolina, which is known for a mean politics that brings the worst out in candidates.

Really? How can that be? Probably a bum rap. People are people.

I just got in last night, so it’s too soon for me to tell.

But it is true that when I turned on my TV at the hotel in Greenville, I immediately learned that Ted Cruz is political pals with Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama and Edward Snowden, and weak – weak –  on immigration and national security.

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I’m not in Texas any more.

OK. Wait a minute. Who is behind this blaspheming of Cruz?

From Alex Isenstadt at Politico.

American Future Fund, a conservative group that spent heavily against Cruz in Iowa, will begin airing a TV commercial in South Carolina that labels Cruz as “weak” on national security — a damaging label in military-heavy South Carolina. The spot ties Cruz to Bernie Sanders, the liberal insurgent who’s gaining momentum in the Democratic primary, and President Barack Obama. “Ted Cruz talks tough on national security. But look at his record. Cruz voted with Bernie Sanders against defense spending,” the ad says. “Cruz sided with Obama to weaken our ability to track terrorists.”


Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier slammed the claims, saying they were untrue and would not sway voters.

“The ad is appropriately titled “Weak” because none of the claims made stand up to reason or fact,” she said in an email. “This is from the same group that failed to stop us in Iowa and will run into the same roadblock in South Carolina. As they should have already learned, misconstruing Cruz’s record will not work, because voters don’t believe it, they know that Ted has consistently led on efforts to strengthen our national security, fight radical Islamic terrorism, and oppose amnesty.”

The American Future Fund.

Who dat?

Well, here is some of their previous handiwork, including this anti-Kasich ad.

The American Future Fund is the brainchild of Nick Ryan.

Here’s Ryan on Ryan.

Nick Ryan has founded and leads a variety of diversified business and political interests in Iowa and across the nation. An active investor and entrepreneur, Ryan has founded and owns an interest in a variety of agriculture, energy and renewable resources, financial services, information technology, and marketing endeavors.

In 2007, Ryan founded the American Future Fund (AFF), a 501(c)4 public interest organization focused on advocating free market principles. Under Mr. Ryan’s leadership, AFF has emerged as the go-to national leader in advocating for limited government and free market solutions to the problems facing the United States. Under Ryan’s leadership, AFF has grown to be one of the largest conservative organizations in the country.

In addition to his work with AFF, Mr. Ryan is President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in Washington, D.C. and Des Moines, IA. Mr. Ryan also serves as founder and President of Concordia Group LLC, a public affairs firm headquartered in West Des Moines, IA focusing on project management, communications strategy, and grassroots advocacy for corporate, non-profit and political clientele.

In 2015, Mr. Ryan was named President of Pursuing America’s Greatness, a super political action committee supporting Governor Mike Huckabee.  Pursuing America’s Greatness is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In 2011, Mr. Ryan founded the Red, White & Blue Fund, former Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) super political action committee.

From Cady Zuvich at Al Jazeera:

A conservative dark money group took its first shot in the presidential TV ad wars with a six-figure ad buy attacking ascendant Republican candidate Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

The Iowa-based American Future Fund is a conservative nonprofit linked to the billionaire brothers Charles Koch and David Koch, which since 2010 has inundated federal and state races with tens of millions of dollars.

But it seems that Kasich, while a Republican, is not right-leaning enough for the group.

“John Kasich — not a conservative. Not even a moderate. An Obama Republican,” the ad’s narrator says. The ad zeroes in on Kasich’s purported support of Common Core educational standards, Medicaid expansion and tax increases.

Airing in New Hampshire markets, the ad flurry follows Kasich’s recent surge in the Granite State. Kasich nabbed endorsements from two newspapers there and is making a strong showing in New Hampshire polls. But if American Future Fund has any say, he will flounder in the state’s primary, the first in the nation, on Feb. 9.

OK. I get going after Kasich from the People’s Republic of Ohio, awash in Medicaid funding and profligate compassion, but Texas Ted Cruz?

The Koch brothers don’t like Cruz? I’m thoroughly confused.

From Alan Rappeport at the New York Times last month.

The billionaire Koch brothers have long been power brokers within the Republican Party, using their wealth to steer candidates and their policies. But this election season is turning out to be a different story, with a billionaire celebrity and a firebrand senator from Texas taking the political debate in directions that Charles G. Koch finds worrisome.

In an interview with The Financial Times, Mr. Koch bemoaned the state of the field of Republican candidates seeking the nomination and suggested that big money was losing its influence in politics these days. His concern over the policies of Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was especially clear.

“It is hard for me to get a high level of enthusiasm because the things I’m passionate about, and I think this country urgently needs, aren’t being addressed,” said Mr. Koch, 80, the chairman of Koch Industries.

Asked about Mr. Trump’s plan to bar foreign Muslims from entering the United States, Mr. Koch said that such a policy was antithetical to what America represents.

“Well, then you destroy our free society,” Mr. Koch said. “Who is it that said, ‘If you want to defend your liberty, the first thing you’ve got to do is defend the liberty of people you like the least?’”

Mr. Koch also said that Mr. Cruz’s plan to “carpet bomb” the Islamic State militants would be fruitless, wondering if the next step would be to go country to country bombing Muslims.

“I’ve studied revolutionaries a lot,” Mr. Koch said. “Mao said that the people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims. Not that we don’t need to defend ourselves and have better intelligence and all that, but how do we create an unfriendly sea for the terrorists in the Muslim communities? We haven’t done a good job of that.”

Last year, the Koch brothers signaled that their network of political nonprofits, “super PACs” and like-minded donors would spend almost $900 million advancing conservative candidates and policies through the 2016 election.

Even before carpet bombing, there was this from Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media in November.

Before Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) electrified conservatives with his denunciation of liberal media bias at the GOP presidential debate last week, he took a little-noticed position on a major crime bill before the Senate that set him apart from the politically powerful Koch brothers. Taking the side of law-and-order conservatives on an issue that could emerge as a major focus of the 2016 presidential campaign, Cruz came out against the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123) on the grounds that the legislation, which will retroactively reduce the sentences of thousands of federal prison inmates, could lead to the release of violent criminals, some convicted of using weapons while engaged in other crimes. He said the Senate bill would release “illegal aliens with criminal convictions” when a “major crime wave” is already sweeping the nation.

In an extraordinary development, the Koch brothers decided to publicly go after Cruz. Echoing the views of the libertarian billionaires, whose network of conservative advocacy groups was planning to spend $889 million on the 2016 campaign, Mark Holden, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of Koch Industries, Inc., issued a statement denouncing the Texas senator by name. He said, “We are disappointed that some members, including Senator Cruz, who have supported the need for reform and been strong supporters of the Bill of Rights, did not support this bill.”

While Cruz had indicated support back in February for a Senate bill on “sentencing reform,” he voted against the latest version because he said it would lead to more criminals being released from prison and committing crimes against law-abiding citizens and police.

OK. So let me get this straight. Ted Cruz is too right-wing on carpet bombing and criminal justice for the libertarian Koch brothers, and they are apparently helping fund an anti-Cruz ad campaign in South Carolina that portrays Cruz as an Obama-Sanders liberal.

Meanwhile, Cruz told Megyn Kelly on Fox yesterday that Trump won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a good state for liberal Republicans. And, of course, Donald Trump is a liberal.

Well, I don’t know. Not every Republican winner in New Hampshire is a super-liberal.

1980 – Ronald Reagan* (49.6%) George H.W. Bush (22.7%) Howard H. Baker (12.1%) John B. Anderson (9.8%) Philip M. Crane (1.8%) John B. Connally (1.5%)

1996 – Pat Buchanan (27.2%) Bob Dole* (26.2%) Lamar Alexander (22.6) Steve Forbes (12.2%) Richard Lugar (5.2%) Alan Keyes (2.7%) Morry Taylor (1.4%)

2008 – John McCain* (37.1%) Mitt Romney (31.6%) Mike Huckabee (11.2%) Rudolph W. Giuliani (8.6%) Ron Paul (7.7%) Fred D. Thompson (1.2%) Duncan Hunter (0.5%) Alan Keyes (0.1%)

From The Blaze, on Cruz campaigning in New Hampshire:

Cruz cast himself as a long-shot conservative candidate in the state, much like former President Ronald Reagan was when he won the New Hampshire primary.

“Thirty-six years ago, the state of New Hampshire faced a similar election,” Cruz said. “An election where the stakes were every bit as great as they are today. And thirty-six years ago, the Granite State saw the former governor of California coming to it with all of the media saying, ‘This guy can’t win,’ with all of the media saying, ‘This guy is too far to the right, he’s too conservative.’ And besides, the media told New Hampshire, he’s 15-20 points behind in the polls.

“And yet, the men and women of this state took a look at the candidates, examined their records, and said ‘we’re tired of candidates who haven’t walked the walk. We’re tired of campaign conservatives who can give a good talk, but don’t stand when it matters.”

Cruz said that the men and women of New Hampshire handed Reagan “a stunning upset victory” that “gave the United States and the world Ronald Wilson Reagan.”

“We’re in a similar moment,” Cruz said.

Only, it was Trump triumphant on Tuesday.

Cruz celebrated his third-place showing in New Hampshire as a great victory, but looking back at 2008, Cruz’s third-place, 12 percent this year is not very different from Huckabee’s third-place, 11.2 percent back then, and Huckabee’s showing is retrospectively viewed as a disaster that proved he wouldn’t go the distance.

That said, i think it is true that Cruz came out of New Hampshire pretty well-positioned.

From Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller.

So the really interesting point is that I think the big winner of the night is Ted Cruz . The primaries are about to head South, which is Cruz country. Unlike other Evangelical candidates who win Iowa but can’t parlay that into more, Cruz’s respectable finish in New Hampshire demonstrates that he’s not simply a regional candidate.

If you think about what happened on Tuesday night, Cruz swapped a serious rival (Rubio) for a guy who likely is a one-hit wonder (Kasich). That’s a trade he will take every day and twice on Sundays. Because the “establishment” lane is now muddled and muddy (even Jeb Bush is looking better these days!), there is a real danger that mainstream conservative voters could begin to coalesce around Cruz as the best, last hope to stop Donald Trump.

Here is the personal email Cruz sent yesterday to my friend Bruce.

Ted Cruz Personal Email – May Include Privileged Communication


Do you have a few minutes to read my email?

I hope you will stop what you are doing for just a moment and let me explain…

The results of the first two states are in, and it’s clear that we are down to a two person race — me vs. Donald Trump!

You also know — the winner will take on Hillary Clinton.

Bruce, let me be blunt. I can beat Hillary Clinton. Donald can’t.

That is why I am asking you — one of my closest and most loyal supporters — will you redouble your support for me today?

I need you now more than ever, and let me tell you why.

When I first announced my campaign, Heidi and I committed that we would run an issues oriented, positive campaign. Unfortunately, my friend, Donald Trump, didn’t make that same commitment.

While Donald continues with personal attacks — and vulgar profanities — I do not intend to respond, but that won’t stop Donald.

He is so rattled by my surge in the polls, our victory in Iowa, and our strong finish in New Hampshire that he has decided to continue his scorched earth campaign in an attempt to burn down everyone and everything in his path.

I can’t fault Donald for this…it’s the only way he can distract voters from his record:

Support for Hillary-style healthcare;

Support for partial birth abortion;

Support for bank bailouts;

Support for Obama stimulus; and

Enthusiastic embrace of eminent domain.

Bruce, will you help me set the record straight?

Without your help, he might get away with it…and if he does, say hello to President Hillary Clinton.

That’s why I need your immediate help.

As I write this email to you, I’m being briefed that our Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns have taken a significant toll on my campaign budget. As of today, I’m still $490,700 short of my mid-month budget for February.

With South Carolina voting next in just 10 days — I can’t afford to come up short. That’s why I’m turning to you again. Will you help me make up the difference by using one of the secure links below?

You can make a HUGE impact on this campaign and help me win this nomination with an IMMEDIATE contribution — no matter how small.

There is great strength in numbers.

With your personal contribution, you’ll also be sending a big message to Donald Trump that tearing others down and misleading voters is not the best way to unite conservatives and make America great again.

Bruce, I’ll set the record straight on Donald’s false attacks, secure the Republican nomination, AND DEFEAT HILLARY, but I can only get there with your continued help.

This is our time!

Together, we will reignite liberty in America.

For liberty,

Ted Cruz

Meanwhile, Bruce also heard from Marco Rubio, who also wanted money, but not before apologizing for letting Bruce down.

Good grief: I blew it. I won’t blow it again. Please give.


On Saturday night at the debate, I dropped the ball. I want you to know that will never happen again.

We are heading to South Carolina, Nevada and beyond. Make no mistake: We are going to win this nomination.

Throughout my life, I’ve known tough times. In New Hampshire last night, I told the story of how when I was young, at one point, my father lost his job as an apartment manager and my family had to move out of our Miami apartment, all in the same week. He had to move clear across the country to Las Vegas to look for work, and the job he finally found, after 20 years as a bartender who’d finally moved his way up a bit, had him starting from scratch again as a busboy.

I know how to come from behind. We’re going to show America what leadership and a vision for a New American Century look like.

Bruce, if you heard what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton said last night, you know the stakes: If one of them wins this fall, they will keep up President Obama’s efforts to change our country beyond recognition.

I shudder to think what another eight years of President Obama’s liberal leadership and lawless actions will look like. Bruce, this is our chance to ensure that doesn’t happen.

I am the only conservative candidate who can unite our party and beat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders this fall.

If you want a Republican White House next year instead, with the ideas we need to restore America in the 21st Century, then I need your support.

Again, this is just the beginning. I hope I’ll have your support as we continue this journey.


Marco Rubio
Republican Candidate for President

On CNN last night, Rudy Giuliani said Ted Cruz was too much the conservative purist and not the right choice for president.

He knew Ronald Reagan, Giuliani said, and Ted Cruz is no Ronald Reagan.

From Tom Edsall in the New York Times.

“Cruz is a leader of the ‘purity caucus’ that is obstinate, grandstanding and very un-Reagan like and very frustrating for his Senate colleagues,” Ed Rogers, chairman of the BGR Group, one of the major lobbying firms, wrote to me in an email. John Feehery, president of Quinn Gillespie Communications, and a former top Republican staffer on Capitol Hill, was more outspoken:

Cruz is an army of one, alienating anybody who is in his path. He advocates losing strategies purely to further his own career at the expense of the party.

The second basis for Republican animosity toward Cruz is the widespread conviction that Cruz would not only lose in a landslide, but that he would bring the Republican Senate majority and many House Republicans down with him.

But, writes Edsall, no one questions Cruz’s conservative credentials.

There is an unusual degree of consensus on the intensity of Cruz’s conservatism among experts in campaigns, elections and partisan polarization.

I asked Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory, just how conservative Cruz is. Abramowitz replied:

Cruz’s positions are on the far right of the Republican Party today, which would certainly place him far to the right of past conservative leaders like Reagan or Gingrich during his years as Speaker. In fact, his voting record is among the 2 or 3 most consistently conservative in the Senate. He is very conservative on every issue dimension: economic policy, social policy and national security/foreign policy. He is running on that record — emphasizing his purity compared with his rivals.

Cruz fits the conservative bill of particulars on every count. Edward Carmines, a political scientist at Indiana University, affirmed Abramowitz’s judgment:

What Cruz represents is the embodiment of the hard right; he has extremely conservative positions not just on economic and social welfare issues like social security, health care, affirmative action programs for women and minorities, and taxes but also on social and cultural issues such as gun control, prayer in schools, abortion, and gay marriage.

Cruz’s extremism has been statistically presented by Keith Poole, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. Poole has produced a chart, based on voting records, of the ideological positions of presidential candidates who have served in the House or Senate. The chart shows Cruz’s voting record as substantially more conservative than that of Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham or Bob Dole.


During his three years in Washington, Cruz has earned an unprecedented level of animosity from elites on both the left and right. What is really stunning to a longtime observer of Washington is the number of reputable people who have brutally criticized Cruz on the record. The New Republic recently published an extraordinary collection of anti-Cruz quotes that runs from the left through the center to the right. His colleagues are on record as hating him — hate may be too mild a description. First and foremost, he has angered virtually everyone he works with, especially his fellow Republican senators.

So presumably, Cruz will weather the South Carolina primary with his anti-Washington, conservative bona fides intact.

But then there was Kellyanne Conway, the Republican pollster and consultant who leads one of Cruz’s super PACs, on CNN last night, saying that Trump, unlike Cruz, was too much the Washington outsider.

“How can your first job in Washington be commander-in-chief?” Conway asked.

Third-place in New Hampshire is a charm for Ted Cruz

Good morning Austin:

Ted Cruz didn’t make it into the highlight clips out of yesterday’s New Hampshire primary.

Flipping back and forth between MSNBC, Fox and CNN last night, I couldn’t find any coverage of his election-night speech. But, with 89 percent of the vote counted, it appears he finished third, well behind Donald Trump and John Kasich, but a little more than a thousand votes ahead of Jeb bush and nearly 3,000 votes ahead of Marco Rubio.

Fortunately, the Statesman’s Ken Herman was there.

When Cruz spoke to supporters Tuesday night he and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were battling for third place behind Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, both of whom had the strong showings they needed here. Cruz led Bush for third by a hair and said he was “effectively tied for third,” a result that allowed him to sound the same themes he did after his surprising win over Trump in Iowa.

“We’ve done what the pundits and media said could not be done,” he said, also calling the result “what the Washington establishment desperately hoped would not be done.”

For Cruz, the good news about the third place finish meant he had beaten U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the battle to emerge as Trump’s prime foe.

And here is some smuggled footage of Cruz’s election night appearance in New Hampshire.

In the words of Bernie Sanders to Larry David on Saturday Night LIve, that’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.


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He may not have been given the opportunity to give a triumphal third-place finish speech before a national audience, a la Marco Rubio in Iowa. He may not ride into South Carolina surging.  But he moves South in good stead, with the field reshaped in ways that largely benefit him.

Here, from Cruz’s press office, is what Cruz had to say Tuesday night:

HOLLIS, NH – Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz today addressed the people of the Granite State and conservatives across the country after a strong finish in the New Hampshire primary. Excerpts of his remarks included below:

“Together, we have done what the pundits and the media said could not be done, what the Washington establishment desperately hoped would not be done. 

“The real winner – the real winner – is the conservative grassroots. Who propelled us to an outright victory in Iowa and to a far stronger result and outcome in New Hampshire than anyone predicted….

“Thank you New Hampshire, for tonight’s result, your victory tonight has left the Washington Cartel utterly terrified.

“And so now on to South Carolina, on to Nevada, on to Super Tuesday. We’ve put Washington on the run, and tonight’s outcome is a victory for ‘we the people.’ And this election, this primary and this general election in November 2016, will be a victory for the hardworking men and women who want to believe again in the promise of America against the bipartisan corruption of Washington, which mark my words will end on January 20, 2017.” 

Well, I’m not sure  a 12 percent finish terrified anybody, and I think Trump remains the Godzilla of the 2016 presidential race.

But third place was good for Cruz in a place outside his political comfort zone, and he did it with admirable efficiency.

From Huffington Post:


Huffington Post
Huffington Post

Cruz now has a win in iowa and a show in New Hampshire. The most important outcome in New Hampshire was beating Rubio and the effective humiliation of Cruz’s generational and senatorial peer, who, absent his embarrassing performance at Saturday night’s debate, would probably have finished second, ahead of Kasich and well ahead of Cruz. And, Rubio, far more than Kasich, would have been in a position to exploit a second-place finish in New Hampshire to execute his 3-2-1 strategy South Carolina.

Rubio was the one candidate who could have emerged as the consensus anti-Trump center-right candidate and competed with Cruz for tea party/conservative voters. But, after New Hampshire, Steve Schmidt said on Morning Joe this morning, Rubio, “doesn’t have the oxygen or the rationale” to make a real play in South Carolina.

He’s most likely done.

“Ted Cruz is the conservative candidate in this race,” Schmidt, an accomplished Republican operative, said. “Donald Trump has to avoid a head-on-head with Ted Cruz.”

Cruz was hoping, coming out of Iowa, that this would devolve into a one-on-one race. That hasn’t happened yet, but the modestly thinned pack is not bad for Cruz. Bush has standing and organization – and, with his super PAC, money to burn –  in South Carolina, and will have his brother campaigning for him in a place where that really helps. But Kasich complicates things for Bush, and neither is likely to cut much into Cruz’s base with the most conservative and evangelical voters.

Trump, however, is another matter, and South Carolina, per the truly ugly Bush-McCain primary in 2000, could be brutal.

“In South Carolina, meanness is a virtue,” said Schmidt, who was McCain’s top strategist in 2008.

Trump is already running a tough anti-Cruz ad in South Carolina.

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From Theodore Schleifer at CNN:

Donald Trump is launching an offensive against Ted Cruz in South Carolina, calling him the “worst kind of Washington insider” in a wide-ranging attack ad that paints him as dishonest, unsavory and inconsistent.

Cruz and Trump have both labored to position themselves as the race’s outsiders, a claim that Trump looks to rebut in the new South Carolina spot.

“What kind of man talks from both sides of his mouth on amnesty for illegals on national television — and still denies it?” a narrator says in the advertisement. “Who took more than a million dollars in sweetheart loans from Wall Street banks, and fails to disclose it as required by law? Who runs a campaign accused of dirty tricks, and tried to sabotage Ben Carson with false rumors?”


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Here’s another ad from a pro-Trump super PAC.

Cruz has his own clever and sophisticated, anti-Trump ad. But I think it’s patty-cake compared to what is to come.

Trump’s a hard problem to solve.

How does Cruz fight a guy who has a broader ideological reach even as he  does well with evangelical voters – he has the endorsement of Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell Jr. – and can, as needed, out-flank Cruz on the right, whether it’s on immigration – ban Muslim immigration – or torture – on which, Trump, with profane mischief, suggested Cruz is “a pussy.”

Cruz flinched at Saturday’s debate when he had the opportunity to directly confront Trump on his lack of a presidential temperament.

I am not sure Cruz is yet ready for a one-on-one race with Trump, and he may benefit from having Jeb Bush and his super PAC in South Carolina, and all the others all throwing their weight into bringing down the American Godzilla.


Bullied pulpit. How Ted Cruz was out-debated by Trump and Carson but still came out ahead

Good morning Austin:

Ted Cruz may be the best debater among the Republican field of presidential candidates, but it certainly wasn’t in evidence Saturday night at the last debate before the New Hampshire primary.

Cruz managed to be bullied by Donald Trump and, more remarkably, cowed by Dr. Ben Carson in what was the debating equivalent of a shark being swallowed whole by a guppy.

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It was a sight to behold, and it all happened in the two opening sequences of the riveting, rat-tat-tat debate at Saint Anselm College.

But, very fortunately for Cruz, his early humiliations were obscured by Marco Rubio’s stunning exhibition of the rhetorical technique known as epimone – the persistent repetition of the same plea in much the same words.

Or, as New Jersey Gov. Christie, Rubio’s tormentor Saturday night, put it when Rubio repeated four times in almost precisely the same words – This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not true. He knows exactly what he’s doing:

CHRISTIE: There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.

Well, I don’t know about that. But, at least Rick Perry only said “oops” once.

The theory behind Rubio’s line is that Obama is not proof that America shouldn’t elect another first-term senator as president, but proof that an ideological president with very little experience can wreck America, and that an inexperienced president of the opposite but equally strong ideological persuasion can restore America.

Well. Why not?

Rubio can be persuasive. He had managed to spin his third-place finish in Iowa into something better than Cruz’s first-place finish and Trump’s second-place finish, vaulting him, it seemed, into second place in New Hampshire, with a bullet.

The debate would appear to have, at the very least, slowed Marcomentum.

This was very good news for every other candidate, very much including Cruz.

Coming off his Iowa victory, Cruz had wanted the nominating contest to be seen as a two-man race between him and Trump. Rubio’s rise was ruining that narrative, and more than any other candidate, Rubio was the mainstream/establishment candidate with the most potential to compete with Cruz for more conservative/tea party voters.

New Hampshire is not crucial to Cruz, as long as he doesn’t drop off the map. What’s critical is the South Carolina primary on Feb. 20, and the last thing Cruz wants to contend with there is a surging Marco Rubio.

So, thanks to Christie and Rubio, Cruz emerged from Saturday night better off than he went in.

But it wasn’t pretty.

The debate got off to kind of a slapstick start when Carson failed to hear his entrance cue.

But, once that was behind them, the first question  from moderator David Muir was to Trump about Cruz’s acerbic comments earlier in the week that, were Trump president, we might awake one day to find that he had nuked Denmark.


MUIR: So let’s get started. We welcome you all to the debate stage here tonight. We’re going to tackle the issues Americans are most concerned about, the economy, ISIS, Homeland Security. And here in New Hampshire, some of the most heated rhetoric yet over who is best suited to step in on day one, who has the experience, who has the temperament to be commander-in-chief.

Mr. Trump, Senator Cruz has said about you right here in New Hampshire this week, quote, “I don’t know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this way, having his finger on the button. We’re liable to wake up one morning, and if he were president, he would nuke Denmark.” Saying, quote, “That’s temperament of a leader to keep this country safe.”

I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to this and to tell the American people tonight why you do have the temperament to be commander-in-chief.

TRUMP: I actually think I have the best temperament. I built a massive corporation. I employ thousands and thousands of people. I’ve gotten along with people for years and years, have tremendous relationships with many people, including politicians on both sides. And no matter how you cut it, when I — when I came out, I hit immigration, I hit it very hard. Everybody said, “Oh, the temperament,” because I talked about illegal immigration.

Now, everybody’s coming to me, they’re all trying to say, well, he’s right, we have to come to him. I hit other things. I talked about Muslims. We have a problem. Nobody else wanted to mention the problem, I brought it up. I took a lot of heat. We have to have a temporary something, because there’s something going on that’s not good. And remember this, I’m the only one up here, when the war of Iraq — in Iraq, I was the one that said, “Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East.” So, I’m not one with a trigger. I’m not one with a trigger. Other people up here, believe me, would be a lot faster.

But I’ll build the military stronger, bigger, better than anybody up here, and nobody is going to mess with us. That, I can tell you.


MUIR: Mr. Trump, thank you. I want to bring this to Senator Cruz, then.

Because Senator, you did said of Trump’s behavior this week, that’s not the temperament of a leader to keep this country safe.

Why not?

CRUZ: Well, you know, David, the assessment the voters are making here in New Hampshire and across the country is they are evaluating each and every one of us. They are looking to our experience. They are looking to our knowledge. They are looking to our temperament and judgment. They are looking to our clarity of vision and our strength of resolve.

The world is getting much more dangerous. We’ve had seven years with Barack Obama in the oval office, a commander-in-chief that is unwilling even to acknowledge the enemy we’re facing. This is a president who, in the wake of Paris, in the wake of San Bernardino, will not even use the words radical Islamic terrorism, much less focus on defeating the enemy.

I am convinced every individual standing on this stage, would make a much better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.


And the primary voters are making the assessment for each of us, who is best prepared to keep this country safe, to rebuild the military, to rebuild our Navy, our Air Force, our Army, our Marines, and to ensure that we keep America safe.

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MUIR: Senator Cruz, I did ask about Mr. Trump. You said he doesn’t have the temperament to be commander-in-chief. Do you stand by those words?

CRUZ: I think that is an assessment the voters are going to make. And they are going to make it of each and every one of us. They are going to assess who is level-headed, who has clear vision, who has judgment, who can confront our enemies, who can confront the threats we face in this country, and who can have the judgment when to engage and when not to engage — both are incredibly important for a commander-in-chief, knowing how to go after our enemies.

In the case of Iran, for example, who has the clarity of vision to understand that the Ayatollah Khamenei, when he chants, “Death to America,” he means it. We need a president with the judgment and resolve to keep this country safe from radical Islamic terrorists.

MUIR: Senator Cruz, thank you. We’re going to continue on this notion of readiness and experience. I’m going to come back.

TRUMP: Am I allowed to respond? I have to respond.

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MUIR: If you would like to respond, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: First of all, I respect what Ted just said, but if you noticed, he didn’t answer your question. And that’s what’s going to happen — OK.


That’s what’s going to happen with our enemies and the people we compete against. We’re going to win with Trump. We’re going to win. We don’t win anymore. Our country doesn’t win anymore. We’re going to win with Trump. And people back down with Trump. And that’s what I like and that’s what the country is going to like.

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On Wednesday, Cruz is mocking Trump as unstable.

On Saturday, standing next to Trump, he passes on the question of Trump’s temperament, suggesting instead that a fellow Republican who might nuke Denmark in a fit of pique is still way better than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, for whom Denmark is actually his vision of a democratic socialist paradise.

Meanwhile, Martha Raddatz, another of the moderators, posed a question to Cruz that went to his military temperament.

RADDATZ: Senator Cruz, you advocate what you call carpet bombing, or saturation bombing, to defeat ISIS, citing the more than 1,100 air attacks that the U.S. carried out during the first Gulf War in 1991.

Explain how a strategy to defeat a standing army would work against an unconventional terrorist group that is now hiding amongst the population.

CRUZ: Well, sure. It starts with a commander-in-chief that sets the objective. And the objective has to be utterly and completely destroying ISIS. Obama hasn’t started with that objective and everything else flows from there.

Once you set that objective, we have the tools to carry that out. The first tool is overwhelming air power. It is one of the blessings of the United States of America, having the greatest military on the face of the earth, is we have the ability to use that air power.

As you know, in the first Persian Gulf War, it was 1,100 air attacks a day. Obama is launching between 15 and 30. Now, when I say saturation carpet bombing, that is not indiscriminate.

That is targeted at oil facilities. It’s targeted at the oil tankers. It’s targeted at command and control locations. It’s targeted at infrastructure. It’s targeted at communications. It’s targeted at bombing all of the roads and bridges going in and out of Raqqa. It’s using overwhelming air power.

You know, couple of weeks ago, it was reported that a facility is open called Jihadist University. Now, the question I wonder, why is that building still standing? It should be rubble. And if you had a president…



CRUZ: … although I will say this. I would be willing to wait until freshman orientation before launching those bombs

Clever line, but ….

From the New York Times Frank Bruni after a previous Republican debate on Dec. 15:

Someone needs to explain carpets to Ted Cruz.

They’re continuous stretches of material, usually rectangular, sometimes round. They’re not staggered, interrupted, with stops, starts, holes and sharp jags so that they smother and blot out only the evil bits of floor but leave adjacent, innocent ones untouched.

When you call for carpet bombing, as Cruz did again on Tuesday night, you are not outlining a strategy of pinpoint targeting or of any discernment.

You are sounding big and bold and advocating something indiscriminate. That’s the nature of a carpet. You can’t pretend otherwise.

Unless you’re Cruz, who can pretend just about anything.

“You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops,” he said, as if there’s no mingling and the fighters of the Islamic State are somehow clustered apart from everyone they control, extinguished with the mere dropping of a rug.

“The object isn’t to level a city,” he added, never specifying how he would separate the good edifices and actors from the bad.

That’s some magic carpet.

Back to the debate. The second round of questions, after Trump-Cruz, were Carson-Cruz, with equally devastating results.

MUIR: Dr. Carson, on the day of the Iowa caucuses, the Cruz campaign sent out messages and voicemails saying, quote, “Breaking news. Dr. Ben Carson will be planning to suspend his campaign following tonight’s caucuses. Please inform any Carson caucus-goers of this news.”

But as we can all see, you are still standing here tonight. Late this week, your campaign sent this e-mail, quote, “This kind of deceitful behavior is why the American people don’t trust politicians. If Senator Cruz does not act, then he clearly represents D.C. values.”

What kind of action do you think Senator Cruz should take?

CARSON: Well, you know, when I wasn’t introduced No. 2, as was the plan, I thought maybe he thought I already had dropped out. But…


But you know, today is the 105th anniversary, or — 105th birthday of Ronald Reagan. His 11 Commandment was not to speak ill of another Republican. So, I’m not going to use this opportunity to savage the reputation of Senator Cruz.


But I will say — I will say — I will say that I was very disappointed that members of his team thought so little of me that they thought that after having hundreds, if not thousands of volunteers and college students who sacrificed their time and were dedicated to the cause — one even died — to think that I would just walk away ten minutes before the caucus and say, “Forget about you guys.”

I mean, who would do something like that? Now, I don’t think anyone on this stage would do something like that. And to assume that someone would, what does that tell you? So, unfortunately, it did happen.

It gives us a very good example of certain types of Washington ethics. Washington ethics. Washington ethics basically says, if it’s legal, you do what you need to do in order to win. That’s not my ethics. My ethics is, you do what’s right.

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MUIR: Senator Cruz.


MUIR: Dr. Carson, thank you.

Senator Cruz, you have said that Dr. Carson and his wife have become friends of yours. I’m curious as why you didn’t call ahead of time to either the doctor or his wife or have your campaign check in with the other campaign before sending out those messages.

CRUZ: Ben is a good and honorable man and Ben and Candy have become friends. He has an amazing life story that has inspired millions, including me. When this transpired, I apologized to him then and I do so now. Ben, I’m sorry.

Let me tell you the facts of what occurred for those who are interested in knowing. On Monday night, about 6:30 p.m., CNN reported that Ben was not going from Iowa to New Hampshire or South Carolina. Rather, he was, quote, “Taking a break from campaigning.”

They reported that on television, CNN’s political anchors, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer, said it was highly unusual and highly significant. My political team saw CNN’s report breaking news and they forwarded that news to our volunteers, it was being covered on live television.

Now, at the time, I was at the caucuses, I was getting ready to speak at the caucuses just like Ben was, just like everyone else was. I knew nothing about this. A couple hours later, I found out about it. I was told that Ben was unhappy. I called him that evening because I respect him very, very highly. I didn’t reach him that evening.


I reached him the next day and apologized. He asked me then, he said, Ted, would you make this apologize in public? I said, yes, I will. And I did so. I regret that subsequently, CNN reported on that — they didn’t correct that story until 9:15 that night. So from 6:30 p.m. to 9:15, that’s what CNN was reporting.

Subsequent to that initial report, Ben’s campaign put out a statement saying that he was not suspending his campaign. I wish that our campaign staff had forwarded that statement. They were unaware of it, I wish that they had, that’s why I apologized.

MUIR: Senator Cruz, thank you.

We’re going to move on here. Back to the issues…

CARSON: Since I was mentioned…

CARSON: Since I was mentioned…

MUIR: Dr. Carson, please.

CARSON: This is great you guys. I want you all to mention me when you say something.


In fact, the time line indicates that initial tweet from CNN was followed by another one within one minute that clarified that I was not dropping out. So, what happened to that one, it is unclear. But the bottom line is, we can see what happened, everybody can see what happened and you can make your own judgment.

MUIR: Dr. Carson, thank you. Thank you, doctor.

What the Cruz campaign did to Carson was pretty low on the continuum of dirty tricks.

If a 1 is removing a rival’s lawn sign, and a 10 is the Watergate break-in, this was probably a 2 or 3.

And, for a little context, here is a recent story from the Kansas City Star about Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager.

Roe’s ride to the top of the political consultant class has been two decades in the making — and bumpy.

He’s not well known to the general public, although that’s changing. His name increasingly pops up in campaign profiles in national publications. Rolling Stone magazine is sniffing around.

But Roe is more famous in his home state of Missouri than many of the politicians he’s put in office. For much of the 21st century, his bare-knuckle, politics-ain’t-beanbag approach has defined the electoral landscape in the state.

Roe has routinely battled Democrats. In 2006 he mauled Democrat Sara Jo Shettles’ campaign for Missouri’s 6th District House seat, held by U.S. Rep. Sam Graves. A Roe-produced ad linked Shettles with “smut” because she sold ads for a company that published an adult magazine.

Shettles had nothing to do with the adult publication, and she remains bitter about her experience with Roe.

“It’s a game to him,” she said. “He’s done rotten things to people with long-lasting impact.”

In 2008, Roe demolished former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes’ congressional campaign against Graves by linking her with the “San Francisco values” of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Roe once ordered aides to comb through opponents’ trash, looking for campaign fodder. He hired operatives to track candidates with video cameras, leading some to complain of unnecessary provocation and to file complaints with police.

Roe has long defended such tactics.

“These are not prom-queen elections,” he said in 2007. “Who’s elected, what their values are, all that determines the direction of the nation.”

And those who have worked on those campaigns, and others, insist Roe’s efforts are not out of bounds.

“Jeff Roe is not a villain in somebody’s melodrama,” said Woody Cozad, a lobbyist and former director of the Missouri Republican Party. “Politics in Missouri have been pretty rough from the get-go.”

Yet Roe has had serious run-ins with Republicans as well.


In 2014, at least two GOP candidates for Missouri governor — Catherine Hanaway and Tom Schweich — tried to hire Axiom for their campaigns. Hanaway won the competition.

In February 2015, Roe drafted and aired a radio ad on Hanaway’s behalf, comparing Schweich with fictional deputy sheriff Barney Fife. A few days later Schweich took his own life.

(Listen to the ad here. it’s pretty creepy.)

Friends say Schweich’s fragile mental state played a major role in that tragedy, and inaccurate claims that Schweich was Jewish concerned the state auditor. But some Schweich associates believe he was particularly worried about Roe — he kept a computer file, friends say, of information he believed damaging to the consultant.

Roe’s radio ad, the friends say, played a part in pushing Schweich over the edge.

“The commercial had no factual basis whatsoever. None. Zero,” Missouri Sen. Mike Parson, a Republican, said at the time. “It speaks volumes as to how far out of hand things have become, to base attacks on someone’s appearance, and to make reference to one being small.”

Former U.S. senator Jack Danforth of Missouri, a Republican, called the ad’s producers bullies, and he has not changed his mind.

In other words, what Cruz did to Carson at the caucuses was bean bag.

The problem for Cruz is not so much what his campaign did as who it did it to.

Ben Carson marches to the beat of his own drummer. That’s what the people who love him love about him. And Carson is beloved by the Republican rank-and-file, most of whom may not vote for him, but who nonetheless treasure and admire him, and are very protective of him.

Carson, like a normal human being and not a candidate for president, wanted to go home to sleep in his own bed and get some fresh clothes, before returning to the campaign trail. Yes, he could buy new clothes, he said, but, he said, that’s not how he operates. The assertion here by U.S. Rep. Steve King, Cruz’s Iowa patron, that Carson should have realized that new clothes cost less than the jet fuel to fly home, misses the point.

My own theory is that when he was packing for his last trip to Iowa, he took his lucky sweater out of his checked bag to put it in his carry-on, got distracted, left it on the bureau, and had to go through the caucuses missing it every day.

He had to go home to retrieve it. You can’t just go out and buy a new lucky sweater.


In early November, Carson surged into first in national polls, passing Trump.

Trump took care of that with what appeared at the time as a somewhat unhinged tirade against Carson, mocking the mild-mannered Carson’s claim to having tried to stab a friend in his youth, calling Carson “pathological,” and asking, “How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Carson’s campaign never recovered.

To put this in teen movie terms, Carson is the quiet, innocent, pocket-protected nerd, and Trump the Big Man on Campus bully. But, more often than not, in  those high school movies, the bully and the nerd end up reconciled. Enter Cruz, the smart-but-devious debate club/chess club champ, who takes advantage of the nerd, only to find that he is now under the protection of the reformed bully.

It was Trump who raised the question of Cruz doing Carson dirty to a higher level, and for his own purposes, to explain away his second-place finish.

But Carson seized the moment Trump afforded him with unexpected skill. Indeed, I think his mild-in-manner filleting of Cruz was as skillful as Christie’s more bombastic take-down of Rubio.

From Elizabeth Wiliamson, an editorial writer with the New York Times

Mr. Carson declined to “savage” Ted Cruz’s reputation — a reputation that’s been pretty well savaged by Ted Cruz’s own actions. But he did wonder aloud why “members of his team thought so little of me to think I would just walk away ten minutes before the caucus,” when so many volunteers in Iowa had committed their time and efforts to him. He mentioned that one of those volunteers had died. The Cruz team knew exactly what they were doing, he said, and it was a Washington-style trick.

The bombastic Mr. Cruz was visibly cowed. Calling Dr. Carson “a good and honorable man,” Mr. Cruz said that “when this transpired, I apologized to him then and I do so now. Ben, I’m sorry.” Good start, but then he reverted to classic Cruz, blaming CNN for the error, and saying it was hours before his campaign was able to learn the truth.

Mr. Carson pressed for a chance to respond. CNN, he said, had tweeted the accurate story of his trip home within a minute (actually, the reporter appears to have followed up his initial tweet with a clarification two minutes later). Voters, he said, can judge who’s right for themselves. It was a moment that showed, after months of blunders, a quality that helped make Mr. Carson an early frontrunner. And it shows why Ted Cruz has earned a reputation, both in the primary and in the United States Senate, as a politician who will say anything to win.

And, of course, Trump, who spoke last, following Cruz’s closing statement, had the last word.

CRUZ: You know, every candidate running for president says they will stand up to Washington. The natural follow-up question is when have you ever stood up to Washington.

Last week we saw a powerful illustration of that. I campaigned in the state of Iowa four-square against the ethanol mandate, something everyone said was political suicide. My two leading competitors both attacked me for it. The governor of the state said vote for anyone but Cruz, and lobbyists spent millions of dollars in attack ads, but I stood and said we should have no mandates, a level playing field, and the people of Iowa put country and our children above the cronyism and corporate welfare…


CRUZ: … We can turn this country around if we get back to the Constitution. And, I will always stand with the American people against the bipartisan corruption of Washington.


MUIR: Thank you. Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: That’s because he got Ben Carson’s votes, by the way …

The debate was followed by Saturday Night Live, which opened with a mock ad in which “Sen. Ted Cruz (Taran Killam) explains how he managed to win the Iowa caucus despite his many off-putting qualities.”

Killam’s impersonation of Cruz isn’t very good. He hasn’t captured Cruz in look, voice or mannerisms. The bit wasn’t particularly funny. But for Cruz, it can’t help.