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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Are Donald Trump and Ben Carson real conservatives?

Poll after poll in the past few months has shown Donald Trump on top of the Republican presidential race. Likewise, Ben Carson has risen steadily since the first debate two months ago and Carly Fiorina has similarly used debate exposure to go from virtually zero to third place in the Real Clear Politics average with 10.4% support.

Ben Carson Donald TrumpAdded together, the three non-politician “outsider” candidates tally just a shade over 50% of the polling average.

With the leaves turning in October, that’s fairly deep into the process for candidates who’ve never won an election before to be leading for a major party nomination.

But their impressive popularity now won’t necessarily translate to victory in February and March, because campaign infrastructure matters. Erick Erickson says even Jesus had a ground game and there’s much more that goes into actually getting votes than soundbites and media advertising.

“[A]dvertisements do not draw out the bulk of people. Door to door increases turn out. Voters who are called on the phone by a live human being and encouraged to vote are more likely to vote than those who just see ads. Voters who actually have someone show up at their door face to face are the most likely to vote for a candidate. Those ground games matter.

“…In 2000 and 2004, the Bush team used real, daily metrics on doors knocked and voters reached to build up a name by name database of people committed to vote. The math is doable down to the precinct level to know how many voters across the country in each precinct a candidate needs. Then the campaign can send out a field team and get those commitments.”

All of that takes money – a lot of it. Volunteers make up a vital part of every presidential campaign, but you’ve still got to pay people to coordinate them, tabulate data, etc…

If there’s a limit on how far the “outsiders” can go it will most likely be because their ground games don’t match those of the “professional” politicians in the race.

Something to remember… and it will favor someone like Ted Cruz going into 2016.

Gallup’s exit and snapshots in time

Accurate polling is a crucial part of an effective ground game, which makes the recent announcement that Gallup was no longer polling the presidential horse race all the more shocking.

W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner looks at Gallup’s exit and writes on what it reveals about the 2016 race. “Polls that may be getting less accurate are being asked to do more to help winnow the field and influence the process. Even insofar as these polls are right, they are just snapshots in time. The results this early out are subject to change. Just ask Presidents Giuliani, Bachmann and Cain.”

We’re all aware of flash-in-the-pan candidates flaming out well ahead of Election Day. But if you look at each candidate individually, there are always valid reasons why they eventually failed – and it has nothing to do with poll numbers sinking.

For example, when Rudy Giuliani’s abysmal record on social issues became widely known, he sank like a stone. There simply isn’t room for a pro-abortion rights candidate to lead the Republican Party. It’s not going to happen.

Herman Cain was a charismatic speaker who was famous for his business acumen – remember those “pizza man” campaign stories? But then he was brought down by a series of women accusing him of sexual harassment. The rumors weren’t completely substantiated, but there were enough of them to make people question him.

Finally, Michele Bachmann never really had a foothold on the lead in the polls. She made a series of bizarre statements on the campaign trail, the media attack machine got involved – and then she was done, too.

There’s no telling what could bring down 2016’s “outsiders,” but we already know a lot about Donald Trump. Ben Carson certainly looks unimpeachable based on personal history and Carly Fiorina doesn’t seem to be hurting too badly from testimonials of bitter former employees.

I agree the current polls are just snapshots in time. But they can’t altogether be dismissed, either.

Are Trump and Carson feeling the heat because of a lack of conservative credentials?

It’s curious in a sense that both Donald Trump and Ben Carson have done so well thus far in the Republican race because neither is seen as a life-long principled conservative. Both have taken controversial anti-conservative positions throughout their lifetimes and much has been written in terms of their lack of true ideological foundation.

Everyone knows you can be a Republican and not be a conservative. But will conservatives support a Republican who’s not trusted to be a conservative?

Kyle Cheney and Katie Glueck of Politico report there are signs conservatives are starting to take notice of Trump’s and Carson’s prior leanings. “Rival campaigns are complaining publicly and privately that the two front-runners are, at best, new to the issues party activists care about most, and their activist supporters are starting to needle Trump and Carson on questions of orthodoxy to GOP principles.”

The article details how both are less-than-solid in their pro-life credentials. As an example, Carson’s new book argues that each state should decide the matter. And everyone knows Trump has only been a recent convert to the pro-life cause.

Cheney and Glueck also touch on Carson’s old gun control statements and his non-interventionist foreign policy views as well as Trump’s spotted history on universal health care and previous stances on immigration that don’t look anything like what he’s talking about today.

Both Trump and Carson are now saying mostly the right things on key issues to the conservative base. As an example, Trump sought input from conservative Senator Jeff Sessions for his immigration plan. And Grover Norquist gave the okay for The Donald’s tax plan. He may not be a conservative, but his proposals are conservative.

(Articles like this one, from Jeffrey Lord at the American Spectator help explain how Trump is defeating the media narrative presented in the Politico story referenced above.)

Likewise, Carson has tightened up his thoughts on many issues that give conservatives concern. He’s also at the forefront of battling the toxic political correctness that’s ruining this country (take a look at this exchange with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on whether Carson thinks Obama is a “real black president”). Is it enough? Time will tell.

Many questioned Mitt Romney on his prevalent flip-flopping simply because it appeared he changed strictly for political reasons. And Romney’s proposals basically sounded like a lot of Washington fluff wrapped around a squishy conservative core.

Donald and Ben will be called out on their flip-flops as well, though on issues like abortion, Carson in particular seems to genuinely value human life. If you don’t believe it, take another look at his appearance on ‘The View’ this week.

The Politico article notes how several of the attacks are coming from representatives of rival Republican candidates. It’s all fair game, of course, and both Trump and Carson will need to supply answers.

Then conservatives will decide for themselves where the truth lies.

No joke: Mitt Romney for Speaker rumors

Just when we thought Mitt Romney and his flip-flopping was safely out of the Republican presidential race and therefore permanently out of Washington comes news that people are now mentioning him as a candidate for Speaker of the House since Kevin McCarthy has bowed out.

Allahpundit at Hot Air reports, “The logic, I guess, is that an elder statesman who’s challenged Obama directly in a national election might prove acceptable to both centrists and conservatives in the House as a temporary ‘caretaker’ Speaker while things calm down and the caucus looks for a compromise choice in their own ranks.”

Of course we all know the Speaker does not have to be a member of the House. I’ve heard Newt Gingrich’s name thrown out as a possible candidate, too. Maybe if you add in Ron Paul you could have a virtual reunion of the 2012 Republican presidential field.

If they held a debate to argue their qualifications for Speaker, it would be like watching the replay of an old World Series game on ESPN Classic.

Only in Washington could the notion of a Romney Speakership be given serious credence. That’s probably why people see this town as being so broken – and hence, the rise of the “outsiders.”

Does anyone buy Jeb Bush as a ‘disruptor?’

We couldn’t end the week without another story about how Jeb Bush is trying to find his niche in the Republican presidential race.

Eli Stokols of Politico writes that Jeb is “Stuck behind three candidates who have never before held elected office, the establishment-backed Bush is suddenly selling himself in Iowa as a ‘disruptor’ and promising to ‘disrupt the status quo in Washington,’ never mind his presidential pedigree.”

Stokols reports that Iowans aren’t really buying Jeb as a “disruptor.” Elitist candidates are on the outs this year and Jeb Bush is the epitome of “establishment.”

Maybe “establishment” will be Jeb’s next adjective of choice to describe himself. At least then people would be anxious to believe him.

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Not getting it

The politicians and press don't seem to get it. Those that supposedly have conservative credentials have been nothing but garbage for years. What people want is a change from the standard establishment, mealy-mouthed, worthless, spineless, lying, corrupt politicians that have been the status quo for far too long.

Bush

Senor Bush needs to drop out of the race.