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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Grassroots loves Ted Cruz, the Wall Street Journal loves Marco Rubio

If there was any doubt that Ted Cruz is the hot commodity of late in the Republican presidential race, it should be dispelled by the results of the latest national poll.

Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner reports, “A new national survey shows that while Donald Trump maintains a huge lead among GOP primary voters, Sen. Ted Cruz is continuing to surge.

Marco Rubio“According to the latest New York Times/CBS poll, Trump wins 35 percent of the vote, and has a 19-point lead over Cruz. But Cruz jumped into second place with 16 percent, which is roughly four times the level of support he had in October.”

Ben Carson maintains third place at 13 percent. Added together, the three top “outsider” candidates still command nearly two-thirds of the vote. Some polls have shown them under 60 percent in recent months, but not many. The percentage of the “outsider” vote has been by far the most consistent element of the 2016 Republican presidential race.

That’s bad news for the establishment line-up of Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie…and probably Marco Rubio (who gets only 9 percent in the poll to sit in fourth place).

Despite Trump’s huge lead, nearly two-thirds of poll respondents -- which means Democrats are included -- expressed concern or fear about a Trump presidency (though the numbers are similar to those who are concerned or afraid of a Hillary presidency, too).

We’re one concerned or scared country, that’s for sure. With the abysmal track record of our elected leaders, we’re justified in that fear.

The establishment must be downright terrified of the overall polling numbers which show their candidates in the dumps. It basically means they’ve lost control of their own party’s voters. The time has passed when the elites can offer up anyone they anoint and people just go along with it.

There’s nothing “inevitable” in Republican politics today.

“No One” is odds-on favorite to take the Republican nomination according to pundit

Americans love a good game of chance, so some folks are already starting to set odds on who will end up with the Republican presidential nomination next summer. History is usually a guide in such endeavors, though this year’s heavy emphasis on “outsider” candidates would suggest there’s more uncertainty in making predictions in mid-December – and even a week or two before the voting starts might be too early.

The Republican Party’s refusal to get behind the traditional “next in line” candidate also makes the picture a lot fuzzier this year. Nevertheless, Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics gave it his best shot in forecasting a winner.

He writes, “And while these things tend to shift radically at the end, sometimes in unpredictable ways, the race has taken enough shape that we can start to give meaningful analysis about the likely outcome.”

For each of the candidates, Trende sets the odds as follows:

“Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum (0 percent)
Rand Paul (1 percent)
Mike Huckabee (1 percent)
Carly Fiorina (2 percent)
John Kasich (2 percent)
Ben Carson (3 percent)
Jeb Bush (5 percent)
Chris Christie (10 percent)
Ted Cruz (15 percent)/Marco Rubio (16 percent) = 31 percent
Donald Trump (20 percent)
No One (25 percent)”

The last entry is particularly interesting as I initially thought “No One” meant some other candidate (such as Mitt Romney) would end up with the nomination.

I was wrong. Trende explains, “My most likely scenario (25 percent) is still that no one wins a sufficient number of delegates to claim the nomination. As Nate Silver lays it out, this comes in three different ‘flavors’:

(1) No one wins, but someone is close enough that the writing is on the wall;
(2) no one wins, but things get sorted out at the convention;
(3) no one wins, and it is fought out on the convention floor.

“I agree with Silver that these are presented in decreasing order of likelihood, and actually put the overall percentages lower than he did (and lower than I did last winter).”

Disagreeing with Trende, I say the only way “no one” wins is if there are three viable candidates still alive after all the votes have been cast. That’s probably not likely, especially since most states after March 1st are winner-take-all in awarding delegates. Momentum (or lack thereof) swells quickly in the early contests and with more of the distractor candidates falling out of the race, it will likely come down to just two battling it out.

It seems to me the entire race hinges on how well Donald Trump does in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. If Ted Cruz wins in Iowa, for example, I’m guessing he’ll also win in South Carolina and likely add a strong second in New Hampshire. He would carry that momentum into the SEC primary on March 1st and his delegate count will already be pretty impressive.

Conservatives will consolidate around Ted at that point and I don’t see him being stopped regardless of whether Trump stays in or the establishment settles on Rubio.

However, if Trump wins in Iowa, he’ll certainly follow it up in New Hampshire. Then it may come down to Trump versus Cruz and an establishment candidate, probably Rubio or Christie. Everyone keeps talking about Rubio being such a strong candidate but everything I see indicates he doesn’t have the same on-the-ground organization Cruz has built and may not even match Trump in that category.

The establishment will certainly help him build one if he looks promising, but not if he doesn’t do credibly well in Iowa and New Hampshire – and right now, Marco doesn’t look like a serious contender to win in either state.

In closely observing the last several elections, I’ve been surprised at how quickly things move after Iowa and New Hampshire. If a candidate doesn’t have momentum, the media stops talking about him and he’s pretty much finished. Even a weak establishment candidate like John McCain bolted out of New Hampshire and never looked back.

That may not happen this time, but if Trump ends up winning in Iowa, it could very well transpire.

The establishment will look stunned and everyone will start asking, “What now?”

Cruz wins key Iowa endorsement, slams Wall Street Journal

If it seems like I’m talking a lot about Ted Cruz and Iowa these days, it’s because I am.

The reason is Cruz is getting stronger there every day and it’s more than just simple momentum. It’s looking more like a wave.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports on Ted’s latest good news from the Hawkeye State. “Influential Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats has endorsed Ted Cruz for president.

“Cruz is already surging in Iowa and its first-in-the-nation presidential contest, and the key endorsement will add to perceptions that the Texas senator is in a strong position to win the state's presidential caucuses.”

Vander Platts’ nod follows congressman Steve King’s last month. The two Iowa leaders command tremendous respect with the state’s conservatives and certainly will carry some weight. It should be noted Vander Platts endorsed the previous two Iowa Republican winners, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

In choosing Cruz, Vander Platts also made it clear why he didn’t want Rubio – because of the Florida senator’s leadership in the Gang of Eight.

Cruz has been courting King’s and Vander Platts’ favor for months and it’s all coming together for him now in Iowa. It could be said Ted’s favorability is going up pretty much everywhere.

Except for maybe the editorial pages of the GOP establishment’s favorite mouthpiece, the Wall Street Journal, that is. Nick Gass of Politico reports, “Texas Sen. Ted Cruz laid into The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview, remarking upon its support for amnesty that it should change its ‘header to the Marco Rubio for President Newspaper’ for the next three months.”

Cruz was responding to a WSJ editorial from last week that criticized his positions on military intervention in Syria and the government’s unconstitutional collection of metadata.

It wasn’t the first time Cruz has had a run-in with the establishment newspaper – and it probably won’t be the last, mainly because the folks writing the editorials are passionate supporters of amnesty and the business elite.

Vander Platts’ endorsement shows Cruz is closer in ideology to the grassroots conservatives of Iowa. Whose favor would you rather have?

Jeb Bush may not have many voters, but he still has Bob Dole!

Finally this week, we all got a good laugh when the establishment’s favorite Viagra spokesman Bob Dole announced his own endorsement about a month ago, choosing Jeb Bush as his candidate.

As if that wasn’t bad enough for Jeb, Dole’s out making it worse by openly cutting into Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on his behalf.

Jesse Byrnes of The Hill reports, “Former Republican presidential nominee Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) goes after GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a new interview. 

“Dole told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that Trump ‘says things over the top and people applaud. And he's insulted about everybody, every other candidate. And Cruz is so extreme…He's not a ... traditional Republican conservative.’”

Dole’s words should be taken as a compliment for both Trump and Cruz. It proves once again how disconnected the establishment is with the mood of conservatives who actually do the working and living in the country.

The single best thing that could occur for Trump’s and Cruz’s campaigns to continue to succeed is for Dole to keep opening his mouth.

Bring it on, Bob.

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