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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Undecided voters won’t even consider choosing Jeb Bush

We begin a very important week in the Republican presidential race with some good news for Ted Cruz out of Iowa.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports, “A new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, the most respected survey in Iowa politics, has Ted Cruz with a solid lead in the first-voting state. The Texas senator has 31 percent in the new survey, to Donald Trump's 21 percent, Ben Carson's 13 percent, Marco Rubio's 10 Jeb Bushpercent, and Jeb Bush's six percent.

“In the last Register poll, in mid-October, Cruz was at 10 percent, meaning he has more than tripled his support in the last eight weeks.”

Once again, it appears as though Ben Carson’s voters largely switched to Cruz sometime in those eight weeks. Carson went from 28 percent in October to 13 percent now. All of the other candidates have pretty much remained level in that time span. Put two and two together and you get Ben’s people moving over to Ted.

The survey did note that two-thirds of those responding said they were open to changing their minds. Tomorrow night’s debate may help some of those folks identify more clearly where they stand.

Undecided voters say they want more future and less past from the candidates

The calendar says we still have a month and a half to go until the Iowa caucuses and the presidential race already seems like it’s been going on forever.

There’s been half a year’s worth of daily coverage of the contest and all the candidates are pretty well known by now. There have been four Republican debates. TV commercials are plentiful. Head to your local coffee shop and invariably you’ll overhear someone talking about something having to do with 2016 politics.

And yet there are still a lot of people who haven’t made up their minds on who to vote for in the primaries (or they’ve selected a candidate and are open to changing).

Erick Erickson of Erickontheradio.com set up an online survey for readers to weigh-in on the presidential race. From the pool of respondents he selected a panel of strictly undecided voters. He interviewed them during his radio show the other night. The results are very interesting.

Here’s a hint of what Erickson learned. “Almost to a person they said they remained undecided because none of the candidates had yet really made the case for what they were going to do, but wanted everyone to know what they had already done. Jeb Bush came in for this the most. Everyone in the room knew he was a conservative Governor of Florida, but that he had been out of office for some time and was now only able to hang on because of his last name.

“Of the 35 people, they were unanimous that Jeb Bush could not persuade them to support him.”

Get that? It was unanimous. Not a single person was open to a third Bush presidency. I bet that sinking feeling is just setting in – again – at Bush campaign headquarters.

It looks like these folks are undecided on whom to back but most definitely clear on whom they won’t vote for. That’s bad news for some of the candidates.

As you would probably expect, Erickson reports the subject of Donald Trump was very divisive in the group, with the frontrunner earning some praise for his bringing up of controversial issues while a good many said they couldn’t ultimately support him because of his personality.

Then there’s this: “The most interesting part of the night came in a consideration of Rubio vs. Cruz. I asked all 35 to identify a word that they associated with both men,” Erickson wrote. “With Rubio, the most common word was ‘inexperienced.’ With Cruz, the word was a variation of ‘accomplished.’”

This is a key point and the reason why Cruz will likely prevail if a head-to-head match-up materializes between the two Cuban American senators. They’re both the same age with similar paths to power in politics. Both are articulate and present themselves well to voters.

But only Cruz is distinguishable as a leader. Ask someone to identify Rubio and they’ll probably say “Gang of Eight.” Ask another to talk about Cruz and they’ll say “fighter,” or “anti-establishment,” or “Washington cartel.”

It’s curious that the undecided group was still unsure as to what the candidates would do if elected, because Trump and Cruz in particular have given specifics on what they’d do on subjects such as taxes and immigration. Several of the candidates have also introduced plans on various issues but the message doesn’t seem to be reaching the public.

In a separate article, Erickson discussed how his panel thought Trump might be beaten. “The consensus of the undecided voters was that the only way to take on Donald Trump and beat him was on both his prior record and his lack of policy depth now. These voters thought his prior relationship with both the Clintons and the Democrats was fair game.

“One voter said Trump should just be ignored, but most of the voters agreed that he should be challenged on his prior record. Several commented during commercial break that they knew people who had no idea Trump had voted for Barack Obama or given money to Nancy Pelosi.”

Donald Trump remains the most fascinating figure in the 2016 presidential race from either party. His background is a study in contrasts and he’s pioneered an entirely new rulebook on how to run for president. The only way he’ll finally be beaten is for the candidates to provide truthful yet deliberate criticisms on his record and lack of specificity to his campaign.

For his part, Trump needs to offer something other than “I’ll make America great again. Trust me.”

Trump’s supporters are solid, but as the undecided group indicated, there isn’t much room for bringing in new people to his side. In the end, it seems likely conservatives will opt for a more proven commodity. Ted Cruz has to be feeling pretty good right now.

Ben Carson the latest to threaten to leave the GOP

Everyone knows Donald Trump the master negotiator has retained leverage against the Republican Party by threatening to run third-party if he’s not treated fairly.

Now Ben Carson hinted he might bolt the party as well.

Katherine Faulders of ABC News reports, “Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson doubled down today on his threat to leave the party if GOP leaders try to manipulate the nomination process with ‘back room deals.’

“Carson said today on ABC's ‘This Week’ he entered the race because he heard from voters who were frustrated by ‘back room deals of subterfuge and dishonesty.’ He said he would be ‘out of here’ if those types of deals remained.”

Carson was referring to a Washington Post article from last week which reported on a dinner meeting attended by a who’s who of establishment Republicans where the possibility or likelihood of a contested national convention was discussed.

The meeting was supposed to be off the record, though somebody involved obviously leaked the details. Such “secret” assemblies suggest covert attempts to fix the result. No wonder The Donald and Ben are concerned.

Unlike Trump, however, Carson stopped short of threatening to run as an independent. Matthew Boyle of Breitbart reports Carson said during an interview, “No I would not, because I think that would guarantee Hillary’s victory and we have to be able to look at the big picture here. If we get another progressive president and they get two or three Supreme Court picks, then America as we know it is gone. We have to be able to understand that, and that we can’t let our emotions get in the way.”

There are a couple things at play here. First, there’s legitimate apprehension on behalf of the outsiders that the panicked and desperate Republican establishment will pull out all the stops to make sure one of their approved candidates wins the nomination. They’ve done it before and nothing indicates they won’t do it again.

Except people are watching them this time. With Trump and now Carson calling attention to the moves of the elites, the issue is exposed to the public. They’ll have to go even further underground if subterfuge is what they’re planning.

And finally, by leaving open the possibility of exiting the party, Carson is drawing some much needed attention to himself at a time when his poll numbers are sinking and many are questioning his qualifications to be Commander in Chief.

In this sense, he’s taking a page out of Donald Trump’s book… threaten to leave the party and the media comes a-running. Would Carson do it? Maybe – but not likely. As Ben pointed out in the Breitbart interview, there’s too great a danger that Hillary Clinton would be elected. Carson is merely keeping open his options while getting people to talk about him some more.

If that’s his plan, it certainly looks to be working.

Line-ups set for tomorrow night’s CNN Republican debate

Finally today, after previously being demoted to the undercard forum last month, Chris Christie will rejoin the top polling candidates for tomorrow night’s fifth Republican presidential debate on CNN.

And Rand Paul will once again be there too, even though his low poll numbers had brought his participation into question.

Steven Shepherd, Hadas Gold and Daniel Strauss of Politico report, “Rand Paul will be on the main stage at Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas after CNN tweaked its rules at the last minute to add a ninth podium for the Kentucky senator, the network announced Sunday.

“The candidates who will be on the main stage: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie and Paul.”

Meanwhile, CNN is bringing back George Pataki and Lindsey Graham to join Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum for the 6 pm “Happy Hour” debate. Face it, they needed bodies… otherwise having just two guys on stage wouldn’t be very interesting (kind of like the Democrats, right?).

At least we’ll probably get some more good ‘ol boy self-deprecating one-liners from Graham in the deal. If you take humor (intended or otherwise) out of the equation, there’s very little reason to watch the early forum. Good move, CNN.

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