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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Ben Carson’s exit leaves wide opening for Ted Cruz

Perhaps the biggest news of the day on Wednesday was Ben Carson’s announcement that he’s leaving the Republican presidential race.

Al Weaver of the Washington Examiner reports, “In an email to supporters, Carson said that he plans to skip Thursday's GOP debate in Detroit and ultimately exit from the GOP primary contest, arguing that there is no ‘political path forward’ after a poor showing on Super Tuesday.

Ben Carson Ted Cruz“Longtime adviser Armstrong Williams confirmed to the Washington Examiner that Carson will officially suspend his campaign Friday in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference.”

Carson’s decision to exit comes as no surprise but it does bring some sadness for those who have been cheering on his outsider run since he announced early last year.

Known as the anti-Trump outsider for his calm and respectful, scholarly demeanor, Carson constantly battled the forces of political correctness while consistently calling for a more respectful tone among the candidates.

And there were many people who took him seriously, too. Carson overtook Trump in Iowa and national polls in late October only to tumble back down to mediocrity after the Paris terrorist attacks.

His campaign also suffered from a number of PR blunders and staff shake-ups, never quite giving the appearance of political competence Carson would have needed to draw large numbers of Republicans and conservatives to his side permanently.

Somewhat unfortunately, Carson’s campaign will probably be best remembered as yet another Republican flash-in-the-pan candidacy in the mold of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. It’s a shame if that’s the case, since Carson could conceivably be an effective political leader with some experience.

Of course with Carson out, most pundits likely assume his voters will head to Ted Cruz. But I’m guessing some will go to Trump as well – and possibly a smaller percentage to Rubio.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how Saturday’s primaries are affected by Ben’s absence.

Ben Carson is a class act and I earnestly hope there’s a place for him in either Trump’s or Cruz’s administration, should they get that far. He would bring instant credibility to reforming healthcare, for example. Let’s hope he gets the opportunity.

The aftermath of Super Tuesday shows Donald Trump with a good sized lead, but there’s no doubt Ted Cruz got a boost as well

With Super Tuesday barely behind us in the Republican presidential race, speculation now turns to what happens next in the campaign.

Most of the post-election news coverage focused on Hillary Clinton as the all-but certain nominee for the Democrats and the near-inevitability of Donald Trump for the GOP. But a quick perusal of the delegate count reveals Trump is less than a hundred delegates in front at this point (316 to Cruz’s 226), hardly making him “inevitable.”

The usually reliable FiveThirtyEight.com puts Trump ahead of his delegate target and Ted Cruz (and Marco Rubio) slightly behind, but that doesn’t mean the race is over. Far from it.

Still, with several large winner-take-all primaries coming up starting on March 15, conservatives are wondering what it might take to not only halt Trump’s momentum – but stop it entirely.

Erick Erickson of The Resurgent suggests negative ads hurt Trump on Tuesday and will do further damage going forward if they’re used properly. “In Oklahoma and Arkansas, the Club For Growth relentlessly attacked Donald Trump with advertisements and hurt him significantly. In Oklahoma, Cruz won and in Arkansas, Trump barely won…

“Negative ads work. The Republican super PACs need to unite and focus like a laser on Donald Trump. He can be beaten. Negative ads can work. His personal and business history are fair game. Show that he is not who he claims to be.”

This approach could potentially knock Trump down a bit, but it won’t necessarily solve the electability problem for some of the candidates. Marco Rubio’s establishment fueled Super PACs have been spending plenty on ads for the past month and it hasn’t helped him win much.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz’s campaign has been very frugal in its use of resources and it’s left him in reasonably good financial shape moving forward. But if he remains significantly behind after March 15, he may not need all the purchasing power because it might be too late.

Of course Erickson is a leading proponent of the #NeverTrump insurgency, so he’s likely to see negative ads as the ticket to blasting away Trump’s favorability with voters who aren’t solid in his camp. We’ll have to see.

As far as Rubio goes, Tuesday has to be seen as a disaster. Yes, he did manage to get a win in Minnesota, but overall it appears Marco’s simply failing to catch on in large enough numbers to allow him to overcome the popular “outsiders” who are successfully running against Washington.

The establishment is getting desperate, too.

Anna Palmer of Politico reports, “The drubbing is already fueling an ever-expanding frenzy within a GOP establishment quickly running out of time to block Trump’s march to the nomination. Several prominent Republicans threw their support behind Rubio after Trump trounced the field in Nevada. Other operatives have been working behind-the-scenes to scale up the anti-Trump attacks. But none of that blunts Trump’s progress across areas that most GOP operatives thought would be more hospitable territory for Rubio or Cruz.”

Rubio’s delegate count (106, 120 behind Cruz) isn’t hopeless, but again, it doesn’t look like he’ll taste victory again for at least another couple weeks…and probably not even then if polls are any indication.

It’s getting harder and harder for Rubio’s establishment handlers to try and paint a happy face on a sorry situation and their money just ain’t buying him enough love to win delegates.

Marco will no doubt be on the attack again in tonight’s debate. Will it benefit him…or just serve to help Cruz make his case against Trump?

My personal observations and theory on why Rubio did so well in Virginia and hardly anywhere else

When the Super Tuesday returns started rolling in at 7 pm EST on Tuesday night, it was evident Marco Rubio was doing quite well in my home state of Virginia. The news came as somewhat of a surprise to me since I hadn’t really sensed a groundswell of support for the Florida senator, but delving a little deeper, it’s easier to see how he came within three points of upsetting Donald Trump here.

There were several clues. First, our home began receiving robo-calls from the Rubio campaign featuring Rubio-supporting local Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (who even invited me to a Rubio rally!), South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for several days in advance of Tuesday’s election.

(Not so ironically, it almost sounded like Scott and Haley were reading from a very similar robotic script.)

I also took part in what I’m guessing was a Rubio push-poll call. I’m not sure they liked the results of what I had to say, however.

I don’t know how I got onto a Rubio phone list, but assuming others were getting the same treatment the Rubio folks were unmistakably putting on the full-court press in trying to stir up support here in Northern Virginia (seriously, calls from South Carolina establishment politicians in the Old Dominion – heresy!).

Then, at 6:53 pm, seven minutes before the polls closed, we received another robo-call saying “there’s still time to go vote for Marco Rubio!” Needless to say, the eligible voting members of my household had already cast our votes – and we all favored one person (hint: the most principled conservative candidate in the race).

News reporters talked about how turnout was especially heavy in Virginia, shattering record highs by over 50% (from 2000). On the surface, it would appear Donald Trump’s presence in the race and Rubio’s GOTV efforts really made a difference.

But it’s also important to remember Rubio did especially well in the most liberal parts of northern Virginia, which tells me that Democrats were crossing over in this open primary to vote for Rubio. Hillary Clinton was leading by large margins in the polls here, so there was little risk on behalf of her supporters to cast votes for a wishy-washy Republican like Rubio in hopes of stopping Donald Trump.

Everyone says they don’t want to face Rubio in the general election, but is that really true?

The numbers bear out my “Democrats for Rubio” theory. Rubio received just under 32% of the vote in Virginia, several points higher than his non-Minnesota average for the evening. In most states his range was from 17-25%, exactly what he’d been getting in three of the first four states to vote (New Hampshire being the exception).

So Rubio vastly outperformed his typical support in the Old Dominion, which these days is like a hybrid liberal Mid-Atlantic state (like Maryland and Delaware) and a conservative southern state all mixed into one. Some might call it “purple.”

The DC suburbs in Virginia all went for Rubio big-time (Alexandria City, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, etc…). These places are home to the wealthy establishment class and heavily populated with Democrat voters. Put these factors together and it’s the perfect formula for a good showing for Rubio.

Meanwhile, the conservative core of the rest of the state favored Trump and to a lesser extent, Ted Cruz. Virginia looked a lot like this year’s map of South Carolina with urban and coastal areas favoring Rubio with the rest of the state choosing Trump.

What does it all mean? It just reinforces the impression Rubio doesn’t win with conservatives, he wins with crossover Democrats and moderate establishment voters. Theoretically, even if Cruz left the race, there’s no way his voters would gravitate to Rubio. They’d either go to Trump or maybe even lodge a protest vote for one of the other candidates still on the ballot.

That’s not to say Cruz would get all of Rubio’s votes either, though I’m guessing the percentage would be quite a bit higher.

Even the establishment now acknowledges it’s down to a two-man race

Finally today, in the shocker of all shockers, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said something semi-nice about Ted Cruz.

Harper Neidig of The Hill reports, “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says the Republican Party may be forced to support presidential hopeful Ted Cruz in order to stop front-runner Donald Trump.

“’You know Ted Cruz is not my favorite, by any means,’ Graham, who dropped his own bid for the White House in December, said in an interview with CBS. ‘But we may be in a position where we have to rally around Ted Cruz as the only way to stop Donald Trump, and I'm not so sure that would work.’”

I’ve said many times that nobody listens to Lindsey Graham and I doubt anybody would adhere to his call to support Cruz against Trump in this instance either.

But that’s not the point here. Graham is all-but admitting that it’s down to a two-candidate race between Cruz and Trump, leaving establishment golden boy Marco Rubio flailing on the sidelines robotically talking up his electability and ability to “unite” the party.

If Rubio can’t get Graham on board with his rantings, how is he going to convince anyone else that he’s still viable?

Tonight’s debate (in Detroit, Michigan on Fox News) promises to be fascinating -- the latest chapter in what’s already been the campaign of a lifetime. Many will watch to see what Rubio does next.

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Ben Carson dropping out of the race

A couple of items can be gleaned from the effort put forth from Ben Carsons run for President of the United States of America.

First political neophytes should understand they do not control how the system works and not be upset when things happen that you least expected. Dr. Carson evidently did not understand how the caucus process works.

The whole purpose of the caucus system is to get a lot of people into one room who support different candidates and attempt to get them to change their minds and support another candidate.

Correct or not, right or not when Dr. Carson said he would go to Florida to get a new suite and it was reported that way by CNN the Cruz people did what they should have done get the Carson supporters to change their minds and support Cruz. After all Dr. Carson early on did leave the campaign trail in order to attend a book signing tour, there is reason that people would wonder just how seriously to take his campaign.

Second that campaigning for the President of the United States of America is not the same as a game of tennis just hit the ball (ideas) back and forth
for the people to watch.

Third the old adage is still true "nice guys do finish last".

HE HAS NOT DROPPED OUT

Hate to break it to you but BEN CARSON HAS NOT DROPPED OUT, QUIT, SUSPENDED OR ENDED his campaign.

STOP SPREADING THIS LIE.

Will he? I don't know. I would HOPE SO. BUT HE HAS NOT YET DONE SO.

His campaign manager has stated HE WILL NOT BE AT THE DETROIT DEBATE BUT WE ARE NOT QUITTING.

So UNTIL you HEAR BEN CARSON ACTUALLY SAY "I AM QUITTING, SUSPENDING, DROPPING OUT, OR ENDING MY CAMPAIGN." HE IS STILL IN THIS THING.

He's not campaigning, but...

he hasn't dropped out? Actions speak louder than words, if he's not campaigning he's dropped out in our book.

Carson

I was with Carson but it made good sense to me to switch to Rubio. Polls show cruz not beating CLinton but Rubio does.