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Presidential Horse Race 2016: CNN Town Hall exposes the human side of Ted Cruz

There haven’t been many single events in the Republican presidential race that I’ve thought could potentially make a difference in the overall outcome, but Wednesday night’s CNN Ted Cruz Town Hall is one of them.

It’s not that there was a ton of heavy policy discussed or that Cruz made some sort of a breakthrough with a pithy statement or idea. As was true with John Kasich’s and Donald Trump’s forums the previous two nights, there was very little nuts and bolts campaign material to be found.

Ted Cruz familyThe real value in Cruz’s program was showing his “human” side, which is something we don’t often get to see. In the Republican debates, on the cable news shows and in the evening news, we’re shown “politician Ted” who’s best known for being intense, wonky and sometimes confrontational.

That’s the Ted who is depicted as not having any friends in Washington and isn’t likable. Donald Trump mentions it often, “No one likes Ted Cruz.”

 I myself have heard numerous times over the past year when talking with people about Cruz, “I agree with most of what he says but I just don’t like him.”

Just last Sunday I was conversing with a friend and he said “I don’t know about Cruz, he’s too slick.”

I’m sure the whole country wasn’t watching on Wednesday night, but it’s a shame if they weren’t.

The program started off with the usual fifteen minute Q & A session with Ted and host Anderson Cooper alone on stage.

Cooper immediately asked Cruz for his thoughts on Trump’s quotes about the system being rigged and how the Cruz campaign was stealing the election with his delegate operation. Pretty standard stuff, nothing new or notable.

It appeared to me that Cooper doesn’t like Cruz much and Ted doesn’t like Anderson either. Fair enough. It was a civil exchange.

Probably the most interesting part of the opening segment was a series of questions and follow-ups regarding the possibility of having Marco Rubio join Cruz on a “unity” ticket.

Cruz wouldn’t completely dismiss the possibility but said it was too early to talk in such definite terms. Showing his “human” side, Cruz did relay a funny story about his and Rubio’s friendship, concerning a text Marco sent him about a news article on Cruz’s time in the Supreme Court.

Ted talked about how the news piece involved his time as a law clerk, particularly mentioning a Supreme Court case on internet pornography. Ted relayed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s funny reaction to seeing what it really involved, so Rubio texted Ted, “Holy Cow, you watch porn? Our oppo researchers missed that.”

It was a funny moment. The contentious campaign season doesn’t seem to have ruined the Cruz/Rubio friendship. That’s a good thing.

The tone of the program changed after a short break when Heidi Cruz joined them on the platform. The first few minutes felt a little tense as the audience sized up Heidi, the woman made famous recently with Donald Trump’s tasteless tweets and the “my wife is better looking than yours” social media wars prior to the Wisconsin primary.

Heidi quickly got to work on dispelling the notion that husband Ted is anything other than a dedicated man who wants to help the country. They both talked a little bit about having their young daughters on the campaign trail and relayed some stories about how they first met, etc…

Heidi made a point to say, “Ted is an incredible listener – I want all voters to hear that. Because he really cares…Ted has many, many qualities and thoughtfulness is at the top of the list.”

It was sweet. There is genuine affection between the two of them and it’s easy to believe they’re best friends.

We also learned that Heidi grew up in California without a TV set, and she doesn’t do Twitter, which helps insulate her from the nastier side of the campaign. Ted on the other hand, does work on Twitter and is a follower of Donald Trump of all things.

Cruz said, “You could sit in the woods alone and you could still hear Donald’s Tweets.”

For the last segment of the program, daughters Caroline (turning eight today, wants a Build a Bear party) and Catherine (five) joined Ted and Heidi. Caroline is quite precocious for her age, with articulation and facial expressions to match.

When asked who they’d like to invite to the White House if they get there, Heidi said the girls would love to have Taylor Swift over (I wonder if they know she supports Hillary?).

Ted revealed that “The Princess Bride” is his favorite movie and also gave an excellent overview of the movie “Amazing Grace” and how legendary British anti-slave trade crusader William Wilberforce inspires him.

All in all, it was a very effective evening for the Cruz family. Both Heidi and Ted admit that they don’t cook, but I can definitely see visiting them in their home and feeling comfortable with them. They seem like a very happy and successful family, ready to bring some good ideas to the Executive Branch.

In the end, the media will probably say the Cruz forum was all about The Princess Bride, internet porn and Build a Bear, but it really was a lesson in exposing the human side of Ted Cruz that hasn’t been seen much on the campaign trail.

I think most people would see a lovely family who would represent the country well. Cruz may have taken a step forward in making the dream come true on Wednesday night.

Trump’s rage over the “rigged” system is merely covering for his own embarrassment

During his own one-on-one conversation with Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night, Donald Trump once again derided the nominating system of the Republican Party, calling it “rigged” and anti-democratic, to put it mildly.

For those of us who’ve been involved with politics for a while, we know that individual state party rules can make a huge difference in who “wins” there and who may seem to be doing well yet end up with little or nothing to show for it.

It all goes back to the basic notion that a political party is not a democracy where the majority rules. Instead, it’s a collection of individuals brought together by some common cause, or causes. Historically speaking, you’ve had single issue parties, like the “Free Soil Party” of the early 1850’s all the way to the modern multi-issue, multi-coalitional parties of the present.

Pundits are fond of labeling the Republican Party as “conservative,” but that’s much too simple a brand that only makes sense in a ten-second soundbite. The Republican Party certainly contains conservative constituencies and includes some conservative elected representatives, though it is hardly a “conservative” ideological entity.

Likewise, the Democrats have some non-liberals in the party (fewer and fewer by the day it seems), but they are not the “liberal” party, either.

Therefore, conservatives can use the Republican Party as a vehicle to promote conservative candidates, but the party itself also includes moderates, big business types, America-first populists and other groups.

Since these coalitions get together to advance candidates for office, they make their own rules – and that’s the way it’s been done in every state. For presidential nominations, the national parties lay out a set of guidelines, but each state makes its own decisions on how to conduct elections for delegates to the national convention.

In other words, the local parties can only function if the people who run it agree on a set of rules whereby candidates can become elected under its banner.

Such was the case in Colorado last weekend, which conducted a convention of party activists rather than holding a binding primary or caucuses.

To most reasonable people, what Colorado did is hardly unusual, “rigged” or unfair. The rules were published well in advance and the candidates all had more than enough opportunity to vie for delegates.

This basic explanation of political party function may not suffice in a college political science class, but practically speaking, if you don’t obey the rules, you won’t win. That’s where Donald Trump is wrong. The “system” isn’t corrupt. It’s working very well for Ted Cruz, though there are many in the party who don’t favor him.

With the mess that has become the 2016 Republican nominating process, one can only wonder how things might change moving forward. For now, the RNC isn’t taking any chances that Trump will be left in the dark in the remaining primaries.

Rebecca Berg of Real Clear Politics reports, “Faced with Trump’s strong messaging headwind, the RNC has begun explaining the primary and delegate allocation processes in earnest, including in a meeting last week with influential party and campaign surrogates. At the meeting, RNC aides fielded questions and distributed information packets detailing how delegates will be selected in each state and the rules of the most recent convention…

“The party’s messaging is not being restricted to activists alone. The RNC has debuted a ‘convention facts’ webpage; meanwhile, Priebus and other RNC officials have become fixtures on television news and in radio interviews. In public interviews, they have emphasized transparency and the role of the delegates, selected at the state level and responsible for setting the rules at the convention.”

It’s true, Priebus has been on TV and Twitter a lot lately. With such efforts, the party is basically taking out an insurance policy against future “Trumper-tantrums” about the process.

But in all of this, Trump, ever the negotiator, could just be laying down an opening negotiation position at the convention. By crying foul months in advance, he keeps his supporters motivated and plants the seed that if he doesn’t end up winning in July it’s only because the evil Ted Cruz-led establishment Republicans fixed it that way.

It also gives radio screamer and Trump apologist Michael Savage something to complain about every day. Talk about monotonous.

In the end, Trump’s rage is probably just a façade covering for the deep embarrassment he feels from being outfoxed in politics and failing to build any kind of winning organization makes him appear foolish. And to the extent it looks like he’s withholding the money necessary to construct that infrastructure, it makes him seem cheap, too.

Trump realizes he’s way behind in the localized battle for delegates and he’s doing anything possible to catch up. To him, claiming that the parties are illegitimate and “rigged” is his best means to do so.

For a man who admittedly has bought off politicians many times in the past to get what he wants, he certainly seems miffed when the “system” works against him now.

You can’t buy this one, Donald.

John McCain in mourning now that Paul Ryan said ‘Count me out’

Ever since it became evident that a contested Republican convention was a real possibility, conservatives have speculated party establishmentarians were plotting to use the potential opening to elbow out the “outsiders” and install one of their own as a “unity” candidate.

Then Paul Ryan announced the other day he would not even consider the nomination if it were given to him at the convention, arguing in effect that only the candidates who have gone through the primary process deserve the party’s ultimate honor.

Ryan’s decision didn’t sit well with one of the establishment’s leading figures, who took the announcement hard, indeed.

Kelly Cohen of the Washington Examiner reports, “Sen. John McCain says he was shocked to hear House Speaker Paul Ryan's formal decision not to accept the presidential nomination should Republicans hand it to him.

“’I'm at a loss, OK? I do not know what's going to happen,’ the Arizona Republican told Bloomberg Politics. ‘I just don't see that a lot of it's going to turn out well. Because there are too many divisions within our party.’”

There sure are divisions. The establishment worked hard to foster those ruptures over the course of years, starting with the ideologically directionless presidency of George W. Bush and continuing right on through McCain’s limp run for the top office in 2008.

As the establishment candidate that year, McCain refused to bring the specter of Jeremiah Wright to the forefront of the campaign to call into question Obama’s character -- and the rest is history.

Mitt Romney similarly neutered himself against Obama in 2012 by inexplicably removing the growing Benghazi scandal from the public limelight.

No doubt the herd of Washington establishment consultants was responsible for the party’s lack of fight in both elections. Paul Ryan would’ve only continued the tradition this year, especially since he’s been going around so much lately talking about “tone” and making nice with the opposition.

Maybe he’s forgotten how the Democrats depicted him throwing Granny in a wheelchair off a cliff prior to the 2012 campaign. How’s that for tone, Paul?

Americans want clear choices in 2016, which explains the popularity of Trump, Cruz and even Bernie Sanders. The last thing people want is another vanilla establishment candidate who will refuse to fight over the decline of the American government.

Maybe a box of tissues would help McCain get over the “loss” of Paul Ryan. Otherwise, maybe it’s time to kick him out the door as well (he’s facing a tough primary challenge in Arizona).

New ad proves Ted Cruz’s tax reform plan really is that simple

Finally today, Ted Cruz has argued throughout the campaign that his tax plan is simple enough for everyone to understand.

Now Cruz’s introduced a new ad that demonstrates in 75-seconds that he’s been right all along. The ad basically states the tax code is being ditched (and the IRS abolished) in favor of a one postcard tax form with a flat rate of 10 percent for everyone. The standard deduction is $10,000, the personal exemption is $4000 and the child tax credit stays in effect.

The payroll, death and corporate taxes are eliminated in favor of a flat rate of 16 percent for businesses, which will kick-start economic growth and bring jobs to America. Finally, the ad touts how leading conservative economists favor it.

Caleb Howe of Redstate writes that the simple ad presents a contrast to Trump’s empty slogans and promises. “These are all things that Donald Trump and his campaign don’t talk about and don’t care about. Trump is coming up with tax and tariff schemes. His loony supporters are crafting new and insane ways for the government to interfere in free markets. The bottom line is the Trumpism is not, and has never been, simply about those simple, Reaganite ideas like lower taxes and getting government out of your life.”

It’s true Cruz is the only candidate who regularly talks about limiting government versus the idea that government should merely work better.

We need more than Trump’s “great deals”. We need an easily understood system that functions at a basic level so people can work, save and yes, pay taxes.

The question, of course, is whether a President Cruz could get such a plan through Congress. With Cruz’s considerable political skills and support from the American public, he’d certainly have a very good shot at it.

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reasons for voting

As a 65 year old who has watched election cycles since I was 15 I have always found it disgusting when I hear the pundits discuss who the people would like to have a beer with as if that is the best way to choose a President.
We are just finishing up 8 years with a President who as a Senator was running for President back in 2008 and the pundits really pushed that this was a guy people would love to have a beer with. Yes, we have had other people elected President where that question was also asked. So, how has it worked out for us that we elected a person that many would like to have a beer with?
This is not the way to elect a President of the United States of America. The American people have to pay more attention to the issue discussed by each candidate and measure what they say with what they do. Many say that Senator Cruz has not accomplished anything during his time in the Senate but he is one of the few willing to take on the establishment in the Senate.
Many of the things that trump espouses is in agreement with Senator Cruz, only the tone is different. I would ask every trump supporter to ask themselves this question. When Senator Cruz was standing up to the establishment in the Senate where was donald trump, the answer is simple, he was paying off politicians in both parties to benefit himself, he was using eminent domain to take property for his business use, and using the bankruptcy rules to keep his company from going out of business.
Perhaps trump is serious about what he plans to do, I hope he is if he is elected, but I just wonder if the great deal maker is now at the 10th hr. unable to deal with the issue of uncommitted delegates, what kind of deals will he make after getting elected.
If he does not understand the process of the primaries and the caucuses and how each state determines their own elections/appointments of delegates how will he understand all that the President of the United States of America is supposed to know.
In my opinion Senator Cruz is the best choice we have for President, not because we would like to have a beer with him but because he has shown that he understands the process, knows the Constitution of the United States of America and is willing to fight for what he believes in and stand up to the establishment members of both chambers of Congress.