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Presidential Horse Race 2016: A GOP contest like nothing we’ve seen before

We end the week with the results of three new polls which basically affirm what we already know -- but also suggest some changes are taking place in the Republican presidential race.

As reported by Allahpundit at Hot Air:

Quinnipiac: Trump 25, Carson 17, Fiorina 12, Bush 10
Fox News: Trump 26, Carson 18, Fiorina 9, Rubio 9
Bloomberg: Trump 21, Carson 16, Bush 13, Fiorina 11

Republican debate“Support for ‘outsider’ candidates is also still strong, with fully 62 percent of Republican voters claiming they feel ‘betrayed’ by their party in Fox’s survey and 72 percent of Americans telling Bloomberg that they don’t believe America is as great as it once was, the main theme of Trump’s campaign. There’s no reason to think from these numbers that his support is cracking,” Allahpundit writes.

There is plenty of indication Trump has peaked, however. And his unfavorable ratings remain terrible – even behind Hillary Clinton’s.

Kyle Cheney of Politico reports Trump’s momentum shows signs of stalling. “He’s taking longer to shake off controversial remarks, delivering relatively subdued performances during interviews and campaign appearances, and, most disconcertingly, stalling in polls.”

Naturally his rivals are taking their shots at The Donald in saying he’s beginning to fade, but what they’re failing to mention is how he still commands about a quarter of the support in a fifteen candidate field. Stall? Maybe. Fade? Not yet.

I would also argue it isn’t Trump’s behavior that’s causing his levelling-off in the polls. It’s the fact he doesn’t offer a whole lot of policy gravitas to go with his oversized personality – especially now that Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson have established themselves as contenders alongside him.

It’s clear people are still hungry for “outsiders,” it’s just that now there are three or four candidates to choose from. As the survey data further indicated, you either love Trump or you don’t. Apparently not too many folks are growing to love him, but those who already do aren’t about to abandon him.

(Byron York at the Washington Examiner says it’s far too early to plan Trump’s political funeral.)

The fourth “outsider” I just referenced would be Ted Cruz. Like several of the candidates, Cruz doesn’t seem to go up or down much in popularity at this stage. But he’s still very much part of the picture.

“The idea that Ted Cruz is going to vacuum up most of Trump’s support once he’s gone simply isn’t true, although it may be true if Carson’s already gone by that point too. It could be that Trump’s fans who are tea partiers, evangelicals, and/or keen on electing a Washington outsider prefer Carson mildly to Cruz at this point. Once Carson fades, Cruz is well positioned,” Allahpundit suggested.

Cruz is about to become very visible again now the congressional budget battle is taking shape with conservatives’ focus on defunding Planned Parenthood. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing his latest capitulation and Cruz will once again advocate for a fight.

It’s doing what he does best. This is a long way from over for most of the candidates.

Jindal smells a rat

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been anchored in the lower-tier since he entered the race. Despite his relative lack of attention, he’s turned in two solid showings in the “undercard” debates.

Unlike Carly Fiorina, however, Jindal hasn’t been able to take the next step up to the “main event.”

With the next debate set for October 28 (hosted by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado), Jindal hopes to be able to break out of the basement and at least become part of the conversation.

There are signs he won’t be allowed to. Matthew Boyle at Breitbart reports, “The chief strategist for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign is blowing the whistle on the decision by the Republican National Committee and CNBC to hide the entry criteria for the GOP’s next televised primary debate.”

Curt Anderson, Jindal’s chief strategist, said that he smells a rat. “Anderson, the former political director at the RNC in the late 1990s, said he suspects the RNC is improperly, on the donor class’ behalf, getting involved in the primaries to eliminate disfavored candidates from debates.”

“…Ultimately, Anderson suspects the RNC is trying to clear the field down to a few candidates—and eventually to a Trump versus Bush showdown.”

Is Anderson’s just a wild conspiracy theory? Before we dismiss it, we need to remember the RNC went out of its way to cut back on the number of debates this year – especially in the early stages. There were 20-something debates in the 2012 cycle, which pretty much everyone agreed was too many.

In 2012, for example, there was even one occasion where there was a debate on Saturday night… and then another one on Sunday morning ( January 7-8). Talk about overkill.

(For a blast from the past, check out my debate review from the Sunday debate – it offers some perspective on what we’re going through now.)

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was determined to not let it happen again, and sure enough, the number of forums has been cut way back. Party poohbahs probably figured it would protect Jeb Bush by limiting his exposure – but in reality it’s only served to shelter the “outsiders” who haven’t had to defend their thin policy resumes.

From a pure knowledge standpoint, Jindal deserves a spot in the debates, but we can’t have fifteen candidates on stage. He may “smell a rat,” but there are just too many horses for the starting gate right now.

Donations for Ben Carson soar after expressing his opinion on a Muslim president

Yet another sign the major media doesn’t get average Americans was demonstrated by journalists’ collective furor over Ben Carson offering his views on the notion of voting for a Muslim to be president.

Carson merely said he could not see anyone (including all religions) whose values did not match up with America’s assuming the office. With all the hubbub, you’d think he advocated killing babies and dissecting them in order to sell their body parts like door panels on a Ford.

Oh wait, that’s already been taken by the Democrats.

Far from damaging his campaign like the media predicted, Carson has actually enjoyed a windfall of approval from Americans in the form of donations. CNN’s Eugene Scott reports Ben said Wednesday morning on Fox News, “The money has been coming in so fast, it's hard to even keep up with it. I remember the day of the last debate, within 24 hours we raised $1 million. And it's coming in at least at that rate if not quite a bit faster."

In talking about Muslims, Carson was only answering a question, just as he’s done on dozens of subjects. He “tells it like it is” in a similar manner to Donald Trump – and people like it. For far too long we’ve been fed lies in pretty verbal packages by careful politicians who appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Ben isn’t like that – and it appears that Americans appreciate his candor.

For another revealing look at the retired neurosurgeon, try Quin Hillyer’s piece at National Review. Hillyer thinks conservatives are taking to Carson’s understated approach to policy.

“If they wanted a genius with wonkish proclivities, Bobby Jindal would be soaring in the polls (and some of us would be perfectly happy if he were!) rather than Carson. Carson’s ‘not too wonkish, not too blustery’ practicality, like that of the moderately hot porridge tasted by Goldilocks, right now seems ‘just right’ to a lot of Republicans.”

Hillyer concludes by saying Carson is a serious contender, with staying power.

It certainly seems that Ben does indeed have staying power. Maybe it’s because he tells it like it is. Maybe it’s because when he speaks, he has the quiet calm of a surgeon with the confidence to cure a disease. Carson’s been there before – and people trust him.

Is the presidential race moving into uncharted waters?

Finally this week, W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner argues we’re about to see something we’ve never experienced before: potentially nominating a Republican for president who followed none of the traditional paths to victory.

For example, the party has never chosen a business leader from outside the political system before (except for maybe Wendell Wilkie in 1940, but he wasn’t the result of a democratic nominating process like today’s).

And it’s never selected an establishment candidate who’s polling as low as they are now (speaking of Bush, Rubio, Christie and Kasich).

Antle makes a number of solid points about the unique quality of this year’s Republican contest and concludes by saying, “Anybody who tells you they know exactly what's going to happen in 2016 is just guessing. But we can pretty definitively say it is going to be something we're not used to seeing.”

And with the political system as broken as it is, that’s definitely a good thing.

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