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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Jeb Bush says early polls don’t matter

We begin the week with a look ahead at the third Republican debate, which will take place one month from today (in Boulder, Colorado on CNBC).

Alex Isenstadt and Hadas Gold of Politico report the prospect of a reduction in the number of candidates on stage is a life-or-death matter for some campaigns. The middle and lower tier candidates fear the RNC is Jeb Bushpurposely trying to narrow the field by denying them access to the only opportunity they might have left to breakout.

The secrecy surrounding the event is troubling. “The radio silence extends beyond the entry criteria to other aspects of the debate – such as who the moderators will be, and how long the duration will be.”

“…Though the debate will be on NBC partner CNBC, Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and the moderator of Meet the Press, is taking part in establishing the debate set up and criteria. And Todd has publicly expressed skepticism about the need to include 10 or 11 candidates, the numbers featured in the first two debates,” Isenstadt and Gold write.

So former Democrat operative Chuck Todd has control over who participates in the Republican presidential race? That’s worse than allowing Chris Matthews to moderate a debate in the 2008 nominating cycle.

It’s not even October yet and the GOP establishment is clearly panicking about its prospects going into next year’s general election. We’re starting to hear more and more about “electability” and how Donald Trump or other outsiders might influence Republican control of Congress, etc.

They’re the same scare tactics we get every four years – “If so and so is the nominee, the down-ballot Republicans will suffer…” Only this time, all of the top candidates are anti-establishment.

And the elites hate it.

Values Voters choose Cruz for third year in a row

The media often portrays social conservatives as solely concerned about issues such as abortion or traditional marriage, but more often than not, they’re full spectrum conservatives with a knack for choosing candidates who are also strong in fiscal matters and national security.

Social conservatives’ across-the-board principles were on full display at the Family Research Council Action’s Values Voter Summit this past weekend, where they overwhelmingly voted for Ted Cruz as their preferred candidate for president. It’s the third year in a row the Texas senator has won the meeting’s straw poll. Ben Carson topped the poll for vice president.

For the big prize, Cruz took over a third of the vote (35 percent), essentially doubling the second place finisher, Ben Carson (18 percent). Mike Huckabee was third at 14 percent, followed by Marco Rubio with 13 percent. 

Current GOP presidential race leader Donald Trump ended up fifth with 5 percent. Carly Fiorina, who did not speak at the event, came in at 3 percent.

Perhaps just as interesting as the winners were the losers. Ben Kamisar, Jonathan Easley and Jonathan Swan of The Hill report, “Jeb Bush, seen initially as one of the party's favorites for the nomination, received just seven votes in the straw poll (Ed note: 1161 votes were cast)…

“Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham did worse than Bush, both were tied with four votes. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) the progressive senator running for the Democratic nomination, received five votes.”

That’s right. Bernie Sanders received almost as much support as Jeb Bush among very conservative voters. Is that good for Sanders or really bad for Jeb?

Having attended a couple Values Voters Summits, I can attest that the audience doesn’t care much for establishment candidates. And unlike the more Republican influenced CPAC meeting, the party establishment can’t stuff the ballot box in the straw poll to make their candidates seem more palatable to conservatives.

These folks are extremely active in conservative politics, so they’re probably a tad more conservative than the American population at large. But don’t discount Cruz’s victory – he won the straw poll at the event even before it was clear he was running for president in past years.

Cruz should be happy with the results… and Jeb Bush shouldn’t dismiss them. His decision to snub the event isn’t going to ingratiate himself with Evangelicals.

(For a look at Cruz’s speech to the Summit, click here.)

A close look at Carly Fiorina’s record reveals she needs further examination. Candidates need to be vetted.

It started with Carly Fiorina’s stellar performance at the “Happy Hour” debate and accelerated after her even better showing at the CNN event two weeks ago – people are taking a closer look at her background to see if the formerly dark horse “outsider” candidate is really as great as she appears.

Erick Erickson of RedState took on the task of thoroughly delving into Carly’s record and finds there are many more questions she needs to address.

“In fact, it is hard to label Carly Fiorina an outsider when she was the candidate the National Republican Senatorial Committee rallied to for the California Senate race in 2010. Fiorina then joined on to the NRSC in a formal capacity as Vice Chair after her loss at a time the NRSC was battling conservatives across the country, smearing candidates, and blacklisting conservative organizations and campaign teams that failed to get on board with men like Sen. Thad Cochran and Sen. Mitch McConnell. Fiorina was also the Republican the DC-GOP trotted out to join the pile on against Rush Limbaugh during the Sandra Fluke controversy…”

Erickson concludes, “Her messaging now is great as is her image. They just were not necessarily so until recently. So while I have been deeply impressed with her performance of late … I think we need to probe further.”

We pointed out in the past that Fiorina defended John Boehner and criticized Ted Cruz for leading the charge to shut down the government over Obamacare in 2013.

Now comes news Carly supported the individual mandate in the same year (Erickson also found this in his research).

Allahpundit of Hot Air asks, “If you oppose the mandate on grounds that the government, especially the federal government, shouldn’t have the power to coerce a citizen into making a purchase, why is Carly’s mandate for catastrophic coverage any more constitutionally pure than Obama’s?”

All of this is not to pile on Carly. As Erickson mentioned, she’s been extremely impressive in articulating the message people want to hear for the 2016 election, but her past contains a number of troubling episodes.

Of course, the same is true of Donald Trump, Ben Carson and virtually every candidate… except for maybe Ted Cruz (this is not an endorsement – really!). The fact is, outsiders have only their life’s story and past statements to provide us a guide into what they’d do in the future.

Elected officials have voting records and policy proposals. They’re on the record. Do they own it?

Let everyone make their choice. Candidates need to be vetted. As Taylor Millard writes at Hot Air, “Candidates should also be given the right to change their minds, but there’s nothing wrong with questioning why the position change was made. It’s then up to the candidate to try to convince the electorate about why they switched sides and up to the electorate to decide if the candidate is being honest.”

Truth is, there are good reasons to support – or not support – all of these candidates, including individual characteristics such as personality, temperament and maybe even, dare I say it, looks. Not in terms of black/white, male/female or tall/short, but do they project an air of leadership?

It may be shallow to say so, but politics is always going to be a popularity contest first. Great candidates on paper aren’t always likable and vice-versa. That’s human nature.

Trump lawyer provides glimpse of The Donald

Speaking of assessing candidates, Stephen Meister (in the Washington Examiner) provides his own up-close-and-personal look at Donald Trump.

As an attorney, Meister has worked for and against Trump and he’s not the least bit surprised by The Donald’s success in the presidential race thus far. What is startling to Meister is the GOP establishment’s hostility to Trump’s candidacy, analogizing it to the party pointing a gun to its own head.

“Trump's a man of exceptional tenacity and guts, insightful intuitions, clear purposes, an intelligence that's expressed forcefully and directly, always without regard to political correctness, and a world class negotiator. Trump intuitively understands what troubles Americans and boldly states their concerns…”

Meister concludes by saying Trump would be the best candidate to expose the weaknesses of the Democrat nominee, be it Clinton, Sanders or Biden.

There’s nothing particularly new in Meister’s op-ed, but it reinforces what many of us have already read about the “personal” side of The Donald. Those close to him say he’s a tough cookie, but he’s also someone who’s well-liked behind the scenes and who genuinely cares about his employees, the country and its future.

He’s certainly a different kind of candidate, which helps explain his appeal.

Jeb says early polls don’t matter

Finally today, Jeb Bush is dismissing the results of recent polls showing him considerably behind Trump and the other outsiders, arguing they’re not accurate because they include people who won’t end up voting.

Kyle Cheney of Politico reports. “His comments aired Sunday, as a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of Republicans who say they’re likely to vote in next year’s GOP caucuses and primaries showed him lagging in a distant fifth behind Trump,” Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina.

Interestingly enough, the poll shows Trump and Carson virtually tied.

Bush is clearly trying to present a reason for establishment supporters to hang on – but there really isn’t any way to spin his way out of the fact that his campaign is in the doldrums.

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Jeb Bush

Not that Jeb doesn't have disqualifying positions of his own, but the major obstacle for him is that the "Party elite" are supporting him, and Republicans are fed up with the Party elite! The more the elite push for him and against other candidates, the lower in the polls he goes!

Jeb Bush

Every time he opens his mouth he has to retreat backwards to explain what he really meant to say..... very dangerous to give him a chance to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. We need a leader who thinks before he speaks. The world situation is too volatile for "mistakes that need explanations for days afterward". Bush is not the man we need to govern USA.