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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Intractable Donald Trump still on top

We begin the week with another new poll showing pretty much what other surveys have been revealing of late, namely that Donald Trump is in the lead for the Republican presidential race and the “outsiders” as a group are still outpacing the establishment candidates by a wide margin.

Bradford Richardson of The Hill reports, according to a new survey from CBS News, Trump “garners 27 percent support in the poll, the same number he drew in the last edition of the poll one month ago. Ben Carson Donald Trumpcontinues to place second with 21 percent support, down 2 points since the last poll.

“Carson is followed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) with 9 percent support and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) with 8 percent support. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former business executive Carly Fiorina tie for fifth place with 6 percent support each.”

Trump also gets a high score for leadership from poll respondents but a low mark for honesty (and over half see him negatively). In contrast, Carson is seen as both honest and a good leader.

The CBS poll confirms Trump’s supporters love him but he’s not popular in general. One wonders how the dynamics of the race could change with this kind of contradictory feelings in the voting population. Trump’s people aren’t budging and time marches on.

Ted Cruz is talking to other candidates’ voters, so what?

The media hints it is “stealing,” but Ted Cruz is merely targeting supporters of other candidates in order to improve his own chances of winning the nomination.

Name a candidate who isn’t doing the same thing and I’ll show you a loser.

First Cruz said Donald Trump will not be the Republican nominee and predicted he would get a lot of The Donald’s current backers. Now comes word that Ted is going after Rand Paul’s voters, too.

Katie Glueck of Politico reports on an event in Nashua, New Hampshire, where both Paul and Cruz spoke to liberty-minded Republicans. “Rand Paul returned to what should have been home turf on Friday when he appeared at the Republican Liberty Caucus, a gathering of libertarian activists in New Hampshire. And while he was a crowd favorite, there is an intensifying buzz around rival Ted Cruz, even from ideological purists still pining for Rand’s dad, Ron.”

Both campaigns were active in soliciting supporters from the group.

Many of father Ron’s backers are still in Rand’s camp, though they’re frustrated by the son’s snuggling up to Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell. Meanwhile, Cruz apparently delivered a much more libertarian-sounding address than his normal stump speech.

Ted’s foreign policy views do not completely mesh with the non-interventionist crowd, though of the top-tier candidates, his overall portfolio is probably the closest to the things libertarians stand for. If they could support Ronald Reagan, they would likely do the same with Cruz.

Ideologically speaking, Cruz and Paul have been close in the senate, though the presidential campaign seems to have taken its toll on any personal relationship the two might have enjoyed.

Rand’s campaign struggles aren’t new. But there’s nothing wrong with Cruz trying to appeal to libertarians. The other candidates would be doing the same thing if they thought they could get away with it. But Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio probably wouldn’t get very far in the process.

(Note: Rand Paul narrowly beat out Cruz in the event’s straw poll, which is good news for both candidates. First, because Rand can say he’s still their guy. Second, Cruz can see there’s another group of voters out there who like him, should Paul fail to advance very far.)

Congressional endorsements – who really wants them?

In the recent dust-up over defunding Planned Parenthood and Ted Cruz’s floor speech excoriating his own party’s leaders for their lack of courage, Rand Paul was eager to point out that Ted Cruz isn’t a popular man among his Republican Senate colleagues.

But is being well liked by members of Congress a help or hindrance for the presidential candidates? Rudy Takala of the Washington Examiner says it looks like certain candidates have been dragged down by entanglements with unpopular congressmen and senators.

“Analysis suggests that the GOP candidates who have managed to squeeze the most endorsements out of the officials who roam the ivory halls of Washington are also incredibly unpopular with voters.”

It should come as no surprise that Jeb Bush leads big in corralling congressional endorsements, counting nine current or former senators and 28 House members among his backers. John Kasich is second, with five current or former senators and twelve in the House.

Rand Paul is next with one current or former senator and twelve congressmen who favor him. Who is the senator, you ask? It’s none other than Mitch McConnell, whose endorsement should be considered the kiss of death with the grassroots.

(Note: Cruz himself has eleven endorsements.)

Meanwhile, the “outsiders” who are leading in the polls have zero endorsements.

It’s my impression that people don’t care about endorsements either way. It’s hard to see where any current or former member of Congress would help a candidate, where the closer the endorser is tied to the establishment, the worse it is for the presidential candidate.

For example, Bush touted the recent endorsement of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was tossed out by his own constituents in a primary last year. Really, Jeb? Is being tied to Eric Cantor going to help your cause? Maybe with the establishment donor class – but they’re already onboard with Bush.

No wonder he’s doing horribly in the polls.

Ben Carson battles the press – and the press will lose

One candidate who is doing well in the polls is Ben Carson, but he’s involved in a different kind of struggle – not just to win over voters, but to receive fair coverage from journalists. Carson’s fierce resistance to the forces of political correctness has brought him media scorn over a number of topics – Muslims (for president), the Oregon shootings and just last week his comments on the Holocaust.

Carson’s not about to take the negativity sitting down, either. Jonathan Easley of The Hill reports, “Speaking at a gathering of reporters and communications professionals at the National Press Club in Washington, Carson lashed out at the press, citing several instances where he believes his views have been misrepresented.”

At the event, Carson said, “I will continue to expose them every time they do something, so that as more people understand what they are and what they’re doing, it will negate their affect. Until they have the kind of transformation that’s necessary for them to become allies of the people, we have to know what they’re doing.”

Ben added the more the media attacks, the better he does in the polls and with fundraising.

The old saying is “all press is good press” – and at least in Carson’s case, it appears to be true.

But there’s another side to it. Polls indicate Carson’s likability ratings are very high – the highest in the field on either side. The press “war” against him would serve to dampen that aspect of his campaign and it’s arguably his greatest asset.

Donald Trump seems to savor bad press because it gives him a platform to fire back. Carson doesn’t and that’s where the two differ.

Both are on the front lines of the crusade against political correctness. David French of National Review argues Carson is doing a better job of fighting it, however.

“Carson’s response to the howls of the PC left is the right one: We’ll call it ‘apathetic conviction.’ He’s not outraged by the outrage; he simply doesn’t care. The outrage bores him. And no response is better calculated to rob critics of their power than boredom.”

Trump merely answers the ‘outrage’ with more outrage. That’s why Carson is superior.

French concludes, “If a social-justice warrior screams on Twitter, and no one is there to hear him, does he make a sound?”

It’s curious that French’s article was published on the same day Carson called out the media at the National Press Club. Ben’s words didn’t sound like he was ‘ignoring’ the powers of PC, but instead was restating that he was going to keep highlighting when they go awry.

Both Trump and Carson aren’t cut from the typical politician mode and it’s a refreshing departure from the “I apologize if you were offended” responses we’re so used to these days.

Huckabee wants a “no rules” debate

Finally today, reaction has been mixed as to the quality of the first two Republican debates, with some saying the media’s been fostering too much confrontation between the candidates and others complaining the format has favored certain candidates more than others.

Perhaps for these reasons, Mike Huckabee is implying he’ll take matters into his own hands for the next debate on October 28 (hosted by CNBC). David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner reports, “In an interview Friday, the Huckabee campaign said the Arkansan would assert himself on stage, even if that means ignoring the CNBC moderators and the debate rules they establish.”

Huckabee was shorted time in the CNN debate, for sure. Several others can say the same thing. But if each candidate advocates for “no rules,” doesn’t it become more of a shouting match than a debate?

There’s no easy way to solve the problem with so many candidates and a limited amount of time. But it should be interesting to watch.

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