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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Marco Rubio’s Gang membership is a problem

It seems in the world of politics today endorsements just don’t carry the same significance that they used to.

In the days before broadcast media and the internet, information was much harder to come by. If you learned that someone you liked just happened to favor a candidate you’d never heard of, naturally there was some weight assigned to that person.

Gang of EightBut that’s not to say endorsements don’t matter at all anymore. In fact, Ted Cruz just received one that could prove to be quite consequential.

Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner reports, “Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa endorsed Ted Cruz for president on Monday.

“King, an outspoken conservative who represents the 4th District of the Hawkeye State, could play a large role in mobilizing Iowans to caucus for the Texas senator next year.”

I can almost hear the cheering from Cruz’s headquarters in Houston. This is big news in Ted’s effort to overtake Donald Trump and Ben Carson in the minds of Iowa’s conservatives. And if Cruz can win in Iowa, that train is going to be very hard to stop.

Thanks to Steve King, we now have a test case on whether endorsements still matter.

Marco the “frontrunner” still has amnesty ghost in his cellar

Though he currently resides in third place in the polls (a full eleven points behind second-place Ben Carson in the RealClearPolitics average), the murmurs are getting louder and louder in regards to Marco Rubio being the real frontrunner of the Republican presidential race.

For example, the reputable Washington Examiner has him in the top spot in their most recent power rankings.

And RedState’s Leon Wolf is boldly proclaiming Rubio is the new de facto GOP frontrunner. Wolf writes, “It’s very easy for people to indicate to a pollster that they are going to vote for Trump, or Carson, or some other candidate; which is why polling is so volatile and polling that is conducted this far away from the first vote being cast should be viewed with great skepticism.

“On the other hand, whenever people are asked to put their actual money where their mouth is – either in terms of deciding the direction of a multi-million dollar campaign strategy or participating in the prediction markets, they are overwhelmingly putting it on Rubio.”

There’s danger in going all-in for Marco as the Republican leader so quickly. First off, Trump and Carson have been ahead in the polls for months and survey after survey has given credence to the notion that their supporters are solid. The candidates may – and probably will – slip some, but how much?

And true, many of the same political observers who now tout Rubio as the frontrunner are saying Ted Cruz has also jumped ahead of Trump and Carson to become the Florida senator’s main rival for the nomination.

But in Cruz’s case, that’s different. He’s for real. Ted has firmly established himself in the conservative “lane” on the GOP highway. His organization in the early states is probably the best in the entire Republican field. He’s a proven fundraiser and enjoys widespread support among the grassroots. Evangelicals trust him. Libertarians like him best out of the not-Rand Paul candidates.

And we don’t need to restate Cruz’s popularity with the limited government-loving Tea Party. His rise coincided with that of the Tea Party. He was Tea Party before there was such a thing.

But where do the experts get off in pushing Rubio so hard? Is it because of his debate performances? Is it because Jeb Bush has fallen off a cliff and John Kasich has failed to catch-on with the business-as-usual Republican elites?

The fact is, Rubio still has much to answer for with the voters, especially on the subject of immigration. He may tap into the anti-outsider establishment votes, but it’s highly doubtful that any of Trump’s or Cruz’s people would gravitate to the pro-amnesty Marco Rubio. And Ben Carson’s backers, if and when they jump ship, would likely go more towards Cruz.

The same is true for the also-rans in the race. When they drop out, who gets their people?

There just aren’t enough establishment votes to be had to deem Rubio the frontrunner at this point.

And even if he were the leader, Rubio’s amnesty-past lurks just behind him.

Jeremy W. Peters and Ashley Parker of the New York Times report, “Mr. Rubio, said top aides who worked with the group, never had any problem with the path to citizenship — a provision viewed as treason by his party’s grass-roots base.

“That issue is nagging at Mr. Rubio today as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, his rival in the presidential race and an opponent of the immigration bill, has seized on it as proof that Mr. Rubio is not conservative enough on the issue.”

Peters and Parker also offer a quote from Rubio’s arch-liberal Gang of Eight pal Sen. Chuck Schumer, who reaffirmed that Marco was clearly for a path to citizenship.

“The facts are the facts,” Schumer said. “Senator Cruz was always against the path to citizenship, and Senator Rubio was for it. He was involved in crafting the path as it went through the whole process.”

Take any story from the New York Times with a grain of salt, but this one actually captures the essence of Marco’s problem: Conservatives still feel betrayed by his leading role with the Gang of Eight in trying to sell amnesty with a smile on his face. He basically argued at the time that anyone who opposed the bill was not patriotic and against the American Dream.

Many predicted Rubio’s Gang advocacy would shoot down any future presidential run and there’s nothing to indicate conservatives are buying his new positions – or that they’ve forgotten about his playing Judas and calling them names in the process.

Add in the certain fury to be generated by Karl Rove and other establishment honks getting into the fray for Rubio after he officially supplants Jeb Bush and there’s going to be a real backlash.

If Rubio does end up the anointed representative of the Republican establishment, look for the others to compete for the title of “not-Rubio.” My money’s on Ted Cruz to win handsomely, ultimately with the blessings of Trump and Carson.

Bring it on.

Establishment pines for Mitt but he won’t help them out

If by chance the establishment decides Rubio is too damaged with the base to ultimately defeat Trump, Carson and Cruz, there’s always Mitt Romney, right?

Political analyst Nate Silver of addresses the speculation. “…Romney would be entering a race without a dominant frontrunner. Donald Trump and Ben Carson remain atop the polls. Marco Rubio appears to be in the best position of any establishment candidate, but that’s like having the closest seat to the buffet table at an offensive lineman’s wedding; there’s still a lot of jostling to go before anyone gets their grub.”

Silver proceeds to present all the plausible theories concerning a possible 11th hour run from the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP nominee – and then dismisses them in turn.

Silver concludes, logically, that Mitt isn’t the establishment’s answer to the “outsiders.”

(And on Monday, Romney again ruled out running this year. It’s not going to happen.)

But the more time passes the more it makes sense that Romney didn’t stay out of the 2016 race because he was tired…or felt his time had come and gone…or because he wanted someone else to have a turn.

No, Romney didn’t run this year because he knew he couldn’t win and it wouldn’t be worth it to go through the grueling primary process for a third time with virtually no hope of ever taking that final step through the front door of the White House.

Romney was always a contradictory candidate, someone who definitely wanted to be president but who also clearly did not enjoy campaigning. The ever-present smirk on his face during the debates revealed a person who detested having to run through formalities of the process to get what he wanted.

A good man, yes, but someone who came from privilege and expected people to like him for who he was – or who he said he was. Remember all the flak Mitt took for the dog on top of the station wagon story? He wanted to be seen as a normal guy – the only problem being that he wasn’t “normal” in any meaning of the word. He was an elitist.

In that sense, Romney was the perfect establishment candidate, even more so than John McCain. McCain was a war hero who chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. In his campaign he was still doing the party chiefs’ bidding, but was also a guy who occasionally went off the reservation.

Romney never did. He even added Paul Ryan to the ticket to cement his establishment status.

It’s almost funny how we haven’t heard any “draft McCain” stories. But with the establishment getting more desperate as the weeks fly by, who knows what could be next.

Bernie and Martin are mad that no one watched their debate on Saturday night

Finally today, we all know some of the Republican candidates have been highly critical of the RNC for the party’s handling of the presidential debates.

Now, thanks to Saturday night’s boring and lowly rated CBS Democratic forum, two of the Democrat campaigns are firing off complaints about the DNC.

Gabriel Debendetti of Politico reports, “O’Malley, in particular, made the debate schedule — including the fact that the party has only scheduled six, roughly half the number on the GOP side — an issue earlier this year, and Bernie Sanders has also advocated for more debates at more convenient times as a way of attracting more eyeballs.

“The low number of debates and weekend timing make it likely that the Republican candidates will get far more exposure than the Democrats, DNC critics say.”

For what it’s worth, Hillary seems happy with it the way it is. I’m sure she reasons the fewer people who watch her, the better.

I personally think Democrats don’t attract a larger audience because their respective supporters have already made up their minds on whom to vote for and watching two hours of boring drivel couldn’t possibly make a difference to them.

I don’t blame them for tuning out.

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