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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Louisiana proves Republicans won’t win with Democrat-lite

Heading into Thanksgiving, there appears to be major movement in Iowa.

Nick Gass of Politico reports on a new Quinnipiac University poll which finds Ted Cruz has pulled virtually even with Donald Trump in the first state to vote in February.

Mitt Romney“Trump took 25 percent of support, followed by 23 percent who opted for the freshman Texas senator, more than doubling his support in the same poll from October, when he earned just 10 percent. Trailing the two leaders is Ben Carson, who dropped from first to third, falling 10 points to 18 percent.”

Marco Rubio is the only other candidate within striking distance at 13 percent. The rest are 5 percent or below.

Gass notes one other interesting aspect of the poll: “Asked whom they would definitely not support, 26 percent said they would not back Bush, while 23 percent said Trump would not earn their vote.”

Two things are at play in Cruz’s Hawkeye State rise. First, Ted recently received the all-important endorsement from Iowa Congressman Steve King, which is a greenlight to conservatives that King not only believes Cruz is right on the issues but also is electable.

Second, Cruz is taking some of Carson’s support – but he also appears to be the one inheriting Bobby Jindal’s voters.

That’s a big deal and not because Jindal left a ton of voters onboard when he jumped ship on the Republican race. It means Cruz is seen as the first or second choice of Iowa’s conservatives. In other words, if their first choice candidate drops out or fades, Ted is the logical next in line.

This puts Cruz in prime position to win outright in Iowa. And if that happens, watch out.

Seeking candidates with a message

Republicans lost an election over the weekend and many conservatives across the country didn’t even realize it. Senator David Vitter, who was running for Governor of Louisiana to replace Bobby Jindal, lost to a very beatable Democrat in what has become one of the most reliable Republican states in the country.

Vitter’s baggage is heavy and there were other factors involved, but the loss serves as a warning sign for Republicans in the presidential race as well.

The most obvious lesson learned from Vitter’s loss is the Republican nominee for 2016 must have a message and it’s simply not enough to base your campaign on a platform of “I’m not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.”

Erick Erickson of writes, “Republican primary voters want an actual conservative and at this point would rather go down fighting than sell out to candidates posing as Democrat-lite…

“[R]unning against Barack Obama is not a strategy to overcome a crappy candidate. Mitt Romney tried it in 2012. David Vitter tried it. David Vitter’s Republican competition tried it. They all tried to out bash Barack Obama. But in doing so, they did not say what they would do. They just beat up the President without an alternative positive vision to govern.”

It’s safe to say every candidate in the Republican presidential field is well versed in anti-Democrat speak. At the Fox Business Network debate, for example, Chris Christie took every opportunity to dig at the Democrats and he received high praise from the political talkers after the event for his aggressive tone and skill at zinging the opposition.

Possessing the ability to highlight differences between the parties is essential for any candidate, but Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are fairly easy targets nowadays. Pounding them with a rhetorical barrage will stir up sentiments from the angriest amongst us, but it won’t get you elected.

There needs to be more. Much more.

Christie has spent months attacking Obama and Clinton. Where has it gotten him? 3 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average. The same can largely be said for Carly Fiorina, who was briefly seen as a top-tier candidate after the CNN debate in September. She’s at 3.5 percent now.

In contrast, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are doing as well as they are because they’re message carriers. The same can be said of Ben Carson, though to a lesser extent. Trump and Cruz talk a lot about what you’re getting if you vote for them and devote much less time to strictly bashing Obama and Clinton.

With Trump you’d get action on immigration. With Cruz you’ll get a spirited fighter against the “Washington Cartel” and the powerful establishment. What will you get with Jeb Bush…or Marco Rubio…or Chris Christie?

Maybe just a candidate who looks nice in a suit and can hammer the Democrats. That sounds a lot like Mitt Romney, doesn’t it?

In Rubio’s case, you’re getting an attractive young candidate with a gift for speaking – and a lot of unexplained past positions on amnesty. Rubio says this election is about the future…but what exactly does that mean?

Erickson’s right. Conservatives are demanding more and Democrat-lite ain’t going to cut it this time.

Ben Carson must pull out of the downward spiral

As we all know, momentum is extremely important in the presidential race. Over the course of months, candidates rise and fall, but only those who can maintain a certain level of support have a chance going into the early voting states.

That’s why many see Ben Carson’s campaign as being in serious trouble. After overtaking Donald Trump in late October for the national polling lead in the Republican presidential race, Carson has fallen back and there’s a tangible sense something’s not right with his bid for the presidency in the wake of the Paris and Mali terrorist attacks.

Katie Glueck of Politico sums it up. “It isn't simply Carson's style that's contributing to his stall in the polls — it's the lack of command on matters of foreign policy and national security. He failed to inspire confidence with a meandering answer in the last debate on the Middle East, which many saw as incoherent and inaccurate.

“Then came a stumbling performance on Fox News in which he struggled to name countries that, as president, he would invite to join a coalition to take on ISIL. Finally, his own foreign policy adviser said Carson had difficulty grasping the Middle East.”

Glueck’s analysis certainly seems correct, though that’s saying a lot considering Politico’s “Ben Carson lied about West Point” story arguably initiated Carson’s demise by calling into question his trustworthiness and forcing him to yet again defend himself. But we shouldn’t underestimate the voters’ ability to sift through media bias to find the truth.

Carson may indeed be declining, but this time it’s not all the media’s fault. Ben’s done it to himself by failing to ingest the basic outline of American foreign policy. He’s got “gifted hands” for sure, but he’s got some work to do in developing a gifted message.

Some think it’s already too late.

Leon Wolf of RedState writes, “Carson’s support has always been assumed to be softer and we may be seeing the first signs that this is actually true. Carson’s lack of readiness to answer national security questions in an election that increasingly looks to be a foreign policy referendum may have been his undoing.”

A day short of Thanksgiving, it’s a bit premature to say Ben Carson is no longer a factor in the race. There’s little doubt public perception has changed towards him since the Paris incident, but there’s still a lot of time for the talented former neurosurgeon to recover in Iowa.

Ben will need a good showing in next month’s debate to get back on track, however. Even the slightest bobble on foreign policy could prove fatal to his candidacy.

It’s a political flatline the good doctor definitely needs to avoid.

Actor James Woods dumps Carly Fiorina for Ted Cruz

We began the day with good news for Ted Cruz and we end it the same way.

Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reports, “Actor James Woods pulled his endorsement of presidential candidate Carly Fiorina Monday night, tweeting that he has been won over by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a 40-minute conversation…

“Woods, known for his 40-year movie and television career, said he was moved by Cruz's devotion to conservative values regardless of how popular his principles were with the public. Cruz, he said, was ‘the real deal.’”

As I’ve said before, endorsements from famous people in today’s political world don’t really do much other than perhaps increase your name identity. For Ted Cruz to pick up James Woods’ endorsement is probably far more hurtful to Carly Fiorina than it is helpful to the Texas senator.

People already know who Ted Cruz is. Far fewer know Fiorina, even at this stage of the game.

I don’t know how prominent Woods is in Hollywood circles these days, but his open endorsement of a fiery conservative like Cruz probably won’t further his career in lefty la-la land.

It’s great to see an entertainer with real principles, though. I’ll have to look up Woods’ next movie and consider adding it to the “must see” list.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

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I have supported him consistently ever since I told his father on 8/29/2013 [@ a rally against ObamaDon'tCare sponsored by Heritage Action] of my fealty; the vectors are all in the correct direction, as per this piece [and increasing recognition, even by FNC].