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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Bored media touts Chris Christie in New Hampshire

We begin today with Donald Trump’s latest demand concerning the Republican presidential debates.

From FoxNews.com, “Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump suggested to a Georgia crowd Monday night that he may charge CNN $5 million to appear at the next GOP primary debate, money he said could go to wounded warriors or veterans…

Chris Christie“Trump justified his price tag by saying that he has been a big ratings draw for those networks that have hosted the Republican primary debates.”

In making such statements The Donald is merely echoing what he’s hinted at before – that he won’t show unless the hosting network coughs up some of the profits it’s deriving from the highly anticipated political events.

I don’t think CNN will pay and I doubt Trump would skip the event accordingly. He certainly realizes that he benefits just as much from being there as the networks do from his presence. The Donald is trying to broaden his voter appeal (as demonstrated by his meeting with black pastors this week), so acting like a spoiled brat in this matter won’t help drive down his already-too-high negatives.

Should CNN cave, even at some lesser figure, it makes him look good. If not, he’ll show up, take part in the debate and find some way to make himself look like the better person for the gesture.

Trump the showman is still on full display – he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cruz’s Iowa surge is all part of his grand strategy

With just under two months to go until the February 1 Iowa caucuses, it seems clear there’s a shift happening in the state. Donald Trump still leads, but two polls have now shown Ted Cruz pulling ahead of Ben Carson for second place (though the Real Clear Politics average still has Carson ahead of Cruz).

Part of the momentum change is due to Carson’s foibles of the past couple weeks, but I would suggest most of Cruz’s improvement should be credited to his overall strategy.

Niall Stanage of The Hill reports, “Cruz has also tended to the traditional demands of campaigning when it makes sense to do so. [Conservative Iowa activist Doug] Gross noted that the Texan’s campaign has made sustained outreach efforts to Iowa’s Christian pastors and home-schooling advocates, networks that can wield significant power among the Republican grassroots.

“The apparent success of his approach burnishes the sense that Cruz has a real and specific strategy to win not just the caucuses but his party’s nomination.”

Iowa isn’t the only place Cruz is employing such a tactic, but it’s perhaps the most visible at this stage of the race. The Texas senator has patiently sat back as the polls had Trump and Carson dominating for months, trusting that his game plan would ultimately prevail.

It hasn’t yet, but there are clues that it will.

One such sign is the sheer amount of media attention Ted’s getting for somewhat controversial subject matter (on Tuesday it was for him saying “we don’t have a rubber shortage in America” when addressing a question on the availability of birth control).

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post writes that Cruz is tossing out quotes in preparation to directly take on Trump. “It's his offering of offbeat red meat to a GOP base that has been feasting on Trump's offerings for months now.

“They suggest a candidate ready for his close-up and to compete with Trump. And in order to compete with Trump, it seems, you have to be willing to say some Trump-y things.

“Cruz has served notice that he's willing to step forward. We've argued before that his path to the GOP nomination is undersold. And we're about to find out how well he handles it. So far, Trump's impact on that path is quite evident.”

Blake implies that Ted is saying colorful things specifically because Trump does the same. I would argue Cruz has always been good for a quote and has never shied away from answering any kind of question from ordinary citizens or even actors with an agenda.

For example, he was confronted by and rhetorically shot down a homosexual activist at the Iowa State Fair in August. Then he debated a leftist “climate change” promoter in New Hampshire in September.

I’ll say it again. Ted Cruz is a smart guy. He was a debate champion in college. He served as a clerk to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He argued cases before the Supreme Court. He took on the establishment in Texas and won his Senate seat against pretty steep odds. And we all know how undaunted he is when highlighting the failures of the Republican congressional leadership.

Now he’s running for president. Ted knows how to frame opinions and his use of certain words in arguments is not by accident. Ben Carson doesn’t have the same kind of linguistic gifts and neither does Donald Trump.

If Cruz is making headway in Iowa, that’s because he planned it that way. Here’s guessing the trend will continue in other states where Trump enjoys a big lead.

Bored media thinks Chris Christie is making headway in New Hampshire

Another candidate with a gift for speaking and propensity for saying controversial things is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie has been virtually invisible in the presidential race thus far and his few bright moments on the national stage have come in the debates, where he’s left a mostly positive impression for his willingness to zing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

But Christie’s tell-it-like-it-is style has been one-upped by Donald Trump, who just happens to hail from the same geographic region and is far more willing to attack the Washington establishment than the man who is perhaps most famous for giving Obama a hug just days before the 2012 election.

As a non-Jeb Bush establishment candidate, Christie has put all his efforts into trying to gain a foothold in New Hampshire. At least according to one report, it’s paying off.

Daniel Strauss of Politico reports, “For months, Christie has poured whatever resources he could muster into New Hampshire, visiting on an almost weekly basis. As of Monday, the governor had visited the state 49 times, hosted 36 official town halls and held more than 112 events there. He's also made a habit of repeatedly texting and calling potential supporters — and following up — in an attempt to win them over. Even supporters of rival candidates concede those dogged efforts have left a good impression.

“In recent days, he's won a front-page endorsement from the state's largest newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and support from several coveted New Hampshire activists as well — most notably the influential Renee and Dan Plummer. While Christie is still buried in the middle of the pack in state polls, the latest surveys have shown a slight uptick over his mid-October numbers.”

Christie is a compelling figure and in a year where there weren’t so many good choices, it’s conceivable he could be one of the more attractive candidates to the secular establishment faction of the Republican Party.

But aside from Strauss’s anecdotal evidence, there’s little indication Christie is seriously gaining on the leaders. As of now, he’s still below 3% nationally in the Real Clear Politics average (will he qualify for the main event in the December 15 CNN debate?). In New Hampshire, he’s in seventh place at 5.3, which puts him two points behind even Jeb Bush.

If Christie is to truly advance he’ll have to take votes from the other establishment candidates like Marco Rubio, Bush or John Kasich. If Trump or Cruz wins in Iowa as predicted, there will be some panic among the elites – and they’ll be desperate to find someone who can compete nationally.

It just doesn’t seem like that guy will be Chris Christie. Maybe I’m wrong.

I can’t help but conclude that stories on Christie gaining ground in New Hampshire are nothing other than bored journalists looking for something to write about other than what Donald Trump just uttered or Ben Carson’s latest verbal misstep.

They’ll just have to keep trying to dig up something real – and interesting.

Jeb Bush wants a woman – for VP

Speaking of fantasies, we conclude today with an entry from the “never going to happen” category, but it’s fun to talk about anyway.

Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner reports, “Jeb Bush thinks the American people should be a ‘little less gender specific’ when talking about future vice presidents.

“Bush talked openly about enlisting a female running mate, despite polling around 5 percent nationwide and trailing four other GOP presidential candidates in RealClearPolitics' average of national polls.”

Is this Jeb playing identity politics or just his latest attempt to make himself standout?

No matter. First of all, it’s increasingly clear Bush isn’t going to win the Republican nomination, so no one cares who he would consider for a running mate. He’ll never get that choice.

But even if by some miracle people start warming up to having another Bush in the White House, why would he narrow his potential VP choices to strictly women candidates? It reminds me of the answer Hillary gave in the first Democrat debate when asked how she’d differ from Barack Obama.

“Isn’t it obvious…I’m a woman!”

Jeb just stumbled over another stupid answer from a candidate who doesn’t appear to have any core beliefs. No wonder he’s already an also-ran in the Republican field.

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Thanks for your roundups, Mr. Rendal

I read them daily and appreciate your collection and analysis.

Regarding Ted Cruz, I point to this paragraph:

"I’ll say it again. Ted Cruz is a smart guy. He was a debate champion in college. He served as a clerk to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He argued cases before the Supreme Court. He took on the establishment in Texas and won his Senate seat against pretty steep odds. And we all know how undaunted he is when highlighting the failures of the Republican congressional leadership."

To again declaim that yes, Ted Cruz is a brilliant man ... and that his training, experience, and skillset lead him directly to the positions of Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice ... and not to the presidency.

If we are truly believers in the co-equal powers of the federal government branches, then we need good, brilliant people in the judicial branch every bit as much as in the executive branch. Indeed, in today's world of activist judges, perhaps even moreso!

So why is Ted Cruz, the man whose credentials you so ably outline in the above-quoted paragraph, running for an executive branch position?

I also posit that it is MUCH HARDER to find such brilliantly qualified persons as Senator Cruz for the judicial branch than it is for either the executive or legislative branches. Which gives me even worse of a headache as to why Cruz has his eye on the presidency, when he is a lawyer through and through?! (And that's not an insult, it's an honest question. IMO, it's the equivalent of Michael Jordan playing baseball - and we know how that turned out.)