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Presidential Horse Race 2016: John Kasich uses campaign spotlight to audition for “The Ten Commandments”

Perusing the news of late, there’re lots of stories about Donald Trump – but they’re mostly concerning something the candidate has done or said while the chatter from fellow candidates and Republican elites has virtually stopped.

We do get the occasional “establishment in a panic” article, but the relative silence from the Republican Ten Commandmentshigher-ups has been a mystery.

Erick Erickson of RedState has a theory to explain it. “The attacks on Donald Trump by the establishment are not forthcoming. Do not expect them to happen. Expect instead that Sen. Marco Rubio starts going up in the polls. It has come to this — the establishment of the Republican Party has decided that Sen. Ted Cruz must be stopped. The way to stop Cruz is to not touch Trump and start helping Rubio.”

Erickson advanced a similar argument the other day in saying the establishment (led by Karl Rove) was trying to keep Ben Carson viable long enough to keep votes away from Ted Cruz.

I’m not quite sure the elites would risk keeping Trump alive in the race just to get at Cruz. I think they’ve ceased focusing on The Donald because they figure nothing will work against him right now. If Trump still commands 25-30% of the vote even after all that’s happened in recent months, what could they possibly say today that would make a difference?

It’s almost like they’re resigned to dealing with Trump, knowing he’s got a fairly low ceiling to his support. None other than Chris Christie pretty much admitted it just this week.

Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico reports Christie told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, “Listen, I think you’ve got a group of folks like Jeb Bush and John Kasich and Marco Rubio who are the people that I’m really competing with in New Hampshire.

“I don’t feel, at the moment, directly in competition with Donald Trump on these things. I feel much more in competition with Jeb Bush and John Kasich and, to some extent, also Marco Rubio.”

What, Chris isn’t worried about competing with Ted Cruz? I guess that means he’s not trying to win over conservatives. It makes sense. We know better.

At the same time, we should give Christie credit for being honest. He can’t realistically count on conservatives to choose him, so why bother trying to win them over?

It seems logical the establishment is worried about Ted Cruz – they should be. But it’s also clear they’re planning other means to shoot down The Donald, such as multi-million dollar ad campaigns… or trying to fix the delegate count.

They’re not going to wait until next summer (before the convention) to attack Trump or Cruz. I have a feeling that’s coming in early January. We’ll have to wait and see.

John Kasich uses campaign spotlight to audition for “The Ten Commandments”

Yesterday I talked a little bit about Chris Christie and shed some doubt on a Politico writer’s assertion that the New Jersey governor was starting to catch on in New Hampshire.

(Note: If you weren’t convinced, here’s another bored journalist’s attempt to prop up Christie -- this time it’s Josh Kraushaar of National Journal.)

Today we look at another establishment candidate who’s failed to do much in the 2016 Republican race, Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich has clearly positioned himself in the mushy moderate lane of the party, promoting his “compassionate conservatism” at every campaign stop and making a spectacle of himself during debates by shaming the other candidates for failing to take care of the poor and middle class.

In the process, he’s repeatedly invoked religion to justify his big government liberal actions as governor.

Doug Bandow writes in the American Spectator, “The governor has gone out of his way to offend everyone, especially those who believe in shrinking government. He’s this year’s Jon Huntsman, without the charm. Kasich garnered the most negative reaction from focus groups after the last debate. He has taken an ‘interesting’ approach to campaigning.

“Perhaps Kasich’s strangest electoral ploy has been to present himself as God’s candidate. Criticize him for his spending and he’ll tell you that God wants it. Unfortunately for him, too many Republican voters actually read their Bibles to believe him.”

Kasich’s many invocations of the Almighty to try and bolster his calls for more government spending have been one of the most curious aspects of this year’s race. John kind of reminds me of those strange characters who stand on street corners with bullhorns reciting scripture while ignoring everyone around him.

In his article, Bandow notes that Kasich doesn’t actually do much philanthropy himself, which doesn’t quite gel with his constant pleas to relieve guilty consciences before we all approach those pearly gates.

There’s no objective way to tell whether Kasich is really sincere in his faith, but it’s odd that he prescribes more government solutions to care for the poor – especially since government has been a miserable failure at it ever since LBJ and the Great Society began large scale “ministry” in the 60’s.

In the end, Kasich’s preaching won’t matter much since he’s not going anywhere in the race and people (at least according to focus groups) are turned off every time he opens his mouth. He’ll be best remembered as the oddest character in this year’s big cast.

And if he keeps up the God-talk maybe he’ll win the lead in the next iteration of “The Ten Commandments” if Hollywood ever decides to do a remake of the Charlton Heston classic.

Americans value strength over honesty in 2016

In a campaign cycle with many surprises, one of the most shocking tidbits was revealed in a new national survey this week.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports, “In a new Quinnipiac national poll of the Republican and Democratic presidential races, the candidates whom voters view as least honest and trustworthy are leading the pack. In fact, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump score almost equally on the issue.”

Before you go thinking Americans no longer care about politicians lying to them, there’s another side to the results.

Again, York writes, “On the other hand, the area in which Clinton and Trump dominate is the question of strength, and again their scores are almost identical…

“[B]oth dominate among Democratic and Republican voters who say that strong leadership is the most important attribute for a president. And in a show of the power of the strength issue, both lead among voters in their party who say honesty and trustworthiness are the most important attribute for a president.”

We all know Hillary Clinton is a big fat liar. The woman can’t open her mouth without some fib escaping. For Donald Trump it’s different. The media depicts him as a fabricator because he’s prone to exaggeration. He sometimes gets his facts mixed up a bit but they’re not exactly lies.

For example, last week The Donald said he remembered thousands of American Muslims celebrating after 9/11. Contemporary news reports reveal there were some smaller scale celebrations, but not exactly the thousands gleefully dancing in the streets that Trump appeared to suggest.

At the same time, does anyone doubt Trump means what he says when he promises to “bomb the s—t out of ISIS?” That’s where the leadership part comes in.

Trump says what he means and means what he says. The qualities of honesty and trustworthiness may get snagged there someplace, but a lot of people see tremendous value in someone with a backbone – especially since the Republican leadership in Washington has proven so spineless.

Trump doesn’t back down and that’s why he continues to lead the Republican race.

Jeb Bush’s last stand in New Hampshire will look just like the Battle of Little Bighorn

Finally today, Jeb Bush came in at five percent in the Quinnipiac poll referenced above. That’s a precipitous fall from his former perch as anointed Republican frontrunner.

With very little support nationally and virtually no chance to do well in Iowa, the former Florida governor and Bush family little brother is apparently going all-out in New Hampshire.

Eli Stokols of Politico reports, “Stuck in the middle of the GOP pack he was expected to dominate, Bush is accelerating the time frame for his campaign’s next ad buy in the state. His campaign also announced Tuesday that it is opening four regional field offices in New Hampshire and upping its on-the-ground staff from 12 people to 20.”

They can increase the size to a hundred and it probably wouldn’t matter. As the article details, even people who would otherwise be open to a Jeb candidacy have misgivings because of his last name.

I suspect that somewhere along the line Jeb realized this isn’t going to work – but couldn’t back out early like Perry and Walker because he’d tarnish the family reputation.

The question is whether a couple ugly defeats in the first two voting states will end up being worse – since it’s a repudiation of the Bush family rather than just Jeb. It’s something people will always talk about when discussing the legacy of the Bush family.

Just as George Armstrong Custer (who had a very distinguished military career) will always be remembered for disastrously losing the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Bushes will be seen as going down in flames in 2016. Fair or not, that’s the way it is.

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