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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Ted Cruz makes Rand Paul 2016’s invisible man

We begin the week with a look back to early January of 2012 and the Iowa caucuses results.

You may recall, due to ballot counting errors (the results from eight precincts went missing and were never recovered, according to the Des Moines Register, and officials found paperwork irregularities in results Ted Cruz and Rand Paulsubmitted from 131 precincts), Mitt Romney was initially declared the “winner.” He subsequently used the momentum to dominate the New Hampshire primary and it certainly looked like the start of an establishment sweep.

Of course the only problem being Rick Santorum actually ended up having more votes in Iowa and the state wasn’t called in his favor until almost three weeks later.

Then, fresh off a terrific performance in a post-New Hampshire debate, Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina. So there were actually three winners in the first three voting states.

In any case, Iowa officials are determined to make sure the misreporting doesn’t happen again. Jonathan Easley of The Hill reports, “State party officials say they’ve moved aggressively to address the problems that plagued the ballot count in January 2012, and believe the new technologies they’ve adopted, as well as having more workers on staff and enhanced training programs, will pave the way for a smooth and accurate reckoning at the Feb. 1. caucuses.”

Easley notes several potential issues remain and could show up on Caucus Day, but the campaigns believe things will work out this time.

Santorum still maintains the Iowa errors deprived him of momentum and fundraising, but it’s hard to argue that a razor-thin second place versus a razor-thin victory made a huge difference in the overall race.

If the candidates are satisfied Iowa has fixed the glitch, that’s good enough for me.

Rand Paul is 2016’s invisible man thanks to Ted Cruz

It was perhaps the 2016 Republican race’s worst kept secret that Rand Paul would run for president. There were rumors he’d run even back in 2012, squelched only when father Ron decided he would make another try to follow up on his surprisingly well-received 2008 attempt.

It turned out Ron Paul did even better in 2012. He finished third in Iowa and (a distant) second in New Hampshire and stayed in the race all the way to the convention. He never did fully endorse Mitt Romney and even gave up a convention speaking slot to uphold his principles until the end of his political career.

For this reason, Ron the father is still revered by his supporters.

Rand, on the other hand, wholeheartedly endorsed Romney, got his time before the national microphone and has been working diligently ever since to move toward the mainstream in the party. In doing so, he sought to build a broad enough coalition to become nationally viable.

Rand positioned himself as the “electable” non-interventionist libertarian who still championed issues such as criminal justice reform, individual privacy and states’ rights to determine their own marijuana laws.

On paper Rand’s plan should have worked beautifully, though in practice, he’s ended up ceding many of Ron’s backers to Ted Cruz, who is credible to libertarians while also engaging a much broader coalition of Republican voters. Therein lies Rand’s problem and you can witness it firsthand just by assessing the size of the crowds.

Tim Alberta of National Review reports from a Saturday event in Iowa, “Cruz has been poaching Paul’s libertarian supporters since last January, when the Texas senator touched down in Iowa for a forum organized by Representative Steve King. The first thing Cruz did on that trip — before visiting with King or any of the state’s evangelical leaders — was stop at the Holiday Inn by the airport for a private roundtable discussion with Iowa’s ‘liberty’ leaders.

“In the eleven months since, Cruz has made significant inroads with this constituency — the one Ron Paul created, and Rand Paul had counted on as the backbone of his campaign.”

The rally Alberta described in his article was held by FreedomWorks in Cedar Rapids Iowa, attended by 1500 liberty-minded Iowans. According to the reporter, both candidates got rousing receptions. But Cruz’s was louder and more heart-felt.

Rand Paul is a great speaker…but Ted Cruz is better. Cruz has wavering libertarians believing he can carry their message and still prevail – something Rand has never been able to accomplish.

Cruz is winning over other reputable folks as well, such as National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy, who writes, “Reinvigorating American principles will require taming Washington. It calls for restoring the Constitution as a vital limit on government, not a relic . . . or an obstacle.

“Ted Cruz gets this. Many Republicans talk the talk — we hear it in every election season, right up until it is time to stop campaigning and start governing. Senator Cruz walks the walk. That is why I believe he should be the next president of the United States.”

Islamic terror expert McCarthy pits Cruz’s foreign policy vision versus Marco Rubio’s and finds it superior. He candidly disagrees with Ted on the issue of collection of metadata and the USA Freedom Act, but argues Rubio’s open-borders views on immigration pose a far greater threat to the country’s security than curtailing government’s power to spy on citizens.

“Addressing our policy errors will not be easy. It will require taking on Washington, which will fight tooth and nail against an overhaul of its Islamist-friendly ways. In this cycle, the Republican party is fortunate to have a stellar field of candidates. But only one of them can be depended on to face down Washington. That candidate is Senator Ted Cruz,” McCarthy concluded.

A great many conservatives are partaking in a similar analysis and reaching the same finding as McCarthy. Cruz is strong on foreign policy without falling into the same traps that led to George W. Bush’s unraveling and the current administration’s hopelessness.

For that reason, Cruz is appealing to Rand Paul’s supporters – and a lot of others, too.

Carly Fiorina receives a tip from Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin thinks Carly Fiorina should stop listening to the political elites and give Americans a little Trump-like directness.

Sarah Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner reports, “Speaking to conservative activists at the Young America's Foundation's Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, Calif., the erstwhile governor of Alaska said she's been waiting for Fiorina to ‘be candid and really tell [Americans] what she's thinking about a lot of these issues.’

“’For what it's worth, I would encourage her to not let any high-priced consultants who run your campaign mold you into something that's not politically correct and kind of middle-of-the-road on some issues,’ Palin said.”

In a curious side note, Palin endorsed Carly in Fiorina’s 2010 U.S. Senate primary in California, choosing the former HP CEO over other candidates who were seen as more conservative at the time.

Sarah may be offering the advice now simply because Fiorina’s a woman, but that’s definitely not the only reason. The truth is, Carly needs to take the suggestion and run with it.

Fiorina is terrific at outlining the issues – as she did in the second Republican presidential debate – but aside from showing a remarkable talent for stinging Hillary Clinton, there hasn’t been a lot of policy substance behind her words.

Once again, conservatives are demanding more from their candidates this time around. People need to know what Carly would do to reduce the size of government and limit its power – and why that’s the right thing to do – rather than offer just another cleverly worded denunciation of Hillary.

With Fiorina, what are you getting if she becomes president? She’s talked about sunsetting all government programs and zero-based budgeting, which is a good start. But would those things alone solve the problem in this day and age where every federal spending measure has some sort of special interest backing?

Sarah Palin knows the value of speaking frankly on the matters people care about. Carly would be wise to take her counsel.

Jeb says Republicans will eventually wise up and reject Trump

Finally today, Jeb Bush is still spouting the establishment line that Donald Trump won’t win the Republican nomination. And the reason Trump won’t win? Because all those early state voters will somehow come to their senses and vote for someone else by Election Day.

Maybe even him. Peter Schroeder of The Hill reports Bush said on ABC’s ‘This Week’, “Donald Trump is not going to get the nomination. I have enough confidence in early GOP primary voters.

“I know for a fact that a conservative is not going to win if they don’t have a hopeful, optimistic message.”

When Jeb mentions “a conservative” who can win…is he referring to himself?

If so, it’s a fantasy he’s still trying to sell to donors. Whether they’re buying it is another story. Eli Stokols and Marc Caputo of Politico report, “While rival campaigns boast that some Bush backers are making side bets on other candidates, hardly any Bush donors have publicly abandoned him — largely out of unwavering loyalty to an incomparable Republican dynasty and to a candidate many put on a pedestal in spite of his political shortcomings.”

Stokols and Caputo indicated the optimism Bush projects is apparently not shared by many on his staff. But it doesn’t look like Jeb’s ready to give up, either.

Jeb may be a good guy with a fierce competitive nature, but reality will set in eventually. One wonders what he’ll say when he does quit the race. Will he put on a happy face that day?

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