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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Ted Cruz deploys Iowa strategy to surge in South Carolina

It’s safe to say the American media doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.

Ronald Reagan often used anecdotes to teach a lesson (as did other notable presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln), but it seems political correctness has taken over to the point where any off-the-cuff remark by a politician or public figure these days is automatically taken out of context and used to brand that person as insensitive at best and racist, homophobic, sexist, you-name-it-ist at worst.

Ted CruzIf you don’t believe it, just ask Clint Eastwood who was censured for poking fun at cross-dressing Bruce Jenner.

So it isn’t really surprising Donald Trump has caught so much flak for his various Tweets and utterances, the most recent being his proposal to temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the United States (until the politicians set a policy, basically).

We’ve come to learn over the years that Trump doesn’t shy from controversy and this latest episode is no exception. But Trump’s brash-nature doesn’t detract from the fact the Muslim question is a discussion this country needs to have.

It shouldn’t take another terrorist attack within our borders to trigger the conversation. Thank God Trump spoke up.

Islamic terrorism expert Andrew C. McCarthy of National Review agrees, writing, “If we continue mindlessly treating Islam as if it were merely a religion, if we continue ignoring the salient differences between constitutional and sharia principles — thoughtlessly assuming these antithetical systems are compatible — we will never have a sensible immigration policy.

“I have no idea what, if anything, Donald Trump knows about sharia. I do know that it’s a system we must account for if we are going to succeed in welcoming pro-Western Muslims who will be a boon to our society while excluding Islamic supremacists who want to destroy it.”

Americans who live in or near major metropolitan areas come into contact with Muslims on a frequent basis. President Obama is right on this – they are our neighbors, co-workers and friends. I myself have known many Muslims and never regarded them as anything other than colleagues and neighbors.

I share some of the other Republican candidates’ skittish opinions regarding the seriousness of what Trump is proposing. But at its core, Trump is right. America’s representatives need to “figure it out,” which includes soliciting input from Muslims integrated into our society.

It’s not enough for our elected leaders to feign shock over Trump’s bringing up the concept of Muslim inspired terrorism on American soil. It’s here already, has been for years and will continue to rear its ugly head until we understand “what’s going on.”

There isn’t a need for World War II-style Japanese internment camps and anyone on the Left who says that’s what Trump is advocating is way off base. The Donald merely called for sealing the borders until certain actions are accomplished.

Something needs to be done. Give Donald Trump credit for getting the ball rolling.

Cruz and Rubio avoid fully confronting Trump on the Muslim question

By now, Republicans should not be astonished at anything Trump says, but that doesn’t mean the candidates were ready to respond to The Donald’s most recent verbal escapade.

Rebecca Berg of Real Clear Politics reports Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in particular stayed away from criticizing Trump too severely. “Rubio and Cruz, who have been rising in Republican primary polls, notably opted for subtlety in lieu of the spotlight, reflecting confidence in their cautious, deliberate campaigns for president.

“’I disagree with that proposal,’ Cruz said Tuesday. ‘I like Donald Trump. A lot of our friends here have encouraged me to criticize and attack Donald Trump. I’m not interested in doing so.’

“’His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together,’ Rubio tweeted late Monday.”

Of course Lindsey Graham didn’t shy away from blasting Trump and neither did Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. What a collection of “real” men they are.

Berg suggests there may be political motivations behind Cruz and Rubio electing to stay off the Trump third-rail if they hope to eventually compete for his supporters. That certainly could be Cruz’s rationale, but why would Rubio refrain? What Trump backer would accept Rubio?

The more likely reason for the avoidance is Cruz and Rubio are both trying to look strong in the eyes of the public on national security. When Trump brings up the subject of radical Islam – even in a controversial way -- neither wants to appear squeamish by calling The Donald crazy or a racist.

Or, in the alternative, maybe deep down they actually agree with Trump. Cruz already said he opposes the proposal itself but there’s no indication he flatly rejects the concept of it. Rubio basically said it’s just Trump being Trump.

There may be yet another explanation, at least for Cruz. Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg reports, “The Cruz presidential campaign has the most to gain from Trump's roundly condemned pitch to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S., several Cruz Iowa backers said in separate phone interviews Tuesday. Their reasoning: By contrast, Cruz's positions come off as more politically mainstream…

“Throughout the campaign, Cruz has capitalized on Trump's penchant for headline-grabbing rhetoric in part by refraining from the kind of harsh criticism leveled at the billionaire by rival presidential candidates such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, or Ohio Governor John Kasich.”

In essence, Cruz is astutely avoiding the typical prison cell reserved for establishment candidates. They’re so concerned with playing to the middle that they forget the conservative base actually likes it when politicians tell the truth rather than partake in the usual politically correct outrage that is the calling card of Washington.

The establishment scenario goes like this: whine and moan about how awful Trump is; soothingly propose to deploy the American military to cleanly stomp out the radicals in their homelands and then wait for the controversy to die down.

In the end, nothing gets accomplished. No wonder people are fed up with the establishment.

Rand Paul: Obama’s the one who should be disqualified for President

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio may be seen as cautious in addressing Trump’s temporary Muslim ban, but Rand Paul held nothing back in taking on the White House for claiming Trump’s remarks “disqualify” him from serving as president.

Nick Gass of the Politico reports, “On Wednesday, Paul took to Twitter to list the ways he felt the current commander in chief is unfit for the job, on everything from his policies to his appointments to his interpretation of the law.

“’Yesterday the Obama White House had the nerve to say someone else was unqualified for office,’ Paul said, in the first of a dozen tweets. He added in another, ‘Today I would like to put a mirror in front of the Obama White House and show them the top ten things that make HIM unqualified.’”

Paul then listed ten reasons Obama isn’t fit to be president. He’s right on every single one of them, of course, and there are no doubt more.

For Rand to defend Trump so vehemently is curious given the frontrunner’s harsh criticism of the Kentucky senator throughout the campaign. Maybe The Donald will return the favor and give Rand a shout-out at next week’s debate.

This is the Rand Paul many of us had hoped to see from the beginning of his run for president. Instead, his campaign has been uncertain in its convictions (to be libertarian or not to be?) and invisible against the big personalities in the contest.

While it’s great to see Paul finally speaking up, everyone knows it’s too late for him. Even if he could somehow make headway in the polls in the next few weeks he lacks the organization and fundraising to make him a real contender well into spring.

Rand’s lost much of his thunder to Ted Cruz and by recently criticizing Marco Rubio’s tax plan and hawkish foreign policy, perhaps Paul is giving a tacit endorsement to the Texas senator.

It’s coming down to the time where we’re all going to have to choose sides. Maybe Rand’s tipping his hand in advance.

Cruz deploys Iowa strategy to surge in South Carolina

Finally today, as Ted Cruz has recently gained ground in Iowa, now comes news he’s utilizing a similar strategy to advance in South Carolina, particularly targeting the same conservative evangelicals who find him so appealing in the upper Midwest.

Katie Glueck of Politico reports, “A big part of Cruz’s strategy, in South Carolina and nationally, is to emerge as the consensus choice of evangelicals and other conservative Christians. To that end, in South Carolina, Mike Gonzalez is leading an initiative to recruit in each county a pastor who will then be tasked with turning out more Christians for Cruz. That echoes an approach Cruz has already taken in Iowa, where efforts are underway to tap a pastor in all 99 counties.”

This isn’t just an Iowa or South Carolina-centered strategy for Cruz. It’s the foundation of his campaign all across the country – to consolidate full spectrum conservatives into a winning coalition that can’t be matched by any other candidate.

Glueck notes Cruz’s efforts are ongoing and Trump still clearly leads in the Palmetto State. But with Ted’s superior on-the-ground organization and significant head start over rivals like Marco Rubio, it seems like only a matter of time before he sees the kind of poll numbers down south that he does in Iowa.

If Ted’s plan is working, we’ll likely hear about it in the next month or so.

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