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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Good riddance, Lindsey Graham-nesty

If an establishment candidate bows out of the presidential race and there’s no one there to care, does his announcement still make a difference?

That’s what a lot of conservatives are now wondering as Lindsey Graham’s decided to call a halt to his quixotic presidential bid.

McCain GrahamWith the liberal South Carolina senator registering at only .5% in the Real Clear Politics Average, his exit will have next to no impact on the race itself, except for maybe sparing us of his stupid pandering to political correctness and substance-free jabs at the frontrunners during the undercard debates.

Graham’s self-deprecating jokes were humorous at times, but he never quite dispelled the notion that he just didn’t belong anywhere near the real contenders for the nomination.

Katie Glueck of Politico reports on one aspect of Graham’s capitulation that might matter…at least to someone. “By leaving now, he frees up some South Carolina donors and operatives, who had either been backing Graham or staying neutral out of respect for the state’s senior senator.

“…in particular, House and Senate members and local officials will now feel more free to align with another candidate.”

Glueck also suggests Graham is well positioned to act as a kingmaker in South Carolina, quoting none other than ultimate establishmentarian Katon Dawson as an authority on how valuable Lindsey’s endorsement would be to some lucky candidate.

Graham gave no indication whom he might back in his home state, though it would make most sense for him to choose fellow Gang of Eight member Marco Rubio, since they seem to share similar views on neoconservative foreign policy – and amnesty for illegal aliens.

In his “I’m suspending my campaign” announcement, Graham impugned the debate selection process for his inability to gain any traction in the race (in essence, he’s blaming the public itself because his poll numbers weren’t high enough to elevate him to the main stage). In doing so, Lindsey demonstrates once again a serious lack of understanding of the mood of conservative and Republican voters this year.

Simply put, Graham never got anywhere in the race because nobody wanted what he was selling. Plus, they didn’t like him personally either since he’s continuously snuggled up to the party leadership while bashing in personal terms anyone who fought for real reform in the Senate.

As perhaps the Republicans’ most ardent proponent of more military involvement in the Middle East (with maybe the exception of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio), Graham time and again promised to send American troops back to Iraq and Syria to refight a war that’s been going on for decades – if not centuries.

Showing remarkable arrogance as well as astonishing ignorance, he proclaimed “anyone who is not prepared to send in American troops on day one is not fit to be president.” As if he alone understands what the next president should do to follow-up on Obama’s and George W. Bush’s legacies.

The outcome would be different under “President Graham,” right?

The pundits loved his debate performances with many declaring him the “winner” among the lower-tier competitors on several occasions. Unfortunately for Lindsey, the voters never seemed to share the opinions of the media talkers.

Establishment candidates might learn from Graham’s example in one respect. Any candidate who’s had a long and consistent record of being on the wrong side of important issues and siding with party leaders over the Republican base – like Graham always has – will never again fool conservatives into supporting him or her.

Lindsey’s sole purpose in running for president was to try and make sure that first Rand Paul and then Ted Cruz and Donald Trump didn’t win the nomination.

In the end, it sure looks like his quest will be in vain.

Ted Cruz still in great shape heading into 2016

Lindsey Graham made it clear in last week’s debate he’d be most bothered by either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz winning the Republican nomination (though he reluctantly conceded he would support the nominee, even if it was Trump). Graham is one of those who still believes The Donald is damaging the GOP’s “brand” -- as if it could possibly be any worse than it is now.

And he hates Ted Cruz because the Texas senator has actually tried to keep the promises he made during his campaign for election by standing up to the corrupt party leadership and using all the procedural tools at his disposal to advocate for or stall legislation.

Cruz has accomplished more for conservative causes during his few short years in the Senate than Graham has done in his entire political career. Republicans have noticed. The polls reflect it.

And although Trump still enjoys a large lead in national surveys, Erick Erickson of Erickontheradio.com says it’s Cruz who is best positioned to win. “Cruz enters this phase of the campaign because he has the best chance of becoming the nominee at this point. He does so for several reasons.

“First, despite all the complaints from Republicans about Ted Cruz not throwing Donald Trump under the bus, it has served Cruz well…Second, while I have been very open that I think Cruz had a rough few days of interviews, the irony of those interviews is that it set Cruz up to remind his base that Marco Rubio was in the Gang of Eight and Ted Cruz was not…Third, Chris Christie is rising in New Hampshire and now, I’m told by several campaigns, in Iowa. Christie’s growing support comes at the expense of Marco Rubio…Fourth, Cruz still has some very well-funded super PACs and has put his Washington spending principles to work on the campaign trail.

“…His campaign is lean, his ground game impressive, and his path forward is less crowded.”

Erickson makes good sense. National polls are meaningless in Iowa and New Hampshire at this point and at least as far as Iowa is concerned, Cruz is in great shape.

Meanwhile, if Christie is truly rising in New Hampshire, it’s conceivable some of his support may come at the expense of Trump as well as Marco Rubio (in attracting moderate and liberal voters who aren’t as worried about Trump’s social stances).

As the smartest candidate in the race, Cruz is playing the best chess match in combining offensive advances with defensive checks to put himself in great position to win. Even if he does poorly in a debate or has a damaging interview, Ted can still rely on his other assets – organization, financial resources – to continue on strong.

Cruz also recognizes his strengths and limitations. One of his perceived flaws is he’s seen as too slick and humorless as a candidate by people who mistake principled advocacy for naked ambition. Partially in response to those types of charges, he’s come out with a Christmas-themed ad.

Derek Hunter of the Daily Caller reports, “Texas Senator Ted Cruz famously read ‘Green Eggs And Ham’ during his epic filibuster against Obamacare. Now he’s mocking that and Democrats with his latest campaign video: Cruz Christmas Classics. In less than 24 hours the video has garnered nearly 700,000 views on YouTube.”

Hunter’s story contains the video. If you haven’t seen it, it’s hilarious.

I’m guessing we’ll be seeing the more personal side of Ted a lot in the next month. If he’s able to erase some folks’ doubts about his personal likability, he’ll be even more formidable in the presidential race.

You knew it was coming – Megyn Kelly to moderate second Fox Republican debate

Donald Trump loves drama and apparently so does Fox News, which just announced Megyn Kelly (along with Bret Baier and Chris Wallace) will be back in the moderator’s chair when the Republican field debates in Iowa on January 28, just four days ahead of the state’s caucuses.

Becket Adams of the Washington Examiner reports on the Trump/Kelly dispute that began back on August 6. “The casino tycoon said it was ‘unprofessional’ for Kelly to ask him to address disparaging remarks that he has made about women…

“Immediately after the debate, the billionaire businessman complained to reporters that Kelly had been ‘unfair’ to him. The feud escalated quickly after Trump seemed to suggest later in an interview with CNN that Kelly was menstruating during the debate.”

Wow, that was a long time ago, wasn’t it? Trump and Kelly have moved on and so has the Republican presidential race.

The media will make a big deal out of the next face-to-face “meeting” between the two personalities, but who can help but predict it will be anything but cordial and professional?

Trump is who he is. Why rehash negativity when it’s all ancillary to the real issues in the race. There will be plenty to talk about – who cares about a little personal spat from half a year ago.

Where in the World is Marco Rubio?

Finally today, Ted Cruz isn’t the only one questioning Marco Rubio’s absence from the important vote on the impossibly bloated omnibus spending bill late last week.

Rand Paul took his turn in digging at Rubio over the same matter.

Eliza Collins of Politico reports, “On Monday, the Kentucky senator released an ad playing off the theme song of computer villain Carmen Sandiego titled ‘Where in the World is Marco Rubio?’

“The ad features information about last week's Senate vote on a $1.8 trillion spending and tax package. Rubio was one of just two senators who were absent — and the only one running for president.”

Let’s call it what it is – Rubio missing the vote is just plain stupid. Why draw negative attention to yourself and provide a platform for your rivals to attack you at the same time by failing to show for arguably the most important aspect of your job?

It calls into question Rubio’s judgment…and there were enough doubts about it already.

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