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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Bored reporters and exasperated establishment sees hope for Jeb Bush in New Hampshire

We begin today with more evidence Ted Cruz is making headway in the Republican presidential race a little over a month ahead of the first voting. A new national poll from Quinnipiac University shows the Texas senator just four points behind leader Donald Trump.

Jeb Bush Marco RubioNick Gass of Politico reports, “Trump's share remained essentially unchanged from the university's last poll, ticking up one point to 28 percent. Cruz, meanwhile, shot up eight percentage points to 24 percent.

“Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finished third with 12 percent, a five-point drop since late November, while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson continued his downward spiral with 10 percent, a six-point hit in the same period.”

The rest are as follows:

Chris Christie at 6%
Jeb Bush at 4%
All others 2% or less
8% are undecided

The survey was conducted December 16-20, so the entire sample was taken after last Tuesday night’s debate (which participants indicated Cruz won overwhelmingly).

There’s more. “In Iowa, Cruz leads Trump by 9 points, according to the latest CBS News/YouGov poll. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa poll released Dec. 12 yielded a 10-point advantage for Cruz,” Gass wrote.

The Quinnipiac poll does diverge some from other recent polls showing Trump way ahead, but it also confirms that Cruz is trending up. It also brings more bad news for Marco Rubio, who very well may have peaked in early November.

Cruz himself predicts that one establishment candidate will emerge from the early states and thus far, none of them are looking particularly strong to be that guy. The “outsiders” are still earning over 60% combined support, a number that hasn’t changed throughout the race.

The ultimate establishment nightmare continues.

Bored reporters and exasperated establishment roused over perceived Jeb uptick in New Hampshire

When Politico broke a story earlier this month about Chris Christie gaining in New Hampshire, I was skeptical. After all, Christie had just come off being relegated to the undercard debate (on November 10 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and there wasn’t a lot of evidence – at least in national polls – to suggest the New Jersey governor was on the verge of a breakthrough.

True, Chris had just received the endorsement of the influential New Hampshire Union Leader, but would that alone really make much of a difference? I thought the Politico Christie story was just the result of bored reporters sitting around trying to think up something to write about other than Donald Trump’s latest inflammatory utterance.

The jury’s still out on whether Christie has indeed risen. He’s crept up to fourth place in the Granite State according to the Real Clear Politics average, but doesn’t appear to be going higher anytime soon.

Perhaps because the Christie storyline is dying out comes another Politico article claiming Jeb Bush is starting to see signs of life in New Hampshire.

Man, those journalists must really be bored now.

Eli Stokols (not the same writer who propped up Christie) of Politico reports on the purported glimmers of hope for Jeb: “Take the 200-person crowds showing up at his four Saturday town halls. Take the current polls in New Hampshire that put him within striking distance of every GOP rival but Trump.

“And perhaps most significantly, take Beverly Bruce, a Republican activist who served as Mitt Romney’s 2012 New Hampshire finance chair and had been courted by several contenders. She has decided to throw her weight, and her considerable organizing muscle, behind Bush after attending three of his four voter meetings on Saturday.”

Those same polls show Bush in fifth place (immediately behind Christie) at 8 percent. Trump is still miles ahead in front with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio tied for second at 12 percent.

New Hampshirites insist Trump’s huge lead doesn’t mean anything and the race is still fluid. Fair enough. But does that mean Jeb is surging?

By the looks of it, New Hampshire is the establishment’s playground with Jeb, Christie, John Kasich and Rubio vying for the state’s considerable moderate business-as-usual vote. Trump and Cruz would vie for conservatives’ favor, though Trump is also competitive in the moderate/liberal lane as well.

Somewhat pathetically, Jeb supporters in the state are merely hoping he can vault into second place, which supposedly would give him momentum going into South Carolina.

No one talks about winning in Jeb’s camp anymore, which is quite a switch from earlier boastful predictions he’d swamp the field with his “serious” candidacy and big money backers. That was all establishment pie in the sky. It’s a new day in Republican-land and conservatives aren’t about to be force-fed another resume-based candidate who openly defies the base whenever it’s politically expedient.

And even if Bush did make a comeback up north, Jeb’s still got his biggest problem to contend with – himself.

Noemie Emery of the Washington Examiner writes, “Since his term ended in 2006, the once very successful Florida governor has committed malpractice many times over, not only alienating conservative voters on disputes over issues but showing contempt for them, viewing them less as constituents to be persuaded than as obstacles to be overcome.”

Jeb’s stumbles began when he dismissed conservatives’ concerns over illegal immigration in favor of pandering to the lawbreakers themselves. He probably assumed because he has a Mexican wife and “brown” (George H.W. Bush’s word) children that he’d be thought of as having more authority to steer opinion on the matter.

Wrong. Donald Trump blew up that theory in June when he announced his candidacy.

Emery concludes, “Since his poll numbers were high until he started campaigning, can anyone doubt that a forceful, articulate, coherent Jeb Bush would have been treated quite differently? The problem with Jeb Bush isn't the ‘Bush’ part of the story. The problem with ‘Jeb Bush’ is ‘Jeb.’”

Too true. Though Jeb’s intimate connection with the family legacy is definitely part of Jeb’s problem. Conservatives are tired of being promised action on issues and then being betrayed and insulted by the people who make those claims. The Bushes all but led that betrayal.

Jeb’s sitting at 4.5 percent in the Real Clear Politics national average. Any uptick in New Hampshire – real or the product of bored reporters and optimistic Republican blue bloods – isn’t going to make a difference to his overall candidacy. He’s yesterday’s news…and his supporters know it, no matter how hard they try to affix a happy face to it.

Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina – hanging on by a thread

It’s late December and Rick Santorum is barely registering in the polls. It’s a situation he’s seen before, which probably gives him hope a miracle might be on its way.

As the Republican runner-up in 2012, Santorum no doubt figured he was “next in line” in a party that tends to honor the narrow losers from the previous nominating cycle. Only this year the former Pennsylvania senator isn’t starting to make a move in Iowa and things look awful bleak.

There isn’t an establishment frontrunner to chase and it’s made all the difference for the insurgent candidates. There are other reasons, too.

Tim Alberta of National Review reports, “The chief obstacle to Santorum’s winning Iowa has a name: Ted Cruz. The fiery Texan has rapidly consolidated the conservative vote here and locked up the support of many former Santorum backers, including Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader, an Iowa social-conservative organization. Recent polls show Cruz padding his lead atop the polls on the strength of his performance among Evangelicals and tea-partiers, suddenly making him the clear front-runner to win the caucuses.”

In other words, Iowans like Cruz better than Rick. And Trump too. And all but one of the other candidates. According to the Real Clear Politics average in Iowa, Santorum leads only George Pataki. For a former winner in The Hawkeye State, it’s got to be frustrating.

For his part, Santorum says he isn’t bitter but the article certainly makes him sound like it – saving special angst for Cruz, who he criticizes for Ted’s lack of friends in Congress and realist foreign policy.

Rick admits his time may have passed – the least he can do now is not go around making a fool of himself by claiming he’s the most qualified and experienced conservative candidate in the field.

Also in National Review is an update on Carly Fiorina. Alexis Levinson asks, ‘Whatever Happened to Carly Fiorina?’

“Perhaps the biggest problem for Fiorina is the perception that she would make a great vice president for one of the other candidates in the race. That has been a constant refrain since she first launched her bid for the White House, one that both she and her campaign fought hard to quiet.”

The shadow of second place on the ticket is definitely a problem for Fiorina, but she’s disappeared primarily because conservatives who took a serious look at her after her breakout debate performance in September didn’t find much underneath the extremely polished exterior.

And no, I’m not talking about her “face.”

All along, Fiorina has appeared to want to compete with the conservative “outsiders” yet seems to fit more with the more moderate and neoconservative establishment candidates. As examples, she joins the establishment gang in blasting Trump whenever he says something controversial, talks big on foreign policy like they do, promises a no-fly zone in Syria, threatens to not even speak to our enemies and wants to build up the military to epic proportions.

She champions social issues yet doesn’t put them at the forefront of her campaign. Carly talks mostly about taking on and beating Hillary Clinton, yet what happens after that if she ever got the chance?

Frankly, unless something drastically changes, a VP nod is about the best that either Santorum or Fiorina could expect at this point. And even in that regard, there look to be a host of better choices.

Maybe they’ll get convention speaking slots…

The next Republican debate could look different

Finally today, there’s a good chance the next GOP presidential debate on January 14 (on the Fox Business Network) will differ quite a bit from the five previous examples.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports, “As few as six candidates could make the next GOP presidential debate stage in January, as Fox Business News' new criteria could drastically shrink the field less than a month before the Iowa caucuses.

“Fox Business News announced three separate avenues to make the main stage, but those pathways are more restricted than in previous debates. Participants in the main stage debate on Jan. 14 must hit the top six in an average of five recent national polls, or top five in an average of recent polls from Iowa or New Hampshire.”

The non-qualifiers for the main stage will participate in another undercard debate, but even there, they’d need at least 1 percent to receive an invitation. Rick Santorum could get booted under those criteria.

I think most observers would agree it’s time to adjust the debates. Several of the campaigns won’t be happy about it, but everything has it’s time. Kudos to the Fox Business Network for starting the conversation.

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