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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Ted Cruz is right to want to banish the George W. Bush past

We begin the final week of 2015 with a hint of peace – not in the Middle East, of course, but between the two leaders of the Republican presidential race.

Bradford Richardson of The Hill reports, “Republican primary front-runner Donald Trump in an interview broadcast Sunday refused to escalate his feud with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

George W. Bush“When asked about his chief political rival during an interview with ABC News's Jon Karl, the businessman said Cruz, who has recently taken the lead in Iowa, was a ‘nice guy.’

“’He is a very nice guy, he has been very respectful,’ Trump said.”

Respect is big to Trump, largely because he isn’t getting it from most of the other candidates and the party leadership despite the fact he’s vastly increased interest in the Republican race this year.

Trump deserves gratitude from the GOP, not near-universal condemnation and outright animosity from Republicans.

For his part, Cruz has taken a lot of heat for not attacking The Donald enough. Cruz doesn’t need advice on what he should do or not do where Trump is concerned. It looks like being a “nice guy” is serving him just fine.

Larry Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” looks a little foggy

Thus far I have avoided a lot of empirical analysis of the upcoming general election race, instead favoring a more subjective interpretation of the Republican candidates and their positions prior to the primaries.

But it never hurts to start looking ahead. If the 2015 campaign season has taught us anything, it’s that 2016 is going to be a different kind of election -- so relying on historical models won’t necessarily be helpful in predicting who’s going to come out on top.

History would suggest the Republican establishment would have a major say in who’s nominated for the GOP, yet polls have consistently showed about two-thirds of conservative and Republican voters favor an “outsider” this time around.

Therefore, picking Jeb Bush as the Republican Party’s candidate is not only counter-intuitive, it’s likely wrong this year. The same uncertainty carries into the general election.

Nevertheless, political guru Larry Sabato (with Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley) has compiled ten factors that will determine the winner in 2016 and it’s always useful to examine Sabato’s analysis to see where the race could be headed.

According to Sabato, the factors are:

“1. THE CANDIDATES -- Partisans may not switch sides very often, but the intensity of support for their nominee affects donations, volunteer activities, and even turnout.

“2. THE PRESIDENT’S JOB APPROVAL -- President Obama is not on the ballot, but he looms over the race. His national standing has remained very consistent — some would say stagnant — throughout much of his presidency...Postwar history suggests that when a president has weak approval, his party pays a price in the next election.

“3. THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY -- There’s been on average about one recession every five years since 1901, and the last recession ended in June 2009. That doesn’t mean there will be a recession before the next election, but if there is, there’s every reason to expect that it would be a drag on the incumbent president’s party (the Democrats).

“4. FOREIGN POLICY AND TERRORISM -- Since 9/11, the public has generally seen Republicans as the stronger party in dealing with terrorism.

“5. SOCIAL ISSUES -- Just like Republicans on terrorism, Democrats believe that if the election is about issues such as abortion and immigration, and their opponent’s far right positions on these issues, they can make the GOP nominee unelectable.

“6. RUNNING MATES -- In 2016, the potential exists on one or both sides to nominate a VP candidate who enhances the ticket and maybe even helps carry one of the few real swing states.

“7. THE DWINDLING NUMBER OF SWING STATES -- The campaigning will thus concentrate on the closest swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia. Republicans will make some effort yet again to win over Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (and possibly a few others) while Democrats will try to replicate Obama’s 2008 win in North Carolina.

“8. SCANDAL -- You just never know when a scandal will strike, or whether it will matter, or which candidate will suffer disproportionately.

“9. AMERICA'S CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS -- It’s quite possible that the most important data point on Nov. 8, 2016, will be the nonwhite share of the electorate.

“10. TURNOUT -- Without Obama’s name on the ballot, it’s an open question whether Democrats will be able to be repeat what they accomplished in 2008 and 2012.”

While I think Sabato’s hit on the key factors, I heartily disagree with some of his commentary (in the story) on a few of them, since he adopts the conventional wisdom that establishment candidates are the most “electable.” That’s just not true.

I especially object to factor number six, where Sabato lists several running mates as having had a negative effect on their respective tickets.

In particular, Sabato said Sarah Palin weighed down the 2008 Republican ticket.

Palin was not a drag on 2008, no matter how hard political “experts” portray it that way. If Palin hadn’t been in the mix, millions of conservatives would have passed on working/contributing/voting for John McCain, who would be the poster child for a weak presidential candidate if not for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Sabato’s whole “analysis” gets it wrong on this point. You can crunch data all you want, but in talking with real life voters who do the actual work, nobody cared about voting FOR McCain. You didn’t see any “McCain power” t-shirts, but I saw a lot of “Palin power” pink shirts, though.

To say otherwise is nuts. Sarah Palin was THE draw in 2008.

Nothing would have saved John McCain as the lead on the Republican ticket. Ronald Reagan himself could’ve returned from the next world and it wouldn’t have made a difference as McCain’s VP. Barack Obama, the purveyor of phony “hope and change” was destined to win after George W. Bush abandoned his own base on issue after issue.

Democrats hated Palin and many wishy-washy Republicans disparaged her. But Palin was NOT a drag on the 2008 Republican ticket.

Sabato also indicated Dan Quayle was detrimental to Republicans in ’88. Sounds like anti-conservative bias, especially when he also mentions a “dream ticket” of Marco Rubio and John Kasich next November. Sounds more like a nightmare to me. The base would revolt, big time.

Overall, however, Sabato’s laid the groundwork for what the 2016 election may look like.

It’s clear that if the Republicans are to win, they’ll need a principled conservative candidate who offers a real choice opposite Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, in the end, all the analysis in the world won’t help the Republicans – or the country.

Even some Neocons admit Ted Cruz is right to want to banish the Bush past

Speaking of contrasts, the Republican presidential candidates appear to agree on most issues but have developed a serious split where foreign policy and immigration are concerned.

That’s a major problem, since foreign policy/national security and immigration are probably going to determine who ultimately wins the nomination.

Breaking it down further, it’s a battle of the realists versus the neoconservatives.

Self-described neocon David P. Goldman of PJ Media writes Ted Cruz is correct in attacking the interventionists in the GOP. “Cruz is doing the right thing: Just as Reagan sacrificed Henry Kissinger, Cruz will sacrifice you. It's all for the greater good. For the past eight years the Republican Party has worn the sins of the George W. Bush administration like the chains on Marley's Ghost.

“The American public doesn't easily forget that it was stirred to sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan and has nothing to show for it. A break with the Bush past vastly increases the odds for a Republican victory. Rubio can't do this, but Cruz can.”

Goldman also points out Cruz can rightly highlight his opposition to the leadership of his own party in a debate with Hillary Clinton on the subject. There’s another element that will likely score well with voters who see further intervention into the inferno in the Middle East as counter-productive.

The debate will go on, but that won’t change the facts. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Rand Paul and Ben Carson will side with common sense. Rubio, Bush, Christie, Fiorina and Kasich (you can also add Huckabee and Santorum to this group) will continue to advocate for policies with high ideals but no real results. Which will be more attractive to the people?

Cruz receives key endorsement in the heart of Jeb/Rubio country

Finally today, much has been written about the battle between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in Florida, despite the fact Donald Trump dominates in the polls of the state and Ted Cruz also has a large following among Florida’s active conservative Tea Party folks.

Now comes word Cruz has picked up a key endorsement in the southern part of the Sunshine State. Curt Mills of the Washington Examiner reports, “Miami-Dade Republican Party Vice Chairman Manny Roman spurned the two local presidential hopefuls to instead endorse Cruz, a Texas Republican…

“The Miami-Dade Republican Party has been described in the past as the ‘House that Jeb Built’ because of Bush's efforts on its behalf in the 1980's and 1990's before he was Florida governor.”

It’s not necessarily significant that one prominent Floridian chose Cruz, it’s the fact Roman will be instrumental in driving support to Ted after his likely success in the early states.

If Bush and Rubio falter in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, it may very well be over for them by the time they even reach their home state.

Cruz must be feeling pretty good right about now.

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Establishment fears

My my my. Looks like the Establishment still fears Sarah Palin. Looks like they want to continue attacking her, as if they want to take her out of the mix, like their #PushPolling. The REAL Conservative Populist OUTSIDER.

I guess they're expecting that Convention fight...or hoping for it now, being their ESTABLISHMENT candidates are sucking so much.

Sad Sabato should know better, as it is supposedly his job and over looks all the real data that showed Sarah Palin was the best thing that happened to the McCain campaign.

Gee, swinging back to 2008....what does Sabato say about the Romney Ryan disaster campaign, where they lost to a candidate that was so unpopular and low in the polls?

...oh....I guess that might shine the light more on the EStablishment, and #LyinRyan

Romney was brought down by the establishment consultants

Regardless of how moderate you thought Romney was, there are two facts that should be remembered - first, he was a first class man, and second, he wanted to win.
Right through the nomination, Romney's campaign tactics and advertising campaigns had a real edge to them, and he was on a trajectory to defeat Obama.
It was after the nomination, when his "ObamaIsn'tWorking" website stopped running the biting videos about Obama's failures, that the hand of the consultants became visible.
Even then, Romney went into the first debate loaded for bear, but curiously pulled his punches in the second and third debates, again after he clearly got advised to "tone it down" against the man who got his job though affirmative action.
They fear Trump, because he doesn't care what they think, and doesn't need their money.
They fear Cruz, because he shines a spotlight on their failures and does not fear the establishment.
They question is whether a Trump and/or Cruz nomination will cause the GOPe to be come so unhinged that they go full "Goldwater" against their own candidates.