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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Ted Cruz beats the media at its own game

As the Republican presidential race nears the end of 2015, it’s clear the party establishment and certain members of the media are still searching for a way to explain why Donald Trump continues to be so popular with his supporters – and so detested by many others.

Trump has shattered the mold on traditional politics. If you’re looking for comparisons to the past, you won’t find many – at least recently. Can you imagine what 2012 would have looked like with The Donald in all those Ted Cruzdebates with Mitt Romney and crew?

Would Romney have been the nominee four years ago if Trump had been there to take him out?

It’s a curious question to ponder. For now, yet another political pundit is trying to explain how Trump is able to do and say what he does and still maintain a fervent following.

Pollster Frank Luntz writes in Financial Times, “The simple truth is, the more provocative his language, the deeper and more passionate his support. He is no dummy; there is a method to his proverbial madness. Mr Trump says — to the growing legions who will listen — what tens of millions of Americans are already thinking. Respect or revile him, the man has hit a vein.

“I spent three hours in a deep dialogue focus group with 29 Trump supporters. The phenomenon of ‘The Donald’ is rooted in a psyche far deeper and more consequential than next November’s presidential election. His support denotes an abiding distrust in — and disrespect for — the governing elite. These individuals do not like being told by Washington or Wall Street what is best for them, do not like the direction America is headed in, and disdain President Barack Obama and his (perceived) circle of self-righteous, tone-deaf governing partisans.

“Trump voters are not just angry — they want revenge.”

Luntz concludes by predicting Trump’s supporters would follow him anywhere, the definition of a real cult of personality.

The tone of Luntz’s observations of Trump supporters is both complimentary and contemptuous at the same time. He seems to approve of their perceived undying commitment to their candidate yet dismisses the devotion as motivated by unadulterated hatred of Obama and the governing elites.

This is where I depart from Luntz and many of his media colleagues. They place far too much emphasis on the person of Obama and not nearly enough blame for the utter contempt the ruling class (in both parties and the business establishment) has generously earned from the American public.

It’s no stretch to say Bernie Sanders is the same type of candidate as Trump, but on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Nobody’s insulting his people by labeling them mindless zombies who will cast themselves into the fire for their candidate. Yet if you see one of Sanders’ rallies, his fans are just as riled up as Trump’s.

Sanders’s folks “hate” the powerful elites as much as Trump’s followers. Sanders says equally outrageous things – like terrorism is fostered by climate change – but does the press jump on him as a polarizing nut?

Perhaps Trump should take it as a badge of honor that the media fawns on his every word. As Luntz points out, he’s no dummy. The Donald hasn’t had to spend much of his sizeable personal fortune thus far to spread his message because he simply doesn’t need to.

And if the media continues to dis Trump – and his supporters – he’ll have his cake and eat it too.

Cruz schools the media and they don’t even realize it

Another candidate who’s proving adept at working the media to his benefit is Ted Cruz.

Of course Cruz made headlines last week in responding to a cartoon published by the Washington Post that depicted his daughters as trained monkeys. But instead of getting mad, Cruz got even by counter-posting a cartoon of his own that showed an animated Hillary Clinton walking her two lapdogs – the Washington Post and New York Times.

And according to Brooklyn-based politics and social media observer Stephen L. Miller (writing in National Review), it’s not the first time Cruz has gotten the better of a media tussle. “Cruz has a way of relaxing his media opponents to the point where they feel free to attack him personally; then he simply stands back as his supporters see who his opponents have revealed themselves to be.

“This only enhances Cruz’s reputation among his fans as the second coming of the great communicator and a cultural faith healer on the right. For those who are tired of Trump’s indiscriminate antics in the primaries, Cruz’s style offers a refreshing alternative, and it could carry him all the way to the nomination.”

Judging by the size of the crowds at Cruz’s rallies, he’s not having any trouble attracting enthusiastic backers either. Whereas the media sees Ted as slick and rehearsed, conservatives see him as principled and polished.

Similar to the media, the stodgy Senate Republican establishment doesn’t favor his style either, but he’s got more than enough support from a core conservative group of House members to make up for it.

Anna Palmer and Lauren French of Politico report, “Call it the Cruz caucus: a small but committed collection of likeminded rebels who’ve bonded with Cruz in their recurring, often quixotic clashes with GOP leaders.

“Lawmakers like Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Mo Brooks of Alabama are attending campaign rallies with Cruz. Others (Reps. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, and Louie Gohmert and John Ratcliffe of Texas) are serving as surrogates at Republican debates, lending their names to fundraising appeals, and taking to conservative radio and cable TV in an effort to burnish Cruz’s credibility with crucial evangelical and conservative primary voters…

“Other lawmakers who have endorsed Cruz include Texas Reps. Randy Weber, Brian Babin, Michael Burgess and John Culberson. Reps. Jody Hice of Georgia, Sam Graves of Missouri and Dana Rohrabacher of California.”

There’s a common theme in the previous section on Trump’s supporters and these stories on Cruz: the farther you get from the ruling class, the more dedicated your allies prove to be.

House members generally draw much less attention in the media then their Senate counterparts, but they’re loved by their constituents because they’re better able to articulate principled positions on individual issues. They’re small fish in a big pond, but their impact can be felt in much wider fashion if they’re willing to stick their neck out. Or rock the boat.

There isn’t much “nuance” to something like opposition to amnesty. You’re either for it – or against it.

Cruz may be losing the popularity battle with his fellow senators and Washington Republican leadership – but he’s winning where it counts, in the media and with the voters.

Jeb Super PAC needs a place to spend money, targets Rubio in Iowa

As if we needed further evidence that the Republican establishment considers Marco Rubio their de facto go-to guy comes news Jeb Bush’s Super PAC (Right to Rise) has released an ad in Iowa attacking Rubio’s Senate attendance record.

The 30-second spot itself claims Marco’s missed key Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, but tells only part of the story (Rubio was present at briefings, so he actually was “doing his job” in terms of receiving the information).

Why would Jeb attack Rubio in Iowa of all places?

Allahpundit of Hot Air presents the likely motivation behind Jeb’s action: “The strategy here is to blow up Rubio early, even before New Hampshire, so that he limps into that state with lots of doomsaying media buzz around him. If Rubio finishes fourth in Iowa behind Cruz, Trump, and also-ran Ben Carson, the press will be calling him a paper tiger as late deciders in New Hampshire start to decide.

“In theory, that’s going to tip would-be Rubio voters towards Jeb, who’ll finish strongly in NH and then use the ‘comeback!’ coverage to claim he’s the consensus center-right choice in a three-way race with Trump and Cruz.”

That sounds about right. If it’s not, there’s no sensible rationale for Jeb to blast Marco in Iowa, where neither looks to have a realistic shot to win – but Marco could conceivably come in a respectable third place to Cruz and Trump.

When all agree the main establishment battleground is in New Hampshire, the options for the Bush team are becoming fewer and fewer. They’ve got all that Super PAC cash to burn and positive ads promoting Jeb haven’t done anything to help him there.

Jeb continues to look like a desperate man these days, but his campaign team looks even worse if they’re resorting to tactics like this. Oh, the anguish!

Why women should love Trump, according to Ivanka

Finally today, liberal women all across America recoil at the mere mention of Donald Trump’s name, but daughter Ivanka says there’s a different side of her dad that women would admire if they only knew him.

Kaitlan Collins of the Daily Caller reports, “The Republican front-runner’s daughter is featured on the cover of February’s Town and Country magazine, and in her interview, Ivanka said it’s clear that Donald Trump respects women.

“’He 100 percent believes in equality of gender,’ Ivanka said. ‘He has been a great example to me my whole life [and has] confidence in women to do any job that a man can do, and my whole life has been proof of that.’”

Ivanka even used the “f” word to describe her father.

“Feminist,” that is.

The daughter’s opinion probably won’t help improve her dad’s approval ratings with women, but their close relationship certainly won’t hurt.

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