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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Maybe the establishment doesn’t want Marco Rubio either

It’s only fitting, perhaps, that we say goodbye to 2015 while also bidding adieu to one of the Republican presidential candidates.

If you haven’t heard the news yet it’s probably because nobody cares.

Eugene Scott of CNN reports, “George Pataki ended his presidential campaign on Tuesday, dropping a bid to capture the Republican nomination that never caught traction with a voter base clamoring for more conservative Ted Cruz and Marco Rubioand anti-establishment candidates…

“The former New York governor hoped his experience as a three-term chief executive who led the Empire State during the September 11 terrorist attacks would resonate with the Republican Party. But he never broke single digits in polling or qualified for prime-time debates.”

Pataki is one of several Republicans who vainly “hoped” the past would matter enough to people in the present to find them qualified to be president.

In that sense, Pataki isn’t much different than Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, all of whom have “former” prominently displayed before their titles. Like Pataki, Bush and Santorum have been out of office for going on a decade and who’s really heard anything from them recently? They probably should have an asterisk by their names.

At least Huckabee had a TV talk show.

But seriously, would anyone care about a former liberal Republican governor just because he presided over New York during a crisis fourteen years ago?

Aside from Pataki being ancient history, his pro-abortion rights views would automatically disqualify him from winning the Republican nomination. What rationale could he give for his candidacy?

Pataki could remotely be considered a “message” candidate – that being a liberal message – but even that explanation’s hard to swallow.

He ended up being just another body for the undercard debates so Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum didn’t look too lonely up there. I can’t recall a single memorable thing about his candidacy. At least Lindsey Graham was funny at times. Pataki was just plain boring.

Maybe he should re-enter the race -- as a Democrat. I hear they need some more suits to fill out their debate stages.

Maybe the establishment doesn’t want Rubio either

Poor Marco Rubio. For a golden boy candidate everyone supposedly thinks so positively about, he’s sure getting a lot of flak from many different sources these days.

It’s popular around establishment circles to claim nobody likes Ted Cruz, but can’t the same thing be argued about Rubio? The often-AWOL Florida senator isn’t welcome in the conservative camp…because he’s not a conservative (as was amply pointed out by Cruz, Rand Paul and Donald Trump).

And recently it’s not clear the establishment wants him either, at least as suggested by the volume of attacks coming from those in his own electoral “lane.”

Eli Stokols of Politico reports, “Campaigning Tuesday in Iowa, Chris Christie didn’t want to answer Donald Trump’s scathing criticism Monday of his governing record. But he was eager to blast Marco Rubio for failing to show up and vote in the Senate…

“It’s the exact same line of attack against the Florida senator that Jeb Bush’s super PAC is now featuring in a new $1 million New Hampshire TV ad buy alleging that Rubio skipped a high-level intelligence briefing following the ISIL terror attacks in Paris in order to raise money for his campaign.”

Political experts are quick to maintain the condemnations are motivated solely because Bush and Christie see Rubio as a rival for the establishment vote. That certainly could have something to do with it, but stamping your “friend” as lazy and/or irresponsible is not a good way to welcome him into the club.

I’ve said it before – if Rubio’s advisers weren’t smart enough to tell him he needed to be in Washington to vote against the incredibly unpopular omnibus budget a couple weeks back, he needs new advisers.

Marco had to know the “AWOL” attacks would be forthcoming – after all, they’d already started prior to the CNBC debate in late October. Skipping out on arguably the most important vote of the year would only make it worse – and provide fodder for his opponents’ negative ads.

Establishment folks will continue to insist these critiques are only part of the primary game – but I think there may be something more sinister involved. Rubio’s pretty much peaked in the polls of late and there aren’t many indications he has all the upside people give him credit for. The elites may be recognizing it and deciding that Rubio is toxic to their chances of winning next year.

Jeb Bush or Chris Christie appear to be their preferred candidates instead.

We already know conservatives have rejected Rubio. It could very well be the establishment doesn’t want him either.

Desperate Santorum dumps on Cruz -- again

Last week National Review threw Rick Santorum a bone by reporting on him as the “Next in line candidacy that  never was.” It was a mostly positive look at the candidate’s struggle for recognition this cycle after mounting such a spirited effort in 2012.

In the article Santorum takes some not-so-subtle shots at Ted Cruz, claiming the Texas senator has put one over on the people of Iowa by falsely claiming to be a social conservative. The former Pennsylvania senator also took issue with Cruz’s labeling of certain candidates this year as “neocons.”

The bitterness runs deep in Santorum’s camp as well as even his campaign supporters brought up the tired Cruz “likability” argument while claiming Ted has no friends in Congress.

It turns out Santorum’s dissing Cruz again this week, this time in a Newsmax TV interview where the candidate takes issue with Ted’s deference to federalism and the Constitution when it comes to fighting for certain social issues.

Greg Richter of Newsmax reports, “Cruz favors states' rights over fighting against same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, Santorum said.

“Cruz ‘doesn't agree with it but he's not going to fight it,’ he said. ‘That's not what people are looking for. They're looking for someone who has a very clear vision of what's right and what's wrong and be able to lay that vision out for the American people.’”

It’s understandable why Santorum would want to further his prospects by drawing distinctions between himself and the other candidates – especially those who are in the lead – but it’s highly doubtful his attacks will produce any results and their nasty nature will only serve to weaken the party’s eventual nominee down the road.

If anyone should remember this lesson it’s Santorum himself, who endured his own kind of establishment-sponsored smear campaign four years ago when he emerged as the final “not Romney” candidate only to finish second in the GOP race.

Now it looks like Rick is just airing sour grapes in assailing Cruz. Is anyone going to take Santorum’s word that Cruz isn’t really a social conservative just because he wants to fight for First Amendment “religious freedom” over specific federally imposed definitions of marriage?

Streiff at RedState thinks Santorum’s the one being phony. “I’m always at a loss when I confront arguments like this from people who claim to be social conservatives. You can’t take Santorum’s position and then turn around and claim the left is wrong when they say you want to institute a ‘theocracy.’ The heart of conservatism, fiscal or social, is that smaller government is better government. What Santorum basically wants is for us to do to the left what they have been doing to us on social issues: use the power of the state to enforce their point of view…”

Streiff concludes, “In 2012, Santorum received nearly 25% of the vote in Iowa. Today he is polling a solid 0%. He has to be wondering why the voters who came out for him last time aren’t even listening to him. The obvious reason is that in 2012, homosexual marriage was a hot button issue. Today it is the law of the land and we are desperately fighting for the ability of religious people to not have to participate in this travesty. The battles are different.”

I mostly agree with streiff’s analysis, but I would also add that Santorum’s not catching on this time around because the quality of the Republican field is far superior to the previous elections – especially on the conservative side.

With Cruz in the race as well as attractive “outsiders” such as Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina (and even Rand Paul), Santorum just doesn’t fit anymore.

People who are looking outside the establishment for a candidate have several to choose from this year. In 2012, it was really only Santorum…and maybe Newt Gingrich. But Gingrich had significant baggage and ties to the establishment as well.

Rick is very credible on the social issues but he’s also got a few bugaboos in his conservative closet on fiscal matters, such as his undying support for the crony government Export-Import Bank and other big government measures such as ethanol subsidies.

Santorum seems resigned to the fact he’s going to lose, so there’s little excuse for his scorched-earth ethically-questionable endeavors to discredit the leading candidates. It only makes him sound whiny and bitter – not exactly the qualities you’d want to be remembered for as a politician.

Kasich tells us what we already know: Jeb is obsolete

Lastly for 2015, John Kasich hasn’t gotten much right in this year’s campaign, but he’s certainly got Jeb Bush pegged correctly.

Elliot Smilowitz of The Hill reports, “Ohio Gov. John Kasich compares former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to obsolete technologies and the ‘Macarena’ in a new presidential campaign ad (called ‘Jeb Bush: Gov. Good Ole Days’).

“’Jeb loves the good ole’ days,’ the video says over decade-plus old footage of Bush as a governor. ‘Here are some of his favs!’”

The ad then depicts the precursor to the VCR, the Sony Betamax; the long defunct AMC Pacer; ColecoVision, a very early 80’s home video game and the 90’s dance sensation hit song “Macarena.”

You know, the one they used to show pretty girls dancing to in baseball stadiums on the big screen as entertainment in between innings.

As alluded to above, Jeb hasn’t held office for about a decade and prior to this year we hadn’t seen him in a long time.

He’s a “throwback” candidate that we’d genuinely like to throw-back to a prior era.

--Have a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve!

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It's more and more clear that Kasich is running for the VP slot. As much as Trump has smacked him down, Kasich's message is that no one can win without Ohio. There's history in that, but winning NJ, for example, would finally change the centrality of Ohio in electoral politics. That said, it would be better to win Ohio.

Kasich really brings no demographic, though. He might argue that he'll unite the party and get the establishmentarians on board with Trump or Cruz.

Kasich is poison to the base

The most irritating candidate on either stage, and that's saying something.
The most negative reaction ever recorded by Frank Luntz.
Strangely liberal "for the children" positions.
Neocon/surveillance state view of NSA snooping.
Anti-constitutional method of implementing Medicaid expansion in OH.

If a moderate wins and Kasich is VP, they *might* win OH, but they'll lose the base, and the general.

If a Trump, Cruz, or Fiorina takes Kasich, they will be regarded as a sellout.

Shorter: Kasich may be running FOR the VP slot, but the VP slot is running FROM him!!