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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Ted Cruz stock soars with brilliant campaign strategy

We begin the week with a look at some smart campaign strategy.

There’s a scene near the end of the movie “Trading Places” where the two main good-guy characters (played by Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy) are trading frozen concentrated orange juice on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Trading Places
They’re privy to inside information, so they know precisely when to sell and then to buy, knowing that the film’s greedy bad-guys will be buying up everything they can to drive up the price at the beginning of the trading day (to make a long story short, the bad guys thought the Florida orange crop would be poor so they figured they’d be holding something pretty valuable by buying quickly no matter what the price. They were trying to corner the market).

Without fully knowing the intricacies of the NYSE, it’s sometimes hard to grasp what just transpired in viewing the scene. What isn’t hard to understand is how the Aykroyd and Murphy characters waited until the most appropriate time to maximize their trades.

How does this Trading Places clip relate to politics this year?

Two Ted Cruz Super PACs, Stand for Truth and Keep the Promise, similarly waited for the best time to sell and buy – but there’s no orange juice involved in this case. They’re buying ad time in Iowa and South Carolina at just the right moment.

Dan Spencer of RedState reports, “Stand for Truth, a new Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) supporting Super PAC formed six weeks ago, will spend $4.2 million on a television advertising campaign in Iowa and South Carolina. The huge advertising blitz will consist of a $2.1 million buy in Iowa starting on Jan. 13 and a $2.1 million in South Carolina beginning Jan. 27.

“The $4.2 million is in addition to the $1 million media buy announced by the Keep the Promise group of Cruz sanctioned Super PACs. Keep the Promise will spend $700,000 in Iowa for television ads and another $300,000 plus on radio and digital ads in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.”

Spencer also notes the ad purchases will surely help blunt the attacks that are certain to be launched against Cruz in the coming weeks due to his lead in the Iowa polls and general popularity in South Carolina (Donald Trump still enjoys a large lead in the Real Clear Politics average in the Palmetto State, though the polls only go through mid-December).

Much has been written about Jeb Bush’s and other candidates’ ad buys this season, though the two frontrunners, Trump and Cruz, have largely kept their ad powder dry – saving the money for the most appropriate moment to maximize effectiveness.

Trump has said he’s going to start spending now. So is Cruz. It makes sense.

To go along with the new ads, Cruz also tallied another incredibly successful quarter in fundraising. Streiff at RedState reports on a particularly impressive aspect of Cruz’s take: “That number of 300,000 donors is amazing. It represents a pool that has not maxed out their donations and it is a pool that can be tapped again for general election expenses. The geographic diversity of the donations indicates that Cruz is not a regional candidate and he will be able to draw on campaign volunteers in large numbers.

“The Cruz campaign released this data early for a reason. They are showing doubters among major donors that he can raise the resources to win a long primary and he’s starting to develop the ‘inevitability’ narrative. The big question is what does Marco Rubio’s fundraising look like?”

Compare Cruz’s overall campaign strategy with the others and you’ll get a clearer picture of who the real leader in the race appears to be. Trump remains strong in national polling and looks to be in great shape in New Hampshire, but it can’t be overemphasized how important a Cruz win in Iowa would prove to be.

Trump has looked shatterproof for so long. Voting starts in four weeks. A caucus state like Iowa depends largely on organization and enthusiasm to prevail.

Cruz has plenty of both. As streiff points out above, a lot can be learned from fundraising totals, particularly numbers of individual small donors and where they reside.

Ted isn’t quite in position to “corner the market” on the Republican presidential race yet, but he’s undoubtedly waited for the proper time to begin the process of taking control. Buying low and selling high is a darn good strategy. Cruz stock is looking pretty solid right now.

Carly Fiorina’s Rose Bowl Tweet – naked pandering or lack of principles?

It’s always semi-hilarious when a politician is asked during an on-camera interview who he or she is rooting for in an important sporting event. We do live in a democratic system, so popularity is important and sometimes these folks need to be careful in divulging who they favor.

But at other times the pandering is downright ridiculous.

Pac 12 champion Stanford played Big 10 runner-up Iowa in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Carly Fiorina, a Stanford graduate, tweeted out her favorite on the morning of the game. She chose The Cardinal, right?

Terry Mulcahy of Politico reports, “Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina prompted a Twitter storm after she penned a controversial tweet in support of the Iowa Hawkeyes, instead of her alma mater Stanford's Cardinal.

“’Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today,’ she tweeted.”

Reaction via twitter was predictable. People panned Fiorina’s message as naked political pandering to try and gain favor with voters in a state where they take college football very seriously.

Sometimes a mother or father might switch sides for a day if their kid’s college is playing their alma mater, but seriously, Carly?

But as always, there could be another reason for Carly’s perceived betrayal of loyalties. (On Sunday morning, Fiorina passed it off as a tongue-in-cheek tweet.)

Whatever the real reason, on a deeper level, Fiorina’s action doesn’t do much towards dispelling the notion she’s weak on core principles. Carly has had a hard time conveying a defining message, and even claiming to support the “other team” in a contest where her real interest is clear makes her look wishy-washy.

It’s yet another factor to consider as we go forward in January.

Carson’s 11th hour staff shakeup is a bad sign for his campaign

The rumors swirling around a possible shakeup in Ben Carson’s campaign finally proved true as Campaign Manager Barry Bennett and several other key staff members resigned late last week.

Carson had hinted something was about to happen in an interview with the Washington Post earlier in the week – then later the same day announced no changes were forthcoming.

Bennett may have made the revamp decision for Ben, explaining his decision to quit was motivated by too much interference from Carson’s friend and informal advisor Armstrong Williams. For his part, Carson merely said new leadership was needed.

Kyle Feldscher of the Washington Examiner reports, “Carson said (during an appearance on ABC’s ‘This Week’) his campaign staff was not originally built to run a competitive campaign. He said no one expected him to be at or near the top of the polls, as he has been for much of the last few months, and new leadership was needed to run a more viable campaign…

“Retired Army Gen. Bob Dees is now running Carson's campaign. Carson said Dees would come in to make tough choices and execute the plan Carson wants to run.”

Carson further indicated he made the moves to ensure his policies would be the focus from this point forward, not damage control for his gaffes.

As one of the prominent “outsider” candidates in the 2016 campaign, Carson looked like an attractive candidate for quite a long time. His ability to bring cultural issues to the front was refreshing and his stellar personal history suggested he might make a good president, simply because he was so different from everyone else.

But internal turmoil in a presidential campaign one month prior to the Iowa caucuses is never a good sign. It implies indecision and negativity – exactly the opposite of what you need to put in peoples’ minds when they’re weighing the different candidates.

Carson may portray this is a positive development but I doubt anyone else sees it that way. He’s a good man and definitely can help the Republican Party in the future. But he’s not going to be the nominee this year.

Jeb Bush offers more worthless insight for Republican voters

Finally today, and speaking of campaign death throes, Jeb Bush offered yet another opinion as to Donald Trump’s viability in a potential general election match-up with Hillary Clinton.

Tim Devaney of The Hill reports on Bush’s appearance on ‘Fox News Sunday’:  “GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump would ‘get crushed’ by Hillary Clinton, fellow Republican Jeb Bush said Sunday.

“’Donald Trump, I don’t believe, is going to be the party’s nominee. And if he is, he’s going to get crushed by Hillary Clinton. I wanted to point that out…

“Someone has to call him out,’ Bush added.”

Perhaps in doing so, Jeb was “sharing his heart” with the American people as he promised he’d do way back in June of last year.

Jeb’s tone has gone significantly more negative since those early days and likely mirrors the overall mood of the establishment with Trump and Cruz so far out in front.

I doubt they’ll get many sympathy cards, however.

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