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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Jeb Bush determined to take Marco Rubio down with the ship

Okay, this isn’t funny anymore.

In the past two weeks I’ve highlighted several interviews where last place loser Rick Santorum harshly criticized Ted Cruz, most likely in pursuit of some desperate fantasy to catch the frontrunner in Iowa.

Now the former Pennsylvania senator and 2012 Republican runner-up has launched a new ad against Cruz, Titaniclampooning the Texas senator’s reading of “Green Eggs and Ham” during Ted’s principled (and largely solo except for a big assist from fellow Constitution champion Senator Mike Lee) filibuster of Obamacare funding in 2013.

The ad claims Santorum is the “serious” leader needed to protect America and defeat ISIS. Of course the real purpose behind Cruz’s filibuster (and reading of the Dr. Seuss classic story) isn’t credited at all. If defunding Obamacare isn’t “serious,” then I’m not sure what would qualify in Rick’s world.

It should be re-emphasized that Rick Santorum was defeated in the big Democrat sweep of 2006, so he’s been out of office for almost a decade. He was defeated by 18 points in that election, partly due to the mood of the country concerning Republicans but also because Santorum was symbolic of the problem in Washington -- not the “solution” as he would make you believe.

Truth is, Santorum sells himself as a conservative, but he’s really closer to the establishment.

Erick Erickson of The Resurgent agrees. “Rick Santorum is also a tool of the establishment and cannot get himself elected. He only had success in 2012 because Mike Huckabee did not run that year against Romney and Santorum filled the void. This year, Santorum and Huckabee are canceling each other out...

“Santorum…dropped out in 2012 and did nothing to capitalize on his runner up status. He could have been laying the groundwork as the heir apparent. Given Republican Party history he would have had a strong case to make. But he did not do it. Now he has returned to a much more crowded field having done little to bolster himself. He won’t win this time either. In fact, he will do far worse now than in 2012. But he might sabotage Cruz along the way in an effort to lay ground work for a future career in appointed politics.”

As the last man standing in the 2012 “not-Mitt” Republican primary race, many conservatives went with Santorum in hopes he’d be better in rallying the party base to the cause against Obama. I include myself in that effort, though I voted for Ron Paul in the Virginia primary (Santorum was not on the ballot).

Mitt Romney was the go-to establishment candidate from the beginning in 2012, so conservatives were searching for an alternative – anyone, basically – who could be remotely connected to conservatism in order to defeat Romney.

As a result, Santorum rose dramatically at the end of 2011, won narrowly in Iowa, and therefore became the de facto choice of most prominent conservatives. True, Newt Gingrich did win in South Carolina that year, but couldn’t follow up the victory in any meaningful way (he wasn’t seen as a solid conservative either, for a number of reasons).

That left Santorum as the only potentially viable “conservative” option. It was either him or Romney…talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Unlike 2012, however, conservatives have a real choice this year. There’s Cruz, of course, who has not been long on the national scene yet still has an impressive record of championing conservative issues and consistently standing up to the establishment.

There’s also Donald Trump. Trump isn’t an ideological conservative but he’s successfully highlighted the issues that move people. His populist appeal is revealed by the polls, but there’s still a question whether his voters will actually show at the polls.

There’s also Rand Paul, though in the greater scheme of things, Cruz looks to be the more well-rounded conservative choice.

Arguments could be made for a couple other candidates, though you get the point. Rick Santorum isn’t needed in this race. The fact he’s using what’s left of his campaign resources to try and bring down Cruz is despicable. Santorum’s campaign said the ad buy is for network, cable and digital platforms – in other words, the whole shebang.

Conservatives aren’t stupid. They know Santorum’s a bitter has-been who’s outlived his political usefulness. Someone needs to stand up and expose him. Let the process begin.

Cruz is like Reagan in foreign policy, Rubio is George W. Bush revisited

As the Republican presidential race moved from the summer “window-shopping” period to the more intense scrutiny of the fall, it became clear the field’s small cracks in opinion over foreign policy grew into wide fissures once the terrorists struck in Paris.

The differences were particularly stark between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the former putting forth a more cautious and realistic Reagan-like approach to military intervention in the Middle East and the latter arguing for a return to the George W. Bush years (you can add Obama and Hillary to this mix too) of reckless intervention to promote regime change and democracy.

There’s only one problem with the Rubio view. It doesn’t work. Even Bush’s people admit so much.

Former George W. Bush administration advisor Christian Whiton writes in National Review, “Rubio and his surrogates’ chief grievance against Cruz is that he advocates caution in using our military to try to implant or impose democracy abroad. Indeed, Cruz is guilty as charged — thankfully — preferring to target ISIS while avoiding quagmires…

“Rubio’s second accusation against Cruz — that he wants to ‘gut’ intelligence collection — doesn’t bear scrutiny either. Cruz supported the law that retained the government’s ability to investigate phone data and that made telecom companies the custodians of that data instead of the NSA. This step, which affirms the Fourth Amendment’s protection against search without probable cause, didn’t ‘gut’ intelligence — it reformed a tool that probably would have been ruled unconstitutional otherwise.”

Again, Whiton worked for George W. Bush. He’s got an insider’s view and thinks Rubio’s view simply doesn’t work with the current situation overseas.

It’s interesting to note how Rubio’s views gel with those of the other establishment candidates, however. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich would also equal a third George W. Bush term and all are competing for the same voters.

(Because they have similar foreign policy views, Rubio is hitting Christie on other issues in New Hampshire with new ads.)

Whiton concludes by saying, “Cruz [is] the candidate who offers fresh thinking, and who is brave enough to take on the Washington institutions that have failed us.”

The division is clear. Cruz is like Reagan. Rubio is like Bush. Who is more likely to win?

Captain Bush determined to take Rubio down with the ship

As discussed above, Rick Santorum has seen fit to attack Ted Cruz without much of a reason – except perhaps for spite.

Jeb Bush is doing the same thing to Marco Rubio, though it at least can be argued that Jeb could gain from Rubio’s downfall.

Erick Erickson of The Resurgent writes, “Now, as Bush falls behind Chris Christie in New Hampshire and we are less than thirty days from Iowa, the Bush Super PAC and, it seems, Bush’s campaign too, have decided to give up trying to rehabilitate Jeb Bush and, instead, destroy Marco Rubio. The press reports about the personal nature of the attacks appear to be true…

“There’s just one problem. Bush is doing nothing to help his own popularity. Voters already looked at him and have moved on…to Rubio, but also to Christie. The odds are they will not go back to Bush, particularly given the polling showing so many Republicans saying they would never vote for him.”

In his post, Erickson referred to Bush’s high-water mark of 17 points in mid-July. Since that time Jeb’s slipped to 4.3 percent in the Real Clear Politics average, his support appearing to have migrated to Rubio and Christie (or conceivably Trump and Cruz).

The only thing Jeb could do to change the race, Erickson argues, is to leave it gracefully.

A Bush exit would then free his whopping 4.3 percent of Republican establishment die-hards to choose another candidate. Where would they go…and does it matter?

While I agree with Erickson’s basic premise (that Jeb’s attacks against Rubio are mostly personal), I don’t think a Bush exit would shake up the race all that much. Conservatives have clearly moved away from anything associated with the basic Republican brand and the closer someone like Rubio gets to the establishment, the more toxic he becomes.

Christie could conceivably be this year’s version of Mitt Romney, though 2016 is not 2012 and it won’t do him much good. Even with a respectable showing in New Hampshire, Christie lacks the campaign infrastructure to compete in the other early states and certainly wouldn’t be palatable in March 1’s SEC primary.

By the time mid-March rolls around, it’s likely Christie would be an afterthought.

The same goes for Rubio. It’s looking like a bad year for the establishment all around despite Captain Bush’s rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Establishment melting down over prospect of Trump or Cruz

Finally today, ever since Donald Trump and Ted Cruz took over the lead in Republican presidential race polls the establishment has been in full panic-mode over what they might mean for the future of the party.

Getting closer to the first votes being cast, the queasiness is reaching crisis level. If it gets worse, a trip to the Emergency Room might be in order.

Alex Isenstadt of Politico reports, “One growing worry about Trump or Cruz, top party officials, donors, and operatives across the country say, is that nominating either man would imperil lawmakers in down-ballot races, especially those residing in moderate states and districts.”

This is only the latest stomach churning crapola emanating from the establishment when they’ve taken time out from pontificating to examine the possible implications to the party “brand” if an outsider candidate is nominated.

They should worry less about the brand and more about the people.

Parties can’t survive without voters. Voters don’t like the Republican Party. It’s pretty simple.

Even assuming the establishment is correct, the prospect of losing RINOs like Pennsylvania’s Charlie Dent (quoted in the story) scares no one. Would Congress really be worse off without them?

It’s a question we’ll all be answering soon enough.

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concur with most everything here...

...but would note that Dent is in a relatively safe district.

He is the type of guy who will comfortably accommodate himself to the agenda forwarded on 1/21/2017 by President Cruz.

I have known him for two decades and he is a gentleman, even if he has inappropriately opened-up against the Tea Party Movement.

The beauty of the current situation - as it is evolving - is that the GOP-Establishment cannot comfortably unearth a champion [including Mittens] to counter the ongoing trends towards Trump/Cruz.

And the consensus view is that Trump's attack on Cruz's citizenship reflects growing angst that one loss could cascade; all we need know is that Cruz wasn't naturalized and thus, because his citizenship isn't challenged, he is natural-born.

Love this site; it aggregates all key info and conveys it effectively.