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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Ted Cruz should relish an election battle that’s all about him

Heading into the weekend, another new Iowa poll shows Donald Trump and Ted Cruz essentially tied in the first state to vote.

Jonathan Easley of The Hill reports, “According to a Loras College survey released Thursday, Trump takes 26 percent support over Cruz's 25 percent. That’s well within the poll’s 4.4 percentage point margin of error.

“The senator from Texas held a healthy lead in the mid-December version of the poll, with 30 percent support Ted Cruzthen to Trump's 23 percent. Around the same time, Cruz overtook Trump in the RealClearPolitics average of Iowa polls, but Trump has regained the top spot a month later, holding a slim 2.2 percentage point advantage.”

The reasons cited for Cruz’s modest drop concern his opponents’ attacks regarding his bank loans, eligibility and principled stand against corporate welfare (ethanol subsidies).

Easley also brings up the “he’s made a lot of enemies in Washington” line of argument.

The one who should be happy that the election has become all about him is Ted Cruz. I don’t believe Cruz would shy away from examinations of his qualifications, beliefs and character because he knows he’d pass any such test with flying colors.

As far as the “enemies” charge goes, Cruz’s favorability is the highest in the field. Washington politicos may not like him but the grassroots sure does.

There’s another key aspect of the poll. “Forty-three percent of likely Republican caucusgoers said they could still change their minds on who to support before election day, and Cruz could stand to benefit here; nearly half of those polled said he’s their preferred second choice,” Easley added.

This is clearly not a case of candidate free-fall before an election and it’s not that people aren’t sold on Cruz. The evidence indicates they’re uncertain about other candidates and might switch to a sure thing in Cruz when the time comes.

Combine this factor with Cruz’s admittedly superior ground organization and key endorsements and things still look pretty favorable for him in Iowa. Palin’s endorsement will likely have little effect and we have another week for Iowans to learn more about Donald Trump’s “New York values.”

Lastly, there’s next Thursday night’s debate, which takes place in Des Moines (on Fox News). That’s bound to be a barn-burner one way or another.

This race will come down to the final days – and February 1 is just up ahead.

(Note: Here’s another Iowa poll that came out on Thursday showing Cruz up by two points.)

Mike is bitter that Iowans no longer ♥ Huckabee

Entering the 2016 Republican race for president it was clear there would be a number of good candidates and some excellent ones.

After the incredibly shallow candidate pool of 2012, conservatives were itching for a better set of choices this year. It turns out they got them, including some surprises like the strong candidacies of non-politicians Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.

There are several familiar faces too, such as 2012 Iowa winner Rick Santorum and 2008 Iowa winner Mike Huckabee. Both of them probably figured they could count on their old base of support in The Hawkeye State to fuel their current bids.

Both were wrong. Santorum has been outspoken in his bitterness towards the man who’s taken over as the conservative favorite in the state, Ted Cruz. And it certainly appears Huckabee is following a similar path as a former Iowa winner who has put in the work to campaign only to see his people enthused about Cruz instead.

Tim Alberta of National Review reports, “Indeed, the hostility toward Cruz runs so deep among Huckabee and his supporters that destroying Ted Cruz has at times seemed to take precedence over promoting Mike Huckabee…

“During one 24-hour period this week, Huckabee sent no fewer than eight tweets referencing Cruz’s statements on marriage, including this tweet Tuesday evening: ‘I don’t have an Ivy League law degree, but I know about God’s law. Life and marriage are not state issues — they’re non-negotiable.’

“…But the rift runs deeper than policy differences; it’s apparent that Huckabee thinks Cruz is fundamentally untrustworthy and deceptive.”

Huckabee does concede that Cruz has done a better job of reading the mood of the electorate in this anti-establishment year, but also seems to be one of the growing resentful Republicans who prefer The Donald to Ted.

To me it looks like pure envy which manifests itself in vicious spite.

What reason would Huckabee have to dislike Cruz? The two are from different electoral generations. Huckabee hasn’t held office since 2007, with his main claim to fame being his successfully unsuccessful run for president in 2008. He managed to win six states in that year, including Iowa, and was seen at the time as vying for the title of conservative alternative to John McCain (a title that ultimately went to, gulp, Mitt Romney).

Despite his popularity with evangelicals, Huckabee was never able to secure the support of the full conservative movement. Groups like the Club for Growth found serious holes in his fiscal record and there were questions about his immigration views as well.

As a result, Huckabee became known as a socially conservative big government Republican. He managed to win the endorsements of some prominent social conservative leaders but couldn’t get the backing of other conservatives who were rightly concerned about his ideological underpinnings.

Mike was aggrieved back then, too, though his angst was directed at the donor pool that wouldn’t get behind him. Without money, his candidacy didn’t get very far.

This year his ire is directed solely at Cruz.

Every politician relies on a certain amount of hubris to keep them going – and when they’re unable to get people to follow them, it’s human nature, perhaps, for them to lash out at more successful candidates.

Donald Trump is unique in that he still viciously attacks – in a personal way -- even when he’s ahead.

Huckabee doesn’t seem like a jerk but he’s certainly acting like one. It’s far too easy to criticize Ted as “unlikable” because the establishment fears him. There’s no reason for Huckabee to jump on the Cruz-bashing bandwagon when they should be on the same side.

It’s not going to help him with his legacy. Like with Santorum, they should be willing to go down gracefully – and if they truly support the Republican Party and conservatism as they say they do, there should be no question that Ted Cruz is a very deserving standard bearer for conservatives and the party.

Let your heart heal, Mike. It’s not good for your health to be carrying around all that anger.

Ted Cruz’s ground operation is 12,000 strong with money to fund it

There’s little doubt that Ted Cruz would have preferred Sarah Palin endorse him instead of Donald Trump. But when it comes to factors that will help him win in Iowa, Cruz’s doing just fine.

Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reports, “The candidate's team announced Wednesday night that it has mobilized 12,000 volunteers in Iowa and raised $50 million in donations.

"’We raised over $700,000 yesterday, which put us over the $50 million mark for this campaign,’ Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. ‘We are built to last and ready to go.’”

As the classic Beatles song truthfully proclaims, money don’t buy you love, but it does have its benefits in a political campaign. Beyond the mere purchasing power, accumulating money means people are willing to put their treasure where their votes will likely go.

And it keeps those volunteers well fed and ready to go out and fight to get more votes, too.

There’s also “Camp Cruz” to run. Tom Benning of the Dallas Morning News reports on the effort to take care of Ted’s out-of-state volunteer workforce: “The campaign settled on leasing former college dorms after looking at other options to house volunteers. The decision saved some money. But as Tyler tea party leader JoAnn Fleming — who has organized trips for the group — pointed out, ‘It’s not a four-star hotel.’

“There are 48 beds packed into modest suites. The only common areas are the stairwells. The heat works, but sometimes too well. There’s iffy Internet and no TV. And while handmade signs and patriotic streamers brighten hallways, many rooms remain unadorned...

“But for these partisans, who’ve paid their own way to Iowa, Camp Cruz is what (Campaign staffer Ken) Brolin described as ‘conservative heaven.’ The so-called dorm dad said the residents — some who stay for days and others for weeks — ‘all bond in like 30 seconds’ over their shared passion.”

The “Camp Cruz” set-up is being replicated in New Hampshire and South Carolina apparently. These people are giving up their jobs, vacation time and personal comforts to help Cruz win.

Think of that the next time some Washington elitist says Ted isn’t likable.

Is Bernie Sanders overtaking Hillary in Iowa too?

We end the week with a brief update on the state of the Democrat race. One poll this week showed Bernie Sanders with a 27-point lead in New Hampshire, but conventional wisdom says he can’t beat Hillary in Iowa.

But conventional wisdom hasn’t been worth much this year and a new Iowa survey even gives Sanders a lead in The Hawkeye State.

Jonathan Easley of The Hill reports, “A CNN-ORC poll released on Thursday found Sanders receiving 51 percent support in Iowa to Clinton's 43 percent. Clinton led by 18 points in the December version of the poll.

“But among Iowans who participated in the 2008 caucuses, the survey found, Clinton leads Sanders 55 percent to 38 percent.

“Clinton still leads in the RealClearPolitics average of Iowa polls by 4.7 points, but recent surveys show the Democratic presidential race has tightened considerably since the fall, when she appeared to be pulling away.”

Like Trump, Sanders will need a lot of first-time voters to prevail. Conventional wisdom says these people won’t show on Election Day. We’ll see.

I won’t pretend to try and analyze the Democrat race or its voters. To me it’s astonishing that a 74 year-old self-described socialist senator from a tiny state could seriously be contending for the Democrat nomination.

But then again, a woman who should be in prison doesn’t really offer much of an alternative either.

It doesn’t make sense, but neither does having Donald Trump siding with the establishment to lead the Republicans.

It’s all pretty bizarre – and looks to only get crazier in the next couple weeks.

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