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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Pundits shill for the establishment on Caucus Night

It’s sometimes hard when watching a candidate jubilantly accepting victory on Election Night to remember that these things just don’t happen organically.

Campaigns – especially presidential operations – are eight parts work, one part skill and one part luck, along with expertly managing events and messaging while desperately trying to avoid any crucial mistakes that might Charles Krauthammer Megyn Kellysink the entire effort.

To compare it to navigating a minefield is probably pretty accurate. One wrong step and you’re toast.

The story of Ted Cruz’s victory in Iowa began in early 2015 when the Texas senator was putting plans in motion to formally announce his candidacy. His journey through the months included courting endorsements, compiling data and recruiting volunteers.

It all came together on Monday night.

Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson of National Review report, “It’s a rarity in presidential politics to peak, fall, and peak again. And yet Cruz did precisely that, prevailing in a state he badly wanted to win — one his campaign had tailored its strategy around from Day One — thanks to an organization and ground game that insulated him from an absolutely brutal home stretch.”

Naturally there’s much more to the tale and Alberta’s and Johnson’s lengthy piece is well worth the read if you have time.

In reading it you get a real sense of how Ted Cruz functions as a candidate and as a man, good predictors on how he’d operate as president.

The story also provides comfort for those who would question whether the Cruz campaign has the wherewithal and dogged determination to go the distance. Let me assure you – he does.

Make no mistake, it took a lot of luck for Ted to be standing up there giving his victory speech the other night. But it was a well-deserved win, likely the first of many. New Hampshire is now less than a week away and all the campaigns are working hard to try and maximize their turnout.

For Cruz, he’s hoping for a repeat performance. There are no guarantees, though here’s betting he’ll exceed expectations.

It’s going to be one heck of an interesting night, that’s for sure.

Analyzing the analyzers -- in blowing the Iowa forecast, the pollsters screwed up, but the pundits were worse

A day out from Ted Cruz’s resounding win in the Iowa caucuses, observers are marveling at how badly the polls missed the mark and how eagerly the establishment pundits and media went along with the professional pollsters’ scenario of a sure Donald Trump victory only to crash and burn when the vote totals were reported.

Going into Monday’s caucuses, the final Real Clear Politics Iowa polling average showed Trump with a nearly five point lead over Cruz and twelve point margin over Marco Rubio. With Cruz winning by almost four, essentially the polls were four points too high for Trump, four points too low for Cruz and six points too low for Rubio.

Who’s to blame?

Erick Erickson of The Resurgent thinks both the pollsters and pundits share the burden. “Establishment Republicans as well fed a narrative to the media that was wrong. Turnout was over 180,000, and pundits all said that would mean Donald Trump would win. He did not…

“It was clear Cruz had the best ground operation in Iowa. It was clear the crowds continued to grow at Rubio rallies. It was clear that Trump had no ground game operation of significance in Iowa. Everywhere I went I heard the same story. The campaigns of the various candidates would meet Trump voters, they would meet each other on the campaign trail, but they would never see Trump volunteers and paid staff. The Trump organization in Iowa was the jackalope of American politics, but you had to go see for yourself and not rely on polling.”

(Note: For what it’s worth, I’ve heard the same on-the-ground situation exists in New Hampshire with a lack of visible Trump organization.)

Erickson has something here, but I’m still not sure the pollsters got it as wrong as the pundits did in discussing the lead-up to the election and on Caucus Night.

As I watched the early returns from Iowa on Fox News Monday night, for example, Fox personality and noted establishment commentator Charles Krauthammer offered his interpretation of data that showed late-deciders slightly favoring Rubio (over Cruz) as a good sign for Marco and early reports of huge turnout as a certain boon for Trump.

Krauthammer also touched on the fact evangelical participation was up considerably and somehow determined it would mostly aid Rubio. The Fox personality concluded that it looked like the evening would end with a Trump win and with Cruz and Rubio competing fiercely for second place.

What? Did I hear him right?

Krauthammer had just produced the exact opposite conclusion to a given set of facts. Increased evangelical participation in the Iowa election was the key to Cruz’s win, not just evidence of a surge for Rubio. True, a healthy portion of these voters also favored Trump and Rubio, but faith voters are Ted’s base.

More evangelical voters meant more net votes for Cruz. Period. End of story.

The Rubio misinterpretations from the Fox pundits continued throughout the evening. Time and again they made hay over Rubio’s last minute surge, completely ignoring the fact Trump had focused nearly all of his considerable rhetorical might on Cruz alone in the last several weeks, creating a rather wide opening for someone to sneak up on the frontrunners from behind.

Yes, Rubio had been taking more than his share of flak from Jeb Bush and the other establishment bottom-dwellers in the same time frame, but while most of the media attention was focused on Trump and Cruz in Iowa, Marco was largely getting a pass from negative scrutiny.

Add this lack of criticism of Rubio’s record to his blatantly false “That’s the lie that Ted’s campaign is based on” jibe in last Thursday’s debate that went completely unchallenged and you have perfect conditions for the leading establishment guy to gain ground.

I’m not so sure that the pollsters got it wrong as much as the talking heads in recent weeks, many of whom gave the outward appearance of favoring the horse race over candidate substance (no surprise there at all).

Other than certain radio personalities – Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh (to some extent, though Limbaugh has also been recently propping up Trump), who in the pundit class has been directly critical of Rubio?

There were more errors in the pundits’ analysis on Monday night.

For example, with Cruz’s vaunted ground game, why would the experts assume vastly increased turnout automatically works to his disadvantage? And finally, the Fox people chose to overlook the caucus aspect of Iowa – namely, that voters could actually switch their support while attending the caucuses themselves.

Therefore, the networks’ entrance polling was WRONG…was it so hard to recognize?

In a caucus setting, consider the fact that Cruz is a more natural fit for any anti-establishment Trump voters who could be wavering and you have the recipe for a Ted victory.

I for one believe the pollsters were probably mostly right in assessing the race a couple days before the caucuses. The pundits then took this semi-accurate information and completely whiffed on the conditions that turned the race for Cruz and to some extent, Rubio – increased evangelical participation, superior ground game, and the last-minute caucus voter switch.

The fact The Donald skipped last Thursday’s debate helped make this all possible by planting doubt in enough people’s minds to warrant an eleventh hour swap of candidates.

I’m guessing the pundits will get it wrong ahead of New Hampshire as well, though with a primary, it’s a different ballgame.

The numbers may change but the bias won’t. It looks more and more like the chattering class is all-in for Rubio, the sweet talking golden boy who wants to be friends with everyone – including the establishment clowns who got us into this mess in the first place.

We’ll see how well the Florida senator does when Trump’s bullseye is trained on his young sweaty forehead instead of targeting Ted Cruz.

Now that Trump is officially a “loser,” what’s next for him?

Conservative commentators have been writing for months that Donald Trump’s entire campaign was built on the notion of winning.

His lack of policy depth was excusable, they reasoned, as long as The Donald could sell the notion he was smart and would always come out on top largely due to the force of his will to win and never settle for less.

With his loss in Iowa, however, all of that’s gone now. How does Trump move on from there?

According to Byron York of the Washington Examiner, Trump’s problems don’t just end with losing. York writes, “The difference between Trump's high pre-caucus polls and his underwhelming support in the actual caucus could indicate that voters who had supported him for months beforehand began to develop doubts as the time neared to actually cast a ballot. Would it be safe and smart to vote for this guy?”

This is precisely Trump’s problem and likely the reason he underperformed on Monday night in the caucus setting. People simply changed their minds when it came time to vote.

For so long he’s been a message carrying candidate with a hard edge against the establishment. When you get beyond that, there’s just a celebrity gaffe-machine who turns off huge segments of the public with his mouth.

York also notes how Trump’s complete lack of organization likely cost him votes in Iowa, providing several specific examples of caucus sites where no Trump representative spoke to the gathering. That’s simply inexcusable.

Put it all together and there’s real trouble moving forward. I’m not entirely sure it’s going to surface in New Hampshire, but in larger states where GOTV efforts are essential, he’ll likely falter.

Even being “The Donald” isn’t going to be enough to overcome that problem.

Establishment giddy over Marco Rubio in New Hampshire

Finally today, with Marco Rubio’s potentially game-changing emergence as the establishment candidate in Iowa, his competitors for the favor of the party elites are getting desperate.

Alex Isenstadt of Politico reports, “With the GOP hierarchy warming to Rubio, the squeeze is suddenly on struggling establishment contenders Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Bush, who must convince party higher-ups that they have a reason to continue on.

“On Tuesday morning, top Bush donors and finance officials held two conference calls to discuss the path forward. On one, according to one participant, there was an acknowledgement of the campaign’s increasingly long odds and an agreement that, barring a strong Bush showing in New Hampshire, many Bush donors would soon bolt to Rubio.”

This is yet another sign of how clueless the establishment is. Rubio ends up a few points above his poll numbers in Iowa and all of a sudden the establishment thinks they’ve finally found their savior.

Just wait until Trump and Cruz turn their focus to Rubio, you know, candidates that people listen to. The establishment’s golden boy might not seem so attractive then.

Maybe they should try and keep Jeb around after all.

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The Establishment Pundits

We know the main stream liberal media messed up again.But I applaud Ted Cruz win in Iowa but it was actually Trumps night in Iowa for first place than Cruz and Rubio. The establishment did everything and succeeded in a loss for Donald Trump because the pollsters made mistakes and ballots were destroyed.
Trump is still sitting pretty because he still leading in the New Hampshire polls by 24 points ahead of Ted Cruz and he's going to win the nomination of the Republican Party in November and become the next president my prediction can not be wrong because Donald Trump identifies well with voters on all the issues including repealing Obamacare, appealing to evangelical Christians and pro family values as well as revitalizing the economy and putting Americans back to work. Securing our borders, reining in on the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and defeating ISIS.
Donald Trump will make America great again he's a business man and will repair the damage that Obama has done to the U.S. economy.