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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Don’t allow the pundits to call the 2016 Republican race early

It’s safe to say, one way or another the 2016 Republican primary election cycle will always be remembered as the year of Donald Trump. The ostentatious billionaire real estate tycoon and reality TV star has stirred the pot of American politics more than anyone in recent times – perhaps ever – and his personality has been indelibly stamped on this year because of it.

2016 will also be known for other things as well, perhaps most notably for its record voter turnout. South Carolina marked the third state in a row where participation records were shattered. So far, it hasn’t been Ted Cruzclose.

Gabby Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner reports on South Carolina’s numbers, writing, “Election officials said the number of Republicans who submitted absentee ballots more than doubled the number received during the presidential primary in 2008, and overall it was reported that more than 730,000 voters participated in the first-in-the-South primary this election cycle.

“South Carolina GOP Chairman Matt Moore praised the record-breaking turnout on Twitter Saturday evening. According to Moore, 603,000 South Carolina residents voted in the 2012 Republican primary.”

On the Democrat side however, turnout is going in the other direction. Saturday’s Nevada caucuses saw participation down by one-third from 2008 levels. I guess the prospect of voting for Hillary Clinton doesn’t excite many people, considering all the passion is on the Bernie Sanders side and his voters would be inclined to turnout.

In other words, Sanders likely maximized his vote potential, leaving Clinton to take the blame for lackluster overall Democrat numbers.

I can’t say I blame the Democrats – I wouldn’t want to choose between Clinton and Sanders either, though they’re both essentially socialists (only one admits it!) and their platforms probably aren’t that different.

Bernie’s a crusty old guy but he does seem like a nice man. He’s the crazy uncle at family get-togethers who rails against the downturn in the neighborhood and longs for the good ‘ol days. Everyone ends up ignoring him about fifteen minutes into the party.

And Americans are just flat-out sick of Hillary Clinton, having been subjected to her overtly phony nature for 25 years now on the national stage.

As for the Republicans, it’s easy to see why people are captivated, especially in comparison to the lukewarm contests of the last several contested Republican nomination cycles. A closer look at the numbers reveals a few interesting tidbits from Saturday’s results.

First, in winning in South Carolina, Donald Trump actually received fewer votes than Newt Gingrich did in 2012. Trump was just under 240,000 total votes and Gingrich got just over 243,000.

Second, at roughly 165,000 votes each, both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz nearly matched second place finisher Mitt Romney’s 167,000 tally four years ago.

So in essence, the Republican race winner and runner up(s) had the same margins in 2012 and 2016. The only difference is there were TWO runner-ups this year…and only one winner, of course.

Lastly, all three of the also-rans from this year finished with between seven and eight percent of the vote. Jeb Bush was about 4500 votes higher than Ben Carson (Bush had just under 58,000 votes) and John Kasich was in between.

South Carolina, in other words, was basically a three-man race. Even with Jeb dropping out, this is probably the way it’s going to be for at least awhile until Carson and Kasich make it official that they’re out.

Get set for a whole new round of Rubio and Trump “liar” attacks on Ted Cruz.

Cruz is down but it’s a long road with much time to recover

As the respective campaigns huddle in the aftermath of the South Carolina primary, a little perspective is in order. Sure, only a small percentage of Republican convention delegates have been awarded through Iowa, New Hampshire and now South Carolina, but trends have emerged that present a clearer picture of how the race is taking shape.

More delegates will be won tomorrow in Nevada, though it won’t really change the balance any further.

There’s little doubt Ted Cruz is a bit down after his somewhat disappointing finish in the Palmetto State. Objectively speaking, he should have done better there against Donald Trump – and Marco Rubio as well.

But it’s not time to fold the tent and go home for the Texas senator. Far from it, in fact.

Steve Berman of The Resurgent writes, “Either the race goes to Trump by March 15, or one of Rubio or Cruz stands to face him. Cruz has the most money in the bank, the best data analytics, and the most well-developed ground operation. There’s no way Cruz will back off short of a total meltdown.

“Cruz has a good chance at winning several states on the March 1 ‘Super Tuesday.’ He really has to win Georgia and Texas to have a chance, and I believe he has a better chance in those states (with large delegate counts) than Rubio.”

Cruz also has a win to his credit. The best Rubio can claim is a second place, ten points behind the winner in South Carolina. If Rubio doesn’t win any states on Super Tuesday, are donors going to continue to pour money into his operation when he’s oh-for-2016 on hopes he might eventually break out?

Sorry to burst your bubble, Marco, but the pundits can only keep you afloat so long with your mediocre finishes.

Cruz has the money to keep going. Marco would need cash flow to soldier on.

Berman also points out that Cruz has a better overall delegate operation than Rubio, a factor that could come into play if there isn’t a clear winner going into the convention in July.

And while it’s not time to panic for Ted, there is some reason for concern. His superior ground game and message helped carry the day in a caucus state like Iowa, but straight primaries are proving to be problematic. It’s just very hard to recruit enough voters to close the gap in a primary state where the frontrunner has a huge free media advantage.

Trump’s talent for dominating news cycles together with a willfully cooperating media has equaled victory in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact Trump’s managed to match his poll numbers in both of those states. His people are turning out without much provocation from his organization.

If the New Yorker’s able to repeat the trick on Super Tuesday, nearly all of the momentum will be on his side.

A majority of the establishment vote will go to Rubio now that Jeb bailed out, though Trump and Cruz will almost certainly get some of Jeb’s people. After all, “mainstream” Republicans flock to the candidates who seem to be winning. And at this stage, a few points added to his already impressive total is all Trump would need to take the winner-take-all states starting on March 15.

If Trump beats Rubio in Florida on that day, it’s time for Marco to leave.

As New Hampshire and South Carolina demonstrated, Trump will receive his vote percentages reflected in the polls. That leaves Cruz to divide the bulk of the non-Trump vote with Rubio.

Cruz’s best shot might be to try and outlast Rubio and hope Marco’s third place finishes will dry up his money. Then the better funded Cruz could go one-on-one with Trump in the balance of the primaries and hope Republicans and conservatives would have had enough of The Donald by then.

It’s going to take time in either scenario…and we’re running out of it fairly quickly.

Marco Rubio is Mitt Romney Part Deux

I’ve said it before, it you dig down to the nitty gritty, Marco Rubio is just a younger, financially poorer version of Mitt Romney.

Apparently other people are noticing the same thing. Mike Zapler and Anna Palmer of Politico write, “[S]trip away Rubio’s rags-to-presidential contender biography, and his candidacy has more than a little in common with Romney’s — from policy platforms that are largely in sync to a brain trust that boasts a number of the same key figures. When it comes to the substance of what he’d try to do in the job, at least, Rubio is not promising a sharp break from the most recent establishment favorite the party put forward.”

Yes, from one substance-free Republican talking-head to another, Rubio and Mitt are birds of a feather. And they’re both robots too!

Zapler and Palmer add that Rubio is trying to draw distinctions from the former GOP nominee by saying their personal backgrounds are different. Their policies and advisors may be the same, in other words, but since Rubio grew up as a regular guy that he’s a new and improved version of Mitt.

When will the establishment learn that it’s not who you are, it’s what you stand for?

Rubio doesn’t have a defining issue, other than perhaps immigration. He’s never stood out as a conservative leader on any important causes. Marco’s running for president primarily because he’s already been a senator and Speaker of the House of Florida, so it’s the only other office he’d be interested in.

He doesn’t want to put in the time to try and lead on issues. He’s a career politician who needs another job.

Aside from that, Romney didn’t lose in 2012 because of his infamous 47% comment or his distant personality. He lost because he failed to paint a distinction with the Democrats on important issues such as Obamacare and immigration. Why should voters choose a guy who’s renounced his biggest “accomplishment” as a governor?

Turns out they didn’t. It’s why Obama still comes home to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after his golf rounds.

Similarly, why choose a first-term senator without any achievements and also renounces the one thing (Gang of Eight) that he’s known best for?

If Republicans nominate Marco Rubio, they’re just asking for an expensive sequel to a very bad movie. Let’s leave the idea in the can before it even gets off the ground.

Post mortem on Jeb: Trump sounds conciliatory tone

Finally today, everyone knows Donald Trump loved tormenting Jeb Bush during the 2016 campaign. But now that the former Florida governor is out of the race, Trump has stopped calling Bush a liar and spoke gently about his fellow opponent.

Bradford Richardson of The Hill reports Trump said on CNN’s “State of the Union”, “’Jeb fought very hard. It wasn’t his time, that’s all – he’s a very capable person. It wasn’t his time.

‘You know, four years ago, I think he would have won,’ he added. ‘Although, it would have been – with Mitt [Romney] and him – it would have been a good contest. But this was not really his time.’”

In being nice to Jeb, Trump’s following a very predictable pattern. He knocks the crap out of his opponents when the game is on but shakes hands afterward…or at least he wants to.

The problem is, the damage is already done. It’s up to Jeb Bush on whether he’ll forgive Trump for the nastiness of the campaign. But there’s no doubt a good many Republicans won’t be as accommodating. Those are the people Trump needs to be concerned about.

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Didn't Newt Gingrich Win SC in the last election cycle?

And who won the nomination?

Have we learned nothing about the cult of personality since 2008?