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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Trump wins in Nevada, Establishment fails Marco Rubio

What happens in Nevada stays in Nevada. Ah, if it were only true.

Gabby Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner reports, “Donald Trump has won the Nevada Republican caucuses, just days after the billionaire-turned-presidential hopeful predicted he would ‘run the table’ after Trump wins Nevadawinning the South Carolina primary.

“The clear GOP front-runner, who many viewed as a fringe candidate in the early days of his White House bid, now enters the final week before the Super Tuesday primaries with a great deal of momentum from his three consecutive victories...”

Whereas Trump received around a third of the support combined in the first three states to vote, he got nearly 46% in Nevada.

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz offered a repeat (of South Carolina) second-third showing in the Silver State, with Rubio’s margin a bit wider this time at 23.9% to 21.4%. The media will whip the second-place finish into some sort of a win for Marco for sure. Both Rubio and Cruz picked up five delegates (to Trump’s 12), so it looks like basically another tie to me.

Rubio had some intrinsic advantages in Nevada having lived there at one point in his young life. Together with the flood of establishment money and endorsements that are flowing his way daily as well as Jeb Bush’s having left the race, you think he’d do better than getting roughly one half of Trump’s total vote.

Meanwhile, the talkers are already at work kicking Ted Cruz for finishing behind Rubio. There’s no getting around it – it’s another disappointment for the conservative Texas senator.

But as I indicate below, there is hope on the horizon for Cruz. There is none for Rubio.

If something doesn’t happen soon, Trump’s train can’t be stopped. All eyes turn to tomorrow night’s debate (in Houston, Texas on CNN) – it’s an important one.

Cruz firewall may hold on Super Tuesday, but “uniter” Rubio should just get out

With Nevada behind us, the focus now turns to next week’s Super Tuesday’s slate of elections, sometimes labeled the “SEC primary” because of its heavy emphasis on southern states with big delegate hauls for the winner(s).

Since last summer it was clear Ted Cruz saw March 1 as his “firewall” – and based on the results of the last three voting states (New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada), he’s going to need a good showing on that day to try and restore some of the momentum that’s been lost in the past three weeks.

Cruz’s home state of Texas serves as the foundation for that “firewall” and the senator just received some good news regarding the Lone Star State this week -- he’s leading there.

Sarah Westwood of the Washington Examiner reports, “Sen. Ted Cruz has a significant lead over Donald Trump in his home state of Texas heading into the primary there next week, according to a poll by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune.

“Among likely Republican voters in Texas, Cruz gets 37 percent to Trump's 29 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio trailed Trump at 15 percent, and Jeb Bush, who exited the race Saturday, edged out Gov. John Kasich and Ben Carson, both of whom are still running.”

The other southern states to vote next week are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. All but Arkansas show Donald Trump with a lead, but for several of them the polling data is too old to matter.

There’s no question that Trump carries huge momentum into Super Tuesday, emboldening his supporters to turnout even in the absence of a real ground game to push them to the polls.

But it shouldn’t be underestimated how important a win in Texas would be for Cruz. With 155 delegates at stake, it’s by far the biggest prize of the day. Winning there could help offset losses in several of the smaller states – at least in terms of delegates secured (note: Texas is not a winner-take-all state, so the other candidates may end up with some Texas delegates).

Assuming a Cruz victory, the question then becomes how the media will spin the results, especially if Trump racks up nine or ten wins out of the eleven other states voting that day.

The overall race will not be out of reach for any of the candidates even after next Tuesday, but the public’s attention will begin to focus on Trump if it appears he is “inevitable.” Cruz would get a new boost of energy from winning in Texas and would certainly seek to change the narrative to a two-candidate race.

It will be interesting to see how John Kasich and Ben Carson react to the likely drubbing they’re going to take on Tuesday. Kasich clearly appears to be holding out until Ohio votes on March 15, though he’s behind Trump there as well.

Meanwhile, Carson leads nowhere, has no real “home state” to rely on and appears to be like a raft drifting on the open ocean, heading wherever the wind and tides might take him. If he drops out after Super Tuesday, it’s conceivable it would help Cruz – but if Carson’s voters have stood with him this long, they might just keep voting for him in those states where his name appears on the ballot.

Which brings me to Marco Rubio. The establishment’s biggest names are gleeful in flocking to Marco these days, at last set free from the heavy shackles of Jeb Bush’s hopeless-from-the-beginning campaign.

But to me it looks like the elites are merely trading one ship that’s already hit the bottom for one that’s listing badly, just above the water-line – and no tugboat in sight, either.

Caitlin Huey-Burns of Real Clear Politics writes, “[E]ndorsements do not equal delegates. And it’s not yet clear if and where Rubio can win at the start of next month, either. Trump even leads in Rubio’s home state of Florida, which hosts a key winner-take-all primary on March 15. John Kasich is pledging to stay on through the Midwest primaries, denying Rubio’s campaign the chance to truly consolidate the establishment wing. Ben Carson isn’t dropping out either, and his continued presence in the race pulls mostly from Cruz, but also from Rubio…

“At campaign stops over the past several days and in the ones to come, Rubio is pitching himself as the GOP uniter who can win. Yet even as the endorsements continue to roll in, the calendar and remaining candidates still stand in his way.”

Why doesn’t anyone call Rubio out on the “uniter who can win” claim? He’s certainly not uniting conservatives, who have found a home with Cruz and to some extent, Trump. Sure, Marco’s managing to “unite” the balance of the establishment wing, but again, that’s at maximum 40% of Republican voters these days.

And he says he can win? Win what? He’d have a hard time winning the nomination for third-grade classroom president as long as Trump and Cruz are on the ballot with him.

Further, Rubio is shooting himself in the foot with his relentless attacks on Ted Cruz as a liar. Even assuming Rubio cold overtake Cruz sometime after March 15 – and that’s a HUGE if – then what incentive would Cruz have to leave the race and give Rubio a shot at Trump one-on-one?

None. Zero. Cruz has made a few mistakes along the way and his campaign has been edgy with some attacks, but Ted has kept it on the level for the most part, pointing to inconsistencies in Rubio’s record rather than trashing his character.

Being called a “liar” is entirely different. It’s personal and it cuts to the bone.

Forget a rocky road forward -- Rubio basically has no path at all. If he hasn’t won anything after next Tuesday, he should get out and give Cruz a chance to take on Trump to save what’s left of the GOP. Unless he and his establishment pals secretly want Trump to win to stop Cruz…that’s another matter entirely.

A vote for Ben Carson or John Kasich is a vote for Donald Trump -- literally

It’s a little hard to think about now, right in the middle of a heated primary race, but eventually the Republicans and Democrats will each offer a candidate for president.

The vast majority of Americans will choose between them with healthy numbers still complaining they’re going with the “lesser of two evils” or “holding their nose” to do so.

Or, a small percentage will even vote third party, leading some on both sides to argue such votes are wasted or are equivalent to a vote for the other side.

But in this year’s Republican primary race, a vote for a low-polling candidate like Ben Carson or John Kasich literally is the same as a vote for the winner in some cases. In other words, if you vote for Carson or Kasich in next week’s Super Tuesday races, you’re voting for Donald Trump (or Ted Cruz in Texas).

Leon H. Wolf of RedState explains, “Every Super Tuesday state with the exception of Virginia has a minimum threshold that candidates must cross in order to be awarded any delegates at all. Any candidate that does not clear that threshold will have their votes lumped in with that state’s overall winner for the purposes of allocating delegates.

“In other words, whoever wins the most overall votes in the state (even by one vote) will essentially be awarded proportional delegates according to their own vote total plus the votes of all candidates who did not clear the state’s minimum threshold.”

Again, this is only for purposes of delegate allocation, but that’s really where the importance lies, right?

It also should be noted the minimum threshold in Massachusetts is 5 percent, so Kasich will likely do better than that.

But you get the point.

In the grand scheme of things, Carson and Kasich should get out. As I indicate above, Rubio should get out too if his results are mediocre next week. But a campaign is a campaign. Some candidates stay in for different reasons – including spite.

In the end, they’ll have to be accountable for their actions…but to the winners go the spoils.

Do you think if Donald Trump ends up with the nomination that he’s going to be sore at Carson and Kasich for staying in too long and “helping” him get there?

Hardly. Can you say, VP slot?

Rubio afraid conservatives might ask him about amnesty at CPAC

Finally today, at every turn Marco Rubio purports to be the candidate of choice for the conservative grassroots, yet he’s decided to bail on this year’s CPAC meeting.

Matthew Boyle of Breitbart reports, “Sen. Marco Rubio plans to snub the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year, and won’t show up at all, Breitbart News has learned exclusively…

“That Rubio is skipping the pre-eminent annual conservative gathering of thousands of activists in a presidential election year is extraordinarily telling about the direction of his campaign as the entire Washington establishment aligns behind him in a last-ditch desperate bid to stop billionaire frontrunner Donald Trump.”

Ted Cruz will be there, as will Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina from this year’s field. Even Donald Trump said he’ll attend, though we all know he’s no conservative.

I guess Rubio isn’t either. We knew that too, though the American Conservative Union’s statement credited him with a conservative voting record.

Rubio’s move can be seen as nothing short of cowardice. Marco doesn’t take a lot of questions out on the campaign trail, living in fear of another “robot” moment that would effectively end his campaign.

He knows he’d be asked repeatedly about his leadership in the Gang of Eight if he came to CPAC – and called out on his lies about Ted Cruz. Rather than risk being embarrassed, he’s decided to skip it entirely.

I hope the message hits home with those who are attending the meeting.

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Lying about CPAC

We know Marco is a progressive, because he is constantly rewriting history to mask his record.
He skipped the Conservative Review event in SC, because he got a better offer from Megyn Kelly and Frank Luntz, but blamed traffic and other issues that he should have planned around.
He hedged constantly with the ACU over CPAC, until they made the presumption of non-attendance, THEN the campaign went to great lengths to claim that had not actually declined.
He has a habit of skipping town early after a primary, rather than thank his supporters in person.
Just like his robotic repeat, weeks of claiming everybody else is lying is eventually going to have voters scratching their heads and researching his claims.
All over the country, establishment politicians, and a few who outed themselves by supporting him, have piled on with Rubio, including "kiss of death" Dole.
Meanwhile, the nearest thing to establishment endorsements Cruz racked up were Rick Perry and Greg Abbott - both of whom care deeply about the constitution and especially the Tenth Amendment.

Cruz, OR, The decline and fall of the Republic. (There Is No Alternative!)