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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Getting to know Ted Cruz is learning to like him even more

It’s safe to say each of the CNN Town Halls this week painted the remaining Republican presidential candidates in a positive light and that’s a good thing for those of us who see the number one priority as the need to defeat Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders) in November.

Instead of #NeverTrump, we were reminded that #NeverHillary is a much more important objective than the need to settle scores, even if there’s good reason to carry grudges in the first place.

Ted CruzAnd while it’s somewhat likely the Republican candidates’ favorability ratings could get a boost courtesy of CNN’s idea to let each of the candidates appear with their attractive families in separate segments on different nights, it turns out they’ll need the help – big time.

Nick Gass of Politico reports on another new poll showing that Americans really aren’t wild about the GOP contenders. “Donald Trump is the most unpopular top-tier presidential candidate over more than three decades of ABC News/Washington Post polls, except for former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. That's according to the results of the latest national ratings released Thursday…

“Two in three Americans surveyed in the poll — 67 percent — said they held an unfavorable view of Trump, while just 31 percent said they saw him favorably and only 2 percent said they had no opinion of him. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's favorability rating was marginally higher, at 36 percent, while 53 percent said they had an unfavorable view of him and 11 percent said they had no opinion. Ohio Gov. John Kasich made out the best in the poll, with 39 percent each responding that they had a favorable and unfavorable opinion of him, but 22 percent said they had no opinion either way.”

My first thought when I saw this was, ‘I didn’t even know David Duke was a top-tier presidential candidate’. My second was, ‘nearly a quarter of the people still don’t know enough about John Kasich to formulate an opinion’?

Regardless of those impressions, it’s clear that Trump or Cruz and the national Republican Party have a long road ahead of them to improve their respective images.

John Kasich isn’t going to be the nominee, so he can go back to Ohio and write a book or something.

The question is, how would someone like Donald Trump go about increasing his popularity? Throughout his life, The Donald has “won” in the court of public opinion by deriding and lessening his competition while propping himself up in the process. This “hit me and I’ll hit you back harder” attitude has won him a great many friends and admirers, but polls show he’s engendering even more detractors with this approach.

How could he suddenly become ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ without completely sacrificing his reputation?

In contrast, Cruz should be able to improve his favorability ratings and more media forums like Wednesday night’s CNN Town Hall will help. Most Americans are just now getting to know Ted and the media’s constant depictions of him as being “hated” by his own colleagues have crept into people’s mindsets.

If Cruz wins the nomination, however, most Republicans will rally around him. Mitt Romney wasn’t the most “loved” candidate of all time, but as we moved closer to the election in 2012, people warmed to him. With the help of Heidi Cruz and his two daughters, they’ll do the same for Ted.

At this point, Cruz has two tasks. First, to continue to reveal his “human” side to show that he’s not who the media says he is, and two, to articulate how constitutional conservative, limited government solutions help average people.

Ads like this one, detailing his simple flat tax plan will aid in the effort.

Ronald Reagan was great at compressing big ideas into short phrases or sentences. “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is our problem.”

“We win, they lose.”

Cruz has the ability to win people over in a similar manner. He’s no Ronald Reagan in his ability to appeal directly to the public, but his belief in the Constitution and the American People is just as strong.

I expect to see his favorable ratings improve steadily…after July.

Kasich’s delusions fogging up the real Republican race picture

With the primary set for next Tuesday, polls show Donald Trump well ahead of both Ted Cruz and John Kasich in New York. Not surprisingly, the Real Clear Politics average even has Kasich ahead of Cruz in the extremely liberal/moderate Empire State.

That’s okay. Kasich came a close second to Trump in neighboring Vermont back on Super Tuesday (March 1), so we know there isn’t a lot of passionate limited government fervor up there near the Canadian border.

But what we’re not able to see with Kasich hanging around is whether the not-Trump vote is consolidating in other places. Kasich’s continued presence in the race is preventing anyone from getting a clear picture of where Trump and Cruz truly stand with a key bloc of Republican voters.

And that makes a lot of folks impatient for Kasich to do the right thing and get out.

Ian Tuttle of National Review writes, “Since it became clear that Donald Trump was going to Hulk-smash his way through the Republican field, this race has depended on a final showdown, a chance for someone to go mano a mano with him. Maybe, in that situation, forlorn Kasich and Carson and Rubio voters would flock to Trump, and he would punch through his ceiling. But maybe they wouldn’t, and he would stay at 35 or 40 percent — and lose.

“For those interested in stopping Trump, rallying behind one capable candidate has long been the best option, and Ted Cruz has demonstrated the discipline and the organization to take on Trump nationwide.”

I share Tuttle’s view that Trump would likely stay at around 35 to 40 percent in most states in a two-man race. Or at the very least, he wouldn’t climb into the upper 40’s.

Nationally speaking, Trump’s Real Clear Politics average is just shy of 40 percent. This includes, of course, voters from his stronghold in the northeast. In other regions of the country I think the percentage hovers closer to 40 than 50 in a two-man race – including, I might add, the South where Trump racked up victory after victory with four or more candidates still in the running.

The Donald is not popular beyond his base even in areas where he’s had success and let’s not forget the majority of delegates have gone to Cruz after Marco Rubio dropped out.

Therefore, perennial loser John Kasich is throwing a roadblock in front of the forces set on stopping Trump from winning the nomination.

I believe Trump will do well in the next two weeks (New York next Tuesday and then Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania the week after), leaving him with a huge lead heading into May, when the calendar theoretically shifts back in Cruz’s direction.

That is, unless Trump’s momentum is unstoppable by then, assisted to a large degree by Kasich’s inexplicable continued presence in the race.

Again, Trump and Cruz’s best bet is to agree on retaining Rule 40, which would eliminate Kasich from even having the hope of winning at the convention. Then we’d all get the answers we’re looking for in terms of who will be stronger in July.

New York looks solid for Trump but Cruz is still working the delegate game

With poll after poll showing Donald Trump comfortably in the lead in his home territory of New York (and the states voting on April 26), Ted Cruz has been busy working the long game for every possible delegate to prevent Trump from reaching the all-important 1237 number.

If Trump does as well as predicted in the latter part of this month, Cruz will need to finish strong in May and June to set the wheels in motion for a contested convention.

It’s in Cleveland where all the work Ted’s doing now will finally bear fruit. Trump could potentially get close to 1237; but if he fails to win on the first ballot, all bets are off.

Katie Zezima and Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post write, “Even as Cruz eyes upcoming contests, his team is deep in the process of influencing who gets to be delegates in states that already have voted. Cruz’s Houston-based delegate team, led by former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II, has largely left the process up to activists at the state level who are well-versed in local rules.

“If no candidate gets to 1,237 votes on the first ballot in Cleveland, more and more delegates will be freed up to support whomever they like on subsequent ballots. According to a Washington Post analysis, Cruz is already poised to pick up as many as 170 delegates on the second ballot — a number that could make it impossible for Trump to win.”

170 delegates is about the equivalent of winning a state the size of California outright. Trump’s run will effectively end at that point.

With even more Cruz favoring delegates “free” to vote for him after the second ballot, he’d certainly be at or near the 1237 number on the third ballot. The Republican Party would finally have a nominee and it would be up to Trump to either concede the race or play the sore loser.

As I’ve argued many times before, I don’t think Trump will risk his family’s good name and reputation just because he was outworked during the year-long Republican primary race.

I also don’t think Cruz will leave it to chance on not getting Trump onboard for the general election run. For a campaign that’s so meticulously planned everything out to the highest degree, there certainly must be some sort of “strategy” in the works to deal with a potentially volatile Trump.

We’ll just have to wait and see what the plan might look like.

Nancy Pelosi takes Trump’s side in the Republican race

Finally this week, House Minority Leader and leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi weighed-in on the Republican presidential race on Thursday and gleefully predicted the Republican Party would unravel if anyone but Donald Trump emerges as the nominee from this summer’s Republican convention.

Mike Lillis of The Hill reports, “[Nancy] Pelosi, the Democratic leader, suggested an effort to topple Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, as some party leaders are considering, would tear the GOP apart and cede big wins to the Democrats.

“’If they reject the public will, they will really hand us a bigger victory than I'm even anticipating now, because that will be an implosion of the Republican Party,’ Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol.”

In a sense it’s not surprising that someone like Nancy Pelosi should predict doom for the Republicans if the party, through its legitimate process chooses Ted Cruz, since the Democrats are certainly hoping Trump is the nominee. They figure Trump at the top of the ticket means gold to their own party in the form of massive down-ballot victories.

Why not stand up for him? Plus, I think Trump has contributed to Pelosi before. She’s grateful.

Like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Pelosi never says anything that isn’t political. If she’s “for” a Republican candidate that definitely implies she’s “against” someone else.

Ted Cruz would present by far the biggest contrast to either Hillary or Bernie. The voters would have a real choice in November between the OLD status quo and the young prospect of real reform.

If Nancy Pelosi really means what she says, she should campaign for Trump in her California district. Even a few more votes there could make a big difference on June 7.

Then we’ll know for sure what Pelosi really thinks.

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