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“In Search Of A David To Take On Goliath”: Will The Republican Establishment Rally To John Kasich?

As expected, Donald Trump cruised to a crushing victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday night. (Who would have believed last June when Trump entered the race that we’d be yawning at his winning New Hampshire?) Trump blew away his competitors, securing well above 30 percent of the vote – more than double that of the first runner-up.

And that’s where the real story of New Hampshire lies: Ohio Gov. John Kasich came from the bottom of the pack to secure a second-place finish. Will he be the savior to deliver us from Trump?

“Enormous pressure is on the establishment wing to consolidate around one candidate soon,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean says, “or else it will hand the Republication nomination over to Trump.” Indeed, the Republican primary has made a fickle fashion show thus far. The establishment and donor classes have tried on different candidates, sizing up their chances of taking down Trump before casting them aside for the next contender.

Even before Trump took over the race, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was supposed to be the party’s heir-apparent. Leading in the earliest polls (pre-Trump, of course), he had the name and the cash to make the establishment drool. But Trump’s entrance into the race flat-lined Bush’s already lackluster campaign, and Jeb’s been floundering ever since to regain steam, with little success. Consider that his campaign is touting his fourth-place finish in New Hampshire as a sign of great momentum. Please clap.

Then there was Ben Carson, an outsider like The Donald but more humble than braggart. Carson shot to favor in August and soared so close to Trump in the polls that the nervous front-runner publicly compared him to a child molester and mocked his self-described violent past. Amid more questions about his biography and bizarre religious and historical beliefs, Carson’s near-catatonic excuses proved ineffective and his support plummeted by mid-November.

Enter Sen. Ted Cruz, who almost immediately rose to second place. A month out from the Iowa caucus, he secured endorsements from influential conservatives in the state like Rep. Steve King. Yet almost as quickly as Cruz settled in behind Trump, the Republican establishment wanted him out. It turns out that nearly everyone who has come into contact with the senator from Texas dislikes him. With a passion.

Faced with the option of a President Trump or a President Cruz, the GOP looked ready to unfurl a “Make America Great Again” banner over the White House. Yet rather than capitalizing on this momentum, Trump busied himself picking a fight with the GOP’s official mouthpiece, Fox News, skipping the last debate before the caucus. Meanwhile, Cruz zeroed in on Iowa’s evangelical vote and came out of the Feb. 1 caucus with a surprise win.

Now desperate, the establishment looked to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for salvation. Rubio took the bronze in Iowa but treated it like a runaway victory, and that was good enough for the Washington establishment. He shot up in national polls and climbed to second place behind Trump in New Hampshire last week. He looked to be just the bright, energetic contender the party had been waiting on to unite its factions and take down Trump – until he famously malfunctioned at last week’s GOP debate, earning nicknames like “Rubot” and “Marcobot.” Rubio finished fifth in New Hampshire.

Which brings us to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “What’s clear is that Christie’s suicide attack against Rubio had an impact on voters who turned to Kasich and Bush as an alternative,” says Bonjean. Long overlooked by the Republican establishment, the governor is suddenly number two.

Kasich bet the farm on New Hampshire. Barely two months ago, he was polling sixth among GOP candidates in the Granite State. He put in more appearances there than any other Republican and built up a muscular ground operation, and it paid off.

Whether or not Kasich’s win is also a win for the establishment is up to the party itself. The revolving door of favored alternatives to Trump is spinning faster and faster, nurturing the chaos that has handicapped Republican opposition to Trump from the start. But if it stops with Kasich, there could be bright days ahead.

Kasich is everything Trump is not. He’s experienced – serving nine terms in Congress before becoming governor; bipartisan – the twice-elected chief executive of critical swing state Ohio; thoughtful ­– he’s consistently touted realistic and detailed policy platforms, and even The New York Times endorsed him as “the only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race.” He’d be a formidable opponent to Democrats in the general election.

If Republicans can rally around Kasich, Trump’s a goner. It’s a big if – Kasich didn’t finish far enough ahead of Bush (who finished fourth) or Rubio to decisively clear the field. Without a concerted effort to consolidate voters around one candidate, the madness seems ripe to continue in South Carolina. My guess is that Trump will continue his winning streak in the Palmetto state next week – though pundits predict Cruz might carry the day with the evangelical vote, my read is that anti-immigrant sentiment runs so deep in the South, where voters are still miffed that Barack Obama has been president for eight years, that Trump will prevail. But still, the division would remain. But if Republicans rally around Kasich, where can Trump go from South Carolina? Not very far, if two-thirds of the GOP sided with Kasich and the rational wing of the party.

All we’ve heard from the Republican establishment this cycle is weeping and the gnashing of teeth over Trump’s lead. And now they have a man in hand who could topple the tyrant – let’s see if they truly want to.

 

By: Emily Arrowood, Assistant Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, February 10, 2016

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, John Kasich | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Long Series Of ‘Murder-Suicide’ Incidents”: If Rubio Falters In New Hampshire, Things Could Get Weird For Republicans

The big question for Republicans as the good citizens of New Hampshire prepare to vote tomorrow is whether Saturday night’s candidate debate fundamentally changed anything (not as fundamentally, of course, as Marco Rubio says Barack Obama wants to change America, but enough to mess up Rubio’s day). A John Kasich super-pac wisely did a one-day snap poll and quickly got the results out since they showed both Kasich and Jeb Bush moving past Marco Rubio into second and third place, respectively. Independent pollsters had generally shown Kasich with a bit of a buzz even before the debate; one of the two tracking polls that captured Sunday’s sentiment (from ARG) had Kasich even with Rubio at 16 percent. A Monmouth poll that ended pre-debate on Saturday basically had Rubio, Kasich, Bush, and Cruz in a four-way tie. All indicators show at least as much voter volatility as in Iowa.

What’s different from Iowa, of course, is that virtually no one is doubting Donald Trump will win in New Hampshire. And Ted Cruz’s exact order of finish probably doesn’t matter a great deal, either. Indeed, from the perspective of Team Cruz, keeping as many Establishment candidates alive as possible to mess with Marco Rubio might be worth a poor outcome for their own candidate in a state where his expectations have been low.

For any of the Governors (as they are generally being called at present) who top Rubio in New Hampshire, it means survival for another round. Chris Christie, Rubio’s tormenter Saturday night, has the most ground to make up in New Hampshire, and also has the weakest prospects going forward, with no particular state in sight where he has any kind of natural base until well down the road. It’s also pretty well-known from a long series of “murder-suicide” incidents in political contests that the candidate who damages a rival in a multi-candidate field is often not the beneficiary.

So Kasich is the most likely Marco-beater tomorrow night, with Jeb Bush a decent possibility as well. Either or both would presumably move on to South Carolina, where they’d make an already-long-shot Rubio win over Trump and Cruz significantly more difficult. The same dynamics might be in play in the Super Tuesday primaries of March 1. But it’s unclear whether either of these worthies can hang on until March 15, when their home states hold winner-take-all primaries. In theory this is when Jeb, if he is still around and can somehow top not only his fellow Floridian but Trump and Cruz as well, could knock Rubio right out of the race.

That’s a distant revenge fantasy for Jebbie’s long-suffering backers at present. But the more important point is that a Rubio fade in New Hampshire would provide massive incentives for the surviving governors to go after him with a clawhammer — even as Trump and Cruz pile up delegates in the relatively conservative, evangelical-heavy array of states on the near horizon. In other words, Rubio’s debate stumble could turn out to be the very moment the Establishment most feared. You’d best believe that at some of the choicest Beltway watering holes tomorrow night, there will be prayers that Rubio finishes ahead of the Governors after all and creates the three-man race that looked so likely just a few days ago.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 8, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Marco Rubio, New Hampshire Primaries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When The Applause Dies For Jeb Bush”: He Misjudged The Depth Of The Anger And Division Within His Own Party

“Please clap,” Jeb Bush wryly told a subdued crowd in New Hampshire last week, a moment that epitomizes his problem.

The pundits call it lack of traction. Among too many voters it’s lack of interest.

If Jeb bombs in New Hampshire, he’s done. Even if he doesn’t quit the race, it’s over.

A year ago this scenario was unimaginable. He had more money, more brains, more connections and more governing experience than any other Republican wanting to be president. Like many people, I thought his nomination would be a slam dunk.

The gaseous rise of Donald Trump upended everything, but not only for Jeb. The other candidates had to scramble, too. Some did a better job.

Sure, Iowa is a silly place to start a presidential campaign. Its demographics are freakishly white, and the GOP electorate is anomalously dominated by evangelical Christians.

Still, Jeb spent plenty of time and money there, and wound up with only 2.8 percent of the vote. That’s miserably weak, and there’s no positive spin.

What’s happening? The answer is, for better or worse: Not much.

Jeb hasn’t made any huge, embarrassing blunders on the campaign trail. He’s not obnoxious or unlikable. True, he’s not an electrifying personality, but in most election cycles that wouldn’t disqualify him.

Obviously, he misjudged the depth of the anger and division within his own party. He isn’t the only candidate to get caught off guard.

But he is the only Bush on the ballot, and that’s probably hurt him more than it has helped. Jeb isn’t the one who invaded Iraq and basically exploded the Mideast. He isn’t the one who jacked up the deficit with war spending and then left the U.S. economy teetering on a cliff.

That was his brother, but seven years later lots of voters haven’t forgotten. Before committing to Jeb, they need to be convinced that he’s way different from George W., that he’s wiser and more careful, and that he doesn’t have a Dick Cheney blow-up doll riding shotgun.

So far, there is no sign of a grass-roots pro-Jeb frenzy. The fact he was Florida’s governor for two terms isn’t wowing the masses — even in Florida.

Polls here show Jeb trailing Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He is only slightly ahead of the sleepwalking Ben Carson.

How is this possible? That question is echoing among the heavy hitters who gave more than $100 million to Jeb’s super PAC. They’re running out of patience.

Jeb’s new strategy is tag-teaming with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to tear down Rubio, who surged impressively and finished third in Iowa. Christie is playing the Don Rickles role, insulting Rubio in public, while the Bush team bankrolls a flurry of anti-Marco ads in the media.

The New York Times reports that Jeb has already spent $20 million attacking his former protege. I guess this means no more workouts together at the Biltmore gym.

It’s a grim battle for the sane wing of the Republican Party, which means placing at least third in New Hampshire.

The positioning is crucial because Trump’s vaudeville act is starting to fray, and the icy zealotry of Cruz scares many conservatives.

If this were a script, you would now write in a timely entrance by the seasoned, well-credentialed Jeb Bush.

Except, wait — there’s baby-faced, inexperienced Marco ahead of him. Way ahead.

Here’s a guy who has accomplished zero in the Senate, flip-flops when he feels the heat and can’t even manage his own credit cards. How is he beating an old pro like Jeb?

By successfully casting himself as a fresh and electable alternative. Rubio’s only got one speech, but he’s good at it. Ironically, he grew up to be slicker and more calculating than his mentor.

Such is Jeb’s desperation that he has a new campaign commercial using a photo of Terri Schiavo. She was the brain-dead woman whose husband and parents were locked in a legal fight over the continuation of life-support procedures.

As governor, Jeb inserted himself into the case, ultimately involving his president brother and Congress in the effort to keep a feeding tube in Schiavo, who’d been comatose for 13 years.

Eventually the courts put a stop to the political meddling, and she was allowed to die.

The episode was Jeb’s worst mistake in office, an obscene governmental intrusion into a private family tragedy. Now he’s dredging up the memory in hopes of attracting extreme right-to-life voters.

If he asks you to clap, you know what to do.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, February 8, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The GOP’s Donald Trump Nightmare Is Far From Over”: Quick Rebound Less Farfetched Than Sudden, Terminal Collapse

Ted Cruz’s poll-defying victory in the Iowa caucuses Monday night spared the Republican Party the ultimate humiliation of a Donald Trump landslide—not in Iowa, per se, but in the presidential primary writ large. Until this week, nonplussed Republicans were contemplating with dread an increasingly likely scenario in which Trump won Iowa convincingly, reinforced his dominant leads in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and went on to essentially run the table to the nomination.

Things won’t be quite that straightforward for Trump after all. The early conventional wisdom out of Iowa is that Trump hurt himself by failing to put together a traditional campaign apparatus, that Cruz helped himself by putting together a great one, and that third-place Marco Rubio benefitted from a late burst of pragmatism within the Republican electorate. The results at the very least slow Trump’s juggernaut, and possibly reorient the primary into a real three-way race.

By relegating Trump to second, and even to the waters-edge of third, Cruz and Rubio both widened their paths to the nomination to unknown extent—and at an unknown expense to Trump, whose path narrowed.

Depending upon how the campaigns and Republican voters respond to Monday’s returns, the Trump campaign now faces either a bearish or a bullish outlook. And in many ways, despite the GOP elite’s celebratory mood, the prospect of a quick rebound is less farfetched than a sudden, terminal collapse.

The bullish case for Trump goes something like this. Despite his near-total disinterest in running a traditional Iowa ground game, Trump cobbled together a real and genuinely impressive constituency—at least for Iowa caucuses purposes. More Iowa Republicans voted for Trump last night than have voted for any Republican candidate in history—including Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and George W. Bush—except for Ted Cruz, who shattered the record.

This feat is even more impressive when you factor in the institutional heft behind his competitors’ campaigns. Cruz’s powerful operation was built upon the strength of his close ties to Iowa evangelicals, and to influential local conservatives like Representative Steve King. It’s not unusual for Iowans to support a religious-right tribune in the caucuses (Santorum, Huckabee)—and it’s also not unusual for the winner to ultimately lose the nomination.

Rubio ran a relatively spare campaign, but benefitted both from late but relentless conservative and mainstream media boosterism, and from an equally belated Republican paid-media campaign against Trump. Rubio became the establishment’s de facto candidate in the final week, and it propelled him from a distant third … to a less-distant third.

All of which is to say that caucuses place a premium on traditional campaign infrastructure in a way regular primaries don’t. Iowa is essentially rigged to depress turnout and present barriers to new participants. And yet Trump nearly won anyhow. If that is how Trump and his supporters internalize his Iowa showing, he will perform well in New Hampshire, possibly South Carolina as well, and become a singular force in Republican politics once again.

At the same time, the seeds of Trump’s potential demise are buried just below the surface of this analysis. Barriers or no barriers, Trump underperformed on Monday night. His supporters could prove to be disproportionately flaky in every state. It also may be the case, after all, that a sustained barrage of negative press can harm him. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but it’s worth considering the possibility that the anti-Trump ads, which flooded the market in the campaign’s final days, contributed to his underwhelming performance.

He will face many more of them in the coming week. If Cruz and Rubio gain ground in New Hampshire, Trump will probably see his lead there narrow before next Tuesday’s primary. If we credit, for the sake of argument, his critics’ favorite but untested hypothesis that his bubble will burst now because it was inflated by the perception of his invincibility, then his own supporters will be discouraged by his second-place finish, and defect to other candidates, or drop out of the electorate altogether.

If these developments transpire, Trump will (finally! at last!) fade from dominance. His campaign will evaporate just as quickly as it materialized, and the race will be transformed into a gloves-off battle between Ted Cruz and the establishment. If he pulls through, though, Republican elites will quickly realize, like an ill-fated resident of Elm Street, that when they woke on Tuesday morning, they brought their nightmare with them.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 2, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“In The Murky Depths Of The Internet”: Trolls And Nazis Mourn Trump Loss

To Donald Trump’s seedy Internet fan club, he’s some sort of god. So when the final numbers were tallied in the Iowa caucus on Monday night, no one was more upset than the online trolls.

Trump’s Internet forum star-status is fueled by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis as well as the kind of snarky nihilists that lurk on 4chan. Stormfront, a website dedicated to providing a “voice to the new embattled White minority,” has touted Trump as a beacon of hope in months past, politically aligning itself with other white nationalists who recorded robocalls for Trump in Iowa.

Between posts discussing the best images from the Third Reich and theories about Hillary Clinton’s bowel issues, Stormfront had difficulty emotionally comprehending Trump’s loss, especially given the robocalls recorded in the state by the leader of the White Nationalist American Freedom Party. Some chalked up Cruz’s win to an elaborate conspiracy to keep Trump from becoming the president.

“This has probably been rigged in favor of Cruz, by elitists behind the scenes who fear they won’t be able to control a President Trump,” user GreyWolf1972 wrote.

Others surmised that the uptick in support for Rubio, who ended up a close third in the final tally, was orchestrated by undercover Democrats on a mission to bring Trump down.

“How many Hispanic Democrats switched to Republican party in Iowa tonight to vote on Latino anchor baby Marco Rubio?” Diet_Cokeaholic wondered.

These fervent Trump bootlickers can only imagine that a conspiracy must have foiled their golden-haired idol. He is the only person who validates their nationalism, the one man who suggests their ideas might not always be confined to the darkest corners of the Web. Now that Rubio may be the candidate to beat, they really hate his guts.

“On the CNN the Jews and the Negro Van Dindoo are making even less sense,” wrote user piltene. “Marco Rubio like a little shark smiling and bragging now.”

Instead of spouting epithet-ridden laments, 4chan reacted to the loss as if their pet died.

A “Trump Support Group Thread” emerged moments after word of his loss to Ted Cruz spread around the internet. “TRUMP IS GOING TO GET REKT INTO 3RD ITS ALL OVER,” someone further down on the thread wrote. Another thread, which featured an image of an angry Ron Jeremy, read in all caps: “IOWA DOES NOT DECIDE THE REPUBLICAN.” The first commenter so desperately wanted to agree but you could tell he was worried.

“Faggot, we know that,” he wrote. “Trump needs 2ND PLACE though. 3rd place or lower, and every MSM will start ramming their dicks onscreen for a month straight trying to slay the god-emperor.”

4chan is the website where users have invested hours into crafting elaborate memes of the candidate they either ironically or seriously or somewhere in the middle, refer to as “dank.” In one instance Trump manually retweeted a video called “You Can’t Stump the Trump (Volume 4)” to the uproarious delight of every basement-dweller in the forum. This is their unlikely hero and on Monday night, he let them down.

Yet at least one person speculated that this loss was intentional and that Trump was creating a distraction for everyone to get a leg up as the race continues.

“Gotta lull your opponents into a false sense of security, and the media will do exactly that,” wrote user IMFUCKINGZYZZBRAH. “For Trump, for free. We accept defeat for this battle, but not for the war.”

In the conspiracy wing of the Internet, there was still hope for a brighter future.

“It’s what they expected—a narrow loss,” InfoWars radio host and paranoia proliferator Alex Jones said in an audio message to The Daily Beast. He has touted Trump’s nationalist appeal on his show in the past, even having the GOP frontrunner on for an interview in between ads about DNA-altering supplements. “Then he goes on to dominate New Hampshire and other states. He was advised not to campaign there,” Jones said referring to Iowa. “That’s what’s going on. The evangelicals—some of them just couldn’t vote for Trump.”

For the fringe arm of the cultish and conspiratorial Internet, anyone who is not Trump is a waste of space, often a meaningless minority or extension of the Jewish powers that be.

In this snake pit, Trump is king. But on Monday night, he got a dent in his crown.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, February 2, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Iowa Caucuses, Donald Trump, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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