Is South Carolina a Must-Win for Ted Cruz?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Must Ted Cruz win the February 20th South Carolina primary in order to have a clear path to the Republican nomination? In a word, no. While a distant second to Donald Trump could prove catastrophic, that is highly unlikely. Cruz need only place highly enough against the favored Trump and let the rest of field battle for elimination.

Here’s why:

1.) Cruz has the cash to compete. He invested little campaign cash or time in New Hampshire but came away with an unexpected third place finish, and surprised by finishing ahead of both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. 

The entire week prior to the vote, Cruz’s polling numbers remained remarkably steady while others jockeyed for position. It is testament to a smart campaign strategy, knowing they wouldn’t win but working and investing just enough to make a good showing. And while final percentages of the top five finishers is all most people see, the numbers behind them tell a different story. NRO details the carnage to the other campaigns:

Even more important, Cruz spent very few resources on New Hampshire: less than $1 million combined between the campaign and super PACs. Compare that to Bush, whose combined efforts spent $35 million in New Hampshire, while Christie spent $18 million, Rubio $15 milllion and Kasich $12 million. All of them were beaten by Cruz in a state that was supposed to be a bad fit for him.

Chris Christie bet it all and lost, and he has suspended his campaign, as has Carly Fiorina. Continue Reading

Is Hillary in Trouble After Losing N.H.? (VIDEO)

Frank Cannon is president of the American Principles Project and a respected conservative political strategist with over 30 years of experience.

I think the interesting thing is [Hillary Clinton] has exacerbated the loss [in New Hampshire]. Her husband Bill Clinton has exacerbated the loss. Their entire response to Bernie Sanders and his lead in New Hampshire was not to take a relaxed approach and say, ‘We have our firewall. We have a large firewall across the United States.’ It was to engage and try to dissect him and be able to annihilate him. And that’s only served to up her negatives and to show the fractures in her coalition among young women and others that put her in a relatively weak position.

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N.H. Says Take Your Pick: Angry Populist or Angry Socialist?

From left: Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

So complete has the Washington political culture of both parties bred a climate that favors insider power structure and cronyism (both corporate and political), that it’s no longer able to hide it behind smooth talk and show votes. It’s official: the Emperor has no clothes. The American electorate is angry, and their anger erupted into a full-on tantrum in New Hampshire last night.

While the good people of New Hampshire have flipped a middle finger to Washington, D.C., they’ve also presented a stark choice to their fellow Americans. Their message? “We’re so mad right now, we only see a choice between an angry populist and an angry socialist. So there. Chew on that.”

So complete were their victories (no, Trump didn’t underperform as I’d anticipated), first time voters flocked to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Note this CBS News summary:

First-time voters made up only a small percentage of the electorate Tuesday night – 15 percent on the Republican side (in comparison with 12 percent in 2012) and 17 percent on the Democratic side (down from 19 percent in 2008).

In both cases, however, the first timers went with the winners. Among the Republicans, Trump won 36 percent of these voters, Kasich came in second with 19 percent, and Cruz came in third with 12 percent. On the Democratic side, almost eight in 10 first-time voters supported Sanders.

As the primary season shifts southward, will anger subside and reason prevail? Continue Reading

In S.C. Showdown with Trump, Cruz Needs a Winning Economic Message

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Michael Vadon via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So South Carolina is where the titans clash: where Donald Trump (clearly) is going to try to knock Ted Cruz out of the race, and where Cruz urgently needs to show he can go toe-to-toe with The Donald in the South before the big SEC primary on March 1.

Trump’s decision to release his nasty attack ad on Cruz the night of his New Hampshire victory shows he understands the campaign dynamic: Kasich will struggle for a 0-2-3 strategy and head for the big Southern vote with little to show for it. Rubio and Bush will be forced to attack each other to try to win the establishment lane.

Cruz was ready with an attack ad of his own, trying to hit the same lighthearted note he has in his past responses to Trump’s attacks. I do not think the ad is very effective — don’t put kids in front to attack a Trump. But it demonstrates Cruz understands the central problem with attacking Donald Trump: the voters who don’t mind mean candidates are already in Trump’s camp, so the challenge is how not to seem weak while also not sounding mean in taking on the Trump. It’s a conundrum.

Marco Rubio lost his chance to be the Great Unifier in one moment on stage with Chris Christie. It was not the content of Rubio’s response that was the problem, but the fact he retreated to canned phrases instead of seizing the opportunity to take it to Christie on the governor’s actual record in New Jersey. Continue Reading

After New Hampshire: Donald Trump vs. Ted Cruz

I want to take a look at each of the candidates in the Republican presidential field following Donald Trump’s rout in the First in the Nation primary state of New Hampshire. In a nutshell, I believe the race effectively comes down to a Donald Trump vs. Ted Cruz race. Cruz moving forward may be the only candidate down the stretch with the finances, organization and grassroots support to be able to stop Trump after the first two contests.

Disclaimer: The results listed below reflect the results at 12:45a with 88.3% of precincts reporting in. I’ll update with final results later today.

1 . Donald Trump – 35.1% (92,203 votes)

Congratulations to Donald Trump for a convincing win in New Hampshire. He won convincingly. I have no doubt he would have won, but I wonder if the margin would have been the same if 40 percent of the Republican primary electorate wasn’t independent. I can only wonder because I haven’t seen exit polling that breaks that out. I thought he would win, but I didn’t expect he would win by double digits.

In any case, he will again be the center of attention in the media leading up to South Carolina. He is in a strong position. He had little organization in New Hampshire and still pulled out an overwhelming win.

Exit polling showed that half of the voters in the Republican primary wanted an outsider, and he won 57 percent of that vote. Also, four in ten said they were angry at the Obama administration, and he led that group with 39 percent. Continue Reading

Three Things to Watch For in N.H.

Photo credit: Tom Arthur via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

We correctly predicted the story out of Iowa would be Marco Rubio, as this Vox article details about his virtual tie with Donald Trump:

What happened next? There was a massive wave of media coverage about how “Marco Rubio was the real winner in Iowa.” By exceeding expectations, the argument goes, Rubio generated positive buzz that will help him raise money, recruit volunteers, and win later primary contests. That, in turn, could consolidate his status as the choice of the party’s mainstream.

But Vox also notes something else we’re witnessing . . . that Ted Cruz could surprise in New Hampshire while the risk is greater for the Rubio camp that he underperforms there — as you point out here in your third point — rather than take over the race as his ‘Marcomentum’ out of Iowa might have lead one to believe was possible:

Getting third place in Iowa is pretty good, but getting first place is better. And there’s no good reason to simply assume Cruz is going to be a one-state wonder. Cruz is in a dead heat with Rubio in national polls taken since Iowa. And he’s only about 2 percentage points behind Rubio in New Hampshire polls, a state whose Republican voters are known for supporting more centrist candidates.

New Hampshire may prove three things, in my estimation.

The first is that Ted Cruz, underwhelming (a.k.a. ‘loathed”) as he is to the chattering class and DC establishment types, is running a near flawless campaign (okay, yes, the Carson flap was an unforced error…). Continue Reading

Kasich, Sanders Hold Early N.H. Leads as First Towns Vote

Photo credit: Doug Kerr via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The tiny town of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire — population of twelve — accompanied by two other small communities in the area cast the first votes of the New Hampshire primary when the polls officially opened at midnight. The voters put Governor John Kasich and Senator Bernie Sanders in the lead:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich won the most Republican votes in Dixville Notch early Tuesday morning, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won all the Democratic votes.

Kasich came away with three while business mogul Donald Trump won two. On the Democratic side, Sanders received four.

The results are a welcome sign for Kasich, whose campaign said he actively reached out to all nine voters who voted early Tuesday near the Canadian border in the first balloting of the New Hampshire primary.

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Overall on Tuesday, the three communities cast 65 votes, with 17 going to Sanders.

Daniel Nichols works for American Principles Project. Continue Reading

New Hampshire Decides — Four Things to Watch For

So now it comes down to the voters of New Hampshire. Despite the “Live Free or Die” motto, New Hampshire Republicans are not especially libertarian. They are just among the most moderate of Republicans.

After Iowa’s disproportionately evangelical voters weighed in and chose Ted Cruz, New Hampshire voters will pick out the guy they want, and it looks overwhelmingly like Donald Trump will win. Here are four story lines to watch:

1. Trump v. Sanders — Will Trump be able to pull in Democratic-leaning independents, or will they go and vote for Bernie Sanders? That will tell us something about how powerful Trump’s blue-collar appeal actually is.

2. Will Marco Rubio finish second? Consecutive third place finishes are hard to spin into “winning the establishment lane.”  Polls show a confusing mess of possibilities: Is John Kasich currently in second, or is it Jeb Bush or Rubio or even Cruz?

3. A Kasich surge? This morning’s ARG poll, released after the debate, shows Rubio dipping back into third at 14 percent and Kasich emerging at 17 percent.  But other polls suggest Kasich, Rubio, Bush and Cruz are all statistically in a dead heat for second.

4. Will Ted Cruz surprise (again!)? Campaigns matter. Will Cruz’s superb campaign organization give him an edge in a tight field? A second place finish is not out of the question.

Here’s my preference, for what it’s worth: we have to narrow the number of non-Trump candidates to have any possibility of defeating him. Two-thirds of Republicans prefer someone else. Continue Reading

How Can Rubio Recover?

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Before the New Hampshire polls close tomorrow night, Marco Rubio should do two things — first, he should clarify his “robo line,” and second, he should move on from it.

Although Chris Christie hounded Rubio on Saturday night for repeating the same line about Barack Obama several times, Rubio had the right point but the wrong delivery. Rubio needed to clarify that it’s what separates him from Obama that voters should focus on, not what makes them similar. Yes, they were both first term senators when they decided to run for office — but President Obama has been operating off of his liberal values, and that’s what has taken the country down the wrong path for the past seven years. It’s Rubio’s conservative principles that he’s campaigning on, and those are the ones that will reverse the damage Obama has done. That’s the point Rubio was trying to make — he just could have done it better, and should do so for the next day and a half.

After you’ve done that, Marco (which should only take about five minutes), move on.  The policy answers that he gave Saturday were solid. On the military, on abortion, and across the board on the issues, Marco Rubio brings a clear vision to the table, and that’s what he needs to continue capitalizing on. And maybe assign someone the role of coming up with a good “Robo Rubio” nickname, to steer into the skid.

Kevin Dawson is Deputy Operations Manager for the American Principles Project. Continue Reading

“Live Free or Die!” Will Ted Cruz Inherit the Rand (and Ron) Paul Voters?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Time Magazine reports on Ted Cruz’s embrace of the Paul “liberty voters” in New Hampshire. Subhead: “The Iowa Republican winner appeals by trumpeting the gold standard, privacy rights and limits on eminent domain.”

Time‘s Alex Altman reports from Salem, NH:

In the hours after Sen. Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race Wednesday, the libertarian state representative and passionate Paul supporter [Eric Eastman] says he fielded a personal phone call from Jeb Bush and an offer from Donald Trump’s campaign promising VIP treatment. Even an aide to Chris Christie reached out. But as he processed his grief over Paul’s exit, Eastman already had a new candidate in mind.

On the night of Paul’s exit, Eastman went to see Ted Cruz in Nashua, N.H. …. By Friday night, Eastman was onstage at a jam-packed Cruz town hall … offering his endorsement and telling the crowd that the Tea Party Texan and the Kentucky libertarian were “close cousins” philosophically. “Chapter and verse, the two guys are aligned in many ways,” Eastman explained in an interview.

This has been Cruz’s argument from the beginning, and it could come in handy next Tuesday in New Hampshire, where libertarian Ron Paul got 23% of the Republican primary vote in 2012.

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On cornerstone libertarian issues—privacy, civil liberties, gun rights and others—the two freshman senators are largely in step. It’s why big libertarian donors like Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire, have written big checks to Cruz four years after funneling more than $2.5 million to Ron Paul.

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