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Voters First Forum: Two Winners And A Bunch Of Losers

The “Voters First Forum” Republican presidential candidate “debate” last night had two clear winners and a bunch of losers – with Donald Trump, who wasn’t even there, and Ted Cruz being the winners, and most of the other candidates, who appeared to be scripted phonies, coming up way short in comparison.

Republican forumOf course it is a rare person who can take six or seven minutes of TV airtime and make a lasting favorable impression, but that’s an important part of the winnowing process in this large Republican field.

And while there was no actual “debate” give the organizers some credit; the one-on-one format of questions from a moderator with no give and take among the candidates did allow each candidate to put their best foot forward.

But what it also showed is that most of them are Lilliputians compared to Trump and Cruz.

First, a quick look at the highlights and low points of the program:

Senator Lindsey Graham’s decision to hit Hillary Clinton with Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal was the most egregious example of a bottom-tier candidate desperate to find a breakthrough moment. We keep saying that campaigning against Clinton scandals will not win the election – it is Hillary Clinton’s policies that are the scariest thing about her – and the zero on the applause meter for Graham’s comment showed we are right.

Governor John Kasich of Ohio coopting George H.W. Bush’s legacy of “compassionate conservatism” and subtly hitting Jeb Bush was a high point that many probably missed. Kasich is clearly angling to be, as Politico’s Eli Stokols put it, Jeb Bush without baggage, and he’s going out of his way to emphasize his own blue-collar background — an implied contrast to the Bush dynasty.

Another low point was Marco Rubio’s flip-flop (again) on illegal immigration and his support for amnesty for illegal aliens. “Legal immigration must be based on merit… on whether you are coming to be an American, rather than just to live in America,” Rubio said, trying his best to gloss over his infamous “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill which had no mention in it of “merit” and would have allowed millions of unvetted illegal aliens to stay in the country, and qualify for welfare and other taxpayer-funded benefits.

Jeb Bush’s performance was strangely flat for the Republican establishment’s preferred candidate – but then again content-free is how the Republican political class prefers their nominee. Bush was about as exciting as a bowl of oatmeal. His bland characterization of the failures of Obama’s policies against Muslim expansionism that “We let our guard down a little bit in the fight against terrorism in recent years” walked right into Ted Cruz’s haymaker Ronald Reagan allusion that “We’ll win by painting in bold colors…” There was nothing bold or colorful in Jeb Bush’s plodding performance last night.

There were some other good quips and quotes; from Bobby Jindal about Bernie Sanders at least being honest enough to call himself a socialist; from Carly Fiorina about having met more world leaders than any other presidential candidate "With the possible exception of Hillary Clinton, although I didn't just do photo ops,” and Rick Perry poking fun at himself while listing what federal agencies he’d eliminate.

But Cruz and Trump dominated the show – Cruz by standing head-and-shoulders above the rest as a communicator and Trump by being the elephant in the room no one would talk about.

One of the advantages of the Voters First Forum format was that it allowed more than a quick one-liner – the candidates had to actually string together a coherent paragraph – and in that regard Ted Cruz shown.

Even POLITICO, not normally Cruz-friendly territory said:

And then there was Cruz: calm, crisp and comfortable.

The former Princeton debate champion fired away in a hohum, folksy twang. “I believe this Obama-Iran nuclear deal is the gravest threat facing America,” he said. And he defended his rhetoric, which some have panned for being “overheated” in just as a calm a tone. “Let me tell you something,” he said quietly. “Speaking the truth is not rhetoric.”

At the outset of the official debate season, it’s clear that Cruz is head and shoulders above his rivals as a communicator, promising the audience, “We’ll win by painting in bold colors and we’ll reignite the promise of America” and blasting “the Washington cartel.” He promises “to make 2016 a referendum on Obamacare.”

The only question is whether he’s too good — whether his practiced cadences, dramatic pauses and innate theatricality add to his authenticity or undermine it.

Our take is they add to Cruz’s authenticity and make him arguably the best Republican communicator since Ronald Reagan.

But the real winner was Donald Trump – who now holds twice the market share of his nearest rival in New Hampshire and who won last night by winning the comparison with the rest of the candidates.

Where the Republican establishment and the political media see bombast, country class voters see passion for the core issues, especially illegal immigration, that concern them. Where was the passion in the rest of the candidates, save Cruz?

Where the Republican establishment and the political media see abrasiveness, country class voters see truth-telling, especially on the cost in lives and quality of life in Democrat “sanctuary cities” and from Obama’s illegal amnesty policies. Where was that kind of truth-telling in the rest of the candidates, save Cruz?

And where the Republican establishment and the political media see a “shoot from the lip” unguided missile in Trump, country class voters see integrity, and a willingness to challenge the establishment policies that are wrecking the country. Where was that kind of integrity in the rest of the candidates, save Cruz?

As CHQ Chairman Richard Viguerie argued in his article “Only Three of Twenty Presidential Candidates Are Message Carriers” it is Donald Trump’s message, not Donald Trump that is resonating with voters. Last night no one, save Ted Cruz, even came close to eclipsing Trump on that most important front in the battle for the GOP presidential nomination.

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I like the article. It calls out the establishment candidates and the BAU good old boy's message. The silent majority sent a message November 2014 and another is coming in 2016. Vote em out folks. The Rinos and dems need to go without a doubt. Cruz or Trump would be great alone or paired. Either way we need to change the rino population in congress so do vote out the rinos and dems responsible for a good share of this mess. More conservatives in those seats and it will end this fundamental destruction being engineered by BO, his administration, the federal runaway agencies, the dems and the minions who support the mess created by this administration and this congress. The mess includes: obamacare, open borders, amnesty of any kind legal or illegal, amuck big business that should be held accountable for their too big to fail gambles and their investment in purchasing the congress for purposes of cheaper labor at the tax payers expense in welfare costs and finally for driving the legal workers in this country onto welfare they use to pay for.

And what about the people who died and fought for the freedoms of this country. Why are we dishonoring their gifts at such a heavy price. This country has laws against illegal egress. We speak english here not spanish. Our flag is the red white and blue that many have sacrificed far too much to keep safe. Yet the illegals themselves are not here to carry that on. They have no respect for our laws, our sovereignty, our way of life. They want what we have but do not want to earn any of it. They want it all given to them and they are happy to just take it even if it is unlawful. Time to close that border, deport them all, and clean this whole mess up. Employers who hire them should face severe penalties and boycotts would be great if those companies doing the hiring and advocating this bunch of illegal invaders were identified. And it is time to stop letting the illegal aliens have access to welfare of any entitlements. I have asked for years how this little happening has come about. No politician will answer that one and I know this because I have asked that one repeatedly.