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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Prepare the starting gate, the race is about to begin

Tomorrow night’s debate line-up was released by Fox News and here are the candidates you’ll be seeing during the “primetime” portion at 9 pm ET:
GOP debate
Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich.

“The roster of 10 candidates was determined based on an average of the five most recent national polls.” The five polls included in the average that determined the line-up were conducted by Bloomberg, CBS News, Fox News, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University.

(Where was the NBC/WSJ poll, usually regarded as one of the most reliable?)

With Christie and Kasich rounding out the primetime participants, it means Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore will take the 5 pm ET slots.

There’s a tangible lack of star power in the lower-tier group. One wonders how many folks will tune-in to watch both, especially at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the west coast…

It could be said that the “losers” of the debate have already been determined.

Monday’s forum – worthwhile introduction or candidate speed-dating?

Meanwhile, reviews are trickling in from Monday night’s GOP candidates’ forum, with the consensus observing that immigration is the number one issue on the minds of Republican voters. With Donald Trump and Ted Cruz virtually building their campaigns on the topic, it shouldn’t have taken this long for some to notice that the lack of border enforcement concerns Americans.

Another general area of agreement for the candidates was on Planned Parenthood – that it needs to be defunded. Even the pro-abort candidate (George Pataki, anyone?) said he’d pull the plug on the nation’s leading abortion provider.

Regarding the one after the other, one-on-one format, Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner commented, “The forum was billed as an opportunity for the candidates to provide longer responses than they might at the debate, but the rapid fire format provided little opportunity for the candidates to delve beneath their talking points.”

Shortly after the conclusion of the event, for example, the CSPAN host suggested that it looked kind of like “candidate speed dating.” Not far off, for sure.

In terms of who won, results were mixed. ConservativeHQ.com said Donald Trump (who wasn’t even there) and Ted Cruz were the clear victors.

Matthew Boyle at Breitbart liked Scott Walker’s populist appeal. “Walker is in a prime position, the more he talks about this issue of taking on the special interests and conjoining it with immigration, to rise back up in the polls after he’s seen a bit of a slip in the polls after getting sidetracked with a brief bout with frontrunner Donald Trump.”

Trump skips the forum, leads in another poll

It seems like Donald Trump earned more headlines for skipping the forum than he would’ve engendered had he been there. Trump said he decided not to participate because he felt he could not earn the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union-Leader (the primary sponsor of the forum).

No matter. Plenty of people were still talking about him after the candidates left the stage.

He’s also doubling the support of his nearest competitor in another new poll (from Bloomberg).

Trump and Palin, revisited

In one of the more interesting news tidbits of the season, here’s a look at Trump’s unofficial alliance with Sarah Palin. For those looking for reasons why billionaire Trump is able to stir up and maintain support among the “Joe six-pack” voters, you need look no further than the shared admiration between the two populist public figures.

Palin has consistently defended Trump against his detractors in the liberal media – and the GOP establishment – and she’s proving to be a valuable ally with the grassroots where other Republicans won’t have anything to do with her.

Here’s another look at the Palin/Trump connection, where Palin says “I thank God that he’s running. He’s stirring it up. He’s coaching, he’s educating the other candidates, letting them know this is how you tap into the good part of a populist movement, these are the issues that the people are talking about, jobs, industry, the competition for our jobs via illegal aliens coming over open borders.

“All those things that Donald Trump has taken on, well the other candidates now, they have to step up their game.”

Yes indeed. Sarah’s right again.

The latest “candidate in trouble” story

Politico is reporting that 2012 Republican runner-up Rick Santorum is cash-strapped and now without a campaign manager after a staff shake-up.

Katie Glueck writes, “The Santorum camp insists that a lean, no-frills operation is best-suited to execute the kind of campaign Santorum envisions. He aims to project a blue-collar, everyman ethos and employ the traditional long-shot’s playbook — a retail-heavy campaign built on one-on-one interactions all over Iowa.”

Watching Rick’s campaign since he announced, it looks like Santorum’s still playing by his 2012 playbook, figuring the magic that took him to the end of the primary process against Mitt Romney would automatically resurface. It hasn’t.

Santorum’s message hasn’t really changed, either. That shows consistency, sure – but it also appears as if he’s yesterday’s news. He didn’t really do much in the last three years since he fell off the political radar screen and people just plain forgot about him.

There are a lot of candidates in this field and Rick’s no longer standing out as the leading choice to take on the establishment in 2016.

Hillary’s not very popular, but she’s got a big lead with Dems!

It’s hardly a surprise, but Hillary Clinton’s popularity has dropped according to a recent poll.

But despite the media’s relative lack of focus on Hillary’s mounting scandals and substance-free campaign, she’s still got a large lead in the Democratic race.

Republicans would do well to highlight their policy differences with Hillary and the Democrats rather than making the election a popularity contest, however. Once her true views are exposed (on immigration and abortion, for instance), people will find even more reasons not to like her.

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