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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Donald Trump has found a candidate he can’t unfairly attack and get away with it

With two weeks to go until the Iowa Caucuses on February 1, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are starting to look like competitors virtually tied in the latest polls.

Both candidates spoke (two hours apart) at a tea party event in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Saturday. Donald TrumpBoth took shots at the other. Only one was booed.

Katie Glueck and Ben Schreckinger of Politico report, “…Trump was less cautious, and was punished in return; when he said Cruz was beholden to donors, many of the conservative activists responded with boos.

“’Well, excuse me. Excuse me. He didn’t report his bank loans? Excuse me,’ Trump said, as boos continued to fill the room. ‘He didn’t report his bank loans. He’s got bank loans from Goldman Sachs. He’s got bank loans from Citibank and then he acts like Robin Hood. Say whatever you want, it doesn’t work that way.’

“Seconds later, Trump brought his speech to a close.”

The Donald always says what he means and means what he says, but there are signs the public isn’t always buying it. Trump drew some negative reactions to his comments the other night during the debate as well.

Trump may have found the one candidate he can’t unfairly attack and get away with it.

As far as the ground game is concerned, Cruz is already winning Iowa

Donald Trump loves polls. Perhaps the only thing The Donald loves more than the surveys themselves is telling everyone within electronic earshot about his big lead in national opinion.

And while few dispute that public sampling is extremely important at this stage of the nominating cycle, it’s only a small part of winning what matters most – convention delegates.

When push comes to shove, it’s the ground game that makes all the difference in close races. In this category, Ted Cruz is way ahead, apparently.

Patrick Howley of Breitbart reports, “With … days to go until the first Republican caucus, Sen. Ted Cruz is taking a commanding lead in the Iowa ground game.

“But Cruz’s main opponent, Donald Trump, has a lot of support in Iowa. He needs to step up his ground game in order to turn out new voters on caucus day. The guy leading the field in new voter registration on colleges is Sen. Rand Paul, and his campaign expects to ‘win, place or show.’”

That’s merely a synopsis of Howley’s outstanding and detailed reporting from Iowa. He spent a considerable amount of time there and observed what was going on for most of the candidates.

As far as Cruz specifically, Howley writes, “Cruz’s national political director, Mark Campbell, told Breitbart News about the massive volunteer operation they’ve set up in the Hawkeye State.

“Campbell said that their voter outreach program is ‘built on the neighbor to neighbor idea. We want neighbors, family members and co-workers forming friendships and reaching out to people in their own lives.’”

The numbers are impressive, right down to the precinct level. The Cruz people are leaving no stone unturned or voter uncontacted. History has shown there’s no substitute for in-person outreach. From what it sounds like, Cruz is miles ahead of the rest.

Howley also looks at Trump’s and Rubio’s ground operations and finds them lacking. He candidly admits Trump supporters are everywhere but the campaign itself isn’t following up on its information leads. How that will play out on Caucus Day in two weeks remains to be seen.

“Trump is not going to win evangelical Christians, and he’s not going to beat Cruz among people who are already registered as Republicans. In order to win, he needs to bring independents to the polls on caucus day, especially the blue-collar Reagan Democrats and disaffected independents who have such a strong visceral reaction to his crusade against the political class,” Howley said.

The only problem is the campaign isn’t organized enough to get those registrations.

As far as Rubio goes, Howley reports the Florida senator’s having a hard time closing the deal with undecided voters. His anecdotal snapshot of a Rubio event sheds light into Marco’s problem – amnesty follows him everywhere and Iowans simply have better candidates to choose from.

Meanwhile, the establishment is the real loser in Iowa, especially Jeb Bush and his commercials.

Howley’s piece is a wonderful glimpse into what’s transpiring in Iowa – and probably elsewhere as well. As a populist candidate, Trump excites people in a way that few ever have. I myself spoke with one Virginia voter this weekend who said, “He says exactly what is on my mind.”

But generating excitement doesn’t always guarantee results. Mitt Romney certainly appeared to have the excitement on his side in the lead-up to the 2012 election and we all know how that turned out.

Ted Cruz knows what he’s doing (and incidentally, the voter I cited above said “I like Cruz too”) and his staff is professional and aggressive.

Polls are neat, aren’t they? People get a thrill every time one comes out and their candidate moves in a positive direction. But if you don’t have the people on the ground going door to door to talk with voters one on one, it doesn’t really matter what someone tells an interviewer over the phone.

My money’s on Cruz winning handily in this respect.

(Note: If I see a report from Iowa saying Trump’s ground game has stepped it up drastically, I will gladly feature it.)

Trump’s values – New York or otherwise – appear to be subject to change at any time

Just as in Iowa, there’s ample evidence of Trump’s popularity in New Hampshire as well, like this story which reports on Trump backers braving a whiteout to see him this weekend. He draws big crowds wherever he goes.

But it’s Trump’s lack of connection to conservatism that may ultimately cost him at the voting booth, as demonstrated by his suggestion that former Massachusetts senator (and unsuccessful New Hampshire senate candidate) Scott Brown might make a good VP choice.

Gabby Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner reports, “Trump, who leads the Republican presidential field both nationally and in the Granite State, described Brown as a ‘good man’ during his campaign rally Saturday and said he's ‘central casting’ for the vice presidential slot should Trump secure the GOP nomination.”

Trump might have just been being polite in complimenting Brown, who had introduced him a moment before as the “next president of the United States.” But he also has to know that choosing two-time loser (in different states, mind you) mushy moderate Scott Brown as his VP would be the kiss of death to principled conservative support in the general election.

The Donald has also said in the past he’d consider Ben Carson or Ted Cruz for the second slot – so his views are basically all over the place, subject to the whim of the moment, perhaps.

In that sense, Trump has always been that way.

Curt Mills of the Washington Examiner reports, “Ted Cruz reiterated his criticism of Donald Trump's ‘New York values’ Saturday, releasing a video showing Trump strongly supporting abortion rights while crediting his New York roots for those beliefs.

“The one minute video shows a cut 1999 ‘Meet the Press’ interview of Trump conducted by the late Tim Russert.”

The same video also shows Trump waffling on same-sex marriage and all-but admitting he doesn’t have the same values as the people in Iowa.

True, the interview was from 16 years ago and the circumstances were slightly different back then, though it sheds light on The Donald’s somewhat questionable evolution on social issues. If he’s proud to have “New York values,” do they include similar epiphanies on these subjects?

Trump himself said he no longer supports abortion, that life’s experience has helped him realize he was wrong in his prior views.

I’m inclined to believe him. But there’s also no question his core beliefs are subject to change on a moment’s notice.

That can’t be good for someone who purports to want to “Make America Great Again.”

Constitutional scholars side with Cruz on eligibility

Finally today, Donald Trump’s resurrecting the question of Ted Cruz’s eligibility was successful in keeping the matter in public view, but that doesn’t mean he’s correct in thinking it might stop Cruz from winning the Republican nomination.

Constitutional scholar Mark J. Fitzgibbons writes at The American Thinker, “Ted Cruz’s mother is an American, making him natural born and eligible to be president. His allegiance to America is unquestionable. His appreciation for, and understanding of, the Constitution is more on par with the Founders than many other politicians’.”

In his piece, Fitzgibbons provides an excellent rendition of the evolution of law from natural law to English common law to the American Constitution which improves on English common law.

In his mind, there’s no doubt Cruz is natural born under the Constitution.

Other authorities agree as well.

Bradford Richardson of The Hill reports, “Constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams says Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is on the right side in the argument over whether he can run for president.

“’I think Senator Cruz is right that ‘natural-born’ as understood would more likely than not be held to mean someone that didn’t need to be naturalized, didn’t have to go through any procedure to be an American, as of course he did not because he had an American mother,’ Abrams told host John Catsimatidis on ‘The Cats Roundtable’ on New York’s AM-970 on Sunday.”

Abrams went on to say he didn’t think the Supreme Court would rule on the matter if petitioned.

In other words, the Court likely believes the Congress or the public would be the ultimate arbiters of Cruz’s eligibility to be president.

Trump is right in one sense: the Democrats will go to any length – including trying to deny Cruz his eligibility – to stop Ted from occupying the Oval Office and undoing much of what they’ve worked so hard to unconstitutionally accomplish through the courts and executive fiat.

But Trump is wrong in suggesting they might win in the effort. Americans aren’t fools. They know where the truth lies. And the country will be better off for it.

(Note: For a good synopsis of the Sunday’s Democrat debate, try Philip Klein’s review at The Washington Examiner.)

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Romney and enthusiasm

In the days before the 2012 election,Romney was drawing huge and enthusiastic crowds -- bigger than Obama's. There was reason to believe the turnout was going to be larger than McCain's in 2008, while Obama's was going to be down considerably from the same year.

When all the votes were counted, Romney did exceed McCain's total by about a million votes, but still fewer than George W. Bush received in 2004.

So while it appears that some conservatives did stay home in 2012, they didn't sit out to the extent reported in some news outlets.

Romney was a poor candidate, but conservatives wanted Obama out. Now, hopefully with a principled conservative candidate as the nominee, conservatives will feel good about voting FOR someone rather than just voting AGAINST Hillary or Bernie.

Good analysis, except that

Good analysis, except that Romney never ever had excitement on his side in 2012. That's a bizarre observation. If he did, millions of Conservatives and middle-class blue collar workers would not have sat out the election.