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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Is it Marco Romn-io or Mitt Rubi-ney?

We begin today with a couple scratches from the 2016 Republican presidential horse race card.

First off, it’s official, Rand Paul will not be on the debate stage Saturday night in New Hampshire.

Marco Rubio Mitt RomneyThis time it won’t be because the Kentucky senator failed to meet the debate host’s polling criteria. It’s because Rand has decided to give up his presidential run.

John King, Manu Raju and Mark Preston of CNN report, “Paul discussed the matter with staff Wednesday morning and sent out a statement confirming the decision to drop out of the Republican presidential primary.”

Paul’s announcement was hardly surprising given the state of his campaign but certainly does not follow in the family tradition of sticking it out until the last possible minute in furtherance of at least carrying the libertarian message forward.

Rand most likely left the race to focus on his senate reelection bid this year, where he faces a potentially serious challenge from well-funded Lexington Democrat Mayor Jim Gray. Lackluster fundraising also apparently played a role in Paul’s decision.

But it could also be Paul feels there are “acceptable” candidates in the field and can therefore gracefully step aside without damaging the libertarian movement. It’s no secret that Ted Cruz has been attending many of the same liberty events as Paul and is generally well received by the limited-government crowd.

And while Cruz has not gone nearly as far in embracing Paul’s non-intervention foreign policy philosophies, the Texas senator has expressed a hesitation to deploy U.S. military forces in pursuit of neoconservative pipedreams of regime change and installing democratic institutions in countries that can’t support such a culture.

Cruz’s views are in stark contrast to the establishment clique of Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie, all of whom have talked openly about sending troops back to the Middle East. It’s inconceivable that Paul would favor any of them.

Paul indicated he will not endorse ahead of next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, but whenever a candidate leaves the field the discussion automatically shifts to the likely recipient of his now unaffiliated supporters. Paul never did rise very high in the polls (his Real Clear Average in New Hampshire is 2.8 percent) but there’s no doubting the family legacy is there. Father Ron finished second to Mitt Romney in New Hampshire in 2012 with 23% of the vote.

Rand’s exit could give a green light to those who are still left on the Paul bandwagon to switch to the only real alternative in the field left for libertarians, Ted Cruz.

Cruz’s social conservativism might give some of them pause, but his originalist views on the Tenth Amendment, protection of individual privacy and limited government advocacy should be right up their alley.

Some pundits speculated Paul’s people would now consider Trump, but why? Except for his foreign policy views, Trump is nothing like the Pauls – and Trump has been openly critical (and rude) of Rand since day one. Trump isn’t about limited government -- there’s no home for Paul’s backers there.

In addition to Rand Paul, Rick Santorum also announced he’s leaving the race.

Daniel Strauss of Politico reports, “Rick Santorum on Wednesday dropped out of the Republican primary race, and immediately threw his support behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio…

“’I don't endorse lightly,’ the former Pennsylvania senator said, calling Rubio a ‘tremendously gifted young man’ who not only understands the importance of family but also has the fortitude and smarts to face the threat of Islamic State.”

In announcing after Paul on Wednesday, even Santorum’s exit was upstaged by someone else.

The fact Rick’s quitting is even less of a surprise than with Paul, given his last place showing in Iowa. The 2012 Iowa winner never caught on this year and his increasingly bitter recent attacks on Ted Cruz have cost him any goodwill from conservatives that might have been left over from his close call loss to Mitt Romney four years ago.

The fact he’s endorsing Rubio this early in the process will make it even worse.

There’s no need to discuss where Santorum’s support might go… there really isn’t any to speak of.

For those of us who latched onto Santorum as the final “not-Mitt” candidate standing in the last nominating cycle, it’s safe to say there’s a lot of disappointment in Rick’s behavior towards the end this year.

Even if Cruz hadn’t been in the race, it’s highly doubtful Santorum would’ve been one of the top contenders now. He’s too far removed from his days in the Senate and his complete lack of visibility since 2012 left him as hardly anyone’s favorite.

He’s a perfect example of out-of-sight-out-of-mind. When he did speak, nobody listened.

It’s safe to say we would have preferred to remember Santorum the way he was, as a passionate crusader for social conservatism and economic populism. Instead, he’s become a bitter loser with an axe to grind against Cruz.

Rand Paul has a future in politics…we’ll see him again. But Rick Santorum is definitely ready to be put out to the political pasture.

Is it Marco Romn-io or Mitt Rubi-ney?

With his establishment competitors all turning their fire on Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, you’d almost think he was the one leading the polls by twenty points instead of Donald Trump.

Daniel Strauss of Politico writes, “Since the 44-year-old Florida senator entered the presidential race, his rivals for the support of establishment Republicans have spoken of him as a candidate running more on his youthful potential and personal story as the son of Cuban immigrants than on any record of accomplishment.

“But after his strong finish in the Iowa caucuses — in which Bush, Christie, and Kasich barely registered — Rubio is running downhill. And if his establishment rivals are to avoid getting crushed beneath, they’ll have to do in New Hampshire what they couldn’t in Iowa: find a line of attack that slows him down.”

The funny thing is, the establishment candidates are right – Rubio is a political lightweight who does well in debates but doesn’t offer much substance below the surface. He’s a finely stuffed suit who says all the right things and looks to be a terrific contrast to the dinosaurs leading the Democrat race.

It’s the Republican donor class that’s screaming the loudest in calling for consolidation behind Rubio.

Watching the establishment candidates vie for the ever-shrinking slice of the “mainstream” Republican vote kind of reminds me of a pack of hyenas ripping apart a carcass. They’re all still ravenous with hunger, but there just ain’t enough flesh left on the bones to satisfy them all.

For the elites, in hoping to get their people to rally around Marco Rubio it almost seems like they’re trying to turn the attractive young Florida senator into another Mitt Romney.

Romney was a meticulously polished Teflon man who certainly looked like a politician. He also didn’t have a lot of core beliefs, the perfect puppet to perpetuate the system of K Street favors rather than try to reduce the size and scope of government.

Now the same people are quietly pushing Rubio as the same type of candidate they can “work with” to keep the big government gravy train chugging down the tracks.

In other words, Romney and Rubio are birds of a feather. And they’re linked together, too.

Let’s not forget there was a ton of buzz in 2012 regarding Romney potentially naming Rubio as his running mate. Think about it, a young, attractive senator from a key electoral state. Rubio had only been in office for two years at that point but had already proven to play nicely with the Republican elites.

Rubio also had endorsed Romney for president in late March. Yes, the race was firmly in Romney’s hands at that point, but Rick Santorum was seen as the conservative choice and there were still a number of important primaries left on the calendar. Instead of siding with conservatives, Rubio went all-in with the establishment.

As a reward, perhaps, Rubio was selected to introduce Mitt at the Republican convention in Tampa. You don’t give that honor to just anyone.

The connections are striking between the two. No wonder the establishment likes Marco Rubio so much – they’re basically getting a much younger, more articulate version of Mitt Romney, a plastic principle-free empty suit.

Doesn’t that make you want to pull the lever for Rubio?

Trump and Cruz should unite against the establishment, not fight each other

With all the post-Iowa buzz going towards Marco Rubio, it’s evident that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will eventually have to deal with the Florida senator – or someone else – as the establishment candidate.

It’s not doing either Cruz or Trump any good to be knocking the crap out of each other. They’d be much better off finding a way to cooperate as the outsiders versus the establishment and let the voters decide between them.

Or so argues conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. She writes, “Going forward, Trump should drop the Canadian birthplace line of attack, and Cruz should stop ridiculing Trump. Instead, both should focus on the failures of the Rubio Establishment — like their support for the Trans Pacific Partnership, immigration amnesty and increasing the budget deficit.”

Ingraham makes a lot of sense and it really wouldn’t be that hard for Trump and Cruz to go back to the hands-off détente they honored before Trump’s birther attacks broke the truce.

Neither is innocent in this regard; but if they don’t find a way to combine against the establishment, we might just end up with an outcome nobody wants…Marco Rubio as the Republican nominee.

Jimmy Carter would rather have Trump than Cruz

Finally today, as if we needed yet another sign of how much the establishment hates Ted Cruz, even feeble old liberal former President Jimmy Carter would take The Donald over Ted.

Al Weaver of the Washington Examiner reports, “Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday he would take Donald Trump over Ted Cruz to occupy the White House were he forced to choose.

“Appearing at Britain's House of Lords Wednesday afternoon, the 39th president surprisingly said he would take Trump over Cruz because of his ability to strike a deal and because many of his positions are not set in stone — as Cruz's are comparably.”

It makes sense. Carter lost to a limited government, Constitution-loving candidate in Ronald Reagan. Cruz is the heir to Reagan’s conservative coalition, so it’s only natural Jimmy would prefer someone else rather than relive the pain of being so soundly defeated 36 years ago.

It’s also curious Carter would talk about Trump’s penchant for being a malleable principle-free dealmaker – clearly an indication that big government is here to stay if Trump is elected.

Carter just provided Cruz with another solid talking point for his next stump speech. I can think of nothing better than to champion the anti-Carter movement.

Good for you, Ted.

Bonus: Need a good laugh? Courtesy of our good friend David Franke, check out the pharmaceutical that will get Hillary elected president.

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