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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Chris Christie dirigible plummets to earth, smothers his campaign

One day after the New Hampshire primary brought news that two more candidates are hanging it up in this year’s Republican presidential race.

First, Chris Christie is suspending his campaign after a disappointing sixth place finish in The Granite State. Like the announcements from Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul last week, Christie’s does not come as much of a surprise.

Hindenburg burningChristie pretty much put all his eggs in New Hampshire’s basket, and when they didn’t hatch, he realized it was time to move on.

Alex Isenstadt and Daniel Strauss of Politico report, “Christie had laid the groundwork for a hard push in New Hampshire long before the race kicked into high gear, but his candidacy was eclipsed by a large Republican primary field that sucked away voters from all angles. It was difficult for Christie to appeal to voters craving a blunt Republican with Donald Trump in the field. And for the voters looking to back an establishment-aligned candidate with political experience, Christie was crowded out by Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.”

Going into the 2016 campaign, it certainly appeared as though Christie would occupy a solid position among the potential group of establishment candidates. As a nationally well-known and generally well-liked (outside of New Jersey, perhaps) governor, he seemed like a good fit for Republicans searching for the right tough-talking moderate who’s managed to be elected twice in a deep blue state.

But there were always two sides to Christie’s story. First was the infamous “hug” that took place between Christie and the visiting Barack Obama a week before the 2012 election. Christie’s praise of Obama at the time is credited by some with helping the president overcome a negative public image as an out of touch overly partisan politician (which we all know he is).

Then there was the “Bridgegate” scandal, which was never firmly connected to Christie yet he was unable to completely disavow nonetheless.

More than anything, the New Jersey Governor could not provide a good reason for conservatives to back him over candidates such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Meanwhile, establishment Republicans already had several choices that looked to be more palatable to a national electorate.

Christie’s sizable baggage and lack of conservative ideological foundation ultimately caused him to lose buoyancy in the Republican race. Like a dirigible suddenly falling back to earth, he just never seemed to be able to maintain altitude.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The Hindenburg disaster did take place in New Jersey, right?

The other candidate to back out yesterday is Carly Fiorina, who finished seventh in New Hampshire behind Christie and was most noteworthy lately for being left off last Saturday night’s debate stage.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports, “Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has suspended her campaign one day after a poor showing in New Hampshire…

“Fiorina's candidacy maintained a significant focus on attacking Democrat Hillary Clinton, the only other female in the race. She sharply criticized Clinton's record as secretary of State and called on her to face prosecution repeatedly during debates.”

Kamisar points out Fiorina had recently indicated she’d stay in it for the duration of the race, but apparently changed her mind.

That’s wise, considering Carly’s likely out of money and never really established a “lane” to run in the first place. Like Christie, Fiorina used most of her time during the debates to lambast Hillary Clinton and Obama, which certainly got people riled up but couldn’t offer much else in terms of electoral appeal.

As one of the “outsider” candidates, Fiorina could have been much more forceful in criticizing the establishment of her own party. Instead she settled for more generic attacks on the Washington status quo. Her past record of supporting the Republican establishment’s position on almost every occasion also likely held her back with conservatives.

Fiorina proved to be a very talented politician. As the lone female candidate in the Republican field, she’ll likely get some consideration as a Vice Presidential running mate a few months from now. Beyond that, there should be a place for her in a Republican administration where she can use her considerable gifts to further the cause of reform.

I for one think she’d make a terrific White House Press Secretary. Wouldn’t the media love that?

Jeb Bush is under some delusion that he still has a shot in the 2016 race

Now that we’ve talked about the “dead” candidates in the campaign, it’s time to look at one of the nearly dead ones.

Only in 2016 could a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place showing in New Hampshire give a candidate hope he’s still a part of the Republican presidential conversation – but that’s the case Jeb Bush is making for still being “alive” heading to South Carolina.

Tim Alberta of National Review writes, “There are still fundamental weaknesses, starting with his last name, that threaten to suppress any meaningful surge behind Bush’s campaign. But his allies believe the worst is behind them; that after a summer of fading poll numbers and rusty campaigning, and a fall of wobbly debate performances, the candidate has finally, in recent weeks, found his footing.”

Perhaps it was Jeb’s whopping 11% of the vote he won in New Hampshire which allowed him to come in .4% ahead of “Mr. Roboto,” Marco Rubio, that convinced him. It’s only natural that a 1300 vote margin over the guy who came in fifth in the miniscule New Hampshire primary would be enough for any reasonable politician to think he has a good shot at winning it all.

(Note: Statistically speaking he also spent $1200 for every vote he received.)

Or could it be Jeb was going to continue on regardless of the outcome and just needed some rationale to save face?

Whatever the reason, Bush doesn’t intend to take the new “life” in his campaign sitting down. Alex Isenstadt of Politico reports, “Jeb Bush is already laying the groundwork for a brutal South Carolina campaign against establishment rivals John Kasich and Marco Rubio.

“In an internal memo circulated late Tuesday evening, the campaign distributed talking points to top campaign aides and surrogates, highlighting lines of attack they plan to take against both candidates.”

Jeb’s planning to say Kasich doesn’t have the organization to win a prolonged national campaign…and that the Ohio governor is in favor of gutting the military.

But he’s saving the real long knives for Rubio.

Again, Isenstadt reports Jeb’s memo said, “’Senator Rubio has lost momentum and has been exposed as completely unprepared to be president,’… ‘Rubio has demonstrated no respect for the nomination process and expects this to be a coronation.’”

The same could easily be said about Bush and probably will be now that Rubio’s people are in possession of the Jeb strategy.

Jeb’s entire outlook on the Republican race is nothing short of delusional. Did he not learn from the drubbing the establishment received at the hands of Donald Trump on Tuesday night?

It’s almost like he resides in a parallel universe, a place called “Establishment-land” where elections aren’t real and the campaign cash is free.

Ted Cruz finished third. Where’s the media adoration?

A week ago the media was falling over itself in praise of Marco Rubio’s third-place finish in Iowa, gushing that it certainly indicated the Florida senator was on his way to consolidating the establishment support and possibly beating Trump in New Hampshire.

Then came last Saturday’s “Marco Roboto” debate moment and he plummeted to fifth place. Meanwhile Cruz took the third spot, finishing a few points behind John Kasich who’d spent the past several months practically living in New Hampshire.

Not only that, but Ted got the most bang for his buck in The Granite State, spending only $18 per vote to lead the field in efficient use of money. He even spent less than Ben Carson.

So where’s the media love on that note?

Erick Erickson of The Resurgent wonders the same thing. “Cruz now has more money on hand than much of the rest of the GOP field combined and more than any single GOP candidate. As the race heads rapidly toward a Cruz v. Trump race, the media response is going to be very interesting to watch and I suspect it will be decidedly against Ted Cruz.”

I agree. The media isn’t interested in dipping below the surface for evidence of who has a real chance. The talkers would much rather chase after the sensational or report on Trump’s latest inflammatory tweet.

No matter. Cruz’s data focus will make up the difference in his lack of media coverage. John Stossel of Fox News reports on one aspect of Cruz’s impressive operation, “[T]his year the Cruz campaign didn’t send volunteers to every single door to ask people for their vote. They saved precious time by knocking only on doors of likely Cruz voters who might need a nudge to go to the polls.”

Ted will again be deploying his vaunted ground game in South Carolina, where he’s already got several months’ head start on his rivals in micro-targeting voters.

The electorate of South Carolina looks a lot more like Iowa than New Hampshire, giving Cruz an excellent chance to either win or come very close to poll leader Donald Trump. If Ted can pull off the victory there, Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner argues he’s got to be considered the frontrunner.

And with the SEC primary coming up on March 1, there’s little arguing that Cruz will be in good shape on March 2.

Trump can enjoy his well-earned win in New Hampshire, but this race is far from over – no matter what the media chooses to fawn over.

Marco Rubio’s campaign is done for this year, but he could redeem himself by going after Trump

Finally today, he might not admit it, but Marco Rubio’s campaign is in serious trouble after New Hampshire. With Donald Trump and Ted Cruz both having victories and two other establishment candidates still in the race, Rubio has few options.

Allahpundit of Hot Air argues it might be time for Rubio to take one for conservatives and go after Trump. “It (attacking Trump) could elevate him by pitting him against the frontrunner and make Jeb seem petty by contrast in focusing his own attacks on Rubio. Even if it doesn’t work, Rubio will have helped the other conservative in the race by doing so and will have built some goodwill with righties ahead of whatever his next move in politics is, probably running for governor in Florida.

“It would have been better to have Rubio attacking Trump from a position of strength rather than weakness, but as Sean Davis says, the race is now effectively ‘Trump versus Anti-Trump.’ Why not roll the dice and try to be the anti-Trump?”

Allahpundit makes good sense. Rubio’s robot routine in the debate pretty much sank his chances this year, but in time and with a focus on developing a reputation with conservatives, he might have some sort of a future.

Redemption is a powerful force. Who knows, it could happen.

For now, Marco may still be a little under-seasoned, but stick a fork in his presidential campaign – he’s done. It might taste a little “tinny” though.

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