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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Friends don’t let friends play with Donald Trump

As we conclude another very consequential week in the Republican presidential race, there’re renewed fears in establishment circles that either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will end up accepting the party’s nomination in Cleveland this July.

The writing has been on the wall for some time, so let’s just say the panic continues.

Niall Stanage of The Hill reports, “From the establishment’s perspective, Trump’s landslide win on Tuesday Playing Trumpnight was just about the worst possible outcome.

“Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who had seemed poised to become the center-right’s champion after a strong third-place finish in Iowa’s caucuses, sank to fifth in New Hampshire after a disastrous debate performance over the weekend.”

The elites don’t appear thrilled that John Kasich emerged as the strongest establishment candidate on Tuesday night, nor do they sound enthused that Jeb Bush scratched out fourth place, virtually guaranteeing he’ll stay around at least until Florida votes on March 15.

Kasich blew all his money in New Hampshire. Marco “Roboto” Rubio is damaged goods. And Jeb is a semi-delusional Republican legacy candidate who won’t accept reality and get out of the way. No wonder the party honks are unnerved.

There’s even more evidence that the establishment is about ready to bail on Rubio, too.

Alexander Bolton of The Hill reports, “Congressional Republicans are re-evaluating Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in the wake of his dismal showing in New Hampshire and disastrous debate performance over the weekend...

“Now they’re questioning whether he can stand up to the pressure of facing off against the Democratic nominee — likely Hillary Clinton — in the general election.”

It’s funny how many of these same people prior to last Saturday night were completely enthralled with Rubio as the best candidate to take on the Democrat nominee. Not even a week later they’re now talking about his lack of experience and how he might not be able to take the pressure of a general election campaign.

The truth is, Rubio is exactly the same guy he was before New Hampshire. All Chris Christie did during the debate was give us a better sense of Marco’s lack of principles when confronted with a face-to-face challenge.

His pre-programmed speeches didn’t get him out of that one. Of course he never took many questions during town hall meetings, either, probably because he was afraid of being asked over and over about amnesty and the Gang of Eight.

The establishment acknowledges that it will be a tough slog for all of its candidates in South Carolina on the 20th, though some of those interviewed by Bolton seemed to think Jeb Bush can do well there.

Are they serious?

Christie was notorious for saying Marco Rubio “lives in a bubble.” It’s safe to say, based on the continued denial of many in the establishment, that there’s more than one Republican who’s trapped in there with him.

Evangelicals are the key to conservative victory, and they need to unite behind Cruz

In the lead-up to the Iowa Caucuses two weeks ago there was much speculation about how religious conservatives/evangelicals would factor in the Republican race there, since it would not only provide a good indication of the size of the overall turnout, but would also likely signal a Ted Cruz victory if it they showed up en masse.

Though evangelicals hardly vote as a bloc, they do tend to favor the strongest conservatives in the field. Donald Trump and Marco Rubio both courted the religious conservative vote as well, though Cruz literally staked his campaign on convincing the group he was the one that best represents their interests.

It’s well-known that Cruz frequently quotes scripture in his stump speech and doesn’t hesitate to pray when opening and closing his programs. His father’s a pastor. He’s comfortable in discussing his faith, unlike a certain New Yorker who’s a recent convert to the cause.

Now that Iowa and New Hampshire are behind us, the evangelical vote becomes even more important – especially in South Carolina, where they made up about two-thirds of Republican voters in 2012.

And while it’s evident that many Christian conservatives have recognized the serious threat to their way of life from an overreaching government under the Obama administration, some are still staying on the sidelines – or even worse, holding out for a candidate who can’t help them.

Erick Erickson of The Resurgent writes that this subgroup of evangelicals have purposely eschewed politics in more recent times because they felt previous movement leaders went too far in mixing religion with the Republican Party in exchange for access and power.

These people have apparently “found” Marco Rubio in 2016 and appreciate the fact the Florida senator does not mix faith with his political views.

For those folks, Erickson says it’s time to choose, since it looks like Rubio’s fading and Trump needs to be stopped. “The very issue of life hangs in the balance. The next President will pick at least three justices to the Supreme Court. God has given evangelicals a stable constitutional system through which they can work to persuade and advance public policies to protect life. It sure will be a shame if they decide because their Christian is not on the ballot, they’ll sit on their hands instead of helping the other Christians who are committed to protecting a culture of life in America…

“The clock is ticking for evangelicals. Do they walk away, rally to Cruz, or ride it out to the bitter end with Rubio? It is time to choose. The next half-century of this nation and lives of millions of children hang in the balance.”

The matter seems simple enough. Evangelicals would do well to follow the old “Buckley rule” of “support the rightwardmost viable candidate.” “Viable” does not mean “electable.” Viability means someone who can carry the message forward no matter the circumstances. Electability is a completely different concept -- and it should be noted the Republican establishment hasn’t been very good at forecasting who’s “electable” either.

For evangelicals, that “viable” candidate is clearly Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio’s “robot” moment in last Saturday’s debate together with his third place finish in Iowa and fifth place showing in New Hampshire proves he’s no longer viable – or electable, either.

As Erickson suggests, if Marco can’t win the Republican nomination, he can’t win the presidency. It doesn’t matter if some evangelicals still like Rubio better than Cruz. They must now choose between getting behind Cruz or else risk sacrificing their entire movement to Trump – or Hillary Clinton.

As Iowa demonstrated, evangelicals already vote for Cruz in great numbers – but Ted can always use a bigger slice of the pie.

Looking at the primary calendar, evangelicals also have a historic opportunity to influence this year’s nomination cycle.

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post points out that over the course of the next five weeks, states with high percentages of evangelicals will be weighing-in on the Republican race.

“South Carolina on Feb. 20 and a whopping six of the 11 states holding contests on Super Tuesday/’SEC Primary’ Day on the first of March have more evangelicals than Iowa does.

“And here's where it gets even better for Cruz: Heavily Christian Kansas and Louisiana and heavily evangelical Kentucky vote just four days later on March 5, followed by heavily evangelical Mississippi on March 8 and heavily evangelical Missouri and North Carolina on March 15. In fact, if you exclude Maryland and West Virginia from the definition of ‘Southern,’ the Southern states will all have voted five weeks from now.”

In other words, religious conservatives likely hold the key to the Republican nomination if they work together on choosing one candidate. As the days go on, we’ll be hearing more about Donald Trump’s liberal record, which contrasts markedly from what he’s saying these days.

Can he be trusted?

Too much is on the line in this election to place the issues of life, religious liberty and traditional marriage into the hands of someone who’s not well-grounded in the movement.

If it’s time for choosing, evangelicals need to choose Ted.

Trump’s New Hampshire honeymoon ends early in South Carolina

For a man who thrives on the mix-it-up quality of politics, Donald Trump hasn’t had many opportunities to counter-punch lately.

For most of the campaign, his fellow Republican competitors have either been ignoring him or avoiding him. That hasn’t stopped The Donald from insulting nearly everyone else at various times, but there’s been a real lack of substantive criticisms going in his direction.

There are signs Trump’s hands-off “honeymoon” is ending, however.

Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have been the only candidates who’ve actively gone after Trump in the past couple months. The Cruz team is doing it again now. Gabby Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner reports, “Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's national spokesman (Rick Tyler) unleashed on fellow Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump late Wednesday night, claiming the billionaire is running the ‘Seinfeld candidacy’ and that his bid for the White House is ‘about nothing.’…

“Tyler also … reasoned that the businessman's penchant for vague statements and broad policy prescriptions is the result of him not being a ‘true conservative.’”

The Cruz campaign also released a creative new ad attacking Trump’s lack of ideology, featuring kids playing with a Trump action figure.

Even Marco Rubio’s getting in on the act now. Eliza Collins of Politico reports, “Rubio — who is trying to regain momentum after a disastrous debate performance and a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire — went after the billionaire with gusto on Thursday.

“’Donald Trump has zero foreign policy experience. Negotiating a hotel deal in another country is not foreign policy experience,’ Rubio said during a town hall in Hilton Head, South Carolina.”

Rubio’s new focus on Trump is clearly an act of desperation. Cruz’s attack is a concerted strategy to expose him as a celebrity who’s running on a “trust me” platform.

Both will likely have some effect, because people will now be giving Trump a much more serious look now that he’s won a state.

A good many of Trump’s supporters are locked-in for him. But some aren’t. We saw it in Iowa and we’ll likely see it more in South Carolina and the other states going forward.

Trump can either offer something more than “making great deals” as his best argument or he’ll be exposed as a phony.

One way or another, it looks like he’s going to be doing a lot of answering in the days to come.

Bush hints he’s man enough to take on Trump

Finally this week, you had to figure Jeb Bush would take a “nothing to lose” attitude down to South Carolina, but now he’s even playing a guessing game to demonstrate the point.

Kyle Cheney of Politico reports, “The former Florida governor is looking to drown John Kasich with Obamacare and is stomping on an already wounded Marco Rubio over his readiness to be president. That won't sit well with a party establishment worried that whoever emerges from that three-man scrum will be too battered to take on a candidate they can't stomach: Donald Trump.

“But Bush says he has plans aplenty for Trump, too: ‘I’m the only guy who’s got the you-know-what to go after him,’ Bush said.”

I love playing fill-in-the-blank, especially with someone like Jeb Bush. But this is a family-friendly column, so we’ll have to keep it clean.

While most people would concede Jeb’s a very nice man, he’s not the greatest politician in the world. And he’s done nothing to dispel the notion he’d merely perpetuate the big government philosophies of his brother and the Republican congressional leadership.

I’m guessing Jeb was referring to his manhood in saying he’s got the “you-know-what.” But it’s going to take a lot more than his “you-know-what” to convince people to back him this year.

Better keep it to yourself, Jeb.

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Evangelical backers

I would love someone (Pastor Jeffers or Jerry Falwell Jr)to explain how Trump is representative of Evangelical Christians and therefore back him?

Jeb Bush

I would vote for Jeb Bush if he ends up being the nominee, but the Bush Family had two chances already and each time they blew it, giving us both Bill Clinton AND Barack Obama, and perhaps even Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Obama's other stooge, Joe Biden. So, I support Ted Cruz at this time.

Republican candidate

" GO TRUMP " .

And ,why do I have to verify ' each time ; I AM SIGNED IN " .

Bush is washed up , what is

Bush is washed up , what is he thinking ?