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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Showman Donald Trump feeds red meat to hungry media

Watching Donald Trump pontificate during his lengthy “victory” press conference the other night, the thought occurred to me he wasn’t speaking for the benefit of his supporters. No, he was playing to the media.

Trump brought his own props to put on a good show – Trump water, Trump wine, heck, even Trump steaks (raw at that). This “performance” wasn’t meant to refute Mitt Romney’s earlier claims that Trump isn’t a good businessman; it was intended to play into the media’s narrative that the race is already over and Trump was Donald Trumpfeeling so confident about it that he could get on stage and ham it up about magazines and beef rather than talk about anything substantive.

In truth, thanks to the proportional awarding of delegates on Tuesday, Trump’s overall lead in the delegate count didn’t increase by all that much.

Eliza Collins of Politico reports, “According to the Associated Press, the billionaire now has 458 delegates, which puts him 779 delegates short of the required 1,237 to win the Republican nomination.

“Following just shy of 100 behind is Cruz, who has 359 delegates. Cruz needs 878 more to take the nomination.”

In other words, Cruz trails Trump by 99 delegates. Curiously enough, that’s the same number that will be up for grabs in winner-take-all Florida next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio didn’t win a single delegate on Tuesday, so he’s stuck on 151. John Kasich won 17 in Michigan, bringing his total up to 54.

I won’t make light of Trump’s 99 delegate lead – it’s a good-sized margin after 20-plus states have voted. But it’s hardly insurmountable if Cruz were able to take on Trump one-on-one in the latter half of the campaign.

And Trump’s grandstanding about water, wine and beef is really just a bunch of hot air. By comparison, Republican nominees of the past have been much farther ahead at this stage of the campaign.

Leon H. Wolf of RedState writes, “This primary is fundamentally different from any Republican primary that has come before it. Republicans do not accept that Trump as a front runner must be treated with deference or surrendered to, as they have in virtually every previous year. The polling conclusively proves it. The media continues to peddle a narrative to the contrary because they want Trump to win.”

Wolf is right. The media is openly rooting for Trump right now -- even the establishment dominated Fox News is in his corner. Megyn Kelly and Trump must have made up at some point because The Donald no longer Tweets about her and she giggles like a blushing schoolgirl whenever he mentions her name.

Maybe Kelly figures a “President Trump” would be good for her career. The more attention she receives, the more valuable she becomes as a TV personality.

And we know Fox personality Sean Hannity isn’t exactly a Trump detractor. Having listened to Hannity’s radio show for years, I’m not quite sure why he’s gone so far off the reservation.

The bottom line is Trump equals ratings. The media gives Trump a lot of love simply because he brings in viewers, which equates to big advertising dollars.

So next time Trump takes the stage with a bunch of props, remember it’s all a big production that the media is swallowing hook, line and sinker.

Carly Fiorina endorses Ted Cruz, touts his leadership

While there isn’t any sign yet that Marco Rubio and John Kasich are going to drop out and get behind the candidacy of Ted Cruz, one former Republican presidential contender did just that on Wednesday.

At a Cruz rally in Florida, Carly Fiorina announced she’s now backing the Texas senator and explained why she voted for Ted in last week’s Virginia primary (where she lives) instead of for herself.

Jessica Hopper and Ryan Struyk of ABC News report Fiorina said, “’He has fought for our religious liberty,’ she said. ‘He is a leader and reformer.’

“’The truth is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two sides of the same coin,’ she said.

“Cruz ‘has won over and over and over,’ she said, citing several primary and caucus victories so far. ‘He has won.’”

It’s about time more Republicans stated the obvious – that Donald Trump’s policies aren’t all that different than Hillary Clinton’s – as Fiorina just did.

Fiorina’s endorsement of Cruz is significant for several reasons. First, she’s the first former rival to do so (except for Rick Perry, but he left the race so long ago it’s hard to remember him), but likely won’t be the last as the days go on and Trump gets closer to securing a delegate total that will make him unbeatable. Also, as one of the four “outsider” candidates, Fiorina doesn’t come with the taint of the establishment.

In essence, she’s paving the way for others to say it’s okay to back Cruz and once again dispels Trump’s notion that he isn’t likable.

Second, Fiorina’s endorsement is significant because Fiorina proved over the course of the campaign she’s the most effective voice against Hillary Clinton. Therefore, when she speaks on behalf of Ted, she’ll help to make his point that he’s the best candidate to take on the Clinton machine in the general election.

It also likely indicates Fiorina would have some role in a Cruz administration. That’s a positive development as Carly is a very talented and a valuable advocate for reform.

Third, it’s significant because she’s one of the few candidates who’s been effective in criticizing Trump in a way that truly hurts him. When The Donald made fun of her “face” last year, for example, he looked weak in sheepishly explaining to her what he meant during the September debate at the Reagan Library.

Trump may be doing fine with his own constituency in terms of the female vote, but polls show most women in the general electorate are revolted by The Donald. Fiorina will help Cruz make the case that Ted’s economic policies and defense of limited government benefit women more than any government goodies that would come from Clinton or Trump.

Lastly, Donald Trump has Chris Christie backing him. Ted Cruz has Carly Fiorina’s endorsement. Which one would you rather have?

Some will no doubt say Fiorina’s only throwing in with Cruz now in order to secure the VP slot on a Cruz ticket. But that’s an awful cynical view. With Fiorina’s interesting life story, she’s firmly established herself as her own person.

Let’s give Carly the benefit of the doubt that she’s endorsing with the right intentions.

‘Little Tuesday’ confirmed that Ted Cruz is Trump’s only real threat

Every day the Republican presidential race goes on with four candidates still in contention is one more day that virtually assures Donald Trump will be accepting the big prize in Cleveland this summer.

Whereas the field once measured 17 candidates, 13 eventually came to their senses, recognized the writing on the wall – or ballot box – and bowed out for the good of the party and country.

Governor Rick Perry was the first to leave. Ben Carson unofficially was the last. Only Fiorina (and Perry) have had the wisdom to come off the sidelines, swallow a little pride and get behind the one candidate left standing who still has a chance to beat Trump.

If these candidates truly mean what they say – that Trump must be stopped – then it’s time to unite behind Ted Cruz.

Now.

David French of National Review writes, “We’ve given the multi-candidate ‘blind ambition tour’ exactly 23 states and one territory to work, and here’s the score: Trump 15, Cruz 7, Rubio 2, and Kasich . . .  zero. I think that’s a sufficient sample size.

“Let’s try something else. Let’s try uniting around the person who’s beaten Trump more than anyone else — a person who happens to be a constitutional conservative, who would replace Justice Scalia with a judicial superstar, who is unquestionably pro-life, who is unyielding in his defense of religious liberty, and who actually understands the dynamics of the global economy, trade policy, and national security.”

Of course there are many rumors circulating about the establishment talking behind the scenes with Cruz. I’m just wondering what’s taking them so long to bring these discussions out into the light of day so Marco Rubio and John Kasich will see there’s no support left for them even if they should end up winning their home states next week.

Katie Glueck of Politico provides some substance behind the whispers, writing, “Panicked at Donald Trump’s dominance and dismayed by Rubio’s continued inability to do anything about it, some top Republican power brokers are turning to Cruz, putting aside their policy and personal misgivings to back the candidate they now openly label as their best hope to stop Trump’s GOP takeover…

“It’s not that Cruz has done anything to endear himself to the GOP elite. He’s still the thorn that, just weeks ago, they reviled so much that many were attempting to talk themselves into accepting Trump, hoping his deal-making style and blue-collar base would be a better bet in November than Cruz’s hardline brand of conservatism should the race come down to those two candidates.”

That’s the thing. By having the establishment embrace him, Cruz runs the risk of being tainted by them. But at the same time, they’re the ones going to him and “begrudgingly” offering their support.

Ted’s not begging for it. He’s just on the receiving end of something that could help him carry his own message forward.

The sooner the different factions unite behind Cruz the sooner they can begin dipping into Trump’s lead.

Fiorina began the process yesterday. Hopefully more will get in line after tonight’s debate.

Bush to meet with Cruz, Rubio and Kasich before tonight’s final debate

Finally today, and speaking of tonight’s debate, Jeb Bush is going to be there and apparently plans to speak to the three not-Trump candidates prior to the program.

Mark Hensch of The Hill reports on a story that appeared in the New York Times, “Bush is meeting Rubio on Wednesday and speaking with Cruz and Kasich on Thursday before the debate.

“It's unclear whether Bush will endorse a candidate before March 15, when both Ohio and Florida vote in winner-take-all primaries, the Times said.”

It’s hard to tell what Jeb is up to, but it most likely involves some attempt to get the candidates to cooperate against Trump. Jeb’s meetings could be another indication that the establishment is desperate enough to stop Trump that they’re openly soliciting collaboration between the candidates to do so.

Perhaps Jeb is going to tell Rubio and Kasich to get out. If that’s the case, then we’ve really come a long way.

Hopefully we’ll know more by tonight.

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