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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Donald Trump owes his Indiana win to the Mexican flag

Perhaps it’s fitting that on El Cinco de Mayo folks are just beginning the process of sifting through the ashes of the Republican presidential nomination campaign to determine how it is that a bombastic reality TV star “outsider” with questionable moral character and ideological credentials could end up with the party nomination.

Actually, I believe Cinco de Mayo has a lot to do with it, albeit indirectly. The commemoration of a big victory by the Mexican army (it is not Mexican Independence Day) shouldn’t be something Americans care about all that much, but with the cultural invasion that goes along with the disintegration of the southern border, it’s no Mexican flagwonder Donald Trump will be leading the party in November. 

What used to be seen by my contemporaries as a good excuse to go out and drink margaritas is now legitimately observed and celebrated by a large segment of the population in the United States. These are many of the same people who stomp on police cars and wave Mexican flags protesting at Trump rallies. As I argued the other day, you couldn’t have provided a better visual for the Trump campaign, coming just a few days before the critical Indiana primary.

And Cinco de Mayo and those Mexican flags help explain why Trump won The Hoosier State by such a wide margin. Taking a look at the numbers, Trump ended up on top by nearly 17 points and the totals may make it appear closer than it really was.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports, “Trump beat Cruz in almost every group. All ages. All incomes. (Trump absolutely killed in the mid-to-upper brackets, winning 60 percent of the vote of those with incomes between $100,000 and $199,999.) College graduates. Non-college graduates. Very conservative, somewhat conservative, and moderates. Evangelicals. Non-evangelicals. Everybody.”

With such a thorough whitewashing, there was no logical basis for Ted Cruz to stay in the race, even with some potentially favorable primaries coming up. There was no natural constituency to lean on. No “lane” was left unfilled. Trump had taken every last slot and parked his limos in them. And perhaps even worse, nothing Cruz used to turn the tide seemed to stick.

I heartily believe the appearance of those Mexican flags precluded anyone from paying attention to Cruz anymore. Thanks to Trump and the news media, Ted was just a “politician” who would perpetuate the corrupted system.

York continues, “No one could predict anything. Ted Cruz and his supporters made a plan based on one set of assumptions, only to discover that everything changed mid-course. Through it all, the voters' minds proved maddeningly difficult to read, as Cruz tacitly acknowledged Tuesday night.”

Trump had succeeded in setting the narrative of the campaign and with the willing assistance of media outlets like Fox News and The Drudge Report, was more than able to define Cruz himself as a dishonest election thief. When The Donald coined “Lyin’ Ted” back in February, very few in the so-called conservative media challenged him on it.

Heck, even Marco Rubio got in on the act, frequently mentioning during debates that Cruz wasn’t telling the truth about his role in the disastrous Gang of Eight. Everyone who’s familiar with the struggle over amnesty knows Cruz was one of the leaders in opposition. But Rubio muddied the waters, Trump coined the “Lyin’ Ted” phrase and the rest is history.

Throw in Trump’s recent barrages over the “rigged system” and Cruz’s “stealing the election” and you’ve got a real formula for pessimism from the uninformed. Cruz’s favorable ratings took a nosedive as a result.

Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports, “[Gallup’s] editor in chief, Frank Newport, didn't mince words in his latest analysis: ‘Republicans' views of Cruz are now the worst in Gallup's history of tracking the Texas senator. His image among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents is at 39 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable, based on April 24-30 interviewing, for a net favorable score of -6. The last few days have marked the first time we have seen Cruz's image underwater since we began daily tracking in July.’”

In contrast, Bedard notes Trump’s favorable ratings increased recently among Republicans (to +24), so there’s really no mystery why Cruz couldn’t regain any traction in the race.

People made up their minds and took sides with Trump on the question of personal integrity. Even Cruz’s adding of Carly Fiorina to his ticket didn’t change the narrative.

Now that Trump will almost certainly be the Republican nominee, he’s going to have to work hard to win back the favor of people like Cruz whose reputations he’s smeared so severely that even a plurality of people in their own party view them unfavorably.

Ted Cruz doesn’t deserve it. No wonder he finally let loose on The Donald on Tuesday. It may not help him regain his reputation, but at least it helps set the record straight.

Cruz’s say-so will probably have a major bearing on whether conservatives forgive and forget in regards to Donald Trump. Trump has said often he doesn’t apologize…maybe this is one occasion where he’d better think about doing it.

The establishment wants you to believe Ted Cruz was just a niche candidate. He wasn’t.

Now that Ted Cruz is out of the running for the Republican nomination, the postmortem examinations are beginning on his campaign – and they’re not flattering.

One of the most popular accounts is Cruz failed because he couldn’t expand his base beyond the most conservative Tea Party voters that he worked so hard to court during his campaign for the senate and keep once he got there.

Eliana Johnson of National Review writes, “The Cruz campaign argued that its unparalleled data operation and ground game, along with Cruz’s popularity among grassroots conservatives, were a recipe for clinching the nomination. They aren’t. In that sense, Cruz’s victory in Iowa was misleading, masking his identity as a candidate who would ultimately struggle to appeal beyond his core supporters.

“’His niche was always on the far right, being the most conservative guy,’ says a top Republican strategist. ‘That was integral to the candidacy and integral to who Ted Cruz is. That’s his character in the play.’”

I would argue Cruz is not a “niche” candidate like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were in 2008 and 2012. Both of them were known almost exclusively through their social conservative bona fides. Once you got outside of the social realm, they were viewed as big government “compassionate” conservatives.

Fiscal conservative groups weren’t crazy about either one of them, nor were limited government proponents.

As an example, The Club for Growth attacked Huckabee’s record in 2008 for his poor fiscal performance as Governor of Arkansas. He had raised taxes and vastly expanded the state budget during his years at the helm.

Likewise, Santorum was never a crusader for limited government, championing big federal spending programs and favoring invasive government surveillance.

Though no one would ever mistake Cruz for a moderate, his anti-establishment record and cross-appeal to libertarians demonstrated he could expand his base. Simply put, Ted could legitimately ask for the votes of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and national defense conservatives. The only place he didn’t fit was with the establishment.

His “niche” was also limited by the perpetuated myth that he isn’t likable. Cruz’s battles with the party leadership in the Senate made him few friends among the stodgy party bosses. They all preferred the more go-along-to-get-along personality of Marco Rubio, who seemed perfectly fine with being made the public face puppet of the big business interests of the party.

In the end, it certainly appears as though the establishment’s half-hearted effort to get behind Cruz when he was the last not-Trump candidate standing suffocated his campaign. They chose Trump instead. And by doing so, Trump was able to consolidate his anti-establishment “outsider” constituency with the other proponents of social moderation and big government “deals”.

Mix in some Mexican flags and a ton of friendly media coverage and Cruz couldn’t keep up.

John Kasich loses heart, withdraws from the race too

And then there was one.

Within hours of Ted Cruz’s announcement that he was leaving the Republican race on Tuesday night, the last remaining not-Trump candidate, John Kasich, decided it was his time to exit as well on Wednesday.

CNN reports, “Kasich had fundraisers scheduled in the Washington area Wednesday, and was on a plane at the Columbus airport when he had a change of heart.

“After having the plane taxi back from the runway, according to one source close to Kasich, he then called four of his closest friends, and said, ‘My heart is not in this.’ The source said that his friends then told Kasich that if his heart is not in it, he ought to do what he needs to do.”

The timing of Kasich’s sudden change of heart is a bit curious, to say the least. Just when the opportunity to match-up one-on-one with Trump presents itself, Kasich decides he’s no longer got the internal fire to compete.

It’s arguable that if Kasich had only come to the same realization two months ago, the entire campaign might have turned out differently.

Still mired in fourth place in the Republican delegate count behind Trump, Cruz and Marco Rubio, Kasich had absolutely zero chance of winning the nomination since Trump would almost certainly earn enough bound delegates before the convention to win on the first ballot.

Kasich’s only hope all along was to latch onto Cruz like a barnacle on a whale and hope the Texas senator would be able to hold Trump under the 1237 number. With Cruz out, why would Kasich keep going (especially since Trump has hinted he’s vetting Kasich for VP anyway)?

As time goes on we’ll no doubt learn more about why Kasich held on as long as he did. For now his candidacy remains one of the stranger episodes of the entire 2016 Republican campaign.

Mark Levin lashes out at Fox News for Trump bias

Finally today, conservative media host Mark Levin rarely minces words when he’s got a bone to pick with someone and he wasn’t exactly in the mood to spare Fox News of his wrath concerning the network’s cheerleading coverage of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Jessie Hellmann of The Hill reports Levin said about Fox on Tuesday night, “’We’re going to get our asses kicked in the general election, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the trajectory. Maybe it’ll change, but likely, it will not…

“’They may be laughing today, but they’re going to be rubbing their own faces in their own feces. I’ll tell you that after the general election, because they have humiliated themselves.’”

Anyone who listens to Levin’s show on a regular basis knows he’s no fan of Fox News. But Levin has a point. As I watched the Fox coverage of the Indiana returns on Tuesday night, it struck me about how biased Bill O’Reilly especially was in his “analysis” of the results and why Trump had accomplished what he did.

O’Reilly said Trump’s chances of winning the Republican nod a year ago were “a million to one.” Well, with O’Reilly’s and the Fox crew’s generous help, those odds greatly improved, didn’t they?

It’s almost like Trump’s ongoing feud with Megyn Kelly was intended to serve as a smokescreen for a cooperative agreement between The Donald and Fox. Trump gets lots of free publicity in exchange for Fox personalities having him on their shows regularly and generating big ratings.

Trump’s star will continue to rise as long as his popularity lasts. But if he does something to turn off the audience and his ratings drop accordingly, expect the Fox friendly treatment to end pretty quickly.

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Has there been any study of Fox News radio's ratings lately? I'm not watching any of it any more.