The GOP’s Problems Are Worse Than You Think

I’ve been thinking for a while that there was a clear disconnect between the opinions of the Republican establishment and, y’know, reality. First they believed for months that Jeb! would eventually turn it around and save the day, and more recently, there’s an impatient foot-tapping about Marco Rubio. It’s clear that a lot of leaders simply switched from one to the other and waited for the voters to figure out how great Rubio is.

Hasn’t happened. And now Rubio’s out in Iowa touting an endorsement from Trey Gowdy, who ran those brilliant BENGHAZI!! hearings. Paul Waldman at the Post has a brilliant assessment of how that’s going to work out.

Believe it or not, the Iowa caucuses are just over a month away. And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — establishment darling and the cognoscenti’s assumed front-runner — is heading to Iowa for a bus tour, bringing along a shiny new endorsement from Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, head of the special committee on Benghazi. Can you feel the excitement?

Probably not, which is why this is an excellent demonstration of Rubio’s problem, and the problem the GOP is facing as the actual voting approaches. While everyone waits for the voters to finally figure out that they ought to be supporting Rubio, the only candidate who at the moment looks like he might be able to defeat Donald Trump is Ted Cruz. From the perspective of the party’s fortunes in the general election, that would be sort of like being cured of your electoral syphilis by contracting gonorrhea.

Go read the rest - I’d post the whole thing, it’s that good, but that’s generally considered uncool.

“Being cured of your electoral syphillis by contracting gonorrhea.” That right there is some serious comedy gold, my friends. Wins the Internet for, like, eternity.

Post-ABC News Poll

Of course it came out right after I did the earlier polling post, so now I have to do another one. This national GOP poll shows more of the same: Trump leading big, Cruz second, and Rubio and Carson roughly tied for third. Bush trails substantially further behind. Think Monmouth rather than NBC-WSJ.

Donald Trump 38% (+6)
Ted Cruz 15% (+7)
Marco Rubio 12% (+1)
Ben Carson 12% (-10)
Jeb Bush 5% (-1)
Chris Christie 4% (+2)
John Kasich 2% (-1)
Rand Paul 2% (-1)
Carly Fiorina 1% (-3)
Mike Huckabee 1% (-2)

GOP Polling Dump

All at once, because while I could do six or seven posts, one on each poll, I like you too much to subject you to all that Republican miasma. Bottom line: Trump is rolling nationally, but Cruz is looking like the leader in the Iowa race.

Let’s start with the national polls:

Monmouth, December 10-13, 2015, 1006 respondents, margin of error +/- 5.0%

Donald Trump 41% (+13)
Ted Cruz 14% (+4)
Marco Rubio 10% (+4)
Ben Carson 9% (-9)
Jeb Bush 3% (-2)
John Kasich 3% (+2)
Chris Christie 2% (-1)
Carly Fiorina 2% (-4)
Mike Huckabee 2% (-2)
Rand Paul 2% (-2)

NBC/Wall Street Journal, December 6-9, 2015, 400 respondents, margin of error +/- 4.9%

Donald Trump 27% (+4)
Ted Cruz 22% (+12)
Marco Rubio 15% (+4)
Ben Carson 11% (-18)
Jeb Bush 7% (-1)
Carly Fiorina 5% (+2)
Chris Christie 3% (0)
Mike Huckabee 3% (0)
John Kasich 2% (-1)
Rand Paul 2% (0)

Note that although these are the two most recent national polls, they are at the extreme poles from one another. Trump does his best in the Monmouth poll and his worst in the NBC/WSJ. Cruz has his highest numbers in the NBC/WSJ tally. But even if we extend it to five additional polls, the pattern is the same. The current Real Clear Politics average over seven polls is: Trump 31.4, Cruz 16.3, Rubio 13.3, Carson 12.6, Bush 4.0, Fiorina 2.6, Christie 2.6, Kasich 2.3, Paul 2.1, Huckabee 2.0.

Trump is ascendant, Carson is cratering, Cruz is surging, and so is Rubio but to a lesser extent. Bush is treading water, and the rest really need to get back to their day jobs or start overtly positioning themselves as VP bait.

Iowa, on the other hand, is much more special in that very special Iowa kind of way. Three new polls over the weekend.

Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register, December 7-10, 2015, 400 respondents, margin of error +/- 4.9%

Ted Cruz 31% (+21)
Donald Trump 21% (+2)
Ben Carson 13% (-15)
Marco Rubio 10% (+1)
Jeb Bush 6% (+1)
Chris Christie 3% (+2)
Mike Huckabee 3% (0)
Rand Paul 3% (-2)
John Kasich 2% (0)
Carly Fiorina 1% (-3)

Fox News, December 7-10, 2015, 450 respondents, margin of error +/- 4.5% (no baseline for this poll, first one in 2015)

Ted Cruz 28%
Donald Trump 26%
Marco Rubio 13%
Ben Carson 10%
Jeb Bush 5%
Rand Paul 5%
Chris Christie 2%
Carly Fiorina 2%
Mike Huckabee 1%
John Kasich 1%

Quinnipiac, December 4-13, 2015, 874 respondents, margin of error +/- 3.3%

Donald Trump 28% (+3)
Ted Cruz 27% (+4)
Marco Rubio 14% (+1)
Ben Carson 10% (-8)
Jeb Bush 5% (+1)
Rand Paul 4% (-1)
Chris Christie 3% (+1)
Carly Fiorina 3% (0)
Mike Huckabee 1% (-1)
John Kasich 1% (0)

If Trump manages to win Iowa, look out. He’ll probably springboard that into a New Hampshire win, building huuuuuuuuuuge momentum going to South Carolina and Nevada. If Cruz sneaks by Trump, the calculus changes dramatically, and he becomes the favorite in South Carolina and the friendly Super Tuesday states of the SEC primary. The door will be open, briefly, for someone other than Trump to win New Hampshire - most likely Rubio, less likely Bush.

Rubio is in a bind that is simple to define but not at all easy to fix: he’s doing better, but where does he win early? Finishing a strong second or third over and over again leaves you nowhere in this race. He has to break through somewhere and I can’t say there’s a clear shot anywhere.

If Cruz’s momentum continues in Iowa, and he doesn’t get annihilated in New Hampshire, there’s ache de he runs the tense in a whole lot of states, including some of the big winner take all contests as the calendar moves to March and April. This race is shaping up in his favor, but it all starts with Iowa.

Prediction: Ted Cruz Will Win The Iowa Caucuses

You didn’t actually hear it here first, but it’s two months out and the momentum is huge, or should I say “yuuuuuuuge.” The latest Monmouth University poll is out and Cruz is, well, cruising.

Stoked by evangelical and tea-party support, Ted Cruz has surged to first place in Iowa, according to the results of a Monmouth University poll released Monday surveying voters likely to participate in the Republican caucus on Feb. 1.

Cruz earned 24 percent of support among likely caucus-goers, with 19 percent opting for Donald Trump, whose polling advantage in the state has dwindled in recent weeks. In a Quinnipiac University survey conducted in mid-November, Trump held a slim 25 percent to 23 percent advantage over Cruz, while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson finished with 18 percent.

In this survey, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finished third with 17 percent, followed by 13 percent for Carson (a 19-point drop from October), 6 percent for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 4 percent for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 3 percent for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and 2 percent for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. All other candidates finished with 1 percent or less support, with 4 percent undecided and 1 percent describing themselves as “uncommitted.”

Look at the three month October-November-December shifts. November is a Quinnipiac poll, the other two are Monmouth. 

Cruz 10-23-24
Trump 18-25-19
Rubio 10-13-17
Carson 32-18-13
Bush 8-4-6
Trump is treading water, the Quinnipiac November poll appears to be an outlier. Cruz is surging, Rubio is steadily gaining ground and Carson has crashed and burned.

Cruz will likely win Iowa. If Trump holds second place, he remains viable and significant. If, however, Rubio edges him out, then Trump will be damaged badly, and the long-awaited Rubio vs. Cruz cage match will commence. Bush has to hope that doesn’t happen, because if it does it leaves no room for a Lazarus-McCain rise from the dead play for Jeb! If Trump holds off Rubio and Bush beats Carson (probably unlikely, but this is Iowa we’re talking about, so who knows) Bush will be primed for a possible comeback. Then on to New Hampshire.

Less than two months to go! Boy do I love primary season.

GOP Senate Candidate

Chrys Kefalas, the first to express interest in the race and the most aggressive campaigner so far, made it official today: he’s running for the GOP nomination for the US Senate.

After months of fundraising and campaigning for the job, a former aide to Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced late Tuesday that he will seek the GOP nomination for Senate in Maryland.

Chrys Kefalas, an openly gay Republican who also worked in the Obama administration, pointed to Gov. Larry Hogan’s success in last year’s gubernatorial election as evidence that the GOP can win statewide elections in Maryland despite the Democrats’ 2-1 advantage in voter registration.
“Marylanders want someone who comes from the outside, who will solve problems … and who focuses on the issues that people care about,” Kefalas, 36, said in an interview.
Kefalas, who announced his decision to run on Fox News, joins a field for the GOP nomination that includes Del. Kathy Szeliga, the minority whip in the House of Delegates; Richard J. Douglas, a former Pentagon official and Senate candidate; and Navy veteran Anthony Seda.

He’s got interesting views for a Republican. Which probably means he has no chance.

Kefalas could have some advantages, particularly in a Maryland general election. In addition to his work for Holder, a Democrat, he has advocated for same-sex marriage and has said he supports the decriminalization of marijuana. Arguing that it is time to end the war on drugs, he said he is open to looking at also decriminalizing heroin.
Those messages could appeal to independents and some state Democrats.
But Kefalas might also face some disadvantages in the April 26 primary.
A recent poll for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore showed Szeliga leading Kefalas by a margin of nearly 3-1, even though Kefalas was the first to express interest and has been among the most aggressive campaigners in the GOP field.
The poll showed that nearly 60 percent of Republicans are undecided.
Kefalas has yet to raise the kind of cash needed to mount a credible statewide campaign. He raised just under $75,000 from July through the end of September, his second quarter of fundraising. Filings with the Federal Election Commission show he had about $92,000 on hand.

Ted Cruz Rising

That sudden cold air we’ve been experiencing the past few days? It’s not just the weather - Tailgunner Ted Cruz is on the march in Iowa and the nation is having a moment of existential terror at the prospect of President Cruz. Brrrrrrrr.

Ted Cruz, buoyed by tea party support and the backing of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, has surged to a virtual tie with Donald Trump in the first caucus state of Iowa, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll surveying likely Republican caucus-goers released Tuesday.

Trump took 25 percent of support, followed by 23 percent who opted for the freshman Texas senator, more than doubling his support in the same poll from October, when he earned just 10 percent. Trailing the two leaders is Ben Carson, who dropped from first to third, falling 10 points to 18 percent.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is next with 13 percent, while no other candidate registered in the double digits. Only Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul registers outside of the margin of error, at 5 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped a point from last month to 4 percent, followed by 3 percent for Carly Fiorina. No other candidate earned more than 2 percent support, and about 2 percent of Iowa Republicans said they were undecided.

The media’s been talking up Marco Rubio, but at this point it’s been Cruz whose numbers have bumped up the most. He’s the most likely to win Iowa, and while that hasn’t translated to ultimate victory in recent GOP contests, Cruz has the money and the base of support to springboard from an Iowa win to later success.  

Carson Descending

Is Ben Carson in decline? According to the polls, the answer appears to be yes, thankfully. Politico:

Weeks of tough scrutiny are beginning to take a toll: Ben Carson appears to be fading in Iowa, and there are signs he may be hitting the wall in other early states.

A CBS/YouGov poll released Sunday showed Carson slipping below 20 percent in Iowa and to third place behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — the first time he’s had a rating of less than 20 percent in a major poll there since September. Since his late October Iowa high point, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Carson has dropped 8 percentage points in Iowa and 5 points in New Hampshire.

In South Carolina, which isn’t polled nearly as much as the other two early states, there aren’t as many data points. But after leading the GOP field there with 28 percent in an early November Monmouth University poll, Carson now finds himself a distant second. According to the latest CBS/YouGov poll of South Carolina Republicans, Carson has 19 percent to Trump’s 35 percent.

All of that suggests a challenging road ahead for the retired pediatric neurosurgeon, said Patrick Murray, the director of polling at Monmouth University, which surveys in the early states.

Conservative voters “really want an outsider candidate, [but] they want somebody who appears presidential … with a clear fire in the belly, and I think that’s where Carson has been letting them down,” Murray said. He went on to add, ”Carson is a natural fit for conservative voters, but he seems to have faded as recent national security issues highlighted some doubts conservative voters were already having about him.”

“Some doubts.” As in, doubts about his connection to reality, to veracity, to rational thinking? There’s something very, very wrong with that guy, and the idea of him as president is terrifying. Fortunately, it appears increasingly likely that his next trip to the White House will be as a tourist.

Trump 3rd Party Run?

Remember the Trump pledge? Well, don’t worry if you don’t, because it’s pretty clear at this point that neither does Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is refusing to rule out an independent White House run if he fails to win the Republican presidential nomination.

“Well, I’m going to have to see what happens,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “I will see what happens. I have to be treated fairly.”
Trump was asked about whether he would launch a third-party bid amid news that GOP operatives are planning to launch an anti-Trump “guerilla campaign.”

“You know, when I did this, I said I have to be treated fairly,” Trump said. “If I’m treated fairly, I’m fine. All I want to do is a level playing field.”
The GOP primary front-runner signed a pledge ruling out a third-party run in September.

Big shocker, I know - Trump saying one thing in September and another in November.

Pleeeeeeeeease run as an independent, big guy?

Two GOP Polls

Two new national GOP polls, one from the Post and one from McClatchy/Marist. Although there are differences, the broad outlines remain the same. Trump and Carson, then everyone else way behind.

In the Post poll, Trump is up substantially over Carson, Marco Rubio is third, Ted Cruz fourth and Jeb Bush fifth.

Donald Trump remains atop the crowded GOP field in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll with 32 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters listing the real estate mogul as their first choice.

Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson is the first choice of 22 percent of Republican voters nationally, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) with 11 percent.
Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) has 8 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has 6 percent.
No other GOP candidate had more than 4 percent support.

In the McClatchy poll, Carson leads Trump by a miniscule one percent. Otherwise, it looks the same.

Ben Carson and Donald Trump are running neck and neck in the race for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination among Republican voters, according to the latest national poll.

Carson leads Trump by a single point in the McClatchy-Marist survey released Tuesday.
The retired pediatric neurosurgeon takes 24 percent to the outspoken billionaire’s 23 percent among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the only other GOP contender with double-digit support, ranks third with 12 percent.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tie for fourth place with 8 percent each, the new poll added.

The pattern is clear - Trump and Carson in the top tier, then Rubio, Cruz and Bush well behind in tier two. Forget everyone else.

Those impatiently waiting for the Trump and/or Carson implosions get no relief from these numbers. Similarly, the long-awaited Rubio/Cruz surge(s) haven’t materialized, either. 

Can’t Even One Republican Tell An Honest Origin Story?

Ben Carson is a pathological liar who probably couldn’t pass a polygraph even if he was telling the truth. Carly Fiorina’s first speech at HP was a complete fabrication. Marco Rubio has issues with honesty and consistency. Chris Christie has seen God alone knows how many aides go to jail over BridgeGate. Jeb Bush denies having said nice things about Rubio, when it’s already out there. And Donald Trump denies referring to Marco Rubio as Mark Zuckerberg’s “personal senator” when the words are on Trump’s own website.

The one guy who’d managed to avoid the Big Fat Liar award was Ted Cruz. Not anymore.

Since he was a boy, Senator Ted Cruz has said, all he wanted to do was “fight for liberty” — a yearning that he says was first kindled when he heard his father’s tales of fighting as a rebel leader in Cuba in the 1950s, throwing firebombs, running guns and surviving torture.

Those stories, retold by Mr. Cruz and by his father, Rafael, have hooked Republican audiences and given emotional power to the message that the Texas senator is pushing as a contender for the party’s presidential nomination. In their telling, the father’s experience in Cuba — when the country was swept up by the charismatic young Fidel Castro, only to see him become a repressive Communist dictator — becomes a parable for the son’s nightmarish vision of government overreach under President Obama.

But the family narrative that has provided such inspirational fire to Mr. Cruz’s speeches, debate performances and a recently published memoir is, his father’s Cuban contemporaries say, an embroidered one.

This is appalling. Next thing you’re going to tell me, George Washington didn’t chop down the cherry tree, Abe Lincoln wasn’t born in a log cabin, and Bill Clinton actually did have sexual relations with that woman. Uh, wait, never mind about that last one. Whoops. 😉

Pro tip to GOP candidates: If you’re compelled to make up heroic stories about yourself, at least keep them vague enough that nobody can really contradict you.