Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dear Marco

Dear Senator Rubio,

Tough night, Shipmate. Time to dust yourself off and get back to work. I really appreciated your assumption of responsibility for how things turned out in NH, and I think the folks assembled in that ballroom did too. Your resolve to turn it around is just right.

But you won't get another chance. Between now and the convention, you simply cannot make another big mistake. On the other hand, you will not get to the convention as the leader of the party or its standard bearer if you play things safe.

I am not a political strategist. I'm a defense consultant and political blogger who most people view as thinking he is smarter than he actually is, so the following advice is offered in a spirit of support and admiration, not expertise. What you paid for it is what it is worth. I do believe your political team has given you pretty sound advice so far, and I have a lot of faith in them.

1. I have seen you a number of times in conversation with interviewers or panel type moderators. You're fast on your feet, you string together coherent thoughts, and you are very persuasive. Communicate with the American people the way you communicate with these individual interlocutors.

2.  Go on the offensive. Use your knowledge of policy and the time you've spent developing coherent approaches to solving America's problems to lay out your priorities and expose the flaws in the plans of your opponents.

3. Clearly, your path to the nomination is complicated by the presence of Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich. Your emphasis to this point on going after the President, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, rather than your competition,  has been high-minded and statesmanlike, but none of these people is your main opponent. That person is Donald Trump. Singularly. Solely. Exclusively. He is the person who poses the greatest threat to your nomination, and he incidentally, currently seems to have the most of what you need more of--supporters. Obviously you need to respond to incoming from Bush, Cruz, and Kasich, and obviously you need to take your shots when they offer themselves. But your main effort should be to indirectly poach voters from them by going directly at Trump, while you directly poach Trump voters by exposing him. Become a walking encyclopedia on Trump's past policy positions and his election year conversions. Remind people that you simply cannot trust Donald Trump because he simply doesn't believe in anything. Remind people that if they support DT because of the GOP not standing and fighting for what they believe in, thinking a master deal maker will do anything but make quick, easy deals that leave them in worse shape is folly. Remind them time and time and time again that Trump has declared bankruptcy four times. Remind them that bankruptcy is not "victim-less", that behind every bankruptcy are debt holders left holding the bag. And when he talks about those victims being big banks that he doesn't mind screwing, remind people that their money is in these banks, that these banks have shareholders, remind people of the public pension systems and money market mutual funds that have invested in these banks or in other victims of Trump's financial failures. Educate people. Tie their interests directly to Trump's failures.

4. Going after Trump won't be easy. He'll punch back. Punch back harder. If he interrupts you in debates, interrupt him. Do it nicely. Be insistent, but not rude. But don't let him get away with it. Controlled escalation is the key. He obviously has a titanic temper...get to it. Work it out of him. Manipulate him.

I think you're right about this nomination being a long, hard, slog.  The key to a long, hard, slog is money--and you're going to need more of it. In order to unlock that money, you're going to have to increase your standing as the place for the smart money. To do that, you've got to position yourself as the anti-Trump. The important thing, is that the important thing remains the important thing. And the important thing is beating Trump.

I wish you luck. I have confidence you can do it, and I wish you luck.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Watching the Returns Come In

Brutal. That's all I can say. This is brutal. Marco Rubio came here with a head of steam on, and he will likely finish fifth. Behind Kasich, Bush, and Cruz.

This fact has me down, I have to admit.

But what really has me down--even more than the terrible Rubio performance--is Donald Trump's victory. And quite a victory it was. They called the race for him when the polls closed. With 39 % of the vote in, Trump has more than doubled up the second place Kasich.

I still think it is unlikely that Trump is the nominee. There's a ceiling there--or at least there seems to be one--way under a majority of the delegates. Someone...Cruz...Bush...Rubio...will eventually emerge as the guy who goes toe to toe with him, and I could get behind any one of the three.

But--each day that goes by, he'll get stronger and stronger--as long as the rest of the field is divided. This was Rubio's moment--when he was to step forward and be that guy. And he stumbled--badly--on Saturday night.

As far as I know, Rubio hasn't spoken yet. I hope when he comes out to talk tonight, he says something along the lines of "This is on me. I did this. I let you down. I screwed up. You worked hard, you gave it your all, you you did everything I could have hoped. But don't despair. There is a lot of time left. I won't make the same mistakes again. I am going on the offensive. I am going to focus on drawing distinctions between me and Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush, and anyone else who wants to come at me. I won't shy from pointing out where our ideas are in conflict, and I won't shy from pointing out where their ideas and policies have failed."

We'll see.

Brief Post from the Call Center

I've made four and a half hours of calls today from lists generated by the campaign of folks who have expressed support for Marco Rubio or are leaning his way. The purpose of these calls is classic "Get Out The Vote" in this case, your vote.

These people are more likely than the cold calls we make to answer their phones, which is in some cases, how they came to be identified as supporters in the first place. I've had quite a few conversations today, most of which were of the "we've already voted for Marco" variety or "we are going out later this afternoon to vote for Marco".

Of note--only one person stated that they were no longer supporting Rubio---and his Saturday night stumble in the debate was cited as the reason.

One can get a seriously skewed and unrepresentative view of this election making these kinds of calls...obviously because these are your voters. But as someone who has been making calls for a few days and dealing with some occasionally snotty people, it is nice to talk with folks who want what you want.

I'm going to be here for another hour and then throw down a little chow before gathering with the other Rubio folks at the Radisson for our party.

As for the What Am I Hearing? question...people here are cautiously optimistic. I think if we come in third or better and beat Jeb Bush pretty much everyone will consider this a good showing--that we did what we needed to do.

I'm also hearing two other things. That Trump will underperform his polls (again) and that as it is being widely resported, Kasich has surged. Also, Kasich is going straight to Michigan whose primary is 8 March (which means he's essentially skipping all the primaries in between).

New Hampshire Journal: Primary Day

My friend Roger, his daughter, and me going door to door
I sit warmly by the fire at Craig's house in Hollis with his wife and mother-in-law, watching the coverage of the election going on around us. Craig's 18 year old daughter is voting today for her first time (good Republican due to her father's parenting), and I have lobbied her and her grandmother mercilessly. My plan is to hang here for the morning to get some work done, and then decamp to HQ in Manchester for the day making calls before heading over to the Rubio Party to watch returns come in.

It's been a good couple of days. As I wrote Sunday--the Saturday night debate was a little demoralizing, so I spent the day watching Rubio respond and reading the press coverage coming out to see how skillfully he and his campaign handled adversity. This is a long process, and everyone is going to screw up--so how those screwups are handled is important. By the time I went to bed Sunday evening, I was content that they had a handle on the response and that while the debate may indeed have rounded off his sharp rise, he'd be ok.

I watched the Super Bowl after throwing down some decent local Chinese Food, and while I had little invested in the game, I was glad to see Peyton Manning win. I hope that he hangs it up, goes out on top. I don't care for Cam Newton--but I don't think it is a racist thing, as I didn't care for Jim McMahon in the 80's and Newton is just reprising that role.

On Monday, I made my way up to the phone bank and began to make a lot of calls. As before, the overwhelming majority of my calls went to voicemail, but I did have a few conversations with voters. No one seemed all that concerned with the Christie exchange (one voter on the fence about Rubio called Christie a "fat blow-hard"). But the guy who called Christie a blow hard also criticized Rubio not for getting behind comprehensive immigration, but for walking away from it when it didn't work--which was also a Christie line of attack. So while he was critical of Christie, he had unconsciously internalized that line of attack. After hearing so much from the single issue immigration crowd, it was interesting to hear Rubio criticized for not fighting hard enough for reform.

Mid afternoon, my friend Roger (from DC) showed up at HQ with his ten year old daughter. It was snowing hard, but the three of us headed off to a Manchester neighborhood to go door to door spreading the word on Marco. While a bit less comfy than the phone calls, I enjoyed the outdoors and the interaction we had with people. Everyone was pleasant, even the ones who shooed us away.

Around 1530, I headed south to position myself for the final Rubio rally of the New Hampshire Primary in Nashua. The snowstorm continued, so I wanted to give myself an hour to get the 30 minutes down the road, there to find a good steak before standing in line for the event. Along the way, I got a call from a Newsweek reporter who wanted to talk Navy stuff, so that resulted in sitting in a parking lot for a half hour before chow. I wolfed a passable ribeye down (Texas Roadhouse) and then headed over the Nashua Community College for the rally.

It was well-attended in spite of the snow, and afterward, I was interviewed by a Chinese reporter and a Japanese reporter, both of whom wanted to know why I supported Rubio. My answer was particularly interesting to them, as I pretty much said that "America's place in the world and position of leadership is in decline, and I think Rubio has the best plan and the most foreign policy experience of anyone in the Republican field." The Japanese reporter seemed very satisfied with the answer, but the Chinese reporter wanted a little more. "Well sir, just what IS America's place in the world?" he asked. Looking her straight in the eye, I said, "At the very top, for as long as possible". The interview did not last much longer.
Our hero, right side of the frame after Rubio spoke

I'll wrap this series up in the morning before I hop on a plane and head home. For record purposes, here's how the primary will turn out:

Trump:  26%
Kasich: 18%
Rubio:  18%
Cruz: 15%
Bush: 12%

And the rest in single digits.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Day After

When I went to sleep last night, I was in a foul temper, and I hoped that I would wake in the morning with less of it. This was a vain hope. I am sitting with Craig in his living room surveying the damage from Marco Rubio's performance last night, and it isn't pretty.

There were three really horrible things about his exchange with Christie. First, was the substance. What he said was absolutely correct. Barack Obama's actions as President are not born of his "inexperience"--they are born of his irresponsible desire to remake America. But the way he put it was too subtle, too nuanced, to unclear.  The second thing wrong with it was the repetition, as if repeating the same damn thing multiple times was going to clear it up. Finally--the repetition completely and utterly confirmed the charge that was being made against him in the first place, that he repeated talking points.

Such a missed opportunity. Rubio could have made his point more clearly. Then, he could have said, "Chris, how many times are we going to hear about you being a prosecutor? How many times are we going to hear your 9-11 tale? How many times are we going to hear your theory of Governors vs. Senators? Your entire line of attack here is a repetition of what you've been saying all week on the campaign trail--surprise, surprise, politicians repeat important messages."

So, I'm calling an audible today. I'm going to spend the day reading reaction and watching how Marco Rubio handles all of this. It is indisputable that he got his act together on the stage last night--his performance in the final 2/3 of the debate was up to his usual standards.  But today, I need to see him under pressure--how he reacts to a setback.  This is his Romney tax return 2012 moment--his Obama 2008 guns and clingers moment--I need to see how his campaign find a way to communicate their reaction.

Here is what I want to hear: "It clearly wasn't my finest moment. Chris is a skilled prosecutor--and someone I'd love to see as Attorney General. I knew the attack was coming and I simply overthought it. But the essential truth of what I was trying to say remains the same---our country is in the shape it is not because Barack Obama was inexperienced, but because he was successful in getting terrible policies passed in Congress and when he couldn't, through his unconstitutional use of Presidential Power. I hope the good people of New Hampshire will look past a regrettably human moment."

We'll see how it goes.

On Drafting Our Daughters

There is a good bit of chatter this morning about the question posed to Marco Rubio (and then several other candidates) as to whether registering for the draft should be something required of our 18 year old daughters as well as our sons. Apparently, much of conservative-world doesn't like the idea. My question however is, what would you have them say?

For much of the past ten years, most military occupations were open to women. In the Obama Administration, every single job has been opened. There are of course, official pronouncements of standards being protected, but just as predictable are the "studies" that attend this conversation with findings that the standards are somehow misaligned with the needs of the modern battlefield, etc. etc.

So...we have a military in which all jobs are open to both men and women. It is an all-volunteer force, but it is a gender neutral all volunteer force, primarily as a result of the pressure of interest groups to knock down barriers. Ok. They won. The barriers are gone.

So now what? We have a selective service system that enables a draft. It is not itself, a draft. It is a way of keeping track of those people eligible to serve in the military in time of great national emergency. As bad as things are, we are not now in a great national emergency. But if such a time comes--why wouldn't women be required to serve? Just because someone might not WANT to serve is insufficient reason to exclude them.

In order for a candidate to be consistent on the issue, he would have had to say "I think we have made a grave mistake in opening the combat arms to women. I think that the national security of the United States is diminished by this act. We should reverse it and return to the status quo ante, with women excluded from the combat arms." And while this may be an attractive proposition to some conservatives, it is electoral death. You simply cannot--as a political matter--put the toothpaste back in the tube without coming off as decidedly "anti-woman".

All of the candidates need to work on their answer to this question. They need to reassure Americans that the draft is a sign of intense trouble, and that we would all need to do our part--while simultaneously using the opportunity to reinforce the importance of the all volunteer force AND our great obligation to provide it with the best training and equipment in the world. Then, move on.

New Hampshire Debate

It is a little after midnight; I just drove back to Hollis from Manchester, where I watched the debate at the National Review watch party at the Radisson. A lot to talk about, but I'll save anything other than debate talk for a post tomorrow.

Let's get to the elephant in the room: Marco Rubio got brutalized by Chris Christie in the first third of the debate. Absolutely brutalized. And what killed me about it is the fact that Rubio HAD to be aware that this line was coming--and he didn't have a better answer than I was given to the same line of questioning last summer.

You see, I was originally a Bush man, and I had a conversation with a Rubio supporter that I've talked about here. He asked me why I wasn't a Rubio supporter. "Because of his inexperience" I said. "I've spent the last six and a half years bitching about Barack Obama, I don't want to replace him with another inexperienced guy." My friend then asked, "Is it your view that we are in the shape we are in because Barack Obama is inexperienced, or because he was successful in getting really bad policies and ideas into place."  The simplicity and coherence of his point was obvious. I became a Rubio supporter soon thereafter--because I liked what I heard him saying and because I dismissed the experience issue.

All Rubio had to say tonight was, "Chris Christie has misdiagnosed the nation's problem. We aren't where we are because Obama lacked experience--but because he has gotten a lot of things done that we knew then and know now are harmful to this nations prosperity and security". Then reel them off.

His thrice repeated answer was unclear. I know he was trying to say what I just wrote, but he was spectacularly unsuccessful in doing so. This was by far his worst debate, and it is unfortunate, because this was the night he could have put a few of the other guys away.  Here's how I saw it:

Bush--best debate yet and won the whole thing. Strong, relaxed, funny, took on Trump and beat him.
Cruz--a solid night all around, no big mistakes.
Christie--clearly his past as a litigator paid off. Took Marco apart and had a few other strong moments.
Rubio--Bloodied early, but then owned the second half of the debate on ISIS, Conservatism, tax policy, and the military.
Kasih--I really dislike the guy, and his "I'm so happy" act is weak.
Trump--Just a buffoon. His "Shh" moment to Jeb was ridiculous. Continues to speak in word salads
Carson--Just a non-factor on the stage.

So, what will be the movement here?

I fear Rubio's momentum may be stopped, but I'm not sure. If he loses votes, I am pretty sure they don't go to Christie, but to Bush or Kasich.

Carson will lose support -- and ironically, it is likely to go to Cruz.

I guess what I'm saying is that Cruz could wind up sneaking into second behind Trump...we'll have to see.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

On the Campaign Trail: New Hampshire Day 2

Add caption
It is 1540 HRS on Saturday 6 February as I write, seated in a capacious lobby outside the Salon D,Center  Ballroom, of the Radisson Hotel in Manchester NH.  In an hour and a half, National Review Magazine will have their annual pre-debate party and debate watching throw-down. I signed up a few weeks ago, and I'm glad I did, as other friends tried to sign up earlier today and were told that it is full.

I arrived yesterday to a blinding snowstorm, so bad in fact, that the schools in Hollis (where I am staying with my Navy buddy Craig) had closed. This came as a shock to me, as I thought that New England was immune to school closings and other signs of weakness common in the mid-Atlantic. It appears that I was wrong, and they are as wussified here as they are in Maryland.

I grabbed my 4WD monster at the airport and slowly negotiated myself to the closest Outback Steakhouse, there to gain sustenance before reporting to the Rubio Campaign HQ.
My beast of burden

I slammed down a modest ribeye and some broccoli and then negotiated the treacherous roads for the twenty minute drive to the Rubio HQ in Manchester. Housed in a high-rise sorta on the edge of downtown, I headed to the third floor to check in--but not until I had poked my snoot into the Kelly Ayotte HQ on the first floor, there to commiserate with her Campaign  Manager Jon Kohan.  Jon is a young man with a rapidly expanding portfolio of goodness in the campaign world. He guided Mark Sanford to his comeback victory in SC, Joni Ernst to her win in Iowa, and now has Ayotte in a tough race in NH.  These comprise the first three states in the Presidential contest, so I have a feeling he'll be much in demand for the big dance in 2020.  We chatted for a while about the race he is in and the race the folks on the third floor are running. He had as usual, considerable insight. But since it was a private chat, you can't know it.

After a bit, I reported to the Rubio shop on the third floor. Very sparsely appointed but crowded and energetic, the place was buzzing with excitement, with folks getting their assignments for get-out-the-vote walks and a busy phone bank.  I sat down with the script and began to make phone calls to the good citizens of the Granite State, the overwhelming majority of whom ignored the phone or let their voicemails answer. I spoke to a handful of people, half of whom were for Rubio and the other half for Cruz. No one mentioned Trump. (small sample though, only six people answered their phones).
Call Center

The thing about political campaigns is that they are fueled with the labor of the young. The call center/HQ was manned almost exclusively by 20somethings, all of whom were amazingly nice and even somewhat deferential, due in large part to my grey hair I believe. There were a few other oldsters there, but we were clearly the minority. If you look at the photo of the call center to the right, there is a rather large (not young) fellow, who was the most amazing call center volunteer I'd ever seen. First of all, he was a machine, going from one call to the next without any breaks. He made three calls for every one that I made, I'm sure of that. All business. Also though, he had a gameshow host voice, which when the unsuspecting answerer heard, they were almost mesmerized into paying attention.

After a while, I decided it was time to leave and meet up with Craig and his family in Hollis, about 20 miles south of Manchester. The drive was a little better than the driving earlier in the day, as the plows had gotten about their business. I arrived and spent a wonderfully pleasant evening with Craig, wife Sara, mother in law Grace, and daughter Maggie. Sara whipped up a sick good dinner and we enjoyed reminiscing about Navy days long gone by.

Craig is a solid Republican, and always has been. But he is a Cruz man, which made for a good deal of the evening's conversation. As Hammer has made abundantly clear here, Rubio's rookie error on the Gang of 8 effort is something Craig can't get past (right now), though he seems favorably disposed to Rubio in other regards and will happily pull the lever for him. Of note, he was fascinated with "the Hammer", with whom he said he agrees "most of the time". I suggested therapy. Then it was off to bed.

I woke and continued my conversing with the family...intending to get myself off to HQ in the early afternoon as once I was in Manchester, I would be there for the distance. Craig and I had a delicious lunch at a local diner, and then I headed back to HQ to make calls. Once there, it became obvious that people (volunteers) were beginning to pour into town, as while Friday was crowded in the call center, today was even more so. I took my place, made calls for a few hours, received a visit from UVA Fraternity Brother Phil Griffin (and made calls in the company of two Sigma Chis from Florida International University--current).

One can only make calls for so long, so I figured I'd make my way to the hotel where tonight's National Review event was being held, grab a chair in the lobby, and write a little blog post to the waiting world. I'm seated here at a little round table with two NBC cameramen, with whom I am having a jolly time. Not normally a gregarious conversationalist, I am trying while here to be more like my big brother Tom, who will talk to anyone.  These guys are great--they don't seem to care a whit about politics---they just go where they are told, set up, and shoot. One guy has been doing political events since 1976.  Great guys, good to talk with.

Ok--I'm gonna need to pack up the computer and head off to the car and put it away. I guess I could carry the computer and its bag around for a few hours, but that would probably prove inconvenient. So I'll make the two block walk and dump this stuff off.

I plan on getting back to HQ tomorrow afternoon for a while before the Super Bowl and then hanging out at Craig's for the evening. His daughter turns 18 on Sunday (say Happy Birthday), and they'll be out to dinner for at least the early part of the game.

Out here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

New Hampshire Bound!

I am sitting at the Southwest Terminal at BWI forty five minutes before boarding the plane to Manchester, NH. It looks like a relatively short flight, and the East Coast weather seems to be cooperating.

I arrive around 1145, will pick up my rental 4WD SUV, grab a bite of lunch and then head over to Rubio HQ to check in with the volunteer coordinators and get my assignment for the day.

I anticipate one of the following: call center duty, door to door canvassing, or general firefighting. I make this prediction based on zero real experience in this sort of thing. Four years ago, I helped out at Romney HQ in Des Moines, but he wasn't there, it wasn't a primary (the straw poll had just happened) and it wasn't all that interesting.

I figured that there would be some media folks and or other political types here in the the departure lounge, but I don't see anyone I recognize. There are a few hyped up college kids about, who I suspect are feeling the Bern.

This trip is a double pleasure, for in addition to the volunteering, I am bunking with my oldest Navy friend from actual active duty service. Craig was the First LT on my very first ship, and he had a year's experience on me--which at that point in a career, was the same as twenty. I knew nothing...he knew everything. His Boatswain's Mates idolized him, as did the other JO's. He opened up his home in Virginia Beach to me (he and his two roomies, who are to this day my second and third oldest friends in the Navy!

The schedule is very fluid--I'll slip out of HQ sometime later today to join Craig and his family for dinner, work all day Saturday and then do a National Review Party/Debate Watching event, and then work Sunday until the Super Bowl. Snow rolls in Monday and Tuesday, which is why I rented the beast of a vehicle that I did--perhaps I will be of more use once the weather comes.

Tuesday is game day, Tuesday night is the victory celebration, and then I fly home Wednesday afternoon. I will do my damnest to keep you--dear readers--well informed as to my thoughts and meandering travels.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Marcomentum! Donate to the CW Rubio for President Campaign

Friends--as you can see from the returns in Iowa last night--Marco Rubio's message of American greatness, core conservative values, and economic growth is resonating!  Things are going to get hot now as The Donald wakes to the Rubio challenge, while Jeb's superPac continues to pour good money after bad to try and take Marco down.

Please consider a donation to the Rubio for President Campaign!  Double click the Marco Rubio flier on the right side of the blog page and it will take you directly to where you can make an online donation.

It's time, folks!  Let's work hard to earn this nomination and then get onto the business of winning in November!

UPDATE: Well folks, we've raised $13,407 so far, way ahead of our Romney 2012 effort--and there's talk of a primary max donor out there ready to stroke a check. Remember, anything you can do helps!

Iowa Speaks

It is morning in America, again folks. The Iowa Caucuses are complete, and the evil Sith Trump was dispatched. Iowans did themselves proud (sort of) in coming to their (sort of) senses to give Ted Cruz a solid victory there. More importantly, they dealt The Donald a heavy blow, and though he was uncharacteristically congenial in his uncharacteristically short concession speech, Trump is likely to become more and more prickly as more and more losses pile up.

I saw a feature on CNN this morning that said, "Cruz Deals Trump Upset in Iowa". I don't see it that way. That Trump was ever in the mix here in the first place was the true political wildcard of the year. That a conservative, evangelical young senator with a talent for the stump won?  Not a surprise. Without Trump, I've got to believe that Cruz would have been the prohibitive favorite in Iowa. His win there confirms his popularity with a good portion of the electorate. He crushed everyone else on the "he shares my values" question--which is a good one to be on the high end of.

Marco Rubio came in third. Yes, I realize that what that means is that two people beat him and the internet is rife with chatter about how the Rubio folks are going to spin a third place finish into a victory. And they are partially right. We're gonna be happy with it--very happy. Not a win, but a great showing. Rubio crushed everyone in the race who isn't of the "we're outsiders" bent, except Carly, who he crushed and who is an outsider. Along the way, he confirmed what reporters were reporting the last week of the campaign and after the debate, and that was a palpable sense of momentum. The vaunted "Des Moines Register" poll (cited over the weekend) had Rubio at 15, and he finished last night with 23. And he did it with all that Bush Pac money targeting him. And he did it while other candidates talked about how little time he spent in Iowa. And he did it over the last few days as the Cruz campaign realized what was afoot and stepped up their Iowa attacks.  It was a very good showing.

Trump. So good to see him lose. So sweet to read the stories of his disconsolate supporters last night. There were reports this week of Trump questioning why other campaigns use pollsters. "The media does them for free...bad business deal" or something like that. Well, the other campaigns do them because that's how you know what is going on in the moment. That's how Ted Cruz realized in the last few days that he needed to go after Marco more than he needed to go after Trump. Perhaps Trump is learning that there is a profession to politics like there is a profession to real estate development.

Now it's on to New Hampshire, where Trump currently enjoys a substantial lead. For my boy Rubio, there is also the problem of Christie, Kasich, and Bush--all of whom got swamped last night but who also enjoy decent support in New Hampshire.  Here's what I look for over the next week:

1. Trump realizes that in the long haul, this is a three horse race. He will begin to lump Rubio and Cruz together and use a single line of attack to take both of them out. Young. Inexperienced. Never accomplished anything. He won't care about any of the the others--he'll go after both his closest competitors.

2.  Rubio's performance last night will bring out a few big endorsements. Senator Tim Scott of SC endorsed him yesterday afternoon. I look for Scott Walker and Mitt Romney to get in this thing before long.

3.  Cruz numbers will pick up in New Hampshire, where he has lagged a bit.

The quicker this gets to three horses, the better it is for Marco Rubio (and the worse it is for Trump). Eventually, loss after loss will drive Trump out of the race and we'll be down to two genuine conservatives vying for the GOP nomination.

I am jumping on a plane Friday morning and flying to Manchester NH, where I'll report in to Rubio HQ around lunch time and then begin five days of heavy volunteer work.  I'll have my trusty laptop with me, so I hope to provide some glimpses from the campaign trail.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Iowa Prediction

Ok folks, here we go. The Des Moines Register poll released yesterday (3/4 of the polling happened before the debate--keep this in mind) turned out thusly:


With everyone else in single digits.

Here is how it will turn out Monday night:


Everyone else in single digits.

You read it here first!

Trump's Defeat: A Matter of Time

The State of Iowa is about to hand Donald Trump a caucus victory tomorrow, something it pains me to write. I have long questioned the utility of this State in sorting the GOP field, and this year does nothing to alleviate my scorn. Yesterday's Des Moines Register polls had it Trump, Cruz, Rubio, which seems to confirm what most of the polls and reporting have had recently. Great. The first place guy cannot win the nomination, and the second place guy cannot win the general.  Good for us. Woo hoo.

But the last couple of weeks have confirmed in my mind my suspicion that Trump will not win the nomination. I have--as much of America has--been gobsmacked by the degree and stickiness of his support. I grow weary of the explanations as to why, but at the end of the day, I remain convinced of two things: 1) Trump cannot win a majority of those who tend to vote in GOP primaries and 2) the propensity of those who do support him to actually vote in primaries will be dramatically less than their propensity to voice their support for him in a poll.

And so, Trump will be a force for the first 1/3 to 1/2 of primaries, while the field is still large and the opposition is divided. As the race winnows down to first three, and then two candidates, Trump's ceiling will become more apparent as the logic of math begins to apply.

What I fear though, is that winnowing process. Ted Cruz is not my guy--though I will support him if he is the nominee. The geography of the race tends to favor him early, while Rubio's states come later. In other words, it is all about cash from here on out--and what that means is that in order to get to the three horse race that produces a two-horse race with a GOP candidate who can win (Rubio), the field has to winnow--quickly--after New Hampshire and the donor base needs to consolidate.

I can see this thing playing out throughout the spring, and yes, I can see a convention beginning without a nominee in place.

What I cannot see is a path to victory for Donald Trump. You look at his DMR poll numbers and they are great--but there's little room to rise. He is the second choice of very, very few voters, which means his support at this point is pretty much baked in. This--as he is one of the most recognizable faces in the country.

Cruz has the best shot for the nomination at this point, but I think the general election may go difficult on him, as it is hard to imagine a state that Romney lost in 2012 that Cruz can win.

So I'll stay in my little (and getting smaller) corner of the GOP and cheer for Rubio--all the while hoping the rest of the fools hop out and begin to be helpful to getting the party back on track. A man  can dream, right?
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