The Republican Race So Far (With Straw Poll)


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© Jack Cashill - August 10, 2015 

To this point, I am feeling wise. I predicted the emergence of a Trump, the ascendancy of Cruz and Fiorina, the illusory nature of the Jeb Bush candidacy, and the general dynamism of the Republican field.

In a June 10 article, a week before Trump announced his bid, I wrote, “The Republican nominee for president will be that candidate who best learns that there is no future in apologizing.” In researching my new book, Scarlet Letters: The Ever Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism, I sensed the hunger on the right for someone to stand up and confront the establishment head on.

In the last month or two no one has done so as flamboyantly as Donald Trump. Republicans who had no intention of voting for him, me included, cheered him on. More quietly, however, Carly Fiorina has done much the same. So has Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz stole a scene right out of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington when he called out Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor. It was dazzling:

Fiorina’s willingness to trash Planned Parenthood and call Hillary Clinton a liar unnerved the appallingly “classist” troops of the soft feminist left. Unlike Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann, Fiorina seems, at least, like someone they could lunch with. If only a few of them migrate over in the primaries or a quarter of Republican women vote for Fiorina because of her gender, Fiorina will have a major edge on her male opponents.

Given the strength of the field, no matter what Trump said or did at the debate on Thursday, he was going to lose ground. “You might not like their individual moves,” I wrote on April 8, “but the likely top five in this year’s Republican primary field is Duke to the Democrats’ (2-28) San Jose State.” Republicans, I noted, had a “deep bench” as well. The record-setting TV audience Thursday got to see the team in action, and many obviously liked what they saw. When it comes to campaigns, the Republicans believe in choice.

Over the weekend, I ran a straw poll on my Facebook page. Given the number of candidates, a dozen of whom are viable, I asked respondents to name their top three candidates. Few, myself included, are locked into one candidate just yet. “Anyone can vote,” I noted, “but I know who the Democrats are, and your votes will not be counted. Sort of like Philly in 2012, but in reverse.”

Some eighty people responded from across the county. They are likely better informed than the average Republican and perhaps slightly more conservative, but fairly representative nonetheless. The results:

Fiorina 55

Cruz 50

Walker 32

Carson 22

Rubio 19

Jindal 14

Trump 11

Paul 8

Kasich 5

Huckabee 5

Perry 4

Santorum 3

Christie 1

Bush 1

Some observations. Pataki, Gilmore, and Graham failed to receive any votes. Have they no day jobs? Christie and Bush, the presumed establishment candidates, each received only one. A gang of Karl Roves could not dig Jeb out of that hole. Jeb would have done better had he his brother’s charm and sense of humor. In the debate he showed neither.

Of the top six finishers, four are “minorities,” and one is a female. There was sufficient buzz about Fiorina’s performance that her numbers did not surprise. What did surprise is Jindal’s strong finish despite being unsung and on the undercard.

I know. Cruz, Rubio, Jindal, and even Santorum by some estimates are not eligible to be president because they are not “natural born citizens.” Sorry, I don’t buy that. I studied this issue in some depth when I helped the extraordinary Dr. Terry Lakin with his memoir, Officer’s Oath.

For better or worse, the Constitution does not define the term “natural born,” but there is a pretty substantial historical record of what the Founding Fathers meant. Their goal was to assure that no future commander-in-chief would have divided loyalties. None of these candidates or their parents has any other allegiance. That was not true of Obama. Both his parents spent most of their adult lives outside of a country that they more or less despised. Save your arguments on this subject for court.

Trump’s numbers are about what I expected. I really do not believe either his debate performance or his post-debate feud with Megyn Kelly hurt him that much. That was Trump being Trump. As such, he has more behavioral latitude than any candidate of either party. The voting public learned, however, that he is just one choice of many. And although most Republicans have welcomed his feistiness, they prefer to see it directed outward, not inward.

Nor do I think Fox’s questions, including the first one about party loyalty, were inappropriate. On one occasion, I stepped out to grab a beer and heard the questioner grilling some candidate about his ties to Michael Bloomberg and Planned Parenthood. I presumed it was Trump. It was Jeb Bush. Better to air the dirty laundry now than three days before the general election. If someone had asked George W. Bush about his DUI during the 2000 primary season, we would not have been counting votes for a month after the election. Bush would have won comfortably.

In an April 2008 primary debate on ABC, moderator George Stephanopoulos blindsided Barack Obama with a question he was not expecting from a fellow Democrat. On the “general theme of patriotism” Stephanopoulos asked Obama to explain why his relationship with Bill Ayers “won't be a problem?” The media and the Democrats—excuse the redundancy—exploded in fury. How dare he ask such a question?

Republicans have never been shielded from the media before. Why start now? I thought it a little unseemly for Trump to whine about his treatment and almost as unseemly—not to mention sexist--to rally around Megyn Kelly as though she were a little pink snowflake. Eric Erickson, there are no red tees on the campaign trail.

Going forward, we are going to hear that Fiorina is a little more keen on “diversity” than we would like her to be and that Carson is a little squishy on guns and that Walker is soft around the edges and that Rubio can be purchased and that Cruz, whatever his virtues, is not exactly eligible to be president.

Trump meanwhile, who has grown used to being the center square, will have to compete for votes like any other candidate. This will bore him to tears. He’ll drop out early and not waste his money on a losing third party candidacy.

Finally, Cruz will edge out Walker down the homestretch, pick Fiorina for his running mate, and wallop a Democratic candidate too busy apologizing to the Black Lives Matters crowd to mount a campaign.

In 2008, I wowed my friends by picking Sarah Palin for VP months before anyone outside of Juneau had heard of her. In 2012, I repeated the trick with Paul Ryan. Don’t believe anyone who tells you I bet on Bob Dole to win the 1996 election.

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