Rubio Roasts Trump in Texas Debate

Rubio TrumpFlorida Senator Marco Rubio may have yet to win a state in the Republican presidential nomination fight, but he scored a key win in what will probably go down as the most important primary debate of the cycle.

Much was riding on the CNN-Telemundo debate because it was positioned right before the Super Tuesday contests on March 1st. Not only are Tuesday’s contests the first time multiple states will be in play on the same day, but if Donald Trump’s pathway to the nomination is going to be stymied, it has to begin then.

As expected, all eyes were on Trump, but if the media and pundits were looking for anything, it was who else on the stage is best equipped to take Trump on one on one. In essence, last night’s debate was an audition for who should take on Trump, and Rubio nailed the part.

Not once did Rubio ever hesitate when taking on Trump directly. He swung hard at every opportunity provided to him, but more importantly, Rubio didn’t just show he could throw punches last night, he showed that he could deliver a blow with a smile on his face, a skill his counter part, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, has yet to develop.

Rubio hit Trump on his key issue in the race, illegal immigration. Earlier in the week the New York Times published an article that stated that Trump hired foreign guest workers to work on his properties instead of Americans.   It was a critique that Rubio hit the frontrunner with repeatedly.

Later, when responding to Trump’s plan to build a wall on along the southern border, Rubio quipped, “If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Towers, he’ll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it.” Trump tried to dismiss it saying, “Such a cute sound bite.”

Rubio then said it was not a sound bite and encouraged people to go online and check it out. Then he added, “The second thing, about the trade war — I don’t understand, because your ties and the clothes you make are made in Mexico and in China. So you’re gonna be starting a trade war against your own ties and your own suits.”

Rubio and Trump then went back and forth, with Rubio repeatedly asking why he didn’t make them in America. It’s an argument that Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich have tried and failed to levy against Trump in earlier debates, but on the less congested debate stage, Rubio was able to able to make it stick.

Rubio was the clear victor in the first half of the debate. It was unanimous among the reporters following along with the debate on Twitter. And before you say that Twitter is no way to gauge a debate, to understand just how well Rubio was doing, two of Cruz’s biggest backers, Glenn Beck and Bob Vander Plaats publically praised Rubio’s debate performance.

Time after time, Rubio seemed to have impeccable timing and knew exactly what to say in response to Trump. When debating foreign policy, and specifically the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, not only did Rubio emphatically stand firm behind Israel, but he also got the best of Trump who claimed he wanted to mediate an agreement between the two sides.

“Have you ever negotiated with terrorists,” Rubio pointedly asked Trump.” After Trump quipped that Rubio is not a negotiator, Rubio smartly responded by telling Trump that this was not some sort of real estate deal.

As for Cruz, he was overshadowed during the early stages of the debate.   He missed some opportunities to engage Trump in a way that would help him in advance of the Super Tuesday contests by feeling the need to restate his positions on a particular issue instead of using his time to aggressively challenge the frontrunner.

Some may find it sad that its bad for a candidate to answer a question directly, but no reporter worth their weight is going to write an article on the eve of Super Tuesday about what Cruz said about Supreme Court Justices. He needed to be able to convey that message in a way that made it clear to viewers what it is he looks for in a potential justice but also explain why Trump should not be trusted to make a such an important decision.

Cruz proved in the debate that he is capable of prosecuting Trump on the debate stage, but he doesn’t come off as likeable when doing it. Cruz seemed focused on technicalities of the subject being debated while Rubio was able to make his point against Trump in a way that was easy to understand, and in doing so, he made it look like it never got personal.

Rubio proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you are looking for a candidate to go toe to toe with Trump, he’s the best equipped for the battle. It was the way in which he engaged Trump on the debate stage that made him the superior candidate to Cruz. Rubio had the look of an eager, feisty fighter who was always ready to engage. Cruz, on the other hand, was the bland prosecutor you agreed with on the substance, but never could warm up to as a person.

As for Trump, it was the first time in a debate that two candidates proved him to be an inadequate frontrunner. Nobody knocked him out on Thursday night, but it was clear that he wasn’t the winner of the debate.

Trump Wins Nevada

With 100 percent of the results now in, Donald Trump won the Nevada Caucuses with 46 percent of the vote, nearly doubling Marco Rubio who finished in second place with 24 percent of the vote. Once again, Ted Cruz finished in third place with 21 percent. Below is some of the reaction to Trump’s win last night.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 8.42.13 AM

Donald Trump Wins, Wins, Wins in Nevada


The Republican Party, along with everyone else, should now be well past the idea that Trump cannot possibly be the nominee simply because he is Trump. There is no clause saying that having had a television reality show makes one ineligible for the Presidency. He will win the nomination if he wins a majority of the delegates—barring a collapse of the party—and he will win the Presidency if he wins enough electoral votes, whatever people think of his hair or of his bigotry. Tackiness has no constitutional meaning. It was always strange, early in the race, to hear other candidates condemn Trump’s lack of seriousness, in a tone that suggested that they themselves were models of statesmanship. Sneering, especially in a way that invokes class, is not an effective tool against him. For one thing, in the current economy, it resonates. At another point in his speech, Trump said, “We’re going to be the smart people. We’re not going to be the people that get pushed around all over the place.” Trump’s bitter populism is built into that sentence.

Winners and Losers from the Nevada GOP Caucuses


Donald Trump: All he does is win — and win by a lot. Trump took nearly 46 percent of the vote in a still-crowded five-candidate field; if you combine the votes for Marco Rubio, who finished second, and Ted Cruz, third, Trump still got more votes. While Nevada wasn’t the delegate treasure trove of South Carolina — Trump took 12 to Rubio’s 5 — it yet again affirmed the increasingly-clear reality that this nomination is very much Trump’s to lose. If he sweeps — or comes close to sweeping — the March 1 states, it might just be all over.

Nevada Was Great For Donald Trump, Bad For Ted Cruz


Tuesday night’s results were very bad news for Cruz. It’s not just that it was his third third-place finish in a row. It’s also how Cruz lost. He carried only 27 percent of the white born-again and evangelical Christian vote, behind Trump’s 41 percent. Cruz also lost this group in New Hampshire and South Carolina. But, unlike in South Carolina, Cruz also trailed among “very conservative” voters in Nevada, 34 percent to Trump’s 38 percent. Finally, Cruz continues to struggle among “somewhat conservative” and moderate voters. He earned just 16 percent and 7 percent among those groups, respectively, according to the entrance poll.

Rubio is the Only Plausible Alternative to Trump


The GOP’s collective desire to look away has been a problem for months. Nearly everyone, including yours truly, believed that Trump’s candidacy would exhaust itself on its own terms. There are many reasons why that hasn’t happened. Chief among them: Too many people thought it was someone else’s job to bell the Trumpian cat. No better evidence for this can be found than the fact that of the $215 million spent by super PACs so far this cycle, only 4 percent was spent attacking Trump, according to the Washington Post.

While a queue for allotments of blame would be longer than a Great Depression breadline, the person at the head of it is Ted Cruz. For months, Cruz embraced Trump as a comrade-in-arms. This helped send the signal to talk radio hosts and various conservative activists that Trump was a healthy addition to the political conversation. Even though the two men are wildly divergent ideologically, they both found shelter under the “anti-establishment” umbrella.

2:23 Mid-Day Must Reads

ASFLife From Death: How the Scalia Funeral Mass Became a Triumph of Evangelization


There’s no question that the death of Antonin Scalia is a sad moment that opens up many troubling questions for the nation. But, it was also a gift in a tumultuous time, a sacred moment of love and respect on a loud and fractious news day — ending as the assembled clerics stood on the outdoor steps and sang “Salve Regina” a cappella as the casket was carried to the hearse.

Trump Tops Kasich in Latest Ohio Poll

Quinnipiac University Poll

Not even native son Gov. John Kasich can stop the Donald Trump steamroller as Kasich falls behind the Republican front-runner 31 – 26 percent among Ohio likely Republican primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is at 21 percent with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 13 percent and Dr. Ben Carson at 5 percent.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont 55 – 40 percent among Ohio likely Democratic primary voters, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh- pe-ack) University Poll finds.

Rubio takes “Ankeny Strategy” national!

Internally, the campaign calls this “The Ankeny Strategy.” In the run up to the Iowa caucuses, rival campaigns mocked the Rubio operation for being so obsessed with Ankeny. They joked that it felt like Rubio was running to be mayor of the Des Moines suburb. His headquarters was there, and his state chairman represents the city in the state Senate. But it paid off: Rubio’s surprisingly strong third place finish in Iowa was possible because he ran up his margin in Polk County.

My commentary: The only problem with this is that it lead to a third and second place finish, not a victory. Rubio needs to win, not simply do respectively well.

24 Years Later, Joe Biden’s Words Haunt Democrats


Several elements of the old Biden speech are problematic for Democrats, most notably his position at the time as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, making him the party’s voice on the handling of judicial nominations. The comments are also directly at odds with what President Obama and Mr. Biden, now the vice president, have been saying in demanding fair consideration for any nominee after the death of Justice Scalia on Feb. 13.

Rubio in Search of Mormon Support Tonight


Hutchison is, among other things, the chair of Rubio’s Nevada campaign and a prominent member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These two facts are not unimportant in the context of today’s Republican caucuses in Nevada. Mormons are only 4 percent of Nevada’s population, but they have exercised outsize influence in the state’s past two caucuses, accounting for 25 percent of Republican participants in 2012 and 26 percent in 2008; Mitt Romney, America’s most famous Mormon, won their vote by 88 and 95 percent, respectively.

Cruz changes tune on rounding up undocumented immigrants


Ted Cruz moved to a more aggressive deportation policy in an interview on Monday night, saying he would look for and deport undocumented immigrants using Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, marking a change from a January interview with CNN.

Appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, Cruz was repeatedly pressed on the specifics of his deportation plans by host Bill O’Reilly, who asked Cruz, “Would you go look for them, though? As (Donald) Trump would look for them to get them out, would you do that if you were president?”

“Bill, of course you would, that’s what ICE exists for,” Cruz said. “We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws, that apprehends them and deports them.”




2:22 Mid Day Must Reads

MMHead of Bush Super PAC Reportedly Rakes in $14 Million


Murphy has long been one of Bush’s closest advisers — and the political world was in awe last year when Right to Rise raised $100 million just as Bush was launching his candidacy.

Now, the super PAC will go down in history as yet another failed Murphy juggernaut.

Murphy’s failed effort to help Bush follows his strategic oversight of another expensive losing campaign: the $177 million effort of 2010 California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. Despite her campaign’s lavish spending, Whitman lost to Democrat Jerry Brown, who spent a mere $36 million by comparison.

Cruz’s Hard Pitch To Evangelicals May Be His Downfall

In his concession speech, Sen. Cruz tried to spin the results as “remarkable” and proof he exceeded expectations. Those comments are clearly just a brave attempt to put on a happy face after a sobering loss.

Saturday’s results certainly got to Cruz superfan Glenn Beck. The radio host urged his listeners to join him in fasting in order to better secure divine help for Cruz’s candidacy. This statement comes after Beck said God possibly allowed Antonin Scalia to die so America would wake up and vote correctly.

The ramblings of Beck, besides being indicators of his declining mental health, are actually an extreme expression of Cruz’s electoral strategy. The senator’s campaign has done everything possible to win over the religious right this election cycle. Cruz announced he was running for president at Liberty University. Throughout his campaign, the Ivy League-educated lawyer has cited Bible verse and expounded upon his faith. He secured the endorsement of dozens of prominent evangelicals and social conservatives, many of whom quickly became surrogates for his campaign.

These statements are only likely to appeal to the declining demographic of churchgoing evangelicals while at the same time alienating the other parts of the party. Not only that, but the religiously-devout seem to care more about how a candidate will steer the economy and protect the nation than they do about how well a given contender can recite scripture.

It’s a fact that our society is becoming more secular and considers religion as more of a private matter than a public obligation. You can only change that through the culture, not the ballot box.

Cruz campaign forced to apologize yet again.


“It’s every single day, something comes out of the Cruz campaign that’s deceptive and untrue, and in this case goes after my faith. So I understand, I guess one of their spokespersons apologized and I’ll accept his apology, but this is a pattern now and I think we’re now at a point where we start asking about accountability,” Rubio said.

Donald Trump’s Perfect Foil

The Atlantic

In a bizarre twist, Donald Trump has become an instrument of class vengeance. I don’t know how many of his voters really believe he can stop the “losing” that has characterized white working-class life for decades. But he has now accomplished at least one thing for his supporters. He’s given them the satisfaction of watching Jeb Bush lose, too.

Nevada GOP Caucuses could be a real mess

Republican campaigns and state operatives point to a number of factors creating the cloud of confusion: a cash-poor state party in disarray, a public unaccustomed to the caucus process and a state that’s notoriously difficult to poll. Nevada doesn’t have a lot of experience running caucuses – the state picked up its first-in-the-West status in 2008, but it has yet to run smoothly and some campaigns are bracing for possible chaos again.



It’s not the Cruz campaign that’s the problem, it’s the candidate.

Photo by Dave Davidson –

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was supposed to be a different kind of conservative presidential candidate. He was supposed to be unique because not only did he have impeccable conservative credentials, but he also proved he could raise money and thus could build a national campaign that former caucus winners like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee could never accomplish.

This was the narrative of the Cruz campaign in the lead up to the Iowa Caucuses. When the Cruz campaign opened its Iowa headquarters in September, Steve Deace, a syndicated talk radio host who was deeply involved in the Cruz campaign, made a strong case as to why he was backing Cruz this time around.

“Imagine if Rick Santorum had six months to plan for that primary. Imagine if Mike Huckabee, eight years ago, had a year of fundraising and organization to run a national campaign,” said Deace, who has endorsed Cruz. “Maybe we would not have been sentenced to those nominations,” he added, referring to John McCain and Mitt Romney.

It was an equally powerful and persuasive argument. And let’s be honest, as far as Iowa was concerned, it was true. Cruz dominated the field in Iowa because just winning here wasn’t good enough anymore. The Cruz campaign did an excellent job of convincing Iowa Republicans that they needed a conservative candidate who could win the nomination, not just the caucuses.

Everything was going according to plan until the results from South Carolina’s Republican primary began to come in. Cruz dominated the Iowa caucuses, where 64 percent of caucus-goers labeled themselves as evangelicals. South Carolina should have been even easier since 72 percent of voters there were evangelicals. As we saw on Saturday night, Cruz struggled. He didn’t win a single county and ultimately finished in third place.

Third place is exactly where the last winner of the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum, finished in South Carolina. What happened to all the advantages that Cruz was supposed to have that set him apart from those who had tried and ultimately failed before him?

Let me suggest a theory. The only thing wrong with the Cruz campaign is that its people have yet to figure out how to play nice with others. Even when Cruz was only parachuting into Iowa once a month last summer, people connected with the campaign constantly talked about how Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee should just hang it up.

“It’s not going to happen for them again,” they would say. It’s not that any of this wasn’t true, but when dealing with individuals who may have personal connections with a candidate, you are not doing your candidate any favors by telling them the guy or gal they like sucks. It’s a conclusion they need to come to themselves.

Despite the fact that the Cruz campaign has struggled at playing well with others, it’s difficult to find much fault with the machinery and implementation of their operation. The deficiency on the Cruz campaign can be found in the candidate himself. Cruz may have built a legitimate campaign that was more capable of winning the Republican than Huckabee and Santorum built in 2008 and 2012, but he’s simply not as authentic as they were.

Huckabee had a charm and charisma about him in the 2008 race that made him a difficult match up head to head with Mitt Romney in Iowa, and later in conservative southern states against McCain. Santorum was a passionate blue-collar fighter who matched up well against Romney. Both Huckabee and Santorum had a populist message that made people feel like these candidates cared about people like them.

People rooted for Huckabee and Santorum. They may have been the underdogs in their respective races, but one would think the same dynamic should exist for Cruz since he’s running against a billionaire with a questionable record. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

The Cruz campaign at times can feel like a church revival, with the candidate himself delivering a sermon full of fire and brimstone. What’s odd is that in the debates Cruz rarely if ever steers the conversation in a direction where he advocates for a strong socially conservative policy. In the 2012 debates, Santorum always found an opening to remind people that strong families are a critical part of a strong economy. Cruz seems content with volleying back and forth on the issues of the day.

In the years that Huckabee and Santorum were candidates, there were key moments when they delivered a message that would silence a room and as the attendees contemplated what Huckabee was saying about human life or what Santorum was saying about his own family. There has been none of that with Cruz. Cruz has focused mainly on the strength of his campaign, the key political battles in which he fought, and the narrative that conservatives were coalescing behind his campaign. In essence, the Cruz campaign has always just been about Ted Cruz and nothing else.

The entire Cruz campaign was built on the narrative that he was the conservative candidate who could win the nomination, but after a big loss in South Carolina they are now forced find a new basis for the campaign. If they couldn’t beat Donald Trump by running ads that featured him supporting late-term abortions in a state like South Carolina, I’m not sure it will ever work.

Cruz was supposed to be different from Huckabee and Santorum, but as one looks at the calendar, you start to wonder if he will win eight states like Huckabee did in 2008 or 11 like Santorum in 2012. For all the talk about the campaign Cruz has built, it only highlights that the problem may just be the candidate himself.



South Carolina Primer

firstsouthlogoFour years ago, I spent about ten days in South Carolina for the First in the South primary. It was fascinating getting to experience what it’s like in another early state, and it was also nice to escape Iowa’s winter weather and hang out around the ocean in Myrtle Beach or Charleston. Both cities hosted major presidential debates within the span of days back in 2012.

Heading into South Carolina, I expected it to be similar to Iowa, but you know, just a lot warmer. I had heard about all the evangelical voters there and just assumed it would be a lot like Iowa. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was an eye opening experience. Yes, there are plenty of evangelical voters there, but I think they are different from Iowa’s brand of evangelicals.

The campaigning is also much more harsh. Some of the radio ads where brutal. If you think things get heated in Iowa, go check out South Carolina in a presidential primary. Just today, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said, “When you come to South Carolina, it’s a bloodsport. Politics is a bloodsport.” Can you imagine Terry Branstad saying that. Heck, we all went nuts when he said Iowans shouldn’t vote for Sen. Ted Cruz. How tame! I had to chuckle when Haley added, “I wear heels — it’s not for a fashion statement, it’s because you’ve got to be prepared to kick at any time.”

In 2012, South Carolina really ended up being a two-person race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. If you recall, Gingrich owned both the Fox News and CNN debates. The audiences at both events made it sound more like a football game than a presidential debate. Frankly, I think South Carolina in 2012 really foreshadowed what the 2016 Republican presidential campaign has been like in many respects.

Gingrich trounced Romney by securing over 40 percent of the vote compared to Romney’s 28 percent. Rick Santorum, the just crowned winner of the Iowa Caucuses came in third with 17 percent of the vote. Gingrich carried the rural parts of the state and Greenville in the north. Romney had narrow victories in Columbia, Charleston, and in and around Hilton Head.

The 2008 results map probably gives you a better idea of the political geography of the state. Mike Huckabee is in brown and John McCain in tan. While the 2008 had a similar sized field, almost 170,000 more people voted in the South Carolina primary in 2012 than 2008. Still, as results come in it, does give you an idea of what to look for.

Sen. Marco Rubio needs to do well along the coasts and in the more densely populated areas like Columbia, Rock Hill, and Greenville. Sen. Ted Cruz needs to do well in the northern part of the state, including Rock Hill and Greenville, and he needs to be strong in the rural parts of the state. Donald Trump is the wild card, and as we saw in Iowa, he can make the county results map look like a map of a foreign country.

Trump has a similar persona as Gingrich, and with a big lead in the polls, we shouldn’t have to wait long for the networks to project him as the winner if the polls are anywhere close to being accurate. For the rest of the candidates, it’s going to be New Hampshire all over again. Look for a tight battle for the second and third spots. And as we saw in New Hampshire, coming in second place will be just as good as winning so long as your name is not Donald J. Trump.

For the third place finisher, it’s going to be a lot like the 2007 and 2011 Iowa Straw Poll. The third place finishers in those two events, Sam Brownback and Tim Pawlenty, ended their campaigns shortly there after. I’m not saying that either Cruz or Rubio are at risk of having their campaigns blow up over night, but a third place finish is going to hurt either of them in a significant way.

South Carolina is tailor-made for someone like Cruz. In fact, his style of politics fits better there than it does in Iowa, and we saw what his campaign did here in Iowa. Oh, and it’s no coincidence that Conservative Review held a convention in Greenville on Thursday night since they are in the bag for Cruz. Rubio, on the other hand, has the endorsement of Haley, U.S. Senator Tim Scott, and Congressman Trey Gowdy, all three being next generation leaders. When you have those kinds of endorsements, you should be talking about winning, not coming in second.

Trump’s fine so long as he wins. If he loses, sound the alarms. A loss would be devastating considering where he stands in the polls. John Kasich is out just to finish ahead of Jeb Bush, and if he does, that may end Bush’s candidacy. Bush simply needs to surprise, which means he’s in the same boat as Dr. Ben Carson.

It should be a fun Saturday night. I hope my meager knowledge of South Carolina is somewhat helpful. I just wish I was back in Charleston, what a great city!


Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 6.37.12 PM

Bob Vander Plaats Admits He Failed at his Day Job

BVP Trump
Photo by Dave Davidson –

When Bob Vander Plaats personally endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz on December 10th, he made sure that the assembled media understood that the organization that he leads, The FAMiLY Leader, voted unanimously to “remain a standard bearer for Christian principles in out culture and government, and not endeavor to be a kingmaker in the election process.

A press release announcing the organization’s decision to remain neutral went on to state, “The FAMiLY Leader wants to assure all our friends and ministry supporters that no money given to the ministry of The FAMiLY Leader will be used to favor one good candidate to the detriment of other good candidates.” When Vander Plaats was asked if the organization was “all in” for Cruz, he reiterated, “we are personally all in for Cruz, the organization is all out.

On Wednesday, The FAMiLY Leader seemed to change course when it sent out a press release entitled, “Tough Questions for Donald Trump from America’s Families.” The release stated that The FAMiLY Leader had joined CitizenLink, which is comprised of 40 other state-based pro-family groups, in releasing an “open letter” to Donald Trump asking him to answer specific policy questions.

“Donald Trump has made many claims and promises to the American people that seem to contradict his record on family values and his own public behavior,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER. “We have signed on to this open letter to urge Mr. Trump to clarify these lingering questions many Americans need to have answered before they can vote for him in good conscience.”

CitizenLink is the political arm of Focus on the Family, and James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family has not only endorsed Sen. Cruz but also campaigned for him here in Iowa. It’s a stretch to say that the group’s current effort to question Trump doesn’t violate The FAMiLY Leader’s previous position not to favor one candidate over another. This is something that is clearly intended to help the Cruz campaign, and it fits nicely into the Cruz campaign’s current crop of TV ads attacking Trump. And the subject of these ads, I believe, is fair game.

One might look at the quoted section above and say that questioning Trump is fair game since he clearly wouldn’t fit the definition of a “good candidate” to a pro-family organization like The FAMiLY Leader. While in reality that may be true, Mr. Vander Plaats himself made it abundantly clear when endorsing Sen. Cruz that Mr. Trump fit his definition of a good candidate.

Vander Plaats told reporters that he called Mr. Trump the day before endorsing Cruz to inform him of his decision. “Mr. Trump was disappointed but still considers me a good friend, and I still consider him a good friend.” He also added, “I told Mr. Trump that he has brought a lot of value to this race. In fact, this race is totally different because of Mr. Trump. Some people may say for better or for worst, but he’s brought a lot of value to this race as well.” asked The FAMiLY Leader why it is now choosing to get involved in the presidential race or what caused the group to changes its position. “The FAMiLY LEADER has made no endorsement or anti-endorsement, but we have always been about educating voters on the pro-family issues Americans are concerned about, such as life, marriage, religious freedom, limited government and the role of the executive,” Drew Zahn, the organization’s director of communications replied.

“As a partner within a national alliance that represents pro-family Americans, we have a responsibility to ask Mr. Trump about his policy positions and his view on the role of the president. We must ensure that pro-family voters are able to hear from Mr. Trump on these issues and make an informed decision when they cast their ballots,” Zahn added.

What’s ironic about all of this is that Vander Plaats and his organization have “lingering questions” about where Trump stands on their issues in the first place.

Beyond that fact that Vander Plaats has always been quick to point out that he and Trump are personal friends, the GOP frontrunner has attended a handful of FAMiLY Leader events in recent years. Trump attended the FAMiLY Leadership Summit in July as an official presidential candidate, and he attended for the first time back in 2013. Trump has also attended private fundraising receptions for The FAMiLY Leader in conjunction with each event.

Vander Plaats has also met privately with Trump at his New York office and has been hosted by Trump at some of the real estate tycoon’s luxury hotels. Yet with all of the access that Vander Plaats has had to Mr. Trump in private or in an event setting, he never once thought to ask Trump about his abortion stance?

Vander Plaars never once found the opportunity to ask Trump about Supreme Court justices?

It never dawned on Vander Plaats that perhaps he should ask Trump what his position on gay marriage is today?

You’re telling me that Bob Vander Plaats never got around to asking Donald Trump a question on gambling but did manage to ask if he and his family could stay at Trump’s Las Vegas hotel?

Frankly it’s embarrassing that Bob Vander Plaats has signed his name to an “open letter” asking Trump to disclose where he stands on each of these issues two weeks AFTER the Iowa Caucuses. If the FAMiLY Leader was going to be the “standard bearer for Christian principles,” why didn’t they ask these questions BEFORE Iowans voted, not after the candidates have left the state?

It’s not the endorsement of Cruz that makes this press release overtly political, it’s the timing. The fact that these sorts of questions need to be asked now only proves that Vander Plaats and The FAMiLY Leader had no interest in actually vetting any of the presidential candidate on the issues. Instead, they simply enjoyed the media attention given to them as well as the ability to profit from it.

In regards to Mr. Trump, it seems like Vander Plaats was more interested in the perks that a “personal relationship” provided instead of actually vetting a candidate that is now the GOP frontrunner. It’s pretty obvious that as far Vander Plaats’ work with the FAMiLY Leader is concerned this caucus cycle, he didn’t get the job done.

Mid-Day Must Reads

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.35.34 PMBelow are a few of the outstanding article that have been published this morning.

Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker writes a great piece on the looming Supreme Court confirmation battle, more specifically how we ended up at a place where the party in control of the Senate holds all the cards.

Edward Morrissey writes in The Week about how the confirmation process itself is overshadowing the life and accomplishments of Justice Scalia. A fantastic read.

If you are looking for some lighter material, check out James Poniwozik’s piece in the New York Times that argues how Donald Trump is actually bad for late night comics. Say what? I love articles like this that are enjoyable and light reading, but bring up valid points we may have otherwise overlooked.

Finally for you political nerds, Eliana Johnson from National Review writes a great synopsis on why South Carolina is a critical test for Ted Cruz. There are some great insights there.

The Brute-Force Politics of Judicial Confirmations

On nominations to the Supreme Court and for other judicial vacancies, the rule has been simple. The side with the most brute force has won.

Reid had the power to invoke the nuclear option, and he did it; McConnell has the power to protect the Scalia seat, and he is doing it, at least until the next election. It is thus clearer than ever that the future of the judiciary is decided at the ballot box, not in the courtroom.

How Antonin Scalia became an afterthought in his own demise

That brings us to today, when one of the longest-serving members in the court’s history has largely been forgotten in an unseemly scrum over who replaces him, and when. Republicans have adopted Schumer’s 2007 position, while Democrats forget that the Senate has no obligation to approve nominees — and that it was Democrats who were largely responsible for dispensing with deference to elected presidents in judicial appointments.

Scalia, ironically, spent nearly three decades attempting to move the court back to a less activist model. Had that effort succeeded, it would have made his own passing remarkable in itself rather than a bugle call for both sides to divvy up the spoils.

Even with that, the epic breadth and depth of Scalia’s impact on American jurisprudence may take several more decades to be fully appreciated. At the moment, though, the nearly 30-year tit-for-tat judiciary battle between Republicans and Democrats only deepens the belief among voters that America’s institutions are failing its citizens, and that will be yet another reason for voters in both parties to look outside those institutions to make them work once more.

Donald Trump Is a Conundrum for Political Comedy

How do you spoof a candidate who treats campaigning like a roast?

Mr. Trump is now a serious candidate — often a self-serious, angry one — with a serious chance. But stylistically, he works in the mode and rhythms of a stand-up. He riffs. He goads. He works blue. When he gave a victory speech in New Hampshire, feinted at congratulating his opponents, then pivoted — “Now that I’ve got that over with … ” — he sounded like a sketch comic doing an imitation of himself.

His style has rendered him, weirdly, almost comedy-proof. Election parodies traditionally exaggerate candidates. But Mr. Trump exaggerates himself — he’s the frilled lizard of politics, inflating his self-presentation to appear ever larger. Satire exposes candidates’ contradictions and absurdities. But Mr. Trump blows past those, while his supporters cheer.

And while the get-along guy Jimmy Fallon has a technically fine impression of Mr. Trump, it’s all hair and no teeth.

Ted Cruz: South Carolina is a Big Test

South Carolina, which votes Saturday, will give a good indication of just how sturdy that firewall is. The state is demographically similar to its southern neighbors, with both a large evangelical population (evangelicals constituted nearly two thirds of Republican primary voters in 2012) and a strong tea-party presence. A loss here would be a warning sign that the campaign has overestimated its ability to identify and persuade the voters it needs to carry the South.

In the past, candidates who have run a campaign with explicitly religious themes, and who have cobbled together narrow coalitions — Rick Santorum in 2012, Mike Huckabee in 2008 — have never proved widely successful. Both men won the Iowa caucus and a host of Southern states, but they didn’t fare well in South Carolina. The Palmetto State will provide a more reliable predictor of whether Cruz’s candidacy has the potential to be widely successful, and to make history in the process.

Cruz has the money and the infrastructure Santorum and Huckabee did not, and his campaign is amplifying the tactics that produced victory in Iowa here in South Carolina. As the dual Camp Cruz locations suggest, it remains a ground-focused operation that emphasizes person-to-person contact. “This campaign I believe is gonna be decided by the grassroots,” Cruz told reporters on Monday. “It’s gonna be decided friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor, pastor to pastor, South Carolinian to South Carolinian.”

But Iowa, as a low-turnout caucus state whose voters are pre-conditioned to organizing through their religious institutions, was ideally suited to Cruz’s candidacy. He amassed 28 percent of the vote there. Will he fare as well in South Carolina?




If Trump Can’t Handle The Truth, Neither Can Cruz

Photo by Dave Davidson –

Since the Iowa Caucuses, Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have been frequent sparring partners. The ferocity of their attacks, however, has escalated since the campaign moved on to South Carolina.

The Cruz campaign has highlighted Trump’s evolution on a number of issues, including the right to life, marriage, and the second amendment. Cruz has also claimed that in the past Trump has supported Hillary Clinton and has embraced Obamacare, claims that Trump takes issue with.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Trump said, “Cruz is a totally unstable individual. He is the single biggest liar I’ve ever come across, in politics or otherwise, and I have seen some of the best of them.” Cruz responded by saying, “We are not in grade school where you just get to say, ‘liar liar pants on fire’ and not respond to the substance.

Before we go any further, let me just state that I don’t have a problem with the Cruz campaign’s criticisms of Trump. Not only are the ads factual, but they feature Trump stating that he doesn’t even oppose partial birth abortions, which is a clip from an interview in 1999, but more recently he has taken a position that he doesn’t oppose all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

I don’t care who you are, if you were running the Cruz campaign, you would be running the same ads. While the beltway media has never quite understood this, it’s never been a secret that Trump is vulnerable to a strong socially conservative challenger. That’s been the case from day one, and Cruz is the best positioned to take Trump on in this way.

Now, while I don’t have a problem with Cruz’s attacks of Trump, I can only laugh when I watch Ted Cruz essentially say “liar liar pants on fire” every time someone brings up his 2013 amendment to the Gang of 8 immigration reform bill.

Cruz acts no differently than Trump when questioned about his proposal that would have allowed people who are illegally in the country to remain here permanently.

In last Saturday night’s CBS News’ Republican debate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio stated the following about Cruz.

RUBIO: We’re going to have to do this again, OK? When that issue was being debated, Ted Cruz, at a committee hearing, very passionately said, “I want immigration reform to pass, I want people to be able to come out of the shadows.” And he proposed an amendment that would have legalized people here.

Not only that, he proposed doubling the number of green cards. He proposed a 500 percent increase on guest workers. Now his position is different. Now he is a passionate opponent of all those things.

So he either wasn’t telling the truth then or he isn’t telling the truth now, but to argue he is a purist on immigration is just not true.

Like clockwork, Cruz took the conversation right to granting illegal immigrants in the United States citizenship, which he has always opposed. But that’s not the point. The point is that Cruz supported letting the illegal and undocumented immigrants stay in the country permanently, which some conservatives, like Cruz’s national campaign chairman Iowa Congressman Steve King, would call amnesty. Cruz also likes to use his conservative endorsees like King and Jeff Sessions, and conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, as “get out of jail free” cards when in a tight spot in a debate. Rather than explain his position, or his change of position as the case may be, he name drops one of his endorsees and moves on without addressing the question.

So while it is certainly true that Donald Trump can’t handle the truth of his past statements on a number of issues, Cruz has yet to come to terms with his 2013 actions in which he certainly supported permanent legal status for illegal immigrants. Yet like Trump, he refuses to confront the substance of his own past.