Thursday, January 14, 2016

by Reed Galen

Days Until Iowa Caucus: 16

Quote by a Smart Person: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Ghandi

Welcome to the American Singularity.

The American Singularity – Week 43: Low Country Showdown

The race is, finally, finally, starting to take shape. But not in the way any of us thought a year ago. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz sit atop the field – in the early states and nationally; the outsiders leading the back. The Establishment candidates – Rubio, Bush, Christie and Kasich are scratching to be the “other” candidate who can keep going.  Dr. Ben Carson is in the race and still pulling a slice of market share – but his prospects seem dimmer by the day.   

Donald and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

The moments of the night belonged to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Cruz was well prepared for the inevitable question about his campaign finances. He took the softball and pulled a Roy Hobbs, knocking the cover off the ball. He got a twofer; dismissing the story and using it as a hook to blast the New York Times specifically and the main stream media generally. This is his wheelhouse.  

Cruz was the beneficiary of three early questions but the questions surround his birth and eligibility for office brought out the first knives of the evening. In a back and forth between Trump and Cruz, the moderators let them go after each other. Cruz handled the question masterfully, going through the various politicians who’ve been born outside the US – and the coup de grace – noting that Trump’s own mother was born in Scotland. By Trump’s logic, Cruz continued, that too made The Donald ineligible.

When asked about his statement that Donald Trump represents “New York” values, Cruz attempted to paint Trump as a liberal in conservatives clothing. “Not many conservatives come out of Manhattan.” And here, here is the first time Donald Trump appears to have prepared for an incoming shot: He took Cruz’s remarks and talked about the bravery New Yorkers showed on 9/11 as they watched the towers fall, cleaned up and rebuilt. Cruz realized he’d been had – even he applauded.

Skirmish Lines

Marco Rubio hit Chris Christie in an ad – calling him a liberal in everything but name. And when asked about the attack, Rubio fumbled slightly. While he is a very good debater, he is clearly uncomfortable with taking the first shot at an opponent. Christie rolled out Rubio’s own line from a few debates back – “Someone must be telling you you need to attack me.” He used his time to recite his conservative credentials – and end it with a reminder that even Rubio himself, just two years ago, had called Christie a solid conservative. Christie also took his chance to remind the audience of his complete disdain for legislators.

“You had your chance, Marco. You blew it.” – Chris Chrisie as he shut down Rubio during a discussion on taxes.

Rubio and Cruz’s dustup over tax plans came late in the contest – and was largely one that given the figures and claims flying around made my eyes glaze over. Rubio called Cruz’s plan a Value Added Tax (VAT) – Cruz said it’s not one. Rubio said it will cost business money. Cruz said it won’t.

But the real fireworks between these two came right at the end. Rubio, sensing that he had only a few minutes left to get his hits in, dropped every last bit of opposition research he could on Cruz's head - flip flopping, voting against budgets, more green cards, it was a cornucopia of attacks. Cruz responded in-kind - making sure he tied Rubio directly to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill. Both landed multiple body blows, but as Rubio was heating up, it appeared Cruz was fading - he was tired and he'd used most of his energy earlier. As we've seen coming for several weeks, this race is shaping up more every day to be a three way contest between Cruz, Trump and Rubio.

Brother, Can You Spare a Plan?

Jeb Bush was solid in his remarks during the debate. He made his points and tried to mix it up with Trump. But this forum is not his greatest strength. There are few, if any economics in going after The Donald and despite his campaign and Super PAC attacking Rubio continuously, he left his protégé alone – even at one point reminding the audience that one shouldn’t believe everything you see in a political commercial.

John Kasich is a smart guy. And he’s got the brains to be president. But his display of intelligence is falling short of the heart that voters want this year. He’s doing well in New Hampshire on the basis of his straight-talking style. He should keep that up and make sure he talks to as many undecided voters as he can.

Dr. Ben Carson is a smart man. He should go back to writing books, giving speeches and spreading his vision of a better America from a perch that is better and frankly more appropriate for him. While he is able to use self-deprecating humor to his advantage in these forums, he still remains either unwilling or unable to prepare and then reflect that preparation in coherent answers during a presidential debate.

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AuthorReed Galen