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Jeb Bush joins Ted Cruz bandwagon after decisive win in Utah

In his endorsement of Cruz, Bush decries Donald Trump’s “divisiveness and vulgarity”

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

texas mugHOUSTON (CFP) — A day after capturing his first outright majority in any state primary, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas captured the endorsement of the man who began the GOP presidential race as the presumed front-runner, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Bush’s endorsement came in a statement released by the Cruz campaign March 23 in which he called the Texas senator “a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests.”

“Washington is broken, and the only way Republicans can hope to win back the White House and put our nation on a better path is to support a nominee who can articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential,” he said.

In endorsing Cruz, Bush also took a swipe at the front-runner in the Republican race, Donald Trump.

“For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies,” Bush said.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

The nod from Bush came a day after Cruz won 69 percent in the Utah primary–his best showing of the entire primary campaign and the first state in which he took an outright majority of the vote. The result gave Cruz all of the Beehive State’s 40 delegates. Trump trailed badly at just 14 percent.

However, in neighboring Arizona, Trump carried 47 percent to Cruz’s 25 percent, taking all 58 delegates in the winner-take-all state.

To date, Trump has 739 delegates, about 60 percent of the 1,237 he needs to get the nomination. Cruz trails with 465 delegates. There are 17 states left that have not held primaries or caucuses, including one Southern state, West Virginia, which votes in May.

Rubio, Cruz tie for second in South Carolina primary; Bush drops out

Former Florida governor exits race in which he was the early front-runner

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

south-carolina mugCOLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida rode a wave of last-minute support to surge into a tie for second place with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in the pivotal South Carolina primary.

Meanwhile, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush–who had been the front-runner early in the 2016 race–dropped out after finishing a distant fourth in the February 20 vote.

That leaves Rubio and Cruz as the only Southerners left in the race for the White House, which at one point had featured nine candidates from the region.

The two senators each took 22 percent in the Palmetto State, running 10 points behind the winner, Donald Trump. Rubio’s margin over Cruz was less than 1,100 votes. out of nearly 738,000 cast.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

But after finishing fifth in New Hampshire, catching Cruz was a significant coup for Rubio in his quest to become the mainstream alternative to Trump, particularly now that Bush is out of the race.

“After tonight, this has become a three-person race, and we will win the nomination,” Rubio told supporters at a rally in Columbia, where he was flanked by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Her endorsement of Rubio in the closing days of the campaign is being credited with helping his strong finish.

But across town, Cruz, who won Iowa and came in third in New Hampshire, insisted that it was his campaign that had defied expectations.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

“The screaming you hear now from across the Potomac is the Washington cartel in full terror that the conservative grassroots are rising up,” Cruz said.

However, while both senators were claiming a moral victory, Trump not only won statewide but in all six congressional districts, which means that under the rules of the South Carolina GOP, he will get all 50 of the delegates up for grabs.

An emotional Bush announced his departure to supporters in Columbia after winning less than 8 percent of the vote. He finished sixth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire.

“I’m proud of the campaign that we’ve run to unify our country and to advocate conservative solutions that would give more Americans the opportunity to rise up and reach their God-given potential,” he said. “But the people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision.”

The son and brother of presidents, Bush started the race as the early front-runner, fortified by a super-PAC that had raised more than $100 million. But Trump’s entry into the race took the wind out of Bush’s political sails, and he never recovered.

Bush also had to deal with a challenge from Rubio, who had been a close political ally when they served together in Tallahassee.

After Bush’s withdrawal, Rubio offered an olive branch, expressing his “incredible affection and admiration” for a man he called “the greatest governor in the history of Florida.”

“Jeb Bush has many things to be proud of,” Rubio said.

Cruz, too, spoke warmly about Bush, saying he had brought “honor and dignity” to the race and that he was “a man who didn’t go to the gutter and engage in insults and attacks”–a not-too-veiled swipe at the front-running Trump.

Southern Republicans bunch in third place in New Hampshire primary

Cruz, Bush and Rubio finish within a percentage point of each other, behind Trump and Kasich

♦By Rich Shumate,

on-the-trail-new-hampshireMANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CFP) — The three Southern Republicans in the presidential race all bunched together in a battle for third place in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas came in at 11.6 percent in the February 9 vote, while former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was at 11.1 percent and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida at 10.5 percent, with just 3,200 votes separating Cruz and Rubio.

Donald Trump won the night with 35.3 percent, while Ohio Governor John Kasich had a surprising second place showing at 15.8 percent.

New Hampshire was redemption for Bush, who was given up for dead after a weak showing in the Iowa caucus. But is was a bad night for Rubio, who could not maintain his momentum from a third-place finish in Iowa after a rough debate performance on the Saturday before the primary.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

“Our disappointment tonight is not on you. It’s on me,” Rubio told supporters in Manchester. “I did not do well on Saturday night. So listen to this–that will never happen again.”

Bush–who entered the race as the favorite, only to see his campaign eclipsed by Trump’s surge–was clearly jubilant after a New Hampshire result that put him back in the race as it heads to South Carolina, a state where his family has deep political roots.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

“They said that the race was now a three-person race between two freshman senators and a reality TV star,” Bush said in a speech to supporters in Manchester, referring to Trump, Cruz and Rubio. “And while the reality TV star is still doing well, it looks like you all have reset the race.”

But Cruz, who won Iowa but wasn’t expected to do well in New Hampshire, claimed a moral victory after “a result that all of us were told was impossible.”

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

“Once again the talking heads and the Washington insiders were confident that our wave of support would break against the rock of the Granite State,” he told supporters in Hollis. “Tonight, the men and women here and across this great state proved them wrong.”

After Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump leads in the delegate count with 17, followed by Cruz, 10; Rubio, 7; Bush, 3; and Kasich, 3. A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the GOP nomination.

The next contest for Republicans is the South Carolina primary on February 20.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul drops out of presidential race to concentrate on Senate re-election

Paul’s decision comes two days after he finished fifth in the Iowa GOP caucus

kentucky mugLOUISVILLE (CFP) — U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has ended his quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and will now concentrate on winning a second term in the Senate.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

“Today, I end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of liberty,” Paul said in a statement announcing his departure. “Brushfires of liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I.”

Paul’s decision came just two days after he finished in fifth place in the Iowa presidential caucus, winning just 4.5 percent of the vote. He will now turn to his re-election race in Kentucky, which he was pursuing simultaneously with his presidential bid.

Paul, 53, ran a campaign appealing to the GOP’s libertarian wing, differing from many of his competitors by calling for less international intervention and opposing counterterrorism surveillance programs that he believed threatened civil liberties.

Considered a potential frontrunner early in the campaign, Paul’s campaign failed to catch fire and became mired in single digits in national polls.

The Kentucky GOP changed its presidential nominating contest to a caucus to facilitate Paul’s political double-dipping. But he had been under increasing pressure from within his party to abandon his floundering White House quest and focus on the Senate race, which intensified after he drew a high-profile Democratic challenger, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

Paul, an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, won election to the Senate in 2010 with Tea Party support. He is the son of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who made three unsuccessful tries for the White House.

Paul’s departure leaves three Southern Republicans in the presidential race — U.S. senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush,


Ted Cruz wins Iowa GOP caucus; Marco Rubio comes in a strong third

Cruz defies late polls and beats Trump, while Rubio does better than expected

♦By Rich Shumate,

on-the-trail-iowaDES MOINES, Iowa (CFP) — U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has won the Republican presidential caucus in Iowa, defeating billionaire businessman Donald Trump in a record-setting turnout.

But the surprise of the night was the late surge of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who took more than 23 percent of the vote and nearly knocked off Trump, who led most of the late pre-caucus polls.

Iowa was the end of the line for one of the Southern Republican candidates in the race, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who announced he was dropping out after garnering less than 2 percent of the vote in the February 1 contest.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

Cruz won with 27.6 percent of the vote to 24.3 percent for Trump and 23.1 percent for Rubio. The four other Southern Republicans in the race all trailed in single digits.

Nearly 187,000 Republicans turned out in Iowa, shattering previous turnout records in the Hawkeye State.

Speaking to supporters after the returns came in, Cruz called the result “a victory for the grassroots.”

“Iowa has served notice that the Republican nominee and the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media, will not be chosen by the Washington establishment, will not be chosen by the lobbyists, but will be chosen by the most incredible, powerful force in which all sovereignty resides in our nation–by we the people,” he said.

Despite coming in third, Rubio was clearly jubilant after finishing more than eight points above his standing in the last pre-election poll and setting himself up as the establishment alternative to Cruz and Trump.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

“This is the moment they said would never happen,” Rubio told supporters. “The people of this great state have sent a very clear message–after seven years of Barack Obama, we are not waiting any longer to take our country back.”

Among the other Southern Republicans, U.S. Senator Rand Paul came in fifth, ahead of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who was sixth. Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus when he ran in 2008, finished ninth and announced on Twitter that he was ending his campaign.

In a letter to his supporters posted on his campaign website, Huckabee shot down rumors that he was about to endorse one of the other GOP contenders

“Those rumors are totally untrue. While I may eventually support one of the candidates, right now I have a lot of things to do in wrapping up the loose ends of the campaign, trying to figure out my next chapter of life, and spending some time with my dogs who probably wonder if I had abandoned them,” he said.

The presidential race now turns to New Hampshire, which votes February 9.


On The Trail: Ted Cruz takes small government message to New Hampshire

Texas senator is in a close race for second place in the Granite State’s GOP primary

♦By Patrick Scanlan, contributor

on-the-trail-new-hampshireNORTH CONWAY, New Hampshire (CFP) — U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has been braving the cold New Hampshire weather in hopes of scoring support for his presidential bid from those fed up with the federal government and “establishment politics.”

In North Conway, Cruz met with about 100 supporters packed into historic Zeb’s General Store on January 19. Outside the store, supporters braving the cold held signs that read, “Join the NH Rebellion, Stop the Corruption,” and “Secure Our Border.”


Ted Cruz campaigns in New Hampshire

“We are here because our constitutional rights are threatened every day,” Cruz said, citing what he called infringements on First and Second Amendment rights. He also lamented the size of the current federal government, including “the alphabet soup of agencies that have been killing small business.”

Cruz promised to “repeal every word of Obamacare,” and “keep the government from getting between us and our doctors,” while also pursuing an investigation into Planned Parenthood.

The group, which is the nation’s largest abortion provider, came under fire from Cruz and other conservatives after uncover videos emerged showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing procurement of fetal tissue.

Though Cruz called for decreases in government healthcare regulation, he stressed the importance of “honoring the commitments made to every soldier, sailor and marine.”

While speaking about foreign policy issues, Cruz pledged that during his first day in office he will “rip to shreds the catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal,” so that “under no circumstances will Iran be able to acquire nuclear weapons.” He also spent time addressing the threat of ISIS to the United States.

“We need a commander-in-chief who will say to the world, ‘We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism. We will destroy ISIS.’ If we stand as one and defend freedom and Judeo-Christian values, we will restore the last best hope for mankind.”

While making his case to the New Hampshire voters, Cruz also embraced his role as a outsider who is disliked by the Washington establishment.

“If you see a candidate that Washington embraces, run and hide,” he said.

Recent polling in New Hampshire shows Cruz battling for second place with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, well behind Donald Trump.

Analysis: Road to the 2016 GOP nomination frontloaded in the South

13 of the 14 Southern states have primaries or caucuses before March 15

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states sm(CFP) — For the gaggle of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination, success or failure is likely to hinge on how well they can perform in a primary calendar that is frontloaded with Southern contests.

Between February 20, when South Carolina holds its primary, and March 15, when Florida and North Carolina vote, 13 of the 14 Southern states will hold either primaries or caucuses.

CFP Facebook MugshotIn that three-week stretch, a whopping 824 delegates will be up for grabs in the South, about two-thirds of the 1,237 delegates needed to cinch the nomination. And 471 delegates will be decided on a single day, March 1, when seven Southern states will vote in what is being dubbed the SEC Primary (albeit with a bit of ACC and Big 12 mixed in.)

Having almost all of the Southern states vote early (save West Virginia) is a new wrinkle in this year’s primary calendar that will no doubt add to the region’s clout in the nominating process. So it is perhaps not surprising that nine Southern Republicans decided to run in 2016, with six still in the race (as of this writing.)

While the early states might weed some of them out, the Southern frontloading of the calendar might provide temptation for the also-rans to hang on until they get to more hospitable territory, as there is barely more than a month between New Hampshire and Florida.

However, the last two GOP primary battles argue against the idea that Southerners might be particularly hospitable to Southern candidates. In 2008 and 2010,  candidates from outside the South won twice as many Southern contests (16) as candidates from the South (8).

And if the field remains crowded, the rules under which delegates are allocated could leave Southern delegations fractured as the process heads north and west.

Here is how the process generally works: Each state gets a number of delegates who are selected statewide, and it also gets three delegates for each congressional district. The delegates are allocated based on how well a candidate performs across the state and in each congressional district, and the state’s three members of the Republican National Committee are automatically delegates.

In most of the states, there is a threshold percentage that a candidate has to meet before being eligible for statewide or district delegates, ranging from 5 to 20 percent. In a heavily split field, that means that candidates who don’t finish near the top may not get any delegates, but the delegations could be sliced and diced if multiple candidates cross the threshold.

In five states, candidates who win more than 50 percent of the vote statewide or in a district take all of the delegates; in Tennessee, that threshold is 66 percent. But if the field still remains fractured in mid-March, it is unlikely that any candidate will be able to win an outright majority to sweep most, if not all, of a state’s delegates.

Also, two of the larger states–North Carolina, with 72 delegates, and Virginia, with 49–have no threshold, with all delegates allocated proportionally based on the statewide vote. So no one is likely to sweep either of those states.

The two outliers in this process are South Carolina, which votes Feb. 20, and Florida, which votes March 15. In South Carolina, with 50 total delegates, the statewide winner gets all of the statewide delegates, and the winner of each congressional district receives all three. In Florida, with 99 total delegates, the statewide winner takes everything.

So, for instance, if one of Florida’s two favorite sons in the race–U.S. Senator Marco Rubio or former Governor Jeb Bush–lands in first place by even a single vote, he gets all 99 delegates and the other gets nothing. And if neither of them places first, they will have no Sunshine State support at the convention in Cleveland.

The two biggest prizes in the Southern primary calendar are Florida and Texas, where 155 delegates will be up for grabs on March 1.

While Bush and Rubio will be competing in their home state, only one candidate still in the face hails from Texas–U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. And Texas is one of the states where, if a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the statewide or district vote, he or she gets all of the delegates.

So if Cruz, a favorite son with statewide political roots, could win a majority in Texas, he would need to win a majority in just 19 of the state’s 36 congressional districts in order to match the delegate haul that Rubio or Bush might take out of Florida–an uphill climb in a fractured race, but doable.

The biggest wildcard heading into the Southern primaries is what the region’s all-important block of religious conservatives will do. In 2008, when they coalesced around Mike Huckabee, he won six Southern states; in 2012, when they got behind Rick Santorum, he won four. The South was the best region for both, although it did not work for either of them in the end.


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