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Cruz defies late polls and beats Trump, while Rubio does better than expected
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
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.
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.
“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.
13 of the 14 Southern states have primaries or caucuses before March 15
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(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.
In 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.
Graham’s decision opens up political space for the February 20 South Carolina primary
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Mired in single digits in the polls and relegated to the undercard in the Republican debates, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has ended his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
But Graham, who made national security and the battle against ISIS the centerpiece of his White House run, said his campaign has changed the conversation within the Republican field on those issues, pushing the party toward a more hawkish stance.
“I got into this race to put forward a plan to win a war we cannot afford to lose and to turn back the tide of isolationism that was rising in our party,” he said in a YouTube video posted December 22 announcing his departure. “I believe we made enormous progress in this effort.”
Graham said most the Republican candidates have come around to his thinking on one issue in particular–the need to use American ground forces to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Graham’s departure allows him to take his name off the ballot for the South Carolina primary, avoiding what could have been an embarrassing defeat in his home state.
South Carolina will hold its pivotal presidential primary on February 20, less than two weeks after the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. The vote in the Palmetto State will be the first test of strength in the South.
After his withdrawal announcement, Graham told CNN that he has no plans to endorse any of the other candidates in the field. However, his departure could free up Graham supporters in South Carolina to sign on with other candidates.
During the campaign, Graham has been a strong critic of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, which could give him a strong incentive to back another candidate who could defeat the real-estate magnate.
Graham, 60, won his third term in the Senate in 2014. He is one of the Senate’s strongest hawks on military and national security issues, but he has also run afoul of some conservatives in his party for supporting immigration reform and crossing the aisle to make bi-partisan deals with Democrats.
The remaining Southern GOP candidates are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia.
Jindal’s decision comes after he was unable to gain traction in the polls or a place in the top-tier debates
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Saying it was “not my time,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has ended his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
“We spend a lot of time developing detailed policy papers, and given this crazy, unpredictable election season, clearly there just wasn’t a lot of interest in those policy papers,” Jindal said in a November 17 appearance on Fox News, where he announced he was suspending his campaign.
“Certainly, we thought it would end differently, but the reality is, this is not my time.”
Jindal, 44, whose term as Louisiana’s chief executive ends in January, said he will return to the think tank he founded, America Next, after he leaves office.
When he was elected in 2007, Jindal, a former congressman and official in the George W. Bush administration, was one of America’s youngest governors and was considered to be a rising star in the GOP.
But amid a budget crisis in Baton Rouge, Jindal saw his approval ratings back home plunge, and he was unable to get out of the low single digits in polling of the crowded Republican presidential field.
Jindal had been relegated to the second tier in the first three GOP debates.
Jindal becomes the second Southern Republican to exit the race, joining former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who left in September.
The remaining candidates are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia.
Kentucky senator makes pitch to Latino libertarian group in Las Vegas
♦By Andy Donahue, Chickenfriedpolitics.com contributor
LAS VEGAS (CFP) – Just hours after CNN’s Republican presidential debate, U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky barnstormed Nevada, taking his presidential campaign on a four-city sweep of the key early caucus state.
Paul began his Nevada tour in Carson City before attending events in Reno and Ely and wrapping up with an appearance at a Latino public policy forum at the College of Southern Nevada near Las Vegas on September 17.
The event was hosted by the LIBRE Initiative, a non-partisan group that advocates limited government and free enterprise, providing a congenial and receptive audience for Paul, who hails from the libertarian wing of the GOP
Paul made frequent, poignant allusions to Spanish literature throughout his address while telling his own narrative of learning small amounts of Spanish from immigrant children his own age while growing up in Texas. He said the vast wealth and income discrepancies between him and these children were instrumental in his dedication to immigration and border security solutions.
To address these inequalities, Paul is campaigning on an immigration plan built on the economics of supply and demand, advocating for job specific visas that are “proportional” to the number of openings for each job.
Paul saluted the Latino community’s shared commitment to hard work, telling the audience that he “never sees a Hispanic pan-handler.”
Paul also quoted Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a source of “advice Republicans might consider,” reciting a line from “Love in the Time of Cholera” to call on his country and his party to seek renewal:
“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them … Life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
Nevada will hold its presidential caucuses on February 23, 2016, with 30 delegates at stake. It is the fourth event in the 2016 primary calendar–after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina–and the first test of strength in the West.
Paul is one of eight Southern candidates in the GOP race. The others are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jim Gilmore of Virginia; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
The lone Southern seeking the Democratic nomination is former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.