Quotes of the day

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has surpassed celebrity businessman Donald Trump as the top pick for the party nomination among Iowa Republicans, a new poll shows, a result of his consolidation of support among the state’s influential evangelical Christian voters…

The poll and other recent surveys have shown that support for Mr. Carson has declined while Mr. Cruz has surged in the state. Mr. Carson has struggled on foreign policy questions in recent campaign forums, while Mr. Cruz has secured endorsements from a roster of conservatives including influential Iowa Rep. Steven King…

“As Ben Carson’s stock has fallen, Cruz has been able to corral most of those voters,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, N.J.

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At this juncture, I think I’d rather be Ted Cruz than anyone else. I believe he is the favorite in Iowa and if he wins, he’s going to come out of there like a freight train, with the wherewithal and organization to make the most of it. At the very least, he’d soak up a lot of delegates and, if things bounced right for him, he could go all the way. I don’t underestimate Cruz’s shrewdness (no one should underestimate Cruz’s shrewdness), but he’s gotten some lucky breaks to be in this position: Walker and Perry out of the race; Rand a non-factor (which is in part Cruz’s doing, but also owes a lot to the environment); Huck getting no traction; and Carson losing altitude. All of this means that Cruz is much closer to consolidating the right than would have seemed possible a few months ago…

Finally, with regard to Trump, perhaps he looks different when we get closer to voting, but he’s not fading, in fact the opposite. I’m not sure what the establishment in particular (which is much less cohesive than advertised) can do to stop him, and if it somehow did deploy a clever anti-Trump device, it would only help Cruz in Iowa at this point. One big question to be answered in the next few weeks, by the way, is whether Trump goes after Cruz, and what that battle looks like. Unless Trump implodes, one of the other candidates is simply going to have to go out and beat him, which shouldn’t be too much to ask of someone who wants to the party’s nominee in a hugely consequential election.

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After being wooed by virtually all the major GOP contenders, the 82-year-old Adelson was believed to be close to announcing his backing of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio shortly after the Dec. 15 Republican debate — an event that, conveniently enough, is being held at the Venetian Las Vegas, a hotel Adelson owns.

That scenario, however, has run into resistance from a surprising source: Miriam Adelson, the megadonor’s strong-willed and equally hawkish wife. An Israeli-born physician, Miriam Adelson has become enamored of late with Ted Cruz, according to four Republican sources close to the couple. The Texas senator has impressed her with his unwavering toughness on national security issues, especially his support for Israel, the issue that the couple cares most passionately about…

A Cruz ally who is closely connected to conservative Jewish circles tells Yahoo News that the Texas senator now makes frequent phone calls to the Adelsons and has impressed Sheldon as well as Miriam. “She likes passionate, ideas-driven people,” says the Cruz supporter. But even if Cruz’ courtship does not result in actual support, his cultivation has a strategic purpose. “This is not just about an endorsement,” says the supporter who is familiar with the calls. “It’s about not being on the other side of them. You don’t want their money going to [super-PAC] attack ads against you.”

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In interviews, speeches and in stealthier ways, Mr. Rubio has abruptly changed course, zeroing in on Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in an urgent effort to halt his momentum with conservative voters in this state and beyond

Mr. Rubio has ample reason to act. Polls show that Mr. Cruz is consolidating support among conservatives in Iowa, which begins the nominating process. A victory here could allow him to gather strength quickly on the right, gain speed in South Carolina on Feb. 20 and potentially become a steamroller by the Super Tuesday voting in many Southern states on March 1. And with right-of-center Republicans like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John R. Kasich effectively making a last stand in New Hampshire, the Republican establishment could be delayed in coalescing around a Rubio candidacy — making stopping Mr. Cruz, or at least slowing him, all the more urgent…

No wonder, then, that Mr. Rubio has taken to tying Mr. Cruz to liberal lightning rods like Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming that Mr. Cruz worked with them “to harm our intelligence programs.” Or that Mr. Rubio is portraying Mr. Cruz as a hypocrite on immigration who backs “a massive expansion” of green cards and of the work visas for foreigners with college degrees and specialized skills…

Mr. Cruz, who welcomes the attacks from Mr. Rubio as confirmation of his own growing strength, is betting that intensive organizing and retail campaigning — a grass-roots effort to mobilize the most devoted conservatives — are still crucial. Mr. Rubio views the race as more of a nationwide contest in which news media coverage and momentum are most critical.

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Sen. Ted Cruz said here Saturday that the 2016 presidential race has entered a more serious phase following the shooting massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., and escalated his rhetoric on foreign policy with a vow to kill Islamic State terrorists.

“If I am elected president, we will utterly destroy ISIS,” the Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate told reporters. “We won’t weaken them. We won’t degrade them. We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. We will arm the Kurds. We will do everything necessary so that every militant on the face of the earth will know if you go and join ISIS, if you wage jihad and declare war on America, you are signing your death warrant.”…

“They’re looking at every candidate for president and assessing who’s prepared to be commander in chief, who has the experience, who has the clarity of vision, who has the strength and resolve to keep this country safe,” Cruz said.

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It’s an effort even longer in the making for Cruz. Over the last two years, the fiery Texan has followed Paul’s political lead on a number of key votes — from the 2013 budget showdown to the NSA-reforming USA Freedom Act and the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this year — in an effort to win over his libertarian fans. As the broader GOP electorate has soured on Paul-style non-interventionism over the same period, Cruz has charted a “third way” on foreign policy, positioning himself in between Paul and the more traditionally hawkish Marco Rubio in an effort to court both camps’ voters. That’s hurt Paul, whose libertarian base of support was never the largest segment of the primary electorate to begin with…

Paul dismissed the threat from Cruz in a meeting with reporters before his speech here, saying that nine of the ten state central committee members who supported his father are backing him in 2016. “We still think the vast majority of the liberty vote is coming to us,” he said.

But unaffiliated Republicans around the state say otherwise. The emerging consensus is that while Paul still probably has the support of most liberty-minded voters, Cruz has peeled away enough of them — from a pool that wasn’t very large in the first place — to make Paul a non-factor in the race…

“I think there’s almost a burnout with the Pauls,” Don, a truck driver, says of Iowa’s liberty voters. “We keep trying to get this done with them, and people feel like they’re beating their heads against the wall. So they’re looking for someone who has those same values, who they like just as much, but who can actually win.”

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One underappreciated element of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign—which has recently come in for a great deal of praise by savvy operators on both sides of the aisle and in the press—are his quiet but effective acts of triangulation

On the one hand, he took nearly as hard a line as anyone in the Republican field on Syrian refugees, even introducing a bill that would bar Muslim refugees from Syria from the United States. Yet he also took a rare step in distancing himself from Donald Trump, who seemed amenable to the idea of registries of Muslims. The message seems to be, Sure, I’m a wild-eyed conservative, but I’m not, y’know, crazy.

Aside from policy, Cruz is conducting another tidy act of triangulation on his own record. Cruz has been positioning himself as an outsider against the deeply unpopular GOP establishment, and not (say) as a U.S. senator and former Bush administration foot solider. Yet he also bridles at any suggestion that he’s inexperienced, as Jim Newell pointed out earlier this year when Cruz tried to differentiate his own record from Senator Barack Obama’s.

So far, this triangulation seems to be working pretty well. Cruz’s numbers are starting to tick up, just as he and his allies predicted. He’s got a strong base among conservatives, and if—as many observers still expect—Trump and Ben Carson fade, he’ll likely corral more. Yet through a combination of his own careful balancing and the Trump and Carson’s tendencies to say outrageous things, Cruz has managed to avoid much scrutiny of his more radical positions, including abolishing the IRS, returning to the gold standard, eliminating rape and incest exceptions for abortion, and breaching the debt ceiling.

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“Very conservative” voters can propel Mr. Cruz to victory in Iowa, a caucus state, but according to exit poll data from 2008 and 2012, those types of voters represent a smaller share of the electorate in every primary state. To win, he will need to broaden his appeal, count on a divided field or hope to face a candidate with even more limited appeal…

More recently, Mr. Cruz has clearly sought to align himself with Mr. Trump, who has an appeal that defies traditional ideological categories, most obviously among many self-described moderate voters in the blue states where Republican insurgents have generally faltered.

But so far, none of these efforts have shown up in the polls for Mr. Cruz. He has made gains mainly insofar as he has maximized his support among his most natural voters. His support among evangelicals appears to be partly a matter of overlap; evangelicals tend to be relatively conservative. This is not very surprising: Evangelical voters have traditionally gravitated toward candidates who are more obviously associated with the religious right, like Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson.

Ultimately, candidates who start with lopsided, factional appeal usually struggle to broaden their base, even when they’re viewed favorably throughout a party, like Bernie Sanders. But Mr. Cruz isn’t facing anyone like Hillary Rodham Clinton; indeed, the establishment-backed candidates are as weak as they have ever been at this stage. A strong factional candidate could win in a year like this.

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Ted Cruz has the same plan to win the GOP nomination as he does to win the general election: appeal to, motivate and turn-out evangelical and disaffected and disgruntled conservative voters. While running to the right in a primary is a tried-and-true strategy, the Cruz campaign is taking that strategy into the general election as well. Cruz eschews the tradition of moving to the middle in the general election, arguing that the key to winning in 2016 is not in wooing moderates but in getting conservatives to vote. Given the Democrats’ dominance in voter mobilization in 2012 (black turnout exceeded white turnout for the first time) and the lack of palpable excitement for Romney among many conservatives, Cruz’s general election strategy looks semi-plausible. However, politics and physics follow similar rules: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The very thing that will motivate the so-called “missing” evangelical and conservative voters to the polls will also bring out those loyal to Democrats, erasing any advantage a fired up base will bring Cruz. Moreover, there’s simply no evidence that the last election was lost because conservatives stayed home…

[T]he biggest problem with the “conservative base turn-out theory” is that it assumes a campaign in a vacuum. Is it structurally possible for a Republican to win a national election getting a bigger share of white, evangelical and conservative voters? Yes, but only if the Democratic coalition doesn’t turn out. However, in order for Cruz to ‘motivate’ his base, he’s going to have to focus on the cultural and social issues that would in turn get younger and minority voters fired up: immigration, gay marriage, and abortion. Plus, these social and cultural issues would also push an even bigger share of the “moderate” vote to Hillary Clinton.

This isn’t 2004. The cultural wars benefit Democrats this time around. Back then, the anti-gay marriage ballot initiative in Ohio was credited with pulling out conservative leaning voters. Now imagine running on an anti-gay marriage platform in 2016. It may turn out evangelicals, but it would also alienate suburban white women and fire up young millennials to vote. Harsh rhetoric on immigration not only alienates Latino voters from the GOP, but it also pushes away younger voters from the GOP.

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Now, this Ted Cruz surge is really interesting. Because you would have to say now that Ted Cruz is the favorite in Iowa. Let’s go forward here to February 1st. Let’s pretend that this is January 31st and Hawkeye Cauci are tomorrow, and then let’s pretend that Cruz wins the Hawkeye Cauci. Can you imagine — I mean, that’s gonna be real votes. It’s not gonna be a poll. Now, we’re hypothesizing here, yes. Can you imagine the way that is going to totally change the media narrative? Ted Cruz, of all these Republicans, winning Iowa? I’m telling you, there are gonna be heart attacks and slit wrists in the Republican establishment and in the media.

It would be bad enough if Trump wins, but Cruz in their minds is just as bad, if not worse. Because Cruz is a conservative. Trump, in their minds, is just a pretender fraud maniac. They can deal with that. But Cruz is a conservative, and that they literally fear like Dracula fears the cross. If Cruz wins Iowa, the momentum that he’s gonna come out of there with is going to be overwhelming, and he’s gonna be piling up delegates…

So now the establishment, they’re really wringing their hands. “Oh, my, do we really want to get rid of Trump because if we pull that off, that means we gotta deal with Cruz. Oh, no.” If they somehow, if the establishment was able to do something to really damage Trump, it’s only going to redound positively to Cruz. In their minds, they are screwed no matter what.

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