Quotes of the day

Republican senators, the pillars of the party establishment, are anxiously awaiting the Iowa caucuses on Monday to find out if Donald Trump is the real deal or simply a media-hyped mirage

Only a few months ago GOP senators were predicting that Trump would fade away, but with the first contest of the presidential primary only days away, they admit he has a good shot at winning the nomination…

One Republican senator, who requested anonymity to discuss the race, said Trump could outperform the polls because prospective voters have been more likely to announce their intention to vote for him when surveyed by a computer instead of a live pollster.

“You could make an argument that he’s going to way overperform because there’s a huge [polling] spread between if a person calls and a computer calls. People are far more likely to say they’re going to vote for Trump if a computer calls. They support Trump but are embarrassed to admit it,” he said.


There is near-unanimity that the best campaign infrastructure among all the GOP candidates belongs to Cruz.

The Cruz campaign’s communications director, Rick Tyler, told The Hill that the campaign had named chairpeople to every one of Iowa’s 99 counties “quite a while back.” He added, “today, we have over 12,000 volunteers averaging 2,000 door-knocks a day, 20,000 calls per day.” The Cruz campaign has a designated precinct captain in “almost all” the 1681 precincts across the state, Tyler said…

Tyler also emphasized that the Cruz operation is making full use of data-driven techniques. He said technology was not only being utilized to identify Cruz supporters. It was also helping staff and volunteers learn how to most effectively make the argument to persuadable voters on the Texas senator’s behalf…

Cruz also enjoys a more traditional advantage: Evangelicals and other conservative Christians form a bedrock of his support — and they are among the most reliable of all GOP caucus-goers.


A wide range of senior Republicans told POLITICO that if Trump wins Iowa, he’ll more than likely be the nominee. One factor they repeatedly pointed to: An Iowa victory over Cruz would validate opinion polls showing him in command of the race. The Trump phenomenon would officially become a reality…

A top official of a rival GOP campaign, speaking anonymously to avoid offending his candidate, said: “If Donald Trump wins Iowa, I think he has won—period. Ted Cruz is supposed to win Iowa. If Trump wins, he’ll be on a trajectory to come out of the SEC primaries [March 1] with close to triple the delegates of anyone else.”

One of the nation’s best-known Republican strategists, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his close connections to the leaders of several of the campaigns, said: “Only Trump can stop himself. All his opponents can do is cause him to do things that make him less appealing.”…

“If he was running dead even with Cruz or Rubio or someone in New Hampshire okay, yeah he still has momentum. But he’s got momentum on top of these crazy numbers he’s held forever in New Hampshire,” said Ted Jackson, a GOP strategist in Kentucky. “I mean, that would be a lot to stop. A lot.


Cruz has spent the last several days defending himself on all sides, from Trump and Marco Rubio to the pro-ethanol lobby and GOP governor Terry Branstad. He’s found himself looking for support in small, rural corners of the state that ought to be already solidly in his corner. He’s been forced to defend a shady last-minute get-out-the-vote effort. And in the Iowa Poll, he’s seen his favorability dip by 11 points since the beginning of January.

So Cruz’s final pitch in Sioux City, aided by endorsements celebrity and otherwise, didn’t seem like the culmination of a campaign that aimed to consolidate the conservative vote. It felt more like a rag-tag effort, patchworked together to stave off an out-of-control revolution that threatens the Republican party, or at least Cruz’s role as its leading conservative firebrand…

And there’s little doubt Cruz worked harder than just about anyone. He fits six campaign events in a day when most candidates might allow three. He’s built a strong organization that unites evangelicals, homeschoolers, and libertarians. In Iowa, the Cruz campaign can point to more than 12,000 volunteers, more than 1,500 precinct captains, more than 20,000 phone calls and 2,000 doors knocked on every day. By the time Iowans caucus on February 1, Cruz will be able to say he’s campaigned in all 99 counties, with county chairs of his campaign in each one.

If all that can’t seal the deal, what can?


Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said he “can’t envision” his party not beating its previous turnout record of about 122,000, set four years ago. He said telephones at party headquarters have been ringing constantly for the past week, day and night, with people wanting to know how and where to caucus. “It is just nonstop here,” he said. “We’ve got literally hundreds of calls a day. . . . I’ve got a hunch a lot of these folks are going to show up.”…

If Kaufmann’s hunch about turnout is correct, that bodes well for Trump, the New York billionaire who has eschewed traditional interactions with voters in favor of huge rallies…

“We know the names of the people that are choosing between us and Trump, between us and Rubio, between us and Carson,” said Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager.

Roe laid out the challenge in pinpoint detail at a breakfast with reporters Friday: The Cruz operation believes there are exactly 9,131 voters trying to decide between him and Trump, 3,185 between him and retired neurosurgeon Carson, and 2,807 between him and Rubio.


Somehow, against all the evidence, Rubio has successfully spun that he’s gunning only for third place here. In sharp contrast, Cruz’s campaign, touting its superior ground game, has openly pined for and predicted victory…

Iowa has always been about more than the final standings on caucus night. It’s about beating the political-pundit prediction market as the campaign heads to New Hampshire and beyond. Now it appears that Cruz, if he doesn’t win outright — and he trails Trump in most recent surveys, including The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll released Saturday evening — could finish ahead of Rubio and yet still be cast as the evening’s big loser…

Curiously, both campaigns have embraced the other’s narratives. Rubio’s operation has pumped up Cruz. And Cruz’s team has tamped down Rubio, trying to cast the race as a two-man contest between their candidate and Trump. It amounts to one of the most strategically significant gambles of the campaign…

The Rubio campaign has been more than happy to play along. Its leaders have taken to calling Trump the “greatest show on earth” while lauding Cruz for “the greatest ground game we’ve ever seen,” as Rubio communications director Alex Conant put it on CNN. As Rubio’s Iowa director, Clint Reed tweeted on Saturday, “If @tedcruz can’t win in Iowa where CAN he win?”


What’s remarkable is that Trump is leading despite fact that’s he’s a deeply polarizing figure among Republicans: Nearly half of likely caucusgoers (47 percent) view him unfavorably, while 50 percent view him favorably. Trump’s +3 favorability rating is well behind the favorability ratings of Ben Carson (+50), Marco Rubio (+49), and Ted Cruz (+37)…

The poll found that Trump would lose a two-man race against Cruz by 18 points–53 percent to 35 percent. Close to a majority of Iowa caucusgoers (48 percent) have become less comfortable with Trump winning the GOP nomination. And largest percentage of caucusgoers (37 percent) said the nomination of Trump would be “not OK” with them. (Just 20 percent said the same of Cruz and 15 percent said the same of Rubio.)

“There’s this group that really wants Trump,” says Selzer. “Seventy-one percent of Trump’s supporters say they’re locked in. That’s the most intense of anybody.” And that intensity is enough to put Trump in first place in a divided field.


In recent cycles, ideology and religious affiliation have functioned as the most important divides in Republican nominating contests. Candidates have struggled, for instance, to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, because the former usually favors the candidates preferred by evangelical Christians and the latter tilts toward more secular and often more moderate economic conservatives…

But Trump has disrupted all of these calculations by assembling an unprecedented coalition that barrels through the party’s traditional boundaries.

“Everything was through the prism of the olden days and Trump not being a creature of politics … didn’t think like that,” said David Carney, a long-time New Hampshire based Republican strategist, who is neutral in this race. “That has freed him up. He is not trying to go after little segments; he is trying to go after everybody, with a very general message.”…

Trump’s rivals all have different theories of how they would assemble a coalition against him. Cruz hopes to work in from the right; Christie, Bush, and Kasich to build out from the center; and Rubio to dip into all of the party’s factions. Yet all are operating on the common belief—or maybe the hope—that Trump cannot expand his support enough to win if the race eventually becomes a one-on-one contest. “His Achilles’ heel is his ceiling,” said the senior strategist for another campaign. “He is continually the candidate not only with the highest very favorable rating, but the highest very unfavorable rating. He is utterly unacceptable to a very significant portion of the Republican electorate. And while he may be getting somewhat more acceptable to some of the donors, there is a huge portion of the Republican Party that will never ever support him. Ever. And the question now is: ‘What is the size of that group?’”


Get your Drudge Sirens ready. If Trump not only wins but blows out the competition, with both Cruz and “savior” Rubio flopping, Monday will be one of the most famous days in American political history.3 Although there might be some hope of anointing a new savior in New Hampshire — Bush, Kasich or Christie — other party elites might begin to capitulate toward Trump, as is already happening to some degree.

Could Trump get off to an extremely strong start, winning the first several states along with most of those in the “SEC Primary” on March 1, only to fail later on? Well, perhaps. The GOP calendar backloads a lot of winner-take-all or winner-take-most primaries in blue and purple states into April and beyond, so Trump could emerge with huge amounts of momentum but not be anywhere close to mathematically clinching the nomination. To some extent, we’d be in uncharted territory, since a Trump-like candidate has never gotten off to such a strong start before. But for Trump to lose, someone would have to beat him, and if both Cruz and Rubio blew their chances, it’s hard to know which candidate that would be. In my view, it would be safe to say that Trump had become the odds-on favorite to win the nomination, but where he’d fall on the spectrum between 51 percent and 99 percent I’m not sure.


[I]t may sound absurd to cast a figure like Donald Trump, the much-married prince of tinsel and pasteboard, as a scourge of decadence rather than its embodiment.

But don’t just think about the word in moral or aesthetic terms. Think of it as a useful way of describing a society that’s wealthy, powerful, technologically proficient — and yet seemingly unable to advance in the way that its citizens once took for granted. A society where people have fewer children and hold diminished expectations for the future, where institutions don’t work particularly well but can’t seem to be effectively reformed, where growth is slow and technological progress disappoints. A society that fights to a stalemate in its foreign wars, even as domestic debates repeat themselves without any resolution. A society disillusioned with existing religions and ideologies, but lacking new sources of meaning to take their place…

With Trump, the message is crude, explicit, deliberately over the top. Make America Great Again. “We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with the winning.”

But it resonates because the diagnosis resonates — especially with older Americans, who grew up amid the post-World War II boom, the vaulting optimism of the space age, the years when big government and big business were seen as effective and patriotic rather than sclerotic and corrupt. Trump is offering nostalgia, but it’s not a true reactionary’s lament. He wants to take us back to a time when the future seemed great, amazing, fantastic

There are pathways up from decadence. But there are more roads leading down.





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