February 14, 2016


Jeb Bush Learned to Fight in South Carolina (Isaac Chotiner, 2/14/16, Slate)

Jeb Bush's impressive performance in Saturday night's enjoyably manic Republican debate may very well help him land a third place showing, behind Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, in South Carolina's upcoming primary. Amidst sleepy performances from Gov. John Kasich, Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Cruz, Bush was considerably more aggressive during the CBS debate. He challenged Trump, defended his record, and made a strong national security pitch to voters in a state well-known for it's pro-military views. Despite a handful of pointed exchanges, the other candidates largely ignored Trump. The problem that has bedeviled the party for months--essentially, that the candidates won't unite to take down Trump--remains, and one impressive debate from Bush won't solve it. [...]

[S]omewhat surprisingly, Rubio rose to the defense of George W. Bush, essentially helping make Jeb's case. After months of bashing each other and letting Trump coast, Rubio and Bush focused their negative attention onto the man who is leading in the polls and favored to win the nomination. Rubio drew loud applause from the audience, and Trump seemed momentarily out of his element. But this was the only time that the candidates in any concerted way attacked Trump.

The businessman may have hurt himself by a performance that was, by any rational calculation, unhinged. 

The anybody-but-Cruz-or-Trump move is coming soon (Brent Budowsky, 2/13/16, The Hill)

Most polling suggests that Trump, who is now attacking Pope Francis, would lose and potentially lose big to either possible Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). Trump's negative ratings are so extreme that he could win the GOP nomination and lose the general election by huge margins that could threaten Republican control of Congress.

Cruz, who is probably the most intensely disliked senator in my memory, and who is disliked by senators in the Republican Cloakroom as much as the Democratic Cloakroom, has already employed dirty campaign tactics that have offended many GOP voters and leaders. His campaign has made false statements, suggesting that Dr. Ben Carson would be dropping out before the Iowa Republican caucus. In addition, his campaign sent a menacing letter to Iowa voters shortly before the vote, which could raise legal issues if it used the Postal Service to mail information that was knowingly false. Trump has aggressively attacked this, as well as challenging whether Cruz meets the citizenship standards that would make him eligible to be president.

I expect a movement to promote anybody but Trump and Cruz to emerge shortly after the South Carolina primary. The battle from South Carolina through Super Tuesday through the GOP convention promises to become very ugly.

The problem facing the GOP establishment is that none of the center-right candidates -- all of whom would be credible candidates and presidents -- have emerged as front-runners for the anybody-but-Cruz mantle, which I recently referred to in a column as "Plan C."

Think of it this way, supporters of Trump/Cruz stand to make Larry Tribe the next Supreme Court Justice...
Posted by at February 14, 2016 8:24 AM