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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

 
Explaining the obvious (and not so obvious)

by digby
















Now that we're going into the stretch in Iowa and New Hampshire the punditry is getting thick. And you have to love pieces like this one:

With less than a month until the Iowa caucuses, there is a reason the Republican front-runner for president, Donald Trump, isn’t under attack: Everyone else is running for second place.

Other Republicans appear to have conceded the first place position to Trump — for now. But on Monday, Ted Cruz attacked Marco Rubio, whose Super PAC attacked Chris Christie, who in a speech attacked first-term senators (like Cruz, Rubio, and Rand Paul). Paul attacked Christie, and then Governor John Kasich of Ohio hit both Christie and Rubio. It’s clear now the fight is to be in the final round with Trump in the next few months.

The math makes sense. The only reason Trump, with about 30 percent of support in national and state polls, is leading the race is because the other 11 candidates split up the remaining 70 percent. If somehow the contest were between just Trump and “someone else” down the line, it would appear that “someone else” would easily take out Trump.

This has, of course, been obvious since oh, around July. I'm pretty sure we have all known at least since then that if Trump managed to keep his lead of 30-40% it would require the remaining field to consolidate around one other candidate to defeat him.
The game now appears to be in helping voters and donors answer the question: if not Trump, then who?


Yeah, no kidding.

But hey, maybe people are just now paying attention ...

Meanwhile, the rumors are flying. Here's a good pundit and analyst Ed Kilgore, unpacking one of the juiciest for us:

The late stages of the invisible primary would not be complete without reports of intrigue and skullduggery in Iowa, with campaigns forming tactical alliances against common enemies. We have one today from National Review's Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson, who report that supporters of the last two caucus winners, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, are so bitter at being eclipsed by Ted Cruz that they are conspiring to block the Texan and instead elevate Marco Rubio. There's only one problem with that scenario: Under Republican caucus procedures, there's no way the disgruntled social conservatives can achieve their alleged goal without damaging their own candidates, who will probably drop out if they don't do surprisingly well in Iowa.
Kilgore explains that it's only the Democrats who have that arcane system where you barter support at the caucuses which means that this report is even more intriguing that it seems on the surface:
Are Huck and Santorum zealots really so angry at Cruz that they'd screw over Huck and Santorum to help Rubio? That's not at all clear. Yes, the campaigns of the two former caucus winners are going after Cruz hammer and tongs, trying to exploit Mike Allen's pseudo-scoop about Cruz telling an audience in sinful New York that fighting same-sex marriage would not be a "top-three priority" (long story short: Cruz enclosed the issue in his top priority, defending the Constitution as he misunderstands it). But that's because the Texan is obviously the primary obstacle to their survival in Iowa. Helping Rubio try to beat him by giving away any of their own meager support would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise.

The intrigue-within-the-intrigue is burnished by the fact that the only people on the record validating the part of the cabal involving surreptitious support for Rubio are (1) a 2012 Santorum supporter who's now neutral, and (2) Craig Robinson, proprietor of influential web page the Iowa Republican, who's not really a Christian right figure but who does for some reason seem to hate Ted Cruz. There is a quote from a Santorum campaign official saying that Rubio's immigration record is "more honest" than Cruz's, but that's in the context of condemning both.
Kilgore says this story seems to have either been planted by the Rubio camp of is coming from Huck and Santorum staffers looking to get their guys to quit so they can go to work for Rubio. The latter seems likely since the NR reports that Huckabee's campaign manager is close to the Rubio campaign manager.

In a field this big it's not really all about winning is it? It's about sustaining the jobs of all these political pros. And at this point none of them seem ready to give it up.

Normally, I'm all about waiting for the votes to come in. Calls for candidates to drop out always leave a bad taste in my mouth. If people are still voting for them and they want to stick with it either to spread their message or influence the party that's their privilege. But in this case, with Trump and Cruz at the helm I can see why the party would exert some serious pressure to consolidate sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, "the party" barely exists anymore.

Pull up a chair. This is going to be a real doozy of a couple of months,

.