Monday, February 1, 2016

The End of the Beginning

Presidential political campaigns have three phases.

In Phase One (the Beginning) the candidates work to raise money, build a ground game organization and raise their political profile with the voters. This phase ends today and Phase Two begins with the Iowa Caucus votes to be followed in short order with primary elections across the country over the next several months where actual votes are counted.

The Final Phase culminates with the General Election on November 8.

On the GOP side, three candidates appear to have risen above the rest of the field in the Beginning Phase.

Donald Trump (The Jerk), Marco Rubio (The Politician) and Ted Cruz (The Brain).

Trump-The Jerk

Trump has confounded the other candidates in the field and dumbfounded the political experts with his lead in the polls at "The End of the Beginning."  He is the candidate that people either seem to love or hate. There does not seem to be much middle ground.

For example, in the final Des Moines Register poll Trump is the choice of 28% of potential GOP voters but an incredible 47% of likely caucus goers in the state view him unfavorably. This is practically unheard of in politics.

How can almost half of your own party's voters have an unfavorable view of a candidate and he can still be leading?

I attribute it to the fact that Trump is a good salesman. And he sells himself better than anyone. He has proven that in this Beginning Phase. No one has done a better job of keeping his name and profile in the media. No one has also done a better job of successfully putting other candidates on the defensive. No one has done a better job of resonating with voters.

At the same time, even most of those who say they will vote for him admit that he is abrasive and annoying.  Others could possibly think of another word beginning with "a" they would use to describe Trump.

However, due to the times that we are living in today that actually works to Trump's advantage.

Yes, he can be all those things that begin with an "a" but I believe many of his supporters think it is about time that we had someone like that working for America.

"He may be a jerk but I want him in the foxhole with me" may carry the day for Trump.

Marco Rubio-The Politician

Rubio has shown himself to be the dream GOP candidate for 2016. He is young, Hispanic and hails from a critical swing state (Florida). He also has shown himself to be the most articulate and politically polished candidate in the race to this point.

Rubio would present a difficult challenge to any of the potential Democrat candidates (Hillary, Bernie or Biden (who knows what still lurks on her email server?) all of which are older, whiter and a products of deep blue states.

Rubio's weakness is his failed attempt at immigration reform with the Gang of Eight that hangs over his head in the GOP Primary and a background that involves almost nothing but politics.

Rubio is like a lot of officeholders in that his whole adult life he has been in politics. He was elected a City Commissioner shortly after graduating from law school and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives before he was 30 years of age. He found the right calling because he is good as a politician but it is about all he knows.

You know Trump doesn't need politics. He was a great businessman. You know Cruz doesn't need politics. He was one of the best Constitutional lawyers and litigators in the country before running for office. You can't say the same thing about Rubio. Without politics you are not sure where he would be on the success scale.

Marco may have that question mark but the prospect of Rubio on the GOP ticket has to be giving Democrat strategists fits. He is a great political package.

Ted Cruz -The Brain 

Ted Cruz has spent his entire life being the smartest guy in the room. In high school, where he memorized the U.S. Constitution and made money giving speeches about it. In college at Princeton, where he was the U.S. Collegiate Debate champion. In law school at Harvard, where even liberal law professor Alan Dershowitz called him one of the smartest students he ever taught in over 40 years at the school.  On the Supreme Court, where he was a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Cruz has also shown a very structured and methodical approach to the Beginning Phase of this campaign with impressive fundraising as well as building what many consider to be the best campaign organization of any of the candidates.

The big question mark about Cruz is whether he can prove to be likeable enough for voters to embrace while he also deals with questions as to why fellow Senators and other political pros are not rushing to endorse his candidacy.

As to the latter concern, here again as with Trump, Cruz may actually be able to use this to his advantage as the race plays out. He is actually an outsider who has been inside and has not liked what he has seen. And those insiders don't like it one bit.

It is not always easy being the smartest guy in the room. It is not easy to work with others when you are two steps ahead of everyone else. It becomes all too easy for others to be jealous or bitter of your talent.

However, give me smart every day of the week when I am choosing my President. The issues are too big, the stakes too large, to worry about a rough edge or two along the way. I like Cruz for his smarts.

How Will It End?

The end of the beginning is here. However, how will it really end in November?

That is up to the voters beginning in Iowa. Here is the full primary calendar over the next six weeks. I believe we will have a pretty good idea who the Republican and Democrat candidates will be by the middle of March. Keep an eye on the calendar.

The 2016 Republican primary calendar looks like this between February 2-March 15.

Tuesday, February 2
Iowa caucus (GOP)

Tuesday, February 9
New Hampshire

Saturday, February 20
South Carolina

Tuesday, February 23
Nevada caucus

Tuesday, March 1 (Super Tuesday)
Colorado caucuses
North Carolina

Saturday, March 5

Tuesday, March 8
Hawaii Republican caucuses

Sunday, March 13
Puerto Rico

Tuesday, March 15

I will be happy with any of the three GOP candidates profiled above.

I can live with a jerk, a politician or a brain.

All would be vastly better than having a socialist or a security risk in The White House.

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