For leaders of the Republican establishment, things could not look much worse. They desperately need one of the four conventional, mainstream candidates—Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, or Marco Rubio—to pull away and consolidate that wing of the party, the way Ted Cruz has done on the Right. But after Rubio’s robotic debate showing, it looks less likely now that the New Hampshire primary will winnow the field as much as they hoped.
We will all know a lot more by Tuesday night, but a few things are already apparent. While Donald Trump will almost certainly win the New Hampshire primary, he is not going to dominate it or many other places the way polls were showing just a month or two ago. Trump was averaging about 35 percent of the GOP vote in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally, meaning that 65 percent of Republicans were not for the bombastic real-estate mogul. Presumably his supporters were familiar with him, and they liked at least some of what he said, the way he said it, and the way he positioned himself as an anti-politician candidate. That is still true, but knock about 10 points off his poll numbers. He’s averaging about 25 percent, with 75 percent of Republicans not for him. So this is no longer Trump versus the field; this is just a steady Trump with about a quarter of the vote.
Rumors of the demise of Ben Carson’s candidacy were premature, though ultimately not wrong. He is no longer a major factor in the race; he just hasn’t dropped out as Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum have.
Establishment Republicans seriously doubt that Trump could win a general election. Even if he did, they don’t think he has the faintest idea how to govern or the temperament to deal with Congress and world leaders. Making matters worse, he has a simplistic and shallow understanding of issues and public policy. But for all of the contempt they have for Trump, those same establishment figures despise Cruz. In 43 years in Washington, all on and around Capitol Hill, I have never seen anyone alienate more people, in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle, more deeply than Cruz has. He thought it politically beneficial to antagonize the establishment, and he did an amazingly effective job of it, too well for his own good. So the establishment is now faced with a potential choice of shooting itself in the head or stabbing itself in the heart (you can decide which man represents each option).
None of the candidates favored by the establishment seems capable of pulling away from the other three. After his surprisingly strong showing in Iowa, Rubio looked like he might do it, but his shockingly bad debate performance Saturday night squelched his momentum in New Hampshire, and tracking polls show him losing altitude. The same polling is showing both Bush and Kasich moving up and passing Rubio. Christie’s strong debate performance and the abundance of late-deciding voters preclude writing him off either.
How much winnowing occurs depends on who comes in first among the four conventional candidates, who is second, the size of the gap between the two, and whether the third and fourth candidates are in hailing range. Rubio will certainly survive New Hampshire, but for the other three, it’s now or never.
Rubio’s challenge is how to regain his footing as a smooth, articulate candidate without appearing overly programmed. In the debate, he was a human jukebox: Hit C-7 and you knew exactly what you’d hear. Staffers and consultants prize a candidate who stays on message, but not to the point of sounding scripted or robotic. At a small dinner that a group of us had with Rubio early last year, he came across as smart, poised, and disciplined, but a little too well-rehearsed, a little too canned. At a similar small dinner in July with Cruz, he was disciplined as well, but you could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he formulated answers. Nothing was canned with him.
If the establishment doesn’t coalesce behind a candidate soon, it will have to figure out a way to make peace with Cruz. He’d be hard to love, but possible to tolerate.
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Until last month, National Security Advisor John Bolton chaired the New York-based nonprofit Gatestone Institute, which promoted "misleading and false anti-Muslim news." The group published articles warning of a looming “jihadist takeover” of Europe leading to a “Great White Death," alleged that “no-go zones” existing in Europe due to violence from Muslim migrants, and published one story called: “Rape Capital of the West," which focused on Somali migrants in Sweden. The research, which was occasionally amplified by Russian media outlets and Twitter bots, also criticized mainstream European leaders for failing to confront the so-called crisis.
"Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan has resigned following days of large-scale street protests against him." Sargsyan had previously served 10 years as President, and protestors accused him of clinging to power. "In 2015, Armenians voted in a referendum to shift the country from a presidential to a parliamentary system, stripping powers from the president and giving them to the prime minister." Sargsyan's government has also been criticized for failing to ease tensions with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and "for its close ties to Russia, whose leader Vladimir Putin also moved between the positions of president and prime minister to maintain his grip on power."
President Trump "welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron the White House" today to begin a three-day state visit "expected to be dominated by U.S.-European differences on the Iran nuclear deal and souring trade relations." Trump has vowed to scrap the Iran nuclear deal "unless European allies strengthen it by mid-May." After meetings on Monday and Tuesday, Macron will address Congress on Wednesday, "the anniversary of the day that French General Charles de Gaulle addressed a Joint Session of Congress in 1960."
"A sheriff in Illinois says Travis Reinking," the suspect in a mass shooting that killed four people in a Tennessee Waffle House on Sunday, had his state firearms card revoked last year by state police, but that "his guns were given to his father with the promise that they wouldn’t be shared with his son ... Huston says Reinking’s father has a valid firearm ownership card, and his officers didn’t believe they had any authority to seize the weapons." Police are still searching for the 29-year-old suspect.