Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cruzing Into Iowa

A quick check of the speedometer:

"On Saturday, Cruz surged to a 10-point lead in a new Des Moines Register-Bloomberg News poll of likely Republican caucusgoers in Iowa."

What good are polls, other than to inform the current narrative?

"Ted Cruz betting big on southern evangelical voters" by Tracy Jan Globe Staff  December 09, 2015

WASHINGTON — For months, the Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz has quietly laid the groundwork throughout the South, as he hopes to move from a strong showing in Iowa’s caucuses to wins in crucial Bible Belt states, including South Carolina, which votes Feb. 20, and a string of Southern states that vote March 1.

The latest glimpse of his strategy to target arch-conservative voters came this week, when Cruz offered only muted disagreement with Donald Trump’s call to close the borders to Muslims and refused to join the other Republican candidates in denouncing Trump for the idea.

A new poll Monday showed Cruz seizing the lead from Trump in Iowa. Nationally, Cruz has jumped into a statistical tie for second place, along with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, as Ben Carson’s standing has faltered.

“Cruz has got a lot better path to the nomination than a lot of people know of,” said Henry Barbour, a Mississippi GOP strategist who is unaffiliated with any campaign, noting that nearly 500 delegates are up for grabs in the half a dozen conservative states from Georgia to Texas that vote March 1. “Cruz is doing a better job than most in those states.’’

His message of God, guns, and liberty is especially appealing in the Deep South, where evangelical Christians are between 57 and 80 percent of GOP primary voters.

In New Hampshire, the first primary state, where only 21 percent of GOP primary voters identify as white evangelicals, Cruz remains mired in the lower ranks of candidates despite 13 visits to the state.

Cruz supporters say he has been carefully preparing for a Southern surge. He launched his campaign at a Christian university in Virginia. His first ads ran on Easter Sunday, on Christian-related broadcasts. He is the only candidate to have swept through a large swath of the South, on a seven-day, seven-state trip in August that his campaign dubbed the #CruzCountry Bus Tour.

Cruz has a campaign chairman in nearly every county in Georgia and Tennessee, including prominent Tea Party activists. His organization is so robust in Georgia, with volunteers to spare, that the campaign is deploying teams of Georgians to Iowa and South Carolina.

Jim Beck, the president of the Georgia Christian Coalition, who is volunteering as Cruz’s faith outreach coordinator — the first presidential campaign he’s ever been involved in, said, “Quite candidly, the most discriminated group in America is Christian Southerners, because everybody thinks we are these ignorant rednecks.”

Another key Georgia booster for Cruz is a former carpet mill owner turned obsessive radio talk show caller named Joe McCutchen. The 76-year-old spends eight hours a day campaigning for Cruz, often from his home library in the 1,600-person Appalachian mountain town of Ellijay.

He used to call in to CNN on Saturday mornings back in the day.

“Talk radio is going to elect Ted Cruz,” said McCutchen, who regularly calls into a conservative radio show broadcast from Augusta, near the Georgia-South Carolina border.

McCutchen earned national acclaim as a Mitt Romney superfan in 2012, proclaiming his devotion over the airwaves. Now he answers his phone with an upbeat “Cruz for president.” He wears a rectangular Cruz badge everywhere he goes, including a recent Georgia Tech football game, striking up conversations with strangers about his presidential pick.

“I’m even more fired up about Ted than I was about Mitt,” McCutchen said.

Bob Davis, a GOP consultant and former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party who is not working for any presidential candidate, said much of Cruz’s support in the state comes from rural communities and the wealthy “collar counties” ringing Nashville — “conservative, God-fearing, hard-working Americans.”

Cruz, being from Texas, “touches on all those kinds of values,” he said. “Cruz’s folks are going to turn out and vote. That’s another reason why he’s dangerous.”

Interesting choice of words.

Cruz is trying to secure the endorsement of a pastor in every county in Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. The campaign holds screenings of a documentary about the erosion of religious liberty for Christians in America and urges pastors to discuss the issue with their congregations.

Doesn't that border on violation of church and state?

“The ideology and political mind that Ted Cruz represents is so easily embraced by those of us who are pastors,” said Lyndon Allen, pastor of Woodmont Bible Church in Nashville and chairman of “95 Pastors for Cruz.” “If you couple that with his strong constitutional background, which is a document with Judeo-Christian anchors, that combination is irresistible.’’

Well, the government does think those that are informed of the Constitution as dangerous.

Cruz is competing against formidable challengers appealing to an overlapping demographic — white voters fed up with Washington and turning towards antiestablishment outsiders.

Trump has held megarallies across the South and still leads many polls there. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and author of more than half a dozen books published by a Christian publisher, has inspired a devoted following with his best-selling life story.

Even former Florida governor Jeb Bush, an establishment candidate trying to gain traction, is stumping at college football games across the region. And Rubio has been campaigning heavily this month in South Carolina, Alabama, and Texas.

“The Cruz people are positioning themselves for victories in the South. If they don’t get those, it’s very hard to see how Cruz could get the nomination,” said Merle Black, an Emory professor who studies politics in the South.

Fellow Republican Lamar Alexander, a center-right senator from Tennessee who has yet to endorse a primary candidate, discounts Cruz’s recent rise, saying that “95 percent’’ of Southern voters have yet to make up their minds. “They will be looking for a real president, not someone who appeals to an extreme point of view,” he said in an interview this week. 


And he's involved with kids.

David Panton, an Atlanta-based private equity manager who donated $100,000 to a Cruz super PAC and who was Cruz’s roommate and debate partner at Princeton, said he believes Cruz will emerge as the nominee because of his “strategic focus — both in terms of the demographics he needs to court as well as his understanding of the delegate map.”

It’s a playbook he’s used before — while running for Senate in 2012, when he took on the Texas establishment by targeting the same demographics and building a grass-roots army of evangelicals, Tea Party supporters, and libertarians. He defeated the sitting lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, in the Republican primary, by 13 percentage points despite being outspent 3-to-1 — in a race characterized by the Washington Post as the biggest political upset of the year.

“This is not Ted’s first rodeo,” Panton said.


Time to hit the gas:

"Increasingly, Iowans say their caucuses are Ted Cruz’s to lose" by Jonathan Martinand Matt Flegenheimer New York Times  January 06, 2016

ONAWA, Iowa — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has become the candidate to beat in the caucuses. Many Republicans think the only thing standing between him and a victory Feb. 1 is a groundswell of first-time or infrequent voters turning out for Donald Trump, of the sort that materialized for Barack Obama in 2008.

Cruz has gotten to this point by amassing an energized and growing coalition of Christian activists and antiestablishment Republicans, an extensive organization, and a deep reservoir of money. But he is also benefiting from a splintered opposition that lacks either the money or the will to halt his rise.

Some supporters of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, privately say they believe Cruz can’t be defeated in Iowa. While those claims may in part be an attempt to build up expectations, more revealing is that neither Rubio nor the well-financed outside group allied with his campaign has so far spent money on television ads in Iowa assailing Cruz.

That's odd. I was told he was focusing on Iowa.

Maybe he is skipping it instead.

“It does feel like it’s now Cruz’s to lose,” said Matthew N. Strawn, a former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.

That has left Cruz the favorite to win the state and emerge as the preferred candidate of the party’s conservative wing. And with a win here, an unexpectedly strong showing in New Hampshire eight days later, and victories in South Carolina and many of the Super Tuesday states on March 1, he could quickly become the de facto party nominee.

Cruz, obscured for much of last year by a shifting cast of attention-getting rivals, is relishing the turnabout. Barnstorming Iowa on a six-day tour, he is even displaying a touch of swagger. Joined on his 45-foot bus by a phalanx of aides and a camera crew from Showtime, and with a second motor coach carrying a swelling group of reporters, Cruz boasted with barely concealed delight.

It could be a bit of overconfidence; he may be at the height of his powers.

But what gives his team pause — Trump, whom Cruz praised for months, has begun to taunt the senator, raising questions about his Canadian birthplace and his faith.

And since Ted had to memorize the Constitution he knows he's ineligible to be president (if you want to go by such a document. I know it's a quaint piece of paper that is ignored these days).

But he has stopped short of attacking Cruz and Cruz, responding to the birthplace slight Tuesday, posted a video clip on Twitter from the infamous jump-the-shark episode of “Happy Days,” but has repeatedly declined to say more.

Ironically, the propaganda pre$$ isn't aware that they have done that.


"Cruz, who has long maintained there is no issue with his Canadian birth since his mother was a US citizen, repeated Saturday that ‘‘the laws and facts are quite straightforward.’’ Despite that infighting, there is little evidence of widespread alarm from establishment Republican leaders and their well-funded supporters about Trump and Cruz. The two have almost completely escaped paid attacks, particularly in Iowa. On Saturday, Cruz concluded a six-day, 28-stop trek across Iowa, drawing overflow crowds everywhere." 

You had to be born on U.S. soil, Ted.

Under Ted Cruz’s own logic, he’s ineligible for the White House

So says a constitutional scholar (btw, he did find them again), but he can be easily dismissed.

At least he wasn't left speechless and isn't a joke of a campaign.

Other rivals have not given Cruz a free pass: He is coming under attack from the winners of the last two Iowa caucus votes, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Both their candidacies are barely registering in Iowa polls. 

Iowans have seen them before and said "Nope!"

Conversations with dozens of Cruz supporters suggest that the deep dismay Iowa Republicans feel about Washington is prompting them to coalesce behind Cruz, whom they see as the only viable conservative contender.

“We need a winner,” Susie Lee, 50, said Monday before Cruz made a late-night stop at a diner in Missouri Valley. “Huckabee and Santorum are great guys, but they haven’t been in office like Senator Cruz has, fighting.”

Pamela Oviatt of Logan, a Santorum backer four years ago, showed up before 9 p.m. for Cruz’s 10:30 p.m. appearance. She said there was little talk among activists for any of his rivals. “Cruz is the only one that’s in the political system now that anybody is looking at twice,” she said....


Looks like a “bad idea all around” because conservative evangelical leaders may be coalescing behind Cruz.

"Trump and Cruz are nearly tied in recent surveys of the Iowa caucuses, which come eight days before the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday showed Cruz leading Trump, 28 percent to 24 percent, among likely caucus-goers."

RelatedCruz, Trump running close in latest poll of GOP in Iowa

It's Cruz 25, Trump 22, and "the poll indicates that while Trump’s supporters are more committed, the firebrand junior senator from Texas appears to have more room to increase his support. Still, Trump’s ability to close the 10-point gap that Cruz had opened up over him a month ago is more due to Cruz losing altitude than Trump gaining it."

Rubio is third at 12, Carson fourth with 11, and Cruz has gone on the attack against Trump.

Welcome to Camp Cruz:

"Ted Cruz’s father gives him edge among conservative Christians" by Tracy Jan Globe Staff  January 27, 2016

MARION, Iowa — Meet Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz’s 76-year-old father, a crucial — if sometimes divisive — element of the Texas senator’s campaign to win over conservative Christian voters. The senior Cruz’s crusades at churches across Iowa have paid big dividends; with strong support among evangelicals, Cruz has pulled within striking distance of front-runner Donald Trump in next week’s first-in-the-nation caucus.


I was told above he was leading, then losing altitude, now within striking distance. 

What the hell is the narrative for the 2016 pre$idential $election anyway?

Rafael Cruz has drawn criticism for making incendiary statements: He has compared President Obama to Fidel Castro and advocated that the president be sent “back to Kenya.” He accuses gay activists of trying to legalize pedophilia. He contends public schools are brainwashing children with secularism. But among many Christians here, he’s preaching to the choir, drawing cries of “Amen!” “Preach!” and “C’mon!” from the pews.

For more than a year, Rafael Cruz, a trim, spry man with a ring of white hair, has been preaching the same fire and brimstone sermon at churches and in private meetings with pastors all over Iowa and the country, on a mission to rally this critical demographic toward political activism — and support his son for the presidency.

Can't ask any more of a father.

As Ted Cruz embarks on a final barnstorm through Iowa’s pizza parlors and steakhouses, the elder Cruz is on a parallel track, hitting two to four churches a day.

Since Rafael Cruz was the subject of negative media attention early last year, the campaign has tried to keep him somewhat less visible, declining to publish his schedule or grant most interview requests. The Globe found him through the state’s network of Christian activists and briefly interviewed him at a dinner with pastors in Des Moines.

When Rafael Cruz was asked by a reporter to respond to critics who dismiss his views as extremist, a campaign aide hovering nearby whispered to him not to answer. The advice was ignored.

“If they don’t agree, they don’t agree,” said an unapologetic Cruz. “But my son is trying to be president to all Americans.”

Ted Cruz said in an interview that his father is a powerful voice for freedom and that his message should resonate deeply even among non-Christians.

Christian conservatives say they are particularly drawn to Rafael Cruz because of his dramatic life story. He was an active opponent of Cuba’s Batista dictatorship who fled to the United States in 1957 on a student visa and $100 sewn into his underwear. He studied math at the University of Texas Austin, learning English by watching movies and supporting himself by washing dishes.

So he got out before Castro's rise, but was against the U.S. and Mob puppet at the time.

He and his second wife, an American, eventually moved to Canada, where Ted Cruz was born in 1970. But Rafael Cruz, an alcoholic, abandoned his wife and toddler son and returned to Texas. It was there that he found God, leading him to reconcile with his family in 1975 and bringing them back to the United States.

By the time Ted Cruz was 9, his father was providing heavy doses of conservative Christian politics at the dinner table. By 13, the younger Cruz had memorized the Constitution and through high school toured the state of Texas, delivering speeches on free market economics and the Constitution.


“Essentially his father groomed him for this moment,” said Steve Deace, a conservative Iowa radio talk show host who has endorsed Cruz. “That backstory was crucial in influencing a lot of people.”

Emphasizing the family’s religious ties within Iowa’s Christian community seems to be working. While Trump is holding on to a lead of around 5 points, Ted Cruz remained the favorite among evangelical Christians, according to the latest Des Moines Register poll: 37 percent of self-identified evangelicals or born-again Christians supported Cruz, compared to 17 percent for Trump.


Still falling in the polls but has pulled within striking distance?

Of Iowans who have said they plan to caucus next week, between 40 and 50 percent identify as evangelicals, said J. Ann Selzer, pollster for the Des Moines Register.

“Rafael is an amazing closer,” said Bryan English, Cruz’s Iowa state director and a former pastor who shuttled Rafael Cruz all over the state in his Dodge Dakota last year to more than 1,000 meetings. “Too many politicians over the years come in, wave a Bible, quote a couple of verses, and think they’re a part of our movement. We’ve been burned.”

The elder Cruz, many evangelicals say, speaks to the authenticity of Ted Cruz’s relationship with God. That’s a key reason he won the sought-after endorsement last month of Bob Vander Plaats, president of The Family Leader, an influential Christian advocacy group.

Globe says Glenn Beck will propel Cruz to a win.

The next day, at the Marion church, Cruz, dressed in a blue suit, railed against the abolition of prayer and Bible reading in schools as the cause of skyrocketing teen pregnancy, dropout rates, and vandalism. Now, he said, “homosexual marriage” is the latest “frontal attack on religious liberty.”

“The devil overplayed his hand because this decision has acted as a catalyst to awaken the sleeping giant,” Cruz said, his voice booming through the church. He never mentioned his son’s name.

On Monday, about 150 Iowa pastors attended a private dinner at a Des Moines airport hotel hosted by David Lane, a Christian activist from California whose group, American Renewal Project, mobilizes pastors to run for political office.

The dinner served as a final opportunity for pastors to hear from Ted Cruz himself. Lane, who allowed the Globe to attend the closed event with the agreement of the campaign, has hosted similar dinners for other candidates, including Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. But Cruz has drawn the largest crowd by far, double that of Rubio’s, Lane said.

RelatedGuns and ‘good people’

Who does he think he is, Trump?

Maybe he should just quit.

As guests dined on honey pecan chicken and strawberry cheesecake parfaits, Ted Cruz delivered his father’s mantra of the importance of voting on biblical values.

I must admit, I always like to know what the political cla$$ is dining on as we are served GMO-garbage, poisoned produce, and general gruel from government.

“What matters in the next 167 hours is who shows up on caucus night,” Cruz said. “This is entirely about turnout. And the men and women in this room have the power to change the election and the course of history.”

Sitting a few feet away, Rafael Cruz looked up at his son and beamed....

As would any proud father seeing his boy running for president and looking like he's got a shot, and that's when I got up and started walking away.

That is in no way an endorsement of Ted Cruz from this blog, although I know you are all anxiously awaiting who I will endorse because it just may, it just might, swing the entire course of the $election. All the campaign managers come here for the pulse of the people for I speak for them (blog editor slyly smiles; yeah, right. Maybe they should).


Maybe we should send them back home?

"Obama administration loosens Cuba embargo with new measures" Associated Press  January 26, 2016

HAVANA — The Obama administration is loosening the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba with a new round of regulations allowing American companies to sell to Cuba on credit and export a potentially wide range of products to the Cuban government for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

The changes are President Barack Obama’s third attempt to spur U.S.-Cuba commerce despite an embargo that still prohibits most forms of trade with the island.

U.S. travel to Cuba has exploded since Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro declared detente in 2014. But U.S. hopes of building wider trade between American businesses and Cuba’s private sector have been largely frustrated by Congressional reluctance to end the embargo itself and by the island’s labyrinthine restrictions on imports, exports and private business.

All jammed up in the Cuban bureaucracy, 'eh?

Obama says he hopes to visit Cuba before he leaves office but a trip would depend on the progress being made in relations between the two countries. Tuesday’s move appears designed to jumpstart commerce between the two countries and remove some of Cuba’s biggest excuses for not opening its economy to trade with the U.S.

‘‘Just as the United States is doing its part to remove impediments that have been holding Cubans back, we urge the Cuban government to make it easier for its citizens to start businesses, engage in trade, and access information online,’’ National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

Among a host of other measures, the new regulations allow U.S. firms to offer Cuban buyers credit on sales of non-agricultural goods, addressing a longstanding Cuban complaint about a ban on credit.

Print ended there.

The vast majority of Obama’s new regulations have been aimed at spurring U.S. trade with Cuban entrepreneurs instead of with the state-run firms that dominate the economy. The Cuban government says that U.S. focus on private business is partly responsible for the island not opening its economy in response to the U.S. loosening of the embargo. 

Gee, my print left it like it was all Cuba.

The U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday that it would now allow U.S. exports to Cuban government agencies in cases where it believed the Cuban people stood to benefit. It cited agriculture, historic preservation, education, food processing and public health and infrastructure as government-controlled sectors that it would not allow to receive goods from the U.S. on a case-by-case basis, potentially opening up a huge new field of commerce between U.S. business and the Cuban government.

‘‘You would expect that this would open up a lot of areas where there should be enhanced trade,’’ said James Williams, head of the anti-embargo U.S. group Engage Cuba. He said that while Obama’s initial exceptions to the embargo were criticized for not reflecting a deep understanding of Cuba, the new regulations were much more attuned to the peculiarities of Cuba’s state-controlled economy. 

This is getting in$ulting.

Cuban officials issued no immediate comment on the changes and state media made only brief mention of them in the first hours after the U.S. announcement.

Anti-Castro figures in the U.S. have long argued against Obama’s opening with Cuba, saying it empowers the state rather than the Cuban people and Tuesday’s announcement gave them ammunition.

‘‘These regulations are more proof that the Obama Administration’s intent has never been to empower the Cuban people but rather to empower the Cuban government’s monopolies and state-run enterprises,’’ said Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American U.S. senator from Florida. 

I'm confused. The gi$t of this article seems to be claiming the opposite.

The new measures expand the different instances in which Americans can travel to Cuba without a specific permit, including filming movies and television programs, conducting market research and commercial marketing and organizing professional meetings and sports events. 

Is Cuba giving them tax credits and $ub$idy checks, too?

While the embargo prohibits pure tourism, Obama’s changes have largely turned the ban into a toothless honor system requiring travelers to self-report the purported legal reason for their travel to their airline or travel agent and then not engage in tourism on the island.

The new changes make the tourism ban even harder to enforce by expanding the number of credible reasons that an American could be in Cuba. The new measures also contain a number of technical changes designed to allow regularly scheduled flights between the U.S. and Cuba, a potentially massive change agreed upon by the two countries late last year. 

Trying to catch a flight out now.

Travelers now must go through third countries or take inconvenient and expensive charter flights. Regularly scheduled flights could bring hundreds of thousands more American travelers to Cuba every year.


Finally, out of Cuba.

Let's check that campaign account before hitting the road again:

"Cruz raises almost $20 million in year-end surge" by Maggie Haberman New York Times  December 31, 2015

Sen. Ted Cruz raised significantly more money in the final three months of the year while Ben Carson maintained his pace in fundraising during that period, according to numbers released by the Republican presidential hopefuls’ campaigns.

Cruz and Carson were the first of the 2016 candidates to release broad-stroke details of how much money they raised during the fourth and final quarter of the year.

Cruz has been rising in polls, particularly in Iowa. Carson, meanwhile, reported raising roughly $23 million, a small increase from the nearly $21 million he raised in the previous quarter.

The figures were notable given that Carson has recently slipped in polls after being pummeled by reports questioning some of the details of his life story, which he has used as the basis for his candidacy. The retired neurosurgeon has also struggled to answer elemental questions on foreign policy as national security has risen as a significant issue for voters.

Several candidates had no plans to release numbers on Thursday, according to aides. For some, that was a function of the fact that the final day of fundraising could bring in more money. For others, delaying a potentially bad story about low fundraising to the end of January, the day before the Iowa caucuses, may be a factor.

On the Democratic side, none of the three candidates had released their numbers....

That $ide is a different post.


Then it will be on to New Hampshire and who knows

Do you know who I think would be good at the bottom of the ticket (it would be catchy, too)?

Of course, he has to be vetted first:

"Trump, Carson struggle before Jewish group" by Jeremy W. Peters New York Times  December 04, 2015

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump and Ben Carson may not have reduced doubts about their seriousness as leaders and their understanding of global affairs Thursday as they delivered meandering speeches to one of the country’s most influential Republican Jewish organizations.

Carson, who has been trying to reverse perceptions that he does not have substantive knowledge about foreign policy, repeatedly mispronounced the name of the militant Palestinian group Hamas as he rushed through a prepared script before the Republican Jewish Coalition. He kept calling it something that sounded more like hummus.

It was an event with a heavily Jewish audience but no Jewish speakers, and there were plenty of attempts by the candidates to telegraph their affinity for the religion. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas: “We are facing a moment like Munich in 1938.”

The gathering was intended to serve as a forum for Republican presidential candidates to engage in a high-minded discussion on Israel and the role of the United States in an increasingly dangerous world.

See who comes first there?

And while there were many serious and alarming assessments of national security from the candidates, the event quickly veered from sober to surreal.

Carson, who has ad-libbed his way into several controversies during the campaign, began with a lighthearted warning that he would “actually be using a script.”

He rushed through his words and rarely broke from the prepared text to make eye contact with his audience. His speech — part basic history lesson on the Middle East and part observational narrative with his own take on the underpinnings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — was full of generalities from a candidate who has been criticized for not being well-versed in foreign policy. 

I'm getting the feeling Ben will be dropped from consideration for veep.

“The world is complicated; the Middle East is even more complicated,” he said at one point.

He read through an array of disparate topics, from circumcision to John Quincy Adams’s support for a Jewish homeland to his own recent trip to Israel, during which he said he feared he might be shot.

The audience received him politely.

Other candidates took turns explaining how they would combat terrorists and help repair America’s relationship with Israel....

Here is the clearest sign to date that both governments are working to heal their relations.

If the rift was even real

Why is it that U.S. presidents always wait until their 7th year to criticize Israel as they continue to steal more land (before being evicted like Palestinians)?


So how do you think the vetting went?

"Carson staffers quit, question his readiness for White House" by Bill Barrow and Thomas Beaumont Associated Press  December 31, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa — Several top aides to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson resigned on Thursday, citing frustration with the influence of the retired neurosurgeon’s business manager and questioning his readiness for the White House.

Barry Bennett and Doug Watts, both seasoned political operatives, stepped down with less than five weeks before voters in Iowa begin the nominating process with the state’s Feb. 1 caucuses.

Bennett was Carson’s campaign manager. Watts was communications director. But Bennett said Carson’s longtime business manager, Armstrong Williams, is the adviser who has Carson’s ear, even though Williams does not have a formal role in the campaign.

Carson is ‘‘one of the smartest men I’ve ever worked for,’’ Bennett said, but added that he believes Carson has become Williams’ ‘‘script reader.’’

Bennett said that made it difficult to advise Carson and raised questions in his mind about what kind of president Carson would make if elected.

‘‘You have to surround yourself with good people,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘And he hasn’t demonstrated that he can do that. No one wants Armstrong Williams anywhere near the Oval Office.’’

Williams replied Thursday: ‘‘Barry and I agree. I will be nowhere near the Oval Office when Dr. Carson is elected president. I will remain in my private practice.’’

Williams also disputed Bennett’s characterization that his influence is inappropriate, and said the departures were more firings than resignations. ‘‘I’m sure Barry resigned because he wanted total control and he wasn’t going to have that,’’ Williams said.

Carson’s campaign released a statement Thursday describing staff changes as ‘‘enhancements’’ that ‘‘will shift the campaign into higher gear.’’ Along with Bennett and Watts, deputy campaign manager Lisa Coen also left.

Retired Army Major Gen. Robert Dees, who has been advising Carson on foreign policy and military affairs, will serve as campaign chairman. Ed Brookover, formerly a senior strategist, will serve as campaign manager.

The staff turmoil at the highest reaches of the Carson campaign is the latest setback for his presidential bid. As quickly as Carson rose to the top of the GOP field, he began to falter. In the last two months Carson [has] struggled to establish foreign policy credentials amid increased voter concerns about national security.

Bennett and Watts’ decision to leave the campaign came a week after Carson told The Associated Press in an interview that he was considering a major staff shakeup, only to walk back those comments hours later.

‘‘This allows Dr. Carson a fresh start,’’ Williams said....

They are now ‘‘moving forward in Iowa.’’ 


"Carson’s new campaign chief a true believer" by David Weigel Washington Post  January 01, 2016

On Thursday, Ben Carson’s presidential campaign officially promoted Major Gen. Robert Dees from foreign policy adviser to campaign chairman. It was not just a reboot, but a return to the campaign Carson had always wanted, less driven by consultants than believers. Dees, a vice president at Liberty University, had never worked for a campaign before. But he had spent most of his life in the military, from Israel to Europe to the DMZ between North and South Korea. He’d worked for Microsoft, sometimes ‘‘working directly with Bill Gates.’’

All of that made him perfect for this iteration of the Carson campaign, which would acknowledge the mistakes of the fall and focus on the essential greatness of its candidate. In November, New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel published a damaging front page story that quoted another Carson foreign policy adviser bemoaning that he wasn’t taking enough meetings to ‘‘make him smart.’’

Dees was quoted far down in the story, disagreeing with that. Later, in an email to a national security listserv, he worried that ‘‘the high vis comments by former CIA operative Dewey Clarridge were very detrimental to a positive narrative about Dr. Carson’s national security quotient,’’ that Clarridge had only twice met with Carson, and that ‘‘having survived a phase of character assassination by MSM, et al; we are now in a phase I would call policy assassination.’’

Have you seen the tape?

He sounded like a campaign chairman. And a few weeks later, as of Thursday, he was.

‘‘There’s been a false narrative that suggests Dr. Carson does not know anything about foreign policy,’’ said Dees. ‘‘I’ve been working with him since February. I have been to every continent, I have dealt with plenty of leaders, and I will tell you, he is ready for this job. We’ve developed a lot of policy proposals, but we haven’t been truly executing them, and that’s going to change.’’

If you read the papers you get used to them.

Dees’s arrival in the Carson orbit was the sort of thing that used to happen often, before politics intervened. At the start of 2015, Carson and Dees both attended services at Second Baptist Church in Houston. Carson was the icon of ‘‘Gifted Hands,’’ and Dees had assisted with projects like the Military Ministry of the Campus Crusade for Christ, working to ‘‘help troops and families have faith in the foxhole, and hope on their homefronts.’’ The two of them were introduced, then sat together at a dinner hosted by Terry Giles, who would become Carson’s campaign chairman. The neurosurgeon who worked all hours bonded quickly with the two-star general who took daily 6 a.m. swims.

The dinner went on -- two, three, four hours -- as Dees and Carson talked. ‘‘Even back then, who knew what were wrestling with and what the threats to this country were,’’ said Dees. ‘‘Way back into the 1990s we’ve known we’ve had some enemy within working against us.’’

‘‘I want to sustain the very successful things going on in the campaign,’’ he said. ‘‘That includes fundraising, that includes field, and that includes social media. We’ll be streamlining and integrating our messaging process so that we’re much more agile, and a lot more media friendly.’’

End print.

Dees would come to that with the sort of experience that Carson had lacked -- defending social conservative ideas, and criticizing radical Islam, in the media

That's a false narrative, seeing as 9/11 was an inside job by USrael and all the terror groups are U.S.-created, funded, and directed.

This year, when Carson first gained in public polls, Dees’s long record as an evangelist was profiled by James Bamford in Foreign Policy magazine. Carson’s musings about the threat of Islamic infiltration, surmised Bamford, might be ‘‘a reflection of the troubling worldview of the people he has turned to for advice.’’ People like Dees. 

The real infiltration goes unnoticed.

If the criticism bothered Dees, he didn’t show it. ‘‘You need to consider the source,’’ he said. ‘‘Being a vice president at the largest Christian university in the world -- is there something wrong with that? That’s part of the culture we live in. Aren’t things reversed in so many ways?’’ 

He's right about that!

Dees referred to his trilogy of books about Resilience, and specifically to the 2014 conclusion ‘‘Resilient Nations.’’ In it, Dees discussed the idea of Moral-Spiritual-Infrastructure, or MSI, and whether America’s leaders and culture were weakening it. He’d spoken about that plenty.

‘‘The moral readiness is degraded by social experimentation within our military,’’ he once told conservative CNSNews. ‘‘In fact, social experimentation is improperly named, because it’s not an experiment at all -- it’s a top-driven mandate for social agendas.’’

In ‘‘Resilient Nations,’’ Dees explored his worry that decisions like that were driving America to the brink by depriving it of morality and greatness. ‘‘Is our MSI solid and stable, or is it sadly weakened, on the brink of collapse and irreversible consequence?’’ Dees asked. ‘‘At the height of Roman decadence, good became evil and evil became good. One can rightly argue that the United States is frightfully close to a similar fate. Prayerfully, it is not too late.’’ 

It's way too late.

In Carson, Dees saw another person who was fearless about saying the right thing. He just needed to navigate the media that pronounced it wrong.

‘‘He’ll say something, and maybe they’ll be a big uproar, until people scratch their heads and they say - that’s right,’’ said Dees. ‘‘After they realize he’s expressed their sentiments, there’s outpouring of support. His stances on radical Islamic terrorism, on the downsides of potential sharia law -- they are legitimate, they are valid, they are true.’’ 

What, here?

Just hours after taking over the campaign, Dees allowed himself to go a little further. Carson, he said, had ‘‘serious proposals’’ and ‘‘a very good knowledge of defense and national security,’’ as embodied in his Seven Steps to a Safer America. He had touched on everything from the best legal way to make war on ISIS to the outline of a ‘‘war-time emergency visa and immigration policy’’ to the need to ‘‘fully investigate the Council on American-Islamic Relations.’’ What was his competition?

‘‘There are some candidates out there who don’t know what the nuclear triad is,’’ said Dees, referring obliquely to Donald Trump. ‘‘There are some who do not seem to know what ‘carpet bombing’ is.’’ That was a reference to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, - who, with Trump, had leapfrogged Carson in the Iowa polls. Dees was on message. The press conference that would officially introduce him as chairman was a whole weekend away.

What evil events have they planned for 2016?


Time for me to get out of Iowa.


"After jabs at Trump, GOP debate turns to issues" by Matt Viser and Annie Linskey Globe Staff  January 29, 2016

DES MOINES — Republican presidential candidates Thursday night, in their final debate before the Iowa caucuses, wrestled over policy differences and conservative credentials but only after tossing a few sarcastic barbs at the missing candidate: Donald Trump.

“I’m a maniac,” said Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the candidate closest to Trump in the polls, poking fun at Trump’s insulting debating style. “And everyone on this stage is stupid fat and ugly.

“Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way, I want to thank everyone here for showing respect to the people of Iowa,” said Cruz, in one of several quips at the businessman’s expense.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush also resorted to a bit of sarcasm.

“I kinda miss Donald Trump,” Bush said. “He was a teddy bear to me. We had such a loving relationship.”

Be careful what you wish for, jerk.

But Trump, who decided to boycott the debate over his ongoing feud with Fox News, was spared substantial criticism as the focus quickly turned to foreign affairs, immigration, and the candidates’ competing visions for American conservatism.

That feud with Fox should make him more electable(?), but I'm interested in the foreign affairs portion of the debate.

In his absence, the debate lost some of the unpredictability and heat of earlier forums, with a greater focus on policy differences.

Bush continued to grapple with his family legacy, which has become a weakness in a contest where conservative GOP voters are hungering for change.

“Look, I’m establishment because my dad — the greatest man alive — was president of the United States, and my brother, who I adore as well, was a fantastic brother and was president — fine, I’ll take it,” he said. “I guess I’m part of the establishment because Barbara Bush is my mom. I’ll take that, too.” 

Then take them and end your campaign. We don't want you, and I know the ma$$ media is trying to build the narrative for you, but....

Held four days before the Iowa caucuses, the debate offered candidates one of the last big chances to shake up the race. It also afforded Cruz the chance to be at the center of the stage, and he was the target of much of the candidates’ attacks.

Cruz at one point took on Fox News moderator Chris Wallace, complaining that the questions were designed to pit him against the rest of the field.

“The last four questions have been: ‘Rand, please attack Ted,’ ‘Marco, please attack Ted,’ ‘Chris, please attack Ted,’ ‘Jeb, please attack Ted,’ ” Cruz said.

Wallace shot back: “It is a debate, sir.”

“No, no, a debate actually is a policy issue,” Cruz said, and then added: “But I will say this, gosh, if guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage.”

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, with a coy smile, added: “Don’t worry, I’m not leaving the stage no matter what you ask me.”

The candidates disagreed strongly over immigration. Bush, displaying some of the passion that his supporters have long wanted, pointedly criticized Rubio for backing away from immigration reform legislation he pushed in 2010.

“He cut and run because it wasn’t popular amongst conservatives, I guess,” Bush said. “We should have a path to legal status for the 12 million people here illegally.”

My printed paper was mostly Cruz attacking Trump there. Rand Paul was never even mentioned in my printed paper. 

So Bush is taking a position that is anathema to the base and yet somehow this guy is going to square off against Clinton so that the secrets of the last 50 years can be kept?

Trump had dominated media coverage in the 48 hours before the debate by announcing Tuesday he would not show up.

One could even say he won the "debate" without even showing up.

He was protesting Fox News’ refusal to remove one of its star anchors, Megyn Kelly, as one of the moderators. Trump has sparred with Kelly dating back to the first primary debate in August, when she pressed him on disparaging comments he had made about women. This week he said on Twitter, “I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo,” and then, 24 hours later, retweeted someone calling her just that.

That's where he loses me. You can't attack that beauty!

Cruz, who in most polls is running behind Trump in Iowa, challenged him to a one-on-one debate.

I've tracked it for the last 7 weeks here in this post, and the contradictions and mixed messages behind the narrative leads me to believe its about confusing things so much that an incredibly unrealistic result can be rigged. 

Can't believe the polls!

He said he booked space for Saturday night in Sioux City and they could square off without any moderator. Trump responded on Twitter by alluding to questions, which Trump has stoked, about whether Cruz’s birth to an American mother in Canada disqualifies him from seeking the presidency. “Can we do it in Canada?” he wrote. 


I'll tell you this: the comedians will love a Trump presidency.

An RNC spokesman said such a debate between two candidates would violate party rules.

Even in the final hours before the debate, many of Trump's opponents still expected him to show up. Bush said he had a $20 bet hanging on the chance Trump would come. 

Didn't that kind of thing get Romney in trouble last time? 

Is that why the Globe scrubbed that paragraph for the web version?

The debate took place as Trump continues to dominate in national and early-state polls, and with some in the party starting to worry that the billionaire businessman, who is openly running against party elites, could notch early-state victories and win the nomination. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Thursday showed Trump moving past Cruz in Iowa, with a 32 percent to 25 percent lead. He also maintains large leads in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the next two states to vote.

Although the debate was held in a conference center in downtown Des Moines, many of the candidates seemed to have their sights set 1,300 miles away in New Hampshire.


A group of more mainstream candidates — Christie, Bush, Rubio, and Kasich — are in a vigorous fight to distinguish themselves and catch up to Trump before the Granite State primary Feb. 9.

The next debate will take place on Feb. 6 in Manchester.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, on the stage after not making the previous debate, defended his libertarian positions, which have faded from the discussion in the wake of domestic and international terrorist attacks.

With Trump’s absence, Ben Carson stood as the sole person on the stage who’d never held political office.

“You won’t hear a lot of polished political speech from me, but you will hear the truth,” said Carson, a former brain surgeon. “I’ve had more 2 a.m. phone calls than anyone else here, making life or death decisions.”

You won't see him in my printed Globe article, either.

Bush is still in the hunt largely based on a rejiggered campaign focused on performing well in New Hampshire. But he still needs a break-out moment and a way to gather momentum.

Related: Bush tied for 2nd in N.H., poll finds


Kasich has been gaining traction in New Hampshire but is mired in the pack with Bush. Christie has fallen in several recent polls.

Christie touted his ability to work across the aisle. Kasich made little effort to appeal to the angst that outsider candidates are trying to tap into, saying, “If you want to be commander in chief, you have to have the experience.”

Before the prime-time debate, a quartet of candidates who did not meet the polling threshold — Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Jim Gilmore — faced off in an undercard debate.

For the second debate in a row, Fiorina offered her opinion about Hillary Clinton's marriage. "If my husband did what Bill Clinton did, I would have left him long ago," she said. 

Web Globe edited that last paragraph out, too. 

Yeah, that qualifies her to be president.

Some of the candidates — particularly Huckabee and Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and 2012, respectively, but are now mired in the lower tier — criticized the media for their low standing in the polls.

“This race is called the undercard debate, it wasn’t advertised significantly, the entire run-up to this the conversation wasn’t about anyone on this stage,” Santorum said. “The entire lead-up to this debate was about whether Donald Trump was going to show up for the next debate.”

Globe even cut that short.

He also chided news organizations for not including him in their polls.

"This media is manipulating, shaping, and framing this campaign," Gilmore said. "This is wrong. It has to change."

I think he just got my vote!

Following that debate, and seeking any attention they could possibly garner, Santorum and Huckabee planned to head to the Trump event. 

Looking for a place in the Cabinet or spot on the ticket?


I didn't see anything on foreign policy in there, did you?? 

Was as absent as Trump.

And look who is sulking.

Also see: Four things to watch in the Iowa caucuses and beyond

Take a look for yourself.

Candidates fan out to make final pitches before Iowa caucuses

With Donald Trump seeming secure in the lead, the fight for second or third — or just ‘‘better than expected’’ — was underway.

So Trump is going to win Iowa going away?