Yes, Donald Trump is leading in the Republican 2016 Presidential Primary national polls with a Real Clear Politics Average of 34.8% vs. his nearest competitor Ted Cruz at 18.8%. However, for weeks, the Texas Senator was beating the real estate magnate in the upcoming crucial February 1 Iowa Caucus. Much is at stake in Iowa for Cruz, because even though a win in Iowa will not guarantee the party nomination, a candidate who loses both Iowa and New Hampshire will have difficulty securing the nomination.
Trump has been pulling out all the stops to cut into Cruz’s Iowa support including peddling the narrative that Cruz is ineligible to run for president because he was born in Canada to an American-born mother and a Cuban-born father. Cruz has held his own against the powerhouse publicity generator particularly during the January 14 Fox Business News Debate where he called out Trump’s faulty “birther” logic by using his own argument against him. Cruz proclaimed that if you accept the extremist argument that both parents need to be born in the United States in order to run for the presidency, Trump is ineligible to run because his mother was born in Scotland. In fact, most pundits said that Cruz won the debate.
Cruz barely had a moment to bask in the glory of his successful debate before “The Donald” swooped down and grabbed the spotlight from him with an endorsement from conservative darling former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee, Sarah Palin. This endorsement came as a real slap in the face to Cruz as Palin had been a past supporter of his. And if this news wasn’t enough, while Cruz and Trump are still running neck and neck in most Iowa polls, the newly released January 21 CNN/ORC poll has Trump at 37% in Iowa, an 11 point lead over Cruz who is at 26%. Incidentally, the same poll has Bernie Sanders leading Hillary 51 to 43 in Iowa.
Governor Palin’s endorsement of Trump has been described by The New York Times as “the highest-profile backing for a Republican so far.” Palin publicly announced her support for the Trump candidacy at a Trump event at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa on Tuesday January 19, the same day that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad also announced his support for Trump. In addition, on Wednesday January 20, former Kansas Senator and 1996 Republican Presidential Nominee Bob Dole commented that the Republican Party would suffer “cataclysmic” and “wholesale losses” if Ted Cruz were the party’s nominee and said that Trump would be a better candidate as he could “probably work with Congress, because he’s you know he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of deal-maker.” Other Republicans have also expressed concern about Cruz’s ability to appeal to the party as whole and have accused Cruz of having deployed divisive tactics, including referring to the Republicans as part of a Washington Cartel. “I think we’ll lose if he’s our nominee,” said Orrin Hatch (Utah), the most senior Republican in the Senate.
Trump also received a warm reception at Liberty University. Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of Christian evangelist and Liberty University Founder Jerry Falwell Sr., delivered a glowing introduction for the Republican front-runner, describing him as a “breath of fresh air’ who is not “a career politician” but is instead “someone who has succeeded in real life.” Liberty University’s 501 (c) (3) status precludes Falwell from endorsing candidates and the University has also hosted Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Bernie Sanders. Ted Cruz announced his race for the presidency at Liberty University last spring, but did not receive the glowing preamble bestowed upon Trump.
The Palin endorsement is clearly a huge coup for the Trump campaign. Sarah Palin is well loved by both the Tea Party and the evangelicals. She also is known for being a great networker with a comprehensive donor contact list, not to mention a strong base of support within Iowa. The Palin support also sinks the air out of Ted Cruz’s comments that Donald Trump espoused New York’s “socially liberal values.” After all, the former Governor of Alaska is hardly representative of “New York values.”
The skeptics from both the right and the left are already questioning the Trump-Palin partnership. The liberals are wondering why Donald Trump would align himself with the former VP candidate who was mocked by the left as an uninformed, unsophisticated lightweight. Conservatives are also scratching their heads as to why Palin would endorse Trump who has repeatedly been described by the Republican establishment as not being a “true conservative”.
For their part, the Cruz Campaign is trying to diminish the role of Trump-Palin partnership and Trump’s growing Republican Party support. According to Cruz Spokesperson Catherine Frazier, the GOP establishment is now running to Trump because they “want a candidate who will cut deals to keep them in power.” However, the American people want a leader, like Cruz, who will “break up the Washington cartel and restore our nation’s safety and prosperity.”
Cruz thought it was his lucky day when the classic conservative publication the National Review released a new cover article entitled “Against Trump”. In the article, the authors who are referred to simply as “The Editors” lambast Trump by describing him as “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP.” National Review Editor Rich Lowry announced the magazine cover on Fox News’s The Kelly File. Lowry told Megyn Kelly, who has had her own past exchanges with Trump, “if you truly are conservative, you believe in ideas and in principles. It’s not just attitudes. It’s not just who you dislike. It’s limited government. It’s the Constitution. It’s liberty. Those are the things that truly make this country special. And they are basically afterthoughts to Donald Trump.” Lowry was joined in his anti-Trump dialogue by Kelly’s other guests The Blaze television host Dana Loesch, Media Research Center Founder and President Brent Bozell and Town Hall Editor Katie Pavlich .
Donald Trump counterpunched by tweeting that “The National Review” has falling circulation and that its founder William F. Buckley would be embarrassed by its current profile. And then the Republican National Committee announced that they were disinviting “The National Review” from CNN’s February 26th Republican Debate in Houston.
Cruz will be throwing some counterpunches of his own in Iowa. Some of his key supporters include Iowa Congressman Steve King, Christian conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats and Blaze TV’s Glenn Beck. Steve King’s support is said to carry a lot of weight .Due to a 2012 redistricting, King is now connected to 38% of the likely voters in the Iowa GOP caucuses.
One thing is clear. All eyes are on the Hawkeye State!