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Political Plays: Hands, CPAC, and Super Saturday

Posted at 10:26 AM, Mar 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-08 10:26:55-05

It’s been another jam-packed week of news in the Republican presidential election, at the lead, more anti or pro-Trump headline domination.

After Super Tuesday, candidates participated in a Fox News debate Thursday, followed by the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday through Saturday outside of Washington colliding with “Super Saturday”. It definitely seems that the election results were related to the debate performances. Trump and Rubio stayed somewhat negative as they were asked about barbs traded with each other earlier in the week. Ted Cruz appeared the most presidential trying to rise above it and offering the meatiest policy-oriented answers. Gov. John Kasich continued to seem in another world, as once he offered the reason he was best qualified because he “knew Reagan.”

For those who do not know, CPAC is the largest gathering of conservatives in the country. Held annually, it’s basically the Trekkie convention for the right and a good way to gauge where the most dedicated conservatives are on the meter. All presidential candidates were scheduled to speak and it’s a great opportunity for them to reach the grassroots, who are obviously making themselves heard this election cycle. However by Friday, Trump had pulled out of his Saturday speech, choosing to campaign instead and causing an uproar. While it’s true that most CPAC goers have already decided if they are pro or anti-Trump (and by the sounds of it, mostly anti) and he would have a better chance of reaching undecided primary voters on the trail, it does reflect poorly on him. Whether he simply didn’t care to waste his time with the conservative group or he was afraid to face a primarily pro-Cruz/Rubio crowd, it did not look good. The other candidates didn’t hesitate to take shots; Cruz had the best one, making a joking reference the Megyn Kelly debacle.

Yours truly attended the conference on the last day and from what was seen and heard, it was a dominantly Cruz or Rubio crowd. This is not an endorsement, I would have attended every day if I could have, to hear all the candidates speak, including Carson’s suspension speech. But the only one I was able to hear was Rubio’s (I would have heard Trump if he’d shown) and it was a packed house, they had to close the doors. Though sick and being a distant 3rd in the race, he was full of energy and positivity. Though it’s not looking good for him this election cycle, he’s young and he should run again as he has a lot to offer and a lot of appeal.

The big test at CPAC is their annual straw poll where every attendee is asked to vote for their candidate, as well as their thoughts on a myriad of issues, as a meter of some sort to check the conservative heartbeat. Cruz beat out Rubio by 10 points and judging by the roaring crowd, this is the candidate those who identify themselves as “true conservatives” are rooting for.

Following that pattern, Cruz had the best election night since his Iowa win. Splitting the states with Trump winning Kansas and Maine; Trump won Louisiana and Kentucky. Rubio did win Puerto Rico, (there’s a game changer!), but didn’t even come in third in some other states. It’s probably not going to be possible for Rubio or Kasich to catch up in the delegate count at this point but Cruz is definitely catching up to Trump and could be within reach if he continues winning.

Obviously, this roller coaster election could still go a number of ways on the Republican side. However, one trend that’s begun to be noticed is out of the 12 states Trump has won, nine were open primaries (meaning voters can vote in either party). But in strictly-by-party primaries, Trump doesn’t do as well. This could mean a make-or-break for Trump in the general should he be the nominee because we don’t know the reason. Are Democrats crossing over to vote for him because they genuinely like him, a la Reagan Democrats, or are they crossing over to stick Republicans with what they think is an un-electable nominee?