Shocker: GOP Elected Leaders Suddenly Warming To Trump In Iowa


Key GOP party leaders are assisting Donald Trump by denouncing his chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, just before the Iowa caucuses Feb. 1.

Recent developments show high stakes, intrigues, and back-stabbing as Trump seems to be winning one of the most remarkable momentum turnarounds in recent political history.

A new poll by Fox News Jan. 24 shows Trump with an 11 point lead in Iowa over Cruz, who was ahead by four points in the same poll just two weeks ago. A CBS/YouGov poll of likely voters shows Trump with a five-point lead.

Cruz opponents, some using harsh words far beyond normal criticism, include six-term Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole of Kansas, senior Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, New York Congressman Peter King, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Iowa's senior U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley made a surprise appearance at a rally Jan. 23 that generated coverage by a London newspaper half a world away under the headline Legendary Iowa senator speaks at Trump rally. Donald Trump National Review cover Jan. 21, 2016

That followed former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin's mid-week endorsement of Trump. as shown below (credit: Alex Hanson). Even a pro-Cruz SuperPAC fund leader, longtime GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, described the Palin endorsement as a plus for Trump.

Perhaps most remarkable, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (shown below in an official photo) trashed Cruz last week even though Trump had shocked conventional Washington last summer by questioning McCain's Vietnam War record.

Even so, two major conservative opinion journals, the National Review with a cover shown at left and the Weekly Standard, are denouncing Trump in their current cover stories. Each assembled numerous pundits unified in opposition to a Trump nomination.

John McCainAs recently as Jan. 12, the Republican Party’s national elected hierarchy attacked their party’s frontrunner Trump by orchestrating South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s sneers against Trump's "siren call of the angriest voices" during her nationally televised response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.

This was in the same spirit as the party leadership's secret meeting in December to hold, in effect, a "Stop Trump" strategy session. Those attending included campaign representatives of GOP contenders Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, a clearly unfair advantage for them.

That was then.

Sarah Palin, Donald Trump Jan. 19, 2016 endorsement Alex Henson via FlickrThese days? GOP Party Chairman Reince Priebus, who vetted Haley’s veiled attack on Trump Jan. 12 (as did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan), responded to the National Review by dismissing the magazine from co-moderating the next GOP debate this week because of its coverage.

Nothing remotely like these kinds of gyrations have occurred in modern presidential politics, at least since the 1964 GOP internal jousting between the Goldwater and Rockefeller factions.

Today's column is the second in our series on the GOP nomination contest, where Trump and Cruz are the current frontrunners in both Iowa and nationally. Our overview set the stage with, Cruz Campaign Peaks Early, Faces Brutal Counterattacks, arguing that Cruz's campaign is doomed if he fails to win Iowa, given his advantages there.

What’s going on?

Many of these new Trump endorsers and Cruz critics see their party’s viability endangered if Cruz wins the nomination.

Yet Trump's opponents see risk also. "If Trump were the nominee," conservative syndicated columnist Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post Jan. 7, "the GOP would cease to be."

Flip Flops

GOP insiders, especially among those who achieved their status because of elective politics, are reversing course. They must adapt because have failed to block Trump with a rival more attractive than Cruz, whom many dislike and distrust.

Cruz has had trouble obtaining endorsements in the Senate because of his ambition and his uncompromising stances.

Those same views have won him support from firebrand Iowa congressman Steve King and many GOP tea party and evangelical voters who are angry at their party's establishment.

But those running for election lower on the ticket, including McCain in Arizona, face disaster with Cruz. He polls decently only in rural, Southern, and mountain West locales.

Political Elites Underestimated Trump

We begin by noting that all candidates who reach the presidential contender level are accomplished speakers both to large crowds and in more intimate personal situations. This editor has seen nearly all of the main contenders from both parties in close quarters and has met a number of them, at least briefly.  

Illustrating these points was our 2014 column, Donald Trump Triumphs At National Press Club, But Gets Shafted In Story. More than a year before Trump began his campaign, he posed for a photo with every person who approached him. He gave the same big smile and thumbs up gesture to several score reception attendees. He then delivered a rip-roaring speech and Q&A with none of the inflammatory remarks that he would use a year later to generate headlines and controversy.   
It’s different these days. He specializes in mass rallies that dwarf those of his GOP rivals, and takes few questions.

In other words, Trump started the campaign with communications skills at least as good as his rivals even if he wasn't shelling out big bucks for expert advice.

Washington's array of politicians, pundits, lobbyists and think tank denizens have underestimated Trump since the beginning of his candidacy. Trump appeared to have too little relevant experience. He broke conventional rules of politicking. He mouthed conservative pieties with scant history of commitment. His lifestyle of three marriages has been an affront to family values. He doesn't quote think tank experts. Roger StoneMany would say he's a braggart, demagogue, racist and liar.

Trump's first wife Ivana Trump told Vanity Fair writer Marie Brenner for a 1990 article in the midst of their divorce that Trump used to keep My New Order, a copy of Adolf Hitler's speeches, in a nightstand cabinet to read how Hitler inspired large crowds.That was during a messy divorce. She supports his candidacy now. But it's the kind of claim that's hard to forget. 

Perhaps worst of all from certain perspectives, Trump does not spend much money on the strategists, pollsters, fund-raisers, speechwriters, and other campaign consultants who dominate presidential campaigns in both parties.

Instead, Trump has self-funded a lean campaign team that relies heavily on his own energies, celebrity, and off-the-cuff showmanship that is typically showcased in large rallies and constant media interviews.

Trump parted ways at the beginning of last August with arguably his most experienced campaign adviser, Roger Stone, a veteran of the Nixon and Reagan White Houses and a consultant to seven other GOP presidential campaigns.

Roger Stone Jeb Bush bookRoger Stone Hillary Clinton "War on Women" CoverStone, shown above at left, is a master of political opposition research. In departing the campaign, Stone said he became frustrated because Trump would not follow advice.

However, Trump brought experiences to the campaign that have proven to be a successful complement to his well-known wealth, celebrity, and relentless self-promotion.

To succeed in New York real estate and gambling casinos, Trump had to deal with Wall Street, unions, politicians and organized crime, among others. Multiple books recount the details. For current purposes, it's safe to say that few of Trump's critics have played hardball against (or to coin a phrase "made a deal") with so many tough characters.

Roy Cohn, the tough-guy superstar lawyer and former counsel to Sen. Joe McCarthy, was Trump's early legal adviser and indeed mentor as the young entrepreneur built his career. Cohn, well known for brazen and controversial techniques, advised a diverse clientele that included business, government, religious and even organized crime leaders.

This editor, for example, once interviewed Cohn in 1979 about his client Carmine Galante, a New York Mafia leader murdered later that year in one of the city's most notorious mob hits of modern times.

Far more typical of Cohn's work and relevant to this tale was his advice to the young Trump as the latter proceeded on a variety of high-risk, high-reward real estate deals in Manhattan while he was still in his twenties. That story unfolds in a 12-part series based on the unreleased documentary "Trump The Movie," which is being excerpted on the WhoWhatWhy investigative site before the Iowa caucuses. The photo drawn from the most current episode, Trump Rides His Dad’s Coattails into Manhattan, shows Trump at far left, with Cohn at center. 

Donald Trump and Roy Cohn from Trump The MovieWith such a background, we can safely speculate that before Stone departed Trump's campaign Stone informed the candidate of the vulnerabilities of his rivals. Stone drew from a lifetime of political opposition work that has placed him in the hall of fame for such work.

That kind of insider knowledge doubtless fortified Trump as he attacked McCain and then-presidential rival Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator, last summer. Trump insulted them both, generating amazement at his boldness from the mainstream media as well as the kinds of headlines that diminished attention on rivals.

Stone has continued to support the Trump candidacy after leaving the campaign, and has also used his insider knowledge to co-author harsh investigative books about two of Trump's biggest rivals  for the presidency. Stone's book The Clintons' War on Women was published in October. Jeb! and the Bush Crime Family comes out next month. 

Trump's lifetime in the New York media spotlight and then as star of the top rated television show The Apprentice has also taught him priceless media management techniques. As one example, he repeatedly interrupts interviewers with his "Excuse me!" to deflect inconvenient questions and direct an interview to his own preferred topics. Even more important, he is a master of planting a devastating insult against a rival, most famously his claim that Jeb Bush has "low energy" or of Carly Fiorina, "Who could vote for that face?"

More recently, he questioned in a New York Times interview whether Cruz's Canadian birth violated the Constitution's requirement for "natural born" citizenship. That has prompted many news articles and essays unhelpful to the Cruz campaign. Our next column in this series explores that legal issue issue in depth along with Cruz's failure to report the $1.2 million in Goldman Sachs and Citibank loans he received in 2012 to help fund his upset victory for his Texas senate seat..

A Republican Party At Risk?

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainThis year's campaign has been so unpredictable that some party leaders are beginning to fear it could lead to a rupture of the Republican Party.

One sign is a growing distance between the donor/office holder elite and the increasingly angry voter base. Media writers for the Huffington Post reported on that in Voters Wanna Rumble, And They're Looking For A Bruiser-In-Chief.  Columnists Jason Linkins and Christine Conetta wrote Jan. 22:

This has become a dreadful period for Republican elites, who now find themselves in a pickle: Do they go with Donald Trump, a candidate with no obvious fealty to or facility with the philosophical underpinnings of conservative governance, or Ted Cruz, the dutiful student of those philosophical underpinnings who's managed to alienate nearly every single one of his colleagues?

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham characterized the choice like this: "It's a lot like being shot or poisoned: I think you get the same result."

But other Beltway notables, too personally stung by Cruz's egomaniacal predilections, are starting — to use Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's words — to "come around a little bit on Trump." One wonders what sort of monster Cruz is to work with, given Trump's obvious egomania. 

The New York Times explored Cruz's personality last week in As Supreme Court Clerk, Ted Cruz Made Death Penalty His Cause. The story reported that most fellow clerks during Cruz's 1996 clerkship were put off by his zealotry in advocating that his boss, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, reject final appeals from convicts facing the death penalty.

However, the split in the party goes far beyond the issue of personalities.

For one thing, Trump has threatened to bolt the party and run as a third party candidate if he is not treated fairly during the nomination process. The secret anti-Trump meeting among party leaders in December certainly falls into the category if GOP leaders are caught replicating it. Similarly, the veiled attack on Trump by the South Carolina governor Haley carried leadership fingerprints. Ann Coulter seized the opportunity to demand that President Trump deport Haley, even though she was born in the United States. Talk show host Laura Ingraham similarly railed against the GOP establishment for plotting against Trump.

Other disruption risks abound from the continued frontrunner status since June of anti-Washington candidates Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson.

Their popularity has stifled attempts by current and former office-holders to gain support, especially because there have been so many of them and because wealthy patrons can keep each of their candidacies going in ways largely outside party control.

Trump's non-stop insults to Hispanics, the media, Muslims, women, and others portend a disaster for the party win or lose this election.

But others believe Cruz is already worse in terms of voter appeal. The Texan's  opposition to taxpayer subsidies for grain as a fuel helped prompt the opposition of Iowa's governor, who typically remains neutral between primary candidates. Cruz's rigid stance on the ethanol issues typifies his positions on other matters, which attract a small but highly enthusiastic following that is hard to replicate nationally.

These matters are not just personal pique or fodder for routine punditry. They are so serious as to constitute a crisis. Insiders have wanted to keep their concerns confidential but they are becoming public at this crucial stage of the campaign. That's because hope is vanishing that rivals to Trump or Cruz can win, or even finish so strongly that party leaders can achieve a "brokered" convention whereby delegates next summer can vote for whomever they want after a deadlocked first ballot.

Thus, the sudden and often strident public opposition to the two current GOP frontrunners from Washington insiders stems in part from fears that either one could prompt an election disaster in November that could extend to lower federal offices and threaten the GOP as a national contender for presidential elections.

That would mean, among other things, not just contraction of leaders' own power and legacies, but lost presidential control over foreign policy and federal appointments even if Republicans remain strong in congress and the states.

The Trump and Cruz candidacies each disrupt in unpredictable ways the party’s necessary alliance between its elite donor class and the increasingly angry base of whites, many of them aging and from rural areas. Like many others around the country, those in this aggrieved GOP base are seeing their finances, values, and families endangered by larger forces — including the hot button of illegal immigration that neither party addressed until Trump made it the politically incorrect but popular centerpiece of his campaign at its start last June.

Michael GersonConservative pundits Michael Gerson (shown in a file photo) and David Frum, both former speechwriters for President George W. Bush, have warned that the Republican Party faces very difficult internal divisions as a party.

Thus, Gerson Jan. 7 used his Washington Post syndicated column to urge Trump’s defeat in a column entitled, Trump’s nomination would rip the heart out of the Republican Party.

For Gerson, Trump would be a dangerously unreliable nominee. Whatever Trump’s hawkish foreign policy rhetoric now, he opposed the Iraq war in 2003, an important litmus test in neo-conservative circles especially. Trump, to burnish his credentials with an angry and neglected base, repeatedly hints also that federal money would have been better spent on U.S. infrastructure than the Iraq War. That is enough to worry neo-cons like Gerson and kindred spirits on the Washington Post's editorial board (GOP insiders cave to Trump) even if Trump fails to follow through with any detailed proposals.

Similarly, most of the 22 critics published in the current edition of the National Review arguing against a Trump nomination are pundits, academics and former government appointees. They say Trump is insufficiently reliable on conservative ideology. The Weekly Standard, an opinion magazine with a heavily neo-conservative slant much like the National Review's, published a similar broadside, Nine Tales of Trump at His Trumpiest, timed for its Feb. 1 print edition and available now electronically.

Frum, taking a broader and rather different view, authored Trump-Palin: An Alliance of the Aggrieved in this month’s issue of the Atlantic Magazine. He argued that Republicans may have to forego serious competition in presidential elections and instead rely on regional contests in the future. Why? Because, unless resolved, too great of a split is arising between the GOP's ideologues and its base of those angered and aggrieved by changes.

"In the contrast between Cruz’s support and Trump’s," Frum wrote, "one sees something truly new and disrupting — a battle between those for whom conservatism is an ideology, and those for whom conservatism is an identity."

He suggested that Trump and even Palin were positioned to connect to those appalled by modern conditions but not necessarily committed to a conservative ideology:

Trump is battling against Ted Cruz of Princeton and Harvard Law School, a Supreme Court practitioner married to an investment banker, who insists that the dividing line between “us” and “them” is not life story, not personal experience, but ideas and values. His conservatism is defined not by personal wrongs but by a complicated set of principles, that connect opposition to abortion to support for the gold standard; missile defense to cuts in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency; and gun rights to a lower corporate tax rate.

"Ideology versus identity: That’s going to be the ballot question in Iowa on the first of February," Frum concluded. "A lot more than the Republican presidential nomination may depend on the answer."


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Justice Integrity Project Columns

Justice Integrity Project, Cruz Campaign Peaks Early, Faces Brutal Counterattacks, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 23, 2016. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz seemed poised for victory in the Iowa caucuses over most of the past month but has suffered tough counterattacks from critics within his party at the worst possible time for him. As often happens in presidential politics, Cruz's difficulties arose from rivals in his own party. Setbacks cascaded just as he began leading several polls beginning in December for the first national contest, the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.

Justice Integrity Project, Donald Trump Triumphs At National Press Club, But Gets Shafted In Story, Andrew Kreig, June 2, 2014. Last week, Donald Trump gave a well-received speech to a sellout crowd at the National Press Club but then had to endure a curious variety of coverage, especially from the club's in-house report. The problem? The National Press Club "Wire" account of the speech denounced him as arrogantly persisting in a proven falsehood in raising a question about President Obama's birthplace. The account included in the news account an editorial statement that his allegation was "discredited," and failed to include Trump's explanation, which was not entirely unreasonable on its face. Separately, the Washington Post's initial story simply mocked him by cherry picking comments he had made.

Related News Coverage

Pro-Trump or Anti-Cruz

Donald Trump "The Apprentice"Stone Zone, Will the GOP Establishment Steal the 2016 Nomination From Trump?  Roger Stone, Jan. 25, 2016. Will the GOP establishment steal the 2016 nomination from Donald Trump even if the magnate arrives in Cleveland with the most pledged delegates but short of the 50 percent he'd need to be nominated? Is a back-room deal in the works to have a "brokered convention" to deny Trump the GOP nod? I think there is such a plan and it must be exposed.

I am a veteran of nine national Republican presidential campaigns, including the floor of the 1976 Republican National Convention for Ronald Reagan. My sources inside the Republican party are warning me: The insiders have a stunning plan to stop Trump even if he wins the primaries.

The plan involves stalling Trump short of a majority on the first ballot, since many of the delegates pledged to him would no longer be legally bound to support him on subsequent ballots. There are many, many Trojan Horse delegates inserted by the GOP establishment who could bolt from Trump after that first ballot. There are 278 Super Delegates who are GOP establishment insiders, likely opposed to Trump. They constitute 4 percent of the convention. Thus, Trump must win 54 percent of delegates elected in caucuses and primaries to guarantee he could block a plot to stop him.

For example, Trump could win every primary, but the Bush-Rubio-Christie-Kasich-McConnell-Ryan-wing of the GOP could block Trump and seize the nomination for an establishment alternative.

Daily Mail (London), Legendary Iowa senator speaks at Trump rally and urges voters to 'make America great again' as The Donald attacks Megyn Kelly again and says 'maybe she'll drop out' of next GOP debate, Charles Grassley R-IODavid Martosko, Jan. 23, 2016. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (shown in a file photo) was a surprise speaker at a Donald Trump rally on Saturday, urging his constituents – in The Donald's now-famous words – to 'make America great again.' 'I'm excited to be invited to be here,' he said before the billionaire appeared at a college auditorium in the town of Pella.

When The Donald took the stage, he hammered Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelley for having 'hatred' and 'bias' toward him, and said her 'conflict of interest' might lead her to withdraw from co-moderating Thursday's upcoming Iowa debate. 'Maybe she'll drop out as a professional. And she's a professional,' he said. Grassley, whose endorsement is sought by every Republican running for president, said pointedly that he was 'happy to be here with such an enthusiastic group, to be here with this candidate.'

'And I want Mr. Trump to know that I appreciate his support for me,' Grassley told hundreds of Trump fans, 'and most importantly for Iowa being "first in the nation" – our all-important Iowa caucus.'

Washington Post, Republican elites surrender to Trump, Dana Milbank, Jan. 22, 2016. Late Thursday night, the National Review, the storied conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley, published an issue denouncing Donald Trump. “Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones,” the editors wrote. The Republican National Committee reacted swiftly -- immediately revoking the permission it had given National Review to host a Republican presidential debate next month.

Above, a new Trump for President campaign ad reacting to National Review's opposition

Washington Post, GOP establishment warms to Trump — and remains cool toward Cruz, Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and David A. Fahrenthold, Jan. 21, 2016. The Republican establishment — once seen as the force that would destroy Donald Trump’s outsider candidacy — is now learning to live with it, with some elected and unelected leaders saying they see an upside to Trump as the nominee.

In the past few days, Trump has received unlikely public praise from GOP luminaries who said they would prefer him to his main rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. In private, some veteran conservative Republicans have been reaching out to Trump. And Trump himself called the ultimate establishment figure in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for a talk late last year.

Rudolph Giuliana“If it came down to Trump or Cruz, there is no question I’d vote for Trump,” said former New York mayor and 2008 presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani (shown in a file photo), who has not endorsed a candidate. “As a party, we’d have a better chance of winning with him, and I think a lot of Republicans look at it that way.”

This warming toward Trump comes after establishment favorites such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush have failed to reach the top tier. It signals that, among the party’s entrenched elites, there is a growing fear that none of those candidates may be able to beat both Trump and Cruz.

TPM, Anyone But Him! Top GOPers Openly Support Donald Trump Over Ted Cruz, Caitlin MacNeal, Jan. 22, 2016. Now that it appears that the Republican presidential primary may boil down to a choice between Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), terrified Republicans have started to openly state that they would have to support Trump over the Texas senator, arguing that Trump's nomination would damage the party less.

Pro-Cruz or Anti-Trump

Donald TrumpWeekly Standard, Nine Tales of Trump at His Trumpiest, Matt Labash, Feb. 1, 2016 (print edition date). And these just scratch the surface. Trump has correctly calculated that if he's outrageous all-day-every-day, his abnormality becomes the new normal. It is no longer resented but expected. The man who was once accused by Vanity Fair of reading Hitler speeches in bed for propagandistic inspiration truly could title his own memoir — aside from the five or ten he's already written — Triumph of the Will.

The Washington Post, GOP insiders cave to Trump, Editorial Board, Jan. 22, 2016. Just when you thought the presidential campaign couldn’t get any more bizarre — just when you thought American politics Peter Kingmight finally have exhausted the possibilities for cynicism and irresponsibility — certain Republican Party insiders have begun developing strange new respect for the candidate whose meteoric rise only yesterday made him the bane of “the establishment”: Donald Trump.

For all his quirks, the rationalization goes, the billionaire businessman is a man you can do business with. “Regardless of what your concern is with Trump,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y., shown in an official photo) mused, in a typical expression of this new theory, “he’s pragmatic enough to get something done.” And so, if you can’t lick him, join him: At least he wouldn’t be inflexible ideologically and off-putting personally, like the only GOP candidate with an apparent chance to stop him — Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.).

To be sure, we do not envy Republicans the Hobson’s choice they seem to face between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz. No doubt the latter could do lasting damage to the party brand, as the establishment fears. But Mr. Trump wouldn’t? “Concerns” about him do not stem from conventional political controversy — say, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s handling of “Bridgegate.” Rather, the erstwhile casino magnate owes his rise in U.S. politics to a demagogic assault on ethnic and religious minorities, of the sort that, like previous such demagoguery in our history, has won him support — but also disqualifies him to lead a decent republic.

Donald Trump National Review cover Jan. 21, 2016National Review, Against Trump, Editors and 22 conservatives, Jan. 21, 2016. The editors: "If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives? The movement that ground down the Soviet Union and took the shine, at least temporarily, off socialism would have fallen in behind a huckster. The movement concerned with such “permanent things” as constitutional government, marriage, and the right to life would have become a claque for a Twitter feed."

First essay by Glenn Beck, a nationally syndicated radio host, the founder of TheBlaze, and a best-selling author:

"When conservatives desperately needed allies in the fight against big government, Donald Trump didn’t stand on the sidelines. He consistently advocated that your money be spent, that your government grow, and that your Constitution be ignored. Sure, Trump’s potential primary victory would provide Hillary Clinton with the easiest imaginable path to the White House. But it’s far worse than that. If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, there will once again be no opposition to an ever-expanding government. This is a crisis for conservatism."

Terry Branstad, Iowa governorNational Review, Branstad’s Ethanol Attack on Cruz: Will Iowans Choose Politics or Principle? Jeremy Carl, Jan. 21, 2016. Cruz tries for a respectable showing in Iowa with Trump and the governor against him. There are few things that energy-policy experts of all political stripes can agree on — but one of them is that mandates and subsidies to promote the use of corn ethanol (a policy first implemented by Jimmy Carter) are wasteful boondoggles that harm our environment and food supply while imposing billions of dollars of hidden costs on consumers.

However, most energy-policy experts are not running for president in the Iowa caucuses. Ted Cruz, however, is running in the Iowa caucuses, and this week he found out what happens when you try to take on Big Corn. The results of this battle may tell us a great deal about the future of free-market policies in the GOP. It’s a process that even voters who are not enthusiastic about any of the leading candidates should pay close attention to.

Iowa governor Terry Branstad (shown in a file photo) lit into Cruz this week, breaking with the longstanding neutrality of governors in the caucus process. Branstad urged Cruz’s defeat, noting that Cruz “hasn’t supported renewable fuels and I think it w

Real Clear Politics, Cruz's Iowa Game Plan Gets High Marks, Rebecca Berg, Jan. 13, 2016. In the early stages of Ted Cruz’s campaign for president, his ally, Republican Rep. Steve King, suggested a few tweaks to Cruz’s candidacy. King, a prominent Iowa conservative, warned Cruz against opposing the Renewable Fuel Standard, which has increased the share of biofuels in gasoline and given a huge boost to one of Iowa’s major sectors.

Tax Wall Street Party, Open War In GOP As South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley Uses State Of The Union Reply To Attack Front-Runner Trump, Webster G. Tarpley (shown in file photo), Jan. 14, 2016. Tuesday evening’s Republican Webster Tarpleyreply to the Obama State of the Union Address has once again emphasized the bitter factional warfare now openly raging in the ranks of the Republican Party between a reactionary or “Establishment” faction on the one hand and a fascist current around Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

The detonator for the factional battle has been the traditional GOP reply to Obama’s remarks, which was delivered this year by the Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, a former Tea Party fanatic who has clearly joined the Establishment faction. Ms. Haley made unprecedented use of her national television time by attacking the  front-runner, hotelier Donald Trump. Although Ms. Haley did not confirm that her target was Trump until her appearance early this morning with NBC’s Matt Lauer, there was never any doubt that barbs like the following were primarily directed against Trump:

‘Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.’

The stinging rebuke was not just the handiwork of a single governor, but rather represented the institutional voice of the Grand Old Party itself. Gov. Haley had submitted her text for review to such august reactionaries as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. This was, in other words, an overt factional attack on Trump on one of the most intense political evenings of the year.

The Washington Post, Trump’s nomination would rip the heart out of the Republican Party, Michael Gerson, Jan. 7, 2016. Nationally syndicated columnist Michael Gerson was a White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Every Republican of the type concerned with winning in November has been asking the question (at least internally): “What if the worst happens?”

The worst does not mean the nomination of Ted Cruz, in spite of justified fears of political disaster. Cruz is an ideologue with a message perfectly tuned for a relatively small minority of the electorate. Uniquely in American politics, the senator from Texas has made his reputation by being roundly hated by his colleagues — apparently a prerequisite for a certain kind of anti-establishment conservative, but unpromising for an image makeover at his convention. Cruz’s nomination would represent the victory of the hard right — religious right and tea party factions — within the Republican coalition. After he loses, the ideological struggles within the GOP would go on.

No, the worst outcome for the party would be the nomination of Donald Trump. It is impossible to predict where the political contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton would end up. Clinton has manifestly poor political skills, and Trump possesses a serious talent for the low blow. But Trump’s nomination would not be the temporary victory of one of the GOP’s ideological factions. It would involve the replacement of the humane ideal at the center of the party and its history. If Trump were the nominee, the GOP would cease to be.

Vanity Fair, Trump Watch: 7 Takeaways from Vanity Fair’s 1990 Profile of Donald Trump, Staff report, Aug. 5, 2015. Donald Trump has lived the entirety of his adult life in the public eye, leaving behind a trail of bombastic headlines that include accusations of sexual assault, racist rental policies, and more than a mogul’s fair share of other scandals.

Twenty-five years ago, this magazine’s Marie Brenner spent some time with Trump for an investigation into the dissolution of his marriage to Ivana Trump. In retrospect, the story has all the trappings of a perfect Trump piece: discord between reality and Trump’s claims about it, accusations of disloyalty, and triumphant highs amid a string of batted-away lows.

Here are seven takeaways that still matter....husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed....Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist.

Conservative Anti-Cruz and Anti-Trump

Washington Post, Pushing Cruz won’t get rid of Trump, Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 25, 2016. On Meet the Press Sunday, Donald Trump said, “I mean, the biggest problem [Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)] has, he’s a nasty Ted Cruz presidential buttonguy and nobody likes him. Not one Republican senator, he works with them every day, not one Republican senator has endorsed Ted Cruz. I mean, when you think of it, that’s actually a shocking thing to believe. . . .” He’s got a point, and moreover, highlights why in their zest to get rid of Trump too many staunch conservatives are looking to the wrong alternative.

Cruz apologists say he is unliked in the Senate because he’s such a principled, devoted, sincere conservative. Oh, puleez. There are wonderfully principled conservatives — Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) come to mind. They are not backing him; no one in the Senate is.

Those who defend Cruz as an arch-conservative implicitly must argue he was not serious about certain issues (e.g., legalization of illegal immigrants, no ground troops to defeat the Islamic State). Only if he is disingenuous can he be a “real” conservative.

This is not simply a character flaw for Cruz, although it certainly is. (As a man motivated by unbridled self-interest Cruz undercuts his supporters’ critiques of Trump, whom they rightly slam for lack of intellectual consistency.) Cruz’s lack of inner core is an impediment to him besting Trump in the primaries. If the polls are correct — a big if — Iowa voters are discovering that sooner than others.


RealClearPolitics, Iowa Reckonings for Clinton, Cruz, Caitlin Huey-Burns and Alexis Simendinger, Jan. 27, 2016. In just a handful of days, Iowa caucus-goers will set a course for the presidential contest, and few candidates have more at stake there than Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton. The two campaigns couldn't be more different in substance and vision. Yet, each candidate approached Iowa with a precision unmatched by rivals in either party.

In Iowa, Trump has been tormenting Cruz with a series of hits and endorsements meant to undermine the senator among his core base of support -- evangelicals, who make up nearly 60 percent of the GOP electorate in Iowa.The RealClearPolitics polling average finds Trump leading Cruz by 5.7 points in Iowa. The Hawkeye State is traditionally volatile -- and open to surprises. On Tuesday, Trump announced the endorsement of Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the late prominent televangelist.

Washington Post, Poll: Donald Trump gained 15 points on Ted Cruz in Iowa in two weeks, Philip Bump, Jan. 24, 2016. Earlier this month, Fox News released a poll showing Ted Cruz leading Donald Trump by four points. The two had a sizable lead over everyone else in the state, and the poll was confirming what others were showing: Cruz had an advantage. On Sunday, Fox released another Iowa poll, with substantially different results. Now, Trump is up by 11 points, a 15-point swing in the two weeks between surveys. This poll, too, mirrors the recent trend: Trump has regained the advantage.

It's still a surprising development. Trump's gained a lot, across the board, while most of his competitors have slipped. Cruz is still over-performing with conservatives and tea partiers (meaning that his support among those groups is 11 and seven points higher than his overall support), but Trump gained 11 and 17 points with those groups over the past two weeks. Cruz's support among the groups fell.

WhoWhatWhy, Trump Rides His Dad’s Coattails into Manhattan, WhoWhatWhy Team, Jan. 21, 2016. Donald Trump Made His First Big Score in Business the Old-Fashioned Way — Through His Father’s Connections.  A young Donald Trump vowed to take over Manhattan — and quickly went to work to turn ambition into reality. An early masterstroke was the rehabilitation of the Commodore Hotel. It involved the kind of government aid the 2016 GOP frontrunner would have trouble defending to his political base.

Trump managed to secure massive tax breaks usually not doled out for the renovation of luxury hotels. The project was approved on the last day of the administration of Mayor Abe Beame, a childhood pal of Trump’s father. It was one of several deals in which The Donald seems to have benefited greatly from family connections. For example, his father was also friends with then-governor Hugh Carey. In securing the Commodore deal, Trump also employed what he refers to as “truthful hyperbole,” which he labels an “innocent form of exaggeration” as well as a “very effective form of promotion.”

Trump’s unabashed use of what others might call fibs or lies will be familiar to anyone who has watched his rise to the top of the Republican field.

The following video is part of a documentary on Trump that was made a quarter century ago but never released. The film has a gritty tabloid quality — and is, by definition, a period piece. While some “chapters” will be more explosive or longer than others,)what the documentary reveals about Trump’s character and manner of operating is more relevant than ever. We dare you to watch this and say that, like Trump, you already “knew it all.” From now until the first votes are cast in Iowa, we will stream “chapters” of it here [at the WhoWhatWhy investigative site founded by Russ Baker].


GOP Presidential Debaters Aug. 6, 2015


Washington Post, Des Moines Register endorsement is a boost for Marco Rubio, déjà vu for Hillary Clinton, Callum Borchers, Jan. 23, 2016. Say what you want about the Des Moines Register’s presidential primary endorsements of Hillary Clinton and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida released Saturday night, but you’ve got acknowledge this: Iowa’s leading newspaper ain’t no bandwagon fan. Rubio, the Register’s pick on the Republican side, is polling third in the Hawkeye State — far, far behind front-runners Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with barely a week remaining before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Clinton sits atop Democratic polls but she faces a far tougher than expected race against Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Washington Post, Here are 76 of Donald Trump’s many campaign promises, Jenna Johnson, Jan. 22, 2016. Here's exactly what the mogul says he would like to do if he were elected commander-in-chief. (Gage Skidmore Trump photo from 2015 CPAC convention.)

The Atlantic, Trump-Palin: An Alliance of the Aggrieved, David Frum, Jan. 19, 2016. Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump is a bet on the triumph of identity over ideology. Sarah Palin's star may have dimmed since 2008. Republican pundits and donors may have wearied of her. But Republican pundits and donors don’t typically vote in the Iowa caucuses. To many, many of the people who do vote there, Palin remains a heroine and a martyr. Endorsements are usually said not to matter much in today’s politics — but if any endorsement in any contest ever can matter, Palin’s endorsement in the Republican Iowa caucuses will.

In 2012, Romney and Santorum finished only 34 votes apart in Iowa. If Palin tips a few hundred votes toward Trump in 2016’s neck-and-neck Trump-Cruz contest, she could set in motion a dynamic where Trump may win both Iowa and New Hampshire — a stunning and once-unimagined result.

Since Donald Trump entered the race, one opponent after another has attacked him as not a real conservative. They’ve been right, too! And the same could have been said about Sarah Palin in 2008. Palin knew little and cared less about most of the issues that excited conservative activists and media. She owed her then-sky-high poll numbers in Alaska to an increase in taxes on oil production that she used to fund a $1,200 per person one-time cash payout — a pretty radical deviation from the economic ideology of the Wall Street Journal and the American Enterprise Institute. What defined her was an identity as a “real American” — and her conviction that she was slighted and insulted and persecuted because of this identity.


Ted Cruz and William Rehnquist 1996 Ted Cruz Campaign

Ted Cruz with Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, whom Mr. Cruz clerked for in 1996 (Photo via Cruz campaign)

New York Times, As Supreme Court Clerk, Ted Cruz Made Death Penalty His Cause, Jason Horowitz, Jan. 20, 2016. The memos of Supreme Court clerks evaluating death row petitions usually consist of a brief review of the facts and then a dispassionate legal analysis as to whether the court should hear the case. Not so for Ted Cruz. Mr. Cruz, the most ardent death penalty advocate of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s clerks in the 1996 term, became known at the court for his signature writing style. Nearly two decades later, his colleagues recall how Mr. Cruz, who frequently spoke of how his mentor’s father had been killed by a carjacker, often dwelled on the lurid details of murders that other clerks tended to summarize before quickly moving to the legal merits of the case.

 In interviews with nearly two dozen of Mr. Cruz’s former colleagues on the court, many of the clerks working in the chambers of liberal justices, but also several from conservative chambers, depicted Mr. Cruz as “obsessed” with capital punishment. Some thought his recounting of the crimes — “dime store novel” was how one described his style — seemed more appropriate for a prosecutor persuading a jury than for a law clerk addressing the country’s nine foremost judges.

As Texas solicitor general from 2003 to 2008, five of Mr. Cruz’s eight appearances before the Supreme Court were death penalty cases, including his successful advocacy for the preservation of the death penalty for a Mexican citizen convicted of raping and murdering two teenage girls. That case became a talking point in his campaign for Senate, just as his eye-for-an-eye sense of justice appeals to voters looking for a tough president.

Washington Post, Inside the GOP’s bizarre, tumultuous year, Dan Balz, Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Matea Gold, Jan. 3, 2016. For Republicans, one of the most compelling years in American politics was split in two: Before Trump and After Trump. This is the story of how Republicans got to where they are today, told through the impressions and recollections of those who lived it — the candidates.

Sarah Palin, Donald Trump Jan. 19, 2016 endorsement Alex Henson via Flickr

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at a rally after endorsing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa on Jan. 19, 2016. (Credit: Alex Hanson via Flickr)