02.10.2016 0

Trump, Cruz locked in two-way race after GOP establishment fails in New Hampshire


By Robert Romano

Has reality begun to set in yet?

Fresh off his decisive victory in the New Hampshire Primary, real estate mogul Donald Trump is now locked in what appears to be a two-way race for the Republican presidential nomination with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who won the Iowa Caucus. Both are running anti-establishment campaigns.

Prognosticators will tell viewers and readers about this come-from-behind second-place “win,” or that “strong” fourth place showing, or that “momentum”-induced fifth place landing, but none of it likely matters.

That is, if history is any guide. Why?

Losing both Iowa and New Hampshire has been a death sentence for Republican presidential candidates for 40 years. That is to say, no GOP candidate in the modern history has gone on to win the nomination without at least winning one of the first two contests.

Why should 2016 be different? The only candidate who ever came close to breaking that paradigm on the Republican side was the insurgent Ronald Reagan in 1976 against then sitting President Gerald Ford.

Now, there are certain exceptions — on the Democrat side. Bill Clinton pulled it off in 1992, earning him the nickname, the “Comeback Kid.” George McGovern also prevailed to win the nomination after losing Iowa and New Hampshire in 1972.

Not saying it can’t be done. But for establishment candidates like Florida Senator Marco Rubio or former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who have supported amnesty-like policies for illegal immigrants, the odds go down significantly after back-to-back losses in the first two contests.

Call it winner’s bias. Voters are more likely to throw in with a winner, not wishing to waste their votes on candidates perceived to be long shots. So, naturally, the more primaries candidates lose, the more likely they are to keep right on losing.

For many, the upcoming South Carolina Primary on Feb. 20 will be many campaigns’ last stands, as resources dry up and support dissipates. As for Trump and Cruz, they’re in the lead there in the latest batch of polls, as the Republican rejection of the Washington, D.C. political establishment reaches critical mass.

What? You couldn’t see this coming from a mile away?

Perception is critical. To quote Trump’s not-so-bad board game, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win.”

For Trump, then, the feat of winning New Hampshire is no small accomplishment. After he entered the race in June, the Washington, D.C. political establishment and media pundits were practically tripping over themselves to predict that he didn’t have a chance. That it was a circus not to be taken seriously. That it would peter out after a few weeks or months.

But here we are now with the two candidates the establishment hated the most at the top of the GOP race, winning, both well-positioned to now go on to wage national campaigns.

The first, Cruz, who famously waged his filibuster against Obamacare in 2013 and led an insurgency against Republican leaders in Congress, making him a national figure and earning a reputation as a fearless fighter for liberty and limited government. He won Iowa.

The second, Trump, whose straight talk against illegal immigration and bad trade deals — not to mention his politically incorrect tone — at the onset of the campaign helped him to instantly stand out in tough times while voters sought a strong candidate who could restore confidence in the American dream. He won New Hampshire.

In the meantime, the establishment is being ground into the dust. Its crop of candidates have failed to date. They haven’t won anything — and time will tell if they can somehow wage a comeback. Count this author among the skeptical.

Still shocked? Tune in on Feb. 20 for the South Carolina Primary. Perhaps by then reality will have set in. For the time being, can we recommend a good brand of tissues?

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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