- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

There is a good chance GOP primary voters will face a choice between candidates who are among the oldest and youngest nominees in party history, says Eric Ostermeier, a University of Minnesota political professor and a meticulous historical researcher. He refers to front-runner Donald Trump and close rival Sen. Ted Cruz. The age gap between them is the largest between GOP candidates in over 150 years.

Mr. Trump — surely a plug for the coy adage “70 is the new 50” — turns 70 in November, and would be just the fourth Republican standard-bearer who was a 70-something. That exclusive club includes Ronald Reagan, aged 73 when he ran in 1984; Bob Dole, also 73 when he was a hopeful in 1996; and, finally, Sen. John McCain, who was 72 when he was charging down the trail in 2008.

At 45, Mr. Cruz is 24 years younger than Mr. Trump. Only two previous GOP nominees were that young at the time of the general election: former Senator John Fremont, who was 43 way back in 1856; and New York Gov. Thomas Dewey, age 42 in his 1944 race.

Only one other pair of dueling Republicans had a greater age gap than Messrs. Trump and Cruz — that was at the party’s first convention in 1856 between the aforementioned Fremont and Supreme Court Justice John McLean.

“McLean was 71 years old, making a 28-year difference between the two contenders, four years greater than Trump and Cruz,” notes the ever-patient Mr. Ostermeier.

TODAY’S TED-ISM

“When I am president of the United States, we will invest in our military with a simple goal: more tooth, less tail.”

GOP hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, during a rally Tuesday in Charleston, South Carolina. Find the candidate’s proposal to rebuild the U.S. military here: TedCruz.org/american-resolve.

SOMETHING PLEASANT FOR A CHANGE

The nation’s capital appears to be in chaos at times. But that hasn’t stopped a pair of magnificent bald eagles from setting up housekeeping in a tulip poplar tree in the U.S. National Arboretum on the far northeast edge of town. Somehow the nonprofit American Eagle Foundation and the 444-acre federal garden site have set up a pair of high-definition cameras near the big, bristling nest of “Mr. President” and “The First Lady,” who are tending two eggs expected to hatch mid-March.

The 24-hour cameras went live on Monday. Find them here: DCeaglecam.org.

ABOUT THAT NOMINATION

The squabble is on following the untimely passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. And it’s going to get louder. Shannen W. Coffin, contributing editor to the National Review, points out that there’s no “Goldilocks” replacement candidate who’s not too hot, not too cold — and just right.

“The truth of the matter is that no such nominee exists. It’s like the Loch Ness monster of the Left, except that some people have actually claimed to see Nessie. President Obama simply isn’t going to nominate someone who does not meet the liberal ideological litmus tests he has defined for the job. If he were looking to build consensus, it would be a historical first in his administration,” Mr. Coffin observes.

PALMETTO STATE EVANGELICALS

Much has been written about the evangelical vote in South Carolina, since about 65 percent of GOP voters in the state count themselves as evangelicals. But it’s complicated. Many of those voters are “looking beyond faith to choose their candidate,” notes Nathaniel Cary, a reporter for The Greenville News. He cites the research of sociologist Michael Lindsay, who argues there are now hard-working “populist evangelicals” who like big rallies and conservative talk radio, and “cosmopolitan evangelicals” — strategy-minded, well-educated, faith-minded power brokers.

Wednesday there will be a showcase for it all: the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Presidential Candidate Forum at the 2,000-member First Baptist North church in Spartanburg. Only two candidates will be in attendance at the two-hour free event: Sen. Ted Cruz — now on the campaign trail with Rep. Jeff Duncan, Glenn Beck, Bob Barr and former GOP rival Rick Perry — and Ben Carson, who has vowed to remain in the race regardless of poll numbers. Each will have an hour before the audience.

“Dr. Carson’s readiness for the White House is coupled by his decency. Throughout this election, Washington insiders have run their campaigns based on D.C. values, but Dr. Carson has stayed true to faith, integrity and accountability,” advises Larry Ross, the candidate’s communications director.

AINSLEY’S MOMENT

Unapologetic conservative Elizabeth Hasselbeck — who spent some contentious years as a co-host on ABC’s “The View — found more harmonious surrounding with Fox News, joining the early-morning team on “Fox & Friends.” The mother of four, however, eventually opted to leave the show two months ago to tend to her family. The network has announced her replacement. That would be Ainsley Earhardt, host of “Fox & Friends First,” which airs at 5 a.m. She’ll debut on the later morning show Feb. 29.

“Ainsley’s relentless work ethic, congeniality and enthusiasm for connecting with our viewers and staff are extremely refreshing,” said Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.

POLL DU JOUR

90 percent of South Carolina voters say they are likely to vote in their presidential primary.

38 percent will vote in the Democratic primary, 35 percent in the GOP primary; 18 percent are undecided.

59 percent of Democratic voters support Hillary Clinton, 40 percent Sen. Bernard Sanders.

67 percent of Democratic voters have made a final decision; 26 percent say they “probably” won’t change their vote.

42 percent of Republicans voters support Donald Trump; 20 percent favor Sen. Ted Cruz, 15 percent Sen. Marco Rubio, 9 percent Gov. John Kasich, 6 percent Ben Carson, 6 percent Jeb Bush.

42 percent of GOP voters say they won’t change their choice; 35 percent say they probably won’t change; 21 percent are still open to change.

Course: A CBS News/You Gov poll of 1,315 registered U.S. voters conducted Feb. 10-12.

Polite applause, exasperation to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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