- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2015

Debate, what debate? It’s just another stop on a very long campaign trail. When the Republican showdown is over in Las Vegas, the candidates scatter, eager for the next voter meet-and-greet. Donald Trump immediately bolts for Arizona. Ben Carson heads for three cities across Nevada, then nine more in Iowa by week’s end. Sen. Marco Rubio rockets off to Iowa and then New Hampshire on Wednesday, then races back to Iowa once again Thursday. Sen. Ted Cruz appears to have the most ambitious schedule among his immediate rivals, however. In 48 hours, he is embarking on a “Take Off With Ted” tour, flying into a dozen cities for a dozen rallies in one week’s time — including St. Paul, Minnesota; Birmingham, Alabama; Knoxville, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

His communications director, Rick Tyler, calls it “barnstorming,” with an eye on March 1 — Super Tuesday, when Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia stage their primary elections.

“We’ve always believed that the GOP primary calendar gives Cruz an early advantage so we have spent significant time in those states and have built an army of conservative volunteers to get out the vote just like the ones we have unleashed in the first four early states,” Mr. Tyler says.


“Frequent travel may be required.”

— Detail from the official NASA astronaut candidate job application, which went public Monday. The federal space agency is talking applications until Feb. 18 — a stringent but interesting process, indeed. NASA has hired 300 astronauts over the years; the current salary range is $66,026 to $144,566, incidentally. Curious? Visit USAJobs.gov and enter JS16A0001 as the keyword in the search function.


Well, maybe there’s something to be said for all the sprawling sets, whirling graphics and attractive, aggressive moderators. Americans are actually paying attention to the presidential debates, which have indeed proved a ratings boon to the hosting networks.

“The presidential debates clearly have been a hit with the public. Nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) say they have watched at least some of the televised debates between the candidates. In December 2007 — the most recent election in which there were contested nominations in both parties — just 43 percent reported watching any of the debates,” notes a Pew Research Center report.

Over half of the respondents said the on-camera clashes were “fun to watch.” Hopefully, that translates into voter engagement and possibly a more informed electorate, lest the 2016 election be plagued by “low information voters,” the bane of Rush Limbaugh, among other close observers. More numbers in the Poll du Jour at column’s end.


Yes, yes — Donald Trump has “astonishingly excellent” good health, his personal physician says. Which is good. He also appears to have astonishingly excellent resiliency on the campaign trail; everyone has an explanation for why Mr. Trump continues to trump the competition on both sides of the aisle. This cogent version by Roger Stone, a longtime political strategist, author and columnist for Brietbart.com, is straightforward enough and possibly useful for combative conversations at cocktail parties.

Trump’s fundamental appeal is based on a voter perception that he is not part of the ‘political class’ and that because he is self-financing, he is not beholden to any special interest, corporate interests, billionaires or Washington insiders. Voters believe that Trump could therefore take on a fetid system that they see corrupted by corporate money and highly paid lobbyists,” notes Mr. Stone.

“Unhinged attacks on Trump that reached near hysterical levels only reinforce Trump’s status as an outsider as voters increasingly lump big media with big government and big business in their disgust. America has lacked leadership for so long that when an unscripted, uncoached and genuine Donald Trump lays out a blunt prescription for America in a straightforward display of alpha male leadership, voters in unprecedented fashion respond,” he concludes.


Aw. The New Hampshire Union Leader has a few positive words for Gov. Chris Christie as he enters the GOP debate arena, reminding readers in an editorial:

“Gov. Christie speaks from in-depth experience. He was a hard-nosed U.S. attorney who actually prosecuted terrorists (including the killers of journalist Daniel Pearl). He knows what we are up against. But he is also a fair-minded leader who appointed a Muslim attorney to the bench and who went to bat for a New Jersey Muslim cleric who had helped his investigators.”

“People in New Hampshire are starting to pay more attention to the presidential race. They may want to tune in this Tuesday night to CNN’s Republican debate. If Gov. Christie is allowed to get a word in edgewise, and if the questions are about policy and experience rather than fantasy football and Trump poll numbers, voters here may find themselves less unsettled about the future of the nation.”


67 percent of Americans say the 2016 presidential campaign has been “interesting” so far; 79 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents and 65 percent of Democrats agree.

56 percent overall say the presidential debates help them learn about the candidates; 69 percent of Republicans, 62 percent of independents and 65 percent of Democrats agree.

54 percent overall say the campaigns have been “too negative”; 41 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of independents and 65 percent of Democrats agree.

51 percent overall say the debates have been “fun to watch”; 56 percent of Republicans, 48 percent of independents and 50 percent of Democrats agree.

50 percent overall say the campaigns go on “too long”; 42 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 8-13.

Big talk, hushed asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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