- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 24, 2016

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — A week before the nation’s leadoff nominating contest here, opinion-makers are picking sides in the Republican race with a flurry of endorsements, near-endorsements and anti-endorsements.

Conservative TV and radio host Glenn Beck over the weekend gave his blessing to Sen. Ted Cruz, who is in a neck-and-neck race with billionaire businessman Donald Trump to win the Feb. 1 caucuses, according to Iowa polls.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is easily one of the most influential Republican politicians in Iowa, all but endorsed Mr. Trump when appearing at a weekend Trump rally. And the biggest newspaper in the state, The Des Moines Register, bypassed the two front-runners to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running a distant third in most polls.

Announcing his favorite candidate, Mr. Beck compared Mr. Cruz to George Washington.

“We need a new George Washington,” he said, appearing with Mr. Cruz at a rally at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa.

“Today’s Washington will not be found in the garish light of gold, but rather in the bold service of a man who stands tirelessly for what he deeply believes: that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people,” he said. “That is why I am endorsing Senator Ted Cruz.”

His decision to back Mr. Cruz was less than surprising since Mr. Beck and Mr. Trump have been feuding for months, including the commentator comparing Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Beck lashed out at Mr. Trump during the event.

“The man owes America an apology, and he should ask conservatives in America for forgiveness,” he said. “If Donald Trump wins, it’s going to be a snowball to hell.”

Mr. Trump responded to the endorsement in classic Trump style.

“Glenn Beck — every time I see him, he’s crying. He’s a whack job,” Mr. Trump said at a rally at Central College in Pella, Iowa. “I’ve got Sarah Palin. I’ll take Sarah Palin every single day.”

He was referring to his endorsement last week by Mrs. Palin, a conservative superstar whose nod was a major coup with the potential to dramatically swing voters who are still on the fence.

What’s more, her endorsement was a snub to Mr. Cruz. He has credited the endorsement from Mrs. Palin, a former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, with helping him win his Texas senate seat in 2010.

The Palin endorsement came on the same day Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, called on voters to defeat Mr. Cruz because of his stand against ethanol subsidies, which is a pocketbook issue in this state where corn is king.

Mr. Cruz has stood firm, noting that he also opposes federal subsidies for the oil industry that are popular in his home state of Texas.

He wasn’t the only one to get anti-endorsed. The conservative National Review magazine last week published a scathing editorial titled “Against Trump.”

“He is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. 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,” wrote the editors.

Mr. Trump responded by saying the magazine is on the decline and will probably soon go out of business.

At the bible college Mr. Cruz accepted the endorsement from Mr. Beck, calling him “a good friend and a fearless and reliable conservative.”

“Glenn has been a relentless fighter for liberty, for limited government and for restoring the country we all love so much. His powerful voice and passion played a critical role in my Senate victory, and I am now proud to have him in our corner in 2016,” he said.

At the Trump rally Mr. Gassley came as close as politically possible to endorsing Mr. Trump without uttering those words. He even used Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan when beseeching the crowd of Trump supporters filling the college auditorium to get out and caucus.

“We have an opportunity again to make America great again,” he said.

The Grassley stamp of approval for Mr. Trump is the latest sign that the GOP establishment is either warming to the idea of him getting the nomination or coming to accept that outcome, which seems to become more likely with each passing day.

The six-term senator urged Trump supporters to keep up the energy they showed at rallies throughout the state and turn out to caucus next week for Republicans.

“We need you. The energy that’s shown here has to be repeated every day between now and the election. Go to the caucuses and show America that Iowa voters matter,” said Mr. Grassley.

Meanwhile, The Des Moines Register announced its endorsement of Mr. Rubio in the GOP race, saying he was the sort of moderate Republican who could appeal to general election voters.

Sen. Marco Rubio has the potential to chart a new direction for the party, and perhaps the nation, with his message of restoring the American dream. We endorse him because he represents his party’s best hope,” wrote the editors.

“Our hope, however, does not rest solely on his ability to welcome new people to the party. We believe Rubio can inspire the base with his ideas on improving the economy, education system and social programs,” they said. “In two meetings with the editorial board, the whip-smart senator displayed an impressive grasp of public policy detail, reeling off four-point plans on foreign policy and other issues.”

On the Democratic side, the newspaper picked Hillary Clinton over her chief rival, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.

The editors cited her experience as first lady, senator and secretary of state with making her uniquely qualified to lead the United States, which bears a striking resemblance to Mrs. Clinton’s own argument for her candidacy.

“No other candidate can match the depth or breadth of her knowledge and experience,” they wrote.

The newspaper also endorsed her in 2008 when she finished third in the caucuses behind then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

“She is not a perfect candidate, as evidenced [by] the way she has handled the furor over her private email server,” they said. “In our endorsement of her 2008 campaign for president, we wrote that ‘when she makes a mistake, she should just say so.’ That appears to be a lesson she has yet to fully embrace.”

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