- - Thursday, March 24, 2016


The Republican presidential campaign is getting uglier, reaching new lows even for Donald Trump and his struggling rival Ted Cruz.

While more Americans worry about the weakening U.S. economy, finding full-time jobs and the threat of terrorist attacks, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz were attacking each other about online photos of their wives.

The fight began with a Facebook ad from a pro-Cruz political action committee that sent out a long-ago photo of Mr. Trump’s stunning wife, Melania, posing partially nude for GQ Magazine in her former modeling days.

Mr. Cruz said his campaign had nothing to do with the PAC or its online photo attack, but Mr. Trump retaliated in a tweet to Mr. Cruz, threatening to “spill the beans on your wife.”

Mr. Trump then sent out a tweet, with side-by-side pictures of both their wives that included an unflattering photo of Mr. Cruz’s wife Heidi, saying “No need to ‘spill the beans.’ A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Mr. Cruz responded: “Donald, real men don’t attack women. Your wife is lovely, and Heidi is the love of my life.”

This is the utterly classless and embarrassing low road that the Republican campaign has descended to as they head into the homestretch of their vulgar battle for their party’s nomination.

At this juncture, Mr. Trump is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination, with Mr. Cruz well behind in the delegate count.

More importantly, it’s clear that neither one is focusing on the issues that most concern a majority of Americans.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, both were calling for law enforcement surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods here at home. Not beefed up intelligence, bomb sensors at entry points, or better high tech security checks at entrances to major transportation centers and other precautions at highly populated sites.

Their Muslim-centered proposal was slapped down by high-ranking law enforcement officials in New York City and elsewhere who said Muslims made up a significant portion of their police forces and were model citizens.

What issues did Americans worry about the most? It may surprise you, but before Brussels it wasn’t a terrorist attack and it wasn’t illegal immigration, the Gallup Poll said this week.

Sure, “worry about terror attacks” in the United States is “high,” Gallup says, but it’s not the “top concern.”

“Before the terrorist attacks Tuesday that killed at least 30 in Brussels, 48 percent of Americans worried ‘a great deal’ about the possibility of future terrorist attacks in the U.S.,” Gallup reported Thursday.

“More Americans expressed ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ of worry about domestic problems such as healthcare, the economy and crime than about terrorism among a list of 13 different issues,” Gallup said.

Here are the issues Americans say they worry about “a great deal,” along with their percentages:

• The availability and affordability of health care: 55 percent.

• The economy: 55 percent.

• Crime and violence: 53 percent.

• The possibility of future terrorist attacks in the U.S.: 48 percent.

• Hunger and homelessness: 47 percent.

• The Social Security system: 46 percent.

• Drug use: 44 percent.

• The quality of the environment: 42 percent.

• Unemployment: 39 percent.

• Illegal immigration: 37 percent.

• Race relations: 35 percent.

• Climate change: 33 percent.

• The availability and affordability of energy: 27 percent

“In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., terrorism climbed to the top” of Americans’ list of the most important problems facing the United States in December,” says Gallup. “But by early March, mentions of terrorism declined significantly.”

The nation’s concern will likely increase after this week’s horrific attack in Belgium, turning it into a larger issue in the presidential campaign.

At the same time, the candidates cannot afford to downplay the political issues at the top of Gallup’s list.

There is no doubt that Obamacare has led to increased premiums for millions of Americans, many of whom can no longer afford medical care insurance.

But you can search high and low among the candidates’ campaign speeches and won’t find a detailed presentation of a plan to make health care more affordable or available.

Ditto on the economy. The fact that 55 percent say they worry about it “a great deal,” and another 28 percent say a “fair amount,” shows that it is the greatest failure of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The economy barely grew by 1 percent in the last three months of 2015, and isn’t expected to do much better in the first three months of this year, with growing talk of yet another recession.

The manufacturing sector remains weak, with durable goods orders falling 2.8 percent in February. The retail sector is in worse shape, with chain stores closing across the country.

The Federal Reserve has postponed a further hike in interest rates because they concluded that the economy wasn’t strong enough to absorb it.

This is a huge political issue that any other Republican would be relentlessly pounding from here to November.

But not Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz, who’ve been focusing far more on illegal immigration and scouring neighborhoods where Muslims live — playing to the base of their support, instead of the larger percentage of voters who worry most about the economy and jobs.

Americans worry more about this for good reason: Gallup says its polls show the “real unemployment rate” is 9.7 percent. Maybe the Republican front-runners should stop focusing on each other’s wife and deal more with the issues voters care about most.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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