Archive for August, 2015

Carson, Trump Tie for Top Spot in Iowa: Monmouth University Poll

MU PollThe Monmouth University Poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers finds Ben Carson and Donald Trump tied for the top spot.  This marks the first time since July 26 that a poll in any of the first four nominating states has not shown Trump with a nominal lead.  Not surprisingly, given the top two contenders in the poll, most Iowa Republicans prefer someone without a traditional political pedigree.  At this early stage, though, the vast majority of voters say their eventual support could go to one of several other candidates in spite of their current preference.

When Iowa Republicans are asked who they would support in their local caucus, Ben Carson (23%) and Donald Trump (23%) tie for the top spot.  The next tier of candidates includes Carly Fiorina (10%) and Ted Cruz (9%), followed by Scott Walker (7%), Jeb Bush (5%), John Kasich (4%), Marco Rubio (4%), and Rand Paul (3%).  The last two Iowa caucus victors, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, each garner 2% of the vote.  None of the other six candidates included in the poll register more than 1% support.

“These results mark a significant shake-up in the leaderboard from Monmouth’s Iowa poll taken before the first debate,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.  “Carson and, to a lesser extent, Fiorina have surged, while Walker has faded into the background.”

In mid-July, Walker was the front runner in Iowa, with Trump and Carson following behind.  Since then, Walker’s support has dropped by 15 points, while Carson’s has increased by 15 points and Trump’s by 10 points.  Support has also increased for Fiorina by 7 points since Monmouth’s last Iowa poll.

Only 12% of likely Republican caucusgoers say they are completely decided on which candidate they will support in February.  Another 42% have a strong preference now but are willing to consider other candidates, 27% percent have a slight preference, and 20% say they are really undecided even if they are able to name a choice now.  Just 1-in-4 voters (25%) say they have their choice narrowed down to one or two candidates, while most (54%) say they can see themselves caucusing for any of 3 to 4 candidates currently in the race. Another 17% say they are realistically considering giving their support to 5 or more candidates in field.

Among voters who say their current decision is strongly locked in, Trump leads with 30%, compared to 22% for Carson.  Among those who say they only have a slight preference or are up in the air, 25% support Carson and 16% back Trump.

“Trump’s support is currently more solid than Carson’s, but Iowa voters are still considering quite a few candidates before they come to a final decision,” said Murray.

Iowa GOP caucus goers say that, regardless of who they support in the primary, the country needs a president from outside of government who can bring a new approach to Washington (66%) rather than someone with government experience who knows how to get things done (23%).  Among those who prefer an outsider, more than two-thirds are backing one of the three candidates who have never held elected office – Trump (32%), Carson (26%), or Fiorina (13%).  However, even among those who say the country needs someone with government experience, 30% are currently supporting one of these three candidates.

Looking at the fundamental strengths of leading candidates, Iowa Republicans now hold an almost universally positive opinion of Ben Carson at 81% favorable to just 6% unfavorable, compared to 63% favorable and 11% unfavorable in July.  Carly Fiorina has also seen her numbers improve to 67% favorable and 8% unfavorable, up from 44% and 10% in July.  John Kasich’s name recognition has also gone up but the gap between his positive and negative ratings remains similar at 32% favorable and 23% unfavorable, compared to 24% and 17% in the prior poll.

Donald Trump’s rating has ticked up slightly – now standing at 52% favorable and 33% unfavorable, compared to 47% and 35% in July – while the ratings for Scott Walker and Jeb Bush have taken a dip over the past month.  Walker’s rating is now 64% favorable and 16% unfavorable, compared to 73% and 9% last month.  Bush’s rating is now 32% favorable and 51% unfavorable, compared to 40% and 42% last month.  Ted Cruz’s rating of 58% favorable and 21% unfavorable is similar to the 53% and 17% rating he held last month.

The poll also identified candidate support among key groups of GOP caucus goers, including:

Tea Party –Trump leads Carson 27% to 22% among Tea Party supporters, with Cruz at 16%.  Among non-supporters of the Tea Party, Carson takes a 25% to 19% lead over Trump.

Ideology – Very conservative voters split their vote among Carson (24%), Trump (23%), and Cruz (16%).  Somewhat conservative voters are most likely to back either Carson (25%) or Trump (23%).  Moderate to liberal voters prefer Trump (26%), followed by Fiorina (18%) and Carson (17%).

Evangelicals – Evangelical voters favor Carson (29%) followed by Trump (23%).  Non-evangelical voters prefer Trump (24%), Carson (18%), and Fiorina (13%).

Gender – Men prefer Trump (27%) over Carson (17%), while women prefer Carson (30%) over Trump (19%).

“After more than a month of Trump winning virtually every Republican demographic group, we’ve finally got a little variation in voting blocs to talk about,” said Murray.

Hawkeye State Republicans are divided on whether their final decision about who to support in the Republican primary will come down to the candidate’s positions on the issues (45%) or their personal qualities and experiences (45%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 27 to 30, 2015 with 405 Iowa voters likely to attend the Republican presidential caucuses in February 2016. This sample has a margin of error of +4.9 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.



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Christie Fighting To Stay In Top Tier

Chris ChristieRepublican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie cranked up efforts on Sunday to become a top-tier contender insisting he’ll qualify for the next primary debate and calling Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton a “disgrace” for recent comments about his party.

“I’ll be on that stage,” the New Jersey governor told “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not worried about that at all.”

The next debate is Sept. 16 and will be hosted by CNN. The network will have a main debate for the top 10 candidates, and a secondary debate for the remaining roughly six or seven others who have at least 1 percent of the popular vote, according to an averaging of polls.

Christie on Sunday relied on his record as a two-term governor, as he has since the start of his campaign. He argued that he has vetoed more tax increases than any other governor in U.S. history and that he got elected in a Democratic-leaning state against a better-funded Democratic opponent.

“I was outspent 3-to-1,” he said. “I’ve been a political underdog for my entire career. Campaigns matter.”

Christie, who qualified for the first primary debate in August, is now ranked No. 11, according to an averaging of polls by the non-partisan website

Christie also took a big swing at Clinton for seemingly comparing members of his party to terrorists for their “extreme views” on women.

On Thursday, during a speech in Cleveland, Clinton said: “Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States. Yet they espouse out-of-date, out-of-touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.”

“That’s a disgrace,” Christie said, in response to Clinton’s remarks. “She’s a disgrace. … I’m not going to be somebody who lets somebody stand up and call my party terrorists.”

Christie, a former prosecutor, also said he thinks Clinton has the potential to face criminal charges for having used a private server and email accounts while secretary of state.

He questioned Clinton’s deleting some of the emails after a House committee subpoenaed them, and suggested that she mishandled government information. Clinton’s private server is now being examined by the FBI.

Christie also waved off questions about him using a private email account as governor. He said the only email released was one from a staffer that included a press release and that it was likely mistakenly sent to the wrong account.

“Can we really compare that?” Christie asked.

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Jeb Bush Campaign Loses Top Fundraisers

NRA Holds Its Annual Meeting In Nashville

A trio of top fundraisers have abandoned Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, citing concerns that the former Florida governor is losing steam and support, Politico reported Saturday.

According to Politico, three leading fundraising consultants in Bush’s home state Kris Money, Trey McCarley and Debbie Aleksander, left his campaign while continuing to work on his super PAC. However, others reportedly said Money, McCarley ad Aleksander were dismissed because their roles no longer needed to be filled.

“This wasn’t a shock to anybody,” a campaign source reportedly told Politico. “There were just some personality problems [which] happens when you have a big organization like this, a big campaign.”

Others told the Virginia-based news source that the three employees were let go due to their inability to keep up with the campaign’s second quarter fundraising goals. According to FEC filings, Bush’s principle campaign committee and Right to Rise super PAC raised a combined $114 million in the first fundraising quarter, more than any GOP candidate and nearly twice as much as Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Tim Miller, a spokesperson for Bush’s campaign. told Politico Saturday that Bush has “the widest and deepest fundraising operation of any candidate in the field.

According to the report, long-time Bush aide, Ann Herberger, will take over as lead fundraiser for Bush’s campaign headquarters in Miami.

The Florida Republican has struggled to gain an edge in Republican primary polls after being ousted from his No. 1 spot by billionaire businessman Donald Trump. Polling data from RealClearPolitics currently shows Bush trailing Trump by double digits among likely Republican voters with 9.8 percent support.

However, additional data shows Bush performing better in a general election match-up against Clinton, trailing her by just 2 percentage points.

Jeb has a big army, and that army needs to be fed, a campaign consultant told the website. “Jeb might not have a fundraiser problem. He might have a spending problem.

Bush’s Super PAC Right to Rise are set to begin an advertising push in an effort to stop their candidates alarming slide. The PAC’s strategy we are told is long-term, aimed at building sustained name identification and support heading into the Iowa caucuses, which begin the 2016 voting on February 1, followed by the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

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Bush White House Bid Looks Doomed While Biden Support Builds Against Hillary

QuinnipiacVice President Joe Biden fares better against top GOP candidates in hypothetical general election match-ups than Hillary Clinton, according to a new national survey.

The Quinnipiac University poll, released Thursday, also shows Donald Trump smashing the GOP presidential competition garnering 28% support from registered Republican voters in the 17-member field. The real estate mogul’s closest competitor is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who tallies 12%.

Just 7% said they would vote for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a record low since November 2013.

Those results show just how far both Trump now the Republican front-runner and Bush the old one  have come. Bush led national polls for much of the first half of 2015, but was quickly dislodged by Trump, after he announced his presidential ambitions this June.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida both are tied with Bush at 7%, the polls shows, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 6% and former tech CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich tied at 5%.

“Donald Trump soars; Ben Carson rises; Jeb Bush slips and some GOP hopefuls seem to disappear,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the survey. “Trump proves you don’t have to be loved by everyone, just by enough Republicans to lead the GOP pack.”

And Trump certainly isn’t loved by everyone, the survey shows. About 1-in-4 GOP voters say they would never vote for Trump, topping the field. The real concern among the Republican establishment must come in the fact that favored son Bush comes in second with 18%.

Clinton stands atop the Democratic field with 45 percent, down from 55 percent in the July 30 survey. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has 22 percent and Biden is backed by 18 percent.

Neither of the former governors in the Democratic race, Maryland’s Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, registered above 1 percent support. (Eleven percent said they were undecided.)

“The real news is the man who isn’t there – yet,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Note to Biden: They like you, they really like you, or they like you more than the others.” Malloy said his matchups with GOPers and high favorability ratings may “compel” Biden to jump in.

Biden, who is mourning the death of his son, Beau, has said he will come to a decision about running this fall. He told a conference call with Democratic National Committee Members Wednesday he wondered if he has the “emotional fuel” a presidential run would require. He said he would want to run with his whole heart and soul, adding that both of those are “battered” at this point.

But Biden, currently sporting the highest favorability rating among any 2016 candidates polled of either party, tops Trump 48% to 40%, compared to Clinton, who beats Trump 45% to 41%. Biden also beats Bush, 45% to 39%, compared to Clinton, who beats Bush 42% to 40%.

Malloy said Biden could be encouraged by these polling results.

“If he is sitting on the fence, his scores in the match-ups and his favorability ratings may compel him to say, ‘Let’s do this,'” Malloy said.

The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,563 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, including 666 Republicans with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points and 647 Democrats with a margin of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.


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Jeb Bush Still Favorite for GOP Nomination Among Political Bookies

Trump and JebReal estate mogul Donald Trump is dominating polls and capturing headlines in the Republican presidential race, but rival Jeb Bush is still the favorite of traders in political prediction markets.

While Bush has been eclipsed by Trump in opinion polls, the former Florida governor is riding high with online traders who give him a 40 percent chance to capture the party’s presidential nomination, according to prediction market aggregator

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is a distant second with a 15 percent chance, and Trump has risen to third in recent weeks with 14 percent, according to PredictWise, which aggregates about a half-dozen political prediction markets.

Those markets, in which traders bet on the outcomes of various events, often have a better track record than polls in determining a winner in elections. Bush has been their favorite since mid-2014, said David Rothschild, an economist who runs PredictWise.

“Jeb Bush has been steady at the top at between 45 percent and 40 percent, where he is now. He certainly hasn’t fallen off noticeably,” Rothschild said.

In opinion polls, Trump has shot past Bush in recent weeks as the two candidates have feuded over Trump’s hard-line immigration plan calling for deportation of illegal immigrants.

In the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Bush runs second in the 17-strong Republican field at 11 percent behind Trump’s 22 percent. A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday showed Bush tumbling into a tie for third behind Trump, as Bush’s support fell from 16 percent to 8 percent over five days.

At Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, Bush remains the favorite with 13/8 odds of capturing the Republican nomination for the November 2016 election, said spokesman Rory Scott.

“Jeb Bush has drifted a tiny little bit, probably because of the rise of Trump, but he’s still the favorite and he’s been pretty stable,” Scott said.

Trump has been on the move, however, attracting about 50 percent of the bets since the first debate earlier this month and rising to second, Scott said.

Real-estate tycoon Donald Trump has settled on one go-to insult when it comes to his closest rival in the Republican presidential primary.

Almost every recent time Trump has addressed former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida on the campaign trail, the businessman attacks Bush as a “low-energy person.”

“Jeb Bush is a nice person, he doesn’t have the energy or the capacity to make our country great again,”

A new hashtag has taken off after Jeb Bush attempted to explain his use of “anchor babies” by saying the term many consider offensive was “frankly, more related to Asian people.”

#MyAsianAmericanStory began trending on Twitter as users shared stories of their experiences and lives.

For the Democrats, front-runner Hillary Clinton has been a steady and dominating force at the top of the presidential pack in the markets since immediately after the 2012 election.

She currently is given a 72 percent chance of winning the nomination by PredictWise, with Vice President Joe Biden, who is still pondering a possible bid, in second at 14 percent.


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Key Adviser Departs Perry Campaign and Signs On with Team Trump

Perry and TrumpFormer Texas Governor Rick Perry is looking to reboot his flagging campaign in a state he views as crucial to his presidential prospects: Iowa, where his allies have long hoped for a slow and steady rise to the top.

But the hits keep coming for the former governor, who in the span of a month has missed the cut for the first Republican presidential debate, halted payments to his staff and watched a coveted Hawkeye State adviser depart for a hated rival’s campaign.

Now, Perry’s supporters are hoping he can rebound with a leaner-and-meaner staff, tougher contrasts with his GOP rivals and a little bit of luck in a volatile race.

“We are confident that Gov. Perry will have a defining breakout moment in this campaign that will change the dynamics of our work in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,” said Jamie Johnson, a Perry adviser focused on the early voting states.

Yet even as Perry allies seek to strike a hopeful tone, the indignities did not stop Tuesday when Sam Clovis, the prized Iowa operative who quit Perry’s team a day earlier, announced he was joining the campaign of Donald Trump, the bomb-throwing billionaire whom Perry has criticized more than anyone else in the GOP field. Before a rally for Trump in Iowa, Clovis told reporters he is now national co-chairman of the New York developer’s campaign and a senior policy adviser.

Asked why he jumped ship, Clovis brought up the Perry campaign’s decision more than two weeks ago to stop paying its workers. At the time, Perry’s high command gave staffers the green light to look for other work if necessary, an unflattering episode Clovis rehashed at a news conference broadcast live for national TV audiences.

“I think they were having to go back and restructure the campaign, and I felt it was the honorable thing to do for Gov. Perry — I think the world of him — to step aside so I wouldn’t have to be part of the calculus of figuring out how to get me back on board,” said Clovis, who is close with Chuck Laudner, another Iowa operative working for Trump.

Clovis’ departure came the same day Perry’s Iowa team learned of an imminent restructuring expected to reduce his footprint in the state. One staffer said more specifics on the restructuring are anticipated by the end of the week, but said it likely will include layoffs. Politico first reported the restructuring, which was raised during a conference call Monday with Perry’s Iowa staffers. A campaign spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

Some of the doom and gloom for Perry can be traced back to late July, when his national polling began to tick downward and he ultimately failed to qualify for the prime-time debate in Cleveland. Resigned to an undercard event, Perry was somewhat overshadowed by Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO whose performance was seen as boosting her out of the lower tier of GOP candidates.

“This is the first date, so to speak, and before Americans decide who they’re going to marry, there’s going to be a long process,” Perry said at the time, downplaying the brouhaha surrounding the debate eligibility requirements.

After missing the cut for the top-tier event — a tough setback for a candidate who has vowed to be more prepared for the debate stage than he was during his last run — Perry’s fundraising dried up and word spread that he was unable to pay staff in Austin and the early voting states. Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said Tuesday the campaign has started paying workers again in Iowa and South Carolina.

All the while, a pro-Perry super PAC has been preparing to pick up the slack for his cash-strapped campaign, which took in a meager $1 million during its first fundraising quarter. That number set off alarms within the ranks of the super PAC, known as the Opportunity and Freedom PAC, and it began mobilizing to prop up Perry in the Hawkeye State, where his allies have long believed his famous retail skills and under-the-radar work ethic could translate into a strong come-from-behind finish in the caucuses.

The Opportunity and Freedom PAC, which had raised $17 million as of earlier this summer, is recruiting dozens of field staffers and plans to be “fully operational” on the ground in Iowa on Sept. 1, according to a senior adviser to the group, Austin Barbour. The super PAC has had a field director and deputy in place for the past few weeks in Iowa, where it plans to return to the airwaves with a new round of TV advertising after Labor Day.

“We’ll see what the results are on caucus day, but I think it will be as good of a ground game as anybody else will have in Iowa,” Barbour said, adding that the group is hoping to propel Perry to a top-three finish come January.

Whether the super PAC can rescue Perry in Iowa is relatively uncharted territory in presidential politics, said Matt Strawn, a former chairman of the Iowa GOP. “I don’t think any of us know the answer to that,” he added.

“There’s no question Gov. Perry has impressed Iowa Republicans with his retail skills and the team that he put together,” Strawn said. “The challenge going forward is, in a field of credible alternatives, how he can build on the reservoir of good will to stay on the shortlist of Iowa caucusgoers.”

Meanwhile, Perry’s pitch to Republican primary voters has taken a sharper tone. In a speech to conservative activists Saturday in Ohio, he lobbed thinly veiled barbs at the other GOP governors running for president, including Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. His overall message seemed tailored to a stage of the 2016 race in which the GOP hopefuls seen as the most convincing anti-Washington forces Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have seen their fortunes rise.

“My fellow Republicans, we don’t have to settle for 11th-hour campaign conversions to conservatism,” Perry said at a Columbus meeting of a group started by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. “I’ve been with you every step of the way.”

His remarks caught the attention of the super PAC, which released a minute-long recap of the speech Monday that ended with an echo of Perry’s argument that “things were a little different when they were governors and not campaigning.” Barbour said the speech fit a theme that Perry is apparently warming up to: He was “anti-status quo before anti-status quo was cool.”
It remains to be seen how much Perry will be able to amplify that message in the Hawkeye State as his campaign prepares to scale back there. Dawn Pettengill, an Iowa state representative who has endorsed Perry, said Tuesday she was sticking with him while expressing some frustration with Clovis, who told the Des Moines Register on Monday that he had not heard from Perry’s team in 10 days.

“If you’re the Iowa chairman, and you’re waiting on the campaign to call you — come on, you are the campaign,” she said, suggesting Perry’s team may be better off without Clovis. She added: “You don’t have to pay me. I’m still here. I’m still behind you.”










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South and North Korea agree deal to reduce tensions

North and South Korea

South Korea has halted its propaganda broadcasts into North Korea as part of a deal to defuse tension.

The announcement followed more than 30 hours of talks after events at their heavily guarded border pushed them to the brink of a possible military confrontation in what had become one of the tensest periods between Seoul and Pyongyang in recent history.

The two sides will hold follow-up talks to discuss a range of issues on improving ties, a joint statement said.

Both sides had appeared to be in search of a face-saving way of avoiding an escalation that could have led to bloodshed, especially the North, which is outmatched militarily by Seoul and its ally, the United States.

The announcement came after the South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, said that the anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts would continue unless there was a clear apology for the recent landmine blast in the Demilitarised Zone which had injured two soldiers .

“It is very meaningful that from this meeting North Korea apologised for the landmine provocation and promised to work to prevent the recurrence of such events and ease tensions,” Kim Kwan-jin, the national security adviser to the South Korean president, told a televised news briefing.

Seoul and Pyongyang have remained technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean war ended in a truce, rather than a peace treaty.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, warned earlier this month of a “semi-state of war”. The North Korean embassy in London said in a statement that the “psychological warfare” by the “puppet military gangsters” of the South was an “open act of war”.

And last week, North Korean forces, ordered to be “battle ready”, moved heavy artillery close to their side of the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas, while South Korean troops, also on alert, were under orders to “retaliate” against any “provocation” as they did last Thursday.

The deal doesn’t address the bigger issues on the Korean Peninsula, notably Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear program.

In the next 10 years, we have the threat of North Korea with a substantial nuclear arsenal, if we don’t figure out a way to deal with them and a leader we don’t know a lot about, who was part of U.S. teams that negotiated with North Korea under former President Bill Clinton.

Analysts say the recent tensions have followed a familiar pattern of previous North Korea crises.

The North had planned this out very specifically, planting these mines. They knew there was going to be a response from the South, therefore they could ratchet up or deescalate as they wished.

North Korea hasn’t publicly acknowledged laying the mines in the DMZ and had previously rejected the accusations from South Korea and the United States that it did so.

The South’s response of resuming of loudspeaker broadcasts across the border, which included news broadcasts and Korean pop music infuriated the thin-skinned regime in the North. Seoul hadn’t used the tactic in more than a decade.

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