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Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are locking in their lead among Iowa likely Republican Caucus participants, with Trump at 31 percent and Cruz at 29 percent, while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida trails with 15 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday.
Dr. Ben Carson has 7 percent, with no other candidate above New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie’s 4 percent.
This compares to the results of a December 14 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University showing Trump at 28 percent, with 27 percent for Cruz, 14 percent for Rubio and 10 percent for Carson.
Today, 5 percent are undecided, but 46 percent of those who name a candidate say they might change their mind.
Voters view Cruz more favorably than they view Trump, however, and more are open to the possibility of voting for him, according to the new findings.
This is only the third poll of the last 11 in Iowa in which Trump is on top, according to an aggregation by RealClearPolitics. Other recent polls have shown Cruz in first place.
Trump in the last week has stepped up attacks on Cruz’s birthplace. Cruz was born in Canada, and Trump argues Democrats could make the case he is not qualified to be president because he is not a natural-born citizen.
Cruz was born to a U.S. mother, and his campaign has argued he would be qualified to be president just like 2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who was born in the Panama Canal zone.
The biggest loser today is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who gets only 3 percent support from Republicans, while 26 percent say they “would definitely not support” him.
The economy and jobs is the most important issue for 27 percent of Iowa likely Republican Caucus participants in deciding their vote, as 18 percent list terrorism; 16 percent say foreign policy. Another 10 percent cite the federal deficit and 8 percent list immigration.
This reverses the results of the December 14 survey, in which 30 percent listed terrorism as the most important issue, with 21 percent focused on the economy and jobs.
Trump can best handle the economy, 46 percent of Republicans say, with 16 percent picking Cruz and 8 percent picking Rubio. Trump is also best handling terrorism, 36 percent of GOP Caucus participants say, with 26 percent for Cruz and 12 percent for Rubio.
Cruz is best on foreign policy, 27 percent of Republicans say, with 24 percent for Trump and 18 percent for Rubio. Trump is best on illegal immigration, 46 percent of GOP Caucus-goers say, with 22 percent for Cruz and 15 percent for Rubio.
Cruz has a 75 – 17 percent favorability rating, with Trump at 61 – 34 percent.
Perched comfortably at the top of the polls and lapping his closest rivals by double digits, Trump was expected to do well at the first GOP presidential debate of the 2016 season on Thursday night. The onus was on his competitors to seize the spotlight, but none of them managed to change the dynamics in a race that Trump has dominated for more than a month
Many contenders delivered strong performances and polished answers. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio showed his formidable political skills and compelling personal narrative. Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave crisp answers as he played to his home state audience. And Rand Paul and Chris Christie slammed each other during an impassioned debate over government surveillance.
For more than a month, Trump has defied the normal patterns of politics and Thursday night was no exception. But it was harder to tell how his answers would wear on voters over time, particularly when matched as he was Thursday night with nine other contenders who have strong resumes and far more detailed policy plans.
None of contenders made noticeable blunders. But none of them could outshine Trump.
That was true with the most uncomfortable questions. Though it was Trump’s first political debate and perhaps one of his first experiences with time constraints and a buzzer, Trump navigated the debate stage with ease, even when faced with unexpectedly sharp questions like the first from Kelly.
“One of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter,” Kelly said to Trump in the opening minutes. “However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”
“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump interjected to laughter.
“For the record, it was well beyond Rosie,” Kelly shot back, noting that Trump had told one contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” that it would be a pretty picture to “see her on her knees.” “Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?” Kelly asked.
Setting the tone for the debate, Trump didn’t flinch and didn’t apologize.
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” he said, channeling the appeal that has catapulted him to the top of the polls. “And I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
He brushed off some of his harsher commentary as “fun” remarks that were made in jest: “We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry.”
The biggest risk the unpredictable real estate magnate took Thursday night was when he refused to rule out a third party presidential run that could spell defeat for the Republican Party.
Fox Moderator Bret Baier had asked anyone who wouldn’t pledge not to run as an independent to raise their hand. Only Trump did.
The audience booed. Rand Paul started shouting insults. Trump basically shrugged them off.
“I want to win as a Republican, I want to run as the Republican nominee,” Trump told Baier. “I will not make the pledge at this time.”
Many Republican stalwarts may have recoiled at that answer, and it is certain to cost him votes among the hard core GOP voters who most reliably show up for the primaries. But it is virtually impossible to tell with any certainty how many voters will hold that against Trump at a time when many view both parties with contempt and frustration.
Trump continued to give very few specifics about his plans, or the evidence for his claims about Mexican immigrants, for example. And when challenged on flipping on his position on abortion, Trump uttered words that make most politicians shiver: “I’ve evolved.”
He sounded cavalier and somewhat callous when confronted with a question about the bankruptcy of one of his companies in Atlantic City that led to the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. Once again, Trump made no apologies, and pivoted to take a dig at Christie, noting New Jersey’s economic troubles.
“I had the good sense to leave Atlantic City, which by the way, Caesars just went bankrupt. Every company Chris [Christie] can tell you, every company virtually in Atlantic City went bankrupt,” Trump said. “I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered, and I made a lot of money in Atlantic City, and I’m very proud of it…. By the way, this country right now owes $19 trillion. And they need somebody like me to straighten out that mess.”
With the exception of Rand Paul, who may have won some fans by taking on Trump vigorously and repeatedly, the other candidates handled Trump gently, wary perhaps of alienating the voters who are attracted to his blunt brand of politics.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who had an uneven performance, but did not appear to make any major mistakes, denied reports that he had called Trump a “clown” and another expletive in a private conversation, but admitted that he had taken issue with Trump’s harsh tone in his announcement speech.
In response to that gentle reproach from Bush, Trump chose to be magnanimous to the former governor, who he has attacked on the campaign trail, even going to so far as to call him a gentleman.
Beyond Trump, other standouts were Paul, a once formidable candidate who peaked the interest of Republican voters and then receded, Christie, who has fallen from favor in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, and Kasich, who drew an enthusiastic welcome from a home-state audience.
Paul and Christie tangled in a passionate debate over government surveillance that highlighted the wide gulf in the Republican Party between libertarian-leaning Republicans like the Kentucky senator and national security hawks like the New Jersey governor.
Christie was asked about his criticism of Paul’s objections to the NSA’s collection of phone records and his statement that the Kentucky senator should be called before Congress to answer for it if the U.S. was hit by a terrorist attack.
It gave Christie an opening to highlight his work as a federal prosecutor who has “prosecuted, investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th.”
When Paul replied that he wanted to collect “more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans,” Christie dismissed his statement as “a completely ridiculous answer,” at one point accusing Paul of sitting in a subcommittee in the Senate “blowing hot air.” Paul parried back by reminding Republican primary voters of the fact that Christie hugged President Obama after super storm Sandy.
Before the hug debate, it was a substantive exchange over policy. But at this point in the Republican race it’s unclear how many voters will pay attention. As long as Trump is in the race, many may just be tuned in for the show.
Christie announced Tuesday he is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Speaking at his alma mater, Livingston High School, in Livingston, New Jersey, Christie said “he is now ready to fight for the people of the United States of America.”
“We must tell each other the truth about the problems we have and the difficulty of the solutions,” Christie added.
Christie is the 14th major contender seeking the GOP nomination.
Christie looked to the past while making his debut as presidential candidate, holding his announcement event at the same high school in Livingston where he grew up and served as class president.
“Why here? Because everything started here for me,” Christie said, embracing his roots as he took the stage in the school’s gymnasium. Just outside the gym, a team photo hangs of Christie and the Livingston “Lancers” baseball team in 1980.
“When I decided to make this announcement, there was no other choice. I had to come home. And Livingston is home for me.”
He made clear over the weekend that his up-front style he once famously told a heckler to “sit down and shut up” will be a central part of the campaign.
“I get accused a lot of times of being too blunt or too direct and saying what’s on my mind just a little bit too loudly,” Christie said in a video released over the weekend as part of his campaign, which uses the motto “Tell It Like It Is.”
He joined the race with strong national name recognition and a record in public office that spans more than a decade, having served as New Jersey’s governor since 2010 and as a U.S. Attorney for the state from 2002-2010. But despite the notoriety, Christie has struggled to gain traction with voters in the run-up to his campaign.
A national CNN/ORC poll conducted in late May found that just 4% of Republican voters planned to support Christie, a drop from 13% late last year. In New Hampshire, a state where Christie is devoting significant attention, he’s tied at just 5% with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leads in the state with 15%.
In New Jersey, where his approval ratings have suffered in recent months, Christie has crafted an image as an aggressive straight talker. His upfront even brash style of dealing with those who question him in public has earned the governor both praise and criticism, but could rub voters the wrong way outside New Jersey.
His distinctive public manner, combined with efforts to provide an economic rebound to a state crippled by years of irresponsible budgeting, will serve as his selling point with voters supporters claim.
In many ways, Christie has taken steps toward a possible presidential run since the early years of his governorship. He forged relationships with party leaders in early-voting states since his second year on the job, when he visited Iowa for the first time in 2011. Christie has visited New Hampshire, which traditionally hosts the first-in-the-nation primary, 43 times, more than any other contender other than former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
As the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie campaigned for fellow governors around the country and worked to build a network of Republicans in key states. In January he and his allies launched the PAC, which provided a vehicle for fundraising and travel that have culminated to Tuesday’s announcement.
While he may have been the darling of the GOP a few years ago, prominent Republicans and donors tried to recruit him to run for president in 2012, Christie’s stature within the party has dipped in his second term as governor, particularly since the “Bridgegate” scandal, when aides ordered lanes of the busy George Washington Bridge to be closed as an act of retaliation against a local mayor. Investigators never proved Christie’s knowledge of the plan or his involvement.
Despite his willingness to compromise to pass legislation in New Jersey, Christie does hit many marks as a conservative: On social issues, he has fought same-sex marriage in New Jersey and in March he endorsed a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. On foreign policy, he points to Henry Kissinger as a key influencer of his thinking. And despite challenges, Christie has worked to implement significant (and politically unpopular) budget reforms.
Still, his willingness to compromise for the sake of “getting things done,” leaves him vulnerable to criticism from some on the right who insist on ideological purity. In March, the conservative journal National Review published a critical cover story on his record in New Jersey, taking him to task for not doing enough to implement reforms and revive the state economy. “Christie’s administration could have achieved so much more,” the magazine wrote.
Perhaps his greatest challenge as governor came in late 2012, when Superstorm Sandy rocked the northeast and destroyed miles of coastline in the state. Christie’s swift and public response to the storm earned him a state-wide approval rating that skyrocketed past 75 percent in initially after the storm and he coasted to re-election the next year. Although some on the right bristled when Christie greeted and praised President Obama when he visited New Jersey after the storm, there were also been frustrations since then about the pace of doling out funds for storm aid–Christie’s handling of the natural disaster will likely play a role in his campaign messaging.
The 62-year-old former Florida governor will make his announcement in a 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) speech at Miami-Dade College, a school whose multicultural student population was chosen to emphasis Bush’s commitment to trying to expand the appeal of the white-dominated Republican Party.
In his speech and in subsequent campaign stops in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina this week, Bush will say he would make it a top priority to generate higher growth in the U.S. economy and create as many as 19 million jobs, according to a memo prepared by the Bush team for his supporters to use as talking points.
He will also stress the need for “a stronger American place in the world,” according to the campaign memo.
“Our enemies no longer fear us, and our friends no longer trust us. It’s time we re-engage and stand with our allies,” the memo said.
The Bush camp has also put together a video ahead of the 2016 campaign announcement, previewing a platform that focuses on the “most vulnerable in our society.”
“The barriers right now on people rising up is the great challenge of our time,” Bush said in the video. “So many people could do so much better if we fixed a few things. My core beliefs start with the premise that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line, not the back. And as governor, I had a chance to act on that core belief.”
The video, titled “Making a Difference” and scheduled to run ahead of Monday’s announcement, features several Floridians testifying to how Bush’s policies in Florida had helped them overcome various hardships: disability, domestic violence, an education gap.
“You can improve the life of people, whether it’s in the programs for the developmentally disabled, or changing our economy, or fixing our higher education system,” the former Florida governor added. “All of these things can be fixed. I am absolutely convinced of it. What we need is new leadership that takes conservative principles and applies them so that people can rise up.”
Bush’s path to the nomination will be difficult. He is joining a Republican field where there are already 10 candidates who have declared their intention to run, and faces some solid competitors in Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and others.
He held an early lead in polls of Republican voters when he first began talking about a White House run six months ago, but that has now dissipated. He is essentially tied for the lead with a host of challengers. Not helping was a fumbled response to a question about the Iraq war last month.
Bush advisers say he is prepared for a long, contentious battle for the nomination. A Bush victory is by no means certain in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, the first three states to stage party nominating contests on the road to the November 2016 election.
He will need to win over those Republicans who have doubts about electing a third president named Bush after his father, George H.W. Bush, and older brother, George W. Bush.
Already he is working on differentiating himself. His political team released a new logo for his campaign, “Jeb!” and a video that stresses his record in Florida.
“Jeb is different than George,” Bush said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show on Sunday. “I don’t have to disassociate myself from my family, I love them, but I know that for me to be successful I’m going to have to show my heart and tell my story.”
The two previous Bush presidents will not be at the Monday event.
Republican Rick Santorum, who fell short in his 2012 presidential bid, launched another run for the White House on Wednesday with a promise to restore the economic power of middle-class American workers.
Santorum, 57, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, emphasized his working-class roots as he formally opened his long-shot 2016 presidential bid near his childhood home in Cabot, in western Pennsylvania.
Looking to build support beyond the social and religious conservatives who bolstered his 2012 campaign, Santorum said “big government” and “big business” had left behind American workers.
“Today is the day we are going to begin to fight back,” he said. “As middle America’s hollowing out we can’t sit idly by. Working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money.”
Santorum promised to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service, back a flat tax and crack down on illegal immigration that he says has robbed jobs from American workers. He also vowed to cut federal spending and revoke “every executive order and regulation that costs Americans jobs.”
In the 2012 race, Santorum won Iowa’s kickoff contest and 10 other state contests with strong support from voters drawn to his social and religious conservatism and wary of the more business-oriented Mitt Romney.
Santorum outlasted other White House hopefuls to become the last remaining challenger to Romney, who ultimately captured the 2012 Republican nomination.
Santorum, whose support has languished in the low single digits in most polls ahead of the 2016 race, faces a stronger and potentially tougher field of Republican hopefuls this time.
He is the seventh Republican to formally declare a bid for the nomination, more than a year ahead of the November 2016 presidential election, joining a group that includes U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Other Republicans expected to jump into the race include former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Santorum will face competition for Christian conservative voters, who helped propel his 2012 bid, from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Cruz and others, while his low poll ratings raise the possibility that he could be excluded from the early Republican debates, which begin in August.
At his launch event, Mr. Santorum pledged to restore the manufacturing industry, to create more jobs for American workers and to restore the U.S.’s global standing. Of the extremist group Islamic State, he said, “They know who I am and I know who they are,” and said as president he would defeat the group.
He also promised to shrink the size of government, saying the U.S. “doesn’t need another president tied to big government or big money.”
“I know what it’s like to be an underdog,” Santorum said, adding he managed to win 11 state nominating contests because “I stand for someone, the American worker.”
“The last race, we changed the debate. This race, with your help and God’s grace, we can change the nation,” he said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie drew a distinct line between himself and Jeb Bush on the Iraq War in an interview on Tuesday, definitively stating that given the absence of weapons of mass destruction he wouldn’t have authorized the war.
“I think President (George W.) Bush made the best decision he could at the time, given that his intelligence community was telling him that there was (weapons of mass destruction) and that there were other threats right there in Iraq,” Christie said.
“But I don’t think you can honestly say that if we knew then that there was no (weapons of mass destruction), that the country should have gone to war.”
The comments were a direct response to Bush’s support for the Iraq War during a Fox News interview. Though Bush was asked by host Megyn Kelly whether, “knowing what we know now,” he would’ve authorized the war in Iraq, he responded affirmatively to a slightly different scenario.
“I would have (authorized the invasion), and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got,” Bush said in the interview.
The remarks drew widespread criticism from Bush’s left and right flanks, and caused a close ally, GOP strategist Ana Navarro, to backtrack on the comments, saying Bush told her he had “misheard” Kelly’s question.
But the comments gave Christie, who is actively contemplating a presidential bid, and would compete with Bush for establishment Republican support if both run, an opening to differentiate himself from Bush, and an opportunity for attack.
Christie jabbed at the former Florida governor, who’s brother and father have served in the White House, saying that Americans should “avoid … continuing to go backwards in this country.”
“We need a forward-looking foreign policy that talks about how to reassert American authority and influence around the world,” he said.
Bush wasn’t the only potential opponent that drew fire from Christie in the broad interview with Tapper conducted in New Hampshire, where Christie had delivered an economic speech and was planning a town hall meeting.
In response to a question on his own position on immigration reform, Christie took direct aim at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accusing her of “pandering” with her recent speech promising to go further than President Barack Obama in giving illegal immigrants legal and citizenship rights.
“The pandering that’s going on by Secretary Clinton is really the kind of thing that disgusts people about American politics,” he said. “The fact is that, all of a sudden, she’s had this epiphany: She wants to go to the left of President Obama. I didn’t know there was room to the left of President Obama on an issue like this, but that’s apparently where she’s headed.”
Christie pointedly didn’t answer whether he believes legal status for immigrants creates a second-class citizenship, promising to “give a thoughtful and complete answer on immigration” if he becomes a presidential candidate.
He also issued a veiled jab at Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for his efforts to rein in government surveillance programs, arguing that a major lesson from the Iraq War was that “there is almost nothing more valuable to a strong national defense than a strong, empowered intelligence community.”
“I’m very concerned about those who want to weaken our intelligence community. The President has done it already. And there are those that are running for president now that want to weaken the intelligence community even more,” he said.
Despite his sharp words for his potential opponents, whether Christie will actually pull the trigger on a run remains an open question and political observers have increasingly begun to question his viability in the race. Three of his former associates were hit with criminal charges related to the scandal surrounding lane closures on the George Washington Bridge this month; New Jersey’s economy continues to struggle and Christie has stalled in the polls.
Christie sounded unswayed from an expected run during his Tuesday interview. He defended his economic record as one of improvement, declaring that in New Jersey he “inherited a wrecked ship and we’ve now made it seaworthy,” and promising to “make it even better than that” by the end of his term.
Christie also insisted that the act of political retribution from his former allies that landed them criminal charges was not evidence of a cultural issue within his administration.
“I think, unfortunately, there are going to be times when people that work for me do things that are completely out of character,” he said.
The governor also said he bore no responsibility for the situation, declaring, “You can’t be responsible for the bad acts of some people who wind up in your employ.”
And he’s continuing his preparations for a potential run, visiting New Hampshire this week to deliver an address on the economy, with another address on national security planned for next week.
Though a recent NBC News/WSJ survey showed 57% of Republican primary voters said they couldn’t back Christie, the highest opposition faced by any potential candidate in the field, Christie said on Tuesday that his polling position has no bearing on his decision to run.
“If you determine what your commitment is to your country by what your poll number is on any particular morning, then I’d suggest to you that you have no business running for President of the United States,” he said.
That’s because, Christie said, that 57% of Republicans “could change their minds.”
“The job of campaigns if we were to engage in one, is to change minds. And the job of leaders is not to follow polls, it’s to change polls,” he said. “If I decide to run for president, I’ll run, and my job would be to convince people to vote for me.”
Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservatives, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat chief Nick Clegg fielded questions at Leeds Town Hall in northern England Thursday, in a bid to win over voters ahead of an election polls say is too close to call.
The leaders didn’t trade blows with each other in the BBC’s “Question Time” program, but were battered by hard-hitting questions from an audience selected to include supporters of all three parties, as well as undecided voters.
Questioners said Cameron couldn’t be trusted to preserve Britain’s health and welfare systems and accused him of lying about cutting immigration. Miliband was charged with being economically reckless and lying about the previous Labour government’s spending.
Clegg was asked how he could ever be trusted again, after reneging on a 2010 election pledge to abolish university tuition charges. He went into government with the Conservatives and tripled the fees.
“Got it wrong, I said sorry,” Clegg said, in a tone of contrition adopted by all three politicians.
Neither Labour nor the Conservatives appears to have the support to win a majority in the House of Commons in the May 7 election, while the Lib Dems look set to lose half their seats. Some form of coalition government appears likely.
The leaders tried to inject some certainty to the most uncertain election in decades, outlining the “red lines” they would not cross in government. For Cameron, it was an in-out referendum on European Union membership, which he has promised to hold by 2017.
“I will not lead a government that does not deliver that (referendum) pledge,” Cameron said.
Miliband, the Labour leader was repeatedly attacked by invited voters for denying that the last government had helped to plunge Britain into recession.
He faced accusations that his economic record was like a “millstone around his neck” as he was subjected to a series of hostile questions from the BBC Question Time audience.
Asked directly by a member of the audience if the last government had “overspent”, Miliband said: “No, I don’t”.
Members of the audience said that they could not “trust” him as prime minister if he would not accept his economic failings as part of the last Labour government and he was urged to sack Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor.
Senior Conservatives were on Thursday night hoping that the testy exchanges which ended with a surprised looking Labour leader stumbling as he walked off the stage, will finally mark a turning point in the election campaign.
Miliband vowed that a center-left government led by him would cut spending to get the deficit down and “live within our means.”
And he ruled out in firm terms a coalition or deal with the separatist Scottish National Party, which looks set to win most of the seats in Scotland.
“I am not going to sacrifice the future of our country, the unity of our country,” Miliband said.
As the campaign enters its final week, British newspapers began to dole out political endorsements. The Financial Times and the Economist both said a continuation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that has governed since 2010 was in Britain’s best interests.
Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid Sun urged voters to back the Conservatives, unless they’re in Scotland. There, it said, they should vote for the Scottish National Party.
The differing endorsements raised a few eyebrows, since the London-based Sun dubbed nationalists “saboteurs” determined to wreck Britain.
But the Scottish edition which has a separate editor said the SNP would “fight harder for Scotland’s interests” and praised leader Nicola Sturgeon as “a phenomenon.” Its front page depicted her as Princess Leia from “Star Wars.”
Murdoch’s newspapers were long a powerful force in British politics, but their influence may be waning in the Internet age.