Bobby Jindal accepts reality, ends presidential campaign

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal suspended his presidential campaign today, acknowledging that "this is not my time." I enclose below the full text of his "thank you" message.

Jindal had visited Iowa 27 times, spending all or part of 74 days here since the beginning of 2013. Republican audiences generally received him favorably, despite his disastrous record as governor. His riff on "hyphenated Americans" was a crowd-pleaser, as was his assertion that "Immigration without assimilation is an invasion." But in a crowded field with at least half a dozen candidates targeting the social conservative niche, Jindal didn’t have a lot of money to raise his profile through direct mail or paid advertising. Nor did he have a path to the main debate stage, since television networks have made the cut using national polls rather than surveys of Iowa Republicans.

Jindal had been scheduled to visit Iowa again this week, including an appearance at the FAMiLY Leader’s Presidential Family Forum. I suspect Representative Steve King’s endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz yesterday factored into the governor’s decision not to waste his time on that event. Although the FAMiLY Leader has showcased Jindal’s illegal efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in Louisiana, it appears to be a foregone conclusion that Bob Vander Plaats will jump on the Cruz bandwagon.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Douglas Burns interviewed Jindal for his latest "Political Mercury" column in Cityview. It’s a good read and a reminder of why some had speculated Jindal might become this cycle’s social conservative peaking at just the right time before the Iowa caucuses.

UPDATE: Added below some reaction and commentary to Jindal dropping out.

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Branstad joins rush to slam door on Syrian refugees

Yesterday Governor Terry Branstad joined the club of 24 governors (23 Republicans and a Democrat) who have said their states will not accept refugees from Syria. They don’t have the power to block resettlement of refugees within their state borders, any more than pandering presidential candidates would be able to adopt unconstitutional religion-based criteria for deciding which people to allow into this country.

Still, Branstad’s knee-jerk reaction to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris is a disappointing retreat from the more reasonable stance he took earlier this fall on refugees from Syria coming to Iowa.

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Steve King: Ted Cruz is the "constitutional conservative" who can "restore the soul of America"

Steve King official photo photo 220px-Steve_King_Official_zpsf7dpktqu.jpg

Representative Steve King endorsed Senator Ted Cruz for president a few minutes ago, calling the senator from Texas "the answer to my prayers, a candidate God will use to restore the soul of America." After going through several key issues, including the need to stop President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration and to repeal "root and branch" the 2010 Affordable Care Act, King said his candidate would need to be committed to those policies. In addition, King said a successful candidate needs to be able to appeal not only to establishment Republicans, but also to "constitutional Christian conservatives" and libertarians. The candidate must be able to raise enough money to run a strong campaign, and must be able to inspire Christian conservatives for a large turnout. In King’s view, one reason Republicans lost the 2012 presidential race was millions of Christian conservatives staying home.

King argued that Cruz is "unmatched in his tenacity to take on the Washington cartels" and has "consistently stood on principle" against the D.C. elites. He "does listen, and he does think." Asked how much he will do to support Cruz before the Iowa caucuses, King joked that "if they’ll let me," he is prepared to hit the campaign trail, adding, "I’m in with both feet, I’m in all the way." Asked to sum up his reasoning in one sentence, King said, "Ted Cruz is the full package, the constitutional conservative that can restore the soul of America."

King didn’t endorse a candidate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, and didn’t take a stand the previous cycle until shortly before the 2008 caucuses, when he endorsed Fred Thompson. I suspect that coming out so early for Cruz reflects King’s concern about Donald Trump’s and Ben Carson’s long ride at the top of the Iowa and national polls. During the Q & A, King said he hopes his endorsement will add "clarity" to Cruz’s position on immigration, and asserted that some others are trying to distort Cruz’s stance on that issue. When a reporter asked King why he doesn’t see Carson as a candidate who can restore the soul of America, King praised Carson’s intellect but suggested that Washington, DC is not "a zone that he is familiar with." Later in the Q & A, King made a similar point about Trump—he doesn’t know enough about how Washington works. He made clear that he would support Trump if he became the GOP nominee and said he appreciated that Trump has raised some of the issues King has worked on for a long time.

UPDATE: Added below some reaction to today’s news and the official video of King endorsing Cruz, which the senator’s campaign sent out a few minutes before King made the big reveal at his press conference. One of the pro-Cruz super-PACs also announced King’s endorsement before the congressman did.

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The CNBC Republican debate really was that bad

One of the three CNBC panelists for the Republican presidential debate in Colorado made clear earlier in the day that he wasn’t looking for dry policy discussions.

“We’ve had fireworks up to this point. I think the fireworks will just be as big if not bigger,” [Carl] Quintanilla said in an interview. […]

“[W]e hopefully won’t need to go in there with a blow torch. The fires are going to get stoked and it is the moderators job to make sure those fires don’t die,” [Carl] Quintanilla said. “[T]he race is getting serious. This is about the economy, which is our wheel house, and our hope is this gives the candidates a different set of pitches at which to swing and I think that will, it will mark a turning point in the race one way or another.”

The biggest home runs on stage last night came when candidates swung at the debate moderators. For once, Republican whining about the "mainstream media" was mostly justified.

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When will Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, or Rick Santorum go after Ben Carson?

Two new polls of Iowa Republicans show Dr. Ben Carson has taken the lead from Donald Trump. Selzer & Co’s latest survey for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics shows Carson is the first choice of 28 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, followed by Trump at 19 percent, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (10 percent), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (9 percent), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (5 percent each), business executive Carly Fiorina (4 percent), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (3 percent), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Senator Rick Santorum (2 percent each), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (1 percent), and the rest of the field below 1 percent.

Similarly, Quinnipiac’s latest poll of likely Republican caucus-goers found Carson ahead of Trump by 28 percent to 20 percent, followed by Rubio (13 percent), Cruz (10 percent), Paul (6 percent), Fiorina and Bush (5 percent each), and no one else above 3 percent.

Carson is the best-liked candidate among those likely to participate in the Iowa GOP caucuses. Both the Selzer and Quinnipiac surveys found that 84 percent of respondents view him favorably. I’ve posted more excerpts from the poll write-ups after the jump.

Carson is crushing the competition among social conservatives, an important bloc that tends to break late in Iowa caucus campaigns, as Bleeding Heartland guest author fladem discussed here. He has invested heavily in direct mail and leaving copies of his paperback books on Iowa Republican doorsteps, while generally escaping scrutiny from his competitors.

At some point, other candidates who are appealing primarily to the religious right must recognize that their path to relevance in Iowa runs through Carson. Only 22 percent of Selzer poll respondents said their minds are made up; 78 percent could change their minds. I’m curious to see when 2008 winner Huckabee, 2012 winner Santorum, and/or Jindal will start making a case against the surgeon. To be stuck in the cellar after spending substantially more time in Iowa than Carson must be so frustrating.

Cruz may also need to give Iowans a reason not to support Carson. Perhaps some of his Christian conservative surrogates could take on that role. "Opinion leaders" backing Cruz include numerous evangelical clergy, talk radio host Steve Deace, and Dick and Betty Odgaard, the self-styled martyrs to marriage equality in Iowa.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Nick Ryan, who led the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund for several election cycles and headed the pro-Santorum super-PAC during the 2012 primaries, signed on earlier this year to lead a super-PAC supporting Huckabee. It might make more sense for that group to go after Carson than for Huckabee to do so directly. Still, the next GOP debate on October 28 would be a good opportunity for rivals to score points against the new Iowa front-runner.

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CNN Republican debate discussion thread

Eleven GOP candidates are just starting the "varsity" debate on CNN now. I will update this post later with some clips and thoughts. This thread is for any comments about today’s debates or the presidential race in general.

I only caught part of the first debate, featuring four candidates who didn’t make the cut for prime time. But from what I saw of Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum, I think former Libertarian candidate for Iowa secretary of state Jake Porter said it best: “It is like the comments section decided to run for President and is now debating on live TV.”

10 PM UPDATE: My immediate reaction is that Carly Fiorina had an excellent debate, except for her closing statement, which sounded too memorized and rehearsed. Some of what she said was false (for instance, her comments about the Planned Parenthood videos), but that will go over well with the GOP base viewers. She did exceptionally well at modulating her voice, so that she sounded forceful and knowledgeable but also calm and steady. Everyone expected her to have a good comeback against Donald Trump, and she did, but it wasn’t just that answer. She was able to articulate a credible-sounding response on most of the topics that came up. She also produced the “most-tweeted moments” during the debate.

Trump made little sense, as usual. He started out as a caricature of himself, bragging about how many billions of dollars he has made. He claimed to have fought hard against going to war in Iraq—will be interesting to see whether there is any evidence to back that up. I don’t remember Trump speaking out against the war. I was surprised to hear Trump argue that vaccines can cause autism if kids get too many close together. I would guess that won’t hurt him.

Ben Carson gained the most from the first debate, and I don’t think he lost any ground tonight. That’s bad news for Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, who are fighting hard for evangelical support but didn’t seem to make their mark in this debate.

Chris Christie had more strong moments tonight than in last month’s Fox debate. I think he will gain more than John Kasich, who is essentially fighting for the same Republican moderate voters.

Rand Paul didn’t make a big impression during most of the debate, but he did well during the discussion on drug policy, especially calling out Jeb Bush for wanting to lock up poor people for using the same drugs Jeb used as a young man.

Bush had the second-most speaking time after Trump, and he landed some decent punches, but overall, I question whether he gained many supporters. He didn’t do a terrible job, though it was laughable when he suggested putting Margaret Thatcher on the ten-dollar bill.

Scott Walker had the least speaking time, according to NPR, and didn’t create any memorable moment. This event won’t reverse his falling poll numbers.

I saw some people saying on social media that Marco Rubio had a good night. The only comment that stood out for me was his saying his grandfather taught him about the American Dream in Spanish. Otherwise, I am still baffled by what so many people see in Rubio.

It was a huge mistake for the Democratic National Committee not to schedule any debates between the first two Republican clashes. The contrast in the level of discourse would have been tremendous for the Democratic candidates.  

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