The Saturday night Republican Presidential debate held in Greenville, South Carolina, last evening was not a Saint Valentine’s Party warm up, but it was more instructive than most political events in gauging candidate positions on the issues. There were many accusatory attacks by candidates on other candidates and rounds of sharp rebuttals. Many voters are turned off by this, but otherwise voters will be left either misinformed or uninformed on candidate positions.
I was not able to attend the Greenville debate. In fact, I was only able to see the last half of it, so I enquired of an informed friend who was at the debate, how it went.I was referred to eleven online polls asking who won the debate. This is often used as a surrogate for which candidate is preferred. Online polling has some advantages, because it overcomes the reluctance of many voters to tell people what they really think. This is especially true in a culture of accommodation to political correctness. Online polls have numerous weaknesses, however. There is no real control on the age, registration, or even citizenship of those polled. There are few safeguards against people voting more than once. They don’t meet the hard-to-achieve perfectly representative sample goal of polling, but they can provide quick accumulation of massive data.
Many people have complained about the contentious atmosphere, which many people wrongly attribute completely to Trump rather than his sometimes vicious detractors. It appears Trump did extremely well. Evidently, poll responders agree with his most important positions, especially on immigration and the dangers of Islam, and appreciate his outspoken rejection of political correctness. They trust his business intelligence and know-how to improve our trade deficit and get back American jobs. They appreciate that by being able to finance his own campaign, he is much less vulnerable to political corruption. He is free enough and strong enough to do the right thing. They are not overly interested in libertarian nuances, when they feel larger problems like their jobs, standard of living, economic future, and safety of their families and culture are being threatened. They want no more of the Republican establishment politicians who care not a whit about American workers and middle class wage earners.
A total of 568,000 people had responded to the eleven online polls by 9:00 AM this morning. Results were still coming in, but the percentages had become stable since midnight. A weighted combination of these online polls indicated 59.1 percent of respondents believed Trump won the debate. In second place was Cruz with 17.7 percent, followed by Rubio with 11.9 percent. Kasich was fourth with 5.1 percent, with Bush following with 3.5 percent. Carson, once a leading candidate but lacking big donor support, lagged badly at 2.6 percent.
More than half of the weighted poll, 54 percent, came from the Drudge online poll. Trump led with 57.2 percent, followed by Cruz with 20.4 percent, Rubio with 12.1 percent. The other candidates were very close to their representation in the total weighted poll.
The Glenn Beck online poll, which was the second largest with 14 percent of the total, showed some sharp differences. Beck has raged against Trump for months and praised Cruz. Cruz made his highest showing in the Beck poll, 33 percent, but still trailed Trump’s 46 percent.
I had formed a hypothesis that the Rupert Murdoch related Wall Street Journal and two Fox online polls would be low polls for Trump and high polls for Rubio, because Murdoch has been trying to destroy Trump and is financing Rubio, all this being related to their immigration positions. Murdoch is for amnesty and open borders, which Trump strongly opposes, and which Rubio pursued through the Schumer-Rubio amnesty and proposal to more than double legal immigrant workers. Rubio generally dodges the immigration issues, frequently using a 25 second memorized barrage of off-the-subject patriotic bromides to escape a question. I found the three Murdoch WSJ/Fox polls matched very closely with the Time Magazine online poll. The four polls, however, yielded a strong 66 percent for Trump. They did yield a higher than average support for Rubio at 14 percent. The really big difference was that each of these liberal oriented polls yielded a unanimous and devastatingly low 5 percent for Cruz. Kasich outpaced Cruz in these four polls with an average of nearly 8 percent.
Right Scoop and four smaller online polls averaged 69.5 Percent for Trump. Right Scoop had 12.1 percent for Cruz, but the smaller four online polls ranged only from 4 to 6 percent for Cruz. Rubio ranged from 8 to 17 percent for these polls, averaging 11.8 percent.
The biggest lesson of the Greenville debate is that the Republican establishment has not been able to stop the Trump surge despite extraordinary efforts to derail him, often resorting to unprecedented distortions of his past political positions, blowing up minor issues and incidents beyond reality, and even making a major deal out of whether he says 2 Corinthians instead of Second Corinthians.
I like both Trump and Cruz, but I think Cruz has relied on over the top nuances and exaggerations of Trump’s past positions, when conservatives are concerned about much more important issues like jobs, wages, national security, and public safety. Carson’s accusation that Cruz used a dirty trick to confuse voters in New Hampshire has hurt Cruz more than I thought. Even in the most honest and well-run campaigns, it is difficult to control the actions of volunteers and lower staff levels. The issue is important ethically, but only significant, if it started with Cruz or was approved by Cruz. In addition, Cruz was asked (bated) in a TV interview about his reaction to the tragic murder of nine blacks while praying in their Charleston church, which led to Governor Haley’s and the South Carolina Legislature’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from a monument to Confederate dead near the capitol building. He handled the first part of the interview well enough in my opinion, saying it was a state issue, and no one should come to South Carolina wagging an accusing finger about the incident. So far good, but then he went into high praise for Governor Haley’s and Senator Lindsey Graham’s handling of the situation, which created a domino effect of attacks on Confederate symbols and monuments throughout the South. This probably hurt Cruz with some of his strongest supporters in both South Carolina and other Southern states.
Low online polls also threaten Jeb Bush’s campaign viability. Murdoch and other big donor Republicans are already switching their support to Rubio.
However, Rubio’s close association with the amnesty issue is unpopular. A recent withering letter from Eagle Forum leader Phyllis Schlafly to Eagle Forum members pointed out that Rubio had betrayed his promises to conservatives on immigration. He is in on video making opposite promises to Spanish and English speaking audiences. Rubio’s immigration record may be too steep a hill to overcome conservative opposition even with the vast financial power of Murdoch, the Koch brothers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Republican establishment.
Kasich will probably stay in the race as a safer establishment candidate than Rubio. Kasich is also for amnesty and liberal immigration policies. His positions are just not as well known to the public. He is therefore a greater threat to conservatives even than Rubio. One of the online polls indicated that many people would consider Ben Carson a good vice presidential running mate for Trump.