Chris Christie Archives - Page 3 of 22 - SaintPetersBlog

Donald Trump celebrates victories in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina

Donald Trump promised to continue to “win, win, win,” after victories in three of the five states holding Republican primaries Tuesday.

Trump won primaries in Illinois, North Carolina and Florida. He came in second in Ohio, trailing John Kasich. The Missouri Republican primary was too close to call late Tuesday night.

The New York businessman clobbered Marco Rubio in Florida. He received 46 percent of the vote, while Rubio received 27 percent in the Sunshine State. Trump won almost every county in Florida, save for Miami-Dade County. Rubio announced Tuesday he was suspending his campaign.

“I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on winning Florida’s winner-take-all presidential primary,” said Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Florida GOP in a statement. “While the Florida GOP will remain neutral in the Republican nominating process, we will continue our grassroots efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton and put a Republican in the White House come November.”

Trump has won 18 Republican primaries and leads in the delegate count. The winner-take-all nature of Florida’s election may help Trump secure the Republican nomination.

“I think we’re going to have a great victory,” said Trump during a celebratory speech on Tuesday. “We’re going to win, win, win, and we’re not stopping.”

Trump said his campaign has “had such incredible support,” pointing toward endorsements from Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi as an example of that support.

“We have to bring our party together. We have something happening that actually makes the Republican party the biggest political story in the world,” he said. “Millions of people are coming in to vote. We have a great opportunity. Democrats are coming in, independents are coming in and, very importantly, people are coming in who never voted before.”

“I’m very proud to be a part of this,” he said.

Joe Gruters confident Florida GOP will come together to back Donald Trump

Joe Gruters‘ association with the Donald Trump campaign is controversial, because, well, Donald Trump is controversial.

Gruters was named last fall to be the campaign chair for Trump in Florida. That’s in addition to his other public duties, which include being the vice-chair of the Republican Party of Florida, the chair of the Sarasota County Republican Executive Committee, and a member of the board of trustees of Florida State University.

Those conflicting roles have led some of his critics to say that he should step down from one of those public positions. Gruters has rebuffed the critics, and is feeling more confident than ever that his candidate will be the nominee this fall. And he has no qualms about the party coming together in November.

“Listen, primaries are tough,” he said while standing outside the room used by Trump at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday afternoon. “A lot of things get said in primaries. People are unhappy. Their candidate loses, and just like me, there’ve been times before where I didn’t like who are nominee was going to be. But by the end of the day, I was one-hundred percent doing everything I could for the person, and I think the same will happen here.”

Members of the GOP establishment continue to maintain that the majority of Republicans don’t support Trump, referring to how his victories in previous primaries and caucuses rarely exceed forty percent of the total vote.

That’s among a scattered field, however, and Gruters says that Trump’s numbers are growing as candidates like Ben Carson and Chris Christie drop out of the race.

“Eventually, all will be forgiven, and the Republican Party will come together, stronger and united and bigger and better than before, and I think we’re going to win,” he maintains.

Perhaps.

Earlier on Tuesday, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, a former surrogate for Jeb Bush, who is now supporting Marco Rubio, says he has certain expectations of who the GOP’s standard bearer should be, and says Trump is lacking in those qualities at the moment.

“I expect the nominee of the Republican Party to be presidential,” he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I expect them to care about the poor. I expect them to care about free markets and free enterprise. I expect them to care about life. This is not a person who has not embodied what I look for in a candidate for the Republican nomination, and somebody I can support in November.

Gruters says that Trump has ignited a movement, referring to the dramatic increase in Republicans turning out to vote in some of the nation’s first primaries and caucuses.  Democratic strategist Steve Schale told the Wall Street Journal that based on the early vote in 14 counties across Florida, more than half didn’t cast ballots in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

“I think at the end of the day we have to win the general election, and I think that Donald Trump has the ability to expand our base, to increase the size of our tent,” says Gruters. “You’ve seen it in the primaries; I think that the energy and enthusiasm that’s been created will be transferred over to the general election, and I think it’s going to be a historic election with DT carrying states that we were never even considered to have a chance of winning before.”

Mitch Perry Report for 3.15.16 – Is it really Election Day when 2 million people have already voted?

Although today is Election Day in Florida, that’s sort of a misnomer, considering that over 2 million Floridians have already voted in our presidential primary.

However, nearly a quarter of all registered voters aren’t part of that total, and won’t be after tonight.

That’s because they’re registered independent, or Non-Party-Affiliated. There is 3.25 million of them in the Sunshine State.

I’ve heard the arguments from the political parties about why Florida should retain its closed-primary system that allows only registered Democrats to vote in a Democratic race and the same for Republicans, but that argument is effectively disenfranchising millions of people in Florida.

Things in society are changing, in case you haven’t noticed. And more and more people, especially millennials, want nothing to do with the political party system. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t want to participate in the electoral process. They’re not mutually exclusive.

As we reported last week, a poll commissioned by  Open Primaries, a national nonprofit group advocating for open and nonpartisan primary systems,. reported that 88  percent of Florida’s independents believe that their exclusion in Florida’s closed primary system is unfair, and 88 percent said they are independent because neither party represents them.

An attempt to change that via the state Constitution went nowhere this past year. If it’s going to change, it’s going to have to be through a citizen’s led effort here in Florida, since the political parties have no interest in aiding the cause.

That’s too bad, because Democrats in particular like to complain about efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote. Yet the closed primary system in 2016 does just that.

Last Friday I had an interaction with an official at my local bank. After we were done with the business that I came to the bank for, I asked him if he was voting today. He said he wasn’t sure if he was registered or where his polling location was, so we went online to the Hillsborough County SOE’s website.

There he learned that he wasn’t registered. Though disappointed, he excitedly went ahead and signed up then and there, only to be disappointed when I told him that he still was too late to vote today. And because he was registering as a NPA, he wouldn’t be able to vote in our next election, on August 30. He can vote in November, though.

The fact is, in other states you could register as late as Friday to vote today. Why is that system worse than what we have now?

P.S. I went to vote on Saturday at my local polling location, and was stunned to learn that I could not vote. I’ve switched around my party registration all the time, and currently am registered NPA, and had obviously failed to change that by the deadline last month. So that’s on me. Nevertheless, it’s the first election ever that I’m not participating in.

In the news…

Donald Trump brought in the big guns – Sarah Palin, Chris Christie  surprise endorsee Pam Bondi to set the table for him at his town-hall meeting at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday afternoon.

Before the Trump town hall, citizens protesting his candidacy marched to the Convention Center.

A few months ago, David Jolly called on Trump to quit the race after his remark about banning Muslims from the U.S., now realizing they might share the same ticket this November, David Jolly says he’s still pondering getting behind the New York City real estate mogul’s run for the White House.

And Sean Shaw is poised to make another run for the House District 61 seat that encompasses much of Tampa’s downtown urban core.

In Tampa, Donald Trump says he’s ready to pivot toward Hillary Clinton after hopefully winning Florida and Ohio

Poised to take home Florida’s 99 delegates on Tuesday night, Donald Trump held a town-hall meeting at the Tampa Convention Center before approximately 1,000 people on Monday afternoon, where he acknowledged that he’s ready to close out the primary season and begin pivoting toward Hillary Clinton.

“If we win Florida, and we win Ohio, we can go on to attacking Hillary, and we can stop attacking each other,” Trump said.

While Ohio may or may not go his way, there isn’t a single poll published in months that shows Trump in serious jeopardy of losing Florida, a state where he is a part-time resident (residing in Palm Beach County).

It was a star-studded occasion for conservatives in the house. Sarah Palin, Chris Christie and Attorney General Pam Bondi prepped the crowd for Trump, with Bondi announcing her endorsement for Trump before introducing him to the stage.

“Our country and our world need someone who is going to protect our security like never before, and that’s why I support Donald,” Bondi said, adding that “My mom is with Donald Trump, and so am I.”

Palin was a surprise speaker, as she had earlier canceled an appearance in the Villages after her husband Todd was injured.

“It’s a movement. This is a strategy. This is finally an opportunity to take our country back, to get out government on our side,” said Palin, stretching out her vowels on “back” and “side.”

The former Alaskan governor weighed in on the violent clashes that took place between supporters and opponents of Trump last Friday night in Chicago. She said: “what we don’t have time for is all that petty, punk-ass little thuggery little stuff that’s been goin’ on from these quote unquote protesters, who are doing nothing but wasting your time and trying to take away your first amendment rights, you’re right to assemble peacefully, and the media being on the thug’s side — what the heck are you guys thinking?” as the crowd booed in response.

Marco Rubio has been barnstorming the state this entire week, yet only a couple of polls show him within single-digits of catching Trump, who has led in every poll taken in this state since last summer.

“You gotta go vote. You gotta represent the people. He defrauded the people,” Trump said, mocking Rubio’s poor attendance in the Senate over the past year as he’s campaigned for president. Criticizing him for being “weak” on immigration, Trump questioned how Rubio ever got elected in the first place.

With Christie looking on, Trump reminisced about how the New Jersey Governor pounded Rubio in that infamous moment in New Hampshire three days before the first in the nation’s primary. “I said, ‘this is weird, he keeps giving the same answer like he’s a robot,” Trump recounted. “After the fifth time, I said, ‘what’s going on over here? And I had this- see this big powerful hand? Because I didn’t want him to go down.” he asked the crowd, extending his right hand in a reference to Rubio’s juvenile campaign patter regarding the size of Trump’s hand.

He never mentioned the words “Jeb Bush,” but took a dig at the since-vanquished presidential candidate by indicating how he had spent only $2 million in winning New Hampshire, while “someone you know” spent $49 million. “I came in first; he came in fifth. Who do you want as your president?”

The fact that Trump is largely (but not exclusively) funded his own campaign is one of the things about him that his supporters appreciate about him.

“I believe because he has no political figures to give back to once he’s in the office, he’s his own person, you know?” said Greg Tapp from Lakeland. “I’ve seen what happens when you have favors you own your political party.”

Trump began his address by touting the fact that his candidacy is bringing so many new voters to the system, and that is definitely not a case of Trump hyperbole. In fact, Tapp said that Tuesday’s primary will be the first election ever where he’s participated.

According to Joe Gruters, who is working for Trump in Florida, there’s been a 67 percent increase in overall turnout to date in all GOP primaries, “and I think that’s directly attributable, or most of it, to Donald Trump,” he said.

Trump generally holds large rallies, but he opted to go for a more intimate feel on Monday, using a small room in the convention center for a town-hall setting. That meant he spoke for only around 37 minutes instead of his usual hour-plus. He also took several questions from the audience.

The first question came from an 18-year-old high school student from St. Augustine, who asked about foreigners coming over from Mexico to take jobs that Americans didn’t want to.

Trump disagreed, saying that Americans do want those jobs. “They want to work, they want to make a lot of money, they want to be rich, they want to buy a nicer house, they want to take care of their family with health care,” he said, never answering the question about American wanting to work for a low wage to do things like immigrants do, like do farm work.

New Jersey resident Ed Thompson, who was visiting friends in Fort Myers on Monday before making the trek up north to Tampa. Thompson says he’s voted Democratic, independent and Republican over the years. He said that one of the things he likes about Trump is his stance on Planned Parenthood, one of several positions where he has differed from his Republican opponents. Trump has he supports the family planning organization, not just for abortions (Title X does not allow using federal funds for abortions. Medicaid, however, doeallow spending government money on them — in very restricted cases). “I have no problem with Planned Parenthood doing great things for people who can’t afford it, to take that kind of a stance from a politician is refreshing because there are no absolutes in this game,” says Thompson.

Thompson blamed the clashes that took place at a Trump rally in Chicago last week to the progressive activist group MoveOn.org, which he claims was a violent organization. “They’re domestic terrorists, as far as I’m concerned, because they rule by fear.”

Half a dozen protesters were ejected from the premises in Tampa on Monday, all in the first fifteen minutes of the event. There was no violence, though, on one occasion, a black woman seemed to get literally in the face of an elderly white woman before she was escorted out of the room.

“There’s no learning curve with Donald,” said Lehigh Acres resident Margaret Braun. Despite the fact that he’s never served in government, Braun thinks that Trump won’t need much schooling. A lifelong Republican, she says she rejects Republicans who have failed in Washington.

“Marco Rubio, we voted for him in 2010, we wanted to change the Senate so we’d have some control, and we did, ” she says. “Oh, we were so happy. But they didn’t do anything! They have no business running for president saying they’re going to help our country when they had the chance.”

It’s that type of sentiment that makes Rubio a major underdog going into Tuesday’s election, and Trump, the front-runner.

Today on Context Florida: Hillary Clinton wins Florida, healthcare costs, Chris Christie, homelessness and women-owned business

Today on Context Florida:

Steve Schale explains why Hillary Clinton should easily defeat Bernie Sanders in Florida’s presidential primary. For the first time in a while, the Florida Democratic Primary will mean something.  For Bernie Sanders, it is a chance to prove he can win a big, diverse state.  For Hillary Clinton, it is an opportunity to solidify her position as the party’s standard-bearer. Yet, unless something dramatic changes, Schale says Clinton will win Florida and firmly position herself as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee.

Falling behind only terrorism and the economy, Charles Evans says the rising cost of health care is very much on the minds of voters across the country. That’s certainly the case in Florida as we approach the presidential primary on March 15. Voters want solutions to one of the most expensive items in the family budget and on the corporate balance sheet, Evans says. While Washington may have failed to provide a solution with the Affordable Care Act, Florida lawmakers are offering a bold plan to reduce health care costs.

Chris Christie had a distinguished political career as a federal prosecutor who put organized crime members and terrorists in federal prisons. Elected as governor of New Jersey in 2009, Christie was easily elected in 2013 in a state that has been hostile to Republicans. Darryl Paulson describes how Christie’s national political ambitions suffered a severe setback in 2014 when individuals in his administration ordered the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York to punish a political opponent.

On behalf of hard-working families, seniors, veterans, those experiencing homelessness and those with special needs throughout the state, the Florida Senate and House of Representatives took a positive step this week. Together, both chambers came to an agreement on funding for affordable housing, recommending that $214.1 million be appropriated from Florida’s housing trust funds toward affordable housing. Jamie Ross of the Sadowski Coalition says his group is thankful for all the hard work that the Senate and House have put into this budget. They applaud them for coming to agreement on this vital issue that affects Floridians in all corners of the state while also including more than $5.2 million for homeless and other housing projects.

In the Pensacola area, Shannon Nickinson notes that more and more women are starting businesses of their own. Forbes reports that one-fourth of all enterprises in the country is owned by women and that a rising number of women-owned businesses are topping the $1 million mark. Nationally women own 36 percent of companies. In the Pensacola metro area, 38.5 percent of firms are owned by women. Women are equal owners in another 7.7 percent of Pensacola’s businesses. Of the 14,718 businesses led or co-owned by women in the two-county area, 2,172 have paid employees. Those companies support 17,124 jobs in the Pensacola area’s economy.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

Chris Christie on Donald Trump appearance: ‘I wasn’t being held hostage’

Anyone worried that Republican Gov. Chris Christie was being held hostage by Donald Trump as he stood, seemingly shell-shocked, behind the GOP presidential front-runner on Super Tuesday can rest easy.

“No, I wasn’t being held hostage. No, I wasn’t sitting up there thinking, ‘Oh, my God, what have I done?'” Christie said Thursday back home in New Jersey. “I don’t know what I was supposed to be doing. All these armchair psychiatrists should give it a break.”

He said his face was stoic because he was listening as Trump spoke. In

“I stood where they asked me to stand. What do I care? Do you think I really care? … I really don’t,” he said. “Next week there will be an Internet freakout about something else.”

InChristie also said he won’t heed calls from a handful of newspapers to resign and will continue helping Trump’s campaign. His defense of endorsing the billionaire developer came as two former Republican presidential nominees — including Mitt Romney on Thursday — and 70 national security experts warned that Trump was unfit to be commander in chief.

Christie said he doesn’t agree with Trump on everything, though he wasn’t specific. He said he’s told Trump when he disagreed with him and has tried to change his mind.

“That’s what a good endorser does,” Christie said.

He spoke Thursday at a nearly two-hour news conference in Trenton that was part campaign debriefing, part attempt to refocus on priorities in the state. But he opened the floor up to questions, and reporters had a lot of them.

Christie, who ended his own Republican presidential campaign last month, said he will continue helping Trump’s campaign but doesn’t have any more appearances scheduled. Christie added that his 30th wedding anniversary is next week, but he is otherwise focused on state priorities, including a budget due in June.

Seven New Jersey newspapers have called on Christie to resign. The Star-Ledger, which endorsed Christie in his 2013 re-election campaign, said in an editorial Thursday that he has since made it clear that governing the state is a “distant second priority” that comes behind his personal ambition. Six newspapers published by Gannett also called for his resignation.

Christie said he isn’t surprised by the newspapers’ stance because they haven’t supported him in the past. He said they’re merely trying to find a way to stay relevant as their readerships decline.

“The only way to do that is to set themselves on fire,” Christie said.

Christie, who spent 261 days out of the state in 2015, also chided the media for counting time he spent either in Philadelphia or New York as somehow not related to state business.

“The way you count days is absurd,” he said.

He said the Trump campaign financed his recent trips, but state taxpayers, as they always do, will be on the hook for the New Jersey State Police detail that is required to travel with him.

Defending his endorsement, Christie said he believes Trump would make the best president out of the remaining candidates and has the best chance to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election. He said he and Trump have been friends for 14 years.

Christie noted that despite jokes from online commenters, he wasn’t forced into giving any coerced statements on Trump’s behalf.

“This is part of the hysteria of the people who opposed my Trump endorsement,” Christie said.

Christie said he plans to finish out the nearly two years left in his term and then go into the private sector.

He did shoot down one question Thursday. When a reporter asked if he would resign if he were Trump’s pick for vice president, he replied, “Next!”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Chris Christie’s shell-shocked look stirs mockery, befuddlement

Was that really Chris Christie, the brusque, take-a-back-seat-to-no-one governor of New Jersey?

Christie’s seemingly shell-shocked gaze as he stood behind Donald Trump on Super Tuesday is generating befuddlement and mockery in his home state and beyond.

Conservatives and liberals alike have piled on.

His introductory remarks were so subdued and his appearance was so grave that many people joked on the Internet that he looked like a hostage reading a coerced statement. “Gov. Christie, blink twice if you’re in trouble!” one person tweeted.

In a move that shocked nearly everyone, especially in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, Christie endorsed Trump last week and has appeared at the billionaire businessman’s side at campaign appearances over the past few days.

But after Tuesday night’s appearance, conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg of the anti-Trump National Review imagined Christie was thinking: “My God what have I done?” Others saw the same thing in Christie’s blank stare and robotic words of introduction.

Aside from Tuesday night, Christie appears to be fully embracing his surrogate duties. The governor has introduced Trump at a number of enthusiastic rallies and has been Trump’s attack dog, sinking his teeth into Sen. Marco Rubio and vouching for Trump and his family.

Back home, the reaction has been fierce.

Republican Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency administrator, told The Star-Ledger of Newark last week she would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than Trump.

“I am ashamed that Christie would endorse anyone who has employed the kind of hate mongering and racism that Trump has,” she said.

Six Gannett newspapers in New Jersey, including the Asbury Park Press, said he isn’t fit to be governor anymore. They called him a political opportunist who has neglected his duties in the Garden State, and urged him to resign.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll saw Christie’s approval ratings fall from 33 percent before he backed Trump to 27 percent since. The poll sampled 694 registered New Jersey voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

“Trump and Christie kind of do belong together, but not running our country,” said Barbara Silverstein of Gibbsboro, New Jersey. “It’s a big show, and it’s pretty pathetic.”

In the past few days, the politician with the outsized personality seemed to be shrinking in political stature even if something big — perhaps the No. 2 spot on the ballot with Trump — is his goal.

Trump was heard on a microphone telling Christie to get on a plane and go home after Christie was pressed Sunday in an ABC interview about his disagreement with Trump on his proposed ban on Muslims.

Christie refers to the candidate, who is supposedly his longtime friend, as “Mr. Trump,” while Trump refers to the governor as “Chris.”

Christie defended his endorsement this week on his regular radio call-in show.

“I’ve known him personally for 14 years and I believe he is the best person to beat Hillary Clinton,” the governor said, before clarifying that he, Christie, was the best candidate but that Trump is the best of the remaining contenders.

Christie wouldn’t discuss on the call-in show whether he was hoping for a vice presidential or Cabinet slot.

Asked about his previous criticisms of Trump, Christie said that was a natural part of having to run against him — no different, he said, from George H.W. Bush calling Ronald Reagan‘s policies “voodoo economics” before becoming his vice presidential pick.

To Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison, Christie’s seeming thousand-yard stare seemed to reflect sadness.

“It really looked like heartbreak and kind of a bitter pill that he was swallowing,” she said. “I still think that in his heart of hearts he thinks he was destined to be president of the United States.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 2.22.16 — Marco Rubio’s narrow pathway

Sorry, GOP Establishment, but Ben Carson and John Kasich aren’t shutting down their campaigns.

Those rallying around Marco Rubio Monday morning are hoping they would, two days after Donald Trump‘s decisive victory Saturday night in South Carolina forced Jeb Bush out of the race.

Rubio says it’s a three-man race between himself, Trump and Ted Cruz, but he needs to come up with victories soon if he’s going to be a serious challenger to the New York City business mogul.

Kasich has no path to the nomination, says Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s campaign manager. In a memo distributed Sunday, Sullivan wrote, “The path for winning the nomination for John Kasich looks unrealistic given the threshold requirements in most states. With the current state of the race, Kasich is currently not in contention for 81.7 percent of the delegates awarded during the week of March 1st. He hasn’t shown any ability to appeal to voters outside the very small moderate/liberal subset of the Republican primary electorate. He has fewer resources, lower name ID, and less national infrastructure than Jeb Bush, who last night determined there was no path to the nomination.”

Perhaps true, but Kasich actually may have a shot at winning a state or two (obviously Ohio, on March 15), and he presents a distinct brand of Republican leadership that is appealing to center-right voters, those who supported Bush and/or Chris Christie.

Upshot? He ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Actually, Kasich was back in his home state on Sunday to sign a bill prohibiting Ohio from contracting for health services with any organization that performs or promotes abortions, blocking government funds to Planned Parenthood. According to CNN, Planned Parenthood isn’t explicitly named in the legislation, but the law will prevent more than $1 million in funding from the state health department from going to the nonprofit to fund programs such as HIV testing, health screenings and prevention of violence against women

Kasich also received the backing Sunday of billionaire financier Stanley F. Druckenmiller. So, no, Kasich isn’t departing anytime soon.

And Carson?

Despite his disappointing last place finish in the Palmetto State, the former pediatric surgeon somewhat incredulously told his supporters that “this is only the beginning.”

Say what?

Rubio can only win if the other guys get out. But they’re not. When asked about that at one point his advisers were saying that South Carolina would be the place where he would get his first victory, he said that Trump’s success is because there are so many candidates still in the race, versus the one-on-one matchup in the Democratic primary.

True. But it’s not going to change in the next few weeks, meaning Marco’s chances are very, very slim at this point. However, he is still in it right now.

In other news …

Jeb Bush’s failure this year on the campaign trail marks him as the fourth former Florida governor to strike out when attempting to become president.

• • •

If you like your politics with some controversy, then you have to admit that Alan Grayson did not disappoint at his appearance at the Tiger Bay Club in Tampa on Friday afternoon.

• • •

Tampa’s move to decriminalize possession of weed seems to have freaked out the editorial board over at The Tampa Tribune.

Debate Takeaways: Civil court discussion gives way to brawl

Saturday’s Republican presidential debate was the perfect spot for GOP candidates to try and project legal gravitas after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

That was a fairly civil discussion.

Then came the brawls: Then it was back to Trump v. Bush for Round Two. Next up: Trump v. Cruz.

John Kasich tried to stand above the fray.

It was the smallest GOP field on the debate stage yet, after the departures of Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina. But the six surviving candidates filled the void — and then some.

COURT POLITICS

No surprise here: Most of the Republicans on the stage said it should be up to the next president (i.e. one of them, they hope) to fill the vacancy created by Scalia’s death.

Bush, the son and brother of a president, was the outlier here. “The president, by the way, has every right to nominate Supreme Court justices,” Bush said. He added that President Barack Obama should take a “consensus orientation” toward that nomination, but added: “There’s no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama will not have a consensus pick when he submits that person to the Senate.”

The two lawyers and the only senators in the group — Rubio and Cruz — both said Obama should leave the selection to the new president.

It was a perfect forum for Cruz, who has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court, to show off his legal credentials. He made it a point to mention he’d known Scalia for 20 years.

TRUMP v. BUSH

Trump was back in attack mode toward Bush, repeatedly saying “Jeb is so wrong” on national security and more, and laying into former President George W. Bush for failing to keep the nation safe from the 9/11 terror attacks.

Bush, revived by a stronger-than-expected showing in New Hampshire, showed more spark than he had in past debates.

He said he could care less about Trump’s endless insults but declared himself “sick and tired of him going after my family.”

“While Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe,” Bush said. He also faulted the billionaire for having “the gall to go after my mother.”

Trump shot back: “She should be running.”

The audience got into the mix, too, with plenty of heckles and boos for Trump.

Trump dismissed that as nothing but “Jeb’s special interests and lobbyists talking.”

CRUZ v. RUBIO

In a lull from the Trump theatrics, Cruz and Rubio got into their own fistfight. The two senators each found reason to find weakness in the other’s record on illegal immigration.

Cruz was the initial aggressor, saying Rubio had backed a “massive amnesty plan” in the Senate for those living in the country illegally.

Rubio, trying to recover after a disastrous debate performance in New Hampshire, countered that Cruz had shown his own moments of weakness on illegal immigration, adding, “he either wasn’t the telling the truth then or he wasn’t telling the truth now.”

The heated exchange between two Cuban-American candidates quickly devolved in a spat over their Spanish language skills.

TRUMP v. CRUZ

The two candidates with victories so far — Trump in New Hampshire and Cruz in Iowa — have been engaged in an increasingly bitter duel in recent days, and they took it to a new level Saturday.

Cruz began the round by questioning Trump’s conservative credentials, saying “For most of his life, his policies have been very, very liberal.”

That set Trump off: “You are the single biggest liar,” he said, “you probably are worse than Jeb Bush.”

“This guy will say anything,” Trump continued. “He’s a nasty guy.”

There was much shouting over one another, and boos from the audience, prompting one of the debate moderators to observed, “Gentlemen, we are in danger of driving this into the dirt.”

KASICH THE OPTIMIST

The Ohio governor, hoping to build on his surprise second-place finish in New Hampshire, tried to present himself as the voice of reason and positivity.

At one lull in the slugfest, he declared: “This is just crazy. This is just nuts. Geez, oh man.”

“I think we’re fixing to lose the election to Hillary Clinton if we don’t stop this,” he said.

CARSON CHIMES IN

Ben Carson, who’s been lagging in the polls and struggling to get into the conversation, was happy just to have a more prominent turn at the mic.

When he got a second question 20 minutes into the debate, it was cause for celebration.

“Two questions already, this is great!” he said.

Mitch Perry Report for 2.11.16 – Carly and Chris bid adieu to the circus

Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina have suspended their presidential campaigns.

This reporter had the chance to see the New Jersey governor (yes, that is the day job he’s pretty much blown off for months) a week ago in Keene, N.H. The fun part about that was how intimate it was: It was a small crowd (maybe too small, an indication of how he was going to perform on Tuesday), but other than a few opening remarks, the 90-minute event was all about him taking questions from the audience.

He was confident, humble, and forthright. When discussing health care, he admitted that he didn’t have a perfect solution, saying nobody did (yes, he wants to repeal the ACA).  He was funny at times, and kind. For those who wanted to see him blow up on someone, that didn’t happen, though he did give the cable networks a 10-second bite when he asked a man what the heck he was talking about (after the man went on for over two minutes without getting to his question).

I think he was a very good candidate, but he was toast before he got into the race. The BridgeGate scandal just stunk to high heaven, and even if he himself wasn’t personally involved, it happened on his watch with some of his top deputies. It reinforced the perceptions that he was a bully who went after his opponents, and it killed him.

However, depending on how this race ends up, his verbal takedown on Marco Rubio will go down in American political history. If Jeb Bush (or John Kasich) ends up somehow capturing the nomination, they’ll owe Christie big-time.

When I went to a GOP presidential cattle call in New Hampshire last April, there were two Republicans who impressed me purely with their presentation skills: Ted Cruz and Fiorina.

She really didn’t have much of a record to run on, frankly, but she was a good political athlete. Her tenure as a businesswoman was checkered, and she got mauled when running for U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer in 2010. So why was she running?

Her verbal skills kept her in the game for awhile. And frankly, she got screwed by ABC last week when she wasn’t allowed into the Saint Anselm College debate in Manchester despite receiving more votes than Bush and Kasich in Iowa. That made no sense, and showed a level of disrespect to her campaign.

They’re both gone. Who’s taking odds on when Ben Carson departs?

In other news …

NARAL pro-choice America is blasting Marco Rubio for his stance on not believing abortion for women, even in the case of rape or incest.

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Rubio says he’s moving on to South Carolina, in the wake of his lousy week in New Hampshire.

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You better believe the Rubio camp is taking seriously the charges that he hasn’t accomplished enough to make him qualified to become the next president. Wednesday his campaign team added this post to their website.

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A proposal to remove Florida’s statue of a Confederate general in the U.S. Capitol advanced in a state House committee Wednesday.

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Jeb Bush wasted no time going after John Kasich, fresh off the Ohio governor’s second-place finish in New Hampshire.

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Hillsborough County PTC head Kyle Cockream says he wants the Legislature to reconsider a proposal in the House that would not mandate that Uber and Lyft drivers have Level 2 background checks, which require getting fingerprinted.

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Pam Bondi is psyched that the U.S. Supreme Court has put a checkdown on President Barack Obama‘s Clean Power Plan.

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And Kevin Beckner had an OK month of fundraising for his race for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts. Democratic incumbent Pat Frank? Not so much.

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