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Jumbled GOP field hopes for survival in South Carolina

Hoping for survival in the South, a muddled field of Republican presidential contenders descended Wednesday on South Carolina, no closer to clarity about who can stand between Donald Trump and their party’s nomination.

Not me, Carly Fiorina announced, dropping out of the campaign. A Chris Christie spokeswoman said his race was over, too. But a sizeable field remained.

To the dismay of party leaders, all signs point to a drawn-out battle for delegates following Trump’s resounding victory in New Hampshire. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, under immense pressure to prove himself after a devastating fifth-place finish, was looking for a fight that could last for months or even spill into the first contested GOP national convention since 1976.

“We very easily could be looking at May — or the convention,” Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan told The Associated Press.

If Trump had Republicans on edge, Democrats were feeling no less queasy.

Rejected in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton sought redemption in Nevada, where a more diverse group of voters awaited her and Bernie Sanders.

Sanders, a Vermont senator and self-proclaimed democratic socialist, raised $5 million-plus in less than a day after his New Hampshire triumph. The contributions came mostly in small-dollar amounts, his campaign said, illustrating the resources he’ll have to fight Clinton to a bitter end.

Both Clinton and Sanders — the first Jew to win a presidential primary — worked to undercut each other among African-Americans and Hispanics with less than two weeks until the Democratic contests in Nevada and South Carolina.

Sanders met for breakfast in Harlem with the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist. Clinton, meanwhile, announced plans to campaign with the mother of Sandra Bland, whose death while in police custody became a symbol of racial tensions. And Clinton’s campaign deployed South Carolina state Rep. Todd Rutherford to vouch for her support for minorities.

“Secretary Clinton has been involved in South Carolina for the last 40 years,” Rutherford said. “Bernie Sanders has talked about these issues for the last 40 days.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the conservative firebrand and victor in the leadoff Iowa caucuses, returned to the center of the fracas after largely sitting out New Hampshire. He drew contrasts with Trump as he told a crowd of 500 in Myrtle Beach that Texans and South Carolinians are more alike than not.

“We love God, we’re gun owners, military veterans and we’re fed up with what’s happening in Washington,” Cruz said.

Almost all the Republicans have spent months building complex campaigns and blanketing airwaves in South Carolina, which heralds the start of the GOP campaign’s foray into the South. After that primary on Feb. 20, seven Southern states including Georgia and Virginia will anchor the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1, with oodles of delegates at stake.

The state, with its array of conservative GOP voters, will test Trump and the others in new ways. Having courted social conservatives in Iowa and moderates in New Hampshire, the candidates face an electorate infused with evangelical, pro-business and military-minded flavors.

Rubio’s campaign has looked forward to the state. Yet his path grew far trickier after a fifth-place New Hampshire letdown, which terminated talk of Republican leaders quickly uniting behind him as the strongest alternative to “outsiders” Trump and Cruz.

His campaign’s suggestion that the race could veer a contested convention seemed to signal to mainstream Republicans that the party would be ill-served by allowing the Trump phenomenon to last much longer. GOP officials have already had early discussions about such a July scenario, which could be triggered if no candidate secures a majority of delegates by convention time.

For Gov. John Kasich, whose second-place showing was New Hampshire’s primary stunner, the task was to convert newfound interest into support in a state ideologically distant from his native Ohio. With a minimal South Carolina operation compared to his rivals, Kasich must work quickly.

Seeking votes at a local business in Charleston, Kasich worked to burnish his reputation as a results-oriented leader.

“If you don’t go to the gym, you get flabby,” Kasich said. “And if the country doesn’t solve its problems, it gets flabby.”

Heading into the final two-week sprint, Trump was leading in South Carolina among all demographic groups, an NBC/Marist/Wall Street Journal poll showed, with Cruz and Rubio a distant second and third. Already, more than $32 million has been spent on TV ads here, according to CMAG/Kantar Media data — much of it by Right to Rise, the PAC backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Though he placed fourth on Tuesday, Bush was hoping that Rubio’s slump would forestall his own ouster from the race. After a rally in Bluffton, he said voters in New Hampshire “pushed the pause button” on anointing any candidate — and turned to his brother, George W. Bush, for help. His campaign debuted a new ad featuring the former president, who plans to campaign in the Palmetto State.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ends 2016 White House bid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped out of the Republican nomination for president on Wednesday, a day after his disappointing sixth-place finish in New Hampshire’s primary.

Campaign spokeswoman Samantha Smith said Christie shared his decision with staff at his campaign headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey, late Wednesday afternoon, and was calling donors and other supporters.

Christie on Tuesday night told supporters he was heading home to New Jersey to “take a deep breath,” await the final tally of results from New Hampshire and decide what to do next. He said he was leaving New Hampshire “without an ounce of regret,” but spoke of his campaign in the past tense at one point and canceled a Wednesday event in next-to-vote South Carolina.

Christie dropped out of the race the same day that Carly Fiorina announced on social media that she, too, was calling it quits. The former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard won just 4 percent of the vote in New Hampshire. Christie had 7 percent.

Christie had been banking on a strong finish in New Hampshire and spent more than 70 days campaigning in the state, holding well-received town halls and meet-and-greets.

But Tuesday’s result appeared to be the final blow for a candidate whose campaign saw glimmers of hope at times, but had trouble from the get-go raising money and building support in a crowded Republican field dominated by another brash East Coaster, businessman Donald Trump.

While Trump posed a challenge to the entire Republican field, his dominance seemed especially damaging to Christie, who had branded himself the “telling it like it is” candidate.

When he returns home to finish his second term as governor, Christie will face a slew of unsolved problems and rock-bottom approval ratings from residents who, polls show, feel he neglected New Jersey to pursue his national ambitions.

Christie racked up a long list of notable endorsements from state legislative leaders in New Hampshire. At the end of 2015, he appeared to be breaking into the top tier after a video of him discussing a friend’s struggle with drug addiction went viral.

The terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, in particular, played to Christie’s advantage, allowing him to talk about his previous job as a U.S. attorney and play up his law-and-order credentials. And a commanding performance during the last GOP debate before the New Hampshire primary earned him strong reviews.

But with a field filled with numerous other options, including current and former governors and senators, Christie never consolidated support, despite being praised by both fans and rivals as one of the Republican Party’s best communicators.

Christie may have missed a better chance at the White House four year ago, when some of his party’s most powerful statesmen and donors begged him to run in 2012. But Christie declined, saying that he didn’t feel like he was ready.

Christie’s aggressive political team worked to rack up endorsements and wide victory margins in his re-election bid for governor as a springboard for 2016. At the same time, his aides took their game of doling out political favors and punishments too far, leading to one of the most dumbfounding political scandals in recent memory. Aides purposely created traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee to punish the mayor, who chose not to endorse Christie’s re-election.

While Christie first laughed off the suggestion that his team had anything to do with the plot, the denials quickly unraveled following the release of emails, including one from a top aide that read, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Three people have been indicted in the scheme, including a former high school classmate of the governor who has pleaded guilty and is working with federal prosecutors.

Other Republicans who have left the race include South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Carly Fiorina suspends her presidential campaign

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has suspended her presidential campaign, a day after she finished seventh in the GOP presidential pack in New Hampshire, getting a little over 4 percent of the vote.

“This campaign was always about citizenship — taking back our country from a political class that only serves the big, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well connected,” the former Hewlett-Packard CEO said in a statement released at 3 p.m. eastern time. “Election after election, the same empty promises are made, and the same poll-tested stump speeches are given, but nothing changes. I’ve said throughout this campaign that I will not sit down and be quiet. I’m not going to start now. While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them.”

Fiorina also finished seventh in last week’s Iowa caucuses and has struggled in the polls since entering the contest last year.

She failed to qualify for last week’s Fox News debate in New Hampshire despite the fact that she received more votes than John Kasich and Chris Christie in Iowa. The exclusion caused her to call on the Republican National Committee to fix its “broken” debate process.

Her biggest moment in the campaign happened after her appearance in the first “kiddie’s table” debate last August, where her impressive debate performance compelled CNN to change its criteria for who would get into its main Sept. 16 debate at the Reagan Library in Southern California.

She never polled much higher than around 5 percent.

Fiorina may not be the only candidate to depart the race after New Hampshire. Multiple news reports have surfaced saying that New Jersey Governor Christie will also suspend his presidential campaign later Wednesday.

Here’s Fiorina’s statement.

This campaign was always about citizenship — taking back our country from a political class that only serves the big, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well connected. Election after election, the same empty promises are made and the same poll-tested stump speeches are given, but nothing changes. I’ve said throughout this campaign that I will not sit down and be quiet. I’m not going to start now. While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them.

Our Republican Party must fight alongside these Americans as well. We must end crony capitalism by fighting the policies that allow it to flourish.  We must fix our festering problems by holding our bloated, inept government bureaucracy accountable.  Republicans must stand for conservative principles that lift people up and recognize all Americans have the right to fulfill their God-given potential.

To young girls and women across the country, I say: do not let others define you. Do not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate because you’re a woman. That is not feminism. Feminism doesn’t shut down conversations or threaten women. It is not about ideology. It is not a weapon to wield against your political opponent. A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts. And always remember that a leader is not born, but made.  Choose leadership.

As I have said to the many wonderful Americans I have met throughout this campaign, a leader is a servant whose highest calling is to unlock potential in others.  I will continue to serve in order to restore citizen government to this great nation so that together we may fulfill our potential.

Marco Rubio promises supporters he’ll do better as the campaign moves to South Carolina

Marco Rubio vows that he will never allow what happened to him in last Saturday night’s GOP debate to happen to him again.

“I want you to understand something,” he told the crowd of disappointed supporters at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire on Tuesday night. “Our disappointment tonight is not on you; it’s on me. It is on me. I did not do well on Saturday night — listen to this: that will never happen again. That will never happen again.”

What Rubio’s vowing will never happen again is that he will falter in this campaign as he did under a verbal assault he received at the hands of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during last Saturday night’s debate in Manchester.

“Let me tell you why it will never happen again,” he said. “It’s not about me, it’s not about this campaign, it is about this election. It’s about what’s at stake in this election.”

Christie blasted Rubio for his lack of experience during the debate, and Rubio failed to respond, instead repeatedly reciting his criticisms about Barack Obama.

In the days after the debate, he tripled down on those comments, saying he didn’t understand why the media was making such a big issue about it and continued the anti-Obama mantra.

He dropped the facade on Tuesday night, however, after he finished a disappointing fifth in the race, behind not only Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but John Kasich and Jeb Bush as well.

He did, however, best Christie, who appears now to be considering dropping out of the race.

Rubio’s nationally televised gaffe may have impacted the race, as 65 percent of GOP voters said they were influenced by Saturday night’s debate. Also, ABC News found nearly half of Republican primary voters saying they’d made their final decision in just the last few days. Only 20 percent of Democratic voters reported being late deciders.

The question is now – is Rubio’s campaign fatally wounded?

That remains to be seen. You can watch Rubio’s concession speech here.

Mitch Perry Report for 2.10.16 – The GOP is still looking for its establishment candidate

So much for “Marcomentum.”

Eight days ago, the national media, with some justification, was spreading the word that Marco Rubio was the unexpected star of the Iowa caucus, despite the fact that he received fewer votes than Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

Rubio began rising in the polls in NH, and it seemed that the battle of the governors (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich) was all about who would come in third, and live to continue their campaign.

That didn’t happen.

Rubio finished fifth in New Hampshire last night, not only behind Trump and Cruz again, but also behind John Kasich and Jeb Bush.

So now who is the Republican Party establishment going to rally around to stop the Trump machine?

Based on last night, it perhaps should be Kasich, who Democrats have always acknowledged would be a formidable general election candidate, if he could somehow survive a very conservative GOP primary season. Kasich isn’t really getting all that much love from the punditry, however, not like Rubio did last week. He should, though. For months Kasich, Bush and Christie had decided to put all their chips into the Granite State, and it was the Ohio Governor who came out on top with a solid second place finish with nearly 16 percent of the vote.

Donald Trump received 34 percent in winning, but Kasich deserves credit — he got more votes than the other two governors with which he was competing. Pundits are dismissing it, however, saying that he can’t win in the South. Well, maybe not South Carolina, but Kasich does have solid conservative credentials, despite what Bush and his Super PAC was telling NH voters.

Although he’s not being mentioned that often today, Ted Cruz’ third place finish is impressive, since NH didn’t seem to be a state that was ever going to favor him. He certainly will be a major contender in the Southern states.

Jeb Bush and his minions are selling his fourth place finish as a comeback, which is smart. Bush is performing well as a candidate, and it will be fascinating to see if he can break through the Trump insurgency in South Carolina.

It looks like Chris Christie is done, and, purely for entertainment sake, that’s a sad development. The New Jersey Governor has definitely made this campaign more entertaining, and his takedown on Rubio on Saturday night will never be forgotten by political junkies. However, the numbers simply weren’t there for him last night.

And Rubio? It was a great first step to admitting in his concession speech last night that he failed under the klieg lights on Saturday evening. As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech last night, we all fall at some point in life. It’s all about getting back up.

Meanwhile, how freaked out is the Democratic Party establishment about the utter rejection that Hillary Clinton received last night? Judging by some of her surrogates, not very. They continue to say that Bernie Sanders is a limited candidate, and I agree that he has got to get his act together regarding foreign policy.

However it is so obvious that he seems genuine to Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he’s got momentum (and money) going into the Nevada, South Carolina, and the Super Tuesday states.

Meanwhile, Debbie Wasserman Schultz says that Trump’s victory is proof positive that extremist elements have infiltrated the GOP mainstream.

Joe Gruters, Trump’s Florida chair, says his smashing victory is an overwhelming rebuke to the GOP establishment.

Mitch Perry Report for 2.8.16 – Can Rubio rise above ruckus?

Good morning from Nashua, New Hampshire, where snow is expected to hit New England again later Monday.

We want to get a run in before things get uglier out there, so let’s right to the point after a full weekend of campaigning.

Can Marco survive the Christie pummeling?

Let’s face it: Unless every poll out there is wrong, Donald Trump is going to win the New Hampshire GOP primary Tuesday night. There’s never been much doubt about that.

But who comes in second?

For most of the past week, it was Rubio Rising. The Florida junior senator’s stock had gone up exponentially after his solid third-place finish last week in Iowa, a finish just a few thousand votes shy of challenging Trump for second behind Ted Cruz.

But after he received the “Full Jersey” assault from Chris Christie at the  Saturday night debate, the question is: Was it serious enough for those voters who were leaning Rubio to go in a different direction? I’d say it could be.

Rubio doubled down on his comments at his first post-debate town hall Sunday in Londonderry.

Meanwhile, The New York Times lead story on Monday is how Bill Clinton blasted Bernie Sanders on Sunday at a relatively obscure campaign stop. As the Times Jonathan Martin reports, with so many other events happening across the state, there were only a handful of reporters around to catch the quotes.

John Kasich has certainly run the most positive, upbeat campaign of any of the GOP candidates. Will it be enough to allow him to break through in New Hampshire?

Donald Trump is coming to Tampa 7 p.m. Friday at the USF Sun Dome with free tickets  available.

Chris Christie gives ominous warning for future of NH primary if rivals finish at the top

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doubts the future of New Hampshire’s primary if Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio take the three spots Tuesday.

The Republican presidential candidate, in an aggressive campaign throughout New Hampshire, warns voters of the three leading candidates since they have spent relatively little time in the state.

As the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, New Hampshire voters are steadfastly protective of the state’s status. That could and if Trump, Cruz and Rubio do well on February 9.

“If you reward those folks who don’t show up here,” Christie said, “there is no reason for New Hampshire to be first.”

Although Christie has spent considerably more time in New Hampshire than many of his GOP presidential rivals, he is still polling near the bottom and faces speculation that his campaign would and if he did poorly in the primary next week.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

New Jeb Bush ad uses Rick Santorum’s stumble to take a shot at Marco Rubio

Jeb Bush is jumping on Rick Santorum’s inability to name an accomplishment of Marco Rubio, using the footage of in a new television advertisement.

As first reported by CNN, the 60-second spot will start running in New Hampshire on Saturday. The advertisement features clips from an interview with Santorum on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday. During the interview, Santorum struggles to name something Rubio had done during his first term in the Senate.

After showing about 30 seconds of Santorum fumbling through the interview, Sean Hannity is heard interviewing Bush and rattling off a list of his accomplishments during his time in the governor’s mansion.

“I was a reform-minded conservative. I did cut taxes every year. I balanced budgets every year. When I left, there were $9 billion in reserves, we reduced the state government workforce by 13,000,” the former Florida governor is shown saying in the advertisement. “My record, I think, shows the path of what could happen in Washington, D.C.”

The advertisement is the second as many days using the Morning Joe footage. On Thursday, Chris Christie released a 30-second spot based on the interview.

Recent polls show Rubio gaining ground in the Granite State. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll has Rubio in second place in New Hampshire with 17 percent. The survey found Bush was at 9 percent and Christie was at 4 percent.

New poll puts Marco Rubio at 2nd place in New Hampshire

Marco Rubio is gaining ground in New Hampshire, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.

Among likely Republican primary voters, Rubio is in second place with 17 percent, up 6 points from the Jan. 28 NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. The new survey found Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican field with support from 30 percent of respondents, while 15 percent picked Ted Cruz.

John Kasich leads among the governors with 10 percent, followed by Jeb Bush at 9 percent. Chris Christie is at 4 percent.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll found 11 percent of respondents said they might vote differently on primary day. That may bode well for Rubio. Much like in Iowa, Rubio and Cruz are the second-choice favorites in New Hampshire.

According to the survey, 20 percent of likely Republican primary voters said Rubio was their second choice; while 16 percent said Cruz was their second choice.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton, 58 percent to 38 percent. The results haven’t changed much since the last NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which had Sanders leading Clinton 57 percent to 38 percent.

The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday.

Mitch Perry Report for 2.5.16 – “An artful smear”

Good morning from Nashua, New Hampshire.

I have to admit that my first thoughts this morning are not what happened at last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but will I make it safely to Manchester this morning to see Sanders.

Folks, it’s snowing pretty hard in southern New Hampshire this morning (7:10 a.m.). I ran around in a parking lot about an hour ago to get a workout in, but the snowflakes are piling up.

This California native and Florida resident for the past 16 years has never driven in snow.

OK, enough of my angst. How about last night’s debate? Clinton took the gloves off, saying she was tired of the “attacks by insinuation and innuendo” against her integrity by Sanders, along with his questioning her credentials with the progressive community because of the financial contributions she’s received from Wall Street.

Clinton made $275,000 in some individual speeches over the past couple of years from Wall Street banks, but she called it a “very artful smear” to insinuate that meant she was beholden to those institutions.

Sanders thought that was a rather harsh assessment. MSNBC used the split screen throughout to show Bernie’s various facial expressions throughout the debate, something that will no doubt be used by the other networks for the remaining three debates scheduled.

Speaking of debates, only Jim Gilmore and Carly Fiorina won’t be at Saturday night’s GOP debate to be televised by ABC. What gives with that? Gilmore has barely registered this entire cycle, but Fiorina actually received more votes than both Chris Christie and John Kasich in Iowa.

Yet Christie and Kasich will be on the big stage tomorrow night, while Carly will be watching with the rest of us.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson will once again be absent from the campaign trail today. Although Ted Cruz has had to apologize for having his staff pass the word (based on a CNN report) that Carson was quitting the race after Iowa.

Gentle Ben is apparently still in the contest, but trust me – for all intents and purposes, he might as well be out. This is prime time, and he’s been MIA all week.

OK, wish me luck on my commute!

In other news …

Jeb Bush said there’s been too much anger in this GOP presidential race, saying, “We need someone who has a proven record, who has a servant’s heart.”

• • •

In Keane, New Hampshire, on Thursday Chris Christie told a small crowd how he’d go about selecting Supreme Court justices – just in case he gets that opportunity.

• • •

Will Marco Rubio‘s conflicting stances on immigration ultimately hurt his candidacy? One guy who a lot of reporters spoke to on Wednesday thinks so.

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