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Krauthammer: GOP Nomination ‘A Three-Man Race,’ ‘There Is No Establishment Lane’

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Columnist and Fox News Contributor Charles Krauthammer argued that the Republican nomination is “a three-man race” between Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump, and “There is no establishment lane” during the Fox News Channel’s coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

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Krauthammer said, “Well, I think this was a major inflection point in the Republican campaign. … I think had Trump won, it would have re-enforced the sense of inevitability, the momentum he’s had, remember, ever since he declared, in June, everything he’s done somehow was golden, and for instance, he would say outrageous things, and his numbers would go up, remain steady or would go up. And this is the first time he’s encountered defeat, this is a guy who says over and over again, ‘I’m a winner. I don’t lose. I’ve never lost. I’m not going to lose.’ And this punctures that.”

He continued, I think it has two effects. One is on the audience, one is on the voters. People who’ve been swept up in this, and you go out to see a guy, who isn’t only entertaining in his speeches, but who you think is inevitably going to be the nominee, and perhaps the president. But the second effect I think is probably more important, and that is the effect it has on the media, and on the sense that we have to follow and listen to everything he says. Every time he raises an issue, every time he says something, every speech he gives, every rally, is covered as if it’s the word from heaven. Again, because of this sense, that this guy is a winner, and he’s on his way. That’s going to have to change. There’s going to be a lot of attention now, to what Cruz is saying, and Rubio is saying.”

Krauthammer added, “This is now a three-man race. There is no establishment lane. There’s the Cruz campaign, which is sort of austere conservatism. There’s the Trump campaign, which is populist Trumpistic, if you want, because it’s extremely idiosyncratic. And you’ve got Rubio, who’s the mainstream, more moderate conservative. That’s what it is. Establishment, non-establishment, is irrelevant, but the Trump train has been interrupted. Not to say he won’t win, he’s going to win in New Hampshire. And he’ll probably win elsewhere, but now it’s going to be a long slog. And he doesn’t run the table.”

He further argued that Trump skipping the Fox News debate, “had two effects. Number one is, without Trump on the stage, and remember, throughout the campaign, he dominates every news cycle, no matter where he is, what he does what he says. And when he’s off the stage in a campaign, in a campaign debate, he abscends himself. Look, in my opinion, if he’d been in the debate, no matter how he did, he would be the center of all the coverage, and would sort of wipe out and diminish his opponents. So, he didn’t show up. He allowed the others to come out and shine, and I thought it really helped Rubio, who obviously, he had twice as many late deciders supporting him as Trump. And the second reason is, you saw from anecdotal evidence, people who said Iowa’s different. Iowa’s special. We expect individual care, and if you like, even coddling by candidates, and this was a kind of a slap in the face of Iowans, who take their responsibility very seriously.”

Krauthammer added of Iowa caucusgoers, “When they think about it seriously, at the caucus, they have to make the case, they give speeches and listen, I think the Rubio message prevailed. and i think it’s sort of an encouraging sign, that on ideas, and being specific, and not just talking about things in generalities, you can actually prevail, and he did. Essentially, ideas over celebrity.”

Krauthammer concluded of Cruz, “I think he is a fairly hardline conservative. Look, he and Rubio have infinitely more in common, than either of them has with Trump,  in terms of philosophy, because, they both argue that Trump is not a conservative and I think they are right. But, between them — it’s a matter between Rubio and Cruz — it’s a matter of tone and inclusiveness. Rubio is the more mainstream, the softer one. Cruz’s has a harder edge, which I think means that in a general election, he’d have a harder time.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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