Republican candidates sorting themselves out

Cameron Smyth Commentary, Right Here Right Now

Last Saturday was a tough day for Santa Clarita. In a fitting tribute complete with Harley Davidsons and military fly-overs, we said goodbye to Duane Harte, the man many have referred to as the heart of Santa Clarita.

Looking at the sheer breadth of attendees at his services truly crystallizes the number of organizations impacted by Duane and the number of people it will take to fill the void he left.

What I admired and will remember most is that Duane threw himself into this community for no other reason than his love for Santa Clarita.

He had no agenda other than to ensure our city always remained a premiere community where families felt safe, businesses could thrive, parks were built and veterans honored.

But if you asked Duane which organization or board mattered most to him, the answer was always his family; beloved wife Pauline, daughters Donna and Denise and his grandson Evan.

They say you should try to leave a place a little better than you found it. Well, if there was ever someone who lived that motto, it was Duane Harte.

By the time my next column rolls around, we will be less than 30 days away from the start of the early primaries. The Iowa Caucus kicks election season off on Feb. 1, followed closely by New Hampshire on Feb. 9. For Republicans, South Carolina is up next on the 20th and Nevada closes the month on the 23rd.

The most recent Iowa polls, taken after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, show Ted Cruz taking his first lead as he garnered 24 percent in a Monmouth University survey, followed by Donald Trump (19 percent), Marco Rubio (17 percent) and Ben Carson(13 percent).

I believe both Trump’s and Carson’s lack of foreign policy experience contributed to their decline, although Carson had already seen some erosion before Dec. 2.

However, it seems the attack has put him in a tailspin. Without a Top 3 finish in Iowa, Carson is done.

It is no real surprise to see Cruz surge in Iowa. The last two caucus winners (Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum) ran on similar themes, which resonated with the Evangelical bloc that carried them to victory.

Ironically, both Huckabee and Santorum remain in the race but are now both polling at less than 1 percent in the state and will no doubt drop out shortly after the caucus.

Trump’s numbers remain statistically unchanged from the last poll (October). And his fortunes will rise or fall with the Independent voters who claim they will caucus with the Republicans.

Historically, Independents participate in relatively small numbers, and so he will need a substantial organizational effort to get them to the caucus. Absent of that, Cruz probably walks away with a big win in Iowa, but the perceived “winner” may be Marco Rubio, who has jumped Carson and may also overtake Trump if the Independents stay home.

Polls show him gaining steam nationally as he continues to be viewed as the most competitive candidate against Hillary. And specifically in Iowa, he has begun to make in-roads with the Evangelical base, although not enough to overtake Cruz. But he does not need to win Iowa.

Along with the candidates, much could also be at stake for the Iowa Republican Party. RNC Chair Reince Priebus recently said there are no “sacred cows” when it comes to the primary calendar, and the history of choosing of candidates who were quite frankly un-electable in a general election just adds to the debate around the value and attention Iowa brings as the “first in nation” election.

Cruz will have to work hard not to suffer the same fate as the aforementioned Huckabee and Santorum.

Despite the presence of a dozen Republicans still official candidates, we can see the race clearly narrowing with only four or five viable candidates with the resources and support to continue past early 2016.

While Carly Fiorina had a brief national surge and John Kasich and Rand Paul at times appeared to interest voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, they haven’t had the depth of support (or money) to sustain any momentum they had generated.

Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have shown either a consistency of support or strong early fundraising (Bush) to carry them past February and into the dog days of the campaign.

Of course, much can still happen between now and Feb. 1: further debates are scheduled, Super PAC spending will kick in, and there is always the variable of another domestic or international event impacting voters.

It’s a safe bet that 2016 is going to be a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them!

Source :

The Signal