There's a reason why his anti-Muslim message is resonating there.
Tim MurphyFeb. 18, 2016 7:00 AM
Terry Fulton put this sign outside his store last fall "to let people know they don’t have to worry about a mass shooting over here at Fulton’s tackle box."
Michelle Wiles says her wake-up call came a few years back when she saw what Muslim immigrants had done to the small city of Hamtramck, Michigan, where her mother's family is from. A small, historically Polish community almost entirely surrounded by Detroit, Hamtramck used to be filled with Christmas decorations in the winter. These days, she says—as we sit in the office of a biofuels company near her home in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, one evening in December—"that's where they have blow horns."
"Where they blast out their call to prayer," she explains. "Which is, you know, to Allah."
Wiles, who is a member of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's South Carolina leadership team, believes large portions of Michigan have already been transformed into a de facto Islamic state that's off-limits to nonbelievers. "Just Google 'Christians stoned by Muslims in Dearborn'—there's plenty of video," she says. (I did, and I watched a group of beefy dudes with signs about "idolators" and "sodomites" being taunted by 14-year-olds.) Unless good Christian people take a stand, Wiles fears South Carolina might be next.
Jeb Bush can't escape Donald Trump, and with three days to go before South Carolina Republicans cast their votes in the first Southern primary, the frustration is starting to show. As he finished his stump speech at a golf course in Summerville, the former Florida governor made an uncharacteristically sarcastic appeal to conservative voters.
"I know how to beat Hillary Clinton, I know how to win, and I ask for your support on Saturday," Bush said. "It's all been decided, apparently—the pundits have made it all, we don't have to go vote, I guess. I should stop campaigning maybe, huh?"
"Nooo!" the audience replied.
"It's all been decided," Bush continued.
When it came time for questions, the subject turned to Trump—that is, Trump's never-ending thumping of Bush. A Bush supporter took the microphone to say he'd been looking forward to hearing Bush speak "without interruption." Bush laughed. But the man continued: "I've known for a long time you are the best-qualified person to be president of the United States, and I thank your for that, but I'm afraid that your message does not resonate to the national community."
The fellow suggested that was because Bush was overshadowed and outmaneuvered by Trump. "I was wondering if, because of your civility, if you could raise the bar in the next [debate] and try to be beyond the bullying? Because I think that's who you are, and I think they try to knock you off center, and it appears you do get knocked off center, like anyone would because of the insults to your family." He asked if Bush could demonstrate that he wouldn't be bullied—by politicians or foreign leaders—if elected president.
"First of all, I don't feel like I'm shaken up by the bully," Bush answered. "In fact, I'm the only guy going after the guy, because he's hijacking the party." Bush defended his debate posture as a mix of "loaf of bread" policy proposals and hard-nosed politics. Referring to his chief nemesis, he added, "Donald Trump's not a conservative, he's not a steady hand—for sure—and he's not a servant. It's all about him. And I'm the only guy going after him. I don't feel that he's intimidating. He's a bully! Punch him back in the nose!"
This wasn't convincing for everyone there. A few minutes later, another voter asked Bush about his lack of fight. "I think the campaign has been co-opted by the P.T. Barnum of our time," the man said. "And I think he is getting you off your message—your good message, and all the items that you shared with us today. And I think I would encourage you to emphasize those things more."
"I do!" Bush said, a bit too defensively. "This is called 'campaigning' right now."
"No, I mean, sir, on the more national level," the man said. "To the extent that you can. I know when you get into the debates it's a free-for-all sometimes. But I would encourage you to go not just on your record but on your plans."
The last questioner told Bush, "I love your brother, George W. Bush." And what he liked about that other Bush was his ability to play hardball when necessary. "Excuse me for saying in vernacular terms," this voter asked, but could Jeb Bush be a "son of a bitch"?
"Is that a question?" Bush responded. "Will I be an S.O.B., I think he said? I will be tough, I will be resolute, I will be firm, I will be clear, I will be determined—that's what leaders are. I won't cut and run. That's—I mean look, I'm following all this stuff like everyone else and I will tell you there are some politicians that are gifted at weaving through everything for their own ambitions. They're looking at the next step. They're moving to the next place. They're always trying to figure it out. That's not me. I run to the crisis." Was that a yes? Or a no?
Marco Rubio trails by Donald Trump by 20 points ahead of Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary, a contest that has all but once in its history chosen the party's eventual nominee. But as Rubio began his final pitch to conservative voters Wednesday morning at a Shriners' Hall in Mt. Pleasant, there was one subject he wouldn't talk about: Trump.
In recent days, his Republican rivals—mainly Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush—have tried to position themselves as the Trump slayer. And Rubio's own campaign manager has publicly contemplated the prospect of a Trump-dominated contest leading to a brokered convention. But for now Rubio himself is not directly addressing the guy who's poised to blowhim and the other GOP contenders out of the water in the Palmetto State. Instead of decrying Trump's impact on the Republican Party, he's been expressing concern about the hostile takeover of the other major party. "The Democratic party's been taken over by radical left-wing elements—their leading contender leading in some of the national polls is an avowed Democratic Socialist," he told the a few hundred voters at Shriners' Hall. "I promise you that if someone that far right as he is far left had taken over the Republican party, every day you'd be hearing stories the Republican party has become radicalized—the Democratic party's been radicalized!"
Rubio, though, could not resist a tangential dig at the real estate mogul. He raised the subject of eminent domain, and said, "Theoretically, I'm not saying this happens, but theoretically for a moment, imagine that a developer decided they wanted to take private property away to build a hotel or something like that—just theoretically." The largely-supportive audience laughed, and Rubio continued: "After the Kelo decision in 2006, the Supreme Court said that's legal—a developer can use the power of government to take away your property because government thinks they'd rather have a hotel there instead of a house. You can't do that in Florida because when I was in the state legislature I led the effort to pass a law that would become a model for the country."
That was a dig at Trump, who has been attacked by his GOP foes for having used eminent domain for his own private projects. But it did seem that Rubio had decided not to mention the T-word—as if speaking the name might disturb the exiled Dark Lord and his Death Eaters.
Rubio did not take questions at the event, which was advertised as a town hall. But speaking to reporters afterwards, the Florida senator ripped into Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, accusing his legislative colleague of being a politician who "will say and do anything to get elected." Rubio also brought up the massive ad campaign by a pro-Jeb Bush super-PAC to take him down (by, among other things, making fun of his boots). But no explicit slam on Trump. On this matter, the most hawkish guy in the race is a real dove.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead on Saturday, leaving a vacancy on the highest court nine months before Election Day. That should leave President Barack Obama plenty of time to find a qualified replacement to succeed Scalia. But within minutes of the announcement that Scalia had died, prominent conservatives began demanding that no new justice be confirmed until after Obama's presidency ends next year. In essence, they want the Republican-controlled Senate to block any nomination that Obama might send it. And leading this charge was Sen. Ted Cruz, a GOP presidential candidate. In a tweet, Cruz declared, "Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement." Soon after that, Sen. Marco Rubio, another presidential wannabe, said the same.
This is a quickly spreading right-wing meme. Here are other conservatives demanding government obstruction to deny Obama the chance to fulfill his constitutional duty:
Look forward to this issue—when to fill Scalia's slot and who should appoint his successor—becoming a major fight in the presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the judiciary committee, issued this statement: "I hope that no one will use this sad news to suggest POTUS should not perform its [sic] constitutional duty." He was a little late with that.
Update: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has weighed in too:
The two Democratic candidates came out swinging, with a slew of attacks at the ready.
Tim Murphy and Pema LevyFeb. 12, 2016 1:02 AM
Let's dispel once and for all the notion that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders don't know what they're doing—they know exactly what they're doing, and on Thursday night in Milwaukee, at the second Democratic presidential debate since the field narrowed to two candidates, they sparred over the issues that will define their contest going forward, without moving the needle in any obvious direction. The two-hour debate, moderated by Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill of PBS, put the candidates on the spot on issues of race and gender, while returning again and again to the themes that dominated their earlier meetings: Wall Street, Medicare, and the Middle East.
Both candidates made an effort to shore up earlier weak spots. Sanders had a ready response on charges he'd stood in the way of immigration reform; Clinton continued to insulate herself from accusations that she was a pawn of corporate interests, and she used her relationship with President Barack Obama as the rough equivalent of a character reference in a job interview. Whatever the consequences, Clinton and Sanders will be stuck with them for a while. The next scheduled debate isn't until March 6—five days after Super Tuesday.