HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — National Republicans gathering today in South Florida are wrestling with what rules will apply in August in Cleveland when it votes for its nominee.
Front runner, and part-time Palm Beacher, Donald Trump, is far ahead, but might not reach the 1,237 delegates needed to win on the first ballot.
The two men who hope to step in if a failed first ballot leads to a free-for-all second vote, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, came Wednesday to the RNC’s quarterly meeting. at the Diplomat in Hollywood to woo members in hopes of wrestling the nomination from Trump.
Trump has said the Cruz and Kasich scenarios are evidence of a system “rigged” against him by the GOP establishment. Amid Trump’s constant criticism, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and many of the party officials here appeared skittish about taking any action that might smack of favoritism toward a candidate.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is set to address the meeting at midday followed by the rules committee meeting.
This morning, the Democratic National Committee, in advance of a press call by DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, said, “with Republicans all over the map pledging to skip this summer’s Republican Convention, it’s clear the GOP is in a full-scale freak-out.”
“We have to be smart in the United States when people come in,” Trump said. “We’re taking in people without real documentation, we don’t know where they’re coming from. … You look at them from any standpoint, they could be ISIS, they could be ISIS-related.”
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton issued a statement on the attacks, calling the terrorists “vicious killers.”
“These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our alliance and our way of life, but they will never succeed,” Clinton said in the statement. “Today’s attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world.”
Republican Ted Cruz also issued a statement via Facebook. He said the attacks in Brussels are “just the latest in a string of coordinated attacks by radical Islamic terrorists perpetrated by those who are waging war against all who do not accept their extreme strain of Islam.”
Cruz also mentioned President Barack Obama, though not by name: “For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality.”
Cruz added, “And the truth is, we can never hope to defeat this evil so long as we refuse to even name it. That ends on January 20, 2017, when I am sworn in as president. We will name our enemy — radical Islamic terrorism. And we will defeat it.”
Democrat Bernie Sanders issued his response later in the morning, offering his condolences to those affected by the “barbaric attacks” and to residents of Brussels.
“Today’s attack is a brutal reminder that the international community must come together to destroy ISIS. This type of barbarism cannot be allowed to continue,” Sanders said.
GOP candidate John Kasich’s statement expressed solidarity with Brussels, while calling on the international community to “redouble our efforts with our allies to identify, root our and destroy the perpetrators of such acts of evil.”
In tonight’s debate, Republican presidential candidates tackled a huge issue for Floridians: immigration.
In last night’s Democratic debate, sponsored in part by Spanish-language TV channel Univision, candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also took on immigration, discussing deportation and workers’ rights.
But why is immigration so important to Floridians? And why is it such a hot issue in the presidential race?
Here are three things you should know about immigration in Florida.
1. About 19 percent of Floridians were born abroad.
According to the 2014 American Community Survey, Florida has a population of more than 19 million, and an estimated 3,789,829 of those people were not born in the United States. Of that number, an estimated 1,829,820 are not U.S. Citizens.
2. Even more Floridians speak a second language.
Many job-seekers in Florida will see the phrase “bilingual preferred” on job descriptions — and there’s a reason for that. According to the 2013 ACS, more than 5 million Floridians speak a foreign language.
3. Both Republicans and Democrats have made immigration a cornerstone of their campaigns.
That new poll shows Trump is crushing Rubio in Florida, getting the support of 45 percent of likely voters compared to 22 percent for Rubio. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas gets 18 percent in the poll, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich is at 8 percent.
Rubio has fared poorly so far in the presidential nominating contests, winning only in Minnesota and Puerto Rico. A loss in his home state would likely end his quest for the presidency.
A Quinnipiac poll of likely voters in Florida released on February 25 showed Trump leading Rubio with 44 percent compared to 28 percent for Rubio.
Quinnipiac has shown the race for Florida to be a blowout. A Monmouth University poll released on Monday showed Rubio trailing Trump by 8 percentage points.
After the last debate, featuring combative back and forths between candidates and CNBC moderators, the Fox Business News trio of questioners were downright low-key.
Neil Cavuto opened the contest with an embracing setup, saying the eight Republicans on stage would be asked, “How each of you plans to make America better tomorrow.”
The Fox team stayed mostly friendly from there. No questions about Rubio’s credit card spending; a gentle poking at Ben Carson and his autobiography stumbles. Cavuto ended debate saying, “It wasn’t about us.”
With only eight Republican contenders on the stage, the elbowing and kneeing between the candidates also seemed reduced.
The moderators easily kept the contenders from trying to talk over each other.
Instead, each candidate had more time to answer: Ted Cruz going on about the flat tax; Carly Fiorina touting her demand for a three-page tax code; and Rand Paul with his vision of a government so small you almost can’t see it. Donald Trump was downsized, except for a couple shots at John Kasich and pushing back Jeb Bush with a “Wait, Wait a minute.”
Is Jeb still wobbling?
After lousy debate performances — with the CNBC exchange his worst to date — Jeb was teetering like a ten-pin. But he steadied tonight. Sort of.
He answered questions with force and, yes, energy. He made a strong partisan pitch for repealing power plant and water quality rules enacted under President Obama, saying it was central to “jump-starting” the economy. And he stuck his neck out by attacking Trump on his demand for a wall at the Mexican border.
Bush’s attack on Marco Rubio in the last debate backfired horribly. But this time, Bush may have won points by going at Trump. He said every time the Clinton campaign hears wall talk, they’re “doing high fives.” He made a case the party needs to present “practical plans” and tried to cast himself as the candidate who can do that and win next November.
Rubio: Still on a roll?
Rubio sprinted out of the last, CNBC debate as an emerging favorite of the Republican establishment and more. He likely solidified that tonight with his trademark, articulate defense of conservative policies.
The son of an immigrant bartender defended his opposition to a minimum wage hike, saying it would cost jobs, replacing people with less-costly machines. And he was able to block-and-parry with Rand Paul when he came at him and dismissed his family leave tax credit plan as a $1 trillion welfare program.
Rubio also attempted to bolster his conservative cred by touting a military build-up to face ISIL. The fresh-faced senator also got some extended airplay, relying heavily on lines familiar from his stump speeches and portraying the next election as a “generational choice” for voters.
Maybe best of all for Rubio, there were no questions about his Senate absentees or free spending with a Republican credit card.
Carson: Off Code Blue, for now
The neurosurgeon has been battling media challenges to his autobiography. But he was able to staunch the political bleeding at least for tonight – getting only a soft question about whether he felt his campaign had been hurt.
After saying he doesn’t like being “lied about,” and explaining away claims of a West Point scholarship as being “misinterpreted,” the topic was dropped. Carson was able to soldier on in a debate whose low-key style matched his persona.
He made some points about his tax-cutting plan as reducing the number of poor people in America. But while Carson didn’t light the room on fire, neither did his fellow frontrunner, Trump. With Trump having an uncharacteristically subdued night, the debate may not provide much more spacing between these two.