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Jac VerSteeg: Bladders, sweat, Flint and tears

Marco Rubio and Donald Trump are slinging mud by spraying water. Perhaps this results from the unconscious influence of their ties to Florida, a vast peninsula surrounded by the sparkling aqua stuff.

Trump himself is master of an estate whose name – Mar-a-Lago – derives from its proximity to two bodies of water. Rubio’s persona is shaped by the 90 miles of Florida Straits separating his family’s adopted country from Cuba’s tyranny.

It is a shame, given the importance of water to Florida and in their lives, that the two candidates insist on drawing from a polluted well.

For example, early in the race Trump appeared on Morning Joe and criticized Rubio as someone “who has the worst voting record in the United States Senate” – a fair line of attack – but then went on to say, “He sweats more than any young person I’ve seen in my life. …I’ve never seen a guy down water like he downs water. …They bring it in in buckets for this guy.”

That is just one instance of many in which Trump ridiculed Rubio’s sweat glands and thirst.

He frequently says Rubio looks like someone who jumped into a swimming pool with all of his clothes on. In one appearance, Trump sloshed water from a plastic bottle in what looked like a parody of a priest sprinkling holy water.

Of course Trump’s soggy insults reference Rubio’s embarrassing lurch for water during his 2013 GOP response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Rubio paid Trump back during their Texas debate when, in a sly reference to his own previous evisceration by former candidate Chris Christie, Rubio gleefully pointed out that Trump went into robo-repetition mode when trying in vain to explain how Trump could replace Obamacare.

At a rally the day after Rubio exposed Trump as a candidate squishy on policy, he went on to ridicule Trump’s backstage request for a full-length mirror, “Maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet.”

If that seems crude, remember that in December Trump himself seemed obsessed by the fact that Hillary Clinton took bathroom breaks during a Democratic debate, calling the thought that she did so “disgusting.”

After Rubio scored in the recent debate, Trump sought to douse his rival’s resurgence with still more remarks about Rubio’s sweat glands and by producing an endorsement from former New Jersey Gov. Christie.

Christie’s presence itself has a watery footnote since a major scandal of his administration involves attempts to punish a political rival by creating traffic jams in his city by shutting down a key bridge.

It remains to be seen whether Trump and Rubio will continue their spraying contest and how Florida voters will react if they do. Pundits reasonably conjecture that Rubio must win the March 15 winner-take-all Florida primary to keep his head above water.

Note that Democrats Clinton and Bernie Sanders also are campaigning on a water-related theme. But their concerns are loftier.

Both Clinton and Sanders have made an issue of the crisis in Flint Michigan, where water pouring out of faucets contains toxic lead levels. Inept decisions by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration initiated the crisis and have been followed by an inept response from the governor.

“If we are looking at children being poisoned,” said Sanders during a recent visit to Flint, “if that is not an emergency, I just don’t know what an emergency is.”

Clinton has been even more involved in Flint. “This is not merely unacceptable or wrong,” she said, “though it is both. What’s happened in Flint is immoral.”

Flint and the Trump-Rubio water wars might seem like minor issues, but they reflect the parties’ different approaches to larger matters. Republicans are the party of undermining the Environmental Protection Agency, endangering water and so much more. And they ignore or deny climate change, an attitude that will result in sea-level rise, one of the worst water-related disasters that can happen to Florida.

Democrats are the party that wants to protect the EPA and correctly wants America to lead in the attempt to slow global warming.

This year the contrast between Republicans and Democrats is stark. Republican candidates are spouting insults involving sweat and urine. Democrats are intent on wiping away grieving Flint residents’ tears.


Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida

Chris Christie endorses Donald Trump

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie backed Donald Trump in the Republican race for president Friday, a powerhouse endorsement as the billionaire tries to beat back assaults on his character from a newly aggressive rival, Marco Rubio.

Christie joined Trump at a Forth Worth news conference and praised him as “the person who will go to Washington, D.C., and be able to absolutely turn the place around.”

Christie said Trump was hands-down the better choice than Rubio, a first-term senator who “didn’t show up for work.”

“We don’t need any more of these Washington, D.C. acts,” said the governor, who had needled Rubio for missing Senate votes back when the governor was a candidate himself.

The shock endorsement came after Rubio, in an abrupt shift cheered by anxious Republicans nationwide, shattered months of relative peace with Trump in Thursday night’s GOP debate. It marked the beginning of a long-awaited takedown effort on Trump heading into the weekend before Super Tuesday.

Rubio continued the verbal assault on Friday, repeatedly calling Trump “a con artist” in interviews designed to weaken Trump’s tightening grasp on the Republican nomination. And a new advertising campaign from Rubio allies attacked Trump’s business background and limited knowledge on foreign policy.

“A con artist is about to take over the Republican Party and the conservative movement,” Rubio charged on CBS’ “This Morning.” ”And we have to put a stop to it.”

But as he has so many times during the campaign, Trump found a way to turn the attention back to himself just hours later, with the Christie endorsement. “I just said wow, that is really great,” Trump said of the governor’s support.

Trump has won three consecutive primary contests and leads polls in most of the 11 states participating in Tuesday’s mega-round of voting. Christie’s endorsement is a blow to Trump’s Republican competitors, not least Rubio, who had been courting the tough-talking New Jersey governor since he dropped his own presidential candidacy earlier in the month.

“Desperate people do desperate things,” Christie said of Rubio’s attacks while standing at Trump’s side. “The idea that Marco Rubio can get inside Donald Trump’s head is an interesting proposition.”

Rubio’s strategic shift comes as the GOP presidential candidates barreled into the final sprint to Super Tuesday. This, after a name-calling, insult-trading, finger-pointing debate Thursday night at which Rubio and Ted Cruz engaged in a tag-team attack against the GOP front-runner.

Trump’s rivals concede that it might take an extraordinary “brokered” national Republican convention in July to stop him.

“Point is, there’s still a pathway to beating him,” said Liz Mair, a Republican strategist leading an anti-Trump group. “As of Wednesday, I wasn’t convinced there really was.”

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton claimed new headway on the eve of a South Carolina Democratic primary that she’s expected to win handily.

“I think it does take me a little bit longer to get into the rhythm of campaigning,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” ”We hit our stride in Nevada. Our message of breaking all barriers is really beginning to take hold. I really felt we were on an upward trajectory.”

Even if the Republican-backed Trump attacks don’t work in the short-term, Clinton suggested he’d be vulnerable as the GOP nominee in the fall.

“When it moves to the general election, I think you’re going to see a real seriousness,” she said, “with people turning and saying, ‘What do we know about this man?'”

There was little sign that Trump’s stock was falling at the Fort Worth rally where supporters gathered.

Many Trump supporters said they hadn’t seen the Houston debate that shook him up. Those who had stood by their candidate and criticized the way his rivals teamed up on him.

“They come prepared to attack Trump at all costs,” said Arlene Smart, 58, of Liberty, Texas. “I’m sick of lying in Washington. Trump is the man. That’s all there is to it.”

“I think most people see it as Washington’s crooked attacks,” she added.

As Trump’s rivals stepped up their criticism, a pro-Rubio super PAC announced plans to start running Trump attack ads in key states on Friday.

One ad charges that Trump “knows nothing about foreign policy.” Another targets his business background, highlights the businessman’s use of “sleazy bankruptcy laws to avoid paying workers” and calls him out for saying he loves “the poorly educated” — Trump’s clumsy way of expressing compassion for the poor.

From Houston, the GOP candidates spread out in the hunt for Super Tuesday votes, with Cruz headed for Tennessee and Virginia on Friday. Both Trump and Rubio are signaling they’re unwilling to cede Texas, the crown jewel of Tuesday’s voting, to Cruz, the home-state senator.

Each scheduled campaign events in Texas before going to Oklahoma City.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 2.22.16 – Rubio’s narrow pathway

Sorry, GOP Establishment, but Ben Carson and John Kasich aren’t shutting down their campaigns.

Those rallying around Marco Rubio Monday morning are hoping they would, two days after Donald Trump‘s decisive victory Saturday night in South Carolina forced Jeb Bush out of the race.

Rubio says it’s a three-man race between himself, Trump and Ted Cruz, but he needs to come up with victories soon if he’s going to be a serious challenger to the New York City business mogul.

Kasich has no path to the nomination, says Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s campaign manager. In a memo distributed Sunday, Sullivan wrote, “The path for winning the nomination for John Kasich looks unrealistic given the threshold requirements in most states. With the current state of the race, Kasich is currently not in contention for 81.7 percent of the delegates awarded during the week of March 1st. He hasn’t shown any ability to appeal to voters outside the very small moderate/liberal subset of the Republican primary electorate. He has fewer resources, lower name ID, and less national infrastructure than Jeb Bush, who last night determined there was no path to the nomination.”

Perhaps true, but Kasich actually may have a shot at winning a state or two (obviously Ohio, on March 15), and he presents a distinct brand of Republican leadership that is appealing to center-right voters, those who supported Bush and/or Chris Christie.

Upshot? He ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Actually, Kasich was back in his home state on Sunday to sign a bill prohibiting Ohio from contracting for health services with any organization that performs or promotes abortions, blocking government funds to Planned Parenthood. According to CNN, Planned Parenthood isn’t explicitly named in the legislation, but the law will prevent more than $1 million in funding from the state health department from going to the nonprofit to fund programs such as HIV testing, health screenings and prevention of violence against women

Kasich also received the backing Sunday of billionaire financier Stanley F. Druckenmiller. So, no, Kasich isn’t departing anytime soon.

And Carson?

Despite his disappointing last place finish in the Palmetto State, the former pediatric surgeon somewhat incredulously told his supporters that “this is only the beginning.”

Say what?

Rubio can only win if the other guys get out. But they’re not. When asked about that at one point his advisers were saying that South Carolina would be the place where he would get his first victory, he said that Trump’s success is because there are so many candidates still in the race, versus the one-on-one matchup in the Democratic primary.

True. But it’s not going to change in the next few weeks, meaning Marco’s chances are very, very slim at this point. However, he is still in it right now.

In other news …

Jeb Bush’s failure this year on the campaign trail marks him as the fourth former Florida governor to strike out when attempting to become president.

• • •

If you like your politics with some controversy, then you have to admit that Alan Grayson did not disappoint at his appearance at the Tiger Bay Club in Tampa on Friday afternoon.

• • •

Tampa’s move to decriminalize possession of weed seems to have freaked out the editorial board over at The Tampa Tribune.

“Marcobots” to continue to dog Marco Rubio on campaign trail

Twenty-five minutes into Saturday night’s Republican presidential primary, Chris Christie went “full Jersey” on Marco Rubio. The New Jersey governor delivered a series of verbal blows that the Florida Senator failed to answer. Instead, Rubio somewhat mechanically repeated his memorized lines attacking President Barack Obama.

“Let’s dispel this notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Rubio said. “He is trying to change this country.” He repeated a variation of that three more times. Critics immediately tagged his response as “robotic.”

Seizing the moment were Kevin McAlister and Eddie Vale, operatives with the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. The two improvised costumes to greet reporters and audience members attending Rubio’s first public appearance early Sunday morning in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

On WMNF-FM in Tampa on Thursday, interviewed McAlister beginning by asking him about the pair’s prank.

McAlister: We were in our hotel rooms doing rapid response for American Bridge and came up with this idea to dress in cardboard boxes as robots, so we managed to get to Lowe’s Saturday night right after the debate and stayed up pretty late, until around 1:30 a.m. making these costumes, and we were able to get out to Rubio’s first event Sunday morning.

FP: I got there around 8:15 a.m or so and you guys were already there. What time did you get there?

McAlister: We got there a little before 8. It worked out way better than we thought it would. I think that some of that was just getting into the last three days of the election up in New Hampshire. Reporters were looking for something else to cover and fortunately, we were there with these robot costumes.

FP: I put up my photo on Facebook of you guys immediately. I looked at the New York Daily News homepage at about noon, and the photo of you guys was staring at me. That thing went worldwide. You couldn’t have been expecting that type of coverage.

McAlister: No, not at all. I think it really tapped into what people have been saying about Rubio, even before the debate, that he is just about his talking points. To his credit, he is good at giving the same stump speech over and over again. But I think Chris Christie sort of opened the hole that says that maybe there isn’t much substance behind it.

FP: Now on Tuesday, Election day, all of a sudden you guys were back in the news. There was some footage at a Rubio rally that spread. What happened on Tuesday?

McAlister: So Rubio was going to different polling locations. It was Election Day. And we were there to greet him and make our case again that he’s just another robot. And I guess between staff and volunteers for Rubio, it got a little aggressive. I think it finally hit a chord and they weren’t too happy that we were there. So there was a lot of pushing and shoving. I mean, in any campaign you expect that volunteers and staff are going to try and cover signs and that sort of thing, but it got aggressive. One of the robots was put in a headlock by Rubio’s New Hampshire campaign manager– the director – the chairman. And it just got pretty aggressive. So we took that as a sign that we had actually hit on a nerve with Rubio and his staff. And it was just a little surprising. You hope that a candidate and his staff wouldn’t really get shaken up by Christie and two guys wearing cardboard boxes. For us, it really sort of questioned whether he’s ready to be commander in chief if he can’t handle us.

FP: Well, Chris Christie was a prosecutor, as he was always reminding us, so he can be quite aggressive. Now I know American Bridge – I’ve been getting your releases for a couple of years now. A lot of them are anti-Marco Rubio. Do you go off on other Republican candidates or – what’s the mission that you guys are trying to do during this campaign season?

McAlister: Our general motivation is just exposing Republicans and holding them accountable. We do focus on Rubio, but we’re also focusing on Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. And we do a lot in senate races and governors races and house races, too. So I’m sure that while you’re focused on what we’re doing with Rubio just because of Florida, we are out there doing a lot on other candidates.

FP: We’ve got so many primaries coming up here, of course. Will you guys be out there on the road in the next few weeks and months?

McAlister: Well the funny thing is that Eddie and I actually went down to South Carolina yesterday (Wednesday). We skipped the election coverage in New Hampshire on Tuesday night and took a flight down to South Carolina so we could be at his events down there, and I think we sort of threw off Rubio and his staff that we were actually trailing them. We did have to get back to D.C. to get back to our day jobs after wearing cardboard boxes for several days. We do have plans to keep this narrative up to make sure that everybody knows that criticism of Rubio exists. And between South Carolina nine days from now and Nevada three days later, there are some plans in the works to keep this going.

Mitch Perry Report for 2.11.16 — Carly and Chris bid adieu to the circus

Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina have suspended their presidential campaigns.

This reporter had the chance to see the New Jersey governor (yes, that is the day job he’s pretty much blown off for months) a week ago in Keene, N.H. The fun part about that was how intimate it was: It was a small crowd (maybe too small, an indication of how he was going to perform on Tuesday), but other than a few opening remarks, the 90-minute event was all about him taking questions from the audience.

He was confident, humble, and forthright. When discussing health care, he admitted that he didn’t have a perfect solution, saying nobody did (yes, he wants to repeal the ACA).  He was funny at times, and kind. For those who wanted to see him blow up on someone, that didn’t happen, though he did give the cable networks a 10-second bite when he asked a man what the heck he was talking about (after the man went on for over two minutes without getting to his question).

I think he was a very good candidate, but he was toast before he got into the race. The BridgeGate scandal just stunk to high heaven, and even if he himself wasn’t personally involved, it happened on his watch with some of his top deputies. It reinforced the perceptions that he was a bully who went after his opponents, and it killed him.

However, depending on how this race ends up, his verbal takedown on Marco Rubio will go down in American political history. If Jeb Bush (or John Kasich) ends up somehow capturing the nomination, they’ll owe Christie big-time.

When I went to a GOP presidential cattle call in New Hampshire last April, there were two Republicans who impressed me purely with their presentation skills: Ted Cruz and Fiorina.

She really didn’t have much of a record to run on, frankly, but she was a good political athlete. Her tenure as a businesswoman was checkered, and she got mauled when running for U.S. Senate against Barbara Boxer in 2010. So why was she running?

Her verbal skills kept her in the game for awhile. And frankly, she got screwed by ABC last week when she wasn’t allowed into the Saint Anselm College debate in Manchester despite receiving more votes than Bush and Kasich in Iowa. That made no sense, and showed a level of disrespect to her campaign.

They’re both gone. Who’s taking odds on when Ben Carson departs?

In other news …

NARAL pro-choice America is blasting Marco Rubio for his stance on not believing abortion for women, even in the case of rape or incest.

• • •

Rubio says he’s moving on to South Carolina, in the wake of his lousy week in New Hampshire.

• • •

You better believe the Rubio camp is taking seriously the charges that he hasn’t accomplished enough to make him qualified to become the next president. Wednesday his campaign team added this post to their website.

• • •

A proposal to remove Florida’s statue of a Confederate general in the U.S. Capitol advanced in a state House committee Wednesday.

• • •

Jeb Bush wasted no time going after John Kasich, fresh off the Ohio governor’s second-place finish in New Hampshire.

• • •

Hillsborough County PTC head Kyle Cockream says he wants the Legislature to reconsider a proposal in the House that would not mandate that Uber and Lyft drivers have Level 2 background checks, which require getting fingerprinted.

• • •

Pam Bondi is psyched that the U.S. Supreme Court has put a checkdown on President Barack Obama‘s Clean Power Plan.

• • •

And Kevin Beckner had an OK month of fundraising for his race for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts. Democratic incumbent Pat Frank? Not so much.

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.

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 told 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.

Tuesday’s result, though, 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 final 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 years 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 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. EST. “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 receiving 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 about 5 percent, though.

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 adds “long list of accomplishments” in state House to campaign website

In the aftermath of his disappointing fifth place finish on Tuesday night in New Hampshire,  the Marco Rubio campaign has realized it must confront the growing concerns about his candidacy.

Although much has been made about how rattled he became during Saturday night’s debate after a verbal takedown by Chris Christie, questions about his qualifications to be president also grew to a new level in New Hampshire.

After Rubio-surrogate Rick Santorum stumbled on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when asked to identify Rubio’s accomplishments in his political career, campaigns for both Christie and Jeb Bush employed the clip in devastating ads that ran during the weekend in the Granite State.

Apparently, Team Rubio realizes that vulnerability because a new post has appeared on the campaign’s website: “Marco Had a Long Record of Accomplishment in the Florida House.”

The section refers to how as House Speaker in 2006-2007 Rubio “balanced the budget without raising taxes,” and passed budgets with less spending than then-Gov. Charlie Crist or the Florida Senate wanted.

It lists his 100 percent ratings from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, as well as a quote from anti-tax activist Grover Norquist saying Rubio was “the most pro-taxpayer legislative leader in the country.”

When he was House Speaker, Rubio published a book called “100 Innovative Ideas For Florida’s Future.” The site lists how he was able to implement some of those ideas during his tenure, including those on eminent domain, higher education, K-12 education, crime, small government and government transparency, and executive power.

During his Senate campaign in 2009, Rubio said 57 of the 100 ideas had become law. PoliFact Florida called that comment “Half True,” claiming that only 24 of them had became law.

The Rubio campaigning is also urging supporters to re-tweet this statement, “Many people know about @marcorubio’s leadership in the U.S. Senate, but do you know about his Fla. House work.”

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

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

“I want you to understand something,” he told the crowd of disappointed supporters at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire, 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.”

His vow is to not falter in his campaign as he did under a verbal assault he received at the hands of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the GOP 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 his anti-Obama mantra.

He dropped the facade Tuesday night, 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 affected the race: 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 past few days. Only 20 percent of Democratic voters reported being late deciders.

The question now: Is Rubio’s campaign fatally wounded?

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

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