After months of pre-gaming, political reporters are about to confront an actual, kinda-sorta presidential nomination vote: Monday’s Iowa caucuses. Naturally, the dawning of this first official primary after nearly three years of buildup has ratcheted up the intensity of the mainstream media’s (endless) coverage — to say nothing of our friends the rightbloggers. While the regular press just wants to keep customers clicking and page-viewing, rightbloggers are acting out their usual fears and enthusiasms, but on a larger, slightly more hysterical scale — Kabuki-blogging, if you will. Let’s see how they’re handling the leading GOP candidates.
Donald Trump: As I mentioned last week, mainstream Republicans have finally started showing the six-month front-runner some unexpected love, leading to panic among top-shelf rightbloggers who want someone more reliably anti–New Deal. Recent nods to Trump from crusty cons like Donald Rumsfeld, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum haven’t helped their nerves.
Trump’s singular status was highlighted by his absence from the GOP debate on Thursday, which led to the comical result of Trump winning the Drudge Report poll for a debate he didn’t attend. Some rightbloggers blamed — you guessed it! — the liberal media: “Another annoying thing was just the codependency of the media with the Trump circus,” huffed The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, whose previous hits have included, “Donald Trump Is Smart to Remind Voters of Clinton Drama,” “What Trump’s Cut-and-Run From Fox Debate Doesn’t Mean,” “When It Comes To Donald Trump, I Hate Everyone,” et alia.
When former Fox News presenter Alisyn Camerota claimed journalists went easy on Trump (!) because “you don’t want all of his Twitter followers to come at you with that Twitter hate,” The Weekly Standard roared, “CNN Anchor Admits Chilling Effect: Journalists Scared to Criticize Trump.” (Oddly, The New York Times just endorsed John Kasich instead of Trump for the GOP nomination. False flag?)
Some rightbloggers made impassioned last-minute pleas against Trumpism. Jonah Goldberg offered his National Review readers a lecture entitled “Just Because Trump Is ‘Anti-PC’ Doesn’t Mean We Should Celebrate His Vulgarity.” Trump-style “rudeness and crudeness are un-PC,” he argued, “but that alone isn’t a defense of rudeness and crudeness. Good manners, funnily enough, are sometimes un-PC, too.” Then Goldberg gave an example (I would love to know how long it took him to come up with this one): “For instance, I hold doors open for women and try to remember to stand up whenever a woman enters the room. I’m not going to go look for examples, but I have every confidence that there are plenty of feminists out there who think this is some kind of outrage.” See, you don’t need Trump-talk to make fun of those frigid women’s-libbers. Take that, Betty Friedan!
Others on the Trump beat just ducked and covered. Kemberlee Kaye of Legal Insurrection confessed her angst at “charlatans wearing the cape of Conservatism” and meditated for comfort on up-and-coming GOP Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. (“I’m somewhat relieved. At least briefly.”) Others, like Ben Shapiro at The Daily Signal and Steven Hayward at Power Line, huddled around Sasse for warmth, too. Keep hope alive!
Ted Cruz: The big story on the Texas senator is that he may seem unlikable, but when you really get to know him you hate his guts. (“GOP senators: Anyone but Cruz” blared The Hill.) Rightbloggers love him, but Cruz is suspect among Iowa’s not-insubstantial farmer constituency, whose crops would lose biofuel subsidies under his energy policy.
As late polls showed Trump and Cruz neck and neck, many of the brethren turned cheerleader, hoping to scream their man over the line.
“WOW TED CRUZ CONVERTS IOWA FARMER ANGRY ABOUT ETHANOL SUBSIDIES TO HIS SIDE!!! [VIDEO]” cried The Right Scoop. “Maybe the farmer was just being nice at the end,” the author admitted, “but [the farmer] went from total anger to a pretty calm and accepting position, all due to Cruz’s engaging arguments.”
“Cruz has one key advantage none of the other candidates, not even Trump, can claim,” asserted Michael Patrick Leahy of Breitbart.com: “[A] large and dedicated group of volunteers from Iowa and around the country who have been tirelessly knocking on doors of likely caucus attendees for the past several weeks.” Wow, knocking on doors — why didn’t anyone else think of that? Leahy supported his claim by quoting the Facebook page of a single Cruz operative. “As the image…posted on Facebook shows, dozens of volunteers continued to work into the late evening hours at Cruz headquarters in Des Moines Friday night,” he closed.
Elsewhere, Breitbart.com ran an endorsement column by Tom Tancredo. Sample: “Ted Cruz went on the floor of the United States Senate and called his party’s leader a liar — not to make a headline, but because it was true and someone needed to say it.” That’s the sort of thing Republican caucus attendees will go for.
Perhaps aware of what a bummer it would be if, after all the cheering, Cruz should lose, some of the brethren went straight to the bargaining stage. “Is my first-in-the-nation caucus state still the place where Republicans can be depended upon to serve as 21st-century foot soldiers in the American Revolution?” asked radio shouter Steve Deace. “If it is, then Ted Cruz’s safe but solid debate performance on Thursday probably secured him a caucus victory on Monday night.” If not, Deace reasoned, then “Iowans have fundamentally changed in the last four years, and honoring the plan and purpose of their Creator is no longer at the root of their political calling.” He added: “The yearnings of the French Revolution have likely won the day.” Iowa, don’t let Steve Deace down — he’s so invested!
Marco Rubio: The youthful senator from Florida has detractors who find his 180-degree turn from Original Gang of Eight amnesty-man to vigilant border cop disingenuous and self-serving. (“He could come out and sign a pledge to never grant amnesty or vote in favor of it again and it still wouldn’t help conservatives sit at ease,” muttered Grassfire.)
But Rubio also has some fans among the rightbloggers who more or less agree with his detractors’ charges but consider it a good thing: That is, his fecklessness shows he’s tractable to conservative pressure, unlike the hated Trump. Even the rabidly anti-immigration National Review (they employ Mark Krikorian, for chrissakes) has been spouting off about this. “Rubio doesn’t need Ann Coulter’s vote to win the nomination,” shrugged NR’s Ramesh Ponurru under the headline “How Rubio Survives Immigration.” And in a piece titled “Marco Rubio Is the Solid Conservative Who Can Beat Hillary,” NR’s Deroy Murdock explained that “Rubio abandoned the [amnesty] bill once it metastasized into a 1,198-page monstrosity.” See? Rubio may have erred on immigration, but he’s strong on bureaucracy!
Also, you could say Cruz is an immigration flip-flopper, too — last week GOP debate moderator Megyn Kelly beat up both Cruz and Rubio about this — and Cruz is not as close to the Jimmy Smits ideal of nationally electable Hispanic as Rubio. And Rubio is unmistakably against immigrants with whom he does not share a heritage. (“Well, I think it’s not about closing down mosques. It’s about closing down any place, whether it’s a café, a diner, an Internet site, any place where radicals are being inspired.”)
It should be noted some mainstreamers, possibly sick of the Trump-Cruz binary, have also gotten caught up in the Rubio third-way gush. (“Marco Rubio’s Iowa Mojo” — Politico; “Rubio Rising as a Goldilocks Candidate in Iowa” — NBC; “Buzz Builds for Rubio in Iowa” — The Hill.) And rightbloggers, despite all their caterwauling about the lying liberal media, love having their great wind at their backs.
The others: Everyone expects the rest of the GOP candidates to quit sooner rather than later, but some of the brethren are showing a little loyalty to the also-rans, either because they have good manners or bad luck in editorial assignments. Our hearts go out particularly to Breitbart.com’s Alex Swoyer, author of “INSPIRED VETERAN RAISES $800 FOR FIORINA CAMPAIGN DURING TOWN HALL.” Jeb Bush turns up mainly for lulz (“JEB BUSH CAMPAIGN’S LATEST BILLBOARD IS JUST PLAIN EMBARRASSING” — The Right Scoop), and Ben Carson — say, whatever happened to that guy?
Prognostication is a mug’s game, but take this to the bank: At least one candidate will do better than expected; another will do worse than expected; a handful of candidates will split the 30 Iowa GOP delegates (1,236 need to win!), and the hotels in New Hampshire will be booked solid for the next nine days. Happy trails!