Ted Cruz Wins Kansas Caucuses, CPAC Straw Poll
Texas Senator Ted Cruz has won the Kansas caucuses, with Donald Trump coming in second and Marco Rubio third:
NEW ORLEANS — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has sought to present himself as the chief alternative to GOP front-runner Donald Trump, secured a strong victory in the Kansas presidential caucuses Saturday, according to a projection by the Associated Press, as voting and ballot counting continued in three other GOP contests.
“The scream you hear, the howl that comes from Washington, D.C., is utter terror at what ‘We the People’ are doing together,” Cruz told supporters in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, shortly after his projected victory was announced.
With 53 percent of the vote counted, the Associated Press called the victory for Cruz (R-Tex). He led Trump with 49 percent of the vote to 25 percent for Trump, according to the AP.
The 2016 election pressed forward Saturday as five states held presidential nominating contests across the country. Dubbed “Super Saturday,” Republicans are also voting in Louisiana and are caucusing in Maine and Kentucky. Democrats are voting in Louisiana and are caucusing in Kansas and Nebraska.
The presidential race entered a new stage Tuesday after real estate mogul Donald Trump (R) and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton (D) secured victories in a majority of the 11 partisan primaries and caucuses held that day, when hundreds of delegates were at stake. Clinton — the Democratic establishment favorite — has pulled sharply ahead of rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, while Trump’s wave of populist support showed little sign of waning even as he has endured scathing attacks from GOP leaders.
The fallout from Saturday’s contests will again pitch the election forward, as Clinton and Trump’s rivals seek to keep them at bay by maximizing their delegate counts. The two front-runners, meanwhile, are looking to protect their leads and to sustain their momentum ahead of a series of high-stakes, high-delegate races in mid-March.
“I don’t want to tell you that we’re 21 points up in Louisiana because you won’t vote,” a bullish Trump quipped Friday evening during a campaign event here in New Orleans. “You have to go out and vote, so let’s assume we’re tied, okay? Let’s assume. No, you have to go out and vote.”
An unruly Republican presidential debate Thursday showed the urgent crossroads the GOP nominating contest has come upon. Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have struggled to position themselves as the chief alternative to Trump while Republican leaders have become increasingly vocal about their opposition to Trump.
The Cruz campaign focused its efforts on Kansas and Maine in the lead up to Saturday, which both held caucuses instead of primaries and where Cruz’s strategic ground organization could be rewarded. Cruz — who has now won five nominating contests — has increasingly positioned himself as the only candidate able to beat Trump.
Cruz has made a direct appeal to libertarian-leaning voters in Maine, hoping to siphon off voters who once supported Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.).
Rubio, in the meantime, is intent on winning the March 15 primary in his home state of Florida, though Trump appears to have an enormous lead in the Sunshine State. The Rubio campaign has remained steadfast in its belief that the senator can turn things around; a loss there would be devastating for Rubio and would give Trump all of the state’s delegates, which will be allocated on a winner-take-all basis.
As I noted this morning, there hasn’t been much polling in Kansas so it was unclear what the state of the race was there, but a win by Cruz isn’t entirely surprising given that the Republican electorate there is similar to the electorate in Iowa, where Cruz also won at a time when the GOP field was quite larger. The size of Cruz’s win means he’ll likely take the majority of the delegates from the state, but Trump will continue to maintain the lead thanks to the wins he has picked up since the New Hampshire primary. There are also early indications that Cruz is likely to win the Maine caucuses, but those results are not complete at this point. One thing this may indicate is that Cruz’s campaign is well-organized in caucus states and thus has an advantage over the other candidates. This, of course, was also true of Rick Santorum’s campaign four years ago and it didn’t really help him in his quest to defeat Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination that year.
In addition to the caucuses in Kansas, Cruz also pulled off a win in the far less meaningful CPAC Straw Poll:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll on Saturday with 40% of attendees choosing him as their first choice for president.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio got 30% of the vote for second place. Donald Trump received 15% and Ohio Gov. John Kasich earned 8%. Dr. Ben Carson, who dropped out of the race this week, got 2%.
The event, held in National Harbor, Maryland, represents a small but vocal segment of the Republican Party. The voters tend to be younger and more libertarian-leaning as the conference is popular with many college students.
Over the past several years, of course, the CPAC Straw Poll has been dominated by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and, before him, his father retired Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Senator Paul, however, chose to skip CPAC this year after dropping out of the race for President in February and instead spent the day participating in the Presidential caucuses in Kentucky, where he is now concentrating on running for re-election to the Senate.