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Road to the White House: Is the Republican tail wagging the dog?

Road to the White House: Is the Republican tail wagging the dog?
Published 3 Nov 2015   Follow @EmmaMConnors

Here's our a weekly selection of commentary from the fair-minded, the partisan and the light-hearted as the action progresses in one of the world's most enduring (and lengthy) democratic processes.

And here they come ... after months of focus on the political neophytes led by Donald Trump and more lately Ben Carson, suddenly others in the Republican field have romped into view.

In the last week the White House race has taken one of those surprising turns that make it such an excellent spectator sport. Like such events are supposed to, the third Republican presidential debate has proved consequential. It wasn't, however, the candidates' views on how they would run the country that made a difference. Rather, it was either what was not said, or the comments made about the questions, that saw the debate feature what The Observer ruled was  'the most important moment in the race to 2016'.

Until very recently, for instance, no-one outside of New Jersey was talking very much about Chris Christie.

The New Jersey Governor has persistently polled close to last among those vying for the Republican nomination. Understandably, most commentators have been far more absorbed with the colourful rich guy at the front. Until last week, that is, when the New York Times decided it was time Christie focused on his day job.

In this scathing piece, the NY Times editorial board ordered Christie to focus on New Jersey's problems and give up his run for president. The column sparked an entertaining twitter war (@ChrisChristie: 'The @NYTimes hates me? I'll take a deep bow for that') and was one more wash-up from the debate that managed to give almost everyone something to complain about. For the NY Times, it was Christie's failure to say little of substance. For the Republican Party, those who were doing the questioning were on the nose, so much so the GOP cancelled arrangements for the next debate broadcast. [fold]

Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas who has had more attention than Christie but mostly from Republicans praying for a miracle, took on the moderators during the debate itself, announcing 'The questions you have asked so far illustrate why the American people do not trust the media'.

This and other remarks in a similar vein caused many to sit up and take notice. A former Bush family adviser, Mary Matalin, said she couldn't explain Jeb Bush's poor performance and announced her money was on Cruz. It's suddenly become a popular call, even though Donald Trump and Ben Carson are still top of the polls. This post on Vox, with a blow by blow description of the debate, explains why.

One of the best paid people in US media, Rush Limbaugh, has long been a Cruz fan, consistently — and now, it appears, presciently — describing Cruz as the dark horse in the campaign. In a vintage radio blast, Limbaugh described Cruz as an 'unarguably thoroughbred conservative'. Importantly, he will appeal to millennials, insisted Limbuaugh, citing a World Economic Forum survey, because Cruz offers a way to address the economic inequality millennials are most concerned about. 'He's all about everybody being the best they can be using their natural — he's conservative top to bottom, through and through, no matter how you slice it, left, right, up, down'.

Cruz is not, however, a standout in terms of net worth. According to this tally on, he is worth an estimated $US3.17 million, behind Jeb Bush and Ben Carson (who tie on $US10 million), and former tech boss Carly Fiorina ($US59 million). All of course are overshadowed by Donald Trump. While his campaign team's insistence that Trump is worth $US10 billion is not what you would call rock solid, there is no question he is a multibillionaire,

So what is Cruz all about? Here's a good primer on PBS on 'the senator, firebrand, former prosecutor and son of a preacher-man'. Turns out he is also interested in etymology. In this interview, he declared climate change was a religion, not a science, and cited the use of the word 'deniers' to help prove his claim. The term is also used to describe those who don't believe in a god; therefore, Cruz declared, climate change is a religion. Roundabout logic notwithstanding, the use of the word and others in a similar context has not gone unnoticed. This piece in thinkprogress notes Associated Press has recently announced 'sceptics' is not a an appropriate word for people who don't accept mainstream science and AP is also not keen on the use of 'deniers' in climate change discussions.

Meanwhile, over in the Democrat camp, mild diversion came in the form of TV host Joy Behar's gushing on-air endorsement ('I’m feeling the Bern') of candidate Bernie Sanders. You can watch the clip here on, which notes that Whoopi Goldberg introduced Sanders as a rock star and the single attempt to get Sanders to explain how he would pay for proposals like free college education was quickly shut down.

And, in the 'Wait, There's More' department comes the latest batch of Hillary Clinton emails, which showed a list of celebs, including singer Lady Gaga and actor Ben Affleck, had the former secretary of state's private email address. As many commentators rushed to remind us, the US Ambassador to Libya (Chris Stevens, killed in the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi) did not. You can read the Affleck  email on The Gawker.

Image courtesy of Flickr user DonkeyHotey

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