2016 Archives

Trump, Rubio & Cruz use debate to reposition after unexpected Iowa caucus results

February 5, 2016

Media Contact:
Kenny Ryan
214-768-7641
khryan@smu.edu

DALLAS (SMU)SMU experts are available for interview on all things debatable in connection with Saturday night’s debate ahead of Tuesday’s New Hampshire Primary.

TRUMP TRAIN DERAILED, RUBIO EARNS TOP-TIER STATUS 
 

Matthew WilsonMATTHEW WILSON
jmwilson@smu.edu

Wilson says Iowa’s lasting legacy in the 2016 Republican Race may be that it’s remembered as the state where Donald Trump’s campaign ran aground.

“The aura of invincibility for Donald Trump is shattered by this, and that’s important,” Wilson says. “His whole message is the idea that he’s an invincible machine, and now he’s been beaten so some of that comes back down to earth.”

Saturday’s debate, on the other hand, might go down as the night Marco Rubio takes over the race, Wilson says.

“Trump and Ted Cruz had been trying to say this is a two-man race, and that narrative is clearly gone after Iowa,” Wilson says. “For Rubio, the question is how quickly do Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christi get out of the race, because, for those people in particular, most of their supporters likely have Rubio as their clear no. 2.”

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science who can discuss:

  • religion and politics
  • political psychology
  • voting behavior of religious voters
  • public opinion and politics
EXPECT TRUMP TO SLAM CRUZ OVER “STEALING” IOWA CAUCUS 
 

Rita KirkRITA KIRK
rkirk@smu.edu

After two days of trying the humble hat on for size, Trump came out swinging at Cruz Wednesday morning with a Twitter tirade that accused the Texas Senator of winning the Iowa caucus through dirty tricks and lies. Kirk expects the attacks to only increase when the two square off on the debate state Saturday night.

“The mailer Cruz sent out – Iowa party officials are saying that was a clear violation of the rules so, heck yes, Trump is going to frame Cruz as a liar and a cheater,” Kirk says. “You can’t claim you’re the moral candidate in the race and then do something everyone says is a blatant violation of the rules.”

Kirk doesn’t expect the Republican party to obey Trump’s calls to hold a revote in Iowa, but she does think this escalation in the Trump-Cruz feud will benefit unexpected candidates.

“It’s almost become a blood feud between Cruz and Trump,” Kirk says. “It was gloves-off a long time, and now it’s gloves-on, and their infighting gives the establishment candidates a better chance to be heard – particularly Rubio.”

Kirk is SMU professor of communication studies and director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility who can discuss:

  • sound bite substance
  • undecided voters
  • presidential debates
  • the use of second screens and social media in politics
  • political communications
  • Comparisons between this debate season and the 2012 election’s debate season
WHILE CRUZ AND TRUMP TANGO, REST OF FIELD WILL TARGET RUBIO 
 

Stephanie MartinSTEPHANIE MARTIN
samartin@mail.smu.edu

For the past month, no two Republicans had bigger targets on their backs than Trump and Cruz. Saturday night, Martin says Cruz and Trump will no doubt trade blows, but the rest of the field will be settings its sights on Rubio.

“Rubio is fifth in the polls in New Hampshire, and if he places fifth or sixth on primary night, that extends this primary out,” Martin says. “But if Rubio takes second or third, this will eventually become his nomination, because the pressure on the rest of the establishment candidates will become really high.”

Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts who can discuss:

  • economic messages in political campaigns
IN TRUMP – CRUZ FEUD – YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET
 

Ben VothBEN VOTH
bvoth@smu.edu

Recent polls show the New Hampshire race narrowing, and Voth says that might be an indication the Trump surge is finally beginning to subside – but that doesn’t mean Trump will go down without a fight.

“It appears that Trump’s campaign is overheating,” Voth says. “Saturday’s debate will feature an angry Trump who will need to justify and amplify his ethical attacks on Cruz. But New Hampshire is one of the most moderate primaries of the entire cycle, so the unique need to continue with personal attacks will conflict with the general disposition of New Hampshire voters who tend to like civic-minded candidates like Kasich.”

That also presents a unique challenge to the second-tier candidates, who have to balance making a splash with minding voter sensibilities. Voth predicts considerable pressure will be placed on the remaining candidates to drop out of the race if they don’t break through in New Hampshire, which makes Saturday a crucial battlefield for their presidential hopes.

Voth is SMU’s director of debate and an associate professor of corporate communications and public affairs who can discuss:

  • debate prep
  • debate strategy
  • comparisons between this debate season and the 2012 election’s debate season
IOWA TURNS RUBIO INTO CANDIDATE OF “ANYONE BUT CRUZ OR TRUMP!” 
 

Jeffrey A. EngelJEFFREY ENGEL
jaengel@mail.smu.edu

A week ago, Engel referred to Cruz as the candidate for voters who wanted “anyone but Trump!” Now that the Iowa results are in, Engel says voters will begin to see Rubio as the candidate of “anyone but Cruz or Trump,” which is a mixed blessing.

“I see very little enthusiasm for Rubio,” Engel says. “What I see is people trying to generate enthusiasm, but being the candidate of ‘I dislike him less than the alternatives’ is not a sustainable model.”

Engel says that, were he advising Rubio, he’d encourage the Florida senator to stay above the fray at Saturday’s debate and stick to a message of unity, but he thinks it is advice Rubio would likely ignore.

“I think Saturday will be a circular firing squad,” Engel says. “Rubio gets testy and has a temper. He has shown zero proclivity for staying above the fray.”

The wildcard of the debate could be Chris Christie, who Engel described as a desperate candidate that doesn’t hide his desperation well.

Engel is director of the SMU Center for Presidential History who can discuss:

  • comparisons to past presidential races
  • foreign policy
  • presidential rhetoric
TRUMP GOES FROM FRONTRUNNER TO ‘BACKED AGAINST THE WALL’ 
 

Bernard WeinsteinBERNARD WEINSTEIN
bweinstein@mail.cox.smu.edu

There aren’t many economic arguments going on between Republicans this primary season, but one equation Weinstein has his eyes on is Trump’s zero-sum game in New Hampshire.

“It is do or die for Trump now,” Weinstein says. “If Trump loses in New Hampshire, it’s over for him.”

Weinstein is an economist and associate director of SMU’s Maguire Energy Institute who can discuss:

  • energy and public policy.
  • taxation policy.
  • economic development policy.

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