As the first actual selection of delegates for the party nominations gets near with the Iowa caucuses on February 1 and the New Hampshire primary on February 9, the various candidates are moving their campaigns into top gear. On the Republican side, what seems to be shaping up are contests within two main subgroups, one claiming the outsider or insurgent mantle and the other the establishment mantle, though given the angry mood of the Republican electorate, even the establishment candidate has to wear at least a partial outsider veneer, to claim that they are not of the establishment even if they come from it.
Those claiming to be outsiders are Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum. The establishment candidates are Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. The first two names in each group are the ones with a realistic shot at being the final winner. Rand Paul is trying to straddle both wings.
In this phase of the process, the subgroups seem to be aiming their fire at the other members in their group, since success will be measured by being one of the top two or three perceived winners by the middle of February.
As this article discusses, so far it is the establishment bloc that has formed the first circular firing squad.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday found his record of Senate absences under attack from two directions: a blistering ad in Iowa by a super PAC supporting former Florida governor Jeb Bush and a taunt by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Meanwhile, [Jeb Bush’s super PAC] Right to Rise USA also launched a spot in New Hampshire contending that the gubernatorial records of Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich do not stack up against that of Bush. The ad was gentler in tone than the super PAC’s assault on Rubio, but it attempted to draw a contrast on the experience that all three of the candidates consider to be their greatest asset.
So far, the infighting in the outsider group has been less intense. There seems to be truce between the two main outsider candidates Trump and Cruz. Trump seems to practice a highly personalized kind of politics where he says nice things about people who say nice things about him, and he does not attack someone unless he is attacked first. Cruz has used that to his advantage by being nice to Trump while at the same time, trying to corner the evangelical Christian vote, a powerful factor in Iowa. Trump even seems to be conceding that he might not come in first in Iowa, where he is currently slightly behind Cruz in the polls, in the expectation that he will nullify that by winning big in New Hampshire. But if Cruz starts closing the gap in New Hampshire, expect the sniping to intensify.