The easiest prediction of the 2016 primaries is that Republicans will have a profound change of heart on who is and isn’t “natural born” once more of them become better acquainted with the circumstances of Ted Cruz’s birth.
For now, though: Disqualified.
Fifty-two percent overall and 53 percent of Republicans think you’re not “natural born” if you were born abroad to an American-citizen mother — and yet, when asked point-blank whether Cruz is eligible to be president, 55 percent of Republicans say yes versus just nine percent who say no. When asked the same question of Obama, the split is 31/55 even though the Birther scenario in which O was secretly born in Kenya would put him in precisely the same situation as Cruz (born abroad, citizen mother, non-citizen father). Does that mean the GOP electorate’s destined to turn on Cruz once more of them discover where he was born, fearing that his immigrant parentage and Canadian birth have left his loyalty to the U.S. hopelessly compromised? Er, no. A reversal on this subject is far more likely. After all, you can define “natural born” various ways — by place of birth, parents’ citizenship, or some combo thereof. For example:
As long as you’re born here and have one parent who’s a citizen, most Americans think you qualify as “natural born.” In fact, for a near-majority, being born here is all that matters: 47 percent say that a child born on U.S. soil to two non-citizen parents is “natural born” versus 40 percent who disagree. (Among Democrats the split is 57/30 versus 35/50 for Republicans. Go figure that Dems would be quick to establish citizenship for illegals.) If instead you’re born abroad, per the first graph above, you’re suspect unless both parents are American citizens. The elephant in the room with all those numbers, though, is the Birther accusations that dogged Obama for the first few years of his presidency; lots of low-information voters have encountered the “natural born” question before only in the specific context of O’s birth, and as such, their views of it are infused with partisanship. Once the details of Cruz’s birth become more widely known, that partisan pressure will ease and the public will, I think, start to settle on the view that anyone born to at least one parent who’s an American citizen qualifies for the presidency, regardless of their place of birth. And Cruz’s status in the 2016 field as the conservative di tutti conservatives will speed the process along. The “natural born” requirement is, after all, a safeguard to ensure the president’s national loyalty. It’s easy for critics to question that with a candidate who’s accused of socialist/transnationalist sympathies, not so easy to do it with someone like Cruz.
Exit question: Who are the five percent above who think being born in the U.S. to two citizen parents does not make you a “natural born” citizen? Better yet, who are the six percent who think that being born abroad to two non-citizens does make you “natural born”? Besides Joe Biden, I mean.