Sure sounds like Ted Cruz is getting closer to running for president

A complement to Friday’s post on Jeb Bush. I don’t know how I convinced myself that Cruz probably wouldn’t run, but I did. I think it was a combination of his age, his short tenure in the Senate, and the political damage he suffered from the shutdown (which he’s still trying to undo). Those first two are weak arguments, though. A young nominee is arguably just what the doctor ordered for the GOP against the Clinton dinosaurs, and The One proved that being a Senate newbie is no bar to the presidency. Cruz will have spent as much time there by 2016 as Obama had spent by 2008.

The shutdown is a more serious obstacle but most of Cruz’s rivals in the 2016 GOP field, especially on the right, have heavy baggage they’ll need to somehow unload too. Rubio has an amnesty problem; Rand Paul, increasingly, has a non-interventionism problem; and Scott Walker has a might-actually-lose-his-reelection problem. Being seen as responsible for the 2013 shutdown is, if anything, probably an asset in the GOP’s conservative mini-primary, and if Cruz can emerge from that, he’ll face one of two flawed candidates in Jeb, who’ll suffer from the electorate’s Bush fatigue, or Christie, who’ll somehow have to manage Bridgegate and his own irascible demeanor. If you’re Cruz, why not take your chances? His smarts and rhetorical skill earned him a Senate seat in a state full of powerful, ambitious conservatives before his 42nd birthday. A guy in that position must be convinced that he can talk himself, at the very least, into being the GOP’s presidential nominee. Plus, six years after the tea-party movement was born, it’s high time they had a serious candidate in the field whom they can endorse full-throatedly. I hope he runs. It’d make the campaign more fun, if nothing else.

He’s taking first steps:

Ted Cruz is beefing up his political staff as speculation heats up that the Texas senator may run for president in 2016…

Joel Mowbray, a consultant for a foreign policy think tank, has been volunteering for the political operation and “will end up playing a role” on the paid political staff, the adviser said. Nick Muzin, a former top House Republican Conference aide that now works in Cruz’s congressional office as a deputy chief of staff, will be working on coalitions building and outreach for Cruz’s political operation.

Jason Miller, who’s advised prominent conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has been brought on to “to put together a more robust communications operation,” the adviser said, while longtime GOP presidential campaign hand and Axiom Strategies founder Jeff Roe has been brought on board to build out the political organization. Lauren Lofstron will work on fundraising.

He held “a private meeting with dozens of donors, elites and friends last week,” supposedly to talk about the midterms but, well, you know. And the interview below, in which he dropped his latest hint about running, was conducted in New Hampshire, you’ll note.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) suggested in an interview airing on ABC News on Sunday that the events occurring overseas could make him more likely to run for president in 2016.

Cruz has said that the Islamic State militant group should be bombed back “to the Stone Age.” In the ABC interview, he said President Obama should “take them out” — with congressional approval. Asked whether the situation makes him more likely to run, his response suggested it did.

“The American people in 2014 and also November 2016 are going to be looking for leaders who want to work to restore America’s leadership in the world,” Cruz said. Pressed on whether that means him running for president, he said: “It increases my interest in doing everything I can to change the direction we’re on.”

I wonder if he’s actually running for vice president. Cruz knows that the candidate he’s most likely to hurt by jumping in is Rand Paul. There are lots of mainstream conservatives, no doubt, who’ll support the biggest champion of small government in the field but who are nonetheless leery of Rand on foreign policy. If Cruz gives them an alternative, that’s where they’ll go. Cruz also surely knows, then, that by dividing the right, he and Rand will actually make it easier for a centrist to grab the nomination, especially if centrists coalesce early behind a champion like Jeb or Christie. But if a centrist wins the nomination, he’ll have to appease disgruntled tea partiers. He could try to do that by putting Paul on the ticket as VP, but by the time we get to 2016, GOP hawks will have convinced themselves that Rand is so dangerous on U.S. military power that he can’t be left a heartbeat away. That leaves Cruz, who could serve eight years as VP and still be only 54 years old as the Republican heir apparent in 2024. A Bush/Cruz ticket would be … bizarre, and there would be lots of resistance to it among establishmentarians, but if there’s enough conservative discontent over the nominee the establishment may feel it has no choice. The ticket would, if nothing else, have party-unity potential. Plus, a new Republican president might like the idea of having Cruz stashed away in the White House somewhere instead of in the Senate, for reasons once ably expressed by Lyndon Johnson. If Cruz was willing to help President Jeb sell some of his more centrist policies to the right, it’d earn him some cred among the donor class and make him even more formidable as a future nominee.

Actually, forget everything I just said. Given a choice between leaving a conservative off the ticket and thereby guaranteeing Hillary’s election and helping to elect Vice President Cruz, there’s no doubt establishmentarians would choose door number one. Oh well. Anyway, a guy who’s thinking seriously of running in 2016 is a guy who’s not thinking seriously about another government shutdown, so I don’t know what this is about. Cruz himself blamed the White House for the shutdown talk last week. Settle down, Boehner.