It was an online poll, alas, not a scientific one. But that’s close enough to blogworthy for a slow news day.
Quick: Assuming these numbers kinda sorta reflect tea-party opinion accurately, who’s the big winner?
Ted Cruz is a winner, as is Paul. But the winner is Scott Walker, no? If you’re a Republican billionaire eager to sponsor a center-right candidate who’ll be “reasonable” on immigration, say, and whose nomination wouldn’t badly fracture the party, Walker’s your boy. While Cruz and Paul are busy killing each other to become the tea-party champion, Walker can spend his time consolidating support from the rest of the party. As long as no one else wins Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll be well positioned by the time South Carolina rolls around to become a consensus choice among centrists, righties who admire him for his indefatigability in fighting the unions, and Republicans of all stripes who worry about that Paul and Cruz aren’t electable enough to beat Hillary. He’s got some of the same landmines in front of him as Christie did — he needs to win reelection and he can’t have any ethics slip-ups — but if he makes it past that, he’s probably the frontrunner.
Speaking of which, this poll’s the best evidence yet that I was right in thinking that Christie, even more so than fellow RINOs like Jeb Bush and Jon Huntsman(!), is disliked by the base to an extent that might actually convince some conservatives to stay home if he’s the nominee. At 15 percent, he’s half as popular as the next most unpopular Republicans in the field. Even if Bridgegate evaporates overnight, what can this guy possibly do at this point to rehabilitate himself with the GOP base to make him at least as acceptable to conservatives as, say, Mike Huckabee is?
This is a start, I guess:
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey delivered an unexpectedly blistering broadside on Tuesday against the Democratic Party’s growing emphasis on income inequality, warning that the movement would “drive America toward mediocrity” and portraying its leaders, like Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, as local liberals unlikely to ignite a national cause…
Mr. Christie pooh-poohed the issue and its champions, Mr. de Blasio and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, predicting that they would never achieve the level of influence that the Tea Party had exerted in the Republican Party. “I don’t think they are affecting the rest of the country all that much,” he said.
The problem, he said, is that Americans do not want income equality, suggesting that it is antithetical to the country’s abiding belief in “income opportunity” that rewards hard work and merit. “You want income equality? That is mediocrity,” he said. “Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary.”
He also had kind words for George W. Bush (“grossly underappreciated by his own country”), which will help him win Bushworld’s favor if Jeb decides not to run but might evoke … more complicated reactions elsewhere. Put it all together and his tea-party standing must be — what? Maybe 16 percent now? “I know when I was mayor and manager of this city and then governor of the state,” said his old frenemy Sarah Palin of Bridgegate, “certainly you know what your top aides are up to.”
By the way, for what it’s worth, increasingly I think Cruz won’t run. He just doesn’t need to right now. Rand Paul may feel more urgency because no one knows how long the libertarian-ish moment America’s experiencing will last. Cruz, a younger man, may decide he’s got plenty of time and could use a few more years in the Senate to (re)build relationships and to keep building his brand. Even if some other Republican wins in 2016, he’ll only be in his early 50s by the time he’s free to run again in 2024, by which time his resume will be longer and more impressive. In the meantime, he could earn some grudging goodwill from libertarians who are suspicious of him by backing Paul in 2016, maybe in exchange for an appointment to AG or even the Supreme Court if Paul wins. (In which case, cancel the 2024 plans.) If Paul loses to Hillary, that’s okay too. That just means Cruz can run in 2020, when the country will be suffering from 12 years of Democratic fatigue instead of eight. And if Paul loses in the primary to a centrist Republican, that’s also okay. Cruz can then spend the rest of his Senate term attacking the next president, whether Democrat or Republican, for being too liberal. And best of all, he won’t have to compete with Rand for tea-party attention: I believe Kentucky law bars candidates from running for two federal offices simultaneously, so if Paul jumps into the 2016 field, he’s done as a senator one way or another. However you slice it, Cruz can afford to wait.