To win the Republican nomination, Mr. Cruz will have to bring together the party’s anti-establishment wing, which is made of separate-but-overlapping voter blocs, including Christian conservatives, libertarians and Tea Party voters angry with the leadership of both parties. His ultimate goal is to get into a one-on-one campaign against whoever emerges as the favorite of establishment Republicans. To do this, he must find a way to stand out in a crowded lane of conservative hopefuls. In a general election, Mr. Cruz would not attempt to win over centrist voters as much as he would try to galvanize conservatives who did not vote in recent presidential elections because they were dissatisfied with the choices…
Mr. Cruz will seek the Republican nomination by running not just as the most conservative candidate, but as the boldest one in the field. He will emphasize his hard-line stances against President Obama, particularly his attempt to defund the health care law, which made him a deeply unpopular figure among his party’s leaders. He argues that in recent political history, Republicans have won only when they run as conservatives. Mr. Cruz’s message will be that he represents the most emphatic turn away from Mr. Obama and liberalism.
The presidencies of George W. Bush and Mr. Obama have pushed many Republicans toward a more doctrinaire brand of conservatism and away from the tradition of nominating candidates aligned with the establishment. By virtue of his strong rhetorical skills, biographical appeal and uncompromising conservatism, Mr. Cruz is the most logical nominee in a party that has turned sharply to the right. In a general election, fatigue toward the Obama years and the difficulty any party has in holding the White House for three consecutive terms could vault him to victory.
But as Hillary Clinton looks weaker and more beatable, because of the email problems and a host of other scandals, Cruz hopes that the Republican base begins to coalesce behind someone like him. If they think that anyone can beat Clinton, the thinking goes, why not back the most outspoken conservative?
Cruz’s advisers believe he can outmaneuver Walker and Paul in the early states. The sense within Cruz’s team is that he’s more ready for prime time and more polished on the stump than other rivals…
[I]f he were to win one of the first three states, he could be off to the races. The first day of multiple primaries, on March 1, is mostly focused on conservative Southern states where Cruz could play well and rack up a good chunk of delegates, which will be allocated proportionally. His challenge in this scenario would be to survive beyond March 15, when states are allowed to begin awarding all of their delegates to whoever wins.
To have staying power past March 15, Cruz would need enough cash to run a national campaign. To show his fundraising prowess, Cruz will launch a 10-city fundraising tour Monday.
Declaring first will give Cruz a superficial and temporary boost. Once the other candidates declare, they too will each receive a burst of press coverage. In 2012, for instance, there were more ups-and-downs in the primary polling than on the Coney Island Cyclone.
But what’s important right now isn’t where you stand in the polls; it’s where you stand with donors and activists. While Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker haven’t filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), they have been running for months. In fact, not declaring and instead raising money for your super PAC holds distinct financial advantages in raising unlimited funds. Bush’s apparently successful push to raise money in the early going is one of the reasons that he is a top candidate, even if he has a potential ideological problem…
Meanwhile, for Cruz’s Republican colleagues in the Senate, it was a time to equivocate.
“I’m just holding off until I see what the field looks like,” said Daniel Coats (R-Ind.).
“I’m going to support the nominee of the party,” said Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.).
“I just hope he spends a lot of time in Iowa, how’s that?” said Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)…
In his short time in the Senate, Cruz has arguably become the most polarizing figure in all of Congress. While he has won the loyalty of some rogue House conservatives and a small group of far-right senators, his tactics have angered many colleagues in both parties.
“We need intelligent debate in the country. Ted Cruz may be an intelligent person, but he doesn’t carry out an intelligent debate,” King said. “He oversimplifies, he exaggerates and he basically led the Republican Party over the cliff in the fall of 2013. He has shown no qualifications, no legislation being passed, doesn’t provide leadership and he has no real experience. So, to me, he is just a guy with a big mouth and no results.”
But would King support Cruz if he ended up becoming the Republican Party nominee for 2016?
“I hope that day never comes,” King told Blitzer. “I will jump off that bridge when we come to it.”
Here’s one way to tell Mr. Cruz (R-Tex.) from the winning constitutional scholar of 2008: Sen. Barack Obama promised to unite the country. Mr. Cruz — not so much. In fact, the most notable characteristic of Mr. Cruz’s brief time in elected politics has been his aversion to values that are essential to democracy’s functioning: practicality, modesty and compromise…
It has been more than a decade since Mr. Obama derided “the pundits” who “like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.” If those divisions have proven less mutable than he predicted, the answer is not to give up on progress: it is to look for leaders who understand that progress and principle can go hand in hand, and who have the pragmatic skills to make that happen. Candidate Cruz instead suggested he will make his consequences-be-damned attitude a selling point. His campaign logo consists of stars and stripes shaped into a flame. “Imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison, ‘We demand our liberty,’ ” he exhorted his audience on Monday. In a country that needs to take its political disagreements down a notch, Mr. Cruz’s argument is that conservatives need to crank their volume up.
They became lawyers but mainly as a launching pad to politics. The President was a state senator, Mr. Cruz the Texas solicitor general. Mr. Cruz is a better debater, and Mr. Obama a better speech-maker, but both are better talkers than listeners. Above all, they are political solo-artists in an age that rewards entrepreneurial candidates. They saw the Senate as a stepping-stone to the White House rather than a place to contribute or get something done…
His strategists are saying openly that Mr. Cruz won’t even try to appeal to political independents. His strategy will be to attract and motivate the millions of conservatives who didn’t vote in the last two presidential elections. In this sense, too, he will run as the mirror-image of President Obama in 2012. Polarize and conquer.
Mr. Cruz is right that Mitt Romney in particular failed to motivate enough conservatives. But he is probably wrong to think that conservatives alone, especially white conservatives, can elect the next President. As GOP pollster Whit Ayres recently wrote in these pages, if the GOP nominee in 2016 carries the same share of the white and minority vote as George W. Bush won in 2004, he would lose, and handily. The next nominee must broaden the GOP’s electoral appeal.
Cruz’s announcement speech at Liberty University was less like a first step toward the Oval Office, than the latest of many steps he has taken to becoming the political leader of the conservative movement. This is distinct from being the nominee of the Grand Old Party, of which that movement is just a devoted part.
There is nothing about Cruz that appeals to people beyond his political sect. The one rhetorical move independents and Democrats may relate to in Cruz’s speech was the tribute to his mother as a glass ceiling–smashing computer programmer. But otherwise his mode of speech is much like Mike Huckabee’s: sentimental, broadly evangelical, and reliant on personal charisma. Although it isn’t easy to pinpoint what about a candidate’s personality rubs a larger demographic cohort the wrong way, Huckabee fared terribly among non-rural, non-Evangelical voters in 2008. Cruz may be headed for the same fate…
In other words, imagine an America with no Democrats or Independents. Imagine everything you believe in was implemented instantly, without compromise, and the only consequence was incontestable glory for you, the nation, and all posterity. This is grandiosity as stomach-churning as Barack Obama promising to overcome the red-and-blue state divide, and announcing that his victory would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” This isn’t a campaign: It’s a political fantasy and infomercial. Imagine losing 60 pounds of big government around your waist in just one vote.
In elections, appealing to the party’s base doesn’t need courage. To challenge the base, you have to be brave. A courageous conservative would be willing to stand up to the ideologues and zealots in the Republican Party and confront truths that they will not. That may be too much to ask of a presidential candidate — but when one of them claims the mantle of courage, he or she asks to be judged by that standard.
A courageous conservative would dare to tell the Republican Party that the U.S. economy needs the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, and many more besides; that they aren’t going to be deported, and that it would tank the economy if they were; and that it is long past time for Republicans to put forward a comprehensive plan to fix the immigration system. Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, has the background to make this argument, as other conservatives have done. Apparently he lacks the guts.
A courageous conservative wouldn’t be afraid to tell Republican voters that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that human activity is contributing to climate change, which is creating serious economic risks, and that ignoring this danger isn’t “conservative.” Many Republicans are beginning to face this reality, but no thanks to Cruz. He’s adopted the party’s new talking point of calling anyone who favors action on climate change an “alarmist.”
If he’s the second- or third-choice candidate for enough conservatives, he may be able to win a war of attrition, but he has to stay alive through the early primaries. In a crowded field, with no dispositive frontrunner, he doesn’t need to lead the race at the outset, but he probably needs a 10 to 15 percent floor. In other words, Cruz has to corner the market on some subset of the conservative coalition. Evangelicals are the obvious choice. Cruz won the Values Voters Summit straw poll both last year and the year before, and, separately, Rand Paul has already corralled the libertarians, limiting Cruz’s options. But evangelicals are a risky choice, especially for Cruz, for several reasons…
And if the strategy requires that he tailor his views to the preferences of the religious right, as it may, he’s taking a serious political risk. Evangelicals probably have the highest floor of any of the right-wing factions; both Huckabee and Santorum, who appealed to social conservatives and no one else, wound up with about 20 percent of the total votes cast in their respective races. Ron Paul, by contrast, cornered the market on libertarians and wound up with 11 percent; that’s about where his similarly inclined son is in this year’s polls. But if evangelicals have a high floor, they also seem to have a low ceiling. Cruz, as mentioned, has never been a social conservative first and foremost; he can become more socially conservative without making their priorities his only ones. But in cultivating religious voters, he may alienate other types of conservatives.
This is particularly perilous for Cruz because—as it stands—he is the only one of the prospective Tea Party candidates who stands a chance of unifying the Tea Party, which is a decentralized and fractious aggregation of conservatives rather than a unified movement or organized coalition. Roughly speaking, they’re often divided into libertarians and social conservatives, and those groups clash routinely, for obvious and intractable reasons: Rand Paul’s voters will not switch their support to someone like Rick Santorum, or vice versa. But both Paul and Santorum endorsed Cruz during his contested 2012 primary, and Cruz has shown an uncanny knack for finding the common denominators. His signature issue, of course, is Obamacare, which remains deeply unpopular with all conservatives, even with moderates. His background as Texas’s solicitor general means that he’s unusually well-qualified to criticize Obama for executive overreach, and to defend America from foreign interference, whether from the United Nations or sharia courts. As a Senator, his preferred parliamentary maneuvers have included flipping over the table and flipping off the moderates; issues aside, conservatives of all stripes like that ethos. If social conservatives break for Cruz, he can stay in the race for a long time. But if he wants to beat the establishment, he’ll need all the conservatives behind him.
A fellow Republican, former President Ford, called Reagan “unelectable” in the spring of 1979, less than two years before Reagan would thump incumbent Democratic former President Carter and usher in a new era of conservative ascendancy.
The Reagan parallel gives even some Democrats food for thought.
“I recall the legend of folks in the Carter White House saying they wanted to run against Ronald Reagan. … So I approach the GOP field with a degree of humility,” Paul Begala, a strategist for President Clinton’s 1992 victorious presidential campaign, said in an email to The Hill.
Begala added that Cruz has “Barack Obama’s education and Sarah Palin’s politics. He could unify the three anti-establishment [GOP] factions: for the Tea Party, he engineered the government shutdown; for the Christian evangelicals, he opposes a woman’s right to choose even in the case of rape and incest; and for the libertarians, he says Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. To paraphrase George W. Bush, I would not misunderestimate Sen. Cruz.”