It’s finally happened. David Frum, true conservative.
No no, kidding. This is, I think, something he pulled from his dream journal after waking up one night in a cold sweat, screaming. All it’ll take for a Cruz victory, he thinks, is an economic slowdown followed by an “event” on Wall Street that pushes America into recession followed by a months-long primary challenge by Elizabeth Warren to Hillary followed by an immigration brouhaha that unites conservatives behind Cruz followed by a Cruz/Christie fusion ticket eking out the narrowest of wins over Clinton in a very low-turnout election. Interestingly, the word “ObamaCare” appears just once in his post — in the context of liberals being grumpy that they didn’t get something more statist on health care from an Obama/Hillary cabinet. How likely is it that that’s the biggest impact O-Care has on Campaign 2016?
This part, at least, rings true to me:
In the painful aftermath of 2014, many Democrats were ready to hear that the party had been defeated because President Obama had been too cautious in his policies and too remote in his style. As Obamacare stumbled from implementation difficulty to implementation difficulty, they remembered that the program they really wanted was Medicare for all. They seethed at the way Obama had submitted to Republican demands that budget balancing take precedence over job creation. And whatever happened to the administration’s promises on climate change?
Democrats liked Hillary personally. But they could see that a Clinton nomination implied a course correction to the right from an administration they already condemned as too conservative. And so, even as the front-runner led the fundraising race through 2015, Iowa and New Hampshire were filling with volunteers canvassing for Elizabeth Warren and her message: “She’s in it to win it. I’m in it for you.”
Chris Cillizza of WaPo claimed today that the odds of Warren primarying Clinton in 2016 are near zero. I don’t know about that. Warren will be 67 in 2016 and Hillary will be a favorite to win the presidency if nominated. That means Warren won’t have another shot at running until 2024 — when she’ll be 75 years old. Ain’t happening, which means it’s now or never in 2016. She’s the closest thing in national politics that the left has to a rock star, so she’s the logical choice to fill the anti-Clinton dark horse role. (If not her, then Brian Schweitzer in Montana.) Doesn’t mean she’ll win — the Democratic establishment will be horrified at the thought of nominating someone who’s further left than Obama when they’re trying to hold the White House for a third straight term. But for all of the heavy breathing about a RINO/true-con civil war, Democrats could conceivably have a more contentious primary than the GOP does. Not likely, but conceivable. I expect to see outreach from Team Hillary to Warren sooner rather than later to make sure it doesn’t happen.
As for the GOP, Frum imagines Democrats losing Latino support in the midterms due to the recession, which will push the party into hyper-pander mode on amnesty and by extension force the issue front and center among Republicans. Advantage: …Cruz?
With the flaming wreck of Marco Rubio’s presidential hopes as a warning beacon, moderate favorite Governor Christie tried to triangulate the immigration issue. Ted Cruz determinedly took a position of all-out opposition. In an interview on Univision, he chatted in Spanish with host Jorge Ramos, then turned to English to deliver a stark message: “This is America. We obey the law. People who can’t deal with that don’t belong here.”…
Ted Cruz, however, could offer the vice presidency to Chris Christie—and the Democrats’ post-2014 leftward veer frightened Republican donors enough that they pressed Christie to accept. Unlike Romney in 2012, Cruz’s conservative allegiance could not be questioned, freeing him to write the vaguest platform and conduct the most issue-free campaign of any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988. Cruz delivered half his convention speech in Spanish and used the other half to rededicate the party to “the compassion of conservatism,” a subtle variant of an old phrase that delighted convention delegates.
I’m not sure why he thinks speaking Spanish will be some sort of key asset for Cruz come 2016. It’d be a fine pander as a cheap way to soften a hardline position against amnesty, but Cruz doesn’t speak the language well. (He once declined to debate David Dewhurst in Spanish ahead of the Texas Senate primary because, he said, he doesn’t speak Spanish so much as “Spanglish.”) I’m also not sure why he thinks immigration reform will still be on the table come 2016. The GOP leadership is desperate to pass something to build goodwill with Latinos, so much so that they’re murmuring about it even now despite its potential to tear the party apart after the tumult of the shutdown battle. They might be willing to hold off before the midterms knowing that midterm turnout is much lower than in presidential years, which means they have less to fear from the Latino vote. Ain’t no way they’re going to let it slide until 2016, though. If Ted Cruz ends up campaigning against immigration, it’ll be to repeal some sort of weak-ass comprehensive plan that’s already become law and which, as expected, is failing to secure the border as promised. But that just brings me back to the ObamaCare point above: How likely is it that Cruz, whose bark on amnesty has so far been worse than his bite, would go all-in on immigration when he could brand himself the anti-ObamaCare candidate in the primary instead? He’s already built a brand on that from the “defund” effort and his epic quasi-filibuster. Cruz becomes a serious contender, I think, if/when O-Care crumbles, not amnesty.
But never mind all that. If, against all expectations, Hillary’s as vulnerable as Frum imagines in 2016, won’t GOP voters be more inclined to give weight to “electability” in the primary rather than ideological purity? Cruz is the sort of candidate, I’d imagine, whom undecideds would be more inclined to nominate if either (a) Hillary seemed unbeatable, in which case the establishment would conclude it has less to lose by nominating a tea partier or (b) the Democrat was a no-name like Martin O’Malley who seemed very beatable, in which case all the “somewhat conservative” voters who would prefer a right-wing nominee but fret that he’d be a sitting duck in the general might be more willing to take a chance. Even a weakened Hillary will be formidable, so the “somewhat conservatives” may reluctantly conclude they’ve got no choice but to go with Mr. Blue State, Chris Christie, to maximize their odds. In fact, if Frum is right about immigration taking center stage, that would arguably make things even easier for Christie since he’d end up with an even bigger avalanche of fundraising dollars from pro-amnesty establishment Republicans than he’s already expecting. That would (probably) stop Cruz, and then Christie would be free to form the Christie/Rubio ticket we all know is coming. How excited are you?