Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush continues to lead the pack of Republican presidential hopefuls, but one candidate is making moves

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the only GOP hopeful to formally announced his candidacy thus far, has shot up in the rankings in a new CBS News poll. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said that they would consider voting for Cruz in March, up 14 points from when the same question was asked a month ago. 

By comparison, 51 percent said they would vote for Bush, just two percent higher than did in February. 

Sen. Ted Cruz has raised $4 million in the eight days since officially launching his White House bid, his campaign confirmed Wednesday night.

And in a sign of his appeal to grassroots conservatives, his campaign said that 95 percent of the contributions came in amounts of $100 or less.

Cruz, who formally announced his presidential campaign on March 23, remains the only major candidate in either party to officially launch a White House bid. He raised $1 million within a day of his formal announcement, and $2 million within the first three days, according to his campaign. Cruz’s campaign said bundlers accounted for one-third of the money raised and that 300 donors maxed out on their contributions to Cruz…

“Often you have an establishment candidate, usually the moderate, who will be well funded,” Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said in a statement. “Here we have a candidate who is conservative and can raise money.”

One national political reporter, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said that the news media have ambivalent feelings toward Cruz. “I strongly suspect the national news media rolls its collective eyes at some of his more aggressive claims,” the reporter said, referencing a recent interview wherein Cruz likened his views on climate change to Galileo’s confrontation with the consensus of his own time. “On the other hand, Cruz has mastered the art of the sound bite and presents his campaign in such a way that it’s interesting and fun to cover.”…

“The national media seem to cover Cruz primarily through the prism of his time in Congress, which makes sense,” the Texas reporter said. “He’s made few friends in Washington — something he’ll happily tell you — and that shows in the coverage in D.C. While taking into account how polarizing his congressional tenure has been, Texas reporters also keep in mind his come-from-behind victory in the 2012 Senate race, which is probably informing the coverage of his presidential campaign here in Texas more than it is in D.C.”

Republican Congressional leaders aren’t exactly known as the biggest fans of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., but their current legislative strategy could inadvertently benefit his presidential candidacy

The operative strategy has been to pass legislation, such as on the Keystone pipeline, that forces Obama to take unpopular positions, allowing Republicans to make the case for why a GOP president is needed. They also intend to seek common ground where possible, on issues such as trade. Republicans want to prove they can govern responsibly…

This cautious strategy will create a problem if Republicans have little to show their base after sweeping victories in 2014. As it is, shortly after the election, Obama announced his executive order on immigration. Conservatives — even those supportive of comprehensive immigration legislation — were angered by the unilateral action. Republicans responded by passing legislation that punted any fight over the action until the new year, when the new Congressional GOP majorities would supposedly be in a better position to confront Obama. But in the end, they did not. Nor are they likely to extract major concessions from him on spending given that he knows how desperate they are to avoid blame for any sort of government shutdown.

This is where Cruz benefits. More than anything, Cruz’s popularity among conservatives is rooted in the feeling that he’s the only one willing to take the fight to Obama. To the extent that conservative voters feel disillusioned with Republican leaders who they see as largely ineffective, Cruz will stand to gain by promising to fight liberals tooth and nail. The more frustrated conservatives become with Congressional Republicans, the more they’ll find Cruz’s brand of confrontational conservatism appealing.

Addressing a crowd of 300 in Sioux City, Iowa, Cruz laced into the big business leaders who have jumped into the national firestorm over [Indiana’s RFRA] to help rally the opposition.

“The Fortune 500 is running shamelessly to endorse the radical gay marriage agenda over religious liberty to say: ‘We will persecute a Christian pastor, a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi,’” Cruz said. “Any person of faith is subject to persecution if they dare disagree, if their religious faith parts way from their political commitment to gay marriage.”…

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the field’s centrist heavy, has already backpedaled his original support for Pence’s gambit. But Cruz is running to carry the movement conservative banner in the Republican presidential primary. And the corporate intrusion into the Indiana debate makes for an alignment of two movement conservative bogeymen that’s rarer than a lunar eclipse. As the Pew Research Center’s Political Typology study found last year, GOP base voters it termed “steadfast conservatives” believe overwhelmingly — by 74% — that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. That same group harbors a deep skepticism of concentrated corporate might, with nearly half reporting that our economic system unfairly advantages entrenched interests.

It may sound odd at first blush to hear a Republican attacking the Fortune 500 — with relish. But given the makeup of the GOP primary electorate, a fight that elicits unprecedented support for same-sex rights from the biggest corporate interests offers a candidate like Cruz an opening he couldn’t have scripted better himself.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tells Breitbart News that if he’s elected President, one of his first actions will be to undo all of President Barack Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders.

“Absolutely,” Cruz replied when asked if one of the first things he would do if elected would be to undo all of Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News in Houston.

“The next 20 months are going to be very dangerous because President Obama, unfortunately, seems to have decided to disregard the United States Congress and disregard the American people and instead is trying to force through as much of his extreme agenda as possible via unilateral executive action—and I think we’re going to see that only accelerate through the end of 2016 with more and more unconstitutional executive orders, more regulatory abuse and more and more efforts to go to the United Nations and foreign war tribunals in an effort to end run Congress. In January 2017, we will have a new president and if I am elected president, the very first thing I intend to do on the first day is rescind every single unconstitutional or illegal executive action from President Obama.”

But though Cruz, R-Texas, and [Barry] Goldwater both emerged from the party’s conservative wing — and faced accusations of extremism from political enemies — that’s where the similarities end, some observers say…

“They don’t know Barry Goldwater, the people who make that comparison,” said U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 GOP presidential nominee who won the retiring Goldwater’s Senate seat in 1986…

“Long story short, Johnson was going to win [in 1964] by a wide margin regardless,” said [Larry] Sabato, who co-produced the 2014 PBS documentary “Bombs Away: LBJ, Goldwater and the 1964 Campaign That Changed It All.”

“That’s the way in which it (the Cruz comparison) is unfair to Goldwater, because he never had a chance, and he knew it,” Sabato added. “Totally different situation with Cruz.”

Today, however, there is no need to nominate Cruz in order to make the GOP conservative. Cruz sits in a Senate that has no Republicans akin to the liberals Goldwater served with — New York’s Jacob Javits, Massachusetts’s Edward Brooke, Illinois’s Charles Percy, New Jersey’s Clifford Case, California’s Thomas Kuchel. When Jeb Bush, the most conservative governor of a large state since Ronald Reagan (by some metrics — taxes, school choice — Bush was a more conservative governor than Reagan), is called a threat to conservatism, Republicans are with Alice in Wonderland…

Cruz, and all other Republican aspirants, must be measured against Pennsylvania. It is one of the 18 states that have voted Democratic in six consecutive elections and that, with the District of Columbia, total 242 electoral votes, and Pennsylvania was redder in 2012 than in 2008. Which Republican is most apt to flip Pennsylvania by accumulating large majorities in Philadelphia’s suburbs?

Any candidacy premised on conceding those 18 states involves a risky thread-the-needle path to not much more than 270 electoral votes. Writing in Politico, Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik notes that, in the six elections since 1992, a majority of states have not been “remotely competitive.” Thirty-one plus the District of Columbia (these currently have 344 electoral votes) have voted for the same party in those elections. Another eight (71 electoral votes) have voted for the same party in five of the six. This is why, Sosnik says, “almost two-thirds of the $896 million spent on television” by the two candidates in 2012 was spent in five states that have been competitive since 1992 — Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.

The Republican nominee must crack the ice that has frozen the electoral map. Cruz cannot do that by getting more votes from traditional Republican constituencies.

There’s a hypothesis circulating among Republicans that Mitt Romney lost in 2012 because a large number of previously reliable conservatives who turned out in past elections stayed home. Here’s the problem: It’s not accurate

In 2008 conservatives were 34% of the turnout, and 78% voted for John McCain. So Mr. Romney got around 2.2 million more conservative voters than Mr. McCain—and the conservative share of the 2012 electorate was the highest since exit polls began asking voters about their political leanings in 1976…

To be sure, there are self-identified conservatives who didn’t vote in 2012. But consider what this probably means. If the opportunity to vote against Mr. Obama after four years in office wasn’t enough to turn them out, the most likely reason is that they are not politically engaged and tend to be drawn to a candidate less on political philosophy and more because of personal characteristics. These are unreliable voters who are difficult to turn out…

Doing better with [moderate, white Catholic and women voters who didn’t vote in 2012] does not require a Republican presidential candidate to forsake a conservative message. It does require finding the right message and presenting it in a compelling way to people not usually drawn to the GOP or motivated to turn out.

“These are dangerous times, but I will point to one silver lining which is that as threats to religious liberty grow graver and graver—in my hometown of Houston just a few months ago, we saw the city attempt to subpoena the sermons of five pastors again driven by the radical partisan ideology that’s taken over the Democratic Party,” Cruz said.

“They were told to hand over every sermon that they had ever given on homosexuality and every note they had ever made in preparing those sermons. It was a grotesque violation of religious liberty. In the end, the light that was focused on the city of Houston was so great that the city thankfully buckled under and withdrew the subpoenas.

“As these assaults to religious liberty keep growing, millions of Americans are waking up and seeing just how far we’ve gotten from the basic constitutional protections in our bill of rights. I believe that that awakening is helping fuel millions of courageous conservatives who want to get back to the constitutional liberties that helped build America into the greatest country in the history of earth.”