The Road to 2016: The Case for Ted Cruz

Disclaimer: Matt McDaniel, the author of this piece is a candidate for the First District City Council Seat in Baltimore City. While this article does not touch or concern Mr. McDaniel’s race, in the interest of disclosure, Mr. McDaniel has made no endorsements of any candidates and has received no money or funding from any of the candidates on this list. His campaign website can be found here.

THE CASE FOR: TED CRUZ

Introduction: This series is a bit of a follow-up on the candidate bios we ran at the outset of the GOP primary season. With the race better defined, folks are looking for a more in-depth analysis of the major candidates and the state of the campaign as a whole. That said, my goal in “The Case For” series is to highlight the major candidates still in the race and present a (hopefully) objective look at each and what he or she could/should/might do to win the nomination. To be clear, none of these posts are an endorsement of any particular candidate. Rather, take them as a snapshot of the race and where the campaigns are at the moment.

A Brief Bio

Senator Rafael Edward Cruz is the Junior Senator from Texas. He was elected in 2012 and is the first Hispanic American to serve as a Senator from the Lone Star State.

Cruz was born in 1970 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Cruz’s parents, his mother an American and his father Cuban, were involved in oil speculation and seismic monitoring. Cruz renounced any possible Canadian citizenship in the lead up to his declaration to run for President in this election cycle.

Cruz graduated from Princeton’s Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1992 where he was a renowned debater. Cruz then went on to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1995 where he was the editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Cruz went from Harvard to clerk for a Judge on the Fourth Circuit before clerking for then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the United States Supreme Court. From there, Cruz entered private practice in Washington DC and helped Republican policymakers. Cruz joined the George W. Bush campaign in 1999 for Bush’s 2000 run for the White House and advised the future President on domestic policy issues. Following Bush’s election, Cruz was rewarded for his service with a position at the Department of Justice.

From 2003 to 2008, Cruz served as Solicitor General of Texas and has a five and four record arguing before the United States Supreme Court. Widely hailed as one of the best litigators in Texas and, arguably, nationwide, Cruz entered private practice again in 2009 until his run for the Senate in 2012.

The Texas Senate race was what we have come to see as “establishment versus Tea Party” in the primary. Backed by the likes of Sarah Palin and Ron Paul, Cruz took on the sitting Lieutenant Governor. Cruz won the primary by fourteen percent. Cruz went on to win the general election by around sixteen percent.

While in Washington, Cruz has quickly made himself the subject of controversy. On the one hand, the Tea Party movement likely has no greater champion in the Senate (though Senators Paul and Lee may disagree with that assessment). On the other hand, Cruz has burned most all bridges with the establishment wing of the Party. This has both lionized him with his base of supporters and alienated supporters in the middle of the political spectrum. Much of one’s opinion of Cruz is derived from one’s opinion on the Tea Party movement.

The Current State of the Race

Whether you fall on the pro-Cruz or anti-Cruz side of things, one reality has become abundantly clear as the race has moved along: Ted Cruz is running a particularly savvy campaign. Party insiders, from former President George W. Bush to commentators at FoxNews and other pundits, have seen the momentum for Cruz slowly rising. Cruz’s campaign has not been flashy and has generally resided in the shadow of Donald Trump’s rise to prominence. The Cruz team’s bet has been that Trump would diminish and that voters would prefer a sitting Senator who is speaking truth to power over a total outsider with a shaky record. Cruz’s entire Senate career, including the government shutdown and calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor, has been geared towards appearing to be the outsiders’ insider. In essence, Cruz can go to voters and say “look, I have been doing all I can in Washington for you, and I have remained true to the motivations that brought me to DC, but no one else here is willing to listen to you.” Running on this message is particularly alluring to the voters who have been looking for outsiders to represent their interests.

Cruz is polling solidly in the “second tier” of Republican candidates with between seven and twelve percent support. While his numbers do not match the likes of Donald Trump or, at this point, Ben Carson, Cruz is generally trailing Marco Rubio by points within the statistical margins for error. Your insider take on the current race is that the final showdown of the race will be Rubio and Cruz battling for the future of the Party next year.

It should also be noted that Cruz has had impressive fundraising numbers. While the Texas Senator does trail the likes of Ben Carson, Carson has spent a lot of money on trying to raise more money (the burn rate). Cruz’s respective burn rate is far lower than most of the other candidates in the race.

The Upside

Most people, including open-minded Democrats, will admit that Cruz is arguably the smartest person in the race for the White House. Politics notwithstanding, Cruz’s understanding of the political climate and what he needs to do to succeed is shaping him into the most formidable dark horse of the campaign.

The upside of Cruz at the moment is that he is, at least, an elected official. If the outsider vote finally does coalesce behind one candidate, Cruz has a trail of votes that can be used to placate conservatives (Donald Trump and Ben Carson have never held elected office and give some voters pause about whether they are just trying to capitalize on a populist surge).

The Downside

Cruz made the decision when he ran for Senate in Texas that his path to power was with the Tea Party movement. For good or for ill the generally-evangelical and populist conservative movement is Cruz’s ideological partner. While the groups loosely associated with the movement have significant political capital and a loud voice in the national dialogue, most polling shows that the group is largely unpopular to the general public. This has to do with branding problems and the fact that the group is niche even within the Republican Party. Consequently, when polled at a national level, the group fails to elicit larger support.

What the Other Side Will Say

The other side will say that Cruz can’t even win support with Senators from his own Party in Washington and that this is an example of how poor of an actual leader he will be. They will also note that Cruz has only been in the Senate for four years and that all of his previous government experience has never been in leadership.

The other side will also paint Cruz as a radical who led the, ultimately failed, crusade to defund Obamacare (that led to the 2013 government shutdown) and then tried to do the same again against abortion provider Planned Parenthood in 2015. While hardline conservatives applaud what they see as an elected official at least trying to take a stand on their behalf, the other side will paint Cruz as a radical outside-the-mainstream reactionary. Basically, they will say that Cruz should be feared.

The Path to the Nomination

Ted Cruz has a very interesting path to the nomination as the race stands at this juncture. Because we are assuming that Cruz is crafting one of the best campaigns around, we will conclude that he has a longer-term strategy that keeps him in the race and provides the largest chance of actually winning the nomination.

At this point, the math looks difficult for Cruz to actually secure the nomination outright. If we assume that Ben Carson’s bump will mirror Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012, Carson will have a good showing in Iowa and then generally fade from the race. The big wild card for Cruz is Donald Trump. If Trump remains strong (or even polling around 15% by the time the primary season kicks into high gear), Cruz’s path is very difficult. If Trump falls after New Hampshire, Cruz has a good chance at building a solid delegate base.

Basically, the Republican convention rules require that a candidate have the delegate majority from eight contests in order to be put forward on the convention ballot for nomination. Cruz has already targeted some of the outlying territories that count as contests for the purposes of a convention floor fight. This should automatically set off warning bells that Cruz’s team sees a brokered convention as a distinct possibility. As we have predicted here for several months, if Donald Trump remains under 50% and above 20% with Rubio and Cruz running strong campaigns, there is a real possibility that no one will have the requisite 50% of the total delegates to secure the nomination by the time of the convention. While internal sources want to see Jeb Bush out and a Rubio sweep, this has yet to materialize.

The first step in a Cruz plan will be to do well in the South Carolina primary. It’s unclear exactly whether Cruz will be able to win the contest, but a strong showing with some delegates won will go a long way for the Texas Senator. Cruz’s big day is Super Tuesday (3/1/16) where he will try to pick up Arkansas, Alabama, George, Tennessee, and Texas. If Cruz is able to win in these states, he immediately becomes a powerful player in the race. Also, by the math, he makes Marco Rubio’s chances of getting over 50% of the delegates extremely difficult.

Should You Bet Money on this Candidate?

Cruz is running a smart campaign. At the moment, it does not look like the delegate math will work to get Cruz the nomination outright. However, there is no reason to discount the reality that Cruz is looking to be a power player in GOP circles and at the convention. While I don’t see him winning the nomination at this point, an investment in Cruz is a hedge against both Trump and Rubio that could pay significant dividends.

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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