The Road to 2016: Ted Cruz
Rafael “Ted” Cruz is the junior United States Senator from Texas
Former Solicitor General of Texas
One of three Latinos currently serving in the Senate
Harvard Law School graduate
Keys to the Party:
Has embraced the Tea Party message of social conservatism and has staked out a position that is readily defined with the anti-Obamacare movement
Was elected in 2012 despite the poor showing of the Republican Party in the Presidential race
Moderate interventionist supporting a campaign against the Islamic State but opposing the use of force to decide the outcome of the Syrian Civil War
Keys to the Press:
Has become a lightning rod for anti-social-conservative punditry
Took a large amount of the blame for the 2013 US Government shutdown because of his record-setting filibuster arguing against funding Obamacare in a continuing resolution
Has become increasingly hawkish with regards to Israel
Senator Cruz has capitalized on the Tea Party movement’s discontent with the establishment of the Republican Party. While, as a US Senator, Cruz has had to work “inside the beltway,” he has regularly broken with the Party leadership on issues of compromise in order to satisfy the desires of the Tea Party base. Cruz has also endeavored to make his fiscal and economic policies well-known and has fought against the Party in his opposition of open-ended continuing resolutions and debt-ceiling increases that do nothing other than grow the size of the debt.
Senator Cruz is a dynamic speaker with the ability to present his message clearly and consistently. However, he has had a tendency in appearances to over-generalize and lean towards exaggeration in order to present the Tea Party message.
As a Hispanic from Texas, Senator Cruz would likely be able to make more genuine inroads into the Hispanic community that has consistently shunned advances by the Party.
The obvious downside of Senator Cruz’s potential candidacy is that there has been a consistent smear campaign against him from the left and in popular culture. Thus, in an attempt to run for President, while Senator Cruz would enjoy wide approval in the Party primary base, his support among moderates would be mild. Rightly or wrongly, many of the attitudes of the Tea Party with regards to taxes and social policies will necessarily change with the Republican Party now leading both houses of Congress. This change will happen in two ways: first, the Party will be forced to adopt certain ideas, like a more strident defense of fiscal policies and, second, ardent Tea Party members will criticize Party leadership for any perceived acquiescence on conservative principles. Thus, for candidates like Cruz, the ability to straddle between Party loyalties versus playing to the vocal base will become increasingly more difficult. Whereas candidates like Rand Paul have struck the libertarian chord and moved away from the populist conservatism of the Tea Party, Senator Cruz has remained the champion of the movement. Consequently, the question as to whether Senator Cruz will be able to cooperate with the Party establishment without losing his ardent supporters will be a definite struggle in a presidential campaign.
In the event Senator Cruz decides to embrace the Party line, he may find his conservative grass-roots support in early primary states begin to erode to hard-line social policy outsiders like Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum. In contrast, if Senator Cruz embraces the mantle of the Tea Party, he will likely become the focus of attacks from the likes of the well-funded governors who will see him as an easy target and being not-electable in a general election.
Odds of Running:
Senator Cruz has sufficient support in the Tea Party and has become a symbol for grass-roots conservative movements. Solidifying his presence and the voice of those Tea Party voters in the hierarchy of the Senate would be a helpful byproduct of a presidential run. Senator Cruz will not stand for reelection in the Senate until 2018 so does not have the problem like Rand Paul of having to run two races at once. At this point, there does not appear to be a down-side to Senator Cruz throwing his hat in the ring.
Odds of Winning the Nomination:
As addressed, above, Senator Cruz’s primary chances are reflected in how well he will be able to straddle what will become a growing divide between the Party and what grass-roots conservatives will see as the Party not listening to them and moderating in governance. Thus, Senator Cruz risks being branded a sell-out on one hand if he embraces the Party’s mandate to govern with a degree of bipartisanship or being branded an ideologue who would be incapable of governing as President.
Warnings of Senator Cruz’s potential failings aside, his strongly articulated and readily identifiable conservatism means that he will play well in early primary contests in Iowa and South Carolina. While he may split donors with other social conservatives, Senator Cruz’s appeal as a sitting senator may keep money flowing into a campaign later into the primary season even if his finishes in Iowa and South Carolina are not at the very top of the ticket. Senator Cruz’s candidacy would likely be seen as an alternative to several establishment candidates and he could benefit from a split in the establishment wing of the Party.
Odds of a Cabinet Position:
Senator Cruz’s position as a first-term senator with strident positions on domestic and foreign policy issues does not make him a suitable candidate for a cabinet position. A run for the presidency would boost Senator Cruz’s prominence in the Senate.
Senator Ted Cruz will likely run for President as the most ideologically “Tea Party” candidate. While there will certainly be other candidates who will attempt to claim this title as well, Senator Cruz appears to be the only one of that group who was able to be elected with that message. Though he will benefit from a split in the establishment wing of the Party, his odds of winning the national election come down to his appeal to moderates.
GovMatt’s Opinion: Senator Cruz has been a vocal and clear opponent of both the Administration and the perceived forced-moderation of conservatives by the Party. Senator Cruz’s refusal to sacrifice his principles at the altar of big government and conciliation is admirable. While these principled stands are immeasurably important for Americans to have in the Senate, Senator Cruz has yet to show that he has the plan beyond rhetoric to be a leader. With the Republican Party now in control of the Senate, Senator Cruz will certainly have the opportunity to put forward his ideas about good governance. Perhaps a later election, or after a run for Governor of Texas, would be better for a Ted Cruz presidency.