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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Almost immediately after Senator Ted Cruz arrived in Washington in 2012, it became clear that he intended to run for president in 2016. Now, with primary season rapidly approaching, the details of how a Cruz campaign might look are coming into sharper focus.

In a Monday feature on National Review Online, Eliana Johnson reports that Cruz would run as far to the right as possible, while trying to win over some unlikely constituencies to put him over the top:

To hell with the independents. That’s not usually the animating principle of a presidential campaign, but for Ted Cruz’s, it just might be.

His strategists aren’t planning to make a big play for so-called independent voters in the general election if Cruz wins the Republican nomination. According to several of the senator’s top advisors, Cruz sees a path to victory that relies instead on increasing conservative turnout; attracting votes from groups — including Jews, Hispanics, and millennials — that have tended to favor Democrats; and, in the words of one Cruz strategist, “not getting killed with independents.”

Johnson goes on to explain that Cruz and his advisors see chasing moderate voters as a waste of time, and consider driving up turnout among the GOP’s conservative base as the party’s best path to victory. Along the way, they hope that Cruz’s “populist and pugnacious conservatism will persuade some millennials and traditionally Democratic voters, including Jews, Hispanics, blue-collar voters, and women.”

This is a tremendous miscalculation. If Cruz does follow this path on his White House bid, he is doomed to fail.

Despite what Cruz and his advisors appear to believe, the conservative base just isn’t big enough to carry a presidential election. It’s no coincidence that the most conservative candidates poll the worst in early surveys of the 2016 campaign; the “true conservatives” that Cruz is counting on are a minority in the U.S. Furthermore, they are clustered in states that Mitt Romney — whom Cruz believes to be so moderate that he “actually French-kissed Barack Obama” — won easily in the 2012 presidential election.

Republican presidential candidates have no path to 270 electoral votes without winning swing states like Florida, Ohio, Colorado, or Wisconsin. Those states just don’t have enough Tea Partiers for Cruz to win them with base voters alone. And there’s no better way to push those states’ persuadable moderates into the Democratic column — and drive out the Democratic base — than by catering to the fringe.

That, of course, is why Cruz is going to pursue the other constituencies mentioned by National Review. But his odds of persuading those Democrats are long.

Although Republicans made some inroads with Jewish voters in the 2014 midterms, they still backed Democratic candidates 66 to 33 percent. And there are few signs that Cruz’s plan to run to the right would entice them to turn red. According to a post-election survey from the liberal nonprofit J Street, just 19 percent of Jewish voters identify as “conservative.” Furthermore, when asked what issues are most important to them, the economy, health care, and Social Security and Medicare took the top three spots. Israel — the issue on which Cruz has centered his outreach to the Jewish community — placed 10th. And while the poll didn’t ask Jewish voters for their opinion of Cruz, it did ask them about likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. With a 61 to 31 percent favorability rating, she is the most popular politician in the country among the constituency.

Like Jewish voters, Hispanic voters broadly support Democratic candidates and policies. And Cruz’s plan to win their support is ludicrously unrealistic for one specific reason: immigration.

Hispanic voters strongly support comprehensive immigration reform. Cruz vehemently opposes it. They also overwhelmingly back President Obama’s executive action shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. And they decisively oppose Cruz-championed plans to fight the move with a lawsuit or a government funding fight.

Mitt Romney managed to win just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election. After Cruz rallies the base by taking a position far to the right of Romney’s “self-deportation” disaster, he would struggle to match even that meager figure.

Female voters also seem unlikely to respond well to Cruz’s quest to win their support while driving up conservative turnout. The GOP did narrow the gender gap in 2014, cutting it to just 4 points (down from 11 percent in 2012). But the Republicans who rebutted Democratic “war on women” attacks best did so by changing or obfuscating their controversial opinions on women’s health issues. Does that really sound like Ted Cruz, the unapologetic conservative who shares a platform with Todd Akin, and fought the Violence Against Women Act to the bitter end?

Cruz’s run-to-the-right strategy has a very legitimate chance of carrying him through what appears to be a wide-open GOP primary. But Republicans who actually want to reclaim the White House should hope that he fails. Because Ted Cruz playing the role of a modern-day Barry Goldwater is Hillary Clinton’s dream matchup in the general election, and would almost guarantee four more years of a Democratic president.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

  • kG

    Cruz to Bruiz the liberals 2016. No amnesty! Imp

    • EriktheRed

      Please proceed, wingnuts.

  • bobnstuff

    Cruz is trying to single handedly sink the republican party. Not only would he not win the White House but he could lose the congress as well. When was the as time a truly right wing candidate won in a national election?

  • Brian Harvill

    Ted Cruz is a joke and nothing more. His very existence is of questionable value and he xertainly isn’t going to last through the campaign for the republican candidacy. He won’t even be a factor in the race. It will be a very short run if he tries it.

    • Gendarme

      Cruz is the bad comic opening for the real entertainer, whoever that turns out to be. He’s a rodeo clown who thinks he’s the champion bullrider. He’s as delusional as his supporters. Almost.

  • booker25

    Cruz won’t last the primaries let alone the general.

    • plc97477

      Maybe not but it’s going to be entertaining.

  • Bren Frowick

    Teddy has a reputation for intelligence earned during an admirable college career and an impressive stint arguing cases before the Supreme Court. But he has now clearly demonstrated that he is a True Believer who has drunk his own Kool-Ade and honestly believes the swill he’s been feeding to the ignorant mob he depends on. Speak before a mob of shrieking fanatics often enough and one can come to think they are representative of a majority, but he is absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong about that.

  • stcroixcarp

    Show us your birth certificate, you commie Cuban god hating son of Castro!

  • FT66

    What government does Ted Cruz want to run? The one which he keeps shutting-down every now and then? Neither in Canada where he came from has such a style.

    • dtgraham

      It’s that “funding the government deadline” thing that’s the problem. Almost nobody left in the world does that any more. To the rest of the world, funding the government is just a matter of sensible routine. It’s automatic. It can’t not get funded. To the Republican party base though, shutting down the government has become a badge of pride…a slogan you can sell.

      I can see the thinking and the reasons behind a funding deadline but to make that work, both parties have to be mature, reasonable and responsible. In America, only one is now.

  • Buford2k11

    Is this the part where “make no religious tests” comes into play??? I, for one, am truly and forever repelled and disgusted by his religious beliefs…By his daddy’s beliefs…by Teddy’s followers beliefs…everything about Ted screams evil, twisted, perversion, fakery, demons, anti-Christ, Bible Thumpin’, Inquisition Inspired type of rule…

  • elw

    He will not even win the Republican primary, so unless he starts his own Party how will even get far enough to actually run for the Office.

  • latebloomingrandma

    Hopefully in 2 years he will be relegated to the dustbin of history as a mere footnote..

  • Whatmeworry

    Its the same plan as Hilary’s so its good news on 2 fronts

    • Daniel Max Ketter

      No it’s not. Ted Cruz and his teahaggers make me want to vomit

    • Gendarme

      So you can’t read either?

      • Whatmeworry

        What’s the difference

  • S.J. Jolly

    Aye Ted Cruz, the Barry Goldwater of 2016