Here’s a scary thought: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) could be elected president… if the election were held in an off-year, like 2010 or 2014.
The voters who come out to vote in midterm elections tend to be older, whiter and more costive than the “coalition of the ascendant” that helped Democrats win five out of the last six presidential popular votes. It’s conceivable that a majority of this constituency could vote for somebody with the invigorating demagoguery of a Ted Cruz.
And if that’s true, Cruz could have a serious chance to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016, if he can somehow disqualify Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and become the choice of the evangelicals, observant Christians and Tea Partiers who make up 70 percent of the party.
This should terrify Republicans, and they finally seem to get that.
After Cruz forced an unnecessary vote on the debt ceiling, The Wall Street Journal, the superego of the right, called him “The Minority Maker,” noting that the vote only served to rile up the base in order to help conservatives who are primarying incumbent Republicans. And riling Republicans against Republicans may raise funds for Cruz and the outside groups that have propped him up, but it wastes money from the funders who are averse to blowing millions on a third failed attempt to win the Senate.
With the elegance of an owner forced to put a cone around a dog’s neck to prevent self-mutilation, The National Review‘s Charles C.W. Cooke felt the need to pen a column in praise of the GOP leadership against the “witless” attacks on the “establishment.” He even went so far as to suggest that there was a “touch of Occupy Wall Street” in those who rage against the wisdom of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), which is like a liberal calling another liberal a “Koch sucher.”
But GOP leaders raised Cruz to near-deity status with the far right by not stopping his attempt to shut down the government. And they’re continuing to create an environment where Cruz’s divisiveness and self-interest will prosper, fueling his belief that he’s Ronald Reagan reincarnated, sent to decapitate a party led by Gerald Fords.
Here’s how the Republican leadership is making it easy for Ted Cruz to rebrand the GOP as the party of Ted Cruz.
Photo: jbouie via Flickr
Killing Immigration Reform
This is how myths get made.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, Ted Cruz killed immigration reform:
House Republicans who supported ‘principles’ of immigration reform floated by Speaker John Boehner late last month grumbled Tuesday that the plan was dead on arrival because Cruz blasted it as ‘amnesty,’ spurring a blizzard of negative phone calls to House Republicans.
The blizzard was actually an astroturfed effort led by well-financed outside groups that know how to use phone calls, talk radio and confrontation to make their opinions seem widely held.
If immigration reform is dead, it died the same exact way as the government shutdown that has maimed the Republican brand — with Cruz being propped up by the fundraising efforts of conniving groups that would rather win donations than elections.
The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent has pointed out that no one would rather have immigration be an issue in the 2016 GOP primary than Cruz, who knows it could propel his candidacy while alienating the party with minorities to the point that it could only win if the economy crashes or they get as much of the white vote as Reagan did in 1984, when he won 49 states.
If GOP leaders’ cowardliness on this issue lasts until the midterm elections, it could easily cost them the next presidential election — even if they pass reform in a lame-duck session, which could prompt exactly the kind of backlash that could thrust a Cruz candidacy.
Photo: Anuska Sampedro via Flickr
Not Evolving On Gay Marriage
Republicans used to gleefully boast that Dick Cheney was more liberal on same-sex marriage than President Obama.
This was — of course — before the president decided that marriage equality has its foundations in the Constitution. Obama’s convenient “evolving” narrative on this issue has been overshadowed by the way his administration acted with the force of inevitability to apply the Supreme Court’s ruling that gay couples are entitled to the federal rights of marriage.
Federal courts continue to rule as if a decision like Loving v. Virginia, which ended bans on interracial marriages, is practically a certainty in the near future.
So what does Ted Cruz do?
He’s trying to stop the march of history with a bill that will never be law, one that marks him as a defender of “the faith” and reminds America that his dated views — which many Americans already look at with retrospective indignity — mirror those of the vast majority of the Republican Party. And while Richard Nixon was able to use racial resentment to win the White House in 1968, most Americans have already evolved on this issue themselves.
Photo: Jose Antonio Navas via Flickr
Refusing To Expand Medicaid
Cruz’s “Defund Obamacare” strategy is dead — but more than 5 million Americans will be denied health insurance because Republican-led states are refusing to expand Medicaid.
In 2014, the party will likely be able to fend off any backlash Democrats may be able to generate in states like Alaska, North Carolina and Louisiana, where hundreds of thousands will go uninsured because of a calculated political choice.
In 2016, when the Democratic turnout machine might be able to activate these aggrieved red-state voters who could possibly even turn a state purple, the GOP may be forced to spend money in states that haven’t seen a presidential campaign in decades.
Crushing Matt Bevin
As Republican leaders easily passed a two-year budget and raised the debt ceiling over the objections of Cruz and his allied outside groups, they’ve helped reveal the lie that the base controls the party. Not only can the “establishment” get the votes it needs to pass just about anything it wants, it can also outgun the Tea Party when necessary.
Those on the far right want to defeat Mitch McConnell as they did incumbent Richard Lugar — but all the Tea people and all of their friends haven’t gotten challenger Matt Bevin within 20 points of the Senate’s minority leader.
Meanwhile, polls show that Bevin has a better chance of beating likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Rand Paul could barely admit he’s endorsing his ally McConnell and Cruz won’t even go that far.
You don’t become a leader in the Congress by being magnanimous. But if McConnell beats Bevin and manages to lose to Grimes, nothing could make the argument for ridding the party of the “establishment” more effectively.
Photo: Matt Bevin for Senate
Assuming The Map Is Right And Obamacare Is A Disaster
Republicans have all the advantages this year. Alan I. Abramowitz predicts that even if the GOP ties Democrats on the “generic” ballot, they will pick up six seats. Democrats seem as if they will be forced to defend seats that should be safe in Michigan, Iowa and North Carolina.
It’s easy to imagine several variations of the six Senate seats the GOP would need to pick up in order to take over the Senate. (Most likely to flip: Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.)
It was with these advantages in mind that the party’s leaders kicked immigration down the road and made budget deals with Democrats in order to make this election all about Obamacare.
In GOP reality, the president’s health care law is only helpful to them and there’s no way that 13 million people becoming insured in 2014 could ever end up being an asset to Democrats.
In this way, the party has a Cruz-like obsession with the health law that makes them feel as if they don’t need to make a deal on raising the minimum wage or extending emergency unemployment insurance, though both issues continue to poll well for Democrats. By playing it “safe,” the party opens itself up to an attack from its right flank if the sure success predicted doesn’t materialize.
It took three losses in presidential elections before Democrats found their Bill Clinton. If Ted Cruz gets his way, he could easily be his party’s Michael Dukakis.
Chart: Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball