Diary

The two fatal flaws in Ted Cruz's campaign strategy- part 1

 

 

Recently, I came across an article about a major flaw in Cruz’s primary campaign strategy, and I urge my fellow conservatives to read it.

It points out something I think most conservatives have missed, including myself, until recently.  We just assumed that because Cruz is an authentic Christian who wears his faith on his sleeve (unlike Trump), and has made every effort to explicitly target Evangelicals, he’d win them over.

Cruz has correctly pointed out that millions of Evangelicals stayed home in 2012 because they didn’t like Romney.  So he assumed that if a candidate targeted those people he’d bring them back into the political arena because they’d vote their values.

The problem is that premise is fundamentally flawed, and it’s Cruz’s biggest mistake.  As it turns out, this mistake won’t just hurt him in the general, it will hurt him in the primary too, in fact it already has.

Trump beat Cruz in SC with evangelicals, despite Cruz having the support of hundreds of pastors who campaigned for him, including his own father.

On the surface it would seem insane that so many people of faith would vote for a man who doesn’t have a clue about Christianity (two Corinthians walked into a bar), and in fact represents everything Christians have always been taught to avoid and condemn.

How can this apparent contradiction be explained?

As the article points out, evangelicals can be split into two groups-  those who attend church regularly, aka those who actually practice the Christian faith, and those who don’t.  I call the latter group EINOs, evangelicals in name only.  They identify themselves as evangelical, but if you spent a day or a week with them you wouldn’t be able to differentiate them from an atheist cause the Christian faith plays no role in their day to day lives.

But they wanna feel like they belong to a group, or they were raised in an evangelical home, so when they take a poll, they self-identify as an evangelical, even though for all practical purposes they aren’t.

This explains why the numbers are so high when it comes to the polls showing what percentage of voters are evangelical in any given state, like the exit polls showing that around 70% of the people who voted in the GOP primary in SC consider themselves evangelical.

There are so many evangelical communities in these states, and the evangelical culture or way of life is ingrained in families and communities.  So even for a person who could care less about religious issues and doesn’t practice the faith, when they’re asked what their religious affiliation is they say evangelical.

I had a realization about this the other day.  I thought about what happens when someone in a voting state, say SC, gets a call from a pollster, and they’re asked what their religious affiliation is.  The pollster gives them options-  Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, or atheist.  Think about it, what is someone who was either raised in an evangelical home or has lived their entire life surrounded by evangelicals and whose friends and family are evangelical gonna say?

They believe in God so they can’t check the atheist box, and they certainly don’t identify with any other faith, so that really leaves them with one option, to check the evangelical box.

Of course the problem this creates for a candidate like Cruz who bases the core of his entire campaign on inspiring and mobilizing evangelicals is that the pollster doesn’t ask the person taking the poll whether or not he or she is a practicing Christian, and whether or not they actually care about religious issues or not.  That data typically only comes from the exit polls.

So the Cruz campaign sees a statistic like the 70% number in SC and assumes it has an advantage, but they aren’t getting the full picture, because that number doesn’t capture the breakdown of what percent of that 70% are practicing Christians and what percent are not.

I’m not sure how Cruz missed this since he’s a numbers guy, and the data is readily available, as the article shows.

It turns out that there are more so called “evangelicals” who don’t practice their faith than those who do.  This situation isn’t just isolated among evangelicals of course, it’s spread across all Christian denominations.  According to the data, about 80% of Americans identify as Christian, but only about 20% of them attend church regularly.

In other words, about 60% of the people who calls themselves Christian in America really are CINOs-  Christians in name only.

This brings me back to my initial argument, which is that this is the second fatal flaw in Cruz’s campaign strategy.  Why?  Because the assumption that anyone who calls themselves evangelical will vote based on social or religious issues is incorrect.

Will they vote their “values”, like any good Christian should do?  Sure, except their values tend to be nothing more than naked self interest, for themselves and for their families, if they have one.

For evidence of this just watch the interviews of Trump voters at his rallies.  They never talk about the Christian faith or social issues like abortion, they talk about immigrants stealing their jobs and how we need to ban all Muslims from the country.

A good chunk of the evangelical vote that Cruz has been courting all along isn’t even receptive to his message of fighting for religious liberty and standing up to the secular institutions that are persecuting people of faith.

The biggest irony of all this is that the very people who Cruz believes cost Romney the election, and who he thought he could get to turn out for him both now and in the general are impostors.  They’re pretending to be Christians, but they live their lives as if God doesn’t exist.

Ya know what’s even worse than that?  THEY’RE TRUMP VOTERS.

So the people Cruz thought would vote for him instead are voting for his main opponent, and if Cruz does end up winning the nomination, or Rubio for that matter, these same people who didn’t vote for Romney are likely to stay home again in November because they won’t vote for anyone but Trump.

They’re mostly blue collar workers, and they identify with someone who speaks their language, who addresses their fears and concerns, and who gives them hope for a better future.  Up to this point, Trump is the only candidate who fits that description, even though he doesn’t have any detailed plans and gives them false hope.

None of the other candidates are even making an effort to speak to this bloc of voters.  Ironically enough, there were candidates who did try to appeal to these voters-  Santorum and Huckabee, and they never had a chance cause they got Trumped.

These blue collar evangelicals are blue collar before they’re evangelical, and that’s how they vote too.  They see the rest of the candidates as just typical politicians who will tinker around the edges once they get to Washington, and who won’t look out for them.  Of course Trump wouldn’t either, he only cares about himself, but that’s irrelevant because they’ve bought into his con that he’s looking out for them and will make America great again.

These are the same people who voted for Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan in 1992 and Buchanan again in 1996.  If you take Buchanan’s fiery populist and nationalist message and replace a not so likable or photogenic career bureaucrat with a reality tv billionaire who everyone knows and who says what everyone wants to hear, you get Trump 2016.

I know this diary isn’t gonna make my fellow Cruz supporters happy, but I have to remain objective, and from day one of this race I said I’m gonna call it like I see it.  I try to see things as they really are, rather than as I want them to be.

When it comes to life in general I’m an optimist before I’m a realist, but when it comes to politics I’m a realist before I’m an optimist, because I know that as a conservative the odds of having the nominee I want will always be stacked against me.

This is one main reason why I’ve said from the start that I think Rubio will be the nominee.  He has the same problem with the EINOs that Cruz has, but unlike Cruz, Rubio can win moderate and independent votes, especially now that Jeb is out of the race.

What’s sad is that Cruz has run by far the best campaign, but he built his house on sand instead of a solid foundation.  He should’ve centered his entire campaign message on appealing to blue collar workers, the very voters Trump is now dominating with.  If he did that he could’ve stolen some of those voters away from Trump and broadened his base of support in the meantime.

I think Cruz probably has spent most of his life around people of faith, especially in the past few years, and he just hasn’t spent any time in the communities Trump is winning over that are lower-income and are filled with blue collar workers who might identify as evangelical, but don’t view religious issues as “their issues”.

They tend to be simple people who just want better lives for themselves and their families.  I would know, I spent a summer living in a really poor community in West Virginia doing an internship that involved helping those people.  I was probably the only Catholic within a 50 mile radius, and there were churches everywhere.

But when I talked to people there, they never brought up issues of faith.  They talked about how jobs had left the community because coal mines were being shut down and how young people were leaving with them.  They talked about how so many people there live off of disability, some who need it, others who don’t but can’t find jobs and scam the system because they feel they have no choice.

Any candidate who tries to appeal to the faith of these people is fighting a losing battle, cause the first question in their minds is “what can you do for me, my family, and my community?”  If you don’t have an answer to that, or don’t even bring that subject up, which Cruz largely hasn’t, then they’re gonna look for a candidate who will, and that candidate is Trump.

Of course he’s using them for their votes while deceiving them with a con, and he has no substance behind his claims that he’ll bring back jobs and make everyone in this country rich.  But that doesn’t matter cause these poor people aren’t spending time on the internet researching the candidates’ policies and trying to figure out who’s telling the truth and who isn’t.  Some of em don’t even have internet.

So if a candidate tells them something in a convincing way and repeats it often enough, they’re gonna believe him, which is what Cruz should be doing now.  But I fear it’s too late.  He’s already been branded as a passionate evangelical lawyer who wants to limit the size of government and restore the Constitution, two things that mean absolutely nothing to people in the communities like the one I lived in.

Now extrapolate that situation to many similar communities across the country and multiply the difference between Trump’s share of that vote and Cruz’s by a huge factor, and you can see why Trump is starting to run away with the nomination, and why he dominated in Nevada.

To my fellow Cruz supporters I would simply say this:  Don’t give up yet, our last stand is Super Tuesday.  There’s still a chance Cruz does well enough in the South to turn this thing around before it’s too late.  But we also have to be willing to face reality when it doesn’t favor our candidate.

That’s why if Rubio ends up overtaking Cruz on March 1st or even coming close to doing so, I’ll be voting for Rubio in the Ohio primary, and I strongly urge the rest of the Cruz supporters who live in later voting states to do the same, as Erick Erickson also has suggested.

Is a Rubio presidency an ideal one for the conservative movement?  I don’t believe it is.  But compared to a Trump presidency, it’s practically the second coming of Reagan.  I’m willing to put my personal issues with Rubio aside because I wanna do what’s best for the country.  I’m still optimistic because I think if we end up with Rubio as the nominee, that’s still a victory for the conservative movement, cause even though we could’ve done better with Cruz, we also could’ve done a lot worse.