I know, that is a crazy title, right? How could [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] possibly be more electable than [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]? I mean Rubio is more establishment, more likable, better looking, and more charming. There are three ways to improve your electoral advantages though
- Increase base turnout
- Win over independents
- Depress opponents voters
The standard “electability” critera that favor Rubio (charming, attractive, personable CAP) mainly work by method 2: winning over independents. Let’s grant Rubio CAP, but lets go through these one at a time:
This is how Bush won. He mobilized the base to improve his performance. This is also how Obama won. The clearest indications of victories in both elections are Evangelicals in 2000, and blacks in 2008. This is a valid strategy. The way to increase base turnout is by being someone who captures the emotion of the moment (Eisenhower’s triumph, FDR’s looking to D.C. for solutions, Bush for moral decency, etc.). Right now the emotion of the moment is rage at D.C. Trump captures this emotion more than anyone else on either side, however in this post I not really considering Trump. Let’s ask between Rubio and Cruz which candidate is more in tune with the anger directed at our elite class? Which of the two is more believable when it comes to taking a match to K-street? I would like this election to be about planned parenthood, but it is not. The emotion right now is anger about bailouts, anger about lost wars, anger about meddling in our lives, anger about picking winners, anger about our government treating non-citizens as if they are citizens, anger about ignoring us over the last 6 years especially. Basically our base is angry and thinks pretty much everyone in D.C. is a liar and a charlatan (we will come back to that). Yes, Rubio is a better image for a brighter future for tomorrow, but that election was 2008. Rubio is well suited to capture the vote in 2008, but today is not 2008, and voters are not looking for “hope and change.”
Also, base turnout increases when the candidate has voters that are on fire for him. As much as I like Rubio his proponents are lacking that fire. Rubio supporters this cycle seem to be about as enthusiastic as Romney’s supporters were last cycle. Say what you want, but Trump and Cruz both have mounds of supporters that would crawl over broken glass to elect them. These are the people who will convince their friends and neighbors to go out and vote.
Lets once again grant CAP to Rubio. However, let’s also consider the upcoming debates. Rubio is probably more photogeneic, but Cruz tends to be a stronger debater, so lets consider the merits of their arguments. In 2012 we managed to nominate the one person who could not run against Obama’s biggest weakness – healthcare. In 2016 Hillary will have two very big weaknesses 1) she is seen as a liar 2) foreign policy (rise of ISIS and Benghazi). Hardcore Democrats will not be persuaded or dissuaded on these issues. However, people switched from Bush to Obama over the war in Iraq. People switched from Clinton to Bush over moral standing. These are areas where people can be persuaded. Cruz has a bigger advantage in pressing both of these issues than Rubio.
Clinton said one thing to the public, but in office knew the other to be true. In terms of Gang of 8 Rubio campaigned on one set of beliefs, but acted a different way once in office. I am not pointing this out because I either agree or disagree with G8. I point this out because every time Rubio tries to push Clinton on whether the voters can trust her she will point back to G8. “Rubio, saying whatever it takes to get elected.” Whether you like or dislike Cruz you should ask yourself “does he have any vulnerabilities when it comes to attacking Clinton as a liar?”
Cruz has already tied Rubio to Clinton in terms of Lybia. Also, Rubio and Clinton will have similar policy proposals when on the campaign trail. If Rubio brings up anything along these lines Clinton will be able to say “Rubio and I agree on this, he voted exactly the way I needed him to. His vote authorized the actions I carried out as secretary of state. He and I agree on what policies are needed to protect Americans” (remember she is a liar and opportunist, she will say this even though it is not *technically* true). Cruz has a lot more room (based on his current position) to talk about how toppling dictators is not our job, setting off regional wars and incubating conditions for ISIS is a bad idea. The public rescinded support for Iraq, did not support Lybia, did not support Syria, and does not want to send 100,000 troops into the deserts of the Middle East. However, they do want us to stop importing terrorists. Cruz has a lot more room to work with here.
Depressing the opposition
A certain number of voters will certainly vote for Democrats if they vote. One of the ways to win an election is to convince voters that the opponent is not the type of person they want to vote for. A fantastic example of this is “flip-flopper,” a more recent example that I don’t think is as good but is along the same vein is “low energy.” Clinton’s best case scenario is to turn out her base at the same level seen in 2008, a feat not even Obama managed in 2012. Thinking of the slightly disaffected voters who make up the Democratic base (low income, minorities, single women) you have to first consider Clinton’s ability to turn out that base. Her appeal will be the same no matter who she is running against. Then you have to consider the role the opposition will take. I am pretty sure that Cruz will hammer education in the general. This is an area where low income and minorities are in diametric opposition to the Democratic party, and where the Democratic voters are opposed to the Democratic donors. I believe Cruz will ruthlessly attack the lack of choice in education and how it is unfair that so many are forced into under-performing schools, and it seems no amount of money is capable of fixing those schools but parents still can’t move their kids. Consider the following:
Cruz: Consider a low-income single mother in Philadelphia where it costs more to educate a child in a public school than in a private school. Would you ever support that mother’s desire to send her son to the same type of school your daughter went to, or should that option only be available to the wealthy?”
Clinton: I believe we ought to be building up all of our nations schools so that every child has the opportunity to succeed, not just the few in private schools or those luck enough to win a lottery. I think we should be supporting our educators, blah blah blah.
Cruz: But that mother went to these schools that failed her, her mother went to the same failing schools, and now she is sending her son there watching the schools fail again. At some point we ought to recognize that enough is enough, the schools won’t change, and this mother with this son can’t wait around another three generations until maybe the district gets better. She doesn’t want to see changes next year, next month, or even next week. She wants to send her son to the good school just down the street tomorrow, why would you deny her and her son that opportunity? The only reason is because you value union bosses over single mothers.
People are angry with our elites. Education is a wedge issue in the Democratic base, one that will separate voters from the candidate. I believe Cruz is more likely to cause depression not among die hard liberals, they will come out and vote in droves, but among the much larger block of voters that the Democrats take for granted. One reason Cruz can exploit this more effectively than Rubio is that Cruz has not built his candidacy on likability. If Rubio were to follow this path his biggest advantage, CAP, will drop pretty substantially. He was able to eviscerate Bush without damaging his CAP, Clinton will not be quite so easy.
Rubio has a higher favorable ratio and is more likable and polls better head to head against Clinton right now. However, this is partly because the media has said for so long that Rubio is likable. That will change instantly if he wins the nomination. His favorable will dip as the media begins attacking his “extreme” views. However, Cruz has only ever been eviscerated by the media, so they have probably done every bit of damage they can already. Rubio’s biggest advantage (much like Romney’s at this point last cycle) is that he is likable and viewed favorably. That did not work out well for Romney.
- Base Turnout: Advantage Cruz. Cruz plays to the base’s emotions and has more motivated supporters.
- Swaying independents: Tie. Rubio has better CAP, Cruz is in a better position to sway on the merits.
- Depressing opposition: Advantage Cruz. Rubio cannot attack Clinton without damaging his image based appeal to independents. Cruz does not have the same liability.
- Media: Media is playing rope-a-dope with Rubio right now. I guarantee it.
Standard Caveat: I believe Rubio is a staunch conservative, and I agree with him in a lot of things. I believe he would be one of the most conservative presidents of all time, probably the best since Coolidge. I also believe he would stomp Clinton in a general election. However, Cruz is clearly more of a conservative in every way, and is (I believe) more trustworthy. The biggest argument against Cruz is his electability. However, I don’t believe MSNBC’s narrative when it comes to Rubio being more electable.