In the past few days, I have read with some amusement and amazement reactions to the announced Presidential candidacy of [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]. Much of the “criticism” is coming from the Right. Before a speech has been made on the actual campaign trail, before a single dollar has been raised, before a single debate, before a single baby has been kissed, some have dismissed his chances already.
This writer has no reason to doubt that he honestly believes he has a chance to win the party’s nomination. Cruz sees himself, as do many others, as the standard-bearer for the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. Most analysis places him clearly as the most conservative candidate since perhaps Barry Goldwater in 1964, although I believe there have been others along the way with varying degrees of success.
By entering the race through an announced candidacy, he avoids the charade of “exploratory committees” and all that nonsense and teasing. Thus, he enters the fray with an imprimatur of decisiveness besides his conservative credentials. Regardless, one has to look at this announcement realistically.
We can look at the current GOP as five different factions that all overlap each other to a certain extent: the moderates, the Establishment, the evangelicals, the Tea Party and the libertarians. However, not all have equal strength or numbers within the party. Furthermore, there are regional differences. And each subset has donors, but the donor bench is deeper in some groups than others.
By being the first to officially enter the race, Cruz places pressure on some of the other recognized potential candidates like Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee or even Ben Carson to either get in or stay out. By announcing at Liberty University, he is claiming the mantle of the evangelical vote. And one can expect some support in the coming weeks from some Tea Party organizations and conservative groups like the Club for Growth which was a major contributor to his Senate campaign in 2012.
The problem for Cruz is twofold- one problematic not just to him, but to true conservatives everywhere, and the other actually good news. The simple fact is that between the moderates and the Establishment wings of the GOP, they make up perhaps a majority of Republican voters. Moderates will not support a Cruz candidacy on ideological grounds while the Establishment will not support him on practical grounds. They view him as a renegade within the party. And Cruz knows this and will likely make no appeals to the Establishment faction. Too many bridges have been burned up to this point. Personally, I believe that if you have upset the likes of McConnell, McCain and Graham, you must be doing something right.
The good part of the problem is the large Republican field this cycle. It is not only large, but there is quality. Talk of the invisible primary- the fundraising and lining up support in anticipation of a run- is just that: talk. Dollar bills do not vote; people do. And while it takes money to run an efficient campaign, it can be done on a shoestring budget funded by small donors as Ron Paul has proven in the past. Cruz has a decent fundraising base, but one thing to look for in the coming months is (1) how much of it is smaller donors and (2) how much comes from outside Texas.
Regarding quality, we have not heard officially from any other potential candidate although the pundit consensus is that [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] and [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] will soon announce their candidacies. There is talk that a lot of money and support is sitting on the sidelines as Rubio’s stock has risen of late while Paul can always tap into the Ron Paul network for support and logistics. Then there is Bush and Walker and possibly Christie, Kasich, Perry and others to consider.
Thus, its a great problem to have right now for the Republican Party. Except for Bush, these are all fresh faces. Each would enter the fray with strengths and baggage. Frankly, I do not believe the alleged baggage carried by Cruz is that bad and more a creation of the inside-the-beltway crowd rather than real America.
I have my preferred candidate (Walker) and a lot can happen between now and next year. Besides having a preference, I am also realistic. Cruz would be hard pressed to win the nomination without at least some minimal support from either the moderates and/or the Establishment and I just do not see it at this point. But, things can change. I am at least willing to give Cruz a chance to either shoot himself in the foot or surprise and surge. And that goes for all the potential candidates. At the very least, he represents a true option in the field. In my book, he has already gained some points for standing on principle and putting his money where his mouth is- even if it led to some closed national parks or furloughed government bean counters. And even if my preferred candidate or anyone else’s flamed out, would Cruz really that bad of a choice?