This morning, there was this…
I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support! pic.twitter.com/0UTqaIoytP
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 23, 2015
I’m a fan of Ted Cruz, which puts me in relatively good company but not every conservative out there is sold on him. What I like about Cruz is he does politics the way Democrats do politics – he doesn’t apologize and he doesn’t give in. He’s always on the attack and he’s constantly seeking to create leverage.
The problem Cruz has is he’s in a Republican Senate caucus full of people who are nothing like him and are frightened by that brand of political maneuvering even though they’re victims of it being played by Harry Reid and Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer on the other side practically every day. And along comes Cruz to suggest playing the same game the other side plays, and they regard him as a demagogue for it.
That isn’t Cruz’ fault. It’s the fault of the Mitch McConnell Old School GOP Caucus for habituating themselves to the idea that “comity” in the Senate is somehow to be prioritized when the Reids and Durbins constitute the opposition. They’re hopeless and weak, and they stink of capitulation.
Cruz merely illuminates their weakness.
The problem is, they’re Cruz’ effective audience. He can’t shame them into fighting as a unit in the Senate, which is what is necessary in order to win at hardball politics. The Democrats, for the most part, are in lockstep behind the most aggressive possible action their leadership can take; if McConnell were to take Cruz’ advice he couldn’t get to 50 votes on most key legislative priorities.
Which is to say Cruz may be ahead of his time. It might be several Senate election cycles in which septaugenarian incumbents are retired in favor of younger, more aggressive replacements, before he can get a solid majority in favor of the kind of change he’s talking about.
And as such, it makes an enormous amount of sense for Cruz to run for president even though the chances of his winning in 2016 probably aren’t the best.
The fact is, Cruz isn’t particularly qualified to run for president. He’s had a tremendous career so far – he was Solicitor General of the state of Texas before winning an improbable bid for the Senate seat he currently holds in 2012, and he’s quickly established himself as one of the sharpest knives in the Senate chamber. But outside of the fact that he’s been engaged in the questions of the day rather than voting “present” all the time Cruz is not dissimilar to Barack Obama circa 2007. He’s a first-term Senator without an enormous list of legislative achievements and no particular executive experience to speak of.
Obama’s lack of executive experience and resume of consensus governance has proven disastrous to the country. Cruz would certainly be a better president than Obama – he’s far more intelligent and he seems to have the skills to develop into someone who can make advantageous deals with Democrats in a leadership role – but he’s without question unproven.
He’s not a governor, and that’s likely to be a problem for him, particularly with Scott Walker, who has shown himself to be a pretty hard-core conservative on most of the key issues of governance and has demonstrated the ability to obtain and use leverage against the Left in a leadership role despite some very heavy push-back, in the race.
But for Cruz, a presidential run makes a lot of sense. It sets down a marker for a future run, or series of runs, and it also allows him to begin building networks of support across the country that will aid him in gaining leverage even within his caucus. For example, if Cruz needs Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran to vote his way on a piece of legislation and Cruz has a large base of support in Mississippi left over from a presidential run, with one email he can flood their offices with demands for a “good” vote.
A vote making Cruz Senate Majority Leader might be such a subject for leverage.
After all, it’s other people’s money which is going to fund this presidential run. All Cruz has to do is ride buses around Iowa and New Hampshire for a while (and other states too, if his campaign takes off).
Cruz running for president does have the effect of potentially splitting the conservative base, which will have to choose between him and Walker as well as some other less-plausible candidates like Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal. That’s something of a problem if Jeb Bush is the only Establishment candidate in the race. But if you see his 2016 bid as part of a long-term strategy to increase his profile both nationally and within the Senate so that in future years he might conduct a presidential run from a position of high leadership, the way Bob Dole did, for example, it does make a lot of sense for him to run.