Politico reports on Ted Cruz’s plan to become a factional candidate:
The Texas Republican senator’s strategic play for Christian conservatives comes into even sharper focus this weekend as he rolls out the first television ad of the 2016 race. Titled “Blessing,” the commercial is aimed directly at evangelical and social conservative voters in early voting states, timed for Easter weekend and slated to air during popular Christian-themed programming.
It’s an exercise in narrowcasting that telegraphs exactly how Cruz intends to win the GOP nomination against better-funded and better-known rivals.
Cruz is well-suited to being this kind of candidate, but typically once a candidate allows himself to be pigeonholed as the candidate of one faction in the party his appeal also becomes quite limited. Huckabee was probably the most successful candidate who ran explicitly as the candidate of evangelicals and social conservatives, but he also had the luxury of running in a year when there was no plausible alternative for these voters. Despite that, he was never really in a position to win the nomination. Cruz will be up against many competitors for the same slot, and they will likely include social conservatives that have at least as much credibility as he has. Huckabee and Santorum may be just as unlikely to win the nomination as Cruz, but they would also make it very difficult for him to “finish either first or second among Christian conservatives.” And they aren’t the only likely candidates that can compete with him for these voters.
As successful as Huckabee was under more favorable conditions, he could never win the evangelical vote outright in most states. Some evangelical voters favored other candidates for different reasons, and some may have recoiled from Huckabee’s explicit identity politics message, but for whatever reason he couldn’t dominate this bloc to the extent that would have been necessary for him to become the nominee. Because he was seen to be “the evangelical candidate,” he won very little support from anyone else, so there was always a low ceiling on his support, and outside the South that ceiling was even lower. Being a factional candidate is fine if a candidate wants to raise his profile and acquire a loyal following, and that is probably all that Cruz is trying to do. If the goal is to win the nomination, appealing to one faction to the practical exclusion of everyone else isn’t going to succeed.