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Ted Cruz’s Latest Stunt: A Presidential Campaign

Ted Cruz has been more or less running for president for months already, but later today he will make [1] his candidacy official:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a champion of the tea party movement who hopes to woo the GOP’s most conservative voters, is due to announce Monday that he is a candidate for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016, Cruz campaign aides say.

Like many other Republican would-be 2016 candidacies, a Cruz presidential bid doesn’t have a realistic chance of succeeding, but then Cruz has already shown during his very brief stint in office that success in achieving tangible results is not what interests him. Cruz likes to present himself as the most committed opponent of Obama’s agenda, and it makes no difference that his stunts and tactics have had absolutely no success in making a dent in that agenda. What counts for him is demonstrating the intensity of his opposition and pandering to voters that care a lot more about affect than they do about policy substance.

Cruz is a skillful demagogue, and he’ll be able to put on quite a show during candidate debates, but that will probably take the form of accusing the other candidates of being sell-outs and attributing views to them that they don’t hold. That is normally how he responds to criticism from within his own party. He also repeatedly misleads his followers about what can be achieved by following his lead, and then denounces people on his side for “failing” to defer to his bad leadership and blames them for the failure he orchestrated. Since he claims to believe that the party must nominate a “real” conservative in order to win, he will be at pains to portray all of his rivals as anything but that. All of this will remind the voters outside of his core supporters why so many people that have dealt with him viscerally dislike him. If his favorability numbers [2] are any indication, Cruz annoys more people than he attracts.

Cruz will probably be able to pull 5-10% of the vote in some early states. That will be enough to bleed support from one of the more competitive movement conservative-type candidates, and in some of those states that could end up being the difference for these other candidates between finishing in the top three and languishing among the also-rans. He may definitely fail the “ought” test Ross Douthat describes here [3], but for a certain bloc of primary voters that won’t matter. Since the purpose of the campaign is just to raise Cruz’s profile at the expense of his ostensible political goals, it will be like every other Cruz effort of the last two years. I would say that a presidential campaign is self-defeating for Cruz, but it actually serves his own narrow political interests while undermining the interests of conservatives more broadly.

Relative moderates come away with Republican nominations in one cycle after another partly because conservative voters are always split five or six ways and usually don’t get behind a single candidate soon enough. Republicans have the same problem again, but it is even worse than usual because the field promises to be much larger than it has been in previous cycles. Cruz’s new grandstanding as a presidential candidate will mostly work to weaken other conservatives that have a much better chance at the nomination than he does, and his campaign makes it more likely that a relative moderate will come away with the win.

38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "Ted Cruz’s Latest Stunt: A Presidential Campaign"

#1 Comment By Otis Spunkmeyer On March 23, 2015 @ 12:10 am

The establishment Repubs will NOT be able to restrain this glistening, wild-eyed goon. His double chin shall waggle at Bush deep into 2016.

#2 Comment By Art On March 23, 2015 @ 3:40 am

They are all hawks nonetheless. The last moderate was from the 90’s and the Republican Party is now quite used to the military industrial complex interests. Rand Paul also had to cave in for supporting strikes against IS when he knew his positions stand contrary to the orthodox views. I might have to settle for an unknown candidate.

#3 Comment By jk On March 23, 2015 @ 4:41 am

I am curious how the budget hawk Tea Party embraces the thought of perpetual war, perpetual freeloading of allies, and the economic consequences that entails?

#4 Comment By Fidel Kenyatta On March 23, 2015 @ 4:59 am

He hasn’t even finished one term in the Senate.

He must think he’s the Cuban Obama.

#5 Comment By John On March 23, 2015 @ 8:22 am

Cruz’s new grandstanding as a presidential candidate will mostly work to weaken other conservatives that have a much better chance at the nomination than he does, and his campaign makes it more likely that a relative moderate will come away with the win.

But isn’t this a very good thing for the Republicans if they want to win the presidency?

#6 Comment By Bob On March 23, 2015 @ 8:30 am

In some way, this is the best news I’ve heard all week. He might just make sure that there is no Bush III. But then again, I can’t be all that happy for the coming Hillary victory.

#7 Comment By Ken T On March 23, 2015 @ 9:50 am

Interesting analysis of Cruz over at TPM. It turns out Josh Marshall was a classmate of Cruz at Princeton, and Marshall’s wife was at Harvard Law with him. Josh interviewed a lot of mutual acquaintances about what they remembered. Let’s just say the memories were somewhat less than flattering.

#8 Comment By Inkblots On March 23, 2015 @ 9:55 am

Cruz is basically the personification of the collective id of the Republican base at this point: self-regarding, self-promoting, self-defeating. Uninterested in careful planning and tedious, realistic policy implementation, but drawn to the instant gratification of a grand gesture. Prone to lashing out and blaming everyone but himself when the grand gesture inevitably fails.

He and the embittered rump of voters who highjacked and still use the “Tea Party” label really deserve one another. It’s just a shame that everyone else in the party (except the establishment, of course!) has to suffer for it.

#9 Comment By CharleyCarp On March 23, 2015 @ 9:57 am

Who is donating to this vanity campaign, and what’s their game?

#10 Comment By collin On March 23, 2015 @ 9:57 am

Long term, I still think Tedd Cruz has Presidential potential but not for 2016. At this point, I think Cruz is becoming an updated version of Newt Gingrich, in which he is good ‘conservative legislation leader’ nobody can stand to be around. (He is terrible at campaigning to a specific audience.) So he makes a decent run and might do OK: Win South Carolina and possibly Texas if have an early caucus. However, Ted will do very poorly in Blue States and can not be considered a top tier candidate.

Like Rubio or Paul, Ted best course to the Presidency is to give 2016 a good try and learn from his experience. He needs remember the two most successful Republicans campaigns were Reagan 1980 and Bush 2000 in which both candidates were more a humble approach for the win.

#11 Comment By Inkblots On March 23, 2015 @ 10:01 am

John says:
March 23, 2015 at 8:22 am

But isn’t this a very good thing for the Republicans if they want to win the presidency?

What shall it profit a party, if it shall gain the presidency, and lose its entire ideology?

#12 Comment By Ian G. On March 23, 2015 @ 10:55 am

Collin, I have to disagree with your comparison of Cruz to Gingrich on the legislative front. Gingrich indeed was interested in legislating. He was quite the wonk. Cruz has done absolutely nothing on the legislative front. His entire agenda is a Jacobin desire to burn the republic to the ground in order to “save” it.

#13 Comment By RinTX On March 23, 2015 @ 11:21 am

I know it likely will never happen, but I kind of hope he wins the nomination.

Every time the GOP nominates a more moderate candidate (or at least the most moderate of the usual bunch of far-right warmongers) and he gets beat, they say he lost because he “wasn’t conservative enough”. The conservative pundits and activists keep saying that they lose because the voters want a more conservative candidate. If that’s what they believe, let them nominate the most extreme, radical conservative in the field and see what the voters have to say about it.

#14 Comment By steve in ohio On March 23, 2015 @ 11:25 am

Although I dislike his hawkish FP views, I am glad to see him run. He and Rand Paul should emerge as the finalists of the Tea Party primary to see who take on the establishment candidate (Bush or Christie). The conservative wing of the party needs to decide whether it supports small government across the board or wants an expensive hawkish FP. Best case scenario is that Rand wins the debate over FP, Cruz moves the party to the right on immigration restrictions and somebody who can unite the party and win (Scott Walker?) will emerge as the nominee.

#15 Comment By RinTX On March 23, 2015 @ 11:29 am

CharleyCarp @ 9:57 am
“Who is donating to this vanity campaign, and what’s their game?”

Many of his past statements would indicate that, on the foreign policy front, his primary concern would be what is in the best interest of Israel. That being the case, he has a good chance of getting a large chunk of his campaign funded by Sheldon Adelson.

#16 Comment By Reflectionephemeral On March 23, 2015 @ 11:48 am

jk asked: “I am curious how the budget hawk Tea Party embraces the thought of perpetual war, perpetual freeloading of allies, and the economic consequences that entails?”

There are no budget hawks in the Tea Party. They weren’t out there protesting when Pres. Bush & the GOP Congress turned our surpluses into deficits, were they? (Or about Raich, or Padilla, signing statements, torture, the Iraq invasion, etc.)

The deficit is a straw they grasped at to oppose whatever Democrats wanted to do once they held power– primarily, implementing the Heritage Foundation’s health insurance reform plan.

CharleyCarp wrote: “Who is donating to this vanity campaign, and what’s their game?”

This was covered a few years ago by Rick Perlstein: [4] “The Long Con. Mail-order conservatism”.

#17 Comment By balconesfault On March 23, 2015 @ 12:14 pm

Relative moderates come away with Republican nominations in one cycle after another partly because conservative voters are always split five or six ways and usually don’t get behind a single candidate soon enough.

Emphasis on the term “relative” … since the GOP is still going to nominate someone who favors large tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations; wants to gut the power of the EPA; seeks endless war in the Middle East; wants to nominate justices committed to corporate personhood, eviscerating any campaign finance legislation, and rolling back Roe v Wade; has an eye on privatizing Social Security, and who believes the best bureaucracy is a bureaucracy that functions as a revolving door for private industry.

These days the functional difference between a moderate Republican and an extreme Republican only seems to be in their rhetoric – and not in their principles of governance.

#18 Comment By SFBay On March 23, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

And so the first mosquito flies toward the light. It’s totally predictable. Who’s up next?

#19 Comment By jk On March 23, 2015 @ 12:53 pm

Bob, the Democrats have no plan B if Hillary’s email-gate turns bad.

If there has been at least 4 large committees for Benghazi, there will definitely be multiple investigations to stick something to her for her email snafu.

#20 Comment By Liam On March 23, 2015 @ 1:18 pm

Ted Cruz is New Gingrich without the latter’s charm or wisdom.

#21 Comment By Catholic Conservative On March 23, 2015 @ 1:18 pm

He’s overly hawkish and far too supportive of the death penalty. Those are two of the issues that small-government conservatives need to work on. They should be pro-life across the board, regardless of whether the person they are defending is an unborn child or a civilian in the Middle East.

Rand needs to work on those areas, too. He needs to stop appeasing the neocons.

Justin Amash 2020, anybody?

#22 Comment By jericho On March 23, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

This is gonna be God’s Gift to Late Night Comics everywhere.

I’ll be the guy with the popcorn and the cold beer.

#23 Comment By You Can Have It On March 23, 2015 @ 1:55 pm

Yes, at least some of the spurious candidates are just in it for the Adelson money.

So you’ll get a lot of that crazily competetive, race-to-the-bottom Israel talk:
“I’d be so close to Israel that subatomic particles could not pass between us”
“as I told my great friend [fill in name of Israeli PM], I would send an entire generation of young Americans to its death in Israel’s defense.”
“… but unlike any of my opponents, I have converted to Judaism and am now an Israeli citizen.”

The reason is obvious. In Cruz’s case, every dollar is fungible. A dollar spent on a presidential race is a dollar spent defending his Senate seat.

#24 Comment By Jen On March 23, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

I’m curious to know when the birthers are going to come out … I mean, Cruz was born in a different country to a non-citizen father and an American mother. Isn’t that what got them all hot and bothered about Obama?

#25 Comment By Shaun Peterson On March 23, 2015 @ 2:19 pm

Ted Cruz isn’t really interested in being POTUS. He just wants to play one on TV. I think the author here gets this.

#26 Comment By jamie On March 23, 2015 @ 2:24 pm

“I’d be so close to Israel that subatomic particles could not pass between us”

“I’d be so close to Israel the Casimir effect would weld us together.”

“I am so close to Israel, we regularly violate Pauli exclusion.”

“My opponent claims to be a friend of Israel, despite his clear failure to hold Israel within his de Broglie wavelength.”

#27 Comment By grumpy realist On March 23, 2015 @ 2:52 pm

Jen–you’re asking for CONSISTENCY from these loons?

#28 Comment By Dan Phillips On March 23, 2015 @ 3:28 pm

I’m not going to support Cruz because of his interventionist foreign policy, but I don’t think it is helpful to our cause to criticize a candidacy simply because it is a long shot. First, this argument props up the Establishment that thinks it can designate beforehand who is and is not a credible candidate, and doesn’t want long shots cluttering up their centrist message. Second, any noninterventionist candidate that decides to get in (Hopefully one will) is bound to be a long shot, so how does it help our cause to criticize Cruz because he is a long shot per se?

#29 Comment By Andrew On March 23, 2015 @ 3:43 pm

The tea “party” should have its own caucus prior to the republican primary so that the conservative vote wouldn’t be split and so they could be more competitive against the establishment. Perhaps it would be beneficial for the tea party to become more centralized.

#30 Comment By John On March 23, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

@Inkblots/10:01 a.m.:

I hope the Republican Party keeps telling itself that as the ship lists and the water begins crashing over the gunwales.

The Democratic Party will be conflicted enough about its nominee without having a halfway-tolerable Republican governor who’s worked somewhat with a Democratic legislature to complicate the choice.

#31 Comment By “America” circa 2015 On March 23, 2015 @ 4:53 pm

“Cruz was born in a different country to a non-citizen father and an American mother. Isn’t that what got them all hot and bothered about Obama?”

Entirely different situations. Obama’s father worked for Jomo Kenyatta. Cruz’s father fought for Fidel Castro.

#32 Comment By cecelia On March 23, 2015 @ 6:03 pm

I heard his excerpts of his speech and it is worrying that a man so divorced from reality can even get elected to the Senate.

#33 Comment By Bob On March 23, 2015 @ 7:37 pm

RinTX, I am with you on that one. Maybe this could work out in a Marxist sort of way for the Republicans…

#34 Comment By jamie On March 23, 2015 @ 8:38 pm

Cruz’s father fought for Fidel Castro.

Against?

#35 Comment By JK On March 23, 2015 @ 10:14 pm

Personally, the biggest issue about Cruz is that he’s quite unlikable. His policy positions are not original or unique, it’s strictly modern Republican boilerplate stuff, and Ted Cruz comes across as an insufferable phony and a mean, nasty person. A hawkish, anti-science jerk is not someone I can see America rallying behind. Maybe if he had some interesting new ideas his personality might not matter as much.

#36 Comment By Anonne On March 23, 2015 @ 11:02 pm

Ted Cruz: when the Inner Party believes the prolefeed.

#37 Comment By jk On March 24, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

[5]

Graham is asked how a President Cruz would deal with Iran. “Ted with nukes. Let’s see…”

#38 Comment By Michael Sheridan On March 24, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

A relatative moderate? Who in the field fits that description? There are potential candidates who are slightly less extreme than Cruz, but I think it is a perversion of language to equate slightly less extreme with relatively moderate. People in the press for years conflating those two things is a big part of how we got to this point in the first place.