Cruz’s Problems Inside the GOP Go Beyond the “Establishment”
Jonathan Tobin thinks Cruz is being underestimated as a presidential contender:
Members of his party’s establishment, which generally despises him as much as his fellow senators and the liberal media, do not take Cruz’s ambition too seriously. But as much as it seems unlikely that he will be taking the presidential oath at the Capitol in January 2017, that establishment should be a lot more afraid of Cruz than they seem to be. Anyone who thinks he will not be a formidable primary contender is paying more attention to the media caricature of Cruz than the facts.
Cruz might give “establishment” candidates a bit more of a headache than most of them expect, but the trouble he is going to have in running for president is that he has a special knack of making enemies of all kinds of Republicans by dint of his obnoxious style and scorched earth tactics. It isn’t just that he endorses long-shot, losing tactics, but he goes out of his way for whatever reason to antagonize and insult other Republicans and conservatives that happen to disagree with him about tactics or rhetoric. Whether he is mocking critics of his shutdown antics as the “surrender caucus” or needlessly imposing wildly inappropriate litmus tests on Near Eastern Christians, he makes a point of picking fights with other Republicans and conservatives for no reason. It would be one thing if he were perceived to be doing this for principled reasons, but he also gives everyone the impression that his grandstanding is mostly opportunistic.
Then there is the fact that he is an unscrupulous demagogue. He proudly makes obviously false claims, and when he is shown that they are false his first instinct is usually to impugn the motives of the people calling him out. Because he has tried to position himself between different factions of the party on foreign policy, he has also managed to annoy all sides of the intra-party debate. Instead of establishing himself as an acceptable compromise candidate occupying the space in between, say, Rubio and Paul, Cruz has given every faction a reason to distrust and dislike his foreign policy views. Beyond that, his dealings with many other people in his party have been poisoned by his off-putting and arrogant behavior. That extends from the vast majority of his Republican colleagues in the Senate to the WSJ editors, most of whom Cruz should be able to count as allies. Here’s an excerpt from a recent report by Joel Gehrke:
The tension between Cruz and the Journal goes back years now, to his meeting with the editorial board when he was a Senate candidate in 2012. One person present at the meeting says Cruz “came across as a bit of a know-it-all,” and that the editors thought he wore his Ivy League pedigree too proudly.
They aren’t the only ones. “There were 44 other Republican senators when Cruz first came to Washington,” one reporter who covers Capitol Hill tells NRO. “I think it’s fair to say over 40 of them do not hold him in high esteem personally. I would say with Paul, that number is probably 15. There’s your personality gap.”
Any insurgent candidate is going to have an uphill battle in a Republican nomination contest, and that applies to Paul as well, but Cruz is starting off with the added baggage that large numbers of party actors deeply dislike him for reasons that go beyond policy disagreements. While Cruz may be able to use that hostility to his advantage in some ways, he has already made so many enemies and missed so many opportunities to win over allies inside his own party in his first two years in Washington that he isn’t going to get anywhere as a presidential candidate. As I’ve said before, Cruz may run just to be annoying, but that will just remind everyone in the party of all the things they don’t like about him.