Matt Mackowiak, 4/15/2015 [Archive]

Ted Cruz: Goldwater or Reagan?

By Matt Mackowiak

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is off and running.

His stage-managed presidential campaign announcement at Liberty University two weeks ago now appears to have been not just well done, but smart.

He raised $4 million in the first week, saw his support triple in national polls, and had 10 days of earned media.This doesn't include a stunning $31 million in Super PAC commitments.

An announcement is not a campaign. But an announcement can tell us about the direction that a campaign intends to go.

By announcing in the manner they did, the Cruz campaign sent an unmistakable signal to the Republican evangelical community that they will work to win their votes.

Liberty University is the largest Christian college in the world, and it provides a sort of intellectual foundation for social conservatism.

Cruz enters this race for president with solid tea party support, which gives him a base, but it's not enough to win the nomination.

Much as the Cruz campaign thought it would win a runoff against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the U.S. Senate Republican primary in 2012, they now want to essentially force a runoff with establishment frontrunner former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

How do they do that?

If Cruz can win the Iowa caucuses, that will narrow the field significantly and allow him to further consolidate conservative votes, potentially enabling him to win South Carolina. If he wins those two early states, he will be one of the final three candidates in the primary.

And that's where Texas comes in. Texas has only really served as an ATM in the Republican presidential primaries over the past three decades, but now it is positioned on March 1, the first winner-take-all of the large states.

Native son Cruz, in addition to former Gov. Rick Perry, both can and would be expected to win Texas' electoral votes, if they're both still active candidates.

If Cruz were to win Iowa, South Carolina and Texas, he would get the "runoff" with Jeb Bush (or whoever the establishment frontrunner is) that he desires.

Cruz has unmatched skills: off-the-charts intelligence, an ability to create and deliver grammatically perfect and articulate speeches without notes, the proven capacity to fire up a crowd and significant personal courage.

His critics say he has been in the U.S. Senate for only two years and that Obamalike level of inexperience is a problem.

But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are also running and have only two more years of experience in the U.S. Senate than Cruz, who was solicitor general of Texas for five years and worked at the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission before that.

The more problematic issue for Cruz is the question of electability.

As national Republican Party figures look at Sen. Cruz, they see a Goldwaterlike general election disaster if he were the nominee, pointing to his government shutdown over Obamacare and his rigid conservatism.

Cruz supporters, made up of strong conservatives and grassroots activists across the country, believe Cruz is more like Ronald Reagan, a conservative who can motivate the base but also win independent voters and conservative Democrats.

Cruz's electability is a question that will follow him throughout the primary race.

It is perhaps an unfair charge, as it is impossible to disprove unless he is the nominee and wins.

Cruz believes that moderate Republican candidates like Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney were unable to motivate the Republican base and thus lost their campaigns. Cruz sees himself more in line with Margaret Thatcher and Reagan, with a rare ability to win voters by winning the argument.

If you ask Cruz about electability, he regularly points out that the party needs to nominate a "courageous conservative" rather than an establishment Republican from the "mushy middle." Privately, he also says he will destroy Hillary Clinton in the debates.

He may be right.

A debate champion at Princeton, Cruz is ideally suited to make the case for conservatism and against liberalism.

But the Republican field is remarkably strong, and as many as eight candidates have a real path to the nomination just 10 months before the Iowa Caucuses.

This will be a wild ride, and Cruz prefers to be in the middle of the action shaping his own destiny.

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©Copyright 2015 Matt Mackowiak distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Mackowiak is an Austin- and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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