Dispelling the Idea That Ted Cruz Is Unelectable

 

ted cruz latino closeupWe’ve reached the point where if the field doesn’t produce an anti-Trump in the next two weeks or so, Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination. Up until Tuesday night, the general feeling was that Marco Rubio could fill that role and that the others should make way for him. That was good, except now, out of 15 contests, Rubio has won exactly one.

That would seem to point to Ted Cruz as the anti-Trump savior. Unfortunately, the thing I hear over and over again from conservatives and some libertarians, is that they prefer Cruz, but that he is unelectable. Just so everybody is clear: I don’t have a guy. Other than being anti-Trump, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But I find fault with the argument that Ted Cruz is unelectable.

First things first, can we all agree that this presidential election cycle is unprecedented? Having a former First Lady as a major party nominee alone makes this a historical election. As does a woman being the major party nominee. As does a candidate who has a non-zero chance of getting indicted between now and election day.

And then there’s Trump. A year ago, I sat in the audience of his CPAC speech and laughed loudly at just about every line. I, and others around me, marveled how he went from General McArthur to Bowe Bergdahl to Iran to a border wall to executive orders to Common Core to the Second Amendment in under 90 seconds. But nobody’s laughing anymore. Donald Trump has defied all models, expectations, and attempts at self immolation.

Add to that the atypical mood of the electorate, the fatigue at the end of an eight-year presidency, the general chaos of the world and the nation, the whims of the electoral process, and it becomes damn near impossible to predict anything.

So then why the assumption that Cruz is unelectable?

Ted Cruz has two enormous things in his favor: he is a master strategist and he has the ambition to win. He realized he needed to win an early state. Since he’s a Senator from Texas, it wasn’t going to be New Hampshire. He realized the key to Iowa was evangelical voters, so from his announcement, Cruz geared his campaign towards winning that block. He has a plan and he executes that plan with enormous discipline. In the debates he stuck to his message and laid low until the number of opponents became manageable. Cruz held off attacking Trump and left the door open to welcome in his supporters until such time as it was no longer practicable. (After all, everyone knew that Trump would eventually self-destruct.)

Even now, in the most recent debate, he let Rubio get down in the muck with Trump. Cruz’s attacks were more subtle, repeatedly setting up Trump to hang himself. (For example, by getting him to praise Qaddafi.) And on Tuesday, that strategy of letting Rubio crawl through the mud paid off.

At this point, calls for Rubio or Cruz to drop in favor of the other are mostly coming from those who favor one candidate or the other. I consider them premature. But if Rubio can’t win any primaries (especially the one in Florida) it seems unlikely that he could win the general election.

A Cruz primary victory means he would be running against Hillary Clinton in the fall. There was a reason we had 17 candidates at one point: even George Pataki smelled blood in the water. Hillary Clinton is a wounded candidate. She’s wounded by her record, the primary fight, Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, her husband’s scandals, the FBI investigation, and she’s dragged down by the same anti-dynastic sentiment that doomed Jeb Bush.

The conventional wisdom says that Cruz cannot possibly win. For an arch-conservative Senator from Texas, that might be true in a typical year. But I think we can all agree that this ain’t a typical year.

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  1. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Wow, I agree with Fred Cole on something. These are troubling times.

    I kid, I kid

    • #1
  2. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    I do hope you are right.  Hillary’s negatives are high, even among her supporters, but she fights dirty and will have the media on her side throughout this.  She will freely mudsling, then cry “SEXISM” every time Cruz lands a punch back (if, unlike Romney, he actually punches back consistently).

    • #2
  3. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Hillary and the media will try to destroy anyone who runs against her including Rubio. They won’t hold back anything

    • #3
  4. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Good article as usual Fred.

    • #4
  5. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Keep in mind the possibility that she might not be their nominee.

    • #5
  6. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Right angles- do you think that will happen?

    • #6
  7. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Fred Cole:Add to that the atypical mood of the electorate, the fatigue at the end of an eight-year presidency, the general chaos of the world and the nation, the whims of the electoral process, and it becomes damn near impossible to predict anything.

    So then why the assumption that Cruz is unelectable?

    I agree that anyone who speaks with anything approaching confidence on the matter is pulling their own leg.

    That said …

    Fred Cole: He realized the key to Iowa was evangelical voters, so from his announcement, Cruz geared his campaign towards winning that block. He has a plan and he executes that plan with enormous discipline.

    So why hasn’t this brilliant strategy worked better? I mean, Cruz should have walked away with SC and most of the other Southern primaries and caucuses last night. With many of the Cruz-friendly primaries behind us, where does he grow?

    Just to be clear, though, Rubio’s single victory and string of 3rd-places has been sad, in both senses. If he can’t win Florida next week, then I agree it’s real hard to see how he wins.

    • #7
  8. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    But Tom, how does he win now? Also Rubio is percieved as the establishment candidate, which is why if Cruz dropped out a lot of his supporters would go to Trump not Rubio. I know A lot of Rubio supporters will have to put aside their hang ups they have about Cruz but rock ribbed conservatives have been doing that for years, we should be used to it by now

    • #8
  9. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Mate De:Right angles- do you think that will happen?

    I believe there’s a chance.

    • #9
  10. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Saying Cruz in unelectable is a straw man. Of course he’s electable, he’s just significantly (in the statistical, not the magnitude, sense) less electable than Rubio.

    If we were going for pure electability, it’s Kasich all the way. But this election has outside importance and when you have two basically ideologically identical people, Rubio and Cruz, the slightly less correct significantly more electable candidate is where I’m comfortable risk-wise.

    • #10
  11. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Dump Trump, Go for a Cruz

    • #11
  12. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    RightAngles:Keep in mind the possibility that she might not be their nominee.

    Yeah, anything is possible this cycle.  But it won’t be Sanders and baring a stroke and Biden stepping onto the ticket, she’s probably it.

    • #12
  13. Ann Inactive
    Ann
    @Ann

    Thank you Fred for bringing this up and expressing it so well.  I have been puzzled why so many think of Cruz as unelectable. He is the only one I can imagine holding his own across the table from Putin.

    • #13
  14. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    How about Bloomberg instead, Fred.

    • #14
  15. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    His strategy has worked well enough to be within 100 delegates of Trump.

    • #15
  16. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Mike H:Saying Cruz in unelectable is a straw man. Of course he’s electable, he’s just significantly (in the statistical, not the magnitude, sense) less electable that Rubio.

    If we were going for pure electability, it’s Kasich all the way. But this election has outside importance and when you have two basically ideologically identical people, Rubio and Cruz, the slightly less correct significantly more electable candidate is where I’m comfortable risk-wise.

    Fwiw, Mike, I wrote this before we talked about it this afternoon and I didn’t have you in mind when I banged this out.

    • #16
  17. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Fred, I hope and pray you are right! I enjoyed your analysis. (This is your best line btw):

    Fred Cole: There was a reason we had 17 candidates at one point: even George Pataki smelled blood in the water.

    Ha!

    • #17
  18. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Basically I agree with this. I don’t think Cruz is unelectable. I do believe he would have a much harder time in the general election.

    Two tidbits on Marco Rubio: First, unlike Cruz, he has been being attacked by virtually everybody for months: Trump, Bush, Christie, Cruz himself, now Kasich — whereas Cruz has gone head to head only with Trump and with Rubio himself, and Cruz picked the fights with Rubio. Second, last night happened on Cruz’s home turf, not Rubio’s. The results may shape the race, but they are hardly an indicator of the two candidate’s relative political abilities.

    Cruz is a red-state conservative, and Rubio has the better-prepared skill of a purple-state candidate. This isn’t decisive. But it means, for instance, that when Trump makes his liberal speech about how he won’t let people “die in the streets” Cruz slams “who pays?” — playing all too neatly into the role of the stereotypical hardhearted conservative. And Rubio, who knew better, tried to jump in to slam Trump’s line as a liberal smear. Cruz is just more likely to play to stereotype.

    I’ve never said, though, that he is “unelectable.”  Given the right circumstances those candidates can win too. Against Clinton, he’d need every bit of strategic sense he possesses.

    • #18
  19. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:So why hasn’t this brilliant strategy worked better? I mean, Cruz should have walked away with SC and most of the other Southern primaries and caucuses last night. With many of the Cruz-friendly primaries behind us, where does he grow?

    Just to be clear, though, Rubio’s single victory and string of 3rd-places has been sad, in both senses. If he can’t win Florida next week, then I agree it’s real hard to see how he wins.

    It hasn’t worked because this has been a weird, unpredictable year and even the best strategy only last as long as first contact with the enemy.

    And look, I’m not calling for Rubio to drop out.  But if he can’t win states, that’s a problem.  Especially if he can’t win Florida.

    • #19
  20. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I’m not sure about “unelectable,” and more or less agree with Mike H, above, about Cruz being less electable.  A couple of things:

    1) Cruz has had a nice run of states thus far that should be favorable to him.  That’s not really true of Rubio.  If strategy is a forte,  why hasn’t he done better?  There’s been some criticism of the fact that he’s banked too heavily on the evangelical vote, and it didn’t really deliver.  That’s a strategy issue.

    2) Democratic presidential campaigns are attack-oriented, not issue oriented.  Cruz is not as big a target as Trump in terms of being demonized by the Clinton campaign, but he’s big enough.

    3) I’m willing to believe that Cruz’ “persona” doesn’t have to work against him, but it needs adjustment.  The independents and undecided that will decide the race want to like their candidate.  HRC’s weakness in this area needs to be exploited.

    • #20
  21. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad:Fred, I hope and pray you are right! I enjoyed your analysis. (This is your best line btw):

    Fred Cole: There was a reason we had 17 candidates at one point: even George Pataki smelled blood in the water.

    Ha!

    When all else fails, use Pataki.  (He’s also one of the tags.)

    • #21
  22. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    I think Cruz has gotten better as a speaker — or else he gets easier to listen to as time goes by.

    I’m developing a pet peeve with him, though. Cruz likes to do this guilt-by-association thing: the “Obama-Clinton doctrine;” the “Rubio-Schumer amnesty.” And for some reason his manner when he does it grates on me. It’s like I sense him feeling like he’s being clever, like he’s taking too much pleasure in linking the names together, or something. Can’t quite nail it down, but for some reason it really bugs me.

    • #22
  23. Lidens Cheng Member
    Lidens Cheng
    @LidensCheng

    Cruz can beat Clinton. I think anyone of those guys can. She’s an awful candidate, not counting all the sleazy and corrupted and criminal stuff the Clinton does. Even Bill Clinton looks and sounds terrible on the campaign trail.

    • #23
  24. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Just to be absolutely clear, I will absolutely support Cruz if Rubio can’t deliver. And Rubio hasn’t been delivering.

    • #24
  25. livingthehighlife Inactive
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    Fred Cole: The conventional wisdom says that Cruz cannot possibly win. For an arch-conservative Senator from Texas, that might be true in a typical year. But I think we can all agree that this ain’t a typical year.

    Last summer I predicted Obama (or Valerie Jarrett) would unload the goods on Hillary by the end of October, thus clearing the way for Biden.

    Last summer I also predicted the Trump con wouldn’t last.

    With a prognostication record like that, I should take over Mike Murphy’s job.

    Up is down, good is bad, right is left.  It’s even a leap year!  Nothing is predictable or usual, which makes me highly skeptical of any polling since they mostly use historical turnout and party identification models.  Democrat turnout is down, the GOP is up, so yes, even Ted Cruz could win.

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I think the key as others have said is not about being “unelectable” but less electable. Seeing that Rubio is losing ground, I’m thinking that the choice will be between Cruz and Trump. I’ll take Cruz any day. But I still insist that Cruz is still not particularly likeable, and that kind of superficiality matters. When Democrats are asked about Hillary, it’s not whether they like her; it’s whether they trust her. And they may very well say that they trust her more than they trust Cruz. My hope is that the trend will continue: Democrats are turning out in low numbers, and I think a lot of the ones turning out are not voting for Hillary, but for Trump. We just have to hope they see the light, that Rubio bows out and all those Democrats go to Cruz. Good post, Fred.

    • #26
  27. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Just to be absolutely clear, I will absolutely support Cruz if Rubio can’t deliver. And Rubio hasn’t been delivering.

    Man, he almost delivered in Virginia.  I thought I could smell the pizza.  But when I opened the door, no deep dish goodness, no Marco.

    It reminded me of the Veggie Tales song Pizza Angel:

    At least Rubio managed a win in Minnesota.  I tend to think of Minnesota as a place with 10 or 12 Republicans, probably because I remember Mondale.  But its recent Cook PVI index is only D+2.

    • #27
  28. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    I don’t think Cruz is unelectable in the general, I just think Rubio is more electable.

    However, we can’t worry about that now, we have to derail the Trump train.  I do have concerns with Cruz’s ability to beat Trump in purple and blue states to win the nomination.  He doesn’t seem to get much support beyond his base.  If Rubio dropped out Cruz would get some of his supporters but not all – probably not even a majority.

    Also, I don’t believe Cruz can win Florida whether Rubio drops out or not.  If the Donald wins those 99 delegates he probably gets the nomination.  At that point Rubio should drop out but it probably won’t matter.

    • #28
  29. Muleskinner Member
    Muleskinner
    @Muleskinner

    Like. The unelectability meme comes from the Senate. Cruz’s biggest problem (and perhaps greatest virtue) is that he won’t play nice with the establishment in the Senate. Add to that, his being smarter than any of them, only hardens their dislike.

    I’ve worked with enough politicians to know that being smart isn’t really important, but it is important that you are not shown to be not smart. So like Phil Gramm before him, Cruz commits the sin of being smarter than they are, and being potentially mean enough to prove it.

    Once he pivots toward talking about the big picture for the country’s future, he’ll be fine.

    • #29
  30. Carol Member
    Carol
    @

    My only question – and the one thing I can think of in Trump’s favor- is whether Cruz would be willing to hit Hillary hard and sling mud. We know that Romney played by Marquis of Queensbury rules while Obama was a down and dirty Chicago style street fighter. Will Ted fight?

    • #30
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