Ted Cruz’ Quixotic Presidential Campaign

There’s no question that Ted Cruz is going to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Hell, he’s been running from the moment he was elected to the Senate. But I think Jonathan Bernstein is correct when he says that Cruz has little chance of winning the nomination.

I continue to believe, however, that it’s extremely unlikely that Cruz will become the Republican nominee. He fits my formula for a viable nomination, though with little to spare: As a first term senator, he would have four years in elected statewide office by the time he was sworn in president, and he’s within the Republican mainstream on public policy issues (though he would claim that others who appear to hold similar positions are practically liberals).

Yet, of all the viable candidates, I give Cruz the longest odds. Not just because he’s an irresponsible demagogue, or because he’s made enemies in the Senate. And not just because he’s almost certainly a weaker general election candidate given that he’s by far the one most likely to be perceived by voters as an ideological extremist.1

The biggest reason Cruz’s nomination bid would be unlikely to succeed is that Republican party actors mostly identify him with the October 2013 government shutdown, which, apart from a small number of radicals, is perceived as a hugely damaging unforced error. Remember, not only were Republicans widely blamed for the shutdown, it also had the side effect of distracting the press from the disastrous first weeks of the Obamacare exchange rollout.

Even party actors who are itching to nominate a real conservative after suffering through Mitt Romney and John McCain (and in many cases having decided that George W. Bush was no conservative after all) are unlikely to choose a candidate whose strategic judgment has proved to be suicidal for the movement.

And it’s important to note just how deeply unpopular Cruz is within the Republican caucus in the Senate, where he is viewed as reckless and more focused on his own agenda than on the party’s. If the Republican party does nominate Cruz, it will make the Democrats very happy. The campaign ads practically write themselves. Remember that opposition to the government shutdown ran around 80%, with even a majority of Republicans opposing it. And that’s the single biggest thing Cruz is known for.

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  • raven

    Cruz will run on an anti-immigration platform.

    The fact that his father was a Cuban refugee and Cruz was born in Alberta Canada and ran the border won’t matter at all.

  • raven

    Romney will run again on a platform of helping the floundering middle class.

    While being a member of the 1%, calling average Americans “moochers”, and helping the ultra-rich become even richer.

    That won’t matter to GOP voters either.

  • birgerjohansson

    Okay you guys, register as Republicans and vote for Cruz in the primaries. Crus vs. Hillary…it would be beautiful.

  • Kevin Kehres

    Meh. I don’t think the average voter has the long-term memory of a concussed gnat.

    If you think that issue is going to sink Cruz with voters, you’re drinking something quite a bit stronger and stranger than coffee.

  • Alverant

    For years the teabaggers have claimed that Obama can’t be President because he wasn’t born in the US. They never provided any proof to their claims. Now they’re supporting someone who was proven to be born in Canada. You’d think that would be the biggest reason why he won’t win, but no IOKIYAR rears its ugly head again.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Crus vs. Hillary…it would be beautiful.

    It would be horrible. We might wind up with another Clinton. It’d be the lesser of two evils, but it’d still be an evil.

  • sugarfrosted

    @3 Why the hell are so many liberals in support of Hillary Clinton. Seriously, I’m curious. Her husband is responsible for massive deregulation of the financial markets. She made her fortune in large part “giving talks” for banks (read getting her palms greased.) She also has familial ties to the banking industry through her daughter’s husband. Yet you support her. Is this just some Bill Clinton nostalgia, where you just forgot the bad parts after comparing him to George W. Bush? Do you think it’ll be the 90s again?

  • Alverant

    @7 I’d like to know too. I don’t support her for President. She has too much baggage from her past in addition to the reasons you gave. The best reason I can think of for any support is how much she pisses off the cons. The support seems to be more of a “thumb in your eye” than what’s best for the country.

  • rabbitscribe

    US Senators don’t pick the nominee. Primary voters do. People who think the shut-down was just ducky (or who blame Obama for it ’cause he could have prevented it by simply resigning) are over-represented in that population.

  • abb3w

    Why the hell are so many liberals in support of Hillary Clinton.

    Because Justice Ginsburg appears to be delusional about her own actuarial life expectancy; because so many of the prospective GOP candidates for the presidency seem so incredibly bad; and because Mitt Romney came within a few percent in a few states of beating Obama — implying that for Democrats to try for a more serious liberal might risk losing the required degree of support from a far too conservative electorate to hold the presidency, which in turn might result in a nominee to the SCOTUS which would push the bench even further to the right than it presently is.

    As a bonus, Hillary Clinton might even be able to carry Texas against most of the GOP field, including Perry; which might be enough to shock the GOP to its senses.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Cruz has a damn good shot of getting his name on the second half of the 2016 GOP ticket, as a sop to the teabaggers while some corporate-crony white man (I sort of expect Romney or Ryan) takes top billing. (Think Palin only bigger and uglier.)

    That not-born-in-the-USA thing might present a legal problem, but the Constitution does not mandate that for candidates, so no doubt the Repubs could happily roll with that on the assumption that the current SCOTUS majority of Bush-appointees/appointers will fix everything as needed.

    I was prepared to hold down my gag reflex and vote for the WalMart/Wall Street shill, Israel puppet and general fanatic-for-the-status-quo back in ’08 (until a different shill got the nomination), so I guess I will have to stock up on barf bags and strong alcohol two years from now. Or maybe move to a non-swing state so I can (attempt to) vote my actual preference and conscience…

  • theguy

    @7 It’s not so much that I’d enthusiastically support Clinton, but I sure as shit would vote for her against anybody the Republicans will nominate. Personally, I’d still like to see Biden run, but he’s probably made too many gaffes.

  • Who Cares


    Ginsburg isn’t quite as delusional as you think.

    Here is she explaining why:

    Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can.

  • Doc Bill

    For what it’s worth I agree. Cruz has no chance. Cruz has demonstrated himself to be a big-mouthed bully with no leadership or legislative skills. From the first day he set foot in the Senate he’s done nothing constructive for Texans or the country, rather he’s spent all his time promoting himself. Shameless. But, sadly, there are a lot of Texans who want simply that – a loud-mouthed, “mover and shaker” causing a ruckus and his base will give him a pass on anything including being born in Canada, having no legislative track record and being an abrasive ass.

  • raven

    Cruz has demonstrated himself to be a big-mouthed bully with no leadership or legislative skills.

    For the GOP, isn’t that a feature, not a bug?

    You have to remember, that a shapeshifting Reptilian, Romney, got 47% of the vote last election.

  • jbrock

    Cruz doesn’t stand a chance at the GOP nomination. He’s a swaggering blowhard and grandstanding demagogue, but those are just prerequisites. His overall Wack Factor is nowhere near high enough to truly energize the Republican base.

    I plan on voting for Allen West in the primaries and hoping like all hell that whichever gibbering wingnut actually wins it will pick Michelle Bachmann for the veep slot.

    Yeah, that would mean at least four years of HRC, but can anyone really think of a Republican who wouldn’t be worse?

  • colnago80

    Ted Cruz is one of the most dangerous men in the Rethuglican Party because he combines high intelligence with a great ability to demagogue. Joe McCarthy with brains. Depending on the opposition, I would not count him out. Rethuglican primaries are dominated by the theocrats and the tea baggers.

  • brianl

    I think he’s got it exactly backward. That Cruz is hated in the Senate is a huge plus for him in the primary. They hate him because he’s a real conservative, donchyano.

    Apart from that, he’s got actual intelligence and is a good politician (by which I mean he comes off sounding like someone you think should be in office provided you ignore the content of what he’s saying–he has the skill set needed for a professional politician).

    Hillary is still going to clean his clock, but several people whose judgment I respect think his the most dangerous guy on the R national bench right now (and even if he runs and loses in 16, that sets him up as the anointed candidate for 20 or 24).

  • lorn

    I’ve never understood how anyone, including die-hard tea party folks, even nihilists, could vote for Ted Cruz. His language, demeanor, and presentations all scream: hypocrite. He reminds me of an oily and disingenuous preacher straight from central casting. The soft, kind look with hard eyes, the oily smile, and arguments that turn on a dime, literally. How can anyone not see that?

  • dingojack

    lorn – Americans elected Richard Nixon didn’t they? Twice.


  • colnago80

    Re dingo @ #20

    As demagogues go, Nixon was an amateur compared to Cruz.

  • dingojack

    Agreed. But if they could elect Nixon, twice…


  • abb3w

    @13, Who Cares

    Ginsburg isn’t quite as delusional as you think.

    That’s more that she’s entirely realistic about her potential replacements — which yes, will almost certainly shift the court to the right, particularly coming from Obama or Clinton and getting past any Senate we’re likely to see in the next six years. (Recess appointments are likely off the table, especially given Canning.) I’m not sure that indicates she’s not deluding herself about her life expectancy.