Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Underestimating Ted Cruz

It seems that what passes for conventional wisdom has pretty much written off the stormy, incandescent career of the junior senator from Texas, “Tailgunner” Ted Cruz. The “tactical error” of bringing the country to the brink of default earned him the disapprobation of his party and enough condemnation by our collective thought leaders that we seem to have dismissed him from further consideration as a figure of national significance and appeal. And the sigh of relief and hopeful finality attending this dismissal is notably one of the few truly bipartisan undertakings of our otherwise sharply polarised politics and conflicted media commentary.

But let’s set aside, for the moment, the convenient notion that we have survived this political asteroid. His meteoric career impacted squarely on the fault line dividing the modern Republican party at a crucial moment. Is this accidental?

Just as the leadership prepared to abandon the single, defining policy issue which had been used to demonise the administration and whip support for almost four years, Cruz weighs in and makes a perfect riot out of what the party was hoping to quietly concede.  In the process he wins a Gungam style volume of earned media, unimpeachable ‘outsider’ status in spite of having trod the corridors of power in Washington for a decade and a distant fourth in the history of filibusters.

He has also captured the unswerving loyalty of a significant cohort of disgruntled, activist Republicans who were the true believers. Sorry, folks, but this is no accident, it is the calculated, if somewhat volatile, opening gambit of a presidential nomination campaign.

You see, it doesn’t matter what other Republicans and the media think, or say, about Cruz. Every criticism levelled at him now just makes the nativist Right cling to him more tightly. What should have probably been foreseen, but apparently wasn’t, is that Rand Paul, the other dark horse candidacy vying for the same constituency, was always Cruz’s only serious early competition. And Paul’s foreign policy stance is already inviting the Republican establishement to crush him; early and hopefully quite flat. Ironic that the party might be furthering Cruz’s nascent candidacy just as engaged supporters are considering their options.

Though it seems Cruz is beating Paul handily, at least at this early stage. Here’s a taste of Cruz’s presidential pitch from New Hampshire inaugural Freedom Summit recently:

“Where we are right now is eerily, uncannily, like the late 1970s,” he said. “You had Jimmy Carter in the White House and you had the same failed economic policies. Out-of-control spending, taxes, and regulation produced the exact same misery and stagnation. You had the same feckless foreign policy and the same naiveté making the world a much more dangerous place.”

Mike Koncal That ’70s Show, Starring Ted Cruz New Republic 15 Apr 14

So it’s the late 70s and he’s the candidate so… “Eerily, uncannily” he’s Reagan, right? Sheesh. Still, one can perhaps think of some people who might accept the “late 70s” malaise comparision, even in a general election. Can you?

Unlike last time if one candidate comes off the blocks with a confident majority of support within the marginal population of Republican primary voters the contest could become an early rout leading to a succession of establishment firewalls which the activist rump of the party would just love to try breaching. If this is a credible scenario then it might be argued that Cruz has already established a path toward such a victory.

Perhaps we should start having a look at that. Because if this guy wins the nomination we’re in for a proper sleigh ride.

[poll id=”




  1. DeniseVelez

    are the likeliest contenders – shudder.

    Predicting which way the Teapublicans will go is a crap-shoot.

  2. Portlaw

    see him as a joke but forget that he was a highly skilled debater at Princeton and he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law and was on the Law Review. His life story will appeal to many. His father escaped Cuba and is now a pastor in Texas, etc. He himself helped found the Harvard Latino Law Review. That will resonate with some. He is not a joke He is smart and dangerous and it is folly to forget that.

  3. Good point:

    Ironic that the party might be furthering Cruz’s nascent candidacy just as engaged supporters are considering their options.

    Ted Cruz’s supporters love him and every whack at him makes their support stronger.

    Rand Paul is quite simply a stupid man, a guy who lacks the native intelligence to be able to run a credible campaign. You can drive trucks through the holes in his logic and when he is confronted with inconsistency he has a deer in the headlights look.

    Not so with Ted Cruz. He has lie telling down to a science and never denies his past statements, just respins them. He is the scariest guy in the race.

    I still think that Jeb Bush becomes the nominee and I think that will be an awful thing for our country. A nation that 4 years after Watergate, “moved past” the Republican crimes of the Nixon Administration to give the reins of power back to the Republicans in 1980 will not be deterred by any reminders of the George W. Bush presidency. 🙁

    Of course it comes down to the money. But traditional money sources (Chamber of Commerce, Grover Freaking Norquist) versus new money sources (Koch, Club for Growth) duking it out will be interesting to watch.

  4. anotherdemocrat

    and Ann Richards herself told us we did so at our peril — Dubya. When he ran for governor, it was hard to take him seriously, because… well…. And you know where that got us.

  5. WSJ Columnist: Nominate Rand Paul Because GOP Needs ‘Another Humbling Landslide Defeat’

    A week after the GOP’s disappointing showing in the election that year, Stephens urged the party to “get a grip.” He wrote that the GOP base should “demand an IQ exam as well as a test of basic knowledge from our congressional and presidential candidates.” He also called on Republicans to stop “demonizing Latin American immigrants” and “tone down the abortion extremism.”

    He is speaking to people who refuse to hear. I also want them to have a “landslide defeat” but I suggest that it will humble them no more than the last one did.  

  6. virginislandsguy

    Ok, I seconded your snagging Ted in the nomination sweepstakes a couple months ago. Since then, I have had a change of heart. I am now taking Paul Ryan, if no one has claimed him in the contest.

    I cooled on Ted because he has succeeded in offending every Republican Senator. This will work against him in the primaries because he will face a strong headwind from the state movers and shakers every where he goes.

    Another top tier candidate, Rand Paul has a fatal flaw. A New York Times article revealed that he is apathetic about fundraising. This, to me, along with his inconsistent messaging, will cost him momentum midway in the primaries.

    Then there’s Paul Ryan. It’s his turn, via his VP candidacy. He may be the default Establishment’s guy. Christie is toast. JEB has way too much baggage. Mitt is yesterday’s news.

    So my guy is Ryan. If anyone else has a prior claim, please let me know. And it’s good to see you back Shaun.

  7. HappyinVT

    “No thanks!”  🙂

    Frankly, I see Cruz as another Christine O’Donnell or Sharron Angle and a bridge too far for a lot of folks ideologically.  He might be smarter than either of them … perhaps way smarter but he is just as proud of the cray-cray and too willing to make waves.

    Take him for granted?  Nope.  Give him too much due?  Nope.

    I’m looking for someone to quietly work his (or her, who knows?) way from relative obscurity to front of the pack.

Comments are closed.