The Republicans have their first “official” presidential candidate of 2016.
Ted Cruz made his announcement at Monday’s convocations to a captive audience at Liberty University.
And I do mean captive:
Convocations are held three times a week, and all students who live on campus — there are more than 7,000, according to McGowan — are required to attend; those who don’t have to pay $10
While I am undecided as to who I will support in the GOP primaries, I have stated the three individuals I know I won’t support: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz.
Today’s Review and Outlook in the Wall Street Journal sums up well how “ideology aside, the Republican is similar in many ways to Obama:”
Can a smart, articulate, 40-something first term Senator trained in constitutional law, who disdains his colleagues and lacks executive experience, make the leap to the White House? President Obama proved it was possible in 2008, and now Ted Cruz will try to show that a Republican can do it too after announcing his campaign for the White House on Monday.
Neither man will like this comparison, and their world views are as divergent as any two men in politics. Yet Messrs. Obama and Cruz are strikingly similar in their pedigrees and political style. They were raised middle-class but made their way to the Ivy League and beyond by dint of talent.
They became lawyers but mainly as a launching pad to politics. The President was a state senator, Mr. Cruz the Texas solicitor general. Mr. Cruz is a better debater, and Mr. Obama a better speech-maker, but both are better talkers than listeners. Above all, they are political solo-artists in an age that rewards entrepreneurial candidates. They saw the Senate as a stepping-stone to the White House rather than a place to contribute or get something done.
Mr. Obama ran as the true-believing antiwar liberal to win his party’s nomination. Mr. Cruz plans to run as the only true-believing, courageous conservative in the GOP field. Like Mr. Obama, he will run as much against Washington and his own party “establishment” as against the other party.
We dwell on this political style because this more than ideas is what Mr. Cruz hopes will set him apart in the GOP field. On policy matters, it’s hard to find an issue other than immigration where we disagree with him. In his announcement speech at Liberty University, he signaled support for a flat tax. Sign us up. He said he’ll repeal “every word” of ObamaCare, but every GOP candidate will promise the same.
The 44-year-old Texas Senator’s difference will be to claim that he’s the only one who really believes what he says and the only one who will fight for it. Thus he presented himself in the Senate as the man who was willing to shut down the government to repeal ObamaCare in 2013. This had no chance of success and resulted in plunging GOP popularity, but it did win him fans among frustrated Americans who rightly believe Washington is a mess.
The normally hawkish Senator also played the opportunist by opposing antiterror surveillance and Mr. Obama’s Syria 2013 bombing plan—lest he offend populist anti-Obama sentiment.
The question for GOP primary voters will be whether they believe this is the style of politics that can capture the White House and succeed once he’s there. Mr. Cruz is betting it is in this age of political polarization.
His strategists are saying openly that Mr. Cruz won’t even try to appeal to political independents. His strategy will be to attract and motivate the millions of conservatives who didn’t vote in the last two presidential elections. In this sense, too, he will run as the mirror-image of President Obama in 2012. Polarize and conquer.
Mr. Cruz is right that Mitt Romney in particular failed to motivate enough conservatives. But he is probably wrong to think that conservatives alone, especially white conservatives, can elect the next President. As GOP pollster Whit Ayres recently wrote in these pages, if the GOP nominee in 2016 carries the same share of the white and minority vote as George W. Bush won in 2004, he would lose, and handily. The next nominee must broaden the GOP’s electoral appeal.
This is not a counsel to walk away from conservative ideas. It does mean a candidate must offer an optimistic, inclusive vision and reform agenda that look beyond the Obama years. This also means appealing to voters who believe the GOP isn’t welcoming to minorities or the working class. Mr. Cruz’s hard-edged message against immigration may play in the GOP primaries, as Mr. Romney’s did, but it is a dream come true for Hillary Clinton.
The other question concerns the ability to govern as President. If a Republican does win in 2016, he will probably have a GOP majority in Congress and an historic opportunity to press conservative reforms. But Obama-style politics has not been a happy experience.
The President treated Republicans with the contempt he holds them in, and so he failed to bring along any of their votes. Had he worked across the aisle, like Ronald Reagan did, his reforms would have a better chance to endure than they do now. Mr. Cruz will have to convince GOP voters that he is not another self-centered governing rookie who thinks he doesn’t need to work with Members of Congress, however much he despises them.
The good news for GOP voters is that their field of candidates in 2016 is going to be deep, offering many varieties of conservative leadership. Mr. Cruz’s challenge will be showing that his polarizing style is a better bet than the conservative governing success that many of the others have already had.
To think we have only 594 days until election day.