Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Yes, Ted Cruz Could Win the Presidency

This morning's big story was Robert Costa's report that Ted Cruz is actively running for president. Well, no one says it that way, but it's how I think of it. In Josh Putnam's formulation, whether or not Cruz will be running in 2016, he is currently running for 2016 by doing all the things that he has to do right now to be a viable candidate going forward.

At any rate, the early prognostication is that his chances are somewhere between slim and none. Jonathan Chait Dan Amira*, for example:
What are Cruz's prospects for winning the GOP nomination in 2016, and then the presidency? They are absolutely terrible.
Well, it's a two-part question. First, on the general election: yes, Cruz is likely to be perceived as an ideological outlier, but that's a penalty, not a disqualification -- it didn't, for example, prevent Ronald Reagan from winning. I'd guess that Cruz probably spots the Democrats two or three percentage points compared with someone with a more moderate image -- which matters, but is hardly the end of the story.

As a candidate for the nomination, the basics are that Cruz would be a minimally viable candidate: he will have conventional qualifications, if slightly on the skimpy side, and is probably more or less within the ideological mainstream of his party -- most of his dissent within the party appears to be more about attitude than issues, and if immigration winds up being his big issue he may well be more inside the mainstream than his opponents.

Will it matter that Republican Senators (reportedly) don't like him? It's not a plus -- Barack Obama, with similar conventional credentials, was surely helped within the party because Democratic Senate leaders vouched for him. On the other hand, Members of Congress are traditionally overrated within presidential politics. As for his general McCarthyite tactics, that's probably more of a plus than a minus among Republican activists, and perhaps even other Republican party actors.

That doesn't mean, of course, that Cruz is likely to win; it's far too long from now to then to really have a good sense of it. He is, for now, just another candidate. And, as with all viable nomination candidates, he'll have strengths and weaknesses that are revealed through the long campaign. But as far as I can see (and assuming that he's actually eligible for the office), there's no obvious reason to believe that he has no chance.

And pretty much anyone who could win a major party nomination has a reasonable chance of winning the presidency.


*My apologies for getting this wrong. Updated and corrected as indicated.

14 comments:

  1. Not Jonathan Chait. Dan Amira.

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  2. I'm with Chait on this one. A young, smart Senator elected in 2012 who has views within the mainstream of the party has a reasonable chance at becoming president. Just like a former speaker of the house theoretically would have a chance.

    But like the Newt Gingrich we know well, the Cruz we know and have observed over the recent months and years has no chance.

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  3. This is a smokescreen, he's running for Governor of Texas and just wants his state to know how much he treasures them, enough to forgo a chance at the Presidency.

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  4. He's a Canadian!

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/is-canadian-born-ted-cruz-eligible-to-run-for-president-20130501

    Seriously, though, if there is NOT a "he's a Canadian" meme from the right if Cruz runs, then I would declare that prima fascia evidence that anyone who ever raised citizenship for Obama is an unqualified racist.

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    1. Oh, and for good measure: he's also a secret snake-handling fascist!

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  5. "First, on the general election: yes, Cruz is likely to be perceived as an ideological outlier, but that's a penalty, not a disqualification -- it didn't, for example, prevent Ronald Reagan from winning. I'd guess that Cruz probably spots the Democrats two or three percentage points compared with someone with a more moderate image -- which matters, but is hardly the end of the story."

    One big diference: Reagan's age (along with his genial personality) actually helped him by softening his image, making it harder for people to perceive him as a hard-core ideologue. As Garry Wills noted, this is something that Phil Crane--who wanted to run as a younger version of Reagan--didn't understand.

    A second: There are probably too many people committed to voting Democratic or Republican even under the worst circumstances for their party these days for a party to be able to spot the other party two or three points. I would argue that both Kerry and McCain actually slightly overperformed what one would once have expected their respective parties to get in 2004 and 2008.

    A third: Jimmy Carter was on the ballot in 1980. Obama will not be in 2016, and wile I do not doubt that if he is unpopular in 2016 some of this will rub off on any Democratic candidate, at least one--Hillary Clinton--has a background of strengths and weaknesses so independent of Obama's that it is not clear how much it will hurt her.

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    1. I would also add that the fact that Reagan had been governor of California for eight years helped--his record had been conservative, yes, but it was hard to portray it as the record of a crazy extremist.

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  6. John Edwards was also disliked by colleagues. Unclear how much that affected him versus Obama and Clinton.

    Could be an interesting battle between Santorum and Cruz for the social conservatives. Cruz has the advantage of having a brain. Close call.

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  7. Well I'm still waiting for the "Ted Cruz would make a great Prez" column from George Will. Then we know it's for real.

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  8. This post and these comments are examples of why I love this blog very much.

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  9. I woudl love for the loser to run as that ensures a republican implosion!

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  10. I am surprised at the people of Texas to send this clown to Washington, then again they send us Bush (the worst president in US history). Glad texas is far from th north east!

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  11. Cruz for President??? As ideological as Santorum and will be perceived as such. The GOP, if it is to have any success needs to push moderates,,,not right wing conservative extremists that alienate everyone else.

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