Friday, October 11, 2013

Ted Cruz? Winnowed, Probably

I've been on the side of those who thought that Ted Cruz was a viable candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016. Not a likely winner, but very plausible.

I'm pretty sure that's done now.

I was willing to defend Cruz's chances despite his quickly-gained reputation within the Senate for excessively sharp elbows. I thought that Hill reputation was a relatively minor factor in overall party view of a contender.

But what's happened to him now goes well beyond Hill reputation. Moreover, the type of bad reputation has changed, and that should matter, too. Three things:

1. It's one thing to have a reputation as a loudmouth; it's quite another to have a reputation as a loser. That's what the shutdown fight has done to Cruz. Among true believers he'll be the one who was a leader in a fight that surely would have won if the squishes hadn't sold them out. But for most party actors, including many sympathetic to Tea Partyism, he's going to be the guy who ran up the wrong hill.

2. I can't remember if Grover Norquist had already publicly feuded with Ted Cruz before the shutdown fight, but he's certainly doing it now. That's not good. The more broadly Republican party actors dislike Cruz, and the more intensely they dislike him, the harder it would be for him to get the nomination. We saw the way this worked with Newt Gingrich in 2012: every time Newt stumbled, there were plenty of Republican opinion leaders ready to kick him while he was down. That's where Cruz is heading now.

3. Yeah, I think that the polling probably matters at this point. He's still fairly unknown, but I can't think of anyone who had established a 2-1 against ration on the favorable/unfavorable question eventually getting anywhere close to a major party nomination. Sure, it could still change, and I suppose one could argue that all it means is that the MSNBC audience has learned to dislike him...but then why hasn't the Fox audience learned to love him?

Add up all three of those, and at this point I think he's probably off the list of serious contenders. He still has the basics of a viable candidate (conventional credentials, if only just barely, and he's within the mainstream of his party on public policy positions). But I think it's extremely likely that he's in the process of being winnowed out.

38 comments:

  1. The thing is, I feel like you can find something on all of the major potential candidates. Christie? Too "liberal". Rubio? Loser on immigration. Paul? Outside of the mainstream. But someone has to win.

    Then again, I think the Republicans aren't paying enough attention to Scott Walker, so maybe that solves the problem.

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    1. I agree, Scott Walker is an undervalued candidate. Maybe it's because he hasn't been making too many waves lately. Then again, I though Pawlenty would get the nod in '12, and Walker is very much the Pawlenty of this cycle.

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    2. I think there is a lot of wishful thinking among Democrats that Christie cannot be nominated. His post-Sandy embrace of Obama is not necessarily going to be fatal, any more than being the Father of Obamacare was for Romney...

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    3. David,
      Not by this Democrat. Christie may well be able to get the nomination. But not before going through a primary process in many states where the crazy caucus has a significant influence over the outcome(s). Will Christie jettison principles to win primaries, thereby sullying his reputation and credibility in the general? Hard to say. Then again, he won't have the credibility problem with Reagan Democrats like Romney did. The evangelicals will hold their noses and vote for him. He's pro-life. The teabillies are another matter entirely.

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    4. I'm also cautious about projecting Christie to play well in the primaries. There is the whole thing about the out party nominating less ideologically extreme candidates the longer they've been out of power, but Im not sure how strong that effect is or if it will just be overwhelmed by the current fervor for unblemished, uncompromising Real True Conservatives.

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    5. Is it possible that the crazy caucus won't be the only ones voting in the primaries? Maybe a whole lot more Republicans will vote in the primaries because they're tired of the Tea Party crazy, and they'll finally take two hours to do something about it.

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    6. That would be a radical violation of the way that things normally work. It's always possible, but don't bet the rent money.

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  2. So, assuming you're correct, is Cruz the type of invisible primary candidate who will bow out when winnowed? Or will he keep going as long as he can, picking off delegates till the bitter end in pursuit of some other-than-winning-the-nomination motivation?

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    1. Are you seriously asking if Cruz will accept reality and make a dignified exit?

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  3. I expect Cruz to be far too smart to run when he has already been shunted aside. He's got years ahead of him, and can spend more time building his brand as a--well, whatever the hell he thinks he is--and then will have plenty of time to tack towards the middle (or the main chance) as time goes on.

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    1. Some people are too smart to realize that they have been shunted aside. Wait, not smart..... what's the phrase.... bad at strategy.... yeah, that's it!

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  4. I think Tybalt answers Drew's question. It seems to me that Cruz is ambitions-for-real, not just grifter-ambitious. I bet that once it's apparent that he has no shot for 2016, he will back off and declare that, unlike that unprepared-naive Obama, he will wait till he's fully qualified, and will wait for 2020 or 2024.

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    1. To the original question: no idea. I can see a lot of plausible paths for him; no idea which one he'll actually choose.

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    2. The path I'd like to see is where Joaquin Castro kicks him out of the Senate in 2018.

      But I'm a Texas Dem, and we are often disappoint.

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    3. If a real 2018 Senate challenge seems likely, it could change his 2016 calculations. Which way I couldn't say, but it seems equally possible he'd go for the national exposure even if his candidacy is doomed, upping his speaking fees and getting him a fox gig.

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  5. I agree with everything in this post, and in fact was already basically reading it in my head yesterday when I saw Norquist's comments. Guess that shows how thoroughly I've been educated to a Plain Blog view of intraparty dynamics. Fortunately, Ted Cruz hasn't been.

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  6. Yeah I don't think you can compare a US senator from from the second-largest state elected by landslide margins with some community college professor in rural Georgia.

    Sorry your party sucks.

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    1. Actually, Gingrich represented a heavily populated suburb of Atlanta (I used to live in his district), but who's counting.....

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  7. A smarter Sarah Palin....

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    1. Doesn't have Sarah's legs. I don't think....

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  8. Well he's working hard to make up lost ground by yelling at the President in the White House: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/ted-cruz-confronts-barack-obama-government-shutdown-98197.html#comment-1079358155

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  9. If Obama were to (inexplicably) cave in the next several days, would that change your conclusion about Cruz?

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    1. So why don't you think Obama will cave, CSH?

      My opinion of Cruz is that he took a situation that requires negotiation and turned it into a battle charge. In this charge, everyone has to yell the same battle cry. It's destroyed any chance of talking the Democrats into anything.

      See, Obama can stand in the Rose Garden and say, "If Boehner can get a bill to my desk that's a clean debt limit raise, I'll sign it no matter how long it is." And Obama and Boehner both know that because of Cruz, Boehner can't deliver a pizza using only his caucus.

      At the same time, Reid can stand in the Senate and yell, "Heck no!" They can say different things without annoying the liberals.

      It's quite an edge.

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    2. Obama almost certainly won't cave because he almost certainly isn't compelled to...right now.

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    3. @csh, I don't see anything now or in the future to compel Obama to cave. Do you know something we don't?

      Your hypothetical about an Obama cave is such a long shot it doesn't merit an answer. Cruz didn't make Obama cave. If something else comes along to make Obama cave, Cruz won't get the credit.

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    4. @MP - it wasn't intended to be a suggestive question, I was just trying to tease out the difference between "Cruz as poor tactician" vs. "Cruz as inherent moron". If a hypothetical Obama cave makes you change your conclusion about Cruz, then it would seem Cruz is more the poor tactician than inherent idiot.

      I don't know why Obama would cave now. But then, I've been wrong on such matters with this administration several times, so, who knows?

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    5. Do we really have to choose, here? I'm a little more open-minded than that.

      The Republicans have been talking up a government shutdown for six months. This was going to happen, Cruz or no Cruz. The Republican base wanted it. Heck, maybe Fox needed the ratings boost, I don't know.

      What is clear is that Cruz grabbed the spotlight, shined it on himself, and asked for the moon. There was no way anyone could stop the insurance rollout at that time. So Democrats swore that they wouldn't negotiate.

      So in the endless world of speculation, I ask you - Was there anything that Republicans had a chance to get? Now we'll never know.

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  10. Ran up the wrong hill, repeatedly, shouting look at me look at look at me! He's unhinged. Fun potential TV host though. I watched a bit of his presentation in front of the Family Whatever Values thing going on in Washington today. His affect doesn't do him any favors. Okay to inject humour into your schtick as a pol but he's deeply unserious, with an unappealing voice, and a vulgar wit. He's, in a word, gross. Washington's a select club and screwing up as badly as he has means he won't be sitting at the big table any time real soon. He can do his thing Huey Long style somewhere else and come back later, I suppose. What do I know really? Not much except that I find him utterly repulsive. His joking around about waking up in Syria tomorrow was really really childish and vain. Zero self-awareness and self-destructive urges -- good luck with that.

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    1. Last time I checked, the govt is shut down and over 800k federal employees and countless contractors have been sitting at home for nearly two weeks now. Ted and his faction are clearly powerless in DC.

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    2. Yup. One should not mistake an inability to immediately jump into a Presidential race with powerlessness. Cruz is doing a fine job riding the Tea Party bull while it goes amok in a very expensive china shop.

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  11. Why hasn't Fox audience learned to love him? Do you think for one hot minute that they don't whisper about how his real name is Rafael? Come on now! Fox will use him up and throw him out.

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  12. I will send money to Cruz' campaign and I will vote for him.

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    1. That's pretty much the whole point of this entire exercise --- taking money from the foolish.

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  13. As a Republican who finds Ted Cruz incredibly irksome and this whole fiasco incredibly depressing, this post puts a smile on my face.

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    1. Good for you, but are there enough Republicans like you?

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  14. Kathleen Parker's column in WaPo refers to him as "Ted Bin Laden". Says he's the guy who straps suicide vests on to someone else, and then goes off to lunch.

    Ouch!

    Parker is about as mainstream of a Republican flack as one could ask for--whatever the RNC tells her to do, she does it. Oppose abortion, cheerlead for Romney, it doesn't matter--she's a good soldier for the GOP.

    So if Parker is calling Cruz "Ted Bin Laden", I would say he has lost the support of the establishment. In a big way.

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