March 24, 2015

Running on Cruz Control

Ted Cruz became the first Republican to announce his presidential bid.

Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination early Monday morning, followed by a major speech at Liberty University. Cruz can lay claim to being first to take the primary field, and his challenge will be to show how a first-term senator with little in the way of legislative accomplishments can win in what will surely be a crowded GOP field. Will his inspiring message of Liberty be enough?

Using short videos, he sketched several of his agenda points and recited a brief biography. One video in Spanish appeals to Hispanic voters, many of whom are less than enthusiastic about his stand on illegal immigration. But this is a good strategy for Cruz, as the GOP certainly must appeal to Hispanics.

Many conservatives, particularly of the Tea Party strain, are thrilled about Cruz’s candidacy and avidly support his ideas. The videos relate his belief in hope, freedom and faith in God. His agenda includes repealing ObamaCare, dealing seriously with the national debt, stopping Barack Obama’s amnesty, ending IRS political harassment, instituting a flat tax, restoring the Constitution, confronting ISIL and Iran and repealing Common Core. Needless to say, it’s a solidly conservative platform.

Cruz’s key constituencies are the Tea Party, social conservatives and libertarians, pretty much in that order. Over the course of the primaries, he aims to raise $40-$50 million to build a coalition of these groups, and, along with other conservatives, challenge and defeat the presumed establishment candidate, Jeb Bush.

Yet The New York Times speculates that, even if Cruz were to have a spectacular run through the primaries, the chance of his ever gaining the establishment’s support would be slight. In fact, the establishment would pull out all the stops and outspend him heavily to torpedo his candidacy.

But Cruz has much to commend him. A graduate of Harvard Law School, liberal professor Alan Dershowitz described Cruz as “off-the-charts brilliant.” Cruz taught constitutional law at the University of Texas, where he cultivated his firm belief in the separation of powers. He argued in his thesis that the Framers included the Ninth and Tenth Amendments “as an explicit stop against an all-powerful state.”

Cruz has held several public offices, including ones at the Federal Trade Commission, at the Department of Justice and with the George W. Bush administration. After serving as solicitor general of Texas, Cruz ran for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2012. In that primary, he aligned with the Tea Party and pummeled establishment favorite David Dewhurst, earning the enmity of many of Dewhurst’s supporters. He also won the general election in a landslide.

A man of strong convictions, Cruz is not a typical politician. While in Iowa recently, he had the “gall” to criticize the ethanol mandate that is popular among far too many Iowa Republicans, and, thus, other presidential hopefuls. But that’s just one example of his firebrand approach.

Sometimes, however, his all-or-nothing approach is ill-advised. Case in point: He led the GOP into an avoidable box canyon on the fight over ObamaCare funding. His principles were admirable; his strategy was not. The episode won him the enmity of many in the Senate, including fellow Republicans. In fact, in April 2013, Foreign Policy magazine identified him as “The Most Hated Man in the Senate,” describing him as “the human equivalent of one of those flower-squirters that clowns wear on their lapels.” Of course, that title would win him even greater support among those who are fed up with Congress, and last time we checked that was a lot of people.

Running for president is a daunting task. Besides Cruz, seven other likely candidates are expected to formally announce their campaigns. For Cruz, that crowd along with carrying the ill will of many party elites make his candidacy an uphill battle. Never the shrinking violet, however, Cruz says, “If you want more of the same, there’ll be plenty to choose from, but if you want real conservative change and a proven record, I hope I can win your support.” We’ll have to wait and see if he can win it.

> Addendum: By the way, legal scholars believe Cruz is indeed constitutionally eligible to run for president.

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