by Rod D. Martin
January 19, 2016
Letters, I get letters. The other day, I received one that goes roughly like this:
I believe in the Buckley Rule, which is that we should nominate the most conservative candidate who can also win the general. I believe Marco can and Cruz can’t. I also get a sense that Marco is more genuine than Cruz. Marco is ambitious, Cruz strikes me as Machiavellian. His cynical kissing up to Trump has been kind of revolting to watch. I actually think that Cruz has a clearer path to the nomination, and I would of course support him if he gets it. I can’t say the same for Trump. If he were the nominee, I would vote for the Libertarian Party candidate. Marco beats Hillary head to head. Cruz does not. Marco can go 50-50 with Hispanic voters, Cruz cannot.
Marco speaks Spanish, Cruz does not. Independents like Marco, they don’t like Cruz. Marco’s Heritage Action Rating is 94%, not too different than Cruz’s 100% but Marco isn’t perceived as an extremist. Marco is well liked by his colleagues and peers in the Congress that he will have to work with as POTUS. Cruz is loathed. I know Marco well and trust what is in in his heart. Cruz seems to be about Cruz, period.
I responded to this privately, but thinking about it, it seems like something that needs addressing regardless. Ted Cruz is an old friend of mine, he has a very strong shot at the Republican nomination, and much of this is horribly off-base, however well-intended.
So here is what I said.
I greatly disagree, and I genuinely hope you’ll reconsider. Here are a few thoughts as to why:
1. The electability narrative is Beltway spin. Polls vary, but we had an NBC poll just two weeks ago that had Cruz beating Hillary nationally by 3, and beating her in Colorado (!) by a whopping 16. Inasmuch as I can’t remember any Republican candidate beating the Democrat frontrunner at this stage of a presidential contest — whether or not they went on to a victory — the fact that all of our top four are beating her at least some of the time tells us she’s vulnerable, and the fact that Cruz is beating her at least some of the time tells us that he’s only unelectable in the minds of people who seriously dislike him (plus those who listen to them).
2. If Rubio continues to be cast as “the Establishment candidate,” that may consolidate Jeb’s former supporters around him, but it risks losing several million conservatives who would turn out for Ted. In other words, Marco could become Mitt, even if he doesn’t deserve that, simply because of who is embracing him in a year when all things Establishment are anathema.
3. I have serious reservations about Trump, but “I’ll vote libertarian if he’s nominated” is really just “I’ll vote for Hillary.” The effect is identical. Whether electing Trump may also be identical to voting for Hillary is another matter, but he’s outspokenly in favor of many (if not most) things that are right, and she is outspokenly opposed, so given that the reality of the choice is binary you have an obligation to vote for the better one, and at worst, given a choice between Batista and Castro you always pick Batista.
4. All of that said, I think a realignment is possible in our favor, and any of Trump, Cruz or Rubio are capable of executing on that. It would look different with each leader, and any or all of them might fail to pull it off, but we’re ripe for it, in very much the same way we were in 1994 (which I also predicted, four years before it happened).
5. Marco was perceived as an extremist by plenty of people — including plenty of the Establishment types now labeling Cruz one — when he had the temerity to take on Charlie Crist (and when he was down 30 points). Moreover, Trump has made Cruz look a lot more palatable to at least some of those folks (amusingly enough):
6. “Cynical kissing up to Trump”: not kissing up, and nothing cynical about it. Heck, I told him to go make friends with Trump myself! (Not that he wasn’t going to anyway.) Trump is an amazing guy; he’s also a guy who could wreck the Republican Party once and for all, in a Ross Perot sort of way but with staying power. I have said from Day One that anyone insulting and demeaning this man is a fool, full-stop. And assuming someone other than Trump wins, having Trump’s support — tacit or otherwise — is going to be important. So in this way, as in so very many others, Cruz is demonstrating two extremely important talents to which the rest of the field seems shocking oblivious: (1) coalition building, and (2) comprehension of the mood of the people.
7. That last sentence tells me who actually ought to be leading us, assuming that the Republican nomination for President is about something more than patronage for GOP insiders.
8. “Cruz is loathed” by his colleagues? In most of America, this is what is known as “a badge of honor.” I understand the counterargument, but I don’t see many people making it who grasp what I just said. I also don’t see them understanding (with Machiavelli) that “it is better for the prince to be feared than loved,” and that their loathing of him will make him an even more powerful President, as they desperately fall in line, sucking up, promising him they “were with him all along.”
9. “Genuine.” Without criticizing Marco (whom I do not know personally, and who is a target-rich environment if only for his Gang of Eight debacle), I can just say that this falls in the category of my comment (1) above: it’s the official narrative, pushed tirelessly by the Establishment and the media in a fashion best described in Fahrenheit 451, but that certainly doesn’t make it true. We’re not blood brothers or anything, but I’ve known Ted a long time, I know his father, I know his wife (much less well), and I know his chief of staff. They are all genuine to a fault. They believe in what Ted is saying from the depths of their souls.
Having said that, I would just note that the people slamming Ted want it both ways: he’s an extremist and an opportunist? He’s scary because he means it, and he’s unlikeable because he doesn’t? Which is it?
I think it’s safe to say that Ted Cruz is just an awful lot better at this than his peers in the Senate or in this Presidential race, and that makes all of them (and all their supporters) green with envy. So they say irrational things — and perhaps start believing them — because, like crabs in a bucket, they just can’t bear him rising above them, getting out of turn.
All this said, I love our field (most of it, anyway). It’s the best group we’ve ever had at one time. Mike Huckabee in particular is a dear friend and a truly outstanding person whom I wish were doing much better, but who sadly just hasn’t found traction. Likewise, Jeb Bush was an incredible governor, and has plainly been mischaracterized in a number of ways (although this has largely been his own campaign’s fault). But almost all of them would be a significant step forward, however much some would be better than others, compared to almost all of the Republican candidates we’ve seen in my lifetime.
Still, I do think Ted is by far the best of the group — above all other reasons because he is the one most likely to nail Supreme Court appointments — and I think your critique is wrongheaded. Of course Ted is electable, every bit as electable as he was when he was 20 points down in a three-way primary against David Dewhurst. Ted Cruz is a full-on conservative, but he’s also a winner. This Party has needed that combination for a very long time.