Not just because he’s an irresponsible demagogue, or because he’s made enemies in the Senate. And not just because he’s almost certainly a weaker general election candidate given that he’s by far the one most likely to be perceived by voters as an ideological extremist. The biggest reason Cruz’s nomination bid would be unlikely to succeed is that Republican party actors mostly identify him with the October 2013 government shutdown, which, apart from a small number of radicals, is perceived as a hugely damaging unforced error. Remember, not only were Republicans widely blamed for the shutdown, it also had the side effect of distracting the press from the disastrous first weeks of the Obamacare exchange rollout. Even party actors who are itching to nominate a real conservative after suffering through Mitt Romney and John McCain (and in many cases having decided that George W. Bush was no conservative after all) are unlikely to choose a candidate whose strategic judgment has proved to be suicidal for the movement.
But Michael Tracey isn’t writing off Cruz. One reason:
I would implore all readers to watch a full Ted Cruz speech if he or she has not already. The man is simply a performative marvel. He manages to strike some sort of preternatural balance between fiery Southern Baptist sermon and stand-up comedy routine, invariably bringing crowds to their feet. In the era of the tweet-sized soundbite, Ted Cruz’s mastery of the one-liner and the pun are not trivial; they are integral to his success.
In the post-Citizens United landscape, traditional donor class support is becoming less and less important. Multi-billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was able to bankroll Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential bid as nothing more than a personal vanity project. Gingrich went onto win the South Carolina primary. That unpredictable dynamic will only have been heightened by 2016. Ted Cruz may be disliked by elements of the GOP elite, but he doesn’t have to rely on their support to prevail, as likely would have been the case in years past.
Instead, Cruz can lean on what I’ll term the “para-establishment”—a constellation of advocacy groups, media entities, individual mega-donors, and others who have long ago thrown their lot in with Cruz.
Allahpundit imagines how the primaries might shake out:
Cruz isn’t really running against the entire field, at least in the early states. He’s running against Paul. If he can finish ahead of Rand in Iowa and New Hampshire, the thinking goes, conservatives who prefer Rand will abandon him as a lost cause and line up behind Cruz for South Carolina. If Cruz can get to that point, he’ll take his chances against the centrist champion, no matter who it is. If it’s Jeb, Cruz will add an anti-dynastic note to his broader “return to Reagan” message. If it’s Romney, he gets to pound Mitt for having blown his and the GOP’s chance of regaining the White House once before. And if it’s Christie, he’ll count on the right’s disdain for the big guy plus Christie’s personal abrasiveness to alienate voters. All of which makes me wonder if the donor class won’t decide to skip those three and back Rubio instead.