Don’t Fret Ted Cruz

Ken AshfordElection 2016Leave a Comment

With an announcement at Liberty University, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz became the first major Republican candidate to declare himself officially in the 2016 presidential race. In announcing his presidential ambition yesterday, Cruz repeated a number of dubious claims designed to invigorate the tea party, from which he hails.  His speech was full of the usual red meat — repeal Obamacare, restore the Constitution, etc.

I will save all of us a lot of time.  Cruz has absolutely no chance of being President.  In fact, he won’t even be the Republican nominee.

I’m not going out on a limb to say this.  But it needs to be said.  And why am I so sure?

It’s quite simple.  Cruz is a toxic ideologue.  He brought the Congress to a grinding halt a couple of years ago on the debt ceiling and tarnished the Republican brand.  He hopes to win the conservative christian vote, but he has no chance in moderate states — even moderate states that lean right (like Virginia).  Hell, even Texas is a stretch for him.  And even through some miracle that he gets the GOP nomination, he simply cannot win moderates.  Period.

Second, he’s a jerk.  No, really.  I’ll let Josh Marshall explain:

People who come off like assholes don’t get elected president. From college and law school to the Senate and seemingly everywhere in between, Cruz has found small groups of admirers while convincing the vast majority of people as a consummate asshole.

This isn’t just me sounding off; it’s not trash talk. This is a really basic dynamic of presidential elections. There were plenty of Democrats who thought W was an entitled jerk. Most of the population did not feel that way. Many republicans felt Clinton was a slippery charlatan. But even many of them found it difficult to resist his charm. Indeed, that was one of the reasons they hated him.

Most people, including most Republicans, find Ted Cruz grating, divisive and arrogant. That makes it extremely hard to make the kind of emotive connection with voters who come to elections without strong ideological moorings. Cruz’s great strength, albeit with a small but intensely devoted slice of the national conservative electorate, is that he has taken the unbridled self-assertion and norm-breaking which make him intolerable to many up close and cast them as the ultimate expression of the right-wing id. Also another thing, people don’t like assholes.

So while his candidacy may be interesting now — because it is the first — I don’t expect him to get the money or support to last very long.  He’s not a threat to Hillary in 2016.  He’s not a threat to any of the Republicans running (although he may scuff them up a bit).  He’s tomorrow’s yesterday’s news.

P.S.  Too bad he didn’t snatch up in time.

UPDATE:  Good analysis here.