Today I watched a portion of Ted Cruz’s Presidential campaign kick off speech at Liberty University, the ultra conservative religious school founded by the late evangelist Jerry Falwell. I have to admit that while I originally planned to watch the entire speech of the first candidate to toss his hat in the ring, after about 10 minutes I found that I had more pressing things to do.
Cruz gives every indication of being very smart – he has an undergraduate degree from Princeton and studied law at Harvard. However, instead of complying with the image of a buttoned up Ivy Leaguer, he has come to the nations’ attention as a radical, bomb throwing conservative who has become a favorite of the Tea Partiers and far right Christian conservatives. He first grabbed national headlines soon after his upset win in the Texas Senatorial campaign by filibustering for 21 hours on the Senate floor in favor of de-funding the Affordable Care act. He was then instrumental in encouraging the House Republicans to shut down the government for two weeks for the same cause.
While I did not stick around in front of my TV set for the entire speech, I found that Cruz is a very capable public speaker with good cadence, timing and inflections and, unless he wrote the speech himself, he has very good speech writers. He remind many people of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” as he encouraged his audience again and again to “imagine” having a far right conservative President. His audience consisted of 10,000 Liberty University students who, by the way, were force by their university to be in attendance. (Supposedly the punishment for not attending was “”four reprimands and a $10 fine”.) Never the less, the religious conservative students seemed to lap up what Ted was dishing out.
Cruz probably jumped into the race first because he has a lot of catching up to do and he needed a head start. Averaging only 4 to 5% of the Republican vote in recent polls, he was was lagging behind many of potential Republican candidates. Today he immediately staked out his claim of being the most far right wing Republican conservative in the race.
One has to wonder about Cruz’s strategy however. Only 25% of Americans currently claim to be Republicans and not even all Republicans are as conservative as the voters Cruz is attempting to attract. 42% of the voters identify as independents and while many might also identify as being conservatives, they are generally not the far right ideologues normally found in Ted’s camp. However, even if Cruz manages to stage another surprising electoral upset and captures the Republican nomination, it would be virtually impossible for him to migrate far enough towards the center to capture the Presidency. I suspect that many Democratic operatives get down on their knees every night and pray that Ted Cruz will become the Republican standard bearer.
While I don’t think that Ted Cruz has snowball’s chance in Hades of capturing the Republican Presidential nomination, I have to admit he may have a big impact on the campaign. With Cruz staking out his territory as far to the right as possible, it may be very tempting for other more viable Republican candidates to feel that have to run their campaigns further to the right than they would be other wise think prudent in order to win the Republican nomination. Such a candidate, having won the Republican nomination, would latter have difficulty tacking far enough towards the center to win the Presidency.
That’s why a number of Democratic operatives are probably thanking the Lord for the presence of Ted Cruz in the race.