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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

 
The favorite son of Wingnut Nation has a plan

by dogby


I wrote about Cruz's play for the libertarians in Salon today:

I’ve been writing for some months about Ted Cruz’s dark horse candidacy and his very smart, under-the-radar strategy. He has lined up plenty of money, even seriously angering the Bush clan by bagging some major Texas billionaires they feel he has no right to claim. And he’s been assiduously working all the grassroots conservative organizations which are his natural constituencies. Trump may be speaking their language but as a thrice married denizen of Gomorrah (aka New York City) he’s an immigrant to their conservative culture with some suspicious ways about him. They may forgive all that in the end and stick with the showman,but Ted Cruz is much more familiar, a favorite son of wingnut nation, and all those Republicans who hate the status quo may turn their lonely eyes to him if the Trump novelty finally wear off.
Cruz has been counting all along on picking up the pieces of the outsider “anti-establishment” campaigns as they started to fade and the true blue conservatives started to come back to their roots. Back in August,  it was clear that he was working Iowa’s social conservatives very hard and that work is earning dividends as Ben Carson fades and Cruz moves in as the authentic evangelical savior. The polls now show him taking over 2nd place in Iowa and he has a good chance to win it. That was, of course, the plan.
But he does have other hills to climb, as Nate Cohn points out in this piece in the New York Times:
“Very conservative” voters can propel Mr. Cruz to victory in Iowa, a caucus state, but according to exit poll data from 2008 and 2012, those types of voters represent a smaller share of the electorate in every primary state. To win, he will need to broaden his appeal, count on a divided field or hope to face a candidate with even more limited appeal.
In the most recent Quinnipiac survey of Iowa, he had a large 16-point lead among voters who described themselves as “very conservative.” With 38 percent of their support, his strength there was greater than that of any other candidate in any ideological category. But he held the support of just 14 percent of “somewhat conservative” voters and a mere 6 percent of self-described moderate or liberal Republicans. The most recent national Quinnipiac survey showed the same basic breakdown in support for him.
Cohn says this makes the road to the nomination a tough one. Iowa has a very large proportion of Republican voters who call themselves “very conservative” compared to most other states so he will have to do more than what he’s done there to win the nomination. Cohn says:
To win, Mr. Cruz would have a few options. He could do so well among “very conservative” voters that he could swamp his challengers, especially if multiple candidates with more appeal among self-described moderate voters split the rest of the field. He could broaden his appeal among the party’s center — for the “somewhat conservative” voters who tend to play a decisive role in primary contests. Or he could face off against a candidate who has even more narrow appeal than his own — for example, if John Kasich or Chris Christie won the New Hampshire primary. It could also turn out that “very conservative” voters represent a larger share of the electorate than in the past, given the broader trends.
All of these possibilities remain in play for Mr. Cruz. He has strong favorability ratings across the party, which makes it easier to imagine that he could broaden his appeal. There are a large number of well-funded establishment candidates who could split the moderate vote, not to mention Donald Trump, who has underappreciated appeal to moderate voters. New Hampshire could easily vote for Mr. Trump, or a candidate like Mr. Christie or Mr. Kasich, who might have as little appeal to “very conservative” voters as Mr. Cruz does among moderates.
Ted Cruz seems to understand this. The Very Conservative Voters certainly know he is one of them by now. He announced his campaign at a very slick event at Liberty University. One of his Super PACs is run by the Christian Right’s favorite “historian” David Barton. His father is a well-known uber-conservative evangelical preacher and he enthusiastically celebrated the endorsement of Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman, a man who believes doctors who perform abortions should be executed. (There’s no word on whether Ted Cruz agrees.)
He also checks every Tea Party box on Obamacare, taxes, immigration, Iran, guns, religious liberty, refugees, the 10th Amendment, welfare, IRS, you name it. There is nobody in the Congress more conservative than he. And he, more than anyone, has gone the extra mile, pushing to shut down the government and otherwise fulfill the Tea Party pledge to obstruct everything the president proposes. If Cruz’s strategy was to seal the deal with the Very Conservative voters before moving on to phase two, whatever that is, he very systematically went about doing it.
It’s unlikely that he anticipated that this primary would feature the Trump phenomenon or that the field would have so many players. But it’s entirely possible that he knew the battlelines would form around an establishment and an anti-establishment candidate. He’s obviously on the latter track and as Eliana Johnson reported a while back he’s been looking beyond Iowa for some time:
He has referred to the March 1 “SEC primary,” in which eight Southern states go to the polls, as his “firewall”: that is, a backstop against whatever losses he might sustain beforehand. This year, these Southern states will go to the polls before Florida and before the traditional Super Tuesday, a change in the primary calendar instituted by RNC chairman Reince Priebus. Most of those contests, unlike the ones that precede them, are not winner-take-all, and Cruz’s goal is to win the most delegates rather than to take entire states.
Throughout the primary season, Cruz has crisscrossed the South, sweet-talking voters unaccustomed to playing an outsized role in presidential contests. “He has made the largest investment in those Southern states of any candidate,” [GOP strategist]Mackowiak says. “Most of those political leaders in those states have never been asked to participate in the process.”
Texas is one of the “SEC primary” states, and it alone will award 155 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination. Cruz, of course, holds a natural advantage. His team spent over a year developing detailed knowledge of the state’s political contours just three years ago. Mackowiak says there’s a “very real possibility” that Cruz will be the overall delegate leader on March 2.
This indicates that Cruz thinks he can win the Very Conservative vote everywhere. And maybe he has a hunch that vote is bigger this year than people realize. Still, with Trump hanging in there, he has to be thinking about other places where he might differentiate himself from the mainstream. And this week he made a couple of moves that indicate he may be looking to pick up poor Rand Paul’s followers. With the Paul campaign clearly tanking they are up for grabs and Cruz may be making a move to put them in his basket.

Read on to see what he's doing. Its subtle but it could be important.

The most obvious play for Cruz is to inherit Trump's voters when/if he melts down. But that may not happen. So Cruz is working to gather up enough of the remainders to win in some very interesting ways. His campaign is the most strategic and the most disciplined of all the candidates. He's for real.