Cruz's game plan
I wrote about Ted Cruz for Salon this morning. Keep your eye on him. He's the natural heir to the Trump/Carson freakshow:
Trump is running on xenophobia and his own massive ego. Carson is an orthodox social conservative. Both are non-professional politicians who revel in saying what the right wing really thinks without regard to “political correctness” (also known as good manners and basic human decency). Their voters are thrilled to have a couple of candidates who “speak for them.” The problem is that neither of them are likely to be able to win a general election, and at some point enough voters may sober up and realize that. At that point they may very well look around and see that Cruz is a hated political professional, but he’s just as good at channeling their rage and believes just as fervently in in every crackpot idea that they do. And while he may be a senator, it will certainly impress them to know that he’s loathed by everyone in the Senate and all but the most radical right wingers in the House. If that’s not a sign of true conservative principle, they don’t know what is.
The campaign has been getting in position for a long time. Steve Deace, an Iowa-based talk-radio host who has endorsed Cruz, says that as far back as August of 2013, Cruz was asking him to set up meetings with top Iowa activists. Now, Deace says, the Texas senator has “the best [Iowa] organization I’ve ever seen,” composed of the sort of dedicated activists who put Rick Santorum over the finish line four years ago.
Cruz also has a plan beyond Iowa. 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.
And again, Cruz has plenty of money and isn’t hemorrhaging millions as Scott Walker did. He can certainly get more of it if he needs to.
And here’s something
to make Democrats wake up in the middle of the night screaming:
“He’s in an incredibly strong position,” says David Bossie, the president of the conservative activist group Citizens United. “If Ted Cruz does not win the nomination, he is gonna come back to the United States Senate as the most powerful senator, even without the title of majority leader.”
Cruz may just be the most powerful leader in the House as well. This piece
by Steve Benen at Maddowblog lays out Cruz’s influence with the rump extremists who pushed out John Boehner and show no signs of moderating their destructive tactics. He’s their putative leader, king of the shutdowns, emperor of the obstructionists. Indeed, he was off the campaign trail yesterday huddling with House members
about how to handle the Speaker’s contest