The Real Rand Paul-Ted Cruz Battle Is Only Just Beginning

While their faux rivalry soaks up media attention, the senators are moving closer to an inevitable clash.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (L) and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) arrive for the 'Exempt America from Obamacare' rally, on Capitol Hill, September 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. Some conservative lawmakers are making a push to try to defund the health care law as part of the debates over the budget and funding the federal government.
National Journal
Emma Roller
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Emma Roller
March 20, 2014, 1 a.m.

Run, Ted, run.

That’s the mes­sage a new su­per PAC cam­paign, an­nounced Wed­nes­day, is send­ing to the ju­ni­or sen­at­or from Texas. Sen. Ted Cruz’s former re­gion­al dir­ect­or, Raz Shafer, an­nounced his de­par­ture from Cruz’s of­fice to run the or­gan­iz­a­tion, Draft Ted Cruz for Pres­id­ent, in the con­ser­vat­ive blog Red­State.

“When Re­pub­lic­ans run for the White House as con­ser­vat­ives, we win. When they run as mod­er­ates, we lose,” Shafer wrote. “When Re­pub­lic­ans were ready to cave on gun con­trol in early 2013, Ted Cruz was one of the few who fought to stop it. When Re­pub­lic­ans were ready to roll over on Obama­care, Ted Cruz re­fused. And when Re­pub­lic­ans tried to de­ceive their con­stitu­ents on the debt lim­it, Ted Cruz re­fused to go along and fought for us.”

While his former staff was en­cour­aging him to run for the White House, Cruz was (where else?) in Iowa. He’s vis­ited the state four times in the last eight months — more than any oth­er rumored Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial con­tender, with one ex­cep­tion — Rand Paul.

The me­dia nar­rat­ive over the past couple weeks has fo­cused on the dif­fer­ences between Cruz and Paul, who are both mak­ing their pres­id­en­tial am­bi­tions more and more clear. (A smart piece writ­ten by Jason Zengerle in The New Re­pub­lic re­cently shows how Paul and Cruz have ac­tu­ally switched per­son­al­it­ies since ar­riv­ing in Wash­ing­ton.)

And they’ve had some drama, at least by D.C. stand­ards. It star­ted when Cruz com­pared his for­eign policy agenda to that of Ron­ald Re­agan, and said his philo­sophy falls some­where between Sen. John Mc­Cain and Paul. The next day, Paul wrote a column for Breit­bart im­ply­ing that hawk­ish Re­pub­lic­ans like Cruz mis­rep­res­ent Re­agan’s true vis­ion.

On Dana Loesch’s ra­dio show Wed­nes­day, Cruz dis­pelled the drama between him and Paul. “I love Rand Paul,” he told Loesch. “He is a good friend, he is a tre­mend­ous voice for liberty, and I’m proud to stand with Rand.”

Dur­ing his stop in Iowa, Cruz also hit the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for hav­ing “badly bungled” the situ­ation in Ukraine, and called school choice “the civil-rights is­sue of the 21st cen­tury.”

While Cruz spoke to Chris­ti­an con­ser­vat­ives in Iowa, Paul vis­ited the Bay Area to speak at the Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia (Berke­ley) — not ex­actly a bas­tion of con­ser­vat­ism — about the U.S. “dysto­pi­an night­mare.” And Paul’s pres­id­en­tial am­bi­tions are no secret, either. The Ken­tucky Sen­ate re­cently passed a bill en­sur­ing Paul could con­cur­rently run for Sen­ate and pres­id­ent in 2016.

Paul has said the Re­pub­lic­an Party should “agree to dis­agree” on so­cial is­sues in or­der to wel­come more voters in­to the fold.

“The Re­pub­lic­an Party is not go­ing to give up on hav­ing quite a few people who do be­lieve in tra­di­tion­al mar­riage,” Paul told the web­site Voc­at­iv. “But the Re­pub­lic­an Party also has to find a place for young people and oth­ers who don’t want to be fes­tooned by those is­sues.”

Cruz begs to dif­fer.

“I think we’ve seen that in or­der for the Re­pub­lic­an Party to suc­ceed, we need to be a big tent. We need to em­brace Amer­ic­an val­ues,” he told the Des Moines Re­gister. “There are some who say the Re­pub­lic­an Party should no longer stand for life. I don’t agree with them. There are some who say the Re­pub­lic­an party should no longer stand for tra­di­tion­al mar­riage. I don’t agree with them either. I think we should con­tin­ue to de­fend our shared val­ues.”

But when asked if that meant that he dis­agreed with Paul, Cruz de­murred. While polit­ic­al news out­lets like to hype a “polit­ic­al rivalry” as much as pos­sible, the real fire­works between Cruz and Paul are years in the mak­ing — we’ll have to wait for the 2016 Re­pub­lic­an primary de­bates for those.

In the mean­time, the Draft Ted Cruz cam­paign hopes to gath­er 1 mil­lion sig­na­tures en­cour­aging Cruz to run. As of this writ­ing, the web­site had gathered a little more than 400 sig­na­tures.

But Cruz has shown he doesn’t ex­actly need ex­tra con­vin­cing.

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