Ted Cruz Is Finished

The trouble-making junior senator from Texas is great at talking to one kind of voter, not at reaching all Republicans — a problem that precludes a 2016 win.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to reporters after he spoke on the Senate floor for more than 21 hours September 25, 2013 on Capitol Hill.
National Journal
Beth Reinhard
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Beth Reinhard
Oct. 17, 2013, 11:49 a.m.

At a con­ven­tion of more than 2,000 re­li­gious con­ser­vat­ives last week, Ted Cruz worked the crowd like the son of a preach­er man knows how. Un­like Sen­ate col­leagues and pos­sible 2016 rivals Marco Ru­bio and Rand Paul, Cruz stepped away from the po­di­um and strode back and forth across the stage with out­stretched arms. A day later, a straw poll showed him to be the run­away fa­vor­ite.

But out­side that Val­ues Voter Sum­mit, there is little ap­plause for Cruz. After a 21-hour speech on the Sen­ate floor de­fy­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s health care law launched a gov­ern­ment shut­down and drove the na­tion to the edge of de­fault, most Amer­ic­ans take a dim view of Cruz’s all-or-noth­ing tac­tics.

“He’s a niche can­did­ate who is only pop­u­lar in talk-ra­dio fantasy land,” said Steve Schmidt, a top ad­viser to 2008 nom­in­ee John Mc­Cain.

Polls are already cap­tur­ing the dis­con­nect between the con­ser­vat­ive grass­roots and the rest of the coun­try when it comes to the sen­at­or from Texas. Fa­vor­able views of Cruz among tea-party Re­pub­lic­ans soared by 27 points since Ju­ly, but un­fa­vor­able opin­ions among oth­er adults jumped 15 points, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

So, un­less Cruz ex­pands his ap­peal bey­ond that Val­ues Voter hotel ball­room (and ral­ly­ing with scorned 2008 vice pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Sarah Pal­in last week shows he isn’t even try­ing), the na­tion­al am­bi­tions sug­ges­ted by his fre­quent trips to early primary states will nev­er trans­late in­to a win.

“He will cer­tainly have a loud cheer­ing sec­tion of value voters, and we will see wheth­er the Re­pub­lic­an Party wants to nom­in­ate someone with no ex­per­i­ence, no lead­er­ship, and no chance of win­ning a gen­er­al elec­tion,” said Schmidt, who is vice chair­man of pub­lic af­fairs for Edel­man, one of the world’s largest pub­lic-re­la­tions firms.

The tests that voters typ­ic­ally put be­fore would-be pres­id­ents go bey­ond Cruz’s demon­strated skill set. While his fiery rhet­or­ic and con­front­a­tion­al style rev up con­ser­vat­ive audi­ences, those same qual­it­ies are likely to pre­clude him from passing one of those cent­ral as­sess­ments: Can this man be trus­ted with the red phone, the nuc­le­ar codes, or, as Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton called the for­eign policy test in her 2008 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, the 3 a.m. call? When it comes to choos­ing a com­mand­er in chief, voters look for a steady hand, not a fist pump.

Even Cruz’s base is start­ing to erode. After egging on Cap­it­ol Hill the last few weeks, the Hou­s­ton Chron­icle — the ho­met­own news­pa­per that en­dorsed Cruz in his 2012 Sen­ate cam­paign — was wist­ful over the ab­sence of his more tem­per­ate pre­de­cessor, Re­pub­lic­an Kay Bailey Hutchis­on. “Cruz has been part of the prob­lem in spe­cif­ic situ­ations where Hutchis­on would have been part of the solu­tion,” the news­pa­per ed­it­or­i­al­ized. Jam­ie Wein­stein, seni­or ed­it­or of the right-lean­ing Daily Caller, pre­dicted this week that “if the con­ser­vat­ive grass­roots con­tin­ue to fol­low Cruz, they will be led from the cur-rent gov­ern­ment shut­down to fu­ture elect­or­al shut­downs.”

And if that wer­en’t enough, the budget show­down has put Cruz squarely at odds with one of the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s most im­port­ant con­stitu­en­cies: the busi­ness com­munity. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, in a joint let­ter with the AFL-CIO, urged Con­gress and Pres­id­ent Obama to re­solve the con­flict, call­ing the shut­down “harm­ful and the risk of de­fault po­ten­tially cata­stroph­ic for our fra­-gile eco­nomy.”

Cruz’s latest fun­drais­ing re­port shows suc­cess lur­ing small, grass­roots donors — 93 per­cent of the 12,000 dona­tions in the past three months were un­der $100. But ma­jor donors say he has ali­en­ated the ti­tans of in­dustry who have long fueled GOP cam­paigns. “I cer­tainly wouldn’t write him a check,” said Al Hoff­man, former fin­ance dir­ect­or for the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee and a Flor­ida real-es­tate de­veloper. “He’s go­ing to have a tough time. These tea-party Re­pub­lic­ans are so out of con­trol and un­reas­on­able that there’s few big donors who are go­ing to open up their pock­et­books.”

An­oth­er mega-donor who has ad­vised four Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­ents, Fred Malek, said the shut­down in­creased the like­li­hood that the next GOP nom­in­ee will come from a state cap­it­al. “The re­cent de­bacle in Wash­ing­ton will make the vast ma­jor­ity of Re­pub­lic­ans more con­fid­ent about nom­in­at­ing a gov­ernor than someone who comes out of the Con­gress,” he said.

Cruz’s Cuban-Amer­ic­an her­it­age would ap­pear to be an as­set at a time when the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s path back to the White House runs through the fast-grow­ing His­pan­ic com­munity. Ex­cept that he fiercely op­poses two is­sues dear to His­pan­ic voters: com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form and the new health care law. (A Pew Re­search Cen­ter/USA Today poll in Septem­ber found that 61 per­cent of His­pan­ics ap­prove of the Af­ford­able Care Act.) “He took on a piece of le­gis­la­tion that’s more pop­u­lar among His­pan­ics than the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion, so his bio­graphy is not go­ing to help much,” said Gary Se­gura, a prin­cip­al of the Latino De­cisions polling firm and a Stan­ford Uni­versity pro­fess­or of Amer­ic­an polit­ics.

Next Fri­day, Ted Cruz is slated to head­line the Re­pub­lic­an Party of Iowa’s Ron­ald Re­agan Com­mem­or­ative Din­ner. He can ex­pect a stand­ing ova­tion from an audi­ence dom­in­ated by con­ser­vat­ive act­iv­ists. But when he walks out­side the con­ven­tion cen­ter in Des Moines and travels across the coun­try, he’ll likely find few oth­er people cheer­ing.

What We're Following See More »
FCC Tightens Internet Privacy Standards
3 hours ago

Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to tighten privacy standards for Internet service providers. "The regulations will require providers to receive explicit customer consent before using an individual’s web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes. The broadband industry fought to keep that obligation out of the rules."

Obama Commutes Another 98 Sentences
4 hours ago

President Obama commuted the sentences of another 98 drug offenders on Thursday. Most of the convicts were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs or possession with intent to distribute. Many of the sentences were commuted to expire next year, but some will run longer. Others are required to enroll in residential drug treatment as a condition of their release.

DOJ Busts More Than 50 for Call Center Scam
4 hours ago

The Department of Justice announced today it's charged "61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization that has victimized tens of thousands of persons in the United States through fraudulent schemes that have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. In connection with the scheme, 20 individuals were arrested today in the United States and 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement. An additional U.S.-based defendant is currently in the custody of immigration authorities."

Johnson on Ballot Everywhere, Followed by Stein, McMullin
6 hours ago
Is McMullin Building the GOP in Exile?
8 hours ago

Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.