During the 2012 election cycle I occasionally ran stories declaring that various Republicans being touted as White House material “will never be president.” Sarah Palin after her narcissistic Gabby Giffords meltdown; Newt Gingrich early in his race-baiting campaign; Mitt Romney after his British Olympics screw-up.
I batted 1.000 for that cycle, but it was easy. In 2016, Republicans won’t be facing a Democratic incumbent, so somebody has a shot. I recently wrote that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will never be president, due to his out-of-control anger issues, but candidly, I think that’s my riskiest one yet.
I feel no risk in stating unequivocally that despite the delusions of his Senate staffers and supporters, who told the National Review’s Robert Costa that they expect him to run in 2016, far-right Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will never be president. Costa is a good reporter with excellent sources; it’s a good story. I’m not doubting its veracity. So far he’s been more circumspect about his 2016 plans than Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, which some people attributed to questions about his eligibility for the presidency (he was born in Canada but his mother was a U.S. citizen). The story states clearly that Cruz’s legal advisers say he’d have no problem with eligibility. So there are unlikely to be Cruz “birthers”; Democrats don’t do xenophobia and racism quite like the far right, which loves Cruz.
And according to Costa, the Cruz boom isn’t just delusion within his office, or on the outer fringe of the Tea Party. “If you don’t think this is real, then you’re not paying attention,” an unnamed “Republican insider” told Costa. “Cruz already has grassroots on his side, and in this climate, that’s all he may need.”
Costa’s story comes a day after our Alex Pareene laid out how the arrogant Cruz is alienating members of his own party – he recently called them “squishes” – by hyping his role in defeating background checks. No doubt this news of his 2016 dreams only 100 days into his first Senate term will further alienate many colleagues. But there’s no doubt he’s endeared himself to the party’s far right by belittling Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her constitutional knowledge and maligning Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with such malevolence that Sen. John McCain rebuked him. Tailgunner Ted – he even looks like Joe McCarthy – also thrilled conservatives by claiming there were 12 “communists” on the faculty when he studied at Harvard Law School (I don’t think he was including Obama).
Cruz will certainly scratch an itch on the right. Just as in 2012, there will be two different contests for the GOP in 2016 – the Tea Party primary, and then the contest for the actual candidate. One person might win both, but it’s hard to imagine. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry each took a turn as Tea Party darling, and Bachmann and Cain actually took turns as front-runners, but all were fairly laughable throughout.
In 2016, that Tea Party primary will likely include Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio – Ted Cruz’s addition would hurt both of them, but competition among the three right-wingers might also help the chances of a Chris Christie or even Jeb Bush.
Costa also tweeted out some key points from his story, and this one was interesting:
Movement players who are mixed on Paul, sour on Christie, anti-Jeb, and disappointed in Rubio are actively looking for a new candidate
They’re “disappointed” in Rubio because of his immigration reform push, and “mixed” on Paul probably because he’s such a loon – one month filibustering over the use of drones, the next month saying we should use drones against domestic criminals. Paul doesn’t seem quite ready for prime time, let alone the Oval Office. That certainly leaves room for the smooth Cruz as the Tea Party favorite unsullied by compromise, and relatively sane – but expert in the kind of crazy the Tea Party likes.
But Cruz is a far-right ideologue. Despite his surname, he’s unlikely to help the GOP win over Latinos – he only got 35 percent of the Texas Latino vote in 2012, less than John Cornyn got in 2010, and besides, he sometimes plays down his Latino (Cuban) roots, proclaiming himself Irish and Italian (on his mother’s side) as well. He’s positioning himself to win the Tea Party primary but he’ll never win a general election.
Still, he’s even making a sly run into blue-state territory, headlining the New York Republican Party’s dinner May 29. He might rake in Wall Street cash – PayPal libertarian gazillionaire Peter Thiel is a big fan, and Cruz’s wife works for Goldman Sachs — but most New York Republicans are unlikely to forgive his vote against Hurricane Sandy aid. Here’s hoping Rep. Peter King can pause his anti-Muslim grandstanding to remind New Yorkers they shouldn’t let a man who wouldn’t give them Sandy funding use them as an ATM. We’ll keep you posted.