The 2014 midterm elections are just barely on the horizon but the wheels of 2016 are always turning for pundits and would-be contenders. Recent reports in Politico and National Review say that Texas Senator Ted Cruz is mulling a 2016 presidential run, a decision that would shake up the race considerably. But his deeply conservative ideological bent would be both a boon for him and a problem.
“As a partisan — because I’m a Democrat, I love it,” says Valerie Jane Martinez-Ebers, professor at the University of North Texas. “As a political scientist, he’s a crazy man whose chances are marginal.”
Martinez-Ebers says Cruz has to get in line behind Marco Rubio and Rand Paul who have emerged as the top 2016 contenders. “He can’t deliver the Hispanic vote for the GOP,” she says. “Marco Rubio has a better chance. If I was a Republican strategist I would prefer Rubio because he at least can deliver Florida.”
But Republican strategists won’t be choosing the eventual nominee — conservative GOP voters in early primary and caucus states will be — and Cruz, who takes on Democrats and fellow Republicans alike, appeals to the base.
“He could win the Republican nomination, that’s entirely possible,” says Latino Decisions political scientist Sylvia Manzano. “That’s why Mitt Romney won. He presented himself as more conservative than Rick Perry, especially on immigration. Perry fell in polls because Romney kept batting him down on in-state tuition for undocumented students in Texas.”
Manzano says Cruz would do damage — but only to a certain point.
“He has an appeal to a very active part of the electorate, the conservative segment of the electorate, but that’s not enough to win an election,” she says. “He can win a lot of prestigious offices like the one he holds now, in the South and in many congressional districts. But he has very extreme positions and most voters aren’t extremely anything.”
Manzano says Cruz’s conservative bonafides mean he would immediately outflank everyone on the right, creating a big problem for the likes of Rubio and Paul. “He’s a threat to Marco Rubio,” she says. “Cruz is much more comfortable taking contrary positions and enjoys the publicity that comes with it.”
Recently, Cruz was on the receiving end of his usual accolades from conservatives and condemnation from others, when a Youtube video came out showing him divulging information from off-the-record meetings with GOP Senators to constituents. “Those videos don’t come out by accident,” Manzano says. “The New York Times publishes that, he posts it on his website too. It’s really good for business.”
Martinez-Ebers says that while the base would love Cruz during the primaries, it’s not a foregone conclusion that he would get much of the conservative vote. “It would split the Tea Party vote,” she says, between Rubio, Paul and Cruz. “He wouldn’t be a unanimous choice.”
She say Democrats would be salivating over Cruz winning the Republican nomination. “They would love nothing more than for him to get the nomination or vice president,” she says. “He doesn’t bring anything to the ticket. He would really hurt them with minority voters and they’re going to have to do better with non-whites if they’re going to win a presidential election.”
Martinez-Ebers says Rubio and Cruz are studies in two contenders who have handled being Latino very differently. “Ted Cruz didn’t identify as Hispanic until he was forced to, he was reluctant to reveal how his family came from Cuba. Marco Rubio embraced it.”
She says comparisons between the two Cuban Senators will only intensify as 2016 nears.
“They’re destined to clash.”