Scott and Ted
Could Ted Cruz be the One? Yes.
Conventional wisdom, generated inside the Beltway and the media, says he's a crazy conservative and could never be elected to be president. John McCain called him a "wacko-bird" (a moment of immense eloquence, that). The filibuster was said to be the death sentence for the Cruz brand.
I had lunch with Cruz today and about 25 others, and I'm here to tell you it's hogwash. This guy is the real deal. For starters, he will be the smartest guy in any field. Alan Dershowitz, no conservative, called Cruz the smartest student he's ever had at Harvard Law. He was a legendary debater there, and at Princeton. Son of a Cuban immigrant who was tortured by Batista's henchmen, he memorized the U.S. constitution when he was thirteen. The left generally likes to frame conservatives as "dumb," but I don't see how that's possible here. They will go with crazy. And he most definitely isn't.
Cruz is an articulate and passionate conservative, but more than that, it turns out he's very funny, charismatic, and good on his feet. Every answer was precise and spot on, and frequently sprinkled with a great anecdote. Of course, he was speaking to a very conservative bunch, but it's clear he won't change a word of what he says to suit a different audience. This is where Romney had so much trouble; since he wasn't informed by any particular philosophy, he always had to think about his answers and they always seemed carefully calibrated to the room in which he stood.
Here's where we get into the great Republican debate about "electability." You know who was electable? Here's a list:
George H.W. Bush
So, I don't have to piece this together, do I? They all LOST. (Note: Bush 41 did win the first time when he ran as Reagan's heir. He lost the second time when it became apparent that he wasn't.)
Seriously, how many data points do Republicans need? The conventional wisdom, promulgated by consultants and dismissed by Cruz, holds that you run to the right in the primaries and then move to a spot just a smidge to the right of the Democrat in the general. Nixon first said this. The problem is, as a strategy this DOESN'T WORK, because you're not giving Republicans a real reason to turn out. What was Mitt Romney trying to sell us? I still don't know, other than he "wasn't Obama." What did he, or any of the failed candidates above, really believe in? Who knows? Liberalism light? Points of light?
Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, made it clear what he was selling, and as a conservative, he was naturally written off by most as a cowboy with an IQ slightly above room temperature. Perhaps not all there. And this is what the mainstream Republicans were saying about him!
Of course, Reagan beat the establishment candidate, Bush, in the primaries, and then, not changing his tune one bit, eviscerated Jimmy Carter in the general, much to the shock of the intelligentsia everywhere. His first term was then the most conservative four years from the executive branch since Coolidge, and this resulted in winning 49 states against Mondale.
Why has it been so difficult for Republicans to follow this playbook? Well, that's a longer blog post, but one thing is clear: Cruz is following it to the letter. He is basically ignoring the media and the party elders, and he's taking his message straight to the grass roots. You need a spine of steel to do this, but from what I saw today, he's got one.
To Republicans who still think we need a moderate to win, consider this: the press will turn on our guy no matter what. You really think they'll go easy if we nominate Chris Christie? Think again, it's a set up. They played nice with Romney right up until the convention, then they turned on him like hungry sharks. When Romney was accused of being a "murderer" by the Obama campaign, where were they? Nodding their heads in agreement. It was the same with McCain, who was a "maverick" and a "war hero," right up until the general. Then he was just the enemy.
I'm not endorsing Cruz, at least not now. It's way too early for that, and the Republicans have a deep field. Scott Walker and perhaps Rand Paul look interesting. Rubio, we'll see. But I am endorsing the idea that we have to nominate a principled conservative. After the disaster of the Obama years, a very clear and different vision must be articulated by our standard bearer.
No more moderates, my friends.