Sen. Ted Cruz has the left running scared. Why else would mega-billionaire George Soros single him out, along with Donald Trump, in an op-ed in leftist The Guardian? Soros urged liberals to “resist the siren song of the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, however hard that may be.”
Soros referenced the siren song in regards to ISIS, but the American political landscape—on domestic, foreign, social, immigration, and national security-related policies—places Cruz in a very good position to catapult into the lead. And the left is planning the general election starting right now. With Hillary Clinton as their generalissimo, they’re plotting the strategies to bring down Cruz, either before the nomination, or head to head.
Like Danny Ocean, the Democrats have some tricks in their grifter bag to throw at Cruz. They’d love to stick The Gilroy on Cruz supporters, seducing them to stay home on election day, while rousing their own base to show up for free stuff. From the con men who brought us Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary, we will expose these grifts to the clear air.
Erick already unpacked The Goldwater, where the left tries to make Cruz appear too conservative to elect. The Goldwater is a press invention for lazy journalists to fill column-inches and design clickbait headlines. It went out of style with Barry Goldwater, but has been dredged up every since, from Bob Dole to John McCain to Mitt Romney. We will move on from it and examine the other swindles.
The Nixon (1968 version)
The pitch: Obviously, we’re not dealing with Watergate and scandal. This is about likability. Nixon came off as a straight man’s straight man. He was not suave. The Left tried, without much effect, to play this on Romney in 2012, but concluded:
Based on the historical evidence I doubt that Romney’s likability deficit will play a significant role in the coming election. My (admittedly impressionistic) view is that Romney is in the same ballpark as Nixon or the first President Bush. If Romney loses, it will be because the public believes that Obama has done a good enough job to continue or that Romney has not advanced a credible recovery program. “Voters didn’t like my personality” is a loser’s excuse.
The play: Even though likability is historically and scientifically discredited by voting records, in a general election against Hillary, the left will have to use it. Have to, in the sense that they can’t bear to elevate Hillary Clinton, one of the most dislikable people in politics, without at least making the argument that Cruz is equally boorish.
The Democrats will try to capitalize on Cruz’s speaking ability, painting it as “slick.” Conservative Charles Cooke at National Review has warned Cruz of the danger in parsing words “like a slick lawyer.” And there’s the problem: Cruz is a slick lawyer, but “slick” in the sense of polished and prepared. Hillary is “slick” in the sense of “coated with grease.” If Hillary, wife of Mr. Slick himself, goes against Cruz, she will beat him mercilessly with the same stick.
The catch: Cruz is no Rubio—he doesn’t project a youthful, playful image in a large public setting. In a smaller personal setting, Cruz is as engaging and open, and yes, playful, as anyone. When he jumped from the platform after a warm welcome and rousing speech at the 2015 RedState Gathering in Atlanta, he was mobbed by adoring fans like he was Mick Jagger crowdsurfing at a Stones concert. Sure, that was a friendly crowd, but none of the other candidates stuck around to personally meet the crowd after their speeches (and other candidates also received a very friendly reception).
Cruz’s redemption will come from his approachability. He may be slick on camera, but he’s engaging in person. Hillary is not. There will be no moving rope lines or Scooby minivans in the Cruz general election campaign.
The pitch: Get Cruz to make a gaffe, then get him to admit it publicly. Use any means to capture it on video and then tie it to him like an anchor.
The play: They’ll haul out the anchor of the “47 percent” comment. Romney privately told donors that locked-in Obama voters will not be his problem, saying he doesn’t “worry about those people.” It was a private remark to his own supporters, but of course the Left hooked it like a treasure haul from the sea bottom. They tied it to Romney’s neck, got him to admit how it hurt him (making the anchor even heavier), then trotted out statements in the Washington Post like “Romney’s admission of the damage done got us to thinking (again) about why exactly the remark hurt him so badly.”
The catch: The media has tried this with Cruz, and it landed with the impact of a feather. The New York Times published Cruz’s remarks at a Manhattan fundraiser about how neither Donald Trump or Ben Carson would win the presidency. “People run as who they are. I believe gravity will bring both of those campaigns down,” they quoted him. It didn’t stick.
Cruz is a shrewd debater (likely the shrewdest in the field, bar none), and any shrewd debater knows that the best way to sink your opponent is to help them make their own argument. Praise them for their sterling logic without admitting anything. Then hit back with your own better logic and arguments. Cruz is playing it by his champion debate book: letting Trump be Trump, and giving the brawler nothing with which to land an effective counterpunch.
As much as the press has tried to bait Cruz into attacking Trump, it’s not happening. For now, Cruz is keeping cool and letting the (actual voting) polls speak for themselves.
The pitch: Tie some unfortunate imagery or wacko supporters to Cruz. Huffington Post’s Daniel Kurtzman made a career of this in 2008 with McCain and Palin.
The play: Palin, sadly, gave the media a cornucopia of ammunition. From seeing Russia from her front porch, to “Troopergate,” the media had a field day with the Alaska governor. The fact that Palin was a misfit for the beltway-elite McCain didn’t help matters; they frequently worked against each other. In 2008, the Tea party was a new thing, and Washington advisers thought the GOP could simply appease those voters with optics.
Palin was supposed to be a cipher, there for her gender and her outsider status, but she ended up being a huge liability. It wasn’t because she wasn’t fit to serve as VP (we could go on about Dan Quayle or Nelson Rockefeller, never mind Walter Mondale)—but because she was such a misfit to McCain’s buttoned-down campaign staff.
The catch: Cruz, for now, has the wonderful situation of being Mars adjacent to Jupiter. All the asteroids have been cleared out by the much larger gravitational pull of Trump, who sweeps the alt.right “you’re a cuckservative” crowd into his considerable orbit. And it doesn’t seem to harm Trump, who’s inoculated to kooks and ugly racists. This keeps them well out of Cruz’s hair, and allows him to run a very professional, clean campaign.
How this would play out in a general election scenario remains to be seen. Of course, among Tea partiers, having Trump on the ticket as VP would be a wet dream, but (a) that’s pretty unlikely given Trump’s Jupiter-sized ego, and (b) it would be much, much worse than McCain/Palin. Cruz can carry the conservative banner himself, and go for a VP who offers respectability, geniality, and a squeaky-clean resume. I expect the vetting process is well underway for this eventuality.
Reagan picked George H.W. Bush, one of the friendliest, most congenial gentlemen ever to occupy the RNC chairman’s office, to be his VP. Bush had nothing anyone could pin on Reagan. It was brilliant. Cruz would do well to follow that model.
The pitch: Get Cruz to flip-flop on something, anything. TIME was able to hang torture on McCain’s neck in 2008, with him first against, then defending, waterboarding. It was mildly effective in countering the war hero/P.O.W. image the old war horse carried with him.
The play: The liberal media has plenty of material here, from 2013’s government shutdown, to his calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the floor of the Senate. The play is to make Cruz admit some wrong, or walk back any of his comments, then let him hoist himself on his own petard with them.
The catch: Actually Sen. Marco Rubio has best exploited this strategy, pointing out in December’s debate that Cruz supported laws that allow “those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows,” reasonably interpreting that as some pathway to legal status. Unfortunately, for the Left, both the nature of the flp-flop—moving further to the right—and the subject of illegal immigration makes it difficult for them to capitalize on this.
Cruz defended his actions from 2013, and turned the conversation into a wonky, tactical discussion on bipartisan politics. That put the glaze on most voters eyes, and offered no real red meat for Cruz opponents. Even Rubio couldn’t do much with it.
The pitch: This grift comes from the Democrat side of the aisle, based on Teresa Heinz Kerry. She’s rich—the heiress of the H. J. Heinz ketchup fortune. The “look at Heidi Cruz” parade has been gearing up for a while.
The play: Mrs. Cruz is an investment banker. The title itself just drips with money-laced derision. Worse, she is on leave of absence from Goldman Sachs. She might as well have hung up her black armor from the halls of Barad Dur. The left will paint her as a rich hypocrite, hoping to get Cruz to leap to her defense, when they can pack every evil thing Goldman Sachs has ever done into cement overshoes and fit them nicely to Cruz’s feet.
This play will happen, no matter what else transpires. During the primary season, it might even come up as a desperate attempt by other GOP candidates to knock Cruz off the mountain. Trump is too canny to start it (and there’s a risk of backfire) but he’d certainly take opportunistic potshots should anyone else bring it up. The liberal media will join in the fray if given 1/100th of a chance.
The catch: Heidi Cruz is a mother, a God-fearing woman who is really, honestly head-over-heels in love with her spouse. With the recent attacks from The Washington Post on Cruz’s kids, the media has to be careful about going after the family (they called it a “gift” to Cruz). And with attention now devoted to Bill Clinton as “fair game” and Trump’s marital meltdowns, Cruz seems small potatoes at this point.
During a general election against the Clintonistas, it’s pretty unlikely the investment banker attack will get the Democrats any territory, other than further exposing Bill and Hillary’s cashola pay-to-play State Department Bank of Favors. They really don’t want to do that (but they’ll do it because they can’t help themselves). If it comes down to Trump banker-bashing in the primaries, it’s very possible this could be the issue that prompts Cruz to counterpunch his compadre and back-slapping friend Donald.
Elections are about getting your opponent’s potential voters to stay home, and getting yours to show up. It’s great to actually win voters from the other candidate, but in reality that’s just gravy. Painting yourself as the underdog, the savior, and your campaign as the Cause For All Eternity to your own supporters, while painting your opponent as unelectable, unlikable, untrustworthy, and wacky to their own supporters is the essence of the game.
We know that a core of Democrats will vote for a Capuchin monkey if it’s got a “D” next to it on the ballot. There are some number of dyed-in-the-wool Republicans who would vote for any clown on the ballot (even Gov. John Kasich does well in some states). But Cruz offers actual conservatives the best hope of occupying the White House, and more than anything, that frightens actual liberals.
Cruz is sharp, and should he get the nomination, he will be well prepared for the media-Clinton axis of power. Surely they’ll throw all these scams out into the public, along with others. For my part, Cruz is, put simply, the real thing. That is going to play better than any of the scams of the Left.