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    Ted Cruz and the Quest for the GOP Obama

    Ted Cruz's declaration that he's running for President doesn't make a lot of sense from the normal perspective. No one has ever given him any reason to suspect that he could become President. No poll has showed him with even ten percent support.  It only makes sense when you realize who Ted Cruz is modeling himself after: Barack Obama. Of course, he's not like Barack Obama in almost any way. But Ted Cruz doesn't know that. He doesn't see the real Barack Obama. He sees the conservative caricature of Barack Obama, and that's what he's trying to mimic.

    Like Obama eight years ago, Ted Cruz is a first-term US Senator who hasn't achieved much in the Senate yet, but who is popular with some activists in his own party, and who is considered a rising star by some. That much is true. But that's pretty much where the resemblance ends. And that's apparently enough for Cruz to tell himself that he can follow Obama's route to the White House.

    But in the real world, Ted Cruz is nowhere near the path Obama was on in 2007. Cruz doesn't have the base of donors he would need to run an actual campaign. He doesn't have the organization he would need, or the people to set up that organization; most of the talented GOP campaign-runners don't want anything to do with him. And he's got no support from other elected Republicans. Most Republicans hate Ted Cruz. Cruz announcing his candidacy for President is like someone saying that if you overlook his hitting, his fielding, his running, and his throwing, he's a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame someday. Eight years ago, Candidate Obama was already building one of the most formidable national campaign organizations in decades. He had built relationships with major donors. He had major power brokers in his party, people like Ted Kennedy, urging him to run. If Cruz looked seriously at where he is right now and compared it to where Obama was at this point, he'd see how ridiculous he's being.

    But that would mean seeing Barack Obama as he actually is. And the Republicans are committed to seeing Barack Obama as merely a media phenomenon, a guy who might be a talented orator but doesn't have any substance. They're committed to seeing him as an incompetent manager, in over his head. So they don't allow themselves to understand even bottom-line facts about him. They forget about the terrifyingly efficient ground organization he built. They forget that he outplayed and out-strategized Hillary Clinton, who wasn't any naive newcomer. They prefer to believe that Obama is just an unqualified guy who made a couple of nice speeches and got lucky. So Ted Cruz is trying to run as that version of Obama: the reality-free "Imagine" speech he used to kick off his campaign is his idea of an Obama speech. Cruz actually imagines that some vacuous lofty rhetoric might be all he needs.

    Cruz is not only ignoring the practical differences between Obama and himself (like, you know, having a plan and not having a plan). But he also misunderstands the differences between himself and Obama as candidates. Cruz is abrasive where Obama is affable. Cruz is way out on his own party's right wing; Obama has always been comfortably middle-of-the-road for a Democrat, but gets called a crazed radical socialist by the right-wing echo chamber. Instead of comparing himself to the actual Obama and moving toward the middle, Cruz compares himself to the Republican fantasy of Obama and tells himself that if a far-left-winger could win, a far-right-winger can. Of course, a far-left candidate hasn't.

    The Republicans have made this mistake before; their first attempt to run their own Obama wasn't Ted Cruz but Sarah Palin. That seems ridiculous now, but Palin in 2008 looked to the Republicans almost exactly like Obama looked to the Republicans: inexperienced, with no real substance, but charismatic and exciting on the stump. Of course, the weakness in Palin's preparation started to show disastrously early whereas, to some Republicans' mystified frustration, Obama's alleged lack of preparation never gives itself away. The obvious explanation for that is something Republicans don't want to consider.

    And of course the search for a Republican Obama, and Ted Cruz's hopes to follow what he thinks of as Obama's strategy, overlooks a major factor in 2008. One of the reasons that a senator with a short track record in Washington was viable that year, when he wouldn't have been in a normal election cycle, was the Iraq War. The newcomer was viable because the establishment candidates had all voted for a war which, by 2008, voters had come to see as a terrible mistake. Obama was elected as a newcomer because the old guard had screwed everything up so badly. And Republicans don't want to think about that reality at all.



    Obama has always been comfortably middle-of-the-road for a Democrat, but gets called a crazed radical socialist by the right-wing echo chamber.

    Yes, this is a huge problem for them.  They really think he's a socialist.  I can't imagine what they'd make of an actual socialist.  Or even a list of Nixon/Reagan ideas with their names taken off.

    Yes. Basically, they're so committed to their ideology that they can't actually understand what's happening on a pretty basic level, so they can't function.

    If they were cynical and didn't believe what they said about Obama, they'd be better off. But they basically have reached the point where they can't distinguish Dwight Eisenhower ideas from Che Guevara ideas.

    Cruz and Walker say some really dumb things.  Cruz promises to end ACA but then tells how he has to sign up for it now that his wife is on leave from Goldman Sachs. Walker compares protests in Madison by unions to Isis.  They are very bi-polar with messaging. Though I do think Cruz will trail behind JEB and Walker.  

    Cruz has hired Jeff Roe to help with his campaign.  Roe is a down and dirty ruthless guy.  All fingers point to him being behind the ugly whisper campaign that led to the suicide of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich.

    Roe, who's been dubbed the "Karl Rove of Missouri," got his start in politics in 1994, working for Sam Graves, then a GOP state representative from northwestern Missouri running for state Senate. With Roe's help, Graves won that race. Six years later, in 2000, Roe masterminded Graves' successful campaign for Congress.

    Roe went on to helm several of Graves' reelection campaigns, and he became notorious for his aggressive tactics. Graves' campaigns deployed trackers to monitor his opponents, and it frequently seemed that these staffers were trying to unnerve and intimidate their quarry, sometimes holding their cameras directly in the candidates' faces as they spoke. Graves' opponents in these campaigns have described their encounters with Graves' staffers as "close to assault" and "evil." Graves' 2002 challenger, a Democrat named Cathy Rinehart, says she filed a police report after a group of Graves' campaign aides "accosted" her during a parade. (No charges came from her report.) "It was intimidation; it was very threatening," Rinehart, the Clay County assessor, recalls. "They did it the whole campaign." One Graves staffer would drop by the assessor's office almost daily, she remembers, to make sure she was there working. The level of "nastiness" and "intimidation" during the campaign was "very, very, very bad," she says. And she faults Roe for the tone of the campaign.

     It looks like he is planning to make it a real nasty campaign.  

    Outstanding comments.  Really outside-the-box.  The analysis of how Obama won in 2008 is especially strong.

    Thanks, Hal.

    I suspect you'd gain a lot by reading Ted Cruz's Wikipedia page. His background is much much stronger than you give him credit for, including very strong at Harvard Law, work with the NRA & helping to impeach Clinton, arguing for Texas before the Supreme Court, various positions with George W Bush's campaign & administration (including helping draft the successful Bush v Gore suits in Florida & US). He was backed by the Club for Growth and Koch's Freedom Works, along from endorsements from a string of well-known conservative media & political figures.

    Whether Cruz appeals enough to a wide base to win, I don't know, but probably a lot of conservatives think Jeb Bush is too liberal, so will open the money spigots to support the arch-conservative Hispanic to capture that up-and-coming Hispanic demographic. Cruz has a much better chance to pass that conservative litmus test than George Bush Sr or Jr or Mitt Romney. Sure, he didn't build that donor network, but Republicans don't have to - the alliance of Cash-Soaked, Certified Crazy & Craven donors is quite active & eager to fund anyone seen as "one of them", especially post-Citizens' United that's changed the game since Obama came up to the big leagues.

    BTW, his wife is pretty hot stuff as well - Harvard grad, Wall Street investment banker doing M&A's & capital restructuring for big energy companies, now heading Southwest Region for Goldman Sachs Investment branch ($14 billion in investments), plus had stints in the Bush administration - at NSC under Condi Rice, heading up Latin American office at Treasury & helping Zoellick (US Trade Ambassador) with Latin American trade issues.

    So I wouldn't get too complacent. Cruz seems rather well positioned in a number of ways.

    Well, PP, I wasn't speaking of his resume. That he has been a hot-shot isn't up for debate. And The Wikipedia page isn't going to ch age my mind, because I already knew just about all of that. (Josh Marshall has done some especially good-but-awkward reporting on Cruz's Princeton and Harvard Law days; Marshall and his spouse went to Princeton with Cruz, and Marshall's spouse went to law school with him, too.)

    Having gone to Harvard/Yale/Princeton and then Harvard or Yale Law, and having a good career after that, doesn't put you on a glide path to the Presidency. An Ivy League lawyer without endorsements, donors, or a campaign organization is just another schmuck.

    That's pretty strange - you condensed what I'd noted about Cruz to be just his college or "good career".

    You ignored his very good Bush White House & election work, Tea Party connections, ties to the Koch brothers, experience with campaigns & the Supreme Court. e.g. endorsements, donors, campaign organization.

    and you ignore the "2-for-1" possibilities with his wife, who brings in additional White House connections and ties to Wall Street and big energy and Latin American trade (the last one being an interesting new facet with the changing Hispanic demographics).

    Cruz isn't just another raving right-wing Senator. He potentially can be a beard for right-wing Republicans to pretend away their racism. Here's USA Today announcing Cruz raised $2 million in his first 3 days, with 5.7 million Facebook hits (his digital marketing approach looks strong) - . His upcoming fundraiser in Houston has him earmarked for $1.5 million, while meeting with Sheldon Adelson next month. Yes, he may need to warm up small donors, but the big guns make him a threat, and give the Tea Party a major rallying point going into this campaign. I don't much see him as an outsider like LaFollette - more a consummate insider in need of more populist attraction, though the NY Times description of his campaign through New Hampshire makes it sound like he easily shifts message and tone between constituencies.  (In New York, Cruz actually asked conservative Republicans to laugh once in a while - pulling that compassionate/congenial conservative schtick)

    Well, I tried to avoid getting into WAS backed. Those donors DID back him for Senate. There's no sign that they ARE backing him for President, or will.

    Everybody who's gotten to the Senate had donors who helped get them there. But those donors aren't necessarily signing on for a presidential bid. And the signs so far say that they aren't.

    As for the Tea Party, even Tea Party Senator Mike Lee has openly un-endorsed Cruz. 

    "un-endorsed" or simply not endorsing to lessen his political woes at home.

    Hard to imagine why Club for Growth would withhold funds for president, especially if they're PAC funds & not limited direct presidential $. It's promoting their religion. Anyway, many donors will hold off for a bit, but Cruz doesn't seem to be in bad shape for his position. And I still think die-hard conservatives will be reluctant to support Jeb. And it looks like Rand's losing support for not climbing knee deep in the crazy. So surprised.

    Well, we'll see. This question (does he have any realistic shot?) has an answer. Next year around this time, we'll probably know it.

    Sorry, probability isn't "answered" by a particular outcome.

    I think that he is really talking about the possibility that Cruz will be a viable candidate, rather than the probability that Cruz will be a viable candidate.

    No, it's not, especially when we're talking about a simple outcome. (Will Kentucky win March Madness? It's more likely than any other scenario, but might not happen.) Hillary Clinton might have been more likely to win in 2008 than Barack Obama, even though Obama did win.

    But we're not talking about a simple outcome. We're talking about an iterated series of results. all with a wide range of outcomes. The 50 primaries and caucuses aren't either/or propositions, and neither really is the national campaign. You can win or lose by various margins.

    And there are results that tend to confirm (although they cannot absolutely confirm), whether an outcome was likely at all.

    If I tell you that Nomar Garciaparra will never (alas!) be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a player, the fact that Nomar doesn't get elected will not, as you correctly assert, prove me right. And you can rattle off Garciaparra's achievements (multiple batting titles, Rookie of the Year, several All-Star appearances, etc.), and tell me that he's totally a viable candidate.

    But if Garciaparra never gets CLOSE to the margin he needs to be elected, that IS, in practice, a sign that the probability oh him being elected was always very, very low. It's not simply that Nomar won't get in. He won't ever get above 50% of the vote (he needs 75% for election). He will never be a viable candidate.

    Now that I've come up with this example, I've gone and checked; turns out Nomar was on the HoF ballot for the first time this year. He got 5.5% of the vote, behind even Sammy Sosa (also never, ever going into the Hall of Fame). If Nomar gets less than 5% next year, he's off the ballot forever. And that, in practice, does confirm my prediction: this candidate does not have a chance to win.

    If I tell you a could be play Major League Baseball someday and you say I don't have a chance, the test is not whether or not I make the big leagues. The test is whether or not I come close. If I never get as far as the minors, your prediction is largely confirmed.

    I am not just saying that Ted Cruz will not become President. I am not even just saying that Ted Cruz will not get the Republican nomination. I am saying that Ted Cruz will never seriously threaten to win the Republican nomination. He will not be among the top two candidates this time next year.

    If Ted Cruz places third in even ONE of the 2016 primaries, that will be a good result for him. If he gets more than 15% of the vote in any of the early primaries, that will be an excellent result for him. The odds are very, very low that Cruz will ever win 40% of any primary vote. That would only be possible for him at all after the field has narrowed to three, or more likely to two, candidates, and by the time the Republican field is down to two or three Cruz will not be one of them.

    If Ted Cruz finishes second in the GOP primaries, come to Cleveland for the Republican convention and I will buy you a fancy dinner at either the Greenwood Tavern or Lola (your choice). You can hold me to that, PP.

    Yes, as you deduced, I was just pointing out 1 snowfall (weather/incident) doesn't disprove global warming (climate/probability)

    Okay, if Ted Cruz falls apart at the earliest possible moment say, then tends to support that there was never a high probability, no matter what his stats said.

    This is something why a good baseball scout is needed - to cut through the crap of what looks good on paper and get to the real field-test likelihood.

    Since this isn't dice, but a more subjective assessment of "probability", the odds are not specifically defined, so something that a gambler/political junkie can only hope to predict well - even Nate Silver's not 100%, and he's cheating by using polls rather than Hunter S. Thomson-like political instinct - few of those grungy animals left, alas.

    As for your offer of dinner in Cleveland with 100,000 deranged rightists, thanks, I'd rather hit Amsterdam for some rijs tafel say. If I'm allowed to choose my prize.

    Well, I'd say treading water for months without getting traction would be an even better confirmation. (Jon Huntsman didn't fall apart on 2012; he simply never had a shot, and was never anywhere near the winner's circle.) But yes. We're basically agreeing.

    i'm not buying a plane ticket to pay off this friendly bet. My offer stands; you can have the pleasure of DENYING REPUBLICANS A TABLE at one of the two best restaurants downtown during the convention.


    Mark Twain famously said he'd rather decline 2 drinks than 1 German adjective.

    I'll raise that, and offer to decline 2 best restaurants in the most lovely of cities under the loveliest of conditions. First prize 1 week. Second prize 2 weeks.

    I was one of those face book hits.  LOL... I would not read too much into his face book traffic.  He draws attention because he is nutty. 

    Yeah yeah, come out of the closet... ;-)

    I am a face book groupy.  Leave my addiction alone.  It keeps grandma off the streets and out of trouble. 

    Yeah, yeah - watcha got in the bag, sister? Gotta snuff & snort for me too? Back in the day we got addicted to things that were actually fun and bad for us. Nowadays it's all virtual vicarious thrills, life from a distance. Like that facething - if I wanna get up in someone's face, I wanna see their nose hairs and smell their bad breath, maybe suck face a bit. Something's missing in this brave new world - people be bogarting.

    This is a fascinating analysis of the way the Republicans misunderstood and continue to misunderstand Obama. But I wonder if Ted Cruz is a bit more complex than some of his compatriots. We tend to assume that presidential candidates believe they can win. Why else would they go through the hell of a campaign? But there are good reasons to run even if you don't expect to win. A presidential campaign provides a national platform for both self-promotion and ideological promotion. You can position yourself as a factional leader, become a kingmaker, negotiate the party platform, promote your agenda, draw the front runner away from the center, and prepare the way for future presidential campaigns. It seems to me that Ted Cruz has much to gain from running for president in 2016 even if he doesn't have a shot at winning.

    That's a good point. And it may well be true. Certainly. Last time around we saw a bunch of no-hope candidates who just wanted some profile.

    But one of the striking things about Cruz's candidacy is how many Republican heavyweights have come out immediately and explicitly DIS-endorsing him, going on the record that they do NOT support him. That's a sign that rather than building his brand, he's making people angry. Of course, antagonizing other Republicans with grandstanding is already Cruz's MO, so he may actually see that as some form of strategy.

    Antagonizing other Republicans isn't just Cruz's MO. It's his brand. His constituency is largely made up of disaffected conservatives who like the way he defies the GOP establishment. So running for president right now does in fact build his brand.

    Effective strategy? The fact that the media spends so much time discussing a freshman senator (who came out of nowhere to defeat the establishment's Senate choice in Texas), suggests that it is.

    Yes. A media strategy, But not necessarily a strategy for anything but the media.

    I would return to the Palin comparison. Cruz has enormous buzz on cable news, but is totally out of all the discussions where real decisions are made.

    The media's collusion in a deeply unrealistic Presidential campaign raises other questions, The media is no longer covering political reality, let alone policy reality at all. They can't tell Cruz and Palin from Obama either.

    It's an insurgent strategy, which by definition leaves him out of discussions where "real decisions" are made. The question is whether he can influence such decisions from the outside. 

    For a historical comparison, consider Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1992. The establishment hated him, the media mocked him, and he never had a shot at winning the presidency, yet he drove Bush Sr. to the right and negotiated a keynote slot at the convention where he delivered his famous (and influential) culture war speech.

    As a senator, Cruz is bigger than Buchanan and bigger than Palin, neither of whom held office after their national campaigns. By contrast, Cruz captured the spotlight even before running for president, and he's a hell of a lot smarter than either of them. He won't win the presidency, but he will raise his profile, particularly among the wingnuts on the right.

    Those wingnuts do not get to make "real decisions," but they do have a very pernicious influence on national and local politics. So if Cruz succeeds in becoming king of the wingnuts, he will still be an outsider, but he will have real influence.

    Yes, that's true. You can make a good case for the Evil Bob LaFollette strategy.

    Then it's fairer to say that Cruz's real goal is not to beat Hillary or Jeb, but to dethrone Palin.

    Yeah, I do have LF in mind, and perhaps I'm just projecting, but their tactics are very similar and so is the criticism. LF was also dismissed as a media showboat with no chance of winning.

    It's not LF didn't think he could become president. Rather, he saw himself as a general in a long-term ideological war in which his presidential campaigns were part of the offensive. Cruz has also made remarks that suggest he views politics the same way.

    Michael, what about on a personality basis, was LF any more or less likable than Cruz?

    I think dethroning Palin is closest to what is relevant here, bringing with it the possibility of a V.P.slot.

    Although the idea of Ted Cruz getting the Republican nomination thrills me, it scares me, too. Not only would it mean there are more crazy people in this country than I think there are, it also means he has a CHANCE, however small, of being our next president. Given how so many people tend to vote w/o putting their thinking caps on first, it could happen. I'm not sure how I could even COPE with that!

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