I swear. It’s like people don’t even read these columns. Last week, I specifically wrote that 2016 presidential contenders should wait to declare their candidacy. Instead, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy via his Twitter page early Monday morning. Once again, politicians are bypassing traditional media in an attempt to speak directly with the general population (how many of my columns can I link to in 800 words?).
Most of us know who Ted Cruz is by this point. The outspoken U.S. senator from Texas won his 2012 Senate campaign handedly and has been stirring up controversy ever since moving to Washington, D.C. He made national headlines in late 2013 for “filibustering” extensions to Obamacare. Filibustering is in quotations because it wasn’t an actual filibuster — Cruz just reserved the podium 24 hours in a row to address the Senate.
Cruz will not win. He will never make it to the general election. He’ll be just shy of completely irrelevant by the time the 2016 Republican National Convention rolls around. He is all flash and very little substance. Most importantly, he has no steadfast support with the right wing, with the moderates or with the party elite. He’s tolerated by all and adored by very few. He might be the first man standing in this race. But he certainly won’t be the last.
Cruz is averaging an anemic 4.6 percent in national polls, according to Real Clear Politics. However, his numbers aren’t his biggest concern. His opponents’ polling data is far more troubling. Four candidates, all of whom haven’t declared yet, are currently polling over 10 percent for the Republicans: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (16.6 percent), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (16.6 percent), neurosurgeon and author Ben Carson (10.6 percent) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (10.2 percent).
Carson is the current darling of the right-wing/Tea Party. Huckabee and Walker are pulling support from both the far right and more moderate sections of the party. Bush is the mainstream candidate that probably has the best chance of winning in the general election. There’s no room for Cruz to create a base. He can’t get a foothold with the moderates or conservatives, and with this problem comes a lack of funding and few endorsements.
Even without this issue, Cruz is not an ideal candidate. Although he has the Ivy League credentials, he only has two years of experience at the federal level. Granted, U.S. President Barack Obama won the 2008 general election with less than four years in the Senate. The main difference? The 2016 Republican field, both official and unofficial, is large and full of experience. While non-politicians like Carson are also in the mix, Cruz is competing against candidates with much more experience. This isn’t a chink in the armor. It’s a glaring flaw in his presidential campaign.
Furthermore, there is a very clear reason that Cruz announced first. He’s the first domino to fall into this race because he needs to be a serious candidate. A month ago, Scott Walker was polling at 5.8 percent. Now he’s a front-runner. Walker is probably the closest to Cruz’s “personal brand.” They have similar beliefs and would pull from similar donor bases. Cruz needed to get into the race as a last ditch effort to pull voters and funding away from Walker.
Cruz cannot be a serious candidate. He’s too controversial. Foreign Policy online magazine called him “The Most Hated Man in the Senate” for a reason. There are too many other solid, less extreme candidates than Ted Cruz. Some argue that Jeb Bush has essentially sown up the race. I’m not going to go that far. It’s too early. This primary season will have plenty of frontrunners and one-hit wonders. There are too many variables here. One thing is certain: Ted Cruz is not going to be president.
From a political perspective, I really hope Ted Cruz stays in the race as long as possible. He’ll drain (some) money from the more viable candidates and hopefully steer the conversation in wacky and “interesting” directions, such as why climate change apparently isn’t real. The longer the Republican field is divided among multiple candidates, the better the Democrats will fair. Worst-case scenario, three or four Democratic candidates will share a stage in the New Hampshire debates. This is nothing compared to the dozen or so competitors vying for the Republican nomination. The longer they bicker among themselves, the better for whatever Democratic candidate secures the nomination.
Ultimately, Cruz is not a viable option. Period. He adds to the Republican field and promises more flash than substance. While he might mollify some Tea Party enthusiasts, both the right wing and moderate Republicans are not happy with his candidacy. It’s going to a long campaign season, just not for Cruz.