WASHINGTON – Ted Cruz is counting on the help of Barack Obama to win the White House.
That is, the senator intends to learn from the lessons of Obama’s 2008 “grassroots guerrilla campaign” for president, which the Texan often has spoken of admiringly.
But, while Cruz will borrow tactics from arguably the right’s greatest archenemy, he will follow the playbook of the right’s greatest hero, Ronald Reagan.
Grassroots support was the key to general election victories for both Obama and Reagan, but, like the Gipper, Cruz must first conquer his own party’s establishment.
He intends to do that not by appealing to the center, but by being his own man, an unapologetic conservative, and expanding the appeal of the Republican Party, just like Reagan.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
And, just like Reagan, he intends to wage an insurgent campaign.
Merriam Webster defines “insurgent” as “one who acts contrary to the policies and decisions of one’s own political party.”
And that defines the Cruz strategy: He will not try to win over the GOP establishment; he will bypass Washington and go straight to the voters.
It is a simple but detailed plan. And it is based on a simple premise: A moderate approach will lead to certain defeat; only a conservative approach can lead to victory.
Cruz shared the outline of his strategy at a recent gathering of a few conservative journalists, attended by WND:
- Aim for the approval of voters, not Washington.
- Be a crossover candidate: Win back Reagan Democrats and FDR Democrats.
- Emphasize principles over politics; stick to core beliefs.
- Win tea-party and conservative votes, peel off support from libertarians.
- Energize and mobilize evangelical voters.
Most of those details are taken straight from the Reagan playbook. So, what advice would a former Reagan aide have for Cruz?
“Ted Cruz needs no advice,” Jeffrey Lord told WND.
An associate political director in the Reagan White House, Lord wrote an in-depth comparison of the Gipper and Cruz published in the American Spectator on Monday called, “The Texas Reagan announces for president.”
In that article, Cruz explicitly told Lord he intends to pursue a 21st-century version of the insurgency strategy pioneered by the late Ronald Reagan.
Lord told WND that Cruz’s speech Monday morning announcing his candidacy for president was “truly amazing” and “right on the mark.”
The former Reagan aide also explained why Cruz appears to have the right stuff to be the right’s first successful insurgent presidential candidate since the Gipper.
Aim for the approval of voters, not Washington
Cruz’s speech was not meant to win over the Washington establishment. It was aimed at Americans in the heartland who, he believes, yearn for a leader who speaks with conviction, rather than a candidate who will try to appeal to the center.
“He was bold, positive, and forthright,” Lord told WND. “Like Reagan, he was totally unapologetic about his conservatism – and the Cruz idea of ‘courageous conservatism’ was a way of answering the old Bush line about ‘compassionate conservatism,’ which by definition was apologizing for being conservative.”
Cruz’s speech showed what he believes is the lesson of Reagan’s success: The way to win is not to try to please as many voters as possible, but to convince voters of the quality of his convictions and that he is a man who will stick to his principles.
“That was the key to Reagan,” said Lord. “Reagan was not only unapologetic about being a conservative, he was proud to be one. Ted Cruz believes exactly the same thing – and it shows.”
See the campaign video: “Ted Cruz for President”
A few weeks ago, WND quoted Cruz describing how establishment Washington hated Reagan as a candidate and how he went over the heads of GOP elite to take his case straight to the people, from whom his real power came.
After Monday’s speech, reporters questioned Cruz’s mettle and ability to win an arduous campaign, but the candidate said it wasn’t about him, responding, “That’s where you’re lacking the faith in what’s happening across this country.”
He explained, “It’s coming from the people. Washington won’t turn us around, but what will turn us around is millions of courageous conservatives who are inspired to reignite the promise of America.”
That echoed a line in Cruz’s speech in which he asked people to “Imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives across America rising up together to say, in unison, we demand our liberty.”
That message struck the right chord with Amy Kremer, the former head of the Tea Party Express, who said the Cruz candidacy “will excite the base in a way we haven’t seen in years.”
Lord’s article noted, “Cruz has run aggressively against the Beltway culture since the moment he arrived in town. He’s a proud outsider even within the institution of the Senate, accentuated by his favorite hashtag: #MakeDCListen.”
“Cruz likes to say the biggest divide in American politics isn’t between Republicans and Democrats; it’s between ‘the people and the entrenched politicians in Washington, D.C.’”
That approach has earned Cruz the wrath of the Washington elite, even in his own party.
Lord wrote, that just makes the senator even more Reaganesque: “It is safe to say that as with Reagan, Ted Cruz’s adversaries can’t stand him, which, in the eyes of his admirers, is more than enough to see the newly declared candidate as the Texas Reagan.”
That has cost Cruz the financial support of GOP king-makers, but it is making him a hero to the Republican’s grassroots base.
“Thus it is that like Reagan, Ted Cruz has become highly unpopular with Establishment Republicans. Not to mention the foaming furies he ignites from liberals who, in the day, hated Reagan in precisely the same way,” wrote Lord.
But Cruz’s grassroots support comes from his willingness to “draw a line in the sand” and hold steadfast for causes and principles he believes are worthwhile, such as the government shutdown over defunding Obamacare in 2013, which, Lord, wrote, “was furiously assaulted by many of Cruz’s Republican Senate colleagues and most of the Establishment GOP, with some GOP senators going out of their way to deliberately sabotage the Cruz effort to defund the highly unpopular mandatory health program.”
However, with conservative luminaries such as talk-radio host Mark Levin raving about Monday’s speech, key endorsements seem likely, as Cruz’s grassroots campaign appears to have begun with immediate momentum.
Be a crossover candidate: Win back Reagan Democrats and FDR Democrats
It was no coincidence that, in his speech Monday, Cruz quoted Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt’s immortal words, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” then immediately spoke of Reagan’s boldness in cutting taxes, demanding the release of the American hostages in Iran and his determination to win the Cold War.
Cruz is courting admirers of both presidents and considers that a key to winning the White House.
WND reported how Cruz had recently told a small group of reporters that the reason GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election was because two groups of voters had stayed home: evangelicals and blue-collar Reagan Democrats.
Former President Ronald Reagan
Cruz insisted the only way to get crossover voters was to do what candidate Reagan had done: Stick to principles and frame the election as a fundamental choice between liberal and conservative governing philosophies.
The senator noted how Reagan was so successful with that strategy that he was the only president to ever have a type of crossover voter named after him, Reagan Democrats.
And, Cruz maintained, in sticking to his core beliefs rather than pandering to as many voters as possible, Reagan had given “FDR Democrats a reason to cross over” and support a candidate who would be a consistent man of his convictions, even if they might disagree with him on some issues.
It was notable that Cruz ended his speech with a nod to one of Reagan’s most inspirational beliefs, declaring, “We will restore that shining city on a hill that is the United States of America.”
Cruz knows the GOP brand is in need of some image repair, after years of Democrats hammering the GOP as stupid, evil, crazy and, especially, greedy.
But he also sees that as an opportunity to flip the script on the mainstream narrative of the GOP as party of the rich and Democrats as party of the poor.
As WND reported, Cruz intends to run a populist campaign aimed at explaining to working Americans the benefits of conservatism to everyone.
He sees that as an opportunity to expand his appeal beyond his conservative base, because, as he told the American Spectator, “The image created in the mainstream media does not comply with the facts.”
Emphasize principles over politics; stick to core beliefs
“Show me where you stood up and fought,” Cruz challenged potential candidates in a speech given in Iowa in January.
Cruz has said the GOP presidential candidate must be someone who has, time and again, chosen principle over politics – a candidate willing to take an unpopular stance if it is based on solid principle.
The feisty Texan, of course, has earned a reputation as someone willing to repeatedly and tirelessly go against both Democrats and establishment GOP leaders in his efforts to repeal Obamacare and stop amnesty.
Lord noted that keeping principles in practice, as well as in theory, reflected Reagan’s view, “that the GOP should move the center to the right – not, as the GOP establishment believes, move the right to the center.”
Cruz has said the critical mistake that could cost the GOP another presidential election would be playing it safe by running another moderate candidate too “squishy” on the issues.
The real litmus test for the best candidate, insisted Cruz, was whether he or she had “stood up to fight on principle” on the most critical issues, such as amnesty, Obamacare, the runaway national debt, Second Amendment rights and the struggle to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Emphasizing reporters should watch what candidates have done more than what they promise, and that actions should speak louder than words, the senator turned to scripture as the best guide of all, noting, “You shall know them by their fruits.”
Sticking to principles does not come without considerable risk in Washington.
Lord noted how when Cruz drew a “line in the sand” in the fight against Obamacare in 2013, he “was furiously assaulted” by many of his “Republican Senate colleagues and most of the Establishment GOP, with some GOP senators going out of their way to deliberately sabotage the Cruz effort to defund the highly unpopular mandatory health program.”
“Cruz was also opposed at the time by other potential GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie, as well as the losing 2012 party nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Insisting Cruz was badly damaging the party’s 2014 chances was former Bush 43 top White House aide Karl Rove.
“In February 2014, when Cruz, in another line-in-the-sand moment insisted on holding Senate Republicans accountable in a vote to raise the debt limit, the Establishment GOP turned on him again. The Wall Street Journal editorialized that Cruz was ‘The Minority Maker.’”
However, as Lord also observed, “the 2014 elections brought a tidal wave of support for the Republican Party, giving it the best showing since 1928 with a take-over of the Senate and more seats in its House majority.”
Sticking to his guns has given Cruz another, perhaps surprising, dividend: what may be the growing respect of his peers and former antagonists.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
When Cruz joined Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in filibustering the nomination of eventual CIA Director John Brennan over drone policy, Sen. John McCain referred to the duo as “wacko birds.”
Cruz never responded with a personal attack, instead, characteristically adhering to Reagan’s “11th commandment” of not speaking ill of fellow Republicans in public.
Over the weekend, just before Cruz announced his candidacy, CNN quoted McCain as saying of Cruz: “He is a valued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He and I are friendly, and I think he is a very viable candidate.”
McCain also suggested Cruz could beat Hillary Clinton and win the presidency in 2016.
Win tea-party and conservative votes, peel off support from libertarians
Cruz aides have told reporters he sees as the GOP as composed of four branches: establishment, libertarian, social conservative and tea party.
His strategy in the GOP primary races is to win tea-party and conservative votes and peel off support from libertarians, as well as energize and mobilize evangelical voters among the social conservatives.
A Cruz aide used a March Madness metaphor to described the strategy to National Review, equating the four GOP branches to four brackets.
“We’re the number one seed in the tea-party bracket,” he said, adding, “I think this makes us the number one seed in the evangelical bracket.”
Cruz told the American Spectator he intended to pursue “a 21st-century version of the insurgency strategy” pioneered by Reagan, and bringing together “national security, social, pro-growth, and libertarian conservatives.”
See Ted Cruz’s speech announcing his candidacy for president:
Lord recounted how the “Reagan coalition broadened the base of the party to bring in everyone from evangelicals to women to union workers to Latinos.”
Cruz sees the key to victory in expanding the base by attracting voters with conservative principles and re-creating what Lord described as Reagan’s “virtual army of supporters who had previously never spent a day in politics.”
The Texan’s hope is that will also offset the GOP establishment’s advantage in fundraising, where Bush is expected to raise $100 million, while Cruz hopes to raise $40 to $50 million.
And, as Lord also noted, Cruz is counting on his base-broadening strategy to overcome a severe deficit in the polls, where CNN recently had him at just 4 percent support.
Energize and mobilize evangelical voters
It is no accident that Cruz announced his candidacy for president at Liberty University, which advertises itself as the largest Christian university in the world.
He maintains low voter turnout among evangelicals and blue-collar “Reagan Democrats” cost the GOP the election in 2012.
“Today, roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting; they’re staying home,” said Cruz in his speech Monday. “Imagine, instead, millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”
Focusing on religious conservatives could help provide Cruz a jump start in two early primaries.
An entrance poll in 2012 found 57 percent of voters in the Iowa Republican caucuses described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.
An exit poll found 65 percent of South Carolina voters were born again or evangelical.
Cruz often reminds audiences his father is a pastor.
In his announcement speech, Cruz credited Christian faith with saving his family in the 1970s.
He described how his parents lived a “fast life,” both “drinking far too much,” neither with a “personal relationship with Jesus” and separating when he was three.
But his father converted to Christianity, “And God transformed his heart and he drove to the airport, he bought a plane ticket, and he flew back to be with my mother and me.”
“Were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ, I would not have been saved, and I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household.”
Will history repeat?
Why does Cruz appear so confident and enthusiastic when he is beginning a race for the White House with 4 percent support?
Probably because he has beaten long odds before, and handily, by sticking to the Reagan formula and running to the right, not the center.
As Lord wrote, “In early 2011, he was still the little-known, Harvard-educated, Cuban-American former Texas solicitor general considering a long-shot run against wealthy Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Cruz essentially did not register in the polls when he launched his Senate run.”
But, defying the pundits, his insurgent campaign based on conservative principles forced Dewhurst into a runoff, even though he finished 10 points behind.
“Two months later, Cruz erased that deficit and walloped Dewhurst – who by then had spent $25 million of his own fortune trying to salvage his campaign – by 14 points in the runoff,” recounted Lord.
He concluded, “A conservative star had been born.”
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Tue, 24 Mar 2015 02:38:42 GMT