It’s the political equivalent of the old story about the dog who finally caught his own tail.
In a stunning revelation Ted Cruz announced to the world that he doesn’t believe he is “all that conservative.” Maybe he really believes it, or maybe he just wants the support of the single largest donor to GOP Super PACs, Sheldon Adelson, who reportedly thinks Cruz is too “right wing” to win the nomination.
(The New York Observer later reported that Adelson, billionaire owner of of Venetian Casino, reached out to dispute that characterization, but given Cruz’ hedging of his conservatives bonafides, it must have not been terribly inaccurate.)
Too right wing to win the GOP nomination huh? That’s makes sense if you look at the last two choices, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Even though Romney fought hard against the moderate label, going as far as referring to himself as “severely conservative,” actual conservatives have blamed nominating those two moderate Republicans as the primary reason (pun intended) they lost the last two general elections.
Take their lead spokesperson Rush Limbaugh for example. Days after the 2012 election he made the point on his radio program:
“So three million Republican voters stayed home on Election Day. Three million predominantly white voters stayed home…A number of Republicans are tired of moderate nominees. They’ve sent the Republican Party money for years and said, “To hell with it. If you’re gonna eschew conservatism, I’m not giving you any money, and I’m not voting for you.”
Andrew McCarthy of the National Review echoed that sentiment when he wrote in his postmortem, “Washington’s Republican establishment is progressive, not conservative.”
So the battle for 2016 will likely continue to play out between the pragmatic establishment and the Tea Party purists. Time Magazine laid out what many observers have witnessed, “Republican primaries have become Tea Party litmus tests, forcing candidates to audition for a lily-white, antiurban base that feels like Archie Bunker and Ward Cleaver in an era of Modern Family and Dora the Explorer.”
Ted Cruz has brilliantly played to the political base making himself out to be the conservative standard bearer and lead Obama critic while managing to keep establishment criticism to a minimum. But, given the increased focus of his likely presidential contender status and new majority position in the Senate, he will hardly be able to continue the underdog freedom fighter role as he now assumes an unofficial leadership role.
So far Cruz has been able to stay a step ahead of the anti-establishment rhetoric, but he is now one giant leap closer to being the establishment himself, and recent slip ups like his “net neutrality is Obamacare for the internet” statement show real chinks in the armor. And, now he is coddling large donors and saying things that seem straight out of, eh hem, left field.
We’ll be watching closely for what other changes Cruz makes as he holds his finger to the wind. But it’s likely not to be on immigration given he has an entire web domain dedicated to “Stop Obama’s Amnesty.” Or if he does it will be subtle and nuanced, like recognizing that what Obama’s has called for (unlike Cruz’ hero Ronald Reagan) is not amnesty at all, but simply ending the fear of deportation for those willing to work.
It might also help that Adelson has penned an OpEd for Politico titled “Let’s Deal with Reality and Pass Immigration Reform” in which he calls for, “a process in which all undocumented immigrants receive permits to legally work here.” If that isn’t enough, there is always the fact that with the GOP in charge of both legislative chambers, there’s no one to blame for their inaction.
The tail may not be wagging the dog here, but then again it’s hard to wag your tail when it’s stuck in your mouth.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 19, 2014
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