Ted Cruz & the Case of the Sickly Familiar Turning Point

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Last night, Ted Cruz declared his victory in the Wisconsin primary a “turning point” in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. So far, the national media is greeting this glowing self-assessment with a relatively high level of acceptance. In other words, they haven’t jumped all over Cruz for overstating his case, which in itself is a significant shift, and indicates both the changing dynamic of the GOP race and the media’s interest in keeping the stories coming.

This morning in The New York Times, Nate Cohn makes the argument that Cruz actually surged in Wisconsin. He writes, the real surprise Tuesday night was not the weakness of Mr. Trump but the strength of Ted Cruz.” The article takes a close look at Wisconsin polling over the past month and finds that Cruz outperformed the model by 7%. His 48% take in Wisconsin is the highest percentage any Republican has won in any of the primaries thus far.

What really caught my attention was this line:

But perhaps the best reason to think it still might be part of a broader phenomenon for Mr. Cruz is that he has outperformed expectations at every point since Super Tuesday.

I don’t want to sound like an alarmist but I AM ALARMED. Make that VERY ALARMED. (Yes, I’ll admit that I’ve been known to take a bit of a Chicken Little approach to politics but that’s because I’m a Texas Democrat.)

Here’s what’s set off the bells today. No, it’s not Cruz’s win last night. I knew that was coming. Apparently, the national press still has not gotten the memo on how Ted Cruz was elected to the U.S. Senate, which should be circulated with the subtitle: Ted Cruz Outperformed Expectations at Every Point. Nate Cohn’s piece is very good, but he fails to see that that exceeding expectations is something to be expected when it comes to Ted Cruz.

Over the past 20 years, the national press has suffered from some type of serial amnesia when it comes to Texas politics and Texas politicians. Every election, they can’t seem to get beyond personal distaste for our most prominent politicians. (In all fairness, most of the time, neither can I.) But this aversion to Texas politicians has the dangerous consequence of keeping reporters from truly mastering the way politics works in Texas and understanding the past. At times, their reporting suffers, as does our country.

Those of us who’ve been watching Ted Cruz since 2012, and earlier, are starting to see a very familiar scenario develop. Ted Cruz, who’s really not given much of a chance from the start because everybody hates him so much, enters the race. All he really needs to do is make the runoff, and he manages to come in second, outperforming expectations.  He then campaigns and he campaigns and he campaigns until the unusually timed final election. In 2012, it was a runoff election on July 31st, two months later than normal. This year, the Republican nomination will most likely be decided by the vote at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.In late July. (I highly recommend Josh Marshall’s analysis of why the Republican convention will not select a nominee who did not participate in the primaries.)

The good news is that Politico Magazine has published an excellent series of articles exploring Ted Cruz’s past and abilities. I recommend them highly. And there are signs that Democrats are preparing for a run against Cruz instead of Trump. My favorite is Robert Reich’s “Four Reasons Ted Cruz Is More Dangerous Than Donald Trump.”

Yep, Ted Cruz is the topic of one of Robert Reich’s famous whiteboard videos. He has definitely outperformed progressives’ expectations.




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