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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Did Ted Cruz come up short because the establishment didn’t like him?

As we enter the somewhat anti-climactic month of June, a look back to the recent past.

It’s safe to say it will take years for political historians to pore over the material from the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign to determine what went so right for Donald Trump and what went so wrong for his sixteen major competitors.

CNN Town HallOne topic that will certainly receive a great deal of scrutiny is Ted Cruz’s relationship with the Republican establishment. As is well documented by now, Cruz was largely ignored and scorned by the party elite right up until the time he suspended his campaign.

As a demonstration of the contempt, only three of Cruz’s fellow senators ended up endorsing him (though six publicly backed him) and one of those, South Carolina Senator and fellow presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, came onboard as a last resort and chose Ted only because it looked like he might be able to stop Donald Trump. The others, Utah’s Mike Lee and Colorado’s Cory Gardner, were also late to the picnic, so to speak. Lee is the only one who picked Cruz without previously endorsing someone else.

Needless to say, the vast majority of his Senate colleagues avoided Ted, leading to much press and Donald Trump’s ceaseless accusations that Cruz isn’t well liked even among the people who work with him.

All along, I and other Cruz backers speculated it wouldn’t matter whether his fellow Republican senators endorsed or liked him, reasoning such favor would not help Ted one bit with the angry grassroots that already was roundly rejecting the establishment and everything connected to Washington. Cruz himself continued to rail on the “Washington cartel” and until he ran into the Trump roadblock in late April, everything seemed to be going along just fine.

Being anti-Washington was one of Cruz’s major selling points. But always there was the cloud of non-support from his own party to contend with.

Perhaps in response, with an eye towards the future, Ted is doing something about it. Though the senator himself hasn’t addressed the issue, sources say Cruz will be hitting the road this fall to help rev up grassroots support for the reelection efforts of his fellow Republicans.

Katie Glueck and Burgess Everett of Politico report, “As Cruz preps for reelection in 2018 and eyes a 2020 presidential bid, there’s a tacit recognition among some members of his political circle that the opposition he faced from his own Republican colleagues was a real problem for his candidacy as the primary field dwindled. Only three senators publicly endorsed him, and the bad blood he engendered over the years among Republicans prevented him from coalescing the anti-Trump crowd when Cruz needed to most.

“It’s not that Cruz feels he has anything to apologize for — his outreach will only go so far — but his team does see down-ballot campaigning as offering a mutually beneficial way to reset relationships. They believe other senators would be smart to embrace the help.”

Some, such as Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, have embraced Ted’s overture. Others, such as New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, have said “no thanks.”

Cruz’s gesture to help those who refused to help him is a good one. If there was one area where Ted perhaps miscalculated in his lead-up to running for president, it was the reaction of his fellow senators to his candidacy.

Cruz’s initial strategy included flooding the early states with his superior ground and data operations as well as his natural appeal to conservative constituencies in Iowa and South Carolina. He didn’t put nearly as much effort into working New Hampshire as most of his rivals, but then again, he likely figured he didn’t have to.

Cruz probably surmised as soon as he won in Iowa (as he eventually did), all he would need after that was a reasonable result in New Hampshire (again, mission accomplished with a third-place showing) to set the stage for a big win in South Carolina.

Two out of three wins in the early states would have dispatched the viability of most of his competition and set the stage for his frontrunner status. At that point, the establishment would have had to embrace him as the likely nominee.

When Cruz finished third in The Palmetto State on February 20, the wheels fell off…at least until Super Tuesday brought him some reprieve. But his “southern strategy” didn’t work out the way he planned. Trump won all of the southern states except Texas and Oklahoma. The rest is history. The establishment felt safe in keeping their distance from Cruz, and by the time they realized they would do anything to stop Trump, it was too late to get behind the Texas senator.

So yes, in effect, Cruz’s poor relationship with his colleagues probably had some influence on the outcome. But Trump probably would still have won, as the voters decided.

Regardless, it’s good to see Ted is willing to cut a new path for his next potential run. He’s certainly learned through his 2016 experience that he can still be a conservative and at least be respected by his colleagues. Cruz needs to put in the work of repairing the damage of the past. Thankfully, it appears as though he’s doing just that.

Would expanding the debates to include third-parties make for a more competitive general election?

All throughout the Republican presidential primary season, we heard a lot about polls, debate criteria and fairness. Since the Republican field was so large, each of the host networks (at least through the end of January) divided the programs into an undercard “Happy Hour” debate and the main event, which typically occurred a couple hours later to allow for a change in stage set-up and extra airtime for the talking heads to “analyze” the candidates.

CNN, Fox News, CNBC and the other networks all used polls to determine who was doing well enough in terms of public opinion to merit inclusion with the top candidates.

Naturally, the lower polling candidates cried foul at each demotion, claiming, probably correctly, that being barred from inclusion in the “main” debate denied them a real chance to move up in the race.

Only Carly Fiorina was successful in making the leap from the lower to top tiers, though Chris Christie did bounce between the two stages one time.

Now that the Republican primaries are over, similar “inclusion” arguments are being advanced concerning the general election debates, only this time, the “minor” party candidates want to be seen making their case alongside Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Similar to the “Happy Hour” Republican also-rans, the minor parties will likely be left out in the cold because of polling numbers. At least for now, some are calling for a change.

John Fund of National Review presents the problem, “Outsider candidates who aren’t well known are seldom included in polls for president, and the privately run Commission on Presidential Debates won’t include candidates beyond the Democratic or Republican nominees in debates unless they draw at least 15 percent of the vote in a slew of surveys. Candidates who win 5 percent of the national vote are eligible for federal funding of their next campaign, but they must demonstrate three times that amount of support to speak to a nationwide debate audience…

“Challenges to the Commission’s authority have been routinely launched over the years but have been unsuccessful. A federal lawsuit launched by [Libertarian Gary] Johnson in 2012 was dismissed on technical grounds. A lawsuit by Jill Stein, the Green-party candidate, was filed that same year and also failed.”

Let me just say at the outset the general election debates are not the same as the primary forums, so there should be a different set of standards for inclusion.

First, primary debates are intended to introduce lesser known candidates to partisan party audiences, though political junkies might watch the events of both parties. Since it is assumed party nominees will have been adequately exposed to the American public through conventions or the primary process, there really isn’t much of an argument for including nominees from every party in the country in the fall debates.

Second, while Ross Perot did generate a respectable near-20 percent of the vote in 1992, there’s no indication any of the current third-party or independent candidates will do that well this year. Therefore, if there’s a potential third or fourth candidate who’s prominent enough to be included in a poll, the poll numbers themselves should be enough to determine whether that person should be included in the debates.

If that’s the case, then I don’t think setting a minimum threshold of 15 percent is too much to ask in a three-person race. Perot generated a lot of buzz…therefore his numbers were high enough to include him along with George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. For this or any other year, it needs to be someone who has some sort of chance to win rather than playing a spoiler role.

Lastly, every single candidate in America knows they have a chance to run as a Democrat or Republican if they truly want to be president. Donald Trump showed this year that if you want the big job you must first participate in the process.

Ross Perot proved it too. Had Perot run in either the Democrat or Republican primaries in 1992, he conceivably could have competed for the nomination of either one. Instead, he chose to remain on the outside, where even in his best case scenario, he was a longshot to win.

I personally think the general election debates should be limited to the Democrat and Republican nominees only – unless, some third candidate can satisfy the debate criteria.

For once, the system seems to work. Let’s go with it.

Pressure mounts on Rubio to run again…for the Senate

Though no longer directly related to the Republican presidential race, any news concerning Marco Rubio and his increasingly likely reelection run for the Senate is worth a comment.

Last week Donald Trump said he wanted Rubio to reconsider his intention not to run. Now the establishment is getting involved, with Mitch McConnell taking the lead.

Al Weaver of the Washington Examiner reports on the latest push, “In an interview Tuesday morning, McConnell told ‘Morning Joe’ that he is ‘doing everything’ he can to convince Rubio to change his mind and run for his Senate seat again. Rubio opened the door slightly to the possibility in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN, saying that if it weren't for his good friend Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera's presence in the race he would consider jumping in the fray.”

Needless to say, there must be enormous pressure on Lopez-Cantera to get out of the way for his friend Rubio to get back in the senate race. Not only is party nominee Donald Trump for a Rubio re-run, now the Washington establishment is out for him too.

They’re all couching it in terms of holding on to the Republican senate majority. If Lopez-Cantera were to win the Florida primary and then lose in the general election -- and have the GOP fall a seat short of a majority, he would become the nation’s biggest political goat.

There is some risk for Rubio here, too. If he changes his mind – again – and decides to run for reelection and loses, his political career might not recover. If you don’t believe it, look at Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator was still answering questions on his senate loss years later during his failed presidential campaign.

Once you take on the aura of a loser, it’s a hard thing to shake.

Having already suffered a crushing defeat to Trump in the Florida presidential primary, Marco may not be able to withstand another hugely embarrassing political setback.

I still think Rubio will do it. Only time will tell if his gamble will pay off.

#NeverTrump leader Bill Kristol engages in a certain-to-lose war of words with Trump

Finally today, leaders of the #NeverTrump movement have almost daily engaged in a non-stop diatribe against the Republican nominee in newspaper opinion pages and on the internet, but it hasn’t been too often they’ve taken on Donald Trump directly.

#NeverTrump dreamer Bill Kristol didn’t shy away when given the opportunity.

Rebecca Savransky of The Hill reports, “Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol fired back at presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump after Trump called the prominent conservative voice a ‘loser’ and a ‘dummy.’

“’I gather Donald Trump said I'm a loser,’ Kristol tweeted on Tuesday.

“’I've won some and I've lost some, but one thing I've always tried not to be is a roaring jackass.’”

Kristol doesn’t figure to win this war either, but then again, Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters probably aren’t looking to get their news from the neoconservative Weekly Standard.

Along with Mitt Romney, Kristol has been at the forefront of the effort to find an independent conservative alternative to Trump, even hinting over the weekend that there “will be an independent candidate—an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.”

Where they’re going to find that candidate is another matter. At this point, only Romney would probably fit the description and as I’ve said many times, there’s no reason to believe many #NeverTrumpers would even be happy with Mitt as their man.

Romney would be little more than a spoiler for the Republicans. I’m not sure what good that accomplishes other than to claim they were right and the voters were wrong in choosing Trump.

What does Kristol hope to achieve with his Twitter war against The Donald? He may not be a “dummy,” but it certainly makes him look foolish.

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I'd want Cruz for VP, he was my choice initially. I'm just not sure it didn't get too nasty for them to work together but would still love it if they can.

Frankly, with the current pousa planning to stay in DC to defend his phony anti-American agenda, Trump is the only person in politics who it would sound right to say, "sit down and shut up, you had your turn and did absolutely terrible!" Cruz can fit in and also a couple others.

I am also very high on Newt. He not only knows the ropes but was has very good political skills himself.

Bottom line, we need someone who does know the political territory and is not afraid to carry out what really needs to be done, which will not be popular with either the left or the lefties around the globe. After all, who wants them to be happy about what is right for America!

The Cruz Strategy Failure

I was a fan of Ted Cruz and still am. I figured out right before Iowa, however, that Cruz had waited too long to go on the offensive. He had given Trump too big a lead. Since winning this time around was more important to me than principles, I quickly switched over to Trump due to particular proposals on immigration, jobs, trade, ObamaCare, and taxes. Those things were a win, in my book, if they were achieved.

Why was it so easy for me to put my social conservative principles on the back burner? Because the GOP-E had been covertly working against all of them, with the exception of abortion, for years, and it had become painfully obvious to me during these last few Obama years. Marriage, family, wholesomeness....out the window with the so-called conservatives openly revealing their support for the things I had thought we agreed were detrimental to a wholesome society.

So, why support these conservatives who wanted to take our jobs, move our security overseas, involve us in endless war, AND bring in a moral debasement to boot? Might as well go with the specific policies of Trump, and his willingness to be rape/incest/life of the mother pro-life, which evidently is as good as it will ever get with the lying establishment.