Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the Republican establishment’s man in 2016.
No, really, you read that right. I haven’t gone crazy, and Cruz hasn’t gone Colonel Kurtz, like so many other conservatives we send to Washington, D.C., have. Once they breathe in the airborne contagion known as RCV (“ruling class virus”), the only known cure becomes term limits and primaries.
Instead, what’s happening here is conservatives are looking for a champion to use as a sledgehammer against the toxic combination of Obamaism on the Left and corporatism on the Right, which is embedded like concrete in our body politic nowadays. The problem for grassroots conservatives, who are hesitant about believing in anyone again after having been disappointed so many times, is which one in a potentially star-studded 2016 GOP field of candidates is the one?
For a Republican base that doesn’t like the leadership of its party much more than it likes the Marxist leadership in the White House, seeing the dreaded establishment suffer apoplectic meltdowns and frothing-at-the-mouth at the mere mention of Cruz’s name is exactly the branding they’re looking for. People are looking for a proxy for their wrath. By their own actions, GOP elites are making the case to a fed-up base that Cruz is your champion better than Cruz himself ever could.
Take this recent headline as just one example of what I mean: “Republicans seek revenge against Ted Cruz.”
See, the GOP ruling class — known best for blowing elections and funding Obama’s anti-constitutional schemes because it’s “too hard” to stand up to him — resents the fact Cruz is forcing them to go on the record about where they really stand. You know, similar to how cockroaches don’t like sunlight. This is probably one of the reasons why cockroaches are more popular than Congress in recent public opinion polls.
I see evidence of this regardless of where I go within the GOP base. Whenever the conversation turns to the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, the same talking point comes up every time.
“I think we need a fighter,” they all say — even the gentle, Southern grandmothers who call in. Translation: they think the job of clearing out the rabble rousers is too big for the Gary Cooper “nice guy” sheriff. They’re looking for a Dirty Harry instead.
Then I ask these same people the obvious followup question. Who fits the “fighter” profile they’re looking for? Unless they’re already tied to a candidate (and few are at this early stage), the same name almost always comes up.
For example, I took calls on my nationally syndicated radio show on a day when both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum were each in the news because of 2016 speculation. I asked my audience, a mixture of libertarians and social conservatives — in other words, the GOP’s base — if there was room in the same field for both Santorum and Huckabee. On the surface, these two men, each of whom I got to know pretty well while they were running victorious Iowa Caucus campaigns in 2008 and 2012, would seem to appeal to many of the same people.
However, over and over again, caller after caller gave me the same response: Huckabee and Santorum seem like “nice guys,” but we need a “fighter” (there’s that word again) this time. Every time I asked those callers who is that “fighter,” the same name came up — Cruz.
Beyond what I’m hearing, let me share what I’m seeing.
Homeschoolers are among the most politically savvy in the Iowa Caucuses. They’re used to seeing presidential candidates come and go constantly. They don’t get warm fuzzies for politicians because they’re accustomed to being wooed by these guys. Yet when Cruz was the guest of honor at this year’s “Homeschool Day at the Capitol” event, I saw the largest crowd and the most buzz I’ve ever seen there for a politician.
Last summer at an event in front of 600 key Iowa pastors that was supposed to showcase fellow “wacko bird” and 2016 aspirant Rand Paul, it was Cruz who stole the show, speaking off-the-cuff on a wide-range of subjects from auditing the Fed to pro-life to repealing Obamacare to the vital role of faith in America. When he concluded his unrehearsed remarks with a live, no-holds-barred Q-and-A with the audience, almost every pastor in that room would have signed up to be on his caucus team if asked. One long-time influential voice in the Iowa Caucuses whispered to me afterwards, “We’ve never seen anything like this.”
What Cruz 2016 is creating isn’t a mere candidacy. It is a potential force of nature resulting from the confluence of two events. On one hand, you have unprecedented anger and frustration over the corruption in Washington, D.C., and the lack of vision and courage in response to it from current national GOP leaders. Combine that boiling cauldron of anger with the emergence of a bold, wicked-smart, and winsome upstart like Cruz, who’s despised by all the same people the GOP base no longer trusts and despises right back, and you have the makings of a perfect storm for such a time as this.
Not to mention the fact Cruz is the rare national Republican figure who is equally admired by the folks at Freedom Works and the American Family Association, which gives him a chance to coalesce a GOP base that has been splintered the past two primary cycles. He may not be the most socially conservative or the most libertarian, but he’s enough of both that, with his fighting spirit, he can draw from each crowd.
This is not to slight several other solid 2016 candidates, several of whom I know and have interviewed several times. Many of those candidates are more tested and have lengthier resumes than Cruz. However, when trust in government erodes, moxie trumps credentials with voters, who are looking for fresh faces that haven’t been tarnished by the system yet. GOP primary voters want someone who earns their approval, not the Beltway’s. In fact, the Beltway’s approval will wear more like a scarlet letter.
Cruz has tapped into this visceral energy by doing the very things the know-it-alls say are verboten. He’s proud to represent a conservative base the ruling class often shuns and mocks. If the other non-establishment candidates want to avoid the coming “Cruz missile,” their only defense is to go on offense and show the base they are better qualified to ruthlessly take on Obamaism.
This next primary cycle won’t be about who scores the highest on the worldview exam, who can raise the most money, or who says “Jesus” the most. People fear for their future. This next primary cycle is about survival, as in, who you’d want next to you when surrounded in a dark alley by the bad guys both foreign and domestic.
Elites will sneer at the potential of President Cruz at their own peril. Everyday Americans sent our sneering elites a message from Virginia’s 7th Congressional District last week. Another message is likely coming from Mississippi’s U.S. Senate runoff election next week. If these messages continue to fall on deaf ears within the 202 area code, Cruz could very well become the weapon of choice to “make D.C. listen” in 2016.
(Steve Deace is a nationally syndicated talk show host and the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)