Monday, April 11, 2016

Is Ted Cruz Electable?

Niall Ferguson is trying to wrap his mind around the idea of a Ted Cruz presidency. It is not easy, but Ferguson, arguably our most prominent economic historian, professor at Harvard and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is up for the job.

He notes, with some accuracy, that Cruz is “a politics machine.” This means that Cruz has out-organized the other candidates politically. He has a stronger political machine across the country. Among other things, his local political operatives have chosen delegates who, no matter who they must vote for on the first round, are sympathetic to him.

Why does it matter? Because the first test of a presidential candidate is whether or not he is capable of running a campaign. Ferguson is correct to note that Cruz, whose most significant executive experience was running the office of the solicitor general in Texas, is seriously out-organizing a candidate who supposedly brings gobs of executive experience to the race.

One notes that Trump still has Roger Stone—threatening delegates who vote against Trump with physical violence. And now Trump has a seasoned political operative, Paul Manafort, running his delegate operation. Manafort yesterday denounced Cruz for using “Gestapo tactics.” It’s called an argumentum ad Hitlerum… it is the kind of argument that the left indulges regularly. Coming from the Republican front runner, it smacks of sore loser.

If the Trump campaign is going to have any chance it will have to overcome the impression that it is based on bullying, threats and intimidation. Stone and Manafort do not seem to have gotten the memo. And yes, I know that Roger Stone is not officially working for Trump. That does not mean that he is not working for Trump.

Ferguson notes that before Trump entered the scene, Cruz was the burr in the side of establishment Republicans. He was the one man who stood up to both Obama and to members of his own party. As I have noted, the great John McCain stood up to defend the daughter of the Muslim Brotherhood, Huma Abedin.

So Ferguson writes:

Like Trump, Cruz saw the extent to which Republican voters were sick of their party establishment. The difference was that, unlike Trump, Cruz didn’t make it up as he went along. Trump was engaged in what is known on the New York comedy scene as “improv.” Nothing Cruz does is improv. He is always the master of his brief.

Nearly everyone has underestimated this man. Back in October, prediction markets said he had a 4 percent chance of winning the Republican nomination. Today that figure is 33 percent. Before accepting bets on Cruz, Betfair should have checked with his opponents when he ran for the Senate in 2012. The man is a politics machine.

Ferguson is clear that the Republican candidate will either be Trump or Cruz:

There is a lot of wild talk in Washington these days about “white knights” riding to the rescue at the convention. The names of Mitt Romney and his running mate — now House Speaker Paul Ryan — are bandied about. But I doubt very much either would want to accept a nomination so flagrantly at odds with the wishes of the primary and caucus voters. By contrast, if Cruz arrives in Cleveland running a close second behind Trump, then he is the most likely nominee.

As though to irritate the easily irritated Trump supporters, Ferguson introduces an analogy:

No analogy is exact, but consider this. In May 1860 the Republican National Convention in Chicago was expected to nominate New York Senator William H. Seward. Few people reckoned with an unprepossessing but gifted lawyer and debater named Abraham Lincoln. He won on the third ballot.

Now, I am not saying Cruz is Lincoln. I am just saying that, on reflection, maybe I can imagine him as president of the United States.

In the interest of being fair and balanced, I bring you a few remarks from today’s lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal editorial board is seriously upset that Cruz is the alternative to Trump. It argues that Cruz is nearly unelectable. Having alienated most members of the Republican Party, they argue, Cruz will surely not garner their votes. One might say the same of Donald Trump, so the Journal seems to holding out hope for a white knight, like John Kasich to ride to the rescue. On this point, I am with Ferguson. It’s going to be either Trump or Cruz.

The Journal editorialized this morning:

In other words, Mr. Cruz’s chance to become President hinges on the so-called Republican establishment that he calls “the Washington cartel.” He wants the same people whose enmity he otherwise welcomes to ordain him as the only non-Trump alternative. Then he’ll roll into Cleveland with a smaller plurality of delegates than the businessman but depend on the power brokers of a brokered convention to pry away the nomination.

Of course, the local power brokers have chosen the delegates. And the local power brokers are either working for Cruz or terrified by Trump. The process resembles the Democratic Party’s reliance on Superdelegates… the better not to leave the decision entirely in the hands of the voters.

One naturally finds this idea horrifying, but the founders of the American Republic did not write a constitution that guaranteed anything resembling universal suffrage. Even today the president is not elected by a majority vote of the electorate. The founders certainly did not allow the presidency to be decided by popular vote.

You might consider this to be nefarious, but the current rules allow delegates to vote as they please after the first or the second ballot. Apparently, Trump is just coming to this realization. Cruz has known it all along.

As for the Cruz strategy of assailing Republicans, one must say that Cruz assailed Congressional Republicans, about whom most Republicans have a rather negative opinion. Remind us again of the favorability ratings of Congress—are they still in single digits?

The Journal writes:

One reason Mr. Cruz hasn’t rallied more Republicans, despite the fear of Mr. Trump, is that the Texan built his presidential strategy on assailing Republicans. He’s the political leader of the conservative subculture that has emerged during the Obama Presidency that attributes the country’s problems—from slow growth to stagnant wages to abusive government—to a GOP “surrender caucus” that supposedly sold out or didn’t fight hard enough.

It is true that Cruz is running slightly behind Hillary Clinton, but Trump is running a lot behind. As for the argument, made on other occasions by the Journal, that John Kasich is the most electable candidate in a presidential election, the truth seems to be that he is unelectable as a nominee.

True, Kasich has an excellent record, but his positions on various issues are not likely to appeal to Republicans in the general election. Many people like him because they do not like one or the other of the two leading candidates. They also like him because he is more an idea than a candidate. People like the idea of Kasich, but that does not mean that they will turn out to vote for him, any more than they turned out to vote for Bob Dole or Mitt Romney or John McCain.

Moreover, no one has launched any serious attacks against John Kasich. Perhaps this means that he is so wonderful that no mud would ever stick to him, but, rest assured, by the time the Clinton attack machine is finished with him, you will think that John Kasich is the bastard spawn of Darth Cheney.

In addition, Kasich is not a great debater. He recently refused to debate Ted Cruz one-on-one. If you trust his kind and gentle soul to make the case against Hillary Clinton you have been drinking far too much happy juice. Didn't we already see Mitt Romney shrink from a confrontation with Barack Obama? Do you think that Kasich, based on his debate performance, will do any better?

We already saw what happened when the Republicans sent a young and inexperienced Paul Ryan to debate Joe Biden. He was easily overpowered. For reasons that escape me, this has persuaded people that Ryan is the future of the Republican Party.

The Journal concludes:

The point is that Mr. Cruz has to show he’s more than a faction leader if he wants to be the nominee, much less win in November.

The Texan recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s TV program, and the host told him, “What you did is, you kind of held out until they found someone that they liked less than you.” Mr. Cruz replied, “Listen, it is a powerful strategy.” The audience laughed, but the problem is that it isn’t a joke.

One might dismiss the Cruz strategy in the presidential campaign. One would not have to strain too much to do so. And yet, up to now, it seems to be working. One recalls that William James once said: the truth is what works.

One final point. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is one of the beacons of conservative political thought in America. It is not an innocent bystander or a blogger with a limited readership. It does not just observe and analyze; it shapes opinion, and certainly conservative opinion. By now, it is clear that the Journal’s views on Donald Trump are being ignored by the Republican electorate. One can say that same of the views of that other clarion of conservative opinion journalism: the National Review.

But, if the Journal declares that Cruz is unelectable that will make him more unelectable. For now, unless something extraordinary happens, that lends support to the Trump campaign.


Anonymous said...

Cruz was hated by Democrats and independents, he was portrayed as an extreme right winger before Trump became the favorite.

He has no chance of winning a general election, especially if he wins the nomination at a brokered convention which would be the only way to win.

David Foster said...

Cruz wears his religion on his sleeve a bit too much. It doesn't bother me---I don't really think there is a threat of a theocratic Christian dictatorship---but it seems to bother a lot of people among the highly-educated and affluent. Fear and contempt for Christianity and for Christians is quite strong among a significant % of this demographic.

BrianE said...

Somehow this post ended up on the wrong thread:

While it seems logical that you are correct about Cruz or Trump being the nominee, very little of this primary has been logical.
The left will rail against Cruz over his conservatism (remember the add of granny being pushed off the cliff)? With 535 politicians constantly looking at their own poll numbers, it's unlikely the federal budget will be slashed, so that is a straw man argument, IMO. But if Cruz can reign in the ever expanding executive bureaucracy his presidency will have been a success.
Who honestly thinks government will shrink under a Trump presidency.

What I'm most puzzled about is why the establishment GOP didn't rally around Kasich? I admire the man and his record in congress. Beginning in 1989, he proposed a balanced budget to the ridicule of even the Republicans-- then guided it through Congress, then cosponsored the Welfare Reform bill and then left Congress because he believed it wasn't supposed to be a lifetime sinecure.

His policy positions seem to be much more aligned with the GOP establishment than Rubio-- unless he would have been less malleable, more independent minded-- which IMO is a good thing.

I was willing to bite my lip and support Kasich until his inane comments about Merrick. He stuck his nose into a process that couldn't have helped him. So there might be one of his shortcomings.

In our age of glamour politics, I worry that Cruz physical characteristics, leaving aside his positions will make it hard to be elected. His mouth appears to be in a perpetual air of superiority. While he may be no Lincoln-- Lincoln couldn't be elected today either.

As to Kasich's appeal to conservative Republicans, I would suggest he would have more appeal than McCain and the GOP establishment was fine with him. At least Kasich actually produced conservative legislation while in congress.

Anonymous said...

We're agreed - it is more respectable for the republicans to lose with Clinton over Cruz than Clinton over Trump.

On Sunday one Conservative neighbor tried to get me into a pact - he promises he'll not vote for Trump for president if I promise to not vote for Clinton. But I couldn't agree. I voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 as my first non-third party vote for President, so I feel compelled to vote for Hillary as Obama's third term.

Bush took 2 terms to sink the economy, or 5 with Reagan-BushI. Obama-Clinton apparently will take three, or 5 if you include Bill, but how can we deny their last chance?

So I hope the republicans, whomever they are, put their best foot forward for 2020 when they can win the full boat just in time for the new Census.

- Ares Olympus

BrianE said...

Ares Olympus, It's so precious when liberals try and be cute if it weren't for the seriousness of the looming financial cliff.
I suppose you could just vote for the Democratic Socialist. I understand nearly everything will be free!

Anonymous said...

You would do well to read this

and this

A smug, snarky attitude is not only a sure sign of a dying Party and a losing Campaign…but also an provocation/invitation to rebellion.

BrianE said...

I went to your first link and found this in the comments:

It's my understanding the Colorado GOP changed it's rules last summer long before Trump was an issue. Part of being President is being competent at running a large organization. Cruz has established a network of supporters working at the local level-- so far Trump has not shown the level of organization it takes to get elected.

The rules were already in place before Trump entered the race. He might have considered the necessary strategy to win the nomination, instead of whining.

If he manages to get to 1237, I will hold my nose and vote for him. I admire much of John Kasich's political career and would vote for him, even though I disagree on some fairly important points.
I will vote for Ted Cruz if he gets the nomination. He is not stealing the nomination, he is not lying his way to the nomination-- he's using the system to his benefit-- just the sort of President that would make "great deals" to coin a phrase.
I want a shrewd President. I want a President that talks softly and carries a big stick. Not a President that's all bluster.
But what I won't do, and haven't done over the past 45 years is throw a tantrum when the candidate I favor didn't win the nomination. Hopefully Larry will cool down and reconsider.

Sam L. said...

Is Ted electable? Maybe. Trump? Could be. Hillary or Bern? The Dems will pull out all the stops (or run the stop signs) to do so.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Well, Mark Zuckerberg indicates he doesn't like Trump. That's enough of an endorsement for me.

BrianE said...

Zuckerberg is supporting Cruz?

Sam L. said...

IAC, I'm sensing...something like sarcasm.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...


Yet I will say with all seriousness that the parade of personalities, politicians and pretty people who hate Trump and say they'll leave the country is quite enticing.

Ryan, Kasich or Cruz will certainly lose to Hillary.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

And Sam, Zuckerberg doesn't just want to commune with earthly aliens, he wants the big prize, the whole smash:

Dennis said...


That thought has occurred to me as well. Seeing all these people leave would probably make this a better country. It is a demonstration of who has the courage of their convictions. Why would anyone care about these people who are so weak?
As to being electable I believe they all are electable. Now, whether I would like to see any of them elected is another question. This country has become so fractured that I would suggest that a small minority of voters who can hold their nose long enough to vote may select the next president. This happens because far too many people have allowed themselves to be pigeoned-holed into small competing groups so that the elites/establishment can control the levers of power. Most of them have forgotten what it is to be an American and the rights and responsibilities that fall to them. They lack even a cursory understanding of their own history and how their rights came into existence as a part of the Bill of Rights.
Because they fail to see the larger points of the exceptionalism that is this country they accept the tyranny of the minority never understanding that the good we do and have done at great cost of blood and treasure far outweighs the bad we have done. I have never understood the desire to feel guilt over a history that one took no part in. One could not alter history if they wanted to and that is why it is called history. No amount of feeling anguish is going to change it and the people who are trying to use it for their own benefit were NOT there either. The only thing each of us is responsible for is our own actions.
This is one of the reasons Trump is quickly becoming a person that I do not think highly. If one is going to play the game it behooves them to understand the rules or at least hire people who do. Constantly calling others names and belittling the process only creates large numbers of people who Trump will need to get things accomplished in government.

Dennis said...

Sorry the older iMac I was using locked up. Switched to a MAC Book Pro.

who will act as an impediment to getting things done. If one thinks that the republican and democrat parties have some strange and unnecessarily complex rules then the federal government's rules will be exponentially more so. Just figuring out the budget process is a life time learning experience. Trump will find out just how little power he has over the levers of power in DC especially since he and his supporters have done everything to alienate almost everyone else. People in politics have LARGE egos and do not forget.

BrianE said...

National polls at this point show Kasich beating Clinton. But what matters are the swing states. Republicans need to win Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.
Kasich leads Clinton at this point. Yes, it's early, but Kasich still has high approval ratings in a must win state, and that's in his second term.
His statement on Garland is concerning-- since once a reliable leftist Supreme Court is in place there will be no conservative law (by that I mean conserving the ideals of the last 200 years) that will stand up in the court system. The full fury of the left will be displayed if the Supreme Court moves left. Prior to Scalia's death I viewed it as leaning liberal with some conservative tendencies. If someone like Garland is appointed the court will be reliably liberal, leaning leftist with an occasional burst of statism.
If Clinton or Sanders are elected, who knows how far left the court system will move.
Kasich has a proven track record of conservative legislation. He has compromised as governor, but while state and national politics share some similarities they are not interchangeable.
I could live with a Kasich/Cruz ticket and that would win a national election.
I like the philosophy Cruz espouses. But I have two nagging doubts. The populace is awash in an American Idol mentality so his physical appearance will be a negative and I haven't heard him address how the country wrests the Wall Street/Banker influence from government and puts more emphasis on Main Street, given his wife's position with GS.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

BrianE @April 13, 2016 at 7:41 AM:

Kasich cannot beat anyone. My spellchecker has gone back to correcting the spelling of his last name. He is doomed. He acts like Al Gore did in 2000... a condescending, pedantic know-it-all. He has 141 delegates. He's won one state.

These polls compare the Republican challengers to a woman with no achievements and intentionally, willfully violated federal law.

The Supreme Court moves Leftward with each passing justice, whether Republican or Democrat. Alito and Thomas are all that remain. Alas. Approval ratings and politics are what drive the other justices.

You're very concerned with what other people feel. Polls and popularity blow with the wind. What do they think? Do they think?

BrianE said...

Yes, polls this early can be misleading, but here's another assessment;

50 State Snapshot: Trump, Cruz Lose to Clinton, While Kasich Wins

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

BrianE @April 13, 2016 at 11:32 AM:

I hate to disappoint, but there is no way imaginable that John Kasich could win the presidency. There are too many reasons to list. And also, I don't believe any of the polls or projections for this presidential nomination or election... every one of them has been dead wrong. Sanders is unelectable. Kasich looks unstable. Cruz is a preacher. Hillary is a liar. Trump is a narcissist.

Other than that, everything's fine.

I have been consistent throughout: I believe the rise of Trump and his demographic appeal is instructive. If the elites don't take the message seriously, their long-term agenda is in peril. You can't sell stuff to people who can't buy it. That's why all the hysteria toward Trump just makes him stronger. He is the ONLY candidate who is speaking to the issues of white working class America. People can laugh, howl, or deny any of this, but it is real. Nobody cares about trade, immigration, political correctness or American destiny. No one, except Trump. This country will not endure if we don't make stuff.

About the only benefit I can see is Trump running against Sanders. Then I'd receive definitive notification of what kind of country we're living in today.

I respect your ability to reference and parrot polls. Unfortunately, the main issues today is what lies in the "internals" of those polls -- not what they say, but what they mean. Americans are not happy with where their country is going. Will we have a country of producers or takers?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Dennis @April 13, 2016 at 6:08 & 7:05 AM:

I agree with what you say, as per usual. There's nothing to disagree with. DC is a problem, as it is a meddlesome and growing factor in American life. Politicians have huge egos. Our education system is designed to help us identify everything that is wrong with everything, yet does not teach us how to build anything. People can talk about the racism and homoeroticism in Huckleberry Finn, but can't tell you why the book is important or what it says about being a human being (you know, the reason the subject is called "the humanities").

But something you said caught me: "This country has become so fractured that I would suggest that a small minority of voters who can hold their nose long enough to vote may select the next president."

We have always held our noses at our candidates. No one is perfect. No one can possibly meet all our criteria for what it means to be American, lead an American life, etc. The problem today is that we have become so juvenile, self-centered and catered to that we believe that our candidates SHOULD meet all our needs. We have so many purity tests and shame circuses. It's ridiculous. We used to hold our noses and vote, because it was our civic duty. Now, for many people, they are voting for their livelihood. We used to not worry about who won elections, because our Constitution was designed to constrain government. Now government seeks ways to constrain us. And constrain us in the most basic ways, attacking ancient social customs and tradition. Today we're having serious discussions about whether people who "identify" as a man or woman should be at choice with regards to something that was universally acknowledged by everyone... lest ye be a bigot. The mechanism for this lunacy is the courts, and a judge's view of what the law should be, not what it is... what it means to ME, not what it actually says. We cannot run a functioning civilization this way.

The second part that is more troubling to me is actually the first: "The country has become so fractured..." Indeed this is true, we are fractured. The question is WHY and about WHAT? It's all an abstraction and a spectator sport until something starts to impact one personally.

Which brings me to Trump. I share your view that he ought not be held in high esteem. That's because he's not worthy of said esteem. However, once again I must say that the success of the Trump candidacy is instructive, and that it also has precious little to do with him anymore. This is the awakening of white working class America which has been SCREWED by government policy in whatever social or economic form for the last 50 years. Today's DC-centered system takes care of parochial, petty and peripheral interests... not the national interest. We can't define what the national interest is anymore! I suggest it's because we don't have one. And we live in a materialistic, lunatic media culture that entertains and celebrates pleasure 24/7. What I see in the Trump movement is a huge category of people fighting back... that in Trump, they have found a voice. You may not like the delivery (I certainly don't), but I do respect the overall message. People want to believe in America again, and they want to be considered again. As long as we're viewed by DC as a parsed bunch of outliers and statistical bits, we're not going to be. We've allowed government to be digitized... everyone is a number, not a citizen.

In my survey of the candidates, I believe Hillary is the most dangerous. She's a complete liar... in every shape, matter and form. I believe Sanders would be a better choice than Hillary. America cannot take anymore self-dealing. We can't have more lies. We have to deal with what we have in front of us. Hillary Clinton will not do that.

BrianE said...

"Nobody cares about trade, immigration, political correctness or American destiny. No one, except Trump. This country will not endure if we don't make stuff." - IAC

That's hyperbole of the first order.

I agree that it is difficult to build a sustainable economic model in a service/consumer economy. I agree we need to make stuff.

The company I work for makes stuff. In fact, if I look out my window I see a production line making stuff that is destined for countries around the world as well as here.

Unfortunately what I've heard from Trump about global trade is unsettling. Given the fragile worldwide economy, we do not need nor will be benefit from a trade war.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

BrianE @April 13, 2016 at 1:57 PM:

I'm sorry, I misspoke... I forgot someone. The only reason trade is being discussed is because of Trump and Sanders.

The only reason immigration is being discussed is because of Trump.

That's not hyperbole. Those are facts.

I'm not a Trumpist. I'm an American citizen who is concerned that no one is minding the store. Washington takes in $1,468 billion, yet we still have a budget deficit of $461 billion. That's almost a third. It's a disgrace. I could go on, but I don't have time.

There are issues the politicians, establishments, and the media don't want to talk about. We're talking about them. While so many are wailing about trade wars, bigotry and the overall political tone, I find it quite refreshing. Politics is a dirty game. So many career politicians want to pretend they're above it. Well, now they can't.

Dennis said...


I agree with the fact that the people who back Trump are the working people who actually make this country run and who are now feed up with how the government looks at them and ignores everything they hold sacred, both literally and figuratively. The point I am making is that they need to understand that they need a significant number of people to agree with them and alienating those people only leads to them losing. In this they have to be more astute than their putative candidate about coalitions and the art of the possible. There are more than enough dissatisfied Americans to start a real revolution agains't DC if only they would just look around.

Actually they need a better candidate to represent them.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Dennis @April 14, 2016 at 7:19 AM:

Agreed. I just wonder if government subsidy has so enveloped American society that no person with an extended family can escape its grip, and the dependency that it breeds, and the attendant hopelessness that grows out of it all. Reduce or remove such subsidies, and it strikes terror into the hearts, minds and faces of millions and millions of people who receive entitlement benefits. It's not as simple as a percentage like, say, 47% or whatever the figure is receiving some form of benefits and assistance. It's the fact that the producers interact with the beneficiaries and cannot shut them off without thinking themselves cruel and inhumane. That's the fiscal piece.

The other piece is that this country is being intentionally gerrymandered through the non-enforcement of existing U.S. immigration law. And not just immigration law, as Senator Feinstein pointed out as she lectured us fools about showing our "humanity" to the Syrian refugees. The law is now a tool of the powerful. Get on the bad side of the government, and they'll find some obscure 1897 statute to prosecute you. Point out the law that restricts them, and you'll get the same treatment. People have been cowed, particularly white working men. We don't dare say anything, lest we be labeled intolerant bigots. It's like the Gulag Archipelago... the Soviet system. The Left is vigorously at work destroying a country and way of life. Always remember the enemy: the bourgeois. The wealthy are actually useful idiots, with investment income pouring in because we've arbitraged American labor. Tough noogies, say they.

I so I agree with you about the messenger, with one caveat: he's rude, crude and distasteful, but I don't think anyone else could've gotten through the media wall and amassed this kind of attention. Not one of the other Republican candidates could have commanded the media attention to get this message out. Trump is fascinating because he is so different than political figures of the last 50 years: he says what he thinks, in plain language, extemporaneously. I should say any of the political figures of the last 50 years, save Reagan, as I think simplicity and delivery were Reagan's greatest weapons, too, but nowhere near as off-the-cuff. Trump is the only one who could've cut through the clutter of 16 other Republican aspirants and gotten this message out. It's "new" and different because no one else is talking about these things -- they're "third rail" political issues. And Crazy Bernie is a sideshow to make things "interesting" on the Democrat side... no serious person is taking him or his message seriously. Once the GOPe dispatches Trump, don't count on a serious outsider entering the nomination process again for a long, long time. So enjoy it while it lasts. Well, it doesn't sound like you're enjoying it, but at least try for its instructive flair. People are connecting.

I am pessimistic about the opportunity to turn all this around. There's just too much dependency and ignorance, and it is escalating. I guess you've caught me on a bad day!