I love this detail from Teddy Schleifer’s Friday scoop about Ted Cruz’s imminent plans to announce his presidential campaign:
Cruz will launch a presidential bid outright rather than form an exploratory committee, said senior advisers with direct knowledge of his plans…They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate.
“Done exploring.” Further confirmation that Cruz is a top-notch troll when he puts his mind to it. And further confirmation, of course, of something that’s been clear for a while, at least in Texas. In October 2013, for example, Cruz told me that conservatives have “a limited window” in which to turn the country around, and continued:
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but there is an urgency to these fiscal and economic issues unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
“That reminds me of what President Obama used to say during the primary in 2008, when people asked him why he was running for president after only a few years in the Senate,” I said. “He would say, ‘There’s a thing called “too late,” and that hour is almost here.’ ”
We stared at each other for a moment.
“I didn’t know he said that,” Cruz said innocently.
“I thought it was remarkable,” I said. “Especially in a primary.”
For the first and last time since I began interviewing him, in July, Cruz said nothing at all in response.
Yup: running for president in 2016. How will he fare? That’s murkier. The fact that he’s expected to give his first official speech as a candidate at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University is ominous. It suggests that Cruz, looking at a crowded field in an open primary, is moving to shore up support among social conservatives. The political reasoning is clear enough: he needs to corner the market on some measurable subset of Republican primary voters and build from there, and Rand Paul is already well ahead with the liberty-type Tea Partiers. If this is the strategy, however, Cruz risks squandering his most interesting asset—his apparent ability to unite the Tea Party, which is a nebulous aggregation of various interest groups–libertarians, social conservatives, fiscal hawks, gold bugs, homeschoolers, populists, nativists, elitists, anti-elitists, anti-authoritarians, etc—with surprisingly few common denominators beyond the fact that, like all Republicans, they’re against Obamacare, which is of course Cruz’s signature issue. He would also risk casting himself as a social conservative standard-bearer, which is fine in itself, but a recipe for coming in a distant second in a modern Republican primary.
With that said, Cruz is a shrewd tactician with a record of winning apparently impossible contests: Medellin v. Texas. The 2012 Republican Senate primary. And once in the Senate—well, he didn’t succeed in defunding Obamacare, but he definitely made an impression. Not an unmixed impression, perhaps, but I bet Marco Rubio would pay a lot of money for access to Cruz’s database of email addresses. So, you know, we’ll see what he says tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s some background reading on Texas’s junior senator–a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a suit, wearing a FItBit—from our archives.
“The Man in the Arena”, February 2014. This is the aforementioned profile of Ted Cruz, which we planned as a short feature to mark his first year in the Senate—he ended up being busier than we expected. Of note, this profile includes a lot of Cruz comments that don’t appear in any other profiles.
“Ted Cruz’s Excellent Adventure,” October 2012. After winning the Republican Senate nomination, and in retrospect possibly ruining Texas politics by triggering a wave of increasingly absurd copycat primary challenges, Cruz sat for a chat with our then-editor Jake Silverstein. Highlights include another top-tier moment of trolling, when Cruz very precisely criticized Barack Obama: “I think he has pushed relentlessly for European-style socialism in this country, and I use that word in its literal sense. It describes a means of structuring an economy. Socialism is government ownership or control of the means of production or distribution. And, in my judgment, that has been the unified theme of this administration.”
“Texas Hold ‘Em,” July 2013. Even before Cruz somehow commandeered the House of Representatives and allegedly engineered a federal government shutdown, he was causing a ruckus in the capitol. Nate Blakeslee, for one, was unimpressed by his approach to immigration reform.
“Ted Cruz and the 47 Percent,” January 2013. At times, though, Cruz has shown far more nuance than his critics would consider him capable of, as in his analysis of the 2012 elections, which resulted in his call for Republicans to take the 47% to heart. It would be nice if he gave this speech tomorrow instead of the speech we should probably expect him to give. Yes, that would be nice.
“The Overcomer,” October 2013. Brian Sweany’s profile of our new governor, Greg Abbott, otherwise known as Cruz’s former boss, and his closest political mentor.
“Master of the Senate,” December 2014. My profile of Dan Patrick, which may give some context on the Texas political landscape in the aftermath of Hurricane Ted.
“Face to Face With Rick Perry,” July 2014. Remember him? He’s also running for president and—although he has been widely discounted by political pundits, as a result of his previous campaign—I still think there’s a chance this all ends up like the climactic scene in Jurassic Park, when the velociraptors (Cruz et al) are about to eat the people (that’s us!) and then the T. Rex, Rick Perry, comes crashing through the door.
(AP Photo/Joe Skipper)