Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJ Media Symposium: Will Ted Cruz Be a Plus or Minus for Republicans in the Midterm Elections?

Find out what our columnists think about the Texas senator's campaign against establishment Republicans.

PJ Editors


February 27, 2014 - 12:16 am

Several high-profile conservative columnists and pundits, including Thomas SowellAnn Coulter, and Kim Strassel, have openly questioned whether Ted Cruz is hurting Republican chances by attacking fellow GOP senators. Others, like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, are supporting the Texas senator’s campaign against establishment Republicans.

We asked several of our writers and columnists to answer the question: Will Ted Cruz be a plus or minus for Republicans in the midterm elections?

Roger Kimball

Is Ted Cruz helping or hurting Republicans? Probably, he is hurting them. But to me, a more interesting question is whether Ted Cruz is helping or hurting conservatives.

That question is more difficult to answer, I think, and teasing out the reasons may shed some light on the interesting (as in the old Chinese proverb) situation we find ourselves in. I have two main points. One is that the categories “Republican” and “conservative” are by no means coterminous, and I think that those, like myself, whose primary allegiance is to the latter should cleave staunchly to the distinction and not let the representatives of the establishment deter them from objecting to the big-government-business-as-usual crowd when it comes to important issues.

In this context, I think, Ted Cruz appears as a tonic figure: he is bright, articulate, and — this above all — independent-minded. That’s worth two and a half if not (quite) three cheers. But the party — I mean the discussion, not the partisan group — isn’t over. Rhetoric, as Aristotle pointed out, is the art of persuasion, which is why politics is above all a rhetorical art. The successful politician is successful because he is capable of persuading large numbers of people to think, or at least to vote, as he does.

More fundamentally, the successful politician has his finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. Ted Cruz is conservative. But is he a persuasive conservative? I think the jury is still out on that. Certainly, he has demonstrated an ability to stir the pot and to infuriate all the right people (along with some of the wrong ones). To be candid, I find his exhibition of backbone exhilarating, not least because watching most politicians, Republicans as well as Democrats, reminds me of that great zoological classic by Ralph Buchsbaum, Animals Without Backbones.

Still, I wonder about Ted Cruz.  Being persuasive is not only an intellectual art. There is also an emotional component to it, as well as a hard-to-define component that I aggregate under the imprecise but also indispensable category “prudence” — another good Aristotelean category. We want our politicians to be prudent, which does not mean without principle. On the contrary, it means being able to act in such a way that is consistent with one’s principles and also in a way that is effective.  The pained yelps that have greeted many of Senator Cruz’s forays into the spotlight make me wonder whether he possess the requisite prudence to succeed. I do not assert that he doesn’t, only mention that I wonder. Nothing he has done in recent months has made me leave off wondering.

In addition to his work at PJ Media and The New Criterion, Roger Kimball is the publisher of Encounter Books, a purveyor of serious non-fiction titles from a broadly construed conservative perspective. He also writes criticism for many outlets here and in England. He blogs at Roger’s Rules.

* * * * * * * * * * *

J. Christian Adams

Modern elections are all about energy. Energy wins. Period.

The left has developed an election data tool called Catalist. The GOP has no functioning counterpart.  This database allows leftist groups, the DNC, and the Obama campaign to activate the far left base in ways that were never before possible.

How do they do it?  They collect massive amounts of data about everybody.  What you read, what car you drive, what you said in a poll, everything. A consortium of leftist users pump data in, and a consortium of left-wing customers extract data.

The data about Democrat voters allow institutions to flip a switch and ensure a massive base vote.

So what does this have to do with Ted Cruz?

Democrats have realized that modern elections are won or lost by mobilizing the base, period.  Remember the treasured independent middle? Bah. Romney won them overwhelmingly but still lost the election.

The left swamped Romney using Catalist. Romney’s counterpart base mobilizer, “Orca,” crashed and burned on election day – literally. While Romney was spending one dollar to win one vote in the middle, Obama (using Catalist data) was spending a dime to get one vote in the base.

Ted Cruz is the closest thing to a base-mobilization tool the GOP has. He is the right’s catalyst to voting. And that makes Ted Cruz more than just a net positive for the GOP; that makes Ted Cruz existentially important.

Without energy, the GOP will die. When it becomes a party composed of operatives unable to craft a competing narrative, it will die. When the Republican Party response to a left-wing narrative is to capitulate because the left-wing base is mobilized by that narrative, it will die.  When the Republican Party turns to the pages of the New York Times for affirmation, it is dead.

Ted Cruz is the Red Bull of the GOP. He is a net positive, and necessary for survival.

Why even ask the question? How absurd in hindsight is it to question Ronald Reagan’s criticism of Gerald Ford? Reagan was right. That’s all that mattered.

Ted Cruz is right, and he’s got the energy to mobilize the base. After two failed presidential elections with pundits telling us we need someone to appeal to the middle, now is the time for energy.

An election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, J. Christian Adams is part of the rare brotherhood of uniquely American heroes: the whistleblowers. He has helped expose the Department of Justice’s failure to prosecute the radical New Black Panthers group, and he co-authored PJ Media’s “Every Single One” series that revealed the politicized hiring practices of the Obama Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Christian continues to write about the Department of Justice and other legal matters on his PJ Media blog, “Rule of Law.” His experience working at the DOJ gives him intimate knowledge of his area of focus: elections. On his blog, Christian decodes the “system” for people unfamiliar with it by providing keen insight into what is happening. He blogs at Rule of Law.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Michael Walsh

No matter how much those on the Left and some on the Right wish it were so, the 2014 election is not about Ted Cruz. It’s about the necessity of recapturing the Senate – with the right kind of senators. To pack the upper chamber with a bunch of Mitch McConnell clones, in the end, does the GOP no good, since neither McConnell nor his House counterpart, the lamentable speaker John Boehner, has any serious objection to the Democrats’ ethos of more and ever-bigger government. Charged with fiscal stewardship and put into power by the Tea Party, Boehner has shamefully abdicated his fiduciary duty toward his party, his constituents, and his country, while McConnell sits in the enviably corrupt position of pretending to Fight the Man while enjoying the perquisites of power and none of the responsibility.

So what does it profit an allegedly conservative party to have Republicans like McConnell take over the Senate if absolutely nothing in the way of meaningful rollback will occur over the next two years? And if more frustration leads to the election of another Democrat president in 2016? The leaderless and rudderless Tea Party is finally coming to the realization that it’s been had, but there isn’t much it can do about it, short of finding an actual leader and a coherent media strategy. Men like Cruz and his amigos Rand Paul and Mike Lee at least offer some hope that things might change, that the new boss won’t be the same as the old boss, and that the voice of the people might actually get a hearing in Washington.

But under the “leadership” of the Washington Generals – designated losers who nevertheless make a handsome living out of their ineptitude – the party of Lincoln has degenerated into the party of the Midwestern Rotary Club, nice guys who observe all the proper pieties and finish last. Since Reagan, the GOP has been afflicted by such souls, including both Bushes and the faint-hearted, failed candidacy of Mitt Romney. (No one would ever accuse John McCain< of being a nice guy, just another loser.) Does anyone doubt that “Jeb ‘16” is in the works?

Cruz has become the object of hatred on the Left – par for the course for anyone who threatens them – and yet, curiously, a figure of derision among the establishment GOP and its media spokesmen, who regard the brash Texan as rude and guilty, apparently, of capital lèse-majesté regarding the senior statesmen of his party – when in fact his only real crime is offending the mainstream media/Beltway’s sense of propriety. The GOP needs more Ted Cruzes, not fewer.

The real question is: does it have enough time? The battle is now joined: either Cruz and his fellow upstarts will conquer the Rotary Republicans, or they will be conquered and the Tea Party’s signal grassroots accomplishments tossed in the ashcan of history as an aberration. The party in D.C. will go on, spending like there’s no tomorrow because, in fact, there is no tomorrow. And then it will stop.

Journalist, author and screenwriter Michael Walsh joined PJ Media as a columnist in June 2012. His blog, Unexamined Premises, is devoted to deconstructing and exposing the way the Left thinks, especially its reliance on claiming a bogus “moral high ground.”

With six critically acclaimed novels as well as a hit TV movie, journalist, author and screenwriter Michael Walsh has achieved the writer’s trifecta: two New York Times best-sellers, a major literary award winner and the co-writer of the Disney Channel’s then-highest-rated show.

* * * * * * * * * * *

David Steinberg

Thomas SowellAnn Coulter, and Kim Strassel all took exception last week to the conservative movement — nominally led by Ted Cruz – which intends to primary GOP incumbents who do not align as strongly as Cruz does with conservatism. This appears to be, or at least felt like, the first such anti-conservative stance taken by Sowell, making it the most jarring of the three. Wrote Sowell:

The basic, brutal reality is that the federal government can do whatever it wants to do, if nobody stops it. The Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision shows that we cannot depend on it to protect our freedom. Nor will Congress, as long as the Democrats control the Senate.
The most charitable interpretation of Ted Cruz and his supporters is that they are willing to see the Republican party weakened in the short run, in hopes that they will be able to take it over in the long run, and set it on a different path as a more purified conservative party.

Neglecting the remainder of the passage for the moment, note that Sowell’s first sentence above is factually correct, and is also the pivotal information required for this debate. The sentence is not Sowell’s opinion, but a truth about men governing men: no document and no legislature can ever function as a fail-safe defense of the individual’s rights. Whether in the “state of nature” or under a “consent of the governed” state, one group of folks can always do “whatever it wants to do if nobody stops it.” Your best hope, the strongest safeguard of your rights — superseding even the bearing of arms — that could ever exist falls to the culture you live within. If the citizens report being ever-ready to “stop it,” your rights stand a better chance of remaining secured.

Presently, the United States does not have a strong enough culture to uphold the individual’s life, liberty, and property as the highest feature of government. The decline of America — economically, and in regards to respect for the rule of law as based on the individual’s rights — has occurred because the countrymen allowed for a decline.

The citizens are not producing the pressure necessary for a turnaround. Yet the establishment GOP’s strategy for returning the country to prosperity is to work with the culture as it is. This path relies on a boggling number of troubling or irrational assumptions, considering the confidence with which its advocates present their arguments.

If the GOP members being primaried are uncomfortable being associated with Ted Cruz, presumably they are comfortable being considered less conservative than Cruz. These incumbents may be hiding their conservatism based on some calculation only they understand, and surely a legislator who consistently measures how close he can safely stand to the Constitution is not someone committed to the rule of law. On the other hand, these incumbents may honestly believe in maintaining a distance from conservatism, and thus are comfortable with the current culture which has led us to a potential American nadir.

They are a lose-lose, and that’s before taking a measure of the opponent. Eric Holder has on more than one occasion instructed state attorneys general to ignore the law. The president has unilaterally changed Obamacare eighteen times. When the adversary is lawless, a GOP-controlled Senate of the calculating or the less-adhered to the Constitution is just another bump in the road. Sowell, Strassel, and Coulter, as pessimistic as they all might be regarding the country’s odds for recovery, are still irrationally positive on the nation’s prospects without a slate of constitutionally committed oath-takers.

I wish the national resurrection were as simple as “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.” But culture trumps legislature.

Whether the GOP claims a Senate majority or continues as a minority, trusting the zeitgeist that distances itself from the Constitution to produce change is not simply a questionable strategy, it is an illogical, self-negating one. What reason exists for harboring any expectations of rapidly shrinking deficits, a restored commitment to the individual, and a sane foreign policy without a dispatching of the culture that diminished all of this?

Further, the acceptance that our culture cannot grow fonder of the Constitution and must be dealt with “as is” represents a new iteration of “the bigotry of soft expectations.” Americans can reject incorrect assumptions and embrace reason, just like anybody else.

Sowell was wrong in his assessment of Cruz’s supporters: we do not want to temporarily weaken the party with purposes of purifying it, we want to immediately strengthen both the party and the country by reestablishing the culture’s commitment to individual rights.

If America does not grow more comfortable with conservatism, the decline will continue.

David Steinberg came into political writing via time spent working in production and development in Hollywood. His biggest influences now include talk show host Mark Levin, economist Thomas Sowell, and Fox’s Megyn Kelly. In his own words, these are people who “simply do not lose arguments because they only present inarguable truth.” His new PJ Media blog is Self-Evident.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Bill Straub

Let’s stipulate that Sen. Ted Cruz left quite an impression on the Senate during his first year in office. Anyone who can unite in animus such disparate characters as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John McCain, not to mention the entire Democratic caucus, certainly bears notice.

But, frankly, Cruz will wind up being neither a plus nor a minus for the GOP in the upcoming midterm elections. His appeal, or lack thereof, won’t affect the outcome of a single campaign. His presence will carry all the influence that a mosquito has on the sunrise or, if you’re a true conservative, all the sway man has on global climate change.

There exists a temptation to overstate Sen. Cruz’ political clout at this early stage. Many observers credit him with wielding as much influence as the senator seems to attribute to himself. But it’s unlikely Cruz will swing a single vote one way or another.

Think about it rationally for a moment. How many voters are likely to step into a booth next November and ask themselves, “Whom would Sen. Cruz want me to vote for?’’ It’s much more likely they will be asking themselves, “Who is Ted Cruz and why in the world am I thinking about him?’’

Most voters – check that, almost all voters – have no idea who Sen. Ted Cruz is or what he stands for. The exception would be Texas and there it’s already pretty clear that Sen. John Cornyn is breezing toward re-election despite an ill-advised primary challenge from Rep. Steve Stockman, who attempted to pick up and immediately fumbled the Tea Party banner. And can anyone tell me who the Democrats are running?

Cruz may perform some of the tasks many politicians perform at this time of year – attend a fundraiser or two, make an appropriately supportive speech, shake hands in front of the cameras. But in no instance will he affect the outcome. People at this stage are not voting for a Cruz surrogate in either the primary or general election.

Take Kentucky, my old stomping grounds, a state drawing a lot of attention this year. McConnell has drawn opposition from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, brandishing the Tea Party flag. Despite reports that the primary is close, McConnell maintains a substantial lead. Ted Cruz has nothing to do with it – McConnell is simply viewed as the godfather of the Kentucky Republican Party.

The general election could – and I stress could – be tighter, with the GOP leader facing Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Bluegrass secretary of state. Cruz won’t win or lose that election. It will be close because, to be honest, while many people have voted for McConnell in the past, very few folks actually like him, and Cruz has nothing to do with it.

So, while it’s easy to portray Cruz as an outsized, John Wayne-type figure in Election 2014, voters in states like South Dakota, Colorado and North Carolina really don’t give a rat’s behind who he supports.

Now 2016? That could be another matter.

Bill Straub is PJ Media’s Washington correspondent and is a former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Karl Rove just makes me want to stay home and not vote. However, my wife and I are election judges so I since I am already there - I vote.

Ted Cruz makes me want to contribute money, time and effort. He understands we are one election away from tyranny.

The Bushes, Romney, Boehner, McConnell, Karl Rove, Graham and McCain have absolutely no clue how precarious things are. None. Zero.

It's Ted Cruz and people like him or we will perish. It's only a question of time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I love the sub-headline: "Find out what our columnists think about the Texas senator's campaign against establishment Republicans."

I guess we know right up front what the august editors here think of Ted Cruz. Here's a news flash: He's not campaigning AGAINST anyone. He's doing nothing but championing the values and priorities codified in the official 2012 rnc platform. If that's a campaign against the establishment, I'd think the establishment might take a long hard look in the mirror - if they can stomach doing so....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In football, someone has to get the ball and run with it. McConnell and Boehner seem to think taking a knee or punting every time they are on offense is a winning strategy. Cruz might not know the playbook so well or listen to the coach, but when he gets the ball, he runs. People notice.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (113)
All Comments   (113)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
As a conservative, let me give some feedback to the naysayers to Ted Cruz. We conservatives ARE MORE THAN HAPPY to see someone with real gonads stand up and stand for the America way, the American people, and our ideals as espoused in the Constitution. We have already experienced decades of fealty from the so-called republicans, commonly known as RINOs because the speak out of both sides of their mouth. They promise the voters one thing, but do the opposite when in DC. We are not interested in sending hordes of people to the Congress so that they can make rules that compromise our liberties, put them over us as the ruling class, and in the meantime making themselves rich off the decisions that they make that HURT us. Thank heavens for Ted Cruz! I finally feel that we have a winner again. How are we going to know who to trust unless they are willing to take the stand on everything whether it seems small or big. We have come very close to winning some issues because of Ted, and if the so-called conservatives had gotten in line with him, they'd have forced Obama to back down on some things. We are behind Ted. Not all issues ARE winnable in this climate, but to not take a stand on the issues is reprehensible. We have a history of caving. I'm so glad that we have people who are not afraid of being a majority of ONE. Ted and a majority of the American people is a winner EVERY time...listen to that Thomas Sowell, Ann Coulter, et al.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No one recognizes the actions of Ted Cruz because he went to Washington to do EXACTLY what he promised to do! No one seems to understand that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Tea Party and Cruz are a grass roots response to a need that is still there. The need arises from "Republicans" who have become so liberal there is not much choice between them and Democrats. The only thing that matters is whether there is enough grass roots support to get Cruz and other Tea Party candidates elected. I believe immigration is destroying America so I like Cruz's no compromise on this issue. Cruz gets an A+ fro NumbersUSA whereas Paul gets B+. Paul is already compromising to just to run. Republicans running on compromises might win but it would be a win for socialism as if it were Obama's third term.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
clinton II - too sick to run?
May we so hope?
would it be the "magical thinking" of abused little kids confused by the contradictions of their abuser upon whom they are dependent and helpless?
Informed Americans are similar to child abuse kids in that we know something is not right, we are suffering, and we remain helpless.
Best to follow the win capable, conservative U.S. Senate candidates. Support them regularly. With any & every comment over time, eh? If you donated to a RINO turncoat/fraud in the past, contact their campaign site to remove you from any further mailings & why.
Cruz has stepped forward. He gets my $$.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ted Cruz uncompromisingly stands (apparently alone) for conservative principles and no matter how charmingly he phrases those principles the RINOs will continue excoriate him because their only principle is of endless compromise to assure the continuation of their prestige, power and $$
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Assuming we have an election in 2014, the best case scenario might be Ted Cruz cast as General of a new party. If events that seem to be rumbling as we type cascade into major chaos, all bets are off on the paradigm of politics we currently suffer under. Assuming we get to the election, I'd say Christian Adams had the best take on the situation. Substantial support for his True The Vote efforts are also mandatory for any type of required victory: either a revitalized Republican party or Ted as the anti-progressive Teddy Roosevelt that actually pulls it off, setting the stage for 2016. That would be our best hope, and that is what I work the beads for every single day. I am not, however, taking any bets.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The GOP establishment wouldn't know an idea, or a principle, if one were to kiss them in the mouth and stick its tongue clear down into their collective duodenum. They are a gaggle of doddering, hapless old geezers who once were someone important, but only have energy today for an outraged sputter against uppity youngsters like Sen. Cruz, and then to go back to gumming their oatmeal.

The model is not Ronald Reagan, but George H. W. Bush, whom at the time George F. Will dubbed, "America's Chief Clerk".

When I watch them easily outmaneuvered by Dems, easily ridiculed on TV, easily controlled and cut off by the liberal media, I feel like I'm watching the Kerensky government being routed and the Bolsheviks doing their endzone dance. They are clueless today and will be clueless when they're herded into paddy wagons and sent to a re-education camp.

How to take the country back? I wish I knew. I only know one thing: it can't be done without a fight. Ted Cruz is at least putting up his dukes. That's a necessary first step. If he lands a couple on the heavily-favored Democrats, it just might turn around.

GOP leadership: lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hmmm. Even Thomas Sowell doesn't get it. Sad.

Most people I talk to don't care about all this beltway crap. They do comparison shopping: Ted Cruz or any Bush? Ted Cruz or Boehner? Ted Cruz or just about any Republican? Mostly, they choose Cruz, because he says what he thinks and is prepared to defend it. McCain hates him - that's good enough reason for me to send money to Cruz next election.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
By the comments I get the impression ALL OTHER BLOGGERS on this site are sideline commentators who've never campaigned for someone. For the record I am an election officer and have been active in political conservative campaigns for a long time. ONLY J Christian Adams gets it. The rest of the commentators, all whom I enjoy reading, also seem clueless as to what really goes on in elections and who actually votes. As I've recently posted on other PJM articles, in a non-presidential year you're lucky to get 20% of the electorate to vote. Who are these folks? 9.5% hyper partisan left, 9.5% hyper partisan right and maybe on a really good day 1% middle of the spectrum, don't know nothing but found themselves at a voting station vice Starbucks by accident, accidental voter. Who wins? The side that gets their base out. Which side never questions their candidate? The Left. Who always questions their candidates and threatens to not vote if they don't get their way? The Right. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Lee, Tea Party et al are the only energy source feeding the Right's hyper- partisan right, and I support their efforts TO WIN THE PRIMARIES. Then whoever wins the primaries, whether they be a Ted or Mitch clone, we all have to get behind them and get everyone we know to vote for them. I don't like it but it's much better to support a RHINO who has won the Primary and who might be scared enough to slow the country's descent into hell vice a Dem who's hell bent to get us there tomorrow. We need to buy time until we can transform the Republican Party or replace it with a viable and effective counter to the Dems. Anyone who threatens to hold his or her vote for even the weakest right wing candidate is defacto a leftist supporter and should be told so. As for the left, their candidate can be caught in felonies, caught lying, is found to be totally obnoxious, stupid, racist, bigoted, a pervert, a Nazi, KKK, polygamous, etc., the left doesn't care and they sure aren't to be persuaded even by Jesus Christ unless He was on their ticket. So my advice to all conservatives on this site: fight to get your preferred candidate to win the primary then get every lover of freedom, liberty, and Constitutional government to vote for the winner of the Republican Party primary, even if they're a RHINO of the worst sort. To do less guarantees a left win.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The bottom line measure is how much Ted Cruz energizes supporters and discourages opponents. He's demonstrated his power to accomplish the former.

Ad hoc Ted Cruz caucuses forming in a couple of dozen major urban areas that show ability to turn people out to politician town hall meetings or to demonstrate at the state capitol would cinch it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Will Ted Cruz be a plus or minus for republicans in the midterm elections ?"

The question is a little too delicate, and a little too irrelevant, for my sensibilities.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 4 5 Next View All

2 Trackbacks to “PJ Media Symposium: Will Ted Cruz Be a Plus or Minus for Republicans in the Midterm Elections?”