In a wide-ranging press conference immediately following his enthusiastically received speech at Americans for Prosperity’s “Defending the American Dream” conference in Dallas on Saturday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz hinted at what his path to victory might look like should he decide to run for president. Cruz, who has thus far evaded questions about his intentions to seek the Republican nomination, has recently made non-committal statements like “time will tell,” but on Saturday he offered his vision of a Republican path to victory.
Cruz was asked by a reporter at the press conference whether he had any plans to travel to Scranton, since “every successful candidate who’s run for president since FDR has gone through Scranton, Pennsylvania.”
Cruz said that he has never been to Scranton, but took the opportunity to explain how he won his Senate race in Texas and what he thinks Republicans need to do to win the presidency in 2016.
Cruz said that he is a big believer in examining data and metrics. “For those of y’all from Texas, you’ll remember the Senate race we had here.” He said, “It was a $50 million primary where we were outspent 3-1. We had $35 million in attack ads run against us. When you’re being outspent 3-1 you have to run a very data-driven, metric-driven campaign because every dollar you spend, you’ve got to get 3x bang for the buck. You can’t afford to waste a penny.” Sean Theriault, a University of Texas at Austin political scientist, called Cruz “the Barack Obama of 2012,” for his extraordinary success using data and social media in his underdog win over David Dewhurst in the Republican primary. “It is a great case study of using these tools in politics,” Theriault said.
Cruz conceded that the demographic difference between Republicans and Democrats is significant and said Republicans need to do much better in the minority community. “I was proud here in Texas to do much, much better in the Hispanic community than Mitt Romney did.” But he said the biggest difference is not the demographic shift. “The biggest difference is the millions of conservatives who showed up and voted in 2004 that stayed home in 2008 and 2012. And they fall largely into two categories,” said Cruz. “Number one, evangelical Christians — millions of believers who showed up in ‘04 who didn’t show up in ‘08 and ‘12. And number two, going back to your question [about Scranton], the so-called Reagan Democrats.”
Cruz said the Reagan Democrats up and down the Rust Belt (many of them ethnic Catholics) “tend to be blue collar, union members, gun owners, strong national defense.” According to Cruz, Pennsylvania is right in the heart of Reagan Democrat territory and they showed up to vote in 2004 but stayed home in the next two elections. “If you look in the last 50 years, there is only one Republican who has a group of Democrats named after him: Reagan Democrats. If the Washington consultants were right — that the way you bring people out is moving to the mushy middle, standing for nothing, blurring your distinction with the Democrats — then you’d see all sorts of Democrats named after some of the losing Republican nominees,” Cruz said in an obvious reference to Mitt Romney and John McCain.
In outlining a Republican strategy for victory in the 2016 presidential race, Cruz draws a sharp contrast to Rand Paul, who is courting minorities and young people as he travels the country, testing the waters for a presidential run. Potential contenders Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan have also focused on growing the party by attracting minorities. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could potentially attract Reagan Democrats but has a frigid relationship with the most conservative wing of the party. Texas Governor Rick Perry would likely appeal to a voting bloc similar to Cruz’s. Perry has strong connections to the evangelical community and his success as a job creator in Texas could potentially resonate with the Reagan Democrats Cruz says Republicans need to recapture.
Cruz went on to explain Reagan’s appeal to Democrats. “President Reagan drew a line in the sand. He didn’t say, ‘I’m just like Jimmy Carter,’ he said, ‘This race is about a fundamental choice and president Carter and I have fundamentally different visions for this country.’”
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