You Are Not in Ted Cruz's Target Audience

As anyone who follows politics is well-aware, this past week has been a big one for Texas Senator Ted Cruz. His pseudo-filibuster against funding of the Affordable Care Act has placed him in the center of national political discussion and Cruz has faced the sort of negative press attention that a politician receives when they've graduated from the ranks of the obscure to the noteworthy. This negative attention, coupled with the criticisms Cruz has received from some Republicans has caused some to discount Cruz's future prospects.

Don't bet on that and don't underestimate Ted Cruz. As David Frum (my former editor) pointed out in a recent piece at The Daily Beast, Cruz is playing a longer game here than simply trying to win the news cycle for the week or derail a specific piece of legislation. As Frum states:

Cruz makes mistakes; everybody does. But he thinks before he acts, and his critics should appreciate that he has a plan. The plan is obvious enough: to emerge as the next acknowledged political leader of American conservatism in the apostolic succession that begins with Robert Taft, continued through Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, and has had no agreed successor since Newt Gingrich's retirement from Congress in 1998. Since then, radio and TV talking heads have displaced politicians as the standard bearers of the conservative cause. But a political movement inescapably requires political leadership -- and that position has been vacant too long.

Frum is a person who knows a thing or two about the ins and outs of Washington politics and the history of modern American conservatism. He's someone to listen to about these sorts of matters.

Ted Cruz isn't aiming for and doesn't need the support of moderates or liberals to get the attention he craves. His target audience largely consists of two groups: GOP primary voters in Texas and 2016 GOP presidential primary voters, neither of whom are interested in subtlety or tact. As the saying goes, if you like this sort of thing, you'll like this sort of thing, and those two groups like this sort of thing. (Another important group is upper-level Texas GOP donors, but let's focus on the broader party electorate for now.) The events of the past week will only serve to bolster him with the audience he is seeking and the criticism he may face from the media, liberal pundits or snarky bloggers like me will not damage his credibility with that audience.

To be sure, Cruz isn't popular among all Republicans and there are more than a few who are lying in wait to pounce on him. But the idea that there is a powerful moderate / non-wacko bird conservative Republican Establishment that can push him to the side sooner or later is based on false assumptions. That Establishment, to the extent it even still exists, is dreadfully weakened and is frightened of its own base. The day may come when that Establishment will be willing to go on the record in its criticisms of Cruz instead of whispering anonymously to Buzzfeed, but that day hasn't come yet. Ted Cruz may not win the GOP primary in 2016 or become the next president, but he certainly isn't anywhere near the end of his political career and anyone thinking the contrary is engaged in wishful thinking.