Cruz makes his move

Cruz makes his move

The Briefing, Vol. III, Issue 40-

This week:

  • Trump is still the talk of the town, but Cruz is on the rise
  • Historical context regarding frontrunners at this point
  • Trumpism as a rival to Reaganism in the GOP

We hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.

President 2016

The primaries are rapidly approaching, and Donald Trump continues to defy gravity, holding a substantial lead in national polling. Although his grip on media attention is not quite as solid as it was before, it has not died off, nor have his leads in the various polls. 

But don’t panic.

There is a good reason why people are still discussing Trump — whether he is a fascist, for example, and what exactly he meant by his wild, extremely Trumpy comments about this and that and the other thing. This all comes with the territory of being the frontrunner. Trump has a hard core of support that will not be deterred by day-to-day controversies or by whether anything he asserts is true. What he has yet to prove is whether he can attract additional support.

Then again, national primary polls at this point in a cycle have not been good predictors of the winner in the past. Part of the reason for this is that there is no national primary — just ask President (or nominee) Rudy Giuliani.

There will be caucuses in Iowa in February, followed by a primary in New Hampshire. The outcomes of those two contests will likely do a lot more to determine what follows than any event ongoing or any poll being taken now.

And early polling in those early states, history shows, is also not necessarily a good indicator even of what will happen in those early states.

Iowa: The fall of Ben Carson has returned Trump to the lead in Iowa, but note that he hasn’t exactly shot up in the polls as a result. It is apparent that Carson’s support is not shifting to Trump, but rather to Ted Cruz, who has quite suddenly risen into the low 20s. At last, a true contender is challenging Trump for the lead.

Why has this happened? There’s one obvious reason, and one less obvious reason.

The more obvious reason has to do with an endorsement that is quite rare in that it actually matters. If you’re a staunch conservative living in Iowa who is especially concerned about illegal immigration, you’re probably a big fan of Rep. Steve King, a Republican (first elected in 2002) who represents a safe U.S. House seat in the state’s heavily Republican west. King is the top-dog immigration-hawk in the U.S. House — the new Tom Tancredo. (He even looks a bit like Tancredo). No one in the House is more hard-core on the issue of immigration, and King’s support for a candidate is a clear signal that this guy is okay.

King recently announced his endorsement of Cruz, who represents a more traditionally acceptable libertarian version of conservatism. This is bad news for Trump, whose chief attraction to date — really his only attraction — has been the issue of immigration.

King’s will likely be the most important endorsement by a politician in the state this cycle. No one really expected King to endorse Trump, but the fact that he endorsed another candidate instead is a signal for all immigration hawks to resist Trump’s allure for now and give this other guy a closer look. Based on Cruz’s sudden rise in the polls in Iowa, it appears that many potential caucus-goers are doing just that.

The less obvious reason Cruz is rising instead of Trump is what we hinted at last week — Trump probably has a low ceiling of support. His hard core of support remains — as it probably will until the caucuses — but when all is said and done he will likely have little potential beyond that. Those who are going to get behind him have most have done so already. 

Keep in mind that caucus-going requires a level of dedication that goes beyond usual voting — you can’t just show up and do your thing, you have to show up at a specific time, listen to speeches on behalf of all of the candidates, and then cast your ballot. This is a formula that works heavily against non-traditional caucus-goers and causes poorly organized candidates to fall apart at the last moment.

For some historical perspective, here is what Iowa looked like in previous years, courtesy of RealClearPolitics:

Screenshot 2015-12-01 at 1.17.05 AM

Note that the frontrunner in each case did not end up winning. Not to say that the Iowa caucuses tend to pick the eventual winner, either, but they do have a way of weakening or eliminating eventual losers who used to be frontrunners.

New Hampshire: The story here remains more open-ended at this point. Trump holds a clear lead, and it isn’t clear yet who can top him. Even so, note that Trump scores much closer to the final percentage of the candidates who finished in second place in previous years than he does to the eventual winners.

Screenshot 2015-12-01 at 12.30.00 AM

At this point in time, Marco Rubio is the closest thing to a true challenger to Trump’s frontrunner status in the Granite State, yet he remains a small-fry — Trump has more than twice as much support at the moment. New Hampshire is probably Rubio’s best chance of catching fire and winning the nomination, just as Iowa is for Cruz. Then again, Rubio isn’t too far ahead of Cruz or the rest of the pack at this point.

At the moment, Rubio’s highest-probability potential supporters are probably being split with Jeb Bush, whose candidacy could well suffer due to revelations about the early rumors he tried to spread about Rubio. Bush’s miserable campaign has failed to get traction in this state so far, the one on which he is now basing all of his hopes.

Ben Carson’s fade is evident here as it is in Iowa, and again his support lost up to now has not been migrating to Trump. But Carson’s fall is having much less of an effect than in Iowa, just because Carson was never as big in New Hampshire. Still, the eventual winner will likely inherit what he and others currently hold.

Again, and as noted previously, Trump has likely turned off enough of the GOP electorate than he will not go much higher than his current position in the polls in the mid-20s.

Outlook: The point here is that if Trump fails to win at least one of either Iowa or New Hampshire, he will likely fall off like many a Howard Dean ’04 or Mitt Romney ’08 has-been has fallen off before him. For example, Trump has been vying with Carson for the lead in South Carolina, but the rise of Rubio and Cruz in that state, still far below him in the polls, may presage the race that emerges after the first two states have cast their votes.

In a very hypocritical sort of way, all this talk of early polls is intended to illustrate that they really matter a lot less than might first appear. They have not historically proven a winner. But of course, Trump has a way of defying pundits’ expectations and the laws taught by experience in previous election cycles.

If Trump somehow pulls this off, the mainstream of the modern conservative movement will be homeless for at least one election cycle. A Trump nomination has been the nightmare scenario for both establishment and conservative Republicans, whose main hope is to reverse the damage of the Obama years. It would signify the emergence of a rival ideology to the Reagan-style libertarian-conservative fusionism that has characterized the Republican Party since the 1980s. It would signal that Republican voters are more interested in a European-style nationalism that has always existed at the fringes, without a serious political grip in America. The fear is that this alternative to Reaganism — hostile to foreigners and trade — embodied by a candidate who is unable to apologize and as a rule uncautious in what he says, is unlikely to perform well in a general election. A Trump nomination, the conventional thinking holds, would cause great losses for conservative candidates down-ticket, perhaps wiping out all the gains of 2010 and 2014.

The Beltway crowd, social conservative activists, and the libertarian-leaning Right have all been sweating over Trump’s rise, but not enough to unite them around a serious anti-Trump strategy of any kind. It is here that Trump’s greatest opportunity emerges. But can he take advantage of the disorganization among his rivals and maintain his early lead until next summer’s convention?



  1. Interesting projections. Mine are: Cruz wins Iowa (probably with close to 30%), Trump a strong 2nd, Carson (as he ends his run) a struggling 3rd. Rubio 4th since he is all that remains of a credible candidate there. Trump wins New Hampshire but a “mainstream” candidate (Kasich or Christie) runs well. Rubio a respectable 3rd but barely ahead of Cruz. After NH (or earlier) the race narrows to Trump, Christie, Rubio, Cruz. Bush withdraws, the others are gone.
    South Carolina – Trump/Cruz race. Rubio will find it hard to win a primary until/unless the GOP “mainstream” endorses him.

    • Agreed. The presence of Bush in this race really really hurts Rubio. At this time, so is the fact that Christie and Kasich are in… both of these candidates’ only chance was to catch fire early which had not happened. For Rubio to have a chance he has to get to third place in Iowa and at second place in New Hampshire.

      • Rubio is a GOP machine politician; why would you want him to have a chance? All he has is that he is a good speaker. Not on the level of Senator Cruz; about on the level of Rand Paul, but better than all the others. But on policy, he is a moderate and a Neocon. No significant difference between Rubio and Bush; like Christie, Fiorina, Graham and Kasich, none of these is a conservative by any stretch of the imagination.

      • I wish Bush would drop out at this point. Never been a fan of his, although he’s done well for Florida and has a good governing record. I just don’t think he could beat Hillary in any debate and his constant defense of Common Core rubs me the wrong way. When he speaks he does not come off as confident and commanding, and he’ll be pounced on again and again by Hillary.

        It’s unfortunate that Bush still being in the race is taking away from Rubio’s appeal. He’ll need to fix his stance on immigration and stand by his new stance, but Rubio could/would be a stellar president. Cruz is still my first choice, but Rubio is my second. And a Cruz/Rubio ticket, damn what a strength to be reckoned with. This country can’t afford another four/eight years of a ghastly Democrat POTUS and administration. Democrats, all heart but with no clear understanding of economics, prosperity, and real, lasting values. They’re all children.

        • Cruz/Rubio…an all-Latino White House to allow Hispanics their turn? Not a chance. Moreover, Cruz would not have Rubio as his running mate, and Rubio already opened the gates for every amnesty group in America to come asking for their payback, once the little fellow is in the VP seat.

          More likely, Cruz would pick a centrist Midwestern or a California dandy, of the WASP species, to increase his chances with the mushy middle (which he would have to do, to have any chance in a general election).

          It’s one thing to know beyond a doubt that Ted Cruz can tear out the Hag’s windpipe on the debate stage, and play her a tune on it. It’s another thing to think that Cruz can pull together those 52-53 million it takes to beat the welfare crowd at the polls. That welfare crowd is a fixed constellation in American electoral politics; the GOP machine knows it, and has been angling for the Marxist vote as a result.

          Cruz takes a different tack, with the TEA Party issues (which are all my issues as well, and yours). At some point, he would have to connect with California techies and Midwesterners in the tradition of the old ‘anti-war’ types. Reagan was a master at all of that.

          If he studies hard, I think Cruz can make up the difference. But I’m not sure he will mean it (as indeed, Reagan usually did not), or that it will convince the mushy middle. But he can bring out tens of millions of true conservatives that sat out the last few elections. Either way, The Hag will get her 52 million welfare drones.

          I think the article has it right: Trump is fun to watch, but can’t win. I really don’t think Ted can, either, unless the LORD gives him superhuman ability to connect with constituencies he has never connected with before, or unless he does an amazing revival among all conservative subpopulations.

          As to whipping the Hag in debate? Ted will mop the floor with her.

    • Most of us who support Trump in the polls that are taken on these various sites, prefer Cruz but will vote for Trump if Cruz doesn’t win, but I believe most conservatives will support Cruz when the opportunity presents. And do not forget the support Cruz may well gain with hispanics as well with the Tea Party and conservatives. Cruz has far more sleepers than you may imagine and they will pick up the call for Cruz when needed.
      I like and dislike Trump. I like what he says, that he is not a politician, that he is a business man and even that he has the sense to declare bankruptcy when the economy tanks. Trump can not control the economy but he is wise to take advantages provided by our nation’s laws to stay solvent. Good, savvy business is what we have been asking for in quite a long time, so why crucify him for using it? I also like that he has no in’s with various nations and is not a kiss butt to other nations. We need to get past glad handing the world’s political insiders and if it takes a rough, raw, brash, crass man like Trump to spit on their shoes when they get smart with him! Yes, there are many things I like about Trump, but there is just something about him that continues to be cautious. I am thinking that he may be a flash in the pan, a quarter horse, quick in the quarter, but not enough endurance to sustain the distance. Quarter horses are marvelous animals for many things but the office of President needs a thoroughbred, built for the distance. I guess what I am saying is that he may sound strong and loyal but I believe he may well give into pressure over time, from those who remain behind the scenes. I just do not believe he has the wisdom or cunning to see them coming nor the patience to listen to advisors who do. That is a feeling I have had about Trump from the get go, and although he has surprised me, I continue to listen to my instincts. So for me it is Cruz, then Trump, but only Trump if Cruz can’t pull the votes you folks are concerned about.
      I have enjoyed your comments and thought processes immensely and thank you for most of your learned critiques! But for now, my eye is for obama’s sleight of hand and what he is plotting with his cabal to finalize the ruin of America!
      In the meantime, let God be God for he only knows the future~

        • Thank you David for your kind remark. I do not like bankruptcy as a whole, however predicting the economy is difficult for everybody, so I guess what I was saying is what Kenny Rogers sings, “you have to know how to hold them, know when to fold them, know how to walk away when the dealing is done”. At least I have never known Trump to defraud his investors and walk off with all of their money. I am sure most of you have better informed opinions of Trump, heck all of you. My opinion is that politics as usual is not going to work for us any longer. Particularly the agreement between the two parties to never challenge an illegal election. And there has to be a better way to pick a president. For instance Oregon is a liberal state because of the large liberal population in the greater Portland, Multnomah Metro area, but the population in the majority of the state is quite conservative, yet year after year we have to watch them hand us a democratic candidate. It is like the greater portion of Oregon is without a voice. This is egregious!
          I am shocked about the opinions or spouting off of some others who wouldn’t vote for Cruz. For the first time, we have a man who knows the Constitution, is above reproach, is quite handsome and charismatic, has outstanding leadership skills, and is unflappable and polite in the face of his critics. I have never in my long life seen a man more qualified to be president, ( even JFK). I am appalled at the apathy regarding Cruz because he is the type of candidate everybody has said they wanted. I guess it is true what they say, you can please all of the people some of the times, and some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.
          Thank you again for you interest in my opinion.

  2. It is all speculation, but the smartest candidate is Cruz. He has the political skills that Trump does not have, plus the libertarian track record which mainstream Republicans can rely upon. I believe that in their hearts, Republican voters realize that Trump cannot be relied upon to uphold basic Republican principles and he could step off the deep end at any time and drown in his misstatements. The other candidates mentioned do not have the staying power of Cruz.

  3. The fact is the Republican front runner will not be revealed until mid 2016. Cruz would be an excellent choice, but the last thing America needs is another Washington insider like Bush or Rubio and the base knows it. This is the magic of the Trump candidacy. True, he has trouble putting together a coherent sentence yet he manages to get a message across that resonates because he goes to the heart of issues relevant to rank and file voters and it isn’t just about immigration. It’s also about jobs, our economic well-being, the military and American leadership in the world. When he says he would bomb the s__t out of ISIS do you think his message could be any more clear? Who else is saying this in such a straightforward way? Crude, yes, but very effective. Americans are sick of politicians and their weasily, wormy, squishy answers to questions designed to always leave them an out. Say what will about Trump, but people like plain talk and decisiveness hence his amazing poll numbers.

    • Yes, crude. And palpably unconstitutional, his talk of taking over foreign oilfields, etc. Of course this has been all the rage for 125 years of U.S.-based MIC pillage and plunder, in “our” name, in over 40 foreign countries.

      The average citizen’s total ignorance of history, civics and the Constitution (to say nothing of economics, common sense, biblical ethics, etc) allows millions of flag-waving ‘conservative’ Americans to allow Washington DC and its puppeteers (the military/banking/oil cabal) to claim and operate huge cities worldwide — nominally ‘military bases’, but really corporate security compounds at no cost to the corporations they serve — and the citizens don’t bat an eyelash.

      ALL of the GOP candidates think this is just peachy. Constitution? Sovereignty of foreign countries? What’s that?

      There is a lawful, peaceful, full-spectrum solution to D.C. organized crime; but it begins with citizens educating themselves in basic civics first. That is one of the many services of AmericaAgain! — because no president is going to end this hijacking of America, although many of them will certainly make it worse, should they win office.

  4. If Iowa trends toward their normal conservatism, then Cruz does stand a chance of doing very well there. He can forget New Hampshire as that is an establishment stronghold and the establishment leaders hate Cruz, probably more so then Trump. One would be amazed if Trump carried New Hampshire.

    Cruz has a very good chance of showing strength in both the midwest and throughout the South, particularly in the bible belt. However his Christian faith, will be a strong disadvantage in the Northeast and along the West Coast. With nearly half of this nations’ voters trending toward secular liberal leaders, Cruz would have a difficult time in the general election, but could very well take the primary race. He is undoubtedly the best GOP candidate running at this time, to lead this nation.

    • Presidents do not ‘lead this nation’, except into a ditch. Lincoln was the consummate hijacker proving the thesis, but it was reiterated in Ameican history by the disasters of McKinley, Roosevelt I, Wilson, Roosevelt II, LBJ, Carter, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Hussein Osama.

      We are a constitutional REPUBLIC, not a ‘nation’. Politicians — however captivating their speeches may be — do not ‘lead’ self-governing people. They either *serve and represent us*, or they deal treacherously with us.

      The latter is the case in 99%+ of cases.

      Senator Cruz is an accomplished speaker and debater, with great intellect. Beyond that, I would not go. He has stood against the GOP machine often enough, but he has also capitulated often enough, as well. He has a bigger ego than perhaps all the other candidates except Trump. He is a definite Neocon war-monger. His wife was a lifelong careerist for two of the world’s largest banks.

      There is NO good, constitutionalist candidate this time around. Each of them comes with serious red flags attached. I agree with the thesis of the article: Trump’s negatives are too high to win a general election. But so are Rubio’s; so there is a better-than-even chance that we will see Billary turning the White House back into a whorehouse, from the Obamanation crackhouse it has been, these seven long years.

      • Sorry, cannot agree with your statement, that presidents do not lead the nation. If you will look at the harm that many whom you mentioned have done, you will have to admit that they do in fact, lead this Republic into bad times as well as good times.

        Having been involved in politics for nearly sixty years, I have yet to find the perfect man or woman for the presidency and I doubt there will ever be such a human being with such credentials. That being the case, one has to look at the credentials presented by each candidate and weigh the good with the bad.

        More importantly, one has to look seriously at the state of this Republic and try to pick a leader, that can bring unity between our citizens and resolve the many problems that we face today in this country. At this point in time, we need to get our own house in order, so that it can stand against the many attacks that it is currently under, from within and without.

        To accomplish such a worthy task, we will need a leader who the people can trust. We will need a leader who knows and understands the importance of our Constitutional Republic and is willing to protect it at all costs. It will be highly important to pick a leader who is spiritual and believes in the Almighty God that has blessed this nation from it’s birth. We will need a leader who understands the term sovereignty and the importance of observing not only the sovereignty of this nation, but that of all other nations as well. He or she will also understand the importance of a secure border, because without one, we are no longer a Republic. Last but not least, we will need a leader who will speak the truth before Congress and the people and who has the strength to stand up for the truth.

        These are the prerequisites that I use when trying to identify the best candidate for the presidency and so far, only one stands out head and shoulders above the rest and that is Ted Cruz.

        • I was kinda hoping you would back my Draft Sowell movement. Haven’t Tom-Ted and Ted-Tom Teams the rings to pull Dem votes?

          • Dr. Sowell is a very wise man and I would never discredit him. He is a whole lot wiser then the ones leading this nation right now.

      • All those who deny a Creation God and try to force a secular lifestyle, on those who do believe in the Creation God.

  5. There are ONLY 3Candidates I’ll accept as the republican nominee and they are Carson, Trump or Cruz. Just remember that any president is only as good as the people he surrounds himself with. am surrounded himself with hard core Liberals, Socialist and Communist and look where we are.

  6. Trump is the democrat’s Trojan Horse. He rarely attacks Clinton, only making fun of the other Republican candidate, in a very liberal way, hurting irreversibly the Republican party when criticizing the Bush years…. You will see a lot of Trump towers permitted when Clinton will be president.

  7. If Cruz is even close to winning the nomination, obama will be peeing his pants with pleasure. Neither obama nor Cruz are eligible to be president according to our constitution. and for the same rule. Please people read your constitution.

      • All I ask is that you read the constitution. The constitution states clearly that you must be a natural born citizen. Look up the meaning of the phrase natural born citizen. Cruz can never be a natural born citizen of any country as his parents were citizens of different countries when he was born.

      • It’s up for debate Snowy. And the debate will definitely happen once he wins the nomination. There will be a witch hunt to take his candidacy down for this.

      • Correct; ‘natural born’ does not mean ‘born on U.S. soil’ or else any child born to an American mother while vacationing in a foreign country, would automatically be conferred with that foreign country’s citizenship.

        Only Washington DC does that — with its preposterous ‘anchor baby’ policy based on a transmogrification of the 14th Amendment, designed for babies born to Negro slaves, here against their will.

        ‘Snowy River’ has a mistaken reading of the term “natural born”. Cruz came from the womb of an American citizen from birth, and he lived in these united States since childhood.

        And here’s the trump card anyway: precedent. A clearly Marxist, clearly Muslim person got a pass — twice! — on this question, with the majority opinion being as I have stated above. Even though the Marxist Muslim’s mother was an avowed communist (as were most of their friends right through Osama’s college days) none of that mattered. He was deemed a ‘natural born’ citizen. So ‘Snowy River’ takes a truly moot position, even had his interpretation of ‘natural born’ been correct.

        • I remember reading a very long missive on this subject, written by a Constitutional lawyer, and according to him Ted Cruz is indeed and American citizen, thus eligible to command the Oval Office.
          If I am going to make a decision it will always be an informed one, I go to those who specialize in the area of my interest. Since reading that article, I have read several others who agree with the first one. And before you ask, I can not cite them at this time because I had no reason to save them so I will rely on my integrity and whether one chooses to believe me or not, it does not change the fact that Cruz is a natural born citizen of the United States.
          And snowyriver, do you not find it amazing that our population has had all of this time under a man who has effectively, lawlessly challenged and near destroyed everything America stands for and made us a mockery in the eyes of the world, yet they have embraced him and covered his treacherous deeds and never challenged his birth, yet when presented with such a man as Cruz, the only charge they bring against him is that he is not a natural born citizen. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater!
          We have a national mental health disaster in the lib population called stupidity. The symptom include denial, delusions, head in the sand, anger, control, selfishness, no restraint or respect for differing opinions, preaching equality and tolerance yet desire to destroy the rights and beliefs of all who disagree with them, and a lack of ego integrity as evidenced by adolescent behavior and throwing tantrums and calling names when they do not get their own way. They are all under a mass delusion that they should have their own way and opinion all of the time, no matter how much evidence to the contrary.
          Were I the national health director, I would advise contamination, massive doses of antipsychotics, intense counseling, and continued evaluation for signs that their symptoms may ( likely) will return. And a ban on any political or social integration for an extended period of time, a really extended period of time. The first sign that their symptoms have returned-extermination or transportation. They could create a new nation called headinthesandlibs~

  8. Cruz is unusual in that he is able to remember every conversation he has ever had. That makes him the most potent candidate not only for debates with HRC but also as president. We need someone running this country who not only remembers what he has said but also remembers the truth. Neither HRC or Trump fall within that category.

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