With his early campaign launch last week, Ted Cruz has captured the majority of the media’s presidential race attention the last two weeks, for better or for worse. Actually, mostly for worse for the Texas Senator. And that’s a big problem for him, because if his quixotic campaign to be the ultra-conservative hero who actually wins the nomination is to be successful, he needs to break through with at least some positive or even neutral press coverage about him.
That hasn’t happened so far, and it’s not going to get any easier for him as he campaigns throughout Iowa this week as part of his announcement swing. Let’s take a look at Cruz’s problems this past week and how he’s unlikely to bounce back soon:
Cruz’s official announcement came at Liberty University last Monday, before a crowd of about 11,000 students. The picturesque scene lost some of its luster pretty quickly. The students were required to attend, or would face a fine if they did not – a story that spread across social media and blotted out most of the coverage of what Cruz actually said. What he did say was mocked online for his endless repetition of the word “imagine” to begin each sentence. It wasn’t that bad of a speech overall, but the peculiar non-stop refrain distracted from his message. Oh, and several students with “Stand With Rand” t-shirts constantly entered the background of the camera shots.
That same day of his launch, the media also focused on the Cruz’s campaign issue with website domain names. The obvious www.tedcruz.com is already owned by people who would rather embarrass the Senator. This happens from time to time in politics, but it hurts him again because it stole opportunities for legitimate press coverage. The Register ran a major story on the topic with Cruz’s face plastered on it, not a great way to encourage confidence in your campaign among early-state activists.
Cruz got knocked with another round of stories later in the week when it was suggested by many publications that the Obamacare opponent will be signing himself up for the program. Deeply embarrassing for obvious reasons, he’s now greeted to Iowa with explanations about that topic, instead of a more friendly preview of his candidacy.
So look, everyone has bad press weeks. The problem for Cruz is that it stole his biggest press opportunity to appeal to a larger segment of the Republican Party. The early poll numbers for Cruz this year were in the paltry lower single digits, despite the fact he’s a well-known quantity to the Fox News crowd. More recent polls this week show his position improving, but not nearly to the levels he needs to solidify a big-enough slice of the conservative vote. Cruz will quickly get overshadowed during the month of April as other candidates jump in the race.
In the last few days several political watchers have suggested to not sleep on Cruz’s chances, but it’s hard to see where he goes from here. His best path to relevancy is doing well in the Iowa Caucus, but his positions and demeanor make that incredibly difficult for him. He’s the field’s staunchest opponent of the Renewable Fuel Standard. That won’t go over well with many Iowa Republicans, and the way he gladly flaunts it in front of Iowa crowds won’t help even with Republicans who don’t care as much about ethanol. Just a few days before his announcement he even sponsored the bill to phase out the RFS, calling it “unworkable and costly.”
Over at Bleeding Heartland, DesMoinesDem made good arguments as to why he’ll fare poorly here, including his off-putting personality that won’t sell well in small events. Soon after reading that, this popped up in the Twitter feed:
"When he's out on the campaign trail in public view, Ted Cruz likes…a microphone attached to his body at all times" http://t.co/MxmI5eZGmq
— Peter Hamby (@PeterHamby) March 30, 2015
That’s a weird look that won’t help him build his authenticity among grassroots Republican activists.
Add to all this the dynamics of the current primary field, and it’s difficult to see Cruz winning in Iowa. He may end up doing well among the evangelical crowd, but he’ll have Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum taking their slice of that pie. Beyond that, it’s hard to see where else Cruz will pull support from. The guy simply has too many negatives attached to him that he’s a non-starter among multiple segments of the Republican Party. Compare that to someone like Rick Perry, who while he may not have a hardcore base in any certain Republican niche group, he isn’t hated by any of them either.
Cruz starts with a small floor and a low ceiling. He may have about as good of a chance as Lindsey Graham, someone with similar (though opposite) base-expanding opportunities. Though where with Graham, who one gets the suspicion is either doing this for fun or part of a larger strategy to help another candidate, Cruz seems to seriously envision himself sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office. Unless something really drastic changes, that’s just not going to happen.
by Pat Rynard