You might have seen that recently George W. Bush went after Ted Cruz at a fundraiser for his brother Jeb. Some pundits found that odd given the fact that Trump and Carson are the one’s making all the headlines these days. Perhaps the former president was just sounding off on his personal animosity for a fellow Texas Republican. But there might be more to the story. Let’s take a look at what’s going on.
According to Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight, this is how things stood for Cruz in the polls last week:
He is polling fourth in an average of the last three live-interview polls, at 8 percent. That’s higher than he was when he launched his bid, which is impressive given how much oxygen Donald Trump is taking up.
Beyond that, in a poll of grassroots activists conducted by Huffington Post and YouGov, Cruz is in second place behind Trump – with a +53% favorability rating compared to Trump’s +19%.
Among Republican candidates, Cruz comes in second to Bush in the total amount of money raised so far (campaigns + super pacs). Only Bush’s super pacs have raised more than Cruz’. When it comes to donations to the actual campaign, Cruz comes in second to Carson. And when it comes to campaign cash on hand, he leads the field. Finally, Cruz also comes in second to Carson on the amount of money raised from donations of $200 or less. No matter what metric you use, he’s doing extremely well on bringing in the money.
Here’s what Nick Corasaniti reported earlier this month:
For every county in the first four voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the Cruz campaign has locked down county chairs in charge of not just lending their names to the campaign, but of spearheading outreach and organizing efforts…
The focus on the ground game should come as no surprise, as the Cruz campaign has been heavily focused on building leadership teams…It has also focused on building issue-based teams in the early states, such as their “99 Iowa Pastors” initiative, which seeks to tap into the networks to build more grass-roots support.
Cruz is expected to do well in Iowa because of his strong support among Christian conservatives. The next three states – New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – will likely be a mixed bag. Here’s how Eliana Johnson says it will go from there:
Cruz also has a plan beyond Iowa. He has referred to the March 1 “SEC primary,” in which eight Southern states go to the polls, as his “firewall”: that is, a backstop against whatever losses he might sustain beforehand. This year, these Southern states will go to the polls before Florida and before the traditional Super Tuesday, a change in the primary calendar instituted by RNC chairman Reince Priebus. Most of those contests, unlike the ones that precede them, are not winner-take-all, and Cruz’s goal is to win the most delegates rather than to take entire states.
You might be thinking – as I have over these last few months – that Ted Cruz has made so many enemies in the Republican Party that he could never be their candidate. However, Jamelle Bouie outlines a possible path that depends on Trump and Carson dropping out – leaving Cruz as the insurgent champion to take on the the winner of the Bush/Rubio rivalry.
But think about this as a back-up strategy: Lay low while the insurgent candidates stir things up. Don’t criticize the leaders – Trump and Carson – because they keep things volatile while the establishment candidates struggle to get their act together. Be ready with enough money to go the distance and start gathering up as many delegates as possible in the primaries. Even if that is not enough to get the nomination, it might position you very well if this whole mess ends up in a contested or brokered convention. At that point, you are well-positioned to play the role of kingmaker (or make other demands on the Party/candidate).
Doesn’t that sound like exactly the kind of role Ted Cruz would craft for himself…all the attention for threatening to blow things up with none of the responsibility for cleaning up the mess?