Item: Ted Cruz is given little chance of winning the U.S. presidency
Item: Ted Cruz wants the support of evangelicals
Item: Hardly any other politician profits so handsomely from the increasing polarization in American politics
Ted Cruz is an extremist. What's more, it's a title the 44-year-old senator from Texas wears with pride. For those who despise the middle of the road and think compromise is a dirty word, the political fringe is the last bastion of sanity.
Ultraconservative, uncompromising, religious, extreme free marketeer, convinced climate change skeptic and rabidly anti-immigration; Cruz allows himself little wiggle room to ever think of returning to the political center where, it is said, elections are won. On the contrary. He's a zealot, say those who know him best and they're not just talking about his religiosity.
"I believe God isn't done with America yet," Cruz told thousands of students required to attend his speech at arch-Christian Liberty University in Virginia where he announced he would be a candidate for the U.S. presidency. The southern evangelicals he is courting like hearing such confessions. For liberal Americans, however, it heralds a return to irrationality in American politics.
Rhetorically Gifted and Unrestrainedly Egotistic
More than his ideology, his opponents fear Cruz's rhetorical talent. The lawyer is a graduate of both elite Princeton and Harvard universities, and prior to immersing himself in politics had already had a successful career. In 2012, he won his race for the U.S. Senate with the support of the tea party and since then has distinguished himself as a razor-sharp speaker, but also as an unabashed egotist.
Cruz's 21-hour, highly theatrical filibuster against Obamacare during which he read the entire text of a children's book has become legendary. This not only got him attention, it also brought the scorn of many conservatives when the stunt failed to derail Obama's legislation. Since that time, Rand Paul — himself also often at odds with mainstream Republican opinion — has gained more friends in the Senate.
Cruz's Virginia speech featured many sentences that began with the world “imagine.” John Lennon was probably turning over in his grave. The many things he suggested conservatives should “imagine” included the abolition of the IRS, the cancellation of Obama's Affordable Care Act, heavily fortified borders, and a president who respects the U.S. Constitution, something many conservatives don't believe Obama is capable of.
Because of his extremist positions, Cruz is only given a slight chance of convincing moderate Republicans or even crossover voters from the center to vote for him. But many conservative voters are asking themselves what if the tea party and the continuing polarization in American politics accelerates the Republican Party's swing toward the right? Almost-candidates like Jeb Bush are already taking pains to ensure they don't alienate those in the party's right wing.
Ted Cruz doesn't have to worry much about this target group; they think he's consistent and electable. Plus, he has another trump card as well: As the son of an American mother and a Cuban immigrant father he could at least theoretically appeal to 17 percent of the population who are of Hispanic extraction but who have been shamefully neglected by Republicans thus far.
But meanwhile, his opposition to immigration reform is turning off many Hispanic voters. In four years when that subject is perhaps less controversial, he could score with at least conservative Latinos.
By then Cruz would still be under 50 years of age. He could only benefit from another Democratic president, the ongoing political culture war and the resulting legislative stagnation. Maybe the best way to put it is the more politically messed up America becomes, the better Ted Cruz's chances of election.