Prior to February 1, all political hype was laser-focused on the state of Iowa. Now that Iowans have made their decision, choosing [score]Ted Cruz[/score] by a decent margin, suddenly, Iowa is meaningless. Shorty after CNN and FOX called the winner, I felt the wind of social media change.
Cruz supporters like myself were elated that our candidate accomplished something the polls indicated was highly unlikely. The rest of the voters were not so happy. [score]Rand Paul[/score], Donald Trump, and [score]Marco Rubio[/score] supporters suddenly weren’t so keen on Iowa, making sure to repeatedly mention that no candidate aside from George W. Bush has won Iowa and gone on to snag the nomination.
Since 1976, when Iowa became 1st to vote, they have only chosen 1 Republican who went on to be President: George W. EVERY other choice lost!
— President Trump News (@Trump2016News) February 2, 2016
— tyler75 (@tyler75) February 3, 2016
Breitbart’s Charles Hurt published a piece Tuesday titled “Ted Cruz Wins Iowa, But He Won’t Be the GOP Nominee for President.”
In the piece, Hurt writes that [score]Ted Cruz [/score]has joined the ranks of Huckabee and Santorum, neither of whom were able to transition from Iowa to victory.
Hurt went on to bash Cruz speaking of his Christianity, writing:
“…he shamelessly and overtly deployed his religious faith as a guiding — perhaps overriding — reason for electing him. The man was literally quoting scripture during his campaign events. This preaching culminated in the creepy footage of Mr. Cruz directing his supporters to ‘awaken the body of Christ.’ Ick…Sounds, well, a little self-centered and diabolical.”
Self-centered and…diabolical? Wow.
“Mr. Cruz’s impressive win Monday night, of course, sparked a wildfire of giddy gloating among the Great Punditocracy who find Donald Trump so vulgar and repellent. It is like the only thing that matters to them is winning.”
It seems too me that Hurt really likes Donald Trump, and really hates [score]Ted Cruz[/score]. I guess Trump using his mother’s bible to elicit votes didn’t disturb Hurt too much.
What Hurt–and many others–don’t recognize is that Cruz has several things working in his favor that Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum didn’t.
First, while Huckabee and Santorum were both Republicans, they weren’t–and aren’t–constitutional conservatives. I view Huckabee and Santorum as religious conservatives, or theocrats, with big government fiscal tendencies. They fight hard on social issues, like gay marriage, with little respect for the way in which the constitution is supposed to work.
Appearing on Newsmax TV in December, Santorum said of Cruz:
“Ted Cruz takes the position, very much a 10th Amendment, states rights, which is, you know, very much Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Paul position…They’re being sold, Ted Cruz says, ‘Oh, I’m this social conservative’…That’s not what people are looking for. They’re looking for someone who has a very clear vision of what’s right and what’s wrong and be able to lay that vision out for the American people.”
Michael D. Tanner of The CATO Institute wrote of Huckabee in 2007:
“On its annual governor’s report card, Cato gave Huckabee an ‘F’ for fiscal policy during his final term, and an overall two-term grade of ‘D.’ Only four governors had worse scores, and 15 Democratic governors got higher grades…”
Tanner went on to note Huckabee’s big government tendencies–the exact opposite of Ted Cruz.
[score]Ted Cruz[/score]’s constitutional conservatism will likely have broader appeal than the big government “conservatism” of Santorum and Huckabee.
Second, Cruz has cash up the wazoo. When Huckabee ran in 2008, he raised approximately $16 million in total. Santorum raised approximately $22 million in the 2012 cycle. In 2015 alone, Ted Cruz raised $47.1 million, with an additional $42.8 million in Super PAC money. As of Sunday, the Cruz campaign has $18.7 million cash-on-hand. Rubio is in second place with $10.4 million.
Cruz has the cash to go the distance, where Huckabee and Santorum did not.
Third, Cruz has the ground game. In 2008, The Wall Street Journal wrote the following about Huckabee after he won the Iowa caucuses:
“Now he must broaden his support as his tiny organization evolves from a start-up to one competing at the highest level of U.S. politics. The demands of logistics, policy, press and fund raising are swamping a campaign powered by an inner circle with little experience. Thin policy positions, an unorganized press operation and a lack of long-term planning have all posed problems.”
While Santorum seems to have had a better ground game in 2012, many have noted that Cruz’s ground game is one of the most sophisticated in Republican primary history.
Fast Company writes:
“In contrast to the Trump campaign, the Ted Cruz campaign has perhaps the most advanced, or at least the most ambitious, data strategy, multiple sources said…The Cruz campaign hired the ‘behavioral science company,’ Cambridge Analytica — a newcomer to the U.S. political scene — to get beyond the simple demographics and polling data and develop an understanding of the personality traits that move voters to action.”
The New York Times adds:
“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.”
Cruz was also thinking far ahead, doing a multi-state tour of southern primary states as early as last August.
Fourth, though conventional wisdom said that increased voter turnout would benefit Trump. It didn’t. Approximately 180,000 Republicans caucused in Iowa Monday–up 60,000 from 2012–and Cruz still won by a 3% margin. Conventional wisdom about Trump was wrong.
Lastly, Cruz has the advantage of the most anti-establishment sentiment I’ve ever seen. 2008 was a Democrat year. No Republican could have won, let alone someone in the vein of George W. Bush. And while the Tea Party had clout in 2012, the level of rage against the machine was still relatively manageable.
This time around, the rage is palpable, and Cruz taps into that with his purist constitutionalism. Many see him as someone who can pull the reins on the runaway horse of government, especially given his record going back to 2001. Moreover, they see him as someone who isn’t beholden to party politics, given his propensity to hit members of his own party when he believes they’re in the wrong–most famously calling Senator [score]Mitch McConnell[/score] a liar on the senate floor.
Breitbart can whine all they want, and Trump, Paul, Carson, and Rubio supporters can try their best to smear Cruz, but he is not Mike Huckabee, nor is he Rick Santorum. He’s got a strategy, and a path to victory that they didn’t. He may not win–obviously. I’m not blind to that possibility. But to dismiss Iowa as a non-event, and to say that Cruz has no chance from here on out would be naive.