This is an extraordinarily interesting and intelligent analysis of CPAC (e.g. – the demographics of those who attended and voted in the straw poll), of Ted Cruz’s performance at CPAC and of Cruz’s larger problems he must confront if he is to have any chance to be win the Republican nomination. This is a must read for any fan of Ted Cruz. Here are my two cents: Cruz must move beyond being an attention seeking bomb thrower and start presenting himself as more of a thoughtful statesman with realistic proposals for change. Even the rabid GOP base knows in its heart that someone who proposes abolishing the IRS and sending its agents to patrol the Mexican border is going to get more laughs than votes in a general election with an electoral college already stacked against the Republicans. Scott Walker who has done plenty (for better or worse) in Wisconsin pleased the conservatives and came across as much more presidential and likeable in his CPAC speech.
In the grand scheme of things, Cruz finishing third [in the CPAC straw poll] is not bad, considering that he’s been on the national scene for scarcely two years. But, then again, the same can be said for Rand Paul – though, as a past two-time winner of the straw poll and the son of CPAC favorite Ron Paul, also a past two-time winner, he had a huge leg up.
Simply put, Walker has in the last few weeks stolen a march on Cruz, and he used CPAC to consolidate his advantage over Cruz.
In his report card on the prospective candidates who spoke at CPAC, Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin gave Walker an A, Rand Paul an A-minus, and Cruz a B-plus.
On Cruz [Halperin wrote]:
Style: Signature toggle between hushed emotion and rallying shout that surfed the audience energy, punctuated by his “Cruz Stroll” around the stage with a wireless mic. Even as his Beltway tenure as a senator ticks by, he still pushes his anti-Washington, populist message without fear of contradiction or mockery. Biggest flaw: too often veered from happy warrior to angry warrior.
Overall: Nobody in the party today speaks with as much confidence and energy. Showed message discipline on his winning anti-DC schtick, but with so many lines familiar to the audience, some of the enthusiasm drained from the room as he delivered his spiel. He hasn’t worn out his welcome by any means with the CPACers, but he offered up no second act or sense of growth.”
I think this is a problem for Cruz right now. His story-line is stalled.
He presents himself as the Outsider Within Washington.
“What I am trying to do more than anything else is bring a disruptive app to politics,” Cruz said.
His theme is “Make D.C. Listen.”
But, like it or not, he is associated in the public mind with Washington, which Walker, in his speech, described as “68 square miles surrounded by reality.”
As I wrote in my story Sunday:
(Cruz) challenged Republican rivals to compare war wounds.
“We all know that in a campaign, every candidate comes up and tells you, ‘I’m the most conservative guy that’s ever lived,’ ” Cruz said. “Every one of them will say, ‘You betcha, hoo diddly, I’m as conservative as all get-out.’”
But, Cruz said, “If you’re really a conservative, you will have been in the trenches and you will bear the scars.”
Ed Morrissey, a conservative blogger and radio talk host from Minneapolis, said Walker more than meets that test.
“Ted Cruz said, ‘Show me where you’ve bled for the conservative agenda,’ ” Morrissey said. “Well, Scott Walker bled all over Wisconsin. He had to run for his first term twice because the unions came after him in a big way.”
As Rich Lowry at National Review wrote of Cruz’s CPAC appearance:
Oddly, the quotient of applause lines to applause seemed off. His jokes were clunky and he was a little shouty. But there is no doubt that people still love him for his role in the last government shutdown. One problem for his candidacy is that his show-me-what-you’ve done riff is a better setup for Scott Walker than for himself. It is a bit odd for a senator to say “Talk is cheap” when, unless they are master legislators, pretty much all that senators do is talk.
I think Halperin is also right that Cruz has to worry about coming across as an “angry warrior.”
“There is an edge to him, but maybe that will round out as the takes the campaign nationally,” Morrissey said.