Ted Cruz hit the 2016 cycle with a running start by announcing Monday at Liberty University he is running for President. The news is certainly far from shocking. Cruz has made it very clear since early 2014 he had been thinking about running.
Cruz appeals to the most conservative base of the GOP. His support in heavily evangelical Texas is strong and he has made clear he will run as a stalwart social conservative and perhaps taking the wind out of the sails of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. But can Cruz, a bomb thrower who few in leadership or business cycles like, actually win the nomination?
Few can deny the appeal Cruz has to the base of the GOP. He is Hispanic, a lawyer and legal scholar, and speaks to the most primal of GOP fears regarding Obamacare, the deficit and social issues. But while that might be enough to get Cruz through Iowa it would likely cost him New Hampshire and perhaps South Carolina.
Further complicating Cruz’s bid is the issue of money. Many analysts expect Cruz to raise large sums from individual donors and he likely will. But when you compare that with the money the Walker’s and Bush’s of the world can raise that is small change. Cruz does have one decided advantage however, Heidi Cruz, his wife, works for Goldman Sachs and has helped him raise large sums from the company throughout his political career. Other than that Cruz has raised cash from large GOP leaning think tanks and Super PACS. Even if we assume Cruz can get past his money issues there are the issues of the GOP primary calendar and his opponents.
The RNC has largely taken a hands off approach to primaries and caucuses except to assure only the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary is held in January. In February, South Carolina has been assured the second in the nation primary. After that, states have jockeyed to hold their primaries and Caucuses whenever.
Beyond the first three comes North Carolina and Michigan in February. One could make a plausible case for Cruz in North Carolina but just as in South Carolina there is a sizeable business wing of the GOP that views him with hostility.
March appears absolutely brutal for Cruz. On March 1st, several states hold their primaries (Colorado caucuses;[Florida; Massachusetts; Oklahoma; Tennessee; Texas; Vermont; Virginia). Cruz might be able to nab one or two but more worrisome is many of these states are winner take all states meaning Cruz could finish second and get no delegates in a state as populous and delegate rich as Florida. The rest of March is a wash with some Southern, Southwestern and Northern primaries. Assuming geography trumps all Cruz would win the Southern primaries but lose elsewhere. By this time Cruz would clearly be dragging and drop out as funding disappears and conversation turns to the general election. But even if he somehow made it to April the slate of states up looks like Dante’s inferno; Maryland; Washington, DC; Wisconsin, Connecticut; Delaware; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island.
Cruz’s other issue is his competition. Cruz will certainly play up his socially conservative bonafides and it surely will aid him in Iowa. But while Cruz has a visceral appeal to the most conservative voters his main competition, Walker and Paul, have more experience and success to tout. In the Senate Paul has worked to shrink government and reduce prison sentences. Walker has taken on unions and taken pains to tick off nobody in his nascent Presidential bid.
Both of these candidates present obstacles for Cruz to overcome. Somehow, Cruz has to convince voters he can accomplish things and is not so polarizing he cannot win the general election. Further, he has to tout his accomplishments, or lack thereof, compared to his competition.
None of this is to say Cruz cannot win the nomination. But when the primary calendar and establishment are lined up against you it is hard to overcome. Then there is this little tidbit that suggests Northeastern and “somewhat conservative” voters represent the biggest share of the GOP primary electorate. These voters look for pragmatic, business friendly candidates. Cruz is unlikely to win many of these votes.
In sum, Cruz has a shot with a wide open field splitting support. But his antics have left him few friends in DC and business circles. His lack of experience also contrasts meekly against Scott Walker and Rand Paul.
Lastly, Cruz may not even be able to claim his largest constituency if Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum get in the race. If they do the evangelical wing of the party would split four ways in Iowa (Cruz, Huckabee, Walker, Santorum) and likely still be split in South Carolina. Without that vote there just does not seem to be a plausible route for Cruz to win the nomination.