Each potential presidential contender has challenges in defining his or her candidacy in a crowded field. While Right Turn is on vacation, we’ll sketch these out for a batch of frequently mentioned candidates, starting with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
Cruz has a loyal following on the right, the ability to bring a crowd to its feet and a solid grasp of foreign policy. Still, he will need to define conservative victories in a way that conceals his errors, indicts top rival Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and undermines Hillary Clinton. He also faces a challenge few expected — how to outshine a newly invigorated and adept Gov. Rick Perry, whom he defended against the spurious indictment. For Cruz that means:
1. Stressing his anti-Iran credentials on sanctions and human rights. Cruz can claim a true bipartisan achievement in passing legislation to bar terrorists from entering the United States to represent their country at the United Nations, which tells you a lot about the U.N.
2. Emphasizing Israel. He certainly can point to Hillary Clinton’s acrimonious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rand Paul’s plan to cut aid to Israel, as well as Paul’s comments on containment of Iran and opposition to Menendez-Kirk sanctions. Pro-Israel conservatives know President Obama also assured the country that he was pro-Israel but turned out to be instinctively hostile to the Jewish state. Cruz will no doubt make the case that Israel needs more than another fair-weather friend in the Oval Office. Cruz can tout his votes on Iran sanctions and loud objection to the Federal Aviation Administration flight ban to Ben Gurion airport.
3. Re-characterizing the shutdown as a positive step toward building Obamacare opposition. Fortunately for him, Rand Paul is locked at the hip with him on this. He will need to meet head-on the complaints that this was reckless and harmful to the GOP cause.
4. Bolstering his executive experience by referencing the 100-plus-person solicitor general office in Texas he ran. Again, he will contrast that with Hillary Clinton’s record of mismanagement at the State Department. And he will once again try to convince voters that executive experience is only part of the picture for a successful president.
5. Trying to associate Rand Paul’s support for comprehensive immigration reform with Democrats’ “amnesty plans,” as Cruz likes to call them. He may try to label him as unserious about preventing illegal immigrants from working. (Paul opposes measures such as e-Verify.)
6. Asserting his support for anti-terror measures. This allows him to attack Paul and Clinton for weakness on the war on terror and Obama for lack of transparency and executive overreach.
7. Making Rand Paul choose either his libertarian friends or his conservative supporters. We’ve looked at some either/or positions for Paul on gay marriage, aid to Israel and robust opposition to jihadism. Paul is already feeling heat for trying to be all things to all people, so prepare to hear Cruz talk a lot about “authenticity.” In their comments about the Michael Brown shooting we saw a clear divide. Cruz is the more traditional, law and order conservative; Rand Paul is playing the classic libertarian role. Given the continued violence in Ferguson, Mo., Cruz may have played this more adeptly, giving him the opportunity to paint Rand Paul as more akin to MSM commentators than the GOP base.
8. Arguing that both Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul are Johnny-come-lately hawks. Cruz will make the case that the country needs someone who once in office would not capitulate to his or her isolationist bases.
9. Styling himself as the tea party champion without the foreign policy flakiness of Rand Paul. On this, he’ll face stiff competition from his home-state governor. There will be lots of base-pleasing candidates, but Cruz will probably sell himself as the most hard-line of the hard-liners.
10. Posing as the victim of the liberal media. The mainstream media can be counted on to fawn over Hillary Clinton and swoon over Rand Paul’s foreign policy. There is affection on the right for those savaged by the mainstream media, and Cruz can play this to great effect.