In Ted Cruz, a candidate as good as it gets

George F. Will
Opinion writer June 15, 2011

For a conservative Texan seeking national office, it could hardly get better than this: In a recent 48-hour span, Ted Cruz, a candidate for next year’s Republican Senate nomination for the seat being vacated by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, was endorsed by the Club for Growth PAC, FreedomWorks PAC, talk-radio host Mark Levin and Erick Erickson of RedState.com. And Cruz’s most conservative potential rival for the nomination decided to seek a House seat instead.

George F. Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs. He began his column with The Post in 1974, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1977. He is also a contributor to FOX News’ daytime and primetime programming. View Archive

For conservatives seeking reinforcements for Washington’s too-limited number of limited-government constitutionalists, it can hardly get better than this: Before he earned a Harvard law degree magna cum laude (and helped found the Harvard Latino Law Review) and clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Cruz’s senior thesis at Princeton — his thesis adviser was professor Robert George, one of contemporary conservatism’s intellectual pinups — was on the Constitution’s Ninth and 10th amendments. Then as now, Cruz argued that these amendments, properly construed, would buttress the principle that powers not enumerated are not possessed by the federal government.

Utah’s freshman Sen. Mike Lee, who clerked for Justice Sam Alito, has endorsed Cruz. The national chairman of Cruz’s campaign is Ed Meese, the grand old man of Reagan administration alumni.

For anyone seeking elective office anywhere, this story is as good as it gets: At age 14, Cruz’s father fought with rebels (including Fidel Castro) against Cuba’s dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Captured and tortured, at 18 he escaped to America with $100 sewn in his underwear. He graduated from the University of Texas and met his wife — like him, a mathematician — with whom he founded a small business processing seismic data for the oil industry.

By the time Ted Cruz was 13, he was winning speech contests sponsored by a Houston free-enterprise group that gave contestants assigned readings by Frederic Bastiat, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. In his early teens he traveled around Texas and out of state giving speeches. At Princeton, he finished first in the 1992 U.S. National Debate Championship and North American Debate Championship.

As Texas’s solicitor general from 2003 to 2008, Cruz submitted 70 briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he has, so far, argued nine cases there. He favors school choice and personal investment accounts for a portion of individuals’ Social Security taxes. He supports the latter idea with a bow to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said such accounts enable the doorman to build wealth the way the people in the penthouse do.

Regarding immigration, Cruz, 40, demands secure borders and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants but echoes Ronald Reagan’s praise of legal immigrants as “Americans by choice,” people who are “crazy enough” to risk everything in the fundamentally entrepreneurial act of immigrating. He believes Hispanics are — by reasons of faith, industriousness and patriotism — natural Republicans. He says the military enlistment rate is higher among them than among any other demographic, and he says an Austin businessman observed, “When was the last time you saw a Hispanic panhandler?”

The Republican future without Hispanic support would be bleak. Forty-seven percent of Americans under 18 are minorities, and the largest portion are Hispanics. One in six Americans is Hispanic. In 37 states, the Hispanic population increased at least 50 percent between 2000 and 2010. The four states with the largest Hispanic populations — California, Texas, Florida and New York — have 151 electoral votes.

One in five Americans lives in California or Texas, and Texas is for Republicans what California is for Democrats — the largest reliable source of electoral votes and campaign cash. In 2005, Texas became a majority-minority state; in five years Hispanics will be a plurality; in about two decades, immigration and fertility will make them a majority.

But, Cruz says, unlike California’s Hispanics, those in Texas “show a willingness to be a swing vote.” Furthermore, the three Hispanics elected to major offices in 2010 — Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio, Nevada’s Gov. Brian Sandoval and New Mexico’s Gov. Susana Martinez — are Republicans.

“It took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan,” says Cruz, who believes the reaction against Barack Obama will give the Republican Party a cadre of conservatives who take their bearings from constitutional law as it was before the New Deal judicial revolution attenuated limits on government. This cadre is arriving: Sens. Lee and Rubio were born seven days apart, and Cruz six months earlier.

The parties’ profiles are often drawn in the Senate. The Republican profile is becoming more Madisonian.

georgewill@washpost.com

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