Sen. Ted Cruz (Jim Lo Scalzo, European Pressphoto Agency) Sen. Ted Cruz (Jim Lo Scalzo, European Pressphoto Agency)

Conventional wisdom is pretty much set that  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is a bull in the Senate’s china shop. Washington punditry would have you believe that he has proven to be half-cocked and a not-ready-for-prime-time player. His intensity and outbursts have been an irritant to establishment figures from both parties, and he is a marginalized character. Granted, some of what he has said and done since being elected in November has been a tad rough around the edges, but the fact that he is crossways with the Washington establishment and a burr under almost every saddle in town gives him credibility with Republicans everywhere outside the Beltway.

Cruz has extraordinary assets that make him perfectly poised for leadership in the Republican party.  First, to state the obvious, he’s not shy and he’s not intimidated by Washington norms or Senate rituals.  He has the IQ and the credentials to go toe-to-toe with most any opinion leader in Washington.  Also, without a doubt, he could be one of the party’s most effective fundraisers — starting with the deep pockets in his home state of Texas — and he is probably among the top three or four most desirable headliners for a GOP state party fundraising event anywhere in the nation. And if Cruz chooses to get involved in primaries, his endorsement would be more valuable than an endorsement from just about any other Republican in Washington.

From his seats on the Senate Armed Services and Senate Judiciary Committees, Cruz is in direct proximity to a wide swath of issues that matter and that will influence the Republican message for the elections in 2014 and beyond.  It’s hard to overstate what his influence might be.

The fact that he’s ruffled some feathers and been dismissive of a lot of the traditional powers in Washington has made his critics howl and characterize him as a fringe actor.  But in today’s Republican party, the louder the usual suspects howl, the more powerful and feared Cruz becomes.

Cruz knows the media is laying traps for him, and he’s not making frequent appearances on the Sunday talk show circuit, but more and more, he has become the topic of discussion on these shows.  If anybody’s hoping that Cruz is going to mellow after a few weeks of negative media coverage coming out of Washington, think again. The man can speak for himself. In an interview with NBC in Dallas, Cruz was asked about criticism he has received as a result of his headstrong approach to Congress.  He answered, “That’s the way of Washington, and I’ve got a thick skin. I don’t mind if people take shots at me. If Democrats, a number of them on the record, launched personal insults and attacks at me, if they want to do that, that’s fine. I have no intention of reciprocating.”

Keep your eye on Cruz.