Paul says Cruz has no appeal outside the party. Cruz says Paul’s foreign policy is unacceptable to most Republicans. Cruz is nearly universally loathed by colleagues while Paul gets along on a personal level with Republican senators and has cultivated a friendship with the Senate majority leader. Cruz has tried to appeal to Paul voters by championing legislation designed to hamstring the National Security Agency; Paul has tried to assure Cruz voters that he is not an isolationist. Each is right about the other: Paul is too dovish, Cruz too confrontational and obnoxious. That is why both are in single digits in national and many early state polls.
Dual front-runners Bush and Walker are banking on Paul, Cruz, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee pummeling one another so they don’t have to and dividing up the vote so they remain above the fray. Bush would surely like one or more to attack Walker for being insufficiently dogmatic, thereby pulling him farther to the right (leaving the moderates all to Bush) or damaging Walker’s appeal with the base. Walker, on the other hand, would be smart to largely ignore Cruz, Paul and the rest on the theory that one does not punch “down” against lesser opponents.
Realistically, winning or coming very close to winning in Iowa is essential for Cruz while Paul can probably live to fight another day in New Hampshire. If Cruz, who opened his campaign at Liberty University, cannot win the evangelical-rich electorate at the Iowa caucuses, he’ll have a hard time winning elsewhere, with the possible exception of South Carolina.
In fact, both Cruz and Paul are supremely unaccomplished and unqualified for the presidency. Neither has significant legislative accomplishments or executive experience. (Paul ran a doctor’s office; Cruz, the state solicitor general’s office). Neither has a clue how to enact his personal nirvana — a pre-New Deal-sized government. As Michael Brendan Dougherty put it: “Cruz has yet to offer a single policy proposal or rhetorical lifeline to the middle. His entire approach makes sense only if you believe that there is a sectarian conservative majority waiting to materialize the moment a leader decides that there’s no reason to compromise, ever. All heft, nothing deft.” The idea of either being commander in chief is frightening (Cruz because he lacks judgment and restraint, Paul because he is more his father’s son on foreign policy than he wants to admit).
In a sense, Paul and Cruz are perfect foils for the governors and ex-governors in the race. Bush, Walker, former Texas governor Rick Perry and other governors can rightly claim that they have accomplished conservative goals. They have fought to improve the lives of their residents and for the conservative movement, not for quixotic goals or self-promotion. Their argument to conservatives and independents is simple: We won’t be like those divisive windbags; we will deliver. And the governors and former governors have the records to prove it.