The past week has been a difficult one for the self-described conservative conscience of the GOP. After having his inner smarmy politician exposed by the New York Times on the now infamous hidden micophone recording, he was dragged into the moshpit with Marco Rubio over his immigration policy. This attack by the mainstream media was inevitable, though, with Cruz’s recent ascension in the polls in Iowa and creeping national support. Like the Empire, the GOPe always strikes back. Here, lead by Marco Rubio and heavily supported by establishment friendly outlets like Fox News the attack is focused on lowering Cruz’s credibility and favorability. It’s similar to the ongoing smear campaign against populist candidate Donald Trump.
The New York Times article was meant to be a knockout punch, similar to the George Allen “Macaca” incident or Mitt Romney’s “47%” comments. It exposes Ted Cruz as a scheming, duplicitous politician. He says on the recording that he wants to “bearhug” Donald Trump in public and fears getting into a public row with Trump. He also questions Trump’s judgment as Commander in Chief. The ultimate goal is to chip away at Cruz and prevent him from eclipsing Rubio. By dragging him down to Rubio’s level, they can begin deconstructing Cruz and his good guy image.
Cruz has positioned himself as the outsider with integrity, the Champion of Christian America (Evangelicals absolutely love him). The NY Times piece is an attempt to blunt his perceived integrity and reduce his favorability among future voters. As the wider group of voters learns about Ted Cruz, his integrity and trustworthiness will be questioned, rather than accepted. In many ways, he has made integrity a central theme in his campaign. Thus, it’s no accident that his honesty is being attacked. It’s actually quite damaging in the end.
Cruz’s subsequent refusal to adequately address these questions has resulted in the general appearance of smarminess. The media has quickly picked up on this and has predictably begun to hammer Cruz on the sleaziness factor. Once Cruz’s reputation is destroyed he will drop in the polls. It’s up to him now to rehabilitate himself before the smears become truth. It’s not the Cruz Crew they are targeting but future potential supporters. With the Iowa Caucuses around the corner, the GOPe realizes it’s go time for Marco Rubio and that Ted Cruz is standing in the way.
Ted Cruz is one of the most dynamic and convincing speakers of the GOP candidates. This was largely obscured by the Rubio-Cruz cage match over immigration and amnesty. Although Cruz was given the most time to speak, he spent much of it haggling with Rubio. Most Americans do not know or care about intricate policy details. The two of them chirping back and forth resulted only in a draw, a net negative for Cruz. A draw on amnesty is actually a great deal for Rubio, as it’s his Achilles Heel. Although Cruz is clearly in the right on this issue, it has been sufficiently muddled as to give Rubio a pass. Predictably, most of the media coverage has been pro-Rubio and the anti-Cruz rhetoric has been dialed up.
The other dust up with Rubio involved data collection and national security. It’s clear on this issue that Cruz is in the right again. There is no question that Ted Cruz is more intelligent and wonkish than Rubio. But does it matter? I contend it doesn’t. He’s got lots of wonderful patriotic Americans supporting him but he’s not going to be permitted by the GOPe and mainstream media to breakthrough any further. He lacks Trump’s media savvy and the ability to simplify issues and reach directly to voters. Cruz is brilliant, but try as he might, he does not have the common touch; too much the glib, slick political insider. The larger issue of how he will handle the onslaught of half truths and smears coming from the GOPe and traditional media outlets remains unresolved.
The next few weeks will be critical for Ted Cruz. Will he rise above increased media scrutiny and GOPe smears or fall victim to them?
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