The last Republican Presidential Debate of 2015 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas. In the prior debates, Ted Cruz, though doing better than most of the candidates, talked less than most. Only in the Fox Business debate did Cruz come out ahead in talk time.
He has also been ignored in the press. Cruz has gotten less attention than Trump, Clinton, Bush, Carson, Sanders, Rubio, and Christie. Until recently, even Carly Fiorina’s mentions outpaced Ted Cruz.
In Washington, the establishment is aligned against Cruz. Few favorable mentions come from Republicans in D.C. Republican Senators have been willing to go on the record to disparage him. So too have prominent political activists of late, upset with Cruz’s strategy of not attacking Donald Trump. This seems more self-interested than serious outrage. Activists and pundits who love a candidate who plays the game well when that candidate is of the establishment are savaging Cruz for daring to play their game well.
But now new polling has come out of Iowa. It is significant polling in that the pollster is Ann Selzer, one of the most respected pollsters in the country. She saw the Santorum surge at Christmas of 2011 and she now has Ted Cruz ten points ahead of Donald Trump. Selzer, it should be noted, lets the registered voters she interviews tell her if they are going to the caucuses. She does not push them. She does not use lists of prior caucus goers.
Selzer and the Des Moines Register show a 21 point surge for Cruz. Among Trump supporters, Cruz is their second choice. Among Carson supporters, Cruz is their second choice.
Trump has plateaued in Iowa. Carson has collapsed. Rubio is in fourth place with ten percent, having only risen one point since October. Jeb Bush is at six points.
The trend for Cruz is good. We are getting to a point of the campaign season where voters tune out for the holidays only to re-emerge in January, often holding to the same candidate. Then there is a month’s long race to the caucus.
The question for Ted Cruz now is whether he can unite the right. Will CNN give Cruz appropriate talking time reflecting his standing and, if so, how will he use it? The attacks from Rubio on Cruz in Iowa have not hurt Cruz at all. Will Cruz now be able to make the case that he, not Rubio, is the horse the establishment should back to stop Trump?
This has happened before. In 1979, the Establishment lined up against Ronald Reagan. They tried desperately to get Gerald Ford into the race and finally rallied to George H. W. Bush. When that all failed, the establishment begrudgingly backed Reagan with George H. W. Bush as his running mate.
Ted Cruz has had a path to victory that the Republicans in Washington have failed to appreciate. He has stayed on message and on course. If they want to stop Trump, they might begrudgingly need to side with the Senator from Texas. He is the fall back choice for Trump supporters. He is the fall back choice for Carson supporters. And truth be told, Cruz can be bargained with.
Right now, Republicans of a certain stripe are lashing out at Ted Cruz for failing to fight Trump, for failing to stand up to Trump, and for winning. The same people attacking Cruz have never stood up for or with Ted Cruz. Winston Churchill once said, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”
Given how frequently establishment Republicans have joined their Democratic friends in comparing Donald Trump to Hitler in the last week, they might want to start saying something nice about Ted Cruz.