Friday, December 4, 2015

Cruz v. Rubio: just what the doctor ordered

There are a lot of things one can say about Ted Cruz. Many of these things, depending on who is opining, are probably not very nice. But one thing that I think most will agree on is that Cruz has—up until quite recently—made a point of not going after his fellow Republicans in the race for the nomination. Rather, he has consistently saved all of his criticisms for the candidates on the Democrat side and for the current administration. Indeed, Cruz has generally avoided taking pot shots at even the Donald, unlike the rest of the Republican field (apart from Carson).

This tactic has, I think, served Cruz very well so far in the race. But as good old Professor Tolkien might say, the hour is late. And in that regard, Cruz has shifted gears; he's now going on the offensive against Marco Rubio, making it a point to draw distinctions between himself and the junior Senator from Florida. Rubio, of course, has responded.

This is good news for the Republican Party. Both Rubio and Cruz are still far behind Trump in the polls (and still behind Carson, but the winds of change are blowing hard there), true enough, but that's okay in my opinion. Because I think an argument on policy and the like between these two is going make something apparent that many already realize: Trump can't stand toe to toe with either Cruz or Rubio. Their arguments are over his head, beyond his skill set. Trump's "visioon" is chaotic, all over the place, apart from the pandering "make America great again" nonsense.

Really, this is a tactic that Jeb Bush would have been wise to adopt months ago: going after Rubio on policy. Of course, the problem for Bush there was the narrowness of differences between himself and Rubio. Still, trying to engage Rubio on a serious level would have, I think, given him more room to "strut his stuff," as it were. But Bush didn't do this and instead went after Rubio at a personal level. And we can see how that worked out for Bush. His candidacy is on life support. And when he finally drops out, the bulk of his supporters will simply take one step to the right and into Rubio's camp.

Cruz, however, is not Bush. I think he's savvy enough to avoid the minefield of cheap shots that the latter stepped into. No doubt, he learned from this. And I think Cruz probably also learned from Gingrich's experiences in 2012. Recall that in January of that year, Gingrich was desperately looking for traction in his race for the nomination against Romney. In Florida, Gingrich attempted to spin the contest as one mirroring that of Rubio/Crist (with Gingrich as Rubio). This was a serious, nay a grave, mistake. Rubio took exception to the comparison and with one sentence doomed Gingrich in Florida and, I think, ultimately in the contest as a whole.

Take stock of this for a moment. Rubio ended Gingrich's run for the 2102 nomination. He likely ended Bush's run for the 2016 nomination, each time with very little effort, with just a handful of words. Again, I think Cruz is well aware of all of this. True enough, this is not 2012 and Rubio is not the darling of the moment he was back then, but he still retains the same range of support, even if it is presently overshadowed by Trump. More importantly, Rubio knows how to read a moment, how to debate, and how to counter-attack. And so does Cruz.

The back and forth between the two is therefore perilous. A misstep in this regard could give the other exactly the opportunity needed and end a candidcy. Which is why it is a back and forth about serious matters, about policy and ideology. It's the sort of high-minded discussion that the Republican Party needs right now, to break up the know-nothing support for Trump. So I hope Cruz keeps at it and draws Rubio in deeper (I think Rubio is more than happy to oblige, as well).  Because I think that at the end of the day, the best possible scenario for the Republicans is a Rubio/Cruz ticket.

And the way to make this happen, the way for both Rubio and Cruz to rise to the top, is for both of them to ignore the rest of the field, to carry one as if they were the only two in the race. Slowly but surely, this will force the rest of the field—even Trump—to try to carve out their own space in the back-and-forth. But the rest of the field isn't up to the task, in my opinion. And as they try to force their way in, this will become apparent and they will, one by one, falter.

So I hope Cruz keeps after Rubio. Maybe we'll finally get something real from the Republicans. Because again, the hour is late, 2016 is almost here and it's time to get serious.


  1. Doesn't that assume that the electorate is actually interested in a serious discussion of policy issues?

  2. Nah, like always they need to be dragged kicking and screaming into one, no matter how brief it is. ;)

  3. :-)
    What happened to your dislike of Senators as presidential candidates?

    BTW, I think Rubio/Christy ticket would be a good one. But that's just my personal opinion. When I watch the debates, I dislike Cruz for some reason. I am not sure why. It isn't for policy, though there are disagreements there as well. Anyway...

  4. Lol, I still don't like Senators as candidates. But at least Rubio hates the Senate and the Senate hates Cruz.

    That said, Cruz rubs me the wrong way as well. He's very smart, but there's just something else there...