The threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has created an opportunity for three potential White House hopefuls in the Senate to grab the spotlight from Republican governors.
Governors have long enjoyed an advantage in presidential bids over lawmakers, but the emergence of ISIS could upend conventional wisdom.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) have been outspoken on waging military strikes against ISIS and arming and equipping moderate rebels in Syria. Through their committee assignments, each has foreign policy or national security expertise that stands out in a presidential primary field where few of the other leading contenders have established their bona fides on the international front.
Cruz stands between Rubio and Paul, leaning more toward the latter’s views. He has urged the president to bomb ISIS “back to the Stone Age” and called for a “directed, concerted, overwhelming campaign to take them out.”
But while he has employed more forceful rhetoric than Paul, the Texas senator says Obama must receive permission from Congress, and opposes arming Syrian rebels. Cruz, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, has warned that weapons sent to moderate factions could wind up in the hands of ISIS and other allies of al Qaeda.
“Ted Cruz is probably most in line with the Republican base in the sense he doesn’t want to have a discussion of Syria versus Iraq. He wants to dismantle and destroy ISIS. Period,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said. “But he wants Congress to vote on it.”
Cruz has taken a more aggressive role than Paul by pushing legislation to strip citizenship from people who fight with a hostile foreign government or a foreign terrorist organization.