Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is making a play for the West in the 2016 race by touting his opposition to the federal government’s expansive land holdings.
Cruz’s disdain for federal land control is resonating with Westerners whose lives are impacted by land managers, and could help him win over conservatives in Nevada, one of the early nominating states in the presidential contest.
“This is an issue he’s been focused on for quite some time, and it’s one that plays extremely well with the conservative base in the western part of the United States,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who advised the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Nationwide, the government owns nearly 630 million acres, a landmass bigger than Alaska and California combined. Most of that land, managed by agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, is located in states west of the Mississippi River.
O’Connell said Nevada is especially receptive to issues of land rights, and said opposing federal control could play “extremely well” there for Cruz.
“He really needs to get some traction, because he’s lingering in the polls, and he needs some elbow room in this potentially crowded field,” he said.
Nevada could be critical for the senator, as it traditionally follows Iowa and New Hampshire in the early stretch of nominating states. It was third on the GOP presidential calendar in 2012, and is tentatively scheduled to be fourth in 2016.
Early polling indicates Cruz has a real shot in the state.