To hell with the independents. That’s not usually the animating principle of a presidential campaign, but for Ted Cruz’s, it just might be.
His strategists aren’t planning to make a big play for so-called independent voters in the general election if Cruz wins the Republican nomination. According to several of the senator’s top advisers, Cruz sees a path to victory that relies instead on increasing conservative turnout; attracting votes from groups — including Jews, Hispanics, and Millennials — that have tended to favor Democrats; and, in the words of one Cruz strategist, “not getting killed with independents.”
Twenty-three months from the presidential election, it seems all but a given that the freshman senator, who has been in Congress just two years, will mount a bid for the White House. “He’s looking at the race very seriously,” says a senior adviser, who confirms that Cruz’s campaign headquarters would be based in Houston. Cruz strategists see a way to win both the nomination and the general election.
The strategy has its critics. Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center calls it “fantasy.” The Republican base, he says, simply isn’t large enough to win an election nationally, and the Republican nominee must “energize establishment Republicans and people who don’t call themselves conservatives.”
“The key for [Cruz] is to figure out how not to lose his authenticity with the Republican base while expanding his reach,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.