Politics & Policy

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz Are Each Running Away from the ‘Mushy Middle.’

(Drew Angerer/Getty)
They're Just Running in Different Directions.

Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) pitched their presidential announcements to different audiences, but they have one thing in common: they’re both running against the “mushy middle.”

Paul used the phrase while reminding New Hampshire voters of their “live free or die” heritage.

“New Hampshire’s founders didn’t seek out the mushy middle,” he said Wednesday, according to remarks prepared for delivery. “They admonished you to live free. But a government that takes half your paycheck does not leave you free . . .  I come to New Hampshire to announce that I will fight for your right to be left alone!”

#related#That’s hardly the first time voters have heard the phrase. “There are some who believe that a path to Republican victory is to run to the mushy middle, is to blur distinctions,” Cruz told reporters in January when Mitt Romney was mulling a third presidential bid. “I think recent history has shown us that’s not a path to success.”

Cruz is making an appeal to Christian conservatives in order to galvanize the coalition of voters that propelled Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum to success in the last two Iowa caucuses. Paul is banking on his libertarian supporters, and an electability argument based on his outreach to minority communities, to bolster his primary campaign. Cruz and Paul may face different paths to success in the primaries, but the rhetorical echo calls attention to the crossroads at which they’ll likely meet in the future, even as their camps try to remain friendly in public for now.

“I think we think we are the likely beneficiaries of Cruz supporters, if he were to falter, and I think Cruz people think that they are the likely beneficiary of Paul supporters,” Steve Munisteri, a senior advisor to Paul, told National Review on Monday. “So, right now, I think both camps are being exceptionally nice to one another.”

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