Conservatives have had difficulty choosing a champion in the presidential race in part because it has featured so many candidates with very good claims on our support. As their number has dwindled, the right choice has become clear: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
We supported Cruz’s campaign in 2012 because we saw in him what conservatives nationwide have come to see as well. Cruz is a brilliant and articulate exponent of our views on the full spectrum of issues. Other Republicans say we should protect the Constitution. Cruz has actually done it; indeed, it has been the animating passion of his career. He is a strong believer in the liberating power of free markets, including free trade (notwithstanding the usual rhetorical hedges). His skepticism about “comprehensive immigration reform” is leading him to a realism about the impact of immigration that has been missing from our policymaking and debate. He favors a foreign policy based on a hard-headed assessment of American interests, one that seeks to strengthen our power but is mindful of its limits. He forthrightly defends religious liberty, the right to life of unborn children, and the role of marriage in connecting children to their parents — causes that reduce too many other Republicans to mumbling.
That forthrightness is worth emphasizing. Conservatism should not be merely combative; but especially in our political culture, it must be willing to be controversial. Too many Republicans shrink from this implication of our creed. Not Cruz. And this virtue is connected to others that primary voters should keep in mind. Conservatives need not worry that Cruz will be tripped up by an interview question, or answer it with mindless conventional wisdom when a better answer is available. We need rarely worry, either, that his stumbling words will have to be recast by aides and supporters later. Neither of those things could be said about a lot of Republican nominees over the years.
We are well aware that a lot of Republicans, and even some conservatives, dislike the senator and even find him unlikable. So far, conservative voters seem to like him just fine. We do not wish to adjudicate all the conflicts between Cruz’s Senate colleagues and him. He has sometimes made tactical errors, in our judgment; but conflicts have also arisen because his colleagues have lacked direction, clarity, and urgency. In any case, these conflicts pale into insignificance in light of Republicans’ shared interest in winning in November and governing successfully thereafter.
No politician is perfect, and Senator Cruz will find that our endorsement comes with friendly and ongoing criticism. His tax plan is admirably growth-oriented but contains too much indirect taxation of employees. He has done little to lay out a plausible replacement for Obamacare, and especially to counter the idea that replacing it would involve stripping insurance from millions of Americans. His occasional remarks to the effect that the general election can be won by mobilizing conservatives who have been heretofore quiescent politically seems fanciful. As the nominee he will have to adopt a more empirically grounded strategy, just as he has done in the primaries.
What matters now is that Cruz is a talented and committed conservative. He is also Republicans’ best chance for keeping their presidential nomination from going to someone with low character and worse principles. We support Ted Cruz for president.