Erica Grieder at Texas Monthly notes the obvious
about Ted Cruz: that he “wants, above all, to be president.”
To that end, Cruz has married tactics and strategy in an interesting way. He bet that building a political persona as a conservative purist unwilling to bend to the dictates of the Republican establishment would lift him high enough to bring down that establishment. That required him to tether conservative principle to his personal and political advancement.
Sometimes, being the most conservative guy in the room has helped Cruz advance himself. It’s at those times that Cruz has thrilled his allies. In his Senate primary, he beat the establishment candidate running on a tea-party platform. He went on to win the Iowa caucuses despite his opposition to the ethanol mandate. Both events were good for Cruz and good for conservatives.
At others times, Cruz’s claim to the conservative mantle and his obvious personal ambition have had a more complicated relationship. Cruz’s decision to spearhead the government shutdown at the end of 2013 was more controversial. He claimed he was making a last stand to prevent government funds from flowing to the Affordable Care Act; his pointed out the move, which was destined to fail, had the more immediate effect of vaulting Cruz to national stardom and allowing him to build the formidable e-mail fundraising list that he would harness during his presidential campaign. Good for Cruz? Definitely. Good for conservatives? Arguable.
Then of course there is his relationship with Trump. Let’s just say the Texas senator hasn’t exhibited a lot of finesse in dealing with the real-estate magnate. Heaping praise on Trump in the primaries, if strategically savvy, was tactically clunky. It was impossible to forget even when Cruz took the stage in Cleveland and poked Trump in the eye — and all too easy to remember when he offered Trump his endorsement because, ostensibly, Trump had offered him the fig leaf of adding Mike Lee to his Supreme Court short list. In reality, Cruz faced a revolt from both donors and grassroots activists that he feared would make him vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2018 and perhaps more importantly would undermine his ability to run for president again in 2020. Good for Cruz? He thinks so, certainly in the short term. Good for conservatives? That will certainly be the subject of heated debate.
Since he came onto the political stage in 2012, most people have viewed Cruz either as a conservative hero or as an overly-ambitious charlatan. In truth, he’s probably a little bit of both.