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Why Ted Cruz Should Not Run for President in 2016

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published
On three separate occasions, I have had the opportunity to speak with Ted Cruz in person. This was before he became the junior U.S. senator from Texas and during a time when he was growing in popularity with the tea party movement in the Lone Star State, a celebrity he was able to use to his advantage in the 2012 elections. When speaking with him it is clear from the beginning that he is intelligent, well-educated, well-spoken, which is the case for most politicians on Capitol Hill. Cruz has an unparalleled ability to fire up a crowd -- a base even -- which makes him a valued politician in a political party.

After Ted Cruz won the Texas senate election, some analysts used terms like "rising star" to describe his role in the Republican Party. Generally, a rising star must have a starting point from which they ascend, but Cruz never held an elected office before his current term in the U.S. Senate. He was never a state legislator. He never even held a city council position.

Cruz has reached the position he is now in such a short period of time because of his celebrity with the tea party movement. As mentioned in a previous piece, no matter what a person thinks of the tea party, come election time, these groups know how to mobilize the get out the vote effort very well and Ted Cruz only needed to force a runoff in a race with several candidates and win with a low voter turnout because no matter who the Republican candidate was, they were going to win a statewide race in Texas.

While he has never held elected office before, Cruz created waves in Washington even before he arrived in the nation's capital. He is a polarizing figure, which while not meant as an insult, is certainly not a compliment either. It is an objective examination of his approach to legislating.

Since news broke that Cruz made a trip to Iowa recently, speculation continues to rise that he is actually considering a presidential run even if the visit had nothing to do with presidential campaigning. However, Cruz's quick response to concerns over the fact that he was born in Canada, saying he will renounce his Canadian citizenship, only heightens suspicions that we may hear news in a couple of years that he is forming an exploratory committee.

However, it would be a mistake for Ted Cruz to run in 2016.

Since the 2012 presidential election, the national Republican Party has debated -- sometimes fiercely -- the direction the party as a whole needs to go for future elections. Some argue that after John McCain lost in 2008 and Mitt Romney lost in 2012, it is time the party stops "settling" with candidates the pundits call "inevitable" and go with a politician who can run as the principled conservative -- a politician like Ted Cruz.

First, It didn't matter who the GOP nominee was, the American perception of George W. Bush expanded to the entire Republican Party. It should have been obvious after the 2006 midterm elections: Americans wanted a regime change. It didn't matter if it was Barack or Hillary, the stars were aligned in the Democrats' favor and history was going to be made one way or the other.

There is no other explanation for it than it is just stubborn pride on the part of some GOP leaders.

Mitt Romney failed to appeal to voting blocs whose importance continues to rise in presidential elections -- young voters and Latino voters. That is a huge factor in why he lost the 2012 presidential election and these voting blocs do not typically fall more to the right in the ideological spectrum. Yet, the argument is that all the GOP needs to do is fire up its base.

The problem is the GOP base is dwindling. What may have helped the party some in 2012 may not help it as much in 2016.

Under the idea that the GOP needs someone who can fire up the base, Ted Cruz may seem like an ideal candidate. He is a smart politician and he has high celebrity status with tea party members and conservatives. Upon initial glance, some may even say Cruz could be the Barack Obama of the Republican Party.

Several similarities can be drawn between Obama and Cruz. Both men have inspiring background stories to use on the campaign trail. Both men got far politically in a short period of time because of a celebrity status they obtained. Both men are relatively young for Washington standards which opens up an opportunity to appeal to a broader base of voters.

While many were skeptical of Barack Obama because of his lack of experience going into the 2008 presidential election, he still had more experience than Ted Cruz has now which could hurt Cruz on the national stage. Like I said before, the only elected office he has held is his U.S. Senate seat and he hasn't even served a full term.

National celebrity may have helped Barack Obama in 2008, but Ted Cruz's celebrity does not expand as far as Obama's did. Obama was young, charismatic, eloquent, and offered change to "politics as usual" in Washington. While he did not follow through with these promises, Ted Cruz's record as a polarizing figure would not give as many people the same hope that he will be able to provide a reprieve from the hyper-partisanship that is crippling America's perception of Washington.

Additionally, even if Ted Cruz can make a compelling case in the legal argument over whether he can run for president as a natural born citizen, it is an issue that will hang over his head going into 2016. It is something that can add heavy weight to a presidential campaign and his political opponents -- both Republican and Democratic -- will not let it go.

Ted Cruz may continue be a rising star in the Republican Party. He has stepped on the toes of some rank and file Republicans, but he is valued for his ability to fire up a base. However, he shouldn't jump into a presidential race so early in his political career even if he can legitimately run.

Just because he is a tea party favorite, doesn't mean he would be a strong presidential contender in the Republican Party. Look what happened to tea party favorites in the 2012 election. What makes some Republican leaders think things will change in 2016?

Tea party candidates may be able to win in a congressional district or in a senate race where primary turnout is low, but that doesn't mean they will do well on the national stage. America is constantly changing, but societal attitudes are not shifting in the favor of popular tea party candidates.

Photo Credit: Texas Tribune

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