A Memo to All GOP Presidential Candidates Not Named Ted Cruz
Here’s why if the Iowa caucuses were today he would win and you wouldn’t.
This memo amounts to an intervention.
It serves to warn all other Republican presidential campaigns of a perfect storm looming on the horizon. Not only does the storm favor Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but your combined failures/refusals to recognize it are only helping him. If that environment persists, Mr. Cruz will not only win Iowa next year, but win it convincingly.
Your skepticism of Mr. Cruz’s candidacy, and willingness to play ball with a system the average Iowa conservative no longer trusts, is helping to positively brand Mr. Cruz to voters looking for a fighter and an outsider.
And that is what the majority of 2016 Iowa Caucus voters are looking for.
Now before you (and your consultants) get defensive and immediately dismiss this memo as a ridiculous polemic written by a rube, please remember a few things.
My record predicting the outcome of elections in Iowa is proven. For this reason, many of your campaigns have already sought out my take on the lay of the land here. Several of you have already appeared on my radio show to speak to my audience. Some of your campaigns have even asked me for staffing referrals. And I just moderated the first joint candidate forum of the 2016 cycle in front of about a thousand Iowa Caucus voters/activists.
Given this track record, I hope you’ll each take this in the spirit it is intended. I know several of you personally, would be proud to vote for many of you, and am grateful to have such a strong field. Nonetheless, if the caucuses were today you’d all be fighting for second behind Mr. Cruz.
While it’s definitely still early enough to change things, you won’t do that by trying to bend the electorate to your candidacy. Instead, your candidacy needs to acknowledge the environment, figure out why Mr. Cruz is surging, and strategize accordingly. Permit me to offer a few tips:
1. You’re not entitled to anything.
There are no political saviors, and Iowa Caucus voters aren’t looking for one. Just because you may have ran here before doesn’t mean a bunch of folks were just waiting for you to show up and put the band back together. There’s not much of a nostalgia market. Having the deep baritone voices on Fox News prematurely anoint you as the front runner doesn’t overly impress, either. Nor are voters going to entertain any late-entering rock stars promising last-minute deliverance. And if you want to run on your personality instead of where you’re at on the issues conservatives care most about, you’re wasting our time and yours. Iowa conservatives are looking for a candidate who earns their vote and is willing to make the necessary connections to do so. Mr. Cruz is connecting with conservatives based on what he’s willing to do for them.
2. Fighting for what we believe in is an accomplishment.
I’ve already had several candidates, or their advisers, lament to me privately they can’t believe Mr. Cruz is taken seriously because “he hasn’t accomplished anything.” They’ll also say “he loses every fight.” However, what many of you don’t realize when you say these things is you’re not just undermining Mr. Cruz, but offending the very voters you’re also trying to woo.
For example, when my enemy keeps pushing me back and I keep giving ground, I eventually come to the end of the cliff. One more step and it’s overboard. Yet my enemy keeps pressing on. At that point, I grab every rock, stick, or pile of dirt I can and start flinging it at my enemy to try and regain some ground before it’s too late. My survival instinct kicks in, and survival in this situation is a strategy. When I’m in survival mode, I need the people claiming to be on my side fighting alongside me rather than critique the way I’m fighting.
This analogy is how many Iowa conservatives see the country. It gives them a sense of urgency most people in the political class, even if they’re conservatives, fail to grasp. Mr. Cruz latched on to this early on, and now Iowa conservatives see Mr. Cruz as one of them.
So while the political class sees Mr. Cruz’s fight to defund Obamacare as a loser because it ended in a government shutdown, the conservative base out here sees it far differently. After witnessing most Republicans of this era fail to fight for anything, they value Mr. Cruz’s willingness to stand up for what they believe in regardless of the blowback. Not coincidentally, the candidate other than Mr. Cruz I’m being asked the most about at the moment is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Precisely because people are also starting to see him as a fighter.
3. Conservatives want change agents, not managers.
Too many of you are listing accomplishments like balancing budgets when Iowa conservatives think the budget is too damned big whether it’s balanced or not. Voters are looking for transformers, not technocrats. Besides, the only people who care about running this government nobody trusts better than the Democrats do are already voting for Jeb Bush.
And nobody is applauding you voting for the latest big government “fix” because they think the fix is in — and they’re the ones getting the shaft. This is not a time for pouring old wine into new wineskins, and conservatives aren’t looking for reform, either, despite what your consultants are telling you. They don’t want to reform a government threatening their liberties. They want to change it.
The fact that all the people Iowa conservatives loathe also loathe Mr. Cruz only helps to brand him as such a change agent. Most of you need more and better enemies giving you similar “endorsements.”
4. Voters are looking to their futures, not your past.
Unless you count how he helped win several key Supreme Court cases, Cruz’s resume is thin compared to many of you. However, many conservatives are overlooking that because they can see him being the champion needed to preserve American Exceptionalism for future generations. Therefore, you won’t beat Cruz by itemizing your past accomplishments. You must show conservatives why your past proves you’re what’s best for their future.
5. People want to decide on a candidate early.
Every person I talked to after I moderated the candidate forum brought this up, and I receive emails and texts on this subject every day as well. Conservatives want to avoid a three-peat after waiting too long to coalesce around a common cause the past two cycles. Then watching the establishment capture the nomination.
Mr. Cruz has benefitted greatly by officially declaring his candidacy first in order to capitalize on that sentiment. This isn’t going to be a year when people wait around until December to decide what to do. They are deciding right now because they know they have to beat Jeb to beat Hillary.
I conclude this memo by reminding you of what’s at stake in Iowa. No one who didn’t finish in the top three in Iowa has ever become the GOP nominee, and every time someone wins two of the first three early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina) they’ve always gone on to win the nomination.
So get organized, get a message, and get your stuff together before it’s too late.
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