Suggested Cruz Campaign Reboot: Show, Don’t Tell
February 23, 2016
I don’t believe I’ve ever presumed to offer unsolicited advice on campaign strategy to a presidential candidate, especially in a public forum, but I’ve decided to make an exception today.
I am an unabashed Ted Cruz supporter and believe he is a man of character, integrity and strong principles who is as close to the ideal antidote for what ails America as we’re likely to see. But since the Iowa primary I’ve been worried. After talking to many of those who have Ted’s best interests in mind, in real life and on Twitter and Facebook, I think I have a handle on what the major concerns are, and I think the campaign must address them.
We adore Ted Cruz because he is a Bible-believing Christian and is unashamed to openly discuss this. And with his Christianity, he is held to a higher standard than the others. While the behavior we see from his political rivals is sometimes despicable, he will not be judged by the same standards. So he must continue to make any necessary adjustments to ensure his campaign is above reproach in actuality and appearance.
While Ted’s faith is one of his very admirable traits, it’s not the only one. He should consider tamping down emphasis here a bit, because some people incorrectly fear these are the only issues he cares about.
Many evangelicals, myself included, don’t necessarily think the candidate who agrees with them most theologically will be the best at statecraft. Even if you narrow the definition to Bible-believing, “born again” Christians, they still don’t vote as a unified bloc, as witnessed by Donald Trump’s strong support among the group.
Likewise, Ted is not going to draw voters away from Trump by convincing them he is more conservative. Many people don’t care about the “conservative” label. Ted’s conservatism shines through on its own; he doesn’t need to tell people how conservative he is. The people being drawn to Trump are not in awe of his conservatism but of his supposed strength and courage — two qualities Cruz actually possesses in spades.
Although Cruz has made it clear where he stands on the all-important issue of immigration, the word “amnesty” has lost its meaning and is too vulnerable to semantic manipulation and misunderstanding.
He must stop getting mired in discussions over poison pills or who lied and who favors amnesty. Ted is right in his arguments, but it is tiring for many people to listen to the arguments again and again.
His big-picture record speaks for itself, as does Rubio’s, and his current position is far more hawkish than Rubio’s and more reliable than Trump’s. What matters most is what he will do if he is elected, not whether opponents are technically for “amnesty.”
Without a doubt, Rubio and Trump are opportunistically ganging up on Cruz, both alleging that he is a “liar.” Cruz has a right to defend himself but has gotten caught up in distasteful skirmishes with both opponents, who gain every moment Cruz is off-message. People cannot keep score over who is right and wrong; they only see Cruz’s denials, which works against Cruz. It’s time to move on and rise above this with a bigger vision for his campaign.
Hard as it may be, Cruz must focus less time engaging Rubio and more challenging Trump. Not on negative personality traits as they do to him, but on the issues.
As the Cruz campaign is quick to remind, Cruz is the only person in the race to have beaten Trump. Cruz must dig deep and reclaim the smart, disciplined fiery warrior that is in his heart if he is to defeat Donald Trump.
Cruz’s greatest strength is that he is a true believer on the things that matter most, even on many vitally important issues to Trump supporters, and he has a record to prove he will act on his beliefs in the face of enormous pressure not to.
Donald Trump’s ultimate Achilles heel, despite his reputation for toughness and iconoclasm, is, as Jimmy Carter noted, that he is malleable on issues, including the very issues his devoted base is counting on him to pursue.
I’ve met Ted Cruz twice and talked to him at length on both occasions. I find him to be down to earth, personable, completely genuine and, to borrow a modern phrase I abhor, “relatable.” But this is not the person we see on TV.
Ted has been a debater and lawyer for so long that his default speech pattern in a campaign setting is too formal, modulated and cadenced. If he could show his more personal side in his public appearances I believe it would serve him very well. All he really needs to do is be himself.
I also believe Cruz should be more careful in how he characterizes his opponents’ positions. He makes statements that are substantively correct, but may be challenged as technically questionable, thus making himself further vulnerable to the charge that he’s disingenuous, when he’s not. Cruz would certainly be right in court, but the court of public opinion isn’t as fair.
For example, he has suggested a vote for Trump is a vote to end the Second Amendment or a vote for Obamacare. Trump immediately calls him a liar because Trump says he supports the Second Amendment and that he will repeal Obamacare. I think Ted would be better off saying that, if elected, Trump, based on his past statements, very well might appoint justices who do not believe the Second Amendment ensures individuals the right to own firearms. And, based on his interviews, Trump could easily replace Obamacare with a health care system every bit as socialized.
Ted Cruz has everything it takes to be an extraordinary — even historic — president and lead the nation out of its current quagmire.
He just needs to say what he’s going to do, in concrete terms, and underscore why he can be counted on more than all others to do it — because of his record, his commitment to action and his demonstrated courage in fighting establishment power brokers who will resist him.
The more Ted Cruz talks about issues the more he soars above his competition. Like no one else in modern times, he has an incomparably uplifting vision to restore America’s exceptionalism. I pray that going forward his campaign will radiate that vision.