If senators got report cards the way children do in school, Ted Cruz’s would say “does not play well with others” every time.
He’s been called the Senate’s “most reviled member,” and that’s just among his fellow Republicans.
But the junior senator from Texas seems to like it that way. His failures inside the Beltway are successes outside, where he points to them to show he is the only one standing up to what he likes to call the “Washington cartel.”
The more Washington hates him the more those who hate Washington love him. That’s his operating assumption, and it’s finally beginning to show up in poll numbers. He catapulted to the lead in Iowa this week less than 50 days before the state’s caucuses.
His surge is attributed to the collapse of Ben Carson, an Evangelical favorite who was embarrassingly out of his league when the debate turned to national security and foreign policy, and a lot of time spent courting the state’s religious Right.
Cruz’s campaign strategy is tailored for a state like Iowa with its large and influential base of Evangelical and conservative Republican voters. It will be the key to winning the Iowa Caucus February 1 and early southern primaries in states with a strong Evangelical and conservative presence.
His message may appeal to a disaffected element of the party’s base but it is unlikely to go over well with non-Orthodox Jewish Republicans and independent voters.
Cruz has spent a lot of time courting Orthodox and very conservative Jews, and it appears to be paying off, but they are a minority of a minority.
For most Jews, his hardline anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-gay marriage and anti-Muslim views are repellent.
Cruz has suggested that if elected his interpretation of the Bible would take precedence over the Constitution or anything the Supreme Court says.
Cruz seems to go out of his way to antagonize people ,particularly his fellow Republicans. He has called his party leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a liar, and former President George W.
Bush, in whose administration he served, said, “I just don’t like that guy.” And it had nothing to do with running against brother Jeb.
A growing number of political pros and observers in both parties see Cruz as the most likely to dump Trump and become the GOP nominee – something that has the party establishment worried. That is pushing the party leaders toward Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been focusing most of his fire and ire at his colleague from Texas lately.
Both men are 44, sons of Cuban immigrants, serving their first term and elected as Tea Party favorites and have very similar views on domestic and social issues.
By style and design, Cruz has positioned himself so far to the right that Rubio comes off looking – unfairly – like a moderate.
The party establishment, never enamored of Cruz, is looking at Rubio as its candidate unless one of the also-rans makes a sudden dash for the roses.
Cruz tries to paint Rubio as a liberal who supports the Clinton-Obama foreign policy and is too anxious to start another war, while Rubio calls Cruz an isolationist who is weak on national security.
The choice between Cruz and Rubio seems to have split the GOP’s wealthiest Jewish power couple. The word from Republican sources is that billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who spent upwards of $100 million in the 2012 campaign, is impressed with the young Floridian, who has been calling him frequently to kibbitz about issues.
Dr. Miriam Adelson is reportedly impressed by Cruz’s hardline pro-Israel rhetoric.
The selection – possibly a split decision – could be made in Las Vegas this week following Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate at Adelson’s’ Venetian Casino Hotel.
Unlike Carson, who could not even pronounce Hamas, Cruz goes well prepared when he meets Jewish groups, even to the point of knowing the month of the Hebrew calendar. No one has courted Jewish support, especially Orthodox, more assiduously and effectively.
He walked out on a group of Christian Arabs who booed when he praised Israel, telling his audience, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”
He may have planned that encounter in advance, but the retelling wins him great applause from Jewish audiences.
One secret of his success with a small segment of Jewish audiences is his senior adviser, Nick Muzin, who is Orthodox and has close ties to that community, which he uses to boost Cruz’s campaign.
“I share a great many values with the Jewish community and the Orthodox community,” Cruz told Politico. Chief among them is support for Israel, he added.
Cruz has little interest in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and, unlike recent presidents, would not try to revive peace negotiations unless requested by Israel.
He shares Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position that “unless and until the Palestinians can agree” to recognize Israel as the Jewish state and renounce terrorism “no lasting peace solution is likely,” Cruz said. Settlements, he adds, are an Israeli matter and none of the Americans’ business.
He refused to endorse the two-state solution when asked about it in an appearance before the Evangelical Christians United for Israel. “I don’t think it is the role of the United States, or any other foreign nation, to try to impose a specific solution on the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.”
That view – which is more rigid than Netanyahu’s – may reflect Adelson’s strident opposition to Palestinian statehood.
The prime minister, however, has endorsed the two-state approach, at least nominally, and it has been the policy of recent American presidents of both parties.
Cruz, like just about every other candidate with the possible exception of Donald Trump, has promised to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And, like all the others, he won’t. It’s just an empty promise they all make but it won’t happen until both sides make peace, and Cruz has shown scant interest in bringing that about.
Cruz’s outreach to Jews, like that of the GOP, focuses on Israel, particularly support for the hardline Likud and Netanyahu approach. For Cruz and others in the GOP that includes strident opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, excoriating President Barack Obama for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” and, while not going to Trumpian extremes, engaging in Islamophobia.
There’s sound reasoning behind that approach. Republicans know they have no chance with the overwhelming majority of Jewish voters, but the hardline rhetoric appeals to many Orthodox and the very conservative elite of pro-Israel mega-givers.
In Cruz’s mission to become the most conservative president in history, and the most right wing when it comes to Israel, he may win the big pro-Israel campaign bucks. But if nominated, both his positions on Israel and his focus on the most conservative Evangelical voters are almost certain to guarantee a record-low Jewish GOP vote next November.