It was a glorious weekend at Casa de Portly, deep in the heart of Dixie. It was the kind of weekend that saw a lot of non-blog- and non-work-related productivity; in other words, I loafed a great deal, then did domestic chores around the house.
In case you missed it, on Saturday I released my Summer Reading List 2019. If you want to read the whole list—and it’s quite good—you have to subscribe to my SubscribeStar page at the $1 level or higher. There will be new, subscriber-exclusive content there every Saturday, so your subscription will continually increase in value.
Anyway, all that loafing and cleaning meant that I was unplugged from politics. I did, however, manage to catch the Ben Shapiro Show “Sunday Special” with Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
I was a big fan of Cruz in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, and I voted for him here in South Carolina. Cruz intuited the populist mood of the electorate the way that President Trump did, and combined it with policy innovation and constitutionalism.
There’s a reason Cruz hung in there as long as he did against Trump: he’s a canny political operator, but he also knew how to pitch a conservative message that was appealing to many voters. I sincerely believe that had he clinched the nomination, he would have won the 2016 election (and, perhaps, by an even wider Electoral College margin than did Trump).
Cruz catches a lot of flack because he’s a little dopey and looks odd—a whole meme emerged in 2015-2016 claiming that Cruz was the Zodiac Killer—but he’s been an influential voice in the Senate. He possesses a supple, clever mind, and has urged Republicans to make some bold, innovative reforms to the Senate (he vocally champions and has proposed a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits).
The hour-long interview with Ben Shapiro—which opens with a question about his alleged identity as the Zodiac Killer—shows how affable and relaxed Cruz really is. I’ve never seen him appear more relaxed and genuine (and I never took him for a phony—I’ve seen him speak live at least once at a campaign rally in Florence, and spoke very briefly to him afterwards) than in this interview.
Granted, it’s friendly territory—Shapiro was a big supporter of Cruz in the primaries—but Cruz spelled out some important ideas, as well as his projections for 2020. If you don’t have a full hour, fast forward to about the forty-minute mark for his discussion of Trump’s reelection prospects.
To summarize them briefly: Cruz thinks it all comes out to turnout, and that Democrats will “crawl over broken glass” to vote against Trump. He even points out that his own race against Democrat Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke was as close as it was because Beto ran against Trump more than he did against Cruz. He also thinks Joe Biden is going to flame out, and one of the more radical, progressive Dems will clinch the nomination, making the prospect of a truly socialistic administration terrifyingly possible.
That said, Cruz is optimistic. Discussing his own narrow victory over Beto in 2018, he points out Beto’s massive fundraising and staffing advantages (Cruz had eighteen paid staffers on his campaign; Beto had 805!), but explains that a barn-burning bus tour of the State of Texas pulled out conservative and middle-class voters in a big way for his reelection.
That points to one of Trump’s strengths: the relentless pace with which he campaigns. Trump held three and even four rallies a day in key battleground States in the final days of the 2016 election, which likely made the difference in Michigan, Wisconsin, and the Great White Whale of Republican presidential elections since the 1980s, Pennsylvania. If Trump can get his pro-growth, pro-American message out there as effectively in 2020 as he did in 2016 and can excite voters who want to protect their nation and their prosperity, he could cruise to reelection.
Cruz’s optimism, tempered by practical challenges ahead for Republicans, really came through in the video. Really, the entire interview reminded me why I liked Ted Cruz so much the first time. I’d love to see him remain a major presence throughout the next five years, and to see him run for the presidency again in 2024 (him, or Nikki Haley).
Regardless, I encourage you to listen to this interview. Take Cruz’s warning to heart: don’t get complacent, because the Democrats aren’t.