Saturday, July 20, 2013


At Salon, Jonathan Bernstein goes all #Slatepitchy with a piece titled "Ted Cruz Could Beat Hillary." I would never say never, but Bernstein's arguments are unconvincing:
Some liberals react by actively rooting for Cruz. The theory? The nuttier the nominee, the worse the chances of Republicans retaking the White House....

Don't listen to it....

The bottom line is that candidates just don't matter all that much in presidential elections. Yes, a reputation for ideological extremism hurts, but it appears to hurt maybe 2 or 3 percentage points. Yes, George McGovern and Barry Goldwater had reputations for ideological extremism and were buried, but in both cases it was by a popular president during good times.
OK, stop right there. Nixon beat McGovern because Nixon was "a popular president during good times"? As Rick Perlstein notes in Nixonland, at the beginning of 1972 Nixon had a 49% approval rating, and the Harris poll showed him beating Ed Muskie by only 1 in a three-way race with George Wallace, who was expected to run as a third-party candidate. Unemployent and inflation had increased significantly in Nixon's first term, as had the crime rate; Perlstein notes that the movies in the theaters -- Dirty Harry, Straw Dogs, The French Connection -- depicted rampant crime. Oh, and the war was still going on, and the country was still racially polarized. No, we weren't happy campers in 1972 reveling in peace and prosperity. We were just sold on the notion that Nixon was the uprightest of citizens holding the line against dirty hippies like George McGovern. That's largely why Nixon rose in the polls throughout 1972 and crushed McGovern.

But here's where Bernstein really loses me:
Now, on top of that, it's an open question whether Cruz would really wind up with a reputation as more of a fringe figure than any other plausible nominee.... it's not impossible to imagine a scenario in which Cruz wins the nomination as the hero of conservatives, which then leaves him far more free to pivot to the center in the general election race than a less trusted candidate might have.
Oh, please. Throwing verbal grenades is what Ted Cruz does; it's his brand. Speculating that he might moderate his rhetoric is like imagining that someday the Insane Clown Posse will write and record a series of cello sonatas.

In a field that's likely to include Rick Perry and Paul Ryan and Rand Paul and Scott Walker, and that may well include crazies like Rick Santorum and Allen West, how does Bernstein imagine that Ted Cruz is going to distinguish himself from the other candidates? By means of his sterling record of accomplishment in the Senate (which, as Dave Weigel recently pointed out, is nonexistent)? No -- he's going to distinguish himself by saying the most outrageous things, and proposing the most outrageous proposals. Is the record of those words suddenly going to vanish from the nation's databases once the general election starts? Is a Democratic campaign going to pass up the opportunity to hang Cruz's primary-season words around his neck? Or anything else outrageous he's said while in public life?

But the most amusing aspect of a Ted Cruz-Hillary Clinton race might be an endorsement of Hillary Clinton by John McCain -- who, of course, has feuded with Cruz and bonded with Clinton. That gives me pause regarding Hillary -- but swing voters would love it.

So, no, I'm not worried that a remade, centrist-friendly Ted Cruz is going to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, because such a creature cannot possibly exist.


Phil Perspective said...

At Salon, Jonathan Bernstein goes all #Slatepitchy with a piece titled ..

Did Bernstein post the piece at Sargent's joint, or no? I don't check Sargent's place anywhere near as often as I used to. I only ask because, considering who owns both Kaplan Test Prep Post and Slate, it would have made perfect sense. Also, Bernstein isn't as smart as people claim. McGovern lost, partly, because unions bailed on him. Not because Tricky Dick was popular or anything.

Victor said...

Where was this piece earlier today, before I wrote my (now stupid) comment early this morning, on yesterday's WaMo post on Cruz?

If you woke up a bit earlier, Mr., I wouldn't have made an ass out of myself that early!!!

It might have taken another hour or two... ;-)

Danp said...

Is the lesson from the birther nonsense that being born outside the US doesn't matter? Why are we even talking about this kook?

Anonymous said...

You stupid niggers need to go back to Africa! America is a WHITE MAN's country! Get the fuck out, niggers!

Trayvon Martin was just a criminal nigger who was trying to steal from people's houses and Zimmerman did the right thing by shooting that nigger dead.

-Signed, a white man

Steve M. said...

Yeah, racist scum, he bought the iced tea and Skittles so they could be an impediment while he was breaking into houses in the housing development where his father's fiancee lived. And, of course, the obvious place you'd try to commit a crime like that is somewhere people would recognize you because you were a regular visitor. Yeah, that makes a lot of fucking sense, you piece of human filth.

David Empey said...

Danp, Cruz's mother was a US citizen so I think he's eligible.

giantslor said...

I'm sure Steve M. has already shared the anonymous white supremacist's IP address with his deep contacts in the FBI. Hey, you dumb white-winger, Holder's finest are coming to get you! Your best bet is to flee the country and never come back.

Danp said...

David, I'm pretty sure Obama's mother was a US citizen, too.

Victor said...

A lot of rocks must have been moved recently, so the things underneath could crawl out.

That's ok, "things," since sunshine is the best disinfectant.

And you'll soon wish you'd never crawled out.

Unknown said...

Hey, racist dude! Adjust the eyeholes on your hood! This post ain't about Trayvon. Do try to stay on topic.
BTW, it must be a sad existence for you there in the trailer park.

Victor said...

He's happy in his trailer home, with his wife and sister to look after him.

Of course, there's only one female that fits both roles.

Cathie from Canada said...

Both of Cruz parents were Americans, though he was born in Calgary. The wikipedia article on what "natural-born" means isn't clear whether Cruz would be qualified to run for president or not. Maybe he would be because he was born a US citizen even though he would also be considered Canadian.
That said, overall this was the stupidest Salon article of last week, except for the one about Obama's speech, which was even stupider.