This is an awful lot of firepower to direct at someone the media was portraying as a fringe eccentric teabagger just the day before yesterday. And it all started popping almost instantaneously after Cruz starting nosing around in Iowa and New Hampshire. He scares them, all right. No doubt about it. He scares them more than I thought he would.
It’s partly because the Left doesn’t want Hillary’s feminist coronation interrupted by a Hispanic Republican, an identity politics clash the Democrats don’t relish, since they’ve been working so hard to cultivate the Latino voting bloc. Cruz is Marco Rubio without the amnesty pander, which liberals were counting on to keep the Republican base home in disgust, without doing much to win Hispanic votes. They were really worried about Rubio for a while, but then they began comforting themselves with visions of a shocked and dismayed Rubio giving his 2016 concession speech while Establishment pundits wondered how he could only manage to pull 5% more of the Hispanic vote than Romney did, while a crucial segment of GOP base voters once again sat out the dance.
The other reason Democrats are nervous about Cruz is that, like Rubio, he’s got youthful energy, and he’s really good at connecting with people. Rubio retains that strength, if he can get past the immigration mess. I’ll never forget watching him set a room on fire. I thought he was something special then, and my disappointment with some of his recent decisions hasn’t changed that. Cruz has a lot of the same appeal, plus a high-bandwidth connection to the Tea Party, and a keen wit.
Democrats are well aware of the polls that showed Romney competitive with Obama, or well ahead, in every category except “identifies with me” or “cares about me,” where Obama nuked him into oblivion. That’s the modern proxy for measuring character, something the electorate has been told is otherwise unacceptable since the Clinton era. With that in mind, you can see why the Dems might be concerned about pitting the aging, abrasive, easily caricatured architect of Benghazi up against young, good-natured, sympathetic Republican candidates. (Or maybe it’ll even be Shotgun Joe, whose ugly below-the-belt partisanship will no longer be masked by the “lovable, doddering old goofball” routine if he’s the presidential candidate.)
The ideal pre-emptive strike for destroying likable Republicans is to insinuate that their cheerful demeanor hides weird personality quirks, dodgy personal history, or religious fanaticism. Remember how they tried the latter with Rubio, almost immediately after the 2012 election? The mainstream media’s newfound respect for birtherism is meant to provide fertile soil for those seeds of doubt about him to grow. It’s important to start the politics of personal destruction early – something Republican political candidates have been slow to learn, although maybe the early “kill Romney” offensive in ’12 taught them a lesson.
Soon the media will be able to casually refer to Ted Cruz as “controversial” or “controversial within certain Republican circles.” They can mention that his legitimacy to run for President has been questioned. They can write chin-stroking editorials about how Cruz didn’t handle the “citizenship controversy” very well, even though his sincere attitude has been surprise that something so foolish could be blown into such a big deal. I’ve already seen a piece in the UK Guardian that described Cruz as “desperate” to settle the Canadian citizenship crisis.
And they can bank the bitterness this little non-troversy has produced in conservative ranks, between the people who intone that matters of “natural born citizenship” must be examined with cosmic intensity, and those who dismiss them as cranks. Even if the story fizzles out in a few days, some of the bad blood will linger. What could be better for Democrats than another savage Republican primary where everyone wants to tear the candidates they don’t like to pieces?