Cruz, the Wild Card

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has a chance to do very well in the 2016 presidential contest. He also could stall at the gate. His combined prospects make him the most difficult of the candidates to forecast, particularly when considering whether he will have staying power.

Cruz has obvious positives. First, his ability to excite and motivate the Republican base voter is unquestioned, and is likely his most important asset toward winning an inordinately crowded 2016 nomination fight. Second, he will have a strong grassroots presence, also a critical component for doing well in the first four states of Iowa (caucus), New Hampshire (primary), Nevada (caucus), and South Carolina (primary).

As you will remember, the aforementioned quartet of states is the only group that party rules allow to vote before March 1st. Though their aggregate delegate count is only 133, just 5.4% of the total GOP delegate universe, winning or exceeding expectations in these states routinely builds momentum. Therefore, they carry much more political weight than their paltry delegate total might suggest at first glance.

Third, some people say that Cruz is a proven political ???giant killer??? for his performance in defeating the three-term, multi-million dollar spending Lt. Governor (David Dewhurst) in the 2012 Texas Republican Senatorial primary. Considering he was virtually unknown to the Texas GOP electorate as a former state Solicitor General, he managed to rise from such obscurity to score a stunning 57-43% run-off victory in order to claim the Senate nomination. In some ways, winning a crowded presidential primary in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, at least individually, may be an easier task than the one he previously accomplished.

Aside from his relative inexperience as a political candidate, coupled with a novice campaign team at least in terms of running a presidential organization, Cruz faces two more major negatives.

The first is his untested national fundraising prowess. While he raised more than $15 million for his initial Senate race, an impressive number for a first-time candidate, it???s only a small amount in comparison for what is required for a modern day national nomination campaign stretching to all 50 states. He raised over $4 million in the 2014 election cycle, a goodly sum considering he was not in-cycle, and the majority of which will be transferred to his presidential committee. On the other hand, a ???Draft Ted Cruz for President??? committee attracted less than $500,000 for calendar year 2014.

But his more serious impediment could be his place of birth. Sen. Cruz was born in Canada, which could be a disqualifying factor for him under the US Constitution???s requirement that presidential candidates be ???natural born??? American citizens. He claims that his mother???s US citizenship at the time of his birth makes him qualified. If this line of reasoning were established fact, however, there would have been no controversy over President Obama???s birthplace since his mother, a native of Kansas, was also a US citizen when he was born.

But, Cruz may escape the legal entanglement. It???s unlikely the Democrats will file legal complaints unless he becomes the Republican presidential nominee. The Democratic leadership generally believes Cruz would be easy to beat in the general election, and they like the divisiveness they believe he helps create among Republicans. They might be wrong on both counts, but their perception will most likely cause them to remain silent, at least in the short term, about the Senator???s potential lack of constitutional acceptability.

Therefore, if a challenge is to come, it will likely be from the Republican side but his opponents may not want to make that fight, at least not today. If Cruz becomes highly viable, however, we can expect to see an outside organization, probably affiliated with another presidential candidate ??? maybe Donald Trump who was a prime mover behind the Obama birthplace controversy — begin to file challenges against Cruz in every state where he files to gain access to the presidential ballot.

The Senator may prevail, but making him fight a ballot access lawsuit in every state will be highly distracting in terms of dollars and attention. Remember, it will likely take only one state to deny him ballot access before his legal situation, and campaign, begins to unravel.

For the short term, a Cruz presidential campaign may have relatively smooth sailing. Should he become a threat to win the nomination, however, new obstacles blocking his path to the White House, such as whether he is even constitutionally qualified to run, will quickly be erected.