A moderate Republican won't win back the White House in 2016, and Republicans should stop trying to be "more like Democrats," conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says.
In a profile in The New Yorker magazine
posted online Monday, Cruz says the conventional wisdom is all wrong about how Republicans win presidential elections.
"It is amazing that the wisdom of the chattering class to the Republicans is always, always, always, 'Surrender your principles and agree with the Democrats,'" Cruz told the magazine.
"That's been true for my entire lifetime. The chattering classes have consistently said, 'You crazy Republicans have to give up on what you believe and become more like Democrats.'
"And, I would note, every time Republicans do that we lose."
Cruz points to conservative presidential winners such as Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, compared with moderate losers like President Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, and Mitt Romney.
And then there are the conservatives who moved left.
"President George Herbert Walker Bush ran as a strong conservative, ran to continue the third term of Ronald Reagan, continue the Ronald Reagan revolution," Cruz said.
"Then he raised taxes and in '92 ran as an establishment moderate — same candidate, two very different campaigns. First one won, second one lost."
"What does the entire D.C. Republican consulting class say? 'In 2016, we need another establishment moderate!' Hasn't worked in four decades. 'But next time will be the time!'" Cruz said.
Magazine writer Jeffrey Toobin argued that Cruz's theory isn't foolproof. Nixon "ran as a healer and governed, by contemporary standards, as a moderate, opening up relations with China, signing into law measures banning sex discrimination, expanding the use of affirmative action, establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, and signing the Clean Air Act," Toobin noted.
Reagan's record as governor of California "included support for tax increases, gun control, and abortion rights, so he sometimes appeared less conservative than his modern reputation suggests," he said.
George W. Bush billed himself as a "compassionate conservative," Toobin added.
One unnamed Democratic senator told the magazine the party wasn't afraid of Cruz's prediction that a conservative could win in 2016, comparing Cruz to a GOP version of Walter Mondale, the former Democratic vice president who ran as a liberal and lost every state but his own to Reagan in 1984.
"We all hope he runs," the senator said of Cruz, suggesting the Texas senator could face a similar fate against Hillary Clinton, should she decide to run.
In the profile, Cruz also was unapologetic for his oft-criticized hard line on defunding Obamacare that ultimately led to a partial government shutdown last fall.
Fellow Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told the magazine, "We need to get back to the idea that it doesn't always have to be a hundred percent our way," but Cruz says his stance triggered a political turnaround.
"Many voices in Washington say the fight that we had last fall was not successful," Cruz said. "Like any good litigator, at times you think of a battle as a long-term battle. You don't always accomplish everything in the first skirmish. As a consequence of millions of people last summer and fall getting engaged in that battle, I believe we dramatically elevated the national debate over the harms of Obamacare. And today Democrats are running scared, and the prevailing wisdom is Republicans are quite likely to win control of the Senate because of Obamacare."
Cruz's division of U.S. politics as Washington versus the people of America is controversial but sincere, he told the magazine.
"Since I became a senator, a year and a half ago, I've kept two promises to the people of Texas," he said. "I have endeavored to do what I said I was going to do, and I have always told the truth. It says something about Washington that those are perceived as radical acts."
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