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Sen. Ted Cruz definitely will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — but the Texas lawmaker's starring role in last year's government shutdown could hurt his chances, political consultant and Newsmax contributor Dick Morris says.
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"Ted will run, and he will be the candidate of the non-establishment Republican Party,'' Morris, who worked on Cruz's 2010 senate campaign, said Thursday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
In the grass-roots court, you're going to have Ted Cruz, [Sen.] Rand Paul, … [Sen.] Marco Rubio and maybe [Wisconsin Gov.] Scott Walker …
"They will be focused on who the tea party … evangelicals and the enthusiastic hardworking grass roots of the party support — and right now Cruz is ahead.''
And yet Cruz is seen by many as one of the chief architects of the disastrous 2013 shutdown, during which he demanded the defunding of the Affordable Care Act in exchange for government funding. House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP lawmakers eventually threw in the towel and passed a bill without changes to the healthcare law, over Cruz's objections.
There's no question his rivals will be eager to make hay of Cruz's role in the shutdown, according to Morris.
"That will be the charge, and I don't think the charge per se will be hurtful in a Republican primary, but it will feed the issue of electability,'' Morris said.
"Republicans realize that we probably made a mistake in nominating [Mitt] Romney last time because he lost so badly with everything going for him, and there'll be reluctance to make a mistake again.''
Would McCain and Graham support Cruz?
Morris, who was an adviser to Bill Clinton during his time as governor of Arkansas, said Cruz could also benefit from the support of such GOP heavy-hitters as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, because of his support of a strong military.
"Ted Cruz is a strong hawk, and let's not ignore the fact that he is Latino, that he is Hispanic, that he does speak Spanish and with the Republican Party's problems with Latino voters, that could be significant,'' Morris said.
"And he comes from Texas. There's a big difference between California Latinos and Texas Latinos. Texas, Arizona, New Mexico Latinos are celebrated in the Tex-Mex culture, whereas in California, they're much more sidetracked and seen as unwelcome immigrants.
"Cruz could do very well as a Republican in California with Latinos in a way that perhaps Rubio couldn't because Florida's kind of isolated and not part of that construct.''
Morris also believes that Cruz will not be saddled by the issue of his citizenship, which comes up from time to time.
"As I understand it, he came to the United States from Cuba with his parents in 1957 or '56, before Castro took over,'' Morris said.
"He's had dual citizenship but renounced his Canadian citizenship. I don't think that's a big deal.''
Cruz is forging an "entirely new'' political movement, Morris believes, but he still must navigate the GOP's bumpy political road.
"The problem is that the Republican Party is a layer cake,'' Morris said. "One layer are the evangelicals, another layer are the free market economists, and the other layer are the national security hawks.''
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