Sen. Ted Cruz has rocketed to the top of the Iowa polls, and to second in national polls, on the strength of backing from religious and Tea Party “very conservative” voters. But a new book shows that won’t be enough to elect the brilliant but controversial first term lawmaker. According to co-authors Henry Olsen and Dante Scala, Cruz can win only by winning over the very establishment conservatives he has built his career by antagonizing.
Olsen and Scala’s new book, Four Faces of the Republican Party: The Fight for the 2016 Presidential Nomination, uses twenty years of exit poll data to break the GOP into four ideological factions. “Very conservative evangelicals,” who are 20-25 percent of the party, and “very conservative seculars,” who are 10-15 percent of the party, are Cruz’s base. Polls show that Cruz leads the field, evenDonald Trump, among these two groups. But together these factions are 35-40 percent of the Party. To win, Cruz needs to capture at least one of the other factions.
Moderates, who are 25-30 percent of the GOP, are the group least likely to back the vociferously conservative Texas Senator. So to win, the authors conclude, Cruz must turn to the group he has criticized the most: the establishment “somewhat conservative”.
“‘Somewhat conservatives’ are the most powerful and the least understood of the GOP’s four factions,” says co-author Henry Olsen, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “These voters are conservative in both senses of the word: they favor movement conservative ideals but are also classically cautious and suspicious of rapid change. These are the voters who prefer John Boehner orMitch McConnell to the Tea Party – and they are the largest faction in the GOP.”
Olsen and Scala show that “somewhat conservatives” are about 35-40 percent of the GOP, and they are the only faction that has backed every GOP nominee in the last four election cycles. When they allied with moderates, they nominated Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. When they allied with the two “very” conservative factions, they nominated George W. Bush.
“The path to the nomination runs through the ‘Boehner conservatives’,” Olsen said. “That will be a very tough challenge for Sen. Cruz to meet.”