If Cruz were to run in 2016, he would likely be one of three first-term senators to run, along with Rand PaulRand PaulOvernight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo Paul ties release of 9/11 docs to defense bill Will Ted Cruz let it go? MORE (R-Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco RubioNew Mexico GOP gov. won’t attend home-state Trump rally Rubio: 'It’s not that we lost, it’s that Donald Trump won’ Santorum endorses Trump after 'long heart-to-heart' MORE (R-Fla.).
Let’s be clear about what has, and more importantly, what hasn’t happened.
Cruz has taken no direct steps toward running for president, barely three months into office. He has not expanded his operation, hired new consultants or sought out major donors.
He doesn’t even have a permanent Senate office or website yet, instead relying on transitional efforts while both are prepared.
Cruz is on a rocket ride right now. His office is besieged with speaking invitations and his day job is entirely time-consuming. When in session, he is focused on his committee work (Judiciary, Armed Services and Commerce).
The South Carolina event is intended to honor Heritage Foundation President and former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the intellectual godfather of the Senate conservative movement and a mentor to Cruz, Rubio and many others. Sen. Cruz is not using this weekend’s Columbia, S.C., trip to maximize the political benefit, instead choosing to go in and out quickly in the same day.
Will Cruz run in 2016?
I think it is a distinct possibility, because the groundswell of support will be overwhelming. The grass roots admire his intelligence and ability to make (and win) an argument. His personal story and Cuban heritage are appealing.
Texas is a fantastic state in which to raise money. He is not facing reelection until 2018. There are many good reasons.
However, I also think he will not focus to any great extent on this decision until the 2014 midterm elections are behind us. Nor should he.
He will instead focus his energies on fighting for conservative principles in the Senate and helping to elect as many new Senate Republicans as possible in his role as National Republican Senatorial Committee vice chairman.
Other candidates may make more overt statements about running and take more serious steps.
The Republican field for president in 2016 will be the strongest in living memory, a major difference from 2012. Many establishment candidates like Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.), Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanMenendez opposing Puerto Rico debt bill Overnight Finance: GOP makes its case for impeaching IRS chief | Clinton hits Trump over housing crash remarks | Ryan's big Puerto Rico win Mellman: Parsing the polls MORE (Wis.) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.) will likely compete. But the energy will be with the conservative candidates.
In the meantime, Cruz isn’t going away. He appears to be fearless. Negative media attention does not shake him. He’s been slandered as a “McCarthyite” and a “jerk,” both of which could not be further from the truth.
No one politician, perhaps since Sarah Palin, has taken more direct attacks than Cruz has in the past three months from the national media and Democratic politicians.
None of it bothers him. The personal attacks on Cruz are never returned in kind. He goes forward with a smile, a happy warrior, uniquely skilled for the current political and media environment.
He will remain a key player in the major political fights ahead. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, he was key in successfully preventing efforts to expand gun control on constitutional grounds. He will be fighting to strengthen border security provisions as part of the immigration reform bill. He has said he opposes an earned path to citizenship, a key point on which he and Rubio diverge.
Cruz is refreshing because of his blend of personal courage, off-the-charts intelligence, uniquely “American” personal story and Reagan-like ability to communicate.
The 2016 speculation will continue, and the drumbeat will grow louder.
Matt Mackowiak is an Austin, Texas, and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.