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Brent Budowsky: Cruz could destroy GOP

Greg Nash

Last week I wrote that rarely before have a man, moment, mission and election come together better than Bill Clinton’s opportunity to barnstorm the nation to save Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections. 

Similarly, rarely before have a man, moment, mission and election come together as more of a danger to Republicans than Sen. Ted Cruz’s (Texas) opportunity to win the presidential nomination in 2016 and take the GOP down to a defeat as catastrophic as the one Barry Goldwater suffered in 1964.

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 At a moment in political history when Americans want to end gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, the Cruz modus operandi is to declare political war against everyone except the far right. The animus Cruz creates among even Republican colleagues is so great that he has become one of the most disliked and distrusted senators in the history of the United States Senate.

Cruz today has virtually no influence to get things done in the Senate Republican Conference or among House Republicans. They remember the epic disaster he inflicted on the GOP the one time he did have influence, when he championed the government shutdown in October 2013 that voters despised.

Think back to the halcyon days of Cruz influence when he crossed the Capitol to meet with House Republicans, in defiance of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), to promote the shutdown. Cruz won that fight. Remember what happened:

According to generic party polling in Real Clear Politics, the government shutdown left Democrats with a 7- to 10-point advantage over Republicans.

The Cruz influence is almost entirely negative. For example, senators can prevent judicial vacancies from being filled by a practice called the blue slip. While Texas litigants have an urgent need for vacant judgeships to be filled, because of immigration and many other pressing matters, Cruz has abused the blue slip practice and kept many judicial chambers empty.

Advice to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): Take the blue slip ability away from Cruz and nominate and confirm judges from Texas without him. Justice for Texans must not be held hostage to the extremism and abuse of power by Cruz.

The big question for Republicans is whether Cruz will be nominated for president, wage his war against all Republicans of moderation, and try to purge them from his party, or whether the rest of the GOP will understand the disaster Cruz could impose on them and purge him from the corridors of power first, a process that has already begun.

A Cruz campaign in 2016 promises ugly primary attacks against GOP opponents, and if he is nominated, ugly attacks against Democrats.

The Cruz rightist ideology and modus operandi of vindictive political war is so alien to the aspirations of American voters that Hillary Clinton could easily carry between 48 and 50 states against him and carry Democrats to victory for control of the House and Senate.

Cruz recently accused Democrats of waging a war against the Catholic Church. Huh? The Democratic response would be to accuse Cruz of waging war against Hispanics through his opposition to immigration reform and rights for Hispanic voters.

Democrats would accuse Cruz of waging war against the teachings of Pope Francis on a long list of issues, from income inequality to humane immigration policies. Cruz will lose the war he declares over Catholics. Democrats would accuse Cruz of waging war against women on issues from pay equity to contraceptives. The Cruz wars embody and exaggerate the unpopularity of the GOP brand.

By practicing a politics of waging internecine war against anyone who disagrees with him, Cruz could win the Iowa caucuses and become the champion of the right in bitterly divisive GOP primaries. For the same reasons, smart Republicans dread this prospect, and national Democrats pray for it.

Republicans have a Ted Cruz problem. The better he does, the more he could destroy the GOP. He thrills the right but is anathema to everyone else.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.