Foresight 2020: The Exiled Contenders After Cleveland

11 months ago Alger Mag Editor 0
Republican Symbol
Republican Symbol, Gerald Cipolla, flickr Creative Commons 

Since the Republican National Convention in August, it has become apparent to Republicans and others that not only is the presidency at stake, but the future of the party. As factions jockey for influence, the last two challengers, each a head of moderate or conservative factions not in the Trump primary coalition, have begun gearing up for another race. Working on helping those down the ballot, Governor John Kasich is preoccupied with gathering favors with primary endorsements and fundraisers, cementing himself firmly,in an establishment still reeling from the electorate sentiment. Ted Cruz has returned to the Senate, subdued but picking careful conservative fights over internet privacy and foreign policy. As both networks continue to grow, the shadow of Trump and their actions during the convention provide stepping stones to a future presidency, only four more years away.

Ted Cruz: The Parochial Pariah

“Well, [based on] what we heard is tonight, he’s not going to endorse.”  Less than twelve hours before Ted Cruz went up on stage during the Republican National Convention and urged the audience to “Vote your conscience,” I received advance news with a degree of certainty beyond speculation from a couple of his delegates.  For all the articles and polls about Republicans abandoning Cruz, I was consistently told that his true supporters either did not care if he endorsed Trump or did not want him to endorse Trump.  Amid complaints that they were being bullied by the RNC and Trump into submission, one Florida alternate delegate said that while she harbors no hostility towards the GOP, she feels that there may be a need for a third party based on Christian religious values. I don’t want to typecast Cruz voters because they were some of the kindest people I met at the convention, but it is their principles that distinguish them as a bloc that will provide the moral grounds for standing against the GOP nominee.

 

One woman on the Rules Committee told me that Reince Priebus, the present chairman of the RNC, was suppressing the ‘grassroots’, a common complaint of the Cruz delegatesThis brings up the point that while Cruz may have lost support among the majority of voters, he maintained the backing of conservative activists, a growing power base. The grass roots used to be part-time volunteers or college students that would work for campaigns, like those of Eugene McCarthy or Barry Goldwater.  In an Internet Age of connection and improved organization, the grassroots have transformed into a separate group from the everyday populace. This new assembly of people is constantly involved the political world and ingrained in obscure rules and regulations.  Because of the grass roots activists, Cruz was able to dominate delegate selection and state conventions.  The disconnect between the will of the people and those who believe that they hold the will of the politically motivated was evident at the RNC.  As Cruz started talking, these people were chanting, “2020” and “God’s not done with you,” while his convention speech was met with resounding boos from the New York delegates and spread across the convention center.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) thanks delegates and guests prior to his convention speech
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) thanks delegates and guests prior to his convention speech

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) thanks delegates and guests prior to his convention speech

 

Cruz has a tough road ahead.  His [consolation?] speech was seen as unnecessary grandstanding, and potential

Ted Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe
Ted Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe

challenges to his 2018 Senate run have come up, the most prominent one which is former Governor Rick Perry; however, his challenge seems unlikely as he endorsed Cruz when he dropped out of the primaries.  Perry could be looking to boost his profile and run for president a third time as he still is seen favorably, but he struggles with groups of threes.  It will be an uphill battle for anyone hoping to challenge Cruz’s Tea Party network and Texas organization or his funding.  Campaign manager Jeff Roe said that the campaign plans to spend twenty million dollars for the Senate seat.  It is near impossible to be certain, but Cruz and Rubio both seem to have a future ahead.  Although the Tea Party got Rubio elected, he then abandoned their platform to seem more electable. On the other hand, Cruz has taken up the mantle of the Tea Party’s crusading warrior. This is evident in the repeated emails I receive from the old Free the Delegates movement with new procedures and tactics to overthrow Trump and put a true conservative as the nominee.  With the primary procedures being reviewed and reworked, Cruz’s side has already shown that changes in the RNC will be a factor when choosing a 2020 candidate.

Behind the scenes, Cruz and his activist army are working for decentralization and realignment of the central committee.  Carly Fiorina, Cruz supporter and vice presidential ‘pseudo candidate’, is actively beginning a bid for Chairman Reince Priebus’ position.  She will travel the country for candidates in state elections and meet with notorious conservative activist Morton Blackwell.  This has even prompted Priebus to reverse course, and now he is mulling over reelection.  Finally, a small but powerful group of congressmen and women in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus, is battling against party leadership and donors trying to remove them. All these dynamics are setting up a 2018 midterm election that could burst into open warfare between Cruz and the Republican establishment as well as a 2020 race that will once again open up the wound that was never really closed between business conservatives and ideological purists.

 

John Kasich: Home Field Advantage

The ‘Free the Delegates’ call one week before the convention devolved into chaos as the leadership signed out.  Everyone was shouting out candidates’ names, as long as they weren’t Trump.  One man repeatedly shouting “Cruz Crew” proceeded to add “NeverRubio” and “NeverKasich” at

Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) talks to state delegates in Little Italy
Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) talks to state delegates in Little Italy

the end of a unity call for “NeverTrump.”  One woman exasperatedly asked “why NeverKasich?”, quoting that he balanced the federal budget, helped Ohio’s economy, and is the most electable. I recognized the desperate, pleading tone because it was the same one I would use over the phone at the Kasich campaign headquarters in order to get voters.  As Trump dominated the airwaves, and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were showered with establishment funds, Ohio Governor John Kasich floundered in the background.  With a resume that made Clinton envious and an appeal to the masses, as shown in general election matchups, Kasich should have been an ideal choice as nominee.  In a cycle focused on attacking the establishment, with so many angry voters, Kasich’s folksy, Midwest style that made him so endearing also made him boring.  During the convention, he spoke to some state delegations at a lunch, and, with his voice steeped in self-awareness, made note of the fact that the most press coverage he got came from a snowball fight with the press.

 

 

Unlike Cruz, Kasich’s favorability ratings have continued to stay high (odd for a presidential candidate) with his name and organizational capability having allowed for the statewide domination of Republicans in the perennial tossup Buckeye State.  His name recognition and, as one delegate from Maryland put it, “dignified” defiance of Trump has set him up for a 2020 run.  He appears to think so too, writing a book about his campaign and retaining chief strategist John Weaver.  Though he does not support Trump, he is traveling around to help GOP politicians in tough races, such as John McCain, Rob Portman, and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.  Even now, Kasich goes back to the state that boosted him, New Hampshire, to help gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu, son of one of his biggest backers, and will use this as a chance to reunite with key supporters.

He was even flaunting a new presidential run in four years within walking distance of the convention center, right before the session started for supporters at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Following days of coverage where Trump warred with Kasich and the Ohio Republican organization, both Rob Portman and Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, below left and right respectively, showed up and were working the crowd of Ohio delegates and state figures.

Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges
Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges

At the event, a video of moments from Kasich’s campaign played and then Kasich and his wife walked out to the stage. He began to talk about what drove him to enter the race and did some light Trump bashing.  Both Cruz and he refused to mention Trump by name but while Cruz implied Trump wasn’t conservative, Kasich talked about the nominee’s hateful demeanor.  Their reactions show how both candidates will form their message around not endorsing Trump when their time comes up in 2020 and beyond.  Here, surrounded by cheering supporters and buoyed by applause, Kasich talked about never giving up, w. hereas on other occasions he had been contemplative, that day he was optimistic in all smiles and some dad dancing.” Amid all the celebration, and with Ohio supporting him throughout the whole race, his national ambitions are not lost.  As a Kasich supporter hopeful for another run, one statement at the luncheon Kasich attended soundly resonate with me.  Paraphrasing his most high profile celebrity endorsement, Kasich resoundingly expressed this phrase at the end of his speech: “To the people of New Hampshire, I’ll be back.”

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By: Noah Rudnick