World Views: Cruz’s fiery message has limited appeal to some Republicans

As a messenger, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has fire. It’s the message that’s the question for him.
Cruz opened his official campaign for U.S. president Monday, becoming the first Republican to formally enter what is expected to be a crowded race for the party’s nomination. In a speech at a leading Christian university, the first-term senator sought not to build a coalition of voters, but instead rally into action those who share his deeply conservative beliefs. It’s an approach that’s gotten him nowhere in the Senate and puts added pressure on his rhetorical gifts to win over those who don’t share his uncompromising ideology.
Cruz, 44, has become an effective spokesman for the small-government, less-tax tea party movement, but not one who has advanced an agenda in Congress, where he is a divisive figure even within his own party. He says he would disband the Internal Revenue Service tax collecting agency, scrap President Barack Obama’s health care law and seek to overturn abortion rights.
Other Republicans expected to enter the 2016 race, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, are far more likely to secure support from the party leadership. Whoever wins the nomination would likely face Hillary Rodham Clinton, the heavy favorite for the Democratic nod who is expected to launch her campaign soon.
At Liberty University, Cruz demonstrated how he won debating titles while a student at Princeton University and court cases at the Supreme Court as the state of Texas’ top lawyer.
Without a script or notes, he walked around a theater-in-the-round stage during a half-hour speech that gave no quarter on his conservatism. He’s adept, too, at engaging smaller crowds. During his recent visit to the key early voting state of New Hampshire, he spent almost an hour working the room before his remarks. He promised a young student he would schedule an interview for the school paper, posed for lots of pictures and signed one woman’s bright pink cowboy boots that she said reminded her of his home state of Texas.
“Whatever it takes,” Cruz said with a smile.
In the Senate, Cruz has found few natural allies. His fellow Texan, Sen. John Cornyn, declined to endorse him on Monday. Sen. John McCain of Arizona once called Cruz one of the “wacko birds” of the Senate. And after Cruz spoke in the Senate floor for 21 hours and 19 minutes straight in September 2013, in a quixotic attempt to starve the health care law of money, many colleagues considered it a stunt.
The ensuing partial government shutdown hurt the Republican Party’s standing with the public.
As well, the fiery rhetoric can come across as too harsh for many moderate, deep-pocketed and establishment-minded Republicans. They still make up the Republican majority, for all the influence that conservative activists wield early in the primary contests and beyond.
Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant and a U.S.-born mother, shows little interest in calibrating his views for moderates at this early stage of his White House run. For all the talk about the Republican Party being a big-tent coalition with many divergent corners, Cruz seems to be focused on convincing those who don’t share his views that they are wrong. His outreach remains on the right, extending to Christian conservatives from his tea party roots.
He’s hoping those blocs may be enough for him to cobble together the primary votes making him the nominee. Philip Elliott, AP

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