Ted Cruz sees path to White House running through the South

  • By BILL BARROW
  • Thursday, August 13, 2015 8:42pm
  • Opinion

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Ted Cruz sees his way to the White House, and it runs between the hedges, through waters patrolled by the “Volunteer Navy” and a spot on the Mississippi River nicknamed Death Valley.

Confused? Not if you’re one of the voters the Texas senator is counting on to carry him to the Republican presidential nomination. They’ll know that’s all part of college football lore in the Southeastern Conference, whose make-up roughly matches the states that will hold primaries next March — right after the kickoff contests in the four early voting states.

“The role of Arkansas and the other states throughout the SEC is to make sure the next Republican nominee for president is a real and genuine conservative,” Cruz told backers this week in Little Rock.

Cruz assures his supporters he is “all in” on the early states, which include South Carolina — an SEC state that’s accustomed to its prominent role in picking the president. But the “SEC primary” is a new phenomenon, with Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and others moving up their contests to join Georgia for a Southern-tinged Super Tuesday on March 1.

Louisiana and Mississippi host primaries the following week.

The tight turnaround, Cruz said in an interview this week, will make it impossible for second-tier candidates to focus exclusively on Iowa or New Hampshire with hopes that an “unexpected victory” can translate into national momentum.

“There’s so little time … to raise money, no time to build infrastructure … no time to energize the grassroots,” he said. “That’s why our strategy is very deliberately playing the long game.”

The Southern stretch is unlikely to put any candidate over the top, since the Republican Party requires that delegates selected in contests held before March 15 be split proportionally among leading vote-getters. Only afterward can a state party opt to award all of its delegates to the top vote-getter.

Cruz certainly has competition. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum won Southern primaries in their previous White House bids, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and businessman Donald Trump boast notable followings. And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is from Baton Rouge — the home of Louisiana State.

But Cruz and his aides argue the early March primaries will cull the field ahead of the winner-take-all states, and a strong performance there could pit Cruz as conservative standard-bearer against one or two establishment favorites — defined by the Cruz camp as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.

And so Cruz spent his week following the first GOP debate making that pitch at more than a dozen stops on a multi-state bus tour through the South, where he quoted scripture, asked supporters to pray for him and delighted big crowds with his usual broadsides against President Barack Obama, Democratic 2016 favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton and the federal government in general.

“There’s no doubt it’s a total package,” said Arkansas state Rep. Bob Ballinger, a Cruz supporter. “He’s also a fiscal conservative. He also just understands the people and is willing to vote and work for the people, which is what excites me about him.”

Cruz started his tour in South Carolina and concluded Thursday in Oklahoma, talking college football and tailoring his rallies to local culture: “Sweet Tea with Sen. Cruz” in Memphis and a “Boots and BBQ” lunch in Oklahoma City.

“He’s down-the-line everything we stand for, and he’s passionate about it,” said 84-year-old Mary Lou McCoy of Jacksonville, Arkansas. Her husband, 87-year-old Lowell McCoy, stood by in a T-shirt that read: “liberalism: moochers electing leeches to steal from producers.”

The first-term senator, who built his national profile as a tea party favorite in his 2012 election and subsequent role in partially shuttering the federal government the following year, fills his rallies with humorous takedowns of Obama and Clinton and even GOP leaders.

He takes aim at 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who publicly chided Cruz for hammering Obama as a “state-sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism” because of the administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

“If we nominate Democrat-lite, we will lose again,” Cruz said, a line that drew approval from voters at every stop.

More in Opinion

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.

The Final Redistricting Map approved for the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area is seen on Nov. 9, 2021. (Map via akredistrict.org)
Alaska Voices: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s last-minute gerrymandering failed Alaska

Our Constitution outlines rules for a redistricting process designed to uphold public trust.