Analysis: That Silly Perry Vs. Cruz Idea? Don’t Be So Quick to Dismiss It

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Pitting Ted Cruz and Rick Perry against each other in a political survey is just the sort of silly clickbait pollsters and headline writers love.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, released a survey this week saying Cruz would lose to the former governor in a hypothetical Republican primary for re-election. Cruz will be on the ballot two years from now.

The response from Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier captured the spirit: “Polls more than two years away from an election are of no significant consequence and serve little more than to generate headlines to fill a news cycle.”

Not to mention some tittering in the political class.

The two former presidential candidates from Texas might never face each other in another election. But think it through.

Cruz was the fresher face and the stronger of the two in the 2016 race for president. But now the junior senator from Texas is off balance, trying to prove to Texans that he really wants to be in the Senate and not just in the presidential on-deck circle.

That’s going to be a harder sell than you might think. Cruz doesn’t have a record of accomplishment in the Senate, though he is a favorite of conservatives who sent him to Washington, D.C., to raise hell with the establishment.

He did do that, and that establishment will pay him back either by passively staying away from his re-election bid or by actively supporting another candidate.

Cruz will have few senators on his side; John Cornyn of Texas didn’t offer his endorsement when Cruz was the last Texan running for president and would have liked the boost. Heck, even Perry endorsed Cruz.

The senator won some friends and lost some with his non-endorsement speech at the Republican national convention where Trump was officially nominated. Some called it a principled stand. Others thought he looked like a sore loser who spat at the chance to help unify the GOP behind its candidate. Vote your conscience, y’all.

The senator has been back on tour in Texas, reconnecting with the voters who’ve been watching his presidential campaign from afar, sounding out the political surroundings for signs of trouble and strength.

The safe bet, as with most incumbents, is that Cruz has had a bumpy summer but will probably be fine when it’s time to ask for another six years.

Democrats are chattering, but this is a red state until they can scrounge up contrary evidence. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio has said he will look. Wendy Davis has been mentioned but says she’s not interested. A successful challenge from the Democrats would be a political earthquake — possible, but implausible.

But consider the former Republican governor for a moment. Rick Perry is clearly not settling comfortably into his post-retirement rocking chair in Round Top.

His actions prove that this is a guy who still wants to serve, as a president, as a candidate for vice president, as a part of an administration, as a defender of a Republican nominee under fire.

Ted Cruz and Rick Perry are well known across Texas, able to raise money inside and outside of the state, and demonstrably ambitious. The speculation about a 2018 matchup will probably come to nothing, right?

Perry is clearly looking for work. He’s a risk-taker. He has yet to lose a statewide election in Texas. He has a large donor base that includes people inside the Republican establishment and people who have railed against that same establishment. He and Cruz have overlapping pools of voters. He stuck with the party and its nominee after losing in the early rounds of the Republican primary for president.

And — this is the silly part that prompted the public conversation — he’s outpolling Cruz in a very preliminary survey of Texas Republican voters.

Another Republican, Congressman Michael McCaul of Austin, has been getting some quiet encouragement to explore a Senate race. He’s got the advantage of a personal fortune and the ability, if he’s so inclined, to cover the cost of a statewide race.

He’s also relatively unknown outside of his district and in Washington, D.C. — a weakness that has swallowed the ambitions of all but a few of the Texans who sought to leap from Congress to statewide positions.

Cruz and Perry are well known across Texas, able to raise money inside and outside of the state and demonstrably ambitious.

The speculation about a 2018 matchup will probably come to nothing.

Just keep saying that.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2016/08/19/analysis-silly-perry-vs-cruz-idea-dont-be-so-quick/.

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