BY: Ryan Mahoney, Republican Communications Strategist
And with a Midnight tweet, the junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, became the first official candidate to enter the 2016 presidential contest.
His announcement, which was made formal at Liberty University on Monday, was met with mixed reviews. Some view his candidacy as “absurd.” Others see him as a “bomb thrower” when America needs a bridge builder. But many, like Mitt Romney’s “Biggest Fan” from the mountains of north Georgia believe Ted Cruz is “the best leader in world history.”
No matter your feelings on the Cruz candidacy, the firebrand conservative is not the Party’s only choice for president. Thanks to a Republican bench so deep and diverse that a cliché reference to Baskin Robbins is understandably in order, voters, grassroots activists, and pundits will have options on “their candidate.” In due time, our Facebook feeds will serve as the public forum for friends, neighbors, and grammar school classmates to declare their allegiance and display their support.
So as we prepare for another primary season, I hope Republicans far and wide will pause to reflect on what went wrong in presidential cycles before. After contentious primaries in which Republican candidates (and their supporters) trashed each other from coast to coast, battled through countless debates, spent millions upon millions of dollars, we finally had a nominee. And as that candidate emerged – bloody, broken, and broke – many who supported someone else in the primary took their ball and went home. It was no surprise that Republicans lost on Election Day. It’s tough to win without an enthusiastic base of supporters.
With the Republican National Committee’s new debate rules and a convention date set earlier than normal, we can expect some of those issues to dissipate. But the behavior of the Republican base remains a determining factor in the eventual success of the future nominee.
Longtime conservative talk show host and author Martha Zoller always advocated for crowded primaries. She said,” Primaries build better candidates.” I agree completely. But there’s a difference in creating contrasts with your opponents and doing pro-bono opposition research for the Democratic Party. There’s a fine line between working to win and fighting to make sure the others lose.
As candidates jump into the race in the weeks and months ahead, and Republicans (myself included) pick sides, let’s remember that only one will appear on the ballot in November of 2016. Swing voters in Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida read our tweets and Facebook posts. They remember what we say now when it’s time to pull the lever later.
Now is the time for a robust conversation on education, foreign policy, tax reform, and energy. Candidates should sharpen each other “like iron sharpens iron.” We should encourage solutions – not sound bites. We should demand vision – not visceral smear campaigns.
We must remember that at the end of the day, it is our responsibility to prevent Barack Obama’s “third term.” When the primary season is over, our enemy’s last name is not Rubio, Cruz, Paul, or Bush. Our enemy is an e-mail hiding, Benghazi burying, scandal ridden politician named Hillary Clinton and we need all hands on deck to end her political career and restore America’s promise for future generations.