As Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney battle behind the scenes for big money donors, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is working to portray himself as the presidential candidate of the conservative base.
Speaking to tea partiers in South Carolina over the weekend, Cruz cautioned that Republicans will lose the White House in 2016 if the nominee is insufficiently conservative.
“If we nominate a candidate in that mold, the same people who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home in 2016 and the Democrats will win again,” Cruz told the crowd.
His comments come as the Texas senator — probably best known for the 21 hours and 19 minutes he railed against Obamacare on the Senate floor in 2013 — is traveling to early primary and caucus states and making it clear he’s serious about a bid for the White House.
“I can tell you,” Cruz said on “Fox and Friends” last week of a possible presidential bid, “I’ve been receiving a lot of encouragement, a lot of support, and I’m looking at it very seriously.”
Behind the scenes, Cruz’s political network is preparing for a possible campaign. Speaking to The Daily Caller, one Cruz insider described recent efforts to reach out to donors and early state activists, interview potential staff and map out electoral strategies so if Cruz “makes that decision to go run, then we’re ready to flip the switch and start pressing forward.”
“We’re waiting on him to make that final decision,” the insider said.
Cruz has said publicly he expects the field of Republican contenders to form sometime between January and June, suggesting that is his timeframe for making an announcement.
This weekend, Cruz is set to address activists at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines. The event — which will feature a number of other Republicans thinking about running for president, including Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Ben Carson — is the first so-called cattle call of the 2016 Republican presidential race.
According to U.S. News and World Report, Cruz leads all other possible presidential candidates for most time spent traveling to early nominating states.
But if he runs for president, Cruz will certainly face competition from other conservatives: a Gravis Marketing poll in Iowa from last week, for example, shows Romney at 21 percent, Bush at 14 percent, Walker at 10 percent, Huckabee at 9 percent, Rand Paul at 8 percent, Cruz at 7 percent, Paul Ryan at 5 percent, Chris Christie at 5 percent and Marco Rubio at 4 percent.