When Ted Cruz was in New Hampshire just a week ago, he lamented that in last two elections, conservatives by the millions sat home because they were not excited about the more moderate GOP nominees for President.
Cruz, now the first announced presidential candidate, won praise from several of the state’s top conservative leaders Monday, while not winning any endorsements yet. They said his straightforward approach to conservatism and his ability to fire up a crowd while also speaking earnestly in small groups can excite the base and turn out conservatives in a general election.
The overall prognosis from these conservatives – and a top veteran GOP analyst — for a Ted Cruz candidacy in New Hampshire is: Don’t rule him out. Victory in New Hampshire next February is possible. And if there is no outright victory for Cruz in the first-primary state, he could advance out of New Hampshire as the conservative alternative to a moderate candidate – Jeb Bush, for instance – by finishing first among that group.
Cruz today announced his candidacy by Twitter, by video and in a speech at Liberty University in Virginia, saying straight up, “If you want more of the same, there will be plenty to choose from. But if you want real conservative change, and a proven record, I hope I can earn your support.”
For a full transcript of Cruz’s speech at Liberty University, click here.
While Cruz has yet to announce a campaign team in New Hampshire, conservatives believe he can potentially be a strong candidate in the Granite State, and could coalesce conservatives behind him.
State Rep. Bill O’Brien, who is the leader of the majority of the Republican caucus in the House, said that Cruz will be the featured speaker at the next House Republican Majority Caucus candidate meeting on April 19. The group hosted Donald Trump last Thursday night.
O’Brien said Cruz has a “clear avenue to success” in New Hampshire. “He is a smart guy, a principled guy and he has a clear vision of what it means to return America to greatness. He understands and can articulate for the Republican primary voter a better approach to economic and foreign policy and that could be a formula for success,” O’Brien said.
“He comes across as a thoughtful individual from what I’ve seen in public meetings and in private meeting with him,” O’Brien said. “This is a man who has argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court nine times, was the first Hispanic to law clerk in the Supreme Court and he graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and unlike our President actually wrote something in the law review.”
Former candidate for governor Andrew Hemingway, who is deeply involved in the new 603 Alliance, aimed at having New Hampshire conservatives coalesce behind one candidate, said he probably stay neutral in the primary campaign.
But he said that from his uncommitted perspective, “I think Ted is going to do very well in New Hampshire. His sort of straight-shooting, very direct way is refreshing.”
Hemingway said Cruz’s statement that if voters want more of the same, “there will be plenty to choose from,” will “appeal to a lot of people. My Facebook feed this morning was full of positive comments about Ted Cruz.
“I think he benefits from being the first in and it adds to his persona that he is doing this because it is something he believes in. And he is one of the few candidates this time around who has a natural ability to ignite an audience.”
“We’ve seen that from Marco Rubio and a few of the others,” Hemingway said. “Rand Paul may be a good candidate but he doesn’t exude that passion. I think Cruz will do very well and will surprise.”
Besides, said Hemingway, “He’s brilliant, he is a national debate champion. When you sit down in a room with him and 10 people, you leave saying, ‘Wow, this guy is really smart,’ and you don’t walk away with that feeling from all of them.”
State Tea Party leader and former NHGOP chairman Jack Kimball, who is also deeply involved in the new 603 Alliance, thinks “very highly of Cruz, but I think highly of a few of them. We have a broad field. Scott Walker is another and Rand Paul is another, and there are others.
“The problem with being first-in-the-nation is that there are usually too many conservatives and the moderate wins. We’ve got to make sure we flush out the best candidate,” Kimball said. “I think he’s an excellent candidate. I’m certainly positively inclined about Senator Cruz. He is very much a constitutional conservative.”
“What I see is that he is a real conservative who stands up for what he believes,” said veteran state Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londondery. “I haven’t endorsed him or any candidate, but he tells it like it is, and that’s what I respect out of somebody. They don’t give you a politically correct answer and that’s what we need, someone with integrity and loyalty.”
Baldasaro said that while many conservatives have not “come out and voted” in past general elections, “think he would attract voters to finally come out.”
Baldasaro said conservatives are motivated in the current GOP primary to find a true conservative.
“People are sick of the promises, and someone like Cruz, who stands up for principles, or a Donald Trump – and Scott Walker is another. The do what they say and they are not bull (throwers).”
Veteran GOP strategist Tom Rath, who has not yet endorsed in the primary but in the past has favored more moderate, establishment candidates such as Mitt Romney, George W. Bush and Bob Dole, said Cruz is “an extraordinary speaker and I think would do a great job in a debate.
“I think we are looking at a situation where we will have three primaries – the overall primary, a conservative right primary and an ideologically right primary,” Rath said.
Cruz, Rath said, would punch a ticket out of New Hampshire if he finishes ahead of what he called other “ideological” candidates, naming Scott Walker, Rand Paul bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson.
“If I were him I wouldn’t pay attention to the middle,” Rath said of Cruz. “If he gives the strongest, most consistent conservative message and comes in ahead of the other conservatives in a crowded field, he would be well-positioned going to South Carolina,” which is the next major primary, the first in the South.