John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Cruz Doing Cornyn No Favors

Posted on April 30, 2013

Cruz is Doing Cornyn No Favors

There are 26 million people living in Texas.

About 40 percent of them are Hispanic.  About 44 percent of them are White and not Hispanic.  About 11 percent of them are Black.

When you live in Texas, you gain an appreciation for Mexican culture and the Mexican people.  You have no choice.  They are your neighbors.

I worked for a Texas member of Congress once.  Tom DeLay had a great appreciation for the Hispanics in his state.  He spoke Spanish.  He lived in Latin America for a while when he was a kid.

DeLay would never be disrespectful to the Hispanics of his state, because he knew it was bad politics.  And it wasn’t in his nature to be disrespectful to them.

George W. Bush had a great appreciation for Mexico and for the Hispanic culture.  He worked hard on his Spanish.  He cultivated Mexican voters.  He designed an agenda, compassionate conservatism, that resonated with culturally conservative but economically disadvantaged voters.  He talked about the value of education, about getting prescription drugs to seniors, about immigration reform, and economic prosperity, just as he talked about the importance of faith-based initiatives and pro-life policies.

Bush's model of engagement with Hispanic was much different than the Pete Wilson model in California.  And for that reason, Bush was consistently able to get 40 percent of the Hispanic vote and make the Texas Republican party stronger, while the California Republican Party has alienated that voting bloc and continues to be in desperate shape.

Ted Cruz, the new Senator from Texas, is Cuban, so you would think that he would have a greater appreciation for how to communicate with Hispanic voters.  But that is not exactly accurate.  Cruz did get about 35% of the Hispanic vote in 2012, outpolling Mitt Romney, who got 28%.  But there is some evidence that Hispanics voted for Cruz not for his political positions, but because he had an Hispanic sounding last name.

And Cruz didn't exactly clean up with Hispanics.  In fact, John Cornyn, the other Senator from Texas, got 36% of the Hispanic vote in 2008.

Most voters probably didn't fully understand where Cruz fell on issues important to them.  He was the Republican running against an unknown Democrat named Paul Sadler.  Obama didn't campaign in Texas, and having him at the top of the ticket helped drive up the Republican vote in the Lonestar State.

Cruz has now made quite a name for himself.  He is the man against Obamacare (which of course, is very popular with Hispanic voters).  He is the man against immigration reform (which again, is very popular with Hispanic voters).  He is the Tea Party legend who hates compassionate conservatism.

And his positions are putting his legislative partner, John Cornyn, in a tough spot.

Unlike Cruz, Cornyn has an election next year.  Unlike Cruz, Cornyn doesn't have an Hispanic last name.  And unlike Cruz, Cornyn has to worry about a primary challenge from the right.

By being so virulently opposed to immigration reform, Cruz makes it impossible for Cornyn to moderate his position on the issue, making it harder for Cornyn to do better than his 36% in the last election.  If Cornyn does not do better than 36%, but instead does much worse, that could put this Senate seat in danger for Republicans.

Republicans like to assume that Texas is in the bag for the GOP and that it will stay that way forever.  That's not true, especially if they follow Ted Cruz's lead there.

By hewing so close to the right side of the road, Ted Cruz just might run John Cornyn into the ditch.  That is not good for Republicans if they want to have a chance at taking back the Senate.