Rubio vs. Cruz: Battle for the soul of the GOP?
Marco Rubio isn’t the only young Republican having a good run. Ted Cruz has posted impressive fundraising hauls and increased his poll standing to the point where people are speculating about the two fighting it out for the nomination.
“I like Marco. I respect him. He’s a friend of mine. He’s a great guy,” Cruz said Thursday on CNN.
And then he pulled out the knife, if subtly.
Cruz began to talk about the GOP contest always boiling down to two lanes: the “moderate” and the “conservative.” In the past, he went on, the moderate, establishment side won because it had the money. Cruz has shown he can more than compete financially.
“The moderate lane is crowded as all get-out. You’ve got four or five candidates that are slugging it out … and I don’t know who comes out of that alone,” Cruz told Jake Tapper.
“Marco is certainly formidable in that lane. I think the Jeb campaign seems to view Marco as his biggest threat in the moderate lane.”
But Cruz said conservatives are coalescing around him. “Once it gets down to a head-to-head contest between a conservative and a moderate, I think the conservative wins. If you look at Republican primaries, conservatives outnumber moderates 3-to-1 right now. If we get head to head, I’m very confident that we’re in a position to win this.”
It’s not hard to imagine what Cruz would seek to draw contrasts with Rubio. Immigration, chiefly, but also Rubio being more of a follower than leader on the Obamacare shutdown. Rubio supports the Obama administration’s trade moves, though his campaign said he has not come to a final position on the Trans Pacific accord. Rubio also didn’t endorse Cruz, as the New York Times reported, something the Texan “resented.”
Rubio has burnished his own conservative credentials, lacks Cruz’s rougher edges and has a more commanding presence on foreign policy. His fundraising has lagged but that’s changing (see Singer, Paul).
In the polling Fox News used for next week’s debate, Rubio polled at 11.8 percent for third place behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Right behind Rubio, with 10 percent, was Cruz.