One of them is Mr. Republican.

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Ted Cruz Is the Ultimate Insider

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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This National Review story about Ted Cruz includes my favorite paragraph from the 2016 Republican presidential nomination cycle so far:

[Congressman Tim] Huelskamp, whose office had not responded as of press time, could be a valuable ally for Cruz as he works to consolidate support from the conservative flank of the Republican party. Part of Cruz’s pitch to voters is that while he works in Washington, D.C., he remains an outsider. Support from Huelskamp and other members of the Freedom Caucus, a group that has publicly butted heads with Republican leadership and claims some credit for Speaker John Boehner’s resignation earlier this year, would bolster that portrayal.

Got that? To strengthen the case that he’s a Washington “outsider,” Cruz needs to win support from members of Congress -- members who were (supposedly) able to boot a sitting speaker of the House. 

In the real world, Cruz is a Republican factional leader whose career has been firmly within the Republican party network. He clerked for two Republican judges. He practiced law in Washington for a law firm well-connected to Republicans on Capitol Hill. He worked for George W. Bush's presidential campaign, then had two jobs in Washington in the Bush administration. He was then appointed solicitor general of Texas by Rick Perry, who succeeded Bush as the state's governor. And Cruz has been a U.S. senator since January 2013. In Washington. At least when he isn't on the campaign trail.

Yes, Cruz has been hostile to other Republicans, most notably when he called the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a liar. And he has paid the price in the Senate: Some members of Congress are reportedly moving to endorse Marco Rubio in large part because they don't like the Texas senator and because they think he would be a poor general-election candidate. But the fact that people dislike him personally inside the Beltway is evidence that he’s well connected among insider Republicans. They couldn’t personally dislike him if they didn’t know him, could they?

Part of the confusion is that Cruz’s faction doesn’t have a name. They aren't quite “Tea Party” Republicans. And these days, they wouldn't call themselves that anyway. They do, however, call themselves “conservatives,” but that doesn’t help because (almost) all Republican party actors call themselves conservatives. We can call them “insurgents” or “radicals” or any number of things, but none of these terms works perfectly. Perhaps “Outsiders” -- capitalized, as if it was a name of a group calling itself that -- would work as well as anything else.

But pretending that Ted Cruz is a Washington outsider or party outsider is nonsense.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a true outsider. People within the Republican Party oppose him because, as a lower-case outsider, he would be entirely unpredictable if he became president.

Cruz would name reliable conservatives to judicial openings. For all we know, Trump would try to put Omarosa on the Supreme Court. OK, that wouldn’t work, but he certainly couldn’t be trusted to stick with the five youngest lawyers vetted by the Federalist Society. Nor could he be trusted to name safe conservatives to important administration posts, or to follow the Republican agenda when it comes to policies. 

Cruz, whatever his conflicts with some Republicans, wouldn’t be a total wild card in the Oval Office. He may be an Outsider, but he's a Republican insider. 

  1. In the other chamber, the formation of the House Freedom Caucus made it easier to talk about this group. But Cruz doesn’t call himself a Freedom Conservative. Besides, outside of the institutional structure (where the name is appropriate), it isn't as if other conservatives oppose freedom.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net