Sunday, October 6, 2013

There's More to It than Being on TV

I thought I'd rip off a quick post here not so much as to offer some new and profound thoughts on the pre-primary, but to give us all a quick reminder what the invisible primary isn't either in theory or in practice.  As this is my first chance to watch a live game on Sunday this season I'll make this brief.

A lot of ink has spilled and pixels darkened about Sen. Ted Cruz and his apparent 2016 ambitions.  As many would have us believe, grabbing the limelight is the first order of business for presidential hopefuls at this point in the election cycle.  While this may help a candidate's invisible primary strategy, let's not forget a couple things.  

First, the invisible primary isn't all about candidates going to the people; it's a conversation that takes place within a party (broadly defined) as they seek candidates.  This isn't to say that candidates actions are unimportant in invisible primary success, they're just less important than many folks assume.  Several, if not most, of the invisible primary winners (think George W. Bush) weren't out playing a public game at this point.  Quite importantly, Bush wasn't out there pissing off anyone in the party at this time in 1997, he was making nice with nearly every GOP governor and other well placed Republicans whilst they were vetting him. 

Second, Sen. Cruz's faux filibuster has only appealed to a narrow band of the Republican electorate.  While the talk of a Republican civil war is in no doubt overblown, he is irritating a rather important wing of his party.  As the invisible primary is in largest part a party-centric enterprise, simply gaining public standing in one faction of the party, while simultaneously alienating another isn't the best course of action.  The Tea Party may be a plurality, or even a majority of the party at the moment, but those simple numbers don't guarantee success.  We know that when the party does land on a strong general election nominee,  faction leaders tend to lose out in the invisible primary in favor of another candidate that isn't any faction's first choice, but is nevertheless unobjectionable to the mix of constituencies within both parties.  

So if Sen. Cruz is seriously pondering a presidential run, he'd best start playing nice with his colleagues and worry about broad party goals as well as his own personal electoral ones.  If he blows off the better part of his caucus, he'll in no doubt be in a good spot for reelection, but he'll be shooting himself in the foot for higher office.

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