By Brent Budowsky - 07/23/14 06:25 PM EDT
Last week I wrote that rarely before have a man, moment, mission and election come together better than Bill ClintonBill ClintonTrump: Vince Foster shouldn’t be a campaign issue Vince Foster's sister: 'Cruel' for Trump to bring up his death Trump clinches GOP nomination MORE’s opportunity to barnstorm the nation to save Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections.
Similarly, rarely before have a man, moment, mission and election come together as more of a danger to Republicans than Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzTrump clinches GOP nomination Eleven states sue Obama over transgender bathroom directive Poll: Clinton leads Trump in Wisconsin by double digits MORE’s (Texas) opportunity to win the presidential nomination in 2016 and take the GOP down to a defeat as catastrophic as the one Barry Goldwater suffered in 1964.
Cruz today has virtually no influence to get things done in the Senate Republican Conference or among House Republicans. They remember the epic disaster he inflicted on the GOP the one time he did have influence, when he championed the government shutdown in October 2013 that voters despised.
Think back to the halcyon days of Cruz influence when he crossed the Capitol to meet with House Republicans, in defiance of Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return MORE (R-Ohio), to promote the shutdown. Cruz won that fight. Remember what happened:
According to generic party polling in Real Clear Politics, the government shutdown left Democrats with a 7- to 10-point advantage over Republicans.
The Cruz influence is almost entirely negative. For example, senators can prevent judicial vacancies from being filled by a practice called the blue slip. While Texas litigants have an urgent need for vacant judgeships to be filled, because of immigration and many other pressing matters, Cruz has abused the blue slip practice and kept many judicial chambers empty.
Advice to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidMcCain files B amendment to boost defense spending Dems to GOP: Cancel Memorial Day break Sanders fundraises for Feingold in Wisconsin Senate race MORE (D-Nev.): Take the blue slip ability away from Cruz and nominate and confirm judges from Texas without him. Justice for Texans must not be held hostage to the extremism and abuse of power by Cruz.
The big question for Republicans is whether Cruz will be nominated for president, wage his war against all Republicans of moderation, and try to purge them from his party, or whether the rest of the GOP will understand the disaster Cruz could impose on them and purge him from the corridors of power first, a process that has already begun.
A Cruz campaign in 2016 promises ugly primary attacks against GOP opponents, and if he is nominated, ugly attacks against Democrats.
The Cruz rightist ideology and modus operandi of vindictive political war is so alien to the aspirations of American voters that Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonObama dodges on Clinton’s emails, paid speeches Trump: Vince Foster shouldn’t be a campaign issue Clinton: 'I won't give up' if Congress refuses to pass immigration plan MORE could easily carry between 48 and 50 states against him and carry Democrats to victory for control of the House and Senate.
Cruz recently accused Democrats of waging a war against the Catholic Church. Huh? The Democratic response would be to accuse Cruz of waging war against Hispanics through his opposition to immigration reform and rights for Hispanic voters.
Democrats would accuse Cruz of waging war against the teachings of Pope Francis on a long list of issues, from income inequality to humane immigration policies. Cruz will lose the war he declares over Catholics. Democrats would accuse Cruz of waging war against women on issues from pay equity to contraceptives. The Cruz wars embody and exaggerate the unpopularity of the GOP brand.
By practicing a politics of waging internecine war against anyone who disagrees with him, Cruz could win the Iowa caucuses and become the champion of the right in bitterly divisive GOP primaries. For the same reasons, smart Republicans dread this prospect, and national Democrats pray for it.
Republicans have a Ted Cruz problem. The better he does, the more he could destroy the GOP. He thrills the right but is anathema to everyone else.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.