Will Latinos back Ted Cruz?

Story highlights

  • Ruben Navarette: Critics are too quick to dismiss Ted Cruz's chances
  • He says the Texas senator might get more support from Hispanic voters than many people think

Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Latinos likely haven't made up their minds about Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's newly announced candidacy for President.

So in a selfless gesture, a whole slew of non-Latinos have quickly stepped forward to spare us the trouble of thinking for ourselves about whether Cruz stands a chance of winning and whether he can get the votes of fellow Latinos.
The answers were "No" and "No."
    Here's the conventional wisdom, courtesy of the liberal media and other critics of the junior senator from Texas: Cruz doesn't have the slimmest chance to win the Republican nomination, let alone to eventually become President.
    Which must be why, after Cruz said this week that he is running for President in 2016, liberal commentators and left-wing activists spent the next few days trying to tear him down.
    — "Cruz is entirely unsuited to be president," declared Danny Vinik of the New Republic. "Luckily for America, his candidacy is likely doomed to fizzle."
    — The Washington Post editorial board said "the most notable characteristic of Mr. Cruz's brief time in elected politics has been his aversion to values that are essential to democracy's functioning: Practicality, modesty and compromise."
    — "It would be a great gift to the Democratic Party if they nominate Ted Cruz," proclaimed Steve Rattner, the economic analyst for MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
    We were also told that Democrats couldn't wait to run against Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. How did that work out?
    Contempt for Cruz is bipartisan. The Republican establishment in Washington also has no use for the leader of that faction of outspoken Senate conservatives that Sen. John McCain of Arizona once dubbed "wacko birds."
    — In an interview this week with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Rep. Peter King, R-New York, said this of Cruz: "He has shown no qualifications, no legislation being passed, doesn't provide leadership and he has no real experience. So, to me, he is just a guy with a big mouth and no results."
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    — Conservative columnist John Podhoretz wrote that Cruz is "best known for saying 'no'" and has no history of "offering concrete solutions to practical problems" or spelling out how he would undo the damage that President Obama has done.
    — The Wall Street Journal editorial board said that Cruz's hardline against giving illegal immigrants an earned path to legal status would alienate Latino voters and be "a dream come true for Hillary Clinton," the likely Democratic nominee.
    Which Latino voters are likely to be alienated by Cruz? I suspect the answer is — the same ones who would be alienated by just about any Republican, which, by the way, often results in Latinos being a "cheap date" for Democrats.
    "Sen. Ted Cruz is unapologetically anti-immigrant, anti-worker, anti-woman, and anti-Latino," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group, presente.org. "His candidacy ensures that Latinos will continue to flee the Republican party, as his current and impending policies are merely an exemplification of adopted extremism."
    Strange. But, my father — a senior citizen who has been Latino all his life and who has only voted for Democrats since he cast his first ballot in the 1960s — didn't sound alienated when he called to share his enthusiasm that Cruz is running for President. Rather, he was scrambling for a pad and pencil. These days, there are so many Latino elected officials making headlines that he's having trouble remembering all the names.
    Besides Cruz, there's Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida who is also expected to announce a presidential bid in the next few weeks. And then there are a pair Latino governors in the Southwest who we might be hearing more from next year, if either is chosen as the vice presidential nominee on the GOP ticket: Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada.
    As for the Democrats, there are a couple of up-and-comers that many Latinos in the Southwest simply refer to as "the twins" — Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and, his twin brother, U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro. If Cruz loses his presidential bid and stays in the Senate, he could face a major challenge from either Castro when he runs for re-election in 2018.
    Still, most political observers seem to think we'll be hearing more about "the twins" before then. The very fact that the Republicans are likely to have two Latinos running for president, and two more at the state level who might looked at for vice president, while the Democrats have, well, none of the above, is embarrassing for liberals. If either Cruz or Rubio emerges as the GOP nominee, or Martinez or Sandoval wind up on the Republican ticket, it could encourage Hillary Clinton to choose one of the Castro brothers as her running mate.
    It's an exciting time for Latino appointed and elected officials, and it's a lot for my dad to keep straight.
    "I better write down these names," he said.
    My father has voted for more than 50 years, and he's always been loyal to the Democratic Party — even in those presidential elections where offerings were skimpy. (Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukasis in 1988, John Kerry in 2004.)
    But, next year, my dad might just cross party lines to be loyal to his ethnic group.
    The 73-year-old has seen the rise of a lot of remarkable things in his life — airplanes, television, computers, the Internet, smart phones, just to name a few. But, as a Mexican-American who attended segregated schools in the 1940s and endured discrimination -- both overt and subtle -- in the 1950s, he is still waiting to see a Latino elected President of the United States.
    You've heard about Republican women who might vote for Hillary Clinton because they want to see a woman President. We know that many African-Americans — including Republicans, such as Colin Powell — were proud to support Barack Obama.
    Now Latinos could have the same opportunity, courtesy of the GOP. What the Democrats couldn't deliver, the Republicans might.
    To borrow a phrase that Oprah Winfrey used to describe Obama, could Ted Cruz be "the one?"