Feasibility be vulnerable to a moderate democrat or republican

Feasibility Report: Senator Ted
Cruz

 

            In an attempt to assess the probability
of a specific candidate defeating an incumbent politician, political analysts
will conduct feasibility reports that examine the demographics, social climate
and policy issues most relevant to the state. The purpose of this feasibility
report is to determine whether Texas’s Senator Ted Cruz is vulnerable to a
challenger in his upcoming 2018 reelection bid. Ever since Senator Cruz’s state
approval ratings dropped during his presidential run, political analysts and
writers have speculated that the Senator could be unseated by the appropriate
challenger (Goldsberry, Yarvin, Lovegrove). With Texas’s growing urban
electorate and rising Hispanic population, political experts believe that
Senator Cruz’s seat may be vulnerable to a moderate democrat or republican challenger.
However, while only having been a member of Congress since 2012, Senator Cruz
has become a central figure of the Tea Party movement, and a strong force in
the Republican party. His party ties, and Texas’s republican base will make
Senator Cruz a difficult candidate to unseat. This report will analyze the
social, political and economic demographics of Texas, Senator Cruz’s policy
views, influence as a politician, and finally the phenomenon known as the
incumbency advantage in an attempt to assess the feasibility of a challenger
successfully unseating Senator Cruz.

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            Texas is truly a one of a kind
state. Texas is the second largest state in the United States, in both land
mass (268,597 mi2) and population (26,448,193 people). Viewed as a
Republican stronghold since the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the
last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Texas was Jimmy Carter in 1972.
Since then Republicans have owned the state (Goldsberry). Senator Cruz carried
the state in 2012 with roughly 4.5 million votes, defeating his democrat
counterpart by 16 points (NY Times- Election of 2012). When looking at the
social demographics of Texas, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The
electorate of Texas is primarily white, religious and lacking a college degree (U.S.
Census Bureau). A Pew Research poll published in 2015 shows that the majority
of Republican voters have this very same make-up, as they are white, religious
and lacking a college degree (Pew Research). These characteristics though are
dwindling on the national scale, as more and more individuals are receiving a college
education and abandoning organized religion (Wilson, Zuckerman). This could
mean be evidence of Texas shifting, but will most likely be inconsequential to
the 2018 election as republicans still outnumber democrats in Texas.

            While
Texas is still a Republican stronghold at the moment, the social climate in
Texas is changing steadily. Texas is seeing a respectable growing in both its Hispanic
and urban population. This combination of factors is the main reason that political
analysts have speculated that Texas could possibly be a shifting state
(Goldsberry, Lovegood). Individuals of Hispanic decent are more likely to vote
for a democrat than a republican. Unfortunately, the Hispanic vote, while
making up roughly 30% of the population, does not have a substantial impact in
elections. Voter ID laws that marginalize low-income households, which are
disproportionately minorities, impact Hispanic voter turnout in Texas (Krogstad).
With that being said, the steady increase of a Hispanic populace in Texas has
allowed democrats to challenge Republican incumbents, especially in local urban
elections. Even more impactful than the growing Hispanic populace is the
exponential growth of Texas’s metropolitan areas.

Like much of the rest of America,
Texas has a polarized urban and rural divide that highlights the cultural differences
of the two groups (Delreal). Rural residents are far more likely to vote for a
republican party candidate while urban residents are far more likely to vote
for a democratic candidate, represented above in Figure 1. The main issues the
two disagree on are Border Security and Immigration, as rural residents believe
it is important to strengthen U.S. borders and urban residents believe that the
U.S. should be more inclusive and admit more immigrants into the country
(Goldsberry) The growing urban populace in Texas is one of the reasons certain political
analysts believe Texas has the potential to go blue. With three of the top ten
most populated metropolitan areas in the US, Texas has seen a boom in its urban
population over the past forty years. Figure 2, a map that compares total presidential
votes cast in 1964 to 2012, shows that Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin
are all metropolitan areas that had a 50-100% increase in voters over the
course of 50 years (Goldsberry). This possible partisan shift becomes more noticeable
when comparing the electoral results of the 2012 and 2016 Presidential
Elections. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the state by nearly 16 points, while in
2016, Donald Trump only carried the state by 9 points (NYT-Election of
2012/2016). It is unlikely that this partisan shift is happening at a great
enough rate that it will play a substantial role in the 2018 senatorial
elections, as the state is still largely Republican.

Economically, Texas has embodied
the laissez-faire, deregulation views of the Republican party, making it a
haven for both big and small businesses. Texas doesn’t have a state income tax,
corporate income tax, or a state property tax (Pofeldt). On paper, these
policies seem to be working. Texas boasts the second highest GDP of any state,
and an unemployment rate of 3.9% (US News- Best States). The low taxes attract
large corporations that provide jobs for the populace, but even more
importantly, attract large political donors. Texas’s tax laws bring in a steady
flow of conservatively minded individuals who see Texas as a safe haven from
the government.

While
all these numbers express positive economic stability, positive economic policy
should not be measured just by GDP. The downside of “trickle-down” economics
and deregulation is statewide income inequality. The Economic Policy Institute
published a report in 2016 that compared the average 1% earner to the average
99% earner. In Texas, the average 1% earner has an income of 1.3 million
dollars a year, while the average 99% earner has an income of 26,900 dollars (Sommeiler,
et al.). Texas’s income inequality ratio is the fifth highest in the nation,
and should be a concern of any politician running a campaign in Texas. Texas’s
economy could become a real discussion point during the 2018 Senatorial
election.

Since Republicans still have a
steady majority in Texas, gaining the conservative vote is paramount to a
victorious campaign. A poll, represented in Figure 3, undertaken by the
University of Texas shows the most important issues to voters based on ideology
(The Texas Politics Project). Conservative voters care most strongly about
legislation regarding immigration and border security, views that Senator Cruz
has championed during his time in office. Democrats, on the other hand, are
more concerned with political corruption and education (TPP). With a growing
partisan divide, Senator Cruz’s challenger is going to have to decide whether
to increase border security, limiting immigrants access to the United States,
or limit border security, supporting progressive immigration reform instead.
Either decision will incite support from one voting populace, and isolate the
other, but the battle won’t end there.

Senator Cruz was first elected to
the Senate in 2012, defeating democratic challenger Paul Sadler (NYT Election-
2012). Over the past five years, Senator Cruz has quickly risen in the ranks to
be a central figure of the Republican party, and a champion of the Tea Party
movement sweeping the United States. The Senator has found his way on to five
high level committees including the Committee of the Judiciary, the Joint
Economic Committee and the Committee on Rules and Administration (U.S. Senate:
Committee Assignment of the 115th Congress), most likely because of
republican’s slight majority in the Senate. Senator Cruz is an extremely
conservative member of the Senate, with various voting records putting him
between a 0.90 and 0.95 on the ideological spectrum (Gov Track). Like the
majority of Texas conservatives, Senator Cruz believes in increased border
security, limiting immigration, and funding for the armed services to be the
main concerns of our political time, as outlined on his political website. With
a current state approval rating of roughly 50%, Senator Cruz has finally
recovered from his massive drop in approval rating during the presidential
primaries (Favorability Rating). Ultimately
though, while high approval ratings and party security should be making Senator
Cruz pretty comfortable, the Senator’s greatest skill is his ability to
fundraise. Represented in Figure 4 above, Senator Cruz has consistently raised
more money than the average Senatorial candidate every election year has been
in office (Open Secrets). Because of tax cuts and securities, Texas is a
lucrative place for big corporations. Big corporations translate to big donors
for Senator Cruz, as long as he promises to keep tax rates low. While money
doesn’t not guarantee an electoral victory, the candidate who raises the most
money is, more often than not, the winner (Cite).

The final, and possibly most
notable advantage Senator Cruz has is the phenomenon known as the incumbency
advantage. Over the past 100 years, incumbent Senators have won reelection 78%
of the time, according to research done by the National Bureau of Economic
Research (Duggan). Because of their time in office, incumbent Senators have an
advantage over their challengers. They have greater name recognition, large
political networks, positive voting history and more free media coverage. All
these factors increase the incumbent senator’s chances of winning because they
lead to a greater chance of facing a lower quality opponent (Snyder). Challenging
parties do not want to waste money and promising candidates on races that they
are less likely to win. Instead, parties will put promising candidates and more
money into open seat elections, where both sides sit on an even playing field
(Duggan).

The only viable chance to unseat
Senator Cruz would be for a republican to challenge him in the primary. Early
polling showed that Beto O’Roarke, a member of the House of Representative and
Senator Cruz’s democratic challenger in the 2018 elections, only trailing Senator
Cruz 35% to 31% (Lovegrove), a more recent poll published by End Citizens
United shows that Senator Cruz now leads 45% to 37% (Hagen). The numbers do not
look good for a democrat. With Senator Cruz being one of the most conservative
members in the senate, his greatest challenge would come from a moderate Republican,
more closely aligned with the median voter in Texas. Outlined in the theory ‘Spatial
Model of Representation’, a candidate has the greatest chance of receiving the
majority vote if they align their political views with the median voter. Senator
Cruz’s challenger should attempt to win over the moderate republicans in the
primary, focusing on economic issues and Senator Cruz’s failed presidential
bid. Whoever wins the republican primary is almost guaranteed the Texas senate
seat.