As Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was announcing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination last week, I kept waiting for him to introduce Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador as his running mate.
OK, such announcements are not made until after a candidate wins the nomination. But as I listened to his speech, I started to “imagine” that a Cruz-Labrador ticket would be a match made in heaven – or something on the opposite end, depending on your political view. Congressman Mike Simpson, no doubt, would cringe at the thought of Cruz and Labrador carrying the GOP banner in 2016. But to at least some conservatives, it would be the greatest thing in Idaho since the potato was invented.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Labrador will even endorse Cruz in the Republican presidential race. Rand Paul might be closer to Labrador’s cup of tea (as in tea party). From Cruz’s standpoint, he’d probably look elsewhere since Idaho isn’t exactly a swing state. If he were the Republican nominee, he could put Humpty Dumpty on the ticket and still carry Idaho. Nevertheless, a running mate with the ability to take his home state would be improvement over 2012, when Rep. Paul Ryan failed to win his home state of Wisconsin.
But there’s no question that Cruz has the qualities that would be attractive to Labrador. Both are in their 40s, both want to turn Washington upside down and both would like to throw Obamacare into a bonfire. They are perfectly willing to shut down the government, or strip funding from the Department of Homeland Security, to get their way on the budget and immigration policies. Cruz and Labrador also are thorns to the side of the GOP leadership in Congress. Recently, Labrador suggested that if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t willing to beat down Obama on immigration, the Senate would be better off with Democrat Harry Reid running the show.
Labrador, with Texas-sized ego, is Idaho’s answer to Ted Cruz. He’s brash, has swagger and doesn’t hesitate to challenge the state’s political establishment. One of his proudest accomplishments as an Idaho legislator was playing a pivotal role in stopping Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed 2-cent gas tax in 2009. Never mind that infrastructure is crumbling; what matters is that he stopped Otter from raising taxes.
In Idaho’s congressional delegation, Labrador is the black sheep. He mixes with Simpson like oil and water, and his relationship with Sen. Jim Risch is frosty, at best. He has congenial relationships with Sen. Mike Crapo, but that’s not surprising. Crapo is nice to almost everybody. So Labrador definitely is Cruz’s kind of guy. In fact, Labrador might be able to give the Texas senator a few lessons in political defiance.
One other quality that Cruz has, and Labrador can relate to, is the ability to deliver a speech. Labrador shines when speaking to packed crowds in town hall meetings. Cruz put on a stellar performance last week at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. – the school founded by Jerry Falwell. Cruz came across as part Billy Graham, with a touch of Ronald Reagan mixed in. Last week, he spoke for just over 30 minutes –talking from the heart and touching souls. The last two GOP presidential candidates, John McCain and Mitt Romney, were tongue-tied by comparison and were easy pickings for Obama – who also is at his best before large crowds.
Cruz warmed up last week by talking about conservative oldies but goodies, such as repealing “every word of Obamacare,” a flat tax, abolishing the IRS, preserving the sanctity of life, upholding traditional marriage and protecting gun rights.
“If there were any liberal Democrats tuning in, they were probably hurling things at the screen by now,” wrote John Cassidy of the New Yorker. “Cruz wasn’t done. ‘Imagine repealing every word of Common Core. Imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel …’”
Liberal talking heads will dismiss Cruz as a religious right-wing nut who has no business running for president. He’s a longshot for sure, but never underestimate a strong speaker’s ability to sway voters. And never underestimate his passion for boldness and imagination, which is what it would take for Cruz to put Labrador on his ticket.