In one sense, Ted Cruz's meteoric rise to political prominence has rested on his uncanny ability to separate himself from the GOP pack, to out-conservative his party's hand-picked favorites before the hard-right GOP primary voting block. With backing by the anti-tax Club For Growth and the anti-establishment queen herself, Sarah Palin, Cruz went on to trounce longtime Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst during the 2012 GOP primary for his U.S. Senate seat (the Washington Post called the race one of the biggest upsets of that election season).
And, like an attention-hungry child, Cruz has since spent much of his time in politics making sure the spotlight is aimed squarely on himself. He launched a fake filibuster, during which he read from Dr. Seuss, in another failed effort to defund Obamacare. There was the time Cruz grilled Chuck Hagel during the Republican's confirmation hearing to become secretary of defense, questioning whether Hagel was bankrolled by the North Korean government. On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision affirming the right to marry for same-sex couples across the country, the constitutional scholar insisted much of the country isn't obligated to follow the High Court's ruling; it was a stunningly transparent moment of bare political rhetoric for someone famed legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, who taught Cruz at Harvard Law, called “completely brilliant,” a politician who even clerked with one U.S. Supreme Court chief justice.
But over the course of this summer the 2016 GOP Primary field really started to take shape. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee proved that he could out-creep anyone on opposition to LGBT rights. Then Donald 'Mexicans-are-rapists' Trump took center stage and proceeded to spray a bigoted musk that will apparently stick to all who enter the crowded GOP field. Soon after Trump called for an end to birthright citizenship, Cruz became just one of several candidates to parrot the idea of doing away with the 14th Amendment.
So what's a candidate like Cruz, fighting for oxygen as Trump sucks it all up (even in Cruz's home state of Texas), to do? Remind voters that he hates Planned Parenthood, that's what.
In his latest attempt to corner the “evangelical bracket” of conservative voters – which polls indicate could be anywhere between one quarter to one half of voters in any given primary state – Cruz has announced that he's leading a nationwide attack on Planned Parenthood that apparently kicked off this weekend.
Or, it might be more accurate to say Cruz is leading the second nationwide attack on Planned Parenthood we've seen in recent months. Cruz's campaign, which hopes to mobilize more than 100,000 pastors across the country to pressure states to defund all Planned Parenthood affiliates, comes on the heels of several “sting videos” released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress this summer. The clandestine videos show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation in blunt, at times unnerving language (for which Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards has even apologized). What those videos don't prove, however, is that any Planned Parenthood affiliate profited from fetal tissue donation (clinics are allowed by law to recover costs associated with storing and transporting fetal tissue for researchers).
Still, that hasn't stopped the numerous state and local investigations into Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country. Investigations already completed in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Dakota have turned up no wrongdoing. In many of the other states that have launched investigations – Texas included – Planned Parenthood affiliates don't even currently participate in fetal tissue donation programs.
This week, the Post reports, Cruz will spend some time on conference calls with pastors “to mobilize churchgoers in every congressional district beginning Aug. 30.” In his email to supporters, distributed by American Renewal Project, an organization of conservative pastors, Cruz said: “The recent exposure of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices ... has brought about a pressing need to end taxpayer support of this institution.”
Cruz announced the nationwide push to de-fund Planned Parenthood just after finishing up a “Rally for Religious Liberty” in the primary battleground state of Iowa Friday. At the event, according to the Post, Cruz's Iowa campaign chairman Matt Schultz called Cruz a divinely-appointed politician.
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“We're at a crossroads in our country,” Schultz told the crowd. “Ted Cruz is the man who God has prepared for this moment in time to be our champion, to fight for our husbands, our wives, our children and our grandchildren, for our country.”
Heading into the 2016 presidential race, Cruz was a shoo-in for the role of unorthodox, outsider candidate, which any other year might have worked. But the crowded 2016 GOP primary field is full of unorthodox, outsider candidates.
So now, Cruz is on a divine quest, a man God has prepared for his political moment, a man ready to fight against same-sex marriage and ready to lead the charge against Planned Parenthood.
And if even that doesn't work? Well, then, have fun with Trump.