GQ profiler: Cruz is playing a different game

Updated

A new profile in GQ Magazine entitled “Ted Cruz: The Distinguished Wacko Bird from Texas” reveals a disciplined but self-important side to the Texas senator who has built his brand as a humble street-fighting Tea Party conservative.

GQ’s Jason Zengerle, who wrote the profile, says “[Cruz] has come to the reluctant but unavoidable conclusion that he is simply more intelligent, more principled, more right–in both senses of the word–than pretty much everyone else in our nation’s capital.”

The profile also paints a portrait of a brazen right winger, with a surprisingly tight grip on his party and loathed by many of his Republican Senate colleagues. He is a man in the driver’s seat, but is the seat big enough for his ego?

Zengerle, who spent time with Cruz reporting for his piece told Hardball’s Chris Matthews of Cruz, “He’s very practiced and that was the thing that was most interesting…He doesn’t really speak in conversation, he speaks in speeches. He’s very careful. He doesn’t make a lot of unforced errors.”

And his constituents back home in the Lone Star State seem to approve of his tactics, just a few months in to his freshman year, in the U.S. Senate.

“He’s selling himself,” Zengerle said. “As the principled conservative voice, the guy who is going to stand up to the sell-out establishment Republicans in Washington and be a voice for true conservatism. Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, that’s the lineage he is trying to follow in.”

But Cruz isn’t just selling himself to Texas anymore. In his first trip to Iowa in July, Cruz made his first impression on the white, evangelical, born-again Christians who make up almost 60% of caucus-goers.

“They loved him,” said Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News who traveled with Cruz on his trip to the first in the nation caucus state.  “He dazzled them.”

Cruz’s goal is to be the one candidate in 2016 who can coalesce the right-wing around him. Many candidates tried in 2012 but were unable to corral conservatives into one camp.  If Cruz can rally the social conservatives and libertarian wing of tea party activists then he can become a formidable challenger to the Jeb Bush or Chris Christie wing of the Republican Party.

“He understands that you avoid nuisance,” said Slater.   “It’s not that he’s incapable of understanding complexities, but he avoids speaking in them and a lot of people in Texas and Iowa really like this guy.”

And as Cruz rambles on with his marathon speech on the Senate floor, protesting but not technically filibustering funding the government without defunding the Affordable Care Act, he is once again showboating for those true conservatives outside the echo chamber of the beltway.  Cruz is playing a different game, for a different audience.  He’s showing those true conservatives in Iowa that he’s the last man standing and fighting for them even if it’s with little to no effect.

“It’s important to remember that he’s not running for Majority Leader,” said Jeremy Peters of The New York Times on Morning Joe.  “He’s running for president.”

GQ profiler: Cruz is playing a different game

Updated