TIME Immigration

The Republican 2016 Field Takes a Hard Right on Immigration

Rivals take a page from Trump's tough talk

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, the son of an Italian immigrant, shrugged when asked Thursday if everyone born in the United States was, in fact, a citizen. “There is a legal dispute as to what the language of the 14th Amendment means,” the law school graduate told reporters who were summoned to hear his plan to deal not only with the immigrants in this country illegally but also to curb those entering legally.

With his carefully considered words, Santorum joined the growing legion of Republican White House hopefuls taking tougher—and perhaps unrealistic—approaches to immigration policy. It’s no longer just Donald Trump, whose rise in the polls came after he labeled Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “rapists.” Trump’s rivals have also been recalibrating their immigration rhetoric to tap into voters’ frustrations.

A host of GOP candidates called this week for an end to automatic citizenship for American-born children of immigrants in the United States illegally. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal each backed Trump’s call to end automatic citizenship. Jindal hoped no one would notice that he was born to parents in the United States on green cards. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged tougher enforcement against “anchor babies,” an epithet for children born to parents in the country illegally and often a reason families in the country illegally are not deported.

This is the nightmare many Republican leaders feared. Ever since Hispanic voters helped lift Barack Obama to reelection in 2012, party elders have been warning the GOP to ditch the divisive language on immigrants. A party seen as anti-immigrant cannot win the votes of immigrants, GOP strategists say, which could doom the party’s future with the Hispanic voting bloc projected to grow from 24 million to 40 million over the next 15 years.

“America is changing demographically, and unless Republicans are able to grow our appeal the way GOP governors have done, the changes tilt the playing field even more in the Democratic direction,” a Republican National Committee panel wrote in its autopsy after 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s loss. “It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”

The well-received report, however, failed to tamp down the embers of nativism that linger in pockets of the Republican base. Many GOP voters see the complexion of the country changing in ways they don’t like, an economy recovering too slowly and a workforce that does not necessarily look like it did a generation ago. This cohort is a dominant force in many conservative congressional districts, which is the primary reason a bipartisan rewrite of U.S. immigration law never came to a vote in the GOP-controlled House after sailing through the Senate.

As these frustrations fuel Trump’s rise, his rivals are grasping for rhetoric and programs that can reach his supporters. For instance, Santorum’s immigration plan calls for cutting the number of immigrants coming to the United States by a quarter. “The American worker is struggling and, as a result, the American family is struggling,” Santorum said. Like Trump, the runner-up for the 2012 presidential nomination called for a giant wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, but one built on American lands by American workers. Walker, a former proponent of a path to citizenship, has recast himself as an immigration hardliner in a bid to give his campaign a jolt in the all-important Iowa caucuses. Bush’s use of the “anchor baby” slur is a far cry from his prior calls for the party to use more sensitive language on immigration and his condemnation of Trump’s “rhetoric of divisiveness.” Gone are the days when Bush described illegal immigration as “an act of love.”

Given the raw language and tone, the GOP could once again find itself shut out of a voting bloc that is swelling in size and influence. The nonpartisan National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials estimates that the bloc will be about 11 percent of all eligible voters in 2016. The Pew Hispanic Center projected after the 2012 election that 40% of the growth in the U.S. electorate by 2030 will come from Latinos.

GOP leaders have tried to repair the relationship. Business groups, GOP operatives and top lawmakers all sought to patiently nudge the party toward a comprehensive immigration-reform deal that would stop the demographic bleeding. It’s why Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who supports a path to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally, defended the practice of birthright citizenship. It’s why Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the son of Cuban immigrants, has also worked to distance himself from those who would end automatic citizenship. To CNBC on Thursday, Rubio was blunt: “These are individual candidates who are responsible for their own rhetoric.” It’s why Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the architects of the Senate’s reform program, called Trump’s proposals “gibberish.”

“That’s going to kill the Republican Party,” the South Carolina Republican said as he visited the Iowa State Fair this week.

But there’s a reason Trump is the one leading in the polls while Graham is barely flirting with 1%. The tough talk resonates with the conservative electorate that picks the GOP nominee. And with every step Republicans take toward earning the votes of Hispanics, each clanging insult from Trump and his imitators throws up another hurdle for Republicans in the long slog to the White House.

TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump: ‘I Will Be Phenomenal to the Women’

Trump's comments come a few days after he made controversial sexist remarks about GOP debate host Megyn Kelly

Correction appended, Aug. 10

Donald Trump hit the Sunday morning talk show circuit declaring himself to be a female-friendly candidate and “phenomenal to the women.”

“I’m very much into the whole thing of helping people and helping women, women’s health issues are such a big thing to me,” he said on Face the Nation, denouncing rival Jeb Bush’s remarks last week at a Tennessee campaign stop when he said “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues”—now retracted by Bush with an apology.

“I’m exactly the opposite,” the leading Republican presidential candidate added. “I will be phenomenal to the women. I want to help women. What Jeb Bush said last week I thought was totally out of order.”

Trump’s comments come a few days after the first official GOP debate of the 2016 campaign, when moderator Megyn Kelly asked Trump about his stance on women: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” Trump later took to Twitter and retweeted a message in which someone called Kelly “a bimbo,” drawing fire for his insinuation that Kelly should be taken less seriously as a women.

In an interview on Friday with CNN’s Don Lemon, Trump insinuated that Kelly was on her period and that she asked this question because of it. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever … ” he trailed off.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Trump said he didn’t mean to suggest that Kelly asked the question because she was menstruating. “I cherish women,” he said.

The comment drew harsh criticism of sexism from Republicans, with fellow presidential candidates condemning Trump as sexist and commentator Erick Erickson “disinviting” Trump from his RedState gathering in Atlanta.

“I think women of all kinds are really sort of horrified by this,” Carly Fiorina, the only woman running for the Republican ticket, said.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described a Twitter post calling Megyn Kelly a “bimbo.” That Twitter post came from a user and was retweeted by Trump.

TIME Debates

Here’s the One Fox Republican Debate Question Each Candidate Doesn’t Want

Thursday's debate may come down to who gets stumped

Debate success is a mix of skill, preparation and chance. The candidate who emerges victorious from Thursday’s debate will come down in large part to the questions Fox News pitches at them.

For their part, moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace have vowed to pose tough questions. Here are the ones that each candidate doesn’t want to answer:

Donald Trump is leading the Republican field now, but he wasn’t always an outspoken conservative. Hillary Clinton attended his most recent of three weddings, and husband Bill Clinton joined for the reception. He has written checks to Democratic candidates and campaign committees. He backed the requirement that all Americans be required to get health insurance, an idea at the core of Obamacare. So the obvious question to the loud-mouthed real estate mogul: “Just 15 years ago you were pro-choice, supported single-payer healthcare and a 14% wealth seizure by the federal government. Now you are against those things. Sir, how can we believe that you aren’t really a Democratic plant sent into this race to soften us up so your friend Hillary Clinton can be President?”

Jeb Bush has made education reform one of his signature policy issues. He was an early and vocal backer of the voluntary Common Core education standards, which enjoyed broad Republican support before more recently coming under fire from grassroots conservatives. GOP Govs. Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee have all abandoned their support for Common Core. Now Bush is the lone holdout for Common Core, though its toxicity is plain enough that he avoids using the term and couches his endorsement as support for accountability. The question for Bush: “How do you respond to Republican voters who view your support for Common Core as an attempt to nationalize education?”

It’s hard to pin down Scott Walker‘s position on immigration. Ten years ago, Walker favored comprehensive immigration reform. In 2010, he criticized Arizona’s controversial immigration law, only to quickly reverse his stance. In 2013, he supported the Senate’s bipartisan overhauls of the U.S. immigration system, which included a difficult pathway to citizenship. Now he opposes the same citizenship, and appears to have staked out an even tougher position, calling for reducing levels of legal immigration, too. The question for a candidate who casts himself as a principled fighter: “As President, what would you do with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.? Do we simply have too many immigrants — here legally or otherwise — and can you guarantee us that your view today would not change if you are elected?”

When Mike Huckabee announced his candidacy for president in May, he boasted of passing 94 tax cuts during his two terms as governor of Arkansas. Independent fact-checkers questioned that figure, noting that he also raised taxes 21 times. The total net tax increase during his term was $505 million, leading the Cato Foundation to award Huckabee an F grade on taxes in 2006. “Can you explain why you chose to repeatedly raise taxes while governor of Arkansas?”

Ben Carson, a former pediatric neurosurgeon, enjoyed a groundbreaking medical career. Yet the first-time political candidate has not been put through the vetting that accompanies a White House bid. The conservative National Review looked at Carson’s connections to a potentially problematic health supplement company that has been accused of false advertising and conspiracy to commit fraud. The question for Carson: “Most Americans know you for your accomplishments in the operating room. But you’ve also promoted a company that has promised miracle cures for everything from cancer to multiple sclerosis to HIV/ AIDS, and you have no experience in elected office. What prepares you to be president?”

Ted Cruz frequently invokes Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” Yet Cruz criticizes his colleagues all the time—including, just last week, during a remarkable speech on the Senate floor in which he accused GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell of lying. “How does calling your party’s leader a liar square with your pledge not to attack fellow Republicans?”

He’s young and charismatic, a magnificent orator who doesn’t look like the typical white politician. Sounds like Marco Rubio, right? Well, the same was said eight years ago about another up-and-comer: Barack Obama. Many conservatives are not sure they want to bet on yet another first-term Senator with magnetic appeal and a thin resume. “Why, Sen. Rubio, should Americans risk another eight years of a learn-on-the-job President?”

On the eve of the debate, the man running Rand Paul’s super PAC was indicted for allegedly participating in an endorsement-for-pay conspiracy that occurred during his father’s 2012 presidential campaign. Paul also stood by an aide who was outed for writing neo-Confederate columns under the pseudonym “The Southern Avenger.” The question for Paul: “Given the people you surround yourself with, why should Americans trust your judgment as President?”

Chris Christie’s dreaded question is based on an answer he gave this week while campaigning in New Hampshire. “I’m a Catholic,” the famously candid New Jersey Governor said, “but I’ve used birth control, and not just the rhythm method, OK?” Awkwardness ensued. The question no candidate ever wants to answer, but one that is fair to ask Christie now: “Sir, can you tell us more about your birth control practices?”

On the campaign trail, Ohio Gov. John Kasich touts his stewardship of the Buckeye State and his role in crafting Congress’s last balanced budget. But in between political offices, Kasich went to work at Lehman Brothers, the investment bank whose collapse contributed significantly to years of economic malaise and soaring unemployment. The question for Kasich: “Were investment bankers like you responsible for the Great Recession?”

TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump Just Gave Out His Own Cell Phone Number

You can't out-troll the Donald

After Gawker released Donald Trump’s cell phone number on Monday, the Republican presidential contender has countered by making his number public .

Dialing the phone at press time resulted in a busy signal, but others have recorded the number’s message which encourages listeners to follow Trump on twitter and visit his campaign website.

The candidate’s tweet is the latest in a saga of phone number disclosures involving Trump. In July, Trump released fellow Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham’s phone number. “I don’t know, give it a shot,” Trump told supporters during a campaign speech that was released on video.

Graham later produced a video that showed the senator destroying his cell phone in multiple different ways.

TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump Lawyer Sorry for Saying ‘You Can’t Rape Your Spouse’

Presidential campaign disavows aide's comments amid controversy

Donald Trump’s lawyer and top aide apologized Tuesday after he ensnared the candidate in fresh controversy by responding to years-old rape allegations against Trump — since retracted — by saying that sexual intercourse with a spouse can never legally be considered rape.

“As an attorney, husband and father there are many injustices that offend me but nothing more than charges of rape or racism,” Michael Cohen told CNN. “They hit me at my core. Rarely am I surprised by the press, but the gall of this particular reporter to make such a reprehensible and false allegation against Mr. Trump truly stunned me. In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment — which I do not believe — and which I apologize for entirely.”

Cohen had responded angrily earlier to questions about a 1989 incident, and his comments quickly sparked an uproar.

“You’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s special counsel and a longtime aide, reportedly told the Daily Beast in response to its reporting on allegations in the early 1990s that Trump raped his then wife Ivana Trump. “And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.”

“It is true,” Cohen added. “You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”

Prohibitions against spousal rape were actually enacted in the 1970s, and it was illegal in all 50 states by the early 1990s. It became illegal in New York State in 1984. Ivana originally made the comments in a deposition surrounding their divorce, she told CNN in a statement Tuesday, saying at the time that she felt “violated” by a 1989 incident between the couple. But Ivana disavowed the accusation Tuesday in response to the Daily Beast report.

“I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald,” she told CNN. “The story is totally without merit. Donald and I are the best of friends and together have raised three children that we love and are very proud of. I have nothing but fondness for Donald and wish him the best of luck on his campaign. Incidentally, I think he would make an incredible President.”

The controversy over Cohen’s comments come as Donald Trump has ridden incendiary rhetoric on immigration and other issues to the top of national polls for the Republican nomination. The latest batch of polls showed no sign of his momentum being halted, even as Republican leaders have condemned him in growing numbers after he said Arizona Senator and Vietnam War–era POW John McCain is “not a war hero.”

Ivana’s original comments about feeling “violated,” according to the Daily Beast, were originally published in the 1993 book, Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump. But even before that book was published, she walked back the notion that what happened between them was “rape.”

“During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me,” she reportedly said at the time. “On one occasion during 1989, Mr. Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage. As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN that the candidate “didn’t know of [Cohen’s] comments but disagrees with them.”

Cohen, for his part, threatened the Daily Beast with legal action and financial ruin, the website reported.

“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse,” Cohen was quoted as saying. “And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know. So I’m warning you, tread very f—ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. You understand me?”

 

TIME 2016 Election

Donald Trump Surges in Latest Republican Polls

The real estate mogul is beating his rivals despite criticism from his rivals

Donald Trump is leading the pack among candidates for the 2016 Republican Party nomination in the latest batch of polls.

A CNN Poll on Sunday showed Trump leading with 18% support among Republicans. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush was second at 15%; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rounded out the top three at 10%. Trump’s ratings in the poll have surged 6 points in the last month, while his rivals have remained relatively steady.

And while the poll is by no means a reflection of who will take the Republican Party nomination in 2016, it suggests Republicans are excited by a Trump candidacy. Fifty-two percent of Republicans want to see Trump continue his run and 42% of Republicans currently backing another candidate want Trump to remain in the field.

CNN’s survey is in line with an NBC poll of New Hampshire voters, also released Sunday, showed Trump holding 21% of Republican support, with Bush trailing at 14% and Walker at 12%.

In an NBC poll of Iowa Republican voters, Walker is leading the pack at 19%, with trump narrowly behind at 17%. Bush follows them at 12%, then Ben Carson at 8%, Mike Huckabee at 7%, and Rand Paul at 5%.

And yet another poll from YouGov goes further, showing Republican support for Trump at 28%.

Trump’s surge came after a week of strong, united Republican rebuke on the candidate’s controversial comments on Sen. John McCain’s service and suggesting the Vietnam War veteran was “not a war hero.”

“A number of my competitors for the Republican nomination have no business running for president,” Trump wrote in USA Today. “I do not need to be lectured by any of them.”

Read next: How Donald Trump Became Donald Trump

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TIME john kasich

John Kasich Enters Presidential Race As Compassionate Republican

The Ohio Governor is likely the last major Republican presidential contender to jump into the race

Ohio Governor John Kasich launched his campaign for the presidency on Tuesday, casting himself as a compassionate conservative with a proven record of success in one of the nation’s top battlegrounds.

“I have decided to run for President of the United States,” Kasich said in his announcement speech at his alma mater, the Ohio State University. “I’m here to humbly tell you that I believe I do have the skills, and I have the experience.”

Kasich is the sixteenth and likely the last major candidate to enter the GOP primary field. He faces an uphill climb to capture the nomination. The Ohioan’s late entry into the race kicks off a two-week scramble to boost his national poll numbers quickly enough to qualify for the first Republican debate on Aug. 6 in Cleveland. Kasich is expected to stake his campaign on a strong showing in New Hampshire, whose flinty voters often favor iconoclastic conservatives of his ilk.

On paper, Kasich has the credentials of a top-tier contender. He’s a popular two-term governor who cut taxes in a critical swing state. He spent nearly 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, winning a reputation as a national security and fiscal hawk who pushed for a balanced-budget amendment. The union-busting legislation he signed in Ohio was even more aggressive than the Wisconsin bill that forms the cornerstone of Scott Walker’s campaign. (So much so that it was ultimately repealed by referendum.)

Kasich balances conservative policies with a folksy style and compassionate streak—expanding Medicaid, strengthening the safety net for the poor—that has helped him win over independent voters. In an announcement speech that was by turns poignant and rambling, Kasich made empathy for struggling Americans a centerpiece of his pitch. “If we’re not born to serve others,” he said, “what are we born to do?”

But the same policies that make Kasich intriguing in a general election will be perilous in a primary. The decision to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare is just one of his sins against conservative dogma. Kasich supports Common Core education standards. He favors earned legal status for undocumented immigrants, and has not ruled out a path to citizenship. His cranky demeanor has ruffled feathers among the GOP donor class.

Kasich’s taste for tweaking the hardliners in his own party evokes comparisons former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose base-bucking campaign for the Republican nomination flamed out spectacularly in 2012. Several of the architects of Huntsman’s bid, including senior strategists John Weaver and Matt David and adman Fred Davis, have formed the core of Kasich’s effort. Kasich is more conservative than Huntsman, but it’s an open question whether he can cobble together enough support to compete in early primary states dominated by the party’s grassroots activists.

Kasich ran for president once before, launching a short-lived campaign in 1999 before dropping out when it became clear that the Republican Party had coalesced behind George W. Bush. Another Bush stands in Kasich’s way this time, and he and Jeb Bush have some attributes in common: both are two-term governors of major states who went on to work with Lehman Brothers, and who have anchored their campaigns in themes of fiscal discipline and boosting struggling Americans. In his announcement speech, Kasich even borrowed the “right to rise” mantra that Bush uses. As in his brother’s 2000 campaign, Bush has also consolidated much of the party’s institutional and financial support.

Kasich’s path to the nomination is narrow, but he has the credibility to contend if he can find traction in a crowded field.

TIME ted cruz

Ted Cruz Picks a Winning Book Fight With New York Times

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 18, 2015.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 18, 2015.

Better than making the bestseller list

One of the hoariest cliches in conservative politics is to claim you don’t read the New York Times. Ted Cruz has picked a fight with the Times after the paper claimed that people aren’t reading him.

The spat between Cruz and the Gray Lady began last week, when the newspaper said it would omit the Texas Republican’s new memoir, A Time for Truth, from its bestsellers’ list. The book has sold 12,000 copies since its release on June 30, according to Nielsen Bookscan data provided to TIME. That’s enough to rank the volume among the top few nonfiction hardcovers.

But the paper determined the book’s stats were goosed by “strategic bulk purchases” in a bid to game the system and make the list. The Times has stood by its decision as Amazon, an impartial retailer, and publisher HarperCollins have said they found no evidence of attempts to manipulate sales statistics.

Cruz’s team wanted to make the bestsellers list, which would have conferred a stamp of credibility on his literary debut. But a public battle with the paper of record was an even better result. For a conservative presidential candidate, the New York Times—an emblem of liberal elitism, right up there alongside arugula, the Toyota Prius and San Francisco—is a perfect foil.

And the Cruz campaign has done its best to fan the flames, blasting out a series of statements decrying partisan bias. The kerfuffle is “a chance to get yet more attention and drive readers to Senator Cruz’s book,” Keith Urbahn, the book’s literary agent, told Politico. “This controversy is already helping sales.”

MORE: Here’s Which 2016 Candidate’s Book Sold the Most Copies

As it happens, A Time for Truth is a good read—especially by the dismal standards of the genre. A candidate memoir has two overriding goals: first, to make money for the author; and then, to do no harm to the writer’s future prospects. When boring is the best-case scenario, the result is almost always a pudding of platitudes. (A typical line from Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, selected by opening the book at random: “Hard men present hard choices—none more so than Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia.”) Even worse, such books reveal little about the author, other than he or she is ambitious or long-winded enough to write an entire book without saying anything controversial.

Cruz’s book is different. First, he is both a fluid writer and a talented storyteller. He knows how to bait the hook to lure in readers. A section about clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, opens with an anecdote about watching hard-core pornography with Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor.

But the book has merits beyond the prose. One of them is the revealing glimpse it offers into Cruz’s family background. The senator has gotten a lot of mileage out of the remarkable life of his father, a Cuban revolutionary who came to Texas with $100 sewn into his underwear, learned English from the movies, launched an oil company and now travels the country as a Tea Party icon. But Rafael Cruz isn’t the only member of the family with an fascinating story.

Cruz recounts how his mother, Eleanor Darragh, defied her own father to become the first in her family to attend college, emerged from Rice with a math degree, then dodged clerical duties and became a computer programmer at Shell after refusing to learn to type. He talks about his half-sister’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, and his aunt’s battles with Castro.

But beyond biography, the book has enough dishy material to sustain the attention of non-political obsessives. It’s filled with interesting nuggets on everything from Justice David Souter’s dietary habits to the Bush campaign’s legal machinations during the 2000 recount to a shouting match inside a Republican Senate luncheon. You don’t need to have a strong opinion of Cruz one way or the other to appreciate the glimpse it offers into campaigns, the Capitol or the country’s top courtrooms.

Like all political documents, this one is self-aggrandizing, meant to explain the origins of Cruz’s brand of conservatism as well as underscore his commitment to principle in the face of adversity. But it’s also sprinkled with enough self-deprecating stories and personal insights to humanize a politician who is often reduced to caricature by both fans and opponents.

If the fight with the Times makes it likelier that ordinary readers will pick up the book, then the paper has done Cruz a favor. And those who end up buying the book because of the spat won’t be any worse off, either.

TIME ted cruz

Cruz Tries to Prove a Conservative Can Win

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, right, greets an attendee after speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 18, 2015.
Bloomberg via Getty Images Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, right, greets an attendee after speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., on June 18, 2015

The Texan pitches himself as a true believer with the money to win

Friday night in rural northwest Iowa is as picturesque as American politics gets. Half the town of Pierson is sprawled across the outfield grass of a Little League ballpark, eating pork sandwiches and cupcakes as a country band plays atop a flatbed crowded with hay bales. As the sun begins to dip into the surrounding cornfields, Ted Cruz climbs onto the stage to make his pitch for the presidency.

The centerpiece of Cruz’s stump speech these days is a denunciation of what the Texas Republican calls the “Washington cartel.” This is the Senator’s term for the alliance of powerful interests and pliable politicians who, he says, conspire to control the country at the expense of the people. K Street lobbyists are a big part of Cruz’s cartel. So are big corporations, career politicians, the liberal media and the leaders of both parties. The newest members are the apostates on the Supreme Court, whose back-to-back rulings on Obamacare and same-sex marriage Cruz condemned at each stop on his most recent two-day swing through Iowa.

Cruz is known as a bomb thrower, and his most trip to Iowa illustrated why. He ripped rivals for the 2016 nomination for feigning outrage while privately “popping champagne” at the court’s ruling. “They stand for nothing!” he spat. He whacked party leaders for supporting illegal “amnesty.” He called for a constitutional amendment that would force Supreme Court Justices to stand in elections. He even slammed Chief Justice John Roberts, a longtime friend from conservative legal circles.

“You’re not calling balls and strikes,” Cruz tells TIME, invoking the umpire metaphor that Roberts deployed at his confirmation hearings to describe the role of a Justice. “You’ve joined a team.”

The important thing to understand about Cruz is that nothing he says is by accident. For all his florid rhetoric, he is as disciplined a speaker as any in the presidential field. His stump speech — delivered without notes or teleprompters — is carefully honed, with the same canned jokes at each stop, the same pauses for emphasis, the same cadences and delivery. The conservative crowds in this heavily evangelical swath of Iowa eagerly gobbled the red meat Cruz tossed, including jabs at “liberal intolerance” and warnings of the coming “vicious assault on religious liberty.”

But in some ways the crucial part of the routine is a more subtle argument, one aimed at voters around the country who remain skeptical that a candidate like Cruz has a real shot at winning the presidency. This, he explains, is a lie perpetrated by the cartel.

“The game of the Washington cartel,” Cruz tells crowds, “is to convince conservatives you can’t win.”

To prove otherwise, Cruz points to money. “We launched the campaign on March 23,” Cruz tells about 60 people in a drab community center in Sheldon, Iowa, on Friday. “We set a goal of raising $1 million in a week. Frankly, I thought that was a pretty audacious goal.” He paused for emphasis. “We raised $1m in one day.”

By the end of the week, Cruz adds, his campaign had raked in more than $4 million — “more money than any Republican [campaign] has raised in the opening week in modern history.” Including Establishment types like Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Candidates rarely get into granular fundraising details on the stump. But these stats are not just a point of pride (or a product of insecurity). They are central to Cruz’s case that a true conservative can harness grassroots energy to beat the cartel. The cartel is supposed to control the party’s purse strings, Cruz says — and yet here he is, a Tea Partyer despised by the GOP establishment, raking in serious dollars.

Cruz has collected more than $40 million since announcing his campaign, with most of that coming from a constellation of super PACs backing his bid. That’s far less than a “cartel” candidate like Jeb Bush, who is soon expected to report raising in the neighborhood of $100 million so far. But it’s enough to put him snugly in the next tier, along with candidates like Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, on upcoming fundraising reports.

More importantly, the tally underlines Cruz’s ability to compete financially, which most movement conservatives cannot. “We’ve not seen a grassroots conservative with serious fundraising ability since 1980,” Cruz told a small group of voters in the Dutch Bakery in Orange City, whose specialty almond patties retail for $1.50. Cruz’s stump speech builds to this argument: that he is the rare true believer with the fundraising firepower to withstand a long and grueling primary. The campaign’s actions bear out this strategy. Cruz has trekked to places like Massachusetts and staffed up in states like Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina. He is trying to build a national infrastructure that can capitalize on early momentum.

An early consequence of this long view is that Cruz has spent less time in Iowa so far than expected. He has just a skeleton staff here, led by conservative activist and former pastor Bryan English. Cruz is actually polling lower by some measures in the first-in-the-nation Hawkeye State, an evangelical stronghold well suited to his style, than he is nationwide.

Cruz promises crowds that he’ll be spending “a lot of time in the great state of Iowa.” In Orange City on Friday, he gamely submitted to the retail ritual the caucuses require. He toured a store filled with Dutch-style wooden shoes, glad-handed retirees and knelt to take photos with children. “He stands up and fights,” says retiree Patricia Boonstra, after taking a picture with Cruz on her iPad. On Saturday, the candidate delivered a sermon-style speech, titled “Believe Again,” on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines.

Steve King, the conservative congressman who represents northwest Iowa, tells TIME that Cruz has the chops to win the caucuses. “He’s a natural-born, full-spectrum conservative,” King says. “The voters are starting to follow him.”

Cruz has an uphill climb to win the nomination. He’s polling around 6% nationally over the past month, behind not only Bush, Walker and Rubio but also former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, and fellow freshman Senator Rand Paul, who is hoping to build on his father’s robust network in Iowa and elsewhere. It’s not only the Washington cartel that dislikes Cruz. Many of the party’s moderate voters are put off by his slashing style.

But the Texan draws optimism from the success of two candidates who were also written off in the early going. One is Barack Obama, who toppled Hillary Clinton in 2008 with a guerrilla campaign Cruz speaks of with awe. (Cruz admired Obama’s battle plan so much he bought staffers a copy of the now President’s campaign manager David Plouffe’s memoir.) The other is Ronald Reagan. “I think 2016,” he says, “is going to be an election like 1980.”

TIME john kasich

John Kasich Tells TIME: The Republican Party Is My Vehicle, Not My Master

GOP 2016 New Hampshire
Jim Cole—AP Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H. on April 18, 2015.

Yet another entrant in the presidential race tells TIME that he plans to run as his own man

Ohio Governor John Kasich turned heads in political circles earlier this month when he announced the hiring of a pair of GOP operatives with checkered histories to run his presidential campaign.

John Weaver and Fred Davis were the strategists behind former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman’s ill-fated 2012 campaign for the presidency. Before that, they worked for Sen. John McCain. But to those who know Kasich, their hiring made perfect sense—he’s planning to run a similarly unconventional campaign for the White House. “Here’s the thing you have to realize, the Republican Party is my vehicle, and not my master,” he tells TIME.

Casting himself as a “change agent,” Kasich has overseen an economic revival in Ohio, and won re-election in the swing state by a 31% margin over a weak Democratic opponent. It was a sharp reversal from 2011—his first year in office—when Kasich’s poll numbers plummeted amid a failed effort to curtail the power of state public sector unions in an effort to control the state budget.

Kasich unsuccessfully ran for the White House in 2000, where he was edged out by another Bush’s well-funded campaign. “The issue was money-M-O-N-E-Y,” he told the New York Observer in 2001. Kasich now says he was too young that time around, pointing to support he is receiving from those who backed Bush over him in 2000.

He endorsed George W. Bush, calling him “a soul brother” for his support of compassionate conservatism, a theme at the center of Kasich’s campaigns. “I think that it’s important for the GOP, must most important for me to be able to talk about the kindness of conservatism,” Kasich says.

To that end, he defends expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, despite vigorous opposition from Republicans. “I’ve never thought anything about it. It was the right thing to do,” he says. “We’re helping the drug addicted, the working poor, the mentally ill. I didn’t see it as standing up to my party really, I just saw it as carrying out something that I thought was important for my state.”

A former investment banker, he has no regrets about his time at Lehman Brothers, but says he supports capital requirements for large banks. Kasich tells TIME he opposes increasing taxes, but that he will not sign any pledges to that effect.

TIME caught up last week with Kasich in Utah, where he was attending the E2 Summit organized by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Here is a transcript of the interview.

TIME: You’re having fun out there.

Kasich: Most of the time, it’s fun. I get tired once in a while, and that’s not ever fun to be tired, but you know, I’m enjoying it.

TIME: You did this in 2000 running against another Bush.

Kasich: It was a different time. I was just a young man, and you know, people said, look we like you and come back another day.

TIME: But you also lamented at the time running against Bush money. You’re set to do that again against Jeb’s $100 million.

Kasich: Our goal, if I become a candidate it’s going to be because we have enough resources where we think we can at least compete in the early states. We’re not going to get anywhere close to that, but could we have enough to put gas in the plane so it could take off the ground, and that’s an assessment that we’re in the process of making.

TIME: If you had to put odds on it?

Kasich: We don’t know yet. We’re getting close. We’re going to have to decide things relatively soon. And how do I feel about it, I feel pretty good. I feel like we’re making progress.

TIME: Was this meeting helpful in that regard?

Kasich: Not yet, we’ll see. We have lots more meetings. I came here because Mitt invited me, I didn’t come to some of the other ones. I thought it was important to get out here and let people—a lot of people said we know of him, but we don’t really know him. In that regard this was helpful. I hope. I don’t know what the people were saying. I don’t know.

TIME: You talked about your approval rating taking a hit your first year as governor. What did you learn from that?

Kasich: Got crushed! The one thing that I really learned from that is, you really want to unite. And if you have to fight and you divide, that’s okay, but just don’t do it all the time. Look, we were $8 billion in a hole, we had many things we had to do to climb out of that. And once we started climbing out, we were in a better position. I’m also a change agent. And when you’re a change agent, it shakes people up. Why do you think when people hear me talk they get like, what is this guy, who is this guy. Why doesn’t he say what we expect him to say. That kind of message, it rattles people. And then peoples started to get used to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if my poll numbers went down again. That’s just the way it is. You can’t worry about it.

TIME: What’s the better metric?

Kasich: Results. Harry Truman did not run for re-election because people thought he would not win. He didn’t think he was going to win. It turns out he was one of our great presidents. It’s results. It’s not polls, and popularity. They ran Winston Churchill out of politics for a while, but look at what he ultimately did. It’s results that matter, nothing other than that.

TIME: You got your results. You left Washington. You went to Lehman. You were there during the financial collapse. What did you learn from that, in terms of how banks and financial institutions should be regulated.

Kasich: On the biggest issue, they’re already imposing capital requirements now. But one of the things you don’t want to do is treat the big boys the same way you treat the regional boys, because you then start snuffing out opportunity. When you step on the air hose and people can’t loan money, that’s like the kiss of death for business. Business has to have capital. At the same time, I think Wall Street is a necessary ingredient of the global economy, but you know, you’ve just got to keep people realizing that helping clients is the most important thing, not helping yourself.

TIME: Any regrets from that period?

Kasich: It was fantastic. Are you kidding? Regrets? I thought it was a fantastic time. I traveled all over the country. I got an incredible education. I worked my tail off. It was great.

TIME: What did you learn?

Kasich: I worked with private equity. I worked with venture capital. I worked with many different times of companies. I learned about how America works, how free enterprise works, how business executives think, how decisions get made. It’s an incalculable thing that I learned.

TIME: Last time around, candidates were asked whether they would take a 10-1 deal on spending cuts to tax increases. Would you?

Kasich: Right now, I just don’t think that revenue is what we should be talking about. I think that, look, I ran the budget committee. I was one of the architects of the balanced budget. We actually cut taxes then. I had to remain President Obama that early in my tenure as governor. I think let’s focus on changing these programs and making them more efficient. I worry about spending more money, because you know what happens, every time you put more money into the system, they spend it and they don’t do what they’re supposed to do.

TIME: Would you sign something like the Americans for Tax Reform pledge?

Kasich: I’m not signing any pledges. I’m not signing any pledges. I’m just not going to sign any pledges. My record speaks for itself.

TIME: The debt ceiling will be hit this fall. What should Republicans in Congress do?

Kasich: They should be working with their colleagues, working with the administration to put something together that’s going to get us to balance over time.

TIME: Should that be a prerequisite to raising the debt ceiling?

Kasich: I’m never going to say what should be happening regardless. I’m not going to respond to that.

TIME: What did you learn from standing up to some in your own party on Medicaid expansion?

Kasich: I’ve never thought anything about it. It was the right thing to do. We’re helping the drug addicted, the working poor, the mentally ill. I didn’t see it as standing up to my party really, I just saw it as carrying out something that I thought was important for my state. Here’s the thing you have to realize, the Republican Party is my vehicle, and not my master. My job is to try to figure out how to fix things, and I’m going to fix things as best as I can. I’m going to get a team together to fix things. And I can’t sit around and worrying what the heck the chairman of the Republican Party thinks about what I’m doing. I have to do what has to be done to bring improvement. What would I do? Say, oh well, the Republicans don’t like this therefor I shouldn’t do it. What kind of a government would that be. We’re not a parliamentary system.

TIME: In 2011 you signed an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, putting you on the forefront of states controlled by Republican governors. What did you think of the RFRA debate in Indiana and elsewhere?

Kasich: We don’t have that issue in Ohio, and I just don’t think we should discriminate against anyone, plain and simple.

TIME: That executive order did not include protections based on gender identity. Is that something you would be open to?

Kasich: I put the executive order out and it covers who it covers. And if I saw a reason to investigate something else, I’d look at it.

TIME: On foreign policy, some in your party have taken a more isolationist approach, the Rand Paul model—

Kasich: No. I don’t think America should be the policeman of the world, but we have to be engaged and we have to be a leader, and that comes from strong economic growth, a strong military, good diplomatic efforts, and integrating our business community. I just think it’s a whole new paradigm. And Gen. Jim Jones has been proposing sort of—that our military commanders, combatant commanders, work closely with our diplomatic corps, and including the business community in all this. People would say we’re already doing it. I don’t believe it. I think there needs to be more of an integration, so that we look at these issues holistically.

TIME: Soft power?

Kasich: I would say some soft, and some really tough power. Let’s think about how we can bring economic development, let’s see if people could learn a little more of the rule of law, rather than the rule of man, which is kind of what you see in China now. And business people have a a good view of what’s happening internally in countries, and they can be a positive force. And so I think there needs to be a full integration of all of that. But you have to have a strong military and it needs to be rebuilt.

TIME: You spoke about the need to reform the military. How would you go about doing that?

Kasich: The whole thing needs to be looked at. We still have systems we don’t need, we have infrastructure we don’t need. Is there a way to preposition equipment. Are there technologies that can take the place of more expensive, traditional military equipment. Can we get our allies to become more robust. It’s a whole series of things that you need to do. But the building itself—I mean, why do you have over 900,000 bureaucrats working in one way or another in all these systems. It becomes complicated. It’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done.

TIME: Are there specific programs that you have in mind?

Kasich: Well, that’s a process we’re going through right now. And I’ll have more to say about that in the future.

TIME: There are a number of military bases in Ohio, you mentioned base closures, should they be—

Kasich: I think that bases should be closed on the basis or opened on the basis of what they contribute to our national security. I went through when I was a congressmen, one of my operations shutting down. Look, I was at Pease Air Force Base, it got shut down, and they turned lemons into lemonade. The Pentagon needs precious resources to build the strength of America, and we can’t say, ‘this is really important to this community, and it’s really not vital to the national security, but we ought to do it anyway.’ So, I think we have to have a discipline on this.

TIME: What is the greatest impediment for you, as you potentially go down this road? Money? Name-ID? Convincing voters you have the right vision?

Kasich: I don’t really see — I’m pretty optimistic about what I’m seeing. I know that the world would shudder, if I were able to clone me, but it would be great if there were more of me to go around so you could get to more places to talk to more people. I would say, I don’t kind of look at life that way. I’m not looking at impediments right now. I just look at opportunities. As Arnold Schwarzenegger told me one time, “Love the beatings.” [in accent] As Arnold told me one time, “Going down the slope, love the moguls.” I think that’s right, that’s a good attitude about life, and it’s a good attitude about politics.

TIME: You have something of a reputation for having some rough edges. Do you see that in yourself sometimes?

Kasich: I’m from Pittsburgh, we’re pretty direct from outside of Pittsburgh.

TIME: That’s like the Chris Christie response.

Kasich: I don’t know about that. But look, we build teams of people and we’ve had really great results. And we’re just going to build good teams o people. One of the great, most heartening things was, being in New Hampshire many years ago, many of the people that I touched back then are with me today. They want to help. Isn’t that a great thing?

TIME: John Sununu being one of them.

Kasich: John, but Bruce Burke, and there’s a host of them. There are people who said, hey, if he’s doing it again, I want to be involved, and that’s really, really cool.

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