Rand Paul and Ted Cruz Are Not Opposites

In his latest editorial, Howard Kurtz portrays Rand Paul and Ted Cruz as completely different alternatives for the Republican Party: “Collision Course: How Rand Paul and Ted Cruz would remake the Republicans.”

There is more at stake today than who controls the Senate. There’s also the question of who controls the argument heading into 2016.

Ted Cruz wants to push the Republican brand to the right. Rand Paul wants to completely revamp the brand.

The contrast between these two freshmen senators, both of whom can envision themselves in the Oval Office, is a microcosm of a simmering debate within the GOP. And how it’s resolved will also affect the party’s strategy for the last two years of Barack Obama’s term.

I don’t think it is accurate to so strongly contrast Cruz and Paul. I realize they are two different people with distinctive political agendas. Kurtz’s analysis may be confirmed if Cruz goes out of his way to attack Rand Paul or vice versa in order to draw a sharper distinction between them.

paul cruz

But Rand Paul’s desire to fix the Republican “broken brand” is not a desire to repudiate conservatism but to consistently uphold it and present it to a wider audience. And Cruz’s loyalty to the Constitution could easily lead him to quite similar positions to those of Rand Paul.

Kurtz himself seems to admit the truth when he writes,

Paul and Cruz are essentially competing in the conservative wing of the conservative party. The establishment candidate would be Christie (if he stops yelling at hecklers) or Jeb Bush (whose sons say he’s likely to run)—or else Mitt Romney (who again told Chris Wallace he’s not running, though not with the “done done done” language of his wife Ann.

Cruz told the Post he likes and respects Bush, “but I think we have seen election after election that when Republicans fail to draw a clear distinction with the Democrats, when we run to the mushy middle, we lose.”

“At some point, after Gerald Ford and Bob Dole and John McCain and Mitt Romney . . . we shouldn’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again.”

They are competing in the conservative wing of the conservative party because they are both conservatives. Yes, we may have to choose between them at some point, but let’s not exaggerate their differences.

Of course, personally, if I had to choose between Cruz and Paul, I would probably root for Justin Amash.