Since winning Wisconsin Ted Cruz is seen by many as the only candidate who may be able to stop Donald Trump. While Trump is a demagogue, Cruz is a radical ideologue who disdains the government - and the Republican Party.
There are two episodes that when combined present a useful depiction of the style and politics of Ted Cruz.
The first is a campaign video released by Cruz last summer. It shows the Senator from Texas frying a strip of bacon by wrapping it around the barrel of a semi-automatic rifle and then firing enough rounds until the bacon is fried.Making machine-gun bacon with Ted Cruz
Whether doctored or not, the video's message and its intended audience is clear.Cruz appeals to American hard-core conservatives who live in perpetual fear that the government is ready to take their weapons away
no matter how unrealistic that prospect really is. For this segment of the Republican electorate, the words guns and Texas ring as positively as the idea of frying bacon by firing a semi-automatic rifle seems funny - precisely because it riles up what is being perceived as the liberal-dominated American mainstream.
Marathon speech against 'Obamacare'
The second episode that exemplifies the Cruz style, but also his ideological fervor, is his more than 20-hour-long speech trying to block President Obama's health care reform back in 2013. He gave the speech even though it was clear from the start that Cruz' effort would be in vain and "Obamacare" would eventually pass.
But that was not the point of the marathon speech in which Cruz famously read parts from the Dr. Seuss children's classic "Green Eggs and Ham". The goal was to make Cruz, a freshman Senator from Texas, a household name beyond the usual political circles and show that this new Congressman was the best voice for the large faction of disgruntled Americans whose biggest political wish is to somehow force Barack Obama out of the White House. Cruz succeeded on both counts.
That Cruz has become the darling of the anti-establishment Tea Party movement seems somewhat ironic for someone holding advanced degrees from Princeton and Harvard, someone who clerked for the Supreme Court's chief justice and later served in the government of President George W. Bush. To round off the picture, Cruz' wife worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
Reaching the Republican base
But Cruz, despite his elite education, his insider Washington background and the fact he was born in Canada, apparently speaks the code of the Republican base fluently enough that after winning Wisconsin he is seen as the only remaining rival to Trump. His appeal to ultraconservatives is helped further by the fact that he is a Southern Baptist and that his father, a Cuban émigré, is an evangelical preacher.
While Cruz is beloved by Tea Party supporters he is loathed by the Republican Party's establishment. Too often has he shown party leaders in Congress what he thinks of them and their traditional way to do political business: very little.
Whether he called Republican leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the floor of the Senate or whether he orchestrated the government shutdown of 2013 against the will of many Congressional Republicans. In his three years in the Senate, Cruz has made it clear he isn't beholden to party hierarchy and loyalty and that he actually wants to see a different Republican Party. The GOP favored by Cruz and other ultraconservatives would not make what they view as false compromises with the Democrats. They also want to drastically shrink the size of the federal government.
Cruz' open disdain for party etiquette has not gone over well with party elders. His Senate colleague John McCain once dubbed him a "wacko bird" while former House speaker John Boehner called him a "jackass".
But Boehner has already been driven out by party radicals and the 79-year-old McCain does not represent the future of the Republican Party.
45-year-old Cruz may well. And if his short tenure in Congress and his presidential campaign are any indication, the Republican Party he favors will look very different to the GOP of the past.