By all accounts, Ted Cruz, a man who has been in the Senate for all of seven months and was virtually unknown on the national scene just a year ago, dazzled Republicans during a weekend visit to Iowa. That was due first, of course, to Cruz’s considerable appeal as a politician. But the intensity of Cruz-mania could also reflect an emerging Republican unhappiness with the party’s 2016 presidential field.
Think back to 2011 and 2012. Many Republicans were deeply dissatisfied with their field, which saw Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum lead the race before Mitt Romney finally captured the GOP nomination. But at the same time they bemoaned their choices, Republicans often remarked that the party had a “deep bench” for the future, and that the 2016 GOP primary race would be an “embarrassment of riches.”
That was then. Now, even though the race has not fully begun, Republicans in early-voting states are already taking a closer look at potential candidates. And when that happens, flaws emerge. At some point in the process, GOP voters will (probably) make their peace with at least one candidate’s flaws. But at this early stage, there’s a lot of evaluating — much of it negative — going on.