WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is refusing to cede the argument many of his likely Republican presidential rivals are making: that governors are better equipped than legislators to be commander in chief.
“Historically, when elections have focused in significant part on national security, that has given an advantage to candidates who have experience concerning national security,” the Texas senator said on Wednesday. “And that, by its nature, has tended to favor senators over governors.”
Cruz's comments, made to reporters on Capitol Hill after delivering a foreign policy speech, follow remarks that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made downplaying Senate experience ahead of a presidential bid.
Asked by The Texas Tribune and The Washington Post last week what separates him from Cruz, Perry never mentioned his potential 2016 rival by name. But he said voters appreciate executive experience and, referencing President Obama, predicted that "they’re going to make a rather radical shift, away from a young, untested United States senator whose policies have really failed.”
On Wednesday, Cruz said he recognizes that "more than a few governors thinking of running for president have stated that the next nominee must be a governor.”
"And I always chuckle when they say that," he added, "because our friends in the media treat it somehow as news that governors prefer governors, whereas I find it altogether unsurprising.”
Should Cruz campaign for the GOP nomination, he could face off against more than a half dozen current and former Republican governors. Some of those contenders have federal foreign policy experience by way of serving in the U.S. House.
But Cruz, a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, did not roundly criticize executive experience.
“I love the governors,” he said. “I think it is great that we have strong, conservative governors across the country who are demonstrating that conservative policies work.”
And he said that at the end of the day, "I don’t think primary voters are going to focus all that much on the particular job title."
Cruz’s speech on Wednesday before a conservative think tank eviscerated Obama’s foreign policy choices on nuclear proliferation, relations with Israel and ISIS.
In his remarks about governors, though, Cruz revisited a common stump speech theme: that the primary will be a contest of how well individual candidates have stood up to Obama’s policies.
“What I think Republican primary voters are looking for is a strong leader who has demonstrated that he or she will stand up and lead and has stood up and led on the great issues of the day,” he said.