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February 10, 2014 6:23 PM Basso Profundo

By Ed Kilgore

I obviously have no way of knowing if Sen. Ted Cruz is preparing to run for president or simply wants to earn lifetime access to conservative media outlets. But at a time when “pandering to the base” in a universal vice among conservative pols, Cruz is managing to distinguish himself as a sort of basso profundo, a voice that articulates the deepest carnivorous cravings of The Movement.

One example is his continuous use of his father, Rafael Cruz, as a surrogate or warm-up act in appearances around the country. I’ve written about the Rev. Cruz before, but at a time when you’d expect his son’s national prominence—and his own—to lead him to tone down his act a bit, he seems to be tossing anyone who disagrees with him into the Fiery Furnace with undiminished vigor. Here’s a snippet from an AP story by Will Weissert, who recently heard Cruz the Elder speak in Texas:

Bursts of applause had already interrupted Rafael Cruz repeatedly, but the loudest cheer of the night came when the Cuban-born pastor finally made the Barack Obama-Fidel Castro comparison the crowd had been waiting for.
“He acts no different than that bearded guy I left behind in Cuba,” the father of firebrand U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz told a packed tea party gathering.
Likening the president to Castro has become something of a trademark for the elder Cruz, and it’s actually one of his milder comments. The 74-year-old from suburban Dallas has in the past called for sending Obama “back to Kenya” and accused him of being an “outright Marxist” out to “destroy all concept of God.”

You get the idea.

Today WaPo’s Robert Costa brought the news that Ted Cruz is headed back to Iowa next month. As with earlier trips to the First-in-the-Nation-Caucus-State, when he regaled major Christian Right groups (including the famous Family Leader conference, with Rafael in tow), Cruz’s schedule will begin with an appearance in a ground zero for conservative activists:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a tea party favorite, will speak at a homeschooling rally in Iowa next month, signaling his continued interest in a possible 2016 presidential bid.
The event, which will take place on March 18 at the Iowa state capitol in Des Moines, will be hosted by the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE), a politically-engaged group that has previously hosted presidential contenders. In 2011, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) spoke at a similar “Homeschool Day at the Capitol,” as did pizza magnate Herman Cain and former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.)….
Cruz’s upcoming appearance underscores his popularity among Iowa Republicans, especially social conservatives, said Chuck Laudner, a veteran Iowa GOP consultant who advised former senator Rick Santorum’s 2012 Iowa campaign.
“The homeschool event will have hundreds of people there, it’s a huge event, and these are the people who organize, communicate, and build a ready-made foundation for any caucus campaign in Iowa,” Laudner said. “They are looped in and they will fight for you, if you can win them over. I know a lot of them already like Cruz, and this will be a big forum - a red-letter date.”

Indeed. This matters because the current CW in Washington that Cruz has had his moment in the sun but is now yesterday’s news doesn’t take into account his status in places like Iowa. Cruz is far ahead of Mike Huckabee’s 2008 campaign and Rick Santorum’s 2012 campaign in reaching out to the very same constituencies, and they both ultimately won the Caucuses. In politics there are always those who pursue center-out strategies and those who pursue base-in strategies to win elections. Cruz may set new standards of intensity—basso profundo—in pursuit of the latter.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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