Steve Stockman is not going to be the second coming of Cruz. In fact, after tonight, the Republican congressman is going to be out of a job.
Things didn’t always look so grim for Stockman. Just a few months ago, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, seemed ripe for a challenge from the right. In a poll late last year, 49 per cent of Texas Republicans said they would like a more conservative candidate than Cornyn, compared with 33 per cent who said they supported Cornyn.
Because of his status as a congressman and his robust presence on social media, Stockman at first seemed like a strong candidate to flank Cornyn when he made the last-minute decision to challenge the senator in December. Stockman was initially embraced by some conservative-leaning publications, and some national publications wondered if he was the next Ted Cruz — a conservative firebrand who would come out of nowhere and steal away a Republican nomination.
The three months that followed proved Stockman was no Cruz. In fact, Republican strategists say, he is perhaps the most “embarrassing” high-profile candidate of the Tea Party era. He will lose in Tuesday night’s primary, and it is shaping up to be a landslide. Polls show there is next-to-no chance of Stockman or any of Cornyn’s six other challengers of forcing a runoff.
“The U.S. Senate is far too serious for a person that is completely unserious,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based GOP strategist. “I think Stockman has done some damage to the conservative movement and the Tea Party movement more broadly, even though I don’t think he represents it. I think the perception is that he is of it.”
The Stockman campaign never got off the ground, which may have had something to do with the candidate’s poor planning. Mackowiak told Business Insider he met Stockman at a Council for National Policy conference in New Orleans late last fall and Stockman told him he thought about running for Senate but eventually decided against it. A few weeks later, with minutes to spare before the filing deadline, Stockman filed papers to make a run for it.
Stockman had just $US32,000 cash on hand upon filing and more than $US100,000 in previous campaign debt. Because of this, some Republicans viewed Stockman’s run as an attempt to retire his campaign debt.
Mackowiak describes this cynical take on Stockman as the “less charitable” way to view his campaign. Instead, perhaps Stockman actually thought he could catch lightning in a bottle like Cruz. However, their circumstances were much different
Unlike Stockman, Cruz spent months preparing his bid, and he ended up picking the right candidate to challenge — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a man attempting to debut on the national stage rather than a solid incumbent like Cornyn. The debate over Texas redistricting also helped Cruz, said Jim McGrath, a GOP strategist whose clients include former President George H.W. Bush. McGrath explained that the redistricting process pushed the normal March primary back to May — and the runoff to July.
“Ted worked his arse off for a year. He’s a once-in-a-generation talent to begin with,” Mackowiak said. “And he picked his opponent very shrewdly. … When you look at the Cornyn situation, it’s completely different.”
To make matters worse, once it got off the ground, the Stockman campaign was plagued with massive missteps. Stockman has not submitted filings to the Federal Elections Commission. He even claimed he received phony endorsements from various Tea Party groups. However, Stockman has not appeared on the campaign trail or given interviews to media, to the point where it would be impossible to garner any attention or legitimate endorsements.
And there was that time he went abroad as part of a congressional delegation, didn’t tell anyone about it, and then blamed media bias when questions started popping up. Stockman missed 16 House votes while he was missing, and his mysterious absence spawned perhaps the most widespread news coverage of his campaign as reporters wondered if he had gone missing. It was a disaster, and upon coming back he said he had “exposed” the media
Some Republican insiders saw the disaster coming all along.
“You have to be a mindless idiot to think that Steve Stockman posed any kind of a viable threat to John Cornyn,” one Republican strategist told Business Insider.
Mackowiak agreed and took it one step further suggesting Stockman might not be of sound mind if he really thought he had a chance to win.
“To think that you’re arrogant enough to do what Ted Cruz did over a 15- to 16-month timeframe,” Mackowiak said. “To me, the guy clearly is delusional to think that he could have done that.”
True to form, Stockman’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
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