Ted Cruz Says the GOP Lost in 2012 Because of Two Words: “47 Percent”

Republicans should be the pro-47 percent party, the possible 2016 contender declares.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


On Sunday night, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) appeared with Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, his Senate colleagues and fellow presidential hopefuls, at the Koch brothers’ winter donor retreat, and he offered a two-word post-mortem for the GOP’s drubbing in the 2012 elections: 47 percent.

Cruz was referring, of course, to Mitt Romney’s infamous remarks, secretly caught on tape during a private campaign fundraiser, in which he dismissed 47 percent of Americans (“who will vote for this president no matter what”) as freeloaders “who are dependent on government” and who refuse to take responsibility for their lives.

According to Cruz, who was one of four presidential aspirants to appear before some 300 well-heeled donors at this weekend’s Koch retreat (Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was the fourth, though he did not join Sunday’s panel), the GOP’s 47-percent problem is bigger than Romney’s comments. It’s a party-wide problem. But Cruz noted that he had a fix in time for the 2016 election.

Here’s what Cruz told panel moderator Jonathan Karl of ABC News:

Of course we have a problem [with income inequality]. And I have to say I chuckle every time I hear Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton talk about income inequality. Because it’s increased dramatically under their policies.

Now, if you look at the last election, I think in 2012 the reason Republicans lost can be summed up in two words: 47 percent. And I don’t just mean Mitt Romney’s comment that was caught on tape—that the 47 percent of Americans who are not currently paying taxes, who are in some ways dependent on government, we don’t have to worry about them. I don’t just mean that comment. I think Mitt is a good and decent and honorable man; I think he ran a very hard campaign.

But the central narrative of the last election, what the voters heard, was we don’t have to worry about the 47 percent. And I think Republicans are and should be the party of the 47 percent.

That is, the GOP should be the party of the bottom half.

Cruz did not go into great detail about how the Republicans could assist and appeal to the 47 percent. But he did accuse Obama administration officials of using their clout to get “fat and happy,” slamming Washington as rife with crony capitalism and claiming its denizens are fixated on self-enrichment at the expense of everyone else. “I think we need to move back to a dynamic where you have Schumpeter’s creative destruction, where you have small businesses that are creating opportunities,” he said. Cruz’s reference to Joseph Schumpeter, the Austrian economist beloved by libertarians and conservatives, was sure to delight at least one audience member: Charles Koch, a longtime fan of Schumpeter’s. Cruz added, “We should be fighting for the little guy who has dreams and hopes and desires.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate