Ted Cruz and Rand Paul sit atop the list of 2016 White House hopefuls for many libertarian and conservative voters. What would a Cruz-Paul primary battle mean for the election? Will they split constitutionalists? Can either man win the nomination? How will the establishment GOP react to them?

For our March cover story, Blaze White House correspondent Fred Lucas digs into what a potential Cruz vs. Paul throwdown could look like and impact small-government conservatives’ efforts to take back both the Republican Party and the White House from progressives.

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Below are few small excerpts from the March 2014 cover story, “They Can’t Both Be President.” The full story is available ONLY in the newest issue of TheBlaze Magazine.

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FINAL - TheBlaze Magazine March 2014 issue - Cruz-Paul open spread

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas, and Rand Paul, Ky., are in only their first terms in the upper chamber of Congress given the stature they’ve attained. It could be because enough Americans desire a return to liberty and are seeking a leader unafraid to articulate those values. It could be both are good fighters and know how to rally Americans.

Whatever the case, Cruz—named the third most influential person of 2013 in one survey—earned the option to wear an “I told you so” button following the Obamacare debacle, while Paul—the president’s polar opposite—somehow managed to influence Obama administration policy.

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Paul even attended an East Room event in January where President Obama announced five new “Promise Zones” for regions with some of the most sluggish economies in the nation, which included the southeastern region of Paul’s home state of Kentucky. The Obama proposal was—believe it or not—a left-wing variation on the “Economic Freedom Zones” that Paul had proposed as part of a tax-slashing package for struggling regions a month earlier.

Visiting the White House for a president he has so frequently excoriated may have seemed to put Paul into the belly of the beast. But during his press gaggle in front of the West Wing stakeout area, Paul uttered unexpected words for a potential GOP primary candidate, referring to Obama: “I am supportive of his motives and what he’s trying to do.” That comment was of course narrowly targeted at Obama’s “Promise Zones,” which, Paul added, did not go far enough with tax breaks and included too many federal grants that typically fail to spur growth.

A week before the White House event, where one reporter snickered that the senator was “measuring the drapes,” Paul had filed a lawsuit to stop the National Security Agency spying program. Not surprisingly, the questioning soon turned to that direction. “This is a fundamental misconception I think sometimes of the president on a lot of things,” Paul said. He said the president seems to think “due process can be performed with flash cards, a PowerPoint presentation and a bunch of NSA attorneys. That’s not due process either. It’s also true of the FISA court. That’s not due process. A fundamental part of due process is you find truth through an adversarial process. You have to have people on both sides.”

He further said that those so gung-ho for “frontier justice” against fugitive leaker Edward Snowden should be just as interested in justice for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whom Paul said committed perjury when the DNI told a Senate committee that the government was not gathering data on Americans.

The next day, Paul’s Senate colleague Ted Cruz—also likely vying for the 2016 GOP nomination—was back in his home state speaking at the Texas Public Policy Foundation gathering in Austin, which might be just as much the belly of the beast considering the Austin area’s leftward tilt. …

… In this case, he was speaking to a friendly crowd and had a stern warning about the Obama administration: “Of all the bad things to have happened, I think one of the most dangerous is the consistent pattern of lawlessness from this president and this administration.” He later added, “If you care about liberty, an imperial president who defies his constitutional obligation to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ is an extraordinary threat to the liberty of this country.”

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With his credentials of Harvard Law School and a string of successful Supreme Court arguments, the Left has difficulty trying to mock and intimidate Cruz from shining the light on threats to freedom. At the Austin event, Cruz focused on the president’s executive actions on immigration, drug policy and Obamacare exemptions, saying, “If we have a system where the president can pick and choose which laws to follow at utter whim and discretion, then the whole rest of our constitutional structure becomes superfluous. That’s dangerous. That is seriously dangerous.”

BIG CHANGES IN LITTLE TIME

So much has changed since 2011 when Paul was the leader of the Tea Party Caucus in the Senate and a national figure after the watershed 2010 elections.

Two years later, one of the few bright spots out of the disastrous 2012 election was Cruz’s Senate victory. Before the end of his first year in office, he was the driving force behind the effort to defund and delay Obamacare that prompted a 16-day partial government shutdown and became the Right’s most beloved senator, the Left’s most hated and a presidential front-runner—at least for a while.

Just as so much changed in the two-year interval from 2011 to 2013, it’s unknowable how much will change by 2016. What is near certain is that, of all the potential GOP presidential aspirants, none carries the banner of constitutional conservatism like Paul and Cruz.

There is some—though not major—philosophical daylight between the two men. Paul wasn’t keen on Cruz’s government shutdown strategy. Cruz doesn’t home in on auditing the Federal Reserve and some of the other stereotypical libertarian views that make Paul an unconventional conservative. But it is Paul and Cruz who, among potential 2016 contenders, are the biggest challengers to a Republican establishment that has shown both an eagerness to compromise with the Obama administration and a seeming disdain for grassroots supporters—particularly Tea Partiers—who elected them.

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In fact, both Paul and Cruz have demonstrated the ability to defeat the GOP establishment.

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PARTING WAYS

Last fall, Senate Democrats rejected the House Republican spending plan that funded the government while delaying the funding of Obamacare for a year. Not surprisingly, the media joined Democrats in blaming Republicans for the shutdown.

FINAL - Paul Cruz - Blaze Magazine Cover - March 2014 - no boxPaul foresaw which way the blame game would go and said a shutdown would be a “dumb idea,” effectively breaking from what had become the conservative trifecta of Paul, Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. Cruz and Lee believed the GOP must do whatever was necessary to keep a horrendous law from taking effect. … Paul ultimately supported the Cruz-Lee effort, but not wholeheartedly.

Had the effort been made a month later—when it was clear millions would lose their existing health insurance and the HealthCare.gov site was a dud—it’s quite likely Republicans would have coalesced and Democrats would have collapsed under public pressure. …

The initial Washington thinking at the time was that defunding Obamacare was a no-win strategy and that Republicans shouldn’t take an unnecessary beating in public opinion polls. But because of Cruz, many Republicans believe that history—and voters—will see them as the party that stood against the law. In November 2014, few Americans will even remember there was a two-week shutdown. But every American will be aware of exploding health-care costs, friends and family losing their insurance and the mandates that apply to all Americans except those with the right political connections.

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A greater divide between Cruz and Paul might come on the immigration reform issue. Both senators voted against the massive Gang of Eight comprehensive bill to bestow legal status on some 11 million illegal aliens. But while Cruz—one of two Hispanic Republicans in the Senate—was against the measure from day one, Paul was initially open to the idea. …

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NEITHER MAN SELLING OUT

To be clear, the Republican establishment wishes neither senator was around. But these two public friends are apparently becoming more competitive and reaching out to potential supporters.

FINAL - TheBlaze Magazine March 2014 issue - Cruz-Paul pull quote

The New York Times gleefully reported that, while meeting with big GOP donors in New York, Cruz stressed the Kentucky senator is unelectable because he’ll never escape the shadow of his father who was untenable to many Republican voters.

Further, if the Times report is to be believed, Paul has in jest adopted the language of Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, calling Cruz “the chief of the wacko birds.” Meanwhile, Paul has also cozied up to big donors and grown closer to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC in Washington.

Neither a brewing rivalry nor reaching out to establishment donors should alarm Tea Party conservatives. Only one of them can be president and that takes money. It would be unnatural if they weren’t trying to outflank each other. They’re not on the verge of selling out. To the contrary, though they occasionally differ in tactics, Cruz and Paul are to trying to keep their party honest.

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POTENTIAL ELECTORAL DRAWBACKS

Like any presidential candidate, both men have targets on their backs and issues that will be magnified in the presidential microscope.

The Canadian-born Cruz will face inevitable challenges from left-wing birthers. …

… If Cruz declares his candidacy, there will be lawsuits challenging his eligibility. If he becomes president, legal challenges will flood in, and it might prompt the Supreme Court to finally make a determination.

Paul had a dust up in 2013 where critics charged plagiarism, the term bandied about by Politico, BuzzFeed and MSNBC, who all reported that some of Paul’s writings and speeches contained unattributed information that came nearly verbatim from Forbes magazine, The Week magazine, Wikipedia and studies from the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.

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Finally, both Paul and Cruz—despite being guardians of the Constitution—are still …

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Get the full report on the potential Constitutionalist Thunderdome and much more in TheBlaze Magazine.

We’ve got full analysis of Cruz’s “birther problem,” Paul’s alleged plagiarism, the personal history of both men, the history of electing senators to the highest office in the land, who’s got plans and eyes on any potential Paul-Cruz fallout, and lots more in the March issue of TheBlaze magazine—which you can get for FREE.

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