Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Thursday that while Hillary Clinton may well be the leading Democratic contender for president in 2016, she's also extremely vulnerable for three key reasons — all of which are giving Cruz hope that a Republican can take back the White House.
In a meeting with reporters on the edges of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Cruz stopped short of saying anything about his own plans to run for president. But he did say a "strong conservative" with a positive message should be able to defeat Clinton — "we'll win for three reasons," he said.
Most importantly, Cruz sees a chance to flip the traditional and powerful Democratic narrative — that Republicans are wealthy and out of touch — if Clinton runs.
"Since leaving office, Bill and Hillary Clinton have made hundreds of millions of dollars exploiting their government service," he said.
Cruz said aside from just pure wealth, the Clintons are being accused of helping each other out when Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State, and foreign governments donated to Bill Clinton's foundation. He said that will make it very difficult for Clinton to talk about how to make Washington work for ordinary Americans.
"Hillary Clinton embodies the bipartisan corruption of Washington," he said, calling the latest Clinton scandal "a manifestation of the crony capitalism we have seen for decades."
A second weakness is that President Barack Obama's record is "substantively indefensible," and that Clinton won't be able to run away from it. Domestically, Cruz said Clinton won't be able to avoid the notion that her health care plan from the 1990s was the precursor to the controversial Obamacare plan. And on foreign policy, it will be even harder for her to run away.
"She owns the Obama-Clinton foreign policy," he said. "She designed and implemented leading from behind, and the whole world is on fire right now."
Cruz said a third hurdle to Clinton is statistical history. Since World War II, each party has held the White House for two terms before giving it up, with only two exceptions — President Jimmy Carter's loss in 1980, and President George H.W. Bush's win after Ronald Reagan.
Cruz said that shows a party gets kicked out unless the president does poorly, as Carter did, or does exceptionally well, as Reagan did.
Still, Cruz said the GOP shouldn't underestimate Clinton, who will likely play up her tie to the widespread prosperity seen when her husband was president.
"Her story, and her story will be a good one, will be, harken back to the 1990s, when we had prosperity, when there was peace in the world, and frankly, when Democrats were competent," Cruz said. "That's a good narrative. As conservatives, we underestimate that at our peril."
The other half of the equation is finding a suitable Republican candidate, and short of offering himself as one, Cruz put the onus on voters to press candidates to show how they've fought to advance conservative principles.
"What I would suggest to every Republican primary voter… is we say to every candidate, don't tell me, show me," he said. "You say you believe in these principles. Show me where you stood up and fought for them, show me where you bled for them."
Cruz said finding the right candidate is the only way to fix Washington, D.C., which he said is so broken now he has no hope of fixing it from the inside. Instead, he said has to be done from the outside, just as Ronald Reagan had to challenge his own party.
"Ronald Reagan didn't get on a plane and fly to Washington and sit down with all the senior Republicans in the House and Senate and convince them, come on guys, find a backbone. He knew that was hopeless," Cruz said. "Instead, what Reagan did was he took the case to the people."