Ted Cruz came to Jacksonville Friday night and called out Jeb Bush on Common Core.
More so than most of the other Republicans testing the waters for 2016, Cruz has taken shots at Bush over Common Core. But this time Cruz fired away at Bush in his own backyard.
Cruz said he and Bush had significant policy disagreements on Common Core and would not weigh in if the former Florida governor was a conservative, saying that was something voters had to decide for themselves. Of course, Cruz also touched on other topics -- repeal Obamacare, get rid of the IRS -- but Common Core is increasingly in his sights.
Bush has more than his share of vulnerabilities in the primary, including immigration and his last name, but Common Core is the main chink in his armor. Its an issue that will hurt Bush badly with conservatives and Republican primary voters.
But Cruz has to be careful here. Hes not in the top tier of the Republican primary, with conservatives going for other candidates at the moment -- namely, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabeee. Chances are, when Republicans meet in Cleveland next July, Cruz wont be the nominee.
That means Cruz has to be careful in making sure things are calm in his backyard. The Bush family remains very prominent in Texas and Jeb Bush Jr. is already working his way up the ranks in the state GOP. Texas also remains divided with Bush, Rick Perry, Cruz and other 2016 contenders. Perry has already gone on the attack against Cruz, reminding primary voters that his fellow Texas Republican is a senator who has been more focused on legislating and talking instead of managing anything, even comparing him to Barack Obama. If Cruz isnt careful, he could face a far more divided base back home in Texas.
Still, the Texas conservative is on the right track. He needs to stand out among conservatives already starting to crowd the Republican primaries. Along with Walker, Bush is at the head of the pack for the moment and provides a far easier target for conservatives than the Wisconsin governor, who won kudos from the right for his fights with the unions.
By going after Bush, Cruz can win some notice from conservatives who simply dont want a third Bush in the White House. Cruz isnt the only Republican looking to win these voters and Paul, in particular, is turning up the heat on Bush. Right now, these voters are divided between all the various candidates and Cruz needs to score points with them to stand out from the crowd. Going after Bush in his own backyard is one way of doing that.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.