Although Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) formal announcement that he will run for the presidency means that he is the first official candidate to declare his 2016 ambitions, anybody with a television set knows that the contest for who will next occupy the White House is well underway. For months—in some cases, years—contenders from both parties have been jostling for money, backers, advisers and foot soldiers ahead of next year’s primaries and general election.
During this “invisible primary,” candidates do their utmost to shape the parties to which they belong: articulating visions, staking positions, proposing policies. Each wants to lead to victory in 2016 a party that reflects their image. Cruz’s homily at Liberty University showcased this: an attempt to convince the Republican Party that his brand of conservatism represents the best bet for reclaiming the White House and rebuilding America.
But the invisible primary is also a process whereby the parties themselves get to mould the field of candidates…