Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, has played a divided game as of late. He has held his base, including Trump fans, close while not going so over the top as to be included as a Trump sycophant.

His role during the election disputes and Senate impeachment trial struck just the right balance between a Trumpite base and general competence and respect. So, he’s in a good place. What’s he going to do with it? Unless Trump runs again, then it’s a judgment call, he’s going to run for president in 2024. But a final decision will wait in anticipation of the temperature of the midterm political waters.

There was a serious rumor around DC during the Trump administration that Cruz had been offered a Supreme Court slot twice and turned it down twice. For the guy who Alan Dershowitz called his best student ever, that had to be quite a sacrifice. But that’s how bad he wants to be president. You’ll know when he’s serious about a run when he shaves off the beard. Though, if he runs with the beard (it is an article of faith amongst political pros that women do not trust men with facial hair) that may proclaim a run on his own terms. That could be interesting, but politically fatal, because Ted Cruz is too smart for politics.

Though granted, not a politically smart move to on Wednesday fly to sunny Cancun in the middle of a winter storm that knocked out power and heat to millions in your state. Cruz will pay for that one, as the attack media writes itself. He later said the trip was “obviously a mistake.”

But, I digress.

Having run their campaigns and having seen them up close for twenty years, I can tell you most elected officials are C plus intellects. Actually intelligent people go into business, science, or medicine. Chattering Class (the British term for those who talk for a living) types widely vary between ultrasharp and very mentally dull. Elected officials are on the lower end of that spectrum. Not all of them, but most, of any party. Which can be a good thing for the pols, as the average person is suspicious of anyone who shows signs of advanced intellect.

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Cruz has an advanced intellect and then some. The guy is brilliant. Not only in a marketing and business sense like the immediately former president, but in a way that combines self-awareness, a trait conspicuously lacking in Trump, with sheer overwhelming brainpower. Voters can sense that about Cruz and it makes them uncomfortable. That’s why you can hear epithets like pedantic and condescending attached to the Senator’s name. And then there’s Trump.

If the former president runs will Cruz challenge him? My guess is no. Cruz still has some time to make another run. He is only 50 years old. As we can see in the current and immediately past occupants of the Oval Office, that’s politically adolescent. But whenever it is, can he dumb himself down enough to appeal to a majority of the American people in the primaries and the general election? More than anything else, that will define his decision in 2024 and beyond.