Politics & Policy

A Good Night for Conservatives

Cruz arrives for his victory speech in Des Moines, Iowa. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Ted Cruz didn’t play the expectations game in Iowa. He said he was going to win the caucuses, and he did. What’s more, he did it even while bucking the conventional wisdom that candidates who seek to win Iowa must genuflect toward ethanol subsidies — and earning the hostility of Republican governor Terry Branstad for his refusal. Senator Cruz deserves congratulations for his performance.

He also deserves congratulations for stopping Donald Trump’s momentum. Trump is not finished by any means. Getting 40,000 people to caucus for him even though he had very little organization and had exuberantly defied all the normal rules of politics was an impressive achievement. Before the voting, though, many Republicans had been starting to resign themselves to nominating a non-conservative of low character. Having been beaten, Trump no longer looks unbeatable. Nor does it require low turnout to defeat him, as had been widely assumed.

Before the voting, many Republicans had been starting to resign themselves to nominating a non-conservative of low character.

Republicans who have been fearful to attack Trump should drop their reticence. Republicans who have flirted with backing him because they dislike Cruz should find a new, more honorable strategy. And all Republicans should shamelessly steal those portions of Trump’s message that are both right and resonant. They should stand for an immigration policy centered on the interests of the existing American population — which means that “comprehensive reform” that increases low-skilled immigration should be off the table. Then, too, Republicans should make a pitch to voters whose main economic concerns do not include capital-gains taxes.

#related#Senator Cruz now needs to show that he can win in more hostile terrain, which will mean improving his showing among voters who consider themselves “somewhat conservative,” who have usually been the key to the Republican nomination, and voters who are not evangelical Christians. Senator Rubio, who is getting plaudits for placing third even after a Jeb Bush–affiliated organization spent millions attacking him, needs to show that he can actually win somewhere. And the three governors — Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich — need to show that they are still in the game.

The Iowa caucuses do not determine the race but they do clarify it. The odds that the Republican nominee will be a conservative have just increased.


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