Some stray observations on Cruz,
1. I put thoughts of Ted Cruz as nominee on ice when I heard about his proposal for a flat tax and a 16 percent VAT. Cruz is a very smart guy, but he seems to have fallen into the trap of believing that Republican primary voters (and general election voters) want radical tax changes. They might want such changes in theory, but huge tax changes are going to produce winners and losers and the losers will be much more motivated than the winners.
I think most of the criticism of Cruz’s affect are mistaken. He isn’t as ingratiating as the nice guy Rubio, or the bluff Chris Christie, but, in the words of Barack Obama, Cruz is “likeable enough.” He is at least as likeable as the likely Democratic nominee. Cruz needs a more prudent tax plan much more than he needs a personality transplant.
2. Cruz is well-positioned until the tax issue catches up to him. I even like that Cruz is avoiding making his campaign all about attacking Trump. I’m as contemptuous of Trump as anybody, but the two politicians who have done the best in dealing with Trump have been Cruz and Ben Sasse.
Cruz and Sasse recognize that Trump isn’t polluting a healthy political environment. Trump is byproduct of the pollution. Cruz is trying to direct Trump’s supporters toward a healthier politics. Cruz isn’t letting his critics write his speeches. Good for him.
3. I hope Cruz is just flattering a constituency when he talks about evangelical Christian voter turnout as being the key to Republican victory. That isn’t because Cruz is entirely wrong. Republicans need strong white evangelical turnout to win (this is a point that some “moderate” Republicans would prefer to ignore.)
But white evangelicals are not enough. Republicans also need to make gains among secular, moderate working-class whites, and moderately conservative nonwhites. Cruz hasn’t shown that he can appeal to the latter two groups. Maybe he will find a way to do so.
Cruz’s talk about winning over hawkish, socially conservative, unionized, Reagan Democrats is discouraging. It isn’t the 1980s anymore. The nonevangelical, white working-class is living in a different economic and social world from the world of the Reagan Era. If he wants to figure out how to appeal to those voters, Cruz should be reading Henry Olsen and Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. He doesn’t have much time.