Over at Hot Air Allan Bourdius is guest posting on the things that Ted Cruz has to do in order to win the nomination. What he has put together makes sense broadly and, of the three major points he raises, two of them I can agree with entirely. The third, though, would almost certainly be rejected by Cruz as a strategy or, if he went for it, see a large part of his support disappear.
Let’s start with what I think he has right.
Bourdius writes that Ted Cruz needs to reinvent his stump speech:
He needs to inspire and attract persuadable Republican voters currently leaning towards or in other candidates’ camps. As important, he needs to start inspiring and attracting voters in whole, looking forward to the general election in November. Pitching fear and reactionary solutions in response has been cornered by Donald Trump. Take a page from Marco Rubio and be visionary first, adversarial a distant second.
Bourdius says that Cruz always sounds like he is making a closing argument to a jury, and he does. It’s probably something that comes naturally to Cruz with his experience in politics limited to the Senate and a much longer period spent crafting briefs and arguing them in front of a judge. If he can change his delivery and rhetoric a little he might do better winning those supporters he needs from Rubio, Kasich, and even Trump.
Bourdius is also right when it comes to building a big tent strategy:
Cruz’s campaign was centered on winning southern, evangelical conservatives in a near-exclusionary fashion. It failed. If there’s one lasting lesson to this election cycle, it’s that evangelicals don’t vote as a cohesive bloc; they’ve been going for twice-divorced, irreverent in his delivery Trump more than Cruz.
Instead of focusing on the evangelicals it’s time for Cruz to start the outreach to the centrists, establishment, and progressive Republicans. Bourdius suggests bringing Caitlyn Jenner out on the campaign trail. While I would love to see Democrat heads explode at the very thought, I think it is still probably a little early for that. As soon as it is a two-man race, however, it makes perfect sense, though the outreach to non-evangelicals can begin now.
Where I disagree with Bourdius, though, is his second and central strategic change of direction – making peace with the establishment – and specifically this suggestion:
This will be the hardest thing for Cruz to do, but he has to if he expects to win the nomination and the Presidency. It can be done without surrendering principles too. When Senator Lindsey Graham – if he isn’t in tune with the “establishment” no one is – suggested last week that it might be time for the party to rally around Cruz to stop Trump, that was an invitation to Cruz not a plea to the establishment. There’s one simple event that Cruz could construct that will fit this bill: apologize publicly to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
I think that this would be less making peace with the establishment and more a surrender to it, not to mention it would let down the very people who stuck with Cruz and supported him since he did, indeed, call McConnell out on the floor of the Senate.
I remember where I was when I listened to the fall out from that event. I was running in Paris of all places and listening to talk radio (Glenn Beck, if I recall) and Cruz was making his case for the action he had taken. He was standing on principle, he was standing for truth, he would not back down, and he would call things as they were and not as the Republican party wished they were.
The sort of person who leads the US should be confident enough to call a spade a spade, and not to apologize to the spade a year later for pointing out that they were, in fact, a spade.
Perhaps I am pushing the spade analogy a little far…
Let me put it like this: if Cruz says he is sorry for what he said, if he admits that he was wrong, hell if he even stands besides McConnell and says I am sorry you took it badly, he’ll be letting down the people who have had his back from the start.
After all, if you can’t stand up to the leaders in your own party, who is going to believe you’ll stand up to the real problems that face America around the world?