Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo sees a clever strategy in Democrats' frequent invocations of Ted Cruz, one that helps Democrats and GOP radicals, at the expense of more mainstream Republicans:
When [Harry] Reid insults [Cruz], and when [Cruz] gets under [Dianne] Feinstein's skin, that helps [Cruz] with the GOP base. When Democratic strategist James Carville goes on national television to acknowledge Cruz's talents and kinda-sorta suggest Democrats would be scared to run against him, we recognize that as tried-and-true but harmless ratfucking, to use the technical term. Cruz sees it as an opportunity to tout his conservative bona fides.Except that it doesn't really work that way, because Democrats don't have a noise machine capable of making these guys stand for the whole GOP.
Everyone wins -- except the rest of the GOP.
"It is fair to say that there's a general sense that the more Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are the face of the Republican Party, the worse it is for the Republican brand and the better it is for Democrats," said a senior Democratic Senate aide.
The so-called liberal media will simply never be as nakedly ideological as the right-wing media. The right-wing media works hand in glove with the GOP to highlight every liberal or leftist or radical, in or out of the Democratic Party, with the shared goal of making all those people the faces of the party (while also laboring to make mildly liberal Democrats and Democratic ideas seem dangerously radical). By contrast, NBC and ABC and CBS and CNN and The New York Times and The Washington Post will respectfully highlight the progressive-seeming immigration stylings of Marco and Lindsey and Johnny Mac, and the liberal-seeming drone critique of Rand Paul, and will pay great respect to all sorts of people critical of the Democrats -- Simpson and Bowles on the budget, the whistleblowers on Benghazi -- which has the effect of making Republican ideologues on these issues seem reasonable.
Democrats might be able to flood the zone and make Cruz the face of the GOP if they were in campaign mode all the time, the way Republicans are -- Democrats did a pretty good job of making Todd Akin the face of the GOP in 2012 (it helped that Mitt Romney was also the rich, oblivious face of the party on pocketbook issues) -- but Democrats only seem able to do this in presidential election years. They couldn't even make Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Carl Paladino the face of the party in 2010 -- those loons were beaten, but the GOP triumphed otherwise.
It's worthwhile for the Democrats to try focusing on Cruz and his ilk, but they really need to work much harder, to make up for the lack of zone-flooding ideological-media firepower.