Ted Cruz has surged to a statistical tie with Donald Trump among Republicans in California....Combined, Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich -- the great allegedly moderate hopes of New Hampshire -- have 21% of the vote, less than either Trump or Cruz.
The Field Poll, released Tuesday, reflects Cruz’s momentum nationally in the crowded Republican presidential field....
Now, California is hardly a key state in the contest -- it votes on June 7, which should be long after the front-runner has locked up the nomination. But the narrative of the race being put forth by in-denial pundits is that whoever wins the "center lane" in New Hampshire will have an excellent shot at the nomination, because other Establishment candidates will drop out and the winner of New Hampshire's mainstream "lane" will be the favorite in high-population moderate and liberal states that vote later.
Much of this speculation focuses on Chris Christie, who is doing pretty well in New Hampshire (the Real Clear Politics average has him at 11.3% there, in fourth place but only 2 points behind second-place Marco Rubio, although he's well behind Trump). The fact that Christie is tanking in every other state doesn't seem to matter to these pundits -- they're writing stories with titles like "Chris Christie's Path to Victory." That piece, by National Journal's Josh Kraushaar, outlines the Theory of Christie:
Christie would ... need to do well in his must-win state of New Hampshire.... Christie would then focus on performing respectably in South Carolina, and more importantly, on making a major play for two Super Tuesday states that aren’t getting much attention now but would be an essential part of the Christie map: Virginia and Massachusetts.But I think The Washington Post's Robert Costa is closer to the mark when he writes this, although I think I'm twisting his words somewhat:
... Four days after Super Tuesday, Maine is holding weekend caucuses, where Christie is favored to win thanks to his endorsement from Gov. Paul LePage.
After Super Tuesday, the map is much more favorable for the establishment candidate -- assuming the party is unified behind one at that point. Michigan holds its primary March 8, and the state’s demographic profile suits Christie. Florida, Illinois, and Ohio are winner-take-all states where a center-right candidate like Christie should do well (again, assuming Christie has enough momentum to chase out like-minded rivals).
Recent past Republican presidential primaries were shaped by whether candidates passed a series of ideological benchmarks, but the 2016 race has been dominated instead by personality.What I'm seeing, everywhere but New Hampshire, is not a series of ideological "lanes," but rather a series of personality "lanes." Trump is winning the undiluted-rage lane -- and the guy who's increasingly dominating the I-won't-burn-everything-to-the-ground lane is, frighteningly, Cruz. Or maybe there are three lanes -- destroy-it-all, destroy-some-of-it, and play-nice. Rubio is winning the play-nice lane, but the race is really between Trump in the destroy-all lane and Cruz in the destroy-most lane.
Ellen Brodsky from NewsHounds directs our attention to the message Ted Cruz delivered on Fox's New Year's Eve broadcast. It is, as she says, creepy:
Cruz, in a voice filled with hammy hope and optimism, talked only of all the things he looks forward to obliterating:Acrimonious? Yes. But if you can stand to watch it, check out the tone. It's soft-spoken. It's cornball. It's Reagan.
CRUZ: Happy New Year. 2016 is going to be an incredible year. 2016 is going to be the last year of the Obama presidency. 2016 is going to be the last year before Hillary retires permanently to Chappaqua. 2016 is going to be the last year that we have ObamaCare.... Then came the acrimonious joke which, Cruz said in a folksy voice, was “just a simple story, a story that I’ve heard on the trail.”
... 2016 is going to be the last year until we abolish the IRS. And 2016 is going to be the last year until we utterly destroy ISIS and defeat radical Islamic terrorism.
Like 1980, 2016 is going to be a very, very good year.
The gist of the “simple story” that went on for more than a full minute is that in January, 2017 “a little old man” goes to the White House day after day asking for Barack Obama and is repeatedly told Obama is no longer president. The predictable punch line was, “The little old man smiles and with a twinkle in his eye, says, ‘I know that. I just love hearing you say it!’ And the Marine promptly salutes (as did Cruz, melodramatically) and says, ‘See you tomorrow, Sir!’”
“2016 is going to be a very, very good year,” Cruz concluded.
Reagan was a destroyer, although he wasn't a burn-it-to-the-ground guy like Trump. He got away with it because his affect was folksy and reassuring. If you watch the clip, try to put your own political revulsion aside -- try to imagine you're the average heartland American, maybe not particularly political, maybe mildly conservative. I'm convinced that, to people like that, Ted Cruz is not at all scary. And, thanks to Fox and the mainstream GOP (never mind the Tea Party), the things Cruz is talking about -- repealing Obamacare, abolishing the IRS, wallowing in Obama-hate -- don't come off as extreme at all.
We've all been looking for the anti-Trump. I'm afraid we may have found him -- and he's Ted Cruz.