... in an interview Wednesday, Mr. Dole said that the party would suffer “cataclysmic” and “wholesale losses” if Mr. Cruz was the nominee, and that Donald J. Trump would fare better.As Jonathan Chait notes, in the GOP establishment there's a lot of this going around:
“I question his allegiance to the party,” Mr. Dole said of Mr. Cruz. “I don’t know how often you’ve heard him say the word ‘Republican’ -- not very often.” Instead, Mr. Cruz uses the word “conservative,” Mr. Dole said, before offering up a different word for Mr. Cruz: “extremist.”
“I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress,” he said. “Nobody likes him.”
But Mr. Dole said he thought Mr. Trump could “probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker.”
... we see, through straws floating in the wind, signs of a party reconciling itself to Trump. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which once savaged him mercilessly as a mobbed-up, un-conservative demagogue, has changed its tune (“Mr. Trump is a better politician than we ever imagined, and he is becoming a better candidate.”).... Rupert Murdoch has gone from calling him an embarrassment to praising Trump’s alleged crossover appeal. George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer, who lacerated Trump as toxic, now calls him the likely nominee, as does former party chairman Michael Steele. Spencer Zwick, Mitt Romney’s national finance chairman, tells the Washington Post, “[P]ower brokers and financiers are now trying to cozy up to Trump in various ways, such as reaching out through mutual friends in New York’s business community.” ...Why do GOP insiders loathe Cruz so much? Is it just because he's contentious in his dealings with them? Is that enough reason for them to wage war against him, even though, as Chait notes, he's far more likely to back the GOP establishment's agenda in most of its particulars than Trump is?
What ... could explain the GOP’s bizarre capitulation? One possible reason is undue fear of Trump’s threat to run an independent candidacy if he feels mistreated by the party.... But perhaps the more important factor at work is the rise of Ted Cruz, which has coincided with a sapping of the Republican Establishment’s will to oppose Trump....
Republicans really, really loathe Cruz.
... the annoyingness of Cruz’s tactics has exaggerated their importance in the Republican mind.Maybe they just hate the way he's dealt with them. And maybe they fear Trump and think they can't beat him so they may as well join him, while they may believe they can beat Cruz if they gang up with Trump.
... Cruz, unlike Trump, is a full-fledged member of the conservative movement. You cannot have a more certain loyalist; he was literally raised from birth to enact the conservative agenda.
... He’s substantively a garden-variety right-winger. Cruz is the candidate who can harness cultural alienation, populist distrust of elites, and anti-immigration sentiment into safe channels.... If Republicans despise Cruz so much that they allow Trump to prevail, they are making a historic mistake and choosing the devil they don’t know over the one they do.
I wonder if they still harbor the insane fantasy that a savior will emerge for them in the "establishment lane" of the nomination race, even though, at least outside New Hampshire, there's no evidence that such a lane even exists. Maybe they think that if they can tamp down Cruz's numbers in the early states, one of their guys, Rubio or Bush or Christie or Kasich, still has a chance matched up against Trump one on one.
See, for instance, this AP story about Marco Rubio:
... Rubio's team has conceded he's unlikely to win any of the first three contests: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.I think they still believe that this Trump/Cruz flood might not get them wet. If so, they're still delusional.
No Republican in the modern political era has won the presidential nomination without winning one of the first three states. Rubio's team sees a path around that history: finishing in the top three in those states and surviving until March. That's when party insiders expect the race to become a long haul because of new rules that award delegates proportionally.
The strategy also assumes some of Rubio's mainstream challengers will drop out out, leaving Rubio's mix of messages -- his tea party rise, national security background and abiding conservative social positions -- to allow him to unify the GOP.
"Any preconceived notions you have from previous cycles are out the window," said California-based donor John Jordan, who is running a pro-Rubio super PAC. "Given that, I don't think it's necessary to win one of the early states." He calls this "a rolling national election."