... Republicans have decided to start treating [Trump] as a regular candidate and a member of their party in good standing, rather than an imposter who has hijacked it on a lark. He faced the same softball questions as everybody else, with no follow-ups.Chait goes on to quote a few tweets suggesting the establishment mood:
... Signs have popped up everywhere that Republicans have not only begun to accept Trump as one of them, a regular candidate, but even to resign themselves to his candidacy.
Same source (when I ask what's happening on the ground): "On the ground? Everyone literally is getting resigned to Trump as nominee."— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) January 14, 2016
Trump was Trump and that means he had a good night. I give him a 60% shot of being the GOP nominee.— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 15, 2016
I was particularly struck by this one:
From my convos,GOP estab mood on Trump moving from fear/loathing to resignation/rationalization,ie he'd run better than cruz & slam Hillary— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) January 13, 2016
Why does the GOP establishment think Trump would run better than Cruz against Hillary Clinton? Right now, in the Real Clear Politics poll averages, Cruz beats Clinton, while Trump still trails her. And the establishmentarians can't seriously believe Cruz would refrain from attacking her.
Maybe the problem is what Dan Balz implies here:
A Cruz victory in Iowa ... would rattle the establishment almost as much as a Trump victory, if not more. Unique among the elected and former elected officials in the race, Cruz campaigned from the start with an eye toward tapping anti-Washington sentiment among party conservatives. Party leaders fear that Cruz as the nominee could bring about a landslide loss in November.Do they fear that Cruz as the nominee could bring about a landslide presidential loss in November? Or do they fear Cruz will attack Washington so relentlessly that he'll inspire GOP base voters to vote against Republican incumbents in House and Senate races?
If it's the latter, I don't get it. Yes, the guy attacks his own sometimes. But that wasn't his line of argument last night, was it? And GOP candidates always attack the federal government. (Remember Mitt Romney's slogan "Washington is broken"?)
Cruz has been telling donors that he thinks this election will come down to base turnout. Turning out the base is how the GOP won its last presidential election, in 2004, and it's how the right-wing media has engineered two midterm blowouts in the Obama era, so Cruz may be right. If so, Matt Yglesias noted after the debate, Cruz is awfully good at saying what the base wants to hear:
[Cruz] had his finger perfectly on the pulse of the conservative base from the get-go. He got the first question of the night -- about the economy -- and he completely ignored it in favor of a demagogic rant about the American soldiers who accidentally drifted into Iranian waters this week.... he suggested they'd been kidnapped due to Obama's weakness and that a Cruz administration might have retaliated militarily.That's certainly what Frank Luntz focus group thought last night. Watch the beginning of the clip -- they gave the debate to cruz by acclamation.
The answer spoke loud and clear: Cruz didn't care what the moderators wanted to talk about. He wanted to talk about what conservatives wanted to talk about, and that was what they see as a humiliation of the United States invited by the weakness of the president.
... while Trump's gonzo schtick will continue to be appealing to a significant segment of the Republican electorate, what Cruz managed to do was to energize while espousing orthodox conservative views.
Republican Party elected officials in Washington may not like Cruz, but activists across the country are seeing more and more of a guy who stands solidly with them on all their issues.
Savor what the neckbearded young man says about Cruz at 2:16 in the clip:
I think that he is willing to die for this country instead of staying on his knees.Cruz is another chickenhawk, but never mind -- he's saying what these people want to hear. And he seems less alienating to the general public than Trump -- according to the polls, his favorable ratings are good.
Watch out for him.