It's seeming more and more likely that Ted Cruz is going to steal this thing from Trump. (Did I mention that Trump has been shut out in Colorado, and Cruz has every delegate chosen there so far?) And while it's difficult to be a worse candidate for the GOP than Trump, Jonathan Chait thinks Cruz would be a really awful choice for his party -- for instance, on taxes:
In addition to the de rigueur ginormous tax cut for rich people, Cruz proposes a massive shift of the tax burden away from income taxes to sales taxes. So, not only would Cruz’s plan give nearly half of its benefit to the highest-earning one percent of taxpayers (who would save, on average, nearly half a million dollars a year in taxes per household), but it would actually raise taxes on the lowest-earning fifth....Chait cites this and also Cruz's support for an an abortion ban with no rape-and-incest exception, his hardcore climate change denialism, and his call for a gay marriage rollback and the abolition of the Department of Education. Chait writes, "Elections are not policy seminars, but the vulnerabilities in Cruz’s platform are not subtle or difficult to communicate."
But the aggregate figure does not quite capture the political explosiveness of the plan. As Matthew Yglesias notes, Cruz’s sales tax would inflict special hardship on the elderly, who earn very little and spend (on the whole) more than 100 percent of their annual income.
I hope that's true. I think you can attack Cruz on a lot of this, especially the idea of raising taxes on elderly people -- who reliably vote.
But I worry that Americans vote much more on gut impressions and tribalism. If you seem more comfortable with a hunting rifle, for instance, heartland whites, or at least white men and married white women, will vote for you in droves. Who'll be the persuadable, on-the-fence voters, and what are they going to do if they find Cruz unlikable (which an awful lot of people do) but also find Hillary Clinton unlikable (which a lot of people also do)?
There are two catchphrases floating around now. Neither of them would decide a Clinton-Cruz race, obviously, but both could have a non-trivial impact.
One is the Bernie Sanders assertion that Hillary Clinton isn't qualified to be president. Yes, I know that Sanders has walked that back, but it's out there now, and it's already being gleefully embraced by both Trump and a top Cruz surrogate:
Bernie Sanders says that Hillary Clinton is unqualified to be president. Based on her decision making ability, I can go along with that!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 9, 2016
For once, I agree with Bernie Sanders: Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be President. pic.twitter.com/gztIjpSjz6— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) April 7, 2016
What she told the families about the Benghazi tragedy is another reason Hillary Clinton isn't qualified to be POTUS. pic.twitter.com/L851RBZhGG— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) April 8, 2016
We'll hear that catchphrase until November.
But the other catchphrase we might hear is "Lyin' Ted." May I just say that I don't get why this caught on? I would have expected it to have less impact than "low energy" for Jeb Bush or "Little Marco" for Marco Rubio -- but Trump's crowds love it:
So if Cruz wins the nomination, I hope Hillary Clinton and her surrogates find some way to make use of "Lyin' Ted" on the campaign trail. ("I don't agree with Donald Trump on very many issues, but...") I'm all for serious policy debates -- but it would be crazy to turn down this gift if it's as effective as it is.
There's a chance Trump will be out there using the phrase himself, though I continue to believe he'll slink away if he's defeated at the convention, not wanting to remind people that he was a big loser. So it'll be up to you, Clinton campaign. Choose wisely.