In the Fall of 2013, I wrote a column for TAS that caused a lot of eye-rolling and chuckles among establishment Republicans. The column, titled “Look to Cruz, Not to Christie,” predicted “the future of the GOP is not Christie but Cruz” and criticized country club Republicans for trying to sabotage a promising and intellectually sharp conservative like Cruz: “Have the Republicans learned nothing from Romney’s loss, McCain’s loss, Dole’s loss?”
I was responding in part to what I saw as empty enthusiasm over Chris Christie’s easy and meaningless re-election in New Jersey:
The breathless burbling about how Chris Christie’s victory “shows the path forward for the GOP” conveniently ignores his inability to turn New Jersey red for anyone but himself. Before election day, the New Jersey media didn’t see any reason for the Dems to worry about a Christie victory, as they enjoy a 48-32 majority in the Assembly and a 24-16 lead in the state Senate. While these numbers may change, early reports indicate most incumbents will be reelected. The New Jersey media reported that most polls indicate support for Christie won’t help any down-ballot Republicans. In 2009, Christie’s coat-tail effect was negligible too, resulting in only one new Assembly seat for the Republicans.
Again, this generated some laughter from establishment Republicans at the time. But the Republicans down at the yacht club and golf clubhouse aren’t laughing anymore. On Monday night, the candidate they revile, Ted Cruz, won, while the candidate in whom they placed their confidence, Chris Christie, came in last.
“I would trust Cruz over Clinton, though I would never vote for the son of a bitch,” a registered Democrat in New York City said to me the morning after Cruz’s win. Unlike the darlings of the Republican establishment, whom most people regard as bores or duds, Cruz wins grudging respect even from some Dems for his substance and intellectual sharpness. Folks in the Big Apple with whom I have discussed the race don’t think he will win and find his personality unattractive. He is “stuffy,” said a bejeweled woman at the St. Regis Hotel, who identified herself as a “reluctant” Trump supporter.
I heard a disturbing chirp from a canary in the collapsing Trump coalmine in Iowa many hours before his loss. A surgeon whom I met on the Upper East Side knows Donald Trump, Jr. I happened to be hanging out with him when he got a call from the Trump camp. He got off the call, shook his head, and said to me, “It doesn’t look good. Donald Trump Jr. says, ‘Our ground game in Iowa sucks.’”
Indeed, it did. Trump blew it in Iowa by avoiding the state while Cruz canvassed almost all of its counties. Trump also hurt himself there by entangling himself in needless controversies with Fox News. Does Trump want to be president or not? If so, he will need to cut the egotistical crap, inject substance into his campaign, and behave presidentially. Who cares about this or that personal slight from this or that pundit? Trump needs to allay anxieties, not add to them by acting like a self-centered carnival barker.
I found the wet-blanket editorials in Republican media organs on Tuesday morning amusing in their delusion. They at once avoided praising or backing Cruz, chortled over Trump’s loss, and treated Rubio’s bronze like a gold medal. Never mind that Rubio won that meager award by running as a fervent Christian and an opponent of the amnesty he once supported. In other words, the top three finishers all ran as Tea Party, Christian-friendly conservatives. Clogging the establishment lane to nowhere were Republicans from Jeb Bush to John Kasich to Chris Christie who long ago embraced the supposedly winning formula of “progressive,” PC-friendly politics.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, whom the Yacht Club Republicans claim is so impressive and unbeatable (unless we conservatives, they counsel, accept a “reasonable type” as the nominee), found herself, as the pathetic headlines on Tuesday morning blared, in a “virtual tie” with a Marxist eccentric from Vermont. Her only hope at this point is that Republicans sabotage Trump and Cruz and give the nomination to Rubio, who would prove an underwhelming candidate. He has his good points but he still seems like an inexperienced and philosophically shallow fortysomething who can’t pay his credit card bills. He is the kind of plastic “conservative” who thinks absurdly, as he put it in one of the early debates, that America needs fewer “philosophers” and more “plumbers.” I am pro-plumbers. In fact, I would be thrilled if more underperforming high school students entered that worthy profession rather than waste government money on four years of “higher learning” that just ends up warping their minds with PC propaganda. But no serious conservative would badmouth philosophy. At the core of America’s founding documents is serious theistic philosophy, from which we grasp our freedoms under God.
Cruz’s success on Monday night stemmed in large part from his willingness to stand up for those perennial principles in the forgotten counties of Iowa while “moderate” Republicans like Christie campaigned on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and other idiotic chattering-class shows before holding their sad fundraisers on yachts and at country clubs. In the end, conservative substance wins. Is Trump listening?
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