Several times on RedState we've commented on how the GOP establishment seems to be poised to support and accept a Donald Trump candidacy if the alternative is Ted Cruz (here | here). What we are hearing comes mostly from the consultant/bottomfeeder class. They can't hit him substantively, everyone agrees he was a rock star as Texas Solicitor General and helped shape law at the national level by the use of amicus briefs in significant cases. They've tried to use his "poison pill" against Rubio's Gang of Eight bill as a flip-flop but Mike Lee an Jeff Sessions back up Cruz's story.
What they've fallen back on is that he has a crappy personality and no one likes him. Says Amanda Carpenter, a former Cruz staffer:
In Republican circles, it’s not uncommon for people to say while they trust Ted Cruz on the issues, they worry he’s not likeable.
Donald Trump has even picked up on the fretting and made Cruz’s personality the centerpiece of his critique of the Texas Senator. On Fox News Sunday, Trump complained - without an iota of self-awareness - that Cruz is too brash. “You can’t walk into the Senate, and scream, and call people liars, and not be able to cajole and get along with people. He’ll never get anything done. And, that’s the problem with Ted,” Trump declared.
But the problem isn’t with Ted; it’s with the Washington cabal that erupts with fury each time Ted refuses to play along with their clubby parlor games.
DC Republicans couldn’t attack Cruz on the issues--he was usually fighting to advance conservative causes they themselves claimed to care about--so they attacked his personality again and again and again. The first attacks started with John McCain’s decision to label Cruz and other conservative rabble rousers “wacko birds” shortly after Cruz arrived in the Capitol.
Seems like the only ones who truly despise him are the ones who have memberships in the Washington cartel that Cruz says he is campaigning to defeat.
An article in the New York Times, the "unlikable" label may be just as Carpenter describes it and some major establishment figures are beginning to warm to Cruz:
The vast majority of Republican elites remain bitterly opposed to the prospect of Mr. Cruz’s becoming the party’s presidential nominee, some even preferring to take their chances with Donald J. Trump. Yet, to the strains of a jazz trio a block from St. Charles Avenue here, over Texas barbecue at his Houston campaign office and in one of Washington’s see-and-be-seen steakhouses, Mr. Cruz, Washington’s chief anti-establishment agitator, has quietly begun wooing some of the party’s most entrenched donors and officials.
“We’re working hard to consolidate a lot of support,” Mr. Cruz told a reporter as he mingled with guests arriving at Ms. Matalin’s home.
Some in the old guard have started signaling to their reluctant right-of-center brethren that it is time to face the possibility that the hard-line Mr. Cruz could be their standard-bearer.
“If Cruz makes it, which is very doable, every one of the establishment crowd who is now eviscerating him will line up, salute smartly and get on board,” Ms. Matalin said, offering a mix of prodding and prophecy. “No one will want to be responsible for a G.O.P. defeat.”
That even traces of détente have appeared between Mr. Cruz and the party’s traditional power brokers this early illustrates how thoroughly unpredictable the Republican race has been — and that, for major political donors, it can be safer to hedge one’s bets in such a volatile environment.
It seems that the desire to back a winner is beginning to make a Cruz candidacy more palatable:
What is more striking, and will cause deep consternation among Republican strategists, is that other donors are beginning to embrace Mr. Cruz’s argument that he can win a general election by motivating core conservatives to come to the polls rather than by appealing to swing voters.
Andrew Puzder, chief executive of the conglomerate that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., supported both of Mr. Romney’s campaigns and has contributed to a number of “super PACs” and candidates this year, including Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. But after spending a couple of hours eating brisket with Mr. Cruz on Sunday at his campaign headquarters, Mr. Puzder said he was “very seriously considering” getting behind him, in part because of his appeal to the conservative base.
“I’ve become a one-issue voter,” Mr. Puzder said. “My one issue is whether somebody is going to win. My big question is: What is your path to a general election victory?”
Over and over, establishment donor types are quoted as realizing something that the GOP consultant class doesn't understand: that this will be an base election and they want to back someone who can reliably turn out that base.
I think Matalin is right on this, and Cruz using her as an intermediary is right. We've seen time and again that Cruz is very good working with individuals and small groups:
Jerry Calease was the final voter in the final room on the final night of a 28-county bus tour. The rows here at the Wartburg College auditorium were cleared out. Ted Cruz had worked the room to extinction.
Cruz swung by the TV cameras to wish his tired press corps, on the road with him for six days, adieu. He quipped that under President Cruz, the economy would be so booming that they'd be able to afford the therapy that he jokes they'll need if he is actually elected.
"Alright, back to Texas," he added, with a triumphant clap.
Then Calease asked him for a word.
It's been almost 10 minutes since Cruz told reporters he hoped they would have a day off to rest. ("We got to go," his body man whispers.)
He is locked in a conversation that, by itself, won't decide the Iowa caucuses. But the broader question -- whether Cruz can convince Iowans that they've been hoodwinked by the state's powerful corn lobby -- is on an exaggerated display.
King promises Calease a meeting. Cruz aides are able to finally whisk him out the back door.
Calease isn't convinced. He's still undecided.
"Take care, thank you," Cruz says to the barren room, waving and nodding to no one in particular. "God bless."
These people are going to care much less about Ted Cruz kissing Mitch McConnell's ass and focus on three things: a) can he win? and b) can he win? and c) is his nuts? And maybe d), can he win?
This is a campaign we need to watch. If major donors start moving towards Cruz it is a sign that the party is about to unify behind a Cruz candidacy and approach November unified.