If you want to understand why the prospect of a Donald Trump nomination terrifies the GOP, look at this new poll from Democracy Corps that shows him losing by 13 percent to Hillary Clinton — while dragging down the entire GOP like a life vest made of anchors — or just check out his latest flailing attempt to define his position on reproductive rights, which he just seems to be discovering himself.
In an interview with CBS’s John Dickerson, the GOP frontrunner said that abortion laws shouldn’t be changed and then suggested in the next breath that the procedure is “murder.”
It’s pretty rare that one answer could infuriate both the wildly anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List — who said that with his answer, Trump “disqualified himself as the GOP nominee” — and the approximately one of three American women who have had abortion.
His campaign can “correct” whatever he says in statements and Trump can cry that he’s being edited. But as his party’s nominee, he’ll have to answer for this — and so will every Republican candidate in America.
Pissing off both sides of a fierce debate with the alacrity of a young Mark Fuhrman is becoming Trump’s speciality. But with Ted Cruz, Republicans can be assured that their nominee will be fixated on just one thing — upsetting liberals.
Cruz has shown some agility at moving towards the center, rhetorically, and he generally trails Clinton by less than Mitt Romney lost to President Obama. That’s why Republicans are serious about using every technical finger hold available to deny Trump the nomination; and given that the convention rules will be written mostly by Trump and Cruz delegates, it’s likely that the only person who could win the nomination other than the billion-dollar baby is the junior Senator from Texas.
Here’s why the party may regret trading a dangerous demagogue who will say anything to win for a dangerous demagogue who actually believes the terrible things he says.
- Cruz would be the most fervently anti-abortion rights candidate the GOP has ever nominated.
Only about 1 in 5 Americans agree with Cruz that abortion should not be legal even in cases of rape or incest. We have no idea how many people support his belief that, as president, he could immediately ban abortion using the 14th amendment, because it’s so extreme that it’s never been polled.
- Cruz may be willing to get rid of background checks.
Between 8 or 9 out of 10 Americans want to expand background checks to include all gun sales. Ted Cruz has signaled he’d get rid of all background checks anywhere they exist, touting the support of the far-right Gun Owners of America, a group “affiliated with white supremacists and the country’s anti-government militia movement” that wants to end all background checks on firearms purchases.
- Cruz is for mass deportations and is trying to out-anti-immigrant Trump.
Would Cruz order mass deportations of the 11 million undocumented people in America? Of course, he would. Even if the person in question had simply overstayed a visa and had kids in the U.S.? “You better believe” it, Cruz told Fox News. Just as former Republican governor of California Pete Wilson scarred that state’s Republican Party forever, Cruz would become the face of mass deportations just four years after Mitt Romney lost the presidency advocating for self-deportation. Cruz’s stance on this, like most of his beliefs, has been drowned out by Trump’s, but as soon as he becomes the nominee, you won’t be able to escape it.
- Cruz wants to raise taxes on seniors to cut them for the rich.
You could argue that all of the aforementioned issues just make Cruz a very conservative Republican, but he’s even terrible for the party when it comes to its core issue — taxes. The GOP has learned that you can effectively cut taxes for the rich, the party’s raison d’etre, as long as you cut them for everyone else. Cruz wants to do the opposite. “In an era when no politician of either party wants to cut retirement benefits for current seniors or raise taxes on the middle class, Cruz has quietly stumbled into proposing a gigantic tax increase on middle-class retirees,” Vox‘s Matt Yglesias explained. Cruz’s 19 percent sales tax would give trillions to the wealthy and raise taxes on the most vulnerable.
- Trump can be laughed off as a fluke; Cruz could define the party forever.
“While everyone is focusing on the collapse of Trump’s popularity, no one has really noticed that Cruz’s numbers are plummeting too,” Salon‘s Simon Maloy wrote. “The same Washington Post poll that gave Trump crazily high negatives also found that Cruz is deeply underwater. His favorable rating is just 35 percent, while his unfavorable rating is 51 percent.” And that’s before Cruz is attacked for his tax plan or any of the other issues that would make him wildly unpopular with swing voters. Hilary Clinton has comparable unfavorables but has suffered decades of the Republicans’ best-funded and most vicious attacks. From shutting down the government, pandering to Donald Trump, and then wandering into the buzz saw of Trump’s attacks against him, Cruz’s popularity numbers are entirely earned. Combine his extreme views with his singular ability to make strangers nauseous and you have a devastating combination. Trump’s charm has kept him on television for decades; Cruz was the first politician able to refute charges of infidelity simply by reminding people who he is. And while Trump will certainly say horrible things that every other Republican will be forced to explain away, could they possibly be worse than what we can expect from Cruz’s father, who is sure that God sent his son to save America from gay marriage?
Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz is accompanied by his wife Heidi and daughter Caroline as he speaks about the primary election results in Florida, Ohio and Illinois during a campaign rally in Houston, Texas March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Trish Badger