Cruz jokes at CPAC: Orlando is awesome -- but not as nice as Cancun

A bold choice to make this joke, knowing that it’s destined to be used in attack ads against him.

And maybe not exclusively by Democrats. Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton are no doubt filing away the footage for future reference.

Last week’s bizarre decision by Cruz to bug out for a tropical resort at a moment when his constituents were trying not to freeze to death raises the question of how badly his future political prospects will be hurt by what he did. Clearly his guess is “not much” if he’s willing to goof about it on camera. I think he’s right.

Now, the fact that he won’t be hurt much doesn’t mean he won’t be hurt at all. New from YouGov:

He can contend in a national Republican primary if he’s sitting at 60/25 within his party. Whether he can contend in a general election at 30/53 is another matter. And for what it’s worth, a separate poll taken last week after his jaunt to Cancun found him suffering more significant damage among GOPers. Earlier this year, according to Morning Consult, he stood at 76 percent approval among Republicans; last week, after his jaunt to Mexico, YouGov found him at 53 percent.

So why will (cringe) Cancungate not hurt him? Well…

1. Reelection’s a long way away. He’s up in 2024, not 2022, which gives him plenty of time to prove to Texans and Republicans nationally how much he cares. Next time his home state encounters a natural disaster — most likely a hurricane — doubtless Cruz will be at command central in his U.S. Senate windbreaker seeking every available opportunity for camera time to show voters he’s on the case. He may even try to insert himself into some other state’s disaster relief effort the way Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did by raising $5 million for Texas, just to try to atone for last week’s blunder.

2. His most threatening potential Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, may end up running against Greg Abbott for governor in 2022. O’Rourke’s suddenly enjoying good media buzz again after last year’s feeble presidential flameout, especially in contrast with Cruz. While “Flying Ted” was headed to Cancun, O’Rourke was organizing a phone bank to check on senior citizens across the state who were struggling in the cold and delivering pallets of water to families in need. Why he’d rather run against the unassuming Abbott in a cycle that’s likely to favor Republicans instead of the polarizing Cruz in a presidential election year, I don’t know. Per Politico, he’s frustrated with Abbott’s management of the pandemic and his failure to winterize Texas’s grid before the freeze, which nearly resulted in a protracted energy catastrophe. But still — he’ll almost certainly lose. And if he does, as a two-time loser, he’s unlikely to threaten Cruz in 2024.

3. Republicans just won’t care. *Some* Republicans in *Texas* might care, but (a) it’s an open question whether Cruz will even run for reelection to the Senate if he runs for president instead in 2024 and (b) the modern GOP base cares more about cultural conflict with liberals than it does about basic good governance of the type Cruz conspicuously shirked last week. He was careful in his remarks this morning to show the crowd that he’s foursquare with them on those cultural issues, not coincidentally:

Shortly before Mr. Cruz’s speech, CPAC organizers had been jeered by the audience when they paused the program to plead with them to wear their masks. Still, Mr. Cruz went ahead in making fun of pandemic-era rules like wearing masks in restaurants, and he also joked about the protests against police brutality that spread across major cities last summer, some becoming violent.

There had been no such demonstrations in Houston, he said, “because let’s be very clear: If there had been, they would have discovered what the people of Texas think about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.” The audience laughed.

Mr. Cruz, who had been scheduled to speak on the “Bill of Rights, Liberty, and Cancel Culture,” offered little by way of a positive vision for the future of the conservative movement. His speech reflected the general tenor of the event up to that point, with other speakers decrying the media and “cancel culture,” amplifying falsehoods about widespread voter fraud, and promising, above all, to “fight.”

He’ll do more of the same for the next three years, most Texas Republicans who are mad at him about Cancun will forgive him (especially if Trump endorses him), and he’ll probably end up with a relatively weak challenger in the general election — again, if he runs for Senate. If he runs for president, most national primary voters won’t care at all about his Mexico trip. And if he somehow wins the primary, which is unlikely, he’ll rely on good ol’ negative partisanship to get him over the hump against Kamala Harris or whichever lackluster Democrat the other side comes up with.

I’ll leave you with this, also from this morning’s CPAC coverage. Gotta watch out for casual slander of Dominion and Smartmatic potentially slipping into your livestream…