I repeat what I said on Friday, that it would be political malpractice for a Republican running in Texas not to make hay of a Democrat siding with people protesting during the national anthem. But:
1. It’s odd that the ad lets O’Rourke make his case in his own words, with footage of his remarks. His concluding point, showcased here, was that he could think of nothing more American than standing up for one’s rights at any time. That’s the best possible way to spin what the players are doing during the anthem.
2. The sheer amount of attention Cruz has devoted to this issue over the last week tells you where the GOP is right now. Culture war, not small government. Cruz will still run through his “constitutional conservative” shtick at the debates with O’Rourke, I’m sure, but the populist appeals that drove Republican turnout in the tea-party era are not entirely the same as the populist appeals that drive turnout in the Trump era. Sure, sure, O’Rourke’s a big-government gun-grabbing liberal — but he supports Colin Kaepernick. Even in Texas, trying to turn the election into a referendum on the power of far-flung Washington bureaucrats to micro-manage the average joe is riskier than turning it into a test of who loves the flag more.
3. Is the fact that Cruz is going full-blown culture warrior evidence that the race is closer than everyone thinks? New from Emerson College polling:
Reliable or no? Well, it’s an online poll and the number of undecided voters there is waaaay higher than other pollsters are showing. But Emerson’s results have been decent this year and other recent polls have also showed the race tightening (the last three surveys of the race have Cruz up two, six, and four points). This same poll also shows Greg Abbott winning reelection in a blowout, so it’s not as though Emerson has an anti-Republican “house effect.” These debates are going to be more important than anyone expected.
Exit question: If O’Rourke pulls the upset in November, does Cruz end up replacing Jeff Sessions as AG? He reportedly interviewed for the job after the election, during the transition phase. And Trump is in the market for a new Attorney General.