Don’t worry, he’s careful to blame Democrats’ obstruction of a stimulus deal for any blue tsunami that may arise. You-know-who remains faultless.

The wrinkle in Cruz’s logic is that, deal or no deal, Americans strongly believe that they’re better off now than they were four years ago. It’s mind-bending that an incumbent in a political climate like that would be staring at a landslide defeat rather than a landslide victory. Which means, if the GOP is wiped out, it’ll be perfectly clear why. And it has nothing to do with a stimulus.

The irony of this comment is that Cruz, as much as anyone, has been an impediment to the sort of big-ticket stimulus agreement that might have helped Trump meaningfully in the polls. Watch, then read on.

Let me take you back to WaPo’s story from July 22 on stimulus deliberations within the Senate Republican caucus. Yes, they really have been chewing on this issue for that long on Capitol Hill. Longer, actually.

Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) warned GOP colleagues and White House emissaries during a private lunch on Tuesday that conservative voters could revolt in November if Republicans spend too much on the next phase of coronavirus relief efforts. After voting for $3 trillion in new spending and revenue reductions to combat the contagion and its economic consequences, some lawmakers are saying they cannot support a new package if its price tag exceeds $1 trillion. Cruz asked Senate Republicans, “What in the hell are we doing?”

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) suggested at the lunch that the GOP needs to be willing to keep racking up debt to maintain power. He argued that the full conference needs to focus on protecting their most vulnerable members. Cotton postulated that Democrats would spend more money if they win the Senate majority in November and, therefore, it is cheaper in the long run to allow the size of the spending package to grow with more goodies to benefit incumbents who are up for reelection.

The idea that Republican voters would stay home because Trump’s government is spending too much — during a national emergency, no less — is so ludicrous that I can almost hear the laughter in the conference room from his colleagues when he said it. The GOP base doesn’t give a wet fart how much the government spends. The tea-party movement ended long ago, with fiscal responsibility replaced by culture war as the GOP’s ideological north star. Trump was running trillion-dollar deficits even before coronavirus arrived and no one said a word. To the extent that righty voters still care about shrinking government, they would easily convince themselves to overlook a blockbuster stimulus endorsed by the president using the same logic Cotton used, namely, that a reelected Trump would spend less in a second term than Biden would.

Can’t lay it all on Cruz, though. I’m pretty sure I can guess who said this:

Ben Sasse said something very similar publicly about Pelosi and Mnuchin in late July. He’s also part of the cohort of Senate GOPers who are sticking to their fiscal-conservative guns, which is admirable in the abstract and yet very difficult to understand in the current economic — and electoral — circumstances. News is breaking this afternoon that the White House has come up from its offer of $1.6 trillion to $1.8 trillion in hopes of luring Pelosi into a deal. If she agrees, will Cruz and Sasse vote for that deal when it reaches the Senate? If only to try to prevent the “bloodbath” on November 3 that might otherwise occur?

Cruz insisted to CNBC that he thinks Pelosi and Schumer won’t agree to anything Trump proposes. That’s possible. Certainly they’d love to have the president take the blame for the failure of the two sides to make a deal before Election Day. But Liam Donovan has a point here:

Pelosi could call the Senate GOP’s bluff. All she has to do is agree to Trump’s offer, pass it through the House, and then tell McConnell to choke on it. That would be a gamble, as Senate Republicans could turn around and pass the bill under immense pressure from Trump. If he gets a pre-election bounce from it, that could be the difference between victory and defeat. Still, the gamble might be worth it for Pelosi on the theory that (a) Trump looks to be trailing so badly at the moment that even a last-minute stimulus deal won’t be enough to rescue him and (b) Senate Republicans probably *won’t* pass it, infuriating Trump and dividing the party in the waning days of the campaign.

Two sources close to Senate leadership said President Trump is desperate, has zero leverage to push them to support a bill crafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional Republicans aren’t inclined to wrap themselves any tighter to a sinking ship.

What they’re saying: “You’re never going to get a deal out of Pelosi that Republicans can support. So do you really want to divide your party within days of an election?” said a source close to Senate leadership about McConnell’s calculations.

“This entire exercise from Pelosi is basically trying to jam up the Senate in the midst of a Supreme Court confirmation. They know that from a procedural standpoint McConnell can drive this train to conclusion, so what they’re trying do is throw as many roadblocks in the way as possible — and the best way to do that is get the president focused on some extraneous issue.”

Left unmentioned there is the effect that a stimulus deal might have on downballot races. Trump may be too far behind to be rescued by an agreement now but I don’t know that Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham are.

Anyway, the bit above about Trump being a sinking ship with zero leverage over the caucus raises another possibility that I mentioned elsewhere this morning. Do Senate Republicans … want Trump to lose?

If you’re serious about restoring fiscal conservatism as some cardinal Republican value — which seems not-so-smart electorally — then purging Trumpism is the first move. Is that what Cruz and Sasse are after in refusing to go big on a stimulus?

By the way, here’s where things stand this afternoon:

Even by Trump’s standards, it’s crazily erratic to go from ending stimulus negotiations on Tuesday to endorsing a big stimulus on Thursday to endorsing a bigger-than-Pelosi-wants stimulus on Friday. There’s zero chance the Senate GOP will bid House Democrats *up* on providing coronavirus relief, so at this point Trump is just doing PR. He’s signaling to voters that if no deal is reached, they should blame McConnell’s caucus, not him. We’ll see how that works out for all of them. The fact that the party is now negotiating among itself in public feels … discouraging.

One last point. Cruz says in the clip that he thinks the election is “highly volatile” right now, but that’s not true. The news cycle is highly volatile — never a dull moment — but the polling has been remarkably stable since the start of this cursed, miserable, endlessly rancorous year. Any “volatility” at the moment has to do with whether Biden will win somewhat narrowly or much more comfortably. But if that thought depresses you, read this Sean Trende piece on two encouraging indicators for Trump. Yes, the polls are terrible, but historically the outcome of a national election has lined up surprisingly well with the results of recent special elections and, weirdly enough, the results of primaries in Washington state. Both of those indicators this year suggest far less of an advantage for Dems than the polling would have us believe.