It may be that Senator Cruz thinks that the Republican primary electorate is full of boobs and that he therefore must appeal to the yahooligan sense of style. It may be that Senator Cruz suffers from the affliction all too common among Texas politicians — notably Governor Rick Perry and former president George W. Bush — that causes them to do some sort of limp John Wayne impersonation when they are feeling beset by East Coast media types. In almost every corner of these United States — even Ohio — there is some sort of local pride; the two great exceptions to that are New York City, whose residents have instead of municipal pride a form of Stockholm Syndrome, and Texas, which has instead of a statewide identity a statewide case of psychotic grandiosity. (I’m from Lubbock; I’m allowed.) Senator Cruz, like Rick Perry and (in my very limited experience) George W. Bush seems like an entirely different man off-camera. Maybe that’s cynical calculation; maybe it’s just that he is, after all, still sort of new at this.
Senator Cruz is not unaware of his shortcomings as a politician. His confession that he is more of a designated driver than a guy you want to have a beer with — odious cliché — was well-considered. The republic could use a period of reflective political sobriety lasting, oh, 60 years or so, and Senator Cruz would be an excellent man to initiate that.
Nobody ever accuses Senator Rubio of Elmer Gantry-ism. Why? Because if he is a cynical, calculating performer, he’s a brilliant one. I like to think that I am immune to political oratory, but one does have to admire the way that Senator Rubio can turn on that American-dream stuff like flipping a switch. Shortly after the Gang of Eight immigration fiasco, I saw Senator Rubio face a very, very skeptical audience — with Senator Cruz also on the stage — of conservatives who were practically ready to bear him out of the venue on their shoulders when he was done. He is, as Jeb Bush put it icily, “a gifted politician.”