But polls have repeatedly shown that a large proportion of Trump supporters are self-described moderates (presumably mostly wage-earners.) I don’t see that these votes are a great fit for Cruz and his flat tax + VAT economic program. If those voters stick with Trump or drop out of the process altogether, then the “conservative” lane suddenly gets much narrower.
Cruz might still be able to consolidate the remnants of Carson’s support. If he wins Iowa, Cruz might even peel off the strongly conservative element of Trump’s supporters who only support the billionaire as a way to stick it to the party elites. If it looks like Cruz I is for real, these voters might jump to the candidate who is, after all, a real conservative and a real Republican, and is really hated by the party’s elites.
But absent Trump’s moderate wage-earners, Cruz faces a fair fight if and when the “establishment” vote consolidates around one candidate. The combination of business-oriented conservatives (who are integrated into virtually every community in the country) and upper-middle-class moderates makes for a potent combination. If I had to bet, I would guess that this establishment coalition is slightly bigger than Cruz’s nascent coalition of evangelical conservatives and dissident tea partiers.