“If you look at Trump’s actual policies, they’re pretty thin. There’s not a lot of meat there,” says one Republican member in Ryan’s inner circle, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the two front-runners as leadership has carefully avoided doing all week. If Trump were to get the nomination, he would “be looking to answer the question: ‘Where’s the beef?’ And we will have that for him,” says the member…
“Look at the Senate. He hasn’t been a team player. He’s always been his own person with his own aspirations and his own vision, only concerned with where he wants to go. And, you know, for us, we want to work closely with the president. And with Cruz, there’s a question of whether that could happen.”
A preference for Trump over Cruz is by no means universal within the conference. Cruz has earned endorsements from a number of House Freedom Caucus members, most recently Representatives Alex Mooney and Paul Gosar. Nevertheless, at the Elected Leadership Council retreat in Annapolis last week, conference leaders were confronted with an uncomfortable reality: polling from the National Republican Congressional Committee signaling that Cruz could prove a bigger drag on Republicans down ballot than his rivals. According to Politico, Dave Sackett of the Tarrance Group, who presented the poll, cited the Texas senator’s “starkly ideological positions” to explain the results.
“Most pollsters are saying that Cruz may create even more trouble than Trump, because Trump has some crossover appeal to working-class voters who may not traditionally vote Republican,” says one ELC member privy to the presentation. “With Ted Cruz . . . it’s hard to see where his appeal lies outside of classic primary voters,” who, it should be noted, are a diverse group in their own right. “We just have to hope our agenda and our policies can get ahead of that. It’s definitely on our minds right now.”