This style of self-criticism is thoughtful and sophisticated and maybe even true—and yet opportunity conservatism may be its own lost political opportunity. Mr. Cruz came to a strategic conclusion that he could win the White House by running against the establishment, but the division and fury he and his allies have helped stoke has left the GOP less grand, definitely older and more importantly less of a cohesive party. Thus unity is harder to achieve, even against the threat of Mr. Trump, who a world-historical 65% of the public views negatively, according to the most recent WSJ/NBC News poll.

If a Trump nomination would be “catastrophic,” as Mr. Cruz puts it, the best that can be said about his own 49% negative image is that it isn’t as high as Mrs. Clinton’s, at 56%. Perhaps he could improve his reputation by recovering some of his opportunity-conservative optimism and with an appeal to history as the first Hispanic president. Mr. Cruz also thinks he can win a general election by exposing the “false but incredibly powerful narrative” Democrats usually spin, namely, that “Republicans are rich, out-of-touch aristocrats who don’t care about working men and women.”

“We now have an election,” he continues, “where Hillary Clinton has made hundreds of millions of dollars exploiting her government service. The last time Hillary drove a car was 1996. You know, in contrast, I mean I had $100,000 of student loans that I just paid off about six, seven years ago. It’s one of the reasons why I believe head-to-head I could connect with a single mom waiting tables, who could connect with a truck driver, or, for that matter, with a young person.”