Trump voters may not deliberately elect a Democrat to punish an insufficiently pro-Trump Republican, but it’s easy to imagine some of them feeling unmotivated to go out of their way to help Cruz. The senator has a Trump problem from the other direction as well. NeverTrump Republicans may be a tiny constituency in Texas, as they are in most other places, but suburban Dallas Republican professional women who want to make their displeasure at the party’s direction under Trump known can readily do so by abandoning Cruz. The senator’s recent remarks about ‘silicon’ and ‘dyed hair,’ intended to draw a contrast between Democratic California and Republican Texas, give them all the more reason. (Presumably Cruz meant ‘silicone,’ not ‘silicon,’ unless he’s worried about tech companies moving to Texas.)
Vengeful Trump voters and dissident Republican women are not going to defect in large numbers. But in an election as close as Cruz’s has become, even a few could make a difference. Cruz is not a Trump Republican’s ideal senator, nor a NeverTrump Republican’s ideal. For a time, he was the closest thing to an ideal Republican that true believers in conservative orthodoxy could ask for, but Cruz himself knows how mutable that orthodoxy can be in practice. He was a Bush Republican when George W. Bush was in the White House. He was a Tea Party Republican when the Tea Party was on top. He became an outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve when he was competing with Rand Paul to be the candidate of the libertarian populist right in 2016, and after he defied Donald Trump right up to the Republican convention that year, he changed course once he saw just how unpopular that stance was with the party faithful. Cruz has a general-purpose conservative core of belief, no doubt. But he’s understood his path to power to lie in being the most conservative guy in the room, and that means trims his sails as the starboard winds blow. The risk is that voters start to find this mixture of opportunism and dogmatism as unlikable as Cruz himself.