Veteran GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, a self-confessed "card-carrying member" of the Republican establishment, has written an interesting take on the coming presidential primaries.
…our most likely matchup is Cruz v. Trump down the home stretch….
Today, Cruz has one-third of the GOP, Trump has a third, and the remaining establishment third is split between Rubio, Bush, and Christie. Even if the establishment lane comes together, it's still two against one. The GOP has become an outsider's party. Trump's legacy and that of the 2016 "outsiders" will be lasting. For the near future, the GOP will be a more Trump-like, populist party, not the evangelical party of Ted Cruz.
Whether it is an angry and dark populism that rails ineptly against Washington, or an optimistic and visionary populism that decentralizes our outdated top-down government, empowers people bottom-up, and opens up America's economy to the future all remains to be determined.
If Ted Cruz and not Donald Trump were to become the Republican nominee, there is increasing concern among the GOP Washington establishment, in which I confess card-carrying membership, that he would lead the GOP to ruin.
Cruz's strategy for the general election is to polarize the electorate, inflame and turn out the GOP faithful. Cruz would pit the Republican base against the Democratic base. That would be great strategy if general elections disallowed swing voters.
The cost of Cruz's polarization strategy? Surrendering the middle and the future.
Castellanos, who is no fan of Trump, nonetheless sees him as capable of beating Hillary Clinton, almost certainly the Democratic nominee:
Should Hillary Clinton be favored to beat Donald Trump? Not necessarily.
Donald Trump is above all a salesman. He is, as he constantly reminds us, the "Art of the Deal." Trump would adapt, pivot, and do anything to make his next deal; winning the general election….
Trump is little constrained by party or ideology. Unlike Senator Cruz, Mr. Trump would run left of Hillary Clinton when he found an opening.
Additionally, many swing and minority voters, seduced by Mr. Trump's "tell-it-like-is" strength, make allowances for his over-heated rhetoric. They know he is saying what he finds necessary to close a deal. His hyperbolic declarations as mere "opening bids" in his political negotiations. Many voters have grown comfortable with Trump in their homes, as a man who has inhabited their televisions for decades.
There's a lot more in Castellanos' piece, which also looks at whether "establishment" types such as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio (who until just a few months ago was a Tea Party fave, right?) have gas left in their tanks.
I suspect that a lot of Reason readers share my lack of partisan interest in the outcomes and the fates of the Democratic and Republican parties. Having said that, how all this plays out and upon what major themes will have a major impact on the policies that take front and center over the coming years. Currently, I'm probably more worried about foreign policy concerns, since the difference between, say, Hillary Clinton and a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz is far less than any of their followers will admit. All are in various ways big defense spenders and interventionists who talk about extending all or most "war on terror" type actions. Cruz is better on the issue of domestic surveillance than either, but his anti-immigrant positions underwrite invasive workplace rules. And his foreign policy seems incoherent: Like Rand Paul, he's rightly chided Clinton for lauding the Libyan bombing but unlike Paul, he's quick to talk about carpet bombing, making sand glow, and all that.
The economy is finally starting to route around all of the damage created first by unrestrained spending and regulation during the Bush administration and then compounded by Barack Obama's grand "triumphs" (stimulus, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare). There's no question that we need a leaner, less-intrusive government when it comes to the economy, for sure, but capitalism always finds a way to regain productivity (not that entrepreneurs and businesses and all of us should have to fight through useless regulations).
When it comes endless war footing and endless interventions, it's much harder for us to figure out ways to wall off the damage, I think. Which makes me especially worried about the 2016 election regardless of what current leading contenders get into office.