Frum-Alter Consensus: Cruz Now Favored, But Would Lose Worse Than Trump in November

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By Mark Green

Trump has surprised all by maintaining his lead. But Frum and Alter agree that: A) the Republican Party will splinter if he's chosen, and B) Cruz is too ideologically rigid for general election. So GOP has to pick its poison. Also: Not hard to explain Dem schadenfreude over whether Cruz is a natural born Canadian.

On Trump-Cruz. Trump's been a daily machine gun successfully shooting at GOP, Democratic, racial targets, we concur. So why has he stayed so high among Republicans?Economic fear, racial fear, both?

"They interact," answers David, author of a major piece on Trump in this month's Atlantic. "He owes his rise to three things: a slowdown in economic growth so there's less to go around; the aging of boomers who are now getting less than they expected; and ethnic diversity" leading to acrimony. Alter: "There are obviously some racists among his supporters, though not all," as he reminds us how "experienced Trump is after 30 years in the cut-throat world of media politics." (Host: Matthews in 2020?)

Unlike the Host who sees parallels between Dean-Kerry in '04, Frum and Alter don't think Trump supporters will peel off close to the Iowa Caucuses. Ok, who then is the likeliest nominee -- Trump, Cruz, Rubio, other? Each say Cruz even though they agree he's so radical right that he can't easily pivot in the general election... and probably doesn't much want to.

Frum stays calm but admits to "paralyzing, excruciating choice" if it's Trump-Clinton while adding that the selection of The Donald would lead to the break-up of the GOP because of "a real crisis of unity between donors/congressional leaders and the party base." Also, Frum has been arguing that no Republican can win the presidency if he promises to strip health insurance from 20 million, which Trump has not committed to do but Cruz (and Rubio) have.

As for Trump's birther-inneundo against Cruz, we ask our Canadian correspondent whether this tack works: David concludes, and Jonathan agrees, that as John McCain and Lawrence Tribe have said, it's not settled law. Jonathan mischievously suggests that Trump may be the only one with "standing" to sue to settle the matter. Irony would get a workout if "five unelected people" were then to judge his candidacy, a phrase Supreme Court clerk and litigator Cruz used to disparage The High Court after the gay marriage decision.

*On Barack blasting with both barrels:
In nearly unprecedented fashion, the President tears up over gun deaths, condemns "NRA lies" and holds a CNN town hall meeting that includes critics. Host asks Alter, who's familiar with Obama personally from Chicago and professionally as the author of two best-sellers on him -- is this the guy you know? "He was speaking from his heart," says Jonathan, recalling how profoundly Obama was affected when he visited Newtown and was in a room with kids stacked up in makeshift coffins.

Frum supports Obama on this issue but thinks his genuine assault is misplaced. "It just plays into NRA hands when he attacks them." Instead, he should convince people where they live by stressing how even competent gun owners endure suicides and child shootings because of guns at home. "He has to convince people that they're putting their child at risk. If you're worried about security, get a dog! Two dogs!"

Though concluding that no major gun safety laws can soon be enacted, Jonathan lauds Obama for his passionate persistence. "He thinks long-term and is trying to change public sentiment and to create more single-issue gun-safety voters. That could work in the future only if Democrats hold the White House, Senate and House, after the Census in 2022.

On Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Frum and Alter agree that the execution of a leading Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia, sacking of the Saudi embassy in Iran and then break in relations is an ominous development for U.S. interests in the region. Alter: "This big power rivalry complicates our war against ISIS" and probably blows up any hope of any Syrian accord in the current Vienna talks. Frum: "The American top strategic goal has been a détente with Iran" which is undermined when Iran attempts to be the Shia protector in the region.

On Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Jonathan assumes he'll survive the current outrage over the scandal of a police shooting and suppression of a tape during the last mayoral campaign. "He has strong strategic ties with the Chicago and Springfield establishments and will only leave if Illinois passes a law allowing recall elections. That's going nowhere but the recent disclosure that his counsel slowed down a prosecution and tape release could change that."

David is shy about weighing in on such a Democratic local matter but then compares Rahm Emanuel to Tony Blair since both were talented pols "who were never much personally liked by their parties."