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Hanging On With Loud Desperation is the Ted Cruz Way

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Really, Donald Trump is better at the Republican identity politics thing:

Tofu or not tofu? That is the question U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has raised in his latest bid to create a cultural wedge issue between himself and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke in their heated Senate race.

Appearing at a packed campaign event at Schobels Restaurant in Columbus, 90 miles southeast of Austin, on Saturday, Cruz said, “When I got here someone told me that even PETA was protesting and giving out barbecued tofu, so I got to say, they summed up the entire election: If Texas elects a Democrat, they’re going to ban barbecue across the state of Texas.”

The punchline is that Cruz is reduced to this kind of inane bullshit because even in Texas he doesn’t think Republicans have an agenda anybody likes:

Of course, if voters like the Republican policy agenda, there is nothing stopping candidates from trying to remind them of all their good works. If you recall, during the debate over the tax cut, Republican leaders continually insisted the tax cuts would be popular, and if enacted into law would provide the basis for their candidates to campaign. But the tax cuts remain unpopular, and Republicans have stopped talking about them.

In fact, the Republicans’ own polling confirms this. Josh Green has obtained internal Republican survey data, which includes the hilarious finding that Republican voters refuse to believe Democrats might win Congress. More pertinently, it reveals that voters are not actually onboard with the party agenda. The survey found “increasing funding for veterans’ mental health services, strengthening and preserving Medicare and Social Security, and reforming the student loan system all scored higher than Trump’s favored subjects of tax cuts, border security, and preserving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.”

The popular ideas, in other words, all involve higher domestic spending. The Republican survey also warns that a “challenge for GOP candidates is that most voters believe that the GOP wants to cut back on these programs in order to provide tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.”

Probably because they do!

In any case, this explains why Republicans have stopped touting their tax cuts. And while Trump’s constant scandals — or “noise,” as his co-partisans euphemistically put it — may not be helping, they are not obscuring some kind of underlying winning message. That’s why Republican candidates are not trying to focus on domestic policy, but instead running as mini-Trumps of their own, emphasizing symbolic cultural fights designed to whip up ethno-nationalist fervor.

Cruz is more likely than not to stagger across the finish line anyway. But this is one reason control of the Senate is actually in play despite a historically favorable map for the GOP.

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