January 15, 2016


Trump's New York Advantage : Disdain for half the country won't create a conservative majority. (WSJ, Jan. 15, 2016)

But Mr. Trump is a better politician than we ever imagined, and he is becoming a better candidate. The Texan was asked about his "New York values" gibe, and he said with almost a sneer that "you know, I think most people know exactly what New York values are." Pressed on the point, Mr. Cruz then rang the Iowa conservative bells of "socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay-marriage, focus around money and the media."

Mr. Trump struck back that "conservatives actually do come out of Manhattan, including William F. Buckley and others, just so you understand." He then won the round in a knockout by invoking the response of the firefighters, police and the entire city after 9/11. "When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York," he said."

The exchange was all the more notable because Mr. Trump delivered the message in an un-Trumpian way: deliberate, almost softly. It showed a more gracious candidate than the name-caller he has often been and suggested he might possibly be able to appeal to a larger set of voters than he has so far.

The exchange also exposed a couple of Mr. Cruz's weaknesses. One is his opportunistic, implausible populism. The Texan is a Princeton debate champion who attended Harvard Law School, clerked at the Supreme Court, worked in the Justice Department and held the second highest legal job in Texas. If he's an Everyman from the provinces, Hillary Clinton is Mother Teresa.

As for New York values, Mr. Cruz's wife works for Goldman Sachs, which is headquartered in evil Manhattan and which lent him as much as $500,000 so he could float his 2012 Senate campaign. We're willing to credit Mr. Cruz's explanation that his failure to report that loan to the Federal Election Commission was a "paperwork error," and he did report it on his Senate public disclosure form. But his Goldman ties show that Mr. Cruz certainly knows all about "money" as a New York value.

The other problem with the Princetonian's anti-New York riff is that it echoes Sarah Palin's 2008 disdain for the part of the country that she said wasn't "real America." Mr. Cruz is playing the same kind of polarizing politics to win over conservatives in Iowa, but showing contempt for half the country is not a way to build a governing conservative majority.

Mr. Cruz doesn't want a conservative majority; he wants a smaller, more ideologically pure, Republican party.

Posted by at January 15, 2016 1:56 PM