VodkaPundit

Required Reading

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump smiles as he looks out on the crowd after taking the stage at the Jacksonville Landing along the banks of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union - Jacksonville.com via AP)

Kurt Schlichter tells it like it is to those who need to hear it:

Pretend I’m your buddy and we’re at a bar and I’m the guy who, among your friends, drew the short straw and has to tell you that your girlfriend is the antichrist. And, Trump people, I am your friend. You, by and large, aren’t traditional conservatives like I am, but you’re hard-working, loyal patriots, veterans and cops, the people who defended this country and who built it regardless of what that fool in the White House says. We agree on much more than we disagree on, and if I was back in a foxhole I’d choose one of you as a battle buddy any day over those simpering GOPe femboys or, heaven forbid, some safe space-dwelling liberal.

But I gotta be straight with you – Trump’s bad news, and everyone else sees it. He’s using you, and he’s going to toss you away when he’s done and never look back. Break it off before it’s too late – this is just a fling, and if it keeps up one day you’re going to find your wallet missing and probably your car too. And you’ll wake up with a political rash.

Read the whole thing.

Actually, Kurt’s piece makes a nice companion to Jake Flanagin’s National Journal column on that “dangerous” Ted Cruz:

Rather than re­pu­di­ate his rival, Cruz is in­stead aim­ing to be seen as a “toned-down Trump,” ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg Polit­ics’ Kev­in Cir­illi, who spoke with a num­ber of the con­ser­vat­ive’s fans in Iowa on Decem­ber 9. So far, it seems to be work­ing. Trump’s re­cent com­ments make “Sen­at­or Cruz seem much more sane,” said one Iowa voter; “Cruz is like Trump, but at a toned-down level,” said an­oth­er.

It’s clear Cruz’s camp is walk­ing a fine line. Trump’s sup­port­ers have so far iden­ti­fied with a man both volat­ile and un­pre­dict­able, so straight-edge and sol­emn is un­likely to si­phon off much of his base. Cruz must there­fore present him­self as a can­did­ate who is sens­ible, but not too sens­ible.

Cruz is walking a fine line, but it might not be the one Flanagin is thinking of.

If the GOP is going to nominate Not-Trump and win in November, then Not-Trump has to be able to beat Trump while also doing two other things:

• Not alienate Trump voters, who tend to be angry and prone to alienation — that is after all, the understandable heart of Trump’s appeal.

• Not alienate centrist voters whom Trump scares the crap out of.

That’s a fine line, indeed, winning over Trump supporters without scaring too many more-moderate voters — but it has to be done, unless you’re willing to turn over the fate of this once-fine Republic to Queen Cacklepants.

Cruz is so far playing this game better than any of the other GOP candidates. In fact, he might be the only one playing it at all. But therein lurks yet another pitfall.

There’s something about Cruz’s mien which gives off a “too slick by half” vibe, and his maneuvers and panders play up to that weakness rather than to mitigate it. Policy wise, Cruz remains by far my favorite of this GOP field, but I’ve worried and written here endlessly of this “likability deficit” his mien produces.

That isn’t to say he won’t win the nomination or can’t win in November, but it’s important that he (and us) recognize his weaknesses going into the primaries just a few weeks from now.