1. I have no idea how the continuing resolution/defund Obamacare/delay Obamacare maneuvering are going to play out.
2. President Obama just isn’t that popular. He is closer to unpopular. His RCP job approval average is down to 43.5% even though the economy continues to grow slowly and the labor market is somewhere between treading water and very slowly improving. I think there is a complicated dynamic at work.
Obama has been president for over four years, and not one of them has been good. It isn’t just the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate was about the same in 1984 when Reagan won forty-nine states. At least GDP was growing fast in 1984. It isn’t morning in America yet and morning isn’t even in sight. That doesn’t mean that the median voter is ready to turn right. The most powerful argument made by the Obama campaign was the one made by Bill Clinton. The Republicans are at fault for the economy going in the toilet. Things are better now after all of Obama’s work but there is just so much destruction to undo. Putting Republicans back in office is a bad idea. Cutting taxes on the rich while doing nothing for you is the best case scenario and sending us back to the Great Recession is the worst case scenario. My sense is that the median voter (or different groups who could include the median voter) is ready to trade up but they need assurances that:
a) The Republicans have a clear and convincing story about what caused the Great Recession (and no, George W. Bush Big Government isn’t going to get it done). My sense is that the market monetarists are the ones on the right with the best explanation.
b) Republicans have a clear sense of the challenges that are faced by middle-class and struggling families and have policies that will address those challenges (to the extent that policy can).
3. Just by going around talking to people, hardly anyone who didn’t already agree with Ted Cruz heard anything he had to say during his epic speech. Most people who don’t consume much conservative media don’t know it happened and the rest only heard vague descriptions from journalists who were sympathetic to Obama (at various levels of explicitness) and whose reports on the Cruz speech were some variation of “Pushy jerk won’t stop talking and even his own party hates him.” The people who needed winning over never heard what Cruz had to say.
4. I’m not sure how Cruz would play to different populations of swing-voters, but one of the reasons Ronald Reagan could be Ronald Reagan was because many people who did not think of themselves as agreeing with Reagan saw his “A Time For Choosing” speech and other major Reagan addresses. There was just less to watch. The combination of audience dispersion (which is the more important factor)and the domination by the left-of-center of the “mainstream” news media and the entertainment industry means that in some ways it to tougher for conservatives to reach the basically apolitical person who hasn’t already been socialized into some kind of right-of-center worldview. That apolitical person can more easily avoid right-of-center media (which is explicitly political and not designed for them anyway), but the mainstream news and the entertainment media are just part of the air they breathe. You can’t even get a huge audience by buying a block of time on one of the “major” networks. There is too much else to watch.
5. In the short-term it doesn’t matter to Cruz. Cruz was a hit with the conservative audience that heard about his speech from right-leaning media and this group is more immediately important to his prospects (if he plans to run for president in 2016) than general election swing-voters. He would have to reach those swing-voters eventually if he wanted to be president, but Cruz is not going to be the candidate of the establishment, so he needs for rank-and-file conservatives to see him as one of them. I think that Cruz could add middle-class and struggling workers who don’t identify as conservatives to a potential Cruz coalition.