Ted Cruz has a problem. Since he launched his campaign for president at Liberty University more than a year ago, he has aimed to consolidate the right. He has largely succeeded. He has vanquished Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina, and now he enjoys the overwhelming support of movement conservatives. His problem is that he trails Donald Trump anyway. And in its final months, the 2016 campaign is moving to a series of states—New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, California, Washington, Oregon—where movement conservatives aren’t so numerous.
In primary states with more moderate Republican electorates, Cruz has gotten crushed. He won less than 10 percent of the vote in Massachusetts and Vermont. He won less than 15 percent in New York. So last night, Cruz changed his message. He’s no longer running as Mr. Conservative. He’s running as an outsider, a healer, and the voice of generational change. Judging by his speech last night, it won’t be easy.
Cruz began the speech by talking about “towns and faces that have been weathered with trouble, joblessness, and fear” and “factories that are closing.” The people suffering this economic distress, Cruz explained, “have made it clear. They cry out for a new path. This is the year of the outsider. I’m an outsider. Bernie Sanders is an outsider. Both with the same diagnosis. But both with very different paths to healing.”