Marco Rubio has sought to project an optimistic, inclusive aura that seems designed not just to unite Republicans but also to appeal (at least on the margins) to Latinos and millennials. By contrast, while Cruz says publicly that he wants to win over Reagan “Democrats,” the more plausible interpretation of his approach is that it’s built around the idea that the electorate is hopelessly polarized and that maximizing conservative and GOP [white] base turnout is the route to victory.The only thing I'd add is that, with his increasingly extremists statements during the primary, Rubio is likely going for what Eric Fehrnstrom described as Romney's "etch-a-sketch" strategy of hoping that voters will wipe the slate clean when it comes time for the general election.
On the other hand, the Cruz strategy reminds me of something Adam Serwer wrote way back in 2011 in the lead-up to the 2012 election.
The Republican Party had a choice after 2008. They could continue to rely on a dwindling but still decisive share of the white vote to prevail, or they could try to bring more minorities into the party. While I'm not entirely sure how much of the decision was made by party leaders and how much is merely the unprecedented influence of Fox News, but whether it's pseudo scandals of the past two years, from birtherism to the NBPP [New Black Panther Party] case, the GOP's nationwide rush to ban sharia and institute draconian immigration laws, or characterizing nearly every administration policy as reparations, the conservative fixations of Obama's first term indicate that the GOP will end up relying at least in part on inflaming white racial resentment to close the gap.Sounds positively prophetic right now, doesn't it?
Of course, the Republicans lost the 2012 presidential election and immediately performed their infamous "autopsy," which found that they needed to do a better job of reaching out to women and people of color. We all know how that's been going.
Frankly, I don't think it matters what the Rubio or Cruz campaigns plan for this election. Back in the 1970's the Republican Party decided to go with a Southern Strategy and built their electoral base on a platform of white resentment. Since then, they have only reinforced that with everything from Reagan's "welfare queens" to Bush's Willie Horton ads. At this point, they can't abandon that base with any plausible effort to make their party attractive to people of color. The GOP will sink or swim with the white nativist vote.