Sen. Ted Cruz (Jim Lo Scalzo /Eurpean Pressphoto Agency)

You have to give Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) points for honesty. Rather than pooh-poohing border security measures or nitpicking about triggers on immigration reform, he comes right out and says it: No path to citizenship.

On ABC’s “This Week,” he asserted: “The most divisive element of the Gang of Eight bill is that it grants amnesty. It grants a path to citizenship to those who are here illegally. . . . I think a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally is profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who followed the rules.”

His reason is shoddy, of course. It’s not amnesty, as he well knows, when immigrants have to pay a fine and back taxes. He claims it is fundamentally unfair to offer citizenship. But they wouldn’t take priority over those “waiting in line” and they would have to pay a fine, pay back taxes and learn English. He makes no distinction for children brought here illegally by their parents. How is it fair to deny them a chance for citizenship?

On his weekend appearance, he demonstrated his misconception about presidential electoral politics, claiming that “strong conservatives” win while moderates lose. It is nice to hear he considers the pro-immigration reform presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush conservative. And landslide loser Barry Goldwater was a staunch conservative, too. Matthew Dowd had it right when he said on ABC’c “This Week“:

Actually if you think about when people win for president, what they are, they can be a certain ideology, they could be more liberal like Barack Obama or more conservative like George Bush or Ronald Reagan, but they always know how to speak to the middle.  And I have not seen any evidence that Ted Cruz really knows how to speak to the middle of the country.  You have to be able to speak to the middle of the country in order to get elected.

In numerous Senate races over the last two cycles, conservatives like Cruz have backed the most extreme conservatives in primaries, only to see them crash and burn and/or exhibit views entirely out of step with their voters. Unfortunately, being forthright about extreme views is not a path to victory in most states.

In fact the Republicans who win are those who take the edge off the GOP stereotype, showing themselves to be reasonable, congenial and concerned about average Americans. They talk about conservative ideas but don’t necessarily label them conservative. They are forward-looking and optimistic, engendering support from young people. And they appeal to non-ideological voters who turn out only in presidential elections. And yes, they exude concern and camaraderie with non-rich voters by connecting their biography in some way with voters (e.g. a broken home, a self-made man, a personal struggle). Those are the sorts of Republicans who win presidential races — in other words, pols unlike Ted Cruz.