Ted Cruz wants to be a populist. He’s read all the manuals about how normal Americans think, dress, act and talk. But he can’t quite get the moves right.

He got a mullet, which is brilliant anti-elitist behavior. But he screwed it up, getting a haircut that is business in the front but barely two months of pandemic in the back. He grows a beard like the survivalists do but styles it like a kombucha salesman.

Born Rafael, Cruz calls himself Ted, which is just shy of a real populist name like Chase or Blake. Or Squee.

Four years ago, Cruz “liked” a porn video on Twitter. That’s not the same strong, populist game as having sex with a porn star and then paying her off to keep quiet about it in a way that will make sure every person on Earth knows about it. But it’s a start. Then Cruz fumbled the moment and blamed a staffer for pressing “like” on his Twitter account.

When asked what his favorite movies are, he named the Godfather … trilogy. “I like ‘Godfather III,' ” he said. “I actually thought it was a wonderful culmination of Michael Corleone.” When Cruz tries to talk about normal stuff, he sounds like Borat.

Cruz understood that calling someone a “snowflake” is a cruel insult to level at your enemies. Then he named his own dog Snowflake. That’s like a normal person naming his dog Ted Cruz.

But it looked as though he finally nailed the populist costume when he took off for Cancún from Houston as people in Texas burned their furniture during power failures amid the lowest temperatures in decades.

Speaking about his Cancun trip, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Feb. 18 said he began to have regrets right as he got on the plane. (KTRK via AP)

Cancún is spot-on populist. It’s a town where, early last year, a hotel offered “drunk yoga.”

Cruz claimed he went there because his daughters wanted a vacation. If the daughter of anyone I know said she wanted to go to Cancún, her parents would search for excuses to say no. They’d blurt out something about crime or tell them that college admissions directors subscribe to Señor Frog’s Instagram page.

Cruz didn’t need any of those excuses to reject his daughters’ request for an international vacation. All he had to say was “pandemic.” He didn’t have to mention “leadership,” “responsibility” or “people sleeping in their cars.”

But he really blew it when he booked his rooms at the Ritz-Carlton.

A real populist does not stay at a Ritz-Carlton. A real populist stays at Secrets, Dreams, Temptation or the Fiesta Americana. Or better yet, a buddy’s pullout couch at Secrets, Dreams, Temptation or the Fiesta Americana.

Despite having a rolling suitcase, Cruz said he was just flying to Cancún to drop off his daughters. We know the whole drop-off thing was false because we’ve seen Cruz’s wife Heidi’s group text chat planning the trip with some Houston friends. A populist doesn’t have friends who leak texts to an editor at the New York Times. Because a populist’s friends don’t know any editors at the New York Times.

But his giveaway error was backing down. After he got caught, he changed his return ticket and flew back to Texas on standby and acknowledged his “mistake.” And then he apologized for crossing the border to provide a better life for his family.

Texas lawmakers on Feb. 18 reacted to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) trip to Cancun while Texas residents faced widespread power outages. (JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Donald Trump would never admit a mistake. He would have said, instead, that while Joe Biden had secretly gone on a trip to Ukraine, he was going to the Ritz-Carlton Cancún to get a sweet deal on decorations for his “beautiful” border wall. Trump would have said that the whole story was fake news, a socialist hoax to distract from frozen wind farm cancer. The point is: Trump would not have made sense.

Cruz’s dilemma is that he needs the votes of people who are nothing like him. He’s cerebral and devoid of instinct, so he overthinks what a populist would do, works out 30 steps to get there and winds up in the populist uncanny valley.

Which is a never-ending flight back and forth to Cancún.

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