NEW ORLEANS- Striding up the sidewalk of one of this city’s most affluent neighborhoods on Monday evening, S. Scott Sewell seemed an unlikely figure to be attending a fund-raiser for Senator Ted Cruz. An oil industry executive, Mr. Sewell served in President George Bush’s administration, lent a hand to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential recount, and was twice a chairman for Mitt Romney’s Louisiana campaigns.
But if such a person of the Republican establishment appeared an odd fit to support a candidate whose political identity was shaped challenging his party’s leadership, the candlelit, art-filled setting for Mr. Cruz’s reception was even more surprising: the elegant home of the longtime Bush loyalist Mary Matalin and her husband, James Carville, a Democratic strategist.
The vast majority of Republican elites remain bitterly opposed to the prospect of Mr. Cruz’s becoming the party’s presidential nominee, some even preferring to take their chances with Donald J. Trump. Yet, to the strains of a jazz threesome a block from St. Charles Avenue here, over Texas barbecue at his Houston campaign office and in one of Washington’s see-and-be-seen steakhouses, Mr. Cruz, Washington’s chief anti-establishment agitator, has quietly begun wooing some of the party’s most entrenched donors and officials.
“We’re working hard to consolidate a lot of support,” Mr. Cruz told a reporter as he mingled with guests arriving at the Matalin-Carville home.
Some in the old guard have started signaling to their reluctant
right-of-center brethren that it is time to face the possibility
that the hard-line Mr. Cruz could be their standard-bearer
“If Cruz makes it, which is very doable, every one of the establishment crowd who is now eviscerating him will line up, salute smartly and get on board,” Ms. Matalin said, offering a mix of prodding and prophecy. “No one will want to be responsible for a G.O.P. defeat”...