A leftover from this weekend that I want to note for archival purposes, in case he wins the nomination and then starts claiming next summer he never said he was absolutely opposed to legalizing illegals in all circumstances. This sounds pretty absolute, no?

Isn’t this the same Ted Cruz who said a month ago that we’ll have a “conversation” about legalizing people once the border is secured?

The Republican presidential candidate’s comments came in the wake of a New York Times report that unearthed a 1999 memo from Cruz urging his then-boss, George W. Bush, to take a more nuanced approach to the immigration debate…

When asked Friday if that memo was a liability in the general election, Cruz was blunt.

“My position is very simple. I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization … Today, tomorrow, forever. I believe in the rule of law.”

He added: “We can enforce the laws. We can secure our borders. We can keep our country safe. And at the same time, we can continue to welcome and celebrate the legal immigrants who follow the rules and wait in line pursuant to our rules.”

Who’s more responsible for turning Cruz into a strict opponent of legalization, Rubio or Trump? Remarkably for a guy who’s doing his best to pander to Trump’s voters, Cruz kept the door open to legalizing some immigrants for almost this entire year. He didn’t fully close it until he and Rubio clashed at the last debate and the media came sniffing around wanting to know whether Cruz’s 2013 amendment to the Gang of Eight was really a poison pill, as he now claims, or a clever way to give himself a pro-legalization record that he could cite later in a presidential election. If Trump hadn’t run, though, Cruz could have still supported modest legalization (without citizenship) and been comfortably to the right of Rubio. With Trump in the race, he’s got to stay at least as far to the right on amnesty as Mitt Romney was. Which is basically where he is now.

Rubio, incidentally, is going to try to use Cruz’s (apparent) rightward evolution on legalization as part of a larger argument that he’s … a flip-flopper. Ted Cruz, true conservative — or squish?

Rubio broadened his attack by accusing Cruz of flipping on giving President Obama expedited trade-negotiation authority…

Rubio also panned Cruz for reversing himself by voting against $3 billion in cuts to a crop insurance program. Cruz initially voted for the proposed cuts, which were not popular with farms in agricultural states such as Iowa.

“He’s done it on votes on farm issues. In fact he changed his vote on the floor of the Senate,” Rubio said. “If you’re going to attack someone on a policy issue, you need to be clear about where you stand on the issue and where you stood in the past.”…

“When you spend your whole time telling people that you’re a clear talker and you say what you mean and everyone else is a sellout but you’re the only purist, I think it’s fair to say, ‘Well hold on a second, here’s where you’ve been on the past on some issues and here’s where you are now,’” he said.

That’s a clever strategy. For one thing, it changes the subject from Rubio’s much more momentous flip-flop from border hawk circa 2010 to Chuck Schumer buddy in 2013. And it hits Cruz on his biggest strength potentially, that he’s unbending in his devotion to conservative principle. If Rubio can convince undecided righties that that’s a lie and that Cruz is as apt to surprise them as president as Rubio is, then the argument for Cruz over Rubio as nominee starts to disintegrate. If they’re both going to govern mostly conservatively with occasional “evolutions,” why not choose the guy whom most people see as the more electable of the two? I don’t think it’s going to work, especially once Team Cruz goes to work on Rubio with ads about his betrayal on amnesty, but that’s the plan. Interestingly, Rubio’s not the only Republican making the flip-flop attack on Cruz right now either. His unlikely ally is Rand Paul, an archenemy on foreign policy, who’s also coming after Cruz for his 2013 legalization amendment and flip-flopping in general. Paul wants to show tea partiers and border-hawk libertarians that Cruz is more compromised than he is whereas Rubio wants to show undecided righties that Cruz is just as compromised as he is. Their motives are as different as can be but the likely effect, hurting Cruz, is the same. Why Rand would want to do that when Rubio is the likely beneficiary, I don’t know.

Here’s Paul’s new attack ad against Cruz, followed by a 2013 interview rediscovered by Eliana Johnson in which Cruz says, when asked what he’d do with the 11 million illegals already here, “I think there probably could be a compromise on that” so long as citizenship was off the table. I did a Darth Vader-esque “nooooooooo” when I heard that. Does that sound like a man who’s firmly opposed to legalization? Or was opposed, I should say.