Bad week for Rick Tyler. A few days ago, he defended an obvious photoshop of Rubio shaking hands with Obama posted on one of Cruz’s websites as presumptively authentic on grounds that the campaign would never post a bogus photo. A few days later, he told CNN that Texas is a must-win for Cruz — which is certainly true but which violates the unwritten rule that no campaign should set firm expectations for itself. Worst of all, yesterday a video started circulating of Rubio passing Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father, and a Cruz staffer sitting in a hotel lobby with a Bible in front of them. According to whoever shot the video and subtitled the clip, Rubio — devout Christian Marco Rubio — supposedly pointed at the Bible and said, “Not many answers in there.” In reality he said, “All the answers are in there.” But Tyler, implausibly, took the bait and started circulating the clip based on the mistaken subtitle, then naturally had to eat it when the truth about what Rubio had said appeared. This morning he apologized on Facebook for having believed, even for a second, that a socially conservative Christian candidate for the Republican nomination would be casually goofing on the Bible — in public.
I want to apologize to Senator Marco Rubio for posting an inaccurate story about him here earlier today. The story showed a video of the Senator walking past a Ted Cruz staffer seated in the lobby of a hotel reading his Bible. The story misquoted a remark the Senator made to the staffer. I assumed wrongly that the story was correct. According to the Cruz staffer, the Senator made a friendly and appropriate remark. Since the audio was unclear, I should not have assumed the story was correct. I’ve deleted the post because I would not knowingly post a false story. But the fact remains that I did post it when I should have checked its accuracy first. I regret the mistake.
Good enough? Maybe not: This morning, Erick Erickson published a post noting that Cruz has gotten a reputation as a dirty campaigner and that it’s past time for him to shake up his communications team. Lo and behold, eight hours later Tyler is gone.
“Our campaign should not have sent it. That’s why I’ve asked for Rick Tyler’s resignation,” Cruz said about the social media posting about the Daily Pennsylvanian article.
He said he spent the morning investigating before coming to his conclusion. He added, “I have made clear in this campaign that we will conduct this campaign with the very highest standards of integrity.”…
Rubio, talking to reporters on Monday, said he has come to expect dirty tactics from Cruz’s campaign.
“It’s every day there’s something new. Perhaps that was the most disturbing one because they basically made it up,” the Florida senator said. “They proactively promoted it and pushed it on people that somehow I had disrespected the Bible. I know exactly what I said to that young man.”
Team Rubio’s not the only one who noticed:
Wow, Ted Cruz falsely suggested Marco Rubio mocked the Bible and was just forced to fire his Communications Director. More dirty tricks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016
Ted Cruz has now apologized to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson for fraud and dirty tricks. No wonder he has lost Evangelical support!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016
Why is Cruz worried about his campaign being seen as having integrity? Probably because of this exit poll number from Saturday night:
Cruz, the supposed warrior for Christian values, finished only a few points behind Trump, 39/33. Rubio, his rival among social conservatives, finished with just eight percent. Cruz is bleeding enough evangelical votes to Trump that he can’t afford to bleed any needlessly to Rubio via unforced errors over dirty campaign tactics. Firing Tyler can’t hurt, I guess, but the damage seems to have been done; how many evangelicals in the SEC states, hearing the buzz this week that Rubio’s really the last best chance against Trump, are going to stick with Cruz anyway because he fired his mouthpiece? Also, why does it appear as though Tyler was blindsided by his firing? If he was on thin ice because of yesterday’s dopey attack on Rubio, he should have had some inkling today. And yet:
Cruz spox Rick Tyler was about to go live on MSNBC when he abruptly left.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) February 22, 2016
Maybe this is also Cruz’s way of signaling a sort of detente with Rubio this week. Some of his fans are begging him and Rubio to focus their attacks on Trump instead of on each other in order to defeat the non-conservative menace. That arguably makes sense strategically too, since Trump is holding a plurality of the evangelicals that Cruz is counting on to win big on Super Tuesday. Blowing up Rubio might get him into a two-way race with Trump, but increasingly it seems like that would be a hard race for Cruz to win given that the states to come after March 1st will have far fewer evangelicals than the SEC states will — and Cruz fared badly among non-evangelicals on Saturday night. And even if Rubio somehow blows up, Cruz doesn’t want Rubio’s voters to conclude that he smeared Rubio to death. If he doesn’t beat Marco fair and square, some disgruntled Rubio fans will stay away from Cruz and he’ll end up losing handily to Trump.
Here’s Cruz along with the smear video that started it all.
Update: Apology not accepted, I guess.
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) February 22, 2016