Trump: I've always liked Cruz and haven't ruled him out as VP

One Red State diarist wonders whether Trump’s four-day journey from gracious concession to sober self-reflection about his ground game to shrieking about fraud and a do-over in Iowa to low-key “it’s in the past” dismissal means that he’s actually insane. Old theory: Trump is erratic. New theory: Trump is bananas.

I don’t think he’s bananas. I think this is what it looks like when a candidate decides to test out new lines of attack in real time, with the entirety of the media hanging on his every word, instead of with focus groups behind closed doors.

In a striking reversal of rhetoric, Donald Trump would not rule out Ted Cruz as his hypothetical vice-presidential pick.

“Well, I don’t know. Look, I have nothing against him. It was sort of a sad thing that happened, but I’ve always liked him,” Trump told Hugh Hewitt on his radio show Thursday, after weeks of trashing his primary rival as nasty, hypocritical and disliked.

Trump added that he has “always gotten along well” with Cruz, but that “I’m so much now focused on New Hampshire.”

What happened between Wednesday and now? My guess is that Trump concluded that crying “fraud!” over Iowa had backfired, partly because it made him look erratic and sore-loser-ish and partly because it risked annoying New Hampshirites who don’t want to spend their week listening to Trump re-run someone else’s election. That’s where the part about being “so much focused on New Hampshire” comes in. He said nearly the same thing verbatim to Anderson Cooper last night in the interview Ed blogged earlier, suggesting that that’s his new “message” when asked about the results of the caucus — even though that message, that the past is the past, is 180 degrees opposite his demand for a do-over 48 hours ago. What’s going to happen tomorrow night when he’s inevitably asked about fraud in Iowa, probably in the opening minutes of the debate? Even if he tries to duck it, Cruz is going to use it as evidence that Trump’s too unpredictable and prone to “Trumper tantrums” to be president. Does Trump double down on “fraud!” at the point or does he double down on “let’s move on”? There seems to have been no strategy here beyond him rashly tossing the charge about cheating out there, seeing if it stuck, and then dropping it cold turkey when it didn’t. It’s just like when he started calling Cruz a “maniac” for not being able to work with his Senate colleagues before the December debate, took some heat for it on the right, and then was all chummy with Cruz again on debate night. Given how serious the accusations are — election fraud! Cruz unhinged! — these aren’t trial balloons Trump is floating so much as trial zeppelins. And then, a few days later, when it doesn’t work out as well he planned, he turns around and essentially says: What zeppelin?

The really weird part of this, though, is that he’s backing off the personal attacks on Cruz too, not just the fraud claim. How can you say you’ve always liked a guy whom you’ve been calling nasty, corrupt, cronyist, a hypocrite, a “total liar,” and someone whom no one likes once they get to know him? And how can you not rule him out for VP when you’ve spent the past month arguing that he’s not constitutionally eligible to be president? Is Trump dropping that claim too? This whole weird backtrack smells like his campaign manager pulled him aside and told him that attacking Cruz relentlessly has started to hurt his own popularity, which is dangerous when he’s being threatened by a well-liked candidate in Marco Rubio. So now Trump’s going to chuck everything he’s been saying since New Year’s and try a new low-key “I’m serious and I’m staying on message” approach. Good luck, I guess.

Via the Right Scoop, here he is last night getting angry (and profane) in a much more productive way than he did with this week’s “fraud” digression.

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David Strom 2:31 PM on May 28, 2023