I’m reasonably sure that whether Trump has standing doesn’t depend on whether Cruz is willing to run ads about eminent domain in South Carolina.
If he has standing, it’s because he’s directly competing with Cruz for the office of the presidency. If he doesn’t, a “dirty trick” by the Cruz campaign won’t confer it on him. Either way, someone who’s sincerely concerned about having a president who wasn’t “natural-born” would never use the threat of a suit as leverage. It’s as if Trump is saying, “Cancel your attack ads and I’ll choose not to care about putting a foreigner in charge of the military.”
Actually, some Trump fans are already following through on the threat. I’m not sure why this new federal suit in Alabama is buzzy news today considering Cruz has already been sued elsewhere, including in federal court, but it is. Probably it’s a combination of the high stakes in South Carolina plus the fact that the suit was filed in Alabama, part of the “SEC Primary” on March 1 that Cruz has been eyeing as his best chance to pile up delegates. There’s not a ghost of a chance that a court will remove him from the ballot if he’s the nominee (there’s probably zero chance that they’d remove now that he’s proved he’s capable of winning a state, frankly), and if he’s not the nominee by the time a ruling comes down no one will care. The goal here isn’t to win the suit, just to cast a shadow over Cruz in hopes that it’ll give some South Carolinians pause.
I assume the author of the story has simply misdescribed the complaint, as I can’t get the two boldfaced parts here to square:
Five Cullman County residents – all supporters of Donald Trump – filed a federal lawsuit this week against 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, alleging that the Texas senator is ineligible for the presidency because he’s not a natural born citizen…
While the plaintiffs concede that Cruz is a citizen, they contend that Cruz is not a natural-born citizen. They cited a portion of the Constitution that says “no person except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall be eligible to the office of president.”
“Plaintiffs allege that at the time of Mr. Cruz’s birth, the United States could not confer citizenship upon him under any law or legal theory that exists,” the lawsuit states. “‘Natural born’ means native born within the United States or its dominions/territories. Canada is not a territory of the United States. Whether the Defendant’s mother was/is a United State’s [sic] citizen is irrelevant. If however, she had been an Ambassador to a foreign country; or, stationed in another country while serving in the military, such would not bar Mr. Cruz’s candidacy.”
If there’s no law or legal theory by which American citizenship could have been conferred on Cruz upon his birth to a woman with American citizenship, when exactly did he become a a U.S. citizen? He’s never been naturalized. That’s another clue that this suit is political. The politically savvy way to attack Cruz’s status is to claim that he was a citizen at birth via statutory law but that the Constitution’s “natural-born” clause imposes a requirement above and beyond that for citizens who want to run for president — namely, birth on American soil. If you’re going to make the move they make here, claiming that Cruz wasn’t a citizen at his birth, period, then you’re basically stuck arguing that he’s … an illegal immigrant. That’s a serious, politically loaded charge to throw at him (although Trump has flirted with it in passing) and risks sparking a backlash among people who may be open to ruling Cruz ineligible but not to stripping him of his citizenship entirely. Assuming the excerpt is accurate, it sounds like that was a bridge too far for the plaintiffs. So they end up conceding that Cruz is a citizen but not by birth, which leaves him with no way to have become a citizen except by magic.
Enjoy this while it lasts because we might be just eight days away from Trump retiring the eligibility stuff against Cruz. I think he’ll keep it up for the rest of the month since Cruz remains strong in the southern states Trump is competing with him for, but threatening to get Cruz thrown off the ballot is a risky tactic for Trump insofar as it might anger some of Cruz’s fans. A guy who’s cruising towards the nomination, as Trump might be next Saturday night, doesn’t want to alienate any parts of the GOP base more than he absolutely needs to, especially since there’s already bound to be a mini-revolt on the right in the general election if he’s the nominee. As soon as he feels secure that Cruz can’t catch him, the prudent thing to do would be to drop all the eligibility stuff and try to be conciliatory. I think he will, sooner rather than later.