All in: Ted Cruz celebrates Trump's debate performance on Hugh Hewitt's show

Ed already wrote about his Facebook statement last night spinning for Trump after the debate. Even more surprising is Cruz turning up in live media this morning to try to shape the post-debate narrative. You can listen below or read the transcript of his appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s show here. I’ve assumed for months that Cruz would cave and back Trump but him turning into a surrogate for Trump is a genuine curveball. Exactly how bad are the internal polls Cruz is seeing about a Senate primary challenge in Texas for him to continue to fart away his brand as Mr Conservative this way? Did the Mercers tell him to go out there and dance this morning if he ever wants to see another check from them again?

Nearly everything in this passage is garbage.

HH: Now Senator Cruz, I want to spend a moment on this, because I was on the Meet the Press panel on Sunday defending your endorsement, and arguing you made it because of that very reason, with some pushback from Mike Murphy, among others, with whom you have battled in the past, I have to note for the record, that oh, no, this is a primary challenge. Ted Cruz is worried about Mike McCaul, Rick Perry, you name it. and I just, I don’t think you’re vulnerable. So how do you respond to that?

TC: Well, it is not surprising that there are a bunch of people throwing rocks, and I would note that the people who are throwing rocks are by and large people who have hated the fact that I have stood up to Washington and the Senate since I have been elected. They have hated that I’ve taken on leadership and have been willing to lead the fight against Obamacare, willing to lead the fight against the debt ceiling, willing to lead the fight against amnesty. And when you have liberal Republicans who don’t want to see conservatives doing that, their natural fallback, and the fallback of many of the mainstream media, is anytime you’re fighting for conservative principles, they accuse you of being just political. That’s just what they say. They say oh, this is just politics. This is political. You know, the Wall Street Journal had an editorial where they said oh, it must be political. What inevitably happens is the Washington establishment accuses anyone who stands up to them of doing what they in fact are doing. Here’s the simple reality. If I were being political, I would have endorsed Donald Trump back in Cleveland at the convention. That was the obvious political thing to do. If the goal were political, that’s the easy decision. It’s why almost every other elected official did so.

None of the people “throwing rocks” at Cruz are liberal Republicans who hate him for standing up to Washington. Those people are laughing at him for having revealed just how thin his principles are once he finds himself in a truly hard spot politically. They’re not mad, they’re happy because he proved they were right about him all along. The people throwing rocks are chumps like Glenn Beck, Steve Deace, and me who liked that he stood up to his own leadership and wouldn’t go along with the tide in endorsing a not-even-pretend conservative like Trump. We all bought the “man of principle” nonsense to varying degrees and now, like anyone who’s been conned, we’re angry. The fact that Cruz is retreating into his same old tired bullsh*t about how everyone criticizing him is a tool of the establishment when it’s the opposite that’s true shows you just how few cards he has left to play to justify his change of heart.

And of course, contra what he says, it’s not at all true that the “political” thing to do in his case was to endorse Trump at the convention in Cleveland. For a traditional politician who depends on party patronage, that’s true, but Cruz’s entire brand is that he’s a true conservative who resists being corrupted by the party. It made political sense for him not to endorse in Cleveland because he expected Trump to get wiped out this fall and the GOP to suffer devastating losses downballot, at which point he’d step through the smoke and flames and tell the demoralized base to follow him to victory in 2020. Populist conservatism would be a decent bet under those circumstances. But it all went sideways — Trump might actually get elected and Cruz might actually lose his Senate seat (unlikely, but might) due to the backlash over his non-endorsement. He needs to start rebuilding goodwill to keep his presidential ambitions alive. So he’s rebuilding it, up to and including shilling for the “pathological liar” who implied that his wife is ugly. The word for that is “political.”

Here’s a fun short read from Ben Shapiro listing six different very un-conservative positions Trump took last night during a performance that Mr Conservative is swooning over this morning. By the way, no one seriously believes after the past few days that Cruz will be some sort of constitutional bulwark against President Trump’s excesses in the Senate, right? At an absolute minimum, he’ll play ball with Trump until he’s safely past his Senate primary in 2018. I suppose he could turn around and try to reposition himself as a conservative crusader between then and 2020, in hopes of primarying Trump, but there’s no reason to think Cruz would do better in a primary against Trump when he’s running as an incumbent president than he did this year. Cruz has already reverted, I think, to his 2015 strategy except on a longer time horizon now — he’s going to try to get back in Trump voters’ good graces, however long that takes and whatever it might require, in hopes of inheriting Trump’s voters once he passes from the political scene. That’ll happen at the very latest in 2024, when Cruz will still only be in his early 50s. He won’t be a thorn in Trump’s side as president. Ambition comes before principle, always.