The Ted Cruz saga: It's come to this

In fairness, he’s phone-banking here for the Tarrant County GOP, not for the Trump campaign (note that he never mentions during the call whom, precisely, you should be voting for), but the optics of a post-endorsement Cruz doing menial campaign work for the GOP ticket are grimly hilarious. Short of someone handing him a mop and telling him to wipe up some puke beneath a giant Trump poster on the wall, this is as bad as it gets, like the final haunting scene in a particularly eerie “Twilight Zone” episode where the protagonist ends up in hell for his hubris. Jonathan Last joked after watching the clip below that Cruz’s next job will be working as a greeter on the floor of one of Trump’s casinos. Don’t laugh — knowing Ted, he probably already has a master multi-year plan to work his way up to pit boss.

And the weirdest part is that he let someone record him doing it, surely knowing how it would look with two big “Trump/Pence” signs right over his shoulders. Is that Cruz willingly humiliating himself as a form of self-flagellation, to atone for letting down his conservative fans by backing Trump after all? Or is it all part of the master multi-year plan to reingratiate himself to Trump’s voters? If the endgame here is to rebuild his populist credibility and protect himself from a primary challenge in 2018, this is the sort of visible team-player garbage he’s going to need to do. It’s an olive branch to Trumpers. How about it, guys? Is this small tribute to Trump’s dominance enough to make you forget that messy convention unpleasantness now?

If you think the optics of this are awkward, just wait for this weekend:

Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will stump together publicly on the campaign trail for the first time Saturday in Wisconsin, according to an announcement from Ryan’s political operation.

Ryan and Trump will attend the annual “Fall Fest” in the speaker’s 1st congressional district, alongside Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, several top Republican state officials and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who’s facing down a tough re-election this fall.

Are they going to be together at the event or just both at the event at the same time? Ryan’s approach to Trump all year has been not to get too close to him so as not to make it easier for Democrats to tar House Republicans with Trump’s excesses. In fact, although Trump and Ryan have met, if I’m not mistaken there’s not a single photo out there of the two together. It’d be weird for Ryan to reverse course on that now, especially with Trump struggling in the polls after the first debate. Why do a photo op to prove your loyalty when you can just do a solo phone-bank video instead?