Via Mediaite. “Are they mostly drug dealers and rapists coming across the border?” asks Steve Doocy, referring to the buzziest bit from Trump’s presidential announcement. Well, no, says Cruz. They’re not mostly that. But let’s not miss the forest for the trees. Illegal immigration’s a serious problem and Trump calls it like he sees it. I applaud him for his candor. Remember: This is the same guy who, not long ago, went on Megyn Kelly’s show and wondered aloud whether a natural-born Canadian like Cruz could really be eligible to run for president of the United States. Now here’s Cruz killing him with kindness. How come?

Strategy. For starters, it’s dumb to pick a fight with Trump for the same reason it’s dumb to wrestle with a pig. It’s an unfair fight too. Trump is willing to get nasty and say impolitic things to a degree that professional pols aren’t, and he’ll have a media megaphone for it that Cruz can’t match. Why scold him and then have him as a thorn in your side when you can laugh him off, declare how much you like him, and not have to think about him again for awhile? More importantly, although Trump will eventually flame out of this race, he’s going to pile up votes from disaffected Republicans looking for a populist before he does. (He’s ahead of Cruz in New Hampshire as I write this, in fact.) Someone’s going to inherit that populist support and Cruz is well positioned to do so. He’s the most anti-amnesty guy in a field of squishes and he’s selling himself, not untruthfully, as a pol who’s almost uniquely reviled by the Beltway establishment. (Here’s the latest example.) If he gets on Trump’s good side, he may be the heir apparent to those votes. His gay-marriage comments yesterday were another way to polish his righty populist credentials: Slowly he’s been escalating his anti-SCOTUS rhetoric from calling for a constitutional amendment to return marriage to the states to calling for an amendment that would subject the Court to retention elections to nudging red states that they don’t necessarily need to follow the Court’s ruling unless they were directly implicated in the lawsuit. The more antagonistic he gets, the Trumpier he seems to Trump fans. And of course, the more he defends Trump and the more the media clucks its tongue at him because of it, the more populist voters will cheer Cruz for pissing off all the right people, just as they do the Donald. Really nothing but upside for Cruz to play nice with him, at least for now.