Two things about this. One: Cruz is entirely right that Trump’s lawsuit would be frivolous. Watch the allegedly “defamatory” ad below. It’s Politics 101: My opponent may say X now but he said Y before, so how can you possibly trust that X is his true opinion? Trump seems to think that using old footage of him stating his own position on abortion constitutes defamation unless the viewer is also told that he’s since changed his mind. It would be like Rubio suing over an ad that showed him touting comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 because he no longer believes that’s feasible (for the time being). Good luck with that in court. But then, the point of threatening a suit isn’t to win or even to try to intimidate Cruz, who knows this is garbage, but simply to get the media to write it up. Trump has done major damage to Cruz’s favorable rating over the last six weeks by accusing him of being a liar and a cheat. A voter who sees a headline that Trump may sue over defamation will have no idea whether that claim has merit or not; all he’ll know is that Cruz’s supposed dishonesty has now reached the point where legal action may be warranted. Who’d want to vote for a guy like that? This is all about impugning Cruz’s character, not “defamation.”
Two: That said, I don’t know what the point of this presser was. It’d be one thing if Cruz had walked out there and given a short but pointed statement to Trump: You’re full of it, we both know it, and if you sue I’ll tear you apart in deposition. Essentially, “come at me, bro.” That would have been a zesty show of alpha-male bravado in response to Trump’s own display. As it is, as you can see in the first two clips below, Cruz went on and on and on knocking Trump’s lawsuit, going after him for his own falsehoods, going after Marco Rubio for his lies, and so forth. What the average undecided voter was supposed to take from all that that would make them better disposed to Cruz, I don’t know. This feels less like strategy than it does Cruz being fed up with having his character attacked and deciding to go out there and let ‘er rip. That’s fine, but if that’s what happened it’s an unusual show of indiscipline from a guy whose every move is normally calculated to maximize his electoral chances. How does this maximize his chances?
Meanwhile, here’s Trump responding to “Teddy” after the presser:
Trump responds to Cruz's response to Trump's cease and desist letter.
"Time will tell, Teddy." pic.twitter.com/2wLJO1y0Bq
— Jeff Simon (@jjsimonCNN) February 17, 2016
Rubio’s current strategy seems to be a variation on Cruz’s strategy last year — not quite hugging Trump but lying as low as he can while Trump and Cruz drag each other downward. If Rubio pulls off second place on Saturday night, we’ll hear a lot more about that next week. Along with plenty of hosannas about Nikki Haley’s influence, of course.