A leftover from yesterday afternoon. When I saw the headlines on other sites oohing and ahhing over Hannity and Cruz getting testy with each other here, I assumed it was a case of Hannity coming on too strong in defense of his pal Donald. Team Cruz has complained before, after all, about him being more willing to challenge Cruz during interviews than Trump. Hannity seems polite enough at the start of the clip, though; it’s Cruz who seems irritable, and go figure. This chat happened just a few hours before the votes were tallied in New York, which Cruz knew would be a humiliating bloodbath, and there’s some truth in what he says about how the people who are most interested in confronting him about wrangling delegates are “Trumpsters.” But that’s overstated. The behind-the-scenes wooing of delegates is a big story and Hannity’s right that many Republicans are confused about it.
The reason Cruz is snapping at him here, I think, has less to do with the question being asked than with the cumulative frustrations of him and his team that Fox News generally and Hannity in particular obviously favor Trump, which I think they never expected. It’s a media parallel to Cruz getting hammered by Trump across the Bible Belt in primaries in February and March, including and especially with evangelicals. Those people are “supposed to be” reliable conservatives who naturally prefer a conservative candidate. Fox News is “supposed to be” a conservative network, and Hannity is “supposed to be” its most conservative host. If there’s any place in media where Cruz would expect to receive friendly treatment, it’s right here. So when Hannity opened with questions about delegates, Cruz finally lost his patience. I’d bet cash money at this point that, if it were up to him, he and his surrogates would boycott Fox altogether. But it’s not up to him. He can’t afford to cede Fox’s audience to Trump, and he doesn’t want to antagonize Ailes lest Fox’s preference for Trump turn into outright hostility to Cruz. That would be a dangerous play given how narrow Cruz’s path is to stopping Trump from reaching 1,237 before the convention.
So that’s one thing worth paying attention to here — the sheer frustration Cruz obviously feels about Hannity and the “rigged system” nonsense he’s getting from Team Trump 24/7. The other thing worth listening for is how palpable Cruz’s contempt is for Trump’s organizational incompetence. Actual quote: “I cannot help that the Donald Trump campaign does not seem capable of running a lemonade stand.” (And he doesn’t stop there. At another point, he says of Trump 2016, “It’s a Kim Kardashian reality show.”) That’s smart messaging on Cruz’s part, countering Trump’s attacks on the delegate system with an attack on Trump’s image of wildly successful management. Hannity says at one point in response to Cruz complaining about his “process questions,” “It’s more than a process question, it’s an integrity-of-the-election question.” That’s Trump’s message precisely, and it’s an effective one. Cruz’s answer, essentially, is that it’s not an integrity-of-the-election question, it’s a basic competence question. Is this who you want steering America’s ship of state? A guy who knew for more than a year that a delegate iceberg was directly in front of him and who steered straight into it anyway? A guy who goes around claiming he’ll have “all the best people” around him but who, until recently, only really hired yes men? Listen to how Cruz makes the case against Trump — very fluently, by the way. For a guy who didn’t want to address this subject, he’s as preternaturally articulate as ever.
The latest battleground where Cruz is vacuuming up delegates, by the way, is Missouri, where 37 out of 52 are pledged to Trump on the first ballot but “many” are reportedly prepared to switch to Cruz on the second. Increasingly I think the likeliest scenario at the convention is that Trump does clinch on the first ballot — and then the great bulk of delegates who just voted for him walk out in disgust. Exit quotation via David Frum:
It’s important that Fox News receive full, enduring, and indelible credit for making Donald Trump the 2016 Republican nominee
— David Frum (@davidfrum) April 20, 2016