This makes for a nice follow-up to my Gingrich post last night. Not long ago, Boehner operated as a sort of human yardstick for the grassroots right in forming opinions about Republicans. If he praised you, you must be a establishmentarian. If he attacked you, you were necessarily a populist hero and a true conservative. That’s how supposedly unerring his RINO compass was. One of the coups carried out by Trump within the GOP has been to appropriate that yardstick role for himself. Now, whether you’re an establishmentarian or a populist turns entirely on whether or not you’re pro-Trump. How conservative you are and what a GOP chieftain like Boehner thinks of you are beside the point.
Which is why this won’t be as useful to Cruz, even on the right, as it would have been six months ago.
Segueing into the topic, Kennedy asked Boehner to be frank given that the event was not being broadcasted, and the former Speaker responded in kind. When specifically asked his opinions on Ted Cruz, Boehner made a face, drawing laughter from the crowd.
“Lucifer in the flesh,” the former speaker said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”
Boehner described other Republican candidates as friends. In particular, the former speaker said he has played golf with Donald Trump for years and that they were “texting buddies.”
I’ll vote for Trump against Hillary but I won’t vote for Cruz, Boehner added, another small clue from within “the system” about who can and can’t be trusted with its welfare. In fact, being a golf buddy of John Boehner’s is practically the textbook definition of being part of “the system” — or was, until about 10 months ago — but oh well. Imagine Cruz’s confusion today.
Tell me again who will stand up to Washington? Trump, who's Boehner's "texting and golfing buddy," or Carly & me? https://t.co/qvYPSaTEV7
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 28, 2016
Praise from Boehner wasn’t Trump’s only point of contact with a bulwark of the establishment yesterday. He offered some praise himself, saying this of Cruz at a rally in Indiana:
"…the top man, Mitch McConnell, who is actually a good man, he calls him a liar," Trump says. "You don’t do things that way."
— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) April 27, 2016
He’s criticized Cruz for attacking McConnell before during the primaries. The first time I can remember him doing it was in mid-December, a few days before that month’s debate, when he described Cruz as a “little bit of a maniac” for alienating his Senate colleagues and not cooperating with the leadership. Trump took some heat for that for the first time in the campaign even from otherwise friendly members of conservative talk radio, which backed him off. A few days later at the debate, he said Cruz had a “wonderful temperament.” A month later, though, with Iowa on the horizon, the gloves finally came off. “You can’t call people liars on the Senate floor when they are your leaders,” Trump said in January. “Not a good thing to do if you want to curry favor and get the positive votes later on own.” Cruz has been pressured ever since to take back what he said about McConnell and has refused, most recently just two weeks ago. Every word I said was true, Cruz insisted. Why would I apologize? What’s the point of populism if you’re going to collude in lies in the interest of “currying favor”? And yet here’s Trump, who’s supposedly going to smash the system, hinting that that’s how he’ll operate. And he’ll get away with it too because of the yardstick factor, the same way Palin’s always been forgiven for laying off former running mate and arch-establishmentarian John McCain. It takes a lot of RINO-hugging to undo a populist cult of personality as ferocious as the one that surrounds Trump and that used to surround Palin.
Anyway. In case you think this is any kind of speed bump for Trump en route to Indiana and Cleveland, the NYT’s latest projections have him winning 1,289 delegates by the end of the primaries, 52 more than he needs to clinch — and that doesn’t include the 40 or so unbound delegates from Pennsylvania who claim they’ll support him on the first ballot. Even if Trump walked away with nothing from Indiana (where the Times currently expects him to win 50 of the state’s 57 delegates), he’d still likely finish several dozen delegates ahead of what he needs to become nominee.