Via BuzzFeed, the Cruz/Walker primary war of 2020 will be epic. And it’ll all be for naught once we end up nominating Ted Nugent instead.
Walker’s move here makes sense given his niche in the party as an establishment-friendly guy with conservative cred. He polished that credibility this spring by going all-in for Cruz once the race had narrowed, with no Pence-like hedging about what a swell guy Trump was. Cruz’s victory in Wisconsin with Walker’s help was his biggest win of the primaries (and also his last). Cruz-hating party leaders and donors were willing to let Walker slide on all of that since, in the end, “Lucifer” was exorcised, but doubling down by going #NeverTrump once the nomination was secure might have lost Walker some friends on the establishment side of his base that he’ll need in four years. He did his conservative duty in resisting Trump; now he’s doing his partisan duty in backing him. He’s safeguarding his crossover niche for the next primary.
Ramesh Ponnuru isn’t impressed:
Remember that week during Gov. Walker’s primary campaign when he took four different positions on immigration? At least with respect to Donald Trump, Walker has stretched out the process of wavering. Just a few weeks ago, he was backing away from previously supportive comments about Trump and saying he had not made up his mind about endorsing him. Now he says that the pledge Senator Cruz took to support the nominee is sacrosanct and that it was wrong for Cruz to put in a good word for conscience the other night.
If you think something you did might have been wrong, I can see how it would be a relief to see most of your peers doing it too–and galling to see anyone do otherwise.
“One can never quite get over the sense with Cruz that everything is calculated,” wrote Mona Charen in a piece otherwise praising Cruz for refusing to bow to Trump on Wednesday night. Walker has the same problem, not as extensively as Cruz does but extensive enough considering the damage his clearly calculated immigration reversals did to him this spring. The calculus this time is simple: Seize the opportunity to show Republican voters and donors that, unlike Cruz, he’s a good soldier once you’re finally face to face with Democrats on the battlefield. They’ll remember in four years.
I think Walker and Charlie Sykes, who’s usually an ally of Walker’s, both have fair points in the clip below. It wasn’t the Donald Trump National Convention, notes Sykes, it was the Republican National Convention. Cruz finished second in the primaries this year. The party should have had a place for him onstage whether or not he was willing to endorse Trump. Right, counters Walker, but Cruz did more than merely not endorse Trump. He made a point of not endorsing him. He could have stayed home in protest of Trump’s nomination a la Kasich or he could have delivered a red-meat speech about liberty and the Constitution that didn’t broach the subject of how anyone should vote. “Vote your conscience” was a deliberate counterpoint to the message from every other speaker that you should vote for Trump. Whether you agree with Walker or with Cruz depends on whether you believe the party, as a matter of pure honor, needed one person onstage to suggest in the mildest, most oblique way that perhaps Trump isn’t fit for the presidency. Cruz was the kid at the procession who can’t help noticing that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. The crowd would have stoned him for it if they could have.
Either way, it’s lame of Walker to be grumbling about Cruz having broken his pledge given (a) Trump’s unusual personal nastiness towards Heidi Cruz and Rafael Cruz and (b) the fact that Trump himself tore up the pledge months ago. Speaking of which, pay attention to the part near the end of the clip where Sykes asks Walker if he hopes that Trump will take Walker’s advice and stop attacking Republicans. I sure do, Walker replies. Less than 24 hours after this interview happened on Thursday, Trump repaid Walker for his faith by throwing some new roundhouses at “Lyin’ Ted.”