Did Ted Cruz betray the conservative movement, or just engage in some realpolitik in order to keep it from being completely eclipsed for the next four years? KTRK’s Tom Abrahams got an exclusive interview with the Republican presidential runner-up after Cruz’ endorsement of Donald Trump to get an explanation. Cruz says he’s put aside personal insults directed toward his family to focus on the good of the country, but that may be a tough sell among those who considered him a leader in the GOP’s resistance to Trump.

First question — did Cruz get any concessions out of his switch? Nope, Cruz tells Abrahams (via The Blaze):

“There were no deals,” he said. “We had been engaged in conversations. You know it’s been a decision as I said I’ve been thinking about and praying about for weeks and months, discussing it with my family, and I made the decision today and announced it Friday. …

“Listen,” he said. “(In) politics, there’s always criticism. If no one is throwing rocks at you, you’re not doing much of anything. I’ve discussed it with both Heidi (Cruz) and my dad. I love my wife. I love my dad. Both of them have forgiven Donald. I have forgiven him. This is not personal. This is not about our family. It’s about the country. ” …

“We have [two] choices,” he said. “We have Hillary or Donald. Now when this race started I had another choice in mind. I campaigned very hard. Tried to make that case. Out of 17 republican candidates, we beat 15 of them, but we didn’t beat 16 of them and at this point Donald is the republican nominee. At this point it is a choice, a binary choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and my conscience leads me to conclude that a Hillary Clinton presidency would do enormous damage to the court, to the bill of rights, to the constitution, to our freedom, to our jobs. And that’s why I am going to be voting for the Republican nominee.”

The problem with all of these calculations, at least for those who trusted Cruz, is that all of these calculations existed in May, and in July at the convention, too. Trump has never apologized for the personal insults, which even Cruz acknowledges doesn’t justify sitting on his hands, but also hasn’t exactly embraced the conservative policy agenda. (See Allahpundit’s post yesterday for more on that.) The only changes that could have prompted this are that Trump has re-emphasized his Supreme Court picks and now included Mike Lee as a potential selection (which Lee has already rejected), and that Trump has become a competitive candidate.

It’s the latter that’s probably playing most into this calculation. As long as Trump was doomed to lose in a landslide, it behooved Cruz to keep his distance, making himself pristine — well, mostly pristine, if people ignore the months-long schmoozing between Cruz and Trump during the primaries — for après Trump le deluge. If it becomes a close race and Cruz didn’t participate in helping to defeat Hillary Clinton, then suddenly the post-Trump field looks a lot different. Nor is Cruz alone in this calculation, which is why his endorsement sent shock waves through the NeverTrump movement. The rest of the significant anti-Trump Republicans had Cruz as a kind of shield, but now that he’s put the personal insults aside and endorsed Trump, they’re going to face a lot more pressure to get over their ideological opposition and act pragmatically.

That is, of course, highly ironic — since pragmatic conservatism is exactly what cost some of the other Republican presidential hopefuls their shot at the nomination. Maybe pragmatism will make a comeback in the 2020 cycle, but that won’t help the iconoclastic ideologue Cruz much if it does. It’s a double act against interests.

Chris Cillizza gave Cruz his “Worst Week in Washington” award for the Friday afternoon endorsement dump:

Cruz is no dummy and had to know, given his checkered history with Trump, that an endorsement of the Republican nominee might not sit well with lots and lots of Republicans. For Cruz, the gamble is that by publicly declaring both his support for and doubts about Trump, he can please both the most loyal supporters of the nominee and the #NeverTrump movement — thus preserving his viability as a presidential candidate in 2020 or 2024.

Maaaaaybe. In truth, Cruz had backed himself into a corner; on one side were his attacks on Trump and on the other stood his ambition to run for president again. And everyone knows that when you are backed into a corner you roll over and play dead. Wait, no. But you get the idea.

Cruz, for endorsing a candidate you clearly loathe (and who clearly loathes you), you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

To quote Cillizza … maaaaaybe. Four years is a long time in politics. Cruz has two years to rebound enough to get re-elected to the Senate, and then we can see whether he’s learned anything from the body blows he took in this cycle. Don’t count him out yet.

Update: Jeff’s taking the glass-nearly-empty approach:

Inconceivable! On the other hand, Cruz did end up throwing in the towel without much to show for it, so …