Why is this news? Because an awful lot of Cruzers on social media seem to believe that him endorsing Trump is not only unlikely but grounds for political divorce. “It’ll prove he isn’t the person I thought he was!” they keep telling me. Question: Would he really show up in Cleveland if he wasn’t planning to back Trump?
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) May 10, 2016
He’s not going to pee in the punchbowl by wandering the convention floor, reminding every reporter who asks that he’s not backing the nominee this year. If he’s going, it’s because he plans to play the Reagan role in 1976, delivering a unity speech that’ll hopefully build goodwill for his next presidential run. The convention is a unity pageant, after all; if Cruz can’t in good conscience back Trump, he’ll simply stay away. But wait, you say — what if he has something planned? He told his supporters on last night’s conference call that they should show up and fight to keep the party’s platform conservative (although I have no idea why). Maybe he has more in mind than just the platform? Aha!
Ted Cruz is not releasing his delegates in at least three states, a sign he may hold onto some clout at this summer’s Republican National Convention…
Kansas delegates are particularly key: They are required to remain with whomever they are pledged to until the candidate officially releases them — unlike most states, they are not allowed to vote their conscience unless explicitly given permission, which Cruz isn’t giving them.
“Although I have suspended my campaign for the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States, I do not release any Republican National Convention delegates bound to me as a result of the 2016 delegate selection process that took place in your state,” Cruz wrote in a letter to Kelly Arnold, the chair of the Kansas GOP and obtained by CNN.
He sent the same letter to the chairmen of the Texas and Oklahoma state parties. Remember, delegates are bound to a candidate only on the first ballot for the nomination itself; they can go any way they want on other matters like voting for the party platform (I think), so it’s not the platform that’s driving Cruz to keep them bound. Maybe … he’s going to try to challenge Trump’s nomination on the convention floor! Except, er, how would he do that? Now that Cruz is out of the race, Trump should end up with far more delegates than he needs to clinch. Even if, say, 100 revolted and refused to vote for him as nominee, he’ll still clear the bar on the first ballot in Cleveland. Also, as a matter of pure psychology, there’s no way the delegates will oust Trump in July after he’s spent nearly three months as the party’s presumptive nominee and is already deeply engaged with Hillary, raising money, building an organization, and so on. Cruz himself told the conference call last night that he won’t challenge Trump’s nomination. I think he’s keeping his delegates in place just in case Hillary drops something so insanely scandalous on Trump before July that even Republican voters decide he’s DOA in the general. But (a) why would Democrats nuke him before he’s been crowned as nominee and (b) given how many other Trump vices Republican voters have been willing to look past, there’s virtually nothing — up to and possibly including murder — that Dems could hit him with to break up his core constituency.
If not for Cruz’s outburst at Trump on the morning of the Indiana primary, I’d consider the possibility that he wants his delegates in place to give him leverage to become Trump’s VP. Delegates, even Trump’s own, aren’t bound to accept Trump’s pick. Cruz may have calculated that his 2020 chances will improve if he’s the “next in line,” even if he has to endure a loss this November as Trump’s number two. Back in reality, though, there’s no way he can be on the ticket after that outburst — Democrats would have too much fun with it in ads — and there’s next to zero chance that delegates would block the nominee’s own pick for VP in order to replace him with a rival candidate with whom he had many bitter, increasingly personal exchanges. So no, I don’t know why Cruz wants to keep his delegates (except as a last-resort “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass for Replacement Nominee” thing) or even why he wants to guard the platform. He can give his Reagan ’76 speech without doing either.