The Establishment's only hope: Trump & me in a cage match.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 11, 2015
I’m trying to be a loyal Cruzer here but there has to be a little self-awareness about that six-month populist bromance last year, no?
Skip to 8:20 of the clip for the bit about blame, which comes in reply to a question about Fox News. I’m trying to be objective and not a Cruz shill in saying that I think Cruz made the right move for him in choosing to hug Trump early instead of attacking him. Cruz hitting Trump hard as a RINO last summer would have been interesting in that it would have complicated conservative talk radio’s take on the race, but I’m not sure why anyone thinks that would have affected the outcome. Beck was anti-Trump since day one; Hannity was always going to stay on the right side of his listeners; Rush would have just rolled out his “I’m not taking sides, I’m explaining what’s happening” shtick a few months earlier. Meh. More than that, has there been any inkling at any point of this race that Trump’s core 30-percent base would abandon him for any reason, including a sustained attack by Cruz? Which voters, exactly, would have rallied to Cruz as a result of him taking on Trump? Don’t say “Rubio’s.” Most Rubio fans agree with Cruz substantially on policy but many seem to dislike him personally as he has none of Rubio’s optimistic normal-guy charm. His vision for the party was fundamentally different from Rubio’s too. Cruz always believed that he could win by turning out conservatives, especially social conservatives, en masse. Rubio believed that he could make the party bigger by consolidating conservatives and centrists and reaching out to non-Republicans, especially Latinos. Cruz’s bet, that if he buddied up to Trump and stayed patient in the expectation that Trump would fade and he’d inherit Trump’s voters, wasn’t irrational. It just didn’t pan out.
I don’t think Cruz ran any risk of flaming out of the race early like other Trump critics (namely, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal did) if he had gone after Trump last summer, but I don’t see what he would have gained by it either. Like I say, I think lying low was the right move — for him. I think you can make the argument, though, that Cruz and Trump ripping each other apart before the voting started might have benefited Rubio by alienating some pro-Cruz conservatives who’d blanch at the spectacle of the two populists attacking each other and would switch to Sen. Sunshine. If Trump had damaged Cruz with months of attacks early, would a few points in Iowa have shifted from Cruz to Rubio? How about in South Carolina? If Rubio had emerged as the preferred choice of anti-Trump conservatives, maybe he would have done better than Cruz did in getting anti-Trump moderates to line up behind him instead of Kasich and maybe that would have extended the race past Indiana. (No wonder Rubio fans are always so grouchy about the Trump/Cruz bromance.) Then again, how exactly would Rubio have won Florida? And could he ever really have outlasted Cruz in this political climate given his immigration record? The what-if scenarios in which Trump loses are hard and few, if any, depend realistically on Cruz canceling his Trump bromance before it started.
Anyway, the real significance of this clip is that it implies Cruz won’t be endorsing Trump. Right? If he planned to do that, he wouldn’t suggest that there’s some sort of moral failing involved for which all those who helped lift Trump to the nomination must “bear responsibility.” And yet, he reiterates that he’s going to the convention. And when he’s asked whether he’ll give a speech there, which would all but require him to support Trump publicly, he doesn’t rule it out. How much responsibility are you planning to bear in getting this guy elected president, senator?
In lieu of an exit question, here’s a fun bit from Politico about the GOP establishment reveling in their own culpability: “All the Senate Republicans who attended the meeting [yesterday] also took turns taking a photo with Trump, with the presumptive nominee giving a thumbs-up in all the pictures, another source familiar with the meeting said.” As John Boehner said, “Thank God the guy from Texas didn’t win!”