Ted Cruz birthers aren’t going away, and the GOP seems totally cool with that

What do Donald Trump, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Ann Coulter, bomb-throwing Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, Sen. Ted Cruz’s former Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, a smattering of other constitutional law professors, your super liberal mother-in-law, and really anyone else who enjoys a good time all have in common?

None of them will forthrightly declare that Canadian-born Sen. Ted Cruz is eligible to serve as president. After Trump renewed speculation that Cruz is constitutionally ineligible to serve as president, others refused to rule out the possibility too. Some of these Cruz birthers, like the outlying constitutional law professor who wrote this Washington Post opinion piece, believe that the consensus understanding of the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” clause—that it is meant to include U.S. citizens who are born as such, even if born abroad—is incorrect. But others may (may!) be fueling the skepticism because they consider it fun and/or politically savvy to troll Cruz. To wit, an unseemly number of leading Republicans are claiming they don’t want to get “involved” in the question of whether Cruz, who has a better chance than most of becoming the Republican presidential nominee, would be constitutionally able to serve as president.

Cruz tries very hard to act as though he dislikes McConnell, and there’s little doubt that McConnell’s own dislike of Cruz is genuine. Cruz has anchored his national political career on conservative rejection of McConnell and all he supposedly represents: spineless congressional leadership, the RINO establishment, funding the federal government in a timely manner, etc. So when McConnell was asked whether the Senate would pass a resolution confirming Cruz’s eligibility for the nation’s top office, as the chamber did on a bipartisan basis for Panama-born Sen. John McCain in 2008, credit McConnell for not laughing out loud. “I just don’t think the Senate ought to get into the middle of this,” McConnell said Sunday. “These guys will all slug it out in Iowa and New Hampshire. We’ll have a nominee hopefully by sometime in the spring.”