Why I've changed my mind about Cruz's decision not to attack Trump (part 2)

(Continued from part 1)

Here’s another reason Cruz isn’t responding to Trump’s comments: By responding to everything Trump says, it gives Trump exactly what he wants and needs- attention. It’s the primary driver of his campaign, and it gives him a ton of free media and publicity. Without it he just wouldn’t be where he is right now.

When all of the candidates are constantly asked by the media to respond to every statement Trump makes, it makes him seem bigger and more influential than he really is, and he uses that ongoing narrative to encourage his supporters even more and attract new supporters.

If Cruz responds, he puts all of the attention on Trump and takes attention away from the ideas and qualities that are attracting voters to his own campaign.

What Cruz is currently doing is like depriving a forest fire of the oxygen it uses as fuel to keep burning. Trump is that fire, and the oxygen of his campaign is attention. When Cruz doesn’t respond and instead uses his time in the spotlight to talk about his own ideas and vision for the country, it deprives Trump of that oxygen.

A fire isn’t self-sustaining, eventually it runs out of fuel and burns itself out. It can only go on if it’s given a continuous source of fuel. Cruz is banking on Trump burning down his own campaign. Trump doesn’t have his own fuel because he doesn’t have any new ideas or a vision for the country, he’s just making it up as he goes. I believe voters, even some of his own supporters, will get tired of that eventually.

When they get in that voting booth they’re gonna be voting for solutions to the problems they face, not just tough talk and empty promises. That’s when they’re gonna be looking for an alternative to Trump, someone who offers those solutions, but they’ll only consider such a candidate if they believe he’s willing to take on the establishment, and they won’t believe that if a candidate is spending most of his time attacking Trump, as Kasich has done.

So right now Cruz is laying the foundation to be that candidate by avoiding Trump and talking about his own proposals and beliefs. He’s keeping the attention on himself so that when voters go to the polls in a few months or more, they’re remember things he’s said at campaign events and tv interviews now instead of stuff he said about stuff Trump said.

He can only win if he creates his own narrative in the minds of voters, and he can only do that if he doesn’t comment on things Trump says because that feeds into Trump’s narrative, and there can only be one dominant narrative in the presidential race. So far what Cruz is doing is working, so there’s no reason for him to change his strategy.

That being said, there is one piece of advice I would offer Cruz to prepare him for the attacks coming his way from Trump.

I think there’s only one effective way for him to handle these attacks: disarm Trump with humor. When Trump takes a cheap shot at him and the media ask him to respond, he should make a joke about Trump’s attack without attacking Trump back. That way he kills two birds with one stone- he doesn’t appear weak as he would if he avoided commenting on the attack at all, and he comes off as magnanimous and presidential while making trump look petty, all while avoiding angering his supporters

The classic example of this was Reagan in 1984. During a debate with Mondale, the moderator told Reagan that Mondale has made an issue of Reagan’s old age in the campaign, to which Reagan replied with the now famous line, “I won’t make age an issue in this campaign, I wont’ attack my opponent for his youth and inexperience”.

Reagan could’ve gotten serious and tried to use the issue to make a direct attack on mondale, but instead he chose to make a joke out of it, which not only won over the audience, but it disarmed Mondale and prevented him from using that line of attack for the rest of the debate. I believe that’s what Cruz needs to do with Trump on any issue Trump attacks him on.


Update:   I wrote this before Trump’s attack on Cruz, calling him a “maniac”.  Cruz responded exactly the way I suggested he should in this piece, so I’m glad he took the approach that I believe will be the most effective politically.