Like everyone else, my first reaction to Cruz using this line of attack at the recent GOP debate against Trump was that he walked into a trap. It appeared to be a rare mistake on Cruz’s part.
But after watching the war of words continue to unfold in the days after the debate between Trump and Cruz, I think Cruz might have outsmarted all of us.
I think it might have been the other way around, with Cruz setting a trap for Trump, and Trump walked right into it.
You see, Cruz is playing the long game. One thing everyone should know about Cruz is that everything he does when it comes to politics is strategic. He knows how to play the game better than anyone, and he knows that the game must be played, and that whoever plays it best will end up winning.
Unfortunately that means coming off like a politician sometimes, and having awkward moments, like spending months pretending to be Trump’s friend when everyone knows you aren’t and it’s just a matter of time before you attack him.
But a little awkwardness here and there is worth it in the end, it’s a small price to pay for winning such an important election, where the fate of the country hangs in the balance, and Cruz understands this crucial point.
I believe Cruz deliberately didn’t respond to Trump at the debate after Trump hammered him with his response to the NY values attack.
This is because Cruz was willing to lose that battle in order to win the war. Earlier that day, Trump already responded to that attack, shamefully using 9/11 to imply that Cruz is against the good people of NY who had to deal with that tragedy. So Cruz had to know Trump would use it again at the debate, and in the coming days afterwards.
He also calculated that this shameful response by Trump would eventually backfire, possibly to the point where some of Trump’s supporters in Iowa got fed up with his dirty attacks on Cruz and switched over to Cruz.
So at the debate, Cruz didn’t respond because that was his way of setting the trap. He let Trump have his moment because he was planning his attacks for the coming days, and sure enough, he was ready with an “apology” for attacking Trump’s “NY values”. This in turn angered Trump even more, who knew he wasn’t winning this debate, and out of desperation he once again used 9/11 as a political football to try to score points on Cruz.
But we have to ask ourselves, when Cruz and his team were in strategy sessions deciding which lines of attack would be the most effective to hit Trump with, why did they settle with this one? They knew there was some risk involved since it could be seen as divisive and petty, but they clearly concluded the benefits outweighed the risks.
I think it was simple, and it all came down to this interview Trump did with Tim Russert in 1999, which has subsequently put in an attack ad.
The key point to take away from it isn’t what Trump says about his views on social issues like abortion or gay marriage, although that’s still important. It’s how he explained why he had those liberal views. He said it was because he’s from NY, and that’s just how people are there, and he specifically contrasted NY with Iowa, implying that Iowa has a different set of values, which he clearly doesn’t share.
I believe that’s what this was all about. Cruz’s opposition researchers stumbled onto this interview, and immediately picked up on the fact that Trump himself mentioned Iowa in a way that could hurt him. It basically allows Cruz to draw battle lines between himself and the people of Iowa on one side, and Trump and the people of NY on the other.
In other words, it could help Cruz win Iowa.
Beyond that, Cruz figured it would anger Trump enough to cause him to do or say the kinds of crazy things he does and says when he feels pressure or drops in the polls, like his meltdown over Ben Carson demonstrated.
These increasingly silly and desperate attacks on Cruz from Trump would force conservatives, particularly the influential ones in talk radio like Levin and others, to choose sides, which they’ve done everything they can to avoid doing until now. Once these people of influence take Cruz’s side, they might be able to bring enough of their listeners with them to finally put a dent in Trump’s poll numbers.
Once again Cruz has shown his brilliance, and if he can run a campaign this effectively, I have no reason to think he couldn’t run the country effectively as well.
I just hope the republican voters of Iowa and the rest of the country reward him for it, cause I would love nothing more than seeing both Cruz win and Trump lose.