There are two possibilities regarding Trump’s dumb and mean tweet about Heidi Cruz: 1) Trump is just a jerk who likes to demean women or 2) Trump is a jerk who likes to demean women AND he thinks this will help him strategically. This diary will look at Trump’s dumb tweet assuming it was intended to be strategic and also look skeptically at the conventional wisdom that Trump’s supporters will just stick to him no matter what.
The tweet attacking Heidi’s looks came on the same day as a national poll that has Cruz and Trump in a statistical tie, another poll that has Cruz leading in Wisconsin by a point, multiple polls that have Senator Cruz being much more competitive with Clinton in a general election, and just a couple of days after Cruz won Utah with almost 70% of the vote. Additionally, general election polling suggests that Ted Cruz would easily win Utah while Trump would turn it into a swing state that leans Clinton.
It’s easy to see how The Donald could be feeling a little desperate, and longing to start some stupid “feud” perhaps remembering how previous spats with other candidates have seemed to hurt the other candidates (and, if nothing else, it prevented any substantive discussion of issues for awhile) but, if so, he’s forgetting Carly Fiorina.
Trump’s “Look at that face!” remarks were published on September 9th at about that time point 3 national polls had Trump in the low 3o’s * while Carly was in the low single digits. Then suddenly Trump spends the rest of the month in the 20’s (even dropping down to 17% in one poll behind Carson at 24%) and from September 11th until December 1st only 2 polls (out of 24 listed at RCP) have Trump breaking 30% support. And he went from leading by 12 to 13% to usually single digit leads (up until mid to late November) and even trailing Carson in one poll. Meanwhile, Fiorina came up in the polls quite quickly.
Correlation does not always imply causation but I think there are a lot of reasons to think that Trump’s insult about Carly’s looks and everything that followed played a big part in Trump’s roughly 3 month long drop in the polls and the (much nicer) Carson’s temporary rise.
This latest insult from Trump is even worse, and should be even more damaging. For one thing when he made the remarks about Carly – nobody had actually heard him say the words, it was just a quote from Rolling Stone. And Trump (rather lamely) tried to play it off as how he was commenting on her character by using the words “her face”.
1) There’s no pretext of making any sort of legitimate criticism, it’s openly an attack on Heidi based on her looks. It’s an openly aggressive, nasty thing to have done. (And the attempts to blame Ted Cruz for an ad he had nothing to do with are only likely to work on the most hardened Trump supporters) This is a new low for Trump.
2) Heidi isn’t the candidate. With Fiorina, as inappropriate as disgusting as Trump’s comments were, there was probably at least some tendency to see it as a little less bad because, after all, Carly was running for President and a Presidential candidate has to be ready for a certain amount of nastiness.
3) Senator Cruz can pretty much say anything about Trump now and nobody will say boo. He’s already called Trump a bully, a loud mouth, a “sniveling coward”, somebody who is insecure and lashes out when he’s fearful, etc. and he’s stopped saying he’ll support Trump if he’s the nominee and it only makes Senator Cruz more appealing. (And I think the Trump Camp’s decision not to respond and try and play it off as if Cruz is some marginal candidate trying to get attention will backfire. For one, he obviously isn’t. And secondly, you can’t be both in the gutter and “above the fray”)
4) This is now part of a well established pattern of bad behavior towards women: the various disgusting comments directed at Megyn Kelly, the comments about Fiorina’s face, trashing the Brietbart reporter who was manhandled by his crew on top of comments and incidents from his life before he ran for President thoroughly establishes that Donald Trump is not only a disaster of a candidate in general but the WORST IMAGINABLE CANDIDATE to run against Hillary Clinton.
I also noticed that, unless I missed something, Trump didn’t even really bother to defend his own wife. When Heidi Cruz was attacked, Ted talked about what a wonderful wife and wonderful person she is. I haven’t seen Trump saying anything similar. Has he even expressed anger at the person who actually chose to publish that ad?? Not that I’ve heard. Seemed to just jump on the ad as a pretext to start attacking Heidi Cruz.
I’ll finish with a small anecdotal example that I hope might be a sign of Trump’s vulnerability:
The day this happened I posted a comment on Facebook asking if any of Trump supporters were at least a little bit disappointed and embarrassed by Trump’s tweet. One guy said he was but he also equally disliked the ad with Melania. I “liked” his response and said that his problem was with Liz Mair then, because Cruz had nothing to do with the ad. He said he thought that was probably true and I left it at that.
Then later that day, I linked Heidi Cruz’s short press conference with a comment that she’s going to be a terrific first lady. The same guy comments again, this time saying that Heidi is definitely not ugly and it was a low blow. I “liked” that and just made a comment listing the reasons I think she’ll be a great first lady. (didn’t even say anything about Trump)
He responds by saying he’s pulling for Cruz now. He likes some of Trump’s proposed policies but is concerned about his temperament. This was somebody who has seemed totally gung ho about Trump for months…