This was written as a response to the Susan Wright diary that engaged in hand-wringing over the fact that somehow Cruz didn’t respond or approach Trump in the properly constructive way. As she put is: “my problem with Cruz isn’t so much that he didn’t attack as it is he gave legitimacy to Trump by praising him.” She is not the only one, of course. Some in the GOP establishment wanted Cruz to do this or that, as if they could manipulate the candidates so both of them would somehow go away.
What is most pointless about somehow holding Cruz responsible for the rise of Donald Trump is this bald fact: WITHOUT TRUMP IN THE RACE, CRUZ WOULD BE WINNING THE NOMINATION RIGHT NOW. The plain fact is Cruz is the #1 ‘victim’ of Trump’s success. Blaming Cruz for the rise of Trump is like blaming Hillary for Obama 2008. There are many reasons and many people who can be held ‘responsible’ for Trump’s success. Cruz aint one of them.
There were 17 campaigns making 17 different decisions about how to behave. There was also the RNC, on tenderhooks not wanting the nightmare of Trump being Perot 2.0 (and there is not a doubt with Trump’s success and outsider appeal that we could be a 30% candidate as a 3rd party one). The Cruz campaign correctly decided not to attack other campaigns, and there was wisdom to that, both in that ‘attacking’ Trump did not hurt him it seems, and in that attacking anyone early was a distraction from building positive support.
Yes, the Cruz campaign and most every other campaign miscalculated on the staying power of Trump. Cruz was counting on ‘gravity’ pulling Trump down when there was no gravity at all to a celebrity candidate. They underestimated the 3-way power Trump had:
1. Trump is GOOD at media manipulation and PR. Trump had a lifetime experience in self-promotion, building himself as his brand, and over 10 years in TV production. Trump knows media. What was thought to be killing him only created media for him and helped him.
2. Trump is a celebrity. They underestimated the name ID and star power impact of getting low-info voter interest.
3. Trump as the outsider business candidate – that is a ‘dream’ for some in the GOP. They fall for that bunk.
Add the 3 up and you have a natural politician PLUS a celebrity PLUS a business candidate. but then there’s the fourth factor, the political entree that Trump used, his ‘hook’ to get support.
4. Trump running on immigration and trade, the Perot/Buchanan populism. So what if it was Santorum’s campaign 2012. On a shoestring, Santorum took on Romney with the power of that message. In 2016, Trump combined that message, shed the social conservatism and beefed up other concerns (veterans, anti-Muslim/terrorism fear), and made a powerful populist message.
NOTE WELL: Cruz had zero control over any of these. None of the factors of Trump’s popularity is within Cruz’ control. If Trump was being genuine or fraudulent, it was not up to Cruz to ‘legitimize’ Trump. And the Cruz ‘negatives’ that Trump has used – birtherism, that he is elected Senator, that he is ‘bought’, are not things Cruz can change. At all.
So 20-20 hindsight says a different approach would have been better. But what would Cruz have done better? Cruz in the first 3 debates was ignored much by moderators, only when Cruz lit into the moderators for their ‘cage match’ questions did Cruz get the notice needed to move up. He did well with his time. Cruz on the stump was the ONLY one besides Trump on the side of being against amnesty and for the wall, more consistently even. Cruz was the ONLY one aware and tapping into the ‘voter anger’ factor. Cruz did join with Trump in September on the Iran rally. SMART MOVE. Cruz was noticing one thing – TRUMP GOT MEDIA. So Cruz made his rally and ‘alliance’ with Trump a ‘story’. Without that story, Cruz might have been another Rand Paul, making his “true believer” case to an empty room while people flocked to Trump.
Trump did succeed in cultivating more success on the backs of voter distaste with Washington. Could Cruz have channelled that? Could he say have gotten up and made a speech like “You know, I see how voters are fed up with Washington, and they are turning to Donald Trump, they are considering Ben Carson, some are thinking Carly Fiorina is the answer. Well, it turns out folks that Trump is a big mistake. He’s the wrong guy.” He could have gone on and said:
Like all narcissists, Donald Trump is insecure and weak, and afraid of being exposed. And that’s why he is constantly telling us how big and how rich and how great he is, and how insignificant everyone else is. We’ve all met people like Trump, and we know that only a very weak and small person needs to constantly tell us how strong and powerful he is. Donald Trump believes that he is the answer to every question…
The conservative cause deserves more than a power-hungry shark who eats whatever is in front of him…because sooner or later, we will be his next meal.
Oh wait. A conservative candidate for President did say that. Gov Bobby Jindal. Gov Jindal gave a truthful teardown of Donald Trump. Should Cruz has done a Jindal and made a full frontal attack on Trump? It was a great speech … that nobody heard. It made not a dent in Donald Trump’s popularity. And when yet MORE people heard Cruz and Rubio in February make more substantive cases about Trump. Did even that stop Trump? Not in Nevada, not in the deep South, not in Florida. And not in Massachusetts, where Trump got near 50%. That’s right, a place where few knew Cruz, cared about him or supported him. Trump country.
Let’s recount the Heros who took on Trump early on:
- Perry, Jindal – Spoke the truth in an environment where it was needed; fat lot of good it did them
- Jeb Bush – A consistent critic, but he attacked Trump in the most INEFFECTIVE way to take on Trump, failed to find the REAL vector of attacks, which is that Trump is a lying pandering phony who screws the little people when he can.
- Rand Paul: Made some smart comments in debates that put Trump in his place, but then Paul critiqued Rubio, Cruz and others.
Let’s recount the Cowards:
- Huckabee: Sucking up to Trump the whole time “I even have a Trump tie!”
- Huckabee’s PAC: DID YOU NOT NOTICE THAT HUCKABEE’S PAC FAILED TO ATTACK TRUMP BUT TOOK ON CRUZ? That’s right, it’s not Trump they took on for being a liberal in new York and not being ‘Christian’ enough, it was Cruz! But then, they had that whole ethanol agenda thing.
- Carson: So Trump goes on a 90 minute Carson rant and … THE FLACCID CARSON CAMPAIGN FAILED TO ATTACK TRUMP. That’s right, Trump calls Carson pretty much a liar and a criminal and Carson just takes it. Wimps out. What?!? Meanwhile, Carson, unable to
- NOTICE HOW CHRISTIE, KASICH AND RUBIO NEVER TOOK ON TRUMP EARLY ON?
- GOP establishment: So now we find out that Trump got the equivalent of about $2 billion in free media, AND that of about $250 million in GOP primary ad spending prior to the end of February, less than $10 million was anti-Trump. There was no real anti-Trump effort that was sufficiently large and sufficiently funded to take on Trump.
RUBIO did not take on Trump until AFTER New Hampshire. Rubio did redeem himself later by really going after Trump, but did it help Rubio? Tons of negative Trump ads, tons of negative Rubio ads. Trump won Florida. What gives? What is it that make Trump the Teflon Don, the indestructible Orange One? Trump’s celebrity status makes people think they know him. You can’t just throw up a few ads to try to ‘define’ a man who gets 30 minutes on the Morning Joe per week, and was talked about for hours on end by every talk radio show.
ONLY Cruz took on Trump and actually made it stick AND actually has done it consistently. Cruz has been a Trump critic since early January. Only Jeb Bush was more consistently attacking Trump longer. Only Cruz survived the counterassault of Trumps constant lying about Cruz, with all the namecalling and worse. What could Cruz have done to get the blue collar whites that like Trump on trade to like him. Cruz voted against TPA, he updated his immigration stance, he did NOT attack Trump supporters as other candidates / people were wont to do (good reason, dont insult people you want to woo). In short, Cruz is the only candidate in the race who was smart enough to actually pay attention to the constituency Trump was catering to and to try to address their issues and needs, rather than insult those voters or somehow assume they would go away. Did it work? Not enough.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda … yes, Cruz perhaps should have taken Trump on earlier but then what about the REAL reason Trump leads?
- FoxNews, Rush, Laura Ingraham, Hannity, and the conservative media being his superPAC
- The rest of media giving Trump 70% of total primary coverage
- And what about, duh, his supporters? His supporters may be idiots for supporting such a terrible nominee, but that’s elections for ya. A real lying phony, an uninformed and shallow egomaniac and a terrible nominee. But some voters like him – they like his panders, his bluster, his boasting and his appeal to make America great again. They like his wall, and so what if he’s a buffoon about it, it seems a better option for many than the wilful incompetence of our de facto open borders policies and the pro-amnesty advocacy of the GOP establishment and Democrats alike. The blue collar workers would rather vote for a guy who sticks it to China than who sticks it to them.
Cruz cannot be blamed for any of the above. TRUMP WILL BE THE WORST NOMINEE FOR THE GOP IN A GENERATION, and there is only one candidate who can stop him – CRUZ. So instead of this pointleess fingerpointing at Cruz for not doing something magical to stop Trump before … help Cruz to STOP TRUMP NOW.