Fox Debate: Did you catch Ted Cruz using the establishment to defend himself?

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, , left, and Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush take a break during a commercial during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Last night’s debate’s real utility was in Ted Cruz and Donald Trump jockeying for position in Iowa. Sure other candidates were on stage, notably Marco Rubio as he seeks to survive the first few states, but this was the first genuine, face-to-face clash between Cruz and Trump.

And in the fight over Trump’s birther nonsense, Cruz was more than happy to enlist the establishment’s darlings in his defense. Did you catch it?


Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, , left, and Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush  take a break during a commercial during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, , left, and Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush take a break during a commercial during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Cruz said last night:

I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa. But the facts and law here are really quite clear. If a soldier has a child abroad, that child is a natural born citizen. That is why John McCain, even though he was born in Panama was eligible to run for president. If an American missionary has a child abroad, that child is a natural born citizen.

While Cruz only mentioned McCain by name, this was also an allusion to the Romney clan, whom the establishment still adores, and would love to have running for President this year. When Cruz is talking about missionaries having a child abroad, he’s blowing a dog whistle to the establishment-friendly voters who may be looking to stop Donald Trump.

That’s right. Mormon outreach into Mexico, including colonies of missionaries, is an idea that dates back to Brigham Young, and continued on under later church leaders. As a result of these efforts George Romney himself was born to American citizens in one of those missionary colonies in Mexico. Back when George Romney ran for President, nobody made a big deal about this.

It’s only now, with the modern birther era of frankly ignorant ranting, are people getting weird ideas that you need blood and soil to be a proper natural-born citizen of the United States. These birthers who questioned Barack Obama also questioned both George and Mitt Romney, and now they question Cruz and Marco Rubio.

So now the establishment has a choice: defend Cruz, or betray their heroes. Ha.