According to POLITICO, the Rubio campaign has worn itself out dancing the macarena over Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s difficulties on what may or may not be conflicts in his position on the legalization of illegal aliens. I say “may or may not” because Utah Senator Mike Lee, for instance, has supported Cruz’s account, but a colorable case can be made for the Rubio position. In the POLITICO story, this was a scheme long in the making:
The three men leading [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]’s presidential campaign were huddled in a Las Vegas war room when [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] walked into their trap.
Their candidate had been sparring with his rival on the GOP debate stage for two hours already. But when Rubio ad-libbed an interrogation of Cruz’s past position on legalizing undocumented immigrants, they knew the Texas senator wouldn’t be able to contain himself.
“I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization,” Cruz declared.
In that moment, Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan, top adviser Todd Harris and communications director Alex Conant recognized what they’d accomplished because they’d been planning this exchange all along. Not only had Cruz just contradicted his own statements from 2013, he’d used words that gave them the opening they had been wanting to turn their rival’s anti-establishment narrative on its head.
The story goes on to say:
According to sources close to the campaign, the unifying thread of Rubio’s case against Cruz won’t be immigration or national security or any single policy issue. It’ll be his perceived tendency to say different things to different audiences and an attempt to convince voters that the candidate purporting to be a straight-talking anti-establishment outsider is anything but that.
On Thursday, Rubio portrayed Cruz’s position on immigration as that of a craven politician, trying to convince primary voters of his conservative credentials while leaving himself wiggle room to tack to the center if he wins the nomination. “I think his hope was, once he got into the general election. to then start talking about legalization as a way to attract voters,” Rubio said.
We’ll see how this works out.
To me there are a lot of issues with attacking Cruz on an amendment to the Gang of Eight immigration bill, which everyone, including the Democrats, acknowledge had a lot of input from Rubio as a way of diverting attention from the fact that Rubio’s bill would have resulted in wholesale amnesty and ultimately citizenship for millions of illegals. More that the Gang of Eight bill, there is Rubio’s promise to Florida voters that he would never vote for amnesty while running for the Senate.
Anytime you are trying to build a narrative it has to have some relationship with reality as the voters see it. I have no doubt that the Jeb Bush donors that Rubio has been cozying up to see Cruz in exactly the light that the Rubio camp is portraying him. The problem is convincing the public that Cruz isn’t a conservative. And even it they do succeed in some way, will Rubio benefit from the attack and will he benefit before it is too late.
It seems to me that if this gambit were to have a chance at succeeding that it would have been launched a month or so ago, certainly not the week before Christmas when most humans aren’t paying attention.
Now, the Rubio game plan is not to let up. Pounder and his team believe they have ample material to fill in a composite sketch of Cruz as a political opportunist: his praise for Edward Snowden, opposition to the NSA’s former metadata surveillance program and his closed-door comments criticizing Trump even as he continues to show remarkable deference to him in public.
Just as Cruz has started to appear unbeatable in Iowa, just as Hillary Clinton’s campaign and top Republicans begin to acknowledge the obvious path for Cruz through the primary and the possibility that he could win the nomination, even amid nagging questions about Rubio’s early-state strategy — Rubio’s successful immigration broadside against Cruz has given some establishment figures confidence that he might be on the right track.
Again all of this betrays the extent to which the Rubio camp has become creatures of the GOP establishment. Opposition to the NSA metadata collection is going to cost Cruz zero votes, worse than that, Rubio’s support of it makes him very vulnerable to claims that he is in favor of Big Brother reading your email and listening to your phone calls. The comments on Trump might be clever to Rubio’s team, but after the debate Tuesday that they could harbor fantasies that those comments are going to hurt Cruz simply shows the extent to which they are engaging in wishful thinking.
The last sentence really says it all. This attack is not about hurting Cruz with voters because only a moron could think that Cruz’s answer on his amendment is going to be more damage that Rubio explaining how he told Florida voters he would never vote for amnesty, then supported and helped shape an amnesty bill, then decided he was against amnesty again. This attack is about bringing Jeb Bush donors on board. And the way to attract Bush and other establishment donors to the Rubio campaign is to give them attacks that they want to hear. Attacks that don’t resonate with GOP primary voters but which are catnip to the establishment. And what better way to communicate to the GOP establishment that you are about to take out the most dangerous man in the race with a can’t-lose-killer-strategy than to trumpet that strategy in POLITICO.