Waiting For Ted

FILE in this May 10, 2016 file photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks to reporters as he returns to the Capitol Hill in Washington. Cruz is refusing to condemn a rebellion against Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention as the fiery Texas conservative weighs his political future against the prospect of a national Republican embarrassment. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

The speech by Texas Senator Ted Cruz is probably the most significant event that will happen at this 2016 RNC convention. This is not to say important stuff hasn’t happened. The high-handed way in which the RNC leadership dealt with the DumpTrump faction has caused an irreparable rift in the GOP and there will be tit-for-tat retaliations for years. The RNC leadership showed itself to be utterly corrupt in the way it handled proposed rule changes that would make the 2020 primary more responsive to the will of the voters, so a guy with barely 40% of the vote will never again be our nominee. The general thuggishness of Trump delegates has demonstrated that these people have no place in the company of civilized humans much less as representatives to a political convention.

But Cruz’s speech is not about 2016, it is about 2020 and beyond.

This will be a difficult speech for him to navigate. He has a major speaking slot and the pressure on him to endorse Donald Trump will be enormous:

They volunteered for Ted Cruz, gave him campaign money and still adore the Texas senator.

But now it’s time, say even some of his longtime loyalists, for Cruz to finally endorse Donald Trump.

Cruz, who will address the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, remains one of the GOP’s most prominent holdouts, refusing to back his presidential primary rival even as most other Trump critics have come around — if only with their noses plugged.

Fom his Iowa chairman to members of his home state delegation, some of Cruz’s top supporters are now on board with Trump. And many hope Cruz hurries up and gets there, too — for the sake of the party, and, some suggest, for that of his own political future.

“I think it’d be better if he did, I really do,” said Sue Cleveland of the Texas delegation, who said she volunteered for Cruz and donated to his campaign. “I think Cruz will really ensure his bright future if he does come together and say, ‘This is for our party.’ We need to unify and get behind the candidate, Donald Trump.”

Our former editor-in-chief, Erick Ericksson has some very good thoughts on this today:

A friend of mine last night reminded me of the Blues and Greens. For those of you not familiar with them, after the fall of Rome, the remaining eastern half of the Roman Empire around Constantinople developed into factional mob rule. There was the church and there was sports. The sports teams were divided into blues, greens, reds, and whites. They controlled the city. Charity, food, jobs, even policing, etc. were arranged based on support for teams. Over time the reds and whites were absorbed into the blues and greens. In 532 AD, such was the strength of the fans of the blues and the fans of the greens, they united and nearly over through Emperor Justinian. That was also the beginning of their decline.

You’d like to think that the blues and greens stood for something. You’d like to think that they had public policy ideas or competing views on taxation or imperial rule or charitable distributions. But you’d be wrong. They were just loyalties to sports teams, nothing more and nothing less. It was tribalism without principle. Love for nation was trumped by love for either the blues or the greens, neither of which stood for anything more than players on a field. As my friend noted, men were willing to die for their teams and organize great spectacles to celebrate their teams. But they were just teams and nothing more.

Like the Duke of Norfolk to Thomas More, they just want the rest of us to go along too so they themselves do not look so bad in selling out or justifying their embrace of what they know to be a losing campaign with far reaching consequences all of which are bad.

Ted Cruz has several things he wishes to accomplish. First and foremost he has to avoid the “sore loser” label that various Trump surrogates, like Newt Gingrich, have tried to hang on him. As much as a lot of us would like to hear him tell the delegates “it sucks to be you” he is not going to do that. You will hear a lot of crap about Cruz’s pledge to support the eventual nominee, what you will not hear from Trump’s people is that Cruz, Kasich, and Trump all renounced that pledge in Milwaukee.

Just as he must avoid the “sore loser” appellation, he must also avoid embracing Cheeto Jesus. As we’ve seen time and again, anyone who endorses Trump becomes smaller by the second. They inevitably have to explain and own the stupid, corrupt, and chuckleheaded acts and statements of the most irresponsible candidate for president in the history of the republic. After Cruz’s spot-on critique of Trump in Indiana, Cruz would never again be able to be seen as a man of priniciple.

Lastly, we can predict that the national dumpster fire that will be either a Trump or a Clinton candidacy will create a weak, vulnerable, and possibly indicted incumbent by 2020.

As I’ve written before, I expect Cruz’s speech tonight to look a lot like Reagan’s 1976 convention speech, minus the endorsement of Trump.

Eliana Johnson has a must-read in today’s National Review. She covers some of the same points as above and confirms that no endorsement is forthcoming.

When Ted Cruz takes the stage here on Wednesday evening, what he doesn’t say will be as important as what he does: Though he accepted a primetime speaking spot at the convention that officially nominated Donald Trump on Tuesday, Cruz will not endorse the Republican nominee, according to two sources familiar with his plans.

The Texas senator has largely kept a low profile since exiting the presidential race in May, but he will be front and center on Wednesday. His speech will serve both as a formal reintroduction to millions of party faithful, the majority of whom did not support Trump in the primaries, and as the first public step in another presidential campaign. So while Trump uses Cruz’s appearance to project a semblance of party unity, the Texas senator will do his part to underscore the deep divisions in the GOP on the eve of Trump’s coronation — and to suggest tacitly that he, not Trump, is the face of the party’s future.

Going into tomorrow night’s speech, Cruz undoubtedly has Ronald Reagan’s 1976 convention speech in mind. Though Reagan narrowly lost the nomination to Gerald Ford that year, his speech succeeded in convincing the delegates gathered in Kansas City that they had chosen the wrong man. (Paul Manafort, now Trump’s campaign chairman, was at the time a young operative instrumental in wrangling delegates on Ford’s behalf.)

She goes on to note that Cruz is focused on 2020:

It’s a bold move. Nonetheless, Cruz is here in Cleveland, unlike many of other 2016 candidates. Marco Rubio will address the convention by video conference. John Kasich is in a state of open warfare with the Trump campaign. The Texas senator’s decision to attend and speak without endorsing the Republican nominee appears to be aimed at straddling the Republican establishment he has so gleefully bashed and the conservative base that elected him.

Are we seeing a new Ted Cruz?

There’s evidence of it. He would have thrilled many conservatives by becoming the face of the anti-Trump movement, which rages on even as Trump prepares to accept the nomination. But while a push to unbind convention delegates — bitterly opposed by Reince Priebus and his allies — gained and then lost momentum, in part because it lacked a visible leader, Cruz kept quiet. And he made no plans to release the hundreds of delegates he amassed on the campaign trail, and who are now obliged to cast ballots for him on the convention floor.

Then there are the rules governing the Republican primary contests and the Republican National Committee more broadly, which Cruz ally Ken Cuccinelli is pushing to change. Cruz and his team have kept a studious distance from Cuccinelli, denying any role in his efforts, which include demands to incentivize the closing of the first four nominating contests to independents and Democrats…

On the campaign trail, Cruz was fond of quoting Reagan’s admonition to “paint in bold colors.” He remains as ambitious as ever, but he has a more nuanced approach. It’s clear he would like for Trump to win the nomination and lose in November, making way for him to run again in 2020. And he will walk off the stage on Wednesday in the position to tell the GOP’s anti-Trump faction that he never endorsed the man they believe is destroying the party, while claiming to the party establishment that he was a team player.

There is another data point to consider. Even though Cruz refused to release his delegates, his team fought attempts to have his name entered into nomination. This let his people cast a protest vote without him being seen as a DumpTrump force:

As we’ve already reported, Cruz has organized two new tax-exempt organizations, a c3 and a c4, to capitalize on his donor list and lay the groundwork for 2020.

If Cruz gives the speech he has to tonight, he’ll leave the convention perfectly positioned to run against President Clinton or present President Trump with one helluva primary fight in 2020.