Last three days ago, much of the GOP establishment was pronouncing Ted Cruz’s political career over. The narrative was that Cruz was a disloyal f*** who should have endorsed Cheeto Jesus at the RNC convention:
Ted Cruz’s next presidential campaign is off to a rocky start. The 2016 Republican runner-up, who has made little effort to mask his intention to run again in 2020, believed he was standing on principle — and protecting and promoting his brand — when he refused to endorse Donald Trump in his July 20 address to the GOP convention.
Instead, Cruz’s remarks provoked backlash not only from delegates in Cleveland but also from allies in the conservative movement and top-dollar donors to his campaign. In the week and a half since his speech, some of Cruz’s longtime supporters have excoriated him both in private and in public, blowback that has far exceeded what Cruz and his team anticipated.
“I was utterly shocked. He gave a world-class speech, and had he stopped seven-eighths of the way through, nobody would doubt he’d be the nominee in 2020 or 2024,” says one person who was among Cruz’s biggest donors and bundlers. “Instead he goes and says, ‘Vote your conscience,’ which everyone knows meant, ‘F Trump.’”
The donor, who requested anonymity to preserve his relationship with the senator, says many of Cruz’s financial backers share his sentiments. “I haven’t talked to any of the seven-figure donors to the super PAC who are happy — this is not good,” he says. “I think he’s — I think this is not going to be easy to get over.”
If Cruz was looking for a head start on his next presidential campaign, this wasn’t it. “Forget about 2020,” says the top donor. “It’s a pipe dream now.”
That was before Donald Trump spent a week attacking the parents of a young officer killed in action in Iraq, musing aloud about nuking potential enemies, attacking Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte, and encouraging Russia to invade Estonia.
Yesterday the storyline across networks was that the Trump campaign was demoralized and planning an intervention to rein in Trump’s YUGE mouth. GOP establishment figures were talking openly of Trump getting out of the race and the process for selecting an actual certified human to be the GOP candidate. Today, it seems that the donor class is having a huge case of buyer’s remorse.
The turbulence in Donald Trump’s campaign could cost him money — potentially a lot of it.
Trump fundraisers say that large donors are holding back checks because they can’t trust that the businessman will stay disciplined enough to run a serious campaign.
Donors are sending furious text messages and emails to Trump fundraisers, asking how they can support a candidate who willingly trashes fellow Republicans, as he did this week by refusing to endorse Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in their reelection races.
“I just had a major donor tell me, ‘If he wants to do this’ — the guy’s ready to send the money … and he says to me, ‘If he wants to do this stuff, let him spend his own dough,’ ” a Trump fundraiser told The Hill on Wednesday. The fundraiser was granted anonymity to discuss private conversations.
“He said, ‘I’m on hold for right now. As much as I want to win … I don’t mind losing but I’m not going to just give money to a guy who’s beating himself and making stupid mistakes.’ ”
“There’s a lot of people who are very concerned and feel he has no discipline and that he’s not controllable.”
The fundraiser said things had gotten so bad over the past 48 hours that there was no point in making fresh fundraising pitches on Wednesday. The only calls at the moment involve donors venting their anger, the fundraiser said.
“You know what a lot of donors are talking about? It’s that Trump is saying that the race is rigged … because he can’t accept blame. … He’s one of these personalities who can never say he’s wrong, never say he’s made a mistake.
“There’s nothing rigged,” the fundraiser added. “Look, if a few dead people vote in Chicago or Pennsylvania, who cares? That isn’t going to be the difference.”
Another senior member of Trump’s fundraising team told The Hill that donors are sending messages and emails saying, “Tell Trump to stay on message and keep attacking Hillary and stop the other antics.”
“People don’t understand what he’s doing,” the fundraiser said on Wednesday. “He’s not attacking Hillary, he’s attacking our own. You eat your young, right?”
“Do I feel uncomfortable? I’ve felt uncomfortable all along. The question is when do you lose your enthusiasm and stop working as hard.”
And this instant classic
"I would break his f—ing thumbs if I could" – top Trump donor/fundraiser to me just now.
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) August 3, 2016
Then there is influential Koch family fundraising network washing their hands of Trump because he stands for nothing:
But Charles Koch bases all of his decisions — whether they’re in business, politics or his personal life — on a set of “guiding principles” that underpin his free market philosophy. He is known to carry the checklist, which includes the words integrity, humility and respect, in his suit jacket pocket.
Koch’s team, led by general counsel Mark Holden, has already met with the Trump campaign and decided there is not enough policy alignment for Koch to support Trump.
The conservative donor wants to get rid of ObamaCare, dramatically reduce the size and scope of government programs including social security, cut regulations, trim down the police state, end the public subsidization of green energy and scrap all government subsidies to corporations.
Koch sees no evidence that either Trump or Clinton would follow through on the Koch agenda. And the billionaire believes that a meeting between himself and Trump would only lead to unwanted media speculation and inevitable disappointment on both sides.
The Hill spent three days with the Koch network’s 400-odd donors who attended the summer retreat. The Kochs invited several national reporters to attend the retreat on the condition that they not identify any donors without permission.
Over the course of attending seminars and talking to donors at the resort’s bars and other informal spots, it became clear that many in Koch’s network support his decision on Trump.
Many of those in attendance want to defeat Clinton, but they don’t have enthusiasm for Trump.
“I don’t think I’ve had a single person who’s been enthusiastic about Donald Trump based on his position on the issues or his overall experience and qualifications,” the influential North Carolina donor Art Pope said in an interview with The Hill at a resort bar on Sunday night.
Pope won’t give a penny to Trump. And asked how he plans to vote in November, he said, “The election is still three months away, and I may not decide until I walk into the voting booth.”
Chart Westcott, a Texas investor who gave $200,000 to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s super-PAC during the primaries, said, “I may end up voting for him. … But I’m not going to support him financially.
“He just doesn’t align with my principles and my values.”
I think you are going to see the wisdom of Ted Cruz’s position become more apparent every day between now and Election Day. 2020 is a long time away and who knows who our candidate will be but people who say Cruz damaged himself really need to take a deep breath and look at the GOP candidate and decide how they can actively support such a creature.