I confess I am astounded.
Having written some columns in favor of a Trump-Cruz ticket, knowing that one primary after another has anti-Establishment candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz collectively racking up as much as 80% of the vote, it certainly seemed crystal clear what Republican voters were saying.
Under no circumstances did they want an umpteenth GOP Establishment candidate who was nothing more than Democrat-lite or so tied into the Establishment that one could be sure only that the last thing they would bring to the White House was serious change. Clearly, in the minds of GOP voters Trump and Cruz were the anti-Establishment guys. Hooray!
And then? And then.
Yesterday we find out that Ted Cruz apparently had a road-to-Damascus vision that caused him to suddenly realize well, gee. If he couldn’t get to the required 1,237 delegates for victory in Cleveland, the next best thing was for him to team up with… with… the Establishment’s Mr. Kasich! Not the anti-Cartel Trump, but the Cartel’s very own Kasich. Yes, a Trump-Cruz anti-Establishment alliance would end the nomination battle on the spot with a decided victory. But no, Cruz’s epiphany was to suddenly veer leftward while the battle rages. In the second Big Mistake of his campaign — the “New York values” business being the first — Cruz has just abruptly ventured for a walk on the Dark Side.
I know, I know. He wants to be president. I wanted him to be vice president so he could get to be president because I felt there was reasonable concern he couldn’t get there on his own at this point. A Trump-Cruz alliance made perfect sense. New York and Texas, the showman and the scholar, the businessman and the constitutional lawyer. Both the sons of immigrants to boot, with Cruz a Hispanic. Who better to be discussing the finer points of putting conservatives on the Court during those weekly presidential-vice presidential lunches than Vice President Cruz? Even more to the point, who better — whether vice president or not — to have running point for the anti-Establishment President Trump than Ted Cruz?
Instead, for whatever reason, Senator Cruz has gone in exactly the other direction. Sending his own campaign manager out there to deal with the Kasich campaign manager whose record for trashing conservatives when he isn’t playing on the team with liberal Democrats is just truly sterling.
What in the world is the thinking here? Does Senator Cruz not realize that the very Establishment on whose train he now hops is looking to push him off that train the moment they can? They’d sooner drink the entire water supply of Flint, Michigan, than support Ted Cruz on a second or third or fourth or any ballot in Cleveland. They will abandon him in a New York minute and do everything in their power to nominate an Establishment crony. Pick one — anyone. As long as it isn’t Trump or Cruz, they are on board. All they have to do is figure out how to get the convention to that point — and if they can entice Ted Cruz into into helping them, then so much the better.
Not to put too fine a point on this? Ted Cruz and John Kasich have just handed Donald Trump another stick with which to beat the anti-Establishment drums. The Cruz turn-around risks a real backlash — for Cruz. And there was no need for it.
As mentioned in this space last week, I attended my first Trump rally here in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Thursday night. There were over 10,000 very enthusiastic Trump supporters there. And in talking to a considerable number of them I heard exactly the kinds of things that have been reported in, of all places, a Minnesota paper (hat tip: Ann Coulter) that ran this story headlined:
More than 60,000 disgruntled Pennsylvania Democrats switch parties
The story said in part:
BEAVER, Pa. — A retired middle school principal was so moved by Donald Trump that he switched his Democratic Party registration so he can vote for him in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary.
So did the daughter of a steelworker, who twice voted for President Barack Obama but says she is “over” the Democrats’ political correctness.
And a husband-wife team of Trump volunteers — she’s a laid-off airport worker, he’s a laid-off truck driver — were Democrats for 30 years, until recently.
“We always voted Democrat,” said Laurie McGinnis, as her husband Ricky hung a Trump banner outside their South Greensburg home. “But not anymore.”
Some of these newly minted Pennsylvania Republicans are formalizing a process that began with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, when conservative-leaning Democrats began shifting away from the party in the faded industrial state.
Others moved abruptly, inspired by Trump and fed up with a party they say no longer speaks their language.
Together the result is one of the most sizable shifts of partisan allegiance ever in Pennsylvania: 61,500 Democrats have become Republicans so far this year, part of a 145,000 jump in Republican registrations since the fall 2015 election, according to state figures analyzed by both parties. It’s more new Republicans than in the previous four years combined.
The onslaught has helped make Trump the favorite heading into Tuesday’s primary, helping put Pennsylvania, which voted for Obama twice, in play in the November presidential election.
“The party-switching has been going on in an evolutionary way for two decades. This just propelled it faster,” said G. Terry Madonna, a professor at Franklin and Marshall University in Lancaster, Pa. “Many of them are Reagan Democrats – white, working-class, blue-collar, incomes of $35,000 to $40,000 or less, high school educations or less.”
“They feel frustrated, they feel left behind,” Madonna said.
“They feel Trump is sticking it to the man.”
The story continues — and there is something noticeable here. Notice? Not a single soul among these party switchers said a word about Ted Cruz. It was Trump — not Cruz — who struck a chord with them, motivating them to switch parties. Which illustrates exactly my concern for Cruz as the nominee. When he appeared here in the area recently — nearby Hershey — a local reporter told me the crowd was around 1,000. Others have put it at less than that. In other words, when Cruz and Trump ventured into the heart of the most conservative section of Pennsylvania, Trump outdrew Cruz 10-1. This is very concerning if the idea is to once again, as Ronald Reagan did, carry Pennsylvania for the GOP. Something that was done twice by Reagan, once by his Vice President George H.W. Bush running as Reagan’s heir, and never since. Which is to say in all the years beginning with 1992 it has been almost a quarter century (!!) since a GOP nominee has carried the state.
Note as well that as with Trump today, it was said in the day that Reagan couldn’t carry Pennsylvania much less the country. At one point Gallup recorded Reagan trailing Jimmy Carter by thirty points. Today, a new poll just out by George Washington University’s Battleground poll has Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by a mere three points.
I bear Ted Cruz no ill will. To the contrary, I have the highest respect for him. But let’s be plain. This idea of becoming an ally with the Washington Cartel’s favorite candidate of the moment — with the deliberate objective being to get to a second ballot in which it is almost certain Cruz will be abandoned by his putative Establishment allies — has to be one of the worst ideas in Republican presidential circles since Richard Nixon connived with Nelson Rockefeller in their secret 1960 “Compact of Fifth Avenue” in which Eastern liberals imposed their ideas on a conservative GOP convention. History records that no less than Senator Barry Goldwater, feeling betrayed by Nixon, accused the soon-to-be nominee of a “surrender” of conservative principle, even going so far as to label the Nixon-Rockefeller “compact” “the Munich of the Republican Party” — a decidedly unsubtle comparison to Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “peace in our time” deal with Adolf Hitler. Yowzer. In terms of relatively recent GOP history, this Cruz decision to bond with the GOP Establishment instead of joining Trump to defeat it outright reminds of Bush 41 backing off his “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge in the hopes it would make him look “kinder and gentler” and get him some political mileage with Democrats. That ended well.
Be that as it may, Senator Cruz has made his decision. And if there is anything certain now it is that the fight to defeat the GOP Establishment has just been ratcheted up to a whole new level with the realization that one of the leaders of the fight has gone over the side. And if in fact the nominee in Cleveland turns out to be one more GOP Establishment guy? Ted Cruz is going to be blamed.
Not good. Buckle in.
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