The Republican plan to stop Donald Trump has one big problem. Its name is Ted Cruz.
Politico reports that there is a frantic last-minute effort underway to prevent the former from claiming the party’s presidential nomination at the convention in Cleveland, Ohio this summer. Both the Republican “establishment” and movement conservatives, normally at odds, are appalled at the prospect of the property tycoon winning the nomination. Trump appears to have no firm beliefs and would almost certainly lose the general election in November against the Democrats’ Hillary Clinton.
But he is leading in the delegate count and it is probably too late now for another candidate to overtake him. The plan is to deny Trump a majority of the delegates and then nominate somebody else at the convention.
Cruz, who is in second place, is resisting.
A gleeful Cruz told conservative activists gathered in National Harbor, Maryland this weekend that the plan to broker the convention shows the Republican establishment is panicking.
“They’re really frustrated because all of their chosen candidates, all of the golden children, the voters keep rejecting,” said the Texas senator, presumably referring to Jeb Bush, who has already dropped out of the contest, and Marco Rubio, who is running in third place.
“If that would happen,” Cruz said about challenging Trump at the convention, “we will have a manifest revolt on our hands all across this country.”
David A. Hopkins, a political scientist, argues at his blog, Honest Graft, that Cruz, having burned most of his bridges in Washington DC and cultivated a public reputation as a principled foe of the Republican leadership, “has no obvious reason to help that leadership stop Trump via a procedural maneuver that will be inevitably criticized as democratically illegitimate by a large segment of the party’s popular base.”
Under the circumstances, Cruz might well be better served by throwing his support to Trump as the acknowledged popular choice of the party electorate than by allying with other candidates to block him.
Should Trump defeat Clinton after all, Cruz would then be in a position of influence. In the more likely event that Trump loses, Cruz could run again in 2020 with his anti-Washington credentials intact, “appealing to purist conservatives and ex-Trump supporters alike.”
This calculation shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying the least attention to Cruz.
This website argued earlier this year that the reason so few Republicans who have worked with him can stomach Cruz is that he is entirely self-serving.
Trump is disdainful of other Republicans. Indeed, he is disdainful of all politicians, which is his appeal.
As far as many Republicans are concerned, though, Cruz does one worse. He paints all who refuse to go along with his kamikaze tactics as traitors to the conservative cause.
Whether it is comparing colleagues who refuse to support his doomed effort to defund President Barack Obama’s health reforms to Nazi appeasers, suggesting that Chuck Hagel, a Republican defense secretary, got money from North Korea or accusing Arab Christians of not “standing with” Israel even when they do, Cruz’ tirades have been hyperbolic without exception — and always delivered to advance his own career.
For Cruz to let the party suffer the calamity of a Trump nomination would be utterly true to form.