This Politico story provides a nice window into Ted Cruz’s immediate strategy against Donald Trump.
First, to Ted Cruz: well played.
Second, as we approach tomorrow night’s increasingly important Republican debate, the conventional wisdom is that Cruz will not hit Donald Trump once Trump begins the inevitable throwing of elbows. Perhaps. I think that conventional wisdom is stronger as to the ad hominem stuff. I agree we likely will not see Cruz calling Trump mean, or intemperate, or racist, or anything else of the sort.
I continue to believe, though, that tomorrow night offers Cruz an opportunity – in front of a national audience, and likely a big one – to attack Trump on substance and most particularly on Trump’s understanding of the job. Trump is certainly a brilliant showman and a genius at marketing himself to just the right constituency of the moment. But Cruz is smarter, probably more cunning, and without question a more skilled debater. Why not use that to pierce the armor of your opponent in front of so many people?
I have long said that the biggest concern for conservatives about Trump ought to be that he is pursuing a kind of kingship rather than the constitutional presidency. Now, Trump and others may well say that Cruz has never done anything meaningful; that he is a just a debater. In the Senate, perhaps. But remember, Cruz was a successful constitutional lawyer, and Supreme Court litigator, before he was a Senator. That’s worth something. If you’re Ted Cruz, and the most substantive thing about you is your experience as a constitutional lawyer, how do you not hit Trump with that one arrow in your quiver?
I realize many, many others are saying that laying off of Trump is a smart strategy for Cruz. It may well be. And I honestly do not think he will take on Trump – at all – tomorrow night, except maybe in the most veiled way possible. But he is now perfectly situated to do so. And if Cruz ends up losing to Trump, he may well look back on December 15 as the moment he failed to take advantage of a meaningful opportunity. Sure, there may be others. But he could start – even modestly – tomorrow night.