Why has Sen. Ted Cruz gone out of his way to say he wasn’t criticizing Donald Trump?
Trump’s campaign has been a bizarre and unhealthy sideshow, and his recent comments on banning Muslims from entering the country was, for many, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Other Republican presidential candidates rushed to chastise Trump:
But no such tweet or statement from Cruz. Quite the opposite, in fact.
In a news release today, Cruz's campaign dismissed a report
from the New York Times
that claimed Cruz had questioned Trump's judgment in a private fundraiser in New York City.
“Both of them I like and respect,” Cruz said to attendees of Trump and fellow candidate Ben Carson, according to the Times
. “I don’t believe either one of them is going to be our president.”
Cruz's campaign called the report "misleading." Here’s Cruz's full statement:
“In the course of a Presidential election, the voters are going to make a decision about every candidate. And ultimately the decision is, who has the right judgment and the right experience to serve as Commander in Chief? Every one of us who is running is being assessed by the voters under that metric, and that is exactly why we have a democratic election to make that determination.”
This is campaign speak for “Choose me. That other dude is a nut."
If Cruz was trying to run a clean campaign completely free of attacking other candidates, then that would be one thing (not to mention a refreshing approach). But that’s not what he’s doing. Today he lashed out against the candidate who’s likely his fiercest rival for the Republican nomination — fellow Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
In an interview this morning with MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Cruz hit Rubio over his involvement in the “Gang of Eight” — the bipartisan Senate group that tried to forge comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. Cruz chided Rubio over supporting legislation which contained some ideas popular among Democrats, and that this was the reason he received so much support from outlets such as The Wall Street Journal
“There is no one — no conservatives in America who think The Wall Street Journal
is the voice of conservatism,” Cruz said. “The Journal
should change their header to the ‘Marco Rubio for president newspaper’ ... Marco joined with Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama [on immigration].”
It's pretty easy to dissect the politics of this. Cruz is positioning himself to soak up all of Trump's supporters after his inevitable collapse. But he has to erode support for Rubio, who's probably his main competition for the Republican nomination.
So while that might make sense politically, it's still tough to sugar coat going out of your way to mend fences with the guy who called for banning an entire religion from the U.S.