The risks of cool: Is Beto skating on thin ice with his old DWI?

Good Friday Austin.

Forty-four years ago, at the age of 20, I drove drunk and got in a minor accident.

I have no memory of what happened.  All I know is I could have killed someone. I could have killed myself.

I was two years into college at Tufts University. I had moved into a house off-campus for the first time with a friend, and we were throwing a party and, well, hardly anyone showed up (I’m not even sure  my housemate came).

In despair and humiliation, I consumed most of what was probably a 750 ml bottle of Jack Daniels, my drink of choice, having outgrown the sicklening sweetness of Southern Comfort. That summer I had made a pilgrimage in my parent’s hand-me-down Dodge Dart to the Jack Daniels distillery on my drive from Somerville, Massachusetts, to visit a college friend in Seguin. (It would also be my first visit to Austin.)

The next morning after my “party” – actually the next afternoon –  I woke up in my bed and realized I couldn’t account for the night before.

I didn’t know where my car was. I walked in circles around the neighborhood and the nearby campus looking for it, sheepishly asking friends if they had seen me the night before. (I didn’t bother to ask why they had not shown up for my party, which would have saved me from the awful dilemma I found myself in.)

Eventually, I got a call from the Somerville police. I had apparently grazed a car with my car and parked it, or nicked the other car while trying to park the Dart. There was not much damage to either car, and there had been no one in the other car, but that was sheerest good fortune.

I went to the police station. I told them what I knew, which was not much, and the officer, who was used to dealing with students from Tufts and other fancy schools in an area teeming with them, told me I had a privileged and lucky place in the world, and not to blow it.

That was it.

I felt embarrassed, ashamed, chastened and enormously privileged and lucky.

I told my family and a few friends about what happened, but have seldom mentioned it since.

To this day, a mere sniff of Jack Daniels makes me retch, though I learned in the last few years that that reaction only applies to Jack Daniels and its inferiors, and not to the many finer whiskeys now so available, which are better savored than swilled.

I am telling you about this experience because it kept coming to mind of late as I thought about how to assess Beto O’Rourke’s DWI twenty years ago, in the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 1998, following on the night of his 26th birthday.

I am back this week after two weeks back East for the wedding of my son last Saturday, and my nephew, the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.

Just before I headed East, Gardner Selby had done a PolitiFact Texas looking at whether O’Rourke had been arrested for drunk driving back in 1998, as Silvester Reyes, the congressman he unseated in 2012, had charged in a campaign ad that year.

That DWI was not in dispute.

As Selby noted, “Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas has said that in younger days he was twice arrested in his hometown of El Paso–once, he says, for leaping a campus fence and the other time for driving while intoxicated.”

“The oldest published account of the arrests appears to be an April 2005 El Paso Times news story about O’Rourke’s successful run for a seat on the El Paso City Council. The story, which we found by searching the Nexis news database, quoted the incumbent, Anthony Cobos, stressing O’Rourke’s DWI arrest. Cobos, who later served as county judge before being convicted on embezzlement charges, said at the time: “I think you lead by example and his example speaks for itself.”

According to the story, O’Rourke was arrested on a DWI charge in September 1998 that was dismissed in 1999 after he completed a court-recommended DWI program. “I’ve been open about that since the very beginning. I have owned up to it and I have taken responsibility for it,” O’Rourke told the paper.

But, on the Friday before Labor Day I saw on my phone a tweet about a story revealing new information on the 20-year-old DWI.

The story had originated with Kevin Diaz, a Washington correspondent with the Houston Chronicle.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has long owned up to his drunken driving arrest 20 years ago, describing it in a Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News op-ed piece earlier this week as a “serious mistake for which there is no excuse.”

Although the arrest has been public knowledge, police reports of the September 1998 incident – when the Democratic Senate candidate had just turned 26 – show that it was a more serious threat to public safety than has previously been reported.

State and local police reports obtained by the Chronicle and Express-News show that O’Rourke was driving drunk at what a witness called “a high rate of speed” in a 75 mph zone on Interstate 10 about a mile from the New Mexico border. He lost control and hit a truck, sending his car careening across the center median into oncoming lanes. The witness, who stopped at the scene, later told police that O’Rourke had tried to drive away from the scene.

O’Rourke recorded a 0.136 and 0.134 on police breathalyzers, above a blood-alcohol level of 0.10, the state legal limit at the time. He was arrested at the scene and charged with DWI, but completed a court-approved diversion program and had the charges dismissed.

In a statement Thursday, O’Rourke did not address the witness account of his alleged attempt to flee.

“I drove drunk and was arrested for a DWI in 1998,” O’Rourke said. “As I’ve publicly discussed over the last 20 years, I made a serious mistake for which there is no excuse.”

That and a separate arrest for jumping a fence at a University of Texas-El Paso facility have long been a matter of record in O’Rourke’s public life, both on the El Paso City Council and in Congress. But the unexplained details of the crash and DWI in Anthony, a suburb about 20 miles north of El Paso that borders New Mexico, could now emerge as a potential attack point in his quest to unseat Texas Republican Ted Cruz.

The report (and the reporter referred to in the report, is I believe, simply a reference to a witness, not to a member of my besieged and dwindling craft) paints a far more disturbing picture of the scene than my default assumption that O’Rourke had simply been pulled over for weaving, or the like,  and found to be drunk.

His story doesn’t really add up, except perhaps as the best a drunk suspect could come up with on the fly.

But again, who am I to talk?

O’Rourke told the El Paso Times in 2012 that “he was driving an intoxicated friend home in the fall of 1998 when he was arrested for DWI.”

There is no mention of the other person in the police report.

O’Rourke was never charged with attempting to leave the scene – and it’s not clear from the report how exactly the witness kept him from fleeing. O’Rourke completed a diversion program and the charge was dismissed.

Case closed.

But, when I read the Chronicle story, I assumed it would explode.

O’Rourke had been on a most remarkable run that had made what should be an unwinnable race at least competitive. But, to sustain his momentum, everything needed to continue to break just right, and now here was that unforeseen thing breaking very wrong.

It seemed like the kind of story that could give serious pause to that small but crucial category of Texas voters who don’t usually vote Democratic but were thinking about giving this open and engaging new guy a shot.

From New York Magazine:

It’s true that drunk-driving offenses are nothing new for Texas voters — former governor George W. Bush once pleaded to driving under the influence, an incident that came out in the press just before he won the presidency in 2000, and did not seem to hurt his standing in the eyes of Texans. But O’Rourke came closer to causing death and destruction than Bush. O’Rourke has also positioned himself as a forthright chronicler of his own imperfect past, and the fact that he left out a key part of it may hurt his reputation for candor.

I thought that it certainly meant that every time he was compared to a Kennedy – which is all the time – the underside of that likeness would now kick in.

I thought that myself and other reporters – at fault for not having had the story sooner – might look at O’Rourke at least a little differently.

And I thought that even Betomania might now be tinged with some doubt, that even his supporters might pause for a moment to take it in.

But, I was wrong, at least so far – and I say so far because I am sure the Cruz campaign and/or allied super Pacs, will eventually make great use of it – because the story didn’t blow up and, so far at least, it doesn’t appear to have slowed O’Rourke’s momentum one whit.

The week between my two weddings, O’Rourke appeared on The Ellen Show, after DeGeneres, in awe of his viral tweet on NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, tweeted …

I didn’t watch the show live, but I figured this would be a very safe space for O’Rourke to offer a fuller, more Beto-like explanation of the new facts about his long-ago DWI.

When I looked later, The Ellen Show had cut up his interview into bite-size videos, one of which had the promising title, US Senate Candidate Beto O’Rourke Gets Candid on His DUI.

 Here it is. You can watch it, and then I’ll break it down into even more bite-size morsels.

 

Yes indeedly-doodly, as Ted Cruz might saying doing his best Ned Flanders.

Ellen proceeded cautiously.

 

 

OK Beto, let ‘er rip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was, in and of itself, a good answer, and one that, as someone who benefited from the same privileges twenty years earlier, I wholly subscribe to.

To Beto I say, “Right on my white brother.”

The audience loved it, and I thought, fine, now keep going. Put a little texture, some telling detail, on what happened way back when. Lay a little candor on us. At least tell us that no one showed up at your birthday party and you were drowning your sorrows

But no. That was it.

OK. I understand this isn’t Ellen’s job, but then she shouldn’t present her tropical pink set as  place where candor, and not just canned righteousness, might flourish.

I understand this was not 60 Minutes.

This was not Oprah.

I believe, as Beto told Ellen, that she is force for goodness and kindness.

But, as an interrogator here, she is who she is when she voices Dory.

Somehow – and this is how good he is – O’Rourke had turned an opportunity to come clean about a shameful moment in his past into an opportunity to be further praised and congratulated on national television for his moral virtue.

Wow.

But wait, there’s still half the 2 minutes and 37 seconds left in the Beto O’Rourke Gets Candid on his DUI segment.

There is still time to see him sweat.

And, indeed we do, as Ellen marvels at O’Rourke’s heroic journey across Texas in the dreadful heat of summer.

But Ellen is all about solutions, not just problems.

In this case it’s a custom-designed Beto for Senate fan harness to keep O’Rourke cool on the campaign trail.

 

 

OK.

Having survived Ellen, O’Rourke took his chances this week with a tougher customer – Stephen Colbert.

Colbert gave O’Rourke a lot of time – offering a four-minute  comedy monologue setting up his seven-minute interview with O’Rourke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK.

Texans of every political stripe know there is no shame in a super-cool booking photo.

Poster by Sabo

But O’Rourke’s DWI was dispatched by Colbert as old news that O’Rourke had already apologized for.

Colbert didn’t return to the subject in his interview with O’Rourke, though he did ask a number of other pertinent questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was another charming, bravura performance by the phenom.

But, while O’Rourke is consistently earnest and modest in his presentation, there does lurk the danger of simply being too cool, which can, at some point, invite the jealousy and resentment of the less cool, not to mention the uncool.

Texas Democrats do not want their underdog hero’s campaign to unspool amid the Revenge of the Nerds.

I expect the Cruz campaign to present O’Rourke as an indulged child of out-of-touch privilege who could afford to collect a cool booking photo or two along the way and not pay a price.

O’Rourke is only a year younger than Cruz, but as Colbert noted this week, he appears much younger.

 

That can be an advantage for O’Rourke, if it embodies his fresh energy.

Or it can be a disadvantage if the Cruz campaign is able to persuade voters that O’Rourke is callow, or even hollow.

When it’s all over, the defining image of O’Rourke’s campaign may be him effortlessly gliding by  – looking 20, or 40, or nearly 47 – on a skateboard in the parking lot of a Brownsville Whataburger last month.

He is cool, but the peril of being so cool and beguiling is that he can skate by on things that maybe he shouldn’t skate by on

That may be what it takes to elect a Democrat to statewide office in Texas in 2018. But, with the new details about the old DWI, the way he’s handled it so far, and the opponent he is up against, he may skating on thin ice.

 

`So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin.’ On the deeper purposes of the Cruz jingle.

 

Good morning Austin:

The Ted Cruz-Beto O’Rourke U.S. Senate race should be a good one.

The general election began just after the polls closed Tuesday, with Cruz firing the opening shot.

Here are the full lyrics of the song, sung to the tune of the Alabama’s “If you’re gonna play in Texas.”

If you’re gonna run in Texas, you can’t be a liberal man

‘Cause liberal thought is not the spirit of a Lone Star man

You gotta be tough as Texas and honest about your plans

If you’re gonna run in Texas, can’t be a liberal man

I remember reading stories, Liberal Robert wanted to fit in

So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin

Beto wants those open borders and wants to take our guns

Not a chance on Earth he’ll get a vote from millions of Texans

If you’re gonna run in Texas, you can’t be a liberal man

That’s it.

At first it seemed an odd line of attack — going after O’Rourke, given name Robert, for going by the nickname Beto. After all, Chris Cuomo noted on CNN, Ted Cruz’s given name is Rafael Edward Cruz.

 

Cuomo: You’re name is Rafael. You go by Ted. Your middle name is Edward. That’s an Anglicized version of it. He went the other way and has a more ethnic version of his name. Why go after it? You’re both doing the same thing.

Cruz: Well, you’re absolutely right, my name is Rafael Edward Cruz. I am the son of Rafael Cruz, an immigrant from Cuba who came to Texas with nothing, had a hundred dollars in his underwear, couldn’t speak English, washed dishes making 50 cents an hour, and my dad’s journey of coming to Texas seeking freedom, that’s the American story, that’s who we are.

You know in terms of the jingle, some of it is just to have a sense of humor.

We had some fun with it.

OK.

When O’Rourke came on CNN a little while later, CNN reported, “he declined to respond to Cruz’s name-calling.”

Appearing on “New Day” after Cruz, O’Rourke said, “I just don’t think that’s what folks in Texas want us to focus on.”
 
“We can get into name-calling and talk about why the other person is such an awful guy, or we can focus on the big things we want to do for the future of our country, for the generations that will succeed us,” he said, later adding, “We can focus on the small, mean, petty stuff, or we can be big, bold, courageous, and confident.”

When I talked to O’Rourke later in the day, he said much the same, taking it as a sign that Cruz must be worried to be lighting into him so quickly, and, he said, on such unsubstantial grounds.

I got to tell you I was also encouraged by that. I mean, I think if your opening salvo is to make fun of my first name then, you know, I’ll take that. It’s not even something that I even have to respond to. Folks across Texas are responding to that. They are sick of the small stuff and they want us to be big and I’m going to continue to follow the lead of people who ask us do that.

I don’t know that people want us trading jabs about our nicknames. 

Maybe, but I think that little ditty contains within it everything you will need to know about the Cruz campaign against O’Rourke. This is not based on anything anyone has told me. It is simply my intuition.

Ted Cruz means to do nothing less than crush Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy and do so by destroying his good name, or at least, his first name, by turning BETO into a four-letter word, an epithet to be spit out in anger or, better yet, derision, the telling diminutive of a liberal beguiler, imposter and poseur, who is either an opportunist trying to fool Hispanic voters into thinking he is, at least in part, one of them, or, some kind of deluded, self-hating Anglo (albeit Irish-American Anglo), whose sentimental, fuzzy-headed, liberal notions of bi-nationalism and multiculturalism have robbed him of the most basic understanding that what makes Texas Texas is a strong border and unfettered access to guns.

The jingle, and Cruz’s follow-up comments, send the message to his voters that Cruz — the Hispanic son of an immigrant — is, by taking the name “Ted,” assimilating the way it’s supposed to be done, while O’Rourke, by calling himself Beto, is going weirdly the other way, undermining what made America great.

Little Beto, in the photo at the top of First Reading, may look innocent, but, Cruz’s jingle tells us, don’t believe it.

I remember reading stories, Liberal Robert wanted to fit in

So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin

When I talked to O’Rourke on Wednesday, I went through the story once again, just to be sure.

First Reading: Just so I’ve got it straight, Beto’s been your name since you were small…

Beto O’Rourke: Born. There’s a ton of photographic evidence. On my Instagram, I’ve got a picture of me in a kindergarten or a pre-kindergarten class with my Beto sweater on.

I have a funny, quick story.

I was making my first confession, in second or third grade, and I was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and I was receiving it from the bishop, it may have been Bishop Ochoa at the time, of El Paso, who I had never met, and after I confessed my sins, he called me by my name. He said, “Well, Beto, I want you to say this many Hail Marys and this any Our Fathers,” and I left just blown away, Wow this stuff really works. He knew my name. I never met him. And I’m telling my mom this story on the ride home and she’s like, “Beto, your name is stitched on your shirt, that’s how he knew your name.”

Any second-grade, third-grade, fourth-grade, pre-K classmate of mine will tell you that no one ever knew me as Robert and the only time it ever came up was the first day of class, the teacher reads the role and goes, “Is there a Robert O’Rourke here, and everybody laughs because, everybody calls me Beto.”

My grandfather, Robert V. Williams, who passed away when I was 4 years old, but when I was little, my mom tells me, that since there were two Roberts around, so such a little guy, look, we weren’t going to also call you Robert, because that was confusing, and in El Paso, if you’re not Robert, you’re Beto, if you’re not Albert, you’re Beto, if you’re not Umberto, you’re Beto. Beto is as common in El Paso as Bob might be in Dallas. There’s Beto’s Tacos. Wood Floors by Beto. Beto, your mailman. Beto, your congressman.

I asked if the name was originally bestowed on him by a babysitter or nanny.

O’Rourke: No, it was my folks. 

So who knows, maybe my dad 45 years ago had some secret plan, but that’s where it came from.

So, OK, it seems that the O’Rourke’s weren’t contemplating the use of Beto as the perfect culturally appropriative nickname for a Texas candidate when they started calling him Beto.

Why would Cruz think that?

Well, let’s drop by the Cruz household in mid-adolescence to see what was happening there on the name front.

From Cruz’s book, A Time for Truth.

Midway through junior high school, I decided that I’d had enough of being the unpopular nerd. I remember sitting up one night asking a friend why I wasn’t one of the popular kids. I ended up staying up most of the night thinking about it. “Okay, well, what is it that the popular kids do? I will consciously emulate that.”

First off, I decided that my existing policy of refusing to play sports simply because I wasn’t good at them was not a wise plan if I wanted to be accepted by kids at school. I then decided to join the soccer team, the football team, and the basketball team. I was terrible at all three, but I kept at it. Around that time I got my braces off, I went to a dermatologist and my acne cleared some. I got contacts instead of glasses. I also shot up about six inches.

I started trying to behave differently. I tried to be less cocky. When I received a test exam back, even though I’d probably done well, I would simply put it away. I wouldn’t look at it. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was interesting to see what these sorts of small conscious changes could produce.

Another thing that changed was my name. In Spanish, the diminutive is formed by adding -ito; thus, the diminutive of my full name, Rafael, Was Rafelito, which in turn was shortened to Felito. Until I was thirteen, I was “Felito Cruz.” The problem with that name was that that it seemed to rhyme with every major corn chip on the market. Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, and Tostitos — a fact that other young children were quite happy to point out.

Well, those were benighted times, before America became so politically correct.

Perhaps if Cruz had grown up in more Cuban-centric environment in Miami, for example, it might have all been different.

 

 

Anyway, back to Cruz’s coming-of-age story.

I was tired of being teased. One day I had a conversation with my mother about it and she said, “You know you could change your name.”

“There’s a number of other possibilities,” she said. “And she proceeded to list them:

Rafael,

Raph,

 

Ralph,

Edward, Ed. Eddie.

“Or you could go by Ted.” I found that a shocking concept. It had never occurred to me that I had any input on my name.”

“Ted” immediately felt like me. But my father was furious with the decision. He viewed it as a rejection of him and his heritage, which was not my intention.

Imagine, someone thinking about the political implications of their name at the tender age.

(Note the trademark Cruz opening joke. Aspirations? Is that like sweat on my butt?”)

“What do you mean Ted is a nickname for Edward? he snapped at my mother. “Who’s ever heard of that?”

My mother’s response was unfortunate. “Well, there’s Ted Kennedy.”

My father was apoplectic.

He had no love for liberals. In fact, he believed the American far left was trying to turn this country in a dangerously socialist direction, much like the reviled Castro regime. One of the biggest fights he had with my mother was in 1976, when she had voted for Jimmy Carter. (She quickly came to regret that decision when his haplessness became manifest.)

To equate me with Teddy Kennedy was too much. For about two years, he refused to utter my new name.

Wow.

Things seemed a little more laid back in the O’Rourke household.

“Melissa O’Rourke, a former Republican who now considers herself an independent ..

O’Rourke has always been Beto on the ballot.

O’RourkeYou can just designate yourself.  Everybody has always known me as Beto O’Rourke.

The first time I was ever on a ballot was in 2005 running for the El Paso City Council, District 8. Beto O’Rourke.

I checked with Sam Taylor at the Texas Secretary of State’s Office and he sent me the pertinent section of the state Election Code with a note.

Per 52.031(b)(2) of the Texas Election Code, both names are fine to appear as they are on the ballot, since ‘Beto’ is a contraction of “Robert” and ‘Ted’ is a familiar form of “Edward”:

Sec. 52.031.  FORM OF NAME ON BALLOT.  (a)  A candidate’s name shall be printed on the ballot with the given name or initials first, followed by a nickname, if any, followed by the surname, in accordance with this section.

(b)  In combination with the surname, a candidate may use one or more of the following:

(1)  a given name;

(2)  a contraction or familiar form of a given name by which the candidate is known;  or

(3)  an initial of a given name.

(c)  A nickname of one unhyphenated word of not more than 10 letters by which the candidate has been commonly known for at least three years preceding the election may be used in combination with a candidate’s name.  A nickname that constitutes a slogan or otherwise indicates a political, economic, social, or religious view or affiliation may not be used.  A nickname may not be used unless the candidate executes and files with the application for a place on the ballot an affidavit indicating that the nickname complies with this subsection.

(d)  A suffix such as “Sr.,” “Jr.,” or “2nd” may be used in combination with a candidate’s name.

(e)  A married woman or widow may use in combination with her surname, if the same as her husband’s surname, the given name or initials of her husband with the prefix “Mrs.”

As for the jingle, I asked Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier, “Who gets credit as the lyricist and the performers on `If you’re gonna run in Texas?’ Also, are Alabama/the songwriters of, `If you’re gonna play in Texas,’ supporters of Sen. Cruz and good with its redeployment?”

Frazier declined comment.

Nashville songwriter Dan Mitchell, the surviving half of the songwriting team of the original, did not respond to an email yesterday.

As for the new lyrics, Stephen Colbert didn’t at all like that they rhymed “man” with “man.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likable enough. Cruz kids steal hearts, will delegates follow?

Good day Austin:

Anderson Cooper’s first question to Caroline Cruz yesterday was a softball, and she hit it out of the park.

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“How old are you, Caroline?” Cooper asked on a CNN Town Hall with Caroline, her sister Catherine, and parents, Ted and Heidi Cruz.

“I’m seven,” Caroline said. “But my birthday’s tomorrow.”

 

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That would be today. Happy Birthday Caroline.

And with that, and what followed, Caroline, and Catherine, and Heidi, and even Ted, began melting America’s cold, cold heart, revealing, among other things, that the first invite to a Cruz White House would go to Taylor Swift, Caroline’s and Catherine’s favorite.

Heidi Cruz, the daughter of missionaries, who grew up without a TV set, prefers Christian music

Caroline said she favors anything Tay-Tay, especially “Bad Blood,” “Blank Space,” and “Wildest Dreams”

The highlight is Caroline explaining why she stopped singing Taylor Swift with sister Caroline using their karaoke machine.

“We do not sing together,” she said. “It does not match. I stopped singing because she oversings me.”

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Here’s another clip, showing what a soft touch Cruz is for his daughters.

And here is the full CNN Town Hall, which began with Cruz alone, then added Heidi, and then Caroline and Catherine.

 

Donald Trump has done Ted Cruz the great favor of making him appear politically reasonably and temperamentally moderate.

Perhaps the greatest rap remaining against Cruz is his notorious unlikeability, enshrined in the SNL impersonation of Cruz as smarmy, oleaginous creep without redeeming personal qualities.

But, like Trump, the one-dimensional SNL Cruz may ultimately redound to his benefit as people discover a more wholly human – and even likable – Cruz than they were led to believe existed.

 

While Heidi revealed that Caroline’s favorite state is New York, it is probably too little too late to help Cruz in the Empire State primary on Tuesday, where polls now place him third, way behind Trump and a little behind John Kasich.

From Public Policy Polling:

New York Hates Ted Cruz; Trump, Clinton Lead Big

PPP’s new New York poll finds Donald Trump heading for a dominant victory in his home state, where he gets 51% to 25% for John Kasich and 20% for Ted Cruz.

There had been some thought Cruz might have momentum after his big win in Wisconsin last week, but New Yorkers hate him. Even among Republicans just 35% see him favorably to 50% with an unfavorable opinion. Kasich has a narrowly positive favorability at 41/38, but the only candidate GOP voters in the state really like is Trump at 65/29.

 

But, of course, if Cruz were his party’s nominee, he would likely be running against Hillary Clinton, with her own sky-high negatives earned over a much, much longer career in public life and based on a far greater degree of public knowledge, and so, perhaps, less tractable.

 

Last night may have been the Cruz campaign’s most successful foray into establishing that Cruz is “likeable enough.”

Heidi:

Ted is an incredible listener. Ted Cruz is an incredible listener. I want all voters to hear that and one reason is he really cares. He really cares about what your saying. He really cares about what’s on your heart. He cares about the context, not just a fact or a figure. He really cares about the context..

Ted has many qualities and thoughtfulness comes at the top of the list.

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Heidi Cruz was asked point blank by August Iorio, an attorney in the audience, about her husband’s likeability.

Iorio, noting that Cruz had said that he might not be the guy you want to have a beer with, but he would be the guy who would give you a ride home, and that polls indicate that about 60 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of him, asked Heidi, “As his wife, who knows him better than  anybody else, can you give us a little insight about why your husband may be likeable that the general public doesn’t know.

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Heidi Cruz:

Think about the context of this. People are not talking about knowing Ted, knowing what it’s like to hang out and be with him. They’re talking about the projections of the news media and those in Washington who have not been working for the American people.

 

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One of the greatest thing about marrying Ted Cruz was the opportunity to hang out with all of his friends. They are incredible people. Ted is one of the most  likeable people I’ve ever met. He’s a great game player. He’ll stay up all night. He’s a movie buff. He’s a lot of fun. He’s quick to laugh and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

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Here is the headline deck on tabloid coverage of the cuddly Town Hall from Wills Robinson at  the Daily Mail:

The town hall love-in: Ted Cruz and Heidi put on united front in mushy CNN appearance in wake of five mistresses rumor – but it’s their daughters who steal the show as they let slip family secrets

  • Ted and Heidi answered questions from Anderson Cooper and voters 
  • They talked about their vision for the White House and their relationship
  • Heidi tried to paint Ted as likable by describing him as a movie buff and a great listener  
  • Revealed that after their honeymoon, he bought 100 cans of soup
  • His two daughters Caroline and Catherine, came on for the second half 
  • The youngsters almost stole the show as they talked about Build-A-Bear, American Girl Dolls and karaoke 
  • Girls said they wanted Taylor Swift to be their first guest in White House
  • Cruz was slammed online for talking about watching porn with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor 

About the soup, apparently Cruz did not expect Heidi to cook much.

We came back from our honeymoon and Ted went off to the store by himself. I was completely shocked to see him come back to out apartment with literally a hundred cans of chunky Campbells soup.

She said he was wrong about her cooking and she returned the fallout shelter full of canned soup, and my guess is that it was Cruz’s fear of thermonuclear war and not concern about his wife’s kitchen skills that led him to stockpile 100 cans of soup in the first place.

Campbell's Soup Cans Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987) 1962. Synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases, Each canvas 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6 cm) Museum of Modern Art
Campbell’s Soup Cans
Andy Warhol
(American, 1928–1987)
1962. Synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases, Each canvas 20 x 16″ (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Museum of Modern Art

Before the wife and kids took the stage, Anderson asked Cruz about the charge by Paul Manafort, who the Trump campaign has brought on to craft its convention strategy, that the Cruz campaign had resorted to Gestapo tactics to its delegate hunt.

Here is what Manafort said on Meet the Press Sunday.

CHUCK TODD: What is fair game to win a delegate? Is threatening a fair game? Is threats a fair game?

PAUL MANAFORT: It’s not my style, and it’s not Donald Trump’s style.

CHUCK TODD: What is —

PAUL MANAFORT: But it is Ted Cruz’s style. And that’s going to wear thin very fast.

CHUCK TODD: Do you think he’s threatening delegates?

PAUL MANAFORT: Well, he’s threatening, you go to these county conventions, and you see the tactics, Gestapo tactics, the scorched-earth tactics–

CHUCK TODD: Gestapo tactics? That’s a strong word.

PAUL MANAFORT: Well, you look at, we’re going to be filing several protests because reality is, you know, they are not playing by the rules. But frankly, that’s the side game. Because the only game I’m focusing on right now is getting delegates. And the games that have happened, even this past weekend, you know, are not important to the long-term game of how do we get to 1,237.

CHUCK TODD: But is he, I guess what is fair game and getting a delegate? Is paying for their convention costs, is it– golf club memberships? What’s fair and unfair in this? What’s ethical, what’s unethical?

PAUL MANAFORT: Well, there’s the law, and then there’s ethics, and then there’s getting votes. I’m not going to get into what tactics are used. I happen to think the best way we’re going to get delegates is to have Donald Trump be exposed to delegates, let the delegates hear what he says. He’s done very well so far in putting himself in position by virtue of communicating.

You know, the key I think for delegates coming up, especially the unbound delegates, is the electability question. And right now, we’re in a fight, and this fight is, you know, causes for negative for all the candidates. But there’s no question in my mind, there’s not one state you can look at that Romney won or lost in 2012 that Cruz can win. Not one. But Trump changes the whole map. As we get into those arguments, which is the endgame of the endgame, that persuasion starts to have an impact.

Here’s what Cruz had to say on CNN last night about that.

I have to say Anderson, it is bizarre. Donald and his team, it’s almost like they’re subjects in a clinical course in psychology. There are all sorts of behaviors they display but one of them is projection, that the conduct they do, regularly ,they accuse everyone else of doing.

So literally in the last few weeks, Donald’s team – Roger Stone – his chief political adviser, was threatening to out the hotel rooms of delegates who dare to cross Trump, so they could be intimidated. They are acting like union boss thugs.

Cruz said Trump supporters in Colorado had encouraged death threats against the Republican GOP chairman in Colorado after Trump was shut out by Cruz in delegate selection there.

Anderson noted that Roger Stone no longer works with the Trump campaign.

“That’s what he says,” said Cruz. But, he said of Stone, “he planned the campaign” and “I believe he’s the outside henchman. They use him for their dirty work.”

Cruz leveled similar criticism in an interview Tuesday with Glenn Beck in which he said, “Donald needs to understand he is not Michael Corleone.”

“I’m very glad to wake up this morning, that I didn’t find a horse’s head in my bed, so that was very comforting,” Cruz old Cooper.

“It’s not funny when Roger Stone, who organized and put together Trump’s political campaign is telling delegates in Cleveland  `We’re going to make public your hotel rooms so people can come threaten and intimidate you if you dare vote against Donald Trump.'” Cruz said.

“You know what that is behaving like? That is behaving like Democrats in 1968 in Chicago and we’re not Democrats and we’re not interested in acting like union thugs and Donald needs to learn that.”

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 4.17.17 AM

The “union thugs” line is a reprise from his comments to Beck, and as I noted in yesterday’s First Reading, I don’t get why that is the reference or imagery of choice for the point he is trying to make.

I understand that Cruz is but a lad and that he was born two years after the 1968 convention. But he probably read about it at Princeton or Harvard, and union thugs had nothing to do with the violence there, mostly between police and anti-war demonstrators, unless he is talking about members of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, but somehow, I don’t think that’s what he is referring to.

There was also this exchange between Cooper and Cruz on the vice presidency on a Cruz ticket.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Marco Rubio just yesterday said he hopes, quote, they’ll nominate a conservative and the only one that fits that criteria is you. Is there a chance we could see a Cruz/Rubio unity ticket? The two of you could cut a deal in which he gives you his delegates?

SEN. TED CRUZ: I think very, very highly of Marco. I appreciated those kind comments he made. He’s an amazing communicator. One of the best communicators in the Republican party. And he ran a campaign that inspired millions across this country. It inspired me.

When he ran for senate in 2010, his underdog race in Florida inspired me. It was one of the inspirations that led me to run two years later in Texas. I think in world of Marco.

COOPER: Is that really true? You had tough words during the campaign. Is that part of how it works?

CRUZ: It’s a campaign. He was trying to beat me. I was trying to beat him. That’s what happens in a campaign. I consider Marco a friend.

COOPER: Could you see a Cruz/Rubio ticket?

CRUZ: Anyone would naturally look at Marco as one who would be a terrific person to consider for VP. We’re in the process of considering a number of different options.

COOPER: You aren’t ruling it out?

CRUZ: He would be someone you’d be a fool not to look at seriously. He’s very, very talented.

Also this, from the Weekly Standard Tuesday.

This morning on the Michael Graham show, a new theory was offered by RNC National Committeeman of Georgia Randy Evans, who sits on the influential rules committee.

“I would venture to bet that what eventually will happen is we’re gonna see two of the candidates cut a deal,” Evans said. “And they’re gonna say, you get your delegates to us, you’ll be the VP, we’re gonna run as a ticket. And literally, what you could do in the oddest sort of way, is have the first ballot be two ticket ballots: Trump-Kasich versus Cruz-Rubio. Now that would be wild, because I’ve run the scenarios on that, and there is no way to predict how such a vote would turn out.”

 A lot of pundits have focused on Kasich, and whether or not his prolonged run is really just a ploy to force him into the VP slot. Kasich has repeatedly denied this. Last night, in a special interview with his family and Anderson Cooper, Kasich trotted out his oft-repeated line “I would be the worst vice president ever” and reiterated that he’s sticking in to win the nomination through the ballot process.

What’s interesting is Evans’s mention of Rubio, who has largely been absent from the limelight after dropping out. The commonly accepted logic is that Rubio pushing for the Presidential nomination during a vote-a-rama at the convention would be bad news for the GOP, but as a Cruz VP choice?

Among the compelling, fascinating and vitally important subplots of the coming convention is the fact that the competing candidates at this point would each have to vet and select a running-mate ahead of time, lest they end up being their party’s nominee and are forced to pick a partner without benefit of the due consideration that led to such stellar picks as Tom Eagleton, Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin.

From Todd Gillman at the Dallas Morning News.

WASHINGTON — Four years ago this week, with four months left before he would formally accept the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney named a longtime confidant to spearhead the effort to find a suitable vice president.

Ted Cruz’s campaign has quietly started the search. But for Cruz, Donald Trump and John Kasich, the task is not as easy as it was for past contenders.

Republicans are likely headed into the first national convention in decades where a party’s presidential nominee will not already be settled. Usually, a candidate, like Romney, has long clinched victory and chosen whom he wants to join him on the ticket. Not this time.

Three months before delegates arrive in Cleveland, only Trump is close enough to win without a floor fight. Even he faces long odds and won’t know for sure until the final primaries on June 7.

The uncertainty leaves the contenders with a tough, two-pronged task: Win the convention fight and simultaneously prepare for the fall, by identifying and investigating a running mate.

Trump has tossed out possible choices. Cruz has quietly shifted some campaign resources to the task. But they’re losing precious time. And scholars, campaign veterans and operatives who’ve overseen vetting for previous nominees warn that haste in such matters can yield catastrophe.

“It’s one of the complicating factors of having a protracted nomination,” said the Texas senator’s chief strategist, Jason Johnson. “We quickly approach the point where if we’re not thinking about those things, we’re neglecting our obligation to be prepared to be the nominee and beat Hillary [Clinton].”

He emphasized that Cruz is anything but “negligent,” though he declined to describe the process or identify a point person. “Ultimately the goal is to beat Hillary, and in order to beat Hillary you have to have a running mate,” Johnson said. “Those things are being considered.”

As for Cruz-Rubio, seems to me maybe just a little too Cuban.

As Will Ferrell, as George W. Bush, put it here: Cruz and Rubio. Rubio and Cruz. Sounds like a Miami law firm. `If you’ve been injured on the job, call Rubio and Cruz.’

And it’s not like Rubio even demonstrated the kind of support in Florida that would prove decisive in that must-win state.

Carly Fiorina, who has become an energetic Cruz surrogate, has advertised her availability as a running-mate, which I think was the whole point of her presidential candidacy to begin with.

But, unless Cruz thinks it will simply make him appear more likeable by comparison, Fiorina doesn’t seem a wise choice,

A female running-mate would make great sense in a general election against Hillary Clinton, but South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley would make more sense on every level – experience, background, presentation – than Fiorina.

Anderson also asked Cruz about a fundraising appeal that went out this week, promising to activate the donor’s Cruz Crew Deputy Delegate card in exchange for some fresh cash.

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 4.36.00 AM

Cruz said it was perfectly obvious that the card was just a fundraising gimmick and not to be taken any more seriously than a Crackerjack prize.

But apparently Kid Cruz’s pop culture doesn’t extend to Ed Norton, as in, ” I, Edward Norton, Ranger Third Class in the Captain Video Space Academy do solemnly pledge to obey my mommy and daddy, be kind to dumb animals and old ladies in and out of space, not to tease my little brothers and sisters and to brush my teeth twice a day and drink milk after every meal.”

But Ed, Brookyn sewer worker and personification  of New York values, is probably voting for Trump or Bernie Sanders anyway.

Finally, here is a radio ad the Cruz campaign is running.

ANNOUNCER: Here’s Mayor de Blasio attacking Ted Cruz.<

de BLASIO: I think Ted Cruz is out of touch with New York State and New York City.

 

ANNOUNCER: He’s got a lot of nerve, de Blasio’s socialist policies are tearing this city apart.

Murder is up nearly 10%. He treats cops like criminals and criminals like freedom fighters. De Blasio made New York a sanctuary city, rolling out the red carpet for illegals, and de Blasio ended stop and frisk even where terrorist suspects are known to congregate.

Now, he’s meddling in the Republican primary campaigning against Cruz because when Cruz is President, de Blasio is done.

No more criminal coddling soft on terror policies, no more sanctuary cities and Cruz will instruct the Justice Department to hold corrupt politicians accountable. Maybe that’s why de Blasio fears Ted Cruz. Send de Blasio a message, vote Cruz for President.

CRUZ: I’m Ted Cruz and I approve this message.

ANNOUNCER: Paid for by Cruz for President.

Now, he’s meddling in the Republican primary campaigning against Cruz because when Cruz is President, de Blasio is done.

 
Done? Huh? What does that even mean?
Not very likeable.
I think Cruz might have done a lot better to go with an ad of Caroline and Catherine oversinging each other on I Love New York.

 

Who’s getting into whose head? Cruz puts Trump on the couch

Good day Austin:

I’ve thought for a while that if the Donald Trump presidential campaign were an HBO series it could be modeled on the Sopranos, with the famously imperious star secretly revealing his insecurities to his female shrink, though maybe instead of Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Melfi it would be Kim Kardashian as Dr. Selfi.

Apparently, Ted Cruz has had much the same thought, and, yesterday, on Glenn Beck’s show, he put Trump – that’s Mr. Trump to you – on the couch and psychoanalyzed him as an emotional infant, a narcissist, a misogynist, a bully and altogether the psychological and political – and maybe even actual – equivalent of a mobster.

Here are some excerpts:

Look this is very simple. Donald is a very sore loser. He doesn’t handle losing well and he throws a fit.  He is crying and screaming and yelling. And he insults people and he curses at people and he attacks people and he behaves, as Anderson Cooper pointed out, like a five-year-old.

And the simple reality is that in the last three weeks there have been eleven elections in four states across the country, and we have beaten Donald in all eleven elections. Donald is  panicking. He is scared. You know he loves to call people a loser. Donald wakes up at night in cold sweats that people will call him Losing Donald. 

There’s your 2016 unity ticket – Losing Donald and Lyin’ Ted.

Cruz:

He can’t handle it. He’s scared. His response is just to whine and cry and complain.

Or Whining Donald and Lyin’ Ted.

Cruz:

He’s willing to say things that he knows are false and he’s willing to say things regardless of he consequences.

Or Lyin’ Donald and Lyin’ Ted. That’s the ticket that could work seamlessly with a Senate majority leader who Cruz has characterized as Lyin’ Mitch McConnell. Has anyone referred to the House Speaker as Lyin’ Paul Ryan? I don’t know, but it sounds great.

Back to Cruz on Beck.

I can’t imagine Donald listening to anybody. I’ve yet to see him listen to anybody in any context ever. Donald is about Donald and, unfortunately, what he’s wiling to say and what he’s willing to do does real damage to the country.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 5.42.47 AM

Beck wondered, as I have, whether Trump got into the race without seriously thinking that he would be a contender, and that helps explain the lack of campaign infrastructure or serious forethought about the nitty gritty logistics of securing the actual delegates who will be filling the delegate slots – including Trump delegate slots – in Cleveland.

Cruz:

I think there’s a real chance this was a lark – `Let’s get publicity, let’s have some fun,’ and he’s as surprised as anybody.”

The last few weeks, in North Dakota, Colorado and elsewhere, the Cruz crew has been picking the Trump campaign’s pockets, cleaning their clock, out-smarting and out-organizing them, taking advantage of party rules as written.

It has left me worrying that Trump could arrive in Cleveland looking like Time Square’s Naked Cowboy.

Moving further onto Soprano’s terrain. here’s Cruz on Trump and mob violence.

You know Glenn, I’m very troubled by this. Donald Trump now has a consistent pattern of inciting violence, of Donald and his henchman pushing for violence.

You know, go back to his rallies  when a protester shows  up and Donald tells his supporters, `Punch the protester in the face.’

Look I have protesters. When protesters  show up at my events, I’ll  actually engage them. If they are disruptive, they are removed. But no politician has a right to threaten violence against American citizens, even lefty numbskulls are American citizens, and you don’t threaten violence against them.

You look at Roger Stone, one of Trump’s key henchmen. Roger Stone is threatening in Cleveland to put out the hotel rooms of any  delegates that dare cross Donald Trump. That is the tactic of union thugs. That is violence. It is oppressive. The idea that Donald is threatening delegates we’re seeing this pattern over and over again.

And the example you just gave may be the most troubling. We just had an election in Colorado. We actually had eight elections – seven in each congressional district and then a statewide election – 65,000 people voted and yet, Donald Trump’s campaign put out publicly, to his supporters, the phone number of the chairman. He’s received over 3,000 calls and death threats.

Donald needs to stop threatening the voters. He needs to stop threatening the delegates. He is not a mobster.

Donald needs to understand he’s not Michael Corleone. I understand Donald has had some very shady business deals with people who are currently in prison… but the presidency should not be La Cosa Nostra

That’s a little bit sneaky, suggesting, merely as an aside, that Trump may not just be an emotional mobster, but the real deal, or, at any rate, mobbed up.

And why describe this as the “tactic of union thugs.”

What do unions have to do with this? Why that imagery?

Beck’s The Blaze liked it.

This is how they headlined Cruz’s appearance yesterday.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 9.18.51 AM

It seems to me it’s all part of the Cruz attack on New York (and New Jersey) values – union contracts, raising the minimum wage, union rules, no-bid contracts, no-show jobs, Vito Spadafore, Jimmy Hoffa buried at Giants Stadium, Chris Christie, bridge closings, corrupt New York politicians, Elliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, lewd tweets, sexist retweets, Trump Tower, Atlantic City, Fat Tony Salerno, Tony Soprano. La Cosa Nostra. Roger Stone. Roger Stone. Roger Stone.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 9.35.15 AM

If Donald Trump is Tony Soprano, Roger Stone is Sil, Christopher and Hesh all rolled into one.

Here is the Roger Stone interview with Stefan Molyneux – “founder and host of Freedomain Radio, the largest and most popular philosophical show in the world” – from which the threat against delegates in Cleveland emanated.

Stone says the remarks have been taken out of context and were not intended to incite violence, no matter how menacing the look on his face.

https://twitter.com/RogerJStoneJr/status/720083435625308160

From the Stone Zone this morning.

When I called for Trump supporters to button-hole so-called Trojan Horse Trump   delegates http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/03/20/donald-trump-must-beware-of-the-trojan-horse-delagates/ in their convention hotels and engage in a dialog with them last week, all hell broke loose.

CNN and Megyn Kelly both took my comments out of context to imply I was calling for violence in Cleveland. As a veteran of the 1968 Nixon campaign I remember vividly how violence destroyed the campaign of Hubert Humphrey. The Soros backed professional agitators expected to descend on Cleveland will be trying to incite violence must be ignored by Trump supporters at all costs . Violence would be counter productive to Trump’s general election drive.

If either CNN or Ms. Kelly had played my entire interview rather than selectively editing it, or any one of the interviews I did they day, they would know I specifically renounced violence while urging an intense “dialog “to press those delegates who were elected as Trump delegates but were inserted as quislings by the party bosses not to betray Trump on a second ballot

 These “Trump” delegates give the anti-Trump forces a majority on questions of rules , credentials and platform all of which must be ratified or rejected by the full convention before the First ballot for President . This is where the big steal will take place.

 The big steal happens even if Donald Trump hits the magic 1237 ! In the meantime the Cruz forces seek to chisel delegates from Trump in states Trump won in primaries, which we see happening in Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado and elsewhere. 

 20160408_makeyourvoiceheard

The fix is in. The same insiders who have nearly destroyed the Republican Party are at it again, plotting in a back room deal to block Donald Trump’s nomination as the GOP candidate for president. Donald Trump has played by the rules and he’s winning big, fair and square. This lobbyist-led plot was concocted by the donor class and others who have bought and paid for the allegiance of the dishonest brokers of the Republican Party.

The Bushs, Mitt Romney, Paul Singer, the Ricketts and Zuckerberg are driving the train for the Lobbyist/Insider Class committed to stopping Trump, led by my old partner Charlie Black , as shrewd and skilled a political operative as exists today .

Donald has wisely turned his delegate operation and drive for the nomination to another ex-partner of mine at Black, Manafort and Stone, Paul J. Manafort, Jr. He is a convention strategist in the league of Republican legends F. Clifton White, Bill Timmons and David R. Jones.

We at Stop the Steal ,  http://stopthesteal.org/ , the grassroots uprising and March on Cleveland , will ask every Trump delegate to the Republican convention to sign a pledge that “they will  remain committed to vote for the winner of the primary or caucus as chosen by the voters . (Donald J. Trump )”  through the entire balloting process . In other words respect the will of the voters.

This will be a voluntary pledge.  The Voters will know whom they can trust – and who will play along with the insiders’ attempt to steal the nomination from Donald Trump.The media will know too. Then these “Trojan Horses” explain why our votes don’t matter.

Beck asked Cruz whether he thought delegates would be intimidated by Trump and Stone.

Cruz:

I think the people who run for delegate are patriots. They are people who love this country. They are people who are scared for their kids and grandkids and the important thing to understand is that Donald is not strong.

Donald is weak. Bullies by their nature are weak. Donald loves attacking women because I guess it makes him feel strong to attack women.

When he began attacking my wife. I think it made hims feel strong. The good thing is Heidi is not bothered. She’s been in the business world a long time and this bellowing bully, Heidi just laughs him off and he doesn’t know what to do.

He was born into great wealth and privilege.  His father was a real estate baron.

At every stage, Donald, he told a joke, every one in the room laughed, whether it was funny, you had to laugh.

And then there’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed Trump after bowing out of the race, to assume a role that I likened to Ed McMahon to Trump’s Johnny Carson – timely guffaws and how cold was its?

Cruz:

Look at the humiliation he inflicts on people like Chris Christie. Chris Christie is a good man. I like Chris Christie. Christie right now is trapped in his own private hell. When Chris was standing behind Donald holding his jacket the look in his eyes, you could see the screaming.

You know what actually gets me is the servility of Chris forced to call Donald ‘Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump.’ You notice everyone once they get sucked into that orbit they have to call him ‘Mr. Trump.’

Chris Christie is the governor of New York (sic). Chris Christie called him Donald until the day Donald commanded, `You may no longer call me Donald. Nobody calls me Donald.’

Cruz, on where things go from here:

The odds are now very high that we go to a contested convention. It is almost impossible for Donald to get to 1237 delegates. You know, the fact that he has now lost 11 elections in a row in the last three weeks, these three weeks have determined that Donald can’t get to 1237.

When we get to a contested convention, here’s what’s going to happen: I’m going to have a ton of delegates. Donald is going to have a ton of delegates. And it’s going to be a battle then to see who can earn a majority.

I believe we will have an enormous advantage. One of the ways to understand is the simple question: Where do the Rubio and Kasich delegates go? I think they naturally come to us. They’re not going to go to Donald, particularly when he’s threatening violence and abusing the system. And the amazing thing, you know, there’s a lot of focus on our ground game, and I’m proud of the job our team has done organizing, but it’s important to understand, our staffers couldn’t do this if there was not a grassroots tsunami.

xxxxxx

Donald’s whole pitch is he’s a great businessman and yet his campaign right now, it appears he can’t run a lemonade stand.

You ever watch his T.V. show, ‘The Apprentice?  I watched it a few times, it was kind of fun. He would bring in apprentices they would get a job and if they did it badly he was withering.

I’ll tell you this, if Donald was an apprentice on his show looking at their inability to even show up and win elections, Donald would say to himself, ‘you’re fired.’

As for Roger Stone – a long-time Trump confidante who parted company with the presidential campaign (Trump says he fired him; Stone says he left) last summer – he looms very large in Cruz’s view of Trump and every nefarious maneuver by his rival.

Cruz blamed Stone for planting a negative story – which landed with a thud –  in the National Enquirer, and for Matt Drudge’s heavy-handed, pro-Trump, anti-Cruz leanings.

From World Tribune:

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz said in a radio interview on April 11 that the Drudge Report has “become the attack site for the Donald Trump campaign.”

In an interview on The Mike Slater Show on KFMB 760 AM in California, host Mike Slater asked Cruz: “What do you think of Drudge Report lately? Not even about Trump, but their anti-Christian headlines?”

Cruz responded:

“Look, Drudge Report over the years has done a good job highlighting the excesses of the left and the excesses of liberalism, and about the past month the Drudge Report has basically become the attack site for the Donald Trump campaign.

“And so every day they have the latest Trump attack. They’re directed at me. It — by all appearances, Roger Stone now decides what’s on Drudge, and most days they have a six-month-old article that is some attack on me, and it’s — whatever the Trump campaign is pushing that day will be the banner headline on Drudge.

“By the way, they no longer cover news. Remember they used to have things like election results? They don’t put those on Drudge anymore. When we win a state, suddenly the state doesn’t matter. You know Colorado — there was no red siren on Drudge when we won all 34 delegates in Colorado. That wasn’t news, because — I mean listen, that’s fine. If people want to get on the Trump train, they can. I actually think we need real and meaningful solutions to the problems in this country, and as president my focus is going to be on three things: jobs, freedom and security.”

https://twitter.com/RogerJStoneJr/status/720022356215914496

With his ability to get into other people’s heads, I don’t think it’s lost on Cruz that seeing Roger Stone’s hand in every attack on him is not going to hurt Stone’s feelings.

https://twitter.com/RogerJStoneJr/status/720031958768742400

Meanwhile, Trump had a very good night on CNN last night because of a Town Hall that featured his family, mostly because, for most of the show he entirely surrendered the spotlight to them as they described a remarkably mentally healthy father and husband.

But the Town Hall opened up with an Anderson Cooper one-on-one with Trump, in which, in explaining the outcome in Colorado, Trump did toss off a typical insult of Cruz.

I think the Republican Party in Colorado wanted Cruz, or maybe they wanted somebody other than Trump. I don’t think anybody really wants Cruz.  Why would they want him. There’s no reason to want him.

Cruz and family are on tonight.

On Wisconsin: Ted Cruz could be our next president (really, maybe)

Good morning Austin:

First, let’s get the blood circulating with the University of Wisconsin fight song.

Hook ’em Badgers.

Or whatever.

The point is that, as a result of yesterday’s Wisconsin primary, it is now markedly more likely that Ted Cruz will be our next president.

He won a smashing victory over Donald Trump, and left John Kasich in the dust.

New York Times
New York Times

Look at this map.

Ted Cruz won Madison!

New York Times
New York Times

Here he was last night, describing what he called the “turning point” in the campaign.

“Three weeks ago, the media said Wisconsin was a perfect state for Donald Trump,” said Cruz.

And somehow – somehow – Cruz crushed Trump without benefit of any gender gap.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 5.12.38 AMIt wasn’t so much Trump’s decline, as Cruz’s rise, albeit as the anti-Trump.

From FiveThirtyEight.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.10.17 AM

“Tonight was a bad night for Hillary Clinton,” Cruz said. “It was a bad night for her in the Democratic primary and it was a really bad night for her in the Republican primary.”

He’s right. Sort of. Hillary Clinton would be a heavy favorite in a general election against Cruz, who could end up as Barry Goldwater without the half-a-century-ahead-of-his-time cool glasses.

“Ted Cruz is a guaranteed loss – he just is – in the general election,” Joe Scarborough said on Morning Joe, a redoubt of anti-Cruz sentiment.

Show me, Scarborough said, a state that Cruz can win that that loser Mitt Romney didn’t win.

Even some Cruz boosters were of a lose-with-Cruz bent.

“It’s one thing to lose an election. It’s another thing to lose your soul,” said Charlie Sykes, the remarkably temperate Wisconsin conservative talk radio host and never-Trumpist, on MSNBC last night.

A Trump nomination, he said, “would taint Republicans and the conservative movement for a generation.”

But, I’m not so sure Cruz is necessarily a lost general election cause.

Cruz can be very persuasive. He can be very skillful at presenting himself as less threatening than people think he is.

And while Clinton might win in a landslide, she also is a very flawed and vulnerable candidate.

After all, while Cruz was whomping Trump, Clinton was being whipped by a stooped and ancient Jewish socialist who thinks they still use subway tokens in his native New York.

As for the Republican nomination, Scarborough said, “Ted Cruz will never be the choice of the Republican Party. He is loathed. He is not a likeable guy.”

But, here’s the rub.

Cruz, through skillful maneuvering and big dollop of good luck, has the great virtue of having emerged mostly the reasonable, even safe, alternative to Donald Trump.

For the first time, I think, at least for the moment, he appears to be most likely candidate to be nominated in Cleveland.

It is simply a process of elimination.

With his Wisconsin loss, it is now unlikely that Trump can clinch the nomination before the convention, and, in a contested convention, Cruz has all kinds of strategic advantages (see Monday’s First Reading). And, unless Kasich storms to the fore in the upcoming Northeast and mid-Atlantic primaries, there is not really any plausible alternative.

“I’d rather be Cruz than Trump at an open convention,” Chuck Todd said on Morning Joe.

Forget about The Art of the Deal, I think Trump could find his pocket picked by Fast Teddy Cruz in Cleveland.

 

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Here, is some of last night and this morning’s Wisconsin Twitter stream.

 

 

https://twitter.com/danieltosh/status/717396973976825857

 

 

https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/717668603542310914

https://twitter.com/SopanDeb/status/717552272377520128

https://twitter.com/woodruffbets/status/717477001242611712

 

 

How Trump’s Potemkin delegates could wreak havoc in Cleveland

Good morning Austin:

Meet Harry Herford Jr. of Delhi, Louisiana.

Herford was a leader of the Ron Paul forces in Louisiana four years ago, and here he is falling, or being felled, at the Louisiana Republican State Convention on June 2, 2012.

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Herford’s dramatic demise is of more than parochial or historic interest, because it offers a preview of what we might be in for at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, both in terms of the rules that were the source of conflict in Shreveport, and the potential for casualties.

From a story I wrote for the New Orleans Times Picayune  four years ago:

Paul won barely 6 percent of the vote in the state’s March 24 primary in which nearly 190,000 voters participated, but won four of the six congressional districts in the state’s April caucuses, which drew fewer than 10,000 people.

The primary netted Rick Santorum, who got nearly half the vote, 10 delegates to the national convention, and Romney, who got 27 percent, five delegates, with another five uncommitted.

But when Paul delegates swept through the caucuses, that guaranteed him 12 of the state’s 46 national convention delegates and, as important, gave his forces 111 of the 180 delegates to the state convention. There, the actual national convention delegates, including those whose presidential preference was determined by the primary result, would be chosen.

That meant, if majority ruled, Paul had the numbers to pick up not just the five uncommitted delegates from the primary, but also to determine who would fill the 10 Santorum and five Romney delegate slots, giving Paul effective control of 32 of the 46 delegates to Tampa, even if those Santorum and Romney delegates might still be obligated to vote for those candidates on the first ballot.

State party officials were not inclined to let that happen, issuing supplemental rules on the eve of the convention to keep the Paul forces from wresting more than the 17 delegates which, in their view, was their due, and requiring that the Romney and Santorum delegates be certified by their respective campaigns.

They also hired, through the management of the Shreveport Convention Center, nine off-duty Shreveport City police officers, backed by several on-duty plainclothes Louisiana State Troopers — all this amid what the party’s sergeant-at-arms, Louis Gurvich, said was a “rumor that the Ron Paul campaign had retained a militia, which we thought was a horribly bad idea.” In the end the “militia,” a handful of what were described as menacing-looking men in security garb, were turned away by convention organizers.

“We would not let them use these Bolshevik tactics to strong-arm and muscle their way into control of our convention,” said Jeff Giles, who chaired the Credential Committee.

The result was a riotous scene in Shreveport in which police removed two officials of the Paul insurgency, arresting one. In short order, one convention became two as the Paul delegates turned their chairs around and conducted their convention facing one way, while the state party and its loyalists conducted their parallel convention facing the other.

Let’s pause here for a bit of doggerel I remember from summer camp:

One dark day in the middle of the night,
two dead men got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
If you don’t believe the story’s true
Ask the blind man, he saw it too

Raise the stakes, multiply by infinity, and you will get an idea of what might ensue at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Resuming my story from 2012.

And so there are now two competing Louisiana delegations to the Republican National Convention, one with the imprimatur of the state party and another chosen by Paul supporters.

It will now be up to the national Republican Party’s Contest Committee to determine which is the legitimate delegation, a decision that can be appealed to the full Republican National Committee and finally to the convention’s Credential Committee, which will meet the week before the August convention in Tampa, and where this dispute now seems likely headed.

“We followed the rules to the letter and then some, we’ll win in the Committee on Contests,” said Charlie Davis, the leader of Paul’s Louisiana effort, who would chair the delegation if they prevail.

But that hardly seems likely, said Timmy Teepell, the former top aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who backs the legitimacy of the state party slate. Teepell is now a national GOP consultant.

Teepell notes that the Louisiana GOP is the state affiliate of the national party, and neither the national party leadership nor the Romney campaign, which will control the convention, have the slightest interest in emboldening the Paul forces.

Indeed, part of the reason the Paul campaign may have been so intent on wresting a majority of the Louisiana delegation is that Paul needs to have control of five state delegations to have his name placed in nomination at the convention.

Villere said Louisiana would have made four states and “we messed up the national plan with their not getting Louisiana.”

Villere said he believes the “organized chaos” in Shreveport was choreographed and rehearsed in advance.

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“These antics were pre-planned, practiced and intent on making a circus out of the convention,” Louisiana Republican National Committeewoman Ruth Ulrich wrote in a missive to the other members of the RNC in the aftermath of the battle of Shreveport.

Party officials believe everything was staged, down to the fall to the ground of Henry Herford of Delhi, the Paul delegates’ first choice as their convention chair, as police attempted to remove him from the hall. He was charged with “entering and remaining after being forbidden.”

Ridiculous, said Herford, a member of Louisiana Republican State Central Committee.

“Why would a man who weighs 260 pounds try to be a stunt man?” asked Herford, who fell on his artificial hip.

“I am right on up here hurting,” said Herford, who said he has already incurred $5,000 in hospital bills and “they’re going to have to pay for it.”

The national Paul campaign seized on the “attack” on Herford, but put a positive gloss on the final result, claiming incorrectly that Romney’s state chairman, Scott Sewell, had blessed their slate.

“Why is the Paul campaign reporting that I said I would do everything I could to ratify your slate in Tampa when I said no such thing?” Sewell asked Davis in an email Monday. “I reached out to your delegates to encourage them to stay with the nominee and to let them know we needed and wanted their help in the fall campaign against our common enemy.”

In his reply, Davis assured Sewell, “we have an incredibly professional delegation headed to Tampa as of now. I was able to keep off any RP folks that could have been an embarrassment on the floor,” while adding some establishment names.

Davis said that the Paul delegates went to Shreveport with pure hearts and copies of Roberts Rules of Order, “not ever once thinking that there might be political violence.”

“What we’re asking for is an apology from the Executive Committee, that things got out of hand and it wasn’t the Ron Paul delegates’ fault,” Davis said.

In a six-page letter, replete with biblical injunctions, Ellen Davis, Charlie’s wife, wrote the party leadership, “I appeal to you as a sister in Christ, to admit your wrongdoings so that we can begin healing and reconciliation.”

“If there’s any apologizing, it should be them apologizing for destroying the convention,” said Villere.

With Paul’s son Rand, a senator from Kentucky, endorsing Romney at week’s end, Teepell said it could be that the national Paul campaign now will be less inclined to kick up a fuss in Tampa, a la the Louisiana challenge.

But Villere fears it might be too late.

I think Ron Paul has lost control of his own delegates,” Villere said.

Notice at the moment that Harry Herford fell on his artificial hip, the party regulars were trying to keep the Ron Paul forces from gaining a plurality of the delegates in five states, that would enable them to mess up Romney’s convention, not because Ron Paul threatened to steal the nomination from Romney but because the very nomination of some nettlesome other candidate in Tampa would have ruined the vapid coronation that, at least in recent decades, the national conventions of both parties has devolved into.

Even after the battle of Shreveport effectively denied Paul control of a state delegation, the Romney forces, in writing the rules of the 2012 convention – as each convention’s delegates write new rules for each convention to operate under – significantly raised the bar for having a candidate’s name placed in nomination to make sure there was no chance Ron Paul would meet the threshold, by requiring, under Rule 40(b), that the candidate have the support of a majority of delegates – instead of simply a plurality – in eight states instead of five.

Here is rule 40(b):

40(b) Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination. Notwithstanding any other provisions of these rules or any rule of the House of Representatives, to demonstrate the support required of this paragraph a certificate evidencing the affirmative written support of the required number of permanently seated delegates from each of the eight (8) or more states shall have been submitted to the secretary of the convention not later than one (1) hour prior to the placing of the names of candidates for nomination pursuant to this rule and the established order of business.

Louisiana Republicans subsequently changed their rules as well for the 2016 cycle by having all the delegates obligated through the primary, instead of through a hybrid primary-caucus system, which had enabled the more strategic and intensely motivated Paul forces to game the system, and also by requiring that the actual delegates chosen to represent each candidate be bona fide supporters of that candidate.

New York Tmes
New York Times

At the subsequent March 11 Republican State Convention, at which, as far as I know, nobody fell or was felled, the delegates were distributed as follows, per the Louisiana Republican Party:

The 2016 Louisiana Republican State Convention met on Saturday in Baton Rouge and elected 43 delegates to represent the state in Cleveland, Ohio at the Republican National Convention.

Louisiana receives 46 votes at the national convention. Under party rules, Louisiana’s delegates were awarded to presidential candidates proportionally, based upon the votes they received in the March 5 Presidential Preference Primary. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz earned 18 delegates each. Five delegates were allocated to Marco Rubio and five are uncommitted.  Three of the uncommitted delegates are automatic delegates as they are Louisiana’s Republican National Committee members.

Following the state convention, the Louisiana delegation met and elected officers and committee members. LAGOP Chairman Roger Villere, Jr. was elected Chairman of the Delegation. Public Service Commissioner and Donald Trump State Chairman, Eric Skrmetta was chosen as Vice-Chairman. Jason Doré will serve as Treasurer and Collin Buisson will serve as the Delegation Secretary.

A subsequent story by Reid J. Epstein in the Wall Street Journal, provoked considerable consternation from Trump – and crowing in the Cruz camp:

Donald Trump beat Sen. Ted Cruz earlier this month in Louisiana’s Republican presidential primary by 3.6 percentage points, but the Texan may wind up with as many as 10 more delegates from the state than the businessman.

Mr. Cruz’s supporters also seized five of Louisiana’s six slots on the three powerful committees that will write the rules and platform at the Republican National Convention and mediate disputes over delegates’ eligibility this summer in Cleveland.

The little-noticed inside maneuvering that led to this outcome in Louisiana is another dramatic illustration of the inside game that could have an outsize influence on the bitter race for the GOP nomination.

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The Trump campaign’s first problem is in the overall delegate count from Louisiana. Messrs. Trump and Cruz each won 18 delegates apiece based on the Louisiana results in the primary on March 5. But the five delegates awarded to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are now free agents because he ended his campaign, and Louisiana Republicans expect them to swing behind Mr. Cruz.

Meanwhile, the state’s five unbound delegates—who are free to back the candidates of their choice—also are more likely to back Mr. Cruz than Mr. Trump, according to GOP officials in the state.

Trump cried foul.

The system is not a good system, when you take Louisiana. I went to Louisiana. I campaigned there. I won the state. Now the numbers came out and I had less delegates than Cruz. Now that’s not the American way You know I won Louisiana. Big victory, but because of arcane rules and a lot of nonsense frankly, I end up getting a few less delegates than Cruz. That’s not the way the system is supposed to work.

Time has not healed Trump’s Louisiana wound.

Here he was on Face the Nation Sunday.

DICKERSON: Let me talk about another meeting you had in Washington with the Republican National Committee.

TRUMP: Yes.

DICKERSON: Did they treat you fairly? Are they treating you fairly?

TRUMP: Well, I would rather let you know in about six months from now. I don’t know. I mean…

DICKERSON: Well, you said they haven’t been treating you. Where are you on that question?

TRUMP: I think Reince is a very nice person. I get along with him, but I’m going to have to tell you, I think what is unfair is, I won the state of Louisiana.

I went, I made speeches, I had that last evening in a hangar where you had thousands of people. It was incredible, and a big airplane hangar, a Boeing hangar. And I said, this is unbelievable. And I wasn’t expected to win Louisiana, and I won Louisiana, right? I won lot of states.

I won, I think, 22 states. And I won Louisiana, and I got less delegates than the guy who lost.

DICKERSON: But isn’t that proof that the people who took the delegates are beating you at the game?

TRUMP: No. No. No. That’s not…

(CROSSTALK)

DICKERSON: Wouldn’t Donald Trump do that?

TRUMP: No. That’s not America.

DICKERSON: You wouldn’t play every angle to win?

TRUMP: When I win the state, I’m not supposed to get less delegates than somebody that got beat.

DICKERSON: But as a businessman, you play every angle you can within the law.

TRUMP: No, but that’s not America. Sure. Sure.

DICKERSON: And he’s playing every — Cruz is playing every angle within the law.

TRUMP: But it’s not America.

You go in, and you win, and you get less delegates. OK? Now, I just won Missouri. That just came out. And there was a whole thing going on there, too.

But let me just tell you something. When I go in and win the state of Louisiana and I get less delegates, that’s not the way the system is supposed to work.

DICKERSON: Are you saying it’s unfair or it’s illegal?

TRUMP: Well, I think it could be illegal, if you want to know the truth. And that’s my question.

(CROSSTALK)

DICKERSON: Because the pros say, he just beat you. They just say Cruz beat you at that.

TRUMP: No, no. Give me a break.

Let me just — I go in. He campaigned, I campaigned. I got the votes, and then I get less delegates?

DICKERSON: There was reporting, at this meeting at the RNC, that you seemed a little upset with your own team’s delegate operation, that they’re not in this fight as much as they should be. Is that right?

TRUMP: That’s false reporting, other than I mentioned that Louisiana, which really bothers me, because the people of Louisiana were amazing to me.

I was not expected to win Louisiana. And I did look at my people. I said, well, wait a minute, folks. You know, we should have maybe done better, except I also said, I won the state, and I think there’s a real legal consequence to winning a state and not getting as many delegates. That’s nonsense. And you know what? Everyone agrees with me. Everyone agrees with me.

DICKERSON: Well, a lot of people in the game who know this game, who play it…

TRUMP: I don’t care about the game. I care about the people. And when you go in and win a state, and then you don’t get the delegates?

DICKERSON: One of the things you’re saying…

TRUMP: Now, I got some. I go some. I got many, but I didn’t get the number that I should be entitled to.

DICKERSON: Your argument about the presidency is, you will come into a new system, learn about it fast, and win like nobody has ever won before. With this delegate fight, it’s a new system, you got to get up to speed on it. Do you feel like you’re going to win like never before, because Ted Cruz just took these delegates in Louisiana?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: John, you’re talking about one state. Excuse me. Excuse me.

DICKERSON: Yes. It’s one state, but…

TRUMP: Ted Cruz was going to win Alabama and Arkansas and Mississippi, and he was going to win Kentucky, and he was going to win all of these states. I won them all. So, let’s not get carried away what we don’t know what we’re doing. I have won 22 states. He’s won six or five or seven.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I have won 22 states. So, let’s not get carried away with we don’t know what we’re doing.

The one state that I told you about was Louisiana. But I have won a tremendous — now, on top that, I have almost 300 more delegates than him. So, I think I know something about what I’m doing. And more importantly in a true sense, from a democracy sense, I have millions of votes more than anybody else. Millions. Millions.

That should mean something, too. I know in the system, it doesn’t mean anything. But I have millions more votes than Ted Cruz.

OK, I understand Trump’s anguish. He holds a rally in a big airplane hangar, a Boeing hangar,  wins the primary – albeit by a much smaller margin than anticipated – and doesn’t get more delegates than Cruz.

But, on closer inspection, Louisiana is not a worst-case scenario for Trump. Not hardly.

The primary result was sufficiently close that the proportional formula – Doré said it was the same formula used by Iowa in apportioning delegates from its caucuses – resulted in an even split of the delegates, with no bonus for coming in first. (See a more detailed mathematical explanation here from The Hayride.)

As for the five Rubio delegates, well, as I wrote in Sunday’s paper, four of the five say they are remaining well and truly uncommitted until the convention. (I don’t know the fifth Rubio delegate’s intention.)

Leslie Tassin, one of five Rubio delegates from Louisiana, will be among those unbound and uncommitted. Under the Louisiana party’s rules, Rubio’s suspension of his campaign releases his five delegates.

Reports to the contrary, Tassin said he and three of the other Rubio delegate haven’t been wooed to the Cruz camp and will remain uncommitted until the convention.

“I haven’t gotten one call from a Cruz person to ask me to vote for him,” said Tassin, a retired state employee from Baton Rouge.

Nor has he heard from the Trump campaign, except for a public threat from Trump to sue the state party, in part because of his false impression about Tassin’s and his compatriots’ disposition.

xxxxxxx

“Before that I was leaning more toward Trump,” said Tassin, who said he would like to know before the convention each candidates’ choice for vice president.

And of the five remaining uncommitted delegates, three are automatic delegates – the party chair and the state committeeman and committeewoman –  and only one has announced a preference, and that is Ross Little, the Republican committeeman, who co-chaired Cruz’s campaign in Louisiana.

But in Louisiana, at least Trump knows that Trump delegates will actually show up at the convention hoping to nominate him and not arrive with the intention of subverting his candidacy.

From Sunday’s story:

When the presidential roll is called at the Republican National Convention in July, the chairman of the Texas delegation — undoubtedly Gov. Greg Abbott — will announce that Texas casts 104 votes for Cruz, 48 for Trump and three for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. But the actual, flesh-and-blood delegates will almost certainly all be Cruz loyalists who will all be able to vote with Cruz on critical procedural votes that might determine the outcome before the presidential roll is ever called, and, should the convention in Cleveland go to a third ballot or beyond, be free, all 155 of them, to cast their lot with Cruz.

Texas isn’t the only state where Trump is likely be represented by dual allegiance delegates, who are required to vote for Trump but are otherwise determined to undermine his candidacy.

Even in such states as South Carolina and Florida, where Trump won every delegate, and Georgia and Virginia, where Trump finished first and Cruz third, the delegations to the national convention are likely to be replete with a combination of Cruz loyalists and party regulars who won their tickets to Cleveland through delegate selection processes that are entirely separate and distinct from the party’s preference primaries and caucuses that determined to which candidate those delegates are pledged to vote, depending on each state party’s rules, through the first, second or third ballots.

It got worse for Trump over the weekend.

From and , in the Tennessean

Donald Trump’s campaign for president is accusing the Tennessee Republican Party of “doing the bidding” of the national GOP establishment in a calculated attempt to “steal” pro-Trump delegates and stop them from being a part of  Tennessee’s GOP delegation.

It’s part of a national effort by GOP party leaders, the Trump campaign has alleged, to stop the Republican frontrunner from becoming the nominee.

A Tennessee party official disputes that allegation, instead accusing Trump’s camp of distorting the truth while noting Trump will still receive all delegates won from the state.

Darren Morris, state director of Trump’s campaign in Tennessee, told The Tennessean the Trump campaign and Tennessee Republican Party chairman Ryan Hayes had agreed Wednesday on the names of seven of the 14 at-large delegates that, under party rules, are to be appointed by the state party. Delegates will ultimately decide the party’s nominee at the Republican National Convention this summer.

But Morris said that an updated delegate list he reviewed late this week is now wiped clean of several of those names and instead features individuals who he described as “anti-Trump.”

“They’re picking anti-Trump people,” Morris said. “They’re picking establishment picks who don’t support Donald Trump, and it’s just the same effort that they’re conducting all over the country to steal a vote here, steal a delegate there, to affect the outcome of the convention in July and take the nomination away from Donald Trump.

And from Shane Goldmacher at Politico on the North Dakota convention over the weekend.

FARGO, N.D. — Ted Cruz’s preferred candidates won the vast majority of convention delegates available in North Dakota over the weekend, taking 18 of 25 slots in the state in another show of organizational strength over Donald Trump.

It’s still not clear how loyal all of Cruz’s slate will be if the Republican nomination heads to a contested convention in Cleveland, as several included on it told POLITICO they were only leaning toward Cruz, or simply opposed to Trump.

But the result was bad news for Trump, who may need unbound delegates like those in North Dakota to lift him above the 1,237 delegate threshold to secure the GOP nomination this summer on the initial ballot. Only one of the 25 delegates selected Sunday has publicly signaled he might back Trump.

“This is a catastrophic outcome for the Trump campaign in North Dakota,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Cruz. “Just when you thought the Donald’s horrible, very bad, no good week couldn’t get any worse, it just did.”

The North Dakota delegation has been heavily sought after because they are free agents from the first ballot in Cleveland, able to support Cruz, Trump or John Kasich. State rules do not, however, require to name the candidate they support before being elected — leaving their votes in question up until the convention in July.

In other words, Trump should stop fretting about Louisiana and start fretting about almost everywhere else, where Cruz is Ron Pauling him. And yet, even as Cruz is playing the Ron Paul game against Trump, he is playing the Romney card against Kasich, calling for maintaining the higher 40(b)  threshold of majorities in eight states.

The unifying principle here is what works.

Meanwhile, Trump was all in over the weekend for squeezing Kasich out – as soon as possible.

From CNN:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for rival John Kasich to pull out of the race because he mathematically cannot capture enough delegates to win the nomination before the national convention.

“Kasich shouldn’t be allowed to run. Honestly, Kasich should not be allowed to run,” Trump told reporters Sunday while visiting a diner in Milwaukee, adding, “He hurts Trump much more than he hurts (Ted) Cruz.”
And from the Trump campaign’s Barry Bennett in Sunday’s story:

Bennett said the stealth delegates are of less concern, “now that Cruz came out for no change in 40(b)” a reference to a rule from the last convention designed to thwart former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, by requiring that, in order to have his or her name put in nomination, a candidate has to have the support of a majority — and not just a plurality — of the delegates from eight states. Previously, the requirement was a plurality of delegates from five states.

“They wrote this rule to keep outsiders out,” Bennett said, and now that same rule can be used by Trump and Cruz to keep the insiders out.

Each convention has a new rules committee that writes rules for that convention, and Bennett said, “We’re for keeping 40(b) as it is. Then it’s impossible for Kasich, (Mitt) Romney, (Paul) Ryan — take your pick of your favorite establishment guy — it’s impossible for them to even be a candidate. The only way is to suspend the rules, which would require a two-thirds vote, and with Trump and Cruz controlling 90 percent of the delegates, it’s not going to happen.”

But Bennett said it’s a risky strategy for Cruz because, as of now, he only has the majority of delegates in five states — Kansas, Maine, Idaho, Utah and Texas — leaving him three short.

“He can do it, but it’s a two-bank shot,” Bennett said.

But, maybe he can add North Dakota to that column, leaving him two short.

And, the way things are going, it is possible that Cruz may be able to muster a majority of delegates  even from a state like South Carolina. where he didn’t win a single delegate, to put his name in nomination. Before it’s over, Trump could be scrambling to make sure he has enough through-and-through Trump delegates to get his eight states.

And this is what could be so diabolically dispiriting for Trump about these Potemkin delegates, with potentially volatile results.

From Sunday’s story:

Former Midland Mayor Ernie Angelo, an avid Cruz supporter who is still deciding whether to seek a delegate slot in Cleveland or go fishing in Colorado, said he fears that Trump is fomenting a potentially far uglier scene in Cleveland if he is denied the nomination in July.

But he understands the concern about the Trojan horse delegates.

“I, along with three or four other people, in 1976 wrote the rules for our delegate selection process, very clearly tailored to make it that the appropriate candidate that owned that delegate would have 100 percent control,” Angelo said.

He fought for years to keep that rule, but ultimately lost.

“They have, quote unquote, democratized the process to where a candidate who wins the primary has no control over who goes on his behalf,” Angelo said. “I fought that for years because I didn’t think that was right. Now, for the first time, it is going to matter. It’s a bad rule. But the rule’s the rule.

“To see my candidate take advantage of it is kind of ironic,” he said.

But think about how disorienting and disconcerting it is going to be to Trump and those voted for him If Trump arrives at in Cleveland with, say, 1,137 instead of the requisite 1,237 delegates, but it turns out that 200 or 300 or 400 or 500 of those delegates are rooting against him and actively working to undermine him – and that the delegation from South Carolina – home to Trump’s signal triumph – joins in nominating Cruz.

This could quickly turn into the convention from Holy Harry Herford Hell.

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And this, at the very moment that, what Trump, coming off his worst-ever week, really needs is a big hug.

From Maureen Dowd in Sunday’s New York Times:

WASHINGTON — YOU could hear how hard it was for Donald Trump to say the words.

“Yeah, it was a mistake,” he said, sounding a bit chastened. “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have sent it.”

I was telling him he lost my sister’s vote when he retweeted a seriously unflattering photo of the pretty Heidi Cruz next to a glam shot of his wife, Melania.

He repeated his contention that he didn’t view the Heidi shot “necessarily as negative.” But I stopped him, saying it was clearly meant to be nasty.

Trump also got into his schoolyard excuse of “he did it first” and “that wasn’t nice,” insisting that Ted Cruz wrote the words on the digital ad put up by an anti-Trump group aimed at Utah Mormons; it showed Melania in a 2000 British GQ shot posing provocatively and suggested that it was not First Ladylike. Cruz denies any involvement.

Truth be told, Trump said he “didn’t love the photo” of Melania. “I think she’s taken better pictures,” he said, also protesting: “It wasn’t a nude photo, either. It wasn’t nude!”

It’s ridiculous how many mistakes Trump has made in rapid order to alienate women when he was already on thin ice with them — and this in a year when the Republicans will likely have to run against a woman.

He did a huge favor for Hillary, who had been reeling from losing young women to a 74-year-old guy and from a dearth of feminist excitement. And for Cruz, who started promoting himself as Gloria Steinem, despite his more regressive positions on abortion and other women’s issues.

Wouldn’t it have been better, I asked, if Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had simply called the reporter Michelle Fields and apologized for yanking her arm?

“You’re right, but from what I understand it wouldn’t have mattered,” Trump said.

In an MSNBC interview with Chris Matthews, the formerly pro-choice Trump somehow managed to end up to the right of the National Right to Life Committee when he said that for women, but not men, “there has to be some form of punishment” if a President Trump makes abortion illegal.

Trump quickly recanted and even told CBS’s John Dickerson that “the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.”

But then came the most honest and revealing quote of all

Has he missed the moment to moderate, to unite, to be less belligerent, to brush up on his knowledge about important issues?

“I guess because of the fact that I immediately went to No. 1 and I said, why don’t I just keep the same thing going?” he mused. “I’ve come this far in life. I’ve had great success. I’ve done it my way.”

Hold that thought, and add to that this Open Letter to Trump Voters from His Top Strategist-Turned-Defector issued last week from Stephanie Cegielski.

Even Trump’s most trusted advisors didn’t expect him to fare this well.

Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it.

The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%. His candidacy was a protest candidacy.

It pains me to say, but he is the presidential equivalent of Sanjaya on American Idol. President Trump would be President Sanjaya in terms of legitimacy and authority.

And I am now taking full responsibility for helping create this monster — and reaching out directly to those voters who, like me, wanted Trump to be the real deal.

My support for Trump began probably like yours did. Similar to so many other Americans, I was tired of the rhetoric in Washington. Negativity and stubbornness were at an all-time high, and the presidential prospects didn’t look promising.

In 2015, I fell in love with the idea of the protest candidate who was not bought by corporations. A man who sat in a Manhattan high-rise he had built, making waves as a straight talker with a business background, full of successes and failures, who wanted America to return to greatness.

I was sold.

Last summer, I signed on as the Communications Director of the Make America Great Again Super PAC.

         xxxxx

It wasn’t long before every day I awoke to a buzzing phone and a shaking head because Trump had said something politically incorrect the night before. I have been around politics long enough to know that the other side will pounce on any and every opportunity to smear a candidate.

But something surprising and absolutely unexpected happened. Every other candidate misestimated the anger and outrage of the “silent majority” of Americans who are not a part of the liberal elite. So with each statement came a jump in the polls. Just when I thought we were finished, The Donald gained more popularity.

I don’t think even Trump thought he would get this far. And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all.

He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver’s seat, and nothing else matters. The Donald does not fail. The Donald does not have any weakness. The Donald is his own biggest enemy.

OK. This all makes sense to me now.

 

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When Trump came down that escalator last June 16 and announced his candidacy with all his outrageous talk about Mexican rapists, he was not looking to win, but merely to stake out some politically incorrect out-of-bounds territory that would excite a fraction of the Republican base, and establish him as a provocative candidate with an intense but limited appeal.

And, if you’re only running as a protest candidate, why should you have to know what the nuclear triad is, or assemble a foreign policy team, or really develop a full-fledged campaign operation? And, when every outrageous impulse yields fantastic results, how is Trump supposed to know when to stop obeying his every  instinct?

It is not his fault that he caught fire, that he soared in the polls, that, as he told Maureen Dowd, he immediately went to No. 1, and that as esteemed a political intellect as Ted Cruz extolled his virtues as a candidate.

NBC’s a month after Trump’s announcement:

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Wednesday that he’s “a big fan of Donald Trump” ahead of a meeting with the real-estate tycoon and fellow 2016 contender.

“I’ve sat down and visited with Donald multiple times before he was a candidate,” Cruz told NBC News. “I’m happy to sit down and visit with him now after he’s a candidate for president. Indeed, I’ve gotten together with quite a few of the 2106 presidential candidates who are friends of mine, I intend to continue to do so.”

Cruz will meet with Trump later Wednesday in New York City.

Trump has been heavily criticized for his statements painting Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals.” But the Texas senator said that he is “grateful” that Trump has highlighted the issue of illegal immigration.

“I think Donald Trump is bringing a bold, brash voice to this Presidential race,” Cruz said. “One of the reasons you’re seeing so many 2016 candidates go out of their way to smack Donald Trump is they don’t like a politician that speaks directly about the challenges of illegal immigration.”

And Cruz said he’s been vocal “for a lot of years” on the same policy positions that Trump has pushed regarding undocumented immigrants.

“I for one, am grateful that Donald Trump is highlighting these issues. They are critical issues. They’re issues I’ve been fighting for a lot of years to enforce the law, to stop illegal immigration, to stop the Obama Administration’s practice of releasing criminal illegal aliens into the population.” 

Much has been made of the fact that Trump’s recent statements or misstatements on abortion and punishing women is a bad parody of a Republican pro-life position. But wasn’t his immigration policy – building a big, beautiful wall, making Mexico pay for it, banning Muslim immigration – a similarly crude parody of Republican immigration policy?

From the Hill:

Ted Cruz lashed out at Donald Trump on Wednesday for saying that women who get abortions illegally should be punished.

“Once again Donald Trump has demonstrated that he hasn’t seriously thought through the issues, and he’ll say anything just to get attention,” Cruz said in a statement.

“On the important issue of the sanctity of life, what’s far too often neglected is that being pro-life is not simply about the unborn child; it’s also about the mother — and creating a culture that respects her and embraces life.

Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world,” he added.

But when, in February, Cruz announced his Pro-Lifers for Cruz coalition, among the co-chairs was Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue.

From Right-Wing Watch:

Stunningly, in its short biography of Newman, the Cruz campaign mentions that he is the author of a book called “Their Blood Cries Out”:

Troy Newman is the president of Operation Rescue, one of the leading pro-life Christian activist organizations in the nation and a founding board member for the Center for Medial Progress. He has been involved in the pro-life community for over 20 years, starting in 1991 as the Operation Rescue West president. He is also a published author, having written Their Blood Cries Out and his most recent book Abortion Free.

We have reviewed both “Abortion Free” and “Their Blood Cries Out” here at Right Wing Watch. In “Their Blood Cries Out,” written in 2000 and revised in 2003, Newman lays out the case for churches to oppose abortion rights, saying that by failing to follow what he says is the biblical response to abortion — executing abortion providers and treating women who have abortions as “murderers” — the country is mired in “bloodguilt” and is awaiting the judgment of God. In the meantime, Newman writes, the U.S. has experienced “warnings” from God about legal abortion, including the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

More recently, Newman has alleged that the drought in California is a result of that state’s liberal abortion laws:

Newman has recently gained prominence in the anti-choice movement thanks to his role in starting the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind a series of videos attacking Planned Parenthood. (The group’s leader, David Daleiden, is currently facing a felony indictment related to his attempt to infiltrate the health care provider.) Newman has said that the goal of the project was to “destroy” Planned Parenthood, part of his long campaign of harassment and intimidation against the group and other abortion providers.

Although he renounces extrajudicial violence against abortion providers, Newman has argued that the murderer of an abortion provider in Florida should have been able to argue that the act was justifiable homicide meant to “save the lives of the pre-born babies that were scheduled to be killed by abortion that day.” When another abortion provider died of leukemia, Newman put out a press release rejoicing in his death. Newman’s second-in-command at Operation Rescue is Cheryl Sullenger, who spent time in federal prison in the 1980s for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic.

 

The ballot or the bullet? Cruz should challenge `sniveling coward’ Trump to a duel

Good Friday Austin:

The Republican presidential campaign moved further into the darkness yesterday

Trump didn’t like the Facebook ad that an anti-Trump super PAC unaffiliated with the Cruz campaign ran in the run-up to the Utah caucuses, where Cruz creamed Trump.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.16.50 AMIn retaliation, Trump went on the attack against Heidi Cruz, which seemed on the face of it pretty despicable.

Yesterday, in Wisconsin, Cruz responded, “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.”

Asked if he would still support Trump, as he has pledged, if he is he ultimate nominee, Cruz replied. “I am going to beat him for the nomination … Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee.”

This sounds like a scene out of movie.

The other day, earlier in this quarrel, Cruz borrowed an apropos line from The American President.

I don’t see what’s wrong in reciting a little Aaron Sorkin at an appropriate moment.

Cruz, who once aspired to be an actor, is a bona fide movie buff and a bit of a ham.

His favorite movie – the one he has memorized like it is the U.S. Constitution – is The Princess Bride.

It seems to me Cruz has now reached that moment when he should deliver a variation on perhaps the most famous line from the movie.

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Montoya is addressing that evil, six-fingered vulgarian, Count Tyrone Rugen.

It seems to me that Trump has now tread into territory where Cruz has every right to challenge him to duel to defend his wife’s honor.

Repeat after me: Hello. My name is Rafael Edward Cruz. You insulted my wife. Prepare to die.

From Jay Nordlinger in National Review:

 Of Donald Trump’s vile streak, I needed no more proof. He mocked a handicapped person — physically mocked him, imitated him. He said despicable things about Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina. He compared Ben Carson to a child molester. (Turns out, Carson didn’t mind so much, but that’s a different story . . .) He praised and defended Putin. He expressed the moral equivalence that one usually hears from the Left: “I think our country does plenty of killing also.”
But Trump’s antics in regard to Heidi Cruz are a new low. I’ve known Ted and Heidi for many years. In fact, I will have a piece on this subject in the next National Review: the one that becomes available tomorrow. Furthermore, I’ll expand on that piece in my online column.
Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.41.42 PMWhen I met Heidi, she was Heidi Nelson, an economic-policy whiz and beautiful, sporty California blonde. She had been in faraway places, on missions. She had hiked and trekked all over. She was exceptionally capable, and she was fearless. You can see why Ted was drawn to her, and why anyone would be. Like me and most other people, she has had highs and lows. Life has a way of being eventful. And Heidi, in my experience, has been a picture of poise, grace, and perseverance.
If Ted is president, I think Americans will like him a lot — more than they know now. If Heidi is first lady, they’ll probably like her even more. She can teach Trump, his supporters, and his apologists a thing or two about how to treat people.
I have nothing against Melania Trump. I’ve liked all of Trump’s wives. I like Trump too, for that matter, except when he’s being vile, or trying to be president. I think Mrs. Trump No. 2 was my favorite. She was beautiful, like all of them, and I liked the way her husband said her name: “Mawla.” “Mawla, she’s turrific.”
Melania was once a model (duh). She is Slovenian, and, trust me, even an average Slovenian is attractive. You ever been to Ljubljana? There are few other places like it. Pepperdine University comes to mind. And Ole Miss. Naturally, Melania has had racy photo shoots, and an anti-Trump PAC used one.
The Cruz campaign had nothing to do with it. But Trump lashed out at Ted, and Heidi.

Perhaps anticipating this day might come, the voters in Wisconsin 41 years ago voted to amend the state Constitution to repeal a provision that barred anyone who engaged in a duel from holding public office.

I assume that means that Ted Cruz could demand satisfaction in Wisconsin, shoot and either kill or maim Trump, and remain eligible to win the critical April 5 Wisconsin primary, where he is now running even with Trump. And, if you’re going to stop Trump, you’re going to have do better than a hashtag.

Back in 1975, most Wisconsinites supported the ballot measure, and those that didn’t were probably all Democrats anyway.

From Ballotpedia:

The Wisconsin Dueling and Disenfranchisement Amendment was a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on the April 1, 1975 ballot in Wisconsin, where it was approved.

This amendment modified Article XIII, Section 2 of the Wisconsin Constitution to repeal a unique provision that barred people from voting or holding public office if they had been found guilty of dueling.[1]

Election results

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Text of measure

The language that appeared on the ballot:

“Shall section 2 of article XIII of the constitution, which provides penalties unique shall to the offense of dueling, be amended to eliminate the requirement that person who engages in a duel shall be forever disqualified from voting or holding public office?”[1]

Sure, there might be rioting in some Trump neighborhoods (which are usually situated cheek-by-jowl with the Muslim-American enclaves that Cruz would like to have patrolled), and there is the possibility that Cleveland, where the Republican National Convention is being held in July, might be burned to the ground.

But, many Americans would be relieved and, just as freshly-minted and super-reluctant Cruz supporter Lindsey Graham said a month ago – If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.– I don’t think, after what Trump tweeted about Heidi Cruz, any jury of decent, God-fearing Wisconsonites would convict him.

I mean look at Trump’s negatives back in February’s Marquette Law School Poll in Wisconsin.

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And here’s how uncomfortable they’d be with Trump as the GOP nominee.

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Also, if elected, Cruz wouldn’t be the first president to have killed a man in a duel.

Andrew Jackson – the populist-nationalist, big-haired, uncouth, other-hating Donald Trump of his day – for one.

From the History Network, this day in history, for May 30

On this day in 1806, future President Andrew Jackson kills a man who accused him of cheating on a horse race bet and then insulted his wife, Rachel.Contemporaries described Jackson, who had already served in Tennessee’s Senate and was practicing law at the time of the duel, as argumentative, physically violent and fond of dueling to solve conflicts. Estimates of the number of duels in which Jackson participated ranged from five to 100.Jackson and Dickinson were rival horse breeders and southern plantation owners with a long-standing hatred of each other. Dickinson accused Jackson of reneging on a horse bet, calling Jackson a coward and an equivocator. Dickinson also called Rachel Jackson a bigamist. (Rachel had married Jackson not knowing her first husband had failed to finalize their divorce.) After the insult to Rachel and a statement published in the National Review in which Dickinson called Jackson a worthless scoundrel and, again, a coward, Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel.On May 30, 1806, Jackson and Dickinson met at Harrison’s Mills on the Red River in Logan, Kentucky. At the first signal from their seconds, Dickinson fired. Jackson received Dickinson’s first bullet in the chest next to his heart. Jackson put his hand over the wound to staunch the flow of blood and stayed standing long enough to fire his gun. Dickinson’s seconds claimed Jackson’s first shot misfired, which would have meant the duel was over, but, in a breach of etiquette, Jackson re-cocked the gun and shot again, this time killing his opponent. Although Jackson recovered, he suffered chronic pain from the wound for the remainder of his life.Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.00.10 AMJackson was not prosecuted for murder, and the duel had very little effect on his successful campaign for the presidency in 1829. Many American men in the early 1800s, particularly in the South, viewed dueling as a time-honored tradition. In 1804, Thomas Jefferson’s vice president Aaron Burr had also avoided murder charges after killing former Treasury secretary and founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel. In fact, Rachel’s divorce raised more of a scandal in the press and in parlors than the killing of Dickinson. 

I assume Cruz would choose as his second his sure-shooting brother of the duck blind, Phil Robertson.

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Meanwhile, Trump could go with his campaign manager – brawling Corey Lewandowski – or with this weaselly apparatchik who appeared on his behalf, defending the attack on Heidi Cruz as fair and balanced.

Meanwhile, in another land, far, far away.

 

 

 

 

Cruz wins Utah and Jeb! Loses Arizona and NYPD

Good morning Austin:

Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz in a statement released before the sun was up this morning.

“Today, I am endorsing Ted Cruz for President,” said Bush. “Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests. Washington is broken, and the only way Republicans can hope to win back the White House and put our nation on a better path is to support a nominee who can articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential.”

Bush continued, “For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies. To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that.”

“I’m truly honored to earn Governor Jeb Bush’s support,” said Cruz. “Governor Bush was an extraordinary governor of Florida, and his record of job creation and education innovation left a lasting legacy for millions of Floridians. His endorsement today is further evidence that Republicans are continuing to unite behind our campaign to nominate a proven conservative to defeat Hillary Clinton in November, take back the White House, and ensure a freer and more prosperous America for future generations.”

From at CNN:

The former Florida governor’s endorsement follows that of his brother, Neil, who joined Cruz’s finance team earlier this month.

“We need a candidate that can unify the party, work with (House Speaker) Paul Ryan, move a reform-minded agenda forward,” Neil Bush said in a March 16 interview on CNN’s “New Day.” “And Ted Cruz is the only guy in the race to do that.”

Several members of the Bush family have been clear about their distaste of Trump, who has been critical of President George W. Bush’s stewardship of the nation and Jeb Bush’s low-key personality.

In February, the matriarch of the Bush family, former first lady Barbara Bush, told CNN that she’s “sick of him” and that Trump had said “terrible things about women, terrible things about the military.”

And last week, former first lady Laura Bush, George W. Bush’s wife, declined to answer a question from USA Today about whether she would vote for Trump if he were the Republican nominee. She added that it was important for Americans to not be “isolationist and xenophobic,” an apparent reference to Trump’s rhetoric and positions.

It also follows, by five months and a political lifetime ago, what is probably a more genuine Bush Family take on Cruz.

From Politico in October

Inside a sleek Denver condominium, George W. Bush let a hundred donors to his brother’s campaign in on a secret. Of all the rival Republican candidates, there is one who gets under the former president’s skin, whom he views as perhaps Jeb Bush’s most serious rival for the party’s nomination.

It isn’t Donald Trump, whose withering insults have sought to make Jeb pay a political price for his brother’s presidency. It isn’t Marco Rubio, Jeb’s former understudy who now poses a serious threat to his establishment support.

It’s George W. Bush’s former employee — Ted Cruz.

“I just don’t like the guy,” Bush said Sunday night, according to conversations with more than half a dozen donors who attended the event.

But that was then. Now, it appears, Cruz is all that stands between the Republican nomination and the short-fingered vulgarian at the gate and the choice is clear.

Cruz crushed Trump in Utah yesterday, exceeding the 50-percent threshold and winning all 40 delegates.

Apparently Mormons don’t like vulgar.

 

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But Trump thumped Cruz in winner-take-all Arizona, taking all 58 delegates.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the also-ran in both states and, between the results and the Jeb! endorsement, Tuesday was good for Cruz because it put an exclamation mark on his efforts to marginalize Kasich as an irrelevancy, a distraction and a spoiler who ought to get out of the way.

The race slows down now.

Next up is the Wisconsin primary on April 5.

Gov. Scott Walker, like Jeb! an early potential front-runner, said, when he got out of the presidential race in September that he was setting an example of clearing the field in the hopes of stopping Trump. It now seems almost certain to me that he will end bestowing a crucial endorsement on Cruz.

After Wisconsin, it’s a two-week build to the April 19 New York primary, where Trump now has a truly huge Trumpian  lead. And then, a week later, on April 26, it’s Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

So April 26 has the potential to be a good day for Kasich. He seems way better suited to those states than Cruz. But, if Kasich doesn’t win – or at least surpass Cruz – in Wisconsin, how does he get there.

Here was Kasich’s campaign fundraising in February.

 

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And here was Cruz’s.

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If anyone knows about throwing away money, it’s Jeb Bush, and his endorsement of Cruz suggests Kasich is not a good investment.

So, all in all, while Trump is still the front-runner and favorite, yesterday was a good day for Cruz. Right? Right. And wrong.

Because it also marked a low point in Cruz’s audition to be Trump’s demagogic Mini-Me. From my story.

 

Sen. Ted Cruz called for law enforcement authorities to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels.

Cruz, whose hometown of Houston has the largest Muslim population in Texas, didn’t specify what constituted a Muslim neighborhood or what the new law enforcement powers he is calling for would entail — just that “we need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

He was quickly assailed for engaging in political demagoguery that could inflame passions and endanger the constitutional liberties of innocent Muslim-Americans.

From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:

Cruz spokesperson Alice Stewart issued the following statement clarifying Cruz’s initial comments:

We know what is happening with these isolated Muslim neighborhoods in Europe. If we want to prevent it from happening here, it is going to require an empowered, visible law enforcement presence that will both identify problem spots and partner with non-radical Americans who want to protect their homes.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies all have divisions that target threats like drugs, gangs, human trafficking, and organized crime. Radical Islamic terrorism is a significant and growing threat in this country, but this administration refuses to recognize it because they are afraid of being labeled “politically incorrect.” In New York City, Mayor de Blasio succumbed to unfounded criticisms and eliminated the efforts of law enforcement to work with Muslim communities to stop radical Islamic terrorism.
Ted Cruz will never allow political correctness to drive decisions about our security. Innocent, peaceful Americans, no matter their faith, deserve to live in safe neighborhoods;  that is what law enforcement exists to do, and that includes preventing radical Islamic terror cells from taking root in them. The police should have every tool available to follow leads and take action against those who would do us harm. That is what Cruz is calling for and it is the basic responsibility of our elected leaders — to prioritize the safety of our citizens.

Trump seconded Cruz’s call, but Cruz was denounced by New York City Mayor de Blasio, and, especially, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton.

From Laura Nahmias at Politico New York

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s remarks in response to the terror attacks in Brussels Tuesday, calling for increased law enforcement patrols of Muslim neighborhoods, are the reason why he won’t be the next president, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton said at a press conference in Times Square.

Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio took turns at the conference criticizing Cruz, who earlier in the day called for “empower[ing] law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” and through a spokeswoman criticized de Blasio specifically for “succumb[ing] to unfounded criticisms and eliminat[ing] the efforts of law enforcement to work with Muslim communities to stop radical Islamic terrorism.”

“I just have to say it’s reprehensible. His comments are not about safety and security. It’s demagoguery,” de Blasio said Tuesday, noting that the city’s Police Department includes 900 Muslim-American officers, and saying there are “peace-loving, law-abiding Muslim Americans in neighborhoods all over New York City” who “should be respected like all other members of our community.”

De Blasio called Cruz’s comments “immoral” and “counterproductive,” because they could “alienate thousands and thousands of people and make them feel like they don’t belong in this country, and that’s no good for anyone.”

But the harshest criticism came from Bratton.

“The statements he made today is why he’s not going to become president of this country,” Bratton said. “We don’t need a president that doesn’t respect the values that form the foundation of this country,” he said. “As the mayor mentioned, I have over 900 very dedicated officers in this department, many of whom do double duty, and they serve as active duty members of the U.S. Military in combat, something the senator has never seen,” he said, referring to Cruz’s lack of experience in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“So before he starts denigrating any population, he should take a close look at who he’s denigrating,” Bratton said, adding that “I take great offense” at his characterization of Muslims.

“The senator basically is really out of line with his comments,” Bratton said;

As outrageous as it was, at least Trump’s Muslim ban, was directed at keeping foreign Muslims out of the United States, while Cruz’s comments suggested we must now cast an eye of suspicion on Muslim-Americans as the enemy within, which seemed wrong and  counterproductive and to make a hash of the Constitution that Cruz calls, along with the Bible, his Bible.

From Joe Scarborough at MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning.

What Ted Cruz said yesterday is the exact opposite of what we need to do. It makes us less safe. I won’t even talk about American values. Let’s not talk about American values. Let’s talk about American safety. If we are going to win the war against Islamic terrorism in the United States, if we’re going to make sure we don’t end up looking like Europe, we do that by continuing to do what Americans have done for over 200 years – acccept immigrants into this country and integrate.

Muslim Americans have successfully integrated into this country better than any non-Muslim country in the world. They have pursued the American dream. One percent of Americans are Muslim. Two percent of doctors, I have read, are Muslim Americans. Muslim Americans are entrepreneurs. They are leaders in this country. Ted Cruz could not have it more wrong. I’m not talking about values. I’m not talking about reaching out and touching someone. I’m not talking about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony. I’m talking bbout beating ISIS. You beat ISIS by having Muslim Americans embrace the American dream.

 Gen. MIchael Hayden, former CIA director, added:

We don’t have radicalized communities in the United States. We have some radicalized individuals, but we have it within our ability to create radicalized communities and we have to take every step not to do that.

This was Cruz on Morning Joe back when he opposed Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration.

in a recent  First Reading, I looked at Cruz’s neocon national security nexus: Neoconservatives and neoconspiracy-theorists

It appears from yesterday’s call for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods that he is taking the advice of some of the edgier members of his security circle.

One of those members of Cruz’s national security team I didn’t get to his is Clare Lopez, who was the focus this week of People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch.

Clare Lopez, a member of Sen. Ted Cruz’s recently announced national security advisory team, declared in a recent radio interview that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was “spot-on” in his investigation of communists infiltrating the U.S. government, implying that a similar effort should be made to root out Muslim Brotherhood associates in “the top levels of national security in our government.”

Lopez joined South Carolina radio host Vince Coakley on March 1 to discuss efforts in Congress — led in part by Cruz — to urge the Obama administration to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, which Lopez said misses the point because the real threat from the group is “the subversion, the infiltration, the influence operations.”

“Brotherhood affiliates and associates and those connected to it are the go-to advisers, if not appointees, for the top levels of national security in our government, in this administration for sure, but going back many decades, really, is the program of this Brotherhood,” she claimed.

She compared the situation to the influence of communists before the House Un-American Activities Committee and Sen. McCarthy got involved in rooting out subversives, calling McCarthy’s efforts “spot-on.”

“We can go all the way back, of course, to the time of the Cold War and back to the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s when communists, you know, the KGB, infiltrated our government at the very highest levels,” she said. “And then, like now, we were unprepared and in large measure unaware of what was going on, at least until the House Un-American Activities got rolling in the 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who absolutely was spot-on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration. So we have precedent for this where we were not fully aware of the infiltration occurring at the time.”

Another top Cruz adviser, Frank Gaffney — Lopez’s boss at the Center for Security Policy —  has called for the reinstatement of HUAC.

Then, last night, there was this.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.16.50 AM

Well, I think pretty clearly, these are the beans, per friend-of-Trump Roger Stone, and they have already been spilled.

https://twitter.com/RogerJStoneJr/status/710094169830727681

Stone’s piece in the Daily Caller, begins:

As the nation says “Goodbye” to Nancy Reagan – a woman widely admired as the quintessential political wife – we pause to ask: Who is Heidi Nelson Cruz?

Watching any Ted Cruz political advertisement featuring his wife and two young daughters, we could easily get the impression that Heidi Nelson Cruz, like Nancy Reagan, is a devoted wife dedicated to making sure she and her husband occupy the White House.

The New York Times in an article published on Jan. 18, described Heidi Cruz as “a political wife,” who had become a force in her husband’s presidential contest, “an all-purpose surrogate and strategist to be deployed as often as possible.”

Heidi is herself a high-powered Bush insider, who served as deputy to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice before signing on as a Deputy to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, neocon stalwart and former Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. Zoellick wired a cushy job for Heidi when she landed at Goldman Sachs as a partner. Goldman would, of course, go on to make a secret $1 million loan to fund Ted’s U.S. Senate campaign while both Cruzes lied about the source of funds being Heidi’s retirement savings.

Yet, investigating more deeply, Ted and Heidi Cruz have had a sometimes troubled relationship punctuated by bouts of physical separation that began when two young Christians on the fringe of protestant evangelicalism met while working on the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Ides of March. America’s Caesar may widen his delegate lead.

Good day Austin:

It is March 15. The Ides of March. Bad day for Julius Caesar back in 44 BC.

From The Telegraph today:

Julius Caesar suffered 23 stab wounds on the Ides of March but only one of them, the second stab wound he received to the breast, was fatal to the 55-year-old. In his book, military historian Barry Strauss, says that the problem was that many of the estimated 60 conspirators were amateurs at murder. “Very few soldiers, even good ones, have what it takes to stab a man to death,” Strauss writes. “It takes sheer physical strength and a certain brutality to drive a dagger through a man’s flesh.” Some of the stab wounds hit rib cage bone. Excruciatingly painful but not fatal.

And who were those conspirators?

The Establishment. Senators. Romans.

Carl Cannon, Washington bureau chief for Real Clear Politics, carries this line of thought far deeper than I am able to in his RCP Morning Note:

Does Donald Trump recognize himself as Julius Caesar? Your guess is as good as mine. But The Donald’s vainglory has nothing on Caesar’s, who in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” speaks of himself in the third person when he makes his initial appearance on stage.

The play’s opening, like the 2016 primary season, features a conversation between the elites and the working man. That discussion is really a debate between “tribunes” (our version is the Republican establishment) and the commoners (Trump voters) who see what Caesar already knows: to rule Rome you need the working people with you, not the patrician tribunes.

It doesn’t take much to see U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as Roman senators Brutus and Cassius. Appalled that a man so flawed has become so powerful, they hatch a plot to stop him.

Caesar doesn’t worry overmuch about Brutus-Rubio, but has his eye on Cassius-Cruz.

“Let me have men about me that are fat,” says Caesar-Trump. “Yond’ Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

But the senators believe that Caesar-Trump and the cult worship he engenders are the real threat to the Republic. Sound familiar now?

Casca, another one of the conspirators (John Kasich?) is astonished at how the crowd responds to Caesar’s bluster, which he compares to a circus. Presaging the real Donald Trump’s own line about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and not losing any voters, Casca says the working stiffs are sheep who would forgive Caesar if he stabbed their own mothers.

Two thousand sixty years later the question is whether the long knives can take down the man who would be an American Caesar before it is too late.

 

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Probably not.

For starters, if polls are remotely accurate, it would appear that Marco Rubio in Florida is armed with a rubber dagger. In Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich seems likely to prevail, if narrowly, over Trump, he was backed up yesterday on the campaign trail by Mitt Romney, who just doesn’t seem to know a shiv from Shinola.

And it is unlikely that Trump will take the stage tonight at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, and deliver the line et tu, Lyin’ Ted.

Cruz is still not quite prepared to go in for the final, brutal kill. While describing the prospect of a Trump nomination as a disaster for the party and the country, Cruz said Monday that there were only very limited circumstances under which he would not stick to his commitment to support Trump if he were the Republican nominee.

“I can give you one example where I wouldn’t support Donald Trump,” Cruz said. “If, for example, he were to go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, I would not be willing to support Donald Trump.”

Well, there’s a line in the sand,

Back in January at a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa, Trump boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose vote.”

But Cruz said yesterday, were Trump to act on that impulse, he would lose at least one vote.

In fact, Cruz wants Trump to triumph in Florida and Ohio, so he can get his one-on-one race with Trump, even as he wants to beat or wound Trump in Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina. He wants the story Wednesday to be that Republicans must confront a clear, practical choice between Trump and Cruz, and quickly come to terms with that.

It will be a nifty trick, if he can pull it off.

But more likely, Cruz will find himself with Trump expanding his delegate lead over him, though perhaps not over the combined strength of the anti-Trumps; Rubio doing what it takes to keep his existing cache of delegates in place so he can control them in Cleveland, and Kasich emerging as a third alternative, who could either become Cruz’s primal enemy or de facto partner in trying to stop Trump.

Cruz will be in Houston tonight, and it will be very interesting to see how he frames the race when he takes the stage at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom.

As I watched speeches last night by Trump, Cruz, Kasich and Rubio, I think the problem facing Cruz is that, of the four, he is the least fun, or even comforting, to watch.

Maybe it was the soft blue light of twilight, but Donald Trump’s rally at the airport outside Youngstown, Ohio, yesterday was – even after a week in which Trump managed to nurture the anxiety that maybe he is the prototype of a new populist-nationalist American fascism  – strangely calming.

Or, I suppose, maybe that is the real, relax-and-enjoy-it, seductive appeal of fascism, which is not all jackboots and goose-stepping, but also the warm glow of knowing that everything’s gonna be all right because Big Pappa spins beautiful stories that says it’s going to be.

Having said that, I should note that I do not fit the authoritarian mindset that would predispose me to Trump.

From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog,

One of the reasons that Donald Trump has flummoxed pollsters and political analysts is that his supporters seem to have nothing in common. He appeals to evangelical and secular voters, conservative and moderate Republicans, independents and even some Democrats. Many of his supporters are white and don’t have a college degree, but he also does well with some highly educated voters, too.

What’s bringing all these different people together, new research shows, is a shared type of personality — a personality that in many ways has nothing to do with politics. Indeed, it turns out that your views on raising children better predict whether you support Trump than just about anything else about you.

Matthew MacWilliams, a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, conducted a poll in which Republicans were asked four questions about child-rearing. With each question, respondents were asked which of two traits were more important in children:

  • independence or respect for their elders;
  • curiosity or good manners;
  • self-reliance or obedience;
  • being considerate or being well-behaved.

Psychologists use these questions to identify people who are disposed to favor hierarchy, loyalty and strong leadership — those who picked the second trait in each set — what experts call “authoritarianism.” That many of Trump’s supporters share this trait helps explain the success of his unconventional candidacy and suggests that his rivals will have a hard time winning over his adherents.

When it comes to politics, authoritarians tend to prefer clarity and unity to ambiguity and difference. They’re amenable to restricting the rights of foreigners, members of a political party in the minority and anyone whose culture or lifestyle deviates from their own community’s.

“For authoritarians, things are black and white,” MacWilliams said. “Authoritarians obey.”

So, stipulating that I’m decidedly not of the respect/good manners/obedience/well-behaved school of parenting, or even  dog-owning, there is something very reassuring about Trump’s narrative.

Sure he is pandering to prejudices, narrow-mindedness and every bully instinct of the junior high schoolyard. But, when he’s not musing about paying the legal bills for what would appear to be a stone-cold racist supporter who sucker-punched a black protester in North Carolina, his us vs. them is, if you’re an American citizen, fairly inclusive.

Sure he wants to beat the stuffing out of old pal Hillary Clinton; sure he led the charge in the shameless Birther effort to deligitimize President Obama, but, unlike Cruz, he doesn’t seem to have a pent-up carte blanche animus against liberals, Democrats and blue America that Cruz embodies.

Of course there is also, on the wee bit negative side of the ledger, the fact that most everything Trump says is either made up out of whole cloth or just simply  wrong.

From Politico:

Donald Trump says he is a truthful man. “Maybe truthful to a fault,” he boasted last week at a North Carolina rally where one of his supporters sucker punched a protester.

But truthful he is not.

With the GOP front-runner scooping up delegates in a march toward the Republican nomination, POLITICO subjected a week’s worth of his words to our magazine’s fact-checking process. We chronicled 4.6 hours of stump speeches and press conferences, from a rally in Concord, N.C., on Monday to a rally on Friday in St. Louis.

The result: more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false – the kind of stuff that would have been stripped from one of our stories, or made the whole thing worthy of the spike. It equates to roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.

From warning of the death of Christianity in America to claiming that he is taking no money from donors, the Manhattan billionaire and reality-show celebrity said something far from truthful many times over to the thousands of people packed into his raucous rallies. His remarks represent an extraordinary mix of inaccurate claims about domestic and foreign policy and personal and professional boasts that rarely measure up when checked against primary sources.

But, you get past all of that, and Trump is mesmerizing, entertaining, and, if you’re going to have to live with a ubiquitous presence for the next however many year, good company.
And so, I found myself lighting up when, toward the end of his Youngstown appearance yesterday, he did a reprise of his bizarre dramatic reading of the Al Wilson 1969 Northern Soul classic, The Snake.
This is great, I thought.
Would it be so terrible to give Trump a whirl, for four years, maybe eight? As long as he didn’t end the world before then, or announce, a la Michael Bloomberg in New York, that circumstances really require in 2024 that he serve a third term to keep America great, or that maybe elections really were an inhibition on achieving ultimate American greatness.
In the meantime, it’s kind of compelling watching the Republican Party, conservatism, Brietbart, Fox and the component parts of  Sean Hannity himself being  torn asunder by one guy with a very big ego, his gut instincts and a staff of about three.
What snapped me out of my Trump reverie, though, was watching Kasich’s speech Monday before a hometown crowd in Westerville, Ohio, though it might as well have been Winesburg, Ohio, so evocative it was of wholesome American small-town values. With Kasich, there is no “us” and “them.’ It’s all “we.”
And, anger be damned, he says,, American has been through far tougher times before and done just fine.
I defy you to watch this without tearing up as he describes the long line of mourners at the funeral of his parents, who died in a car accident, and how his father, the mailman, had been part of the lives and ups and downs of every family, every home, he delivered mail to.
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Kasich even survived being introduced by Mitt Romney, the Damper Dan of American politics.

“Wow, what a welcome,” Romney said, kicking off the festivities. “John, this is your hometown, right?”

Romney watched with affection as Kasich worked the kind of simple rhetorical magic that could have elected Romney president.

Here’s Rubio yesterday.

I won’t dwell on him.

He talks too fast. He still appears two-cycles-too-soon, but his message is also one of uplift.

Then there’s Cruz.

Cruz finds himself in a remarkably strong position.

He and his campaign deserve a lot of credit.

But, as I noted earlier, his message is very hard-edged, and, more than Trump or Kasich or Rubio promises an America in which the pitched battle between Red and Blue America only intensifies.

Also, I would offer this piece of constructive criticism:

GET A NEW SPEECH!

I know that candidates tend to use the same stump speech ad infinitum, but I think Cruz is carrying this to a ridiculous extreme, and a self-defeating one now that his higher exposure means that viewers are increasingly going to see him speak multiple times.

Trump’s extraordinary gift is keeping the Trump Show alive and interesting, and Kasich’s gift is appearing to be speaking directly to his audience.

One other critique of Cruz.

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In his remarks yesterday, Cruz says:

You know a couple of debates ago, Hugh Hewitt asked all of us about religious liberty and the Supreme Court, and Donald Trump turned to me and he said, `I’ve known a lot more politicians than you have.’ Now, in that, he’s right. Donald has been supporting liberal Democratic politicians for 40 years. I have no experience doing that. But Donald went on to say, `Ted, When it comes to Supreme Court justices, you have got to be prepared compromise. You have got to negotiate with the Democrats and go along to get along.” Well, let me be very clear to the men and women of Illinois, I will not compromise away your religious liberty.

Good one. Except that that really doesn’t accurately characterize that exchange, and is more a reflection of words that Cruz attempted to put in Trump’s mouth at the debate than the words that actually came out of Trump’s mouth. One would think that with a candidate like Trump, who provides such ample fodder with virtually everything he says, that would not be necessary.

Here is the transcript of that exchange from the debate in Houston just before Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, thank you.

I want to turn our attention now to another critically important issue for the American people, the United States Supreme Court, where filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia has become a major campaign issue. I want to bring in Salem Radio Network host, Hugh Hewitt.

Hugh?

HEWITT: Thank you, Wolf.

To me, it’s the most important issue. I’ll start with you, Senator Cruz. Do you trust Mr. Trump to nominate conservative justices?

CRUZ: Well, Hugh, I agree with you that it — Justice Scalia’s passing underscores the enormous gravity of this election. Justice Scalia was someone I knew personally for 20 years; was privileged to be at his funeral this weekend. And with his passing, the court is now hanging in the balance. We are one liberal justice away from a five-justice radical leftist majority that would undermine our religious liberty; that would undermine the right to life; and that would fundamentally erase the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms from the Constitution.

Now, I think the voters of Texas, the voters across Super Tuesday are assessing everyone standing on this — this stage. In the past, Republican presidents always promise to nominate strict constitutionalists. So I’m certain if you took a survey, everyone would say they would do that.

But the reality is, Democrats bat about 1,000. Just about everyone they put on the court votes exactly as they want. Republicans have batted worse than 500, more than half of the people we put on the court have been a disaster.

I’ve spent my whole life fighting to defend the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. I can tell you, for voters that care about life or marriage or religious liberty or the Second Amendment, they’re asking the question: Who do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who do you know will nominate principled constitutionalists to the court? I give you my word, every justice I nominate will vigorously defend the Bill of Rights for my children and for yours.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Mr. Trump, Senator Cruz mentioned the issue that keeps me up at night, which is religious liberty. Churches, Catholic and Christian colleges, Catholic adoption agencies — all sorts of religious institutions fear that Hobby Lobby, if it’s repealed, it was a five-four decision, they’re going to have to bend their knee and provide morning-after pills. They fear that if Bob Jones is expanded, they will lose their tax exemption.

Will you commit to voters tonight that religious liberty will be an absolute litmus test for anyone you appoint, not just to the Supreme Court, but to all courts?

TRUMP: Yes, I would. And I’ve been there. And I’ve been there very strongly. I do have to say something, and this is interesting and it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s not Ted’s fault. Justice Roberts was strongly recommended and pushed by Ted. Justice Roberts gave us Obamacare. Might as well be called Roberts-care. Two times of the Supreme Court, Justice Roberts approved something that he should have never raised his hand to approve. And we ended up with Obamacare.

That is a rough thing. And I know Ted feels badly about it. And I think he probably still respects the judge. But that judge has been a disaster in terms of everything we stand for because there is no way — no way that he should have approved Obamacare.

Now, with that being said, these are the things that happen. But Ted very, very strongly pushed Judge Roberts, and Justice Roberts gave us something that we don’t want.

HEWITT: Ted Cruz, Senator, the chief justice got Hobby Lobby right, but what do you make of Mr. Cruz’s criticism?

CRUZ: Well, listen — Donald knows that it was George W. Bush who appointed John Roberts. Yes, it’s true, I supported the Republican nominee once he was made.

But I would not have nominated John Roberts. I would have nominated my former boss, Mike Luttig, who was the strongest proven conservative on the court of appeals. And I’ll tell you, Hugh…

(APPLAUSE)

… you know, it’s interesting now that Donald promises that he will appoint justices who — who will defend religious liberty, but this is a man who, for 40 years, has given money to Jimmy Carter, to Joe Biden, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer, to Harry Reid.

Nobody who supports far-left liberal Democrats who are fighting for judicial activists can possibly care about having principled constitutionalists on the court.

And what Donald has told us is he will go to Washington…

(BELL RINGS)

… and cut a deal.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump…

CRUZ: So that means on Supreme Court…

HEWITT: … can I…

CRUZ: … he’s going to look to cut a deal, rather than fight for someone who won’t cut a deal on the Constitution, but will defend it faithfully.

(APPLAUSE)

HEWITT: Can I trust you on religious liberty?

TRUMP: Well, let — let me — let me just say — let me just say this. Look, I watched Ted — and I respected it, but he gets nowhere — stand on the Senate floor for a day or two days, and talk and talk and talk.

I watched the other senators laughing and smiling. And when Ted was totally exhausted, he left the Senate floor, and they went back to work. OK? We have to have somebody that’s going to make deals.

It’s wonderful to stand up for two days and do that. Now, Ted’s been very critical — I have a sister who’s a brilliant…

HEWITT: Mr. Cruz, will you make a deal about religious liberty?

TRUMP: … excuse me. She’s a brilliant judge. He’s been criticizing — he’s been criticizing my sister for signing a certain bill. You know who else signed that bill? Justice Samuel Alito, a very conservative member of the Supreme Court, with my sister, signed that bill.

So I think that maybe we should get a little bit of an apology from Ted. What do you think?

HEWITT: Let me — Senator.

CRUZ: Let me tell you right now, Donald, I will not apologize for a minute for defending the Constitution. I will not apologize for defending the Bill of Rights.

(APPLAUSE)

And I find it amazing that your answer to Hugh and to the American people is, on religious liberty, you can’t have one of the these crazy zealots that actually believes in it. You’ve got to be willing to cut a deal.

And you know, there is a reason why, when Harry Reid was asked, of all the people on this stage, who does he want the most, who does he like the most, Harry Reid said Donald — Donald Trump.

Why? Because Donald has supported him in the past, and he knows he can cut a deal with him.

(BELL RINGS)

You know what, Donald…

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: Senator Rubio.

CRUZ: … I don’t want a Supreme Court justice that you cut a deal with Harry Reid to undermine religious liberty, because that same justice will also erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: When you say crazy zealot, are you talking about you? Crazy zealot — give me a break.

HEWITT: Senator Rubio, you’ve heard this exchange on religious liberty. You have said that religious liberty will trump even the ability of people to stay away from same-sex marriages, not provide flowers, not provide baked goods, et cetera. Are you satisfied with this exchange on religious liberty?

RUBIO: Well, I think you ask a very important question, because the issue here — the next president of the United States has to fill this vacancy.

Justice Scalia — in the history of the republic, there has never been anyone better than him at standing for the principle that the Constitution is not a living and breathing document — it is supposed to be applied as originally meant.

And the next president of the United States has to be someone that you can trust and believe in to appoint someone just as good as Scalia — plus there may be at least two other vacancies.

So you ask Mr. Trump to respond and say that he would, and he says that he would. But the bottom line is, if you look at his record over the last 25 or 30 years, on issue after issue, he has not been on our side.

Now, if he’s changed, we’re always looking for converts into the conservative movement. But the bottom line is that, if (ph) you don’t have a record there to look at and say, “I feel at peace that when Donald Trump is president of the United States, he’s going to be firmly on our side on these issues.”

In fact, very recently, he was still defending Planned Parenthood. He says he’s not going to take sides in the Palestinians versus Israel. These are concerning things.

And so, yes, I have a doubt about whether Donald Trump, if he becomes president, will replace Justice Scalia with someone just like Justice Scalia.

HEWITT: Mr. Trump?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Well, let — let me just say — let me just say, first of all, I have great respect for Justice Scalia. I thought he was terrific. And if you talk about evolving, Ronald Reagan was a somewhat liberal Democrat. Ronald Reagan evolved into a somewhat strong conservative — more importantly, he was a great president. A great president.

As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.

So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly. And I wouldn’t fund it.

I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.

(APPLAUSE)

Finally, per President Obama’s visit to Texas last week, I thought the president had one unfortunate line as he mocked Trump – and his product line of steaks, wines and such – at a Democratic fundraiser Saturday in Dallas.

You know that’s like some $5 wine.’They slap a label on it. They charge you $50 and say it’s the greatest wine ever.

Has anybody tried that wine. How good can that wine be?

OK, I get it that Obama is saying that Trump is ripping folks off. But he also comes across as a bit of a wine snob, and that has a whiff of the condescension he displayed most notoriously at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008 in which he attempted to explain to his wine-and-cheese crowd what makes folks tick in what might now be called Trump Country.

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Based on his remark in Dallas, it seems he might now amend that analysis to suggest that those Trump Americans are clinging to their guns, their religion, their nativism and their Two  Buck Chuck.

 

The deft demagogue: Q -`Do you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?’ Trump – `I mean a lot of them.’

Good morning Austin:

Welcome to Austin, Mr. President.

Have a great day here.

Meanwhile …

 

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“And so far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Trump said about a third the way through Thursday’s 12th Republican presidential debate.

And afterward, Trump spun the event as “elegant,” as if he were Fred Astaire to Ted Cruz’s Ginger Rogers.

And yes, it seemed, so low was the bar, that everyone seemed to buying into last night’s debate as some kind of high-tone, high-brow affair.

And yet this followed a day in which Trump rallies – and Trump’s campaign manager – were in the news, for acts, or, in the latter case, an alleged act, of real physical menace. And this was said of a debate in which Trump managed one of his most deft acts of sheer demagoguery yet.

Here it is:

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, let me start with you. Last night, you told CNN quote, “Islam hates us?” Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?

TRUMP: I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.

Watch this. It is genius. Donald Trump doubles down on an outrageous statement – the kind, countless by now, that he routinely makes, any of which would have felled a lesser candidate – but delivers it as an affable laugh line that re-enforces to a tee what people like about him the most – his refusal to be politically correct.

And, truth be told, my guess is that while most Americans know that what he said was inappropriate and not what you want a president to be saying, if said Americans were attached to some Frank Luntz meter, their pulses would quicken, and, if they were filing out a survey with a guarantee of anonymity, and were asked whether a) very few, b) a lot, or c) all Muslims hate us, “b” would do very well, followed by “c” and then “a.”

Back to the debate.

DINAN: Do you want to clarify the comment at all?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ve been watching the debate today. And they’re talking about radical Islamic terrorism or radical Islam. But I will tell you this. There’s something going on that maybe you don’t know about, maybe a lot of other people don’t know about, but there’s tremendous hatred. And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper.

(APPLAUSE)

DINAN: Senator Rubio, your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, said in response to Mr. Trump’s comment last night, I’m sorry — Senator Jeff Flake, I apologize. Your supporter, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said in response to that comment, Republicans are better than this. Do you agree?

RUBIO: Well, let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says cause he says what people wish they could say. The problem is, presidents can’t just say anything they want. It has consequences, here and around the world.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: And so let me give you one. Two days ago, I met this extraordinary couple who were on furlough because they are missionaries in Bangladesh. It’s a very tough place to be a missionary. It’s Muslim.

And their safety and security very much relies upon friendly Muslims that live along side them, that may not convert, but protect them and certainly look out for them. And their mission field really are Muslims that are looking to convert to Christianity as well. And they tell me that today they have a very hostile environment in which to operate in because the news is coming out that in America, leading political figures are saying that America doesn’t like Muslims. So this is a real impact. There’s no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world.

I can also tell you if you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you’re going to see crescent moons there. If you go anywhere in the world you’re going see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: And they love America. And as far as I know, no one on this stage has served in uniform in the United States military. Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America. No matter what their religious background may be.

DINAN: Mr. Trump?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Marco talks about consequences. Well, we’ve had a lot of consequences, including airplanes flying into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and could have been the White House. There have been a lot of problems.

Now you can say what you want, and you can be politically correct if you want. I don’t want to be so politically correct. I like to solve problems. We have a serious, serious problem of hate.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: There is tremendous hate. There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means. Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.

(BELL RINGS)

Now I will say this, there is tremendous hatred. The question was asked, what do you think? I said, there is hatred. Now it would be very easy for me to say something differently. And everybody would say, oh, isn’t that wonderful.

DINAN: Mr. Trump, thank you.

TRUMP: We better solve the problem before it’s too late.

DINAN: Senator Rubio?

(APPLAUSE) RUBIO: Well, here we go. See, I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m interested in being correct.

Not bad for a ho-hum, feel-good debate.

Then there was this at a Trump rally Wednesday in Fayetteville, N.C.

 

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TAPPER: Mr. Trump, I want to start with you in this block. Earlier today, a man was arrested and charged with assault after sucker- punching a protester in the face at your rally in Fayettville, North Carolina. This is hardly the first incident of violence breaking out at one of your rallies.

Today, Hillary Clinton, your potential general election opponent, clearly indicated she sees this as an issue for the campaign. She said, quote, “this kind of behavior is repugnant. We set the tone for our campaigns, we should encourage respect, not violence.” Do you believe that you’ve done anything to create a tone where this kind of violence would be encouraged?

TRUMP: I hope not. I truly hope not. I will say this. We have 25 (thousand), 30,000 people — you’ve seen it yourself. People come with tremendous passion and love for the country, and when they see protest — in some cases — you know, you’re mentioning one case, which I haven’t seen, I heard about it, which I don’t like. But when they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger.

They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals, they don’t like seeing higher taxes, they don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. And I know — I mean, I see it. There is some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.

TAPPER: Some of your critics point to quotes you’ve made at these debates — at these rallies including February 23rd, “I’d like to punch him in the face,” referring to a protesters. February 27th, “in the good ol’ days, they’d have ripped him out of that seat so fast.” February 1st, “knock the crap out of him, would, you? Seriously, OK, just knock the hell. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise, I promise.”

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people. And we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people, not only the loudness, the loudness I don’t mind. But doing serious damage. And if they’ve got to be taken out, to be honest, I mean, we have to run something.

And it’s not me. It’s usually the municipal government, the police because I don’t have guards all over these stadiums. I mean, we fill up stadiums. It’s usually the police — and, by the way, speaking of the police, we should pay our respects to the police because they are taking tremendous abuse in this country and they do a phenomenal job.

(APPLAUSE)

So we should pay — we should truly give our police. They’re incredible people, we should give them a great deal more respect than they receive.

(APPLAUSE)

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OK. So, yes, let’s hear it for the police, who, in the best tradition of the Dallas Police Department, 1963, lead someone in their custody into harm’s way.

Only, as I recall, the Dallas police actually arrested Jack Ruby on the spot, unlike the Fayetteville police, who let Old Man Racist be so he could enjoy the rest of the rally, and tell Inside Edition how much he enjoyed sucker-punching the black guy, and threatening, with a certain KKK panache, to kill him next time he encounters him.

The scene, however, was captured on video by Ronnie Rouse, a friend of the victim, Rakeem Jones,  and, alas, the next day, the Fayetteville police  had the sad duty of arresting OMR.

Back to debate, one would expect that even if Trump didn’t want to be very forthright in his condemnation of the violence, his rivals would seize the moment to set a higher standard, and score some points off Trump along the way.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz, are you concerned at all that these kind of scenes potentially hurt the Republican party for the general election?

CRUZ: Listen, I think for every one of us, we need to show respect to the people. We need to remember who it is we’re working for. You know, we’ve seen for seven years a president who believes he’s above the law, who behaves like an emperor, who it is all about him and he forgot that he’s working for the American people.

And let me — let me ask, turn the camera our here. How many of y’all feel disrespected by Washington?​

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Washington isn’t listening to the people. And that’s the frustration that is boiling over. And we need to nominate and elects a president who remembers, he works for the people. You know, at Donald’s rallies recently, he’s taken to asking people in the crowd to raise their hand and pledge their support to him.

Now, I got to say to me, I think that’s exactly backwards. This is a job interview. We are here pledging our support to you, not the other way around.

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And the only hand raising I’m interested in doing is on January 20, 2017 raising my hand with my left hand on the…

(BELL RINGS)

… bible and pledging to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of United States.

TAPPER: Thank you senator.

Yes, some 78=year-old racist clocks a young black man and Ted Cruz cuts to the chase – it’s Obama’s fault.

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, if you’d like to respond.

TRUMP: It shows the total dishonesty of the press. We were having — on a few occasions, again massive crowds. And we’re talking and I’m saying who is going to vote on Tuesday? Who is going to vote? The place goes crazy. Then I say, hey, do me a favor. Raise your right hand. Do you swear you’re going to vote for Donald Trump?

Everyone’s laughing, we’re all having a good time. That’s why I have much bigger crowds than Ted, because we have a good time at mine.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: But we’re all having a good time and the next day, on the Today Show and a couple of other place, not too many. Because when you look at it, everyone’s smiling, laughing. Their arms are raised like this. They had pictures, still pictures of people and they tried to equate it to Nazi Germany.

(BELL RINGS)

It is a disgrace. It was a total disgrace. And I’ve had reporters, people that you know, come up to me and said that — what they did on the Today Show was a disgrace.

(APPLAUSE)

And then, on the day of unassailable civility, there was this:

 

Ay yi yi.

So who won last night’s debate?

How does it change the race?

Who knows.

I think both Marco “on the ropes” Rubio and John Kasich did well enough to materially improve their prospects of winning their home-state winner-take-all  primaries in Ohio and Florida Tuesday. If they both win, Trump may not be on his way to a first ballot win in Cleveland in July and it will be a free-for-all with Cruz very much in the mix.

If Trump wins both, it may knock both Rubio and Kasich out of the race and give Cruz a clean shot at Trump, but a Trump that will be hard to catch. And, if Trump wins one and loses the other, Cruz will not be as far behind, but he’ll still have to knock another candidate out before he gets the one-on-one race he craves.

 

From  Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo on Cruz’s performance last night:

He knocked Trump a few times here and there. But that wasn’t his main goal. Most of what he was trying to do he could have done even if Trump wasn’t on the stage. Cruz’s main goal was to talk to the audience, to engage in a soliloquy of conservative purity and drive. There is a big basket of anti-Trump votes out there. And Cruz’s goal was to scoop them up. So attacking Trump, except to set up his own perorations, was basically irrelevant. He was trying to swoop up the existing anti-Trump vote, not pull Trump’s supporters away from him.

He was also looking for ways to drive home the point that there are only two candidates left who can be the nominee. In that goal he had Trump as an ally. Cruz is a consummate bullshit artist. But on his hand-raising gyre, shifting from Trump’s heil-hand-raising rallies to raising his own hand at his inauguration next January, that was some quality bullshit. No question. There’s a certain earnest, unironic and treacly sentimentality that is like mother’s milk for traditionalist American conservatives – think Ronald Reagan, embodying an American eagle, on a flag background, on a blue sky. Cruz was deep in that groove tonight and I think he helped himself.

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Everything I saw tonight made me think that Trump is well on his way to becoming the GOP nominee. I see no big obstacle stands in his way. Just as important, if for whatever reason Donald Trump isn’t the nominee, it is now extremely difficult to see how the nomination won’t go to Ted Cruz. Maybe you can steal the nomination from one factional, plurality winner. You can’t steal it from the guy who came in a close second too. That just won’t fly.

And from Scott Bland and Steven Shepard at Politico:

Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate with a realistic chance of winning the 1,237 delegates necessary to claim the party’s presidential nomination, according to a POLITICO analysis.

A close examination of demographics, polling, and delegate allocation rules in the remaining states suggests there is a path for Trump to win a majority of delegates, but it is a tightrope walk that leaves the businessman with little margin for error.

The outlook for his rivals is grim – there is almost no way they can get to the magic number.

Barring major upsets in Florida and Ohio next week, Ted Cruz will need to win approximately 70 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination outright. That essentially makes Cruz’s path to 1,237 as unlikely as Marco Rubio’s route.

Meanwhile:

And, from David Brady at the Christian Broadcasting Network:

 

Ted Cruz: “Donald has done well in the southeastern states. He has had a good base of support. We’ve done well as well, we’ve been typically second in each of those states, and we’ve racked up delegates. Now Donald has a harder problem in the west, it’s interesting, his location he does well in the southeast. He does well with a certain demographic of voter. Donald gave a press conference where he said, to quote him, ‘I love the poorly educated.’ Listen, part of it is I think Donald is taking advantage of his voters because I understand what they’re angry about, but Donald if you’re angry at the corruption of Washington, you don’t solve it by supporting someone who has been enmeshed in the Washington corruption for forty years.”

Ted Cruz on the Christian Broadcasting Network
Ted Cruz on the Christian Broadcasting Network

 
Ted Cruz: “Listen, Donald does well with voters who have relatively low information, who are not that engaged and who are angry and they see him as an angry voice. Where we are beating him is when voters’ get more engaged and they get more informed. When they inform themselves, they realize his record. He’s what they’re angry at. He is the corruption, and if you want someone to stand up to Washington, the only one who has been doing so in this race is me.”

Ted Cruz with the Duck Ayatollah
Ted Cruz with the Duck Commander