I must admit, one of the most interesting—and humorous—aspects of covering the 2016 Republican presidential race has been watching the Washington establishment of both parties writhe in pain over the prospect of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz winning the Republican nomination.
As the months went on and Trump's poll leads turned into real votes, real victories and real delegates, many Republicans decided about a month ago (just prior to Super Tuesday) that something needed to be done to stop him. Hence, the birth of the #NeverTrump movement coupled together with some limited peace overtures towards Trump's one remaining viable contender, Ted Cruz.
Many in the establishment now look to be on board with the conservative Texan, though it's still difficult for others to come to grips with getting behind what they believe to be a force counter to their own selfish interests and power base.
Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane of the Washington Post report on their struggles, "In Washington and across the country, many mainstream Republicans who despise Trump—including many supporters of former candidate Marco Rubio—are still declining to support the senator from Texas, whose antagonism toward GOP leaders has been the centerpiece of his political rise.
"The lukewarm reception highlighted the difficulty Cruz faces in recasting himself as a bridge builder after years of bridge burning. Many top Republicans remain strongly opposed to both Cruz and Trump and hold out hope that long-shot candidate John Kasich, or perhaps another Republican not in the race, can somehow clinch the nomination."
Hence, the humorous part in all of this. These people are so emotionally conflicted they're repeatedly lying to themselves in holding out hope that some miracle from establishment heaven is going to mysteriously materialize to save them from their worst nightmares.
If only Paul Ryan had run! If only Mitt Romney had given it another shot! What happened to Jeb Bush? Can we bring him back?
If anyone doubts Ted Cruz is still viewed as a serious threat to the establishment, please read Sullivan and Kane's article. There's anguish out there, folks.
A lot of the suffering originates with Cruz's Republican colleagues in the Senate, many of whom are still seething over Ted's scathing remarks concerning the fecklessness of the party leadership in battling the Obama agenda.
Yes, the truth hurts and those wounds clearly haven't healed with the GOP inner circle.
Maybe Cruz's fellow Republican senators should look at it this way: If Cruz wins the Republican nomination and beats Hillary Clinton, he'll permanently be moving down Pennsylvania Avenue, and they won't have to worry about seeing him every day. Cruz will certainly continue to be a thorn in their sides, but he'll be preoccupied with foreign policy and various other executive duties rather than tormenting them alone.
Meanwhile, Marco Rubio's continued silence regarding Trump and Cruz is very curious. The Florida senator did argue shortly after pulling out of the race that Cruz was the only conservative left to battle Trump, but hasn't said a whole lot in the weeks since and gives no indication an endorsement is forthcoming.
Rubio's not running for re-election to his senate seat, so he wouldn't be holding back for political reasons ... or would he?
It could be Marco's maintaining hope to be a "consensus" candidate in Cleveland. Or maybe he hasn't yet released his delegates to keep them from falling to Trump. Hopefully we'll know the answer soon.
Whatever Rubio's personal motivation for staying out of the fray, some of his former donors are now enthusiastically choosing Cruz.
Nicholas Confessore and Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times report, "Bolstered by Mr. Cruz's overwhelming win in Wisconsin on Tuesday, his campaign is moving aggressively to take advantage of the thaw, reaching out to some of the party's most prominent donors to seek a hearing. Many—though not all—said they were now far more inclined to take the senator's calls.
"Former backers of Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida have hosted fund-raising events or meet-and-greets for Mr. Cruz, even while some privately concede that they have their doubts about his temperament."
There's no question Cruz, should he win the nomination, will have work to do in uniting the party—and I'm not just talking about trying to win over Trump's legions.
Right now, the anti-Trump forces have a common enemy to combat and Cruz is looking awful promising in potentially fulfilling their mission to stop The Donald. Once that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" mentality goes away, however, the various factions of the Republican Party will be making their own demands on Cruz.
Cruz is extremely smart and practiced at packaging his message. It seems to me most in the GOP will come over to his side on his terms—since they really won't have much of a choice at that time.
Ted is fortunate in one sense—Hillary Clinton is a very powerful unifying influence. It won't be hard at all to make the sale that she must not become president. But the healing process starts now—and it's nice to see Cruz making the effort to do it.
Make no mistake, Ted Cruz will give Democrats all they can handle.
Another "humorous" part of the 2016 presidential race has been the amount of media attention devoted to the infighting on the Republican side with comparatively little given to the increasingly contentious Democrats.
For sure, the Republican race has been much more interesting, with only two cranky retirement-aged white candidates to write about for the Democrats, but that's no excuse for the press to be virtually ignoring the serious rift between the party establishment under Hillary and the leftwing fringe nutcases who love Bernie.
Naturally, the arrogant Democrats themselves have taken every opportunity to assail Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as out of touch, racist, sexist ... you know, the standard Democrat talking points that every party member is required to memorize.
But the funniest element of the Democrats' blather is their fevered insistence they'll beat either Trump or Cruz in November.
True, polls show The Donald doing poorly against either Democrat, and both lead Cruz in hypothetical matchups, though the margin is much smaller. You can't compare Trump's electability with Cruz's for a multitude of reasons. But perhaps the most important one is the candidate himself.
Take Ted Cruz lightly at your own peril, Democrats.
David French of National Review writes, "Democrats underestimate Cruz in part because they stubbornly overestimate Clinton. Republicans shouldn't sugarcoat Cruz's chances. He will face immense challenges winning over a majority of Americans, and he does have a daunting 53 percent unfavorability rating. But Clinton's rating is actually two points worse. Mitt Romney had the misfortune of running against a man Americans largely liked. Cruz will have the good fortune to face a woman most Americans dislike."
French is correct in saying it will be hard for Cruz to unite not only his own party behind him for the general election run, but the American people as a whole will require additional persuasion.
That doesn't mean Ted can't do it, however. French says Americans will almost feel grateful toward the man who just spared them from Trump—which could be true.
But the most convincing argument in favor of Cruz's electability concerns his ability to outthink and outmaneuver his opposition.
Cruz is a winner, first and foremost. Let's not forget he's in the Senate because he was able to rally grassroots support in Texas to overcome an extremely well-funded and popular establishment candidate (David Dewhurst) to win the Republican nomination in a runoff election.
Add the fact he will have managed to take on and defeat more than a dozen Republicans to win the party presidential nomination and you've got a very impressive competitor who knows what it takes to win.
In contrast, Hillary Clinton will have lost badly to Obama in 2008 and barely beaten Bernie Sanders to win the Democrat nod this year.
There's no doubt Cruz faces a tough road to the White House in November. But for the Democrats to react with glee at the prospect of running against him is just making the same mistake dozens of losers have already made.
Better watch it, Democrats.
Jeffrey A. Rendall writes for several publications, as well as for ConservativeHQ.
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