Former Senator Bob Dole entered the 1980 Republican presidential primary to stop Ronald Reagan. At the time, Dole declared Reagan would be deeply destructive to the Republican Party. When no one rallied to Dole he called for former President Gerald Ford to get into the Republican primary to stop Reagan.
Ford did not get in. Reagan did not destroy the Republican Party. Reagan, in fact, became the standard bearer for the party. It is worth noting that every Republican nominee since Reagan, with the exception of John McCain in 2008, actively opposed Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Bob Dole is back. Having surrendered to Bill Clinton in 1996, then caved on a government shutdown the day before Clinton intended to surrender, Dole wants Americans to know they should not vote for Ted Cruz. Cruz, according to Dole, is too divisive. Dole, who endorsed Jeb Bush, said he would prefer Donald Trump to Ted Cruz.
Former senate majority leader Trent Lott chimed in as well. He too would support Donald Trump over Ted Cruz. According to Lott, Cruz disrupted the decorum of the Senate and was not a nice guy to work with. Lott’s criticisms echo those of Donald Trump. Trump thinks Ted Cruz should not have called Mitch McConnell, the current senate majority leader, a liar.
The dividing lines are shaping upc For months, Donald Trump’s core supporters have told the nation that they do not care if Donald Trump offends anyone. Everyone is so fixated on being liked, they’ve become politically correct unwilling and unable to offend anyone. Suddenly, however, the Washington political class is attacking Ted Cruz for being unlikable and the very Trump supporters who love that Trump offends the politically correct now think it is a reason to vote against Ted Cruz that Washington hates him.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, whose son is an ethanol lobbyist, has declared Cruz must be defeated at all costs. Lobbyists on K Street are savaging Cruz and declaring Trump to be preferable. The Republican opinion class declares Ted Cruz satanic while suggesting Trump would be malleable enough on principles to win.
The Washington political establishment would prefer Donald Trump to Ted Cruz because they see Donald Trump is more likely to preserve their access to power and status quo. Suddenly Donald Trump’s campaign thinks being hated by Washington disqualifies Ted Cruz for office after campaigning for months on how much he’d rock Washington’s world. Does it not bear just a little skepticism on the part of his supporters that suddenly being liked by Washington matters?
This strategy by the Establishment of the Republican Party is in part because they really do prefer Trump to Cruz. It is also in part that the Establishment thinks once it dispatches Ted Cruz it has a shot at either co-opting Donald Trump or beating him. The party leaders are in denial about the situation. At a time Congress has an approval rating lower than pond scum, Ted Cruz is now the most popular Republican in the field because he stood up to the Washington Republicans.
It helps no one but Cruz for Republican leaders to come out and attack him and say nice things about Trump. Some Trump supporters have suggested this was all a trap. They have suggested that the Republican leaders are saying nice things about Trump and bashing Cruz in order to help Cruz. The problem with that logic is that Donald Trump is now echoing their concerns and also defending Senator Mitch McConnell. The other problem is that Ted Cruz’s relationship with Washington’s Republican leaders has never been a secret.
Republicans in Washington are comfortable with Donald Trump as someone who will not rock their boat or upset the status quo. They already know from Cruz’s history that he intends to shake up Washington, and many of them could find themselves on an unemployment line. With a week to go until the Iowa caucus, Washington Republicans will side with Trump and do their best to bruise and stop Ted Cruz. Payback and power are more important to Washington Republicans than principle.
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