U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, running for President in the crowded Republican field, has hitched his star to businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump–and it may wind up costing him the presidency.
Trump has soared in the polls in recent weeks. And Cruz has largely cheered him on–refusing to attack his opponent, even though Cruz has a long history of taking the gloves off when it comes to other Republicans.
Just last week, Cruz and Trump’s political “bromance” got even deeper. They met privately in New York–and Cruz was singing Trump’s praises, claiming he was “a big fan of Donald Trump’s” and praised him for “bringing a bold, brash voice to this presidential race.”
After the meeting, Cruz added: “He’s running, I’m running and we both agreed that we started out as friends and will end as friends.”
But unfortunately for Cruz, he’s now in an awkward position because of his friend–due to Trump’s universally condemned comments about whether Senator John McCain was deserving of the title “war hero” on Saturday.
“He’s no war hero,” Trump said, to a shocked crowd in Ames, Iowa. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who didn’t get captured.”
McCain, part of the more moderate wing of the Republican Party, spent seven years in a North Vietnamese prison–and still bears some physical disabilities from the torture he received. As his father was a high-profile Navy Admiral, his captors offered to let him go on numerous occasions if he contributed to anti-American propaganda; McCain continually refused to betray his principles and his country.
Politics aside, McCain is the very essence of what an American war hero should be.
And Trump’s opponents for the Republican nomination have seized on his comments–and used it as an effective political weapon.
Everyone except Ted Cruz.
Cruz asserted that he believed McCain is a war hero–but he also refused to condemn Trump’s comments.
The two candidates are fighting for the same core of conservative voters–it’s possible that Cruz was trying not to alienate his base by attacking Trump. And it’s possible that Cruz, assuming Trump wouldn’t be a viable candidate further down the road, would be able to take a large portion of Trump’s voters for himself.
But Cruz’s close affiliation with Trump in recent weeks–and his refusal to condemn Trump’s comments–might become problematic for Cruz moving forward. In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump’s support cratered literally overnight because of his McCain comments–crashing from an all-time high of 28% of Republican voters on Saturday, to less than 10% on Sunday.
Cruz, however, shows no sign of abandoning Donald Trump. “You know, I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican-on-Republican violence, and so you want me to say something bad about Donald Trump, or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else,” Cruz said, shortly after Trump made his comments. “I’m not going to do it.”