Can Trump and Cruz Make a Match?

The big surprise in New York on Tuesday wasn’t Trump’s victory. It was the magnitude. The Donald beat expectations. He won 90 delegates (at this writing), giving him a shot at a first ballot nomination. Shot, that is, because Trump securing 1,237 delegates is still a tall order. A first ballot victory means Trump catching a lot of breaks in the remaining contests. An “undecided” convention is more a probability. Unless Trump can make a deal before the Republican convention starts at Cleveland on July 18.

For Trump, a deal should start with Ted Cruz. Right. Cruz ain’t buying. He’s trying to cut deals with the establishment to end-run Trump. That’s today, but tomorrow… that’s a different animal. In politics, the world can change dramatically in a matter of weeks. A Trump-Cruz ticket makes eminent good sense. 

What’s riveting the media now is the prospect of an open convention. The preconvention period isn’t sexy. But the June 8 to July 18 window is critical. (June 7 is the last of the primaries, including California.) Deals made or not during that time could boost the GOP’s chances in November or doom them.     

Of Trump’s route to the nomination, Jim Ellis, an elections analyst, writes:

Now Trump will need 57 percent of the outstanding delegates in the 15 Republican states yet to vote to score a first ballot win without needing any unbound delegates. He must earn another major victory in the eastern regional primary next Tuesday (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island) to offset what should be strong Cruz performances in Indiana (May 3), Nebraska (May 10), and South Dakota (June 7). Both Nebraska and South Dakota are Winner-Take-All, while Indiana is Winner-Take-All by congressional district.

Coming out of the June 7 contests, Trump should be close to the magic number, 1,237. The vital question is: What does Trump need to do to secure the nomination before the gavel falls in Cleveland? 

A Trump-Cruz ticket not only unifies about three-quarters of party voters, it provides a powerful – perhaps winning – contrast to Hillary and her running mate, who’s likely to be a younger leftist with ample appeal to Bern’s burgeoning socialist faction. Hillary needs to pacify her left flank.                       

What about Trump making a run at the GOP establishment, a la Ted? That’s on the order of stupid politics. Cruz is throwing up a “Hail Mary.” Trump doesn’t need to. Maybe the establishment would bite, maybe not (hey, self-interest overrides a lot). 

Trump’s staked his appeal to being an outsider – the new Jackson who’s battling corrupt, entrenched interests. He has profound policies differences with the establishment, most notably on trade, the border, and immigration. More than befuddling his voters, a Trump-establishment union would send them packing. How’s Trump going to “Make America Great Again” with the same crowd that helped botch it up?

A pitched battle is still underway for the nomination. Ted’s fighting the good fight. He wants a presidential, not vice presidential, nod. No love’s lost between the two principals, either. But battles end. And love’s got nothing to do with politics. If it did, Jack Kennedy and LBJ would never have teamed up in 1960. 

Cruz is whip-smart and very ambitious. He’s making and revising his calculations as he goes. Ted’s public posturing notwithstanding, it’s doubtful he’s irrevocably committed to fight for the nomination at Cleveland. In other words, he’s keeping his powder dry. That’s what smart pols do.     

Consider it this way. If Trump is within a whisker or two of the nomination, what avails Cruz to damn the torpedoes? So he scuttles Trump (if he can), much to the delight of the #NeverTrump crowd. Ted secures the nomination, unless rascally establishment Republicans slip one of their own into the fight (backstabbing’s uncommon in politics?). He fails to unify the party (a looming possibility). He loses handily in the autumn to Hillary. Hillary extends Obama’s handiwork, really wrecking the nation over 48 grueling months. Ted’s not fingered as a culprit? Hindsight doesn’t put him in a black hat?

Or Ted could stand down, permitting Trump the nomination, while saying nothing or merely paying lip service to party unity. That posture is better than trying to waylay Trump, but given that Ted has the second largest faction in the party, sitting out the General Election -- or just going through the motions -- might prove problematic and could be seen as a backhanded way of detonating Trump.

If Cruz joined Trump, and a Trump-Cruz ticket lost in November, it would be noted as Ted having taken one for the team. He manned-up when manning up was critical. He played the statesman when nary a statesman was found. That’s the stuff of an heir-apparent and astute positioning for 2020

If Trump wins, then there are laurels enough to go around.       

Lest Cruz bear too much weight in this matter, Trump needs to be wise enough to recognize the value of bringing along Ted – and not as window-dressing. Cruz on the ticket makes for a compelling compliment. Trump’s populist-tinged nationalism and Cruz’s reformist conservatism needn’t be mismatches. In fact, on Trump’s signature issues, Ted is pretty much in step with The Donald. Merging both could create a powerful platform that has strong appeal to voters – voters who have long wearied of both parties’ stale approaches. 

Most of both men’s backers have no Election Day death wish. The #NeverTrump crowd wants no unholy alliance with Donald and his brown shirts. They’d rather have some Alamo-Masada moment of glorious defeat. Likewise, the hardcore Trumpsters can’t imagine sharing a bed with Lyin’ Ted. Both groups represent boisterous extremes, however. If Ted and Donald achieve a rapprochement and forge an alliance, most of their followers will follow.         

What will keep Trump and Cruz divided or bring them together has less to do with issues or philosophies or followings than egos and ambitions.  On what makes men, men, the GOP’s 2016 prospects hinge.

The big surprise in New York on Tuesday wasn’t Trump’s victory. It was the magnitude. The Donald beat expectations. He won 90 delegates (at this writing), giving him a shot at a first ballot nomination. Shot, that is, because Trump securing 1,237 delegates is still a tall order. A first ballot victory means Trump catching a lot of breaks in the remaining contests. An “undecided” convention is more a probability. Unless Trump can make a deal before the Republican convention starts at Cleveland on July 18.

For Trump, a deal should start with Ted Cruz. Right. Cruz ain’t buying. He’s trying to cut deals with the establishment to end-run Trump. That’s today, but tomorrow… that’s a different animal. In politics, the world can change dramatically in a matter of weeks. A Trump-Cruz ticket makes eminent good sense. 

What’s riveting the media now is the prospect of an open convention. The preconvention period isn’t sexy. But the June 8 to July 18 window is critical. (June 7 is the last of the primaries, including California.) Deals made or not during that time could boost the GOP’s chances in November or doom them.     

Of Trump’s route to the nomination, Jim Ellis, an elections analyst, writes:

Now Trump will need 57 percent of the outstanding delegates in the 15 Republican states yet to vote to score a first ballot win without needing any unbound delegates. He must earn another major victory in the eastern regional primary next Tuesday (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island) to offset what should be strong Cruz performances in Indiana (May 3), Nebraska (May 10), and South Dakota (June 7). Both Nebraska and South Dakota are Winner-Take-All, while Indiana is Winner-Take-All by congressional district.

Coming out of the June 7 contests, Trump should be close to the magic number, 1,237. The vital question is: What does Trump need to do to secure the nomination before the gavel falls in Cleveland? 

A Trump-Cruz ticket not only unifies about three-quarters of party voters, it provides a powerful – perhaps winning – contrast to Hillary and her running mate, who’s likely to be a younger leftist with ample appeal to Bern’s burgeoning socialist faction. Hillary needs to pacify her left flank.                       

What about Trump making a run at the GOP establishment, a la Ted? That’s on the order of stupid politics. Cruz is throwing up a “Hail Mary.” Trump doesn’t need to. Maybe the establishment would bite, maybe not (hey, self-interest overrides a lot). 

Trump’s staked his appeal to being an outsider – the new Jackson who’s battling corrupt, entrenched interests. He has profound policies differences with the establishment, most notably on trade, the border, and immigration. More than befuddling his voters, a Trump-establishment union would send them packing. How’s Trump going to “Make America Great Again” with the same crowd that helped botch it up?

A pitched battle is still underway for the nomination. Ted’s fighting the good fight. He wants a presidential, not vice presidential, nod. No love’s lost between the two principals, either. But battles end. And love’s got nothing to do with politics. If it did, Jack Kennedy and LBJ would never have teamed up in 1960. 

Cruz is whip-smart and very ambitious. He’s making and revising his calculations as he goes. Ted’s public posturing notwithstanding, it’s doubtful he’s irrevocably committed to fight for the nomination at Cleveland. In other words, he’s keeping his powder dry. That’s what smart pols do.     

Consider it this way. If Trump is within a whisker or two of the nomination, what avails Cruz to damn the torpedoes? So he scuttles Trump (if he can), much to the delight of the #NeverTrump crowd. Ted secures the nomination, unless rascally establishment Republicans slip one of their own into the fight (backstabbing’s uncommon in politics?). He fails to unify the party (a looming possibility). He loses handily in the autumn to Hillary. Hillary extends Obama’s handiwork, really wrecking the nation over 48 grueling months. Ted’s not fingered as a culprit? Hindsight doesn’t put him in a black hat?

Or Ted could stand down, permitting Trump the nomination, while saying nothing or merely paying lip service to party unity. That posture is better than trying to waylay Trump, but given that Ted has the second largest faction in the party, sitting out the General Election -- or just going through the motions -- might prove problematic and could be seen as a backhanded way of detonating Trump.

If Cruz joined Trump, and a Trump-Cruz ticket lost in November, it would be noted as Ted having taken one for the team. He manned-up when manning up was critical. He played the statesman when nary a statesman was found. That’s the stuff of an heir-apparent and astute positioning for 2020

If Trump wins, then there are laurels enough to go around.       

Lest Cruz bear too much weight in this matter, Trump needs to be wise enough to recognize the value of bringing along Ted – and not as window-dressing. Cruz on the ticket makes for a compelling compliment. Trump’s populist-tinged nationalism and Cruz’s reformist conservatism needn’t be mismatches. In fact, on Trump’s signature issues, Ted is pretty much in step with The Donald. Merging both could create a powerful platform that has strong appeal to voters – voters who have long wearied of both parties’ stale approaches. 

Most of both men’s backers have no Election Day death wish. The #NeverTrump crowd wants no unholy alliance with Donald and his brown shirts. They’d rather have some Alamo-Masada moment of glorious defeat. Likewise, the hardcore Trumpsters can’t imagine sharing a bed with Lyin’ Ted. Both groups represent boisterous extremes, however. If Ted and Donald achieve a rapprochement and forge an alliance, most of their followers will follow.         

What will keep Trump and Cruz divided or bring them together has less to do with issues or philosophies or followings than egos and ambitions.  On what makes men, men, the GOP’s 2016 prospects hinge.