Ted Cruz plays hardest ball

Although I am officially (and, in fact, personally) neutral among the GOP candidates, I have long admired Ted Cruz’s devotion to the Constitution and his disregard of the get-along/go-along ethic of the GOP Senate.  Not to mention his formidable intellect.  This background makes doubly disappointing his recent descent to deplorable (and easily discoverable) beyond-hardball tactics.  If your campaign slogan is "TrusTed," you need a higher standard of behavior.  Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal dispassionately chronicles the recent ethical problems of his campaign.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign on Thursday found itself in rough but increasingly familiar territory. It wasn’t talking about policies or consistent conservatism. It was instead trying to explain why it had photoshopped a fake image of Marco Rubio shaking Barack Obama’s hand.

It’s a true saying in politics that if you are denying or explaining, you have a problem. By that standard, Ted Cruz may have a problem.

He does indeed have a problem.  A very visible one.  If you are going to commit a fraud, best not to do it with visual evidence.

And it is not the first time his campaign has gone up to the edge and over it:

Mr. Cruz provided the opening for this with his campaign’s decision on Iowa caucus night to suggest to voters that Ben Carson was suspending his campaign, and to urge them to vote for him instead. Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Cruz disqualified for “fraud.” Dr. Carson accused him of “deceit” and “lies” and “dirty tricks.” Mr. Cruz blamed it on a “mix-up” and apologized.

Yet before the dust had settled, reports came out of a Cruz campaign mailer sent to Iowa voters. The outside contained giant red letters reading “VOTER VIOLATION” and the words “public record” and “further action needed.” Inside, the mailer warned recipients of “low expected voter turnout” in their area, claimed that their voting record might be publicized, and pushed them to caucus. The Iowa secretary of state, a Republican, blasted the Cruz campaign for misrepresenting his office and Iowa election law.

A new controversy has since sprouted in Ohio over another Cruz mailer. This envelope bears Mr. Cruz’s name, as well as big black letters reading: “Check Enclosed.” Inside there is a check, only it is made out to Mr. Cruz from the recipient—along with an appeal to make a contribution. Ohio Republican Chairman Matt Borges complained that the letter—with its suggestion of a government check—was “shady” and went “right up to the edge.”

Mr. Cruz’s problem is that these shenanigans have laid the groundwork for his campaign to be accused of far worse deeds in South Carolina. Mr. Trump used the most recent Republican debate to charge the Cruz campaign with orchestrating push-poll calls that trashed the other candidates. Recipients reported that the calls came courtesy of Remington Research, an outfit started by Mr. Cruz’s campaign manger.

The Rubio campaign meanwhile tagged the Cruz campaign with ginning up a fake Facebook page that falsely claimed popular South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy was switching his support from Mr. Rubio to Mr. Cruz.

Push polls can be faked, and so can Facebook pages.  It is not clear the Cruz campaign is responsible for these.  But the other missteps weaken the benefit of the doubt instinct I would otherwise apply.

This is all the more surprising because other than these ethical lapses, Cruz has run a very smart campaign, based on the notion that he can be trusted.

When people try to get me to come out in favor of one candidate or another, I always point out that they are all flawed human beings.  I will take any of the GOP field over the Dem nominee.

But I really wish Cruz’s campaign were not subject to these lapses.  And I think they will hurt him in South Carolina, which supposedly is notorious for dirty campaigning.

Although I am officially (and, in fact, personally) neutral among the GOP candidates, I have long admired Ted Cruz’s devotion to the Constitution and his disregard of the get-along/go-along ethic of the GOP Senate.  Not to mention his formidable intellect.  This background makes doubly disappointing his recent descent to deplorable (and easily discoverable) beyond-hardball tactics.  If your campaign slogan is "TrusTed," you need a higher standard of behavior.  Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal dispassionately chronicles the recent ethical problems of his campaign.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign on Thursday found itself in rough but increasingly familiar territory. It wasn’t talking about policies or consistent conservatism. It was instead trying to explain why it had photoshopped a fake image of Marco Rubio shaking Barack Obama’s hand.

It’s a true saying in politics that if you are denying or explaining, you have a problem. By that standard, Ted Cruz may have a problem.

He does indeed have a problem.  A very visible one.  If you are going to commit a fraud, best not to do it with visual evidence.

And it is not the first time his campaign has gone up to the edge and over it:

Mr. Cruz provided the opening for this with his campaign’s decision on Iowa caucus night to suggest to voters that Ben Carson was suspending his campaign, and to urge them to vote for him instead. Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Cruz disqualified for “fraud.” Dr. Carson accused him of “deceit” and “lies” and “dirty tricks.” Mr. Cruz blamed it on a “mix-up” and apologized.

Yet before the dust had settled, reports came out of a Cruz campaign mailer sent to Iowa voters. The outside contained giant red letters reading “VOTER VIOLATION” and the words “public record” and “further action needed.” Inside, the mailer warned recipients of “low expected voter turnout” in their area, claimed that their voting record might be publicized, and pushed them to caucus. The Iowa secretary of state, a Republican, blasted the Cruz campaign for misrepresenting his office and Iowa election law.

A new controversy has since sprouted in Ohio over another Cruz mailer. This envelope bears Mr. Cruz’s name, as well as big black letters reading: “Check Enclosed.” Inside there is a check, only it is made out to Mr. Cruz from the recipient—along with an appeal to make a contribution. Ohio Republican Chairman Matt Borges complained that the letter—with its suggestion of a government check—was “shady” and went “right up to the edge.”

Mr. Cruz’s problem is that these shenanigans have laid the groundwork for his campaign to be accused of far worse deeds in South Carolina. Mr. Trump used the most recent Republican debate to charge the Cruz campaign with orchestrating push-poll calls that trashed the other candidates. Recipients reported that the calls came courtesy of Remington Research, an outfit started by Mr. Cruz’s campaign manger.

The Rubio campaign meanwhile tagged the Cruz campaign with ginning up a fake Facebook page that falsely claimed popular South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy was switching his support from Mr. Rubio to Mr. Cruz.

Push polls can be faked, and so can Facebook pages.  It is not clear the Cruz campaign is responsible for these.  But the other missteps weaken the benefit of the doubt instinct I would otherwise apply.

This is all the more surprising because other than these ethical lapses, Cruz has run a very smart campaign, based on the notion that he can be trusted.

When people try to get me to come out in favor of one candidate or another, I always point out that they are all flawed human beings.  I will take any of the GOP field over the Dem nominee.

But I really wish Cruz’s campaign were not subject to these lapses.  And I think they will hurt him in South Carolina, which supposedly is notorious for dirty campaigning.