By Cinzia Croce
Just a few weeks ago, Ted Cruz was sitting comfortably at the top of the Iowa polls and was declared by the pundit class as the prohibitive favorite to win the GOP caucuses. He won praise for running a flawless, disciplined campaign centered on consolidating evangelical voters and building a superior ground game. His backers applauded his strategy of bear-hugging Donald Trump in public while privately plotting the moment he would expose Trump as a flaming New York liberal and win the the GOP nomination. It seemed like a brilliant plan but if failed to take one small detail into account: Donald Trump is a worthy opponent.
Cruz relishes spinning heroic tales about his long shot race for the Senate — how he went from single digits in the polls to defeating the self-funding establishment candidate, David Dewhurst. In a deliberate tone meant to convey the great sacrifice his family made, Cruz recounts asking his wife Heidi, “Sweetheart, I’d like us to liquidate our entire net worth and put it into the campaign.” Without hesitation, Heidi agreed to put everything on the line so that a principled conservative could represent the great state of Texas in Washington, D.C. Or so the story goes.
But the Cruzes did not put everything on the line. They borrowed $1 million from Heidi’s employer Goldman Sachs and from Citibank. Maybe they were heroic loans. But as far as defeating Goliath, it wasn’t Cruz defeating Dewhurst. It was Dewhurst who defeated himself by running one of the most incompetent campaigns in modern Texas history.
For those unfamiliar with the Texas Republican primary process: the nomination is awarded to the candidate who wins a majority of the vote. If no candidate wins a majority on primary day, a runoff election is held between the top two finishers. On primary day 2012, Dewhurst received 45% of the vote and Cruz finished second with 34%.
If only Dewhurst had read The Art of the Deal, he could have easily avoided the runoff and kept Cruz from the Senate chamber. Coming in third was former Dallas Mayor and mainstream Republican Tom Leppert with 13% of the vote. Just before primary day, Dewhurst could have reached out to Leppert, offer him a position in exchange for dropping out and an endorsement. The vast majority of Leppert’s supporters would have preferred moderate Dewhurst over firebrand Tea Party Ted and, thus, Dewhurst would have easily found the additional 5%-6% needed to win the nomination outright.
Apparently, Dewhurst also had no opposition research team. It turns out that when Cruz ran for the Senate he was a Canadian citizen. A fact that was brought to light by the Dallas Morning News eight months after Ted took his oath of office. Would Texans have elected a Canadian to represent them? Doubtful. Moreover, Cruz’s claim that he was unaware of his dual citizenship status would have seriously undercut his image as a brilliant legal mind.
For months Cruz sat back, happily watching Trump demolish Jeb Bush and other candidates, clearing the way for him — or so he thought. As Trump likes to say at his rallies: he has dealt with politicians his entire adult life. He quickly understood Cruz’s strategy and decided to play along, knowing that he had the birther card his back pocket ready to be played at the appropriate moment. He even gave Ted in a false sense of security by declaring that his eligibility status was settled back in September.
Questioning Cruz’s eligibility to be president has been extremely effective. Ted may be a brilliant mind, but he never realized that Donald Trump is no David Dewhurst.