ANALYSIS: Why Ted Cruz Won’t Attack Donald Trump

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz is the only major Republican in the field who isn’t jumping all over Donald Trump for his series of provocative comments regarding immigration and John McCain’s war service. In fact, Cruz even recently went to bat for Trump.

Cruz and Trump had a private meeting together last week at Trump’s New York City office, the Daily Mail reports, so it’s clear that the two are already talking strategy.

Trump has stolen some of Cruz’s thunder, and probably some of his vote share, early in this campaign. The latest Suffolk University poll puts Trump at 17 percent, Jeb Bush at 14, Scott Walker at 8, Cruz at 6, and Rubio at 5.

But despite trailing the billionaire by eleven points, Cruz refuses to attack Trump.

When Trump said that McCain might not be a war hero because he got captured (a Chris Rock line) Cruz asserted that McCain was indeed a hero but decided not to hit Trump, like many of his fellow candidates did.

“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 told reporters, according to CNN. “I’m not going to do it.”

When Trump gave an impassioned speech against rapists and criminals coming over the U.S.-Mexico border, sparking boycotts in the process, Cruz said, “I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration.”

What is Ted Cruz’s strategy here? Why is he not attacking Trump?

Trump allows Cruz to say things he wants to say without having to say them

Cruz, who led the fight to defund President Obama’s executive amnesty action, knows as well as anyone how much crime is being trafficked into America over our southern border. But why not let Donald Trump get the picket signs and the boycotts directed at him? Cruz’s firebrand status is a benefit but also a liability in a presidential race. Positioning himself as the second most-vocal and heavily-quoted conservative in the race actually does him a service — especially as Trump considers just how many hundreds of millions (and he’ll need that much) of his own money he’s going to spend if he wants to go the distance. If the Hillary Clinton people look to Bernie Sanders as a kind of unofficial voter-mobilization force for Democrats on the left, Cruz could easily use Trump the same way.

A Trump-Cruz battle in the primary would be too divisive for November voters

While both candidates have a lot of fans, they also have a lot of detractors. The last thing Cruz and Trump need is a battle of personalities between each other — especially when they agree on most issues. Too much Cruz-Trump back-and-forth during the primary, and independents will be turned off by November.

Cruz’s fundraising allows him to act like the conservative front-runner

Ted Cruz’s campaign has raised $14.3 million so far against Jeb Bush’s $11.4 million, and his super PACs have netted $37 million to Bush’s $103 million. Cruz also has a strong ground game in Iowa, where he is immensely popular with Christian voters and Trump is not (remember: Cruz also spoke and did well at the same Iowa forum where Trump’s McCain dig made headlines). Cruz can rightly claim that he’s the conservative front-runner in the race against Bush. Rand Paul isn’t giving Cruz much fundraising or polling competition on the tea party right, so Cruz needs to just keep raising money, keep setting up his ground apparatus in early states like Iowa and South Carolina, and keep watching Trump steal all the attention away from Scott Walker, who has the lowest public profile of the contenders.

Trump can weaken Jeb Bush, Cruz’s most formidable foe

The more Trump hammers Bush, calling him an “unhappy person” and promising Republicans that Bush won’t get them to the promised land, the less significant Bush’s $103 million in PAC money becomes. Cruz has always known that the road to the nomination goes through Bush. So let Trump weaken Bush … and then wait for Trump to implode.

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