Sen. Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement Wednesday night pits competing values and maxims against one another. Is he a principled statesman who refused to kneel before Zod, or a selfish and smug pol who is not a team player? Maybe both!
Rather than snubbing the party’s standard bearer, would it have been more appropriate and prudent for him to simply demonstrate his dissent by staying home, or is this his party, too?
There are good arguments for either position. And while either position can be explained (or rationalized) in terms of principle, the motive was (let’s not kid ourselves) also strategic.
Should Donald Trump lose in 2016, does this help or hurt Ted Cruz? I think it’s debatable. On the upside, he has now clearly distanced himself from what could be a train wreck. But even assuming Trump loses, it’s unclear that Cruz will be rewarded by a GOP base. Isn’t it also possible he could be resented—or even blamed?
Commentators today will come down strongly on one side or another. Maybe I will too—as I flesh this out. But, for now, at least, this feels to me like when an NFL coach makes a gutsy, if unorthodox, call in a big game. He’s brilliant if it works, and an idiot if it fails. And the truth is that nobody knows how it will shake out.
My guess is that, since it’s impossible to game out the long-term consequences, the tiebreaker went to whatever decision garners Cruz the most attention today. And thus, we had Wednesday night.