Cruz faces tough decision on endorsing Trump

Cruz faces tough decision on endorsing Trump
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After ending his own White House nid, Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage 2020 Democrat Bennet releases comprehensive government reform plan GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE faces a difficult decision over whether to endorse presumptive Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer Joint Chiefs chairman: 'The last thing in the world we need right now is a war with Iran' Pence: 'We're not convinced' downing of drone was 'authorized at the highest levels' Trump: Bolton would take on the whole world at one time MORE.

What would normally be a routine political formality has been turned into a 50-50 proposition by Trump’s pointedly personal attacks on the Cruz and his family, say his staunchest allies

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Cruz’s campaign on Wednesday refused to speculate on an endorsement. In his own concession speech on Tuesday night, Cruz didn’t even mention Trump.

“Sen. Cruz is a far better man than I am, but if I were in his shoes, hell would freeze over before I endorsed Donald Trump,” said Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation and a surrogate for Cruz during the primary.

Cruz and Trump enjoyed a warm relationship for much of the fall, but their rivalry turned increasingly bitter as it became clear they were in each other’s way for the GOP nomination.

Perhaps the ugliest and weirdest turn came on Cruz’s final day on the campaign trail, when Trump brought up a false tabloid story suggesting that Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, a Cuban immigrant, spent time with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before he assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

Cruz unleashed a tirade on Trump hours later, calling him a “bully,” a “narcissist” and “utterly amoral.”

People close to Cruz say they have a hard time imagining him endorsing the presumptive GOP nominee, who in March retweeted a post that featured an unflattering picture of Cruz’s wife Heidi next to Trump’s own wife, Melania, a former model.

“If Donald Trump said that kind of stuff about my wife or my father, I would never endorse him,” said Phillips.

David Bozell, president of ForAmerica, which is working with Cruz to head off the possibility of a lame-duck session of Congress, said, “it’s a 50-50 call” whether Cruz endorses Trump.

“I don’t think necessarily that right now that he should. God knows how personal it’s gotten between the two of them,” he said. “I tell folks who expect him to to go pound sand.”

Many conservatives believe Trump, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats, lacks core political convictions and would be inclined to cut bad deals once in office.

Michael Farris, the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association and an influential conservative activist, says Cruz would be smart not to endorse Trump, at least not for a good while.

“I’m not going to,” he said. “There’s a good number [of conservatives] who will not."

“He’s so far over the line in terms of personal character and lack of political convictions. His instincts are clearly far to the left,” he added. “I would advise [Cruz] to keep his powder dry and not do anything right now.”

Farris said a cooling-off period will enable Cruz to see how fast and far Trump pivots to the left to win over moderates and independents in the general election.

He added that Cruz should be careful if he “wants to maintain his credentials” and run for president again in 2020.

At the same time, he acknowledged that Cruz wants to avoid being blamed by Trump’s supporters if he refuses to back the likely nominee and Democrats keep control of the White House in November.

As raw as his emotions may feel now, the overriding concern for the ambitious first-term senator will be how it impacts his future White House aspirations.

Several Republican strategists say Cuz doesn’t want to become a scapegoat for Trump losing to Clinton if he withholds support and other conservatives follow suit.

The tricky part is figuring out whether Trump’s strong support across the party’s various constituencies merely reflects his celebrity status and gift for monopolizing media attention or more broadly represents a political movement of the future.  

“Is this moment about Donald Trump himself or has he tapped into something more enduring?” asked one strategist. “If it’s the latter, there will be a temptation among House members, senators and political consultants to jump on in some capacity.”

If Trump ultimately creates a new era of Republican politics, like President Ronald Reagan did much to the surprise of the GOP establishment almost 40 years ago, pitting oneself against a new movement could be political suicide.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a prominent conservative leader, said Cruz ultimately will back Trump because the specter of another Clinton presidency will unite the right.

“[President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] united the modern Democratic Party with Southern racists, Northern immigrants and farmers by saying, ‘Are you one of those rich robber barons? No? Then you’re on my team,’” he said. “Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump: I'd rather run against Biden Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 George Conway says new rape allegation against Trump 'is more credible' than Juanita Broaddrick MORE personifies every left-wing impulse.”

He said Clinton’s support for putting a 25 percent tax on guns in the early 1990s will rally conservatives, noting gun rights “are a bigger part of the modern conservative movement than it ever was before.”

Norquist said Cruz will stay aloof for a while but ultimately back Trump, perhaps in exchange for a promise to be appointed to the Supreme Court. 

“The obvious deal is that the governor of Ohio [John Kasich] becomes vice president and Cruz becomes a Supreme Court justice,” he said. “It may be a better fit in terms of temperament.”

He pointed out that Reagan endorsed President Gerald Ford in the 1976 election after a bitter primary and did what Ford asked of him on the campaign trail against Democrat Jimmy Carter.

When Ford lost, Reagan was well positioned to challenge the Democratic incumbent four years later.

For his own part, Trump has extended an olive branch to Cruz, praising him as “one hell of a competitor” and “a tough, smart guy” on Tuesday night.