Trump, Cruz and the All Caps Vote

Published 10:15 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Despite his penchant for counter-factual pronouncements, Ted Cruz is clever, educated, and aggressively intellectual. But he’s not stupid, so when he defends Donald Trump for calling Mexican immigrants rapists, you know he’s up to something. Right now, Trump is the frontrunner thanks to dominating the All Caps Vote, a constituency that Cruz wants for his own.

With almost as many Republican presidential candidates as the Duggars have children, Cruz might never find his seat at the big boys’ table. That’s where Trump comes in, at least for Cruz. While everyone else is trying to get the mouthy billionaire to tone it down, shut up, or get out, Cruz sees Trump developing a market that he can later exploit.

No one thinks Trump will last through the fall, when they start caucusing in Iowa and voting in New Hampshire. He’ll be long gone by then, leaving Cruz as the natural heir to voters who like to type comments on the Internet in all caps.

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Cruz has courted the All Caps Vote for a while now under the guise of telling the politically incorrect truth no matter what those effete elites think. When “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertston said reprehensible things about homosexuality, Cruz leapt to his defense, claiming that Robertson had a First Amendment right to say offensive things in a national magazine without professional repercussions.

Keep in mind that Texas used to pay this guy to argue cases before the United States Supreme Court. A refund might be in order.

Since Cruz became Texas’ very junior senator, he has said so many factually indefensible things that it’s puzzling that Trump, and not Cruz, is considered the pariah in polite society.

There was the time he tried to “mansplain” the Second Amendment to Diane Feinstein and ended up misinterpreting the Heller decision.

There was also the time he tweeted that net neutrality was “Obamacare for the internet,” said, “I’ll work with Martians” by way of denying his inability to play nice with others, and claimed his father “invented … green eggs and ham.”

Oh yeah, he also shut down the government, something he continues to insist he didn’t do. The most remarkable thing about this claim is the straight face he maintains while trying to sell it.

Cruz has been so willing to debase himself in service of his political career that he ceded the moral high ground to John McCain. When he helped filibuster a nomination, McCain called him a “wacko bird,” a slur that Cruz embraced.

“If standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution makes you a wacko bird then I am a very, very proud wacko bird,” he said. He’s Barry Goldwater for the Twitter age.

But despite Cruz’s best efforts, he isn’t getting much traction, polling around 4 percent. That puts him at the bottom of the top tier that will get into next month’s debate in Cleveland. But he’s a rounding error ahead the second tier, putting him just ahead of Carly Fiorina, Rick Perry, and Chris Christie. He’s in political no-man’s land.

Along came Trump, who combined Cruz’s talent for hyperbolic balderdash with reality show celebrity and rocketed to the top of the polls. Cruz must look at Trump and see a guy who is hijacking the All Caps constituency and also headed for a fall.

So when Trump took flak for calling Mexican immigrants rapists, Cruz was the only one to jump to his defense in terms that seem suspiciously self-congratulatory.

“I like Donald Trump. He’s bold, he’s brash,” he said, before congratulating him for “focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. The Washington cartel doesn’t want to address that.”

Forget for a second that Cruz helped filibuster every attempt to deal with immigration reform in Congress. Like always, he’s got another agenda. He wants to be President, as crazy as that sounds.

But first Cruz has to worm his way into the semi-finals of the Republican primary, and the quickest way for him to do this is to be the guy still standing when Trump inevitably blows up. If you’re the kind of Republican who likes Trump, you’re going to love Cruz. Just you wait.

Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner.