Last night at the Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz took a huge risk when he essentially told people not to vote for the nominee:
The Republican convention erupted into tumult on Wednesday night as the bitter primary battle between Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz reignited unexpectedly, crushing hopes that the party could project unity.
In the most electric moment of the convention, boos and jeers broke out as it became clear that Mr. Cruz — in a prime-time address from center stage — was not going to endorse Mr. Trump. It was a pointed snub on the eve of Mr. Trump’s formal acceptance speech.
As hundreds of delegates chanted “Vote for Trump!” and “Say it!” Mr. Cruz tried to dismiss the outburst as “enthusiasm of the New York delegation” — only to have Mr. Trump himself suddenly appear in the back of the convention hall. Virtually every head in the room seemed to turn from Mr. Cruz to Mr. Trump, who was stone-faced and clearly angry as he egged on delegates by pumping his fist.
Mr. Cruz was all but drowned out as he asked for God’s blessing on the country and left the stage, while security personnel escorted his wife, Heidi, out of the hall. One delegate yelled “Goldman Sachs!” at her — a reference to the company that has employed her, a job that Mr. Trump attacked during the primaries.
Pundits are split about how this happened and what it means. Josh Marshall pulls out "Trump's Razor:"
"Ascertain the stupidest possible scenario that can be reconciled with the available facts."
I tried, as events unfolded tonight, to piece together in the two posts below just what happened tonight and how. At first I was certain that Ted Cruz had executed an excruciating double cross of Donald Trump, a thoroughly disreputable and dangerous man, who had also humiliated Cruz, defamed his father and denigrated his wife. We now have two contending theories. The first: by whatever means, the Trump camp allowed Cruz, under their very noses, to blow up their convention through a feat of staggering, almost incomprehensible incompetence. Somehow, with so much at stake, they didn't even read the speech. The second: the Trump campaign knowingly allowed Cruz to light his bomb and then egged the conventioneers on to an outraged chorus of boos imagining that Cruz would be humiliated and that laying bare the GOP's protracted civil war before millions would in fact 'unify the party.'
Either scenario, both defying any conventional credibility, could plausibly emerge from that toxic soup.
Indeed, while this conflagration was erupting in Cleveland another bomb, which Trump himself had lit earlier in the day, was going off on the pages of The New York Times. One can debate whether it is wise or sensible for the United States to guarantee the independence of small states on the periphery of Russia which had for centuries been either within the Russian domain or inside its sphere of influence. But we have. In his comments to the Times, Trump treated the matter like a real estate goon shaking down a distressed landlord to make an easy buck.
Brian Beutler (and others) think Cruz brilliantly stomped on Trump:
Cruz seemed determined to use his moment in the spotlight to maximize the size of Trump’s defeat. If it pays off, Cruz will cement his status as the one Republican 2016 candidate who practices politics with an eye toward the horizon, and the Republican in politics most willing to elevate personal ambition above party interest–a useful if not heroic trait at a time when Republican interests and Trump’s are converging. He will spend the ensuing years as the presumptive frontrunner in the 2020 primary. But it will only work if Democrats humiliate Trump this fall.
He told 20 million voters, disproportionately Republican, they don’t need to vote for Trump if they don’t want to; he stabbed Donald Trump in the front. And in the final analysis, he probably made the safe bet, too.
Jeet Heer thinks Cruz made a huge mistake:
In terms of preserving his honor, Cruz did the right thing. Trump, after all, was the man who created the slur “Lyin’ Ted,” who insulted the physical appearance of Cruz’s wife, and who slyly suggested that Cruz’s father was involved in John F. Kennedy’s assassination. How could anyone keep their honor and endorse someone who had done all that?
But in terms of his long-term political ambitions, Cruz made a grievous mistake. Political parties are built on loyalty. You’re supposed to stick with your party-mates whether you disagree with them or not. ...
Cruz’s cool rejection of Trump calls to mind the crisis that engulfed the Republican Party in 1964, when Barry Goldwater’s nomination polarized the party. Some of Goldwater’s rivals kept a distance, notably Nelson Rockefeller who was roundly booed during the 1964 convention not just for his reluctance to fall in line, but for his criticism of groups like the John Birch Society.
Nixon took a different tack than Rockefeller. Privately, he thought that Goldwater was a disaster for the party. But in public, Nixon was a good soldier. He endorsed Goldwater, and diligently campaigned all over the country, trying to shore of down-ballot candidates threatened by the electoral tidal wave that crushed the Republican Party that year.
Nixon’s loyalty wasn’t forgotten; party members remembered his service.
James Fallows points out that, if Trump can't manage the speaking order at a convention where he's the star, he's unlikely to manage the country:
Again the theme of recent posts has been: conventions and national campaigns don’t “matter” in any profound sense (although they can make a difference in whether you get elected). But if you can’t manage a four-day convention, let alone a four-month national campaign, you’re facing steep odds in managing a very complex national government for four or eight years.
And — except for the effective Mike Pence speech, which began near the end of the 10pm-11pm EDT prime time bloc — this was another chaotically managed convention night. The Skyped-in-looking 90-second video by Marco Rubio was the minor indication. The cold, outright subversion by Ted Cruz — the man whose wife’s looks Trump had mocked, the man whose father Trump had accused of involvement in the JFK killing — was unlike anything on a national campaign stage in modern times.
We'll see what more hits the fan tonight when Trump formally accepts the Republican nomination. What times we live in.