Two months ago, on stage in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took what appeared to be a principled stand by declining to endorse Donald Trump for president. It was a shocking move at an event meant to cement party unity, and it sparked such an angry reaction from the crowd that his wife had to be hustled out of the arena by security guards.
While unexpected, Cruz’s refusal to back the party’s nominee was understandable. Trump had run a scorched-earth primary in which Cruz was the last viable opponent left standing. The billionaire had mocked the looks of Cruz’s wife and threatened to release unspecified damaging information about her. He then suggested that Cruz’s father Rafael, a Cuban immigrant, was implicated in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Now though, a tentative alliance with Trump on an issue important to Cruz, and comments from the Texas senator’s former campaign manager suggest that the relationship between the two former rivals might be sufficiently thawed for a Cruz endorsement to come before the election in November.
At a breakfast meeting hosted by Bloomberg Wednesday, Jeff Roe said that his former boss thinks about his position vis-a-vis Trump “every day” and said that he will likely “have an answer” to the endorsement question before Election Day. “Watching Donald run a better campaign lately has been helpful to him," Roe said.
The possibility of some sort of rapprochement looked more real Wednesday when Trump publicly backed Cruz’s effort to block the Obama administration’s plan to cede the United States’ current control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to an international group of which the US would only be part.
Cruz has repeatedly characterized the plan as the “giveaway of the internet,” claiming that it would give authority over the global network to countries like Russia and China, known for hacking attacks on rival countries and censorship in their own. Supporters of the transfer say that Cruz’s warning about a “giveaway” is a misrepresentation.
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On Wednesday, Trump national policy advisor Stephen Miller released a statement putting the campaign squarely in line with Cruz and his effort to attach a rider to a must-pass spending bill that would block the transfer.
"The U.S. should not turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community. President Obama intends to do so on his own authority — just 10 days from now, on October 1st, unless Congress acts quickly to stop him.
Cruz then tweeted out his appreciation for Trump’s stance.
Another factor might also be at play in Cruz’s decision about whether or not to eventually get behind Trump: a looming primary challenge. Texas Congressman Mike McCaul is seen as a possible rival to Cruz in the next election cycle, and he has been sharply critical of Cruz’s failure to back the Republican presidential nominee. This week in a radio interview, he accused the senator of breaking his word by not honoring a pledge to support the party’s nominee.
Whether all this will be enough to push Cruz toward an explicit endorsement of Trump is unclear.
The position he staked out in Cleveland in July -- the man of principle who saw through Trump -- was always going to look best if Trump flamed out in a disastrous general election, taking a lot of Republican members of Congress with him. In a close race, though, Cruz runs the risk of looking to some Republicans like a sore loser who refused to support his party in its time of need.
Right now, at least, the latter scenario is looking increasingly likely as Trump, while still an underdog, looks less likely to lose in a blowout than he did just a few weeks ago. If the numbers remain close going into October, it won’t be much of a surprise if Cruz starts looking for a way to hedge his bet, even if the form it takes falls short of an explicit endorsement.