Okay, let’s be really clear about the Ted Cruz speech at the RNC. Trump and his campaign knew exactly what Cruz was going to say in that speech, and they put him up there anyway. Why? Theater. Well, sort of…
Trump doesn’t know classical theater, but what he does know? Professional wrestling. He’s spent a good deal of time on stage with the WWE, and he understands exactly how it works. Cruz gets to speak his peace at the convention for the same reason the bad-guy wrestlers get so much air time talking smack about the good-guy wrestlers, just before the good-guy wrestler makes his appearance and the bad-guy wrestler wraps it up and quickly slinks away. Did you notice Trump’s appearance right at the end of Cruz’s speech? That was no accident or impromptu reaction. That was classic stagecraft, in the WWE tradition.
This was an easy “win” for Trump. He gets to remind everyone of his overwhelming “victory” by parading his vanquished foe on stage for his fans to jeer at. Trump gets to be the “victim”, attacked by Cruz’s refusal to endorse him. And he gets to portray Cruz as the poster-child of the conscience-voting ant-Trump Republicans, arguably their worst possible representative. So Trump gets to be the good guy, under attack but prevailing, banishing his foes back to the political underworld from which they came.
But don’t feel bad for Cruz, it’s a “win” for him too. He gets to “stand up for his principles”. He gets to basically deliver a giant FU to Trump at his own convention. And he positions himself perfectly for 2020.
Cruz is betting that the Trump campaign implodes in the general, or at least fails at electoral math. (A real possibility, given Trump’s skill with numbers, facts, reality, etc.) It’s not just a good bet, it’s really his only play. A Trump win leaves Cruz out in the cold regardless of anything he does, but a Trump loss? That’s something he can work with. If Trump tanks and Clinton wins, Cruz is perfectly positioned for 2020 as the conservative, principled candidate. The man who stood his ground, refused to back down to the Trump machine, and still appeals to the right and the far right. His “strength” and “principles” become a stark contrast to Hillary, who is unlikely to win any converts, and a 2020 win for Ted becomes a very real possibility.
So yeah, Trump knew exactly what Cruz was going to say. And Cruz knew exactly why Trump was going to let him say it. They probably had long meetings and conference calls about it, planning it all out. It is the classic political win-win scenario. Everyone wins. Everyone benefits. (Except as always, us.)
photo from the Tea Party Tribune