So here’s the thing. It probably isn’t surprising to anyone that I don’t like Ted Cruz. In fact, back in the beforetime — the long, long ago — I often said that I actually wasn’t all that afraid of a Donald Trump presidency. I’ve always been far more afraid of a Ted Cruz presidency. I can handle a crazy moron in the Oval Office. I’m far more afraid of a sociopathic, ideological madman. A real life super-villain. That’s Ted Cruz. I don’t like the dude. But his speech last night probably did more to convince me to vote for him someday than any other politician’s speech ever. I mean, let’s not get crazy. He basically changed the odds that I’d ever vote for him from one in a billion to one in a million. It’s not going to happen, but that’s still a 100,000% increase, and that’s pretty fucking impressive.
Earlier today, my friend Mike asked me what my thoughts on it were and joked that I should explain it in pro-wrestling terms. That’s actually not that hard. Everything is professional wrestling, and last night, Ted Cruz went into business for himself.
For anyone who hasn’t been watching the greatest show on television this week, aka the Republican National Convention, last night was Ted Cruz’s big chance to speak at the convention. I actually wasn’t expecting him to speak at all. Trump had earlier said that no one was going to get to appear unless they were willing to set aside their differences and endorse him. That’s actually Trump’s right. He won. It’s his coming out party. He isn’t required to have anyone show up just to bad mouth him. I was quite surprised a few days ago when my friend Liz told me that Cruz was in fact on the docket. It appears as though they talked things out and came to an agreement. Unlike some other people who thought that meant an endorsement was coming, I never expected that. I figured Cruz would just go up and make a pseudo-magnamious canned response to unify the party leave it with that. The two just don’t like each other. A true endorsement from Cruz would likely leave a bad taste in his followers’ mouths. Instead you go up there and you say something like “we must beat Hillary Clinton at all costs. So for the good of the party, we must be united.” And then you leave the stage and hope for the best. This is basically what Marco Rubio did (very transparently and by a prepped video message because he couldn’t be bothered to go to the actual convention. Or, you just stay home all together like Jeb Bush and John Kasich did.
Nope, not Ted Cruz!
He actually started out with an OK but mediocre speech. It was fine, but generic, just like I said. I didn’t think I’d be addressing it at all. It wasn’t the best speech of the night; I thought I’d be writing about Eric Trump today (who actually gave a really good speech that no one even remembers because Ted upstaged him). Then he went into a tirade about all of the things that he expects out of commander-in-chief, auspiciously designed as an attack against Hillary Clinton, but in actuality, pretty clearly (based on things he’s said over the last year) a list of qualities that he believes Trump doesn’t have. He closed by imploring Republican voters to NOT stay home on election day, but instead to show up and “vote your conscience … up and down the ticket.” The crowd at the RNC wasn’t buying it. They realized what he was doing immediately and started chanting for him to “Endorse Trump!” Cruz could have ignored the chants, but he didn’t. Instead he responded with a very well ad libbed “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.” Which incited the crowd to start trying to boo him off the stage.
See, Ted Cruz knows how to play the heel. He knew what he was walking into. I might not like him. I might think he’s a religious zealot at best and a dangerous sociopath at worst. But he’s not stupid. Ted Cruz walked into the Quicken Loans Arena with the express intent of getting himself booed out of that building. The big question is why?
The reason I didn’t post this last night was that I stayed up til about 5AM watching cable news pundits analyze this. They’re pretty torn along four specific lines. 1) This was a brave move by a man who just couldn’t stand by and endorse someone he thought was wrong, even at the cost of his own political career. 2) This was a vindictive move because Trump, on multiple occasions, went on national television and insulted Cruz’s wife and claimed his father assassinated Kennedy. 3) This was a calculated move to position himself for 2020, but it was the wrong time and the wrong place and he probably did more political harm to himself than good. (Most of the people in camp 2 and 3 think that Cruz probably should have just stayed home because he is ultimately killing his future career) 4) This was a calculated move to position himself for 2020, and while it’s going to hurt him in the short term, Cruz is playing the long game and this could work out for him very well. I’m in camp four and I’ll tell you why.
It certainly wasn’t an accident. Cruz knew that he was going rogue here. And he certainly knew that the was doing it in a hostile environment. I honestly think Ted Cruz from four months ago was delusional. Ted Cruz from four months ago honestly thought that once Bush, Rubio and the others dropped out of the race he was going to naturally ascend to the top. He honestly thought that the Republican base was looking for a guy like him. He was so delusional that he thought that being in a distant second place, with no mathematical path to victory, he could turn the tide by selecting Carly Fiorina, a woman who clearly NOBODY wanted, as a running mate was going to put him over the top. He believed these things… and this is why he failed.
This isn’t that Ted Cruz. This is Ted Cruz v2.0. I said a few times in the past that the brilliance of the Trump campaign early on (and where it differed from the Bernie Sanders campaign on the Democrat side) was that Trump wasn’t just threatening to rip the party in half. Trump made it clear that “if you don’t pick me I will burn this fucking house to the ground!” Bernie was never willing to do that (even if that’s what some of his supporters wanted). Last night, Ted Cruz showed up with a tank of gasoline and a zippo. He wasn’t really trying to be vague with his language. He was giving Republicans permission to vote for Hillary Clinton. He was saying “look, let her win. As horrible as she may be, she’s better than this idiot, and no matter how bad she fucks things up, I’ll be here to fix it in four years.” He wasn’t trying to hide it from the crowd. He was advertising it. He was taunting them with the fire. When the crowd started to turn on him, he didn’t shy away from his heel turn. He fanned the fucking flames with mastery of Ric Flair. And as the boos got louder he let them bathe over him. He took it all in.
Ted Cruz’s 2020 campaign for president started last night!
The reason Hillary is where she is today is that the second she officially threw in the towel to Barack Obama in 2008, she basically started campaigning for 2016. She created an image for herself where it was clear that she was positioning herself for the big job. People have been predicting that she’d become the first female president ever since. Arguably, Trump did the same thing by keeping his name in the news with the ridiculous birther debate and all of his other nonsense. They positioned themselves for eight years. They made themselves relevant. Ted Cruz has learned this lesson. And he’s going to try to do it in four.
No one is sure what’s going to happen this November, but the way I see it, we are in a wold with only four possible outcomes:
- Hillary wins and becomes a horrible fucking president.
- Hillary wins and becomes an amazing president.
- The Donald wins and becomes a horrible fucking president.
- The Donald wins and becomes an amazing president.
In scenario four, Ted Cruz’s future is over, no matter what. I actually think this is the least likely scenario. But I don’t really KNOW, so I’m going to give them all the same likelihood. There is a 25% chance that Donald Trump will win, build a wall, bring back torture, ban Muslims from the country and make America great again. We will enter an age of prosperity unlike any we have ever seen before. Anyone who doubted him will never be taken seriously again. If this happens, it wouldn’t have mattered if Ted had endorsed him. Donald would be a shoe in for reelection in 2020. And by 2024 we’d be begging one of his kids to run just to keep the dynasty going… or maybe we’d just repeal that pesky 22nd amendment so that Donald can be king for life.
From Ted Cruz’s point of view, the first and second scenario’s are identical. It doesn’t matter if Hillary causes World War III or personally cures cancer and ends world hunger. In either situation where she wins, she will be demonized by the Republican party and someone is going to have to run against her. Trump will be damaged goods and Cruz has now put himself in prime contention for the “I told you so” spot.
In scenario three, things get interesting. It’s pretty clear that even with the lovey dovey spectacle of the RNC going on right now, the GOP is pretty divided. Trump has his supporters, but a lot of people just don’t like him. That means that if he’s elected, there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny on him from Democrats and Republicans alike. He doesn’t even have to start World War III. Any mistake he makes is going to appear to be a problem with his outsider views (and his personality flaws) by the Republican base. In fact, not even just his mistakes. Anything he does that is against the party platform (which, quite frankly, is a lot… even by his own words) is going to make some people want an alternative after four years. Last night, Ted Cruz made it clear that he intends to be that “I told you so” alternative.
Obviously, I don’t think these situations are all equally likely, but since they’re all total unknowns, I think we pretty much have to treat them like they are. At best, right now, Hillary and The Donald each have a 50% chance of being on the ballot in 2020. They need to win right now. If they don’t no one is going to take them seriously for round two against the same candidate, and eight years from now, they’ll both be pushing 80. This is it for both of them. If they don’t become president now, then it’s never (and sorry, Bernie fans… he’s 74 right now… so he’s done too).
But Ted Cruz is 45. He’ll be 49 in four years and barring the situation where Trump creates an American Utopia, a 25% chance at best, you can be pretty sure that he’s going to be a factor in the election of 2020 no matter who wins this November. 75% likelihood of running vs. 50% for Clinton and Trump and no one else in America has any meaningful numbers at all right now.
Ladies and Gentelmen… at this moment… at this very moment, Ted Cruz is your 2020 United States presidential front-runner.