December 14, 2015, should be long remembered as the day that talk radio finally turned on Donald Trump. What provoked this sudden shift? Trump refused to play along with Ted Cruz’s game.
For several months Cruz has been the one candidate that has refused to (publicly) criticize Donald Trump, a painfully obvious political strategy that I detail in another article. Talk radio (with the exception of Glenn Beck and a few others) parroted this strategy, daily giving Trump free air time and support despite the fact that the casino mogul cannot articulate conservatism.
The bottomline is that the Cruz campaign made the conscious choice to embrace Trump (they held private meetings together, publicly praised each other over and over for months, and even held a rally together). For Trump, this alliance shored up some support with anti-establishment conservatives.
But Cruz had much more to gain. At the time, Cruz was struggling along in the low single digits, unable to get any significant airtime with Trump dominating television news. By aligning himself with Trump, Cruz sought to develop rapport with Trump supporters and absorb those voters once Trump inevitably imploded.
Call it the Trump Implosion Strategy. The problem is that Trump hasn’t exactly imploded, but Cruz has peeled off some support from Ben Carson, as one of our writers predicted. Cruz now leads in Iowa, and has reached double digits nationally.
The Plot Twist
This past weekend, audio was leaked from a private fundraiser wherein Cruz had less-than-supportive comments for Trump. Remember that a source familiar with the Senator’s thinking said,“Cruz knows full well that Trump is a buffoon and is bad for conservatism, but he applauds him because it theoretically is good for Ted.”
Following the report, Cruz indicated he would attack the media, downplay the story, and maintain the alliance with Trump.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 11, 2015
Trump clearly didn’t want to play that game.
Looks like @tedcruz is getting ready to attack. I am leading by so much he must. I hope so, he will fall like all others. Will be easy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2015
He responded with several attacks against Cruz, even calling him a “maniac.” It’s possible that the Trump campaign had been waiting for something like this, since Cruz’s strategy was so obvious, and Trump clearly has no interest in going away quietly.
I was disappointed that Ted Cruz would speak behind my back, get caught, and then deny it. Well, welcome to the wonderful world of politics!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2015
Today, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, the #1 and #3 national radio talk show hosts in the nation respectively, made the sudden switch from defending Trump to now attacking Trump while simultaneously backing Cruz. Trump Implosion Strategy failed, because Trump saw it coming, so now it’s time for Plan B, what they should have been doing all along–directly discrediting Trump.
Meanwhile, Cruz’s campaign appears to be unsure of how to handle this sudden turn of events. So far it seems they’re trying to make light of the situation and allow surrogates to engage while avoiding a direct entanglement. That last part may be difficult given that there’s a televised debate tomorrow, and the two candidates will be standing side by side on stage together.
What Happens Next?
For Limbaugh, Levin, and other Cruz supporters, this development is not as clean as the Trump Implosion Strategy, but it might be the next best thing. They will portray Trump as favoring the establishment over Cruz in this matter, and that’s a direct hit on the billionaire’s persona (that they have helped build, I might add).
It will be interesting to see how many Trump supporters switch to Cruz, and whether this creates a more hostile rift between Camp Cruz and Team Trump.
Or, perhaps the two will makeup and play nice again. But with Trump’s petulance at an all-time high and the Iowa Caucuses just around the corner, I wouldn’t count on it.