WASHINGTON – After Donald Trump insulted his wife’s appearance, linked his dad to the JFK assassination, questioned his religion and repeatedly mocked his Canadian birthplace, Sen. Ted Cruz is suddenly endorsing his tormentor for U.S. president.
The whiplash-inducing announcement came from the conservative senator in a Facebook post Friday, two months after his initial refusal to endorse Trump triggered a chorus of boos at the Republican convention.
Cruz offered six reasons for his unanticipated about-face: control of Supreme Court nominations, supporting fossil fuels, reversing Obamacare, fighting illegal immigration, opposition to Syrian refugees and domestic control over Internet regulations.
He said he agreed with Trump in these areas, adding that he was also honouring his earlier pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.
“If (Hillary) Clinton wins, we know — with 100 per cent certainty — that she would deliver on her left-wing promises, with devastating results for our country,” Cruz wrote.
“My conscience tells me I must do whatever I can to stop that…. Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way.”
He also said he noticed recent campaign moves from Trump that he agreed with ideologically. However, it could be argued that in recent weeks Trump has actually moved away from Cruz toward the left —a new government-supported maternal-leave plan, for instance.
The move left some Cruz supporters dumbfounded.
“Well, you are officially dead to me,” one poster said on Cruz’s Facebook page.
“I thought you had principles, but you clearly do not. I’ll never support you again. I hope you’re defeated in your next election and if you run again in 2020 I will shout from the rooftops that you’re a party-line-holding sellout.”
Another wrote: “My support for you ends with this announcement. The Cruz stickers are coming off the car. Good day, sir.”
But many others supported the move: “Man of honour and integrity,” one wrote. “I wish it was you that I was voting for but we need to win this election. There is a lot at stake which is bigger than us all. For God and country.”
The arc of the Cruz-Trump relationship followed the unusual trajectory of this election year.
In the early stages, the Texas firebrand played footsie with Trump. He even invited him to share a stage at a Capitol Hill rally. Cruz was captured on tape describing his strategy at a donors’ meeting: Attach himself to Trump, and pick up his anti-establishment voters once he dropped out of the race.
It nearly worked.
Cruz finished second in the Republican nomination, surviving while all the more mainstream candidates flamed out. However, as the field winnowed, the amity between the erstwhile rivals evaporated.
Cruz began critiquing him as a closet liberal. Trump, meanwhile, went a more personal route, nicknaming him “Canadian Ted” for his Calgary birthplace and wondering aloud whether that disqualified him from running. He also questioned his religion, wondering how a Cuban-American could be an evangelical.
Trump retweeted an unflattering picture of Cruz’s wife. And he promoted supermarket tabloid claims of sexual affairs with campaign staffers and a link between Cruz’s Cuban-born father and Kennedy-killer Lee Harvey Oswald.
At the convention, Cruz dramatically declined to endorse the nominee. He simply urged conservatives to vote their conscience, and was mostly booed. Trump ranted about Cruz at a news conference and replied that he didn’t want his endorsement anyway.
Now the vast majority of Republicans tell pollsters they’re backing Trump. There are also whispers about a primary challenge to Cruz in 2018. The name of former Texas governor Rick Perry is suddenly popping up in primary talk, with some polling suggesting he would enter a race with a lead over Cruz.
Late Friday, Trump issued a statement: “I am greatly honoured by the endorsement of Senator Cruz… He was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again.”
There is still a rump of Republicans resistant to Trump — mostly suburban, college-educated moderates. That lingering pocket of resistance is illustrated by the famous holdouts who have refused to endorse him: the Bush family, some congresspeople, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.