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Suddenly, Ted Cruz Seems Like A Gentleman

Pinch yourself, hard.

The unthinkable, the unimaginable, the impossible is happening.

People are actually feeling empathy for Ted Cruz.

What does this say about our beloved America? Into what kind of weird cosmic rat-hole have we let ourselves be dragged?

One of the coldest, most despised figures in the Senate, Cruz is endeavoring to appear human. The same snide jerk who led the costly, unpopular Republican shutdown of the government is now warming hearts for the way he rushed to the defense of his wife, Heidi.

For this Frankenstein turn of events we can thank Donald Trump.

In case you hadn’t heard, the spouses of the two GOP presidential front-runners were the hot topic in the race last week. Second were the terrorist attacks in Brussels.

The wife feud ignited when an anti-Trump super PAC republished a naked photo of Melania Trump, a former model.

Before you stop reading and go Google the picture, you should know that the anti-Trump super Pac is called Make America Awesome Again. It is run either by hapless idiots or evil geniuses.

Cruz adamantly asserts he had nothing to do with the political ad featuring the future Mrs. Trump, posing 16 years ago for the British edition of GQ magazine. The Melania photo was supposedly dredged up to target Mormon voters, who would be so offended by her nakedness that they’d turn to Cruz instead.

The idiot theory holds that some bozo working for this PAC actually stood up and said: “Hey, I’ve got a fantastic plan to stop Donald. Let’s publish a picture of his incredibly beautiful wife with no clothes on!”

However, the genius theory says this ad wasn’t really designed to stir up the Mormons. It was meant to provoke the Big Orange Trumpster.

Under any other circumstances, Trump would have been elated to see a nude photo of Melania splashed all over the media and Internet. He brags about her physical attributes to just about anyone with a microphone.

And if he had a serious brain under that teased monkey pelt on his head, he would have laughed off the ad, printed up T-shirts with the picture and started selling them at his rallies.

But no, that would have been way too cool, way too smart. Instead, Trump impulsively launched into one of his spluttering Twitter attacks, threatening to “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife, Heidi.

Nobody knew what on Earth Trump was babbling about. Heidi Cruz is an executive at Goldman Sachs in New York, and one of her husband’s top fundraisers.

Rather, his next move was to re-tweet a nasty post by one of his followers. It was an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz positioned side-by-side with a glamour shot of Melania. The meme caption: “No need to ‘Spill the Beans.’ The images are worth a thousand words.”

And with that Trump once again answered the question that many millions of Americans wonder daily: Could he possibly be more loathsome?

Cruz shrewdly responded by taking the high road, or what passes for a high road in this gutter-fest of a campaign:

“Donald, real men don’t attack women,” he tweeted. “Your wife is lovely, and Heidi is the love of my life.”

Aw. Meet sweet, calm, tender Ted. Where’s he been hiding all these years?

After seeing his wife coarsely mocked in public, he reacts with a gentle scold, a compliment to Mrs. Trump and reiteration of his own devotion to Heidi.

Trump ends up looking like a pig, while Cruz ends up looking almost like a gentleman.

If you’re Donald, it must feel like you’ve been schooled.

Cruz’s denials notwithstanding, he is more than slippery enough to have masterminded this whole scenario, knowing Trump would overreact in the lowest, meanest way.

That’s the genius theory — Cruz knew in advance about the nude Melania attack ad, and he threw it out there as bait.

The idiot theory says Cruz didn’t know — it was simply a campaign screw-up that turned into a golden gift.

Either way, presidential politics has entered a new rodent phase that can only drag us deeper and dirtier. November can’t come soon enough.

OK. Now go Google that silly photo if you want.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

(c) 2016, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a campaign event at Lakeside Plastics in Oshkosh, Wisconsin March 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

5 Reasons Republicans Will (Mostly) End Up Backing Donald Trump

The Republican Party’s immune system — which once fought off David Duke and Pat Buchanan with relative ease — is completely failing.

Decades of serving their base a toxic blend of white-identity politics and ridiculous promises — spiced with a paranoia that instructs them not to trust anyone who doesn’t tell them exactly what they want to hear — has left the right-wing army of older, angrier, whiter men vulnerable to an interloping con artist with a powerful sense of how to get inside his marks’ brains. And because Donald Trump tells the GOP base exactly what they want to hear, every attempt to signal his danger to the the Republican Party — and the nation — sounds like a “nattering nabob of negativism.

The Trump virus arrives at the worst possible time for the GOP elite. On the whole, conservatism is on the rise, controlling not only both houses of Congress but more state legislatures than at any time since before the Great Depression. And with the American public rarely willing to give one party more than three consecutive terms in the White House, they have a real chance to elect a president who could set the course of the Supreme Court for decades.

But the death of Antonin Scalia, combined with the surge of the most unpopular major presidential candidate ever, has only underlined that the party’s commitment to destroying norms in the name of revanchism is blowing up at exactly the wrong time.

“Playing base politics — tolerating nativism, birtherism, and promising obstruction at every turn — could cost Republicans the presidency and threaten control of the Senate,” David Axelrod wrote.

And if Trump continues to repulse women, he could even threaten a House majority that has been insulated from practically all political reality by gerrymandering.

It’s far too late, but Republicans are attempting to marshall their resources to deny Trump the nomination on the first ballot, opening the process up on the floor of their national convention as the whole world watches them self-destruct. Many elites have decided that losing with Ted Cruz might finally silence the Tea Party without the division that a Trump nomination would unleash.

Here’s why the GOP will mostly give up the suicidal urge to deny Trump the nomination, and will end up backing him in November.

  1. There won’t be an acceptable replacement.
    Who should the party turn to if it successfully dislodges Trump, who has won more delegates than all his opponents combined? Senator Ted Cruz is the walking embodiment of the GOP base’s worst instincts gone wild: an anti-intellectual Ivy League snob who believes there is a secret majority of Americans who want to elect a guy who would ban all abortion and all background checks for guns — though only 10-20 percent back these extreme views. But it’s not policy that makes him unacceptable to GOP elites — it’s his tendency to torch other Republicans and march the party’s dead-enders into the abyss. Gov. John Kasich is a conventional Republican running George H.W. Bush’s 1988 campaign for president in 2016. He plays moderate on TV but has waged a one-man war on reproductive rights and starved small-town Ohio by slashing taxes for corporations. Kasich sounds perfect for this GOP, but he accepted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which basically makes him a double agent. House Speaker Paul Ryan could step in as a GOP savior again — and shows every sign of wanting to do so this year. But anyone who turns on Trump becomes the embodiment of the evil establishment, a role Ryan has somehow avoided after decades of embodying the Republican establishment. If Ryan were to step in, he would be the leader of a minority party that has basically told one-third of its supporters that the party would rather burn it all down than nominate their choice, Trump.
  2. Bet against the GOP being able to unite.
    FiveThirtyEight has laid out a strategy for how Cruz and Kasich could team up to deny Trump the delegates he’d need to cinch the nomination. And it might have worked, had the party leadership tried it last January. The safest bet in 2016 is against the GOP demonstrating any ability to coordinate resources against Trump. And there’s a reason the GOP hasn’t been able to rise up and unite to take on this bigoted demagogue…
  3. Trump is very popular among the party’s base and pretty much a conventional Republican.
    Birtherism is a mainstream belief in the Republican Party. Trump is about as popular at this point in the nomination process as Mitt Romney was in 2012. And Trump’s beliefs — besides some bluster about trade and earned benefits like Social Security — are boilerplate Republican. After all, John McCain won the nomination in 2008 on “Build the danged fence.” Trump is a climate science denier who opposes Wall Street reform. And his tax cuts would be perhaps the biggest giveaway to the rich… ever. He alienates exactly the voters the GOP needs to win over, and aggressively so. But so does the standard GOP platform. And what do issues matter? Today’s GOP has one unifying core belief: oppose Obama, belligerently. And who does that better than Donald Trump?
  4. They hate Democrats more.
    Some Republicans will not be able to cast a ballot for Trump based on his willingness to rile dumb hate and his proud ignorance of the nascent sort of fascism he threatens. They’ll turn to a #NeverTrump candidate, perhaps the Libertarian party’s nominee. But it’s not likely they’ll back a genuine third-party candidate for one simple reason: They’ll be running against a Clinton or a Democratic Socialist. That will be more than enough to unite the Republican Party.
  5. Trump has given the loyalty pledge that matters most.
    This hasn’t gotten a ton of attention, but Trump has taken what may be an unprecedented move in the history of American politics. He’s already named judges he’d appoint to the Supreme Court and is allowing the Heritage Foundation consult on a final list of 10 “conservative approved” nominees, all of whom would certainly be against voting rights, reproductive rights and the huge advances in LGBTQ rights made in the last eight years. But even more important to conservative donors, these Justices would continue the decades-long effort to undo the New Deal via the courts. With our campaign finance system, Affirmative Action and the Fourth Amendment already gutted, the Court can focus on destroying what’s left of the government that preserves the middle class — public labor unions, Social Security and federal regulations on everything from carbon emissions to the minimum wage. If Trump represents a chance to continue this Long Con, they’ll take him over allowing Clinton or Sanders to fill up to four vacancies.

Ultimately, the quickest way to unite the Republican party is to elect Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat in the general election, as anti-Trump Republican strategist Rick Wilson points out.

And what’s a better path to that than nominating Donald Trump?

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump looks to the cameras at the back of the arena during a rally at Clemson University in Pendleton, South Carolina, in this February 10, 2016 file photo.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files

Jeb Bush Endorses Ted Cruz For Republican Nomination

WASHINGTON(Reuters) – Former candidate Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday, saying the U.S. senator from Texas represents the party’s best chance of winning the White House.

In a statement, the former Florida governor called Cruz a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated an ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests.

“Washington is broken, and the only way Republicans can hope to win back the White House and put our nation on a better path is to support a nominee who can articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential,” Bush said.

The 63-year-old Bush, whose father and brother served as president, dropped out of the presidential nomination fight after losing badly in South Carolina on Feb. 20.

The endorsement comes as establishment Republicans scramble to stop front-runner Donald Trump from winning the nomination because of his divisive proposals like a plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants.

Cruz has run in second place behind Trump and could conceivably win enough Republican delegates to take the nomination.

Ohio Governor John Kasich’s lone path to the nomination is to extend the nomination race until the party’s national convention in July. The idea is to deny Trump the required 1,237 delegates needed and force party leaders to consider someone else.

A source close to Bush said Bush picked Cruz because he has the most viable path to the nomination and has shown that he can win states. The source said Bush considers a push for a contested convention to be a “hail-Mary strategy at best.”

In the weeks after he withdrew, Bush met in Miami with former rivals Cruz, Kasich and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Rubio dropped out of the race after losing Florida last week. Bush spoke by phone to Cruz on Monday.

In his statement, Bush resumed his sharp criticism of Trump, saying Republican voters must move to overcome “the divisiveness and vulgarity” that Trump has brought into the political arena “or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President (Barack) Obama’s failed policies.”

“To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that,” Bush said.

In a statement, Cruz said Bush’s endorsement “is further evidence that Republicans are continuing to unite behind our campaign to nominate a proven conservative” to defeat Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.



(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Michael Perry)

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate and former Governor Jeb Bush (L) listens as U.S. Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the Republican U.S. presidential candidates debate sponsored by CBS News and the Republican National Committee in Greenville, South Carolina February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump, Clinton Win Arizona On Big Night In The West

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Republican front-runner Donald Trump swept to victory in Arizona on Tuesday but rival Ted Cruz showed some fight with a win in Utah that gave hope to establishment Republicans who fear Trump would lead the party to ruin in the presidential election.

On the Democratic side, favorite Hillary Clinton routed challenger Bernie Sanders in Arizona to stretch her advantage in the race for her party’s presidential nomination.

Sanders, however, won contests in Utah and Idaho to bolster his case that he still has a chance despite Clinton’s big lead.

The nominating battles in Arizona and Utah, plus the Democratic contest in Idaho, were overshadowed by attacks in Brussels in which at least 30 people were killed and raised security concerns among U.S. voters.

Trump helped himself in Arizona with a hardline anti-immigration message and tough talk on Islamic militants to easily defeat Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Trump had the backing in Arizona of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one of the most prominent supporters of a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

The win furthered Trump’s argument that he will eventually win the Republican presidential nomination and that the party should rally around him. He won all of Arizona’s 58 delegates.

“Much bigger win than anticipated in Arizona. Thank you, I will never forget!” Trump said on Twitter. “Hopefully the Republican Party can come together and have a big WIN in November, paving the way for many great Supreme Court Justices!”

Cruz, though, won big in Utah’s caucuses, giving hope to those Republicans who fear Trump’s proposal to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico would guarantee a Democratic victory in the Nov. 8 election.

Cruz appeared to be on track to win all of Utah’s 40 Republican delegates. Since the state’s 40 delegates are awarded proportionate to the popular vote, he needed to win at least 50 percent of the vote to take all the delegates.

He appeared to benefit from Mormons who dominate the Republican vote in Utah. They did not take kindly to a Trump attack on native son Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who has led the anti-Trump opposition.

Trump had questioned whether Romney, an elder in the Mormon church, was really a Mormon.

“Trump’s poor showing in Utah is a reminder that while many love his glib comments, those remarks can also have a downside. Questioning Mitt Romney’s faith is something that was sure to backfire in Utah,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Clinton seized on the Brussels attacks to argue that neither Trump nor Cruz can be trusted to lead the fight against Islamic State militants.

Trump has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and Cruz said he would send police patrols into Muslim neighborhoods in the United States.

“This is a time for America to lead, not cower,” Clinton told supporters in Seattle in a victory speech.

Sanders said his Utah and Idaho victories were powered by young people and working-class Americans who support his “political revolution.”

“These decisive victories in Idaho and Utah give me confidence that we will continue to win major victories in the coming contests,” he said.

Trump is trying to beat back efforts to deny him the nomination. His opponents want to stop him from securing the 1,237 delegates needed ahead of the July convention. Trump now has 678 delegates.

“I think it is going to be very hard for them to do,” Trump said on CNN of any effort to deny him the nomination if he falls short. “I have millions of votes more than anybody.”

Sanders is looking for wins in many of the six Democratic contests this week. Alaska, Hawaii and Washington will vote on Saturday. Clinton will keep adding to her delegate total even if she is not the winner in a given state because Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally in all states.

Tuesday’s Republican contests were the first since U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida dropped out a week ago after Trump drubbed him in his home state.

Kasich is the only other candidate still in the race, splitting the anti-Trump vote with Cruz.


(Additional reporting by Alana Wise, Emily Stephenson and Eric Beech in Washington and Luciana Lopez in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler, Paul Tait)