The end of the Republican presidential primary’s strangest bromance may be in sight.
Ever since real estate billionaire and former reality television star Donald Trump announced his candidacy and rocketed to the front of the pack, the other Republicans running for president have either directly criticized him or tried to keep him at arm’s length. The exception has been Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who visited Trump in his Manhattan office over the summer (at Cruz’s request, as Trump made clear) and has spoken favorably of Trump in many public settings.
The two even shared a stage during a rally near the Capitol building meant to drum up support in opposition to President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
In a Thursday night radio interview, though, Cruz came out and said that not only does he expect that Trump will lose the primary election, but that when he drops out, most of his supporters will throw in their lot with the Cruz campaign.
“I like Donald, I respect him,” Cruz told WABC’s Rita Cosby. “There have been other candidates in this race who have gone out of their way to try to smack Donald with a two-by-four, and I haven’t been one of them. I am glad he’s in the race.”
Had Cruz stopped there, it would have sounded much like many of his other comments on Trump’s controversial candidacy.
But he continued, “I think his involvement in the race has been tremendously helpful to my campaign because it’s framed the central question of this primary as ‘Who will stand up to Washington?’ And if that’s the central question, the natural next question the voters will ask is, ‘Well, who actually has stood up to Washington? Who has a record in that regard?’”
“Do you believe eventually you could beat him based on your principles?” Cosby asked.
“I think that’s right,” Cruz said. “In time, I don’t think Donald is going to be the nominee and I think in time, the lion’s share of his supporters end up with us. And I think the reason is what I was just saying. If you look to the records of all the Republican candidates, there’s a big difference between my record and that of everyone else. If you ask who has stood up to Washington who has taken on not just Democrats but leaders in their own party?”
Now, when it comes to Donald Trump, there are some things you just don’t do unless you mean to incite a storm of abuse, and one of them is to call him a loser (even prospectively). The other is to suggest that he’s being played for a sucker – in this case, that his campaign is little more than a tool for gathering eventual Cruz voters.
After midnight Friday morning, Trump senior adviser Dan Scavino Tweeted out a preliminary reaction to Cruz’s comments.
As of lunchtime on Friday, Trump hadn’t reacted to Cruz’s prediction, but if the former star of The Apprentice is true to form, he’s unlikely to let the insult – and he will inevitably view it as an insult – pass without some sort of reaction.