Sarah Palin’s speech last night, in which she railed against mainstream Republicans for “attacking their own front-runner,” might have left you with the impression that the GOP establishment isn’t that fond of Donald Trump. Or maybe it was the attempt to launch a “guerrilla campaign” to “defeat and destroy” the real-estate mogul, the fantasizing about a Mitt 2016 campaign, or the ongoing speculation about a “brokered” convention. But according to Ted Cruz, the tide has turned, and now the same people who spent the last seven months plotting Trump’s downfall are embracing him with open arms.
“Right now the establishment is abandoning Marco Rubio,” Cruz said on Wednesday in New Hampshire, according to the Washington Post. “They’re making the assessment that Marco can’t win this race, and the Washington establishment is rushing over to support Donald Trump. We’re seeing that every day. And Mr. Trump is welcoming the support of the Washington establishment.”
Cruz was responding to a question about comments Bob Dole made earlier in the day. In an interview with the New York Times, the former senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee unloaded on Cruz, calling him an “extremist” whose nomination would lead to “cataclysmic” and “wholesale losses” for the party. Dole suggested that Trump may be able to stop Cruz, and said he could “probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker.”
When pressed to explain which members of the establishment, aside from Dole, were backing Trump, Cruz did not offer any examples. “Look, Donald Trump was very candid. On the Sunday shows recently, seven months ago, he said he was the establishment,” he said. “Well, that hasn’t changed. There’s a reason the establishment is attracted to Donald Trump.” (As the Post notes, it’s not clear what interview the senator was referring to.)
Cruz also delved into Trump’s previous support for both Democrats and moderate Republicans. “If you believe what we need is more deal-making, more going along to get along, use his words, with Harry Reid and Barack Obama and the Democrats, then you can understand why the establishment is unifying behind him,” he said.
There actually are quite a few examples of Establishment Republicans softening their opposition to Trump in recent weeks. However, to say they’re suddenly “attracted” to the secret Democrat/longtime member of the GOP establishment isn’t really accurate. As New York’s Jonathan Chait explains, Establishment Republicans are just accepting that their party is in the clutches of a madman, and they view Cruz as “just as bad as Trump, or possibly even worse.”
Declaring that the Establishment’s grudging acceptance of Trump is motivated by their fear of a true conservative shaking up Washington is a smart move by Cruz — but the truth is they just really, really hate the Texas senator. Dole was actually pretty clear on this point. The 92-year-old acknowledged that Trump is best positioned to be the nominee, but said personally, he’s a strong supporter of Jeb Bush. Dole also noted that he has personal beef with Cruz; he was “kind of hurt” by Cruz constantly pointing to him as an unacceptably moderate GOP presidential nominee, and offended that he called GOP leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor. “I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress,” Dole said of Cruz. “Nobody likes him.”
Dole also made the astute point that the term “Establishment” is becoming a meaningless term that conservative candidates hurl at one another. “Cruz is in the Senate, so maybe he’s part of the establishment,” Dole said. “You know, I’ve never really known what the establishment was.”