Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has one option if he wants to win the Republican nomination. Tomorrow night, during a debate with Donald Trump, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Dr. Ben Carson, Cruz must clock Trump as hard as he can with his best rhetorical punch. He can’t be lawyerly. He can’t be civil. He has to get in the mud with Trump and pulverize him. There are three reasons for that.
Rubio Will Never Drop Out. The Cruz campaign seems to be under the bizarre misimpression that if Marco Rubio underperforms on March 1 and March 5, he’ll drop out of the race. This is nonsense. The Rubio campaign has already picked up the Jeb! Bush money train, and they’re cultivating the establishment endorsements they think will be necessary to push Rubio to victory on March 15. Rubio’s original plan – build support gradually and then win a bunch of winner-take-all states late in the game – has been altered by Trump’s dominance thus far. But Rubio will play out the string. He figures that if he has the second-most delegates at a brokered convention, he’ll walk out the nominee; he figures that if he outlasts Cruz’s biggest wave in the SEC primaries, he might get a shot at Trump one-on-one. Either way, Rubio’s going nowhere.
If Rubio Won’t Drop Out, Rubio Isn’t Cruz’s Obstacle. Cruz’s premise – that he can consolidate Rubio’s support – is false. That means that Cruz must either draw half of Rubio’s support, an unlikely scenario given Rubio’s momentum and Rubio supporters’ hatred for Cruz, or pummel Trump directly and draw support from him. That seems like a significantly easier task, particularly in states in the SEC primary, where Cruz is within spitting distance of Trump. And Cruz doesn't have the option of a brokered convention -- if this goes brokered, the establishment would back Trump over Rubio.
Cruz Must Win More Than Texas On March 1, Or He’s Toast. Again, the fact that Rubio won’t drop out under any circumstances means that Cruz can’t hope to win a bunch of second places in the SEC primary, then go forward and pick up Rubio’s supporters. Rubio will still be in after the SEC primary. And as we saw in Iowa, even a Cruz victory turns into a Rubio victory in the media, unless the victory is completely sweeping. So Cruz has to go for broke – he actually has to play to win, which means beating Trump outright in a week. Cruz seems to be playing not to lose, but he hasn’t won anything – and if Rubio stays in (which he will) and Trump dominates on SEC Tuesday, it’s effectively curtains for his campaign.
So, all of this means that Cruz will actually have to beat Trump outright with Rubio still in the race, not wait for the never-gonna-happen Rubio flameout. He can do it, but only by recognizing that Trump is the biggest set of balls in the race, and the only way to defeat Trump is by kicking him directly in the groin on national television. That means Cruz should unleash everything up to and including the kitchen sink. He’s going to have to out-masculine Trump.
He should face down Trump and say to him, “Donald, for months, everybody has been tiptoeing around you out of courtesy. Enough. We all know you’re a spoiled brat who’s never had anybody say no to him. You’re a pathetic, bloated old man who stood on daddy’s money stack to make billions, and then can’t shut up about how he’s a self-made man. You’re a ridiculous dolt who lies about his politics, brags about having sex with married women, and shafts little old ladies for cash. And every time you are attacked, your face turns as red as the Kool-Aid man – just like it’s doing now. Then you cite polls, as though polls make you not all those things. They don’t. You’re just as much of a ridiculous clown as you ever were.”
If Trump tries to interrupt him, Cruz will have to tell him to shut the hell up, and then not back down.
It will be brutal. But if Cruz wants to win, he’s going to have no other choice. Trump won’t be defeated so long as both Cruz and Rubio are in the race, and Rubio’s going nowhere. Somebody’s going to have to knock King Trump off the top of the hill.