One of the big questions of the day is will Texas Sen. Ted Cruz actually endorse his former opponent Donald Trump tonight? Only Cruz knows, but so far the signs point to a healthy dose of have-it-both-ways.
When asked what we can expect Cruz to do tonight, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said, "He’ll give a sign of where he is on Donald Trump that will be pleasing to both the Trump campaign and Republicans."
When AP pressed Manafort on the issue, he responded that it will be clear that Cruz supports Trump, but "how he says it I don't know."
Asked if it was important if Cruz actually used the word "endorse," Manafort deliberately tamped down expectations. "No, it doesn't at all," said the Trump campaign manager. "The point is the same... If he's voting that's the signal."
Another insider, Texas fundraiser Mica Mosbacher, gave AP a similarly hesitant response about Team Cruz backing Trump, saying, "I think they're about 80 percent there," but insisting that Cruz had made a "quantum leap" on his contentious relationship with the business mogul.
With Cruz refusing to endorse Trump so far despite increasing pressure to do so, and with such statements from insiders like Manafort and Mosbacher, it's no wonder that most of the press is expecting Cruz to try to pull off the nearly impossible tonight: the non-endorsement endorsement, a move AP suggests is a result of Cruz's "Texas-size political ambitions" for the presidency.
Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh asked rhetorically Wednesday whether or not it really mattered what Cruz did, citing Ronald Reagan's endorsement of his former opponent Gerald Ford in 1976 before going on to win the presidency in 1980. Will die-hard conservatives doubt Cruz's conservatism if he endorses Trump? Will Cruz damage his credibility by going back on his pledge to support the conservative nominee if he doesn't use the word "endorse"? If Cruz equivocates, will it make him seem too politically slippery?
Maybe Limbaugh is right. Maybe no one outside political circles will really care much in the end if it's a full-throated endorsement or not. The real question is can Cruz define conservatism the way Reagan did in the '76 convention? That's a pretty tall task in the shadow of Trump and his newly formed "Trump Party."