Ted Cruz had the Worst Week in Washington

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas during a campaign event in Indianapolis . CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.

Ted Cruz called Donald Trump a “serial philander.” He called him a “pathological liar.” He warned the real estate mogul to leave his wife “the hell alone.” And then, on Friday, Cruz endorsed Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Er, what?

Yes, Cruz announced Friday on Facebook that he had decided to support the man who once suggested his father was part of a plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy and insinuated that his wife was ugly. Why? Hillary Clinton, of course.

“Even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable,” wrote Cruz on Friday. “Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way.”

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Uh huh.

Cruz’s move is a tricky one, fraught with political peril. On one hand, if you want to be your party’s presidential nominee in four or eight years, you almost certainly have to support the party’s nominee now. On the other, when you have all but suggested that said nominee is a deranged psychopath, endorsing him runs the risk of being seen as a transparently political move that undermines Cruz’s “principled conservative” brand.

Cruz’s endorsement was widely panned by his backers and former staffers. There was this from former Cruz presidential adviser Rick Tyler:

“It’s mourning in America for conservatives. We lost our leader today.”

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And Steve Deace, a conservative radio show host in Iowa and a prominent Cruz backer, blasted Cruz on Twitter.

If there is another Iowa Caucus in 2020, and I have my doubts, Cruz will have to work hard to repeat. His organization in shambles tonight.

Cruz is no dummy and had to know, given his checkered history with Trump, that an endorsement of the Republican nominee might not sit well with lots and lots of Republicans. For Cruz, the gamble is that by publicly declaring both his support for and doubts about Trump, he can please both the most loyal supporters of the nominee and the #nevertrump movement — thus preserving his viability as a presidential candidate in 2020 or 2024.

Maaaaaybe. In truth, Cruz had backed himself into a corner; on one side were his attacks on Trump while on the other stood his ambition to run for president again. And everyone knows that when you are backed in a corner you roll over and play dead. Wait, no. But you get the idea.

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Ted Cruz, for endorsing a candidate you clearly loathe (and who clearly loathes you), you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.