Late Night Open Thread: Ted Cruz Wants His Just Desserts

And Murphy the Trickster God will no doubt ensure he gets them, good and hard. A man who needs to seek out fifteen-year-old ‘journalists’ for his ego-uplifting needs is a sorry spectacle, and the Washington Post‘s Phillip Bump is not averse to taking advantage:

One of the odder moments of the 2016 election was the announcement of the Republican running mate. Not Donald Trump’s announcement of Mike Pence. Sen. Ted Cruz’s announcement of Carly Fiorina.

Perhaps you’d forgotten this little incident. It was late April 2016, and it was already nearly certain that Trump would be the Republican Party’s nominee. Cruz (R-Tex.), eager to shock his campaign back into viability, took the unusual step of announcing that, if he won, he’d run with Fiorina at his side. Fiorina had been a candidate, too, so Cruz’s announcement seemed to be an effort to scoop up whatever loyal supporters she had — and, of course, to appeal to Republican women. It didn’t work.

It was very Ted Cruz, though. His political career has often involved too-clever efforts to game the rules to his advantage and related stunts. Even then, Cruz’s path to the nomination involved not winning more delegates but keeping Trump from getting enough to clinch at the convention. Cruz stayed in the fight to win not on votes but on process (a preview of his pre-Jan. 6 efforts, it turns out).

But Cruz excels at making lemon-related beverages out of lemons. So, in an interview with a 15-year-old conservative media personality, Cruz cited his not-quite-enough performance in 2016 as a mark that he could be 2024′s front-runner…

“I ran in 2016. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” Cruz said. “We had a very crowded field with 17 candidates in the race, very strong field. And I ended up placing second. And you know, there’s a reason historically that the runner-up is almost always the next nominee.”

That’s true. There were reasons historically that Republicans who fared well in prior nominating contests continued on to later win the nomination. For one, they had experience building infrastructure and raising the money needed for an extended national campaign. For another, they built relationships with members of the establishment that helped them more quickly solidify support.

But that system was essentially shattered in the very campaign in which Cruz came in second.

Trump’s candidacy succeeded explicitly because he wasn’t operating in that system. He didn’t need to raise as much money, given his high profile and ability to attract media attention (to frame it generously on the media’s end). He built a ferociously loyal following that allowed him to outlast a crowded field and let him essentially forgo competition in 2020…

I’ll hedge my bets here: Cruz is well known and has done a good job staying close to the Republican right. He does know how to run a national campaign and can raise money. Early polling is notoriously iffy, but he’s in the mix among the top candidates — once Trump is excluded. It’s not impossible that things could fall into place and he could be the nominee.

But as was the case in 2016, the nomination will not really be determined by historical nominating patterns. It will probably be determined by what Trump decides to do.

And Ted Cruz’s candidacy would be an endless gift to President Biden, or whomever is the Democrat’s 2024 nominee. The more normal humans are exposed to Ted Cruz, the less they like him — this seems to be true even for his own kids. Ed Kilgore, at NYMag:

You know what Cruz’s happy-talk about 2016 really sounds like? The fond recollections of a has-been pol who knows that his last run is as close to the presidency as he will ever come.

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