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February 10, 2016

Friendly Advice for Ted Cruz

I observed, brilliantly, that Mitt Romney couldn't get away with anything in the 2012 primaries. Even though he was pretty honest for a politician -- maybe because he was pretty honest for a politician -- every time he tried to do something sneaky or said something a bit dishonest (or with hidden ulterior motives), it was obvious he was doing so.

He could not get away with it. Some candidates are Teflon, some are Velcro. Romney was Velcro.

Ted Cruz is also Velcro and he needs to know this.

Yesterday, after Cruz appeared likely to place third in New Hampshire, I wondered: "Given the media's big howdy-do over Rubio's third place finish in Iowa, will Ted Cruz make some kind of baiting reference to 'They said it couldn't be done'?"

I had two thoughts, a callow first thought and a better (I think) second thought. The callow first thought was "I hope he baits them."

The better second thought was "I sure hope he doesn't bait them, and instead appears dignified and gracious in (sort of) victory."

Well, he kinda-sorta baited them. He didn't do it much -- he just touched it lightly -- but he did start his speech with something like "Tonight we did the impossible." He quickly moved away from the direct Let's-See-How-Rubio-Likes-This parallel with Rubio's speech, but he did touch it, a little.

It felt sneaky to me, as if he'd debated "How much can I just barely touch this, so that people get it, while then moving away quickly enough that if anyone calls me on it, I can all them silly?"

I didn't think it was a good moment. I don't think one should calculate like that-- "I'll touch it just slightly, just to hit it, but so softly I can deny it later and call people silly for noticing."

I think there are two different ways to handle it. One, directly, and honestly. Just say something like:

Honestly, when my friend Marco got third place in Iowa and got so much good press out of it, I was a little annoyed. I admit that. But now that we've gotten third place, I understand. It feels good. It feels really good.

Or, make it about the media, and not Rubio:

Marco Rubio declared a victory of sorts for an unexpected third place finish in a state where he wasn't favored to win. I understand that -- he did a great job in mobilizing his troops to out-perform where everyone expected him to place. But now you (meaning Cruz's supporters) have done the same thing, and propelled this campaign to a third-place tie in a state no one expected us to be competitive in. I hope the media will give you the same kind of credit they gave Marco's team.

Like, take it head-on and explain your real thinking on the matter. Don't try to be crafty or calculating about it -- just say what you really mean.

And if you think that makes too big a deal of it: Then just omit it completely. Give a speech which is nothing like Marco's.

It's a poker idea: You don't call. You don't make weak plays. You either raise (with honesty and directness) or you fold (dropping the point completely). You don't do half-in, half-out bullshit.

I support Cruz, but Cruz rubs people the wrong way. If he wants to not just win the nomination, but also the White House, he has to figure out why he's rubbing people the wrong way, and fix that.

It's this kind of trying-to-have-it-both-ways thing which people don't trust about Cruz.

He should stop it. A true leader tries to have it both ways sometimes, but not over something small and petty like whether or not Marco Rubio got more favorable coverage for his third place win.

Be direct and honest, Mr. Cruz. Be straight-up. People see through these paper-thin poses. They're smarter than that, they really are. Even the dumb ones, they can see through ploys.

I'm not even making a moral judgment here. I'm talking about simple cost-benefit analysis.

Be the leader people actually want -- and need -- you to be, and you'll do well.

Full speech here. Yes, you're right, he barely touches this. I said that. But touch it he does. Better to seize it with both hands, or not touch it at all.

Cruz Baits Fox. I don't mind this so much, because it's not something important like an official campaign speech, which, it seems to me, ought to be about bigger things.

But yeah, Cruz is now baiting the media: where's my wall-to-wall coverage for third?

I still don't know if that's a smart play, though. The media obviously loves/loved Marco, and they're sort of in mourning.

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posted by Ace at 04:08 PM

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