I thought that in Thursday night’s debate, Cruz was a star. He is credible as a thinking person’s candidate — although my sister said he reminds her a little bit of Frank Burns from “M*A*S*H,” which is not so good. Setting that aside, I think Cruz makes a compelling case for why he should be the Republican nominee. He has a deep understanding of the issues, he has thought about what it might take to actually solve our country’s problems and he legitimately understands the architecture of government.
It’s obvious Trump doesn’t know much about policy. During Thursday’s debate, it was painful to watch him pretend he knew anything about the standards set by Common Core. Expectations for him are so low that if he were to express some vague awareness that there are nine Supreme Court justices, 50 states, three branches of government and no such thing as “the button,” a lot of commentators would swoon over his “until now hidden” level of remarkable sophistication. If Trump occasionally refrains from hurling insults, shouting vulgarities or frothing at the mouth — perhaps because he is tired or simply bored — plenty of commentators are eager to conclude he has shed what was simply an act and is certainly capable of acting presidential. I’m not convinced.
I have no problem picturing Cruz as president. I have no problem thinking he could conduct himself well with foreign leaders, and even though his friction with other members of Congress has been well-documented, at least he knows how the place works. And, if commentators are so quick to believe that Trump would change his behavior if he became the Republican nominee, then they also have to assume Cruz would begin to act in a manner that would help him be effective as president and win approval for his policy agenda.
It’s not over until it’s over. Maybe Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) is closing in on Trump in his home state. Maybe Ohio Gov. John Kasich will win in his home state. But even so, there is still a plausible chance that Cruz and Trump will be in the finals. If that happens, Republicans should back Cruz and feel good about it.