Opinion

Cruz Helped Create Monster That Devoured Him

Ivy League debater outdone by some average Joes

Ted Cruz found himself out-outsidered by someone who had never held public office. (CQ Roll Call)

The irony was thick in Marion, Indiana, on the eve of Indiana's primary. Ted Cruz , a man who had once mobilized credulous conservatives to “light up” Capitol Hill switchboards in support of his doomed plan to “defund Obamacare” was finally getting a taste of his own medicine.  

A scrum of Trump supporters gathered nearby, and Cruz was foolish enough to confront them in an exchange that aired live on television.  

It was, shall we say, a mistake.  

[Related: Welcome Back to the Senate, Ted Cruz!] Here you had Cruz, the very man who accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of being a liar, being called “Lyin’ Ted” by a Trump supporter.  

Cruz, the former Bush administration member who reinvented himself, railing against “establishment elites” was asked: “Where’s your Goldman Sachs jacket? We know your wife works there…”  Cruz, the same man who was only first elected in 2012 — and jumped the line to run for president — would find himself on the verge of being vanquished by someone who “out-outsidered” him by never having even run for elected office before.  

Cruz, the same man who prided himself on being an excellent debater, had just lost one to some pretty average Trump supporters.  

[Related: Who Might Trump Pick as VP?] Maybe it was Cruz’s patented “pregnant pause" that hurt him most. It had worked so well in formal debates, but here, on the street, it only allowed these rabble-rousers in "Make America Great Again" garb to finish his sentences for him.  

“America is a better country ..." Cruz tried to say, but was interrupted with the words, “without you.”  

“And a question that everyone here should ask ...” Cruz began.  

“Are you Canadian?” came the response from the peanut gallery.  

This wasn't how it was supposed to go.  

The savior, it seems, had been forsaken.  

[Related: Why the Stupid, Gutless Refusal to Attack Trump?] Eventually, the revolution destroys the revolutionaries. Just ask Robespierre.  

It's hard not to find this a little amusing. After all, Ted Cruz helped create an environment where populist demagoguery would flourish on the right. Of course, he, no doubt, assumed he would be the beneficiary of this. He probably assumed the most ardent grassroots protesters on the right would be his supporters. He probably figured Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News would be in his back pocket.  

He figured wrong. Not only would they not support him, they would play a major role in helping Trump.  

Just as Marco Rubio was once the hero of the tea party, the revolution had turned on Ted Cruz, too.  

The students were now schooling the master.  

Perhaps his biggest, and most shameful, miscalculation was Cruz's own initial decision to appease the albino alligator, hoping he would devour him last.  

Recently, one Cruz ad hit Trump on the character issue, saying: “We wouldn’t tolerate these values in our children, why would we want them in a president?”  

This is perfectly legitimate, except for the fact that Donald Trump didn’t just become a jerk in 2016. “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump,” Cruz said during the campaign, which raised questions about his own character and judgment. "Donald Trump is a friend of mine. I like and respect Donald.”  

Granted, this was before Trump basically called Heidi Cruz ugly — and suggested that Cruz’s dad was somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination — but it’s not ancient history.  

I'm hardly the only one who has remembered this non-aggression pact that eventually came apart as not completely unlike the one in 1939. As Hoosiers were heading to the polls, Cruz held a press conference where he said: "Morality doesn't exist for [Trump]," calling him the "biggest narcissist," a "serial philanderer," and a "pathological liar." These things may be true, but they're hardly new developments.  

In response, John Harwood tweeted : "Cruz might be more convincing calling Trump reprehensible/ripping media for boosting him if he hadn't himself spent past year praising him." Time's Zeek Miller continued : "Cruz bent over backwards to avoid attacking Trump in 2015. Arguably got him this far, but made subsequent criticism appear less genuine."  

Cruz originally praised Trump, claiming that "Donald" was standing up to political correctness. But let's be honest: Cruz did this because he was playing a game. He did this because he wanted to watch Trump destroy Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and others — and because he wrongly assumed Trump would eventually flame out, allowing Cruz to swoop in and inherit all his supporters.  

The ultimate irony is that Cruz helped create the monster that just devoured him. That monster wasn't just Donald Trump, but was also a political environment on the populist Right that would help Trump win their nomination fair and square.  

Hoisted on his own petard. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. RIP. Roll Call columnist Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Contributor at the Daily Caller and author of the book "Too Dumb to Fail." Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.