As a legitimate celebrity from his 14 seasons as the host of NBC’s "The Apprentice," Donald Trump’s candidacy for president has been a ratings boost for the Republican Party, both literally and figuratively.
But while almost all of his competitors have followed conventional political wisdom and punched upward, hoping to chip away at the front-runner’s lead, Sen. Ted Cruz has openly embraced him. When Trump attacked Megyn Kelly for her tough debate questions, questioned John McCain's heroism in Vietnam, or accused Mexican immigrants of being "rapists" and "murderers," most of his opponents billed each instance as his biggest and baddest misstep yet. Cruz, the first-term Texas Republican who had positioned himself as the angry outsider before Trump entered the race, has welcomed Trump with open arms.
"I think people are ticked off at Washington. And they want someone who will stand up to Washington, who will tell the truth, and I think that’s why he’s attracted the early support he has," Cruz said Monday while speaking on conservative talk radio. Trump's appearance in the first Republican debate drew a record 24 million viewers , some of whom may very well have never tuned in, and his rallies have drawn crowds of thousands , some of the biggest crowds so far this cycle. Rather than to try to soften the glare of Trump's spotlight, Cruz has worked to bask in it.
“I have to imagine some tens of millions who haven’t watched the debates before are people who probably hadn’t heard of Ted Cruz,” said Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Cruz’s campaign. “He’s bringing a lot of people who felt like they didn’t have a voice or are checked out of politics.”
After some subtle public banter, next week Cruz's campaign is planning to go all the way with Trump by participating in a joint event on Capitol Hill to rally opposition to the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran that will soon be up for a vote.
“The reason we invited Donald Trump on the stage is because he voiced an opinion on the Iran deal that it’s wrong. Donald Trump is going to bring 10,000 people to the Capitol. Why wouldn’t we want that?” Tyler said. “We’ll bring a lot of people, but he’ll bring more. He’ll bring people who aren’t engaged in the process. We’re going to get to present our message to those people and that benefits us.”
According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight , Cruz is the only candidate who hasn't sent a single negative Tweet about Trump, nor has Trump attacked Cruz. Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is matching them in the polls, has avoided the fray, too . On the other hand, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been the subject of 48 negative posts on Twitter by Trump, and 25 of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s tweets have slammed him.
Yet another weak hit by a candidate with a failing campaign. Will Jeb sink as low in the polls as the others who have gone after me? — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2015
Cruz's strategy of joining hands with his rival in hopes that some of the Trump charm might eventually fall onto him is unique, Noel said, and is a testament to the unpredictable nature of this broad presidential field.
"I think Cruz expects Trump to implode. Cruz has to feel like he’s the right candidate for this group of voters. Neither Trump nor Carson has ever won elected office. They are not politicians," Noel said. Cruz, on the other hand, is "the top politician in the running for that slice of the GOP electorate. So, if he waits for Trump and Carson to leave, he’s never alienated them or their supporters."
Stuart Stevens, a veteran Republican operative who helped shepherd Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said he believes Trump will eventually be forced out of the race.
“I just don’t think Trump will be the nominee. I don’t think he will be on the ballot. I could very well be wrong, but is Donald Trump going to be the next president? No,” he said. “What’s his greatest putdown? You’re a loser. Does he want to go from being a business success to an early loser?”
Unlike "The Apprentice," Trump said this show is not going away -- he has started to build a campaign infrastructure in Iowa and other early states.
And to his other hurdle – the so-called loyalty pledges proposed by states like Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, with which Republican parties there are attempting to use to force Trump to rule out an independent run or be banned from their ballots – Trump has said he will announce his plans "very soon" on whether to sign.
"I think a lot of people are going to be very happy," with his decision, Trump said .