January 6, 2016
Donald Trump is “concerned” Ted Cruz might face legal challenges from Democrats regarding his eligibility for the presidency. As Cruz has pointed out, this is a legal non issue.
His mom was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth in Calgary, Alberta. That makes him a birthright citizen of the United States. Democrats will not launch a serious legal challenge to a Cruz presidency. They would spend four years giving him hell, but he’s not facing a legal detour on his way to the inauguration.
This specific example came up when George Romney, father of Mitt and born in Mexico, was a serious candidate for the 1968 GOP nomination. His parents were U.S. citizens at the time of his birth, so he was cleared for takeoff.
We know by now that Trump always has a reason for saying things. It’s never random and he almost always doubles down. What’s he up to?
Cruz is ahead in Iowa but hard for Trump to attack
While he can afford to finish a close second, winning is better. A couple weeks ago, Trump tried criticizing Cruz for being an outcast in the Senate, saying he was a bit of a maniac.
Ted shrugged it off, tweeting an 80s music reference. Similarly, yesterday, he tweeted a YouTube link to Fonzie jumping the shark. Cruz isn’t going to take the bait. A quick semi-humorous response and then deflection.
That’s not why Trump stopped the first approach. He hit the brakes because Rush Limbaugh and the rest of conservative talk radio beat him over the head for picking on Cruz for the thing they most like about him.
He’s also complaining Ted stole his wall idea, but that’s not going to get him very far. Yes, he can (and does) say he can get Mexico to pay while Cruz can’t. Not good enough.
Nor is bragging about having more knowledge about how to actually build the wall. Nobody doubts he knows more about the proper footing for a wall than any other candidate, but until we elect a Contractor-in-Chief it’s not putting him over the top.
Cruz has been very, very nice to Trump. The Donald says he only picks on people who attack him first. Furthermore, Trump isn’t getting nominated without Cruz supporters signing off on him, nor is he elected without them turning out in force in November.
Also, Cruz currently has very high favorability ratings among Republicans. Ben Carson was very well liked when Trump began attacking him, but Cruz won’t make any of the unforced errors the Carson campaign did.
Oh, and there’s less than a month before Iowa, and polling in other places like California shows Cruz is not a one-state fluke. Trump needs to worry about him almost everywhere.
Immigration has replaced the regular social conservative issues
The conventional triad of Republican nomination success involved appealing to social conservatives, economic conservatives and foreign policy conservatives.
While Trump may not have known what the nuclear triad is, he has a political one of his own, backed up by CNN polling. By wide margins, he leads the field when GOP voters are asked who would do a better job on the economy/budget, on ISIS/national security and on immigration.
Those three are the Trump Triad. Immigration is extra important, because it’s currently replacing the normal social conservative issues. For years, abortion was an issue in Republican primaries. It killed Rudy Giuliani in 2008.
Now, nobody even considers running as a serious pro-choice Republican or pro-life Democrat. Gay marriage was a rallying point for social conservatives for the past couple/few cycles. Now the Supreme Court has mooted the issue. It’s also no longer a draw on the left.
All Republican candidates support the death penalty. All Republican candidates want to make sure police are supported. Immigration is the main point of difference.
Marco Rubio tried to attack Cruz on immigration a few weeks ago, arguing there wasn’t any real difference between them. Didn’t work, but there is some truth to it.
Cruz was able to point out Rubio was part of the Gang of 8 legislation with Chuck Schumer, while he wasn’t. Even if Cruz was in favor of a pathway to legalization (if not citizenship), there was enough space to claim they aren’t interchangeable.
However, Cruz is still shy about pushing for deportation of non-criminals the way Trump is. It’s probably not a winning policy for Ted in the fall. Perhaps Trump can get away with it, but only Trump.
Cruz is doing very well with social conservatives, and has most of the key endorsements in Iowa. Carson is barely hanging in and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have failed to launch.
With his evangelical background (and Baptist minister father), if immigration positions are close, Cruz is an easy sale and has a chance to win the caucus by a sizeable margin, one that would cause Trump problems.
Trump was the first candidate to talk about birthright citizenship and the idea of ending the practice. It’s one of the pillars of his stance and a key issue others were reluctant/afraid to bring up.
More Americans agree with limiting this than the deportations. It’s a pretty easy sale in GOP primaries and caucuses, particularly somewhere like Iowa. Cruz has agreed this is worth taking a look at.
For most supporters of change, this means ending birthright citizenship for the children of illegals, or maybe going a step further and applying to non-citizens who are in the country legally on a temporary basis.
The argument is this is necessary to prevent people sneaking across the border or flying in to give birth in the United States, thus securing citizenship for their offspring. If you haven’t overstayed your visa, there’s no illegal entry involved.
None of this technically applies to how Cruz gained American citizenship and eligibility for the presidency. His mother was a legal citizen who gave birth to him outside the country, the reverse of what a ban on automatic birthright citizenship is supposedly for.
If Trump persists with keeping this in the news, it does cause regular conversation that puts “Cruz” and “eligible due to birthright citizenship” in the same sentence. Combined with his hesitancy on deportation, there’s space between the two candidates.
This is not a potential death blow to the Cruz campaign. Most of his voters aren’t going anywhere because of this. But it does give Huckabee something to run with as he attempts to peel back a little of Ted’s support.
It reminds other voters Trump is a bit firmer on immigration than Cruz. Ted is between Rubio and Trump, not as close to Marco as the Rubio campaign wants you to think, not as close to Trump as the Cruz campaign wants to imply.
Not the best card to play, but the only thing presently available to Trump. If this costs Cruz 5-10% of his Iowa support, distracts his campaign slightly, it might make the difference between a narrow win or a narrow loss, or keep Trump from losing by 8 points instead of 4.
This is not the masterstroke of attacking Bill Clinton during Cosby Week (fortuitous unscheduled timing), but never underestimate Trump’s ability to find a weak spot, however marginal it may seem.