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Cruz, Rubio, Jeb! Advisers Tell HuffPo How They Lost to Donald Trump

Top advisers to the campaigns of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went as a group to the Huffington Post to tell their stories of how they lost to Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primary.

Their decision to cooperate with the Huffington Post, a progressive media outlet that claims Donald Trump “regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther” in every single article on the GOP presidential nominee, is particularly noteworthy.

It’s been roughly 40 days since Donald Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party, and the mere fact of it hasn’t come to feel any less weird, or any less scary. It also means that the three people I had coffee and pastries with last Wednesday morning—Danny Diaz (Jeb Bush’s campaign manager), Jeff Roe (Ted Cruz’s campaign manager) and Alex Conant (Marco Rubio’s communications director)—have been able to process what the hell happened.

Well-compensated, highly intelligent and very publicly defeated, each one of them is still angry, both at Trump and at the media. Each one of them has theories about how we got to this very disconcerting place in American political history. And not one of them is prepared to vote for Trump.

The stories they told me over a 90-minute conversation at a bar called Black Jack in Washington DC provided an entirely different view of the campaign and of elite Republican thinking. They spoke with unusual candor about which strategies they pushed that they now regret, how they believe network executives conspired against their candidates, what a disaster the Republican convention will be and why a Hillary Clinton blowout may be upon us. This is what it’s like to lose to Donald Trump.

Isn’t the issue that there was a broader collective action problem among the non-Trump campaigns? Everyone wanted to be the last guy standing against him.

Roe

I think so. Our strategy required us to be head-to-head against him. And when your strategy requires somebody else doing something, that’s a pretty weak strategy.

Was there any backchannel communication to team up against Trump?

Diaz

Look, there’s always backchannel communication. But I think it would’ve taken more than one or two campaigns. I think the campaigns would’ve all needed to come together to say, “Hey, there’s a line in the sand here that’s been drawn, and we need to come together to vote someone off the island.”

Conant

In a typical election cycle you wouldn’t need all the campaigns to make that agreement. It would just be recognized by all of them that Trump is a huge threat, not just to the collective but to each campaign, and they would all target him in their own way and put an immense amount of pressure on him and his team. And that just never happened. He got a free pass from most of the other campaigns.

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