Most Republican candidates for the U.S. presidency this election cycle are rushing to position themselves as the anti-Donald Trump, especially after his recently proposed plan to temporarily block all Muslims from entering the United States.
“You know how you can ‘Make America Great Again’?” asked South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, citing Trump’s infamous campaign slogan. “Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”
“Donald Trump is unhinged,” tweeted Florida Governor Jeb Bush. “His ‘policy’ proposals are not serious.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is opting for an alternative route. Rather than repudiate his rival, Cruz is instead aiming to be seen as a “toned-down Trump,” according to Bloomberg Politics’ Kevin Cirilli, who spoke with a number of the conservative’s fans in Iowa on December 9. So far, it seems to be working. Trump’s recent comments make “Senator Cruz seem much more sane,” said one Iowa voter; “Cruz is like Trump, but at a toned-down level,” said another.
It’s clear Cruz’s camp is walking a fine line. Trump’s supporters have so far identified with a man both volatile and unpredictable, so straight-edge and solemn is unlikely to siphon off much of his base. Cruz must therefore present himself as a candidate who is sensible, but not too sensible.
Cruz isn’t merely a toned-down version of Trump. He’s just as conservative and just as volatile, though probably a little less erratic. The thing is, Cruz isn’t merely a toned-down version of Trump. He’s just as conservative, just as volatile, though probably a little less erratic. And this makes him all the more dangerous, from a progressive point of view.
Recently surfaced raw footage taped by Cruz’s team for use in super PAC campaign ads shows a man posing for the cameras, contriving moments of wholesome family-togetherness for his “traditional-values” bloc of potential voters. Whereas Trump bubbles and explodes with off-the-cuff bloviations, charming supporters with outrageous moments of “did-he-actually-say-that!?” Cruz is purposeful and patient. He’s a calculator and a manipulator, and though he’s not a particularly gifted actor, he knows how to play the political role he has picked out for himself—with aplomb.
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