With former non-Establishment favorite Sen. Ted Cruz receiving an endorsement from Jeb Bush, it’s clear that the Bush tentacles are all over the Cruz campaign, in a concerted Establishment effort to prevent Donald Trump from securing the GOP nomination.
Of course all of this is an effort to take down GOP front-runner Donald Trump, not because anyone in the Establishment actually likes Cruz. The old saying is true that politics makes strange bedfellows.
In early March it was reported that Neil Bush joined Cruz’s presidential campaign as part of his national finance team. In addition, former top Bush bundlers including C. Boyden Gray and Reggie Brown, also joined with Cruz.
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What’s more, there are rumblings that he and Sen. Marco Rubio are in discussions.
Cruz’s political career and success was centered around his role as a Washington outsider, someone who was willing to take on a crusade against the Establishment — fighting against the “Washington cartel.” Ultimately, this endorsement will hurt Cruz more than it will help him, although it does bring some positives for his campaign as he fights an uphill battle against Trump.
But what does the Bush network and Establishment support bring to Cruz? The obvious answer is a large donor network, but Cruz has had no problem fundraising and is known for having one of the most well-funded campaigns this cycle. What the Bush endorsement does bring to the table however is an extensive network of party-line officials, insiders, and delegates — an important and coveted resource if this race goes to a contested convention. These connections would trump the GOP front-runner who is far behind his rival when it comes to an organized ground game.
In fact, any campaign that is not putting forth a strong and organized ground game effort to get its supporters elected as delegates — they will undoubtedly end their chance at the White House in Cleveland.
Having the backing of Bush all but assures that Cruz would be able to win a contested convention where many of the delegates are chosen by state conventions or executive committees consisting of local activists, volunteers and elected officials. What this means is that the selected delegates will be heavily influenced by the members of the GOP Establishment in those states.
“The traditional endorsement game is less meaningful in this unconventional primary election, but could be more significant if there is a contested convention where the delegate fight will matter,” said Republican strategist Mercedes Schlapp. “Jeb’s endorsement of Cruz proves that the establishment has no other choice than to embrace Ted Cruz as their nominee who has the best chance of competing against Trump.”
In recent weeks we have seen a warming to Cruz as the viable option to Trump, Establishment favorites dropped out of the race lacking a viable pathway toward the nomination — forcing the Establishment to get behind a non-Establishment favorite such as Cruz. Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has said “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate and the trial was in the Senate, no one would convict you,” now says the party needs to support him and is even stumping and fundraising for the Texas senator.
While former 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney hasn’t formally endorsed Cruz, he has all but by throwing his support behind the Texas senator in advance of the Utah caucuses. Romney’s involvement in the 2016 race is solely to further the Establishment’s ultimate goal of creating a divided convention and stopping Trump.
You can bet that Trump will capitalize on the groundswell of Establishment and GOP elite support for Cruz — as it allows him to peg Cruz as a Washington insider. The key going forward is for Cruz to paint himself as a principled outsider while pegging Donald Trump as part of the Establishment — but he needs to be careful as the Establishment throws their support to him in an effort to thwart Trump.