Why is it that these days Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is always mentioned alongside Donald Trump? I don’t understand the pairing. They do not occupy the same space within the Republican Party.

A lot of my Republican brethren seem to find both deeply flawed as candidates for the Republican nomination, and there is an ongoing debate about which one would do the party the most harm if he were ultimately the nominee. I’m confounded by this thinking.

Sen. Cruz, for all his flaws, is an authentic conservative Republican with a discernible governing point of view. He has legitimate experience in government, is an able retail politician and a true student of politics and history — not to mention the Constitution. Trump is none of these things. I get that many who know Cruz don’t like him, and I do find that troubling, but that doesn’t somehow make him anything like The Donald. This isn’t an endorsement of Cruz, but I am affirmatively against Trump being the GOP nominee. There are valid reasons one could be against Cruz, but him being Trumpesque is not one of them. They don’t compare. They would be wildly different nominees and, to my mind, Cruz would be much easier to defend.

As a conscientious, mostly reliable member of the Republican establishment, I generally defer to party leaders and the established or even informal party hierarchy. But I am discouraged by some Republican leaders’ attempts to rationalize a Trump candidacy, and I am perplexed by their willingness to support Trump if he were the only alternative to Cruz.

Whenever I hear Cruz’s pitch, read what he has said or catch him on TV, I think he seems okay and sometimes I’m even impressed. But then I see respected party leaders — some of whom I have worked with for decades — who actually know Cruz gasping in horror at the prospect of him being the nominee. It does give me pause. What is it about Ted Cruz that could be so bad that Trump, a non-Republican at best, could be preferable? I ask the question not to make a point but because I don’t know the answer.

The best I can tell is that Cruz has often been an irritant in the Senate. He selfishly positions himself at times with no view to the bigger picture, and he has been known to gratuitously insult his colleagues. Sometimes, it seems that he prefers harmful grandstanding to serious governing. Okay, not good, but does that render him a clear and present danger to the Republican Party? Worse than Trump?

Everyone should read what the very able Peter Ferrara wrote in the American Thinker, entitled, “The Case for Ted Cruz.” Ferrara’s piece is compelling even if you don’t like Cruz — or, as in my case, if you know and respect a lot of people who don’t like Cruz.

I do not concede the point that it is now a two-man race for the Republican nomination between Trump and Cruz, but if it were, Republicans should think long and hard about what it is that makes us Republicans and what the party stands for. In my view, Cruz clears the bar easily as a legitimate party leader and Trump doesn’t even come close.