The incident also comes at a time the candidates are chasing former Jeb Bush donors. In fact, as Politico reports, “Bobbie Kilberg, a top Republican fundraiser who previously supported Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, is now backing Marco Rubio.” Others are sure to follow, especially if Rubio’s team can easily make the argument that Cruz’s operation is not ready for prime time.
To top it off, Cruz again went running after Donald Trump, trying to surpass him on anti-immigration extremism. Appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show, Cruz vowed to use U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) force to round up and expel illegal immigrants. This suffers from the same infirmities as Trump’s crackpot scheme (e.g. breaks up families, is inordinately expensive, requires massive civil rights violations) — and does not even have the distinction of being original. Moreover, it is a complete reversal of his position just five weeks ago, when he said he would not be rounding up illegal immigrants. He surely has come a long way from his proposed amendment to the Gang of 8 bill to legalize those here illegally. Cruz is oozing panic from every pore.
The image of a campaign in disarray will become hard to reverse, especially with Donald Trump in the race. Trump wasted no time taking advantage of the Tyler flap. He tweeted: “Ted Cruz has now apologized to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson for fraud and dirty tricks. No wonder he has lost Evangelical support!” (The reference to Carson goes back to the false rumor fanned by the Cruz team on Iowa caucus night that Carson was dropping out.)
As is the case with many of Trump’s jabs, this one was painfully accurate. The Cruz camp’s dirty tricks and shiftiness about the candidate’s own record (e.g. on immigration), not to mention some glaring misrepresentations about his opponents’ records (which, for example, induced National Right to Life to call out Cruz for an “inaccurate and misleading” attack on Rubio) and even a Photoshopped ad have knocked Cruz back on his heels.
Just as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faced questions regarding the bridge scandal as to whether he had created an atmosphere where “anything goes,” Cruz too will need to undo the image of a candidate so ravenous for high office that he would distort his and his rivals’ records and rewrite recent events. That, critics will say, is what gave aides like Tyler the sense that “anything goes.” More precisely, when Cruz failed to fire anyone after the Iowa caucuses “dirty tricks” against Carson, wasn’t that implicit approval of a take-no-prisoners mentality?
Collectively, it all adds up to a portrait of Cruz as a nasty and overly ambitious guy whom his colleagues cannot stand or trust. (New endorsements for Rubio from Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana reiterated that point on Monday.) Cruz’s newest stance on illegal immigrants only highlights Cruz’s endemic opportunism.
Not coincidentally, the accusation that Cruz will “say anything” to get elected is one the Rubio team has been pounding for weeks and weeks. Trump has preferred a blunter attack, repeatedly calling Cruz a “liar” and suggesting, “There is something wrong with that guy.”
Upon hearing news of Tyler’s departure Rubio spokesman Alex Conant emphasized that Tyler “had the unenviable task of working for a candidate willing to do or say anything to get elected.” Rubio himself chimed in, “It’s every single day, something comes out of the Cruz campaign that’s deceptive and untrue, and in this case goes after my faith. So I understand, I guess one of their spokespersons apologized and I’ll accept his apology, but this is a pattern now and I think we’re now at a point where we start asking about accountability.”
Cruz defenders may argue that the decision to drop Tyler is a smart move designed to staunch the bleeding, get the campaign back on track and shed the dirty tricks image. The flip side is that Cruz allowed a communications director who had repeatedly presented a surly image of his boss to stay on way too long. He failed to take action after the Iowa caucuses when the first “dirty tricks” incident occurred. These were rookie mistakes, the sort of thing a freshman senator with little executive experience makes. Worse, they are evidence Cruz lacks an innate sense of integrity and a radar for bad character.