During a news conference in Indiana on Tuesday, Ted Cruz unloaded on Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump with an unprecedented level of vitriol, calling him a “pathological liar,” a “narcissist,” and a “serial philanderer” who regards “his battle with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam.”
“The country is depending on Indiana,” Cruz said as voters headed to the polls to vote in the Hoosier State’s primary. “If Indiana does not act, this country could well plunge into the abyss.”
Cruz blamed the media — particularly Fox News — for Trump’s rise.
“Network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at Fox News have turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network,” Cruz said. “Media executives are trying to convince Hoosiers, trying to convince Americans, the race is decided. You have no choice. You are stuck between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, either one of which is a horrific choice for this country.”
As ThinkProgress has detailed, Cruz has a point with regard to how Fox News’ Sean Hannity has treated Trump with kid gloves. But Cruz’s comments — comments he prefaced by saying, “I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign… I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump” — stand in sharp contrast to what the Texas senator was saying about the GOP frontrunner just a handful of months ago.
On December 11, Ted Cruz tweeted that fellow anti-establishment Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “terrific.” During a debate in Las Vegas a few days later, Cruz generated headlines for a strong performance and for “embracing front-runner Donald Trump.” On December 20, the New York Times wrote, “As he vaults toward the top of the Republican presidential field, leading some Iowa polls and climbing nationally, Mr. Cruz has taken care to compliment Donald J. Trump at every opportunity.”
The Establishment's only hope: Trump & me in a cage match.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 11, 2015
Cruz’s bromance with Trump goes back to last summer. For instance, during a July interview with Meet the Press, Cruz said, “I like Donald Trump. He’s bold, he’s brash, and I get that it seems the favorite sport of the Washington media is to encourage some Republicans to attack other Republicans. I ain’t going to do it. I’m not interested in Republican on Republican violence.”
In fact, as recently as February, Cruz told Sean Hannity, “I like and respect Donald.”
Referring to the personal attacks Trump had started making against Cruz in January, Cruz said he didn’t plan to reciprocate.
“I will continue to sing Donald’s praises personally,” Cruz said. “He’s bold, he’s brash, I’m glad he’s running, he’s energizing a lot of people.”
What changed? It certainly wasn’t Trump’s policy positions. Back in December, Trump had already called for a border wall, a temporary ban on Muslim immigration, and was revealed to be a flip-flopper on issues like reproductive rights and gun control. So Cruz’s newfound bitterness must be traceable to something besides the substance of Trump’s politics.
Desperation is probably part of the explanation. Cruz has all but admitted that Indiana is a must-win for his flagging hopes and the polling doesn’t look good. With Trump close to winning enough delegates to avoid the contested convention Cruz now needs to become the Republican nominee, there’s little incentive to hold back at this point.
But Cruz’s aggressive attack may pose problems for him in the not-too-distant future. In a Meet the Press interview that aired Sunday, Cruz, who has repeatedly pledged to support whoever ends up being the Republican nominee, still wouldn’t rule out backing Trump. But after the way in which he unloaded on Trump on Tuesday, how could Cruz turn around and ask voters to support a man he now believes may send America over the precipice and into the abyss?