ST. LOUIS — There are many Republicans who have been embarrassed by the revelation on Friday of a tape showing Donald Trump making explicit remarks about trying to sexually assault women, in the most vulgar language.
But the man who faces possibly the most humiliation from this situation, and who has been squeezed into the tightest corner, is Ted Cruz.
Cruz may have had the worst timing of anyone in the Republican party this year when it came to Trump, initially refusing to endorse him in a dramatic speech at the convention in July, then caving and endorsing him just weeks before the explosive meltdown that has caused a mounting number of Republican officials to bail on the nominee. What makes this even more awkward is the fact that Cruz endorsed Trump even despite the fact that Trump had made a sexist attack on Cruz’s wife Heidi’s appearance, which along with Trump’s attack on his father Cruz had cited as one of the reasons why he refused to endorse him at first — and now the full scale of Trump’s misogyny is even more impossible to ignore.
On Friday night, Cruz tweeted a condemnation of Trump’s remarks in the video, saying “These comments are disturbing and inappropriate, there is simply no excuse for them” and “Every wife, mother, daughter — every person — deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
As of Saturday afternoon, those were his last words on the subject. But according to a person close to Cruz, he and his circle are discussing whether to rescind his endorsement of Trump.
Both options — stick with Trump or ditch him — present political risks for Cruz. If he rescinds the endorsement, he could lend credence to the stereotype of him as a calculating opportunist who shifts with the political winds. But if he sticks to his endorsement of Trump, that’s tantamount to an endorsement of the shocking things Trump said, which could be worse long-term and even short-term as the Republican party edges closer to completely abandoning its nominee.
“This is a no-brainer,” said one Republican strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity. “His best move was to not endorse. He endorsed, which put him in the worst possible position. Now he’s been given an out to rescind his endorsement for very justifiable reasons. This is a gift. It’s not going to get better than this.”
If Cruz had just held on a few weeks longer without endorsing, “He would have been in the catbird seat,” the strategist said.
Former Cruz communications director Rick Tyler urged Cruz to pull his endorsement of Trump publicly on Twitter, tweeting, “Of course. Now, an hour from now is too late” when asked about it by a reporter.
Cruz senior adviser Jason Johnson tweeted a photo of himself with his hand over his face when the Trump tape story broke on Friday, saying, “Just another Friday in #2016. Can't even watch the news with my kids.” Johnson also approvingly tweeted Sen. Mike Lee’s video urging Trump to step down, and retweeted former Cruz running mate Carly Fiorina’s statement urging the same.
As of Saturday afternoon, the situation in Cruz’s camp was still not resolved, with one aide telling BuzzFeed News “nothing to share right now” and “the statement stands.”