Ted Cruz Is the Consummate Political Pundit

He says he doesn’t want to opine on 2016. But don’t believe him. He’s great at it. 

Sen. Ted Cruz at a campaign rally in Georgia on Dec. 19, 2015 in Bloomingdale, Georgia. 

Nicholas Pilch/Getty Images

Another day, another opportunity for Donald Trump to say something extremely juvenile and Sen. Ted Cruz to withhold comment when asked about it.

Speaking at a rally last night, Trump said that Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” in her 2008 fight against Barack Obama. The fellow with the penis beat her at politics! And after using penile imagery to describe the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination contest, Trump added that it would be “disgusting” to talk about how women, such as Clinton, sometimes need to go to the bathroom. “I know where she went [during the debate intermission], it’s disgusting, I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. None of Trump’s wives go to the bathroom, you see. If he catches them doing so, he divorces them and gets a new one, hoping that she’s different, the real deal, the ticket.

So of course reporters go around asking every candidate about this “schlonged” business. Most of them will say it’s an inappropriate comment because of the overwhelmingly inappropriate nature of the comment.

Cruz will not. When asked about the comment, he lectured that he would not be tricked into playing “pundit,” a political archetype best embodied by a dyad of snarky Muppets. “There are an abundance of political pundits in the world, who, like Statler and Waldorf, assess every comment every candidate makes,” he told NBC News on Tuesday. “I don’t need to be another political pundit.”

This is nonsense. Cruz is constantly playing political pundit. He loves to gab about all sorts of pundit-y nonsense involving “lanes” and “establishment candidates” and whatever other oversimplifications we maintain in our 10-word lexicon. Cruz is an excellent pundit, and he will have a sensational career as a Fox News roundtable contributor if this whole “reignite the promise of America” campaign doesn’t work out for him.

Just consider his posture toward Trump for the last six months, perhaps the single most important pundit call of the election. He predicted that the “summer of Trump” would endure and rode the wave, unlike most of his competitors. Cruz opted not to call out Trump for his disgusting comments about Mexicans, Sen. John McCain, various women, and Muslims, because tethering himself to Trump was more politically useful. That’s amoral and savvy—the stuff from which all sizzlin’ punditry is made.

The pundit class didn’t take long to come up with a simple theory about Cruz’s behavior toward Trump: use Trump (and Ben Carson) as blockers to expand the electorate and then collect all their supporters if and when voters came looking for a somewhat more credentialed option. In a rare moment of correctness for the pundit class, Pundit Cruz admitted, in private, that this was precisely his strategy. “[M]y approach, much to the frustration of the media, has been to bear hug both [Trump and Carson], and smother them with love,” Cruz said at a private fundraiser earlier this month, as the New York Times reported. He added that “I believe gravity will bring both of those campaigns down” and that “the lion’s share of their supporters come to us.” He’s talking about how gravity will bring down Trump! That observation alone has constituted roughly 95 percent of pundit commentary on the 2016 election.

Here’s our man just last week giving an extensive “view of the race” to National Review. Snappy New Hampshire thoughts? He’s got ’em:

“The establishment is enthusiastically unifying behind Marco Rubio,” he says. The only thing standing in the way of their matchup, Cruz adds, is Rubio’s performance in New Hampshire.

“Marco is perceived by many to be the most formidable candidate in the moderate lane. But he has serious competition in the moderate lane,” Cruz says. “Look, the winner of the moderate lane has to win New Hampshire. And right now there are a number of moderates who are competing vigorously for New Hampshire, and at this point it is not clear to me who will win.”

Aside from the part about how the establishment is “enthusiastically” unifying behind Rubio—if you’re Rubio, you’d like for them to do it quite a bit faster—this is the prevailing conventional wisdom among political pundits right now. Lock Cruz in for a six-minute Hardball panel “hit” while you can, bookers.

And in the most vivid display of his punditry chops yet, Cruz, just a few days after confidently predicting that the race would come down to him and Rubio, confidently predicted something else entirely as soon as concerns about Rubio’s operation began to set in.

Where Cruz set himself apart from other pundits, though, was his prediction that a Cruz campaign for presidency would be a worthwhile endeavor. The dude is heading into 2016 in formidable shape to win the Republican presidential nomination even though everyone he’s ever worked with hates his guts. Even Statler and Waldorf would be impressed.