If Trump-Cruz alliance against Iran deal seems odd, that's because it is

Having two rival presidential candidates essentially work together is unusual. But Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz have reasons to team up.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas (l.) and businessman Donald Trump (c., back to camera) walk onstage as they address a tea party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the US Capitol in Washington Washington.

It is the kind of Washington day when sweat trickles uncomfortably down your back, but Landon Thompson would not want to be anywhere else than here, sitting in a patch of shade on the grounds of the United States Capitol.

The truck driver from central Kentucky asked his company to send him on an East Coast delivery just so he could attend the “Stop the Iran Deal” rally on the Capitol lawn on Wednesday. It also gave him a chance to see what he said was his perfect presidential ticket: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. In that order.

Both men are smart, stand up to the GOP establishment, and defend the constitution, says Mr. Thompson. But Mr. Trump will be able to do “great, big, bold things because he’s done great, big, bold things.”

In Thompson's vision of the next presidential administration is a clue as to how and why two competing presidential candidates essentially worked together Wednesday.

It’s highly unusual that campaign rivals join together like that. Just the day before, an aide to GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee blocked Senator Cruz from the microphones at an event for Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Mr. Huckabee saw it as his cause, and he wasn’t going to share the spotlight with his Texas contender for the conservative evangelical vote.

But Cruz and Trump are developing a political relationship that some have termed a “bromance.” Both men have something to gain from their chumminess, according to political analysts – with Cruz basking in a bit of Trump's aura, and Trump benefiting from Cruz's tea party street cred.

Cruz, averaging 6.5 percent in opinion polls of Republican voters, may be the bigger beneficiary.

“It makes sense for Cruz to invite Trump,” who is averaging nearly 30 percent in the polls, writes John Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., in an e-mail. 

“If the Donald finally implodes, Cruz can pick up some of his support. And it's like high school. If you can't be the cool kid, at least you can hang out with the cool kid.”

At the same time, “Trump gets to look magnanimous, Mr. Pitney writes. “ ‘Hey, I am so great that I let this little guy bask in my glory!’ ”

Trump also gains “a little bit of validation as a real Republican and real candidate” by appearing with the leading anti-establishment US senator in the race, notes Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

The two candidates met two years ago in the green room at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, according to Politico. It was a “breezy” meeting of chit-chat and photos that moved on to a friendly relationship. 

In July, Cruz met the GOP front-runner at Trump Tower and invited him to visit the border with him. The real estate mogul, who wants to build a wall on the border, accepted, though Cruz was prevented from accompanying him because of a vote.

Trump admires Cruz’s stand against Obamacare in the partial government shutdown of 2013, and he appreciates the fact that Cruz has not attacked him as other candidates have. “He has been very supportive, he has not been a sniper like so many of the others have,” Trump told Politico.

The reality TV star earlier raised Cruz’s Canadian birth as a disqualifier (in this case, it’s not). But the innuendo didn’t deter the Texan from courting the brash New Yorker. Cruzers point out that Trump is bringing out new voters – voters that might eventually support the senator. And the two men agree on issues, from immigration to Iran.

At the rally, the senator, looking down on supporters holding sun umbrellas and bearing signs such as “#Jewishlivesmatter – ask God,” generated cheers from the crowd as he railed against the “catastrophic” Iran deal. He implored Democratic lawmakers to fall to their knees in prayer and change their mind about the deal that President Obama now has the votes to uphold.

Trump, who immediately followed Cruz, also railed against the most “incompetently negotiated” deal he has ever seen. And he praised the size of the crowd – which he attributed to his presence. Another advantage for Cruz.

Except that the crowd wasn’t really all that big. It didn’t nearly fill the lawn, even if their passion was full.

For his part, Mr. Kondik questions how many Trump supporters would actually migrate to Cruz; Trump’s support is ideologically broader than Cruz’s.

And on the issue of Iran itself, Kondik questions whether it will have much traction a year from now. “At this point I would not expect the Iran deal to be a big deal politically next year.”

On Wednesday, however, Cruz got to share the stage with a rival candidate who, by the measure of the polls, is far bigger than Huckabee. For both, that might be a small victory.

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