Here's why Donald Trump keeps talking about suing Ted Cruz

The Republican front-runner's constant litigious threats are less about the cases themselves than they are about strategy.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump poses with a cutout while visiting his campaign office in Greenville, S.C., Tuesday.

Is Donald Trump really going to sue Ted Cruz? He’s been threatening such a drastic step for days, and he talked about it again during a Tuesday morning appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I’m thinking about it very seriously,” The Donald told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “I’ve never dealt with anybody who lies like him.”

Mr. Trump charged that during the Iowa caucuses Senator Cruz's campaign passed along false rumors that Ben Carson had dropped out of the race. He also said that Cruz workers have sent out mailers which claim (falsely) that the recipient is in danger of a “voter violation.”

“I think he’s a very unstable person,” Trump said of Cruz.

Look, it’s certainly possible Trump would resort to the legal system to address these perceived offenses on the part of a rival. He has sued many people and organizations in his long business career. He sued his ex-wife Ivana in 1992 for talking about their relationship too much, among other things.

It’s the very filing of suits, and not their legal outcome, that may motivate some of this Trumpian litigiousness. They are a means of registering his opinion and forcing the other side to respond.

“He sues, most of all, to make headlines and to reinforce the notion that he is powerful,” wrote Daily Beast reporter Olivia Nuzzi in an overview of his lawsuits last July.

But in this case the threats alone may be the thing. Trump likely has some particular political goals in mind that he might achieve by just talking about lawsuits.

One is to keep his closest opponent off balance. Cruz is running second to Trump in South Carolina, according to polls. South Carolina holds its GOP primary this Saturday. And the Cruz campaign is playing it tough in the Palmetto State, putting up ads that brand Trump a fake Republican who takes the houses of the elderly by eminent domain and might appoint liberals to the Supreme Court, to boot.

According to Cruz, Trump is just using heated rhetoric to try and distract voters and the media from the substance of his actions.

“You cannot simply scream ‘liar’ when someone points out your actual positions,” Cruz tweeted Monday.

Trump’s secondary goal may be to keep the Republican establishment as a whole off balance. He’s laying groundwork for complaining the Republican National Committee is not playing fair with him, as they promised, and thus he’s no longer bound by his pledge to refrain from a third party presidential bid.

“The RNC better get its act together because you know, I signed a pledge, but the pledge isn’t being honored by them,” Trump said Monday during a South Carolina campaign rally.

Trump’s talked a lot about that pledge, and the RNC’s alleged perfidy, in recent days. He’s complained that the audience in the most recent GOP debate was purposely stacked against him, for instance.

His goal in this may not be paving the way for an actual bolt from the party so much as establishing a narrative about why he lost – if he loses, which is far from a sure thing. That’s what some right-leaning pundits suspect, in any case.

“Trump’s image depends on him being seen as the consummate winner; if he loses to Cruz, he’ll need to explain how that possibly could have happened. The only tolerable excuse is that he was cheated,” writes Allahpundit.

This might also set the stage for a Trump refusal to endorse any non-Trump GOP nominee – something that could be almost as damaging to Republican hopes as a third party bid by The Donald.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to